"Did you hear about the man from the other day? The one who hanged himself in Ratpath and committed suicide?"
"Yeah, what’s with him? He was crazy. He finally got what he deserved."
"They say the cause of death was not suicide. They just wanted to make it look that way."
"Why shouldn't he commit suicide? Didn't he lose his wife, children, family... one by one, and finally go crazy? What's there to suspect about that?"
"And that's the problem, since there's nothing to suspect..."
"Shh, someone's going to hear you. Watch what you say."
"I mean, the guy was already suicidal. So where else would they find a better subject than him?"
"I don't know. There's been a lot of news going around lately. I can't decide which to believe anymore."
"Me too. So let's drop the subject. I don't want to get into trouble."
"What a coward you are. Don't worry, they won't eat you."
Wilder sighed deeply as he listened to the men sitting in a small food shop in their working clothes, and he left the iron bars on which he was leaning. The same thing was on everyone's lips these days: the man who committed suicide in Ratpath. Actually, there was nothing special about the man. He was just one of many people who ate the rock while living happily at first. Then his life turned upside down. What got him so talked about was the mystery behind his death. Although he was one of the most likely people to be suicidal, people thought his death wasn’t due to suicide.
Wilder had no idea about this because he wasn't a news follower. The reason he stood in front of the food shop and listened to the workers was simply boredom.
When he was away from the workers, he threw himself on a park bench and took out his phone from his pocket. He was supposed to pick up his sister from school three hours later, but until then he had nothing to do. The best thing he could do was hang around and listen to people, but the thought of spending three hours with this just didn't sit well with him.
How long would he live without speaking to anyone, but just listening?
He buried his head in his palms and isolated himself from the sounds. Sometimes, even being in the crowd hurt him. He was quiet, calm, and never hurt anyone before. Still, he always felt distant from people. It wasn’t a physical thing, his body was always with people. What was far away was his heart. His heart was never close to people.
It had been like this ever since he could remember, and it would continue as he had predicted.
He lifted his head from his hands and looked around. He had wanted to isolate the sounds as he contemplated, but there was an uncomfortable silence around him, even though he wasn't thinking about anything right now. The people had suddenly disappeared, and there was no one but himself. He thought for a moment: 'Was there an evacuation and I couldn't hear because my head was so confused?' However, such a thing wasn’t possible. If there was a discharge, the police or any officer would come and warn him. Though he was distracted, he could sense someone calling out to him. Indeed, such a thing never happened. The only option left, then, was: humans would indeed disappear in the blink of an eye.
At that moment, an explosion sounded from not far away.
As soon as he heard the sound, Wilder scrambled to his feet and looked in the direction the sound had come from. There was no screaming or smoke to show the effect of the explosion. The area remained calm except for a few crows screaming and flying in fear. Wilder wanted to take a few steps forward, but couldn't move his legs. A coldness, the reason of which he did not know, spread throughout his entire body, causing his body to go rigid. With the second explosion, his intended step forward slipped backward, followed by his second and third steps.
With his inner voice shouting at him, Wilder leapt forward and ran without looking back. The only option for his escape was to take the main road, as the fountain he had just been sitting at was surrounded by trees, but getting on the main road also meant he had to reveal his presence. If there was a gunfight, lasers from the guns would instantly incinerate him. On the other hand, it wasn’t likely to move quickly through the trees, there were many ways to locate him even if he tried to hide. Taking that road was no different than waiting for his own death.
'I'd rather risk myself than wait for death.'
He turned his direction to the main road and increased his speed a little more. It would be great if he could find a car when he got to the main road. Not being a very fast runner, he didn't know how far he could get from the explosions. He was also starting to get short of breath.
With the last of oxygen left in his lungs, he managed to get on the main road. Just as he was looking for a car, he saw a silhouette on the side of the explosions and froze in place. Someone was running towards him.
The mask on the man's face gave the impression that he was an enemy. Wilder wanted to get out of the way before the man noticed him, but it was too late. Before he even took a step, the man had approached and noticed him.
When they came face to face, the man stiffened in surprise.
"Hey! Why are you still here?"
His eyes swept over Wilder in astonishment.
"I don’t know."
It was all that Wilder could say.
The man looked at Wilder, then the direction he had come from. The explosions had stopped, other than that there seemed to be nothing suspicious. Taking advantage of this moment, the man gestured to Wilder and silently told him to follow. Wilder nodded and, as the man had said, followed him cautiously.
