Crunching the cereal loudly in his mouth, Bradley attempted to make sense of what he had heard on the news.
When he had first heard the words, he had nearly choked. They were the only things he needed to hear to know that something bad was going on – not that he didn’t already know. He’d been hearing rumours around the city for the last month.
Bradley tried not to make a habit of listening to other people’s conversations. In most instances he could hardly care less what they have to say. But this had been different – it’d been terrifying.
If it was just the once, he wouldn’t have put much thought into it, but it’d happened several times, with all different people. They’d been saying the same things. Family members were going missing and no one was answering their calls.
The worst part was, these people – these strangers, all came from different places.
‘Bradley!’ his wife called, stomping into the kitchen. ‘I need you!’
Ignoring her he continued to crunch on his cereal, staring at the television. His mind was overcome with fear.
‘As the nation-wide investigation continues, police are urging citizens to remain indoors. If leaving is a necessity, remain aware and alert at all times.’
She slammed her hands down on the table, splashing the contents of his bowl over the sides, ‘BRADLEY!’
Jumping up, he spun around, confused. His heart was thudding in his ears as he wiped his hands on his pants. ‘Jesus! What do you want?!’
‘Don’t give me that crap!’ she shook her head. ‘I’ve told you a hundred times, you can eat after you drop the kids off!’
‘I was a bit hungrier than usual so I – ’
‘So you spent thirty minutes watching the news? Is that what you were going to say?’
‘I wish that I had time to do that, but I spend all of mine running around doing your jobs!’
‘Look, Vanessa, I’m sorry!’
Wiping at her brow she continued to glare, trying to remain mad. Her husband was useless. Why was she stuck doing everything while he just sat there jobless, motivationless and silent?
‘You get going to work. I’ll finish up with the kids.’
‘It’s fine, I’ll help – ’
‘Go! I can do this. Trust me.’ Walking forward, Bradley pulled her into a hug and kissed her forehead. ‘I’m sorry. I’m trying to be better…’
‘I – I know.’ She looked up at him and smiled, ‘I just have no patience.’
‘And I know that,’ he laughed, kissing her gently. ‘Get going.’
She nodded and pulled away, searching for her bag. ‘Have you seen it?’ she asked.
He walked behind the counter and reached for it on the ground. She had dropped it there the night before and not picked it up. ‘Here.’ As she snatched it away quickly he said, ‘Be careful out there. Remember what they’re saying on the news.’
‘I know. I’ll drive safe, I promise.’
‘Driving has nothing to do with – ’ the door slammed, cutting him off. Already, she was gone.
A soft pattering of footsteps behind him made him forget all about the issues the world was currently facing, and he spun around quickly. ‘Carly!’ he cried excitedly. ‘Are we nearly ready for school?’
She laughed, ‘I just need to do up my laces.’
‘Let me get your brother ready and I’ll do them up for you, okay?’
‘That’s fine. I’ll try and do it myself. I hate being late.’
‘Good girl,’ he whispered, walking past her. He could already tell they were going to arrive late. Stepping into his youngest child’s room he looked around, screwing up his nose. It smelt like shit. Clearly Vanessa hadn’t bothered cleaning him up yet.
‘Hey buddy,’ he whispered, leaning over his cot, ‘are we ready for another day?’
The baby began to sob, causing him to jump back. As it echoed throughout the house, he tried his best to calm him down. ‘I know, Kane, I know. I want to cry too. Waking up is no fun for me either…’ As he picked him up he leaned him over his shoulder and began to pat him on the back.
As Kane’s crying continued to ring in his ears he turned around, about to walk to the door, when the radio began to crackle beside him. Frowning, Bradley slowly turned. ‘Who left that on?’ he whispered to his son.
The baby whimpered in his arms.
‘I don’t know what that means buddy…’
Deciding that it should be turned off, he reached forward with his free hand. As he grabbed it, the static cleared and he could finally hear what was going on on the other end. A woman was speaking – a woman whose voice he could recognise.
It was the woman from the television. She was reading the news, just as she had been earlier.
Frowning, he let go of the radio and continued to listen.
‘As the…investigation continues…urging citizens to remain…if leaving is…alert at all times.’
He shook his head. Despite the static, he could tell it was the exact same thing she had been saying earlier on the television ‘They’re getting lazy these days…’
Without hesitating any longer, Bradley reached forward and grabbed the radio, flipping it over in his hand. As he did so, it fell silent. Thumbing at the switch, his eyes widened as he realised something weird.
It wasn’t even turned on.
Throwing his lunch dishes into the sink, Bradley thought about what had happened that morning. It was definitely weird, but was it really that uncommon? It could have just been a wire loose?
He shook his head and reached for his glass of water. As he sipped at it Kane began to cry again, obviously hungry. Bradley walked to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of milk before sitting down next to his son at the table.
‘There you go buddy…’ he whispered, putting it down.
Without hesitating, Bradley grabbed the remote and turned the television back on. Instantly, the same woman he had seen earlier filled the screen. Her face was as blank as ever.
She was still talking about the same thing.
Chaos in the cities.
Shaking his head, Bradley sipped at his water again before choking. Water flew from his mouth, splattering the table as he coughed. His eyes were wide while he stared at the screen. ‘Chaos in the cities?’
That was new.
Struggling to breathe, he remained still, listening intently to the woman’s every word. Had he missed something? But how could he have? Closing his eyes, relaxing his body, he tried to think about what he had seen earlier that day.
The city had seemed completely normal.
It was busy – busier than usual. The traffic proceeded like normal despite that. But there was one thing that had been different. A few blocks away from the school he’d heard an unusual amount of sirens. He hadn’t actually seen anything – he’d just assumed it was a car crash or something.
But could it have been something different? Something more sinister?
