You’ve heard many things, from aliens to math, but I’m here to tell you the truth, a truth they won’t tell you. This event, these stones from the heavens, are retribution for our sins. The end times have come, at a time we didn’t predict, in a way we couldn’t prevent. Mankind, with the emphasis on man for it is his shortcomings that are the root of most evil perpetrated on others, is finally coming to an accounting and I can assure you that none will escape judgement, least of all myself. It is the expectation of entitlement that has brought the destruction of the world on our heads, where the only sure entitlement we have is the promise of our inevitable return to the dust from which we have come.
Sticks and stones may break my bones…
Turns out the stones break more than bones. When the meteorites started to fall, obliterating any civilized collective above some capricious population level, so many were simply vaporized. That or crushed under the weight of all the debris from the buildings or ejecta from the impacts. Rumors spread almost faster than the destruction that erased 90% of all people on Earth. Aliens, end times, simple randomness, and the one that turned those of us who survived against each other: we did it to ourselves. No nation survived, so no one believed any one country could have formulated or carried out the atrocity. No alliance of nations could have done so without some word escaping. And besides, all of those possible nations and alliances had disappeared in a span of about twenty-four hours, a single day, one rotation. Instead, we turned to rooting out any anarchist or terrorist who might have survived. Even the hint of recrimination was enough to bring out the mob, however reduced in numbers, to carry out judgement. We lost half of our remaining species before we’d completely spent ourselves.
The dog eyed me with suspicion. It wasn’t like her to turn down food, but something must have smelled off. The medicine rolled inside the slice of cheese shouldn’t have smelled all that much, but she wouldn’t take it any other way.
We were running out of time. The silent alarm had already been triggered so the tripoders would arrive soon enough. Any sound would attract them, including the whine or bark of a dog. It may already be too late to get the sedative inside her. I didn’t want to do it, but she was leaving me with no choice. I reached for the dog’s collar, but she backed away, tail tucked, ears back, and those damned pleading eyes staring up at me.
“Mommy, can we play outside?” She looked down at her 4 year old fraternal twins – all hopeful smiles and curly reddish blond hair. She smiled down at them, remembering looking up at her own mother many years ago. No smile then, just stories about what it was like when children used to play outside, sent out to find adventure and use their imaginations. She never got to play outside, what with the changes in climate that came faster than anyone predicted. Outside had become synonymous with danger, deep third degree burns, melanoma, and certain death without proper equipment. Daytime was anything but a time for play.
“Not today, sweethearts,” she said. “Ozone alert. Have to stay inside.”
Her encouraging smile did little to deter them.
“You said that yesterday. You always say that,” they said in unison. Had they rehearsed or were they just that must in synch with each other. They’d shown signs of freaky connectedness, but it startled her when it happened.
“Why do you want to go outside? You have so many fun things to do inside and we can still play at night. Night is a better time to be outside.”
“No, we don’t want to play hide and seek. We want to play ashes ashes we all fall down.”
Her brows furrowed. That nursery rhyme had changed so many time, and now mimicked the effects of the unrelenting sun. “Where on earth did you hear about that?”
“Grandma told us,” they said.
A shiver went down her spine. Her mother, affectionately called Grandma, had passed away before the twins were even born. All they had were pictures, admittedly some of them were interactive life recordings, but she’d never come across any mention of nursery rhymes, let alone this one.
She awoke to a cruel light filtering through the curtain. The blue light washed away all other colors and chased the deep shadows of the dying night into hiding. So, a blue day. That means a siren will sound soon and anyone still foolish enough to slumber with scurry with the rats and other vermin into the shelters below ground. She closed her eyes against the light, not to fight off sleep, but to regain her night vision when the blue light extinguished in four… three… two… Darkness. Too soon. The warning light went out too soon. And no siren. Why?
The earth shook knocking her from her bed and the concussive sound of military ordinance filled the room covering over her scream. She scrambled to her feet and dashed down the hallway to the exit. The closest shelter was across the central square and underneath the library. She followed the path instinctively, using her hands to guide her down the darkened hall. The dust from the shaking building cloyed at her throat and slowed her down. Would she get there in time? Would Mother? Would her sisters?