As I said before, The Mad Ventriloquist spent a lot of our time together impressing on me the importance of stories. We also spent a lot of time drinking. I don't believe I've drank so much since just after Caleb died. Still, my point is that TMV talked a lot about stories and, when I could understand his slurred words through my foggy mind, a lot of what he said made sense.
Those of us with voices must speak for those without. Stories give hope. Stories humanize. Stories help us to remember those who came before. We are the stories our lives, and so many lives have been cut short due to the events happening around us every day. The least we can do is help the dead live on in the memories of others.
I've been thinking a lot about a runner I used to know. I don't know if she's alive or dead. I haven't heard from her in months, but that's through my own fault. I lost her number. It sounds stupid, but it's true. I lost the phone I had at the time and all of its contacts and I hadn't thought to write them down. Over twenty runners, a full network, gone in a heartbeat. If I'd just thought ahead, just made a note on a simple piece of paper, I'd still be in touch with Annabel, Steven, Julia, Mike... All of them. Instead, they're just memories who's names I must live up to.
I met Annabel in Chicago a few months after I started running. I spotted her pretty easily out of the crowd. A girl around my age wearing a hoodie with an operator's symbol taped on the back? Not exactly subtle.
I struck up a conversation there in the line at the sandwich shop we were at. With the way she was worried about prices, I could tell she wasn't particularly well off, so I paid for her turkey sandwich. I don't know why I remember that so clearly - She liked turkey.
We talked. That's all we did that first day. We just talked about what we were going through. Annabel hadn't met many runners before. Despite bumping into a few, none of them had bothered to talk to her. She'd made her way to Chicago to try and find M. I think I openly scoffed when she mentioned his name.
I did what I could to explain to her that M's rules don't work. The look on her face when I described what happened to Frank just a month before when we tried to get up high... I think I shattered what little security she had left. The way Annabel tore off the operator's symbol from the back of her hoodie later that evening felt like a person losing their religion.
She stayed with me for an entire week. It was probably one of the best weeks I've had since all of this started. Annabel always found the right thing to make me smile. It reminded me of back when Samantha and I first met, before I got her pregnant, put the ring on her finger, and everything went to hell. Still, I was a married, if separated, man, and I believed in karma then as I do now.
And then, one day, I lost her. We were getting ready to leave the city, and we needed supplies. We were trying to move fast, so Annabel stayed in the hotel room while I ran down to the nearest market to buy food. The husks were waiting for me. Three of them, two dressed like they were homeless and the third wearing an expensive suit, blindsided me as I walked by an alleyway. I was texting Annabel that I was on my way back. My phone shattered when it hit the ground as the husks attacked. I did what I could to fight them off and took off running.
I started going towards the hotel, and nearly got inside when the bellhop attacked me as well. He spoke calmly and rationally about how his Father was very displeased with me. The knife in his hand scared me far more than his words. I dodged, and started running again in the opposite direction. I think I ran all day and all night trying to lose them. Finally, I found myself at my car. The back window was shattered and my things were gone, but I had transportation.
I spent the next two weeks staying in Chicago, trying to find Annabel again. She was nowhere to be found. I don't know if his servants attacked her too, or if she sat up there in our hotel room, thinking I abandoned her. What I do know is that I've never seen or spoken to her since. Of all those I lost, she left the greatest void. You don't find many people who make you feel normal after this madness starts.
If anyone of you out there has met Annabel or someone like her, please let me know. I'm not getting my hopes up. I didn't realize until I started writing this how much I need the closure. So, please, if you know her or what happened, just leave a comment. That's all I need.