Chapter 4: Chocolate Cereal

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Science Fiction

Reads: 116

It was dark when I woke up, which was nothing unusual. I always had my curtains closed in the mornings. I tossed and turned until I gained a will to get up. I threw my sheets off and rolled out of bed. My stomach was eager for some overly sugary cereal bathed in chocolate milk.
I smacked my forehead, suddenly remembering.
We were out of chocolate milk.
  I groaned and flopped back on the bed; there was no point in waking up if I couldn't have my cereal.
"What are you doing?" a voice said from the other side of the room.
I screamed. "What are you doing in my room?" I yelled at the voice.
The voice chuckled. "Man, those guys must've hit you hard. You think you're in your room?"
What was this creep talking about? What guys? Why wouldn't I be in my room?
There was a ruffling of sheets and footsteps, then my eyes were blinded by the lights in my room flaring to life.
That's when I realized I wasn't in my room.
An African-American stood before me with a toothy grin. He looked fairly young-possibly early twenties. His hair was short, but not a buzz cut, and he had incredibly bushy eyebrows.
“Do you need a refresher?” the guy asked.

A wave of nausea overcame me as I remembered everything, “No. I got it. Who are you anyway?”

The guy flopped onto his bed. “I’m Malik. I got taken from near Houston. They took me out quickly, unlike you. You have bruises and scabs all over you. What happened?”

I too fell onto my bed. “I remember crashing my car and being dragged out of it. I recall a flash of purple light, but I passed out after that.”

Malik nodded, “What were you doing before?” he asked.

“Before? Well, I was trying to save my family when…” I stopped, the reality of what I had witnessed sunk in.

“Are you okay?” Malik said, walking over to me.

“They took my family,” I mumbled.

“Speak up kid, I can’t hear a thing you’re saying.”

I stood up and pounded a fist into my palm. “They took. My. Family,” I said, firmly this time, “Those, those, soldier guys blew up my family’s car and teleported them away! I don’t know where they took them, but I’m going to find them. Even if it kills me.”

Malik let out a sad chuckle, “That’s a bold statement. Good luck finding them.”

I sat down on the bed again, “That’s the problem,” I said, sullen once again, “The soldiers teleported them away. They could be literally anywhere. New York’s pretty far. Maybe China. They could be underground, or at the bottom of the ocean, and I would have no idea!”

Malik nodded in agreement, “I wish I could say I feel your pain, but I don’t really have a family I need to worry about. I left them a while back. They were too controlling. They wanted me to get a good paying job to provide for a family. They kept trying to hook me up with the ladies, but I liked living alone. I wanted to go off and do something adventurous. Rock climbing, ice climbing, free climbing,” a chuckle escaped his lips, “I just wanted to climb. I wanted to reach the peak of Mount Everest just to see the view. I loved nature, but I like seeing it the way no one else sees it. You know what I mean?”

I nodded and an awkward science followed. I noticed a look in Malik’s eyes. Sadness, almost, but it quickly vanished and was replaced with a furrowed brow.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“You said your family was teleported away?” He asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“How did they teleport?”

“Well, the soldiers dragged them onto their weird truck, and they vanished with a flash of . . .”

Malik grinned at my realization.

“A flash of purple light,” I finished, “Malik, we could be in the same place! The soldiers probably teleported me to the same spot my family’s at! Malik, you’re a genius!” I tackled him in a hug, which caught him off guard.

Malik laughed, “Settle down, I don’t even know your name!”

I released my hold on him and facepalmed at my lack of an introduction. I held my hand out, “The name’s Tanner. Tanner Colman.”

Malik shook my outstretched hand, “Nice to meet you, Tanner. I promise I’ll help you find your family.”

I refrained from him again, “Thank you so much,” I said.

“No problem,” Malik said, “I’m happy to help.”

 

Halley punched in the code to the bunker door, and it slowly opened with a hideous creak.

Beyond the door was a mess, but not a huge one. There was a truckload of stuff on the floor that had previously been on the walls or shelves. The worst part of the wreckage was a several thousand dollar computer smashed by an overturned desk.

Halley maneuvered carefully through the spacious room and up the stairs to the larger, heavily armored door, where she performed all the security features to open it.

The door tried to open. It got to about two feet before it stopped with a squeal like that of rock against metal, and small chunks of rock and concrete tumbled through the opening. A massive concrete slab was blocking the way out.

Halley cursed under her breath and lifted her walkie talkie to her lips.

“Starlight to Noah, we’re currently trapped. The exit is blocked by concrete. Do you have any means to break through it?”

Halley lifted her delicate fingers from the button and jumped when the response came, she didn’t expect it to come so quickly.

“Absolutely, we can be there in a bit with the tools,” the voice on the other end said.  

After a bit, David and several workers arrived at the door with sledgehammers and crowbars.

David flashed her a smile before he covered his mouth with a work mask and placed a hard hat on his head.

Halley groaned internally. David had graduated from college with her. He was another youth genius and assumed his intelligence and sameness in age entitled him to her, but she had her heart set on Tanner. He may not be as smart as David, but he was a charmer and incredibly kind. Thinking about Tanner nearly brought tears to her eyes, but she pushed all thoughts out of her mind. Halley had tried to convince David that David and she were just friends and that she had no romantic feelings towards him at all, but he kept trying and trying to win over her heart. It was quite frankly annoying.

David and his temporary crew set to work on the wall, slowly but efficiently tearing away at the concrete.

Halley stood back and watched. She wanted to help them, but she knew David would take it the wrong way.

It was quite a surprise when sunlight suddenly streamed through a hole in the concrete.

“Stand back, David said, “this thing is going to come down.”

