Sawyer keeps telling himself that, almost like a mantra. The city is just too damn big to come apart at the seams like D.C., or Boston, or LA, or any of the other cities that appear to have gone dark. ‘Appear’, because he doesn’t know for sure. He doesn’t know anything except what he overhears on the guards’ radios before they hastily respond and move out of civilian range. Most of it is crackling chatter, hardly better than noise, but sometimes words drift through that Sawyer recognizes from his time in the corps. They’re not promising; which is why he is fairly certain he and the other QZ inhabitants – ‘refugees’ they’re still called – will be kept on a steady diet of bullshit while the brass tries desperately to figure out some kind of long term plan. If indeed anyone could plan for the dead coming back to feed on the living.The extreme rationing, the poor sanitary conditions, the overcrowding, the dwindling medical supplies, the disappearances…all of it is being carefully managed, justified, and sold as ‘a temporary inconvenience’. As if word hadn’t already circulated that other parts of the country, the world even, have gone completely to hell with no sign of salvation in sight.
But NYC is…Sawyer doesn’t know how to describe it. It’s like a living creature all on its own, a leviathan with titanium skin that no disaster can really penetrate, and not for lack of trying. Even as hastily as the quarantine zone had been thrown together, there was a strange sense of…permanence to it. Like it had become the new normal, and everyone within its walls had already adapted to the order of things. As frustrated and uncertain as everyone was, life had taken on a strange sort of rhythm. People were trading chores, favours, supplies, in what had become a rudimentary bartering system that bridged the gaps regulation couldn’t fill. There were networks forming, people who knew people who knew a guy who knew more guys, and so on. The longer it went on, the more insulated they all became from the outside world, the less real it all felt. Like somehow life outside the walls had stopped, or simply become too far away to be of any consequence.
Typical New York City. It evolves. It survives. It doesn’t fall. Not from the outside. No, if anything…it would tear itself apart from the inside. As the days stretched into weeks and information became less forthcoming, Sawyer felt a dramatic shift in the collective mood of the place. A mounting outrage laced with desperation, and a growing undercurrent of fear. Fear that the screams and gunshots echoing outside the quarantine walls were getting closer, and more frequent, while the supply trucks were arriving fewer and further in between. Fear that the sickness had already spread too far and too fast to be contained, and that it was only a matter of time before it wormed its way into their isolated ranks. Fear of waking up with teeth in your throat, hands clawing at your face; he’d only caught a glimpse of that brutality before he and Dany were ushered into the quarantine zone at gunpoint, but it was enough to haunt his already restless nights. He didn’t share other people’s urgency to leave the QZ, but he understood their suffocation. With more refugees arriving every day, apparently with nowhere else to go, he knew it was only a matter of time before someone snapped.
The thought chilled him, and robbed the last of his appetite. He was getting too comfortable here, and comfortable people never see the worst coming before it happens. Standing up from the cafeteria table, he collected his tray wove through the crowded mess hall towards the barracks, brushing elbows with the usual sea of people milling around between buildings. The QZ had been set up around a high school, one of the biggest in the city, with a hub of central buildings nestled together like eggs in a nest. The barracks were in the gymnasium, with row upon row of bunk beds and air mattresses and whatever people were willing to sleep on. It was a hive of activity, as always, but his eyes immediately picked Dany out of the crowd. He’d know her anywhere by that distinctive white-blonde hair, even without knowing which bunk she favoured.
She was on the top bunk, of course, idly flipping through a magazine he had seen her read a dozen times already by now. Young as she was, it was only too easy to forget she was his boss, of all things. A fact he recalled now with a strange sort of nostalgia, though their dynamic had changed considerably since their arrival here. He used to be a quiet yes ma’am sort of employee, as was the case for anyone working private security for the head of a multi billion dollar enterprise. But now it was just the two of them, alone in a sea of strangers, and he felt the weight of her doubt, her fear, as keenly as his own. And because she was so much younger, and because he could, if not had to, he had…stepped up, in a way. He was still her protector, and made sure to look after her like he always did, but the balance of power had shifted dramatically between them.
His approach earned habitual, if not somewhat listless look. Sliding the food tray onto the mattress next to her, he leaned his elbows on the edge and gave her a somewhat pointed stare. “You missed dinner,” he grunted. “They wouldn’t let me grab a tray for you, so here – take the rest of mine.”
It wasn’t appetizing, though he figured she must be hungry by now. Cold, watery soup with hunks of beef and broccoli floating in the broth, and a bun that was minutes away from growing mold. Looking down at it, he made a face and gave her a somewhat apologetic shrug. “It’s not gonna get a Michelin star or anything, but…better than nothing, right?”
“Want to assist me with something?” has you looking up from your laptop, where you had been absentmindedly scrolling through various websites, to see Kol. He had that look on his face. The one that you only saw when he was on the verge of doing something at best mischievous, or at worst deadly.
“That depends. What do you need help with?” you ask, cautiously eyeing him.
He just chuckles in response, “Don’t be so suspicious, darling! I assure you it’s nothing too sinister.” Your silence queues him to continue, “My brothers have been quite the pair of hard-arses lately, don’t you agree? I just want to bring a bit of laughter back into their lives.” Rolling his eyes at your prolonged silence, he adds, “Well, my life, that is.”
“And how do you plan on doing that, Kol?” you can’t help the upward quirk of your lips at his enthusiasm.
“Why, with a lighthearted prank, of course,” he plants himself in front of you, wiggling an enticing brow. “What do you say? Up for some fun?”
“A Pilot’s Pilot” is a tiny writing community dedicated to supporting the fans of the band Twenty One Pilots through words and art. We collect YOUR stories about your experiences with Twenty One Pilots. We publish your story on Pilotstories.weebly.com and publish them in the books, “A Pilot’s Pilot”. We then give a copy to Josh and Tyler.
Send in your story, encourage others through your words.