Lone drifts of snow breeze touched lightly across deserted chairs, a table, a brick wall. The detritus collected in forsaken corners for moments, then was rudely pushed on its airborne way again. This empty land had seen no life for days -not even the echo of a footstep. Pale noon sunlight filtered through the hurried mists, illuminating the space in an ethereal glow.
A wall, a windowed door away, the soft glow filtered through to dimly reflect in a pair of thoughtful eyes. Wil remembered this place like it was only yesterday, or perhaps the day before. Would she ever forget?
She moved her head to look round the room she sat within -a room that still spoke of the presence of hundreds of persons. Their shadows -or, perhaps, their essence- lingered on the abandoned plastic furniture. There was also a chair overturned here, a table pushed aside there. The litter of their lives blew slightly in the ancient air heating system.
“At least that still works,” Wil thought to herself, as she recalled the icy winds swirling beyond the glass doors. She hugged her arms around her thinning body and checked the knot of her fraying black scarf.
She glanced at the working clock hanging crookedly on the wall. Its second-hand foundered eternally at the six, pulsing helplessly; but its other hands continued on unaffected. They gestured to Wil that her wait was nearly over.
They would arrive soon.
Wil tried to distract herself in preparations, but knew it was no use. She had used up the remaining food just that morning. She carried no weapons. She had been forced to leave her pack and materials inside a small metal box just inside this labyrinthine building. If this meeting proved favorable, she would retrieve them after. If not, her information would remain safe beyond their hands.
A low, muted note sounded, startling Wil. One more automatic system was still in place, then. So much for silence and subtlety.
She rose from her slouch; pushed the blue chair underneath its matching table. Instinct had taken over: she sensed food. She would forage first, and meet her odd party after.
“It’s always better to meet uncertainty on a full stomach,” she reminded herself.
Moving to a doorway in the wall, she saw that her suspicions had been correct. There was food here. Or, at least, there were the remains of what started out as food. She peered through the yellowing sneeze guards at a few pathetic trays of the stuff. She wondered if consumption would sustain life, or bring its end more quickly.
Deciding on the former, Wil slid one of the trays out and into her hands. She turned and headed back to the blue table. Others were arriving; she recognized them.
It was time.
Continued from Thirty-Seven.