As soon as the sun had begun to sink below the horizon, I had left Sara's place. My shape was rounder than even my new thicker coat could account for, and that would be because the woman had stuffed every pocket I had with sandwiches and bottles of water. And this coat had a lot of them, I quickly realized. I drew the line, however, at the overly large thermos of hot cocoa that she had tried to foist on me, but I had managed to grumble a thanks at least before I left. I wasn't sure what else to say, but no matter what else happened to me, I would never forget Sara or what she had done for me.
My list of sites to check out was tucked in a pocket as well. There was one thing I hadn't thought of before I left: I didn't have a clue how to find most of these places. Maybe my rush to leave had been stupid, but I had been afraid that if I didn't go right away, I might never. The novelty of a friend had a pull that was hard to resist.
I never paid much attention to street names as I had learned to navigate the city by landmarks. Now I had to wander the streets looking at names and comparing it to my list. If I were careful, my food would last a few days, hopefully. The thought of having to search dumpsters for dinner had both my stomach and my mind recoiling in disgust. Sara had spoiled me.
My eyes gazed up to the sky and the barely visible moon that hung over the skyline before I dropped them back down to look at the signs once more. Now that I knew that I had been on my own for at least three months, part of me wondered why I was even bothering to look anymore. But I knew that answer; my abilities had me wondering what I was or who I had been, and that was what drove me on. No sightings, not even ones that might have been of me, had been mentioned on any of the websites we had looked at. I was alone. Not quite, piped up that part of me that kept insisting that I should have taken Sara's offer. My finger rubbed absently at the little zippered pocket that held the key that she had given me. That simple act of finding that little bit of metal still there calmed me. I guess because it was a reminder that I wasn't really alone anymore and I had a friend to fall back to if I needed.
Shaking my head, I turned my focus back on what I was supposed to be doing: finding one of these stupid companies that might trigger a memory on my origin. At least it wasn't snowing, I thought as I walked along the sidewalk. Movement ahead of me had my eyes focusing on a small group of people that were walking along the sidewalk. The swagger in their walk and their voices had me ducking into a nearby alley - punks of one sort or another. I wasn't trying to avoid a fight, just making sure that if there was one, it was on my terms. They passed by me and I waited a few minutes before returning to the main road.
Sighing, I took out my list of addresses and glanced absently at the paper before stuffing it back in my pocket again. My feet carried me down the sidewalk as I kept watch on both signs and any others who walked in the night. At the next intersection, a name on a sign caught my eye, and I pulled out my list and confirmed it was one of the ones on it. Finally, I was getting close to one of my targets.
An hour later, I stood staring at the front of a building. This was it, but it brought back no memories for me. And I knew I was a good distance from that alley I had woken up in. As bad as I felt when I finally came to that day, I couldn't imagine that I could have traveled this far. Shaking my head, I turned down the alley that ran beside the building. Regardless of my gut feeling, I needed to check it out in order to remove it from the list.
The alley held nothing of interest, nothing to spark a memory, hell, not even a feeling. Looking up, I could see windows and a fire escape that traversed the side of the building. Perhaps a little recon would help. My legs bunched under me and I leaped up to grab the lowest rung on the ladder before scrambling up it. I peered into the first window I came to and found something that looked like a beige maze with occasional desks and computers on them. But nothing that triggered even a vague image of my past. A sigh escaped me before I continued up the ladder and gazed into each and every window I could reach.
By the time I had gained the roof, frustration had built to the point that I thought a break to eat was necessary. Searching for something that seemed impossible had me pissed off; what I wouldn't have given for an asshole to punch. Instead, I hunkered down in between two rooftop units in order to block the wind while I pulled out a sandwich. My eyes gazed out across the horizon while I ate, but nothing moved across the rooftops. That was hardly a surprise; only an idiot, like me, would be up here during the winter. I tucked the empty bag back into a pocket and took a moment to make sure the key was where I had left it before moving out to peep into more windows.
