Disclaimer: U nin. That's "not mine"...in Sindarin. (I'm running out of ways to effectively say that Lord of the Rings, and everything pertaining to it, belongs to someone other than me. So I'm resorting to using other languages now ;) )
Rating: Teen. Rated Teen for some mild violence and disturbing images.
Time frame: 2015 AD (as in yes, 2-and-a-half-ish years in the future)
A/N: Obviously, this is an AU. The vague blur of this idea has been haunting me for quite some time, and then today my dad was watching Battle: Los Angeles (the new version) in the other room. And it was all just like BAM HELLO! I have a few ideas of where I can take it, but as of yet, I'm really not sure if I'm going to continue this. I want to see if there's enough interest in such a tale as this before I commit myself to writing (yet another) WIP. So if you want me to continue, then PLEASE review or alert or something (reviews would be most appreciated out of the aforesaid options ;)). If there doesn't seem to be very much interest, I'll probably just leave it as a oneshot, and keep the rest in my own head :) Anyway, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy this somewhat (somewhat? Try VERY) strange tale.
"It has been nearly four days since the world was attacked by what has now confirmed to be an extraterrestrial invasion. As the flames finally begin to die down, rescue workers are hoping to soon be able to risk the rubble of what is left of New York, Atlanta, and Boston in search of survivors."
"Here's your coffee sir." He tore his eyes away from the grime-caked and cracked television mounted onto the wall, and turned to look at the young man who had approached him, bearing a small tray on which sat a single pewter mug. "Can I get you anything else?" the man asked, putting the tray down on the tabletop.
"No, thank you," the customer replied with a small smile, and picked up his mug. The waiter turned and left without another word.
The customer sipped his coffee carefully, and carefully bit back a slight grimace at the overwhelmingly bitter bite. Still, it was better than nothing, he decided, and he should not be at all complaining, considering the events of the last week.
A testament to the Americans and their dependence on caffeine, he mused wryly, taking another small sip, that the world as they know it has effectively ended, and yet they continue to keep their coffee shops open.
Still, although seemingly ludicrous, this situation was far better than the all-consuming, mass hysteria that had gripped many, if not most, other parts of the world. Better than most parts of the nation he amended grimly.
His gaze drifted back to the television on the wall, eyes narrowing slightly, the better to discern the picture behind the random bursts of static.
"The death toll world-wide continues to rise, climbing from the millions into the billions.
"Refugee camps in Kansas and Nebraska continue to swell as the thousands of now-homeless seek someplace to shelter for the oncoming winter. New camps are being established by the National Guard in northern Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia, and New Mexico; however the precise location of those camps has yet to be released to the public."
He sighed heavily into his mug. Nothing good would come of the mass refugee camps – only an increase in violence and thievery, not to mention that, without much of the technology and medicines that all had become accustomed to having at fingertip reach, disease would be rampant.
We are going to need him now more than ever, which is saying something, he thought, and then promptly fell still, the coffee turning to sludge on his tongue. With a suddenly tight throat, he forced himself to swallow, and carefully placed the mug back down atop the table.
The scene on the TV screen flickered and changed, now showing photographs of pulverized concrete and twisted metal, flames blurring the image with a haze of brilliant orange, and smoke and drifting ash giving the entire thing a pathetic gray cast. There was no sky in the picture – only blackness dashed with gray and the hellish light of the reflection of fire.
The reporter's voice came in over the slide show.
"What you see now are satellite images taken of Atlanta, Georgia not three hours ago. As you can see, the area is still highly unstable and toxic; however, rescue workers are hoping to move into the northernmost suburb in Forsyth County by nightfall."
The screen went black for a moment, and then a second slideshow flickered up onto the screen. If possible, these pictures were even worse and more terrifying than the ones of Atlanta. Like Atlanta, the smoke and ash were visible, choking the air even in the photograph with a cloying, suffocating hold. Fire licked at the edges of the frame and was buried at the heart, an intense red glow suffusing and staining all that it touched.
Yet where Atlanta had been blasted to the ground, the photographs of this city showed that parts of it were still standing. Burned out husks of buildings stood to the sky like skeletons pretending to still be alive, and what had been utterly destroyed – torn to the ground – looked almost as if it had been done by hand, slowly, purposefully – personally – rather than simply having been leveled in one fell swoop.
