“AUTOMATIC TEXT MESSAGE: THIS IS NOT A DRILL! STAY INDOORS! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! STAY INDOORS!”
The vibrations from the notifications, jolt me right out of my third dream. I search for my cell phone. Finally, after what seems like an endless minute, I retrieve my cell underneath my pillow. Squinting, I adjust my eyes to the radiating blue light and bring my face closer to my phone’s screen.
The room is dark and silent. More notifications flash across from random text messages, numbers not saved and unknown to me.
“What is this?” I manage to whisper out. Turning over in bed, I fumble for my husband, Austen. Is he getting these same messages? I glance at the time. It’s almost three in the morning and unfortunately, I have to get up for work in a few hours.
Through the room’s thick darkness, I notice that it’s only me in bed. My face frowns. Maybe he’s in the bathroom? “Honey, you awake?” Listening for his voice, silence is returned. I call for him again. “Austen? You up?” No answer.
The room becomes darker now, and there’s an eerie quietness in the room. Crawling out of bed, I walk towards the room’s door and stop short.
More text messages flood my phone. It’s the same weird messages from just a few minutes ago, all saying the same thing. I repeat the messages over in my head. Stay indoors! This is not a drill!
Small sweat beads begin to trickle down the spine of my back, and my heart races. I can feel the wetness inside both my palms.
Exiting the bedroom, I walk with caution down the hall, careful not to make any noise. Approaching the bathroom doorway, I pause. The light is on. Austen must be up. I slowly peer inside. No sign the bathroom was used. Maybe Austen forgot to turn the light out before leaving? I reasoned.
My breathing calms. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so frantic? I’m sure Austen is pulling my leg and when he finds out that I feel for it, again, he’ll have jokes to last him through this week. He’s probably downstairs right now, ransacking the fridge like a mad man, waiting for me to come to him, so he can start his torture.
I chuckle to myself at the thought. It never fails, Austen always gets me good!
I kill the power on my cell phone, switch off the bathroom light, and continue my way down the hall.
Feeling at ease, I catch a glimpse of the early morning, as I draw close to the window at the end of the hall.
It’s a little bright for 3AM, I notice, and glance around outside. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a typical early autumn morning.
My eyelids start to feel low now and I realize that I’m still tired and have about an hour more of sleep to catch before heading out for work.
I close the window and head down the stairs to locate Austen.
Entering the living room, the lights are on. Austen is sitting oddly still on the couch. His back is towards me, and I can’t make out his face.
“Austen?” I say in a curious tone. What could he be doing alone on the couch at this time?
Brief silence, followed by a long sigh. “Yes?” He replies.
I take a few inches forward. “Babe, you didn’t hear me calling you? I was beginning to think you left out or something.” I grin, “and the joke is over doofus.”
Austen’s tone is flat. “Kiera. I have something to tell you and I really don’t know how to say it."
My heart races again. Why is he so serious? What’s all of this about? I wonder, as I tip-toe my way over to him.
I search for Austen’s face. His expression is empty, as he stares at me briefly, then lowers his head.
Okay wait a minute. Is he breaking up with me? I think instantly. We’ve been together for six years now, and Austen tells me everything. He never has trouble saying anything. Sometimes, I think he says too much, but that’s what I love about him. His honesty. It’s never been a problem before….so why now? Why? Is he seeing someone else? I reach for his hand. If he tells me he’s been messing around, I’m braking two of his fingers!
“Austen,” I say softly, “You don’t seem like yourself right now. Whatever you have to tell me, you know you can.” A hard lump forms at the back of my throat, as I listen intensely for Austen’s response.
I scan his face again. Still blank. “Honey, listen to me. Whatever it is, we’ll get through it, we always do.”
Austen motions to my cell phone. I’d forgotten I even had it in my hand, and was now gripping down on it to remain calm.
“Turn your phone back on Kiera.” Austen announces suddenly.
Startled by his reply, I immediately turn the power back on.
Looking up at Austen, I try searching for any expression other than the blank creepy stare he was giving me. How did he know my phone was even off? Did he try calling me while I was upstairs? My head starts to throb at the temples. I use gentle rubs to ease the pulsating annoyance.
