The single word drew my attention to a raggedy looking man leaning against a light pole. What’s his face from the old house, the crazy guy who told me the city would blow up in seven days.
That was, what? Six days ago.
I backtracked a few steps to lean next to him. “What’s your name, slim?”
“You don’t need to know my name. Thought I told you not to come downtown.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, well. You know what they say about the lure of the lights and all that.”
“You’re too smart to be doing this to yourself.” He glanced over to me, and I noticed for the first time how calm he was. No twitching, no incoherent talk. Just as calm and steady as a sunny day. “Why do you destroy yourself?”
“Gee, slim, I don’t know.” I stepped off the pole and turned my back to him. “Maybe my daddy didn’t love me enough.”
“Bullshit.” He stepped up behind me and I felt his hot breath on my cheek when he spoke again. “Leave. Now.”
Slim’s voice sent goosebumps across my skin and I rubbed my arms. “Why?”
“Up to you, mama,” he said, suddenly backing away. But he grabbed my arm before I could run for my life. I knew I should have finished off that tequila before I left the house.
“What are you doing?” I struggled in his grip, my efforts futile. Slim was much stronger than he appeared.
“Come on,” he said, and tugged me into his side. “We’re taking a walk.”
I stayed silent as he drug me along the crowded streets of downtown. People jostled by, unaware of the silent struggle with their heads tucked securely up their asses. So long as that smart phone was visible, they didn’t care.
We finally reached the hub of downtown, a section of old buildings fashioned in a large circle. The courthouse sat to our left and police headquarters to the right, the same building I’d gone into just a few days before. The police didn’t notice us, either. They were too busy getting a group of rowdy protesters to move. Slim smiled and led me down a small alley between the buildings.
“Where are we going, slim?” I asked in a sweet voice, hoping to disarm him.
He finally let go, but beckoned me forward. “I want to show you why you shouldn’t have come back down here.”
Apprehension slammed into me with a gale force, leaving my heart pounding and breath coming fast. I stepped forward cautiously, following him into the shadows. Slim lifted a trash can to reveal a hole in the ground and pointed.
I leaned around him and gasped. Wires, thousands of them, ran in intricate patterns to a hub of some sort. It seemed to pulse with anticipation of the lives it would steal, the mangled bodies left behind in its wake. I glanced up at Slim and found him nodding with excitement.
“See, Adelaide? This doesn’t just end here, either. We’ve set this bitch up all underground.” His arm swept
the area to indicate the size of the beast below us. Energy hummed through my feet as I prepared to run. “There’s another set up on the other side of town and too many more to count across the nation.”
I fell back against the wall, clutching my chest as panic rose inside of me. “Why, slim?”
“Why what? Why two? You know, double your pleasure, double your fun.” He winked, and for the first time I saw his calm clarity for the truth: madness.
“Oh, my god,” I whispered.
“Twenty three minutes, mama.” I bolted down the alley, his laughter following me the entire time.
What do I do? All these people, all oblivious to what crawls beneath them. I looked to the protesters at the police station, embroiled in a meaningless battle with the law. Who cares? Freedom means nothing in the aftermath.
I ran up to them and grabbed an officer. He jerked away and stared at me.
“The hell do you think you’re doing?”
Tears flowed freely down my cheeks as I pointed to the alley where slim had just emerged from. “A bomb,” I said, willing him to believe me. “There’s a huge bomb in that alley.”
He frowned, waffling back and forth. Finally, he relented and stepped down from the first stair to meet my gaze. “A bomb?” I nodded. “In that alley?” Another nod.
“Hey! Johnston!” Oh, god. The cop who didn’t believe me.
The officer stepped over and spared me a glance. “Yeah?”
“This young lady seems to believe there’s a bomb in our alley.”
Before Johnston could form the clever reply, I threw my hands up, exasperated. “Will you just come down there and I’ll fucking show you.”
They kept their hands trained on their guns, which was probably a good idea seeing as slim was hanging around. “Here, right here.” I pointed to the trash can. “Lift that up.”
Johnston stepped around me, keeping a side eye on me the whole time. He kicked the trash can away to reveal the hypnotic core of the massive bomb beneath our feet.
I swallowed. “I told you. He said there’s twenty three minutes to the explosion.”
Before I could blink, I was being dragged out of the alley and tossed onto the street. After an agonizing minute of delay, a whole shebang of cops ran into the street. The radios crackled and feet pounded past me as they tried to decide how best to evacuate the area.
I didn’t need to be evacuated. While they were distracted, I got to my feet and ran. Three city blocks between me and the monster, I still didn’t stop running.
Even the ground rumbling beneath me couldn’t stop my feet. I didn’t stop until the blast threw me from my feet.
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