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Holding her notification in one hand, and a butcher’s knife in the other, Alyssa Lane carefully maneuvered a surgical mask over her face.  She prayed that the thin barrier would be enough to protect her from the airborne toxins outside.  She had stayed healthy this long, and cursed that she had to jeopardize her life in order to save it.  

She took one final look around the apartment that had served as her fortress these last few months.  Prior to society’s downfall, she had always seen the storms and tornados that seasonally plagued her city as a curse that she had to endure.  However, being used to situations that left her without power and supplies had prepared her for the lengthy captivity.  In preparation for eventual power outages and the food shortages that a mass panic that a predictable storm could bring, she had long ago stocked up on essentials.

Armed with enough food and water to last her longer than she would have expected, and a generator, it was like the world hadn’t changed.  She had not ventured out in felt like years.  Before communication with the outside world lost, it was clear that those she knew, the ones that hadn’t yet perished, felt as if their homes had become prisons.  Not Alyssa.  She loved this home and all of its memories, and could think of no better place to be marooned.

As comfortable as she found the apartment to be, her time here was over.  She had to leave the security of her home, and all the worldly possessions within.  Even though she knew that no one was allowed to bring any belongings, and that she would never see her things again, she felt conflicted about leaving them behind.  Even now, she could hear a ruckus in the neighboring apartment, and she knew that looters were having their way with it.  Once she left her home, all of the evidence of her life would be game for the taking.

As much as the thought of the vandals defiling her personal effects caused her distress, she could not stay here any longer.  The months of refuge had made her skin fade to pale and her normally shoulder length brown hair grow long and untrimmed.  Before the troubles she had never been an unhealthy size.  But after her rationing of the limited amount of resources she had stored, her body had grown thin.  Even if she could have staved off starvation for a while longer, this way of life was not sustainable.  She was given this one chance to escape and she had to take it.

With one last glance at all her cherished items, she took a deep breath, held it, and left her apartment.  The time to leave had come and she had no one to escort her.  Many times she felt the sting of being alone, but none more so than when she truly needed someone.  She hurried down the hallway, quietly as she could.  On her tip toes, she slunk down the stairs.  The raiders in the next unit were occupied by their treasure, making it possible for her to slip out unnoticed.

While the streets of St. Louis, MO at one time had not been such a dangerous place, during daylight hours anyway, it was no longer an area that a woman, or any lone person, should travel.  Fortunately, she needed only to brave a few blocks to find the rendezvous point.  This was a dangerous world now, and just by leaving the house, one could easily meet with death.  She never dreamed that trading in her rural roots for living downtown amongst the towering steel would be her salvation.

As Alyssa made her way swiftly down the lonely streets, she kept her body close to the abandoned buildings and hurried across any open road that she encountered.  Dirty and desolate, the city was already deserted.  The empty blocks made her short trek simpler.  It would have been easy for her to assume that the vacant avenue was safe, but she did not relent in her watchfulness.  She heard shots in the distance, causing her to jump and freeze in place.  Pausing for a moment to listen, she realized that they came from the direction she was headed.

She wanted to run back to her apartment.  Back to the safety that had sustained her this long.  In her mind she could see herself returning, locking the doors and wait for something else to come along to help her.  As much as she fantasized of rescue, she knew that if she did not make this short but treacherous journey, then she would shortly die there, and she was not willing to give up just yet.  Gathering all of her courage, she continued on.

Her trip was quick and quiet, causing her both relief and unease.  When she arrived at the address she had been given, she discovered where everyone was.  The people of her neighborhood and those that surrounded it were already assembled at this meet up point.  Only three trucks sat at the ready.  Alyssa could instantly discern that this was not nearly enough to transport the masses that had gathered here.