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She communicated nothing. She tried to make herself write more. Nicola, the message dim, flickered, offering not much more than the words themselves. After submission it would be herded with the rest. She followed the trail of wires behind the television where the cables amassed near the main port, unplugged the mains cord and returned to the table, removed the sternum battery and returned it to its draw in a cabinet near the kitchen doorway that she had designated for such things. She kept the drawer locked. Nicola would finish the letter later, she would come back to it when there was time.

The centre of the day was directly overhead and the time when the fewest people would be on the streets. Nicola looked back into the hallway in which the light never went out, only two small windows bleeding in occasionally. The stairway separated everything, people snuck through when there wasn’t the light, they would lock themselves away until the time in the day when the sun found a way into their room, between the buildings, cast the flats in shadow from either side.

Not wanting to break the computer Nicola left it lid open on the short table in the centre of the room. She had little she needed to do, all the preparations were made in the morning, before the kids were up, when the house was still like this. All her belongings kept on a chair next to the kitchen, from a dining room set that the family hadn’t had enough room to bring into the flat. The remains were kept on the landing for a better time. Her coat over the back or resting on the end of a work surface in the kitchen, her bag almost always with the chair, her shoes where she sat if she had forgotten to move them the previous night or by the chair if she had arrived home before all others. She lost her keys several times a week, three or four sets of extras in the centre of the table, another set on the floor with bottle opener, probably Joe’s. She picked them up and felt their weight in the centre of her hand as she swung her bag onto her shoulder, felt the key slip between her index and middle finger as her hand tightened into a fist, the soft round edge of the key snug in her curved palm, the bottle opener resting across it. She put her hand in her pocket, manoeuvred the keys so as to be able to withdraw them quickly and pulled on the door that locked on closing.

The flat was a relatively comfortable walking distance from the nearest supermarket. Not many people could be heard in the adjoining streets, they were quiet most of the day, cars passed in small numbers and at humming speeds. Avoiding the police station didn’t necessarily mean the calmest route. Mornings were calmer but lacked purpose, smaller groups dissolving without guidance, collapsing, sometimes the more dangerous time. In the evening people gathered and pointed and waved all the same. The largest crowds gravitated toward the police station but avoiding it there would still be a hospital or long road or satellite chain shops that had moved their business out of town in the hope people would forget they exist, there would be someone she knew. At least the police were tired. Their only visible presence now in the billboards hung high depicting public martyrs of the past few hundred years, each younger than the situation that birthed it. These were images that reminded people that people looked similar. Without them everything had always been the same. People moved in similar spaces only now people much smarter than you came into your house at night and rearranged the furniture. Ageing groups getting smaller, the population thinning out like they said it may do, no general desires, small groups cut off from the world, fairly global, accustomed to staying off the ground floor after eleven.

Nicola’s trips to the supermarket had become more frequent in the last year after Robert had begun to insist that they always had twelve litres of water in the flat in case of an emergency. They had never had a problem with the water mains but this was something Robert insisted on. Kerin laughed at him every time he brought this up, twelve litres for four people as they weathered the storm. Kerin had taken to drinking the bottled water over anything else so every few days Nicola had to pick more up from the supermarket seriously hindering the amount of food she could carry. Robert drove but would rarely agree to take the trip, explaining that he was too tired after work or that they had enough in for that night. He didn’t like frequent exchanges.

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