On Saturday Aug 26, 4014, at the hands of her most creative and intelligent inhabitant, Earth succumbs to Man’s destructive nature. The first bombs erupt near the great lakes, spreading a peeling fire across Earth’s western cheek. Flares of white light leak out of the atmosphere as bomb after bomb hit their mark. Black clouds bloom over New York, Milwaukee, Little Rock, Flagstaff, closing in around Southern California.
I crouch in the corner of the anteroom of Father’s L.A. office and public observatory amidst the crates of camera equipment and electronics, holding my hands to my ears against the whirling whine of the air-raid sirens mounted throughout the building. My hands come away bloody. I feel the warmth trickle down my neck, staining the white lanyard Father gave me that morning. It was my job to guard the security card. I got a kick out of the swoosh of the disappearing doors. It seems so stupid now, but none of that matters anymore.
Father and Mother stand near the observatory window on the east wall which looks out over Downtown, holding each other’s forearms and exchanging tearful words, Mother’s sorrowful face is fittingly represented in the dark glass of Father’s oblong oval helmet.
The city behind them is canopied with a massive orange and black cloud, affecting one last sunset at twelve o’clock. The city is ablaze. The streets are clotted with vehicles. Our city’s many proud towers burn and collapse into ruin as people spill out of windows like falling ash.
Father unlatches his helmet and removes it from his suit. I cringe as the blood starts to trickle out from his ears, now matching Mother and myself. He turns to call to me, his hand held palm up and a forced smile on his face. People say I look just like him with his coarse dark hair and lean body, but beyond our external similarities, I don’t have anything in common with him. I could never give up on my family. I could never ignore a chance for survival.
The temperature in the room rises. My terror and adrenaline set me on fire in my mind, melting my eyeballs from their sockets even before the blasts reach the hills where the observatory perches. Our apartment is in the science district, no doubt demolished now. Father offers his hand more urgently, tears filling his eyes now and soundless words on his lips: “I had hope.”
I jump to my feet, struggling to keep my balance as the entire observatory trembles with the aftershocks of the approaching explosions, each blast delivering a more forceful tremor than the last. He had hope? What happened to it? Why hasn’t Father suggested the pendant? He would say the pendant is not for our time, but how can he wait when time’s run out? I have to try, even if it is impossible.
The door to Father’s office is on the south wall. The security panel blinks with a little red light showing that the door is locked, but still functional. The observatory’s generators must be keeping power on in the building; airstrikes have already choked off power for most of the city. In my fright, I take that little light as a divine promise for success, and I grip Father’s security badge from around my neck and run for the door.
Father tracks me with his eyes, his brow drawn in confusion, Mother’s face shaking against his shoulder, sending tears streaming down the silver coating of Father’s suit. I reach the office door. I take the security card in a trembling hand and grip it tight as I line it up to the slit. The movement of the room combined with my hands make the task difficult, and the room is so uncomfortably hot that the sweat on my hands against the slick plastic of the card obliges me to use two hands so as not to drop the card.
At last one corner makes it into the slit, and with eyes stinging with sweat, and a thought-blurring pain now creeping from my inner ear through my head, I jam the card home with my palm. The little red light turns green. It spits the card into my hand, then the door disappears into the frame, exposing Father’s desk. The last place I saw him with the pendant.
A glance back at my parents reveals they haven’t moved from the window; Mother’s eyes are fixed on the devastation raging outside, Father’s hand still extended, his mouth mutely working to convince me to join them for one last family embrace. I shake my head at Father. I can tell by the anguish in his wet eyes that I look as run-down and wretched as him. Suddenly, the whole observatory lit up with a blinding white light, darkens again, then rattles so violently, it throws me to the office floor head first and fragments the observation window into a complex web of white cracks. The next bomb could be the last.