Now in a cold sweat, Bradley looked at Kane before rising to his feet. ‘What the hell is going on out there?’
As if waiting to answer his question, the news-anchor calmly continued:
‘There have been reports from several witnesses claiming to have sighted the missing citizens from around the nation. Police have been overwhelmed with even more reports of these individuals behaving violently, and urge civilians to keep their distance…’
‘Oh my God…’ his heart was pounding in his ears as he attempted to make sense of what was happening. His wife and daughter were out there – in the city. Without thinking he began to storm through the house, looking for his shoes.
They were exactly where he’d expected them to be – right by the bathroom door.
Falling to his arse he slipped them on and did up the laces as quickly as he could, trying to think about what to do next.
‘Wallet!’ he cried, clawing his way across the ground. It was in his bedroom, just across from him.
Grabbing it from his cupboard he slipped it into his pocket and breathed out shakily. ‘Today has been a strange day…’
A few minutes later, after he had managed to calm himself down, Bradley stormed into the kitchen and threw himself back down in his seat. ‘Let’s head out again buddy,’ he whispered to Kane.
Not wasting any time, holding his child, he raced for the front door. Reaching for the handle, holding Kane tightly in the opposite arm, he stopped abruptly when a screeching sound began to blare from the other end of the house.
‘Jesus Christ…’ Bradley cried, almost crushing Kane. When the baby began to sob, he smiled down at it, ‘Yeah, let’s get out of here…’
As he ran to the car, his ears began to ring as the screeching continued.
Knocking on the door to Vanessa’s office, Bradley’s body trembled. What would his wife think? What would she say? Would she come with him without question or would she remain oblivious to what was going on?
Outside, barely audible past the beating of his own heart, Bradley could hear the chaos that was ensuing outside – no, he could feel it.
Growing impatient, Bradley knocked again. ‘Vanessa! We have to go!’
Hearing Bradley’s voice, Vanessa yanked the door open, staring at him wide-eyed. ‘What are you – ’ Her eyes landed on Kane. He was resting on Bradley’s shoulder, obviously tired. Her gaze drifted downwards to Carly, who’s hand was wrapped in his own.
‘We have to go right now…’
‘What the hell have you done?!’ she cried, clenching her fists. ‘Why is she out of school?!’
‘I can explain, but let’s just – ’
‘Explain now, Bradley!’ she whispered angrily. ‘Explain why you’ve taken our daughter out of school!’
Bradley tried to come up with a response – he wanted to. But what could he say to make her understand? He’d been trying to talk about the stuff on the news for days but she always changed the subject.
‘Bradley!’ she yelled, ‘Answer me!’
‘Do – do – do you trust me?’ he stammered. To his right he had noticed a small group that had began to gather, watching them. Two of them were whispering. Another was trying to hold back laughter.
‘Do I what?’ she demanded.
‘I said, do you trust me?’
Her mouth hung open as she looked down at Carly. What could she say? Her husband was clearly going insane. ‘I – I – ’
‘Mummy, can we go home?’ Carly asked quietly. ‘I’m scared…’
Bradley’s breath caught in his throat. Why was she scared? Was it his fault? Trying to reassure her, he coruched down and smiled, ‘Everything is going to be fine, okay?’
‘Why are you being so weird?’
‘Because, there’s something going on right now, and I’m worried about it.’
‘What is it?’
He frowned, trying to remain calm. He didn’t have time to answer all of her questions. ‘I’ll tell you later.’
Bradley rose to his feet and looked at his wife again, ‘Come with us, please…’
Her mind was racing as she stared into his worried eyes. On the one hand, he could be telling the truth. She knew he had been scared of something for the last few days. But on the other, he seemed to be completely derailed. His mind was a mess and she had no idea what she could do to help him.
Breathing deeply Vanessa whispered, ‘Fine. Just let me get my things…’
‘Thank you!’ he cried, almost laughing. As he turned to look around, he saw the group of spectators had grown larger. ‘How about you do some work?!’ he snapped.
More anxious than he had been all day, Bradley sat hunched over his radio, fiddling with the antenna. He had been getting nothing but static since he arrived home and it was beginning to worry him.
With everything that was going on, could something have happened to the radio stations? He had tried others, but they had been the exact same. ‘Why?’
‘Bradley, what do you want for dinner?’ Vanessa called down the stairs.
He shook his head and dragged his focus away form the radio, ‘What the hell are you doing up there?!’
‘Carly is getting hungry! She has to eat!’
‘She can eat when it’s all over…’ he groaned.
‘Get up here!’
Sighing, unable to believe his wife was being so stupid, Bradley begn to claw his way across the carpet. When he reached the stairs he painfully rose to his feet and began to climb out of the basement.
Behind him, the radio began to screech, making him jump. His heart began to race as he ran back to it, readjusting the antenna. ‘Work!’ he demanded.
‘…there have been reports of deaths across the country as people continue to behave in an unusually violent manner. The brutal attacks have made their way out of the heavily populated areas and into the towns and suburbs. Please, keep yourself barricaded indoors at all times!’
The voice disappeared as soon as it finished, and Bradley fell to his knees, trying to find it again. He needed to hear more.
Moving to the suburbs?!
Throwing the radio on the ground, he spun around and began to sprint up the stairs. ‘Vanessa! Get everyone down here!’
‘I’m trying to – ’
‘Oh my fucking God, Bradley!’ she screched, throwing something. ‘THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!’
Clenching his fists, growing incresingly impatient, Bradley stomped into the kitchen. ‘Nothing to worry about?!’ he pointed down at the basement’s entrance. ‘Go listen to the radio!’
‘Fine! Where is it?!’
Storming past him, she said nothing else. All she needed was for him to shut up. Carly was terrified. She grabbed her daughter’s hand, taking her with them. Bradley, relieved she was finally taking him seriously, grabbed Kane and began to follow.
