Eleven Months Before Impact Day
I banged on the door to the security room, hunched over, my free hand pressed against the gaping wound in my stomach, praying it wouldn’t heal too quickly. It hadn’t hurt as much as I’d expected, but that didn’t mean it didn’t still sting.
A few seconds later, the door opened, and a very confused middle-aged white guy with uneven facial hair was staring down at me. I could understand his confusion; the security room was pretty far in, and I’d had to take a very specific route to get there unnoticed. Rachel had planned the whole thing out, of course.
As soon as he saw my stomach, and the hands covered in blood, his confusion turned to concern. I almost felt bad for tricking him.
“What on earth…”
“Please help me,” I croaked, playing up the pain I was in. I grabbed the doorframe for support, leaving a bloody handprint. We’d already discovered my blood evaporated after a while, so we weren’t worried about forensic evidence.
“What happened? Are you okay?” He grabbed me gently, guiding me into the room, letting me sit down in his chair.
“There was… a man…” I said, slumping, as if it were getting harder to support my own weight, even sitting down. “I think… I got away…”
“I need to call an ambulance,” he said, more to himself than me.
“Already… did…” I said, clumsily pulling the fake phone out of my pocket. “Just need to… lie down…”
I collapsed forward, holding my breath, and holding down the one functioning button on the fake phone. He caught me, too distracted by me to notice the gas slowly filling the room.
“You poor girl,” he said, his tone that of a worried father. He probably had kids of his own. I really hoped he didn’t react badly to the gas.
Out of the corner of my eye, I realised he had a window open. I really needed him to close it, or the gas would take a lot longer to fill the room.
“It’s cold,” I said weakly, aware that the wound was already closing up. Please don’t notice. “Could you… close the window… please?”
“Of course, of course,” he said, quickly getting up to close it. “I think I have a towel, just keep pressure on the wound until the ambulance arrives. Oh, that smell…”
Shit. Think fast, Charlie.
“I think… Sorry, I think the knife… might have hit my colon,” I lied, through gritted teeth that were only half acted. The wound was healing, sure, but the ache was going to last for a while yet.
“Well, if you can stay tough until the ambulance arrives, I think I can deal with the smell,” he said, sounding a little guilty.
You don’t deserve this.
“You’re a good man,” I told him. “Sorry to be doing this to you.”
“Don’t you worry about it. You’ve been through enough tonight as it is.”
I didn’t say anything after that. I just held my breath, waiting for the gas to do its job. I had actually wondered if it was safe for me to inhale it, but we hadn’t had a chance to experiment.
It only took a few more minutes before he was too delirious to realise he was being drugged, and only a few more after that until he was out completely. It was almost a relief to see him that way, peaceful and calm. Not that it did anything to ease my guilt.
I dropped the phone case on the floor. It would break down into unidentifiable dust after a while, hopefully letting me leave without a trace. A few fingerprints maybe, but I’d been pretty careful.
I opened the door and slipped out as quietly as I could, shutting it behind me to make sure the gas stayed in the room. There wasn’t enough to kill him; it would wear off long before that, and once we were out, we’d call an ambulance anyway.
I made my way towards unit E17, like Rachel had said. She’d mapped out a path for me, to make sure I avoided the patrolling guards.
She was already there waiting for me, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed, smiling at me. My stomach hurt, but when I saw her, it did a little fluttery dance. She was so cool.
“How’d you go?” she asked, but before I could answer, she pulled me in closer and kissed me. Much as I hate to admit it, I immediately turned red. “I’m sorry about stabbing you,” she added.
“Totally worth it for that,” I said, smirking. “That guard… he didn’t deserve that.”
She sighed. “I wish I could have thought of another way. I really do, but that was Athe safest thing I could think of, for them and for us.”
“I know,” I said, squeezing her before pulling away. “I appreciate your help.”
“So, you ready?”
“The sooner we’re out of here, the better. How do we open the lock?”
