Something Novel

Day 5,408

After fourteen years, I do not miss people, but there are times my skin hums with the reverberation of a long-forgotten handshake, some impossibly distant clasp of flesh. I have begun dreaming of crowds, of bodies pressed together on the sidewalk and subway platforms, of some smell of humanity I cannot quite recall. Some tang of sweat, blood, hair, piss; I remember the city seeming so dirty, so unconquerably filthy, when I left. The particulars elude me, but dreaming I remember.

A plague, it seems, has come to the city below. Separated as I am from the world, the specifics are as distant as the trains I dream of, but the roads are empty, the bars fallen silent. The few people that brave the streets roam listlessly, circling each other warily, beads of oil shoved across the surface of a dishpan by a fallen drop of soap. It has never been so quiet, and I have never felt so alone; it is only the wailing of the ambulances that says the city is still alive, still working.

An earthquake shook my rooms this morning, a fairly minor tremor that nevertheless knocked the books off my shelves and rattled the dishes in my cupboard. I have begun to hoard my food, no longer so certain of the deliveries I have relied on summer, fall, winter, and spring for over a decade. Even now, even in this eternal retreat, I am as bound to the world as ever, as tied to the city, as reliant on the invisible work of humanity. My loneliness is self-imposed, illusory; a comforting dream of control.