Her gaze went immediately to the windows. Seeing the bright sunlight, and the lack of magazine pages not taped over them, Emlee knew she was back in the past. Just how far back, and when in time she’d arrived, remained a temporary mystery.
Hurrying over to the kitchen, she saw the cases of water were gone. She threw open the pantry to find the lone bottle of water and can of ravioli, as well as the envelope with his letter to her.
She stared at it, stunned. Mykail had already left. She hadn’t reappeared before they’d met, as she’d halfway hoped. They’d already had their day and night together, and he’d departed after she’d disappeared.
“How long ago did he leave? He said he waited all day for me to come back. What time is it? What day is it now?”
She thought back on what she’d told him. She remembered when the initial scout ships came, one was blown out of the sky, and that’s how the world came to see their first Tlok. That was Saturday night.
“The motherships arrived Sunday, and that’s when they started firing at us.”
She glanced outside, at where the sunlight was shining brightly. It couldn’t be Saturday, or else Mykail would be here. Which meant it either had to be Sunday, or sometime after the attacks.
How much grace time did we have before the aliens attacked us? Was it late morning or early afternoon? It was difficult to remember, but she thought it was late morning. She’d been sleeping in and had been awakened by the sound of loud explosions.
Emlee stopped to listen. So far she couldn’t hear any explosions. Nor could she hear the sound of sirens, or people screaming, or gunshots. It was a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning.
“I need to get out of here now before it all comes down. My boots. Where are my boots?”
She knew she’d left them by the bed. Relief washed through her when she spotted them sitting where she’d left them. Mykail must have realized she might need them if and when she returned. Ignoring the fact that it was necessary to wear socks with them, she quickly slid them on and tightened the straps. She’d worry about socks later. Hopefully, she wouldn’t suffer too many blisters in the meantime. It was imperative she get to the marina, and as quickly as possible. With any luck, she’d arrive at Pier C to find Mykail there, either waiting for her or not yet departed. Hopefully both.
“I need to arm myself.” Hell may not have erupted yet, but it wouldn’t be long before it did. Once the aliens started firing on them, people would become hysterical. Their sense of self-preservation would kick in to the point where they’d attack anyone whom they deemed dangerous. They would try to flee, stealing anything that ran if they didn’t have their own vehicle. They would kill without hesitation. Common sense would be the first thing tossed out the window. But the few who managed to retain their cool, who observed and acted when the right moment presented itself, those people would become the last survivors. They would win the ultimate lottery, and be the ones who’d live to see the result of their world turned upside-down.
She knew because she’d been one of those sober-minded people.
“Boots, check. Now I need a weapon. Poker, poker. Where’d I leave the poker? Oh, yeah. Upstairs. I threw it away before the police came.” It wouldn’t be too difficult to find. She vaguely recalled where she’d been when she’d tossed it away. “I’ll take that with me.”
She checked the room a final time before heading up the stairs. “Is there anything else I need to take with me? Am I forgetting anything?” She patted her pocket to reassure herself that the thumb drive was there.
Her eyes lit on the pantry, its doors left wide open. The bottle of water and can of ravioli called to her, letting her know she hadn’t eaten anything since the night before. Past experience had taught her she needed to eat every chance she got. To never let an opportunity to fill her belly go by, because it could be days before her next meal. Same for safe-to-drink water.
As loud as her internal alarms were sounding, urging her to get out of there, she reined them in. “No eat, no energy. Simple as that,” she commented, going over and reaching for the can.
This time the tab opened as it was designed to do. Within seconds, Emlee felt the container’s sides grow warm to the touch as the internal heating elements did their job. Taking a fork from the utensil drawer, she ate.
She leaned against the stove as she forced herself to chew her food, rather than bolt it down. The continued silence around her became unnerving, and curiosity made her wonder about the latest news. “At least it’ll let me know what time of day it is. Television, on!”
The screen brightened, and the first thing she saw was the definitive shape of a mothership. Shoveling another ravioli into her mouth, she listened attentively to the newsman. She’d never heard this part of history, as she hadn’t been watching the TV or listening to any broadcasts when it all came down the first time.
“—these obviously bigger and more powerful spaceships,” the man announced. The guy’s face was noticeably several shades paler, and it was clear he was fighting to keep his voice from shaking. “Repeated attempts by our military to establish communications with the aliens have gone unanswered. President Cho of China, Prime Minister Sisslebean of the UK, and President Chyevsky of Russia all confirm that their countries are seeing many of these same space crafts, mostly the smaller and faster versions, hovering over their major cities. Luckily, however, there have been no overt hostile moves made by these creatures, which President McInerny says is surprising, considering the fact that one of those smaller ships was shot down late yesterday afternoon.”
“Don’t worry, fella. They’re going to hit us back any minute now,” Emlee murmured.
A swooshing noise, followed by the words NEWS ALERT, came on the screen. A different newsman appeared, looking just as scared as the first guy.
“This just in! The president has declared martial law for the entire United States! All citizens are advised to return to their homes immediately, and all shops and stores close their doors. No businesses will be allowed to be open after three p.m. eastern time. Martial law will remain in effect until further notice. I repeat, the president has declared martial law—”
The TV went dark. The central air shut off, and the lights went out. At the same time, Emlee heard the first faint rumbles in the distance. The ones that sounded like thunder, but which she knew had nothing to do with the weather.
Stuffing the last bite into her mouth, she dropped the empty can and fork into the sink, and ran for the stairs. The first blast came just as she reached the top step. It knocked her against the wall, where she bounced off, lost her footing, and slipped down a couple of steps before she managed to recover.
Another explosion, this one closer, made the whole house shake. Getting to her feet, she grabbed the door knob and turned it, when a third blast sent shockwaves through her. Stunned, she fell sideways and tumbled to the foot of the stairs.
Outside, vehicle alarms went off, shrill and penetrating. Emlee tried to get to her feet, but her knee gave her fits. Pain shot up her leg and into her hip, and she cried out as she used the wall to get back up on her feet.
Something detonated almost directly overhead, above the subdivision. Or maybe it just sounded that way. But it acted like a massive hammer, slamming down on the Earth. Emlee was thrown to the floor as the backlash acted like a vise, squeezing her flat to the point where she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but gasp for air. A tremendous crash came from above her, and she threw her arms up over her head in case the ceiling gave way. Instead, she was showered with a fine blanket of dust as the pressure suddenly eased.
Dazed, she gave herself a moment to come to grips with herself. Grabbing the wall again, she was able to stand and slowly limp up the stairs. Twisting the door knob, she tried to open the door, but something was blocking it, preventing it from swinging outward.
She stared in shock at the doorframe as the truth of her situation became clear. The ceiling and roof of the house had caved in, exactly the way she’d found it six years later. But this time she was trapped inside the basement apartment.
Leaving her with little or no option of escape.