It is evening, very late evening. I am walking in the remains of what once was New York City. Broken trash bags and discarded clothing, furniture and debris line the sidewalks, spilling out onto the streets, the bags’ black plastic jerking and lurching as though some near-suffocated life within were struggling to break free of confinement. But I know it is only rats, still moving quickly and fearfully out of habitual wariness of the humans no longer around to challenge them. I traverse blocks of shuttered and abandoned storefronts, their housing-code-violating neon displays gone dark, the “For Rent” signs in the windows already faded and frayed.
The first higher species of being I come across is only a shadow of any such description—a teetering, drooling zombie barely maintaining the accustomed vertical orientation of humanity—its head, neck, and back doubling over further and further, heavy eyelids drooping down time and again on the remaining vestiges of any consciousness to which it only weakly clings. I hear a dead moan as I pass.
Others around have already given up the fight. In piles of rags and filth and the stench of their own excrement, they are laid out in corners and crevices. I navigate around one such specimen transecting the middle of the sidewalk, with the telltale final bottle capping off its drunken stupor still clasped in its gnarled fingers. Somewhere off a ways, another one is yelling something or just merely yelling, not something but nothing, a guttural scream…
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