On the security desk beneath a layer of black mold (I’m sure it’s fine that we wiped that away and breathed in whatever spores it released) was a diagram of the area. I think it was one of those “where to run if there’s a fire” things. Based on examining that, we made our way to a cafeteria. The tables were still bolted to the ground but otherwise there were piles of bones with little scraps of clothing stuck to them, which made it less cafeteria-like. Someone must have been piling bodies here at some point because there were dozens of them. I don’t know why but seeing all those bones depressed me more than the actual dead bodies (some of which I made) I’ve seen. Maybe it’s because a dead body doesn’t look that much different from an alive person. A bunch of scattered bones is a starker reminder of what’s to come.
From the cafeteria, we went into the kitchen and both gasped like we had fallen through the ice of a frozen lake. Before us was a gleaming oasis of spotless countertops. The place was immaculate. My first thought was that that must mean that it’s still in use but there wasn’t a scrap of food in the place, not even a scrap of a scrap. Not even a crumb. I looked through every damn cupboard and pantry in the place. Twice. Nothing. Martialla said that she thought it might look clean because it was all made from a special anti-fungal ceramic instead of metal.
I’m not sure I’ve been more crushed emotionally in my life. Standing in a massive cafeteria kitchen and there not being any food. Must be what it’s like to be dying of thirst in a boat in the ocean. You can’t comprehend it. We stood there in that kitchen for a good long time.
From there we came to an area that had a huge window where we could see an Indian woman (probably the one I saw before and Martialla denies) with Lizzy McGuire and another woman who looked like Soledad O’Brien. They appeared to be performing an autopsy on one of the attacking warriors from the fight above. According to the fire exit map we looked at, it should have been an office space but clearly things have changed since that map was accurate because instead it was outfitted with medical tables for slicing up dead bodies and had computers and lights and shit. Functioning computers and lights and shit.
We screamed and pounded on the glass (or whatever it was) but they didn’t even look at us. I’m not sure they could hear us. The glass (or whatever it was) didn’t seem all that thick but even to us, the sound we made was muffled, like it was absorbing the noise. We kept waving our arms at them and they continued to ignore us. Even when Martialla threatened to shoot the window they didn’t react. The pistol she just looted wouldn’t fire, probably because it’s a century old, but she blasted off with the stupid pipegun and it was about as effective as a throwing a dry cotton ball.
We stood there for even longer than we did in the kitchen. They were right there. People from our time. People with clean clothing and food and climate control and lemon water and toothpaste. Just feet away from us. But they might as well have been on the moon. It was a feeling even worse than dying of thirst on a life raft. That must be what it feels like to be homeless. All anyone has to do is help you, they’re right there and instead they just ignore you and leave you to die.
Eventually they finished extracting that guy’s liver or whatever the hell they were doing and they started turning off lights and headed for a door. I caught Soledad’s eye for a split second and I gave her my most ingratiating and sycophantic and pathetic appeal for help smile that I could have ever given in my life. She looked away and left with Lizzy and the Indian woman.
When all the lights went off in that room, we were left in the dark again. We stood there in the utter blackness for a long time. I took Martialla’s hand in my numb left hand and we pressed against the glass and leaned there breathing noisily and coughing and making the little uncategorized noises that you make when you’re hurt.
Eventually we started shuffling along, feeling our way along the glass in the dark. After a while we noticed that we were heading towards a flickering light. The light was coming from a square metal room that had a spiderweb of pipes and vents spanning out from it. In the middle of the web was not a spider but the silvery gleam of a set of medical-grade water filters. I staggered over to see how to extract them while Martialla started bashing open a series of what looked like breaker boxes on the opposite wall. She took out a knife and started stabbing incoherently at the innards of one of the boxes panting like a dog. Shortly thereafter an accented voice came over a PA or an intercom or something sounding quite alarmed.
“Please don’t tamper with that.”
Martialla spun around wildly, screaming that they could come and stop her and that she was going to snap their necks if they did. She tried to jump and kick at one of the boxes and instead fell down and started hacking up blood and then choking on it. As I tried to help her calm down, the voice spoke again.
“We can’t hear you, we can only see you. Leave our equipment alone please.”
I couldn’t tell where the camera was they were using to observe us so to make sure they could see, I extended my middle finger in an upwards fashion and slowly turned to each corner of the room.