“Order up on those burgers and fries, Dana,” said Mr. Blanche.
He wrapped his fat fingers around the edge of the readied white plate as he passed it up through the order window.
“On it,” replied Dana.
She took that plate, then the next one he handed her, and then she made her way around the counter out to the young couple sitting in the northeast booth. These two looked to be in their early twenties, a few years younger than her, and they looked happy enough, though that glow about them probably wouldn’t last.
“Here you go,” said Dana as she set the plates down before the two young people. “That’s a burger with extra onions for you, and pickles on the side for you…”
“Thank you,” said the young lady of the pair.
The young man nodded and smiled as he bit into his burger, not even waiting for his partner to start with hers, but that was to be expected.
Dana didn’t think much of this new generation, these young ones too wrapped up in their own self-interests and on-the-go technology, but she figured the older generations never thought much of the younger ones in general, so in the end, it was all part of the same endless cycle that always occurred in life.
“Let me know if you need anything else,” smiled Dana.
It was a fake smile, of course, but this was the slow part of the day at Blanche’s Diner, because lunch hour had already passed them by, so Dana could put on a show without feeling mentally exhausted.
Life was complicated, droll, and/or stressful to the point where she felt overwhelmed most days. If there was a way to make it all go away without dying, without ending it, she would have walked that path a long time ago. However, she was not one of those people that dwelled on suicide, so that ending had never been an option. She just had a dull life, and she dealt with it one day at a time.
She walked over to the glass door on the north wall, that wall a line of large panes of more glass, the typical setup for a mom-and-pop diner, and she stared longingly outside at Main Street, specifically east toward the city.
Life in general was not what she wanted it to be and not where she wanted it to be, so occasionally dreaming of leaving this little town was all she had in the way of small comfort during the slow hours of the day.
Dana stared at a contrail of something far off in the distance, a line of white that streaked from the sky on the edge of the horizon. It drifted downward along with a couple of other contrails, though the others were somewhat closer.
She squinted and leaned her head to one side as she studied the curious line, unsure as to what it was. It sped downward in a marker-like line of white, and then it impacted, leaving behind a small mushroom cloud of gray. She heard the muffled sound of its impact, muffled due to sheer distance, but this still did not register alarm.
It was not until the second contrail of white impacted that her eyes widened in surprise, because this one was much closer to town than the previous one had been.
She felt so much as heard the explosion in the distance. It came as a slight tremor at first, then a mushroom cloud far to the northeast, and then the rocket boom of sonics a second after that.
“Oh, my—” started Dana.
She watched in strange fascination as a burning object of unknown size fell from the clear blue sky, an object leaving behind a contrail of white as it pitched toward somewhere closer than the previous explosion, and then she watched it impact not so far away, at the very edge of town.
The whole diner shook as a booming cloud of grey debris rushed over the building, spraying past the glass windows as the afternoon diners cried out or ducked down out of reflex.
Dana, herself, backed away as the front door rattled and the glass panes of the north and east walls shook in place. She covered her face with her arms as she bent over a little out of instinct.
Mr. Blanche trundled out of the kitchen and looked this way and that with the eyes of someone supremely startled, which Dana figured was everyone in the diner, if not the entire town.
“What, what!” said the portly older gentleman as he pushed past Dana. “What the heck was that!”
The dust and debris outside covered all of Main Street, and Dana could not see so much as five feet of that outside, but at least the windows had held. The glass was a little scratched and pocked in places, but the panes had held against whatever insanity had just happened.
She stood and took in a breath to steady herself from that sudden fright.
“I can’t get any service,” said the young lady Dana had just served. “My phone just died.”
Dana looked over to see the young woman staring down at her phone, but it was clear by its blank screen that the young lady’s phone was not in any condition to provide any useful function. However, perhaps it was just her phone…
“Can anyone get any service on their phones?” asked Dana loudly. “Anyone?”
“Not here,” said Bob as he set his smartphone down on the white countertop of his booth.
Bob Newson was a local mechanic around her age, a guy Dana knew had a thing for her, and he was attractive enough, a little rugged in the face, something she kind of liked, but she wasn’t interested in local men.
Aside from that wayward thought, Dana knew that if Bob said his phone was dead, it was dead.
“Mine’s dead, too,” said Mrs. Windshaw.
Mrs. Windshaw was a middle-aged woman who worked down the street at the bank, and she was always on her phone, so if she couldn’t connect, then…
“I’ll try the landline,” said Mr. Blanche.
The big-boned man made his way back around the counter, walked into the kitchen, and then went through the kitchen to his office. He came out a minute later, shaking his head.
“Lines are down, too,” he said unhappily.
Dana gave herself a brief headcount of everyone in the diner.
There was herself, Mr. Blanche, the young couple, Bob, and Mrs. Windshaw. Aside from them, there was the old widow, Mrs. Dawson, Mr. Ogilvy, an older gentleman who was also a lawyer, and Mr. Corley, a thirty-something-year-old insurance salesman. That was a total of nine people here, nine people to help sort out whatever was going on with the town.
