by Marc Mason
It had been twelve full days by our
counting since last we heard sound from above. Before that, the sounds of
battle echoed for at least three days, thunderous explosions tearing their way
through the waning infrastructure of the city, erasing civilization as we know
quiet was harder to take.
group of us had found our way into a bunker as the carnage began. That day had
begun so simply: my intern, a bilingual young man with a fantastic sense of
style, had stopped and brought in donuts, making sure to save me a maple-iced,
and those of us on the design team gathered in the conference room to eat
sugary goodness and discuss our next move with the athletic shoe company that
had just hired us. It was smoggy, as Los Angeles usually is, but the sun seemed
particularly radiant, like it refused to be shut down by the brown haze in the
sky. Then we felt the rumbles begin.
are a fact of life for Southern California, so no one really panicked. Plus,
the rumbles were rather short, not sustained. But then they began to increase
in intensity, and they felt… closer is, I guess, the right word. My intern
thought they might be coming from somewhere on the opposite side of the
building, so he ran that way to see if he could see anything. This was to be
his one and only mistake while he was under my supervision.
Jose. You were a fine web designer, and your taste in donut shops was
all heard him scream his final words: “Holy shi--!”
“t” was silent as what looked like a huge, white beam of energy tore upward
through that side of the building, eradicating everything in its path.
Everything around us shook, and pieces of the ceiling began to cave in. But I
didn’t move. Not at first. I was frozen in horror as I stared through the
gaping wound in our building and saw what was out there. It was so insane, my
mind could barely cope with it. What I would estimate to be a three hundred
foot tall dinosaur was walking toward us. Toward downtown, really. I watched as
its jaws flared wide and that energy beam erupted, the creature destroying
buildings next to ours, too.
would have stayed still, but one of the team members grabbed me and yelled at
me that we needed to go. So I ran, following my crew down the stairs and out of
the building and into the streets. The insanity outside was worse. Emergency
services vehicles were clogging the roads, a select few ridiculously brave
people answering the call of duty. Helicopters zoomed by overhead, and it
looked like a couple of them might be military. I went numb as my body
registered the fact that my city had just become a warzone.
war against what was the lingering
very stressed out looking policeman waved us down into the L.A. subway tunnels.
For a moment, we were all able to take a breath, but the sounds of the
creature’s footsteps were still quite audible, and more to the point, obviously
coming nearer. So we headed deeper into the tunnels, the idea being that the
further underground we were, the more protection we would have from whatever it
was that was stomping through the city. Nobody thought much at that moment
about the fact that this actually took us in the direction of the monstrosity,
and it didn’t ultimately matter. We got through. Then we got lucky.
had been down there for almost twelve hours, listening to the military shooting
and bombing and doing god knows what else to this thing. Every once in a while,
we’d feel a massive impact, like a missile had missed the thing and hit the ground
instead. Lucy, a quiet redhead who had only worked with us for short time, had
been walking around to burn off pent-up energy when she saw a huge fissure in
one of the tunnel walls. Behind it was a door with a huge sign on it:
broke out amongst the group, and while we weren’t in full consensus about
everything, there was one thing we did feel sure about: if the Army couldn’t
stop this thing quickly, they would consider dropping a nuke on it in order to
contain the situation. So finding a bunker meant to protect people from that
exact scenario was awfully damned fortuitous.
took six of us a few hours working together to break away enough of the rest of
the tunnel wall to have full access to the bunker door. One clear, we all
powered down our cell phones completely. They weren’t going to work in the
bunker anyway, and we all wanted to conserve battery for when (we hoped) we
would leave it and return to the surface. After that, we entered, a set of
stairs taking us down about seventy-five feet into a large room barely lit by
red emergency lighting.
found a regular light switch and with that, we saw where we were and what we
had. The room was about 150 feet long, and the walls were lined with shelves
full of canned food and bottled water. A stack of cots sat in one corner,
blankets piled next to it. There were a few flashlights, along with packs of
batteries, and some first-aid supplies.
