Last in Line

Last in Line by Ernesto Mora

 

Summary

The emergency broadcast alarm sounds off. I am disturbed, out of my sleep. But what’s more disturbing is what I now see on the screen. Could this be real? Is this some sort of hoax? I don’t know, but there’s something to the tone of the man’s voice, that is leaving me unsettled. I think I better take this seriously.

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I lay on my couch, slightly stirring from the ache that had accumulated in my neck from what I assume was a lousy sleeping position. The sound was at its least, irritating, but as my senses became more acute, the sound became more…desperate.

My irresponsibly powered on screen was midway through the Emergency Broadcast alarm that so often goes disregarded, and as my sight came into focus, I see the official seal of the Department of Homeland Security emblazoned across a blue velvet curtain, and just underneath that emblem, the expressionless man at the podiums’ credentials read;

Steven Chambers
Head of FEMA

“…and cannot corroborate the veracity of the Munich accounts…”.

He seemed stoic in his demeanor, but there was an unsettling quality to the tone of his voice, it seemed desperate and flustered.

“As of fourteen-hundred hours, local time, Munich has ceased its initial distress calls. All attempts at re-establishing a line with them, be it online or otherwise, has failed. But going back to your original question, at this time we are treating all rumors of a catastrophic event as just that…rumors.”

At saying ‘rumors’, Mr. Chambers, Head of FEMA, tensed up and shifted his leg from his right to his left, showing obvious body language of a liar.

“…but, in any event, as a precautionary measure, the President of the United States has issued a flight ban on all traffic to and from the U.S. and has implemented a complete lockdown of all major and minor airports nationwide, and many other countries are following suit.”

Unsettled, I sat up as the morning sun blinded me from the small openings on the side of the persians. I took a drink from the bottle of beer I had left to warm up on the coffee table during last night’s solo blowout, but something made me stop mid drink, a realization that felt like a ball of lead spontaneously materialized in the pit of my stomach. I sprang up from the couch, turned down the volume on Mr. Chambers, Head of FEMA, and slightly pivoted my head towards the direction of the window.

On any given day, even at random, the street is pulsating with the daily hustle and bustle typical for any mid-size city like Bachman Heights. If my waking stupor wasn’t hindering me too much, I calculate today should be Friday. Glancing at the muted monitor, I’m able to tell the time is 7:55 a.m., peak hours for the garbage truck to come down the street, menacingly close to the neighborhood parked cars, the sputtering and grinding of its transmission being many folks often rude morning call. From my third floor apartment, my living room windows provide quasi-balcony seats to the ever-unfolding drama that is daily life. Rooted midway between two busy avenues, my street is a considerable thoroughfare for the working-class to and from the business district to the North, and major transport hubs to the south. My neighbor directly below me was also oddly imperceivable. I haven’t had the pleasure of acquaintanceship given, what seems to be, their obvious lack of consideration when it comes to accepting the fact that not everyone in the building appreciates rap at odd hours, and at ear-murdering levels at that. Across the hall, a nice young couple and their kids are typically rushing out the door at this hour, him, on his way to morning classes where he’s studying for his bachelors in criminal justice before going to work at City Center Plaza’s Best Buy. She, dropping their 5 and 7-year-old girls to their kindergarten and 2nd grade classes respectively, before making her way to the Train Station where she’ll travel roughly 35 minutes to her day job in Windsor City, where she is in marketing, I know this because of their loud conversations in which they argue over the bills and discuss short and long-term plans.

But today, on this bright and seemingly common day, my ears pulsed with the lack of auditory diversity. No traffic, no commotion, no conversation, and listening even closer…no wind rustling the mid-spring leaves on the Queen Elizabeth Hedge Maples that intermittently line the sidewalks with shade, and the complete absence of the morning songs of the local birdlife.

Out of the corner of my eye, a splash of red on the monitor alerts me to it. Across the screen, and in an alarming hue of vivid red and yellow, the words, ‘EMERGENCY BROADCAST’ are sprawled. I turn the volume back up on the monitor just as it cuts to another suit standing at a podium with the same DHS emblem, this one’s face much, much sterner and perturbed.

“…do not make sudden movements, do not run, do not make loud noises, do not look directly into the black shade…”

Some form of interference scrambles the digital signal and temporarily distorts the image, occluding the audio as well…

“…stay in a straight line and face forward towards the light of the morning sun, evacuate immediately to your locally designated centers…”

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