I write to keep me sane. I write so that my words may outlive my life. I write to find redemption

Friday, January 11, 2008

This is After

Timestamp: 12 March 2067

The worst part is the lack of light. Though your eyes adjust to the stony blackness quick enough, there are always things you can’t see. Like the hinge on the door at the top of the concrete stairs. When it jerks open, it whines, creaking its discontent at being forced into action. When you hear that sound, you have three point five seconds to grab a weapon- not four, never four. You wait four and you’re dead.

In this six by ten foot space, a storm cellar on what- during a time that no one likes to talk about anymore- was once idyllic farm country in Iowa, I wait to hear that screech. Sometimes I eat, just enough beans to keep my energy up. Sometimes I search the room for what I need to survive. But most of the time I just stand still and wait.

Three generations ago, no one huddled in these little caverns. Terror alerts were still a novelty. Everyone knew something could happen, would probably happen, had happened before and they should be ready. The news said: Stockpile water. Horde supplies. Having a gas mask handy wouldn’t be a bad idea. You will be on your own. Don’t expect FEMA. FEMA isn’t coming.

Still, no one was ready. When they invasion came, few had places like this to hide in. Most did what was common in those days during a crisis, what made sense to them. They got in their gas guzzling SUVs and hit the highway. Everyone there died first.

Time started to tick slowly in that new reality. The sky looked different. The air tasted bitter. The lights didn’t come back on for over seventeen months. I thought the world had ended and I was left behind.

But it didn’t end. Maybe it can’t end. Maybe the human spirit is too resilient to allow it. Or maybe Earth is God’s favorite, and so like any hopeful father would, he just can’t give up on it. Maybe we were just lucky. Or just fought hard enough. Whatever the reason, we were not, as a people, wiped out during the winter of 2007.

We lived on. And learned how to hide underground. And what to do when the storm door opens.


My hand is on the weapon but its too late. This time I moved too slow. The sound I hear as it swoops down the stairs is inhuman, and not quite any animal I ever would have imagined either, until the invasion, that is.

Light floods the room. My eyes pop open. I am in my bedroom, controller in hand.

My son tells me “You went too slow again.”

“I know.”

The virtual training game has improved my speed, as I train in a variety of different scenarios, pretending I am at home, or the office, or the local park when the sky goes dark and they come again. Everyone does these drills. Old people like me, the only ones who saw the first attack, do them the most often, knowing what it means to once again be caught unprepared.

“You’ll get them next time,” he assures me. His hand rests on my knee. There is sympathy in his eyes.

His is middle aged and has his own children. None of them have ever seen what can come out of the air, come for you and your family and your neighbors. It is almost not real for them- something out of a school book.

“Next time,” I agree.

I hate the darkness of that storm cellar. Though it isn’t real, it feels it. I smell the dirt beneath my feet. Feel the cold beans slide down my throat. I hear their voices beyond the door, never able to understand what they are saying but knowing they understand each other and are plotting how to find me. The computer monitors their condition- giving them various injuries and ailments- and mine, recreating what was once all too real, what I lived through without anyway to pop out, like I can now.

“Ready for lunch? I cooked while you were under.”

FEMA isn’t coming.

“I better go one more time first,” I tell him.

He thinks I am a silly old man. I think its only a matter of time before the sun goes dark once more.

As I pick back up the controller, my son reaches out to press the button to start the game again. Over his shoulder, the light streaming in the window disappears, like a lampshade turned out. Its midday.

The sun is gone. They’re here.

He’s in shock. Staring at the darkened view with his mouth gaping.

I’m the one who has to grab his shoulder, pulling him to his feet, and then we run to get underground. An alarm shrills through town. Pretty little Iowa, once upon a time. The siren wails and wails, the only sound for miles. All children have been warned: do not scream, just run.

This is not a drill.

By Sara

Written for Brand New Aspiring Writers
Prompt: Find a song and write a story inspired by it.
Song chosen: Virtual Insanity by jamiroquai
You can read the lyrics here

By the way, this was my first attempt at science fiction.


  • At 1/13/2008 07:48:00 AM, Blogger Brandon said…

    I read this story right after it was posted, but was interupted before I could post a comment. I then read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", and this story fits right into the idea of fast reaction times and priming oneself to respond more accurately and appropriately. Aside from that, it drew me in immediately with "The worst part is the lack of light." With an opening sentence like that, you have to keep reading. The suspense was built wonderfully. Your transition out of the game and into "present time" was a little confusing at first, which I think added to the effect you were trying to create. Overall a very well written and entertaining story.

    Thank you for commenting on my story, "There's a New One" and linking me to your Aspiring Writers site. I haven't posted any new stories in a while, but I've been feeling the itch lately.

  • At 1/13/2008 03:31:00 PM, Blogger Marie said…

    This is great. It drew me in from the start.

  • At 1/13/2008 03:35:00 PM, Blogger DBA Lehane said…

    Aspiring SF writer now? I really like this. Mood, pace and a slight sense of foreboding to come!

  • At 2/14/2008 11:36:00 PM, Blogger Aloha_50 said…

    Good to see you're expanding your horizons. Makes a girl more interesting.

    The bad thing, it looks like I lost my link here? What's up babe?

  • At 2/15/2008 01:01:00 AM, Blogger RomanceWriter said…

    Thanks for stopping by. Months ago I shifted around and updated all my links. I probably deleted yours because I deleted a few sites I hadn't been to visit in a while. I've added you back, since you are nice enough to have me on your blogroll.

  • At 10/30/2012 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous Framed prints said…

    A haunting read!

  • At 11/20/2012 08:02:00 AM, Anonymous Cheoy Lee said…

    Love this - what a story! Write more, please!


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