She ran West on Market Street, actually it was as much South as West, since Market Street is crooked. This had always confused her when giving directions and trying to picture the layout of her city. She ran with an odd strength and steady pace – the buildings she passed were a blur and the bodies she jumped over, lying listlessly on the sidewalk hardly registered even as they reached their limp hands to her and tried to brush her legs.
She barely knew how she had gotten here, what her morning had been like. She had thought perhaps it was still safe to go to work, to have a normal life. She thought this might be another distant disaster she heard about on NPR, removed from her life. She valued her routine, like a quiet and steady friend. It helped her feel safe and normal and level-headed, none of which came naturally to her. So, she got up that morning and washed her face with cold, cold water as usual and ignored the creeping feeling in her stomach, the feeling that said this was much more than a far away news story.
She had loved Market Street despite it being dirty and grimy and full of homeless people and druggies crasy people and out of luck war veterans – people who needed help and couldn’t find it or didn’t want it always reaching a hand out for a bit of change, a bit of hope or pleasure or coffee to make the day go by. Unclaimed people who made some feel scared or guilty, but she had always felt safe and at home here. She felt a pang of sadness for what it had been.
A week before there had been news of a few cases of a newly discovered disease. It wasn’t a dramatic disease – quite the opposite. The infected became listless and a bit mad, but not uncontrollably so. Perhaps most peculiar was their lack of basic human needs – they wouldn’t sleep or eat or use the bathroom or talk much. They didn’t seem to need entertainment or hope or love. They simply existed and continued to exist and survive without any of the things once thought necessary for human life… except one.
They still seemed to breathe. They needed air, but not water, she thought. How bizarre. How is this possible? She pictured what she would need to do to cut off someone’s supply of air – a plastic bag over the head, a noose? She wasn’t a very violent person, and there was one key thing she couldn’t do to protect herself or defend herself, and that was touch an infected person. The disease was passed through prolonged contact with the skin – a hand hold, two cheeks pressed together. It was some sort of hormone or secretion. The doctors weren’t sure yet, but prolonged touch with strangers was greatly discouraged in the news casts.
**Thought I’d post this in installments to keep myself motivated. This is the first bit of my story based on a dream that is now being called quiet apocalypse, but that might change, since that sounds a bit corny to me.