When she reached the radio Vanessa looked at it for a few seconds, before turning her attention back to him, horrified. ‘There – this radio doesn’t have any batteries in it, Bradley!’
‘Of course it does!’ he sighed, walking towards her. ‘I’ve been listening to it all this…’ he trailed off.
‘Come here, Carly,’ Vanessa whispered, grabbing her daughter’s hand. ‘Go wait upstairs for me. I’ll be right there.’
Panic overwhelmed Bradley as he tried to figure out what was happening. What was going on?
‘Vanessa, please, just – just wait!’ he begged as she snatched Kane from his arms. ‘I can explain. I can prove it to you!’
‘There’s nothing to prove,’ her voice called back croakily. She didn’t know what to do. Her husband was behaving erratically, and it was scaring her.
‘I can protect you…’ he called to her. He had sunk to his knees, clutching them tightly.
As she stopped at the top of the staircase, she began to sob.
‘Mummy, what’s wrong?’ Carly questioned with worried eyes.
She shook her head. ‘Nothing sweetie, we just - ‘ she began to shake as tears rolled down her cheeks. ‘We just need to give your father some time to himself.’
After a few minutes of sitting on the ground alone, the broken man clawed his way to the staircase, looking up at the hallway above.
‘Vanessa,’ he croaked, ‘I’m – I didn’t mean to scare you! I’m sorry!’
‘How has this happened? Why can I hear the radio?’ he thought, turning back to it.
He tried to be calm – to come up with a rational response to what he was going through.
But then the screaming started. And it sounded like his wife.
‘Vanessa?’ he shouted, stumbling up the stairs. ‘Carly!’
When he reached the kitchen, he looked around wildly, searching for the source of the noise. He was certain that Vanessa had screamed.
It was only then that he noticed her car keys missing from the shelf. Kane’s shoes were no longer where Bradley had left them. And Carly’s doll was gone.
He was completely alone.
Bradley clutched at his hair, screaming into his arms. ‘How? How? How?’ It was the only thought he could muster.
He needed his wife. He needed his kids. He needed someone to understand – to believe what he was saying.
Desperate, he stumbled through the house before throwing the door open. ‘Vanessa!’
Slowly dragging himself around to the side of his house, he called out her name again, looking into the driveway. There was no response. Her car was already gone.
‘I’ll – I’ll call her…’ he whispered to himself, nodding reassuringly. ‘I – I can sort this out!’
It was just after he turned, prepared to make his way back inside the house when he was knocked off of his feet. At first he hadn’t been aware of what was going on, but then the heat struck the side of his face, knocking the air from his lungs. After a moment of being suspended in the air, he had landed on the ground, meters away from his house.
With his ears ringing, and his vision blurry, he tried to rise to his feet – to try and salvage what was left. But it was useless. He could already tell what had happened.
Vanessa had left the stove on.
As he closed his eyes to blink, darkness consumed him.
Opening his eyes, Bradley Huston knew he was lucky to be alive. He could briefly remember the heat from his burning house. He could remember the feeling of people dragging him onto a stretcher. He could even remember the smell of the Ambulance as it raced him to the hospital.
But it was only while staring at the television screen above him, as the woman with the blank face spoke, that he remembered what had got him into that situation in the first place.
The subtitles on the screen were words he recognised – ones he had heard before.
‘…police are urging citizens to remain indoors. If leaving is a necessity, remain aware…’
Starting to tremble, Bradley let out a loud scream, before passing out once again.
June 9th (Possibly)
In an attempt to catch my breath, I came to a halt, spinning quickly. As my body moved sweat flew from my body, splattering the thick foilage that threatened to swallow me. ‘How did I end up here?’ I thought, trying not to laugh.
Of course, I knew exactly how. They knocked on my door – three times to be precise. Being the dimwitted piece of shit I am, I answered all too willingly, actually surprised by the fact I’d received a visitor.
My head still throbbed from the hit it’d taken.
After that, I woke up in the forest with nothing but a backpack and a snapped machete at my disposal. It was almost as if they didn’t want me to survive. That was three days ago now and I’d been stumbling along blindly ever since.
Luckily, this wasn’t my first time alone in the forest. When I was younger – around seventeen or eigtheen years old, I’d taken off after a break up I’d had with one of my girlfriends. It’s stupid now that I reflect on it. The relationship hadn’t even been that important to me.
The only difference between this trip and that one was that I had actually wanted to go. And I knew where I was. And I’d been somewhat prepared.
Okay, maybe it was completely different. The main thing to take away from that is that I knew how to survive on my own.
‘Who the hell even did this to me anyway?’ I asked out loud, trying not to let the silence bother me.
After a moment, when I didn’t receive a response, I whispered, ‘Some piece of shit I guess…’
The conversation continued like that as I stumbled along blindly. Occassionally I’d swear to myself, almost starting an argument when I slipped on the roots of a tree.
Growling, I continued on, ‘Let’s just hope a plane flies over us – or something…’
I began to nod, smiling at the sky, ‘Now that sounds good…’
I’d never been one to have a fear of the dark. It wasn’t like there was anything to be truly afraid of. Your surroundings are literally the exact same as they would be during the day, only with the lights off.
That was how I’d thought about it when I was being rational.
But that night, I wasn’t being rational. That night, like the last two, I was stranded in unfamilair trritory with nothing to defend myself if it came down to it. If something in my circumstances didn’t change soon, I wasn’t liking my odds of surviving.
‘How did they even get me down here anyway?’ I whispered, leaning back against the tree trunk. ‘Did they carry me in? Or drop me out of the sky?’
I scratched my chin as I thought about the two options. ‘Stupid. There was no parachute. How could they drop me?’