“Let’s just stay calm,” said Dana, but she said that mainly for herself rather than anyone else.
“What’s going on out there?” asked Mr. Blanche.
He nudged Dana aside again and looked out the glass of the front door.
The dust and debris had not settled, and visibility was still low, but Dana could see the dim figures of people running down the street, then shouting, and then that shouting was followed by gunshots, a POP! POP! POP! in rapid succession.
“Whoa! Whoa!” spouted Mr. Blanche as he backed away from the door.
A figure walked out of the darkness of debris, a familiar form in blue, and Dana could just make out enough of his face to be that of one Officer Danford, a police officer in his thirties that sometimes came in for the dinner service. He had his pistol raised and pointed out toward the west side of Main, but as he swiveled toward the diner, he walked toward the front door, his pistol still raised, his stance still hostile.
“What is he do…” asked Dana, but her sentence stopped cold as the officer neared their eating establishment.
Danford had a block for a face, clean-shaven, true, but a concrete block in terms of looks, and she supposed that gave him an edge in intimidation, a good thing for a police officer, but that was not what caused her to retreat toward the diner counter. His firearm was raised in a threatening manner, and that was definitely a factor in Dana’s retreat, but it was the fact that his once dark eyes were now white, a coating over of ivory that looked…unnatural.
He fired several rounds from his handgun, the rounds shooting off in succession as they punctured the thick glass of the diner door. Blood wounds welled up over the breadth of Mr. Blanche’s white T-shirt, and the large man was down on his back a second later, unmoving.
The young lady of the unknown couple screamed as everyone else ducked and covered.
Dana launched herself over the diner counter as more bullets shattered glass and went zinging past her to bury themselves in the kitchen’s grey brick wall. She ducked down behind the counter as the rogue officer took the time to pop the clip from his pistol and reload it.
Dana did not see so much as hear the squealing of tires as a car slammed into the crazed police officer outside. She raised her head above the counter against her better judgement; it was out of fear really, because her mind was not quite in belief of what was going on, but she watched anyway as a marauding beige sedan sped off to leave the bleeding and broken Officer Danford to die on the asphalt of Main.
With that threat down, her mind landed upon a more immediate concern.
“Mr. Blanche!” she cried out. “Mr. Blanche!”
She leapt back over the counter and was at the downed portly man’s side in a span of seconds. She knelt down beside his blood-covered, prone form, but his eyes were open and unmoving, his gaze permanently fixed upon the ceiling.
“Mr. Blanche!” she screeched. “Somebody, call 911!”
She felt Bob’s rough hands on her shoulders a second later, and then she was pulled up and back against her will.
“He’s dead, Dana!” he yelled. “He’s dead!”
“What are you doing!” screeched Dana. “Call an ambulance!”
“All the phones are dead!” yelled Bob in return. “We have to get everyone away from the windows! There’s no time!…Look!…LOOK!”
Dana’s eyes followed his pointed finger toward the smoky outside that was Main Street, and the chaos that ensued only heightened her panic and fear. People from around their small town, their faces known to her, those faces now twisted and deranged…The people of their small town were busy killing each other in the street.
She watched in growing terror as Ms. Rienhold, one of the few librarians in their small town, was busy struggling with the eldest of the Greeb family, an old man whose name escaped Dana at the moment. Both of them had those unnaturally white eyes, no irises or pupil colors to be seen in those unsettling orbs, no emotion or intent to be read in them.
Ms. Rienhold, a normally single middle-aged woman without a violent bone in her body, had Mr. Greeb bent over in a headlock and was striking him in the face over and over again.
Past them, across the street, was one of the older, teen, Murket boys beating to death Mr. Wang with a baseball bat. Mr. Wang, who ran a small grocery, was on the ground after the first swing, struck from a full force swing of the bat, and his head became a stain of bloody mush after many brutal swings beyond the first.
It was the viciousness of the murder that struck Dana, because those white eyes on the Murket boy belied any kind of emotion, any kind of forgiveness or mercy that might have been shown to the older Mr. Wang.
A little boy of five or six ran past the diner, and in his bloodstained right hand was a steak knife, the jagged edges of it also covered in blood.
Bob pulled Dana back and toward the diner counter as he barked out some quick commands.
“Everybody, back to the kitchen!” he yelled. “Come on! Grab anything you can find to defend yourself! Everybody, back now!”
The young lady of the unknown couple in the diner burst into sobbing tears as her male partner dragged her out of her booth and away from the booth window.
“Oh, my God!” squealed Mr. Corley in a high-pitched voice.
Dana struggled against Bob’s grip and broke free. She knew where a weapon was, and it was fully loaded. She was going to go get it before any of those psychos outside could reach it.
“Dana, WAIT!” yelled Bob.
Dana rushed to the exit, flung open the door, busted glass and all, and ran out into the madness that was Main. The debris cloud around her was to the level of choking, but she held her left hand over her mouth and nose and made a beeline for the downed Officer Danford.
She reached the dead police officer and snatched up the firearm that was mere inches from his lifeless, right-hand fingers.
