"The Day After" Stories

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Wormtongue
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"The Day After" Stories

Post by Wormtongue »

Hello after a long break. My apologies, Flash Challenge Fans, I just have not been doing my job. Real Life (TM) seems to have intervened. Way back in October, before the Attack of the Bots and the move to our new Board software (and Aphelion server, but that's another tale!) I set the challenge for a tale of "the Day After." I managed to salvage two tales and publish them in November, but here is the complete set. Feel free to comment on which you liked best, and why.

Soon as I work out how to set up a poll in the new software, I will :)
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The Sound of Silence

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THE SOUND OF SILENCE

By Jontrue

No one expected the end to come so soon.

There was no warning, no cries from the scientific community, no prophets speaking for their gods, no cult heads prepping their flocks with kool-aid. The end was not spectacular or glorious. It all ended with a simple ‘wompf.’ The atmosphere was drained away from the planet, the seas boiled away in silence. Every man, woman, and child on the surface was dead in seconds.

A moment of wild, silent panic, fell over humanity as they scratched at their throats and held their bulging eyes in their skulls desperate to cling on to their fragile lives. A third of them were lucky to die in their sleep. Some, on the dark side of the planet, were privileged enough to get a glimpse of the force that brought an abrupt end to their existence. They looked up into the night sky and saw the stars blotted out by infinite darkness. A hole in the universe, the size of Europe, had opened over Oceana. It stayed open long enough for all liquid water to be vaporized, and then abruptly vanished.

The machinations of mankind soon became as lifeless as their creators. The combustion engines and hydroelectric plants stopped first. Next came the nuclear plants melting down around the globe — with no water cooling ponds the systems quickly overheated. Lastly, a smattering of battery-powered lights shone on defiant to the end, but eventually, extinguished as well.

When the bombs were dropped at the end of WWII, those at the epicenter of the blast were considered the lucky ones. They died immediately, no pain, no fear; just a flash and it was over. Far more languished in the veil between life and death as their skin peeled away, and their bodies gave in to the inevitable. Thousands screaming in indescribable pain as they mourned for their loved ones and themselves. In many respects, the crew of the international space station found themselves in much the same situation six hours after being sucked into the abyss.

“Huston, this is Jessica Meir of the ISS, in unknown orbit. We have taken heavy damage and require immediate assistance. Please advise — over.” Her voice was becoming increasingly hoarse with each iteration, but as with everything else in her life, she didn’t know how to fail and would continue for as long as her body would allow.

Only the static responded. An hour ago, under the request of Commander Skripochka, she had connected the output to the vessel’s sounds system making any response, no matter how faint, audible.

“The hardware has to be damaged Oleg, let me go out and take a look.”

A stout man with a square face and eyes that gave him the appearance of being calm no matter the reality shot back with the reflex of a parent. “It’s not going to happen, Meir,” he said in a thick north Russian accent that reminded her of an intoxicated man with a mouth full of marbles. “You’re not qualified. You lab rats are all the same: you think space walks are all games. Let me tell you — is not. I am not ashamed to tell you the first time I went out, I nearly shit my pants.”

“That’s four.” Jessica’s emphatic expressions were amplified by the wild curly brown hair that framed her face.

“What’s four?”

“Four times you’ve told me that story in the last six months.”

Oleg shook off the need to win the argument. There were more important things than winning now. Commander Andrew Morgan had been rendered unconscious during the event. A hit to his head sent tiny droplets of blood floating aimlessly into the air. Immediately afterward, Dr. Meir strapped Morgan down to keep him from sustaining additional injuries while she kept a watchful eye on him.

Commander Oleg Skripochka was no stranger to command, but this was one mission that he didn’t want. He looked out the starboard observation window and tried to remain calm. As the ISS spun slowly around, he got a view of their new surroundings. A faint orange glow emanated from every direction. Lackadaisical particles approached the station and bounced off of the window. He couldn’t be certain what it was, but it reminded him of ash; ash floating in an orange haze.

“Commander! Morgan is starting to come around,” Jessica’s northeastern accent carried throughout the craft.

Oleg propelled himself to the comm center effortlessly gliding through the low-g environment. When he arrived, Andrew was already unstrapping himself.

Jessica pushed back from the console and started assessing her patient, “Take it easy Andrew, you took quite a nasty hit.”

“I’m fine. How long was I out?”

She didn’t need any equipment to know he was anything but fine. His left eye, bloodshot, wandered aimlessly while the right seemed to stare right through her.

“What is that sound?” he demanded, holding his head as if part of his skull might fall off if he didn’t hold on hard enough.

“It’s just static, we’re trying to get a signal from command, but nothing. The comms are down. We were just tal—”

“Shutup! Can’t you hear it?”

