Impact

It is coming straight at him. An empty intersection in the middle of the night, and it is coming straight at him. No time to think, no time to move. Nothing to do but watch the impact, to hear the concussion.

He is a network admin for a decade, singlehandedly preventing seventeen critical breakdowns. This is, of course, not enough to stem the tide of jobs flowing overseas. By the time he is told (regretfully) that his employment (illustrious) is being terminated (immediately), he’s saved up twenty thousand or so, enough to keep the apartment for a few years and eke out a living. At least he has that much. He has seen it coming for a while now. It seems no one else has.

Wakes up abruptly. Something’s different. Moonlight patchy through the curtains. Alarm clock off, forgot to get a new battery last week. Not like he needs to be anywhere. He wipes the sleep from his eyes with a finger, then a knuckle. Was I crying in my sleep?

After his first cup of coffee, he understands suddenly why he’s on edge, what’s going on, what’s different in the city. From the second floor of this apartment building, there’s an omnipresent rumble afforded by the street below, almost never devoid of traffic. But not today. It sounds like the world’s been taken apart and put together differently.

There are fifty-six steps to ground level. He counted them once, when he couldn’t sleep, after they’d called him in to examine a core dump. He remembers opening the scarred wooden door to this glorious hovel years ago, grinning like a fool after his first raise. He remembers Trisha, the bottle of chianti, the two thousand dollars like a star on her finger.

No one. There’s not a soul to be seen. Not a drug deal, not a fender bender, not even a sullen beggar panhandling the theatre crowd. It is as if the entire city has been emptied out. It is a ghost town, paper like tumbleweed.

He heads to the intersection, where the road heads toward the river, straight as an arrow. He can see brake lights in the distance. Not many. Just a few. There’s a traffic jam. Then he’s standing in the centre of the intersection, where street meets street. Probably nobody’s stood here except traffic cops for a few decades, he thinks. Maybe more.

He turns in all directions. Even the brake lights are gone, now. Then he sees it, trailing through the sky. It is going marvelously fast, he imagines, but seems stationary in the sky, growing.

It is coming straight at him. In a flash fantasy it is coming for him. It is bright, like two thousand dollars on Trisha’s finger. Where is she right now? She probably got out. She’s good at getting out of things.

It hits.

At least they saw it coming, he thinks in the split seconds he has. Their lives – at least they have that much.

It hits and becomes a liquid wall, rushing outward, but he doesn’t see the impact for the lightning. He doesn’t hear the concussion for the thunder.