© 2014 A.J. Reis
The sun was high, obscured by gunmetal clouds. Winds whipped around the shattered remains of an office building. From the ruined foundations where other buildings once stood, trees now grew. Vines clung to them, desperate for the canopy above and precious light. Nothing much was left of this building, despite being the tallest ruin for several kilometers around. Blown out windows and decaying façade were the only proofs of its artificial origin. The top third of the structure, long ago blasted into rubble, was now home to sapling weed trees. More vines dangled downward, reaching precariously for the vines climbing up.
Occasionally there were visitors. Scrabbling, rooting for survival, ragged creatures human only in form come looking for whatever they can find, maybe a shiny scrap, maybe a place to rest. Maybe to die.
Inside, Laura looked apprehensively toward the east window. “W-we should get out of here. Really.”
“No… I’ve told you, they said to stay put,“ cautioned Mr. Harding. “This is the safest place right now.” His normal air of confidence was wearing thin. He could feel it. Where would we go, anyway? Where would we be safe? Mr. Harding always knew the right thing to do - at least, that’s what he wanted them to think. He leaned, gazing intently out another window across the small office, eyeing the horizon.
Doug, perpetually glued to his desk hoping to look busy, now stared intently at his desktop monitor - the news, naturally. Every source was frantic with conflicting reports of the same story, each with its own brand of spin. It was clear nobody really knew much of anything. China, North Korea, now India and France…missiles…
“Dudes! Maaan now we just fucking launched!” Doug was wide-eyed now, frantically pulling off his earbuds and straightening up in his chair as if jolted by an electric surge. Shaggy hair could not conceal the fear in his eyes.
“Language, mister!” Mr. Harding admonished, a little too roughly even for him, considering the circumstances.
That was Laura's last straw. She let out a sharp wail, voicing finally all the terror, resentment, and frustration she had kept bottled up for the past several hours. The whole world without warning had been unraveling before her eyes. Now nearly hysterical, she raced to her desk, grabbed her purse and made for the door.
“Laura!” Mr. Harding was not going to let this silly summer hire undermine his authority. “I told you! The head office said to stay put. If you leave, don’t bother coming back-you’re fired!”
The door to office H-1145 slammed shut behind Laura. In the same instant, the first searing flashes lit the skyline, the fury of a million suns; energies unleashed warped the very fabric of spacetime itself. An isolated quantum vortex centered on that one office building by pure happenstance, condemning its dimensional space to an eternal, inevitable time loop.
The blast waves came next, rolling one after another in waves merciless and furious, an utterly destructive force. Glass exploded all at once; screams upon screams echoed across cities, across continents, across all the Earth. Now, uncounted decades later, all is fallen silent; green slowly consumes the ashen remains of civilization. All that abides is the wind, and the sun climbing daily toward its zenith.
Laura looked apprehensively toward the window. “W-we should get out of here. Really.” “No… I’ve told you, they said to stay put.”