Everyone thinks that I died
By John Reiher
November 9, 2119:
Everyone that I knew thought that I had died when the Ad Astra impacted in the middle of New York City. My office was at ground zero, and I was scheduled to be at work that day. It was my “day in the barrel” and I was supposed to be the human face for our customers.
Only I cheated that day. I holo’d in and worked from my home in Pittston PA. I’ve done it before, since most of our customers would holo’d in their presences as well. So there I was in the tank, having a heart to heart with a customer from the lower Bronx, when he piped up, “What’s that sound?”
The audio on my holo unit is OK, but it didn’t pick up the sound of the Ad Astra as it screamed into the atmosphere. A second later I lost my feed and all connections to NYC went down. I tried to contact my hypernet provider, but they were down as well.
What I didn’t know was that the center of New York was a roiling ball of plasma, rising up into the air, as the shock wave flattened everything within a hundred kilometers.
I was 160 km from ground zero.
The shockwave hit 9 minutes after I had lost connection.
Every window in my place was blown out, the roof shingles were peeled off and I was tossed around in my holo tank. It’s what saved me. The straps that held me in place softened the impact as the tank toppled over and rolled around the floor.
When it was over, I unhooked myself and climbed out of the tank. My home was a wreck. Everything was in shambles. I picked through the wreckage, trying to make sense of what had happened. Then the fire fell out of the sky.
It was NYC raining down on my head. Impact debris was reentering the atmosphere and raining death out to three hundred kilometers from ground zero.
I ran for cover in the community-parking garage, along with my neighbors. Most of them had no idea of what had happened/was happening. I had a vague idea. We hunkered down and waited out the rain of molten rocks.
It didn’t last long, just a few minutes, but now the neighborhood was ablaze. Every house and apartment block was on fire. Two hundred year old Victorians burning next to modern prefabs melting and putting out white smoke as they tried to extinguish themselves.
As we sat there in the garage, wondering what the frak we were going to do, my phone rang. It was my brother in Seattle.
“Hello? John, is that you?”
“Mike! Dear God I thought you were dead!”
“Well, I’m not, no thanks to whatever happened. What the frak happened?”
“You don’t know? Jeeze, of course you wouldn’t! You’re too close to the impact site. Some nutjobs from the Martian International Liberation Front hijacked a cargo ship and rammed it into New York. The director of ICO has vowed retaliation against them, though how the Hell he’s going to do that… You know that all Marties look alike doncha?”
I laughed at that and said, “Hell yeah. Bro, I’m gotta go, I’m going to see if 911 works still and see about getting a rescue. Damn it’s good to hear from you.”
“Ditto here. You stay safe Mike, and if you need a place, I got room.”
I said my goodbyes and relayed the information to my neighbors. I called 911 and soon we were being flown to safety.
Thank God I played hookie that day.
The inspiration for this story was a radio show I had heard on my local public radio station, KUOW
. They were interviewing a fellow who runs an art blog, Postsecret
. He solicits folks to send him a postcard with a personal secret on it. Listen to the interview: MP3 Hi
One of those postcards was a picture of the Twin Towers
in New York City. On the back were the words "Everyone thinks I'm dead.
" That inspired me to write a story about someone who survived a major incident like 9/11, and decided to live a new life, leaving the old one behind in the ruins of the incident. But after a bit, I realize that would be too close to home for most folks, and I changed it to the story you see above. The main character is named after my brother, who lives in Pittston PA, but he doesn't work in NYC. And of course his brother is named after me.
I submitted this story to 365 Tomorrows
, but they turned it down because:
"This is a sensitive subject that's been dealt with several times, and I'm afraid this story, while well written, doesn't bring anything new to the tale. I would encourage you to submit other stories in the future.
I'll keep plugging away at them. Hopefully one of mine will strike home. Thanks for reading!
P.S. I wrote this story on September 11, 2008.