The Day the Earth Went Mad
Katia N. Ruiz
SEVEN- The Cloud
I woke with a start when I realized Alix wasn't with me. We had fallen asleep with me on top of her. I felt a little afraid, but then I heard the television. I wondered how Alix had gotten me off her without waking me up. She was sitting on the love seat, clearly concentrated on the news. I was still too sleepy to understand what was being said. Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes, suddenly wanting to dispose of a few unwanted liquids.
She briefly glanced at me as I stood and walked towards the bathroom. When I came back out, her eyes were still on the television set. "You know," I said, sitting beside her. I took her hand and kissed it. "I think it's about time we go back to work." I looked at her and our eyes met. "I honestly have no idea of how long has passed since The Explosion."
She smiled softly. "Is that what we'll call it," She whispered, her smile fading. "The Explosion?"
I pondered for a moment. "Well, that's what it sounded like." I replied. I shifted myself so that my head was on her lap. She smoothed back my unruly hair. "Do you think it was a bomb?" I asked her.
Alix looked down at me; she shrugged. "It could have been some kind of natural disaster. I don't know." She answered, frowning.
"I lean towards a bomb." I said. "Maybe a nuclear bomb."
"Yes, but that doesn't explain why this gray-black cloud is covering our earth." She argued softly.
"I get your point." I said, frowning. "But what makes you think the whole world is covered by this cloud?"
She pointed at the TV. "The news." She whispered.
I turned my head to look at the TV, whose visibility was very poor, considering that Alix had cable.... News footage from Beirut, Lebanon, on the other side of the world, showed the panic that had seized the nation. The cameras focused on the gray-black sky.
The news reporter was speaking in Lebanese, but the footage was dubbed into the English language. `Worldwide,' The reporter said, his voice breaking, his eyes filling with tears and the hand holding the microphone shaking. `Worldwide there is panic, there is grief for those thousands lives lost in the mass plane crashes, and more grief for those other thousands who have died at the panicked hands of each other.' He paused for a few seconds as a multitude of people ran past them. They seemed frightened and in need of physical medical assistance. `Multitudes are searching for shelter from what they call the end of the world. They say that God has finally come to fulfill the Apocalypse Prophesies and to destroy the world. We have more word from Costas Aduarin in the Philippines.'
The news switched to even worse visibility from Philippines. `Panic has really seized the Philippine nation. There has been word of sacrifices all over the islands. Resources have informed us that children all over the islands have been found dead- by mutilation- by the authorities.' The philipinian reporter stopped as a loud, giant oil truck, passed close by at high speed. A few seconds later, all visibility was lost.
I sat up and turned off the TV. Alix stood up and walked to the bathroom. I followed her. "Want to take the shower together?" I asked, out of breath with desire for her, and fear that I did not want to think about.
She looked at me and smiled; a knowing smile. "Yes." She answered, taking my hand and pulling me towards the shower.
EIGHT- The Probe That Never Was
THE building where we worked looked dark and empty as we drove up to it. Alix and I had dressed in comfortable summer clothes. She finally complained that she was hungry on our way to our working place; I was so relieved, I had been starving since I had woken. We stopped at the local Seven Eleven and ordered two sandwiches for each other. We had finished the sandwiches by the time we reached World Trade Center. We got out of the car and locked it after ourselves. The lobby only had Raul, sitting behind the security desk, who watched some TV. "Elevator working?" I inquired.
He nodded absently and resumed his almost paralyzed stance. Alix walked ahead of me into the elevator, pressing the button for the fiftieth floor. As the elevator ascended, I kissed the back of her neck. She pressed back against me, shivering with pleasure. As we reached the fiftieth floor, I pushed her slightly away. When the doors opened, we stepped into the quiet halls of Computer Central. I walked ahead of Alix, going into the big office, where mostly everyone worked.
The room was empty of mostly everybody. Some people were sitting at their desks, lazily scanning their computers. We walked up to Georgia's desk and I tapped her shoulder. Her brown eyes showed her annoyance at being bothered.
