“Quickly in here” She urges in a familiar voice
Blister is out of options and this woman can talk, which is more than he needs to know that she’s not Assimilated. He enters and the girl shuts the door behind him, locking several locks and latches within seconds of Blister passing her.
“This way” She coerces, leading Blister down some stairs.
Blister has only managed to catch one solid breath since he entered, he hasn’t even had a chance to look his saviour in the eye or blurt a word of gratitude for her actions. The woman opens a door to what appears to be the basement of her apartment. Within the basement is a set of bookshelves and boxes, and all manner of things a family would store, had the world not been over taken by human robots. Behind one of the cupboards is a secret door to a panic room, within the panic room is a hatch. The woman, with Blister’s help lifts the hatch
“Get in, hurry” She says.
Blister looks at her with a certain distrust painted on his face.
“What you don’t trust me now? I just saved you from the horde”
Blister silently agrees, and climbs down through the hatch, but stops before the woman fully closes the lid after him.
“Wait! What’s your name? What cluster are you with?”
She looks at him disgruntled, and sighs.
“I’m Vicky, I have no idea what a cluster is, get in the hole and head west, it’ll take you out of the city”
Blister accepts her answer and swiftly climbs down the ladder. Vicky closes the hatch behind him and secures herself in the panic room for the fallout of her actions.
She looks a lot like Trace, who the hell is that woman? Blister asks himself, at the bottom of the ladder where he stops and places his hands to his knees and pants for a few moments, trying to catch his breath.
There’s a putrid smell in the tunnel he finds himself in; a cold and acrid, familiar stench, his memory wanes to its rotted intensity and it’s restricting his ability to recuperate from his marathon run. He hears what he thinks to be a generator power up and then quieten to a low hum.
Vicky must have some kind of machine to repel the Assims; they’d have attacked her by now for sure if she didn’t. He ponders.
Blister walks at pace just slower than jogging, the smell grows stronger; hints of old meat come to mind. He can see a mass ahead of him.
That has to be what stinks.
Blister gets closer to the now musty odour and slows, as he realises what the masses are.
Oh shit… Vicky…
He looks in the direction of her apartment and dolour fills his head. He turns back and notices a hand carved wooden plaque resting on the brick ledge surrounding the tunnel, with further investigation it reads:
‘My protectors, my teachers, my loving parents’
Blister closes his eyes and weeps at the thought of that young woman having to drag her parents down here, and then stand in the smell of them while she carved a plaque in their memory.
“Don’t worry kid, I’ll help you bury them properly when all this is over” He says quietly to the tunnel’s thick stagnant air.
Blister walks away from Vicky’s parents with a sense of duty to her and also a calming feeling.
There are others out there that have managed to resist Assimilation.
This thought has given Blister an endearing focus to free all Hûms, Vicky and Assimilated alike.
The smell of the dead has long faded as Blister comes to the end of the tunnel. The wall to his left has been broken.
Someone’s done this recently. Blister gathers by the fresh dust piled on top of the old dust.
Small hole too, Vicky looks about this size.
Blister looks up to a hatch.
Maybe I can… Shit.
His hopes are broken when he sees the welds on the inside of the exit.
I guess it’s through the hole then.
He kicks some more of the bricks out of the way to accommodate for his wider body and crawls through.
With a tiny LED light illuminating every metre of the small room, Blister pieces together the purpose of the room. There’s a kitchenette with a refrigerator and dining table for four on the left side of the room, and the other seems to be dedicated to entertainment and relaxation with a television, couches and a ping pong table.
One of Vicky’s parents was probably a subway maintenance worker if they knew about this place. Well, they’d have to be pretty cluey to keep themselves off grid for so long, especially so close to a major city.
Blister savours the nostalgia of the room, running his hands on the ping pong table, disturbing the dust on the couch by sitting down and pressing buttons on the television remote. He sighs, wishing he could stay in a place like this for longer than the few moments he’s already wasted not getting to the other clusters.
Better check the fridge before I go.
He meanders over to it, reminding himself of the countless times he had done this as a kid only to find nothing that he desired within the cool confines. He opens the door.
“Holy shit, no way!” He blurts.
Blister swiftly snatches the item that immediately caught his eye. The packaging is damaged and reads: ‘ars’ but Blister knows exactly what it should say. He hastily rips the plastic sheath apart and crams half of the bar into his mouth. The refrigerator had kept it cool, but the chocolate was soft and melted on to his tongue, he gnashed it between his teeth and his tongue played with the mush till his mouth was evenly coated with chocolate and caramel and he resembled a dog with peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. It was only when he swallowed and looked down at the other half of the bar that he felt a sense of regret. Talking through a thick mess of chocolate he laments over his actions:
“Aw man, Vicky was probably saving this”
Blister wraps the remaining half of the bar in some aluminium foil he found in the kitchen and puts it back on the shelf. He really wanted the other half, but he left the kitchenette; semi satiated with the small morsel of chocolate he thought he’d never get to taste again.
“Thanks kid” he says, walking to a door with a toy train dangling crookedly from a piece of scrap wire on a coat hook.
“Please be unlocked” he says with both hands crossing fingers.
“Fuck yeah” Blister rejoices, opening the door to a chilly, dark subway tunnel. He re-latches the deadbolt before closing the door to the maintenance rec-room behind him.
Some time passes as Blister trudges alone. The fifth station he comes across is the only one he recognises, simply because it’s the only one that is illuminated; the rest have been long since decommissioned due to redundancy.
I know where I am now, this is right near Cluster B; finally, I can get out of these fucking tunnels.
His trek would’ve been swifter had it not been for the schedule of trains that kept forcing him to hide behind pillars and in broken wall cavities until they passed by. Blister waits yet again behind a pillar for a train to take off and hopefully take all of the Assimilated on the platform with it. He peers around the pillar as he hears the train departing.
Now’s my chance.
He dashes out from the shadows and pounces up onto the platform like a cat chasing a laser, then he promptly adjusts his composure to suit the Assimilated and calmly he walks up an out as if he were programmed to.
The streets are nearly empty save for the few Assimilated operating food stalls and maintaining vital city amenities. All of them too busy to notice Blister passing through; who is now very good at faking Assimilation since his brief taste of Abishua’s pill. He makes a left down an alleyway that leads through to a suburban section of the city.
A few more turns and I’ll be at Cluster B’s doorstep.
He wipes his sweaty forehead on his sleeve as he makes the second of those few turns. He reaches an intersection where he’s to make his third turn when…
It comes out of nowhere: a baseball bat cuts a thick wooden line across his vision and sends him to the ground, writhing and squirming in pain.
“What?!… What the fu…” His favourite profanity is cut short, as another hit from the bat knocks him out.