Dana looked up to see Ms. Rienhold finishing off old Mr. Greeb. The crazed woman stomped on the old man’s weathered, bloody face with her tan heels, but her ivory-white, unmerciful gaze landed upon Dana in the process.
The older middle-aged woman came charging at Dana from across the street, no sound coming forth from her lips, just a charge like a bull or a rhino would commit to after seeing a predatory threat.
Dana lifted the pistol in her right hand and pulled the trigger. It was just a reaction, because nothing in her mind had told her to do so, nor was there any thought coming across her neurons to tell her to stop.
A bullet hole appeared right between the older woman’s eyes, and Ms. Reinhold pitched forward in the middle of her charge to slide face first upon the cracked, greyed asphalt of Main.
Dana did not bother to study the librarian’s state of being. She turned and ran back to the entrance of the diner instead.
Bob opened the door for her and quickly shut it as she made her way back onto the diner premises.
The horror of what had just happened caught up with her as Bob dragged her back toward the kitchen, the only place of refuge anyone could think of at the moment.
“I killed her!” cried Dana. “I shot her, and she went down, and…and I killed her!”
“There was nothing else you could do!” barked Bob. “You had to shoot her! Now, come on!”
“I killed Ms. Rienhold…” said Dana in a daze.
Bob dragged her back into the kitchen where everyone else was huddled down behind the stoves and countertops.
The young lady out of the young couple was sobbing into the arms of the young man that held her. Mrs. Windshaw had tears running down her cheeks, and the others had visible fear written all over their faces, except for Bob, whose fear seemed to be overwritten by excitement and anger.
“Everyone, calm down!” commanded Bob.
He pulled Dana down behind the kitchen order window, and they both huddled next to each other against the kitchen’s grey brick wall.
“First, we need to calm down,” said Bob in a calmer tone of voice, one more suited to lead. “Second, we need a plan.”
“We need to get out of here!” whispered Mr. Ogilvy. “I’ve got to get back to the office!”
“Are you out of your mind!” hissed Bob. “Did you see outside! You go out there now, you’ll either end up dead, or worse, you’ll end up as one of them!”
“I still have to make sure my staff is all right!” argued Mr. Ogilvy. “I need to know if my wife is all right!”
“I get that,” breathed Bob, “but we have to sit tight for the moment. The lines are down, none of our phones work…We have no idea what’s going on right now.”
But Dana had a good idea of what was going on. She had pieced it all together quite quickly, mainly to keep herself from going crazy. She had just killed someone, had just gunned down Ms. Rienhold in the heat of the moment, and she needed to take her mind somewhere else, somewhere away from that dark place.
“Their eyes…” said Dana in a haunted voice. “Their eyes are all white. Did you see that?”
Bob looked over at her in concern, but he nodded his head in agreement.
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I saw it.”
“What does that mean?” asked Mrs. Windshaw, her voice shaky.
“Those things impacted the ground,” said Dana. “All of that dust and debris kicked up, and then everyone’s eyes turned white.”
“It’s missiles,” nodded Mr. Corley. “The commies did this! It’s the first wave of an attack!”
The young lady out of the unidentified couple sobbed once and clutched her significant other even tighter.
Bob shook his head no and waved off the thirty-something-year-old insurance salesman.
“Those didn’t look like missiles,” he said firmly. “They were like…more like meteors.”
“Meteors?” asked the young man, whose name Dana still did not know. “That makes sense.”
“What?” asked Dana. “What do you mean?”
“Fragments of a meteorite, a stellar body, could have carried something like a virus or bacteria with it,” explained the young man. “It could have brought something alien with it that spread through the dust and debris outside.”
“It’s a biological attack,” nodded Mr. Corley. “I’m telling you, the commies are behind it.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Bob with a shake of his head. “The facts are that…that something hit outside, it kicked up this dust and debris, people’s eyes turned white, and now everyone’s killing each other.”
“Yeah,” said Dana.
“That’s all the more reason to get out of here and get back to the—” started Mr. Ogilvy, but he was cut short by the still unidentified young man.
“That’s a bad idea,” said the young man.
“What?” asked Mr. Ogilvy. “Why?”
“If there is a biological agent swirling around out there,” replied the young man, “then you could get infected, and then you’ll be just like them…like one of those psychos out there.”
Dana’s heart did a somersault over this revelation.
“I…I was out there…” she stammered.
“And you’re fine,” said Bob in a soothing tone. “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“She could be one of them,” pointed Mr. Corley. “She could change at any moment!”
“If that’s true, then any one of us could change at any moment,” frowned Bob. “This is not some B-movie. We are not going to turn on each other, Corley.”
“Says you,” said Mr. Corley. “You’ll be singing a different song when her eyes go white.”
“Everyone else changed almost immediately,” said the young, unidentified man.
“What do you mean…uhhh…What’s your name?” asked Bob.
“I’m Wallace,” said the young man. “This is my girlfriend, Kareen.”
The young lady of the couple, Kareen, hid her face within her boyfriend’s shirt.
