He looked back at me again now, those amethyst eyes drifting over me. I wished in that moment I could read his thoughts.
“You doing okay back there?” he asked. “Need to stop or anything?”
I shook my head and glanced over at Zoe. “She’s out.”
“Good. She needs to rest.” Luc faced the front. “We’re making good time.”
I let the blanket fall to my waist. My shirt was dry by now, and my pants were just damp. Keeping my voice low, I asked, “What is this place going to be like?”
“You’ve been picturing medieval times, haven’t you?” Daemon glanced in the rearview mirror.
Pressing my lips together, I nodded. “That or something postapocalyptic with wild dogs roaming the street and people collecting rain for drinking water.”
Luc turned to me, a slow grin tugging at his lips.
“What?” Pretty sure I’d seen those two things in at least a dozen end-of-the-world movies.
“It’s not that postapocalyptic,” Daemon answered, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “A lot of nature has reclaimed large portions of the city. It’s kind of insane how quickly that happened, but we’re adapting. Kat and I have been there for almost two years. The same for Dawson and Beth. Archer and my sister have been there longer, helping those left behind.”
A huge part of me still couldn’t believe that people had just been left behind. I shouldn’t be surprised that was the state of humanity, but it was still disturbing.
“And there is still some electricity used in emergencies, like if there is a medical procedure that needs to be done,” Daemon explained. “We power them up, using the Source. It’s not something we do often. Major outputs of energy can be tracked. So, we’ve done a lot of scavenging. Batteries are worth their weight in gold. As are camping supplies.”
I’d never been camping, so this should be interesting.
“At least it’s not summer,” Luc commented. “It can get over a hundred degrees and no AC.”
My eyes widened. “What’s the weather like now?”
Daemon chuckled. “In the seventies during the day, fifties at night. We didn’t have as bad a summer as we could’ve. Part of me wonders if it has to do with the lack of pollution and machines, but we do have ways of keeping the houses somewhat cool. Providing airflow is essential, as is shade. For homes that didn’t have porches or trees to block the sun, awnings have been built. Staying on lower levels of homes helps. Basements are few and far between because of the limestone, and the homes that do have basements are used for the elderly or those who are heat sensitive. But when it gets really hot, all you can do is pretend that it isn’t that hot.”
“What does everyone do in the city?”
“Everyone who can work, works. A lot of people are farming and running cattle ranches who never had any experience with it before. Food is something we don’t have to worry as much about as we did in the beginning,” he explained. “Life inside the wall isn’t very much different from outside of it. There are laws and people to enforce them. Schools run during the days even though there aren’t a lot of children. Many didn’t survive the first year.”
I swallowed hard.
“We have doctors—Luxen and hybrid who came to the city,” he continued. “The city is more of a community now. Everyone helps everyone. It’s the only way they’ll survive.”
“How many people are there?”
It was Luc who answered. “In the metro area, before the population, it was over two million. Now it’s what, Daemon?”
“A little over twenty thousand, and about five thousand of them are Luxen transplants,” he answered.
“Does that mean the rest got out before the cities were walled?”
Neither of them answered for a long moment, and then Daemon spoke. “No one really knows. There was a lot of civil unrest and chaos after the invasion and when the EMP bombs were dropped. Hundreds of thousands had to have died in the weeks and months after, most of it human-on-human violence. Others who had the means and the health got out.”
I sat back, twisting the blanket between my fingers. “Why haven’t the humans left now? How can you all not be afraid that someone is going to leave and expose you all there?”
“It’s a threat they live with daily,” Luc said, staring out the windshield. “But many of them simply do not want to be a part of a world that wrote them off.”
“I can understand that, but it still has to be a huge risk.”
“It is. All exits are heavily monitored, and we don’t want to be in the position where we have to stop someone from leaving. So far, it hasn’t been an issue.” Daemon paused. “We’ll just have to cross that bridge if we get to it.”
That seemed like a pretty big bridge to cross later.