My head was lulling to sleep, my eyes drifting shut. We had come to the last stop on the line, the change rousing me.
The train’s wheels squealed as we pulled in. The inertial break flowed through the cabin of ugly characters all around me. Not the usual fare of fatties and shoppers on my route to and from the mall, but shady types. Not a comforting sight to wake to. They were augmented freaks like me, skins marked by luminescence and tattoos, metallic limbs and faces. Some more machine than human. Some just filthy and tired. Myself somewhere in between those.
We had to get off the train. I rose with my soggy box, in my plastic coat, and weaved into the dismounting crowd. The wheels were already turning again. Only this time, they went the other way.
This was the end of the line.
Where the train might have continued on, I saw, the tunnel had been collapsed. The lighting here was as much flame as electric, now. Everything was quickly turning to rubble around me.
The blackout zone was a gradient and I was realizing that we, me and the gang, had merely played on the fringes in our youth. In raves and black markets which were simple tendril extensions of the darker heart. A far cry from ghost towns, this was a squirming rat’s den.
I kept my head down. Through the bustle of the station and the rush of those trying to get out of this hellhole, I kept on towards the stairway to street level. Against the tide.
I recalled a video I’d seen of someone getting stabbed in this very station.
It was almost funny that I should be here.
The subway was riddled with grime. Amongst traffic I had to steady myself going up, unfortunately using my fleshier hand to grab the slimed railing.
What I saw coming up stopped me in place.
It’s only one-step above the abyss of the flood channel.
At least you could see the sky. The street was in near total darkness under its nighttime firmament. The biggest illumination on the block was a ten-foot-tall hologram projecting out a street singer. A crowd had gathered around.
I headed in the opposite direction. I pulled up my phone to try and get some sense of direction but found only an empty map.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
With my box balanced on my knee, my gaze scanned up and down the street.
How the hell is someone supposed to navigate?
There was only my memory. Coming up on almost three days without sleep, I wasn’t so confident in it.
I finally arrived so many hours later.
Walking past the abandoned scaffolding and into the empty storefront, I could make out the chains wrapped around the room’s pillar in the dim early morning light. I hopped down from the window frame and dropped my burden. The box hit the ground in a plume of dust.
Looking back I saw the ruin of my old school.
The blackout zone had advanced like a rising tide. The streets here were littered with trash and broken cameras. No more patrols would be coming through. No, the school and most of this area had been burned to the ground in riots some time ago. There was nothing to see.
Fuck walking. I had finally made it.
The light was muted by the highways they’d built to overpass the ruin, a sunrise stolen. I had to turn my back on that. This was the last stretch and exhaustion truly threatened it.
The bare-bones interior of the shop had only one stand-out feature. A tarp in the corner. The shit beneath was what I was here for.
It was all we’d left behind.
Blindly, I moved to the light switch on the far wall and flipped. A bulb popped. The next flickered for a moment, making up its mind.
And then there was light.
The old orange bulb was barely enough to show one corner, but I could still make them out. Above the tarp, our graffitied names hung colorfully on the grey. They stopped me at the memory for only a second.
Frode, Dag, Walter, and Silas. Time gone.
I ripped up the tarp. The first thing I did was hang that tarp up on the nails we’d placed in the frame, covering the open window in, blackening the room again.
Where the tarp had been the battery packs powering the lights sat along with a few other tools. Tools for our bikes, tools for accessing the network, and spare materials. Beside them, etch after etch in the cold floors numbered nights we’d spent here.
Not just a parking space. It had been a hideaway for us idiots.
I let out the cat, unzipping my jacket and watching her drop.
No one had been here in years now except me. The others had moved on. Ironically, I had come back just to do the same. This was how I made it right.
Nothing would ever be the same again after.
“I’m going to kill you,” I said, staring into the shadows. “This is the first step.”
I looked down at my clenched fists. Relax. My opened hand revealed the little pink pill there.
I raised it up to my mouth.
I know what I’m doing.
Working my aching arms out of my jacket and throwing it down, I spoke. “I’m going to kill you. But today we’re just getting started.”
I kept stripping.
“I know you can’t hear me. But you’re going to. Let me introduce myself…”
I heard heavy drums begin to beat.
“My name is Frode.”
The rattling steel of my arm slowly began to quiet as I watched the shadows. Those shadows which began to take on the shake as if they’d stole it from my limbs. Orange light began to shift redder. Drums beating like a heart.
My smile grew from ear to ear. My smile was malicious.
Space shrank around me. I watched my body get to work, bringing out his laptop. He set up the network, he broke open Jerry’s skull plating, he fed the cat her sedatives, he sat naked on the cold floor, getting out the wireless node he would plug into his neck. All as I drew back into the black.
The empty shop was a dimly lit hole in an infinite space. Shrinking as I moved away, senses arose into complete deprivation.
Only hateful laughter and drums sounded in the deep. In the space between beats total silence remained.
The connection was made.
Finally, I could hear it.
The dark choir.