fluorescent sky was still something that after all of these years
seemed a challenge not to be surprised by. But at least we had
a sky to look up to and admire for its beauty. Not a sky that
brought us terror and fear. Though, it was the same sky.
had been nearly thirty years since the invasion. At times it seemed
so distant. At times it felt like only moments had passed. Their
ships stood imbedded like monoliths in the midst of our rebuilt
cities, our lakes, and our backyards. Our children played around
them and gloried in the triumph of their mothers and fathers,
while we who remembered were drug riddled to suppress the nightmares
that inflicted our slumber.
they came, it was quick and unrelenting. We were unprepared. We
were overconfident. We were complacent. At last there was a species
that showed less mercy upon us than ourselves. With forethought
and an unbridled appetite for destruction they came, they destroyed,
they humbled us.
age of terrorism took on a new meaning. It was no longer Osama
Bin Laden we feared. We feared everything. The night most of all.
They had come in the night. They had brought the night,
covered the world in a shadow just before the attack.
used to be one of those kids that stayed up late on Saturday nights
watching every scary movie that I could. "War of the Worlds",
"Invaders from Mars", "Body Snatchers", all
the old classics. I could hardly sleep at night. Now, those shows
don't scare me anymore.
* * *
you're going to be late for work." Ashley was making the
kids breakfast. She was always watching the time for me.
know, babe. I'm going now." I kissed her goodbye, pecked
my kids on the head, and ran out the door.
wife had been born after the initial attack. Even though the thought
frightened her, she had no memory of what it was like before.
No memory of what true terror is. And it's funny. There are so
many of us that have the same dreadful memories, the same nightmares,
but still, it is personal. I still feel like, "It happened
to me." I have to remind myself I'm not the only one, that
I am only one.
walked out the front door, looked up at the sky, still amazed
by the change. It's hard to look at it and say it is beautiful.
In all actuality, it is. It's like multi-faceted diamonds reflecting
the northern lights all the time. But when I look up, all it does
is remind me why it is there and that the northern lights don't
even exist anymore. It reminds me how expendable we all are, how
so little we mean in the grand scheme of things. If there really
is any meaning.
start my little Vectra up with the push of a button. Simple automobiles
are what we drive now. Recycled cars from our past, part of the
"Clean up". All the automotive plants had been destroyed
during the invasion. The quickest things to produce after years
and years of rebuilding were these little two-seaters that were
really like glorified golf carts. It got you to where you needed
to go. There were a few classics on the roads. Cars that hadn't
been destroyed. The parts weren't easy to come by. We weren't
exactly back to a booming economy like we had been during the
turn of the century. It was going to take a long time to rebuild,
but we were rebuilding.
drive wasn't far. We all tended to live pretty close to the rebuilding
factories and medical centers now. Most people home-schooled their
children in groups. Those of us with education were left to teach
and lead in rebuilding. Basics were valued now, not simply purchased
at the local Wal-Mart. There was no Wal-Mart. I always
hated Wal-Mart. It never seemed like a place my mom wanted to
go. She would avoid it like a vacant building on the outskirts.
That is what I have to compare it to anyway. I was only
ten the last time I was at a Wal-Mart.
pulled into my parking space. If it weren't for the orange sock
puppet on my antenna, I don't think I could find my car coming
back to the lot. They all looked the same. Except for the antennas.
(People used to crave simplicity.) Each car had its own adornment.
Green balls, red balls, fluffy balls, even a few SpongeBobs left
from decades ago. A ballet in the wind on the top of antennas.
Then I thought a minute. There was a time when radios had
become satellite intercepted. It's crazy. Now we're lucky
to have radio stations at all. But we do. The simple fact that
we have overcome potential annihilation as a species, and have
several radio stations in one area, is pretty incredible. They
did not beat us. We survived, and we broadcast it.
has always been a primary drive for humans. These days, somewhat
like in the past, most technology is focused on global defense.
The world is finally a unified front. Although it is hardly considered
peaceful. The world is now filled with "Primary Cities".
Cities like the one I live in. The rest, unfocused on, were considered
the "Outskirts". It is just like we used to imagine
or see in movies. Post-apocalyptic societies. Abandoned buildings.
People starving and stealing. Groups of fanatics frightened of
their return. What else could we do, though? There had to be centralized
re-construction. We had to start somewhere.
got out of my car and headed for the building. It was pretty basic
construction. Logic ruled our lives for the present. Creativity
took too long. We didn't need starving artists; there were too
many starving doctors. Well, actually, doctors ate pretty well,
since there were so few of them.
building was four stories tall, only stairs to get up. Kept us
healthy, and it was easier to build. I worked on the fourth
floor. I am the stair-climber.
had a good job. In today's world a good job meant something entirely
new. It didn't mean a big salary. Money didn't mean much anymore.
It was the quality that a person contributed to society that mattered.
The service industry was gone. Being sheltered, fed and clothed
was primary. People being healthy was primary. People helping
people, that was primary. Survival was the objective.
* * *
entered my office and unlocked my locker. I removed the case from
inside and replaced it with the one I carried in. I went to the
door that led down. After climbing up the four flights of stairs,
I was not finished. I then proceeded to take another set of stairs
ten floors down. This is why I am called the "Stairclimber".
Well, I call myself that, anyway. I finish my descent and walk
through a large steel door.
morning, Lieutenant," I responded.
the way we like it," I replied with a smile, and continued
on to my actual office.
wore no uniform. I bore no resemblance to a military man. I looked
as common a working man as anyone. It was necessary. Today's military
had been broken into several distinct units. Perimeter Control
of the planet, Street Sweepers, and Intelligence. The Street Sweepers
kept people feeling safe. Whether we actually were was not at
issue. We were never really safe, but we had to maintain an appearance
if we wanted civilization to rebuild.
was a strange world we lived in. Those that were left to rebuild
were not the same as the younger generation. It was obvious even
at a mere glance. There was something behind a person's eyes that
could identify them as being a survivor. Our new generation, like
my wife, had grown up with parents that knew what true terror
was. This generation was either shielded from the horror and taught
to be strong and vigilant, or they were petrified of everything.
In another time it would have been considered child abuse to make
one's children fear to go outside, or play in the street, or sleep
with one eye literally open. In today's world, it is too
common a behavior to view this as abuse. It is one more obstacle
for us to overcome. Our own psychosis.
groups of the paranoid lived outside the city in the Outskirts.
They were pitied, and they were feared.
remember my parents talking about nuclear war and terrorist attacks.
I remember being shuffled out of class on 911, and how frightened
everyone was. That was nothing. I remember watching the new rendition
of "War of the Worlds" in the theater, scary as hell.
That was nothing. These things that came in the night did
not die off after a few days of being exposed to our atmosphere.
They were not destroyed by humans. Oh, we fought. We fought with
everything we had, and we celebrate our victory every day. But
we did not win. People forget. Most don't even realize the truth.
did not kill them all. They simply left. They left their fallen
ships behind, and their destruction. They were not defeated. That
is what was most frightening of all. They pulled together in one
mass of force and vanished from our radar.
was aware of the truth. Not many people were. I lived with the
terror of the memoryand the terror that they would
End of Prologue