That was somehow more terrifying.
"These images, taken of New York City a few moments ago, have shattered the hope that rescue teams will be able to proceed any time soon. The fires of the first city that was struck by the invading forces have not yet begun to peter out, despite the predictions of the scientists working in conjunction with the United States Bureau of Reconstruction."
He was there, somewhere. Somewhere… But where? Buried under rubble, his body twisted, broken, and bleeding? No. No, he would not believe it. He refused to believe it.
Damn it Elrond, he thought savagely, why did you have to insist on being there of all places? What did you hope to accomplish? You knew what was coming…
More pictures were now appearing on the screen, only these were not of burned and burning rubble. Corpses now filled the frames, some civilian and others dressed in BDUs. Yet no matter what their dress, all of their expressions were the same – their eyes wide in glassy, eternal fear and their mouths locked forever in a scream. Blood was splattered all around them, dripping down the broken cement blocks and coating toppled cars with splashes of crimson paint.
"It's all pretty gruesome, huh?" The waiter was back, and was standing a few feet away, arms crossed as he gazed up at the television with sick fascination.
"Yes, it is," he replied, tearing his gaze away from the screen. "Thankfully not many places were hit as hard as New York City."
"We were hit hard enough here," the young man replied quietly. "I can't even begin to imagine…" He fell silent awkwardly, as if embarrassed by the emotion evident in his voice.
"Yet you survived, as did your community," the customer said softly, standing and turning to place a hand on the young man's shoulder comfortingly. "And that, now, is all that matters. The past is the past, and you must learn to leave it as such."
"You really believe that?" the young man asked, finally bringing his eyes up to meet the startlingly blue gaze of the customer.
"Aye," he said softly after a long pause, and for just an instant, the waiter thought he sensed an ancient pain and weight of knowledge behind the word.
"So," the young man said quickly, attempting to mask his surprise, "You are just moving through?" he asked.
"Yes," the customer said, his voice returning to normal.
"Are you on your way to one of the refugee camps?" the waiter asked, frowning slightly.
The other shook his head. "No. I am looking for someone."
"Who?" the young man asked curiously. "You don't have to tell me…" he added hurriedly, then trailed off.
"A dear friend," the customer replied. "…A father." The last bit was spoken so quietly that the other could barely make out the words, but he seemed to understand that they had not been meant for his ears. He looked away, glancing back to the television, blushing ever so slightly.
"Scientists are now predicting that the clouds of ash and smoke that blanket much of the East Coast will take at least six months to begin to dissipate, rendering much of the coastland unlivable. Likewise, the West Coast – California, Oregon, and Washington – have been deemed HotZones, and have been deemed unfit for human habitation. More to come on the HotZones within the hour."
"And this update just in! A survivor from New York has been reported found wandering the countryside. Our very own Andrea Marks found him staggering through a field fifty miles from New York City, and managed to catch this on tape!"
Both were now watching the screen intently, one out of mere curiosity, and the other with something much more desperate than mere interest.
A blurry, grainy video recorded from a cheap, handheld camera came on the screen. The image was shaking up and down nauseatingly, as if whoever was carrying it was running.
"Hey, hey!" the woman behind the camera was shouting. The jerky movement ceased abruptly, and the listener could hear the recorder's heavy breathing and slight wheezes. The camera suddenly swung around, showing a rather short, stocky man whose clothing was hanging off of him in tatters. Blood and soot streaked his face, covering his fair skin in a dark mask.
"Who are you?" the woman asked, coming a little bit closer. The man only stared at her numbly, eyes wide and unfocused. "Hey, are you okay?" the woman asked gently. An arm appeared in the view of the lens as she placed her hand on his shoulder.
The man started, and looked at her, his eyes finally focusing in on her, and then flickering down to the camera.
"Fine," he grunted, but then immediately began to shiver.
The woman behind the camera seemed to turn her head around, for what she said next sounded fainter and more distant, as if being shouted the opposite direction.
"Hey, I found someone over here! I need a medic!"
"Easy," she said, turning back to the man in front of her. He was slowly sinking down into a crouch, his bloodied hands reaching for the soil beneath his feet. "Can you tell me what happened?" she asked, kneeling along with him and supporting him with her hand all the while. The man began to shake a little harder. "I'm sorry," the woman said hurriedly, "I didn't mean-" The man cut her off.
