Their faces. All you had to do was look at their faces to see that they had taken the vaccine.
They had that blank stare of a person who drank fluoride laced water for their entire life. They would smile and have small talk with their neighbors, sitting down in front of the TV to zone out mindlessly every night for hours; shells of the humans they had been before it all had gone to hell in a hand basket.
Before the virus. Before the vaccine. Before the invasion.
It had gotten so dark on earth. Humans turning against humans, ratting each other out for scraps from the government, or to put their own family on a premium grocery or doctor list.
The light grew thinner and thinner, literally and figuratively.
The sun had been blocked out by satellites orbiting around the earth, to protect us from the ever-thinning ozone layer deterioration; while on the earth, anyone who went against the vaccines or spoke out about freedom of choice was forced into human camps, jails or onto Guantanamo Bay where they could not make any noise for the “good” part of the population to hear.
The good ones who followed the orders and got the gold stars for participation. Or so they thought.
But what it did within 6-12 months of taking the vaccine was completely destroy the person’s willpower, their goodwill and their kindness. They turned into a child – hoarding food, money, and only thinking of their own survival. Sometimes they even turned on their own children if their kids refused the vaccine, calling the authorities on them when they came over for the weekly family dinner.
After this destruction of generosity and the giving spirit of humans had been taken away, under the guise of democracy and the “health and safety” of every person on the planet, what remained in most people was a bowing down to the government and a lack of will to fight for their own human rights.
As the new normal took over and the “good” people were allowed to travel again, when they were given permission by their government, the bad ones went into hiding. They were the ones who refused to be told what would go in their bodies and refused to believe the government meant them anything but harm.
I was one of the “bad” ones. I had always been a rebel. But even the rebels of mainstream culture - such as the musicians, the movie stars or the athletes, even they eventually bowed down and took the vaccine for fear of losing their money and status.
Everywhere you turned, there seemed to be more and more return to normalcy in a very strange way. People returned to jobs (if they still existed), women shopped in the few malls that had reopened, and men gathered at coffee shops to discuss nothing. All the while, people were disappearing or dying and nobody said a word about it. They simply walked around with their blank stares and empty faces, pretending everything was fine, great, dandy. Life as usual.
I watched with shock from my window, high on the top floor of an office building that had mostly been abandoned (due to the vaccine wiping out half the population in every country), as what looked to be meteorites started falling from the sky. A double decker bus-sized one took out a building five blocks from where I was standing on the 42nd floor. The stricken building collapsed in on itself in a cloud of smoke and debris.
Running from my window to the stairwell as I whistled for Chai, my dog, I started pounding down the stairs with my end-of-days backpack. If those things hit the building, it was over for us, I thought matter-of-factly.
There was no room for error or double guessing these days. The virus had been forgotten months ago, only to be replaced by a constant anxiety of ‘what next?’.
And what next seemed to be shit falling from the sky that would wipe out buildings.
Chai was ahead of me on the stairs as we passed the 32nd floor. We would make it.
This stairwell was never used by the offices on the 2nd and 4th floors and it led down to the basement where I had drilled a hidden tunnel that connected with the old subway system. Old, though only built 10 years ago, because there were no longer enough commuters to fill it so the city government had shut down the subways. It was only buses and a few police cars that ran the streets now; and wild packs of dogs.
Chai barked and I looked behind me as we continued to run. She probably heard a crash from outside the building or something exploding close by.
I heard nothing but the panting of my own breath.
The floors ticked down quickly until we had reached the basement. Checking to make sure there was nobody around, I quietly opened the door with a key and let us inside before I relocked it.
Both of us panting, Chai patiently waited behind the false wall I had made while I removed my backpack and checked around my throat for the locket.
I could not lose it. The heart-shaped locket was my get-out-of-jail free card and only to be used in an extremely dire circumstance.
Meteorites crashing from the sky and causing death and destruction was not a dire circumstance.
Then I felt the quaking. Chai was growling low in her throat. The entire basement was shaking.
“Could be the satellites falling instead of meteorites,” I said to Chai. She turned her head up on one side while she looked at me sideways. Goofy dog.
I grinned at her and patted her head.
Unhooking the latch that held the tunnel door in place, I threw the bag in first. “Up, Chai,” I said to her. We had practiced this many times.
She jumped up and went ahead of me in the tunnel. There were parts of it where I had to crawl and other parts where I could slide down for a bit.
Ten minutes later, we paused by the small entry hole leading into the subway to listen for any noise. We could not hear anything.
I unlocked the tiny gate that kept the tunnel from being accessed by anyone but me, and Chai jumped down and looked up at me. I gently threw the bag onto the ground and hoisted myself down slowly.
Grabbing the bag and putting my arms through the straps, I whistled for Chai to follow and we began our journey out of the center of the city. The ground overhead was shaking randomly and tiny pieces of the tunnel were dropping to the floor everywhere. We were good as long as the falling pieces remained tiny.
Survival despite whatever was raining down from the sky meant that we had to get out of the most dangerous area and to a safer place with fewer buildings. This subway track would take us into the suburbs.
I had already surveillanced, secured and stockpiled an abandoned museum with everything we needed to endure a month of insanity. A month for everything to calm down.
After 45 minutes of walking, we reached the second stop in the suburbs. After lifting Chai up onto the subway platform, I pulled myself up onto it as well.
It was eerily silent. I didn’t hear any large booms or collision sounds.
Carefully walking up the steps, we emerged from underground.
There was nobody around that I could see. Nobody walking or driving - anywhere. Nobody was outside, and there were no dogs roaming the street. But I also couldn’t see any crashed objects from the sky in the vicinity either. Had they only fallen in the city? I wondered.
“Weird,” I stated faintly as I continued walking noiselessly and ducking close to buildings. The museum was only 5 minutes away and around two consecutive side streets.
Chai ran ahead of me to inspect as I had trained her, and she stopped suddenly before turning the corner of the first side street. She saw something.
Glancing back at me, she waited for me to get to her. I crouched down low beside her before peering quietly around the corner.
One of the fallen objects was crashed into the middle of the intersection. Two extremely tall and heavily armed men were patrolling the area close to it.
Not as if they had to patrol very far. Every person within a two mile radius seemed to be gathered here, staring up at the men with their blank faces while they stood there expectantly. One of the armed men started to speak.
I had to strain to hear what he was saying.
“Do not fear, people. We come to you in peace. We seek to help the human race in order to rebuild from the virus and so many deaths. We will show you how to prosper again,” the first one said in a slightly melodic voice while he held his weapon close to his chest.
So they were not men? What in hell was going on here? Had we been invaded by aliens that looked like tall versions of us?
The second one stepped in front of the other one and yelled in a booming, computer-automated type voice, “We need you to gather all of your family and friends and come to the town hall for a meeting tonight at 6pm. There, we will outline how we will help you rebuild and live in peace and harmony again. For the health and wellness of you, your families and this entire planet. Tonight, 6pm, inside the town hall building.”
The citizens that were gathered all nodded their heads in agreement and smiled blankly at the beings before they turned and walked away to their homes.
I checked my watch. It was 4:12pm.
I wanted to know what would happen at this town hall meeting but my gut twisted with the thought of it. It was a trap, my insides screamed.
A trap of what, though? I thought impatiently. I needed to get to the museum and hatch a plan. I would have to go the other way around them and their crashed alien vehicle, and hopefully not run into any vaccinated humans.
As I took one last glance at them and their crashed object, I felt a familiar recognition stream through me.
I had seen this before.