As my cell regains life, the notifications were sounding off like a popcorn bag heating in the microwave. I quickly peek at Austen’s face, hoping that his expression would change and reveal any explanation to all of this madness.
“My-my phone,” I stammer out. “I keep getting these weird texts from random numbers to stay indoors. Are you getting any of these? Is this what you want to talk about? Is something wrong Austen? What’s happening?”
Leaping up from the couch in boiling rage, Austen glares down at me with angry eyes.
“How could you Kiera?”
I stare nervously at the tall, muscular figure fuming over me.
Austen’s face was flushed. His breathing, rapid and heavy. What’s with all his hostility? Did he find something in my phone? I have nothing to hide. So what is it? I bravely stand up to be somewhat leveled with him. Sensing his rage, I adjust my disposition.
I’ve never seen Austen this angry and I don’t want to take any chances of this conversation turning into a rumble, especially during this time of day. The whole neighborhood would hear us.
“Austen,” I lightly say, “honey, I’m not sure what’s happening here, but I need you to relax. Let’s start again okay? What’s wrong?”
Austen’s fiery red eyes glares over me. He shakes his head violently. “You have no idea, do you Kiera?”
I wait for him to finish.
“It’s bigger than you think.What we know or think we know is much bigger than all of this!”
Austen’s eyes start to swell. Is he crying? What in the world is going on? The pulsating annoyance starts again. I rub at my temples.
Feeling uneasy, my mind starts racing and Austen’s not saying anything to make me understand a fraction of what’s happening.
I turn slightly, holding my position and toss my phone onto the couch. I don’t want a fight with Austen. He's obviously lost it, and I’ll probably be stuck at the hospital for the rest of the day, trying to convince doctors that my husband is actually normal. I’ll have to work diligently to calm Austen down and get to the bottom of this.
Closing my eyes, I inhale a long, deep breath and exhale exhaustion. Ready to face Austen, I open my eyes, and search for his face again.
He’s gone! How in the world did he move so fast? I make a quick scan of the living room. Nothing but furniture. He’s got to be messing with me, and I don’t have the energy for any of this!
“Austen!” I shout out. “Stop playing around! Where are you?”
I call for him again, lowering my voice this time so he wouldn’t detect my impatience, nor unraveling anger.
“Austen, hun, let’s get back to bed.” I plea. “We can still get a half hour in before the day starts. We’ll have coffee in the car and talk. Please, I’m so tired.”
I head over to the kitchen, flick on the light switch and look around. It’s empty. Where is he? Annoyed, I race back up the stairs, past the hallway and into our bedroom. I pop on the light. The covers are still tangled from when I crawled underneath them earlier.
I hear a faint notification sound from a nearby phone. It’s Austen’s, underneath the covers on the bed. He must’ve forgotten it when he left the room. I swiftly retrieve it.
“AUTOMATIC TEXT MESS: THIS IS NOT A DRILL. STAY INDOORS. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. STAY INDOORS.” The text messages flash wildly across Austen’s screen.
Interrupting my concentration, Austen’s cell rings in my hands. I don’t recognize the number and hesitate to answer it. Maybe Austen’s on another line, trying to reach me. Maybe something happened and he needs my help.
Frantic, I answer. “H-hello?” I barely mumble.
A voice other than who I hope it to be answers. The voice is cheery and direct.
“Hi Kiera. I know all of this is sudden and we don’t mean to alarm you. We have Austen here with us. Please try and remain calm and refrain from any unnecessary movements. It will all be over shortly.”
All be over shortly? What? “Who is this?” I demand.
“Just try to remain calm Kiera.” The voice continues. “Only a little while longer. Thank you so much for your cooperation.”
I drop Austen’s phone onto the floor. The screen shatters into crackled pieces.
The room starts to spin, as everything blurs in slow motion.
Unable to regain myself, I stumble backwards on the bed. What’s happening to me? I continue spinning in terror.
There’s a distinct shadow standing by the room’s doorway. My eyes scarcely make out a women’s figure.
The woman strides over to me. Coming into focus, I can see how beautiful she is. She flashes me a soothing smile.
“Kiera.” The woman says in a gentle tone. “It’s time.”
If you enjoyed this short story prequel and would like to read more, be on the lookout for part one of this Sci-Fi mini series.
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