I’m now left, and I separate myself from the stream like a lost photon. I run away into the darkness of the stalks, but in my hand a flashlight is burning, which I also nourish with my warmth.
Many years ago, humanity fell into a big trap. Now it exists only at the expense of its own energy, generated from heat.
We have learned to run again to survive.
“Good morning, Calvin,” says my boss. It seems that today she is in a good mood.
I greet and go to the shower. A standard eight-hour working day is ahead.
Overalls for running continue to sparkle – and will be for a long time, because today my pace twice as usual. It will be necessary to connect a lithium battery to it – no extra energy is used to simply throw it away.
I work as a cyber journalist in a small company. After almost all the human community has gone online, this post is quite in demand. We write about new social groups and trends, sometimes even helps the police unravel cybercrimes. But it happens infrequently, unfortunately.
After lunch, a virus program starts pumping in.
“Do you want to test yourself, the White Rabbit?”
(The White Rabbit is my nickname on the Web)
“Run to the last!”
– What kind of nonsense? – I say and I’m going to call specialists to stop the download … As I suddenly become curious.
“Run until your chips do not burn. While your biopolymer skin does not burst … ”
Snorting, giving a cookie. Another quest, invented by teenagers for teenagers. It seems that a couple of months ago there was the same game, only it was called more original …
But no, there is something more interesting here. Wow, they suggest not just running until your heart stops. They offer to run on the surface!
Delirium. It’s impossible. A person without modifications will not live there for five minutes. Bloody nonsense. For some reason I get angry and disconnected from the Web. My work day has been over for five minutes already.
Again I run into the darkness of the stalks, and my overalls sparkle like me – this is the nucleus of a comet. I do not need a flashlight, and so I see everything that is necessary. A kilometer later, the rest of the human stream joins me. We run like a flock of luminous fishes in the darkness of the ocean.
At night, I dream of how my lungs burn with each new sigh, and the skin slides down from the brushes, exposing tendons and bones. I shudder and wake up in my dark apartment that has never seen a living light.
More than a decade ago, the ozone layer was almost completely destroyed not only over the poles, but over the entire planet. People have gone to the network of underground structures – stalks, to wait until the ozone layer is restored in the dark, and the sun will cease to be a suicidal and destructive force for us. According to the forecasts of ecologists this will not be soon.
They offer to come to the surface and test yourself … Damn, damn, damn, why do I continue to think about this?
– Can you diagnose my muscles?
– Did something happen?
– It’s all right, Isa, I just want to insure myself.
After work, I ran to my friend working in the salon of human modifications. Unlike others, he had a license, and besides, Isaac was one of the few whom I would trust my life with.
– Carbon nanotubes are functioning properly, “he said, scanning my body. – With them you can run for a hundred years exactly.
– What is the maximum speed I can develop? – I asked.
“Fifty kilometers an hour, about,” Isa answered.
– And if you run on the surface? – as if between the matter I asked.
“So, everything is clear.” Isa leaned back in his chair and looked at me attentively. “You took the bait of these, like them,” Runners to the last. ”
“Not at all,” I tried to smile, “I’m just curious.” Purely hypothetical.
“Do you know what I’m going to tell you, Calvin?” He began, lighting a cigarette. “If one day your half-dead, burnt body comes to me, I will certainly fix it.” At least for the sake of hitting your ass.
“They agreed,” I said, paying for the service.
But my interest in “Running to the last” was not lost. Moreover, I subscribed to the updates of the group, so now every morning I was sent a pack of fresh news.
Unfortunately, they took the game only teenagers to eighteen years. At twenty-two I looked at sixteen with a tail, and then if I brighten up brighter. I hope they will not scan the biometric passport … And why do I just think about it? Do I really want to take part in this madness?
I convinced myself that the game was interesting to me primarily as a journalist. But in fact, the secret desire to get out of these dark stinky sewers was bursting out of words atomic explosion. I began to run faster, imagining that I was not running amidst the human mass, but under the scorching sun, which was about to melt my lungs.
Two weeks after the I found out about the game, I found myself climbing in the elevator booth. The elevator that was driving to the surface. I was wearing an oxygen mask and a protective suit, without which even with a journalist token on the surface no one will release.
