Stepping into the stairwell Mike took the metal head of his new ax and struck it against the railing three times.
Waiting tensely for several tense seconds, no groaning, shuffling, or other noxious bodily sounds could be heard.
The stairs were clear of zombies.
Not entirely certain his test was foolproof Mike kept his ax in hand, but he was only half paying attention as he rushed up the stairs. Had someone been hiding with malicious intent, he would likely have found himself their victim.
It was hard to adjust to he new reality, that danger was everywhere.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Mike was hoping that on the roof he would find evidence that civilization was still intact. Soldiers organizing an evacuation or a manned police barracade in the street. Anything that said there was still a central authority handling things in the shadows.
Mike quickly reached the top of the stairs and the door to the roof. Stopping to catch his breath from taking the stairs too fast, he bent over.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a the length of chain that would normally keep the roof door closed.
The lock was still connected, but a link near it had been melted through, severing it.
He didn’t know what to think about that but noticing it did make Mike resolve to be careful. Raising his trash can lid shield and white knuckling his fireman’s ax, he leaned against the door. Shoving out, he stepped forward and then to the side, clearing the door.
As he did a golfball sized flame shot past his shoulder. Sailing through the door, it hit the back wall and sizzled out. A small round burn mark could be seen, but not much damage.
“Ahhh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” from around the corner of the storage shed a tall dark skinned man wearing a black robe and holding a staff appeared, waving his hands frantically, “I was practicing my new magic and the door opened so quickly I panicked. I’m so sorry.”
Looking from the man to the black mark in the hallway, Mike shrugged. He hadn’t been hit and even if he had been it wouldn’t have been that bad.
“No problem. I saw the signs. Are you the only one up here?”
“No, no, no, there are others at the other end of the roof. I’m watching this side to greet new comers and so that I don’t burn anybody if my magic goes wonky. I’m Troy by the way,” Troy talked with his hands, pointing and gesturing, his curly afro swaying with every movement. Mike instantly decided he liked him.
Reaching out he took Troy’s hand as he introduced himself as stoically as possible, “Mike.”
In the past Mike was socially awkward, choosing silence out of fear he would do or say something to embarrass himself in front of one of his classes.
Mike was a bit surprised to notice he didn’t feel his usual anxiety on meeting Troy. But years of practice make a habit hard to break.
He had the feeling, the strong silent type, would fit in better during the apocalypse anyway. His knowledge-base consisted of games, books, movies, comics, history, and mythology. None of which was much help to survival.
In Mike’s mind, it was better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than speak, removing all doubt.
“I take if you successfully joined the 「System」 too?” Mike gestured at Troy’s staff and robe.
Troy signed, looked off in the distance.
“Yeah. I was up early, trying to finish last minute tweaks to my anthropology assignment when I heard the news report.”
“You didn’t see the news or anything before everything went bad?”
Mike hesitated before telling his story in brief.
“So you were asleep? You’re a pretty freaking heavy sleeper then man, but I guess that explains why you weren’t watching the news.” Troy took a seat on an old lawn chair, next to a table made from an empty cable spool, then gestured for Mike to join him, “This morning, over every city in the world, an enormous monolith appeared. They varied in size based on population density, from a few hundred feet tall to a few miles. Just a giant dull grey slab of metal appearing from nowhere. They hovered for a handful of minutes and then fell at exactly the same time, embedding themselves, upright, at the center of the cities, causing massive shock waves like an earthquake.”
“And then people started turning into zombies?” Mike asked.
“No not right away. First they just sat there for a bit. Several military and civilian organizations tried various ways of discovering what they were, including launching missiles and the like. Nothing effected them, they gave no reaction anyone could see. A few cities began evacuating, just in case, others made announcements for people to lock their doors and stay inside. Riots and looting started all over the place.
And then at about ten thirty our time, the monoliths pulsed with a greenish light, a thick beam shooting into the sky. Everything electronic died, or reset itself. Every channel I could find had turned to static, the news wasn’t being broadcast anymore, anywhere.
Right after that a green smoke began to seep up from the ground throughout the city. The smoke cleared in a handful of minutes, as it rose into the atmosphere and evaporated. That’s when people started to turn.”
“Were you outside or something? How did you see the smoke?”
Troy just pointed in the distance. Mike followed his finger, and noticed that rising between downtown’s, national bank plaza and the Wilson building, was a third large structure. Nearly four times wider than either sky scraper, and a hundred feet taller, it looked exactly like Troy had said, a giant slab of metal.
Seeing it, Mike wasn’t sure how he’d ever missed it.
He knew the truth was as simple as he hadn’t been paying attention to his surroundings, but it still made him feel like a failure.
“I came up here with my laptop shortly after it appeared in the sky. I watched everything live and on the news. I thought it was first contact or something, everybody did. There were about twenty of us up here, and we could see more people down on the street and on other buildings.
When the smoke came. Half of us turned into monsters, or if they didn’t turn they hesitated to kill the ones that did, got bit. then turned. It was a nightmare. By the end there were only five of us left up here. We grabbed some paper, some markers, made some signs, and put them on the stairwell windows so other survivors could see them, then we waited. I think we have eleven people now. Twelve counting you.”
Mike didn’t know what to say. It sounded like sleeping through it had actually been a blessing in disguise.
I bet Jeff was watching the news in the living room. It was a first contact scenario and that jackass didn’t even wake me up…
For the first time in his life, having a bad relationship with someone had actually paid off for him.
Mike knew he’d dodged a bullet.
Instead of feeling relieved, he felt annoyed.
Jeff had known he was into science fiction, aliens, space ships, all of that. But instead taking thirty awkward seconds to wake him up, so he didn’t miss the once in a life time event of first contact, he’d left him to keep sleeping.
It was a decision that almost certainly saved his life and he was mad about it.
Life was weird sometimes.
Author : The Steve