"No, no. The world needs to know." His voice, like his hands, was shaking, as if he could barely control it. He cleared his throat painfully, and then began to speak once more, his rough voice evening out as he spoke.
"I…I don't know how long ago it was, how many days. But…it just started out as a normal morning. And then the clouds came. It was so unexpected; just a wall of thick dark clouds that rolled in over the bay and covered the sun. I was in my apartment when the clouds came, and I went outside to get a better look. I watched the cloud bank roll in with my neighbors from across the hall. It was beautiful…at least, it was at first. And then…And then the explosions started.
"We heard something, something that sounded like a boom, or a bang, or something. At first, no one thought much of it – it is…was…New York after all. But then there was another, and another. And then a second later, the building a block over had burst into flame.
"No one could see where the explosions were coming from. We all ran, most of us back inside, and a few to their cars. I think most of us thought that it was a terrorist attack – I know I did. At least at first.
"And then…and then the…the things started coming." He hesitated here, his voice dying. "They were like nothing I'd ever seen before. Big, and covered in this armory stuff that gleamed, and they carried these gun things that had blades – like bayonets or swords – on the end. And the way they howled…" the man convulsed, shuddering and clutching his arms around him.
"Shh," the woman murmured, rubbing his arm soothingly. "You don't have to go on." The man seemed not to hear her, or perhaps he was simply ignoring her.
"They were coming through the streets, howling and screaming, slaughtering anyone in their path. And then they started breaking into the houses. I climbed out of my window and down to the street. I didn't know what else to do…I just couldn't let myself be caught in my own home and killed. And then I started running.
"I don't know how long I ran. But then I was trapped. There were a whole bunch of us. The subway had collapsed, leaving a huge crater on one side, and then there were buildings blocking us in. And then the monsters – aliens, or whatever they're calling them – found us.
"They just started killing. And I thought surely I was about to be dead. But then…but then…something miraculous happened. Something saved us.
"Out of nowhere, these three beings dropped down into the mass of monsters, and just started fighting them. Within minutes, all of the monsters were either dead or were running in fear from the others."
"These…these other beings," the woman asked, sounding more than a little shaken by the story, yet overcome with curiosity, "Who were they?"
The man shrugged, and smiled. "I don't know. Maybe they were angels. But I swear, when they came down and started fighting, it looked like they were glowing. All I know for sure is that they saved us."
The camera suddenly jolted back.
"Excuse me ma'am," a disembodied voice said curtly, and then the camera was jerking rapidly again as the woman stood. An instant later, it went dark as the recording was cut off.
For a long moment, both who were watching the TV in the small diner were completely silent, staring fixated on the temporarily black screen.
"Wow," the young man said finally. "I wonder…I wonder if that story was real. I mean…" he trailed off, and looked at his companion to see what he thought.
The customer was still staring at the TV, although he seemed not to be actually seeing the broadcast as it switched back, once more, to the female reporter. He seemed to be lost somewhere far away in thought.
"Hey, you alright?" the waiter asked.
"Mmh?" the other man asked, starting, and turning. "Oh. No, I doubt that the man's story was true – or leastways not completely accurate. When one is afraid, their minds play strange tricks on them."
"If you say so," the waiter replied, although he sounded highly skeptical. He shot the other a strange look, and then hurried to collect the mug. "Well, if you're done with your coffee…" Receiving a nod, he lifted the now-cold mug and turned to leave. "Thank you very much," he said, turning back one final time. The customer nodded his head ever so slightly in response.
He hesitated for only a moment after the boy had disappeared behind the counter. All weariness that he had felt previously seemed to have been burned out of his body. Now all he could feel was tension and the thrumming of nerves.
While he did not believe that the man's story was completely accurate, still…there was enough potential truth in what he had said, and he felt his spirit both lift, and plummet at the same instant – a singularly strange feeling. Yet with that feeling came another, more powerful emotion – determination. He would find his friend, his brother…his Lord. He would.
He threw a ten dollar bill on the table, and then turned to go. Without a single glance behind him, Glorfindel strode from the diner and out into the grey-hued morn.
A/N II: As I said above, if you want me to keep writing, then please leave a review or something so I know that there's interest in this.
Thank you for reading! :)