Day 1: The Attack (Liz)
Liz watched the black robots fall from the sky and eviscerate her neighbors. There wasn’t any safe place to put her eyes. No matter where she looked, all she saw was blood and piles of flesh. No one was left. Everyone had either escaped or been killed by the black craft that hovered above. She bit the inside of her mouth. What if one of those piles was Pete? She sent him text after text, but he didn’t answer. He wasn’t responding to calls either. She could hardly hold the phone, her hands trembled so violently.
“What the hell are those things?” Her mom stood beside her and looked out the window, peeking through the drapes. Liz wanted to reach out for a hug but didn’t know how her mom would react. Instead, she tried to steady herself and help.
“I’ll call 9-1-1.” Liz punched the numbers into her phone, happy to be doing something. The connection took longer than usual, and when it went through, it routed her to a pre-recorded voice, telling her all lines were busy and to hold for the next available operator.
“What are they saying?”
“I’m on hold.”
They were both crouching on the living room floor where they had an uninterrupted sightline to the carnage. Her mom blew a stray lock of hair out of her face. “Heather’s parents made it inside. The Carters, too. My God, Liz, they killed so many people. The streets are covered in corpses.”
Liz tried to be brave, but hearing those words caused her to tear up, thinking about Pete. What if he was hurt somewhere? Why wouldn’t he answer his phone? She took slow breaths to bring her heart rate under control.
“There.” Her mom grabbed her forearm, the same one with the burn, and Liz gasped in pain. “I can see Mrs. Candling, hiding under her car. She’s still alive.” Alexandra got to her feet and leaned closer to the window. “Those things are everywhere. They come in close, shoot, and then go back to hovering in the sky.”
Outside the big picture window, Liz counted at least fifteen. They were black and sleek, and their exterior seemed wet somehow. They were smaller than cars, no longer than five feet across. There was no way to tell how they flew or where the lasers came from.
“They’re drones,” Alexandra said. “I bet this is the Muslims.”
Liz barked a bitter laugh and covered her mouth. “Are Muslims known for their kill-drone technology?”
“What else do you think they are?”
“I don’t know.”
In her phone, there was a click, and a female voice on the other end said, “Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?” The voice sounded rushed and frantic.
“Please help,” the words poured from Liz in a rush. “Come help. We’re on Poplar Street, there are black egg-shaped robots, killing everyone.”
“Stay in your house. Don’t go outside. If you have a basement, even better.” The woman tried to project steady calm, but her heavy breathing and clipped sentences revealed her fear. The monsters terrified the 911 woman. For whatever reason, this scared Liz more than the invaders.
“Are you sending someone?”
“We can’t. The lines are flooded with calls from all over the city. We don’t know what’s happening. Those things are everywhere. An officer will respond as soon as possible.”
“That’s it? This is an emergency, you have to come.” She struggled to stop herself from yelling. Liz felt cheated. She followed the rules, and the rules said to call the police.
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do right now.” The woman paused. “Oh, god. They’ve destroyed another ambulance. Christ.”
“Please, can you help or not?” It took an effort to stop herself from screaming.
“This is the end,” the woman said. “The end of everything. They’re... they’re killing all of us. Every time we send a car, they-” The woman paused, and Liz realized she was crying. “Stay indoors. Don’t go outside.” There was a click from the other end, and the connection was severed.
Liz threw her phone on the couch with a tiny scream and twisted the sleeves of her shirt. “They’re not coming.”
“What? Why not?” Alexandra tore her eyes from the window.
“They said these things are everywhere and are attacking everyone.” Even saying the words threatened to overcome the thin veneer of composure she’d been able to maintain.
“My God. What now?”
Liz wrung her hands and tried to figure out what to do next. Weren’t parents supposed to protect their kids in a crisis and not the other way around? Liz was about to respond when Alexandra looked back out the window and pointed. “Holy shit, she’s making a run for it.”
Far down the street, Liz saw Mrs. Candling under the car. The older woman stretched her arms, dragging herself out from underneath. She squinted upwards at the sky.
“Come on, you bitch! Run!” Alexandra yelled at the window.
It was like watching actors on a stage. Mrs. Candling was so far away. She got about three steps when two of the black vessels rushed her, firing their lasers. It was over in seconds.
“Jesus Christ,” Alexandra’s booming voice lowered to a whisper.
It couldn’t get worse. Trapped inside, surrounded by kill-robots, Pete missing, maybe dead, watching their neighbors getting reduced to soaking piles of bone. What else could happen?
It got worse.
The black things stopped their lazy hovering as if sharing a silent communication. A group broke off and rushed towards the multiple dead bodies that lay in heaps on the road.
“What now?” Liz whispered and reached out to her mom.
A blood-soaked body lay crumpled on the street in front of the house. It looked like an adult. Not Pete. She couldn’t stop the thought from coming and tried to swallow her guilt. The craft flew low and positioned itself over the corpse.
It ate the body.
No other description fit. A compartment opened on the bottom and a series of sharp, wicked-looking protrusions on the end of thin arms emerged. They sawed and hacked at the corpse, dividing it into pieces and scooping up the remains into the compartment. Blood dripped from the underside of the thing, and although it was impossible to hear bones crunching from this far away, she swore she heard something. It scooped pieces of human into the hatch and ate them up.
The process only took moments, and when the kill-bot floated back to its resting level, at the roofline twenty feet off the ground, nothing remained of the body — only a bloodstain where a person used to be.
“They ate him.” Liz covered her mouth with her hand and swallowed back bile. Down the road, other craft did the same thing to other bodies. Alexandra made strangled choking noises.
Neither of them said anything. What was there to say?
Coughing into the back of her hand, her mom made a rush to the kitchen shelf above the fridge. She stood on her toes to reach up and grab a bottle of vodka. She didn’t bother with a glass. With a practiced snap of her fingers, she spun the cap off and took three large swallows from the neck. Glug, glug, glug.
“What the fuck, Mom?” Liz couldn’t keep the sick disappointment from her voice. She couldn’t believe she swore. She never swore at her mom. And her mom never drank like this in front of her.
“I needed a break,” her mom said. “Only a break, Elizabeth, that’s all. It’s fine. We’re going to be safe. I’m going to have a few drinks and then once I’m done, I’ll have some ideas.”
“Drinking isn’t a great idea, mom.”
“I don’t give a fuck what you think!” Alexandra slammed the bottle down on the table and Liz jumped back, horrified at the rage she saw smoldering in her mom’s eyes. How was this happening during the day? Her mom never acted like this during the day. Those were the safe times. Was she going to be hit now? If the day wasn’t safe anymore, Liz didn’t know how she’d be able to bear it.
“I’m sorry, mom,” she whispered. “Please don’t be mad at me.”
“I’m not mad, Liz.” Her mom wiped a trembling hand across her forehead. “I need to think. Can you give me some time here?”
Liz didn’t trust herself to open her mouth and instead nodded, keeping her head low and trying to make herself small. She backed out of the kitchen while her mom continued to murmur to herself about needing time.
She couldn’t bear to look out the window anymore. The images she’d seen would stay with her for the rest of her life. And her mom was of no help. Pete wasn’t answering his phone, and she refused to think about what that might mean.
With no other ideas, she closed the blinds and curled up on the big recliner in the living room, tucking her knees to her chest and hugging herself.
“We’ll be okay,” she said, low enough so the words wouldn’t travel to her mom. “Everything will be okay.”
She stayed that way until nightfall.