General Fraser arrived at The Spire at about three o’clock in the morning. He spent seven hours there, and it was eventually decided that the government had to wait a long period of time before they could impose any extreme measures to combat the situation. The world leaders told him over a phone call that the likelihood of the sky formation being a tear in the stratosphere was highly probable and that there was no way any country would cater to such demands. Fraser wanted a full lockdown to take place. He thought this was the best way to circumvent any potential disasters. And maybe he was right.
Making their way through the inner-left wing of the building to the surgery room, clusters of rich blue light filling out the hallway, General Fraser and Lieutenant Heart had to shove past a few workers; there were scientists, marine biologists, physicists, military personnel, and members of the United States government. All dressed in either white trench coats or black business suits.
“It’s not a black hole,” Lieutenant Heart said. “I can assure you, sir. After Saturday – last Saturday evening – NASA had already teased at this with their posts of UFOs. They told of a flying saucer in the Earth’s atmosphere and decided to upload images of their supposed findings. It turned out that they took their posts down a few days after, as if to hide something – but that’s when I thought, sir, what if they didn’t take them down? I thought, what if something else took it down for them – what if their entire station was overrun. I thought, well that would explain the lack of uploads after deletion – they hadn’t uploaded for quite some time, sir. In fact, they hadn’t uploaded at all. So, before you ask, yes, I called NASA after all this occurred. I asked them about the UFO – about the flying saucer – about why they took the images down.
“They told me it was a ‘marketing strategy’ they used to help donations come flooding into their organisation. That much I knew was a lie. So I asked them again – but this time to answer truthfully – and they hung up the phone. They blocked The Spire’s number, sir. There’s no contacting them unless we use a different number or I.P. address.”
They arrived at the level-one elevator. There was a green scanner on the right side.
“You sure do talk a lot,” Fraser said, pulling out his white key card. “Don’t ya?”
He pressed his key card against the scanner. The elevator popped open and they went inside, a mirror reflecting their every movement and expression.
“I’d hope not, sir.” Heart hit the basement-level button and crossed his hands behind his back, looking ahead in silence, patiently waiting for the lift to bring them to the alien corpse. “Things are only beginning.”
There was a leak in the ceiling, and it woke Phoenix up.
The day was just about dawning for him, and the sky was indeed a delicate maroon colour. He slept in his parents’ bedroom, fully-dressed in his silver jacket and Adidas tracksuit pants. He even crawled into bed with his shoes on. The dawnlight was no longer a reddish-orange in the middays of December 2032. It was instead a bold purple and blue combination that sometimes shifted to a spectacular shade of pink. Phoenix thought this was strange.
Morning, Phoenix decided (if the sky was going to stay that way for a long time then he better get used to it), was the ugliest point of the day. Most of mankind hated it and only those cherry pickers felt like they could get something out of it. And now that it was a completely different colour he’d have something worse to look forward to at the beginning of sunlight. This was, believe it or not, his greatest pet peeve. Morning.
He relaxed, listening to the chirr of grasshoppers and larks. It was soon realised that there were a lot less of those creatures. Phoenix thought they’d vanished along with the rest of civilisation – at least, those that had actually gone missing. And for a minute he found it funny: insects looking for their parents. He smiled for a bit.
“Aw . . . Christ.” He let out a long groan. “I’ve a headache.”
He’d been having a conversation with his parents over and over again in his head. From the moment he fell asleep to the moment he woke up.
WHERE ARE WE?! their voices called from the back of his brain.
SON, SON! IS THAT YOU?! they would bellow.
Yes, Phoenix would say, tired and weary.
YOU HAVE TO SAVE US! YOU HAVE TO HELP US!
That voice sounded all too familiar. At first he recognised it as the low baritone of his father – Son, you have to find us. It’s dark in here.
Then, a woman’s cry in his ear – We’re trapped here, Hun! We’re . . . we’re trapped.
Then he recognised it as both of them speaking simultaneously. A little bark followed. Fluffy.
Here girl! an unfamiliar voice called.
But as he slumped back on his pillow, groaning and rolling his lips, he kept his eyes shut, as if he wanted to drift back to sleep.
Phoenix, said another voice in his mind, this time sternly, you’re alone. You’re forever abandoned.
Then he recognised the owner of that voice. It was his own.
“WHAT?!” Phoenix shot up from his parents’ bed and backed his skull into the headboard. “Shit!” He groaned in pain.
He cupped his face in his hands and peered around the room. His dark banana fingers were mushed up against his eyes like thick tarantula legs.
It was a small room – nothing too extravagant about it; there was a window on the left and a thirty – maybe thirty-five – inch television next to the doorway opposite him, and soft, silky drapes that prompted in him a time of peace – before the world went to shit.
His thoughts became clearer as he kept looking around. He remembered the words his father offered him on his tenth birthday after he found out he had to spend a few months at his grandmother’s; his parents had to work abroad for the term.
"Son,” he told him, ”you may feel afraid. You may even feel bad about things you haven’t even done yet. And you may miss us for a long-ass time, but remember, we’re gonna come back. And when we do, Mama’s gonna get you that hover-board for your eleventh birthday and I’m gonna get you that subscription you’ve always wanted at the Retrove Centre. When we come back we’re gonna let you pick out the dog you want. But you have to promise me you’ll stay good. Being good is all that matters, all that will ever matter. So stay good, son. Stay good. And remember, we’ll be back sooner than you think. Can you do that?"
"Yes,” Phoenix had told his father. ”Yes, I can."
Everything else was a blur.
Phoenix sprang out of bed and made his way into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. Again, the house was drawn out in silence, all but the tip-tap of water dripping into his kitchen sink. “I’ll find y’all,” Phoenix said, opening up the glass cabinet. “They’re safe somewhere. I just know.”
After he filled a glass with tap water, he gulped it down. Then he went back into his parents’ room to grab his phone. He tried calling his mom and dad but all he got in response was an obnoxious beep-beep-beep. No voicemail. No nothing.
“No signal,” said Phoenix. “Aw, man, you gotta be shittin me.”
Phoenix decided that his best chance was to go out looking for them. So that’s what he decided to do. He knocked on most – if not all – the other apartment doors in the building. Then he asked at the reception desk if they’d seen where they went off to. It was true that Phoenix believed they went looking for him. And it was also true that they had gone missing. So Phoenix went on and travelled into the city, asked around, went to the commercial district, asked there, and when all hope was lost, he walked to his grandmother’s a few blocks away. And so on. No; nobody knew anything.
What Phoenix also didn’t know was that his parents weren’t the only ones to have gone missing on that early morning in December. There were hundreds – perhaps, even, thousands. So he continued his search, rushing through the streets, through the cars that proceeded down the roads and roundabouts. He felt alone . . . even more so than he had before.
And in that panic that would seemingly never lessen, as far as his taut brain would allow, Phoenix considered the possibility that he would never see his parents again. They were lost in the vast city – somewhere dark with echoing walls, he thought. Were they kidnapped? Dognapped, too? It didn’t make sense to him. Nothing made sense.
So he went on.
There was a great number of people in worry. And as Phoenix continued down into the commercial district, he noticed something that he would never forget.
There were missing-persons posters everywhere; on the windows of stores; on lampposts and walls; even on the park benches by the Community Grounds.
He would eventually learn the truth when he saw Alex and Katherine rushing through the streets aimlessly, as if they were . . . looking for someone.
Things were indeed just beginning to unravel in the city of Violetwall.