Sometimes I Write Fictional Events
dancing to:: Wavin' Flag - Young Artists for Haiti
I started writing this over the summer... And occasionally added bits and pieces to it over the fall/winter. And now I have what (I think) is a complete first chapter/prologue thing.
But A Whimper
(This Is The Way The World Ends)
It started with the volcano eruptions.
Well, it didn’t really. But it was a lot easier to blame it on something concrete and understandable. Volcanoes erupted all the time in some places of the world. It wasn’t that weird. But the volcano eruptions really had nothing to do with what was going on in California, not really.
It really started with the asteroid. The asteroid that was supposed to hit the moon and dissipate, maybe form a new crater. It was not supposed to ricochet the moon closer to the Earth and change it’s orbit.
“It was bigger than we had previously thought,” the scientists said. “More solid.”
When the asteroid had first been found, 10 years ago, scientists estimated that it would just miss the Earth. Enough that is was comfortable, and people didn’t have to worry about it. Then sometime in the last year they had started to work on it a little more, and noticed that it would pass right through the moon’s orbit, possibly even hit the moon. And then, yes, they determined, it would hit the moon, but the damage would be minor, and it would probably put on a good show.
Well, there was a show going on, but it certainly wasn’t a good one.
But the moon being knocked out of its original orbit wasn’t the biggest problem the world faced. See, a lot of things on Earth depend on and are regulated by the moon’s orbit. Things like some sort of gravitational pull.
Because as soon as the orbit was changed the volcanoes started erupting. All of them. Volcanoes that had been dormant for hundreds of years suddenly decided it was time to erupt again, and they just kept erupting. After a few days there was a layer of ash over most parts of the world. The ash started causing crazy weather patterns in some places of the world. The sun could barely shine through, so places were starting to get cold, fast. It was July, and all up and down the East coast there were blizzards and hailstorms and freezing rain and frostbite conditions.
There were also earthquakes. Too many to count, though some had tried, at first. The earthquakes were causing tsunamis, which were flooding and destroying places like Indonesia and Australia. New York was getting some of the aftershocks, and their streets were flooded six or seven feet deep, though the destruction wasn’t the same, but because of the sporadic temperatures, the water kept freezing solid and then melting.
The earthquakes were what got California, mostly. California was kind of famous for being an epicenter for earthquakes anyway, and apparently the end of the world doesn’t change that one bit. The first few days after the asteroid were the worst. They were constant and they were huge. The destruction was unimaginable and so were the deaths, and the injuries.
After a while people stopped trying to catalogue the dead. It’s not like anyone outside the city would know, and the people inside the city knew if their loved ones were alive, because chances are they were with them.
Cell phone service was non-existent, as were landlines. The internet was sporadic at best. It would be on for an hour, maybe two, and then down for days at a time. That was for people who were lucky enough to still have a house with an internet cable, let alone a computer. Radios were about the only reliable source of news, but the updates always ended up being the same as the last updates and hearing the same news about the same plights got depressing fast.
I was at home in LA when it happened, browsing the internet and rolling my eyes at the insane amount of Tweets and Facebook statuses about the event. I hadn’t planned to watch it go down. I figured if it was that good of a show I’d be able to find it on YouTube later, but Jesse came over and practically dragged me outside to his back patio. He insisted it was a once-in-a-hundred-lifetimes thing, and if I missed it I would probably beat myself up about it. He was probably right, so I relented and sat next to him on a lounge chair by his family’s pool.
Dusk had fallen and the moon, full, was visible just slightly to our right, and we were drinking lemonade when it happened. The asteroid blinked into existence to the left of the moon. It was nothing more than a twinkle. Then a dot. Then a slightly larger dot, and then-
Well that’s when things started getting weird. The moon was suddenly bigger than before, and looming in a way that uncomfortably reminded me of some end of the world movie I’d been forced to watch once.
I had about five minutes to process this thought before the first earthquake hit. Me and Jesse dove into the doorframe without thinking. Growing up in California means earthquake reflexes are second nature. The quake was a big one, and it lasted for a while. I could see Jesse’ brow furrow as he glanced at the empty place in the driveway. Skyler and Emily had gone out with their mom and step-dad to pick up dinner, and were probably currently driving back to the house. Not exactly the safest place to be during an earthquake.
After fifteen minutes the shaking stopped and me and Jesse carefully stood up. We made our way inside, Jesse already reaching for his cell phone. He pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open, staring blankly.
“No service. Fuck!”
He threw the phone down onto the couch as the second earthquake started to shake the house. We shot worried glances at each other before dropping to the floor and crawling underneath the Stanley’s dining room table. Earthquakes were common in California, sure, but neither of us had ever experienced two equal sized earthquakes in such quick succession.
The second earthquake was shorter, but this time we didn’t move as soon as it ended. We stayed huddled underneath the table, waiting to see if, impossibly, there would be a third. I drew my legs up to my chest with my arms wrapped around them and rested my chin on my knees.
“This is because of the… The…” I waved in the general direction of outside, and Jesse caught my drift with a nod of understanding. “Right? I mean it’s way too coincidental for it to just be a freaky coincidence. …Right?”
Jesse shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t know, Tori. I don’t think anyone does, yet.”
“Fucking scientists,” I sighed as the impossible third earthquake began rattling the windows.
