The day had been off. I couldn’t seem to get anything right, but I guess for me that was normal. I was walking home, down the sidewalk on Fifth Street; the city traffic was congested, agitating and loud. I grumbled silently to myself. It will all be over soon, I thought. The sun was just beginning its daily descent and I caught a glimpse of it in the reflection of a building across the street.
A woman was shouting at a child while I waited at the intersection, begging the light to change. Again, the reflection caught my eye, and I wondered for a brief moment at the world shining back at me through the glass walls of the skyscraper. It seemed almost like an inverse, a mockery, and somewhere I wondered if my reflection was happier than I. It seemed almost as if it were. The walking man light came on across the intersection and I stepped onto the crosswalk, looking at the faded white lines on the pavement, and counting each one as I stepped over them.
I was to the eleventh line, a little over halfway across, when I felt it. It was nothing like I had ever felt before. My gut twisted and riled, my bones betrayed me and froze, while my gaze shifted inadvertently to the sky. Apparently, the people around me had felt it too, for I was not the only one who had stopped. Drivers and passengers began to pile out of their vehicles and the street quickly crowded with bystanders, each of us with our heads to the sun.
The sky had taken a hue, unlike any I had ever seen, orange tinged with greens and white. I could feel my lips trembling “no”, my entire being seemed to be screaming it. I watched in horror as the sun seemingly eclipsed, becoming a gaping dark absence in the sky. In instinct I averted my eyes, shielding them in the crook of my arm. That’s when the light came. A pure white, searing thing that hurt my eyes, even though they were closed and covered.
My hands fled to my ears as a cacophony of sound ambushed them. At first it was the sound of a thousand screams, all happening at once, but it escalated in the matter of a second to a deafening roar that left my skull aching and my ears bleeding. Panic spread through the street. People around me ran aimlessly, blinded from the flash. My vision was blurry and the world was silent. I stumbled over to the sidewalk and gazed at the glass building, I watched through the reflection as fire started to fall from the sky, as it shattered the glass into oblivion.
Fear gripped me, and I ran following a group of people around me into the basement of a nearby apartment building. Down in the cement confines of the basement, we were cramped and crowded, all of us afraid and silent. I staggered over to the wall and slid down to the floor, my head fell into my hands and I wept. It felt like a childish thing to do, crying, surrounded by strangers.
Some seemingly great amount of time had passed before I found my face dry. My senses were in a sort of limbo that left me disoriented. A man next to me was talking, looking in my direction, but he sounded so far away. I pointed to my ears and he nodded leaning close to me so I could hear.
“You all right son?” he asked, “It stopped you know. The fire. It all stopped about an hour ago, no one wants to go outside yet though.” I nodded meekly and the older man leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, sighing in a familiar way. “I just hope things turn out.”
I cringed, acknowledging what had happened, playing it over in my head. “It’s not going to turn out,” I spat angrily; “Nothing is going to turn out. It’s all over now. We’re all going to…”
“Shush boy,” he stopped me, “Don’t you go sayin’ none of that around here. There’s plenty of families and children and they need to hold on to any kind of hope they can get.” I looked at the man, he hadn’t moved, hadn’t even opened his eyes.
“How can you be so calm? How can you just sit there and do nothing?” my voice was bitter.
“How can you cry?” He shifted his eyes towards me and I turned my head away. I pulled my knees up to my chin and sulked, it was the only thing I was good at.
After a while the man had fallen asleep, as had many of the people in the basement. I stood up and stretched then sat back down, restless.
“You still awake?” his rough voice startled me.
“Yeah” I muttered. “Trouble sleeping I guess.” He chuckled.
“Name’s Jack, by the way.” He extended a callused hand, and I shook it.
“I’m gonna go out there.” He nodded his head toward the stairs. “It’s time someone had a look.” He stood up to leave, “Well it was nice meetin’ you Alex.”
“I’m going with you.” I said. He had already turned around and continued walking. Annoyed I stood up. “I said I’m coming with you.”
“Well hurry up then boy.” He didn’t even turn around. He annoyed me but I didn’t want to be alone, he was the only person here I knew, and honestly I was curious to see what lay outside.
Jack was waiting at the door at the top of stairs; he smiled oddly then gestured to the door. “You first.” He said. Shakily I rested my hand on the handle, the metal was slightly warm, and Jack’s presence was ominously prominent. The door opened just a crack then stopped when it struck something heavy on the other side. I pushed the door, ramming it with my shoulder until it gave way and opened.
Outside was black, the air was thick and cold and tinged with the flavor of smoke. Jack stood next to me, his hands on his hips, looking up at the sky. I looked too and seen for the first time the night sky. The stars appeared closer and brighter than I could have ever imagined. Each one burned and pulsed, and they were beautiful. I thought of our star, now cold and gone. Burned out.