Oleg put his hand on Andrew’s shoulder, “Remain calm my friend, we have everything under control.” It was hard to look him in that one red wandering eye, but he squinted and continued, “Let Dr. Meir check you out, everything else can wait.”

“There’s no time. We have to hide. They’re coming. Oh Jesus, they are coming.” Andrew frantically ripped off the remaining straps.

Jessica and Oleg gave each other a glance, each knowing what the other was thinking, they acted without words. Jessica, once a professor of anesthesia, knew exactly what drug and dosage to give him to put him out before he could hurt himself, or worse.

The entire space station echoed with the sound of crashing metal. “It’s too late! They’re already here! Fuck, kill me, kill me now!”

But death would not come so easily.
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Yesterday's Tomorrow

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Yesterday’s Tomorrow

By Megawatts

A bright-piercing white light that oozed into a Kaleidoscope of colors, very beautiful and restful when looking over the low hills that surrounded Bedford Farms, rained down for about thirty seconds that day. What it was, no scientist could give more than an opinion, and those opinions varied. Offbeat religious leaders broadcasted the end of the world, while homeland security jumped into the kayos reminding us about new and strange weapons in the hands of terrorists today. Whatever that light was changed the world, but the world kept spinning on and on and didn’t die.

When I got up the next morning expecting a good day with my girl at the beach–Kayla had apparently got up before me–I realized that I needed a shower. Sand or some other abrasive material seems to be clinging to me, and it felt itchy. I never experience a condition like this one except during the measles when I was a kid. And I was warm, warmer than I should have been since the air conditioner was still running.

I decided to get up. I rolled out of bed–-not intending to do that–- and landed on four legs! My hands were paws, my feet-- paws and my body just a shaggy-hairy fur coat! I tried to shake the sleep out of my eye, thinking I’m in some dream, and when fully awake I looked into the full-body dressing mirror on the back of the closet door.

The reflection in the mirror couldn’t possibly be-----, yet when I moved my head, the head in the mirror moved. The eyes in the mirror moved when I moved mine. I had become a dog! Somehow, someway—a dog! Impossible! Did Kayla tie some old fur coat around me as joke, I thought.

I ran from the room but tumbled over my paws. I got up and ran again only this time I realized that my arms were dog legs. Out the bedroom door I sped but abruptly stopped not more than three feet from Kayla’s cat, Livingston.

We locked eyes together and Livingston arched his back in a defensive posture, hissed and then growled in a low tone as he shifted his weight more toward his back legs. I stopped and stared with no real thoughts strolling over me, yet I couldn’t fathom the new situation that had washed over me. How the hell could I?

Livingston sat up on his hind legs with his front legs wide apart, his claws projecting out from his paws and his eyes stating: Just mess with me! The look about him suggested extreme fright. I backed away slowly hoping he would take my departure as a good faith sign. Livingston didn’t stand down, just kept watching me like his eyes were twin-laser beams tracking an enemy target. I backed away some more.

I heard something behind me and looked around. Kayla had a broom really to swat me!

“Who the hell let you in!” she screamed. “Roy, Roy where the hell are you?”

That’s my name and I tried to answer, yet the only sound that I could muster sounded like TRRRR—TRRRRR-ITSSSSSS—Meeeeeeeeeee! Kayla took that sound as a threatening overture and started swinging the boom at me. It missed me on the first swing but connected with me on the second. The broom really didn’t hurt much, but I know that Kayla would try harder on the next swing.

I ran into the kitchen and thank God the back door was open and only the screen door closed. With Kayla in hot pursuit and the only chance I had was to jump though the screen if I could. Fortunately, we had rented an old house and the screen in the door was loose around the edges. I jump through it easily.

“Roy! Roy! Where the hell are you? A dog got in. Where are you!” Kayla screamed.

I ran down the steps and almost tumbled again but caught myself. Once in the middle of the back yard and far enough away that Kayla couldn’t get me, I looked around. Her eyes glared at me as she held the broom in a ready-to-strike position while she stood on the back porch.

“If I ever see you around here again, I’ll call the dog pound. Understand?” Kayla screamed.

“Roy . . . Roy where the hell are you!” Kayla screamed.

Kayla kept watching me and I knew her enough to know that she would not go back inside until I was long gone.

I strolled down the alley and turn onto the sidewalk beside Ardmore Avenue a heavily traveled through way, usually. But today only about half the cars were on it. I stopped and sat down.

As I watched the cars, I realized that there were no men driving. All women. Impossible! Yet after watching for a few minutes I still didn’t see any men.

