Disclaimer: If I were half as good as S.K. then I wouldn't be here… But, I do have a friend from Maine – but that's beside the point. All characters here are either based on people I know, or are made up. Any resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental, unless I meant it not to be. If I don't know you, then don't take it personally. All online names were products of my own imagination.
Note: Just finished Cell and couldn't help but to wonder what my life would be like should it happen. All 'characters' in this fic are based on actual people but names have been changed. I also changed a few road names and such, seeing how I based this on my hometown.
Area Code 919
A typical day at work left me all but exhausted. My job wasn't physically demanding, but boy was it boring. If there was one thing that could put me to sleep faster and a double dose of NyQuil it was the lack of mental stimulation. To top it off, I had to stay over to finish the last minute details needed for a report due Monday. Icing on the cake, and all that jazz.
I always looked forward to Fridays, but leaving work fifteen minutes late added a hint of animosity to an otherwise lousy day. All I wanted was to get home, run next door (to my parent's house) and pick up my son who always had a way of cheering me up. The joys of being a single mom were the perks of having the child's full attention – it could also be a headache but you always have to take the bad with the good.
In habit, the first thing I checked when I got to my car was my trusty cell. If there had been problems with my son or with my brother then a message would be waiting for me. On a normal day, nothing but the usual read out of time and date awaited me. Today I wasn't that lucky. Today the dreaded 'battery low' warning printed itself across the screen. I had forgotten to plug it up last night and now the consequences stared me straight in the face.
"Thanks for the help, Scrap Face." Scrap face was the loving name I always call the mobile when I had forgotten to charge it; which was frequently. I wasn't too worried about it, though. Home was only a fifteen minute drive and I should be there before my clock hit 3:45.
Most of my drive was quiet and free of traffic. I counted down the minutes; a game I played to keep myself occupied as I drove. By 3:37 I was within two miles of home. Obviously I had been more ready to get home than I expected. I had exceeded the speed limit while in a half witted daze.
Alexander Drive came into view. My journey home was almost complete. So far the only enigma on my mind was what to fix for dinner. Within half a minute, that changed. I got to the light and immediately slammed on the brakes as a car speed though the opposing red light.
I hadn't fully dislodged the shock out of my head before an eighteen wheeler zoomed in front me. The driver was swerving the truck so frantically I was sure he would jack-knife. He did. Only two feet after passing me he jerked suddenly to the left. Hitting the median, soft soil shot up as the truck came to rest blocking most of the roadway.
For a minute I wondered if the world had just gone insane. Within that same minute my illogical ideas manifested into more tangible evidence as a car horn sounded loudly behind me. I shot my eyes to the rear-a-view mirror just in time to see a car speeding straight at me. I tensed and tightened my grip on the steering wheel, ready for the impact, when the car jolted around me. Traveling at high speed, the car rounded the corner and headed straight for the eighteen wheeler.
"No! There's a truck in the road that way, idiot!" I screamed in vain. The driver couldn't hear me as they made a straight shot for the truck's trailer. I flinched as the front of the small two-door car collapsed into the metal wall. It was like watching a movie. The hood collapsed into the front window. The horn sputtered until it went silent.
I reached frantically for Scrap Face; who resided in the driver's door while I drove. Flipping the phone open, I prayed for just enough juice to call 911. Scrap Face stuck a virtual tongue out at me as the phone died after only pressing the 9.
Without a single ounce of precaution, I pulled over to the shoulder of the road. After plucking the key from the ignition, I grabbed the jean jacket on the passenger seat. As quickly as I could I exited my SUV, locked the doors and struggled to put the jacket on while pushing both my phone and keys into the pockets.
I scanned the road for traffic, ready to jog to the site of the crash, when I noticed the familiar beacons of red and blue coming up the road. Relief flooded me as two police cars stopped at the scene of the accident.
Having lived in Durham, North Carolina all my life, I was accustoming to seeing the police frequently. What surprised me was the speed of response. The accident was barely five minutes old. That was when the feeling of wrongness sank in. Something wasn't right and I was sure I had just entered the Twilight Zone.
A total of three officers spilled from the 'black and whites'. Two officers, one male and one female, set immediately to investigate the crash. The third scanned the streets and stopped when he spotted me.
