Lost in the Apocalypse-Chapter 2
My heels had done nothing for the walk, but it was the people who ultimately harrowed us.
Most of them kept a distance, but some were confrontational. They yelled and badgered those of us who passed on foot. Some even went as far as to outright hit and kick those who got too close.
Kristoff had to fight off a few that came after us. They thrashed and screamed and acted outright uncivilized. While that was terrifying enough the truly scary part was that some looked like frightened bystanders, but many of them looked sick. Pale skin and reddened eyes. Druggies, addicts of some kind? Or did they have whatever disease the doctors warned about? I wasn’t sure, but the way they acted was wrong.
We were harassed all the way to the lot of my building and then some. A younger man, maybe a teenager, followed us with a hobbled gait and a violent attitude. He wailed and cussed the entire time. He made no sense at all. His words a garbled mess.
As a rule, I didn’t like my guards to get rough with anyone. I regulated them to carry only stun batons and tasers. So, like usual, I encouraged Kristoff to be a bit less hands on. Threats didn’t work though and neither did redirection. Kristoff tried to push him back when he got close and all the boy did was claw and bite at him. No matter what he tried Kristoff couldn’t deter him. We ended up having to lock the door into the complex behind us to prevent the kid from following us in.
It was… quiet inside. Empty. Not exactly an abnormal thing. This was an upper-class building and most residents were rather reclusive. No, it was the scattered piles of luggage and bags that crowded the lobby which made it odd. Not a soul in sight to claim them. I was certain none of it had been here when I’d left that morning. Was this part of the evacuation?
Apprehensive about the silence I decided that while I retrieved a bag and some necessities from my apartment I’d have Kristoff check on a few of my neighbors. I knew a few of the younger residents didn’t care much for the news and might not have been informed of the evacuations. Though I doubted they could have missed the sheer noise from the hustle and bustle that must of come with the rushed packing of bags.
By Kristoff’s account only one of the three were home, and they refused to open the door. I couldn’t blame them. The phone alerts for emergencies were going off nonstop now and the riots had spread. They were probably terrified.
My driver, Riley, became concerned about his family after one of the announcements listed his neighborhood as a siege zone. He asked to be allowed to go home and I saw no reason to deny it.
But what we didn’t know was that Riley couldn’t leave.
As I gathered some clothes I vaguely heard when a knock sounded on my door. Kristoff hadn’t come back from checking the security office yet so Lensi answered for me only to find a very distressed Riley. He’d been gone for only a few moments.
“They’re everywhere!” He coughed.
Lensi lead the man to the living room and sat him on the couch while I got him some water. He was crying.
“Who is everywhere,” Lensi asked as he tried to calm him.
“People.” Riley hiccupped and held out a shaking hand. His forearm had been covered in scratches. Large red welts. Not deep enough to draw blood but stomach turning nonetheless. “I tried opening the door but they attacked me. I barely got back inside.”
“Was it that kid?” I set the water down and fetched the first aid kit to clean him up.
Riley shook his head. “There is an entire mob outside.” He whimpered a bit as I wiped sterilizer across the wounds. “Too many to get out the door. Too fucking many.”
I exchanged a worried glance with Lensi. If Riley couldn’t get out then neither could we.
“Go find Kristoff,” I said as I wrapped up the cuts as best as I could with what little gauze I had.
“Are you going to be okay in here?” Lensi looked between me and Riley with a worried expression.
“I’m fine.” It wasn’t like Riley was going to hurt me and I knew all my neighbors. I was more concerned with a bunch of violent strangers who’d tried to attack my driver and possibly could get inside with us. “Go down and see what the danger is. I’ll try and get ahold of my parents while you do. If we can’t get out, then I need to know. If nothing else I can see if someone can be sent to get us.”
“Alright, I’ll get Kristoff and secure the lower floors. Stay here. We’ll be back soon.” Reluctantly Lensi left with keys in hand.
I sat down with Riley who still appeared shaken. “Can you tell me what you saw? Anything will help.”
