Claire was overtaken by a creeping sense of betrayal as she fell down the stairs. Each step felt like someone was pummeling her with stones. When she reached the bottom, she had wished there was some way to slow down time to make sure she had fallen correctly, but there was not. She tried to prop herself up, but her whole body seemed to scream out in a flash of pain, the epicenter of which was based in the left side of her body – more specifically her wrist. She could put no pressure on her left palm or hand, forcing her to prop herself up using her right side. She looked incredulously at the loose appendage; her left wrist had dislocated. She could not move it, not without feeling severe pain, but she had little time to dwell on her discomfort.
Two steps from the door, and she would be free for now.
She could make it if she tried, and she knew that if she stayed behind, he would finish her off. She shouldn’t have trusted him in the first place, cursing herself for being arrogant enough to know another person’s motivations. Could anyone really tell what anyone else wanted anymore? Had she ever been able to?
She pulled herself up as quickly as she could, first pushing the ground with her right arm and hand, and then lifting herself to her feet. When on the other side of the door, she began running. Light attacked her eyes, and she made her way across the city as if by luck, dodging past people in the crowd as some gawked and others ignored her. In a city so large, chases were common, and people took for granted that other people’s lives were not their business, regardless if any injustice may have been exacted at any given moment. Anyone being chased deserved it; anyone shot deserved it – not because it was right, but because it was easy to ignore. A soft feeling pushed through Claire, a feeling she could not name. It was almost nostalgic and sad, but excitingly revealing as if reaching some step toward enlightenment that other people hadn’t. It was only a half-understanding, but it felt like great knowledge, nevertheless. She was coming to terms with the gradual explanation of why it was so easy to be anonymous in Region One and Region Two. For in that moment, as she ran, Claire had glimpsed the lack of care that most citizens had towards each other.
She had once had this same apathy when she was younger, remembering that it was too easy to live within the bubble of her own commitments, problems, and desires, and like so many people trying to make it by in their lives, Claire was mostly concerned with that basic level of survival and comfort that all humans crave. Sera was the only person to have changed that for her, but only marginally. A pang of guilt filled her stomach. As she ran, very few people cared, and no one stopped the man chasing her, and Claire knew it would remain this way.
“Stop!” yelled the man.
Yet barely a face turned for his sake. Not a soul tried to tackle Claire or bring her down to help the man, but just the same, no one came to her aid. With each panting of her breath she felt more and more alone in a world of people that were disconnected from each other. Some would not even look up from their screens or silence their earpieces. She past one boy whose eyes were glazed as she ran; his music leaked from his earpieces to her ears in a blur of incomprehensible sound. There faces passed, and she ran from him to another face, and then another, until she lost count.
In any other case, she would have considered ducking down an alley and climbing up one of the fire escapes, but her hand was now useless, and she found herself losing balance as she ran while cradling it with her good arm. A trash can crashed to the ground after she bumped it with her right hip and spun her body into another path. Garbage scattered across the streets, and a few rats moved from piece to piece with great concern for what they could scavenge. The shoppers nearby eyed mannequins in the window, without as much of a turn of their heads or whisper to their children. There was bargain today, and it was good.