“What you don’t know how to pick a lock?” she asked, mocking me.
“You do?” She grinned. “Of course you do. Why am I not surprised?”
“I get bored,” she said defensively. “It’s not like I have a TV, or the internet. I don’t even have a phone.”
“We really need to get you out of that house more,” I muttered.
She crouched down in front of the lock, pulling a couple of small metal pins from her bag. What didn’t she have in there?
“It’ll happen,” she said, distracted. “But for now… Got it!”
She turned back to grin at me, and I’d never seen her look so proud. I gave her some quiet applause.
“I am, aren’t I?”
“Show off,” I said, rolling my eyes.
We rolled up the door, and a light flickered on, illuminating the small space. The two of us stared, momentarily stunned by the small arsenal laid out before us.
The unit looked like somebody was stocking up for an apocalypse, or a small war. I didn’t realise the police had that much weaponry. I had to marvel at just how much he’d managed to steal, though.
To my delight, most of it was non-lethal. A cache of firearms wouldn’t have been at all useful to me, so I was glad to see plenty of things I recognised as being designed for crowd control, rather than killing people.
“Alright, let’s grab as much as we can,” Rachel said, her eyes lighting up a little.
There were several large black backs sitting in a corner. We grabbed one each, and began stuffing them full of as much as we could cram in them. When we literally couldn’t fit anything else in, we zipped them up, throw them over our shoulders, closed the roller door, and ran. Rachel led the way, still knowing exactly how to get through without being seen.
We didn’t stop running until we were well clear of the storage facility, collapsing against a wall several streets down. The two of us just lay there, struggling to catch our breath, occasionally glancing over at each other and just grinning.
“How’s your stomach?” Rachel asked, when she’d finally started breathing normally again.
“See for yourself,” I replied, lifting the bloody top up, revealing an entirely unscathed stomach. It didn’t even hurt anymore.
“That’s incredible,” she said. She reached over and touched the area where the knife had gone in, tracing her finger along my skin. Then she realised what she was doing, blushed profusely, and pulled her hand away again. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“…’s okay,” I said, also mumbling.
Another awkward silence followed, until the sound of distant sirens snapped us back to reality. We exchanged worried glances, and silently agreed it was probably time to move on.
I pulled the bloody top over my head and wrapped myself up in the hoodie, glad for the extra warmth. Rachel was pointedly looking away as I changed, so I snuck up behind her and rested my hands on her hips. She jumped, but didn’t pull away.
“Thanks for figuring all this out,” I said, as she twisted around to face me. We were roughly the same height, which meant our faces were right in front of each other. I could feel her warm breath on my cheeks.
“Thanks for trusting me,” she said, sneaking her hands into the front pockets of my hoodie. It had the added effect of pulling us just a little closer together.
I leaned into her, enjoying the feeling of her body against mine. She tensed up a little, but then tilted her head slightly and pressed her lips against mine.
We stayed that way for probably a lot longer than we should have, given the circumstances, but neither of us were willing to pull away.
“I’m starting to see the appeal of that kissing thing,” I admitted, a little reluctantly.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said, picking up my bloody top. “We should toss this in a random bin. Did that security guard get a good look at you?”
“Maybe,” I said. “Would have been hard not to.”
“Maybe the drugs will mess with his memory. Just in case, how do you feel about getting a new hairstyle?”
“Do you not like my hair the way it is?”
“Just trying to be practical,” she muttered. “I think it’s cute.”
“Well, I was hoping the lack of a stab wound would be enough to exonerate me, but I guess a new look wouldn’t be the worst thingin the world…”
“For now, let’s just get this stuff home and hidden, okay? We should take one bag each, in case one bag gets found.”
“Good thinking,” I said. “And, you know, thanks. For tonight.”
“We can have a proper date next time,” she promised. “But I’m glad you didn’t have a terrible time.”
“With you? Never,” I said.
Next Week: You Will Be Safe, Won’t You?