*** Chapter 2 part 6
The road was oddly clogged with cars that had rapidly pulled to the side, been thrown into park and were left with their doors standing open and their motors running. For the most part the street itself had a clear path going in both directions. Wherever it was blocked, Panda would jump out of her car and drive the vehicles off the street and park them, leaving the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked.
“I wonder what the freeway is like?” said Dell. “There must be cars crashed everywhere if people didn’t pull over in time.”
“I don’t know but I think for today we should take surface streets to get home. I want to go slow so we can keep an eye out for other people…and clear the streets as much as possible between our two houses. And the store. And the gas station.”
Panda’s mind was clicking off the places she would need to drive on a regular basis. She could not begin to calculate further than that. Long term needs like energy, heat, communication did not occur to her. Loneliness did not occur to her.
Panda drove right up to the door and parked by the curb. Dell, following, eyeballed the handicapped parking place but could not imagine herself pulling into it and parking. She swung behind Panda and got out of her car. As she looked across the parking lot crowded with cars, it started to dawn on her: there are no more people. I can park in a handicap space because there are no more handicapped drivers needing them. There are no more cops to give me a ticket.
Panda’s eyes also scanned the parking lot; looking for people and signs of movement. She saw the snout of a pig poking out of the window of an SUV. It had been rolled down enough to let in fresh air. She walked to the SUV and tried the door but it was locked. She realized that without the keys or a means to break into that vehicle, that pig would die in there.
And then she thought of all the pets trapped around the city in locked vehicles or shut in houses and apartments. They were all going to die unless they could free themselves. In an instant the future yawned before her, a vast expanse of time in which she went door to door through the city freeing as many animals as possible and never making a dent.
She had always prepared herself for the world smelling like the stench of death after the apocalypse, but now she realized it would be the rotting carcasses of animals that would fill her nostrils. And suddenly it seemed so sad to her, so overwhelming that she bent over and sobbed. Great waves of wracking sorrow engulfed her.
Dell came rushing over, taking in at a glance the trapped pig and the hopelessness of the situation. But Her toe scuffled something and she looked down and saw a man’s shoe and a set of car keys in the dust. She picked up the keys…they were right by the door of the truck after all…why not? And pressed the unlock button. She heard the happy click-click noise of the doors unlocking and reached in to let out the pig.
The pig slimed Dell with its snotty nose and whined to be let out of the truck. Dell realized the pig was not able to climb down out of the cab of the SUV on its own, so she hoisted it out onto the pavement. It shook itself and proceeded to rootle around looking for something to eat.
Panda, recovering from her panic and sorrow, took her hands from her knees and stood up and in doing so, also scuffed up something in the dust. She bent again and picked it up. It was a laminated dog placard.