The Fast and the Dead - Day 25

They ducked inside and Ben immediately felt the walls of the room closing in; he almost wanted to rush back out again. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to calm down.

Claire was feeling it too; he could tell by her voice. “Across or up?” she asked, voice brittle with tension. He interpreted that to mean ‘try to find another surface exit on the other side of the building, or head up to the roofs again.’

“Across. Our last trip up wasn’t fun.”

“Let’s go!”

They had to move slow; it was even darker inside than out, which didn’t make either of them feel a lot better about being inside again. They were in a large open area inside what might have been an office building or hotel once. Broad stairs leading up to the next floor faced them, and a long reception desk stood abandoned. The street-facing windows were floor to ceiling, so the room wasn’t completely dark, though it was awfully close. “Stick to this room, there must be an exit on the other side too.” He was able to make out Claire’s nod.

The long hours under the night sky had sharpened their night vision to about the best it was going to reach, but even so they found themselves with a hand on the reception desk for guidance. The floor wasn’t exactly empty; broken glass, dirt and debris were everywhere, and there were even patches of grass growing in places, just like the road ways outside.

They’d gone most of the length of the reception desk when Claire jerked her hand away from it with a grunt of surprise. “Ugh!”

Ben winced at the exclamation; her voice had been low, but compared to the near silence it seemed loud. “What is it?”

She picked something up off the desk. “Food. Or the dish it was eaten from at least.” She sniffed at it. “Beef stew, maybe. And it’s still slimy… it surprised me.”

“Still slimy?” That had to mean it had been eaten very recently, within hours, not days, weeks or years.

“A little… seems pretty dried out, but not completely. Someone was here recently.”