We wait. We wait for hours, huddled there in that cold subterranean dark, cringing each time a fresh explosion shudders through the ground. They keep coming fast and regular, at least one every few minutes. One of the closest, an hour after we arrive, causes a few of the dead light fittings to fall from the ceiling with a crash that, in the enclosed space, is absolutely deafening. A while after that, the smell of smoke pervades the car park, lingers for almost an hour, then disappears.
I can't even imagine what's happening up above ground. The destruction that is taking place must be absolute. How many hundred have died already? How many thousands? And how many years is this all going to take to rebuild?
New people keep trickling into the car park. I watch the first few to arrive as they pause just inside the darkness to let their eyes adjust, as me and Sharon did, before moving forward to find a place for themselves. Some of them are injured: one man is limping as he descends into the car park. Another is clearly having trouble staying conscious, weaving back and forth as he walks. Nobody goes forward to help. Everyone is alone in their little, personal bubbles of shock.
The space in the middle of the car park starts to fill up. It's not full, by any means, but there's less space than there was. I see a couple of people heading down the ramp to the next level, and I wonder if maybe it might be a good idea to join them. But I know I couldn't face that kind of darkness.
A few hours after we arrive, a baby starts to cry somewhere nearby, the wails echoing around the cavernous space, rising and falling. I feel Sharon grip my arm a little bit tighter. Around me, some of the people stir uncomfortably, but nobody moves. The crying goes on for an hour before quietening, then dying out altogether.
Time passes like that, marked out by small happenings. The thunder of explosions becomes so regular and so normal that I find myself almost falling into a doze. If it wasn't so cold down here, and I wasn't so jittery and afraid, I would be long-since asleep.
I have no way of telling the time, but it must be getting towards nightfall by the time the meteor impacts finally stop. I don't notice at first. It's like being on a plane and getting used to the noise of the engines. When they finally cut out you know that something's changed, but you don't know what. I'm aware of a sudden sense of stillness all around me. People are freezing where they sit, hushing whispered conversations, listening for something. And as soon as I realise that I realise that the steady pounding of the meteor impacts has finally, finally ceased.
For a minute, then five, then ten there is an absolute well of silence in the underground car park. A hundred people all poised, just waiting for that next explosion, holding their breaths, hoping. And as time passes and no explosion comes something seems to well up in that space. There's this tension in the air, this question just kind of hovering there: is it over? Have we survived?
Someone on our left gets to their feet and takes a few tentative steps towards the entranceway. His movement is mirrored all around the car park. Even me and Sharon scramble upright. Conversations, whispered at first, start to fill the air. And all the while the stillness of the earth is continuing. No more explosions, no more ground-shuddering impacts.
I can feel relief blossoming inside me. I fight it, but it's there. Even though I know this is far from over, even though I know the days to follow this are going to be the hardest we've ever faced, we are alive. That's got to be enough for now.
"Is that..." begins Sharon. But she never gets to finish her sentence. At that moment a noise echoes through the still air of our underground refuge. It's a low sound, loud but sinuous. A rough, venomous, croaking hiss. It's a noise that makes the hairs on the back of my neck raise on end. It's a noise that's not even slightly human.