Georgia was a very arrogant woman of about thirty five years of age. She had been in Computer Central for about eight years, longer than anyone here. For that she thought she was the best. But honestly, I know way more tricks and gadgets of the computer than she knows. For example, one day, while I wasn't in the office, Lucas' computer kept logging itself out automatically. Lucas had been hollering the whole day, everyone kept avoiding him as if he were a leper; Georgia, since she said she was the best, tried to get to the main server unsuccessfully, erasing his files from his system.
I had just arrived at the office, finding him hollering at Georgia, and asked her to move aside, and not only did I get the server to stop logging Lucas out, but I also got his lost files from the System Backup. Lucas brought me flowers every day for two weeks. Georgia looked up at me with clear dislike. She was also homophobic.
"What do you want?" She snapped. Her shrill voice made me grind my teeth.
I tried to keep in check, I had to be the better person. "How long have you all been here?" I asked between my clenched teeth. Stupid question! Now I gave her something to give me more attitude about.
"Who knows?" She replied as I expected, rolling her eyes at me. "I think some of us didn't even leave at all, rather they slept here."
Alix frowned. "What?" She exclaimed, probably as surprised as I felt. Sleep here? What in the world for?
"You heard me!" Georgia snapped at Alix. She not only disliked her for her sexuality, but she also disliked her because she had it in her mind that Paul, whom everyone thought she had a severe crush on, was deeply in love with my beautiful Alix. Alix was the Assistant Office Manager, for Christ's sakes! She had to talk to Paul, all the time! Besides, Paul was gay too. Ha, ha!
I could feel Alix's fury flaring. Not only was she extremely good humored, she was also very emotional. When she got angry, she got angry! But Georgia didn't know that, did she? I smiled to myself and looked at Alix, bracing for her reaction. "Listen, we are not looking to start trouble with you," Alix was saying, her fair cheeks turned red. She leaned forward over the desk, looked at Georgia in the eyes, and growled: "So cool it!"
Clearly, those pale blue eyes of hers scared the shit out of Georgia, because she pushed herself backwards on her chair and nodded. Alix was satisfied, she stood up straight again.
"Now," Alix said, as if nothing had happened. I wanted to laugh hysterically. "Where's Paul?" She asked almost innocently, clearly knowing that Georgia would get angry. Alix had this thing for getting people she didn't like very angry; she enjoyed it like she enjoyed sex. I always wondered why.
Georgia struggled with her own anger, her brown cheeks turned red. "He's in his office." She said darkly.
Alix walked away from me and Georgia. I looked at Georgia, realizing that she really hated Alix. If looks could kill, Alix would be on the floor, dead on her face. I walked after Alix, glancing back at Georgia to see that she had returned to her work.
Alix was already sitting, and talking to Paul when I walked into his office. She seemed to have forgotten what went on just a minute ago. Paul had obviously gone home. His suit had been shed for beige shorts and a ridiculous sleeveless T-shirt. I wanted to laugh, the shirt said 'Queer as a bird'. He smiled at me as I walked in. "What's up, Paul?" I said, sitting down beside Alix on the other chair. She took my hand and put it on her lap.
Paul tapped slowly on his desk with a pen. "Well, girls," He said. "What do you think of that out there?" He asked. "Did you see the news? It's all over the world!" His brown eyes widened.
I pondered for a moment. "Shouldn't NASA try to find out what it is?" I asked, more to myself than to Alix or Paul.
Alix frowned. "Who knows, surely, they are. We just haven't been following the news."
"What she says makes sense." Paul said, he stood and walked towards his television set. The TV set flared; Paul went back to his chair and sat back. He picked up the phone. "It wouldn't hurt to call and suggest it. Would it?"
"How do you expect to get through to NASA?" I asked, astonished.
