New Years Eve 11:59pm 2099
“5! 4! 3! 2! 1! Happy New Year!!!!!”
There were shouts and cheers, but only darkness to surround them. New York City was black in the night. Screens around the world went black. The entire world had a wild range of emotions. Some were confused, “Was it a hacker?” Others were upset, “I want to see the rest!” Still others hadn’t even noticed the change.
January 3rd, 2100
It’s our birthday. We are 15 years old today. It’s going to be a great day.
The two of us spring from our beds like kangaroos. We aren’t totally sure what they are, but people said they jumped pretty high. When we bound down the stairs, the wafting smell of bacon hits our noses. Bacon is a treat because pigs are so close to extinction. There are also pancakes and strawberries sitting on the table. A sign above the table reads, “Happy 15th Birthday Camille and Amara!!”
After breakfast, we run out to the hover line that will take us to school. By the time we get there, we have just enough time to take a seat. It is the beginning of a new year so our class laughs at the cell phone collection from the 2010s and talks about the pandemic in 2020. At lunch we are serenaded with Happy Birthday and earn free ice creams. We decide to walk home even though it would be 10 times faster to take the hover line. We talk about our brilliant plans for this year and what we want our gifts to be. Nothing could ruin this day for us.
When we get home, Mom is cooking dinner, banging pots and pans and slamming cabinets. With the music blaring into the kitchen, Alex and Mack are wrestling with each other. Dad is still at work; he’ll be home shortly followed by our grandparents and our cousins. Our party is from four to ten tonight. There will be food, cake, and music.
At four, we are decked out in bright, fancy outfits. We open the door and greet our guests. We decide to eat cake and then open our presents after. So, everyone crowds around the table and they start to sing. When they finish, we blow out the candles.
Then the room goes dark.
After everyone goes home, we hop into our beds early and fall asleep. Because it’s so dark, we can’t do much else. When we wake up, the lights are still out.
I grab my phone and check the time. 7:02. I have a blip telling me that school is canceled due to the worldwide power outage. School has been closed three different times since the clock struck midnight on the first. So, unalarmed, I swing my head over the bar of the top bunk and look into Amara’s bed. Her eyes pop open and she looks at me.
“No school!” I say excitedly.
“Oh good,” Amara mumbles into her pillow, “good night.”
“Good morning!” I exclaim as I hop over the rail of my bed. I slip on my clothes and tiptoe down stairs. It’s dark, but it’s nice. I grab the cereal, realizing that I shouldn’t open the fridge and let the cool air out. So I sit at the kitchen counter with a book, a candle, and a bowl of dry cereal.
Around noon, both Amara and the lights emerge from their sleep and we go to the park down the street to play with Alex and Mack.
The next day is the same as ever, power on, people moving all over the place. The only difference is the wild news on the screens on the hover lines as we all commute to different places.
“Resume all normal activities, but stay close to home. Scientists and engineers are currently looking into all possible answers as to why we keep losing power. We urge you to stay off all devices to conserve power (this way, if it happens again, you will be prepared) and avoid using power operated commute methods like the hovertrams and inclined hover lines. Please stay safe.” That’s it. As the text finishes rolling across the bottom of the screen, it repeats again in another language, “Reanude todas sus actividades normales, pero quédese cerca de casa…” I stop listening. The hover line slows, I hop down, and I find Amara in the mess of people in front of school. There is so much buzz about what everyone thinks is going to happen. I find that unlike before, I am now confused, alarmed, upset, and agitated when I finally take my seat. Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine. I tell myself this over and over hoping I’m right.
Around midnight last night the power went out again. People are starting to really panic now. Yesterday in school, we learned about the turn of the 21st century and how everyone was afraid that things would start to shut down and how they truly believed that the world might end. Of course, they were wrong, but it definitely freaked out a good part of the class. No school today, but I decide to get up early anyway and start on the growing pile of homework on my desk. Then I remember that there is no power. No power means no connection means no homework.
The news reports are coming in, high alert, no connection needed. Airplanes and jetpacks are stalling and falling from the sky. Cars are freezing in place and causing all kinds of crashes. A few of the computers have stopped working, too. We are all being urged to stay inside, stay safe, and protect our families.
We try to distract ourselves from it all with old board games and tiny battery operated game controllers. We do pretty well for a while, but then a helicopter with blaring sirens drops from the sky. We hear it before we see it. It’s blades have stopped working and it is tearing through the air. When it gets close to the ground, we all brace ourselves for it’s impact, I cover Alex’s eyes and Camille does the same for Mack.
