Tuesday, July 7, 2015

End of the World : Smilers


End of the World

The world ended last May 2nd, when something caused people in the city to change.  And it was soon discovered that those who had changed had become cruel, deadly and silent.  Forever smiling.  They would stand with their eyes closed and their lips pressed tightly together in a smile.


I was with Rocky and we were in our car, hoping to get to Greenhills to buy some new geeky stuff when we found ourselves caught in a terrible gridlock of traffic just outside our building.  The cars and buses had blocked each other in a Gordian knot of stupidity.  I blared the horn, demanding the cars move, but they just barely did.  Rocky tried to temper my anger.  Neither of us knew heading northbound on Edsa, Paolo and Maane were on their way to some out of town trip.   The bus they were on was making good time, although both noticed neither could connect to their mobile data for some reason.  When the bus suddenly swerved at one point, an old woman a few seats ahead of them injured herself against the window. Both quickly moved seats to check on her, while keeping a safe hold of their things.  

As chance would have it, Paolo and Maane stepped down from the bus with the old woman to see Rocky and I standing outside our car in exasperation.  The screaming then came.  Like some riot that erupted out of nowhere, people were running away from the Aurora Boulevard intersection and screaming their lungs out.  The whole scene was surreal and none of us four could figure out why.  At least not until one of the runners ran too dangerously close at us.  We pulled back, opting to leave my car on the road, and found shelter back in our building.  The front entrance had been locked closed, for some reason, prompting Rocky to convince the guard at the basement level to allow us passage.  The guard offered to help the injured old woman we had with us, while Rocky and I invited Paolo and Maane to safely wait with us at our flat.

The news was sketchy, with talk about strange smiling people appearing in different places.  They would stand in total silence, then eventually charge forward and begin beating people up.  And all of this would be done with their eyes closed the whole time.  Maane tried contacting officemates and discovered there were such outside the building, too.  Calls to check on family and parents, thankfully, were met with responses that they were safe.  The basic message all agreed with was to stay home and wait.  

Days passed.  Food stocks began to drop.  Occasionally, we could hear more screaming and gunshots in the distance.  But we kept quiet, remained calm, and stayed inside.  We had to begin rationing food by the fifth day.  There was even word of some people roaming like gangs, forcefully taking resources they needed from others.   It was starting to feel like some movie-inspired apocalypse. 

They were watching.

We discovered that on the still being constructed building across from our window, Smilers were starting to appear on the still bare beams and unfinished floors each day.  And they would be standing there, staring at us with their closed eyes, all day and all night.  They were waiting.  But for what?

Then one morning, all of a sudden, they were gone.  The levels were empty of all of them.  And that's when the screaming began.  We realized the Smilers had begun to swarm the entrance, and were most likely beating their way into the building!   We quickly began packing what we can and planned our escape.  There was talk of Mega Mall being mobilized by some as a safe haven, although we were not really sure if the news could be trusted.  It was, however, close enough.  Camp Crame was just across the intersection, but the fact we haven't really heard of rescue teams, we suspected it had fallen as well.  

When the heavy pounding and gunfire erupted outside our door, we realized the terror had finally reached our floor.  But the gunfire was controlled and the cursing sounded rough.  We realized they were not smilers.  They were soldiers.  We kept silent, hoping they'd think this room to be abandoned and empty, but the couple that liked next door from our unit was less lucky. Their door was breached.  The soldiers shot the couple dead, and from across the air channel, looked into our window and motioned to us, "I can see you."  Before the soldier could head to our place, however, a Smiler emerged from behind him and battered him into a bloody heap of crushed corpse.  We gathered our things and decided it was time to go.

Creaking the door open, however, we discovered the hallway was not silent thanks to safety.  Instead, three Smilers were standing in the path with their heads trained low and their eyes closed shut.  Maane closed in to strike with the massive knife we brought with him, but her conscience faltered and she could not stab the blade into another person.  The Smilers did not react to our presence.

We could not risk it, however.  Paolo picked up a dropped gun from one of the dead soldiers, and shot at the Smilers.  The first two dropped dead.  The third charged, silent and blind, yet its hands found me easily and flung me against the wall.  Rocky bashed its head with the makeshift weapon we built, and Maane, this time fueled with determination, finished the job.

We began the long and tense journey down the fire escape stairwell, stopping every now and then to listen if there was trouble ahead.  The heat was getting worse and the darkness thicker with each floor towards the basement parking we wanted to reach.  The idea was to use a car to drive to the Mega Mall sanctuary.  But the realization was clear:  the basement parking entrance must have gotten compromised earlier today.  It probably was swarming with these Smilers.  

Moving as quietly and stealthily as possible, we distracted the Smilers long enough to slip into a car we found still with its keys, buckle ourselves secure and start the engine.  I stomped on the gas and tried to ignore the terrible pop crunch sounds as we ran over any Smilers that were standing in the way.  We drove through the basement parking, drawing to us more and more Smilers like a fresh kill in shark-infested waters, and held our breath as we cleared the floors and reached the streets.  Smilers mutely watched as we turned the corner, narrowly missing other cars and trucks that had been abandoned along the way.  We wept as we realized we were out, but feared we did not really know where to go.

By the time we reached the Mega Mall sanctuary, we felt the smallest embers of hope reignite.  There were military barracks set up around the mall perimeter.  There were barbed wire fences and sand bag barriers.  The place looked secure.  Safe.   We drove to it, were ordered to walk the rest of the way into a fenced gate area, and were cleared for entry.   We soon learned the sanctuary was set up because some celebrity was in the mall when the chaos began - some kind of mall tour - and she used her considerable influence to get the military from Camp Crame to protect the place.  We were safe.

Or at least we believed we were.  None of us, after all, could see how the celebrity called for her youngest son in her sing-song voice and reminded him that he had to eat.  None of us could see how the celebrity was too preoccupied with fixing her make-up to see that her son had entered the room, eyes completely closed, and lips locked in a smile.

It was only a matter of time before we realized there was no place safe anymore.
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