The moon had climbed high in the sky by the time I had finished checking the building as much as I could without actually breaking into it. I still had a few hours of night before I would need to seek cover and I looked around trying to decide where to go next when something caught my eye. My feet carried me towards a building proclaiming itself a tourist center, complete with maps! Finally!
The building was closed, but there were bins with fliers by one wall, along with a giant map of the city. I rifled through all the pamphlets before finally finding one that was a map. Unfolding it, I found that while it was a map, it was only marginally helpful. It was more concerned with historic buildings and tourist crap. But there were enough streets labeled that if I was lucky they might be on my list.
I trotted over to a streetlight with my prize, pulled out my list, and began comparing the two. The scuff of feet had me looking up warily. Three men walked down the street towards me and I caught one pointing in my direction before he nudged his buddy. I quickly stuffed my map and list in a pocket before tucking my hands inside as well.
"Well, well, well, what have we here? Some poor tourist out so late at night?" the nudger asked his friend.
"If you're smart, you'll keep walking," I growled out at them. I knew their type, though. They would take what I said as a challenge, but I felt I had to warn them at least.
They laughed and began to spread out, trying to surround me. My feet carried me backwards as I attempted to keep them in front of me. Not waiting, nudger decided to throw a punch to get the party started. My hand shot up and I stopped his fist and then twisted it down and around with a snap of my wrist and he went down with a squeal. His buddies closed in on me and I released him before I twisted and kicked a leg into the guy on the right, sending him sprawling backwards. The last guy threw a punch at my face but at the last second I ducked and it went whistling by me. My fist was already in motion, it connected with his face, and he cried out as blood spurted from his nose.
I wasted no time and trotted off, leaving them clutching various body parts while I disappeared down the street. Two blocks away, I finally stopped and gazed about me. The street was empty and I took advantage of that in order to check the map again. Another company for me to check was not far, at least by what the map showed me, so after memorizing the route I would need to take, I returned the map back to my pocket.
Traffic began to pick up as the night turned into early morning, and I was forced to find a secluded spot to retreat to for the day. I wedged myself in a little alcove that wasn't very comfortable, but it was the best I could do for the moment. I pulled out my next to last sandwich and contemplated devouring it, but knowing I had hours before nightfall, I carefully returned it to its pocket. With nothing better to do, I closed my eyes and let myself fall into a light doze.
The sun was high overhead when my eyes popped open. I did a quick check; no one was nearby, so that wasn't what woke me. And then it hit me. The snow had been busy melting and I was surrounded by slushy cold. Growling, I pushed as much as I could out of my little nook. The rumbling of my stomach could no longer be ignored, and I slowly chewed my sandwich and followed it with one of my waters before letting myself drift asleep. The rest of the afternoon was much the same: push the slush out and doze for a few minutes.
By the time night fell, I was thoroughly wet, cold and annoyed as hell. But I had had plenty of time during the day to study my map, and I had a route planned out to my next destination. My stride lengthened as I fought to get warm as I made for the building. As the temperature dropped, however, everything became slicker. It was official, I grumbled to myself, I fucking hated winter.
The building stood tall amongst its neighbors and I began my systematic search of it; well, peering into the windows, to be exact. Every window looked much like the previous buildings had: endless offices of one type or another. I got a sinking feeling that the more interesting rooms, rooms where experiments might have happened, where I might have come into being if Sara was right, had no windows. Sighing, I finished my exploration of this side of the building before gaining the roof. The lights of the city twinkled around me while I sat down to eat my last sandwich. I chewed slowly even though my stomach complained about the speed. I would continue searching out each of the companies that had reported a break in during the month that I appeared in that alley, but I honestly thought they would all end as the first one did a disappointment.
Tucking my trash back in my pocket, I made a decision. Sara was right; I needed a base of operations to continue doing this. And if I was completely honest with myself, I missed the warmth of her home and, well, her, dammit. My heart lighter after coming to that conclusion, I finished my lurking outside of the windows of this company before I turned my sights towards my only refuge in this city.
~Happy Holidays to all! I'd like to thank Mordinette for all her help and Scribbledincrayon for her suggestions - thank you ladies! And a thank you to the readers - thank you!~