“Okay,” nodded Bob. “Now, explain what you mean. You said something about everyone else…”
“Yeah,” nodded Wallace. “Everyone else changed almost immediately. She—”
“Dana,” said Dana.
“Uhh…Dana…” continued Wallace. “Dana went outside to get the gun…but she had her mouth and nose covered. We can assume that whatever is causing this is airborne, so she must not have been exposed long enough to actually infect her. Maybe it has a threshold of infection…uhh…a person has to be exposed to a certain amount of it all at once. She might also be immune. We don’t know.”
“Then all I need is something to cover my face,” said Mr. Ogilvy. “A mask will work. Wouldn’t the owner of this place have a mask for cleaning or something?”
“I…I’m not sure…” stammered Dana.
“Whoa! Whoa!” said Bob quickly. “Not this again! Didn’t you hear him?”
“He just said—” argued Mr. Ogilvy.
“He just said she might be immune!” said Bob angrily. “Don’t you get it? If she is immune, then that’s rare, and that probably means none of the rest of us are!”
“I say we throw her out,” nodded Mr. Corley. “She’s probably already infected.”
This sparked immediate anger in Dana, and with good reason.
“Why don’t we throw you out, huh!” she spat back. “You son of a—!”
“Enough!” said Bob in yet more anger. “We are not going to turn on each other! That is the one fundamental mistake everyone always makes in the movies…Wait…Wait, wait…Hold up…Where is Mrs. Dawson?”
Dana looked around at the survivors in the kitchen and realized with stark concern that the old widow was not with them.
“Didn’t anyone get her?” asked Dana. “I thought someone would have helped her back here…”
“Oh, my God,” breathed out Bob as he held his head in his right hand.
He shook his head once before bringing his hand down. He slowly rose from his hiding position to stare through the kitchen order window, and Dana followed that motion, rising alongside him.
She could see the old lady standing at the broken door to the diner, shattered glass surrounding the elderly woman’s comfortable suede walking shoes, and the octogenarian had her back turned to them, her gaze turned away from them to stare out into the swirling debris cloud that was Main Street.
“Crap!” whispered Bob. “Somebody’s got to go get her!”
“I’ll do it,” whispered Dana.
She surprised herself with that statement, as she had not intended to say it.
“Yeah,” whispered Mr. Corley. “Let her do it!”
“Shut up,” replied Bob, a distinct look of irritation upon his face as he stared back at the insurance salesman.
Dana had already said she would do it, and that course of action made the most sense anyway. If she was immune to whatever was going on, then she was the best person for the task. Besides…she couldn’t just leave the old woman out there to be picked off by some crazed townie.
“I said I’d do it,” said Dana, and she didn’t give Bob time to argue.
She set her pistol down upon the kitchen order window and crept around to the kitchen exit. She made her way slowly across the diner floor, her form crouched, her head low.
“Dana!” whispered Bob from the kitchen order window, but Dana ignored him.
It occurred to her in a semblance of rationalization that this very occurrence was summing up to be a jump scare out of any B-horror movie. It was very possible that the elderly woman was already infected, and Dana would spin her around, only to see a pair of murderous white eyes staring back at her. Knowing this, she advanced even more cautiously, ready to run in the span of a heartbeat.
In the end, it didn’t matter at all. Mrs. Dawson opened the door to the diner and took her leave. The old woman made her way out onto the walk and went east, ignoring the various bodies in the street.
Dana hustled to the door and closed it, though the glass wasn’t intact anymore. She took a brief moment to watch Mrs. Dawson walk into the unnatural debris cloud that swirled around the town, and then the old woman was gone, vanishing as if she had never existed at all.
Dana could only assume that the old woman was already infected, because the elderly widow had completely ignored the dead already strewn about Main. It also occurred to her in a flash of strange realization that Mrs. Dawson had not reacted to Mr. Blanche’s body at all.
But she was snapped from her mental investigating by an urgent voice.
“Dana!” called out Bob.
Dana did not hesitate anymore in getting back to the kitchen. She hustled through the kitchen doorway and knelt back down beside Bob.
“She left!” whispered Dana. “She just took off east! She just left, and she didn’t react to the bodies in the street or Mr. Blanche’s body or…or anything!”
The kitchen residents all gingerly peered through the order window or around the doorframe of the kitchen entrance.
“Did she have white eyes?” asked Mr. Ogilvy.
“Who knows,” whispered Bob. “She was addled before all of this happened.”
“Hey!” hissed Dana. “She’s a human being! Show some respect!”
“Sorry,” said Bob in sheepish reply. “I do think she was a little loopy, though, a little senile.”
“No, that old woman was one of them,” said Mr. Corley with a shake of his head. “I bet she was a commie. She was always donating to charity.”
“Oh, give it a rest, Corley,” frowned Bob as he shook his head in return. “You’re not a communist if you donate to charity…and it wasn’t communists that hit the town.”
“How do you know?” asked the insurance salesman.
“Because I watched the friggin’ meteors hit, you idiot!” said Bob a little too loudly.