– Who are you and where are you going? – asked the policeman at the entrance to the ground hangar.
“Kelvin Ridley, a journalist,” I put my thumb to the scanner. – Heading to Turtle Mountains
Turtle mountains were a dangerous place, but it was on the maps of “Runners”. They gathered there on Mondays, as if Monday were the best day to commit suicide in such a sophisticated way.
“An energy supply?” – The policeman finished studying my file.
I showed the battery charged to capacity. The policeman nodded in satisfaction.
– You can take one of the cars in the parking lot. But almost all of them are pimples, “he added sympathetically.
“I will not be long,” I replied.
Fifteen minutes later, I drove through the scorched desert. The train was really a wreck, but the cooling system worked properly. I would not like to roast before the time. She furtively glanced at the map: only a couple of kilometers remained to the destination.
Here they are – Turtle mountains. Red-brown rocks resembling shells. If you believe the coordinates of the “Runners”, their place of collection should have been right behind the first ridge.
Wow, there are a lot of people here who want to roast! A dozen of the tracks were at the foot of the cliff. I was met by two tall guys in ultraviolet-impenetrable suits.
– I’m with you, “I said, looking at my worried reflection in their helmets. – I want to test myself.
As I expected, nobody asked about age. I was escorted to a hangar with a leaky roof, where about fifteen teenagers gathered. The average age was thirteen-fourteen years old. And who just let them in here?
– What is your name? Asked the girl about ten. – She had green hair, and her cat’s eyes glowed in the dark – implants of night vision were installed.
“Kelvin,” I answered absentmindedly. “It’s my first time here.”
“Of course,” the girl said in surprise. “We are all here for the first time.”
“Apart from him,” said the boy, who had overheard our conversation. He nodded at the dark-skinned guy, who modestly stood apart from the others – His name is Atom, and he is the fastest of all.
Atom. Interesting, interesting … So there is someone who comes to the finish alive.
To tell you the truth, I did not doubt my success, because my muscles were set by Isaac Chen himself! But looking at the whole multicolored crowd, I felt my palms sweating vilely.
“I would sit in the office, fool!” – squeaked inside me the little timid Kelvin.
– We greet those who decided to flee with us! – suddenly shouted the guy, whose face was covered with scars from acne. – Run to the last!
I heard approving claps, and I realized that the game started.
– We have to run two kilometers under the scorching sun, which is about to reach its zenith! – continued to tear the throat guy. – In the boundless hot desert, which will burn your eyes to the ground …
How many pathos. I could not resist, I rolled my eyes. The ones that I should have burned in a hot desert.
– … under the scorching sun, which will melt your skin …
Again, approving shouts.
“… you will breathe hot air until your lungs turn into roasted giblets …
“Immediately one can see the talent of this orator,” I continued to mentally mock.
“… and then you will fall dead, feeling for the first time the feeling that you came here for …
Unexpectedly for myself, I completely turned to hearing.
– … a feeling of absolute freedom!
After shouting the last sentence, the guy opened the gate of the hangar with force. The dazzling sun hit my eyes, and if it were not for sunglasses, I would surely be blind.
The five fastest guys led by Atom bullet rushed into the red desert.
“Where are they going?” – I asked the green-haired girl.
“Have not you read the instructions?” She was surprised. “They run to the second hangar, to the shelter.” There the survivors are waited by water and full protection from the sun.
Instructions? Looks like I missed something. The panic suddenly swept me from head to foot.
– Who is the organizer of the quest? I asked loudly.
A few people looked at me as insane.
– Can I have a map of the route?
At this moment the gate was opened for the second time. A new batch of children disappeared in a dazzling light. With them was a green-haired girl. She ran, humming a song under her breath.
“They will all perish,” – suddenly came to me, as if from the very beginning it was not obvious. – “And I’m with them.”
Realizing that my affairs are very, very bad, I approached the same guy who opened and closed the gate.
“I think I changed my mind about running,” I said timidly, watching the fat boy drink before drinking a liter of water.