"I have connections." He said and smiled slyly. He punched a few numbers and waited to get through. "Matthew, how are you?" He said to the voice on the phone. It must have been Matthew Lorenzo, one of the lead scientists of NASA. He was in the news a lot and his work on space was greatly appreciated by the public. And now Paul was talking to him as if they were long-time friends. Cool!
"I'm fine; how's everything? Paul was saying, looking at us with a gleam in his eyes. Yeah, it's something isn't it?" He sat forward on his seat. "Coverage? On what channel?" Paul picked up his remote and quickly switched onto FOX Channel Five. "Yes, I know you're busy. Thanks a lot, bye." He hung up and looked at us with a smile. "We had a fling not too long ago." He explained. "We see each other when he comes up to New York." He wiggled his eyebrows at us.
We all turned our attention to the TV as a blurry image of a news reporter appeared. He was shivering from the freezing temperatures. 'Is it aliens? Is it the end of the world? Or is it a deadly natural disaster?' He began, his breath was visible in the cold air. 'Those are the many questions people are asking themselves, or others.
'NASA has been receiving calls from people who are wondering what this is.' He said with a wave of his hand towards the sky. 'Never in the history of human kind has something of this magnitude ever happened. The skies all over the world are darkened with a gray-black mist. Just a few minutes ago, we finally received word that a probe is going to be sent into space to view the earth. They're hoping that the satellites will be able to send the images with accuracy, so that they can at least figure out what is going on.' He paused, then said, 'I only hope that they can. More news later.' And the image disappeared.
NINE- MUTINY, CHAOS AND RAIDS!!!
I sat back on the chair and stared at the dark TV screen. I didn't have a thing to say, it was all so confusing and crazy out there. I'd already caught a few glimpses of the chaos that would reign over the world for who knows how long.
I thought of the events since The Explosion; first, the time going crazy, then the strange car accident, the gravitational problems in the air and the consequential plane crashes, the weather going change, that was one for baffling the mind. And from what I saw from the news-briefing, I knew there would probably be many deaths by the freezing temperatures and the heat.
And then there was that earthquake, which scared the shit out of me and sent Alix into a hysterical frenzy. As I thought of her, my eyes went to her. So beautiful, she was; I felt so lucky. At that moment I promised myself I'd do anything to protect her, even if it meant risking my own life. She was staring at me also, she had been for a while, I realized. She smiled slowly, softly, deep love in her blue eyed gaze. For a moment, I thought she had read my mind, but then she always gave me that impression. Her smile grew deeper as she turned her eyes to Paul, who had been speaking for some time. The warm feeling stayed with me as I tried to concentrate on what she was saying.
Alix brushed her hair away from her face. What's gonna happen here today? She said. Do you really need us here? Are you going to stay here to work? She was asking logical questions, it seemed there'd be no business for a while.
Paul obviously caught her innuendoes, because he bowed his head, closed his eyes in thought, and tapped on his desk with his pen. When he opened his eyes, he said: You're right. He stood up and walked around the desk to the door, waiting for us to follow. Outside, he said to my coworkers: You guys can go home, there's no good to be done here. His eyes were solemn, as if he thought he would not see them again. As everyone readied themselves to go home, he turned to us. What are you girls going to do? There was deep concern in his voice, deep care. He really loved us.
We're not doing anything, really. What about you? I replied, wrapping my arm protectively around Alix's waist, she covered that hand with hers and leaned against me. Paul shrugged, pushing his hands into his pockets. I heard the soft jingle of keys and change. Don't know. He muttered.
Alix knew exactly what I was thinking. Why don't you come with us? She suggested. We could go to your place to pick up some clothes, then you come stay with us at mine. She smiled. Sound good?
Paul's handsome face lit up with a friendly smile. Sure, He said. As long as you two can keep it keep quiet while I sleep. You two look like you're loud when you get at it.