I pick myself up off the white tiled floor, now stained with splotches of my blood, head reeling from the impact and mounting pressure in my ears. I stumble to Father’s desk. It’s real wood, no synthetics, an heirloom from my grandfather’s father, the only conspicuous fixture in the room. When I round the desk, a thin screen emerges from the surface. A warm light reveals a welcome message from the Pan-American Space Agency on the screen along with a prompt for a passkey.
I wave the security card in front of the screen, over the surface of the desk, but nothing happens. I rub my hands over the cracked wood, searching for a trigger, or switch, or something that can show me where the pendant is. I try waving the card more violently. Nothing happens. The room begins to sway drunkenly; the foundation must be compromised. I let out a cry of frustration and fall to my knees before the ancient desk.
And then I see them: golden knobs, fixed into carved panels on the front of the desk. ‘Drawers,’ that’s what Father had called them. At first I try sliding the card over the face of the drawers, then into the small openings around each panel, but there is no mechanical response, and the card does not tug out of my hand. Maybe I need to push it in more? In the long center drawer, I push the card into gap at the top of the panel and the card slips from my fingers into the belly of the desk. After waiting for some kind of response, I try retrieving the card, but the gap is much too thin, and the old desk is a mystery to me. Then I try the knob. I grip it in my fist. I turn. I push. I pull—and just like that, the panel moves and opens.
The drawer is filled with yellow sheets of paper with writing on their faces, several thin, metal probes, and—there, a black velvet bundle pushed all the way to the back of the drawer. The same bundle I knew held Father’s most incredible, and unmentionable of discoveries, and my last hope.
Father’s eyes widen when he see’s what I’m doing. He starts toward the office, but Mother holds him back, shaking all over, pulling at his suit, begging him to stay with her. He struggles against her, and I can see he wants me to stop. Stop? Even now, when my intentions are made clear, even as he knows this could be our only chance, Father chooses certain death. I choose the unknown.
I pull the knob so hard, the drawer tears free from the desk and crashes to the floor. I immediately take up the soft bundle and turn it in my hands. The pendant is heavy inside the velvet, and I can feel its chill through the thick cloth. I peel off layer after layer of velvet, frantically, reducing the bundle from the size of my hand, to the size of my thumb in moments, finally revealing the pendant. The pendant and chain look like tarnished silver with a black crystal set into the face as its only ornament. The humble appearance of the pendant sent chills down my spine. This really is ridiculous.
I don’t know what will happen if I put the pendant on, but no matter how terrible the consequences, they are worth a chance at living, aren’t they? I take one more look at my parents: Mother sobs and writhes in Father’s hands; Father stares at me, tears spilling from his eyes, mouth set in a hard line so I won’t see them tremble. I raise the pendant above my head. Father shakes his head, pleading with his eyes for me to join them. Mother raises her head to look at me, her eyes a mess of puffy flesh and tears. This is the last moment I will see my parents alive.
The final flash lit up the room just as I lower the chain of the pendant over my neck and a supporting rush of frosty air lifts me from the ground. I lost my breath with the shock of plunging from the boiling room to the freezing cocoon of the pendant. The next moment, my parents were in flames, hair blazed off, Mother’s dress and flesh burning together, the same look of pleading on Father’s melting face, dead before they could scream. Then the office catches fire seemingly everywhere at once, spewing black smoke from the metal fixtures and melting the screen on Father’s desk. I didn’t realize I was screaming until my vocal cords painfully gave out a few seconds later, and the secondary blast of the bomb blew in the observatory windows on my parents, and the walls came crashing in around me.
The Earth fell to darkness today; my entire life is destroyed. I am lost, spinning out in space, looking back on a black planet shrinking into the distance. For now, I am alive, with no clue of what will become of me, or if this is the end. But I have hope.
Hello you! I hope you enjoyed this Sci Fi scene prompt. Like all my fiction writing on this blog, this prompt is meant to entertain readers, practice my craft, and inform writers of my process. The prompt was completed over three days with time for story development, structure, drafting, revising. For you writers out there, I’ve included a snapshot of the storyboard I created for this prompt below to show you what I worked from.