I bit my lip and moved closer to Jesse. He leaned his head on my shoulder and we grabbed for each other’s hands. Jesse had no idea where his family could possibly be, and my parents were in London, visiting my half brother, where there was no probable chance of contacting them.
We stayed curled up underneath the dining room table through the next three earthquakes, all of which were about the same size and length. As it started to get dark outside we were both getting considerably more worried. If his family were fine they would have been home by now, right? Or maybe it was crazier outside than it was inside and getting home would be too dangerous, so they had ended up seeking shelter elsewhere.
I tried suggesting this to Jesse who pursed his lips into a thin line and nodded his head stiffly. We kept hold of each other’s hands and stared at the door, willing it to open and for Jesse’ family to be home safe.
Once the earthquakes hit double digits they were gentler with a lot more time between them. It was almost completely dark outside, and there was a bit of a chill in the air. We crawled out from under the table and grabbed some blankets and pillows and water bottles and snacks. It went unspoken that we would stick together until we could decide what to do. Whether we should venture outside and try to find Jesse’ family or some of our other friends, or if we should stay put and hope that whatever was going on would come to a full stop eventually.
As soon as we had collected everything we thought we would need to survive the night hiding under the table we resumed our positions huddled close together. It was eerily quiet as we wrapped blankets around ourselves and poked through our ration stores.
We heard someone approaching the door before we saw it open and we both looked at each other, trying really hard not to hope. For all we knew it could have been someone coming to ransack the place. That’s what happened in situations like this, wasn’t it? People started rioting and stealing things?
The door clicked open and we held our breath, shifting closer to each other as we stared at the entrance to the kitchen.
The second Skyler appeared in the doorway Jesse stood and launched himself at his brother. I was three seconds behind him. We both latched onto Skyler and held tight. But he didn’t hug back. After several moments we stepped back and looked at him. He seemed mostly okay, physically. A couple bruises and scratches, one major cut that trailed from his forehead past his eye to his cheekbone that was bleeding still.
But there was a look in his eyes that was distinctly not Skyler. Skyler’s eyes had always had a sparkle in them that showed just how much energy and excitement and joy was inside him, but now his eyes were dull and lifeless and staring, focused directly at the floor.
Jesse took one look at Skyler and frowned.
Skyler just shook his head and let out a sob, falling into his brother and crying heavily. Jesse wrapped his arms around Skyler and looked up at me. I took a step back, intending to head into the living room. This was definitely a family moment, and I didn’t particularly want to intrude, but Jesse grabbed for my wrist and pulled me into them.
After Skyler’s sobs had quieted I led him to our safe zone under the table while Jesse went to get more pillows and blankets. I wrapped a big fluffy quilt around Skyler’s shoulders and wrapped my arm around him into my side.
“Have you… Have you heard from…” Skyler’s voice was raspy, and he was choking on the words he was trying to get out.
I shook my head. “There’s no cell service, and no one’s been around.”
Skyler nodded sadly and closed his eyes as Jesse returned with what was probably at least half the blankets and pillows in the house.
“We’re nesting,” Jesse declared, dropping the bundle. “Except the power’s out so no movies, but I don’t want to move the table to the TV, anyway.”
When we were kids and one of us was upset we’d always gather all the blankets and pillows we could find and pile them together on the floor and burrow inside to watch movies until whoever was upset forgot all about it. We’d continued doing it through junior high and high school. It was, in our opinion, the only way to deal with stupid teachers, failed tests, and broken hearts.
Once we had turned the blankets and pillows into a satisfactory nest we all curled up around each other and tried to pretend that we were going to sleep. We all knew there was no chance of any of us sleeping, not with everything that was going on.
I lay there, curled up under the huge amounts of blankets Jesse and me had stockpiled, and did what I had always been taught to do in a crisis situation – state everything I knew was true.
1)My two best friends, Skyler and Jesse Stanley, are both alive.
2)Their parents and half sister, Emily, are not.
3)My parents and half brother are in London and currently unreachable.
4)90% of my other friends live on the East coast in Chicago and New York, and I have no idea what condition they’re in.
5)Of the other 10%, 5% are Skyler and Jesse, and the other 5% are MIA, with no real way to determine if they’re okay.
I thought over these five points again and again as I lay there. Most of them were pretty grim. I knew I should be focusing on the positive, but that was really hard when there was so much unknown at the moment.
I don’t know if Skyler and Jesse slept at all that first night, but I know that by the time dawn broke I had formulated a plan.
As the sun started rising a small earthquake began to shake the house. I sat up and pulled the blankets around me. Jesse and Skyler followed suit and we all stared at each other for a moment.
“I want to go to Chicago,” I said evenly.
Jesse nodded. “That does seem to be the logical next step.”
“I want to look for Ryan, Alex, and Daniel,” Skyler said with a shake of his head. “I want to know if they’re alive or dead before we leave the city.”
Ryan, Alex, and Daniel were the 5% MIA friends. We’d known them since the second grade, and we’d become pretty inseparable over the years. Especially Skyler and Ryan, who had started dating three years before, in our Sophomore year of high school.
“Okay,” Jesse said after a pause. “Let’s take twenty-four hours to try and find them, and also to get whatever we’ll need to make it to Chicago.”
Skyler and I both nodded in agreement. In twenty-four hours time, no matter what, we would be ready to leave for Chicago, where we could only hope things would be better.