Writing prompt from r/writingprompts: Emergency Broadcast Message

Prompt: “Internet goes down. An emergency public broadcast on the television plays “STAY INDOORS AND DO NOT LOOK OUTSIDE.” The radio simultaneously broadcasts the message “EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY, GET TO HIGH GROUND.”

 

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS IS NOT A SCHEDULED TEST. WE ADVISE ALL RESIDENTS RECEIVING THIS EMERGENCY BROADCAST TO STAY INSIDE AND DO NOT LOOK OUTSIDE. I REPEAT STAY INDOORS AND DO NOT LOOK OUTSIDE.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS –

“MOM!! THE WIFI ISN’T WORKING!”

Cassandra stormed into the living room with her tablet in hand to see her mother sitting in front of the television set. She was holding baby Caleb in one hand and a smart phone in the other hand.

“Cassandra, honey. Can you keep it down. I’m trying to call your aunt Carol,” Cassandra’s mom said.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS –

“What’s on the TV?” Cassandra asked.

“Some sort of emergency broadcast. I’m trying to call Aunt Carol but the phone lines are all clogged or jammed or something,” she  put down the phone. “Will you please go check on Lucas. Make sure he’s not getting into trouble.”

“Fine. Whatever.” Cassandra continued to hit the YouTube app on her tablet to see if the internet was back online as she walked towards her brother, Lucas’ room.

She knocked on the door, “Hey Brat. What are you doing?”

Cassandra entered Lucas’ room and found that he was running from his closet to his bed grabbing handfuls of clothes and throwing them into a bag. Lucas was 11, 4 years younger than Cassandra.

“We have to get out of here,” Lucas said not making eye contact with Cassandra.

“What are you talking about?”

“The radio stopped playing music and now it’s sending out a message for us to leave.”

Cassandra turned to the radio that sat on Lucas’ shelf. Lucas and Cassandra’s Step-Dad (Caleb’s real dad) had given Lucas an antique radio for Christmas. While Cassandra just used her tablet to play music, Lucas liked to turn on the radio. Sometimes he listened to music and other times he listened to boring, talk shows.

-NOT A DRILL. ALL RESIDENTS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE NEED TO EVACUATE THEIR RESIDENCES AND GET TO HIGHER GROUND.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. ALL RESIDENTS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE NEED TO EVACUATE THEIR RESIDENCES AND GET TO HIGHER GROUND

“Lucas, just wait a second. Mom said that we are staying here. The television -”

“Cassie, we can’t stay here! The radio announcement makes it very clear -”

“Listen Lucas, the message on the television says that we need to say here and take cover.”

“Wait what?”

“There is a message on the television,” Cassandra said slower. “They are saying that we can’t even look outside.”

Lucas’ eyebrow wrinkled. This was a look he got when he was frustrated or confused.

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why is the radio and TV saying two different things?” Lucas asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe your radio is wrong.”

“Maybe the television is wrong!” Lucas yelled.

Cassandra was taken back. Lucas never snapped at her. Even for being 11, he was often calm and collected. More so than Mom sometimes.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS IS NOT A DRILL –

“Look. Let’s go find Mom and then we can decide what we should do together.”

“Fine.” Lucas said as he stopped shoving stuff into his backpack.

Cassandra looked down at her tablet once more. Still no internet.

Cassandra and Lucas traveled down the hallway back to the living room. The TV was still blaring its emergency message, but their Mom was nowhere to be found.

“MOM!” Cassandra yelled.

“Where did she go?” Lucas asked. Cassandra could tell there was a bit of nervousness or fear in Lucas’ voice.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure she’s in Mom and Dad’s bedroom or the nursery.”

“I’m not worried,” Lucas said trying to sound tough.

“Uh-huh.” Cassandra pestered back.

“No I’m not!”

WAAAAAAAAAAH

Their fighting was broken up by the sound of baby Caleb screaming from the nursery.

“Let’s go.” Cassandra grabbed Lucas hand and they sprinted through the living room and up the stairs. They turned down a small hallway and into the nursery. Caleb lay crying in his crib and their mom stood at the window looking outside.

Cassandra and Lucas stood in the doorway.

“Mom?” Lucas said barely audible.

“Mom?” Cassandra said a little louder.

Their mother stood petrified staring out the window.

Lucas pushed Cassandra to the side and entered the room. He ran over to Caleb’s crib and tried to stop his crying. Cassandra snapped herself out of it and ran towards their mother.