‘Unless you’re dead…’ I thought. ‘What if you’ve been dead for three days and you’re in hell? What if – ’
‘Stupid…’ I laughed, shaking my head. What the hell was wrong with me?
The scuffling of footsteps to my right sent my heart into a frenzy. Without thinking I shot to my feet, sending dirt in every direction, and backed right up against the tree. ‘WHO’S THERE?!’ I whimpered loudly.
My voice echoed off of the trees for a few seconds, sending fear coursing through my veins. ‘An animal?’ I wondered. ‘Or my attacker?’
Not taking my eyes off of the spot where I had heard the footsteps, I crouched down, reaching for the broken machete. Despite how utterly useless it was, I couldn’t help but feel relieved once I was holding it. But I guess having a dead fish to slap them with would have been better than nothing.
‘Hello?’ I croaked. ‘If you’re going to kill me, please – just…please, get it over and done with…’ I trembled as I spoke. My senses were barely working.
After what felt like an eternity, the same footsteps I’d heard began to move away, and my entire body relaxed.
Wiping at my sweat drenched brow I sat back down and looked up at the sky. The stars looked nice. I guess that was the one positive thing I could take away from the experience – I got to see them for a change.
‘It was just an animal…’ I silently told myself, blinking rapidly. I didn’t want to fall asleep, but I was getting undeniably tired.
I was just beginning to doze off when the unfamilair voice whispered, ‘Who are you?’
Startled, I looked around, almost crying out. ‘Uh – uh – ’
‘Who are you?’
I blinked rapidly, ‘How tired am I?’
‘What’s your name? I know you have one…’
Shaking my head I hugged myself tightly. ‘What the hell?!”
‘I would introduce myself, but I don’t have a name…’
As the voice continued to speak – to question, I soon realised something weird. No matter how hard I listened for the voice, it didn’t seem to have any presence. It was in my head – I was going insane.
‘What’s your name?’ it asked again, remaining as calm as it had always been.
‘I think you know my name…’ I whispered.
‘I do not think so…we have never met before…’
Shaking my head, I tried to figure out how this happened. A voice in my head that doesn’t know my name? Now that’s stupid. ‘I’m Travis.’
‘Hello Travis. It is nice to meet you.’
I started slapping at my face. ‘Are you real, or am I just really tired?’
‘I believe I am real…but – ’
‘But we could be dead and trapped in hell?!’ I demanded.
The voice was silent for a moment, as if waiting for me to elaborate. When I didn’t it responded, ‘Are you trying to be funny?’
‘No! Of course not! I just – ’
‘I think you might be tired…’
‘You would know,’ I whispered.
‘How about you go to sleep? I’ll keep watch…’
Raising my hands I frowned in confusion. ‘Keep watch? How the hell will you keep watch?’
I waited for a moment, for the voice in my head to respond, but it didn’t. I just sat there staring straight ahead uselessly. So I tried speaking out loud again, ‘Will you wake me if anything happens?’
‘Yes. I will.’
It didn’t take me long to fall asleep after that. I put my head back against the tree trunk and closed my eyes, and that was it.
Grunting, I continued to bash at the thick foilage with the remnants of my machete. I was fighting a losing battle, but there wasn’t much else I could do. I didn’t care either way. All I knew was that the sun was finally rising, and my eyes no longer needed to strain to see.
Either way, it was too little too late. I was ready to give up. My legs were heavy. My shoes were filled with water. I barely had any water left in my backpack, and my stomach was growling.
‘I don’t even have anything to hang myself with…’
‘Why are you hanging yourself?’
My body lurched as I heard the voice, and I spun around defensively. ‘It’s still here?’ I began to tremble. Why hadn’t it gone away?
‘Do you not want to live?’
‘No – no of course I do! I just…can’t see how I’m going to…’
‘What is wrong?’
‘I have no food…no water…’ I wiped at my brow. ‘My body is in pain. I’m completely lost…’
‘Are you a human?’
‘Why is it obvious?’
‘Ugh! Just – why the hell do you have so many questions?! What are you supposed to be?’
‘I am an ant…’
‘And I guess that’s why you’re bugging me?’ I chuckled, raising an eyebrow.
The voice remained silent for a second. I could feel it trying to come up with a response. ‘I don’t understand the question…’
‘I need a psychiatrist.’ Blinking rapidly, I continued walking. ‘Psychotic…’
‘What is a psychiatrist?’
‘They help people with mental problems.’
‘What problem do you have?’
‘I can hear you.’
‘I know. But what is your problem?’
Rolling my eyes, I ignored the question and continued to walk along, listening to the squelching in my shoes.
‘Why do you talk to yourself?’
I frowned, ‘Is that really a question you should be asking?’
‘I heard you yesterday. I heard you talking about a plane flying over…’
I nodded, ‘Of course you did. Do you want to know why?’
‘Because you are in my head. Because you are not real.’ I closed my eyes in frustration, when the hell was this voice going to come to terms with its lack of existence?
‘But I am an ant…’
I sighed, ‘Okay. Just…okay…you’re an ant!’
‘I am glad you finally believe me.’
Not responding, I fell to my knees and punched the ground. Tears had formed in my eyes. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ It was hard to believe I’d been taken by instanity after only three days. Even when I was at home in New York I sometimes spent even longer not talking to anyone.
To be completely honest, this abduction was like a nice holiday. The only problem was that it would only end with my death.
‘If you are an ant – ’
‘Yes! If – IF you are an ant…tell me where I can find some water.’ I was close to breaking down in sobs. As I waited for a response my breathing grew heavy.
‘Are you thirsty?’
I nodded. ‘I ran out of water last night. Can you help me?’
‘How do you run out of water?’
‘I’m going to assume I drink a lot more than you…’
‘You are much larger. I suppose it isn’t unreasonable to believe – ’
‘Just tell me where!’ I snapped, cutting it off. Voice in my head or living, breathing, talking ant, I didn’t care. I just wanted it to actually be of use to me for a change.
