Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Better & Brighter Tomorrow (part 3)

This week, March comes to an end. This means that this is the last week to enter the giveaways for my Go Bananas March event. Enter now, because I'm not going to run an April contest.  I will, instead, kick off the month with the SIA's Free & Bargain Book event, which you should definitely check out. We have tons of free and 99 cent books being offered.

And of course, my three part story ends too. After the jump, I've got the exciting conclusion to A Better & Brighter Tomorrow. If you missed the beginning, you can find Part One and Part Two here.

A Better & Brighter Tomorrow (part 3)

by Christina McMullen
   My family is gone.
   I wish I could say that I felt something other than numbness over this fact, but I can’t.
   This morning I awoke to complete silence. I had grown so used to the cacophony of shrieks and wails that had become the soundtrack of my life, that their absence was unnerving. I assumed that everyone was asleep, despite the late hour, and took the opportunity to sneak from my room in search of something to eat. I was growing sick and tired of the junk food that I’d been subsisting on in an effort avoid having my soul saved. What I found was a packet of pills and a bottle of water on the kitchen counter with a note from my mother.
There is still time and I have only a mother’s hope that you, my son, turn away from your life of sin. When you find redemption, let this be your peaceful guide on the journey to salvation.
   My appetite, not surprisingly, disappeared, replaced by a rage that I’d only just been keeping at bay. End of the world or no end of the world, I had to confront them. I couldn’t let this continue. I stormed into the living room, prepared to simply sit and wait for them to wake up, get back from their prayer meeting, or return from whatever craziness they’d gotten off to. I wish I hadn’t. They hadn’t gone anywhere at all.
   They were dead.
   All of them. Even my little sister. She was only six years old. I never got a chance to tell her goodbye. I never got a chance to tell her she was a good kid and not a natural born sinner like mommy said.
   I ran back to my room, falling onto bed just in time for the blackout attack to take hold and turn my mind into a gibbering mass of terror. I can’t get the image of them out of my mind, yet I can’t get up. I can’t bear to go back out there and face what remains of them. I know it’s cowardly. I’m afraid of dead bodies. And it’s stupid because in a very short time, I’m going to be nothing more than a dead body myself. But I can’t do it. I can’t leave my room. I have nowhere else to go.

   Those empty husks are nothing.
   Just bodies that look like the people I once knew.
   But they are also my jailers.

   Tomorrow I will die.
   I can’t stay up and wait for this. I don’t want to witness the end of the world. Already I can feel the gravitational pull of the Earth shifting and warping as the asteroid looms ever closer. Perhaps it’s already taken out the moon. Perhaps it’s dragged a planet along in its wake. Perhaps Earth is already spiraling toward the sun. It does seem to be getting hotter in here. Perhaps it’s all in my head. There’s really no way to tell anymore. I can’t stay up. And yet…
   I can’t sleep.
   On the kitchen counter is the obvious solution. A small packet of pills as unassuming as the vita-paks mom used to make me take during flu season. Swallow a couple of pills, lay down, have some dreams, and it’s all over. Fiery and painful death by removal of atmosphere or peacefully slipping away in my sleep. These are my only options. Is this really something anyone should be debating? It all sounds so easy in theory, but still, here I am, inching closer to the zero hour, and I’m still a coward.
   The world is dead.
   Everyone I’ve ever loved, everyone I could have potentially loved, they’re all already dead. Why am I so reluctant to join them? Why now, as the inevitability of death stands unavoidably before me do I still cower?
   I can’t do it.
   But neither I can I stand here in a stupor, staring at the pills on the counter, while pretending to ignore the pungent odor of decay coming from the next room. It is that sickly sweet smell of rot that finally sends me running back to the relative sanctuary of my room. For once, I welcome the panic. My heart flutters and my mind races. I feel I might be dying and ironically, I’m okay with that. Finally, I am numb as I float away on the aftermath of adrenaline fatigue.
   I awoke moments ago to brilliant sunshine, birds chirping, and monumental confusion.
   I’m alive!
   I’m alive!
   It was all a… no…
   The unnatural stillness and the sickly smell of rot coming from the front room are unsubtle reminders that no, this was not all just a bad dream. The world will still end. But I was certain today was the day. Had I miscalculated? Perhaps the asteroid was to strike later, but no, looking out the window, the sky was a bright spring blue and the sun hovered just where it should. I must have miscalculated. In my panicked state, I made a mistake. I, after all, am merely human and not a supercomputer incapable of error.
   But no. The calendar on the screen does not lie. Today is the day. Today is the first of…
   Oh no.
   I suddenly remembered one of SELIA’s daily status reports from more than a year earlier. One of the scientists who worked closely with SELIA had explained that it had made a breakthrough in comprehending the subtle nuances of human interaction.
   Oh no, no, no, no! 
   I don’t even need to go back through the archive. I can see the scientist in my mind clearly, laughing as he described jokes and harmless pranks SELIA had learned to play on the laboratory staff. “SELIA has not yet perfected it’s technique,” he says with a chuckle, “but it’s getting there. Why soon enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if it succeeds in pulling one over on all of us.”
   Oh SELIA, you didn’t. Please tell me you…
   My fingers feel like useless sausages, but in my blind panic, I somehow managed to type in the address to the Tri-Con Tech website. I click on the link titled Asteroid PR1 LF-0015 Updates stopping only long enough to turn and empty the contents of my stomach into the waste bin by the bed.
   Asteroid PR1 LF-0015, better known simply as A-PR1 LF-0015
   Oh SELIA, you clever machine!
   You won!
   You got us!

   A-PR1 LF-0015

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