“Quiet!” shushed Dana. “Both of you are idiots! Do you want to bring those psychos in here?”
“She’s right,” said Mr. Ogilvy. “We need to stop arguing and come up with a plan to get out of here.”
“You can’t go out there!” scowled Bob. “How many times do I have to tell you that!”
“If you are not a judge, Mr. Newson,” frowned Mr. Ogilvy in return, “you don’t tell an attorney what he can or cannot do…I’m heading back to the office. It’s just down the street.”
“You go out there, and you’re as good as dead,” replied Bob.
Mr. Ogilvy took off his suit jacket and held it up to his face.
“We’re already dead in this kitchen,” he said unhappily. “I’ll take my chances out there.”
The lawyer covered his mouth and nose with his suit jacket and made his way out of the kitchen. They all watched him go as he exited the diner and disappeared into the debris cloud.
“Well, that’s one more gone,” said Mr. Corley in a flat tone.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Dana in irritation.
It had sounded like he was glad people were dying or disappearing, but Bob held a different opinion about the insurance salesman’s statement.
“It means we should all stick together,” said Bob unhappily. “There’re only six of us left.”
But sticking together wasn’t much of a plan. They needed a strong plan, and Dana knew this. She also knew that, eventually, they would have to leave the diner in order to seek out help.
“I think we should vote on it,” said Dana. “Maybe Mr. Ogilvy has a point.”
Bob gave her a supremely unhappy look and shook his head in disagreement.
“We should stay here for now,” he frowned. “That cloud outside has got to clear up at some point, probably soon.”
“Maybe,” replied Wallace. “I mean, I’m not really into physics, so I don’t know how long it will take for that debris cloud to fully dissipate.”
None of this actually mattered, however. Dana revisited her thought about needing to come up with a plan, because Mr. Ogilvy had been right about one thing…They couldn’t stay in this kitchen forever.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Dana with a shake of her head. “We can’t stay here forever. We have food and water here…and soda…but we don’t have a place to sleep. Wait…Is the power still even working? The lights aren’t on, and I never thought to check them…”
“Great!” hissed Mr. Corley. “That’s just great! What if there’s no power anywhere!”
“All the more reason to stay here in a fully stocked kitchen,” argued Bob.
Dana sidled over to the light switch at the kitchen entrance, reached up, and flipped the switch on and off several times, but the overhead lights did not activate, not even once.
She shook her head no and sat back down next to Bob.
“Yep,” she said flatly. “Power’s out.”
“Wonderful!” scowled Mr. Corley.
Dana shook her head no again and looked over to the young couple, Wallace and Kareen, for any additional input.
“What do you think we should do?” she asked.
“I want to go home,” sniffed the young woman, Kareen.
“We will, we will,” said Wallace quietly. “Let’s just wait a bit for this debris cloud to settle down. We’ll just wait a little bit in here where we’re safe, and then we’ll leave.”
“It makes more sense to leave now,” said Mr. Corley. “That cloud is providing us with cover. They’ll have a tough time spotting us in it. If we protect ourselves like Ogilvy did, then we can make it somewhere safe without being cut down by those commie psychos.”
“Oh, my God,” said Bob as he hid his face in his right hand and shook his head no. “Shut up.”
Dana turned to Mrs. Windshaw, the last member of their little group. The middle-aged bank teller had not said anything as the others had bickered this entire time.
“You’ve been awfully quiet, Mrs. Windshaw,” said Dana. “What do you think we should…do…”
Dana stalled out as she viewed the state of the older woman.
Mrs. Windshaw was sitting on her rump in front of one of the stoves, but she was staring off into space as if her mind were a million miles away.
“Mrs. Windshaw?” asked Bob in sudden concern.
The middle-aged teller stood and walked slowly out the kitchen entrance, and no one did anything to stop her. Even Dana did nothing to prevent the older woman’s departure.
“They’re calling me,” said the older woman. “I have to go…They’re calling me…”
The remaining kitchen residents watched the middle-aged woman step around Mr. Blanche’s bullet-ridden body, only to leave the diner, all of them watching as she disappeared into the debris cloud outside.
There was something about Mrs. Windshaw’s demeanor that had prevented Dana from stopping her. It was an aura of sorts, a radiance of danger about the middle-aged woman that spoke, “Do not touch.”
“What was that about?” asked Bob.
“She didn’t look quite right,” said Wallace in a confused tone. “She looked…out of it.”
“She was infected,” nodded Mr. Corley. “She had to be.”
“Maybe,” said Dana. “But that’s what bothers me. Everyone else turned psycho, but Mrs. Windshaw and old widow Dawson both left here in the same way. Their eyes weren’t white…at least, Mrs. Windshaw’s weren’t—I didn’t get a look at Mrs. Dawson’s—but…but…they both looked like they were in a trance. Maybe what’s out there affects different people in different ways.”
“That’s…possible,” nodded Wallace. “You have to understand, though. A virus’s purpose, even a manmade one, is to replicate, and therefore, spread. If people are infected by this…whatever it is…then why does it cause them to kill each other? That makes no sense.