They walked for a while without saying anything. As Wilder walked, he had a better chance of examining his surroundings. Not only the people but also the cars passing by the main road were gone. The thought of what could cause such a thing preoccupied Wilder immensely, but the presence of the man beside him and the fear of what might happen prevented him from thinking. It was no different from the robots that were useless except to do the tasks assigned to him.
When they came to the middle of the main road, the man quickened his pace a little more. The main road formed a great gap on all sides. As soon as they could get past this place, they could find a place to hide. Even though there was no verbal conversation between them, Wilder seemed to be able to read the man's thoughts. Where they were now was perhaps their biggest obstacle. Once this obstacle was overcome, they could almost consider themselves free.
That was Wilder's thoughts until a large laser bullet hit the man in the stomach.
Wilder's brain was locked in the sudden shock as the crimson blood spilled over the man like paint. His face was turned towards the direction of the bullet, but his eyes couldn’t see, his ears could not hear. He didn't even know what his expression was at that moment. As the second bullet passed right under his ear and hit the ground, his senses were suddenly heightened and a sudden wave of electroshock enveloped his body.
They were under fire.
Whether they had been targeted by a sniper or some other way, he didn’t know. There was no one in sight. Even if he could detect the direction the bullet came from, the nearest building was so far away that it wasn’t possible for him to see it clearly with the naked eye. Only from the lack of successive fire could he deduce the sniper conclusion.
If they stayed here any longer, the next bullet would hit them in the head.
As Wilder tried to turn around to help the man, he let out a muffled groan from the intense pain he felt in the back of his neck, then he lost his balance and fell to his knees. The intensity of the pain was so great that his brain ached to the point of explosion. When he brought his hand to the source of the pain, a few drops of blood were smeared on his hand. He probably had a blow to the back of the head.
Before he could wait for the pain to go away, someone grabbed his arm, lifted him to his feet and turned him towards him. Wilder's eyes were teary with pain, but he could see that it was the man who had just been shot. The man's face was already pale, his breathing was wheezing and he could hardly stand. The blood flowing from the wound in his stomach formed a large lake under his feet. Still, he was using all the strength in his body to say something to Wilder. When he parted his lips, only one word came out from his mouth: "Run."
He pulled Wilder to the opposite side of the direction the bullets were coming from, and pushed him in the back with the last drop of strength he had. "Now!"
With that last movement of the man, Wilder started running with all his might.
He was now completely transformed into a robot.
He couldn't even hear his own breathing. The only thing he focused on was the long road ahead of him.
I have to run. I have to run. I have to run.
Wilder's brain was incapable of perceiving anything.
He wasn't sure how long he had been running. The image around him had changed, leaving its place to different buildings and streets. He knew that if he continued like this, his lungs would collapse, but he couldn’t control his body. Perhaps his death would be at his own hands. Even that thought didn't trigger him.
However, the shout that echoed in his ear was enough to bring him back.
He found himself lying on the asphalt with the blow he received from his right side.
"Are you alright?"
He couldn't lift his head because of the weight he felt on himself. However, he was able to answer.
The person still lying on top of him pulled out his laser gun from his belt and fired towards the buildings. Although he had fired only two shots, he was able to neutralize the enemy on the building, turning it into ashes with the effect of the laser. If Wilder hadn’t been rescued by him, he would have been the one who had just been destroyed. The death of the man who sacrificed himself to protect him would have been in vain.
What the hell am I doing?
Wilder couldn't help but ask himself.
Then, he forced his arm and reached the glasses beyond his head.
As soon as the weight lifted, a hand grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him into an alley. The narrower street served as the perfect wall for concealment. For the first time, Wilder felt a little safe.
"Why is the tool pointing toward you..."
Wearing his broken glasses and looking in the direction the voice came from, Wilder finally saw the person dragging him. In front of him, there was a slim, relatively tall man dressed in black. His hair, as black as his clothes, was a mess from the recent brawl, and his chest was heaving up and down rapidly due to lack of oxygen. He wore a V-shaped mask on his face, covering the top of his nose and his eyes. Still, it wasn't hard to tell the fact that he was staring at Wilder.
Before Wilder could even open his mouth, the man took a few steps towards him, grabbed the back of his neck and pushed him down.
Wilder didn't know the size of the wound on his neck, but the real question that stuck in his mind was why the other person was interested in this wound.
However, before he could get an answer to this question, his eyes darkened with another blow to the back of his head, and his consciousness left him as his body fell to the ground.