Last in Line

Last in Line by Ernesto Mora



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.


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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Upon My Slumber, Layeth Hands

Upon My Slumber, Layeth Hands


I awoke upon the midnight hours, and peered into the spinning void that lay just beyond the foot of my bed. Atramentous, figureless, as I adjusted myself from the sleeping vertigo. Strangling the words were that danced in my throat and deceitful echos intoned my ears. Had I just heard my name called? In the brief moments I realized I was stirred away from slumber, I swear I heard my name within that witching second.

The mystery, too much for my bravado, enveloped me in unease and stare into the gloom I could not. With heart departed from my chest, I slipped into the confines of the eiderdown and shut my eyes to the world beyond it.

But, there it was again. In my swaying into my cowardice I was afire with sound from the bed and was unable to truly transfix my hearing, but, my name…was I going mad? Had I not felt that low tremble, ebbing from the darkest corner of the room? And why is it so unsettling, my blood runs cold within.

I battle with every muscle and sinew, and manage to swallow my saliva, which by now was as a fist wrapped warmly around my neck. My eyes had adjusted, but just so that the flickering light sensations one notices in the dark, the ones within your eyes that seem illusory, ephemeral, but are very much yours, had abated in the slightest. Had I just witnessed a shadow reach from the corner? Or was it my adjusting vision playing ruses on my mind?

I flee to the shelter underneath the blanket, as bereft as it were. Truly, I must’ve seemed irrational, a grown man afraid of his shadow…only…twas not my shadow, and what if twas not a shadow at all?

The floorboard where I’d witnessed…something… reach out towards me, uttered a low growl-like utterance as the wood creaked. The reflex to scream only barely contained, I managed to call upon what was left of my manhood and call out into the darkness that sprawled out inside my room.

“Wh-who g-g-g-goes there?”…AHEM! I violently clear my throat only momentarily realizing the audacity behind that action, as within me I’m screaming to not be…seen?…by whatever was in my chamber (indeed, can it see me?).  Then I hear it. From that corner, so devoid of light, so lacking in explanation as to why I cannot shake the feeling that…something?…draws nearer. The sound is immediately recognizable as the dragging, if only for a sparse moment, of the wooden chaise that during the daylight would go unnoticed, having been seldom used much less noticed. But now…now that chair paints vivid drama in my mind. What sinister being looms in the corner next to that piece of furniture? A ghost, intent on haunting my sanity? Nay, for a ghost, being ethereal, should be incapable of moving furniture. Then what? What leers at me in the dark?

Try as I might, but I am unable to move for the lamp on the nightstand. Dread engulfs me with thoughts so visceral. If I reach out, will it grab me? And then what? What would it do to my flesh, to my skin? Is it capable of such feats as to cause seething pain upon me? The fear of my own blood holds my hands at bay.

Thump…That sound came from closer than the chaise now. Thump…yet a step closer still. I cease my breath and focus my ears, yet the air is silent as the midnight tombstones. So frightened am I that I don’t realize that I have clasped my hands over my mouth, and have failed to notice that I haven’t taken breath in too long to where I begin to swirl. I cry for fear of my life, for fear of the unknown. I must turn the light on. I find whatever slender comfort in the belief that light will vanquish this foe that invades my calm. However, I dare not remove any part of me from the comfort, albeit reasonably lacking, of the blanket.

Thump…This time I felt something hit the foot of my bed! Dear God! Please cast your smiting light upon this dark creature that tries to harm me! I instinctively curl my legs up and away from the foot of the bed.

I feel as something grabs the leg of my bed and sways slight movement into the frame. I can feel movement just beyond the comforter. My heart is tearing at my chest, mercy I implore. My mind, crazed, dances with frenzied images that flash before me. I wish to scream but my voice is not to be found. I clasp onto the blanket and pillow and bring it to my face for a false sense of comfort, but to no avail. I feel as vulnerable as the worm in the moments it helplessly falls from the beak of the mother bird and is unavoidably headed for the hungry mouths waiting.

And then…nothing. Moments passed like eons and the still air grew stale and warm under the blanket. After what felt like a lifetime all over, I grew restless of the warmth beneath my covers, and with the resolve of a man sentenced to death, I tore away the safety of the cover.

