Time for Part 18. I've been playing with the cover to this. I'm thinking I'll put some kind of poll next week to see what you all like best.
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Welcome to the End//Part 18--Scattered
I scanned the crowd in front of me. That’s the first time it felt small. Not small exactly, but not as big as it should have. This part of Dallas was residential. There should have been more people. We all walked aimlessly.
I tried to form a plan, think of a place that I’d sleep that night. I came up with nothing. The best I could think was to follow the crowd, so I looked up toward the beginning of wherever this mass started. That’s when I saw her, my neighbor. Her blonde ponytail bouncing in a crowd of people who seemed to be leading the way. That’s when the sky screamed and everyone in front of me disappeared, crushed by a rock bigger than anything I’d ever seen.
It buried itself halfway into the earth and glowed red.
Terror filled the air, and the organized retreat that had existed a moment ago disappeared. People scattered like roaches, all directions. I ran north and west for no reason other than there was no one in my way.
I ran for blocks, over, around and through parts of Dallas that were still unfamiliar. I ran through downtown, across what was left of the park the city had built over the highway, and finally stopped near a creek that runs through a part of the city that Dallas calls Uptown for some reason unknown to me.
The water gurgled. That’s why I stopped. That and my legs couldn’t carry me any farther. Trees provided a canopy over the creek. A concrete path ran along the bank. Somehow this little spot of land hadn’t been hit by anything falling. It was still pristine, an oasis in a ruined city. I quit running and quickly collapsed to the ground. I laid in the grass and felt all the confusion and questions come on me. The adrenaline that had carried me this far was all gone. My tank was empty. I couldn’t have gotten up and walked if I’d wanted to.
I wasn’t alone. There were others who’d found this little patch of normal, and we were congregating in small groups. Conversation was everything you’d expect, variations on the same theme: What the …?
There was more speculation. The only other guy in my little group — just five of us, two guys and three women — was certain it was how God was going to destroy the Earth. One of the women lived close. She said she’d been watching TV and this all looked too coordinated to be God.
“Are you saying He’s disorganized?” The other guy was incensed. I chalked part of that up to the situation. “Because He created the world in just a week.”
She put a hand in his face. “Calm down, preacher. I’m just saying that what I saw wasn’t the world falling apart. It wasn’t military either. It’s something else.”
“What else is there?” One of the other women.
There was no response. Either the first woman didn’t want to say it, or she thought it was just that obvious.
“Aliens,” I said. “If it’s not military, and it’s not just the natural order of space pulling us apart, it’s something else. The only other thing is aliens.”
Everyone turned to listen to me, but I didn’t have anything else to say. I didn’t have anything else at all. I was done. My body was shutting down.
“He’s right. That’s what they were speculating on the TV.”
I turned from the group and found a spot that wasn’t too near anyone. I laid down and rested my head on an outstretched arm. I laid there and listened to a city in confusion. I didn’t last long. I was asleep in minutes.
I woke a few hours later. More people had found our little piece of land, and the noise from people talking and speculating made sleep impossible. Since I didn’t want to have another version of the what-just-happened conversation, I left. Truth was, I was still trying to process this whole thing for myself, and that’s something that I was going to do better on my own.
So after I woke, I walked. I kept going northish. I got to Lemmon Avenue, and that’s when the devastation, for the first time, became overwhelming. Everything north of Lemmon was gone. It was all just rubble and ash. I wanted to climb into it and explore just how far it went, because even in my hazy and tired state, I don’t believe that I thought it went north forever. At some point, if I had climbed in, I would have run into someone looking south into the pile and thinking the same things I was.
Instead of climbing in, I turned around. I headed back south toward my apartment and my stuff. All I had was my jacket, and that wasn’t going to be enough to survive.