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The voice echoes several times in my head before pounding its way into my unconscious mind. At the sound of it, I stir, and struggle to sit up. My eyes are heavy and my mouth tastes like copper, but I ignore the grogginess and continue to search for the owner of the strange voice.
“Hello?” I ask, squinting. There’s no one in my room. I must have been dreaming.
I let out a tired moan and turn over on my bed. I shut my eyes and burry my head beneath my pillow, reaching for the rapidly retreating tail of sleep.
My eyes snap open. Okay, I’m not imagining it. That was real. And it sounded like a threat.
Shakily, I pull myself up on my elbows. I glance around once more for an explanation to the voice, but my search comes up empty. The only thing I notice is the date on my digital clock flashing. It reads 01/01/01. “Huh,” I say to myself, momentarily forgetting the voice. Maybe it’s broken.
“Look outside,” the voice orders.
I finch at its harsh tone. Suddenly, a chilling feeling overcomes me as I realize that this voice, whatever it is, could hurt me. Or at least, its owner could.
I slide out of my bed and walk slowly towards my window. I keep the blinds shut at night because my room faces the street, but even through the panel slits I can tell that something I wrong. It should be brighter out. There should be fresh sunlight lying in slats across my floor. Instead there is only my feet, hesitantly taking me closer to the curious sight.
“Open your window.”
My hands shake as I pull them forward. I fumble with the strings for a moment, and then give them a sharp yank. I flinch as the blinds go flying upwards beyond my curtains. Slowly, my eyes trail back to the scene outside my window.
My jaw drops.
Just outside there is a horrific and half demolished version of the world I once knew. The street is destroyed, with nothing more than charred remains of buildings lying adjacent to it. The trees that once sat happily along the sidewalk have been torn up and strewn across the ground, their roots gasping in the air. The street signs are bent and broken, some of them snapped completely in half. Vicious angles are sticking out from a shattered park bench across the street, and beside it lies half of a canine looking carcass. All other traces of animals are gone. It’s like everyone has vanished off the face of the earth.
My chest shakes and threatens to collapse. There is not a single sign of life anywhere beyond my window.
“Now you see,” the voice rustles, “Now you know.”
“Know what?!” I cry, reaching out to hold the window frame. “What’s happened?!”
I wait frantically for an answer, but it is never given. I clench my jaw and tighten my grip on the frame to keep my hands from shaking. Where is everyone? What happened when I was sleeping?
Then a thought occurs to me. Where is my mom?
I release the window frame and turn around riotously, practically running out of my room. She has to be here. Please tell me she’s here.
“Mom?” I call out, tripping over my feet to get to her room. I slam up against her door and shove it open. My eyes flitter around the room and then land on the vacant bed.
“No,” I whisper, my jaw beginning to shake. “No. This is just a dream.” I turn around and head back to my room. “This is just a dream. This is just a dream! It’s just a dream.” Suddenly I’m hot. The air is too hot. I rush quickly to my window and palm the glass, trying to open it.
“Come on,” I sob, digging my stubby nails under the window pane. Finally I get it to lurch open, and a hollow feeling of relief falls over me as a fresh wind rolls in. I stand with my mouth open, panting, getting as much oxygen as I can.
I shut my mouth and let out a whimper at the harsh voice. It wants me to go outside. I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to go out there. It’s not safe. It’s not right. Where are the people? Where is my mom? Who is speaking to me and why don’t they stop?
“Please don’t make me go out there,” I utter. “It’s… it’s not—“
I clench my eyes shut as the voice vibrates through my skull. I try to convince myself it’s just imaginary, but how can there be such a hostile, intruding thing inside my head? It’s not like I made the voice up. It just appeared. And now, unfortunately, it’s ordering me around like a pea brain rat.
I turn away from the window. The view is making me woozy, anyway. I don’t make any movements toward the door, though. I can’t go out yet. Not until I’m sure this isn’t all just some sick hallucination.
I walk toward my bed and reach for my phone on the bedside table. I hesitate before typing in any numbers, but not for long. My fingers quickly find their way to the digits I’ve had memorized in my brain since I was only four. I lift the phone to my head and pray for an answer.
“She’s gone,” the voice hisses, this time filled with static and coming from within the phone.
I let out a gasp and throw the phone against my wall where it shatters and falls to the floor. I stare at the carnage and slowly wrap my arms around myself. I sink into a sitting position against my bed, and my eyes begin to burn.
“What do you want me to do?” I cry, choking on my own spit. Whoever this voice, this thing is, it’s taken my mom. It’s destroyed the earth and left me as the only survivor. But why?
“Go outside,” the voice orders.
It wants me to go outside.
Slowly, shakily, my limbs so fragile I feel they might break, I stand. And I walk out my bedroom door and down the hallway. My eyes hardly register the perfect normality of my house’s stature—that everything around it is destroyed—they only gaze forward as my body takes me closer to the harsh actuality of my new life.
I find myself at the door of my small split level home, and stop for a moment to close my eyes.
Everything should be fine here, in the dark, but even though I can’t see the wreckage, I can still feel the dread rising in my stomach because of it.
“Open the door.”
And I can still hear the voice.
I open my eyes and reach for the doorknob. The door swings open and a whole new feeling of hopelessness slides down to my stomach. The world outside is nothing but a dark, shattered dream that’s somehow become reality.
“Now you see,” the voice says, gruesome pleasure dotting its words. “Now you know. Alexandra Pearson, we chose you to survive. Now, find the others and recolonize.”
I stumble once, and then fall into darkness.