“You can get a deadly disease that kills quickly, but it still spreads via contact, airborne or otherwise, in some way. You limit both replication and spread with this ‘infection’ that’s going on outside, because it’s like a one-shot deal. It can’t spread because it kills too quickly.”
“I see what you’re saying,” said Bob. “Plus, the whole infection thing doesn’t explain Mrs. Windshaw or Mrs. Dawson.”
“No, but I have a theory, and you’re not going to like it,” frowned Wallace.
“What’s that?” asked Dana.
“I think Mr. Corley is right…” started Wallace.
“I knew it!” said Mr. Corley.
“What!” asked Bob in abject disbelief.
“No, no,” said Wallace with a shake of his head. “I don’t mean communists are behind this. What I mean is…is that…we’re under attack.”
“How so?” asked Dana.
“All communications are down,” explained the young man, “and the power is down, too. This wipes out any defenses we might have and sends us into disarray.”
“Exactly like I said,” nodded Mr. Corley.
“No, you didn’t,” frowned Bob.
“It doesn’t matter,” frowned Dana in return. “I still don’t understand what the purpose of all this is, and why meteors? If we are under attack, why not send missiles?”
“The advantage of surprise,” said Wallace flatly. “We’d shoot down missiles. We’d expect meteors to burn up in the atmosphere.”
“So there’s some kind of virus an unknown enemy is spreading through meteors?” asked Bob. “No country has technology like that…Wait…Are we talking aliens? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I don’t know,” shrugged Wallace. “But I’m thinking it’s not a virus.”
“What then?” asked Dana. “What could do this?”
“Human beings have a ton of junk code in our DNA,” explained Wallace. “That makes us hard to control via genetic tampering. It’s difficult to sort out what does what or what is responsible in pattern for what…so…I’m thinking nanites.”
“Nanites?” asked Bob.
“They’re tiny little robots,” frowned Dana. “They’re so small, you can’t see them. They can get inside you and do all kinds of terrible things to you, just like a virus, but since they’re manufactured, you can program them to do exactly what you want them to do, unlike a virus.”
Bob gave her a clueless “what?” look. It consisted of him nodding his head to his right while curling up the left side of his lips.
“I watch a lot of sci-fi,” shrugged Dana. “It’s a hobby…It…It doesn’t matter. Please, continue, Wallace. You were talking about nanites?”
“As I was saying, that would explain why our power and communications are knocked out,” said Wallace. “Nanites—as cool as the concept may be—could be taken out by a single electromagnetic pulse. Therefore, it would make sense to knock out anything that could be used against the attack in order to prevent that.”
“If that’s so, then why weren’t these ‘nanites’ affected by the initial attack?” asked Bob.
“They were probably programmed to wipe out our communications and power right away,” shrugged Wallace. “That would have been their first function, because everything went down immediately after impact. Their second function is to infect us and then change us by messing with our genetic code, or maybe just by altering individual cells. It would explain the whole ‘white eyes’ thing…
“That cloud of dust and debris out there? That’s probably how they’re spread. That’s probably why that cloud is so persistent. In fact, we may all be infected if that’s the case.”
“I don’t know, Wallace,” said Dana. “That’s an awful lot of conjecture. It sounds like science fiction.”
“But what we’re in is a horror movie,” frowned Wallace. “You’re willing to believe in that, but not unexplained science? My theory is logical, and it makes the most sense.”
“That doesn’t make it true,” said Dana.
The young man shook his head no and argued with a conviction he had not previously shown.
“I know it,” he said firmly. “I know it’s true. Don’t ask me how, but I do. It’s like…It’s like some little voice in my head is telling me these things…It’s like I just know it, like it was beamed into my brain…I can’t really explain it, but I’m telling you…I think we’re being altered by nanotechnology.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” said Dana as she shook her head no. “I don’t want to argue with you, Wallace, but let’s use some common sense…Nanites altering us? Wouldn’t that just kill us? I mean, you can’t just do something that radical to the human body and brain without killing someone…can you?”
“Why not?” asked Wallace. “They’d act like a virus, and viruses can alter genetic code. If it is a hyper-advanced nanotech, then it could alter us without us even knowing it. It’s definitely possible.”
“Well,” shrugged Dana, “it would certainly explain a lot.”
“Yeah, but what’s with the killing each other thing?” asked Bob. “Why do that? Why bother to alter us to kill each other when a regular virus can do the same thing more efficiently? Is this some kind of intimidation tactic to soften us up?”
“It is a mistake,” said the young woman, Kareen, in a low, deep, and manly voice.
Dana turned to look at her, as did everyone else. The young woman had poked her head up from Wallace’s shirt, but her face made Dana freeze in fear. The young woman’s eyes were now white, glazed over in that ivory spread, her expression deadpan, devoid of emotion.
The first thing that happened was the immediate shrieking and jumping away from the pair by Mr. Corley, and the second thing that happened was Bob reaching for the sidearm resting upon the kitchen order window.