‘Of course. Turn and begin to walk.’
‘Which way would you like me to turn?’ I was trying not to laugh as I followed the voice’s directions.
‘Yes, but which – ’
Glaring, I spun to my left and began to walk.
‘Stop. Wrong way.’ The voice sounded irritated. ‘Turn.’
I spun to my left again.
‘Are you an idiot?’
I turned to my left, so I was facing right of where I had started. ‘Is this the right way?’ I asked.
‘Turn. I made a mistake. I am sorry.’
I whimpered as I spun back to where I started. ‘Is this it?’
‘I hate you.’
‘That is unfortunate. I quite like you.’
‘There’s a surprise.’
‘How much further, Voice?’ I groaned. My legs were aching and my mouth was beginning to crack. All I was really aware of was the metalic taste of blood.
‘Voice? Is that my name?’
‘Well, it can be if you want it to be…’
‘I like it.’
‘Glad to hear it Vo – ’ my sentence was cut off when I fell forward, landing face first on the ground. Grunting, I looked up, glad that I was alone. ‘HOW MUCH FURTHER?!’
‘We have arrived.’
‘Where’s the water?’ I demanded, looking around wildly. ‘You promised me water.’
‘Use your eyes. It is here…’
Blinking rapidly, I began to scan the ground. ‘I should have expected this…’ Why had I been stupid enough to believe a voice in my head? I was a moron. I was an imbecile. I was –
‘Water…’ I gasped, looking past a bush in front of me. It wasn’t visible when I’d first arrived, but since I’d begun searching the sun had shifted, making it glisten.
‘How did you know?’ I breathed, staggering forward. The backpack bounced gently against my shoulders as I moved.
‘I told you, I am an ant.’
‘Why can I hear you though?’ I gasped, crouching beside the water.
‘I am not sure. I have seen your kind before – but we have never communicated.’
As I slurped at the cool liquid, I tried to think about my situation. ‘This voice is claiming to be an ant. I can talk to it, but it is only talking in my head. I have nothing else to communicate with. I’m going to die out here.’
‘I can hear you.’
‘Who is it talking to now?’ I thought, continuing to drink greedily.
‘You. I am talking to you.’
‘Who are you talking to?’ I asked out loud. My heart was beginning to race. ‘Can it hear my thoughts?’
‘I told you who. I am talking to you.’
‘Have you been able to hear my thoughts all this time?’ I whispered, feeling as though my privacy was being invaded. ‘Do you know what I am always thinking about?’
‘Currently…yes. But I could not hear them earlier. This is strange.’
‘THIS! THIS! THIS is strange?!’ I screamed in my head. ‘All of this is strange!’
‘You should stop drinking the water now, Travis.’
I stopped moving and looked down at my hands. They were cupped, holding even more water. I hadn’t even realised I was still drinking. Shaking, I separated my hands and let the liquid splash back down. ‘I need to rest…properly…’
‘Then rest. I shall watch over you again.’
I tensed up, realising it had again heard my thoughts. ‘Okay. Thank you, Voice.’
When I opened my eyes next, not much had changed. I was still living in a nightmare. I was still sitting by the water. I was still tired.
‘Voice?’ I croaked, leaning forward.
There was no response.
My chest grew tight as I looked around. ‘Voice? Where are you?’
Again, everything remained silent.
‘VOICE?!’ This time, I shouted the name in my head – and this time, there was a response.
‘Travis, do not move.’
With my heart racing, I sat back, laughing nervously. ‘Where are you? Don’t leave me like that…’
‘I am near you. Do not move. You could harm me.’
‘Why weren’t you responding?’ I demanded, breathing heavily. I had only just realised how much I was relying on the voice’s presence to keep me going.
‘I was thinking. I am sorry.’
‘Can I see you from where I am?’ I asked, curious about what my little friend looked like.
‘Possibly. It would be hard to tell you exactly where I am though.’
‘Have you been sitting on me this entire time?’
‘Yes. I am trying to climb back on you now. Don’t move.’
‘Tell me about your life, Travis…’
I laughed, ‘Why do you want to hear about that?’
‘Because, I want to get to know you more…’
‘There isn’t much to tell,’ I shrugged. ‘Can I move yet?’
‘Yes. Where are you from?’
Grateful to finally have the freedom to move, I leant to the side and grabbed my backpack. After a second of rummaging through it, I found my ridiculously small water bottle and began to fill it up.
Watching the bubbles rise to the surface in the water, I replied, ‘New York. I’m from New York.’
‘Interesting. Where is it?’
‘Is it big?’
‘Too big. But it isn’t that bad.’
‘Do you have any friends back there?’
I shook my head, ‘Not really. Well, actually, I have a fish.’
‘Fish are very stupid.’
‘I know. I guess that’s why we got on so well.’
‘I do not believe you are stupid.’
‘Thanks…’ I grunted, pulling the bottle from the water. ‘Are you ready to go?’
‘I’m waiting on you.’
‘Which way now?’
Sighing, I turned to the left. ‘This way?’
I fell silent as I began to walk. My shoes were still filled with water and I could hear the squelching with every step I took. Stupidly, I hadn’t even considered taking them off while I had slept.
‘Travis, there’s something strange ahead…’
I stopped abruptly, ‘Strange how?’
‘I think it is a structure…’
‘Like a building?’
‘Are buildings made of wood?’
I nodded, ‘Out here, I doubt they could be made from much else.’
‘Then there is a building up ahead.’
‘How do you know?’ I whispered.
‘I was told.’
My heart skipped a beat. What do they mean by that? I began to look around anxiously, breathing heavily. ‘Is someone out there?’
‘Of course there is…’
‘Who?’ I croaked.
