Chapter 2: Broken City

Red 87 was barefoot, and already bleeding, and the city was broken.

She could(n’t)…. remember… or rather she knew something at the same time as she failed to remember it. She knew the city as its old self, the information was there in a neat little nugget, but there was nothing attached to it. It came like something implanted.

 The city was supposed to be the ideal city, the first of its kind. It was built in a series of interlocking circles, with all circles except the central two miles having both habitation and retail opportunities. There were open park areas with open and covered seating in the diamond between four circles. The central two miles offered more specialist retail opportunities like clothing stores and furniture stores, whereas the habitation circles offered cafes, general stores, butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers and chemists. Every citizen had, at bare minimum, a one-room habitation cube, with one hot and one cold meal provided by the state. Further desires could be fulfilled by employment, but at least no-one would ever starve or freeze.  There was a high-speed train ringing the outskirts of the whole city, with stops every quarter turn. From those stops, a visitor or resident could catch one of a thousand regular trams to any other part of the city…

She could see that train track in the distance; or at least, she could see fragile poles towering high, and on them the tattered and tangled remains of a track. Around her, things seemed neat, not all destruction. Neat… but not untouched. Weeds grew from tumbling walls, and came from broken windows, and doors gaped open like dead mouths.

How long?

But despite this, there was life. Birds sang, having taken over the rubble for their nests and their food hunting. She could name every one from their songs. Vines and brambles and vines and even trees sprouted from the cracked pavements and crumbled walls, and on this beautiful day they were visited by bees and butterflies, because they were in bloom. Somewhere in the ruins, she knew, rats watched her, and badgers and foxes, and all the things that liked dark dens and plentiful prey.

She breathed in deep. The air was fresh, slightly dusty, and full of pollen.

East.

She went east.

Red 87 scrambled over sharp-edged stone and jagged metal, and she cut her hands and feet, but ignored it. The urge for the east was too strong. It was a compulsion. She would keep traveling that way, she thought, even if her feet were worn through to the bone.

But she was human, made of meat and bone and electrical impulses, an imperfect machine that needed energy from food and moisture from water, and time to sleep.

Just a machine, just a machine, complex and inefficient machine…

She thought it in time with her footsteps, she thought it in time with her heartbeat. I am a machine. Time passed. The sun rose until it was above her, and then behind her. Sometimes she slipped, and the detritus of the past crumbled underneath her, and sometimes she walked (east east always east) without trouble or struggle. The destruction got worse as she went on. She went from only the highest and most arrogant buildings brought low to whole sections of city charred down to their roots. But then, with no reason at all, there would be a street or a park seemingly untouched by anything except time.

Her feet were already bleeding.

Try the buildings over there.

She looked over to the left, tired eyes focusing. Here, the buildings were cubes, white cubes, in good condition. Windows were intact. Window boxes harboured weeds and spiders. Curtains still hung in the windows. They looked like their inhabitants had left for work and just never returned.

Try them.

She pressed a hand to one of the doors. White material, smooth. She knew it. Remembered that texture under her own palms. Her skin was very brown against the white and she remembered that too. Remembered… something. People. Other people. A woman, with red hair and freckles all over, and a large broken nose. A man, pudgy and quiet, who smiled soft when she…

And gone. She gritted her teeth, but the shriek still came out. She sounded, even to her own ears, like a wordless animal. She slammed her hand against the door.

A soft beep, a green light glittering, and the door opened.

Go on then.

One hesitant foot inside a door frame, bare, sore soles finding stiff threadbare carpet instead of ragged stones and grit. Body inside next. Eyes seeing what there was to be seen.

Oh, it was sad and oh it was pathetic. No-one there, no soul there. A house abandoned is a house despairing. A house with paint all chipped and dingy. A house where the pictures have faded on the walls. A house where….

A house where in the bedroom something sorry and best forgotten lay under a rotted away quilt. A grin that is not a grin. Two grins. Curled up around each other, yes, because they didn’t know they were going to die and it happened at night, while these two creatures, beloved and beloving, were deep in warm and peaceful sleep, their hands in soft contact with each other, breathing each other into their dreams.

Don’t think about it.

No, don’t. Find… yes. In the wardrobe. There are clothes that she doesn’t want to weigh herself down with, but there are thick socks and good shoes, still good after all these years. She might wonder at that, if she had more mental space. She will wonder about it later. She will wonder about many things later. As yet she is all misfiring signals. She should be in a facility somewhere, relearning how to use a knife and fork. Extended tank time is dangerous.

(where did she get that from why does she know it.)

((WHO is she))

She is Red 87 for now, and that’s all that matters at this time, in this place, she is Red 87 and her feet are bleeding, and the water here is cold but clean. So she washed her feet, wanting to cry as the water flowed away all red and brown and black. And she dried her feet. And she wrapped thin soft cloth around them. Red spots bloomed through. She put the thick socks on over, and then the good boots. Better already.

Find weapons a knife a broken bottle a gun anything.

In the kitchen there was a knife with a white ceramic blade. A good knife, very sharp,  with a brightly coloured plastic blade protector. she takes it with her.

Late. The light had gained that dusty gold colour that came with a late day. She could rest. She should rest. Here?

No. No rest where those poor things don’t sleep.

So she breathed deep, and found a word. An important word, and good to remember. “Sorry,” she said, “And thank you”.

 

Alright, readers! That’s this week done with. Don’t forget, if you have ideas for creatures she should meet, things she should do, or what could happen to her, say it in the comments and I’ll do my best to include it.

Chapter 3

 

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