I hear nothing. I scream and only hear the reverberated echo of my desperate cry.
“Is there anybody here?” and all that comes back is a cascading “here” “here” “here.” Each quieter than the one before until it fades to nothing and again I hear nothing.
I wasn’t alone last night. It was a group of ten or twelve. We’d been told not to but we never listened to what we were told. That was the point of being in college. Never listening to what we were told.
I’m not sure whose idea it was. Probably Benny’s. He was the idea guy among us. I wasn’t sure I would go until I heard Shirley say she was in. Going not only meant being with her. It also meant not being labeled a coward in her eyes.
So I went. It started out well enough. Jerry, who always did Benny’s dirty work, smashed a window in a side door to unlock it for us. It was dark, but we used our phones to see where we were going. It had the smell of mold and the air a suffocating dankness. What had been the food court had the look of an art installation that one wouldn’t believe was an “art installation.” Just a jumble of tables and chairs randomly distributed in the large open space that had been the mall’s centerpiece.
Some of the stores had “For Lease” signs taped to their windows, from the days when there was the prospect of new retailers moving in. Those days were gone long before Sears pulled up stakes and with it the last breath of life in the place. There were still some phone and cheap-jewelry kiosks until the end, but nothing remained of any except for the empty kiosks themselves.
The echo was cool. Last night at least. We tried to do that think people do in Grand Central where you whisper into a corner and the person diagonally across hears what you said although no one else could. Must be the physics of the place because it didn’t work here. So we marched around shouting and hearing our shouts coming back to us. Benny and Jerry and some others smashed some of the windows that were spared by prior intruders. The place’d be coming down soon anyway so no one really would care.
The last thing I remember was Benny throwing the top of a trash can at the window of a Bed Bath & Beyond on the second floor. As it hit the window, only to bounce back, there was a loud bang. Then I woke up.
Where’d the others go? The top of that trash can is about fifteen feet from me, so Benny did throw it at the window. But where is he? Where are Jerry and Shirley and the others?
I look to the outside. The large plate-glass window is smashed, pieces of it somehow staying in place next to pieces that had not. It distorts the view much as the halls distorted my calls.
“Hello?” I can see through the window that it is dusk. Night will arrive soon. I’d been asleep for fifteen hours. Can it have been days? I stand and pull my phone from my pocket. “No Service.” It’s almost out of power and my only source of light. It’ll be dark soon.
August 14, 2019