– What? I can not hear! – shouted the guy, again opening the gate.
The fat man disappeared into the dust that other participants raised, and his swaying ass let him know that he would not reach the finish line.
– I have changed my mind! I shouted. “I will not run.”
“Even as you run,” the guy said.
At this second my damn phone was vibrating.
“Ridley, where the hell are you?” – the brutal voice of the headmistress was heard by the speakerphone.
“You’re not who you say you are!” The grimy predator grinned. “You will run and you will burn alive, bitch!”
I looked around for support, but only the two of us remained in the hangar.
And really it was necessary to sit in the office …
At this moment I was strongly pushed forward. I fell to my knees, instantly realizing that I was no longer in a dark hangar. He pushed me right into this scorched desert!
It took me almost a minute to pull myself together. It was hot, very hot. The oxygen coming through the mask instantly heated up, like I was breathing over a pot of steaming potatoes.
The feet themselves made the decision. I began to run, feeling neither the stimulus nor the desire to do it. I wanted to lie down and die, but my legs fled, probably out of habit.
Over the past ten years, humanity has become too much to run.
A minute later I overtook the fat man whose lips were covered with foam. He breathed like a driven horse, and I realized that he had very little left.
A few meters later I overtook the green-haired girl. She continued to sing, despite the fact that her forehead went huge with bloodshot red blisters.
My muscles really were in great shape.
With every second, it became harder and harder to breathe. The lungs began to burn, causing colorful pictures of those very “roasted giblets” before their eyes.
And ahead there was only an endless red desert, like the planet Mars, on which we never visited.
I overtook several more bodies that had been boiled alive. Really, I have a chance?
The protective suit began to melt, like polyethylene under the flame of a candle. I wonder if anyone ran
Ever at such a speed? It will be necessary to tell Ise about his “fifty kilometers per hour.”
And here’s the hangar! Very close, only ten meters away. He hid behind a ridge of dark brown mountains. There is a drink and darkness, my favorite darkness, in which it is so nice to run.
I am the nucleus of a comet. Comets that fall to the ground, red-hot to incredible temperatures.
My suit almost melted, and instead of oxygen I breathe in pure boiling water.
What are they doing?! Why close the gate right in front of my nose?
I see how he smiles with acne. His nose was roasted to a black crust, and although it is a little happy.
Boom! The hangar door sank before me like a guillotine. With a sweep I crashed into it, but instantly rebounded – so much it was red-hot.
I fell to my knees, desperately, raising a pillar of red dust into the air. So I’m going to die in this desert! It must have been so stupid to get in!
Oxygen in the mask ends, and I pull it off with no regrets. I throw in the dust. Now I breathe air, for the first time in my life I breathe atmospheric air!
He’s hot and slicing his throat, but for ten breaths I just will be enough.
What did he say – absolute freedom?
No, freedom is to run in the stream among people shimmering like sea creatures in the abyss of the ocean.
I take off my sunglasses and my eyes go blind even under the lids.
Interestingly, the sun is worth it to look at it at least before the end?
The shadow falls on my face. Burned ears I hear the hum of the truck.
“Do not open it, otherwise you’ll go blind,” says a voice above my ear.
Someone pulls me into the cab. Cool. It’s not even that cold –
A sun helmet falls on my eyes.
“How did you manage to last so long?” – I suddenly ask myself. I ask a man by the name of Atom.
“I just love running,” he says.
At full speed, the tractor cuts into the hangar door, smashing them like a foil.
It seems under the wheels of someone’s skull. Apparently, the one who was pimply.
“I just love to run” – in my head echoes his words.
And I? I like to run?
Perhaps this is the only thing I love more than anything else.
I wake up in the darkness of an old hangar. My face is richly watered, my hair is wet. I feel fairly tolerable, except for the pain in every cell of the body. She tells me that I’m still alive.
Near me stands a dark shadow. I recognize her as an Atom.
– How much longer has it survived? – I ask.
– Two. Me and you, “he replies.
“It’s over. Everything has finally ended, “I close my eyes, uttering the last sentence aloud.
“You’re mistaken, White Rabbit.” The game is just beginning.