The First Day
The dust started to settle as Johnson picked himself up from the pavement. The wheels of the car spun helplessly in the air. Shattered glass from the windshield poured from the folds of his shirt like sand. The blood from his forehead mixed with the glass causing it to glisten pink in the rays of the sun.
What the… thought Johnson. Where the hell did that come from?
In the sky a gray dust mingled with the clouds. It whirled into the upper levels of the atmosphere, shimmering like silvery insects rising on the currents of a hot day.
As he brushed the dust and bits of glass from his clothes, he walked to the car and picked his hat up from the dirt. He slapped the grit from the brim of the hat against his thigh and surveyed the damage.
Hopeless, he thought. The front wheels were still spinning, slowly running out of inertia. The car was a wreck. Johnson limped towards a house that stood in a cluster of trees on the empty street.
“Hello!” he called out. He reached the front steps and started lifting his leg, painfully, onto the porch. The barrel of a rifle stuck out from the partially opened front door.
“Just keep movin’, no visitors allowed.” The voice sounded frail, fearful.
Johnson stepped back. “Whoa! I’m just seeing that everyone’s OK. Are you alright in there?” His voice showed empathy, a sincere concern for the person behind the door. It started to open slowly.
“We’re fine,” the small voice said. Johnson was able to get a good look at the figure standing with the gun he had presumed was held at the hip. He now saw it was aimed from the shoulder. The boy could not have been much older than ten.
“Put that down,” said Johnson, “before you hurt someone.”
The barrel of the gun lowered slightly, uncertainly, then dropped without warning out of the boy’s hand as he went running into the house, crying.
“Leave me alone, mister. Leave me alone!” He rubbed a fist into his face and crawled into a corner, trying to hide.
“Look here, little fellow… ” Johnson’s voice was calm but stern. “I’m not going to hurt you. Where are you folks?”
“That cloud… that cloud…” The boy started to scream. It was an ungodly, stomach wrenching wail unlike anything Johnson had ever heard before.
He knew that when the cloud had appeared, it was a terrifying event. The sound alone was beyond comprehension, but the tornado-like wind it brought with it was devastating. His car had been thrown up into the air and landed a tangled mess, yet all around houses had been left standing.
He walked over to a shattered window and peered out from the living room. There were no people on the street. In the distance he could hear a dog barking, yet, everywhere it seemed silent. There was no wailing of sirens, no sound of trucks or emergency vehicles. He tried the light switch next to the door. The power was on.
“Calm down,” he said to the still sobbing boy.” We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“Do you suppose the phone’s working?” He looked around the room, then went into the kitchen. The telephone hung from the wall near the door. There was a dial tone. He fumbled with his wallet and found his address book.
“… 8910,” he muttered to himself as he dialed the number. No answer. He tried another. Still no answer.
“Okay, then. What about a radio?” The boy was standing at the doorway, a bit more composed.
“Is there a radio?” Johnson asked. The boy pointed down the hall to one of the bedrooms.
“In there,” he said, his voice shaking.
Johnson went into what seemed to be the parent’s bedroom and turned on the radio. There was nothing but static as he turned the dial.
Finally, he turned his attention to the boy. “Okay. Tell me what happened.”
The boy, once more, started sobbing uncontrollably, rubbing his eyes with one hand and clutching at his shirt with the other. Johnson decided he wasn’t going to get anywhere with the boy. He called out.
“Is anybody here?” Cupping his hands over his mouth, he yelled louder, “Can anybody hear me?”
From the basement he heard a stirring.
“Hello,” he called down the basement stairs, opening the door and leaning into the dampness of the cellar. He called again, but there was no response. Turning on the light from the switch at the top of the stairs he stepped cautiously down to the bottom.
There was a movement from behind the furnace. Suddenly, a small child came running out, blindly trying to pass him as she aimed to go up the stairs.
“Whoa, there!” Johnson grabbed the child and brought her up into his arms kicking and screaming.
He took her upstairs to where the boy was standing, watching from the landing.
“Is this your sister?” he asked. The boy nodded, his face streaked with tears.
Johnson placed the kicking girl on the floor in front of the boy. She immediately went to her brother, embracing him tightly, turning to Johnson with a fearful, yet defiant look.
“Where’s my mommy?” she cried.
“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Johnson sighed.