Rosalind had made a few decisions before calling Winston. The first was that she would not wait here forever--the second was that she would get out of the city even after he showed up. Nicole had stopped playing and was simply sitting on the hood, watching the horizon, saying nothing. This was up to her, whatever else happened. The more she thought, the more she hated the idea of the boat--it was a trap. She'd have nowhere to explore, and when things went bad, nowhere to run. And she didn't trust Winston's assessment of the situation.
So she told him he had two hours. This was before a meteor fell from the sky and crashed just ahead. The impact toppled a building that had miraculously still been standing since the earthquake. "Gotta go," she told him, and hung up the phone.
Nicole was already on her feet by the time Rosalind ran up to her. "Fuck, what was that?"
Rosalind shrugged. "I think stars falling from the sky are traditional in the end times. So, new plan. Forget Winston. We find shelter--and I know just where. Take everything you can carry, and we run for it. The car's just asking for trouble."
They loaded up everything they could carry and ran through the streets. They found shelter in a transit tunnel, settled down in the dark down there, and listened to the silence. The trains had long stopped running, and these tunnels were just lying empty now.
"What are we going to do now, Rose? There's nothing down here."
"Maybe we can rebuild civilization together?"
Nicole snorted. "I'm not sure that's how it works."
"Well, this is as safe as we'll get in this city. And we can follow the tracks out of the city well enough. We're bound to find a better place out of this pit."
"Yes, but what are we doing right now? Telling knock-knock jokes?"
"Do you have any good ones?"
"No. But I have this bottle of absinthe. Clean, sober living hasn't been doing me any favors lately, so I think I'm going to stop that."
"I knew I kept you around for a reason. Ah, my kingdom for an absinthe spoon."
You might remember wormwood from a year or so back. Why not start at the beginning?
By Friday evening, Winston had been welcomed into the strange little culture the diner had developed. They did not, he was aware, have much of a long-term plan for survival. But they had stockpiles of food and supplies--more than just the diner should have. Each of the patrons and employees had brought a little something, and Winston's camping gear was welcomed.
His companions, meanwhile, had slowly been pushed to the edges. They had been complaining about the delay since it became apparent that Winston was not very keen on pressing on. It seemed strange to Winston. The world was ending anyway. Why not spend the rest of it in a little haven like this? They had a base to work from here. They could scrounge and forage. Maybe, he allowed himself to imagine, this would be the diner that rebuilt civilization.
Someone had changed the radio station from a news station to something that was, improbably, still broadcasting classic rock. At the moment it seemed to be broadcasting exclusively Led Zeppelin, and Winston had not noticed a single tasteless joke about the apocalypse in the meanwhile.
His cell phone rang, and he guiltily remembered Rosalind. "Hello, Rosie."
"Don't call me that. Where are you?"
"Um, we're at this diner. We got hungry, I guess. It's, uh." He strained his memory of the city. "Three or so miles from the waterfront. But listen, I'm not sure about--"
"If you are not here in two hours I will personally hunt you down," said Rosalind over the phone. "But not before I find this boat of yours and scuttle it. I'll gnaw through the hull with my teeth if I have to. Then I will see that you are stranded in this doomed city until the world's ending, which, admittedly, may not be a very long time."
"Ran out of steam there, huh?"
Over the phone, he could just make out the sound of a loud explosion. "What was that?"
A long silence followed. Then, "Near as I can tell? The sky is falling. Gotta go."
The line went dead. Then the explosion happened just outside.
She went to the protests downtown. I had to work. I was never sure about things like that anyway--standing around and chanting like it would make a difference, like anything would make a difference. It all seemed vaguely upsetting to me. Things will never change. Why fight it? I know she knows how I feel. I even told her I didn't want her to go. I gave her all my reasons--these things worry me, it was all so pointless and aimless, she'd just be cold and miserable anyway with the weather we've been having. She went anyway. "I've never been to a protest. It could be fun!"
She came home early this morning, still drunk on the excitement of it all. She told me of all these strange things she did--joining the chants, shouting at the police, even submitting ideas to the general assembly. "I'd never done anything like that before," she said.
"Yes? How did it feel losing your individuality?" I said. From her expression I knew it hurt, but she didn't say anything. I went back to sleep. She was gone by the time I woke up. There was a note on my laptop:
"Gone back to the protests. Sometimes it's more important to be a part of something that's important than be an individual who's not."