They are not awake.
They have been asleep for days, years. They lie sprawled across train platforms, clutching cellphones, notebooks, and mp3 players. Their hearts barely beat, drowsy with decreased metabolism. Their fingernails have grown long, curling under. They are pristine white from lack of use.
Dr. Sarah Rosencrantz had not expected this result.
Now, bored and alone in a city of sleep, Sarah walked down empty streets where the streetlights changed indifferently with an echoing thud. She no longer bleached her hair. In the summer, she often went without clothing, her skin gleaming white as she stood on Wall Street, knee-deep in a sea of business-suited bodies that inhaled and exhaled like the tide.
She continued her research, though she wasn’t sure why.
The generators continued to run. Water continued to flow. Everything was computerized, fueled by reserves that would last a hundred years. Worst-case scenario, they had said, pointing at color-coded maps as they stockpiled.
In a grocery store, a woman slept in the produce aisle, her hand folded around the blackened pit of a peach.
Trees continued to grow, and, unpruned, they arched over the sidewalks, nudging cement with timid roots. Sarah pondered, sometimes, what would happen when she died, when everyone died. The machines would remain awake, grumbling, until they too ran empty and the power ceased.
I95, streetlights blinking off one by one over the rusted carcasses of automobiles.
This war will destroy everyone, she had said when summoned to testify before the UN. She had meant to stop it. But not like this.