The helicopter doesn’t hit the ground though, it gets stuck in old telephone wires in the park off McLandover Street. It wobbles there for a minute, tipping one way, then the other. Finally it sits still, sirens still wailing a cry for help, and we all wait.
It doesn’t move.
Everyone on the street is frozen, just waiting. Someone inside is crying out over the sirens, and another tries to slowly open the passenger door. With this motion, the helicopter starts to move again and it slowly tips to the right, then the left. The noise of the siren is deafening, but when the wires break under the helicopter and it falls, it is as if everything is silent. The time it seems to take for the helicopter to hit the ground is endless and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
The explosion is bright and loud, but the aftermath of nothingness is worse than everything combined. No one moves. No one can register what just happened. Then someone in the street screams. I realize that there are tears falling from my face. This is the first time I have ever watched someone die right in front of me. I hope it never happens again. My body seems paralyzed. It is then when I see the commotion on the streets and feel the arm of my mother pulling me inside.
We went to bed early that night, trying hard not to think about what we saw. Amara and I let Alex and Mack sleep on our floor. We all felt safer that way. I know our parents are trying to shield us from it all, but Amara and I both see the worries leaking through their forced grins. Mack woke up screaming and terrified; he didn’t see the helicopter fall, but we had to tell him what happened as he peered into the smoke and flames rising from the playground. He sat huddled with his hands wrapped around his legs as I tried to comfort him. Amara walked over to Alex who was also crying, even though he didn’t know why. We sat there for a while, leaning against the wall, until Mack and Alex fell back to sleep. Amara and I had a silent conversation over the boy’s heads; we are both scared and confused and just want everything to go back to normal, but we both know deep down that our normal will never be the same as it was just a week ago.
Today proved that.
In the morning, Amara and I crawl into our beds and pass out again after the long sleepless night. Around ten, Mom and Dad come in and wake us up for breakfast. We go downstairs and find dry cereal and a few apples.
“Originally, our plan was to go to the store last night, like we do every week, but we decided against it.” Mom was trying to be positive, but it was hard for her and I could see the strain in her eyes.
Dad continues for her, “So, we want to go today. We know everything is going to be crazy out there, but we need to get a few things so we can hunker down until this all blows over.”
“We believe it would be best if we all go together. Of course we trust the two of you can take care of each other and the boys, but we don’t know what is happening outside and we don’t want you to be alone.” Mom is clearly worried now.
We all sit there in silence. After a minute, we grab our things and start out the door.
My mind keeps going back to the helicopter crash. What if something falls? What if we don’t see it coming? What if we get stuck? Who is manning the store right now? How long is it going to take us to get there on foot?
As we walk down the street, a dog barks at us from its spot on someone’s porch. A group of little kids kicks an old black and white thing, that I recognize from the pictures we were shown in class, as a soccer ball, back and forth. They were clearly kicked out of the house for a little while and are still bored out of their minds.
An older girl carries a little kid on her hip, with another little kid hanging on her ankle and screaming. I recognize her from the helicopter. She looks just like the woman who was yelling for help, but this girl is much younger and- no. It can’t be. Those people in the helicopter, these are their kids. They lived in a building near here, I remember seeing her in school, now these kids are all alone, in the middle of a worldwide crisis.
As we walk closer and closer to the store, I see more and more devastation. A few more planes and helicopters crashed last night, sewers are overflowing, cars and hover lines are down, and there are signs around that talk about how prisons couldn’t keep inmates in and hospitals need more help. Eventually we make it though. It’s a large warehouse building where we usually order our food and robots are able to bring it out to us. There is almost always one or two people on duty, but the place is able to run itself. Not anymore though. The place is overrun with people. Some even go to the length of attacking others that have a bin of food put together. The attendants that had only the job of greeting people, now try to have people form lines and wait- no success there. It is complete chaos.
We make our way to an aisle in the back and grab a cart. We pile the cart with what we can and try to make our way out the back. Then we hear screams. People run as far from the store as they can get. We just stand there, confused, and wait. Turns out this is the worst thing we could do.