I flinched, clutching at the side of my head. A sudden, sharp pain had erupted behind my eyes. ‘What the hell is going on?!’
I fell to my knees, gasping in agony. The pain intensified as a screeching sound erupted in my mind. ‘Voice!’ I cried, tears wetting me cheeks. ‘Can you hear that?’
‘Travis, these are my friends…’
‘What do you mean by that?’ I choked, falling onto my face. My entire head was now spinning.
I didn’t have time to ask what they were talking about – I didn’t need to. Seconds after they spoke, I felt them crawling up my arm. There were hundreds of them – thousands! Ants!
Screaming in terror, I began to trash around. ‘What the fuck?!’
Katherine Long looked up, terified as the ground began to shake. Her friend Brittany was standing ten meters in front of her with outstretched hands.
Behind them, the sounds of gunfire were barely audible past the screams of tourists and locals alike. Nobody knew what was going on – why this was happening.
Only an hour ago the two of them had been sitting by the pool, enjoying the end of their first week on holiday. That had all changed when they saw smoke rising into the air, barely a mlie from where they were staying.
Ten minutes later, after a knock on their door, they had begun to run.
And that was what they had been doing ever since.
‘Brittany!’ Katherine screamed, scanning the crowd of people. She had closed her eyes for a second, only to find her gone when she opened them. Had she run? Had she abandoned her? Opening her mouth, she prepared to scream again when a person slammed into her side, sending her tumbling to the ground.
With the wind knocked out of her, she tried to move – to rise to her feet, but it was futile. As people trampled past, her body took a beating. Feet slammed into her from all directions, causing her to cry out in agony.
‘B – Briattany…’ she sobbed, ‘please don’t leave me…’
She knew it was pointless. Her friend was gone. But could she really blame her? If the sounds of gunfire weren’t terrifying enough, the fact that the ground was shaking only made it worse. What was causing that? Explosions? An earthquake? Whatever it was, Katherine had no desire to find out.
Ignoring the pain, ignoring the terror coursing through her veins, she rose to her feet, immediately breaking out in a sprint.
As she ran, she became aware of the fact that there was barely anybody else with her. She was at the back of the pack – the last place she wanted to be.
Either way, it didn’t matter. She wasn’t dying. Not tonight. There was too much she had left to do. She’d left home without warning. She hadn’t even told her parents. Why did she do that? Her chest tightened as she thought about it. ‘WHY?!’
Her legs gave way as a tremor, stronger than the last, tore through the city, causing the buildings to crack and crumble around her. Falling to her knees she slid for a metre, grazing them.
Stumbling back to her feet she winced as the fresh wound contracted, causing blood to trickle down her leg. There was no time to worry about it though – the gunfire was getting closer. Barely able to breathe, she again started to run.
Ahead, people began to scream – obviously the tremor had finally hit them.
Listening to their shouts and cries, she began to slow down – to reconsider what she was doing. Was heading in the same direction as everyone else really the best idea? Shouldn’t she swerve to the left?
The only reason she had continued along the same path was because it was more than likely the way Brittany had ran. Deep down, did she really care? She’d abandoned her – left her to die.
Making up her mind, Katherine came to a halt with her chest heaving. With her left hand she reached up to the backpack’s shoulder straps and dragged them down. Within seconds she was rummaging through the bag.
It didn’t take long to find what she was after.
The water bottle was only half full – barely worth the effort of carrying considering the circumstances, but she had a feeling she was going to need it.
Clutching it tightly, she threw the bag away and began to run, taking a left at the next intersection. Her heart was in her throat as she moved. Was she making the right decision?
Either way, it was too late to turn back. Gritting her teeth, she picked up her pace. Time wasting was not an option.
‘PLEASE, NO!’ the woman screamed, shattering the eerie silence. Her voice echoed around Katherine, confusing her as to where it actually came from. If it was up ahead, she definitely didn’t want to continue running.
Skidding to a halt she closed her eyes, trying to focus on the voice. ‘I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING! LEAVE US – ’
A burst of gunfire erupted, cutting her pleads short.
Chills ran down Katherine’s spine as she thought about how quickly the life had been taken. How could killing be that easy for anyone? She could barely step on a spider without feeling like the world’s largest arsehole.
Deciding that she should continue moving, she took a quick sip of her water and pushed off, moving slightly slower than she had been. There was no reason to run any harder than she currently was. The terrorists, or whatever they were, probably kept on moving down the path she had abandoned.
Without realising it, she had begun to pray, wishing she were anywhere but there. Her ‘trip of a lifetime’ was becoming a cruel joke.
Lost in her thoughts, she came up with an alternative idea. What if she didn’t run? What if she just kicked the door in of one of those buildings and hid in a shadow?
It wouldn’t be hard, would it? Its not like the shooters were going to search every building.
Smiling to herself, impressed with her ingenuitey, she began to scan the structures she ran past, trying to find the least interesting one she possibly could. If she were a terrorist out to slaughter people for some stupid reason, she would be looking for people in the nice places.
It wasn’t long before she finally settled on a buidling. It had two story’s, but wasn’t big enough to really stand out. It would be the perfect place to hide.
Approching, her legs began to buckle, more than likely relieved by the idea of rest.
Barely able to walk, she pushed on the door and stumbled inside. ‘Finally…’
Indoors, the gunfire, which she had grown accustomed to, was muffled, providing her ears with some much-needed rest. All she had to listen to now was the thudding of her own heart as it slowly, painfully died.
Dizzy with exhaustion, she quickly scanned the bottom floor before moving up to the second story, hoping that it was clear. All she could think about now was sitting down and waiting for the mess she was currently in to end.
The door smashing shut below was enough to jerk Katherine from her sleep. She hadn’t even been aware she had dozed off. The sounds of gunfire never ceased and her heart hadn’t stopped racing the entire time.