“Fifty, maybe more, standing there in the parking lot.” He absently scratched at his arm. “I opened the door and it was like an alarm. They all went off and came towards me. I didn’t know what to do so I tried to get back inside. The door wasn’t fully closed so I turned around and one of them grabbed me and sunk their nails in.” He shivered. “Their eyes were so bloody. Like they were scratching them.”
I got a blanket to cover him and left him huddled on the couch with the television remote as a distraction. My apartment was high up on the fifth floor and to the side away from the front. I had little chance of seeing the full lot but I wanted to check on the situation from my vantage. So, I went out to my balcony.
I wish I hadn’t.
Chaos. In the short time we’d been inside, the streets had been blocked up with cars and I could see fires spread through the lanes. There were people down there. Some screamed and ran, others fought in the streets.
Police cars and sirens were loud and plentiful and the bright flash of ambulance lights seemed to go on and on, as did the loud ring of gunshots. I couldn’t take my eyes from the bedlam below. I nearly missed the large mob of people that moved slowly up the hill, attacking everything in their way. They were headed right towards my building. Dozens, maybe a hundred or two even, with their numbers swelled by each person they swallowed up on their way.
I grabbed my phone, calling my parents completely forgotten, and dialed Kristoff. No answer. I tried again and received only a voicemail. This was bad, Kristoff never cut his phone off.
I ran from the room and heard Riley feebly call for me as I dashed out.
I passed by the elevators and hit the stairs in my rush down, not even really thinking about what I was doing. I needed to warn the other two before the mob got too close. There was no way those glass doors would hold up against that many. Even with the security doors barred.
In my haste, I nearly ran right into someone on their way up. I barely caught myself in time on the landing and found I was held up by someone else’s arm. An arm I didn’t recognize.
Instinctively I jerked away in fear and come face to face with… Zakharov. He still wore his sunglasses and bore a frown. The man looked completely unruffled even though he must have come through the throng of people to get inside. I’d nearly just plowed him over and he’d caught me too. It was impressive.
“You’re supposed to be in your room,” he remarked as his chin tilted up so he could look past me. Almost as if he expected I had company.
Confused, I ignored the unwanted touch on my hip where his grip still lingered. I was concerned with why he was here and how he got in, but I needed to find my guards first. There was no time for questions. I tried to move away from him but his hand tightened around my waist and kept me in place.
“They’re blocking the entrances.” He spoke calmly and answered a question I hadn’t asked. With a rather skilled control he pushed me away and back towards the stairs up. “It’s safer back in your apartment. They’ll be along soon.”
I didn’t believe him. “How did you even get here?” Last time I’d seen him was back in the Haverstead. That was several miles, and a few mobs, away now.
“I walked.” His body blocked the way down and he didn’t look like he intended to move. “Your guards let me in when they realized I wasn’t one of those… people outside. If you are referring as to why I’m here, you can thank your mother.”
My mind blanked for a moment as to why mother would have been the cause, then it clicked. “She called Richards?”
Zakharov shrugged. “All I know is he sent me here because she thought this is where you’d head first. Looks like she was right.”
“Of course,” I scoffed and looked around him. If Evan sent him then I couldn’t trust him. “I’m not going back up until I know Kristoff and Lensi are okay. So, move or come down with me.”
He stayed put, his jaw tightened as he thought about what I’d asked. Then he shrugged and turned to head back down the stairs ahead of me.
“They were on the second floor when I left them,” Zakharov said as he opened the door to the upper lobby. He went out first, using his larger stature to block my way so he could look around.
“Are they still there?” I tried to stand on my toes to see around him but he was pretty solidly placed and I had no luck.
“Doesn’t look like it.” He still didn’t move.
“They’re probably on the back side of the elevator room then.” I groused growing impatient, “there is a set of stairs that goes down into the first-floor lobby and from there it leads back to the elevators. If they were blocking the doors it’d be the last one they’d go to. You can’t reach the lock from this side.”
“The hazard doors are already locked. They were working on those when I came in.” Finally he moved out of the way and let me have a good look at the lower floor.
As he said, the hazard doors were already barred and there was no sign of Lensi or Kristoff. There were signs of the mob though. I could see dark silhouettes over the edge of the balcony, most milled around the glass doors. Soft, dull thuds echoed in the open room as some hit on the windows. Loud screeches followed at irregular intervals like someone was being torn apart.