My eyes, having adjusted well to the dark by now, sensed nothing amiss from the corner, and nothing standing over me with a menacing snarl. Hands shaking, I reached for the lamp on the nightstand which, with what I could swear was the glorified singing of Angels, came on and dressed the room in recognition.

From the corner where the chaise once sat uninterrupted, unnoticed, I could see that indeed the chair had been disturbed. It was sitting in such fashion as to suggest someone kept vigil on me in my sleep, facing me in that most peculiar way. But, something else had caught my eye. The bedroom door was fully open. The door I customarily, nay, ritually close every night for fear of what I might see in the hallway in the dark. What foul being, sentient and sapient enough to know how to disturb my door and furniture, walked among my sleep tonight? The light awash the room has renewed my vigor and I jump from my bed to check my dwelling. I step into what felt like slippery wet warmth.

To my horror, at my feet lays my resemblance, my own doppelganger, but with one unsettling difference. My, double, lay with his throat slit and had amassed a pool of blood that now ran almost the entire span of my room. In (its?) final moments, I…or it, had clawed at the neckline in a vain attempt to subside the massive bleeding. A trail of vermilion life was clearly coming from the chaise, around the foot of my bed and up to where this…I, finally lay lifeless. And then clarity and confusion all at once.

I do not recall much from last night when I had decided to head to my chambers and read before going to bed. When had I finally turned the light off and gotten into bed? Why couldn’t I remember doing that? Try with all my strength, I couldn’t recall anything past reading from my book, and then immediately waking up to what I thought was my name being called in the dark.

Too much for me, I began to feel dizzy as the world spun in my head. I sat, exasperated at the confusion that defiled my innocent slumber. I began weeping due to confusion, due to frustration, due to being scared. And then I heard it again…

“…-nest…ernestooo…” The sound startled me out of my daze.

“…look and you will know…”

At that, what looked to be a projection of me was sitting on the chair. I, or rather my projection, was reading from a book. It was wearing the same clothes I had on yesterday, last night. The same crimson covered clothes on my double splayed on the floor, and the same I had on at that very moment. So transfixed into my book was I, that I hadn’t noticed a figure skulk into my room behind me, brandishing what appeared to be a straight razor, and swiftly rending my neck open as if a sacrifice at a blood-letting.

I watched in horror as I struggled with the immense pain that now was conveyed upon my own neckline. The burning agony and the surreal sensation as a curtain of your own silky blood rains down your neck to your chest, almost tickling you were it not for death’s steed quickly approaching. I watched as I dropped to the ground and clawed at the ground, trying to make my way to the phone on the nightstand. How my foot had caught on the chair’s leg momentarily and dragged it for a few inches. How I reached for the legs on the bed for support after I had bumped my head into it. Agonizing inch by agonizing inch I had told myself to hold on…”Dear God, please…” I had been thinking, as speech was just gurgling and choking sounds by then.

I watched as my projection made it to where my body now lay, and take the exact same position as it as if falling into its place and time. At that, I then saw what looked like my ghost rise out of my body and lay in bed, as though exhausted, and immediately fall asleep. Then, all at once, that ghostly figure of me in bed simply vanished.

Overwhelmed with grief, I could watch no longer. I wept at the realization. I had died last night in a most violent manner. Then I, as a ghost had went to sleep.

Then again from within my room, but nought seen by my eyes, I felt another presence. From this presence, I could only surmise, was the origin of my name being called in the dark.

“…it is nigh…your turn onto the saddle…”

As if from thin air, into my room galloped a most impressive steed. White as the first flakes atop the mountains tall as them as well. On its back rode a Lady, beautiful and nude, her skin almost as fair as the mount upon which she rode. Words poured from her but her lips did not part. Her voice, serenity itself, laid hands upon me and calmed my worried brow. I took her hand and she, with no effort, helped me onto the saddle.

One final look at my chambers and a tear rolled down my countenance. The lady looked over her shoulder back to me, and ‘twas all I needed to feel comfort again. My body simply was and will now cease to be, a vessel I no longer needed.

We cantered away into blissful light, and all the former things were past…