Another dog came up and sat beside me. I looked over at him and he looked at me. We seemed to understand each other. The dog tried to say what the hell is going on by the semi grunts and half barking sounds he made. I was sure about that.

So many more dogs were out this morning, yet none were on leashes. I heard a voice behind me say, “Were have all the guys went! I can’t find my husband anywhere!” The dog next to me got up and slowly walked toward the women. It sounded like he was saying, “Here I am. Here I am.”

Since that then I stayed in my neighborhood. Kayla never accepted me. How could she? I still can’t believe it. Yet, when I look up at the stars at night, I understand more and more that we the people of Earth don’t know anything as to the workings of the universe!
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Do-over

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Do-over

By Michelle Dutcher

Evelyn began to suspect that the doctors were correct. Maybe she was experiencing a mental breakdown. Afterall, her memories didn’t start until last week when she had found herself in the last house on the left, in a quiet suburb just north of the city of Boston.

There was plenty of money in the small black bankbook she found on her coffee-table, so she had set an appointment with a local psychiatrist. The shrink had reassured her that her memory would probably return in a few weeks, his only instructions being to take care of her health until things the amnesia cleared up.

So she began to walk in the late afternoons, for her physical and mental health. When she came to the winding road at the end of her cul-de-sac, she turned right, and her memory began to return. But it wasn’t the memories of a 27-year-old woman, but places from her childhood. There was a small lake where she had thrown bread to the ducks when she was in elementary school, and she passed a church she had attended as a child.

And then she saw it...her house! The one she had grown up in with the bay window and the striped swing-set in the backyard. How was it possible! Had she actually lived here before?

She turned around immediately, briskly walking back to where she was living. But early the next morning she found herself back at the oddly familiar house. She was amazed the cars along the street were so old, certainly many decades old, but they were in showroom condition as if they had just been bought.

A school bus rounded the curve and began picking up the children who waited outside. She recognized them as old playmates. There must be some reasonable explanation.

Evelyn saw a young girl standing in front of the house with the bay window. She was getting on bus number 10. The nine-year-old turned to look in her direction for a moment. Evelyn immediately knew the child’s name: Evelyn! It was her as she had been as a child!

The woman didn’t wait for the bus to pull away. She found herself walking, faster and faster, back to the safety of her own cul-de-sac. And that was where she had stayed for the rest of the week, locked safely inside, watching decades-old ‘reruns’ on her black-and-white television.

On May the 23rd Evelyn was watching TV when she had the overwhelming urge to run to her basement. As if overcome by a force stronger than herself, she immediately left her front room, opened the door to the basement and went down the steps into the dark. She turned on the overhead lightbulb with the switch on the wall, went to the old couch there and laid down, instantly falling asleep.

When Evelyn woke up from her dazed state, she went up the stairs, pushing against the door. But it wouldn’t budge. She pushed harder and harder until, finally, the door swung open and she could see what was left of her world.

The homes around her had been melted into a translucent, glimmering goo. She saw no one else walking around, no stirring in the rubble from any of her neighbor’s homes. Her thoughts immediately turned to the small child in the house with the bay window. Was she okay? Evelyn remembered that as a child she would play in her family’s rec room, down in the basement. Was the child there? Was the child still alive?

Evelyn broke into a run to see if the girl was okay. It was hard to tell which house was the right one, until she heard a child screaming to get out. The woman went over to where the noise was coming from, pulling on the door to the basement until it opened.

The child, Evelyn herself as a nine-year-old, burst out of the darkness.

“What happened? Where are my mommy and daddy?” demanded the girl through her tears.

“I don’t know,” answered the woman. “Something horrible, I guess.”

Suddenly, overhead, both Evelyns noticed a small plane circling the neighborhood. It was an old prop-plane dragging a sign behind it that read, “Talk to the Ice Cream Man”.

“The Ice Cream Man?” the girl asked. “What Ice Cream Man?”

From the most distant corner of the suburb, the merry, reassuring sound of an ice cream truck’s music could be heard. Its happy, bell song got closer and closer until they could see the truck through the rubble. A minute or so later it was parked in front of the Evelyns. An old bearded man in Santa suit got in the back of the truck, rummaged through a freezer, and handed each Evelyn an ice cream treat. “Dilly Bar is your favorite, right?”

“Yes,” answered the pair, taking the ice creams, still confused.

“What the fu...?” started the woman.

“Now, now, Evelyn. You need to watch your language. You are in charge of raising your child self from this point on. We Gramorians didn’t realize the effect our time-warping drives would have on the structures you live inside. When we saw the destruction we caused, we couldn’t change what had happened – but we could seed the planet with pairs of children and adults - like you, adult Evelyn and you child Evelyn – so you can remake your world. Little Evelyn happened to be playing in the basement, so she survived, only by accident. We recently planted you, big Evelyn, in the same neighborhood. If I were you, I would start walking out of this disaster area going that-a-way.” The Santa figure pointed towards the main road. “You’ll find other pairs of humans as you go. Oh, and we’re very sorry about the mess.”

