Underwhelming. Such a trivial word to describe the death of millions.
But those left to witness the horror and loss only experienced hollow confusion. On the night She rose, awakened by our greed and carelessness, all anyone saw was light.
New York was bathed in it, then simply disappeared.
Instantaneously, almost nine million people were wiped off the face of Her planet. Impressive as it was, the blaze only stole the attention of a few frightened insomniacs. Some feared an explosion, some an aircraft crash, some even the tolling bell of the apocalypse.
Witnesses called their loved ones, praying to hear the disgruntled voices of annoyed friends and family wondering why they'd been woken so late at night.
No calls were answered.
No texts were read.
No one said they were safe and sound.
It wasn't until the early morning sunshine danced over the sand dunes that all hope was truly lost.
"Come, my dear."
The voice is faint, barely audible over the breeze whistling past my ears.
I open my eyes.
Tall grass surrounds me. Blades sway inches from my face, blurry and out of focus against the tangerine horizon.
I struggle to stand, my body weak and tired after waking from the deepest sleep I'd ever known. The grass below remains depressed, a dimple against the otherwise uniform landscape.
Or I assume it’s uniform until I scan the backdrop.
In the distance, a shack sits atop a hill, silhouetted against the bright sunset. A flowering cherry tree stands beside the house, a lopsided swing dangling from one of its thicker branches.
"Come in. Mommy has been waiting so...so long for you."
The voice is louder this time. It sounds like an old woman, but the tone carries hints of youth sprinkled atop the words like grains of sand. It's like a young girl doing a very, very good impression of an old hag.
Dew seeps between my toes. I look down and groan. Now, I have no doubt I'm in a dream.
I'm wearing a white dress that blocks my feet from view. It's fluffy and lacy and frilly and disgusting. I'm sure it would have looked nice on anyone else, but it doesn't do my pathetic, skinny frame any favors.
Yep, I think. I have to be dreaming.
I make several attempts to will myself into something more dignifying, but no luck. The dress sways defiantly in the breeze, taunting me with its very existence.
Why can't I change anything? This is my dream—I have control now that I know it's my dream, right? That’s how these things work!
Apparently not. I guess I'm stuck in this damn dress until I wake up.
A gust of wind rushes up behind me, blowing a tuft of hair into my vision. I grab the lock and hold it to the sun. Aquamarine light shimmers through my dyed strands.
At least my body’s no different. I'm still the vile, tattooed abomination every little Christian boy lusts over.
I let the hair fall and struggle to pat down the rising and falling dress. The wind blows relentlessly, almost pushing me toward the house in the distance before letting up. Satisfied I'm not gonna go full Marilyn Monroe Commando, I watch as the gust slides over the grass and up the hill. The tree petals swing and dance for only a second, then grow eerily still again.
"Come in, Dearie. Mommy wants a good look at you!"
I glance behind me, expecting to see a child hiding in the grass, but find only blackness consuming the world beyond.
A creaking fills my ears. I turn back to see the shack's door slowly glide open and smack against the exterior wall.
I tense. Did the door simply blow open in the wind, or did someone inside open it?
Before thinking better of it, I step forward. I tell myself to stop but...
My heart races. I can’t.
I keep walking. After several phantom steps, I start to panic.
I'm possessed! My body won't stop marching toward the open door!
I want to run, to take shelter in the darkness at my back. I know what lives in my head, and the endless abyss would be preferable to whatever my mind will conjure in that shack.
"Good girl, good."
I fight harder, gritting my teeth and struggling for control, yet my body maintains its casual strut. I shake my head, trying to move my arms while they lay limply at my sides.