Jacob cautiously examines his surroundings as the two slowly descend the stationary, ice covered escalator. Slowly they walk, tightly grasping the railing with each step they took. The floor below was flooded. The morning breeze brought in by the shattered ceiling above, leaving specks of snow melting on the surface of the murky, viridescent water. It was cold. Cold as any winter day. Even under his worn duffel coat he could still feel it. Every breath gushed from his mouth like steam from a train engine.
Upon reaching the bottom, Jacob stepped without hesitation, soaking his jeans ankles deep. His teeth clattered. A stinging shiver ran up his spine as he felt his feet freezing under the inclement temperature. He reached into his bag to pull a flashlight, but a hand grabbed his shoulder.
Kayden shakes his head.
‘No light, no sound.’ he signs.
Jacob closes his bag, slowly proceeding through the open space, dimly lit by the obscured natural light above. The silence was unsettling. The absence of a single sound save the glass underwater, crunching quietly against the weight of their boots.
Surrounding them were dozens of dilapidated stores. Their existence forgotten by the passage of time, allowing an abundance of overgrowth; moss and icy vines that sprawled across their walls.
Jacob looked over at Kayden, who stared at the stores with a despondent expression, reminiscing of a time long gone. A life his brother had been fortunate enough to live in much longer than himself.
He turned to Jacob and the expression immediately fades.
‘Split up. Cover more ground. You look for meds. I look for food. Understand?’
Jacob nods. He begun to turn, but Kayden seizes him by the shoulder again.
‘Be careful.’ He signs.
Jacob warily made his way over to the derelict pharmacy. An unlit, disarranged room hiding behind a set of unlocked, rusty gates. Parts of the ceiling had caved in. Strip lights and sings were hanging by a mere thread of wire. An eerie feeling twisted his insides. Nonetheless, he forcibly pulled against the sliding gates, meeting some resistance before a cacophonous snap echoed around him.
No light. No sound. He recalls, immediately regretting his action. He glances around him. Nothing.
He slid through the gap and entered the pharmacy. The air was putrid, filled with an incongruous odour. There were several aisles of shelves stretching down the store. Every one was near empty. Prescription medication would be the hardest to find, but every one of the locked cabinets behind the counter had either been pried or smashed open. Finding anything important was impossible and nothing is unimportant. Every recourse is valued. In this world, humans are driven by the same greed that caused their demise.
Humans. A word no longer able to define those who still walk this Earth.
Preparing to go back empty handed, Jacob abruptly notices a door at the back end of the pharmacy. An old, white metal door locked by a ramble of phthalo green vines.
Jacob tried the handle. The resistance was heaving, but forcible. He pushed with the weight of his shoulder. The door snapped tumultuously. Water gushed from behind before Jacob could realise and collapsed.
Jacob winced, falling onto a scattering of glass. He lifted his hands to reveal small fragments, splintered in his skin. Blood seeped down his palms, trickling into the water below. Panically, he picked the pieces from his hands, then pulled himself up from the flooded ground. His clothes drenched, dripping with numbing water.
His heart skipped a beat. His breath caught in his own throat.
He shut his eyes. Slowed his breathing. Four seconds in. Four seconds hold. Four seconds out.
When he opened his eyes, he restrained himself from looking it. But before he moved away, caught sight of something in the corner of his eye.
A gun, resting in the lifeless grip. Jacob hesitated, reluctantly reaching for the gun and taking it from the hand without resistance.
Jacob stands, holstering the handgun in the pocket of his pants. He shifts his attention, gravitating towards the tall industrial shelves packed tightly in the small, cluttered room. There were boxes. Every one of them near empty, but somehow containing a plentiful of the supplies he needed.
He makes his way out of pharmacy, satisfied by his takings. He hoped Kayden was having the same amount of luck.
A sudden sound caught him inattentive. He cocks his head, left and right, searching for the origin. But it was too dark. He wasn’t able to tell which way it came from.
A force smashes into his head, knocking him off his feet. Before he could even realise, he was falling, splashing into the water, crashing into the ground. There was no pain. Simply a vertiginous sense of disorientation and dizziness.
He looks up, a figure standing before him; holding a long piece of metal above his head.
Before the figure can swing Kayden desperately throws himself into them. He tries to tackle the figure, but is quickly overpowered with a knee to the face. The metal piece strikes Kayden in the jaw. He falls.
The figure continues to beat him. Once, twice, three times, four times. He doesn’t stop.
Jacob’s eyes widen with shock. Tears rolling down his cheeks.
“No-! Stop-! Stop…STOP!” He cries despairingly.
He tries to stand, but his head was aching profusely.
Blood begun to pool around Kayden, tarnishing the water a deep, scarlet red.
Jacob clenched his fists. Rage boiling inside of him. Adrenaline rushing through his body. There had to be something, anything he can do.
He reaches into his pocket, pulling out the handgun he had obtained earlier. He aims it towards the figure. His hands shaking uncontrollably. His heart racing. His vision was blurring, growing darker and darker as his grasp of consciousness was loosening. He had to take the shot.
So with a shallow exhale…
He pulled the trigger.