The air was cool against her skin. Victoria liked to walk alone at night, despite the danger. She liked the feeling of peace it gave her. One of her favorite places to visit was a nearby club. She could hear the voices of people laughing and singing along with the bass of whatever pop song they were playing that night. Tonight she had stopped outside this club to listen to the life inside. The neon sign cast a green glow on her arms, and she reveled in the sight of it. As she twirled alone to the beat and watched the light flicker on her skin, she felt beautiful. The song inside changed and Victoria began to walk on.
Lucas cursed the traffic honking around him. He needed to get home; his wife had just called saying she was going into labor, but the cars in front of him wouldn’t move. He cursed again, this time at God. Their due date wasn’t for another two months. He couldn’t believe that he had done anything to deserve this. The pregnancy had been a long and troubling one, but there was promise at the end. Now, Lucas wasn’t sure if the baby would make it. He yelled once more, as if the force of his voice could push the cars forward.
Eighteen is far too young to be this scared. This is the conclusion Kurits came to, crouching behind a shattered wall in a dry country. He wasn’t even sure where he was anymore; they had moved so much in the past few weeks that he could hardly remember which way was up. He heard shouting, but his mind didn’t register what was being said. He tried to stand, but there was a searing pain in his thigh and the boy next to him guided him back down. He leaned into Kurtis’s ear and shouted, “We’re going to get you out of here. Oh God, oh God, please.”
Rae laid in her bed and stared at the ceiling. She saw the time: 8:17. This was the last straw, she knew, and she wouldn’t have a job when she got out of the house. It’s a good thing, then, that she didn’t plan to. She dragged herself out into the bathroom and opened her medicine cabinet. She carefully lined up each bottle on the kitchen counter and removed their caps. She thought it was ironic, that all of these chemicals that were supposed to make her enjoy life were going to end it. A picture on the fridge caught her eye. It was of her and her dad roller skating for her eighth birthday. She fell about a hundred times that day, but every time, he had picked her back up. He wasn’t here to pick her up this time, though.
Victoria came to the door of her favorite coffee shop. It was her favorite partly because of the coffee and partly because it was only a short walk away from her home. The lights were off and the doors were locked, but the streetlights illuminated the machinery and decor inside. As she was peering through the windows, the light suddenly flickered out. She glanced around and saw that every streetlight in sight was dark. Just as she was pulling a flashlight out of her pocket, two bright disks appeared in the sky, just above the horizon. They were a pale gray with dark circles in the center, and they looked to Victoria almost like eyes. In fact, as she stared, she became more convinced that they were eyes, and they were peering directly at her. She tried to turn her flashlight on, but it would only faintly flicker before shutting off. She tried her best to run in the darkness, but it was as black as tar. The only things piercing through the night were those eyes, those painfully bright eyes.
The road was still busy, but at least traffic was moving at something close to the speed limit. Lucas was trying to calm his wife down.
“I’m almost home, darling, just keep breathing.”
All he heard from the other line was panting.
“Talk to me, are you okay?”
“Yeah, just get home.” She was speaking through gritted teeth.
“I’m trying, traffic’s moving now, it should be just a few more…” He trailed off as he noticed his headlights begin to flicker and then shut off. “Hey, darling, it might be a little longer, something just happened to my car. The headlights aren’t working anymore.” Lucas pulled off on the side of the road and looked around. “I don’t think anyone’s lights are working.” The street was so dark Lucas could barely make out the other cars pulling off to the side around him. He was about to hang up and call someone for help when two circles of light came into his view. They were impossibly bright, but they didn’t cast any light on the ground. He called into the phone.
“Honey, something very weird is happening here. Are you okay?”
He heard sobbing.
The boy next to Kurtis was pressing on his thigh and praying. The pressure had turned the burning pain into a duller one that radiated through his whole body. The boy looked up at his face and moved to wipe tears from it. Kurtis hadn’t realized he was crying. He looked at the other boy and watched his eyes widen and his mouth contort, as if he had just seen something he would never be able to unsee. Kurtis closed his eyes; he knew he would likely die out here and, even if he wasn’t ready for it, he wasn’t surprised. The light behind his eyes went out and he took his final breath when the other soldier shook him. He opened his eyes carefully to see the sky had turned dark, like they were all struggling to breathe at the bottom of the ocean. Kurtis turned his head in the direction of the boy and saw two gleaming spheres sitting atop the horizon. Each had a pupil in the center that seemed to follow everyone at once. Kurtis wasn’t sure what this meant, but he held his fellow soldier’s hand tight and braced himself.
Rae pulled the photo off the fridge and ripped it to shreds. It did nothing but remind her of the past, a past that no longer was and could never be again. She grabbed the first bottle and dry swallowed whatever was left. Then, she took the next bottle in her hand and swallowed its contents. She grabbed a third bottle, but as she was holding it to her lips, she saw the light outside blink out. She thought it was just her eyesight failing her, but she could make out a small sliver of light outside of her kitchen window. She moved to see more of it, and two silver circles appeared in her view. She couldn’t tell what they were, but she could tell that they were watching her, scrutinizing her. They seemed to be getting larger, and her whole body shook from fear and from the pills making their way through her bloodstream. Her knees began to give out and she fell to the floor.
Victoria was running, but she couldn’t see the ground beneath her feet. Soon, she couldn't feel the ground beneath her feet. She kicked wildly in an attempt to find something solid, but she couldn’t make contact with anything. She twirled in whatever space she was in, desperately looking for something to connect her to the Earth beneath her, but there was nothing. She was drifting toward the eyes as if her motion was out of her control. Victoria tried to close her eyes but couldn’t. All she saw was a blinding gray clouding out anything else, and then she was gone.
Lucas stood outside of his car as everyone gazed upon the eyes on the horizon.
“Honey, what’s going on?’
“She isn’t breathing, Lucas. She’s blue and she’s so small and I keep trying to get her to breathe but she won’t.” His wife was gasping for air between the words. The silver disks began to move closer.
The emotions of the past seven months began to boil over in Lucas: the fear and anger and despair and guilt. They had tried so hard, and the baby still decided this world was too cruel for her. He held the phone close to his mouth, whispered a quiet, “Goodbye,” and let it drop onto the pavement. He walked, slowly, into the glowing orbs on the horizon.
Kurtis shut his eyes tightly. He felt the grip on his hand loosen, but he did not open his eyes for what felt like hours. Another soldier with a uniform not like his gently shook his shoulder. He finally opened his eyes to a bright sky. She spoke a language he could not understand, but he knew she was trying to show him kindness. He looked around, but the other boy was nowhere to be seen. Kurtis felt his heart constrict; that boy had done everything he could to help, and now he was gone. Kurtis would never get to thank him. He swallowed the lump in his throat and let the girl tourniquet his leg with her belt, then walk with him, slowly and painfully, back to her medical tent. There weren’t enough doctors there to help every patient, but they did their best to relieve Kurtis’s pain. Everyone there had hallowed eyes. He supposed, by the way they looked at him, that he must be the same. He supposed, by the way the doctors looked at him, that he was lucky to be alive.
There were no sounds outside her window, but whether that was because there were truly no sounds or if it was a side effect of the pills, she didn’t know. Her perception of time was off, and she may have lost consciousness for a while, but when she came to, she immediately emptied the contents of her stomach onto her floor. There were faint streams of sunlight coming through her window. She slowly pulled herself off the ground and made her way outside. There wasn’t any damage, but she could feel that a tragedy had happened here. She sat on her front lawn, closed her eyes, and took in the warmth of the sun. The grass was cool and damp beneath her fingers, and Rae promised that grass that she would keep on fighting.