The plane drops onto the roof with an ear piercing noise. The metal on metal makes everyone’s hands fly up to their ears. We run to the nearest exit. Camille grabs my hand and we bolt, expecting everyone to be right behind us. They aren’t, but we notice too late and they are gone. The roof caves and I slip, hitting my head on the ground. At that moment, just like on New Year’s and on our birthday, everything goes black, but this time the power is already out.
Amara’s hand slips out of mine as she falls, she catches herself, but it’s too late. Her head hits the ground with a thud and she doesn’t get up. My mind spins. I don’t know where the rest of my family is, I don’t even know if they got out. I don’t know what to do. I only know that I can’t run away. Not now. Not without Amara. I run through all the classes I have taken on how to help a person if they have fallen, but nothing comes to my mind. I do the worst possible thing and I know it, but I don’t know what else to do. I pull Amara into my arms and I shake one of her shoulders. Nothing. I check her pulse: fine. Tears are running down my face now as she begins to regain consciousness.
“Come on! Let’s go!” The words seem loud and uncoordinated as I speak, but I can’t think about that right now, we just have to get out of here.
I swing Amara’s arm over my shoulder and run to the nearest exit, dragging her along with me.
“Amara! Amara!” I am yelling frantically now, but I don’t care. “Amara! Amara wake up!!” Her eyes flutter open and she looks around. Suddenly, it’s as if she remembers what just happened and her feet start to propel her forward. All at once we are running. We don’t know or care where, just running. We run for too long though and end up under a bridge, on a street I don’t recognize.
At that moment it starts to rain. The tears, the blood and the sweat blend together on our faces as we sit under the bridge and wait. I notice the gash on Amara’s head, but I decide not to say anything because if she notices it herself, she might pass out again and I am already afraid she might have a concussion from her first fall.
As we sit under the bridge and listen to the rain, I am reminded of a spring day a few years ago: I was walking home from school, soaking wet from the rain. By the time I got home, Mom wouldn’t even let me in the house, so I stood outside in the rain, all wet, until she got me a towel, but it didn’t do anything to help. I smile at the memory, remembering Mom, Dad, Mack, and Alex and how we just ran away from them and my smile quickly fades.
“Amara,” I whisper, “where do you think they are? Do you think they are okay?”
“I don’t know,” she whispers back, “I don’t remember much. Just the initial collapse, the noise, the darkness, and the blur as we ran.”
“I hope they are okay.”
This thought puts us both to a restless sleep.
My head is throbbing, but I promise myself that I won’t tell Camille. She would just worry. When I open my eyes, the sky is almost blue and everything that happened yesterday starts to come back to me.
“Wake up,” I say to Camille.
“Yea. Yea. I’m up.” Camille says groggily.
“Come on, we don’t know where we are and we have to find the rest of our family.”
A shot goes off in the distance. Camille straightens up and assures me that she is ready to go. We come to the conclusion that we ran in a straight line and so it shouldn’t be hard to backtrack.
We are wrong. A playground here, a street there, a building there; it all looks the same. Eventually we think we find main street which means we were totally turned around, so we backtrack again. It starts to get dark again and remembering that we might be able to call Mom and Dad, I ask Camille if she has her phone. Of course she had it, but it was waterlogged and cracked from the night before and therefore, useless. So we find an abandoned apartment building and sit in the lobby. We eventually fall asleep with the hope that tomorrow we might find home.
We wake to more sirens. We find a phone in the back of the desk in the lobby, but it’s dead. I keep wondering how the sirens are working when nothing else does. We grab what we can find in the building and head out for another day.
We know we should be only a few blocks from home now. We start with a left, then a right, and finally we just walk straight. Then I see it. The park. Our park. Smashed and still smoking; our park. We start to run. By the time we pass the old candy store on McLandover street, we know we made it.
The two of us, hand in hand, run up the steps, burst open the door and run inside. The smiles on our faces dissipate the minute our calls get no answer. So we wait, and wait, and wait. Just as the sun is setting and we are ready to give up, the door opens slowly. Our family walks in with defeated looks on their faces. The smile Amara and I share couldn’t match anyone else’s if they tried.
“Mom! Dad! Mack! Alex!” the two of us cry together. They look up.
“Amara! Camille!” We run into their outstretched arms. Tears run down all our faces; happy, wonderful, tears of joy. We sit there for an eternity, hugging each other in a heap on the floor. Everyone is so happy.
So yes, we were wrong, maybe this wouldn’t turn out to be a great year, but we have each other, and that is all that matters.