Claire snorted at the word “clean,” then paused and stared out into the distance. He followed her gaze. The water was finally visible, just one short block away. It was bright blue under the blazing sun, and—
“Is there something out there? What’s that bobbing in the water?”
Claire narrowed her eyes, shading them with her hand. “I … I think there is something out there, yeah. A boat maybe?” The hope in her voice was infectious.
They were just about to start an awkward and slow climb down using only windows as handholds when Ben caught something else moving. It was closer, and moving on the road. It looked for all the world like one of the utility vans the crews used when they had to move beyond the most central core areas of the city. “What…?”
Claire had seen it too, and the sound of an engine reached them. It was quiet but audible, and moving away at a decent clip given how bad the roads were out here. They looked at each other in confusion. “Was that one of ours … theirs?”
“It looked kind of like one of our work vans, but I never heard of anyone working this far out.” They sat listening for almost a minute, but the pressure to move forced them down while the streets were still empty. By the time they reached the ground, the sound of the van was long gone. So was the sound of the fire escape.
A glance back up the street the way they’d come showed some dead activity; a small aimless crowd of the dead who had lost their focus when the noise stopped. “I wonder what happened to it,” he said as they started across the road.
“Fell, maybe, or just sat down like they do sometimes I guess,” Claire commented. Her voice was far away; she was staring fixedly at the water and the bobbing shape in it. He turned back and they rushed down the last of the roads between them and the water.
The coast was clear. Literally clear, Ben thought. The grown-over road ran parallel to the coast with a strip of what must’ve been grass long since gone wild in between. The remains of a running path cut through the long grasses, with young strong maple trees growing at even intervals that spoke of their having been planted before the fall. Old park benches faced the water. There were no buildings, no docks to be seen anywhere up or down the coast.
A small motorboat floated lazily out a short distance from shore. An anchor line dropped off the back into the water. It was a welcome and very tempting sight.
Their footsteps faltered and slowed as they crossed the overgrown street.
The van was long gone, but the path it’d taken couldn’t have been more clear. There was only two sets of tracks. It had come out from somewhere, parked right in this area, driven off in the same direction. Then it passed through again without stopping. The dirt it had kicked up and displaced told that story plain enough. What it didn’t say anything about was why, or why right then, that same day.