I think I blushed, but Alix just laughed. She loved it when he joked like that. She walked away and pulled me with her, Paul followed us into the elevator. Paul felt the same way I did about bringing our cars to work; it sucked. The traffic, the parking, the toll, it all sucked. So that meant he rode with us in my car. On this occasion, I had not trouble finding a parking space because no one went to work anyway. My car, to my relief, was still there as we left it.
Paul sat on the middle of the back seat, leaning forward to speak to us. I had the air conditioner on high; just a few seconds out in that dreadful heat, and I was sweating like a pig. Neither Paul nor Alix complained about the AC, little drops of sweat trickled down their faces and necks. The drive to Paul's New Jersey home seemed a little long, but we made it never-the-less.
His house was out in a sort of forest, surrounded by an expanse amount of trees. It was big, with a Victorian style to it and large Greek pillars at each side of the front door. Alix and I had been there a few times, when Paul held small parties and invited us. As we drove up the driveway, I glanced to my left, where an apartment stood over his garage.
Alix and I had shared one hell of a passionate encounter inside that place one night. Every time I think about it, my skin crawls with uncontrollable desire. Alix was one wild girl that night! She didn't even let me touch one part of her body with my fingers. She rubbed her soft body all over mine and had me panting with each of her motions. I looked over at her and realized she remembered it as well as I did. I knew she wanted me at that exact moment and my body reacted with animal ferocity. We got out of the car and Alix told Paul that we'd wait for him outside.
I leaned against the car and she came up to me, wrapping her arms around my neck. She let her weight rest on me and looked up into my eyes. She gestured with her head towards the garage apartment. Do you remember? She whispered.
I nodded and kissed her lips lightly. She shivered and tightened her grip around my neck. I'm ready. Paul's voice cut into our passion. Alix pulled away from me and looked at me with a silent promise for more.
The highway's side to New York was almost completely empty as we drove back to New York, quite a few cars were driving at high speeds in the direction opposite from ours. I had a bad feeling. As we entered the city limits, dread was palpable in the air. I reached under my seat and pulled out my gun. Alix stared at me with surprised eyes. What the hell are you doing? She asked as I took the safety off.
I shook my head, frowning. I looked into the rearview mirror and saw that Paul was as confused as Alix. I have no idea. I muttered, confused with myself.
Soon, our questions were answered. There were people all over the streets, causing chaos, and raids were happening on every street we passed. I watched as a handful of people slammed bricks into store windows, trying to get in and steal all merchandise. My attention was caught by a group of people, they were bunched up around someone, slamming pipes and bats on his back. One of the people, a big boned middle-aged man, lifted his bat and swung it at the back of the poor man's head. The downed man's body jerked and he fell onto his stomach, not moving. The people continued to beat on him. I almost threw up, I could feel the bile rise in my throat. I turned onto Houston Street from the Allen Street, and it was hard to stop without having to slam on the brakes because people would run into the street from the filled sidewalks.
Alix was looking out her window with wide eyes and open mouth. Her hands were shaking and she was pale. I reached over and took her hand, squeezing it. Through the rearview mirror, I saw Paul's eyes on the people, following their movements. I moved forward, as fast as I could. Someone ran in front of the car and I floored the brake pedal. The wheels screamed as the car stopped, the young boy finished his trek across the street.
A calm metallic knock on my window startled me. I looked and found a guy holding a forty-five pointed straight at my face. Alix let out a feeble cry as I let go of her hand, took my gun into my pant pocket, and unlocked the door. I looked at Alix and smiled reassuringly. Lock the door, I said gently, she shook her head. What a time to be feisty! The guy knocked on the window again, harder this time. Lock it! I said forcefully and climbed out of the car. I heard Paul say my name, but I ignored him. Yes? I said to the young man facing me with the gun.
He was probably about twenty five years of age. His brown hair was curly and short, his black eyes were cold and emotionless. His lips were curled into an ugly snarl. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't ugly in the least. He was tall and good looking. It was my glimpse into his black soul that made him ugly to me. I want your car. He said simply. His voice was deep and would have probably otherwise been warm, but now it held a vastness that nothing could fill.