“Mom, wake up!”She grabbed her mother’s arms and shook her a little.

“Cassie.” She seemed to be in a trance. Cassandra looked outside to see what their mom was staring at.

It was chaos. Off in the distance she could see rows and rows of suburban homes up in flames. There were trees overturned at the roots and cars tossed about. Some in the streets and some on lawns. There were some people running in the streets, but a lot less than Cassandra would suspect for how bad it looked out there. Cassandra’s guess is that many people were staying inside and listening to the TV.

“Mom?” Cassandra shook her mom’s arm again. This time there was no hiding that Cassandra was scared. Her whole body shook and tears streamed down her face.

“MOM!” This time it was Lucas. He had gotten Caleb out of the crib but Caleb continued to cry.

“Lucas,” This time she looked over towards Lucas and Caleb but she moved like she was in slow motion.

“Cassandra, take Caleb and go to your room. Pack your stuff. Only essentials. Then grab my stuff and head to the car. Mom’s in shock but she’ll come to soon. I’ll grab some stuff for her and I’ll meet you by the front door. Ok?” Lucas gave Cassandra a look that pierced her soul.

Cassandra was not used to Lucas being so forceful and so confident all at the same time. She could barely speak and instead just nodded. She grabbed Caleb and hurried downstairs to her room. She flipped on the TV to see if there was any update or the message had changed.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS IS NOT A SCHEDULED TEST. WE ADVISE ALL RESIDENTS RECEIVING THIS EMERGENCY BROADCAST TO STAY INSIDE AND DO NOT LOOK OUTSIDE. I REPEAT STAY INDOORS AND DO NOT LOOK OUTSIDE.

Why was the television lying? She shook her head and grabbed stuff stuffing them into her bag she used for basketball practice. She threw clothes in, some shoes, and her tablet. Maybe they would need it. Maybe things would turn back on and everything would go to normal again.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS IS NOT A SCHEDULED TEST. WE ADVISE ALL RESIDENTS RECEIVING THIS EMERGENCY BROADCA-

In an instant there was a loud explosion so loud that it drowned out everything around her. Her vision became blurry and she fell to her knees. The air became thick with dust and smoke. Cassandra’s hearing went from silence to ringing in the ears and then to hearing screams. She looked around her room. Most of it was intact besides for things falling off the wall and the dust hanging in the air. She heard the wails of Caleb above everything else.

Cassandra picker herself off the ground. She found Caleb still laying on her bed. Lucky for him there wasn’t much dust on him. She brushed stuff off of him and then picked him up. She picked up the gym bag and stumbled out into the hallway. She stared as half of her house was burnt to a crisp. There was no remnants of the living room, kitchen, or anything upstairs. The house was almost completely black and there were piles of burning lumber where the rooms used to stand.

“LUCAS!!” Cassandra managed to scream out her brother’s name through a coughing fit. There was no response.

Caleb continued to cry and cry. Poor kid. He was in the midst of the worst day of his life. But Cassandra could say the same thing.

She moved forward searching the piles of wood staying away from the fires and the smoke.

“LUCAS!!” She called out again.

There was another explosion. This time about three blocks South of her house. It looked like there was an enormous laser was shot from the sky and then there was a giant fireball in its place. Cassandra pulled Caleb tight and tried to brace herself but a shock wave from the blast knocked her backwards and the rest of the house began to tilt.

“LUCAS!” She tried one more time. No response.

“Lucas.” She said quieter her eyes welling up with tears.

“Lucas. Lucas.” She kept muttering as tears ran down her face.

She stood there for a second before there was a third explosion similar to the second. This one seemed marge larger and created a bigger fireball from before. Even though this blast was probably a mile away, she could see the fire and the sound sent another shock wave knocking her back. She didn’t fall but the house began tilting even more.

She could barely stand. Her heart was beating faster than it had ever beat before but her surroundings devastated her. Her adrenaline was running out and her energy was zapped. She wanted to find her brother and her mother. Lucas would know what to do.

She sank to her knees among the rubble and the fire. She just cried and cried and she was unable to do much more. She was so week and so exhausted. She tried to scream out but her voice was hoarse. The background noise of destruction and chaos was drowned out and there was one thing she heard above everything else:

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. ALL RESIDENTS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE NEED TO EVACUATE THEIR RESIDENCES AND GET TO HIGHER GROUND

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