We had what was left of the night and the whole next day to make plans and to pack, but our efforts were desultory. We put things into our bags and took them out again. Mike tried to argue the merits of taking the hamper, but we couldn’t justify it. Our supplies were dwindling. We’d only need the hamper if one of us was injured or became too weak to walk. We couldn’t take a rattling, cumbersome what-if-we-need-this thing with us. It was more important that we be fast and quiet. Two things we basically weren’t.
We slept and we took long showers. We tried on all of Mike’s clothes. We tore Manhattan maps out of the phone book and packed them, although we all knew how to walk straight north and hang a left. Mike went back up to Don’s apartment around midnight to listen to the radio. He returned after about ten minutes and said grimly, “Lots people chattering about marching to the Lincoln Tunnel.”
“Maybe we are wrong about this Lincoln Tunnel thing,” Moira said. “Maybe things have changed and it’s actually a way out, now.”
“The Lincoln Tunnel is one of the main pick-up sites for the Burning Pit body trucks,” Jill said. “We stopped at hospitals, and we found bodies people had left on curbs, but the tunnels were part of the regular route. There were trucks that only went to the tunnels, because they filled up, there.”
“That settles that,” Moira said.
The night seemed endless, but the day was longer. We all piled into the bed, not because we were sleepy, but because we knew we needed to sleep. Our walk was going to be taxing. I watched the digital clock tick away the red numbers of the day. I didn’t look at my friends, but I keep feeling them stir, and I knew they were shifting to get a better view of the clock. Bethel, annoyed by all of the stirring, growled at us all.
It was raining that evening. “Of course it’s raining, damnit,” Moira said. “This is God crying because I have to go to Washington Heights.” We grimly made ponchos by punching head and arm holes in black plastic garbage bags and headed downstairs.
Don showed up at the lobby wino party to see us off. The old winos had run out of wine and were finally looking hung over. They looked blearily at us, but didn’t comment. Little Old Lesbian and Big Old Lesbian came bearing gifts for us…baby carriages. “For your babies to ride in,” Little Old Lesbian said.
The baby carriages were a wonderful idea, actually. The carriages would take a load off of us without drawing a lot of attention. A round of hugs and promises to send help later (the promises felt like ashes in my mouth) and we were out the door and into the early, wet night.
We headed west to catch Broadway. Our plan was to walk straight up it, then veer off before we reached The Lowe’s 175th. For all we knew, the original giant giant bird was still using the demolished theatre site as a home base. Night or day, we didn’t need an encounter with him. Her. It.
Our walk was uneventful for the first couple of miles. The travel was still abnormally tiring because we were on high alert. We saw several people in the shadows of buildings, but they melted back into the shadows as we approached, probably thanks to the big guns that Mike and Moira carried. Jill and I pushed our carriages. Lexington rode inside of his carrier in the carriage. Bethel trotted along beside me, happy to be out and about, in spite of the rain. A pack rode in my carriage. Until Bethel played out, everybody would have a chance to take a turn walking packless.
We saw more and more vehicles parked along curbs as we hiked uptown, but there still wasn’t any traffic. People were hunkered down, waiting to see what was going to happen. As the sporadic curbside cars became a solid line, the sidewalk was reduced to a corridor between the cars and the buildings. I didn’t like the feeling of being hemming in, especially when the vehicles were larger ones that we couldn’t see over. Since it was New York, you couldn’t slip a credit card between the parked cars, so forget walking between them. It would be hard to get away if anyone came at us from a building.
I wondered if we should walk in the middle of the street, then I dismissed the idea. It would be beyond idiotic if we were mowed down by some fool who’d decided it would be fun to joyride through the apocalypse. Of course, right that minute was when a voice came from the dark doorway of a building. It said, “How much for the dog?”