Original 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.”
The past day was a blur to Cassandra. She just played flashes in her mind over and over again. The television repeating a message to stay inside. The radio broadcasting a message to escape and flee their homes. Cassandra’s mother standing in the window looking out at the chaos on the streets. Cassandra grabbing her baby brother, Caleb and packing her stuff. The explosion that tore through their home. Watching her other brother, Lucas die as he laid in the ash and dust of the destroyed house.
The next few moments were less clear. She remembered kneeling in the rubble of her family home with her step-Dad’s radio blasting the same emergency message over and over again while she held her crying, baby brother in her arms. The streets of the suburbs were chaotic with people yelling and screaming as whole blocks were burnt and destroyed.
She stumbled, covered in ash and dirt through what remained of her neighborhood. The only home Cassandra had ever known was now just rubble. Large explosions could still be heard and in the distance fireballs lit up the sky. The screams and shouts were faint compared to the ringing in her ears.
Cassandra now laid on a simple cot set up in her high school gymnasium with her baby brother laying beside her. The gym had been set up as a emergency station for those displaced by… well people called it “the event” which was not very catchy, but no one knew what it was. Were we attacked? Was it some sort of natural disaster? People spread rumors of warfare, divine intervention, or alien invasion.
The military had been dispatched to the area and had commandeered the school to hold people affected by “the event.” Apparently other community places had also been taken over by the military. Marshal law was another whispered term, especially from one of Cassandra’s neighbors named Alejandro. He was ex-military and spent a lot of time talking to the military members stationed at the school.
Cassandra stayed to herself and did not speak much to the others. She was exhausted and a bit of her hoped that this was just a bad dream. She hoped she would just wake up, but deep down she knew this was no dream. She had been through something awful and she was slowly starting to process it.
For now, she just laid there staring up at the gymnasium’s ceiling. Her body ached and she was still covered in cuts and bruises. Both baby Caleb and Cassandra had been “decontaminated” and she had a chance to shower, but her still felt like grime clung to her. She had also been checked out by a nurse. On one hand she had a minor concussion and some hearing loss in her right ear, but on the other hand she was still alive. That was more than she could say for some. She had lost her brother and her mother which was a similar story to many survivors. People lost their entire families or just some. Men, women, and children who were either missing or assumed dead.
Cassandra reached down and grabbed for her brother’s radio. She clicked it on. Earlier there had been an emergency broadcast sent out telling people to run, but now it was just static. Every station was static.
“Still nothing, huh?” Alejandro asked as he turned over on his side to face Cassandra.
“I guess not,” Cassandra said, her voice quiet.
“They are probably blocking signals in and out,” Alejandro said. “Makes sense if they want to keep military lines open.”
“Any luck figuring out what happened?”
Alejandro shook his head.
“No one knows. It seems like it came out of nowhere. Whatever it was, the military had no idea it was happening until we were attacked.”
“You think it was some sort of military attack?”
“What else could it be. I’ve been in a war zone and believe me, that was a war zone,” He said.
Cassandra clicked off the radio.
“If this is a war zone, shouldn’t they evacuate us? Why are we still here?”
“Maybe it was some sort of terrorist attack. The event happened and now it has been contained.”
“What about the television and the radio. One told everyone to stay inside and the other one told people to run. Why is that?”
“Some sort of cyber attack, maybe. I’m always hearing about Chinese and Iranian cyber attacks. They hit our telecommunications to cause panic and the attack while everyone is confused,” Alejandro said.
Cassandra went back to staring at the ceiling. She heard the breathing of others who had fallen asleep on their cots as well as soft sobs from people still grieving over the loss of loved ones.
Tears began to build up in the corners of Cassandra’s eyes before falling down her face. Her face felt red hot.
“Hey. You’re going to be alright,” Alejandro said as he sat up and looked over at Cassandra.
“Why? Why did this happen?” Cassandra asked. “My mom and Lucas. They’re dead. They’re dead.”
Cassandra began to cry louder. So far adrenaline and her need to survive had kept her together. But now in this moment, it all began to feel like too much. This was more than she could handle.
“I’m sorry to her about your mother and brother. Your family had been very kind to me,” Alejandro said. “What about your father? Do you know where he is?”
Cassandra shook her head no.
