Remain Calm

By
Ella woke up with a pounding headache. She didn’t want to open her eyes, she didn’t want to remember. She sat up, her eyes still shut, The force of her effort made her head swim with a fresh wave of pain. She waited for it to subside to a manageable ache, listening to the sounds around her

There weren’t any.

She slowly forced her lids to open. A vast expanse of nothingness stretched far across the horizon. Gone, all gone. Everything she would expect to be there was not. She was alone, sitting on what was left of the devastated land. She stood up, a new surge of pain radiating through her, to gain a 360° view. As she turned around, the only next closest things to her were the mountains far off in the distance to the west.

It might have been a desert. But no, a desert would have more than this. A desert would have cacti, a palo verde tree here and there, a tumbleweed, a coyote even, something…

But there was nothing.

The sun hung low, nearly dipping beneath the mountains, the end of a day she couldn’t remember. Ella felt something she couldn’t quite name, the beginnings of panic maybe. She was alone. The full realization of this frightened her. What had happened here? How had she landed in this situation? She couldn’t remember anything after the first fire, a fact which frightened her further, and she screamed, a lone, desperate sound.

There was no one to hear her scream.

This knowledge sent her reeling into full panic mode, even as she struggled to maintain control. “No, Ella,” she said aloud to herself. “You have to think. What happened?” She didn’t know, couldn’t remember details. She remembered her parents smiling at her, the restaurant they had gone out to--Sordini’s, her favorite. Then there was fire, lots of fire, and wild, panicked screaming, and a single, booming voice above everything else. “Remain calm,” it had commanded. “Remain calm…”

Those memories put together that way made no sense to her at all. She stood there, still straining to remember, but it was like trying to grip sand; the harder she tried, the faster the grains slipped through her grasp. The only logical thing for her to do, she thought, was to try and see if there was anyone else here…or anywhere.

She took one step forward and instantly regretted it. A sharp, piercing pain, worse than the one in her head, shot up her leg to her hip, forcing her to collapse. But she didn’t hit the ground. She kept falling. She tumbling downward in darkness, faster and faster. She had no control over where she was going. She couldn’t feel, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe….

Suddenly, Ella was in her own bed, in her own bedroom, in her own house. She sat up quickly, looking around frantically. Everything was as it should be. She spotted an economy-size bag of potato chips on her nightstand. Never again, she thought to herself, never again…





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