Author : Justin W. Hall

It was 21:44.17 when Jani got the shudder, the one she always got right before something really freaky was going to happen, the twitch in her spine. She shrugged it off, refocusing her vision to the lines of text scrolling down the face of her contact lens, and grinned. Shinjara was arguing with some Australian boy about some band, Wicked Salmon. Shin was sure they were formed in ’30, and the Aussie claimed it was actually ’32. Shin got passionate about the silliest stuff whenever he got into arguments with people on the net. Jani remembered a few weeks back when Rory told Shin his shoelaces were –

Dark cloth wrapped around a shuffling mass collided with Jani’s shoulder and hurried past with a grunt. Jani squeaked in surprise, jerking her head to see the man stumble off the sidewalk and into the standstill traffic, weaving through the ten-centimeter gaps between autos. Rude bastard – obviously didn’t get the organic pattern to walking the streets. The crowd flowing down the sidewalk, watching their lenses and talking on their mobiles, they all got the pattern, no one interrupted the flow.

Strange, Jani thought as she studied him, his clothes, they’re not reflecting any light. Unconsciously thumbing to the channel, “Any of u ever seen cloth that absorbs light?” Everything was illuminated around her – programs and advertisements, glowing and shifting, on every surface of every building in New York, stretching up to the skies. Reflecting off the cars in the street and the glazed, distant eyes of pedestrians. Pinks and blues and purples, but the guy, a blot against the glow.

The noise was a smack, but louder, more violent. Jani spun to face the source – the alley from which the guy had emerged. She saw the crowd’s puzzled expressions for a brief moment before everything went dark.

Dark. Jani sucked in breath sharply, startled, pupils widening, both from the lack of vid glow and the fear. Dark. No images, screaming voices, clever theme songs shouting from the sky, urging her to buy pretzels and insurance. No music in her ears, no text on her lens, no hum of the wall displays.

Her eyes darted back and forth, uselessly trying to make out shapes. She thumbed her phone’s dialer. No tone. Lip quivering, NO SIGNAL suddenly flickered at the corner of her vision, her contact lens affirming the terrifying thought rising in the back of her throat. She was disconnected.

Jani’s breathing growing more panicked, felt herself shriek. Her arms covered her head as she ducked through the crowd, their wails of confusion amplified by the utter silence that she’d never heard before. Darting into the alley, stumbling, rolling in the dark, up next to a garbage box. Eyes welded shut, fingers clutching her hair, Jani sobbed, rocking back and forth on the ground. Silence. Darkness. Everywhere.

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