Sorry, I answered. You must find another. I flinched as I heard the sound of glass shattering behind me. He mistook this as fear of him and his snarl grew, he cocked the safety of the gun with his thumb.
He shook his head. I like this one, girl. He was getting mad already. Fast temper. Can't even joke around with him a little. There's no cars around that I like, This guy is crazy! I thought in bewilderment. Except this one. He paused. Tell your friends to get out or I shoot you.
I didn't respond. We need transportation; I can't just give it away like we don't! I thought. Listen, why don't we make a deal? I suggested. We can- The shot that painfully pierced my stomach cut my voice into a groan.
The force of the bullet slammed me hard against my car. I felt my legs weaken and I looked down at myself. The blood was dark red as it ran through my fingers and down my legs. Behind me, I heard Alix's muffled screams and the sound of her small fists hitting the window behind my back. I reached into my pocket with the gun, wheezing because my breath was leaving my body so fast, I felt the blood slipping through my fingers.
I wrapped my weakening fingers around the gun, shifted it inside to point at him and shot the bastard in the middle of the forehead. The nine millimeter made a nice and neat little hole on his forehead. He fell on his back, his own gun clattered from his hand. Before I passed out, as I slowly slid down onto my back, I looked up at Alix. She was staring at me with tears in her eyes, her mouth wide open in the muffled screams that I heard. And then there was darkness.
ALIX was crying and screaming, crouched on the driver's side, pounding on the glass. Paul was trying to push her back so that he could push the seat forward and open the door. He finally managed to get Alix out of the way and was outside in no time.
Julia was lying so still that he feared she might already be dead, her skin was pale and there was a lot of blood pooled around her; her eyes were rolling back in their sockets, her body arching convulsively. Oh, God! He sobbed. He kneeled beside her and felt for a pulse, it was very weak; he sighed with relief. Alix was still screaming out Julia's name and Paul had yell at her to get in the back seat.
She began to moan pitifully, but he saw that she was ready to do what he told her. Pull her in when I lift her up to you, Alix. He put a foot on each side of Julia's waist, crouched, put his hands under her shoulders and looked up at Alix. Ready? Alix nodded and stretched out her arms; her eyes wouldn't leave Julia and they were full of tears. They accommodated her on the back seat with her head on Alix's lap; Alix ran her fingers through her lover's hair, sobbing quietly.
Paul jumped into the driver's seat and slammed on the accelerator, his mind only on saving Julia.
SAINT Vincent's was full of dying people, young and old. The doctors didn't know what to do with the patients. Paul ran in with Julia in his arms, her head on his shoulder, one arm hung over his shoulder, the other hung limply. She was growing paler by the minute, her breathing was shallow and weak. Alix ran ahead of him, trying to get a doctor's attention. She found one, a big sturdy guy of about thirty five years of age, pulled him towards Julia and begged him to attend to her.
He glanced at Julia and shrugged. She's as good as dead anyway, and we need all our doctors. There's more patients with hope of living, why should I waste my time with her? He said coldly. Give it up. He turned away.
You bastard! Alix screamed at him, crying and lunging at him. Dammit!
He kept her off him, calling security and making them leave without barely another glance at Julia.
IN the car, they'd laid Julia the same way they had before. Alix still ran her fingers through her hair, watched every breath with an eagle's eye. She didn't know what to do, there was not another hospital nearby, nobody to help them. Paul was sitting quietly, driving along the streets, the tears running from his eyes and down his cheeks. Julia's body lay limp, her breath was growing almost non-existent. The shirt they'd tightly wrapped around her torso, over her stomach, was soaked through with her blood.
Suddenly, her body jerked, a ragged breath filled her lungs and left her in a ragged sigh. Then she didn't breathe anymore. Alix stared down at her in shock, then sobbed loudly: Paul! She's dead!
Continued in part III
Katia N. Ruiz
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