The Evelyns watched as the ice cream truck turned around, heading back from wherever it had come from, better yet: whatever time-dimension it had come from.

The odd pair started walking, searching for other humans.
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Through the Heart...

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Through the Heart...

By Sergio Palumbo

The tumbling down of his apartment building had been unexpected, and the whole edifice had collapsed to the ground with no warning. Franz Huybert had found himself wounded, covered with blood on his arms and legs, and buried under giant sections of load-bearing walls and enormous bar joists which had broken into pieces all around him.

The 40-year-old man had forced himself to stay as calm as he could, trying to do keep his mind clear. He first checked to see if he was capable of slithering through the debris, and then he found he could walk – despite the bruises and the pain he felt all over his body.

But all this had happened just over a week ago.

Luckily, Franz had retrieved some bottles of water that, by chance, hadn’t been destroyed when the building collapsed, and then he had found some snacks to sustain him. But even after eating that food, he found himself still hungry. Really hungry, afraid that all seemed to be lost…

Soon he discovered he wasn’t alone down there, in the dim light that was the only available here and there, seeping through the many ruined walls from the sky thanks to small holes. And he had found something else he could feed on… The man was ashamed to think about what he had done, but he knew there was no other way: he needed food, and the only thing at his disposal was other people. Specifically, he had ingested parts of the corpses of other victims who had also been surprised by that disaster, the bodies of the people renters whose remains he had dismembered using a large kitchen knife he had found under some destroyed cabinets. He had then slowly barbequed them thanks to an old camp stove discovered in a corner that still worked. Cooking the meat had turned the meals into something less loathsome than it might have been, though he could still taste a heart-rending aftertaste. He couldn’t stop thinking and re-thinking about the hellish actions he had done! It had kept himself alive but it also had brought him regret…That couldn’t be helped. He knew those memories would never leave him…

Really Franz had never had a choice. There was nothing else he could think of that might be of help to keep him in this world! That desperation had led to the loss of his humanity, and the need to try everything – anything! – that could feed him before he lost his strength. The fire he had started there when he had to prepare the meat had also made the environment he was buried in even darker, and malodorous, but it had been of use, and he had survived until today.

The man knew he had to get out of that place, so he kept walking around, every day, trying to spot a bigger light or a way to climb up to the open surface.

He had been wise enough to keep his smartphone switched off for part of every day to spare his battery. He had started doing this after the first two days when he had not been able to reach anybody outside, being afraid that no one else might have survived. But when he turned it back on, he received some news that left him speechless.

It seemed that many portions of several asteroids had reached Earth, and the many small parts they had been broken into had fallen to the surface hitting the world in a lot of places. The news was from a week ago, and it appeared that the destruction had been so deep that no further information was available after that. There were no videos, and no updates… Had the whole planet been irreparably damaged? Was it just a small piece of a huge asteroid that had reached his building? What was left of Mankind now?

As the man kept surviving among those ruined walls, at a certain moment he thought he saw a wider light. So he hurried himself, finding out that it was an opening through the destroyed joints of the house that seemed to lead to the open ground. He started running, climbing, until he got to the upper point and put his back into removing the rocks that obstructed that unexpected way out.

Eventually he got outside, putting his first step on the ground after a week of almost complete darkness. It was at that moment that he saw something large, and towering over him, that walked and then stood before him. Immediately afterwards he felt a deadly pain as the brilliance of the pointed end of an incredibly long spear pierced through his chest and reached his shaking heart…

*****

As the very long pointed metal of that elongated weapon was raised to the sky, the small dead body of the man, as if it were some skewered meat, was raised as well. Then some words spoken in an unknown alien language said, “Hey, Klekwl… Look at me! I just killed one of those small humans…Here he is, on the pointed end of my electrified hunting spear. I hit it just at the right spot through the heart. These beings are tiny and not easy to kill at first try, but I think I’m getting pretty good at this.”

“Those tiny creatures look like the mice on our world...Even after the heavy bombardment we hit their world with from space, some of them still survived. Unbelievable! You should look around, there might be others hiding under the ruins of this destroyed town. Be quick about it, we need to find them before they all die under the ruins.” The other orange-colored alien, dressed in a hard suit and as tall as 40 feet, looked at the other. He gestured to another fellow of his who was walking nearby.

“I’ll do my best to find my prey in the other holes…” the first one sneered while happily looking around…
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