Call it a premonition, a sixth sense, a gut feeling, but as the fiery orange and fading blue of the setting sun caught my gaze, I felt like I should stop to enjoy it. Something indescribable deep inside urged me to. Later I’d realize it was the last peaceful moment I’d get to enjoy for a while. I stepped onto the balcony as the heat of the day finally abated. Twelve floors up amongst the birds was often a lovely place to be. No jungle of buildings, congestion of cars, or bustling people to inhibit my view. The sun simply sank slowly below the horizon. I closed my eyes as sweet scents from the balcony garden two places left wafted in on a slight breeze. I inhaled deeply. Suddenly, a raucous bout of car horns blared through the air, ruining the moment. I exhaled in familiar frustration.
Resigned to the fact I lived in a place of constant intrusions, I bid the sun farewell and headed back inside. That evening passed as so many before it had. A bland dinner, a drink, some television, then bed. I locked up the door, shut out the lights, and climbed under the covers ready to drift off. Air conditioner blasting, perfectly broken-in mattress, and plush pillow, it didn’t take long before serenity lured me into a deep sleep.
I felt it first. Well, honestly at first something ripped me out of my dreams and I was still too groggy to notice the rumbling apartment. Ready to write it off as an oddity of the human brain, a low whistle crescendoed outside my window. Much like a low plane, but dissimilar enough to pique my interest. Then, hazed, confused, and barely awake my instinct is to hide under the blankets pulling them in tight safe from the boogeyman when the alarm punched through the dark. Unlike anything I’ve heard previously, I instantly lock up, panicked, unsure what to do. Then, my former confusion cleared. A bright light flashed through the window as a nearby structure erupted in a deafening explosion. My building rocked and swayed dangerously. Instinct took over and I flew about my home. Grabbed the wallet, the phone, the shoes all in their usual places and fled.
The hallway was consumed in darkness and the constant drone of the alarm. I couldn’t think. My head was too consumed with the sound and the now eerily still floor. Fortunately, my brain overrode itself and compelled my body towards the stairwell. I’m out of shape and can barely breathe, but the number of stairs didn’t intimidate me as I shuffled towards the bottom. Halfway down it hit me, I haven’t passed a single person. Did I miss something and was simply late to the party? Or were people trapped? It didn’t matter at that point. I had to get away from that siren.
Finally, I burst through the metal door at the bottom and out into the parking lot. I looked around out of curiosity turned into horror. The night sky, usually dark save for some street lamps or the distant glow of the city proper, lit up as if consumed by fire. As I continued to process everything, I learned it basically was. Several of the other large buildings around me lay in rubble and flame. Thick smoke rolled in towards me, threatening to choke me if I didn’t move. I walked to the front side of my apartment. I looked north and west, south and east, each direction covered in flames and smoke. I looked up. Nothing in the well-illuminated sky indicated that anything had dropped. Nothing below my feet seemed to indicate anything had erupted from the earth. And where the hell were any of the people!
The streets filled with the roar of distant flames and the faint blare of my buildings siren. Everything else stood still. Something drastic was going on, something life-altering, but what unnerved me most was the silence. No cars revved their engines or honked their horns. Wailing sirens from emergency vehicles were non-existent. They should have been everywhere. People should have been shouting, running, calling for help. But there was nothing.
Should I go back inside?
At a complete loss of what to do, I walk towards the road. Standing in the middle of the once boisterous street, I stare at the destruction, the remnants, at nothing. My numb legs seemed to step forward on their own. Slowly I made my way down the road.
Should I go back and pack? Should I look for food, people, a radio? Does someone know what’s happening?
A thousand questions flutter around my mind and I found myself incapable of making a decision. I failed to find anything rational, logical.
But there is no logic here, is there?
The asphalt under my shoes started to rumble softly.
It’s happening again!
No, this time was different. There’s a low, barely audible thud, followed by a soft rumble. I stop atop the bridge over the train tracks, clung to the railing looking around frantically. The steady thudding drew closer, I was sure of it. The rumbling grew stronger, this I knew.
On the horizon, illuminated by a new, hellish sunrise, I spotted a monstrous figure. Spindly limbs with knobbly joints rose above the trees. A shadow, a silhouette only, but the most terrifying sight my eyes have ever beheld. Towering over now skeletal buildings, the thing lumbered on, towards me. Awestruck by the utter alienness of my once familiar surroundings, I’m glued to my spot. But with the very next giant step shaking my legs out from under me, my senses return. I had to hide. I scrambled to my feet and bolted for the stairs off the bridge, barely touching the damp railing as I went. I ran onto the train platforms looking for a nook or something to hunker down in. The creature stood so high up, I figured the lower I was, the safer I was. As the quakes grew stronger, I leaped off the platform and onto the tracks. Straining my eyes, I looked down the line searching for a sign of the impossibly large legs through the trees that lined the railway. I tried my damndest to figure out its path so I could avoid it.
I darted into the tunnel, hugged the walls, and witnessed tiny bits of concrete fall from the roof. It was fatally dark there. The sound grew deafening, each report resounded through the tunnel, echoing into my soul. My bones vibrated violently enough I thought they’d shatter. I wanted to scream and was certain every note would be drowned out by the cacophony around me, but I bit my tongue. I didn’t know how well this thing could hear, or if smaller ones trailed in its wake.
I cowered in the aftershocks, the gradually lessening sound and rumbles, until eventually as if it had never happened, everything stopped. After what seemed like hours, I convinced my legs to work, my lungs to breathe, my eyes to blink. I left the wall and stepped back onto the tracks. In either direction, everything in the creature’s trial lay crushed. I stood there for a long time, thousands of illogical scenarios crossing my mind. One question rang out over and over again, crystal clear.
What do I do now?