“I….I’m not sure. . He was at work…”
“I’m sure he is fine,” Alejandro said. “If he was downtown during the blasts, he should be alright. I’m sure he’s worried sick about you two, but I’ll make sure you can see him tomorrow.”
“You…you can do that?” Cassandra asked.
“Yeah. Probably. I’ll see what I can do, alright? Now try to get some sleep. You’ll need your energy for tomorrow,” Alejandro said as he laid back down on his cot.
“Alright,” Cassandra said as she wiped tears away.
Cassandra went back to staring at the gym ceiling. It wasn’t interesting, but this way she could try to block out all the stuff around her. She eventually heard Alejandro roll over in his cot and fall asleep and a few minutes after that, Cassandra drifted off to sleep.
She had a very restless sleep with dreams plagued by screams and fire. After a few hours of sleep, Cassandra woke up with a jolt. Alejandro was shaking her shoulder.
“Come on, we got to go,” Alejandro said.
Cassandra looked over at her brother stirring and then to the entire room. People were quickly grabbing their stuff.
“What’s going on?” Cassandra asked.
“They are moving us,” Alejandro said. “We have to go. Grab your stuff.”
“Right,” Cassandra said.
She moved from the bunk and began grabbing her stuff. She made sure to secure the radio. Baby Caleb began to cry.
Alejandro picked him up and held him.
“Ready?” He asked.
She quickly glanced around to see others quickly making their way to the exits. Some people laid still on the cots, alone and unmoving. One woman stood over a person laying on the cot, letting out wails.
“Are they…” Cassandra started.
“We need to go now,” Alejandro said sternly.
“Yeah, right,” Cassandra said.
Cassandra, Alejandro, and Caleb all made their way to the doors of the school’s gymnasium. Outside there were several army trucks and school buses. Heavy rain fell, soaking everyone as they made their way towards the buses. The army personnel were doing their best to direct people and keep them in order.
“Move quickly but orderly,” One said over a megaphone.
“Alejandro, what’s happening? Where are we going?” Cassandra asked.
“Look,” Alejandro pointed up above them.
Cassandra looked up and hidden among the black storm clouds was some sort of shiny silver machine.
“What…what is that?” Cassandra asked.
“Whatever that was yesterday, was just phase one. That is phase two,” Alejandro said.
“Quickly! Quickly!” The person using the megaphone commanded.
As Alejandro and Cassandra shuffled toward one of the school buses, Cassandra clicked on the radio.
It was a lot of static but a message came through between the patches of static.
– – – IMMEDIATELY, GET TO – – – – GROUND. EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY, GET – – –
“It sounds like the message from yesterday. They are telling everyone to evacuate,” Cassandra said.
“Hopefully we can evacuate too,” Alejandro said.
Both of them stepped onto a school bus which was almost full of other survivors, soaked by the rain and holding their belongings.
“Make room, make room!” The army woman at the front of the bus yelled as people took their seats.
Alejandro and Cassandra took a seat near the front of the bus. Cassandra held her brother on her lap.
“It’s ok, Caleb. It’s ok,” She said, trying her best to comfort her brother and her self.
A few more people made their way onto the bus until it was at max capacity.
“Is that everyone?” The army woman driving the bus asked to the soldier stationed outside.
The soldier nodded.
“I think so. Get them out of here,” He said.
The bus doors closed and the bus began to move.
“Look,” Alejandro said pointing out the window.
Cassandra turned and looked out the buses window which was beginning to fog up. Everyone on that side of the bus looked out while others tried their best to see out.
The silver metallic shape began to glow with a dull, blue light. Then there was a large flash as a beam of light shot from the flying machine and struck the ground. There was another flash as the beam made contact and there was a blast louder than any thunder Cassandra had ever heard. For a split second there seemed to be some kind of wave in the air before it struck the bus and the other vehicles nearby. Windows cracked and shattered sending small glass of shards everywhere.
Luckily Cassandra was able to use her body to shield Caleb from any falling glass.
“It’s ok, it’s ok,” She repeated to Caleb.
The bus was full of yells and screams as Cassandra turned back to look.
The blue sky beam continued and there seemed to be a series of explosions off in the distance.
“Phase two,” Alejandro said as he just stared out at the sky beam. “Phase two is that they destroy us all.”
Header Photo Credit to Government Satellite Radio
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/LBJSmellsNice