"Excuse me, Miss!" he spoke at an alarmingly loud volume. I noticed he had his hand instinctively placed on the butt of his gun.
"Yes?" I couldn't keep my voice from shaking.
"What's your name?" His voice was stern and demanding.
I felt slightly intimidated by his tone. I had encounters with the law before, but only because of some of the people I knew. I, myself, was a law abiding citizen with the exception of speeding to get home on occasions. The officer's eyes regarded me with apprehension and that further instilled my anxiety.
"Mrs. Ashen, it is advised that you go home immediately and stay there. Understood?"
I nodded; neglecting to correct him. I wasn't a Mrs. I was a Miss. Regardless; I wasn't going to argue with a cop. My mind did want to ask him why I should leave. It was common knowledge that any witness to an accident should give a report. Then again, he was pretty determined to have me out of the way.
I boarded my SUV and cautiously crossed over the intersection. I had only two turns to go before reaching home. The road leading to the first turn was uneventful. One fourth of a mile of nothing unusual was a distant memory when I rounded that first turn.
Immediately after the turn, there was a small hill. The hill wasn't much, but it did prevent a good view of the road ahead. Just over the hill a school bus was stopped. The red lights blinked in rhythm. I was surprised after the accident I had just witnessed that I could still question the bus's appearance. If I had left work on time, I surly would have been behind this very bus; but I had left late.
My mind was encompassed in so many thoughts that it took a while for the movements on the bus to capture my attention. What got my full focus was the back window exploding out. Tiny shards of glass rained on the hood of my vehicle.
I gasped sharply at the sight that unfolded before me. The bus was one that transported middle school students. The glass had not been knocked out by a book, but by a student. A kid, no more than eleven, hung out of the broken window from the waist up. His arms bumped limply on the emergency door.
I covered my mouth; stifling a scream as the legs followed the rest of him out of the window. He landed in a pile on the asphalt. A man, he had to be the bus drive, made a sluggish lunge to catch him. His thick hairy arm grasped at air as he tilted himself over the edge to view the body resting on the ground. The bus driver screeched and swung his head to the right. The Bluetooth ear piece, which had once been lodged in his ear, came loose and followed the pre-teen to the road.
Hysteria took hold of me. I screamed as my foot hit the gas. With no concerns for road safety I hurdled myself around the bus. Fighting off a panic attack, I sped the rest of the way. I only slowed enough to make the turn onto my street without rolling my SUV.
I broke habit and parked in my parent's drive way. Moving at high speed, I yanked the keys from the ignition and raced from my car to the house. The first key I jammed into the knob was the wrong one. Cursing under my breath I fumbled with the wad of keys until I located the right on. My hand shook and the keys tumbled from my grasp. I could feel the tears building as I snatched them from the walkway and once again located the right key.
This time I managed to get the door unlocked. In haste I slammed the door behind me. My timing was perfect. As the door snapped closed, my father appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"Oh good, you're here. Look, I've got Mickey. We're going to get a hair cut."
Following closely behind my father was my four year old son.
"No!" I screamed hysterically. "You can't go out there!"
"Mama?" Mickey gave me a worried smile as he approached. "You okay?"
I knelt down and hugged him almost too tight. He struggled against me but I held on anyway. I looked up over his shoulder and meet my father's eyes. "There's a huge accident at Alexander and Page. And…" I swallowed hard. "Something else. A kid's hurt right up the road."
"What do you mean hurt?" My mom asked rounding the corner. I knew my hysterics would eventually have her running.
"In front of the new housing complex going toward Page. I think the bus driver went crazy or something. He pushed the kid through the window of the bus." No, he didn't push the kid. He rammed the kid through the glass. Now that I could think back to it, my memory conjured the blood I had omitted at the time.
I was sure I was going to throw up, but I managed to hold down my lunch.
"The bus driver fushed da kid out da window?" Mickey asked innocently.
I was thankful at that time, more than usual, that my son didn't ride the bus. He wouldn't be old enough for school until next year.
I released him enough to cup my hand on his cheek. "Don't worry about it, Mickey. I've got to call 911."
I stood up as my father passed me. I turned sharply. My over protective motherly instincts were on hyper drive. "Where are you going?"
"If there's a kid hurt up there I'm going to help."
"I wanna go!" Mickey exclaimed. He was always excited about going anywhere.