Wallace cried out in fear as Kareen stood and lifted him as easily as she would a toddler. She held his arms firmly behind his back with seemingly no effort at all.
The young woman’s muscles were rippling along her arms, those biceps bulging with a lifetime’s worth of weightlifting, though Dana was positive the young lady had not possessed such muscle beforehand, not even close. In Dana’s estimate upon first seeing the girl, Kareen would have been lucky to have been able to bench press eighty pounds, but now it looked as if she could lift a small car.
Bob leveled the pistol at Kareen, but she held Wallace firmly in place, holding him in front of herself as a living shield.
“Don’t shoot!” yelled Wallace.
“This species is unique,” said Kareen in her bizarre, manly voice. “The conversion is far more complex than originally estimated, and mistakes have been made in the conversion process. The protocol is to self-terminate errors. Others were successfully ordered to the building point. You will proceed to the building point. You will comply for your own safety. Otherwise, the protocol is to terminate.”
Bob aimed carefully at the young woman’s exposed head.
“Don’t shoot!” cried Wallace. “Don’t shoot her!”
Dana was taken aback by the young woman’s transformation in both body and voice, but she asked the first thing that came to her mind anyway, because her adrenaline was up and running, and that was overriding her common sense.
“What is it you want?” she asked in a shaky voice.
“You will proceed to the building point,” repeated Kareen.
“What is the building point?” asked Dana, but she was ignored.
She was interrupted by Wallace, but to the young man’s credit, he was trying to sacrifice himself in order to save them.
“They will, they will,” said Wallace in frantic reply. “Just take me…Take me for now. They’ll go later.”
“Negative,” said Kareen. “They must proceed to the building point for their own safety. Errors are self-terminating. This unit is upgraded to protect you. You will proceed to the building point for full conversion. Otherwise, the likelihood of error in your unit is approximately 86.73%.”
“Move out of the way, Wallace,” commanded Bob.
“No!” cried Wallace. “Don’t shoot her! Please!”
“You will relieve yourself of your weapon,” stated Kareen. “Your actions are illogical. Terminating this unit will guarantee your own termination.”
“I’ll take my chances,” scowled Bob.
Dana honestly thought he was going to pull the trigger, but he did not get the chance to. He was grabbed from his own right by Mr. Corley, and the thirty-something-year-old insurance salesman easily snatched the firearm away from him and pinned Bob’s arms behind his back.
Dana’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of Mr. Corley. His eyes were also coated in white, and he, too, was rippling with muscle underneath his white button up.
Of course, his sudden change in appearance was not nearly as frightening as the direct threat of Dana’s own pistol pointed directly at her face, that pistol now controlled by the suddenly changed Mr. Corley.
“You will comply,” stated Kareen.
“I will, I will!” said Dana in frantic response. “Don’t shoot!”
She raised both hands in the air, because in spite of all of her misgivings about life in general, she did not want to die.
Wallace was pushed forward by his own girlfriend, and Bob grunted in pain as Mr. Corley waved the pistol toward the door in a menacing, silent command aimed squarely at Dana.
Dana walked in a line with them, Wallace and Kareen in front, she in the middle, and Bob and Mr. Corley in back. They walked single file through the diner, around Mr. Blanche’s body, and out the exit, entering the swirling debris that had plagued their town since the initial impacts.
Dana covered her mouth and nose as they traveled through the choking cloud of dust and swirling debris. Visibility was limited, but wherever they were going, Kareen knew the way with unerring accuracy.
A figure came rushing out of the cloud, the Murket boy with the baseball bat, and he swung that bat straight at Wallace’s unprotected head. Kareen easily caught the already bloody aluminum bat with her right hand, ripping it away from the older teen, and then she swung it in return, one-handed, in one clean motion. The young man’s head split open like a dropped melon, and Dana could tell the boy was dead before he even hit the ground.
They traveled east on Main, taking the sidewalk rather than the road itself.
Several other townsfolk, all with white eyes, rushed them from here and there, but Mr. Corley put them down with deadly accuracy, a single bullet to each brain in an amazing one-to-one ratio.
Dana recognized one of the dead that Mr. Corley had put down. She stared in stark horror at the bullet wound in Mr. Ogilvy’s forehead, his blood and brains splattered all over Main Street, his eyes white and staring up at nothing.
She gathered her wits to try and steel herself for what was next, for whatever horror was to come.
“Where are you taking us!” she demanded.
“There,” stated Kareen. “The building point.”
They were led into the hardware store at the edge of Main and South. Dana was forced through the glass doors along with the other captives, Wallace and Bob, and they were marched unceremoniously towards the back of the store.
At the back wall was a chamber of sorts, a large pod of metal crafted from what, Dana had no idea. Where it had come from or who had built it, she did not know. All she knew was that she was being forced to march toward it, and that was it.
The chamber itself spanned from the floor to the ceiling, a cone of grey, corrugated metal with electrical equipment and computers hooked to it here and there. Several people surrounded it, around twelve or so, Mrs. Windshaw and Mrs. Dawson included amongst them, their faces blank, their eyes an alabaster white.