“What’s happening? Where did they all come from?” I spoke to myself but Zakharov answered.
“It’s a big city. As for what’s happening? Your guess is as good as any.” He turned back towards me and indicated the door back up. “They probably took the elevators. I’m sure they’re looking for you up there.”
It sounded plausible. I moved back into the stairwell and tried to call Kristoff again. Still no answer. Two choices then. Go up and risk them being unwarned, or go down and risk the attention of the horde outside.
I decided to go up. Zakharov seemed happy with that and followed.
The stairs were clear but the door to my floor wouldn’t open. After I peeked through the small glass window I found that someone had wedged a board through the handle and braced it to the frame lip. One of my neighbors probably, maybe Riley as I doubted Kristoff would have left it there when he realized I wasn’t in my apartment.
“Are there any other ways up?” Zakharov backtracked and checked the fourth-floor door. It remained unblocked.
“The elevators and the maintenance stairs.” From memory, I couldn’t tell where either were as this wasn’t a level I frequented.
“Let’s hope those aren’t blocked, elsewise your boys are locked out too.” Once he checked the hall Zakharov gave the all clear and cautiously left the stairwell.
I didn’t want to be left behind so I tagged along.
This floor appeared as empty as my own had been, but it wasn’t the same kind of empty. There were streaks of blood on the walls, spots of it on the golden hallway carpet. Not a great deal of it, but enough to know that a fight had happened. There were other signs too. A door partially opened, a housemaid’s cart upturned, suitcases and bags that sat out in the hall all packed and ready to go. Yet no one around.
“It looks like everyone was trying to leave.” I didn’t understand. This morning when I’d left for work everything had seemed fine. I’d even spoken to a few of the others in the lobby. Now it was as if the entire building had up and fled in minutes.
“When the riots got heavy, and the call for evacuation of the outer city went out, many people tried to leave.” As if unperturbed by the emptiness Zakharov walked down the hall briskly. “Mr. Richards was one of the first out and decided your meeting wasn’t worth risking. It’s why I was sent. To escort you out if you were willing. It needed to be done without force though and you didn’t seem about to cooperate. Hence, why I’m still here.”
“I’m sorry I’m such an inconvenience for you, maybe you should have said so back at the Haverstead. Or Evan could’ve called and told me that. He could’ve acted like I was a person and not a piece of baggage he forgot,” I replied with a snap, still standing by my earlier decision that Zakharov was not my friend.
“It was a practical move; his life came first.” He didn’t bother to pander to my indignation and kept up his search for the elevators.
He found them too.
They were locked.
I tried out the emergency override pattern Kristoff had shown me but still the doors wouldn’t budge. “The lights are still on so it’s probably been switched off from the security office. It happens sometimes when they’re doing maintenance. Whoever blocked the stairs probably did it.”
“And what floor is security on?”
“I don’t know, that’s Kristoff’s thing. But if they shut off while they were coming back up then they’re probably stuck in there.” I felt the break in my voice as I became panicky at the thought of my guards somewhere they couldn’t get to me if I needed them.
The look of derision Zakharov flashed me showed his disapproval at my tone. I didn’t care. I was scared. I wanted Kristoff. I wasn’t used to a situation where I was completely alone, or in one where the person I was with couldn’t fully be trusted with my safety. I didn’t like this at all.
“Find something to pry the doors open with.” He didn’t bother to wait for me to calm down as he dug through some of the discarded luggage. The disregard he showed to someone else’s belongings was a little alarming.
While slower to look, and I out right refused to tamper with the luggage, I ended up with a fire poker from one of the maid’s carts. Slim, but made of steel, I thought it’d work.
I gave it to Zakharov who wedged, with only a little effort, one of the elevators open enough to peek inside. Darkness coated the shaft, but it was easy to see the car nestled safely at the bottom.
Neither of my guards answered when I called down to them.
One by one we went through the elevators. All of them empty. At least that’s what I thought. All the way up until I could hear the screams coming from one of the cracked doors.