"Everything is going to be okay," I'd said to Gordon's unfortunate announcement, a rather generic response that has helped nobody through anything ever. Alas, the room had grown tense, and I was willingly ignorant in the proper handling of a somber drunk. A better response I could not summon. Besides, words alone would not remedy Gordon's maladies.
He nodded slowly, unflinching as I patted his shoulder on my way to the door–a gesture I recognized afterward as awkward and probably condescending, like a "there, there, big guy, everything will work out" type of pat. Shilah watched me as I crossed into the hallway, eyes glowing like paunchy fireflies in the darkness. I waved in her direction and she meowed in acknowledgment.
My apartment was directly next door to my dear intoxicated friend, so the walk away from tension and into relief was brief. I relaxed into my recliner and pulled on the handle for the footrest, which promptly manipulated my body into the familiar comfort of an obtuse angle levitating ever so delicately above these hardwood floors. How lucky we were. I'd made a point to remind myself of this in moments like this. I was fortunate enough to relish in the comfort of this chair, fortunate enough to cozy up to Jared Diamond's Collapse–since, evidently, just existing during a cataclysm did not suffice. Gordon was fortunate enough to have marital concerns that didn't include watching his wife's face disappear within the chomping orifice of some undead stranger. I understood his suffering, the sadness building within his being, I'd just hoped that his own recognition of our shared fortune did not become lost within his anguish.
I could hear him begin talking loudly through the walls. His floor creaked under his heavy steps as he paced. There was an urgency in his steps that I could sense in the groans of the hardwood as he hastily paced about—distracting. My attention was uncontrollably divided between the words on the pages before me and trying to interpret the muddled conversation taking place on the other side of my wall. Yes, it was none of my business, but we are curious creatures, are we not? Especially when it's none of our business.
Yep, the book was a lost cause at this point. I'd begun thinking again about our current state. There had been no immediate, uncontainable outbreak in our city like there had been in many (if not most), other cities. We had been granted a grand blessing in the form of "choice" in this inauspicious juncture. Well, choice to a certain degree that is. I should say that we were given the opportunity to choose what we believed to be the best of a bad situation, but a blessing regardless; far more generous than the fates of the majority.
More stomping next door. Then the clinking of bottles. His voice had grown louder, harsher, but remained incoherent. The wall no longer served as a barrier to the tension. His rage was unsettling, and my curiosity had turned to concern, my comfort to discomfort.
Obviously, I had chosen to stay put. Those that chose to stay constructed massive barricades around various blocks all across the city, which essentially became villages in and of themselves. I'd never seen such instantaneous construction. I'm not positive where most of the material for these walls even originated from, but they seemingly shot up overnight. Our particular "village" mostly contained my apartment complex. Apartments made a lot of sense. They house a lot of people, and in the case of my complex, the courtyard could be converted into a large community garden of sorts. There was even a grocery store across the street. There was a lot of potential, and we were especially fortunate to have a fairly well-rounded group of people with diverse specializations. My skill was simply faking proficiency in being skilled.
As for those that chose to flee... well, I don't know, because they fled. There's only hearsay. I'm not quite sure what the projected benefit was to fleeing, you can't escape the inevitable.
There was a knock at my door. It must be Gordon.