Abby stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck to see through the cluster of soldiers riding down the escalator. “Lance!” She jumped up and down, waving her arms the second she spotted his face. She wanted to get closer, but the waiting area was packed with the families of the other soldiers.
His eyes met hers and he grinned as he hoisted his bag higher on his shoulder.
She stepped back, out of the crowd, and let him come to her. It’d been a year since they’d seen each other, but he hadn’t changed a bit. She, on the other hand, was sporting a drastically different haircut, short and spiked, a new tattoo with their son’s name and a leaner body as the last of her baby weight had been worked off with her daily jogs.
Lance’s face lit up as he emerged from the crowd. He dropped his bag and opened his arms.
She flung herself into the waiting embrace, burying her face in his shoulder as he lifted her off the ground in a bear hug.
“I missed you so much, Abbs,” he croaked. His lips trailed kisses along her neck as he held tight to her trembling body.
“God, I missed you, too!” The words had barely been uttered when the wail of a siren pierced the air, startling her.
As they broke apart, the waiting area filled with murmured voices as people glanced around. In the next instant, a loud blaring horn sounded over the loudspeaker. Three long blasts, then a voice.
“All civilians, shelter in place. All military personnel, report to terminal 7B.”
Abby’s heart sank as the message repeated three times. “What does that mean?” She didn’t see anything but a steady stream of cars and sunshine through the window. Nothing unusual at all.
Suddenly, cell phones beeped, buzzed and rang as the wireless emergency alerts went off. She whipped her phone out, but all the message said was to shelter in place. The ground shook beneath their feet and a collective gasp issued from the small crowd. “Lance?” She grabbed his arm, frantic. “The baby—I can’t shelter in place.”
He slid an arm around her shoulders. “I know, come with me.”
They followed the rest of the soldiers out of the waiting area, but when they headed for the hallway of terminals, Lance hung back. “Where’s Eric?”
“He’s had that earache so I left him with my mom.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I have to go get him.”
A shadow moved across the row of sliding glass doors where they stood and the emergency horns blared again.
Lance yelled to be heard over the loudspeaker. “Go!” He pointed to the doors. “Go get our boy. I’ll call you the second I know anything.”
Abby turned to run, but stopped and spun back to her husband. “What if you can’t? What if I don’t hear from you?”
“You wait for me, at your mom’s. And if it’s not safe there, you bring them to our spot. I’ll find you, I promise.” He pulled her in for a quick but fierce kiss. “Go, now!”
She dashed outside and high-tailed it to the parking garage, dodging people, vehicles and abandoned luggage. The lights in the structure flickered, then went out. All she could think to do was grab her keys and hit the alarm button as she ran. In the near darkness, the flashing lights guided her to her Jeep.
A moment later, she emerged from the garage and slammed on her brakes as she stared at the sky. Black clouds stretched across the valley and the fireballs rained down, each one exploding upon impact.
She had only one thought. Eric!
With a single glance at the clogged roadway ahead, she gunned it, swerving onto the shoulder and speeding by the horrified onlookers.
On a good day, with light traffic, the drive to her mother’s house took fifteen minutes. Today, taking full advantage of her four-wheel-drive and careening along the side of the road, she made it to her exit in ten.
Two right turns and she pulled onto her childhood street.
The last four houses were in flames, torn apart by fiery rocks the size of cars.
She sped toward the first of the destroyed homes, what used to be her mom’s red brick house, a scream stuck in her throat.
She lurched over the curb and onto the grass, parking as close as she dared, then jumped out. The front of the house was engulfed, so she raced around to the back just as a basketball shattered a window and rolled across the lawn.
“Mom!” Abby yelled as her mother’s head appeared in the opening.
“Thank God! I was trying to get us out of here!” Her mom disappeared, only to return a second later and thrust the crying toddler through the broken window. “Here, take him!”
“Eric!” Abby reached up and pulled her son into her arms. “Shh, baby, it’s okay. Mama’s here.” She backed up a few steps, away from the smoke. “C’mon mom! Hurry!”
“I’ve got to get Lindy, I’ll be right back.”
Her mom vanished before Abby could object.
“Go bye-bye, mama,” Eric wailed against her shoulder.
“We will baby, as soon as gramma gets her kitty.”
Just then another fiery ball streaked across the sky, headed right for them.
She held Eric tight as she screamed for her mother.
But there was no time.
Abby ran for the Jeep, flung the door open and scrambled inside with Eric still in her arms. She started the engine and laid on the horn. “Come on, mom, we gotta go,” she chanted over and over. Another few seconds and it’d be too late.
What the fuck am I supposed to do? Can’t leave the baby in the car alone—can’t stay here.
