The following is part of a short story series written by mayryanna while she studied Creative Writing in University.
I’ll never forget that morning. It was uncharacteristically cold in the house when I woke up. Cold and quiet. I could hear the faint murmur of my brother’s computer in his room and what sounded like the news on the television down the hall… but no movement, no interaction, and no familiar voices.
‘Where is everyone?’ In my groggy, just-woken state the concern wasn’t high on the list; the thought trailed in and out of my mind without much effort. I made my way down the hall to the kitchen, catching the newscast on our smart-tv out of the corner of my eye. It seemed too chaotic to be anything affecting our country, though they were listing off items that seemed usually American; I heard a shaky voice, “… smart TVs, tablets, smartphones, and of course computers…” I was too concerned that my brother had eaten first and robbed me of all our favorite cereal though, so I let the electronic commotion drone on without a glance in that direction.
I was pouring a bowl of sugar and starch cheerfully when I heard commotion for the first time – someone was rushing into the house. I turned toward the living room again; trying to look past the television to the door to see what was going on, still too tired to be worried. A hand abruptly stopped and spun me back around mid turn –
“NO! Elisa, NO!”
It was my grandmother’s voice, and she was frantic. The uncharacteristic worry and pain in her voice sent shivers through my whole body.
“G-grandma?! W-what what’s going on?!”
I could barely get the words out as she buried my face in her blouse.
“Oh thank god, thank god, oh thank you god!”
She was weeping and holding me so tight I thought I would die.
“Grandma what’s wrong, please tell me… are you ok?”
I pulled and pushed away from her trying to look her in the face, when I finally saw her eyes my heart instantly filled with dread.
“Grandma?! What happened? Are you ok?!”
She fell to her knees, bending toward my feet, whaling now.
“I-I… I thought you might all be gone!”
She finally cried out. I had bent over too, caressing her hair like she had done to mine so many times before when I was upset, but the words were startling.
“What do you mean grandma, what do you mean gone? No one is gone!?”
I began to try and look around, she must have somehow known, she immediately rose up and grabbed my face:
“NO! Elisa you can’t!”
Her forcefulness and fear terrified me and I began to cry,
“Grandma I’m sorry, what’d I do?! I’m so sorry!!”
She took me in her arms again and I could feel her breath returning to normal,
“baby girl, baby girl, shh-shhhh… It’s going to be okay, you haven’t done anything wrong, everything will be okay – I’ll take care of you, I promise, we’ll be okay…”
I was the one sobbing now, ‘why is she saying she’ll take care of me?! Where’s momma, where’s daddy? Where’s Tommy?!’ I started to feel angry,
“Grandma stop! You’re scaring me – I want momma, where’s my momma?!”
I began to pull away again, I wanted to run out of the kitchen, I needed to find my family. She was holding tight but with my small body I wiggled free and turned to run into the living room. I’d almost made it around the corner – I could see my mother’s hand on the chair, my father’s foot in front of the couch, and then my eyes met the television screen.
I woke up at grandma’s house feeling sick in my head. My eyes hurt. Everything was fuzzy… no, everything was glowing. I knew where I was because of the smell: cinnamon and bleach, it could only be grandma’s. My eyes tried desperately to adjust, I could hardly make out my familiar surroundings through the angelic fog that had seemingly overcome my vision.
I cried out, I heard my voice tremble as I remembered what had happened that morning. ‘How did I get here? Where is my family?’
I cried out again in agony and began to cry.
“Here, here baby!”
I felt my grandmothers delicate hand resting on my back as she came to my side. I tried opening my eyes, but the tears had made the glow worse rather than better.
“Grandma what’s happening? Where’s momma? What happened to me?!”
I was desperate for answers and shaking with fear – or perhaps it was the weird sickness that had come over me, I couldn’t be sure.
Grandma sat silently next to me, caressing my hair; I could hear that her breathing was sad and labored.
“Grandma please, please tell me something…”
I began to sniffle, calmer now but still upset. She sighed deeply before answering,
“I don’t know baby. I wish I knew, but I don’t. I turned off the TV because it only seems to be getting worse and no one seems to know…”
Her voice trailed off. I sat up and began to rub my eyes.
“Grandma, why can’t I see?!”
I sounded scared, and I was.
“Don’t do that baby girl, just stay calm. I’m not sure what exactly caused all this… It’s probably too soon for anyone to know…”
Grandma’s voice went off again and I could feel her retract her hand from my back. I reached out toward her but had to fumble to find her hand in her lap,
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to upset you.”