“What is this!” cried Dana in fear.
“Enter the apparatus,” ordered Kareen. “It has been constructed with an independent power source. It is ready for its first conversion. The likelihood of error is negligible.”
She grabbed Dana by her right arm and pushed her forward toward the crudely-built chamber.
“What!” cried Dana. “Why me!”
“You are unsecured,” stated Kareen. “You are the most immediate threat. Now, enter the apparatus or be terminated.”
Dana broke down as the chamber door hissed open on crude pneumatics. She did not want to cry, but this was definitely her breaking point. Whatever was going to happen in there was going to be bad, and what it was going to do to her was an unknown bad, and those two realizations scared her to no end.
Mr. Corley pointed the gun at the back of her head, so she had no choice but to enter the chamber.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God…!” she babbled over and over again as she stepped inside against her will. “No, please, oh God, please don’t…!”
“No!” said Bob in a strained voice. “No, please! Not her! Take me! Take—Aggh!”
Bob was silenced as Mr. Corley twisted his arm in a painful manner.
The door hissed shut, and Dana could do nothing but scream and beat on the metal, conical walls. She desperately called out for help, though she knew it would do no good.
“Bob!” she screeched. “Bob!”
There came a high-pitched whining noise, and a ring of lights shone their white brilliance down on her from above.
“Bob!” she screamed. “BOB!”
Dana felt an intense, dry heat around her as a cloud of buzzing black enveloped her. Her vision blurred, she became lightheaded, she struggled to breathe, and then the only thing after that was darkness, a stifling, suffocating darkness that surrounded her in spite of the searing lights beating down from above.
Dana rose from her resting bunk as her sleep cycle ended. She exited the sleeping quarters and walked down Hall B-147-C.
She turned, entered the feeding bay, and obtained her food packet and water container for the morning hours. She swallowed her food packet, drank the purified water from her container, and placed the container back on its rack.
She left the feeding bay and reentered Hall B-147-C. She stopped and stood at attention as one of the Masters floated by. The large metal sphere hovered past her, its scanners briefly touching over her, and then it went on its way, content with whatever information it had gleaned.
Dana turned to walk on toward her destination to her daily booth in Quad-4, as her current task was to monitor incoming vessels requesting landing information.
She walked down the gleaming metal hallway but stopped as she spied her own image in her reflective surroundings. She was sometimes curious about her new look, and although this was an error, it was a harmless one, so she had not been sent to corrections for adjustment.
She did not wear clothes anymore, as her bare skin had been coated over by a thin, environmentally-protective spread of chrome-like nano-bond, except for her face, which was still her beautiful self. Her head was bald and shiny like the rest of her, but not her face, and that was a good thing. The Masters had allowed them that much.
Her eyes were white now, of course, but this was also a good thing. Her eyes could now see much farther, much clearer, and they could spy into more of the spectrum, infrared and ultraviolet, a superior upgrade if there ever was one.
She was also immune to disease and aging, and though she had damage sensors that told her nano-factories to repair any injured site on her body, she would never have to worry about suffering pain again. That little drawback had been removed from her system.
The Masters had even done the human race the favor of sterilizing everyone, so there was no pressure to reproduce or engage in reproductive-seeking activity, no pressure in forming illogical and irrational bonds with any other unit, and no pressure to engage in the activity of what was formerly known as “family.”
Yes, she was quite satisfied with her new self, and her confidence and self-esteem, her trust in society, and her outlook on the future were all at their peak performance.
She turned to see Bob walking toward her, and he stopped and took her shiny hand into his shiny hand. This was an error on his part, but it was a harmless one, so he had not been sent to corrections for adjustment.
Dana walked with him down Hall B-147-C, shiny hand in shiny hand, and she did not let go of his shiny hand as he escorted her to her destination in Quad-4. She allowed him to do this every day, and though this was an error on her part, it was a harmless one, so she had not been sent to corrections for adjustment.
She squeezed Bob’s hand in her own as she looked up at him and shone him a smile, and he shone her one in return. This was an error on their part, but it was a harmless one, so they had not been sent to corrections for adjustment.
Yes, life was good. She was quite satisfied with everything. She was quite content with everything. Everything was good.
Sometimes, when she laid down in her resting bunk at the end of her work cycle, she would try to remember what it was like before her conversion, but try as she might, she could not begin to fathom the chaos that had raged through her inferior, non-nano-coated brain before everything had changed.
The only thing she could remember about her old life was her former name, and she often referred to herself by her old name, and this was allowed, because her new, official designation was a nano-packet of information that she could not repeat in a reasonable amount of time.
But that didn’t matter. Her life was good under the Masters.
The Masters knew everything. The Masters were superior. The Masters watched over everyone. There were no wars anymore, no inequality, no pain or suffering, no hate or discrimination or jealousy or anger or lust or fear…Yes. It had been 1286 days since her conversion, and she was much happier than she had ever been before that.
White Eyes Copyright © 2021 bloodytwine.com Matthew L. Marlott