She snapped the seatbelt around them both and with a final glance at the house, and the fireball about to destroy it, she hit the gas.
The flaming boulder slammed into the house and exploded on impact, the force of it pushing the Jeep forward with its back-end off the ground.
They spun around, and by some miracle, didn’t flip over as they crashed through the bushes several houses down.
Abby sat there a minute, sobbing and clutching her baby. Her mom was gone. She hadn’t been able to save her.
Her phone rang, startling her, and she fished around on the passenger seat for it.
“Abby, where are you?”
“My mom—she—she’s gone—”
“I’ve got him.” She kissed the top of her son’s head. “He’s safe. What’s happening?”
“We’re under attack.”
“Attack?” She shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “From meteors?”
“Sort of,” his voice softened, “look, it’s classified. Just get to our spot and I’ll explain.”
“Is it safe there?”
“Safer than where you are now. It looks like the populated areas are the heaviest hit. Now, go. I’ll meet you there.”
The phone went dead.
Abby glanced up at the sky, still black, still raining down the fiery rocks, but none coming her way this second. She hopped out and quickly strapped Eric into his car seat in the back, then kissed his head again. “It’s okay baby boy, we’re going to be okay.”
Eric fussed, unhappy when she tried to get back in.
“Bun-bun,” he cried, reaching over the side of his seat.
She leaned over and snatched up his bunny rabbit that must’ve fallen out of his diaper bag earlier. “Here you go big guy, now let’s go find daddy.”
With Eric settled, she got back in and headed out of the neighborhood, once again grateful for her four-wheel-drive. The streets were a mess now, crammed with traffic and pockets of fire, people staggering around, dazed and injured. A few tried to flag her down, but she kept going. The only thing on her mind was Lance.
She divided her attention between watching the skies and the roads as she made her way out of the city. Several times she’d had to change direction to avoid the meteors and it was several hours before she made it to the mouth of the canyon.
Lance had been right, she realized, as she paused to look out over the valley before heading into the mountains. Engulfed in smoke and flames, the city had fallen.
Ahead, into the mountains, there were only a few rising columns of smoke.
She drove toward the campground they frequented during the summer months, praying it’d be safe. The further from the burning ruins of the city she got, the more the air cleared, and the better she felt.
“Almost there, baby,” she said, talking more to herself than Eric. It gave her hope though, saying the words out loud.
A little while later, she pulled into the campground. As late as it was in the season, it was deserted, the ground covered in dead leaves and a brisk chill in the air.
She parked in the spot they always claimed and got out to look around. It’d be dark soon, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Not a sound coming from anywhere. She went to the back of her Jeep for the emergency kit Lance always insisted she carry. She’d never had occasion to use it, but was glad now for his foresight.
She hadn’t changed anything out in the year he’d been gone, so all the baby supplies were for an infant, rather than a toddler, but as she removed a too small diaper and a can of formula, she was beyond grateful that Eric would be taken care of.
After she got him changed and made a bottle, she got back in to wait for Lance. She had no cell signal here, no way to know how long he’d be, but she knew he’d come.
Hours went by before she saw lights approaching. Her heart pounded as she waited, half-excited and half-afraid.
If it isn’t Lance—
But it was.
No sooner had the strange vehicle caught sight of her, then she heard her name being shouted.
She jumped out, grabbed the baby, and ran toward her husband. He barely had time to park the military Hummer and open the door before she was in his arms.
“Thank God,” he said, his heartfelt exclamation muffled by her hair.
“What’s happening?” Abby handed Eric over to him. They were safe now.
“There’s a fleet of ships orbiting, they appeared out of nowhere, and attacked by launching meteors at Earth.” Lance put Eric in the backseat of the Hummer. “We can’t stay here—”
“Is it everywhere? Where do we go?”
“The military has underground bunkers, you’ll be safe there. Watch the baby while I grab everything from the Jeep.”
Abby reeled at the news and it took her a second to realize what he’d said. “Wait, you’re not going to stay there with us?”
“I can’t, you know I can’t, not until this is over.” He hurried to the Jeep and returned with the emergency kit. One more trip and he had the car seat. “Let’s go.”
As they were pulling out of the campground, the sky above them lit up as a fireball streaked toward them.
“Hold on!” Lance swerved, but when the rock hit, a ball of flames exploded in front of them. The road crumbled as they skidded and spun around.
The Hummer’s rear end fell into the edge of the crater left behind and the tires spun. He jerked the gear shifter and finally got traction. They bounced onto the road, heading back toward the city.
“That was the road to the bunker,” he said, grabbing her hand.
Abby held tight to her husband and glanced at the baby in the backseat. “Now what?”
Never taking his eyes from the road, he kissed her hand. “Now we find another way.”
***Read Part Two: The Bunker, right here.