Quickly wiping the drool from her chin she clawed her way to the door and pushed it closed, leaving just enough space for her to see. While doing all of this she had stopped breathing.
Downstairs, two people were whispering to each other. She could barely hear what they were saying, but knew it was probably nothing good. Edging closer to the door, she turned her ear, trying to make out at least one word.
Her hopes were dashed when she heard one of the voices – possibly belonging to a child, speaking in Arabic.
Inhaling sharply, she sat back, trying to mull over what she had heard. Was she safe? Would they leave? Will they come after her?
Slowly rising to her feet, she asked herself another question. Should she approach them?
It may have sounded crazy, but how bad could they be if a child was with them?
Trembling, she made her decision. As quietly as she could she reached down for her water bottle and picked it up before swinging the door open slowly.
Once she had taken a few steps, she squeaked, ‘H – hello?’
The boy stopped speaking. In the absence of his voice she heard the other whimpering.
‘I don’t want to hurt you…’ Katherine whispered. ‘I just – I don’t know what to do. Are you okay?’
The boy started speaking again. She still couldn’t understand a single word he was saying but knew he was weighing up whether or not she was a threat. All she could do was pray that they weren’t planning on shooting her.
Rigid with fear, she forced herself to move, taking a step towards the stairs. ‘I’m coming out now…’
‘Can they even understand me?’ she wondered. If they did, it would definitely make communication easier.
The floor creaked with every step she took. Katherine could only imagine how they were feeling. With all of the chaos outside how were they to know whether she was about to end their lives? But then again, wasn’t she wondering the exact same thing?
When they came into view, her heart, already under strain, skipped another beat. The boy was holding a woman with wide eyes. There was blood pouring from her chest.
Katherine placed her first foot on the stairs, taking a step forward. As it cracked and creaked beneath her, the boy’s body jumped, causing the woman to groan.
‘It’s fine!’ she whispered desparately, raising her hands. ‘Look! I – I have nothing…’
‘English?’ the boy whispered, nodding rapidly.
‘There…is…man…coming!’ he cried, pausing to make sure he used to correct words. ‘He touch my sister’s head…she…fell down!’
She shook her head, confused. ‘He touched her head and she collapsed?’
The boy nodded.
‘Did this same man shoot her?’ Katherine asked, pointing at the woman. The two of them shared similar features so she had assumed she was his mother.
He nodded again.
‘And he’s coming here?’
Katherine’s mind began to race. She needed to go – they needed to go. Although it was against her better judgment, she knew she couldn’t leave the boy behind.
‘Is that your mother?’ she asked, pointing at the woman.
Nodding, he looked down at her. ‘Find help.’
Growing desparate, Katherine knelt down so she was looking up into his eyes. ‘I don’t think we can. We can’t trust – ’
‘Dying,’ he whispered.
‘I know. I’m sorry but no one can help…’
Her hopes for getting away were diminishing by the second. Now she had had the chance to breathe – to calm her heart rate, it was obvious that the sounds of gunfire had gotten closer since she’d woken.
‘Aban…’ the woman wheezed, placing her blood coated hand on his face. He didn’t respond at first, so she began snarling at him in Arabic. When she was finished she removed her hand, whispering the same words over and over.
The boy – Aban, sniffed deeply as he kissed her cheek.
Katherine could do nothing but watch, hoping he was finally ready to go. She hated to be a bitch, but there was no point in hanging around waiting for the woman to die. It would be suicide.
‘We have to go. Right no – AHHH!’ She let out a squeal as a bullet slammed into the woman, splattering blood across the room.
Aban’s face was pale as he dropped her – staring wide-eyed at the wound that had opened up in the side of her neck.
‘RUN!’ Katherine screamed, grabbing his arm. Without hesitating, she began to drag him along, back up the stairs. As his feet snagged on them uselessly, slowing her down, every fibre in her body screamed for her to leave him. If she let the shooter have him, she could probably have escaped through an upstairs window.
Why wouldn’t she? Why was she trying to save him? He was clearly damaged – he’d probably never be the same. She knew she wouldn’t. What was even the point?
Another bullet crashed into the stairs below her, causing her body to jump. Terrified, she picked up her pace, dragging the boy with more aggression. ‘You’re not letting me die!’
The two of them reached the top of the stairs as their attacker kicked the door, snapping the hinge. ‘In here!’ she cried, throwing the boy into the room she had been sleeping in.
Slamming the door shut she tried to remain calm. If she lost her calm she would’ve lost everything.
‘Mother…’ Aban whimpered, wiping at his eyes.
‘She’s dead!’ Katherine snapped. ‘We will be too if you don’t start climbing out of that window.’
Nodding slowly, he shuffled to his feet and stumbled to their only salvation.
But it was futile. As he poked his head out, a bullet slammed into the windowsill, dragging a scream from that back of his throat. Within seconds he had bounced back, standing beside her. There was more than one of them. The thought filled her with dread.
‘Door?’ he asked.
She shook her head. On the other side, their attacker’s footsteps were making the floor creak loudly. She stopped breathing. They were trapped.
‘Run?’ Aban whispered.
As Katherine opened her mouth to respond, the person on the other side of the door – a man, began to laugh. It was deep and disturbing, making her hairs stand on end.
Once he finished, he kicked the door, splitting it down the middle. ‘Do not run.’
She frowned. His English was good – perfect even. But he had an accent. He was definitely Arabian.
‘We will not kill you. Not yet.’
‘W – why?’ she whimpered. Her body was rigid – her mind running.
‘Because he will like it.’
She wanted to ask him what he was talking about. She wanted to ask him why they were doing any of this, but it was useless. Before she could choose where to start, he had stomped forward, lifting the butt of his rifle before smashing it against the side of her head.
