Chapter 7: Settling
Drake was taken by Steve to the City Registry. Its purpose was to “register” all the inhabitants of Rencia and keep track of their occupations, complaints, queries, suggestions, residences, etc. He registered himself there, with the help of Steve and a worker there. Drake received a food ration card, keys to his new private apartment, some money to start out with, a smartwatch, and a free Data Cube. He didn’t feel like learning about the city and his life there at the moment, so he downloaded the data about it onto his data cube, and left.
Steve sensed that now that he had it, Drake would need some time to himself to process what happened and what awaited him in his new life. Drake and Steve parted ways. Since Bill was still at the meeting, Drake went on his own to find his new home. He noticed, on the way, that there weren’t too many people outdoors. The citizens must all have been at home, grieving of being bereft of all that they knew.
After finding building number fifty-one, going up eleven floors, and then going down to the end of a long corridor, Drake finally encountered a door with his apartment number. He inserted the key and opened it. The inside was already partly furnished with all the necessities: a sofa, lights, tables, etc. in the living room. Drake found the power hub of the house. Similar to a main electric panel from the olden days, it allowed for short-range wireless electricity transfer for all appliances within the home. With it turned on, the lights did, too.
Drake knocked on the wall twice to turn off the lights. He didn’t need them during the day, but also, he wasn’t in the mood. He looked around his new home. There was a living room, bedroom, bathroom, closets and utilities, and the study. He didn’t feel like looking around, so he went directly for the bedroom. When he found it, he promptly fell onto the bed and lay there for the next hour.He thought about all he had gone through since that night. After a rush of events that were thrown at him, time seemed to finally have slowed down. He remembered seeing the meteor in the sky back then. He remembered seeing the Mayhems for the first time, coming out of the woods with their terrifying forms. He remembered being too scared to move and observe his surroundings, which caused his mother to die. He remembered running through the city, filled with panic and confusion, just like everyone else there. There was probably no one from there left alive but him. Everything was lost, destroyed. It felt surreal.
Drake remembered meeting Billie and traveling through the woods together, searching for safety. He remembered the tragedy of her death, and not being able to keep his promise. He remembered finding Steve, a new hope, and traveling through endless fields of corn. He remembered the dread of finally reaching Cyll, but finding it in chaos. He remembered his oddly sad parting with Steve, odd because they had barely known each other, but they had gotten close in that time. He definitely remembered the sensation of getting hit in the head, knocked unconscious, and waking up to find himself in Rencia, with Steve again.
He remembered all the life-threatening situations he’d been in, throughout his journey. He didn’t want to remember all those terrible things, but at the same time, he didn’t want to let the memories go. They were the only thing confirming why he was in Rencia right now. They told him he wasn’t just in a bad dream.
Drake clutched his pendant and stared up the ceiling as his mind wandered through his memories. He wanted to cry. Now that he was finally at a safe place, and wasn’t being faced with important decisions or running from monsters, he could finally take his time and let out his emotions. But for some reason, no tears came. He felt insulted by his body for not listening to him, and insulted by himself for not showing physical signs of distress.
He lay there thinking about what would happen to him in the future. Part of it was him not knowing what to do with his life in this new world. The other part was his mind daydreaming as it always did. What would his daily life be like from now on? Why should he keep going? What does he have left for him? He had often skipped school, thinking that he would just enjoy his childhood, find a way to make ends meet in his adulthood, and continue until the Apocalypse, when he would just die. But here he was, in the Apocalypse, alive, with no idea on what to do.
* * *
After an hour, his hunger brought him back from his reverie. He hadn’t eaten anything since the green corn he threw up back on the farm. That was over fifteen days ago! Drake recognized the need to nourish himself before getting back into thought, and headed out with his food ration card and some cash. It turned out that the city used a fiat currency called the Dollar, a currency that hadn’t been used since the collapse of the Federal Reserve during World War III, back in 2066.
In front of his apartments was a road with sidewalks running parallel along either side of it. In the middle lane of the road, however, were two walls, also parallel to each other and the road. They were less than half the height of him, and acted as railroads for the common mode of transportation in most cities – trolleys. The trolleys would run between the two “walls”, which were a safety measure and also doubled as electricity lines for the trolleys to use. There were such walls running between cities as well, and they had metal rails to allow maglev trains to travel on them. Drake had rarely been on these trolleys, being from Beil, which didn’t have these.
Drake started walking in the direction of what he remembered from seeing a map back at the register to be the shopping district. He went alongside the wall. When a trolley arrived a few minutes later, it sensed his presence using a motion sensor and stopped. He boarded it, and it continued its journey around the city in circles. Inside, there were a few faces. Drake had been creeped out by how much the city was like a ghost town, with no one going out. But seeing a few faces relieved him, albeit, these people seemed to be in a grim mood.
Is everyone just going to be depressed forever? Drake thought. They had been in the city longer than he, so they should have gone through their somber emotions and moved on by now.
“…It’s going home, right?” a guy was sitting near him, mumbling. He wore a suit and had a briefcase, which he held with both arms closely around his chest. He stunk and looked shabby. “The train always takes me home from work. It’ll reach South Jonesboro soon. I’m sure of it. My family will be waiting for me there, wondering where I’ve been. I have quite the story to tell them…” He looked up, confused, “What was it again?”.
What’s wrong with this guy?
Drake thought.A few minutes later, when the trolley reached a shopping center, Drake knocked on the door of the trolley, stopping it. He got off. He looked for a restaurant to eat in. There was a decent amount of people here if you didn’t consider the fact that this was supposed to be a bustling shopping center and during the afternoon.
After chowing down an enormous meal till he was completely full, Drake looked around to see what else the city offered, within the shopping area. It did indeed seem like a normal, functioning city, not at all surrounded by man-eating monsters and in an Apocalyptic world. It created a nice illusion. Any normal person would fall for it, if they didn’t notice the absence of their loved ones every minute or so. The truth was that the cheery place the city was designed to be, was unintentionally a stark contrast to what the populace was going through, meaning they couldn’t escape into any fantasy. Every time they try, reality would punch them harder. As a result, the city was plagued by a solemn stigma of depression, remaining unyielding for as long into the future as can be seen. People preferred to stay indoors, where their surrounding could match their mood and they didn’t have to act like they were in a normal state.
Morale being low created problems for the future of the city. One of the problems that the authorities of the city were facing was getting people’s morale up and get them working hard again. Everyone needed to work, to get the economy running, and civilization developing.
Drake, however, did not understand this problem.