This little story was inspired by this image:
I try to forget. I marvel that I survived at all.
December 12, 2012
We were told to never speak of it. So many died in such unspeakable ways. It was deemed best to just bury the dead and move on. I’ve kept my silence, but images haunt me.
Today, on the eve of my 97th birthday (how did I ever live so long?) I have decided to share what I remember. People need to know. My grandchildren have the right to know.
I slept in that day, laughing about the hype the evening before about ‘the end of the world.’ I was in bed and asleep before the day changed in the first time zone. I missed the early reports. When I drove to work, I noticed fewer cars than usual heading into town, but the outbound lanes were packed. I guess everyone decided that apocalypse day was a good day to go on vacation.
An ambulance flew past me, followed by a cop. Both had their lights and sirens blazing. It occurred to me that almost all the traffic heading toward the city was emergency vehicles. I turned on the radio.
“…general order to evacuate the city. All non-essential personnel must leave at once.”
I changed the station.
“…hospital is being evacuated. Micah has more on scene.” Another voice. “Hundreds are being moved from…”
I changed the station again.
“…explosions in Washington D.C. Hundreds of thousands are now fleeing the metropolitan area.”
I shut off the radio. The downtown skyline came into view. It was obscured by smoke. I looked harder. I building was missing. No, two buildings were missing.
Another ambulance blazed by. I pulled to the shoulder and gaped. I flipped the radio back on and listened carefully. Something was terribly wrong. All the major cities were being hit by bombs or something. People were panicked. No one knew who the culprit was. I turned the car around and headed away from the city. Yes, I was going north in the south-bound lanes, but I didn’t care. Everything in me screamed, run!
I went back to the house and threw camping supplies in the car. And my rifle. Anything I could think of that a person might need to survive in the wilderness. I called for Groucho, my shepherd mix, and he came running. He looked upset. He knew something was up.
When I went to the door Groucho began to cry. “What is it?” I said.
Then Groucho growled. I looked to the door and someone was there. But it was not a person. It wore all black. It’s eyes blazed amber through some manner of mask. And it held a gun. I screamed.
Groucho and I ran out the back door as I heard the front door cave in. We ran deep into the woods, then hid. Groucho was astoundingly silent. He seemed to know that noise would get us killed. We crouched and waited for what seemed like hours. During that time, I heard people shriek and a strange thudding noise, that I learned later was the sound of their weapons. The thuds came over and over again, and slowly became more distant. These creatures were systematically going down the street, killing everyone, it seemed.
I decided to take a chance. I went for my car. Quietly, I loaded Groucho. Then I started the engine and raced down the driveway as fast as I could. I turned away from the thudding sounds and toward the open road. My goal was the mountains. Maybe they wouldn’t look there. I looked in the mirror as I sped away. Dozens of them filled the street behind me, shooting at my car. A tree erupted into flame beside me and I turned the corner. I never looked back again.
As the sun set, we finally found a secluded stream in the mountains along a seldom traveled two-track road. This was going to be home for a while. We camped there for more than a week before we came across other people. Reports were rare, but by summer’s end, we knew what had happened.
They had come from the sky. From space. Aliens, just like in the story books and bad movies. Aliens had come to enslave the human race. They decimated our population centers and took all the able-bodied men and women. The elderly and the very young were slaughtered. By estimates more than one billion human souls were made slaves. Another two billion were killed outright by execution. Then these aliens had dusted the planet with some toxin that took another two billion lives.
The air was clear now. People were returning to the cities and trying to rebuild. The leaders of the world’s nations gathered and decided that no one needed to know. No one should remember. Why this was, I’ll never understand. But after that, anyone who spoke of the apocalypse was executed. We all remained mum, for fear of our lives.
Over time, a semblance of normalcy returned. The horror of that day passed into distant memories. We married and had children. And those children had children. And now, seventy years later, it all seems like a blurry dream.
But I remember. As I lay here on my death-bed, I remember like it was yesterday. It is a shame this has been hidden. What if they return? We have done nothing to prepare ourselves.
For this reason, I am grateful that I will die soon. If not from my age, but from the heresy of speaking out now.
Please, children listen! I remember. I remember.