I emerged from my room around seven in the evening to grab a snack and chat with my parents after a long day of school and video games. As I opened my door the national emergency alert signal stopped my blood cold in my veins. Three endless, atonal sirens later and the announcer was prophesying the end of the world.
“This is an emergency broadcast,” echoed that robotic male voice that I and the rest of the population have been conditioned to fear since birth, “Nuclear missiles have been detected and are currently inbound. Shelter in place, under furniture in the innermost room of your house.”
He kept going, but my ears were ringing too loudly for the harbinger’s cries to reach me. I stumbled out into the hallway, collapsing against the wall to keep myself upright. It felt as though my heart was beating so fast that it had begun beating slowly. The corners of my vision grew fuzzy, blurring out the family photos hanging up on the wall, and the soft blue glow of the living room television at the end of the hall.
Thoughts of my parents snapped to the forefront of mind, and I stumbled on weak knees towards them. My mother reclined on the living room sofa, listening to the emergency broadcast in her bathrobe with a can of peanuts in one hand and her decrepit old poodle curled up in her other arm.
Dad was sitting back in his brown leather chair, his eyes only half open. I couldn’t be sure if he was hearing the whole announcement, on account of his bad hearing. I stared at them from the hallway, my hands gripping to anything solid.
This was it, then.
This was how we died. Me, having just spent the last couple hours wrapped in blissful ignorance as I played first person shooters with my friends. My parents here with me, to the very end. Likely, my sister would call any moment, and then we could all die, the four of us, together.
I breathed deeply, and with each breath I started to accept my fate. If we were lucky, it would be quick. I simply had to be strong for Mom, now. I put on my brave face, tossing my long blonde tresses over my shoulder, and in the manliest tone I could muster, asked, “How much time do we have?”
Mom turned back to me, that sweet smile of hers decorating her beautifully round face. I made an effort to memorize every sparkle in her olive-green eyes. It took all my willpower to let her answer my question, before I broke down and curled up sobbing in her arms, as I had done in my younger days. Telling her and Dad both that I loved them so much, even though we never said it very much.
Casually as could be, Mom popped a handful of peanuts in her mouth, chewed, and once she was done chewing said, in answer to my question, “Oh, well, the movie has only been on for about thirty minutes now. Why, did you want to watch something else?”
As quickly as fear had rushed over me, it drained out of me all at once. Leaving a sick, but blessedly numb, sort of relief in its wake. I curled up beside my Mom, smiling weakly into her neck, breathing in her familiar smell like oxygen. “No, no, leave it on. I like scary stories.”
Divinity Sykes is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill who is pursuing a degree in Spanish Interpretation. Writing is her life long passion and she is blessed with a loving family, and wants to thank them now for all the support they give. Especially Cedric, the inspiration for this story.