The lights flickered in the backroom.
I wasn’t sure if we were on the verge of a blackout or an invasion. Not like that mattered now. I returned to my room and retrieved the Colt .45 on my dresser. My dad said the .45 was a weird choice for someone like me. He expected me to get one of the new fancy ‘death rays’ that had come out last year. As much as I loved technology I didn’t trust it to protect me. My .45 was not the biggest shot but it had saved me a few dozen times. It ain’t broke.
The light continued to flicker.
I braced the Colt to my thigh and waited. Usually if anything went down it would take at least five minutes for the Quakes to make themselves known.
Quakes traveled in packs. They didn’t typically make p.m visits unless there was something else going on. The com system in my living room buzzed and Harold’s quivering voice broke through.
“Bec?” His voice fizzled, “Becca?”
I slowly rounded the glass table that I routinely whacked my shin on.
“God damn it,” I mumbled as I walked directly into the curved side. I was really gonna get rid of that piece of shit one of these days. It had been mom’s. Dad really didn’t want me to get rid of it.
“Mom hated that thing,” I bemoaned, “hated it!”
Dad wasn’t a man who liked to remember the dead as disliking things. Now that she was gone she had loved everything. Even the things she hated, like puppies, apparently now she loved them.
“No, Bec, no. It was her favorite.”
I gave up trying to convince him otherwise. He was as determined to believe his own version of history as the Quakes were determined to ruin my night.
I picked up the receiver of the com system and held it to my lips, “What’s up Harold?” I spun the Colt on my finger and smiled to myself.
“Bec,” he sounded relieved to know I was home, “Bec, there’s a spike on the sensors.”
“There’s always a spike on the sensors,” I yawned.
“No, Bec,” I could hear Harold shaking his head, “This is the spike.”
His voice caught me mid-breath.
“This is the spike, Bec,” his voice dropped to a whisper.
A cooled silence fell over the com before I found my voice, “I’ll meet you at the spot.”
My truck was an old Chevy that survived the mass purge of 2025. The current government was demanding citizens to hand over all relics. But Betsy wasn’t a relic. She was my best friend. She got me through the preemptive Quake attack two years ago. Not many “relics” survived that. But Betsy was different. When I drove her she came alive. When I coughed she let her engine rumble. When I screamed at the asshole in front her horn would blow a little extra loud. We were one in the same.
I pushed Betsy’s keys in and waited for the engine to turn over.
“Atta girl,” I whispered, patting the wheel.
The sun was dipping behind the Trat Tower. The entire city was owned by the Trat Family. In the early 2000’s the Trat Family sold half the city’s territory to the government for testing. We didn’t find out what kind of testing was happening. We thought maybe it had to do with the farms. But we were wrong. The government testing brought on the Quakes.
No one had seen the Quakes. The Quakes were not visible. But when the blackouts started we started to notice things were different. Backup generators would die unexpectedly. Animals would disappear. It wasn’t till the military planes became giant paperweights that it was too late.
It was truly amazing how the news anchors could insert that word into nearly anything they were talking about. They could somehow make the sight of overcast weather relate back to the invasion.
“Looks like rain, Darla!”
“Looks like! Could very well be a sign of the pending invasion!”
It was gross, really.
When the preemptive attack happened there was an uptick in suicides. It was so bad you couldn’t go outside for a week without the smell of death lodged in the back of your throat.
“Why are they so stupid!” Dad exclaimed when the news first hit, “They don’t even know why they’re killing themselves!”
I swigged down a shot of whiskey and clicked my tongue against my teeth, “Dad, c’mon. They’re scared.”
“Everyones scared! I’m scared! But I ain’t gonna off my self cuz of it!”
The spot that Harold and I usually met at was the old high school on Tucker and Jones. After the initial invasion, it basically became a ghost down. People didn’t think it made a lot of sense to go to school and get an education anymore. Sure, there were still small schools running but for the most part, people were avoiding gathering in public areas out of fear of The Quakes.
I parked behind the old football field. On most nights that area was lit up with the latest game. But now it was so dark I had to use the light on my cell phone to make sure I didn’t fall a ditch.
“Turn that off!” Harold hissed from the darkness, “They’ll see!”
I sighed and disabled the light on my phone, “So, what’s the deal?”
Harold’s voice was shaking. Harold’s voice usually shakes but today was different. Had he been crying?
“Bec. I’ve been running tests all day. Twenty-four hours a day. This is the first time the signal has been above “average”.
The signal that Harold was monitoring was from The Quakes. Before the initial invasion that was the first thing that we picked up that indicated The Quakes were out there. The scientists had determined that the Quake signal reached a certain intensity before an attack. But because it had only happened once there was no way to know for sure if this was a sign.
“How much above average?” I asked into the darkness of what I assumed was Harold’s petrified face.
“Way above,” I felt the air shift as Harold threw his hands over his head, “Off the scale, Bec.” I heard him take a long breath, “I think it is happening again.”