A crack down the middle of the concrete slab was quickly spreading. The slab quickly turned to a pile of rock and dust before our eyes. The small patch of sunlight was overwhelmed by the massive beams flooding through the door. It was a welcome sight after being trapped in the bunker for a little over a day with nothing but battery powered lanterns.

But the destruction beyond the door was most certainly not a welcome sight. The entire building had been reduced to rubble. Everything was gone. Seventy years of hard work, breaking records, scientific discoveries, all gone in the blink of an eye. It had to be done though. Halley couldn’t picture how bad this would be for NASA and its satellites.

A Foreign truck sped by on the other side of the road. Foreign was the title given to the strange invaders. It seemed to fit.

Everyone ducked back in so as to not be seen by the Foreigners. If they got caught, everything was over with.

“We need to collapse some of the walls over the doorway, but leave a small entrance through the rubble,” David suggested, “We can’t risk being seen, but we have to be able to get out of here.”

“C4?” one of the workers asked hopefully.

“That could work,” David said, “But it’s a great way to get caught.”

Halley spoke, “The Foreigners are already blowing up everything in sight, it really wouldn’t be a huge issue.”

“I’ll get the C4!” the worker sprinted away.

David and his workers managed to collapse a good amount of rubble over the opening but left an interesting tunnel winding around it, nearly unnoticeable from the outside. The exit was small, but so was Halley. She was the first out and had no issues. One of the workers, though, had quite the struggle getting out. He was a little obese, to say the least.

Everyone eventually got out into the late afternoon sun. They had strategically placed the exit in the remains of a room, so they wouldn’t be seen as soon as they exited.

“Alright,” David said, “Everyone, remain within a mile or so from here. If you see any people still alive, grab them and come right back. Do not get caught. Any sign of trouble and you let me or Halley know. Stick with your buddy. Roll out.”

Of course, David had chosen me as his “buddy.”

The outside looked like a war zone. Buildings had been completely leveled, massive pileups had been conceived at intersections, and there wasn’t a person in sight.

“Is this how you imagined Armageddon?” David asked Halley.

She shrugged, “Something similar, I just never expected it to happen. At  least, not this early.”

David sighed, “Come on, let’s get going.”

Halley and David managed to get into the housing districts without any trouble. Halley convinced David to search around Tanner’s area. She was holding out that he might still be there. He was smart, he would know to hide, right?

When they rounded the corner onto Tanner’s street, they saw a large overturned SUV in front of Tanner’s house. It was charred and smoking, the windows had been smashed, and the roof was bashed in.

“That’s Tanner’s family’s car!” Halley said, rushing to investigate it.

There was no one inside the vehicle. Halley couldn’t decide if that was good or bad. At least there were no burning corpses.

Halley ran to knock on their door. She yelled, “Mr. and Mrs. Colman? Are you in there?”

There was no answer, so Halley tried the knob, only to discover that it was locked.

“Halley,” David said. “No one’s in there.”

Halley bit her tongue, there was no point in fighting back. “Let’s just keep looking,” she said.

They searched for another hour or so with no signs of any survivors.

“Let’s head back,” David suggested after they checked another empty car wreckage. Well, empty save for the dead body at the wheel. “I can’t take any more of this.”

Halley wouldn’t accept that. “Just fifteen more minutes, there’s got to be someone out here!” she said.

David let out an exasperated sigh, “Fine, fifteen minutes, but after that, we’re heading back, and you can’t change my mind.”

Halley was ready to cut the search short when she heard a dog barking. Normally, that would not have surprised her, but now, with no living thing in sight, a dog’s bark was amazing.

The barking led them several streets over, where they saw another car wreck. A black sedan had swerved off the side of the road and t-boned a parked truck. The dog, a German shepherd, was barking at the passenger side of the sedan.

David and Halley ran to examine the wreckage. David stopped to pet the dog. His collar read “Nacho,” which was strange and hilarious, but not pertinent to the situation.

Halley turned away from the dog to see a body slumped against the dashboard on the passenger side. She instantly recognized the face.

“Zach?” Halley shouted. She reached through the shattered window and placed her two fingers on his throat. It was faint, but she felt the soft beating of his heart. “Quick!” Halley shouted, “We need to get him back to the bunker!”

David was stunned but helped haul Zach out of the car and gently place him on the asphalt. “You know this guy?” he asked Halley.

“Yeah, he was a friend of Tanner’s,” Halley could see the disdain in David’s face when she mentioned Tanner. “How do we carry him back?”

David did a quick look over of Zach. “The only injuries he has are on his face, at least, those that I can see,” he said, “Turn around and hook your arms under the backside of his knees. I’ll do the same if his armpits. On three, we’ll lift. You got that?”

Halley nodded and did as David said. She crouched and grabbed Zach’s calves, trying not to touch the fresh bloodstain on his knee.

“Alright,” David said, “One, two, three!”

They lifted together, and a grunt escaped Halley’s lips. Zach wasn’t fat, but he wasn’t light.

The several mile trip home wasn’t pleasant. Especially when David and Halley had to sprint off the road and hide behind a bush to avoid being seen by a Foreigner. They were lucky it hadn’t been a group. If it had been, they would have been caught, and possibly killed.

“We’ve got to be more careful,” Halley hissed at David when the Foreigner left, “Stick to the side of the road, no going out in the middle of the road, or the middle of anywhere for that matter.”

“Fine. We just need to get back, it’s getting dark,” David threw a glance at the sun, which was slowly setting behind the mountains.

They were startled when Nacho pranced up to them and shoved her nose under Halley’s arm.

Halley and David laughed and Halley ruffled Nacho’s fur.

David’s Walkie-Talkie buzzed. “The Ark is ready to be boarded. T-Minus seventy-two hours until launch.”

 


Submitted: March 19, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Ethan Crandall. All rights reserved.

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