A POOR JOKE.
Incessant blaring of horns and sirens filled the graying air while Jesse, Sarah, Matt, and Mary, now saturated in sweat, advanced their five-mile walk home at a hurried pace along Bergen Boulevard’s cracked sidewalks.
Civilian, military, and public service vehichles drove up and down the street at outrageous speeds. Random passersby frenetically produced pixilations of footage of the destruction on their ultraphones.
Mary and Sarah, meanwhile, continued their attempts to reach their parents as Matt and Jesse comforted them.
“Thirty confirmed dead so far,” Matt huffed.
“Keep your eyes away from the news for now,” Jesse replied. “Let’s continue walking.”
“Do you suppose Dromann’s is closed?”
“How are you thinking of smoothies at a moment like this?”
“Sorry, it was a poor joke.”
“Still nothing!” a red-faced Mary cried. Her hysteria having completely superseded rational thought. “THEY’RE BOTH DEAD! I KNOW IT!”
“THE MORE YOU KEEP SAYING THAT, THE MORE I’LL BELIEVE IT, TOO!” Matt screamed.
“GUYS!” Jesse interjected. “FOCUS!”
“Easy for you to say!” Matt quipped. “You’ve been through it!”
Jesse’s insides cranked. The words that had flown out of his cousin’s mouth went beyond joking; he found them offensive. He stopped Matt in his tracks.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Jesse snapped.
“You don’t even like your uncle,” Matt nervously replied, sensing Jesse’s anger.
“Are you saying this because my parents are dead, I shouldn’t be lecturing you on how to feel?!”
“Cuz! That’s not what I meant!”
Rage infused Jesse. He grabbed Matt by the shoulders and repeated his earlier statement. Matt’s chest tightened and his heart expanded like a balloon ready to pop, expecting his bloody death was imminent.
“I’m sorry, Jesse!” Matt pugnaciously pled. “Please let me go!”
“STOP IT, YOU TWO!” Sarah wailed as she yanked Jesse aside and locked her arms underneath his.
“Jess,” Matt wheezed as he attempted to collect his thoughts, “that wasn’t cool, man. I don’t appreciate what you’re becoming! What happened to the funny, carefree Jesse I once knew?”
Jesse tilted his head downward in semi-resignation, sighed, then gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry too, Matt… I’ll never expect you to understand.” His eyes swelled, and his voice quivered. “I just… I…”
Tension broke when Mary accessed FNN’s feed on her ultraphone. “Stewart’s about to give a speech,” she declared, and the Maiths and Sarah returned to walking while the Ultimate Minister began speaking.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” a gold sweater-vest clad Stewart calmly began as he stood behind a glass podium in the South Tower lobby next to the Holy Auditorium, flanked by Jack Minor on his left and Langdon Arshan on his right. He resumed with the authoritative tone he channeled on Remembrance Day. “At approximately 756hrs this morning, a TSUNAMIBOMB detonated in the waters of the Hudson River near Lower Manhattan. Initial reports indicate catastrophic damage, including total destruction of our nation’s most beloved symbol, the Statue of Liberty. At this time, we can confirm three deaths, and thousands more are presumed injured. This attack was perpetrated by the Naval Special Forces of New Alaska, and the Divine Republic of Freedom condemns this attack and the entire New Alaskan government, including President George Fetisov. Make no mistake, we will be exploring all military options for retaliation, and we will defend our country, no matter the cost. I will be meeting with the Supreme Assembly of Administration within the hour to discuss and decide on our next course of action. Communiques will be issued shortly after, and I will address the nation tonight. Thank you, and may God bless the Divine Republic of Freedom.”