There was the sound of shuffling footsteps in the darkness and then utter, inescapable silence. At one point, Bev thought, this building must have been an office of some sort, bustling with productivity and industry. Now, it was only a ruin, a shattered memory decorated in broken glass, plaster, and bricks. She surveyed her companions as they sat in a semi-circle nearby, huddled in tense concentration. Abe sat leaning against a broken, forgotten desk, his large, heavy hands resting on the rifle they had found beside an abandoned police car on the desolate street below. He was as big as a linebacker with chiseled features and a neat crew cut of black hair. Next to him, laying down and nursing a broken leg, was Dex, a middle-aged, African-American school teacher. No one could remember exactly when or how Dex had broken his leg, least of all Dex himself. It was probably when the last building they were hiding in from the looters collapsed and almost killed them all.
“How are you feeling, Dex?” Bev asked as she passed him a bottle of water.
“I've been better, but I'm still breathing, right?” he replied with as much of a smile as he could muster.
“I really hope Riley knows what he's doing” Abe chimed in with his grave voice.
“I'm sure he does,” Bev replied sitting back in her spot. An older gentlemen with round spectacles rubbed at his temples and sighed.
“Well, he certainly has been doing a helluva job so far” the man said.
“We're alive aren't we, Walt?” Bev snapped, “That's more than we can say for Bill.”
Bill was the sixth member of their group, counting Riley. Bill had been shot by a looter when they were being chased down Grand Avenue. Riley had rushed over and somewhat heroically hoisted Bill up and carried him into their current refuge. Riley, their reluctant leader, claimed to be a doctor and had locked himself up with Bill in the next room in an attempt to save his life. The others had been informed just an hour ago that Bill had passed away.
“You're just biased because you and he are…” Walt retorted.
“Shut up, Walt” Bev said standing up, “or I'll shut you up…”
Walt's mouth hung open as if trying to form a witty comeback, but then promptly closed as despair seemed to overtake him again. Bev looked off toward one of the open windows, beyond it loomed the silent ruins of what was once a great city.
“I'll…talk to Riley,” she said at last and walked off with her head hung low.
As she passed through rows of desks toward the back room, she thought back on the war, the terrible war. A blackout due to electromagnetic pulses had plunged the entire east coast into the dark ages again and chaos had erupted, with looting and rioting running rampant. Finally, just a week ago, things had died down and the city was mostly a ghost town. No one knew where everyone had gone and they feared the worst. Riley had led this particular band of survivors for over a week, if not longer. He claimed to know where there was a military camp for survivors of the disaster. Abe, Dex, Bev, Walt and Bill followed him hoping that at any time salvation would appear from around the very next street corner.
So far, no luck.
Bev knocked on the door to the back room and a muffled voice said, “come in”
She opened the door and there was Riley standing by a gaping hole in the far wall. He was in his mid to late thirties, tall, handsome, with dirty blonde hair. His face seemed to convey more than desperation, but a glimmer of defeat. Bev hoped he wasn't giving up already.
“Hello, dear,” he said, with a weak smile.
Bev leaned in close and slid her arms around him, her head pressed against his chest, “Everyone…everyone is so scared…I'm a little scared myself.”