A group of survivors hide out in an deserted school building.
Sunlight sifted in through the blinded window, more yellow than bright. It swam around the rows and columns of desks and gave them all the grandeur of pews in a church. They were devoutly pointed to a black chalkboard at the head of the room that bore the soot from an innumerable amount of lessons. Erased, many times, and written over. Cheerful posters hung from the sickly green wallpaper that splashed all across the room. A cartoon owl standing next to a house that was constructed by the spines of six books and had printed above it, A READER TODAY... A LEADER TOMORROW! Beside was a small analog clock. Dante glanced at it from across the room and saw that it was nearly twenty past seven in the AM.
He sat at one of the tablet-arm desks that he had pulled over to the lone window. It was quiet. Impeccably quiet. Almost expectantly. Like the morning was holding it's breath in anticipation of something that wasn't even sure to come. Dante could feel it in his lungs too. The air that was locked in his nostrils has been from the day before. As he finally let it escape a feeling passed like he had just awoken from a coma. His body became suddenly aware of a sharp pain that stabbed all over; his back, his his shoulders, his neck. His head ached with an inner soreness pounding away like a migraine, but more intense than any migraine he had ever felt before. His eyes were stiff from squinting all night through the sliver-opening that his fingers made in-between a pair of blinds. He felt like taking them out of their sockets and throwing them around the room like a pair of tennis balls. The tiredness that his face didn't bother to hide was becoming overwhelming. He blinked. Than again, but this time longer, savoring it for as long as he could.
A voice: “Hey.”
“JESUS!” he blurt out and stirred quickly to attention, almost capsizing himself out of the chair. He reconciled so swiftly that one could have mistaken him for a soldier. Especially with the .22 bolt action rifle that was fervently positioned in his right palm.
It calmed him to see that it was only Andrew. A Skinny little white guy with blonde hair. He reminded Dante of an actor from the 60's but he couldn't quite place the name. Cool, marcelled hair and a trustworthy, almost statuesque, face. You can tell he was intelligent just by looking in his eyes. Dante had the feeling that his mind was always running, analyzing the most effective way to go about something. He never wasted a gesture on something that didn't merit one and never minced words. But he listened – it was obvious when talking to him – and that earned him a lot of respect in Dante's opinion.
“Shit.” Dante groaned a bit foolishly. “You couldn't just tap me on the shoulder or something?”
“Didn't want to startle you.” Andrew said. It was hard to tell if he was being cheeky or not. He rarely was, so it would have surprised Dante. He was one of those sincere people who just seemed incapable of spotting irony.
“Yeah, thanks.” Dante snorted, almost sure that his mock-contempt was lost.
“You good?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah, man.” he replied, a bit flustered. “I'm good.”
“Coffee?” Andrew extended a white Styrofoam cup out towards him.
Dante took the cup gratefully. It was still steaming. He returned a puzzled look.
“Found it in the teacher's lounge.”
Dante sniffed it. It smelt stale and bitter.
“Is it fresh?” he asked skeptically.
“Sure,” was Andrew's reply, “fresh from last week.”
Dante took a sip and acknowledged it with a sour face.
“Mind if I take a look?” Andrew gave a nod to the blinded window.
Dante just grunted through a mouthful of coffee.
Andrew slid two fingers in-between a pair of blinds and carefully lifted them apart. Outside was the familiar sight of downtown Belmont Grove. Tucked away in the rust belt of the United States, Belmont Grove was a nondescript town surrounded by farmland and the waterways of the Great Lakes. A staggeringly small population meant that empty streets and deserted storefronts were no strange sight. But today the calmness made Andrew's blood run cold. His eyes searched the playground, down Central Street, and over to the Belmont Diner, named appropriately for there was only one in a such of such little necessity, where the panorama ended. He could have been looking at a still photograph.
“Looks quiet,” he finally spoke.
“Yeah, looks empty, don't it?” Dante replied. “But it's not.”
Andrew shot him an inquisitive look. “How can you tell?”
Dante leaned forward and joined eyes with Andrew out the window.
“Sure, it looks quiet. But than you start to focus on things. The branches in that Norway Maple, the swing-set on the playground, and you start to notice movement. Not much, just little. But I've been noticing it all morning.” Than he added, “Nah, man. It ain't empty out there.”
Andrew glared intently at a swing that sat unwavering in the playground. He locked eyes on it and watched for even the slightest of movements. He could have sworn that it budged, but being more level-headed, wasn't past attributing it to the lack of sleep. Or mention persuasion. If you're looking for something than you're bound to see it. Dante could tell that he was thinking hard.
“Could be the wind,” he said at last.
Dante shrugged. “Could be,” he ominously agreed.
Andrew grimaced and gave a knowing nod. He got it. Could be. But maybe not.