settled in to wait out the storm above.
a couple of days, the shocks and rumbles stopped. We didn’t notice at first,
having become so used to it, but it was Lucy – still pacing around, as we
discovered she was a smoker who was desperate for nicotine – who said “Hey,
hasn’t it been a while since we heard anything up there?”
who was enough of a hipster that he wore a traditional wind-up watch, estimated
that it had been over twelve hours. Did that mean it was over? Who knew? I
mean, it was hard to be sure of anything at that point. Had the city been
nuked? Was there anything left above?
led to a rather robust discussion. Not just about the nature of the creature,
but about whether or not it was alone. It all happened so fast that none of us
had been able to get information about whether or not anything like this was
happening elsewhere. For all we knew, there could have been one in New York or
San Diego or Paris or wherever. We had no answers.
we did have one answer were we sure of: Los Angeles had taken a hell of a
beating. The amount of bombing and stomping we heard during those days was more
than significant. When we emerged, we were not likely to find a pretty world.
So we waited.
was unsettling, really, because the quiet kept demanding to be filled. The
quiet made people edgy. We started having uncomfortable chats that no one
really enjoyed, but we couldn’t help ourselves.
turned on one particular day to whether or not they would have been able to
evacuate the city if the decision to nuke was made. Would it just be the
cockroaches and the rats on the surface or would people in deep basements have
survived? Would they be trapped by buildings toppling overhead?
we? Could the subway tunnel have collapsed and locked us in?
of the food in the bunker had been there so long that it was inedible, so
around day ten we started to realize we were in trouble. After a lot of
deliberation, we took a vote and decided to try and return to the surface on
day fourteen if all remained silent. It did.
made our way up the stairs on day fifteen since the attack started, and as we
climbed, I said a silent prayer for Jose and for wherever he bought his donuts.
Once we reached the door, to our delight, it opened with little struggle. Once
more, we were in the subway.
had seen better days, of course. Rubble everywhere, wiring and rebar jutting
out from everywhere around. An acrid stench filled the air suggesting that a
massive fire had swept through, burning flesh and bone in its path. We walked
back the direction we had come two weeks prior, winding our way through debris
and destruction, the maze-like quality of the underground slowing us down, as
each step had to be accounted for, no one wanting to risk a broken ankle or
after what we guessed was around four hours, we saw specks of light ahead at a
platform. We carefully climbed up to the platform and followed the doors out to
frozen escalators whose stairs would lead us to the surface. Again, our steps
were taken with great care. One other scenario was still possible, and that was
that the creature had won and was still above, the military haven taken
horrific losses. We crept along quietly, inch by inch, as we approached an
egress to the open air above.
we found there is almost indescribable. Suffice it to say that all we saw, in
any direction, was rubble, a city in complete ruin. We did not see the
creature. We did not see any humans. Bobby turned on a Geiger counter we found
in the bunker and it read clean, which was a relief to us all. A strong ocean
breeze moved through the air, swirling dust around, and I stared at the ground
to look for smaller traces of life, finding nothing except a small roach that
appeared to be eating the remnants of a potato chip.
pulled out her phone and switched in on, inspiring the rest of us to do the
same. Maybe we would get lucky and somewhere there was a cell tower still
standing, or a wifi node still broadcasting. It probably looked comical, the
group of us standing in the middle of a dead city staring at our phones, but
none of us could help ourselves.
one got wifi. A few had text messages asking if they were okay, but no one had
offered any details of what was really happening, assuming that because we were
in the middle of it, we would have known. It was frustrating. We needed to
know! Was there a world left beyond Los Angeles? Was there a place to go for
proper evacuation? What was happening everywhere else? Or was it just us and
was then that my phone rang – loudly – and I got my answer.
Is this Chris Larkin?” I replied in the affirmative. “Good, good. Chris, this
is your student loan company. We’re calling today because we noticed you’re
over a week late with this month’s payment…”