I knew I couldn't persuade my father into staying, but I did have control over my son's action. "No, Mickey, you stay here."
"No arguing or I'll take way your Spyro game, got me?"
"Gotcha," he moaned.
I left mom to supervise my son as I hurried to the kitchen. Every phone in the house was cordless except the kitchen phone. Mom always kept a corded phone for use if the power went out. My hands were still shaky, but I managed to punch in the three numbers without a misdial.
After one ring a friendly automatic voice informed me that all lines were busy and I needed to try again at a later time.
I hung the phone and searched the room for anything that would help ease my mind. As if she were physic, my mother entered the room.
"Mom," I said in a voice just as uneven as my hands were shaking. "Something isn't right. There's something going on here and I think we're all in for it."
Before she could respond, I clicked on the small TV that hung from the cabinet near the sink. Scrolling through the channels I stopped on the answer to all questions – the 24 hour news channel.
A man in his mid thirties sat in front of the cameras. His expression was laced with something forbidden to any news anchored. He was scared.
"This is Brian McCotney coming to you live from Chicago. We have reports here straight from the federal government. You are all advised to stay inside your homes. Do not leave. It seems that an epidemic has swept through the nation. Jesus! The whole U S of freakin' A. We have reports that a large number of people have simply started attacking each other."
The sweat poured from Brian's brow. He ran a nervous hand through his thinning hair. "We repeat. Do not leave you homes. Do not attempt to make contact with anyone who doesn't act normal. Do not…Jesus! This can't be happening."
I turned to greet the faces of my mother and son. My son's face was masked with curiosity. My mother's had gone pale.
"The whole country? Did he say the whole country?" My voice was high and squeaky.
"Oh Lord, Justin. Your father just left."
I snatched up the receiver of the phone and quickly punched in the familiar seven digits. My only response was the melody that announce dad had left his cell phone in the back bedroom.
"He's got his work phone on him. I don't know the number." I could hear panic on the edge of my mother's voice.
"I don't either."
Mom moved through the kitchen in what could have easily been one step. She deftly grabbed her purse from her office and headed straight for the door. "I'm going to get your father. Helen, you and Mickey stay here. I have my phone on me if something happens."
I nodded, unable to speak as my son hugged her bye. I moved behind her and followed her to the door. In my mind I begged my mother not to go. I wanted to cry and throw a tantrum, but I was 27 and not 2. I also knew that after more than 30 years of marriage, my mother wouldn't be convinced not to go to my father.
I watched from the door as my mother maneuvered her little blue Ford around my foreign SUV. A knot formed in my throat. As I stared off into the trees across the street, I couldn't help but to wonder if I would ever see my parents again. That thought quickly dominoed. I had a very large family. If there was something going on I had to make contact with someone.
The small voice of pure innocence snapped me back from purgatory. My family remained my top priority. Most of the numbers I had were stored inside my wonderful companion, Scrap Face. I closed the door and went straight to my mom's office. Lucky me to have a mom who works from home.
The office was an add-on to the house where a carport once was. The entrance was through the kitchen and I didn't even bother to turn the TV off. I sat down at mom's desk and plugged my phone up. Mickey played shadow and followed me. I smiled at him and motioned toward the second computer. He sat promptly and proceeded to play a much enjoyed Sponge Bob Square Pants game I had purchased for him only months ago.
I used his presence as a security blanket. He was the only person I had near and I needed some touch with normality.
I proceeded to search the immediate area around the desk for mom's brown address book. At the moment, the book was elusive and provided as helpful as Scrap Face. Had my thoughts been more logical, I would have used Scrap Face since the cell would work now that it was plugged. But my mind was working in half capacity at high speed and that option never entered my train of thought. I didn't spend time digging under the papers scattered about looking for the address book. A sense of urgency consumed me. Giving up on the book, I resorted to the computer. I could find phone numbers in an online phone book faster than I could search the office.
I opened Internet Explorer and readied myself for the dreaded error informing me that all internet access was either gone, or traffic was too heavy. My apprehension, guided by the events I had just encountered, was ill fed. The home page came up almost instantly.
I moved the mouse over the address bar, but stopped when the headline caught my undivided attention.
World Goes Insane! Many Believe Terrorists Have Hijacked Airwaves.