She acknowledged my words by squeezing my hand.
“So… What happened to my eyes… it was caused by whatever is happening to other people?”
I could hear my voice crack, it felt like my throat was closing up as thoughts of my family flashed before me,
“are momma and daddy and Tommy going to be ok? Did they get sick like me?”
Grandma began to weep, it was horrible. I’d never experienced such immense sorrow from anyone before and I still could hardly see her. She pulled me close to her and tried to regain her composure. Through her gasps and biting her teeth she finally managed,
Suddenly, I knew. I knew before she could get the rest out. I buried my head into her chest and we cried together – my eyes stung but I didn’t care, my family was gone and there was no explanation.
We sat in grief together for hours.
It was days before we could manage to eat again. I spent my time by the window, dazed by the glow, relearning how to see the world. There were no people walking, no mail came, and no cars were driving around. It seemed that our town had become like a ghost town, a term I now knew I had never even been able to imagine to its extent of emptiness. After the third day animals began to appear in the streets; after a week I saw what used to be friendly neighborhood dogs killing each other for their meat.
My eyes slowly regained their sight, but to this day I still see things through the glow of that horrid morning. When we finally turned my grandma’s old ‘big-box’ TV back on all of the channels were completely dead. I would click through the static for hours hoping to find some sort of answer, only to return to staring out the window, waiting for signs of the life I once knew.
After about a month, I stumbled upon some static that wasn’t completely white noise – I could hear voices, faintly. I burst from my seat,
I yelled as I ran down the hall toward her room. I got to her door and told her to come fast, immediately turning to race back out to the television.
“What is it dear?”
She came down the hall a minute later to find my face pressed against the TV.
“Grandma, grandma! There are voices! Human voices – through the static, I can hear them!”
She rushed over and we both held our breath for a few moments. As another semi-audible voice came through she grabbed my arm,
“Elisa, go get the old antenna out of the attic.”
I was on my feet before she could finish – I raced down the hall and with one jump I had the rope in hand to pull the stairs down from the ceiling. Everything seemed like a blur, I was moving on autopilot as my mind rushed with hope. I needed answers.
We fiddled with the antenna for what seemed like hours, trying and failing repeatedly to get what ever it was and who ever it was to come in clear enough for us to make some sort of sense from it. Finally, as I was again slowly manipulating one of the metal stems, I heard Grandma say,
I froze. It was a man. It was a newscast. It was information about what was going on – I hurried over to my Grandmother’s side and we sat staring into the dancing grey screen.
“… for those of you who may have just tuned in, you are already aware that the world as we knew it came to an end twenty five days ago…”
I looked at Grandma just as she looked at me, ‘the world?’
“What you may not yet know is why…”
We both immediately turned back, our hearts pounding.
“Unfortunately… we don’t have many answers. What we do know though, is that this was caused by the internet.”
I began to feel sick but could look away,
“Any and all people who have accessed the internet, through any variety of medium, have perished.”
Tears began to stream down my face though I still sat calmly, breathing steady to hear through the remnants of static.
“It seems that this horrible vanquishing force enters through a person’s eye gate as they look upon a screen connected to the internet. Unfortunately, due to the inability to revive the consciousness of those who have, we have little information about how or why, or even what could possibly be causing this mental… and therefor physical… entrapment.”
Suddenly I realized what had happened to my eyes – I had almost been trapped by the internet too,
“How?! Did you save me?”
I felt her hand on my back but she didn’t turn.
“We will bring you more information as we find it. We are unsure at this time how many have survived. If you are seeing this and have the ability, please contact us via land-line telephone…”
She finally turned,
“Elisa… Do you remember anything? After you looked at the screen at your house, what happened?”
I sat for a moment trying to remember,
“No grandma… everything went white, that’s all, and then I woke up here… I’m sorry, I don’t know…”
I began to cry a little harder.
“Shh-shhh, no it’s okay my dear. It’s okay. So, since you don’t know anything, this will be our secret…”
Grandma spoke with a seriousness that made me feel sick again, I sniffled,
“okay Grandma… I won’t tell anyone, but… Why?”
Grandma smiled to comfort me,
“you don’t know anything, you can’t help them figure this out if you don’t know anything right?”
“but they don’t know, or maybe won’t believe…”
She stopped and stared back at the static,
“this is a crazy time my love, and crazy times make people do crazy things… Just remember, it’s our secret, okay?”
I sniffled again and sunk into her side, looking toward the static again,