The next thing she knew, she was on the floor, watching her blood spread across the wood surface.
Her knees were throbbing. It was the one thing she was acutely aware of as she suffered through yet another panic attack. Her head was whipping from side to side as she attempted to look through the black bag that had been shoved over it.
‘Aban…’ she gasped. ‘Aban!’
‘Can you see anything?’
For the hundredth time, she began to tug at the ropes holding her hands in place. They were tied behind her, attached to something. She had no idea what it was but it was heavy.
For the last two hours since they had arrived, the ground had quaked five times. When it did, everybody around her would scream, begging for mercy. She wasn’t sure why they were bothering. It wasn’t like they were going to let them go.
One thing in particular that Katherine had started to question was what exactly the police and military had been doing during the attack. They had to be responding in some way but were they having any success? Was there a chance they were going to turn up and save them?
She liked to be optimistic, but being honest, it seemed unlikely.
Footsteps in front of her made her freeze. Her eyes darted from side to side in their sockets as she waited to see what was going to happen.
‘I don’t understand…’ she whispered, feeling tears wet her cheeks. ‘Can I please take this bag – ’
Her head snapped to the left violently as the back of his hand collided with her face. Squealing she fell to her knees, twisting her arms in the process. It cracked loudly, causing her to whimper.
Unable to pick herself up, she lay there on her side sobbing. ‘Will they finally kill me?’
The cocking of a gun seemed to answer her question.
Remaining calm, she closed her eyes and breathed in shakily.
Gunfire erupted around her, sending chills running down her spine. Blood splattered her arms, causing her to jerk involuntarily. Beside her, Aban cried out. Shouts and screams filled her ears as more gunfire joined the mix. There were now multiple shooters, all firing at random intervals..
Was there motivation political? Religious? Or were they just having fun?
From Katherine’s position, it was too hard to tell. All she knew was that it happened at the most unfortunate of times. A week earlier and she could have avoided the trip all together.
The man who had struck her – the one who had been preparing his gun cried out something in Arabic before falling to the ground. In an instant she noticed his gunfire had ceased and he wasn’t moving.
Almost laughing, she tried to manuvre her body so she was sitting up, but she couldn’t. The ropes were too tight, pinning her in position on the ground.
‘A – Aban!’ she choked. ‘Can you move?’
He whimpered in response, but she soon felt his hands grab at her ropes, attempting to undo them.
‘Hurry!’ she gasped. ‘We need to get away from here…’
Another whimper was all she received.
‘What’s going on?’ she asked.
‘Killing each other…’ he gasped. A second later the ropes came loose, and she stiffly sat up.
Desparate, she tugged at the bag covering her face, causing the cut on her head to sting. It must have gotten stuck to her with all the blood. Blinking rapidly, she looked around at all of the carnage around her.
Bodies littered the ground.
Amongst them she could see all different kinds of people.
The innocent were still tied and covered. They were hunched over, littered with bullet holes.
The terrorists, holding their guns as though their lives depended on it.
Looking even closer, she could see the police amongst the terrorist, shooting at anything that moved. Her blood turned to ice as she watched an officer shoot a man begging for help on the ground.
They were not there to save them, but why?
Still remaining, unscathed by the conflict, was the military. They were on the outskirts of the gahtered people, firing into the group behind armoured vehicles.
With bullets richeting in every direction, Katherine had no time to examine the situation. They had to go.
With their legs aching, Katherine and Aban began to sprint for the buildings across for them, where they would hopefully be safe from the maniacs hell bent on destroying all traces of life. With every step they took blood splattered against them. The shooters had turned their attention to the two of them.
‘Why?’ she sobbed helplessly as the stench of blood filled her nose. What was the point of all this carnage?
‘This way!’ Aban sobbed, throwing open a door.
Without looking she ran to him, taking his hand and pulling him in behind her.
Yet again, the ground tremored, waking Katherine for what felt like the hundredth time.
Slowly, she looked at Aban, almost crying. His face was pale and he was clutching at his stomach. He hadn’t told her at first, but he had been shot while setting her free.
‘Aban…’ she whispered, shaking his arm. ‘Aban…’
He didn’t respond. His eyes didn’t even flicker. There was no life left within his body at all.
Leaning back, riddled with guilt, she listened to what was going on outside of the building they took refuge in. Her mind was torn in both wanting to know, but not being daring enough to truly care. As long as she was left alone, they could murder whoever they wanted.
The strangest part was that she could no longer hear any gunshots.
Her mind didn’t know what to make of it.
On one hand she should be relieved, but what were they doing if they weren’t shooting people? Had the killed each other off?
Slowly she turned to the window above her, looking outside. The stars looked strangely beautiful considering the circumstances. They were not really something she had ever taken notice of before.
Breathing calmly, she closed her eyes before opening them again, only to see the stars were no longer visible.
Confused, unable to comprehend what had happened, she shuffled to her feet, bumping Aban’s corpse in the process. He tumbled to the side and fell still.
‘What is going on?’ she whispered, feeling her throat crack in the process.
It was only after blinking a few times that she noticed it.
How it took her so long, she didn’t know. It was humongous.
Falling to her knees, Katherine could do nothing but watch as the wall of sand, only getting higher and higher by the second, crept towards them.
It was almost a sight worth laughing at. After everything she had been through, this was how she was going to die? A tsunami made up of sand? What had the world come to?
When it finally began to fall, the ground shook, more violently than it ever had before. Unable to breathe she pushed her back up against the wall, not wanting to look at it. If she were to die, she would rather not see the exact moment.
Wiping at the tears in her eyes, she looked at the boy she had tried but failed to help. It was probably the only worthwhile thing she had done with her life.
‘I’m sorry, Aba – ’
She never finished her sentence. The sand crashed down on the house, crushing her instantly