The concrete in the stairwell glowed red as the emergency signs flashed with the erratic screeching of the alarm. It was eerie to see people herded into the stairwells like cattle.
Every movement fractured by the darkness between each flash of red; every ragged breath audible in the split second of silence between each alarm sounding.
The urge to go back to my apartment slowed me down, but the sea bodies me pushed me down. There was no going against the flow.
The first message I heard over the speakers was clear: Leave your belongings. Get out of the building. Get out of the city.
As I looked down into the street from my apartment window I could see people running, panicked. They seemed to be chasing each other.
Buses so full there wasn't even standing room were pushing through swarms of people in the street. Some people banged their firsts against the heavy metal of the buses, begging to be let on.
Others were grabbing people and pulling them away.
The second message that played over the speakers made no sense: Stay away from the red eyes. Do not make eye contact. Do not speak to them. Do not go with them.
At this point people had been banging on apartment doors ordering us to leave. The elevators weren't working, so down the stairwell we went.
Only two flights of stairs were left until we reached the front door, and I couldn't shake the urge to go back. Going outside was a bad idea. I could feel it.
I tried again to slow down, but the crowd made it impossible. I spotted a clearing under the stairs where the janitor kept his cart. Perfect.
It felt like an hour had passed before the crowd finally cleared. I stayed crouched behind the cart after the doors had clicked shut to be sure no one would come back.
Just before I stood up to hightail it back upstairs, a figure appeared in the frosted glass above my head.
The milky color of the glass prevented me from seeing anything but the shape of the person. From my crouched position I was shrouded by the cart. Practically invisible to anyone outside.
Whoever was out there turned as if to leave, but quickly jolted their head to the side- straight at the window. Forehead hit glass, and I covered my mouth to keep myself from shrieking.
I could see a nose pressing hard against the opaque surface. The face slowly rolled against the glass until the cheek and eye were pushing so firmly, I was sure either bone or glass would break.
Then I saw it. The red eye. I quickly cast my gaze down, remembering the recording. Stay away from the red eyes. Do not make eye contact.
The figure didn't move, but through the glass I heard a whispered, "Hey. You alright?"
Do not speak to them.
I willed myself to be a mannequin. Perfectly still. Rigid plastic.
"You can come on out. The buses are about to leave, you're safe now."
Do not go with them.
Suddenly I longed to be on the bus. Why did I stay back?
"Those poor people don't know what's waiting for them when those buses reach their destination. They shouldn't have gone," the figure started to wander away, "They shouldn't have gone."
After a moment, a ragged breath escaped my throat. Mannequins don't need to breath, but I do. With the Red Eye gone, I took the stairs two at a time until I reached my apartment.
I shut my door, thanking the heavens my old roommate had been a paranoid shut-in with four dead-bolts and three padlocks.
I knew it was a bad idea, but I had to look outside. I went into the darkest room and peeked through the slit of the curtain without disturbing it.
I was just in time to see the last bus rolling away. I surveyed the remaining bodies wandering the streets. My gut rolled as I looked at each face marked with two red eyes.
They were eerily calm, but their movements were rigid. Jittery. I backed away from the curtains, not sure I wanted to see more.