The tremors that had taken control of my hands spread throughout my entire body. I glanced at the time and noted it was 4:15. I had been home for less than an hour and my Friday had gotten worse instead of better.
It didn't improve as I read the brief summary.
'Though it is confirmed that something has gone wrong, the events leading to the current state of life have many theories. Whatever has happened took place at 3:03 Eastern Standard Time. Mass acts of violence have been reported from almost every corner of the world.'
You just had to love the speed of the internet. Not always trust worthy, but fast.
"The world?" I thought as I stared at the text on the screen. "First the country and now the world?"
"Aw man!" Mickey moaned behind me. A short investigation confirmed he was unhappy with another loss on his game. I was envious of his oblivious nature. I already had trouble accepting what I had seen with my own eyes; not to mention what I had just found. A small voice inside taunted me that it was just one big practical joke. A bigger voice screamed that Judgment Day had arrived.
I clicked on the link labeled 'Theories'. I came to a list of more links, each sporting their respective outlook.
I was truly amazed that through such mass disorder, so many people would run to the virtual world of the web for answers and comments. Then again, here I was online myself.
I scanned the list, letting gut intuition lead me.
Something in the water?
Satellites Gone Awry.
Cell phones prove more deadly.
Mutated Flu Strikes!
radioactive zombie alert!
I paused and immediately clicked on the link labeled 'The Pulse'. I scanned the text briefly; stopping to read anything that sounded factual. I was in a forum and understood that any idiot with a keyboard could contribute. But sometimes someone with half a brain would also leave words of wisdom.
The first entry I read was obviously the first one posted. Someone who called themselves BlackRiver91 theorized that a Pulse had been sent through the airwaves; targeting cell phone users. He (I assumed it was a he) used a lot of computer jargon to basically say that someone had sent a signal out and it had a very negative effect on the human mind. Supposedly this signal – or Pulse – stripped away nearly the whole human conscience, leaving people in more of a zombie state than a human one. Everyone affected by it was driven to violence without a shred of their original self left.
I had a hard time swallowing that. Such an elaborate theory in such a short amount of time didn't seem right. I continued to scan the forum anyway. Something urged me on.
My eyes caught an entry by PrettyPumpkin212.
'I have to agree with the Pulse Theory. I'm sitting at my desk, in my office and saw a lot through the windows. A man was talking on his cell phone one minute and ripping out the throat of another man the next minute. He used his TEETH!! Somehow they've hijacked the airwaves. It's mass chaos for anyone who was on their phone – their cell phone! As the first man continued to bite the other, a woman tried to make a call on her cell. I assume she was calling the cops, but then she went completely nuts. God help us all.'
"God help us all," I echoed PrettyPumpkin's plea.
Now that I thought about it, it was entirely possible that the truck driver and the crash maniac from earlier had been talking on a cell when they lost control of their vehicles. I also recalled the Bluetooth earpiece that the bus driver had lost out the back window of the bus.
I read a bit further down the forum. BigFishD also agreed with PrettyPumpkin212 adding a few more insights. According to BigFishD the Pulse might have been an attempt at mind control either gone as plan (to have us all kill each other) or horribly wrong. What ever was going on, it all connected to cell phones.
Cell phones! Dad was out there with the mobile he used at work and most likely had already used it. If he found the kid hurt at the school bus, he would have used his phone to call for help. Then there was mom. She had taken her phone…
It knocked the breath clean out of me. I was sure both parents, loving and wonderful, had fallen victim to this act of terrorism. If it was truly the cell phones doing it then they were both either dead or mindless. As heartless as it sounded, I prayed both of them were dead over being mindless. At least if they were dead, they would sleep and wait for Gabriel to blow the trumpet; and they would not be out there killing.
A thousand thoughts seemed to crowd into my head at one time. "If mindless, was it still a sin to kill? Would good honest people in that state be allowed to enter heaven? If attacked by one of those who had been zapped, was it a sin to kill them? Could I kill if I had too?"
Another moan of defeat answered my question. I could, and would, kill if it meant protecting my son.
"Mickey, buddy boy, we need to run home for a bit."
Big blue eyes greeted my solemn tone. "Sure, Mom… I mean yes ma'am. Dis game aint doin' what I want no how."
I patted his dirty blonde – almost red – hair as he passed me on the way to the door. It was time to take precautions. Every fiber in my body said so.