“There are consequences to hiring disinterested staff,” Edith said while walking out of the store.
The clerk never looked up from her phone, let alone to intervene. Edith harboured no guilt for leaving the store with an ample supply of munitions, toiletries, and a purse. Everything fit nicely within the latter, which simplified the matter of leaving through the doors unmolested.
The cab was waiting, so she opened the door and boarded the yellow car. When the driver looked up at her through his mirror, Edith relayed the destination and they soon pulled out into traffic.
This driver also had a demonic lust for his phone, or at least for whoever was on the other end of the blower. Edith did not mind this time; she had an opportunity to observe her surroundings in peace.
The deeper they ventured into the city, the more built-up it became. Even at this time of night, there were herds of people waiting at the lights. While the city had been teeming with people at night in her time, the scale was unmatched.
The gravity of changes to this city was clear once the cab crested over the bridge. At night, the city was awash in electric light, enough to make the cloud cover glow.
The city had grown a great deal since her time. Sure, there were skyscrapers on the horizon when she lived, but they did not dominate the skyline as they did now. Edith imagined that she was looking at a multi-coloured mountain range. It made sense. The city needed to grow, and islands were boundaries that were hard to ignore.
The closer they got to her park, the more certain she became that this was indeed the right call. Edith had always believed in the chain of command and put faith before reason. Those beliefs, for the most part, had only been strengthened in death, a by-product of having lived to see the truth.
Eventually, the cab cut through a dense urban neighbourhood and drove into the park. Until then, the call of the piper had been so powerful, but it was nothing more than a faint whisper now. All she knew for sure was that the deeper this cab ventured into the park, the more the sensation of being pulled waned.
Without saying a word, Edith closed her eyes and focused until the world came to a crawl. Every word the driver uttered over the phone grew deeper and more exaggerated, like a record being played at unusually low speeds. At that moment, Edith left the cab, cruising through the landscape in an accelerated state.
As a precaution, she remained in that state until there was ample cover. From the driver’s point of view, Edith had simply vanished. She observed the driver’s eyes bulge and how he stared aimlessly into his mirror in an attempt to find his fare. Fortunately, he was paying just enough attention to the traffic, to avoid running into the cab ahead.
Edith chuckled as she waited for the driver to disappear from sight. Now it was time to wander about. So she scanned the buildings built along the periphery, those that were located just beyond the wall. At first, she had no idea what she sought but soon realised that faith was directing her once more. Without any more to go on, Edith followed a random path until she crossed one of the gates.
“There,” Edith said while looking at a building.
It wasn’t the tallest in the block, but there was a certain charm associated with buildings dating back from the early part of the last century. The familiarity of the architecture and style evoked a strong sense of nostalgia, so much so that she nearly shed a tear when memories of that era came flooding back. Edith hated getting emotional on missions and would have been severely reprimanded for her inability to suppress these manifestations of humanity.
Most of the girls from her group had looked up to Edith before the Great War. Most sought to emulate her, especially the ability to right herself in the worst of storms. Despite all of that strength in life, Edith found there was little left to draw from now. All she wanted, desired and sought was to find her way back to her Angela. This mission would never be done and over with fast enough.
A doorman exited the building to greet a cab, and moments later, a tenant stumbled out and was assisted inside. Since the doorman was sure to be otherwise occupied, Edith was left with an opportunity. With clenched jaw, and resolve steeled, Edith crossed the street.
Ingress was child’s play since Edith had no trouble forcing the lock to access the main foyer. From there, she was faced with a bird cage, one that featured a wraparound stairwell.
A century ago, they would have indoor aviators on staff, someone in uniform who handled the elevator’s controls with a smile. Now, people did it themselves, unless they were too inebriated to do so.
While the car climbed towards the upper levels, Edith was nudged to a stairwell that led up to a mezzanine. She shrugged and headed up those stairs just as the birdcage stopped at the top floor.
The halls were wide freshly painted looking more like a high end hotel than a residential block. It even featured a thick red carpet to cut down on the sounds of pedestrian traffic. Edith found it hard not to feel humbled when surrounded by all this opulence.
As she turned a corner, Edith stopped cold. Her eyes fixed on the scene, committing every detail to memory, just like she was trained to do. Ahead, there was a bullet riddled area, which brought back memories of the bombed out buildings she had encountered during the war.
Extensive and sustained gunfire had left the wall riddled with craters. Blood splatter was everywhere she looked, a clear indication that these bullets hit their mark prior to impacting the wall.
“Run,” Evelyn said.
Edith heard the sound of a trigger being pulled followed by the roar of a shotgun. Before any other sounds were heard, she was already low to the ground, poised to strike.
She opened her eyes, looked up, and noticed that the walls were pristine. Gone were all traces of bullet holes, cracked plaster, or blood. The carpet even looked like it had been recently vacuumed.
“So why am I still hearing gunfire?” Edith wondered.
An all-around search revealed no signs of activity. The sounds and visual stimuli were completely disconnected from one another, like watching an out of sync talkie. So with no other signs of danger, Edith got back on her feet.
Edith approached the wall and ran a hand over the surface. It was smooth, even with inconsistencies expected of a wood slat and plaster combination. She knew that this type of construction was difficult to repair on short notice and fixing it with modern materials required replacing the entire wall.
What she witnessed might have been real. Her years of experience as a hunter taught her that there were phenomena throughout God’s creation that could not be explained. For all she knew, some old god had created this elaborate illusion simply to get off on her reaction.
Satisfied that she was not in the middle of a warzone, Edith turned the corner and found a door at the end. Given the peep hole and brass number adorning this heavy oak door, she figured this had to be one of the units.
All of her instincts urged her to move forward. Just beyond that door was her reason for being. Cautiously, she approached, listened intently, and then put her ear against the door.
“Nothing,” Edith whispered.
She focused until the hum of overhead lights dropped in pitch, then drove her shoulder into the door. The impact sent a shower of splinters in every direction but fortunately, did not draw any unneeded attention.
While Edith was not armed, when properly motivated, any woman could be a weapon powerful enough to change the tides of war. This time, she had the element of surprise.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!
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