Emptiness was not what she had expected from her first visit to a big city. Her image, of course, had been created before the disaster, but somehow a part of her mind had held onto the idea of a bustling metropolis.
The anti-vaxxers had scared a lot of people into not getting vaccinations. Herd immunity went away. The very old, very young, and those with compromised immune systems began to die off, slowly at first, then in great waves. The strains became more virulent as they had a chance to mutate, so even healthy people were being taken down.
The city was mostly empty. People lived in pocket neighborhoods, growing food on rooftop gardens so it could be protected, living in just a few houses or apartment complexes and keeping them up, letting the surrounding buildings gradually fall apart. Some groups had tentatively begun to work together to try to create more of a community throughout the city, but fear was the strongest emotion anyone had these days, so it was very difficult work.
She was a peacemaker. She worked with groups and helped them communicate. Everyone had something that someone else needed; she was one of the people who helped them figure out what that something was. She made sure everything was as fair as possible. She was an indeterminate color, neither white nor brown nor, really, anything identifiable. Her nose and hair, the two places most people looked to try to figure out a person’s identity, were not specifically one race or another. She was slightly exotic to every community, part of none, but a reasonable go-between. She had been working in smaller towns for years, but the group had decided to start working in the cities, too. This was her first.
She stood still, listening to the wind between the buildings, watching the noon light pick up reflections from the few unbroken windows. She had directions. All she had to do was walk down the lonely street, find the first group who had requested help, and start from the beginning.
Trust was difficult in these times, but humans needed it to survive. Her small group of forty people scattered over several states worked hard to bring people towards assuming the best rather than the worst of others, even others who looked nothing like them. The group had started out as a band of polyglots who had gone out to dinner a few times a month, reveling in their ability to carry on conversations in several languages. When the disaster had begun, they banded together, intellectuals in a sea of increasingly tribal communities. They began to look for a way to change things and make them better.
She spoke ten languages. Some of the others spoke more, but she was young and still learning. So far, ten had been enough; the few times she came across a group speaking a language she did not, there were words that were close enough in other languages that she could communicate. She had not yet failed to bring groups together, teaching them important pieces of each others’ languages and helping them communicate.
She was looking forward to this challenge.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Indie Adams challenged me with “these lonely streets” and I challenged Bewildered Bug with “Why are numbers beautiful? It’s like asking why is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is. – Paul Erdos”