The day Tim’s world ended didn’t start off differently from any other day. He woke to his alarm, scrambled into the shower before his younger brothers could, drank some milk and inhaled a pop tart on his way out the door to school. He didn’t even see his parents. They were always long gone before he got up and he was amazed how his lunch was always ready for him. He did have a quick glimpse of his brothers as they fought over the toaster and Tim gave the younger one, Sean, a quick yank on his underwear as he passed by. Before he he left his house, he heard a “Damnit, Tim! You jackass!” His teeth flashed, oldest brother work completed, and walked to school, his unlaced shoes scuffing the sidewalk as he moseyed along. It was the last time he’d see his brothers alive.
School, as usual, was uneventful. The teacher’s voice a soft anesthetizing drone and the day was composed of somnambulant saunters to each class, the puddle of drool on the desk a signal the lesson would soon end and another would begin. It wasn’t until the bell sounded freedom at the end of the day did energy return to Tim and the other students, like the shackles of lethargy dropping from the shoulders of ex-cons leaving prison.
Tim went to the mall with his friends, congregating in the food court to talk about girls and watch the same pretty girls pass by while pretending not to care. It was a Tuesday. His brothers had basketball practice until five and his mother would pick them up on her way home. His mother only asked that he be home before she returned. She worried a lot, as mothers were wont to do. Tim glanced at his watch. It was time to go.
He walked home with his friend, Kevin and they talked about subjects important to boys. They jumped from baseball to basketball to girls to football and back to girls. Then they spoke of girls some more. Tim thought Tracy was looking at him with some love in her eye and shared this information with Kevin.
Kevin, being a true friend, made fun of him, “That wasn’t love, that was the sun. People tend to squint when the sun’s in their eyes.”
“No, no. You’re wrong. We were inside at the time I felt the beam of love shoot from her eyes.”
Kevin shook his head, “She probably had gas. People make weird faces when they’re trying to hold in a fart.”
Kevin lived closer to the mall than Tim. The last Tim ever saw of Kevin, Kevin was walking into his house, flipping Tim the bird before he closed the door. Kevin was a good friend. Out of all of his friends, Tim missed him the most.
When Tim got home, he turned on the TV, grabbed a soda from the fridge and Oreos from the cupboard and sunk into the sofa with a sigh. On TV, images flashed across the screen. At the top of the screen were the words Breaking News! Tim’s soda and cookies were soon forgotten. At first, Tim had no idea what he was looking at. Moving darkness blocked out the sun, erratic jumps descending on people who soon fell dead to the ground. What was that? What was attacking people? Aliens? The image zoomed out and Tim saw the dark masses everywhere. Bodies lay scattered and forgotten on the ground as screaming people ran or hid in their cars. Tim watched a dark cloud engulf a running mother holding her infant in her arms. They didn’t make it five feet.
Tim’s blood pounded in his ears and his mouth was devoid of moisture. Through the surround sound speakers, a buzzing vibrated the room, penetrating his shock and shaking the can of soda on the table in front of him. What are those things? Why wasn’t anyone talking on the TV?
The darkness swirled and danced on the air and then it moved to the camera, banging into it and Tim’s ears ached with the terrified shrieks emanating from the speakers. Banging against the lens, coalescing onto it into a writhing mass were bugs. Insects were killing people.
The phone chirruped electronic tones beside him. He jumped, might have screamed, he wasn’t sure, and he snatched the receiver up with shaky hands.
“Tim? Your mother and brothers home?” It was his dad. His voice pitched high at the end. He was scared. So was Tim.
“No. Not yet. Dad? What the hell’s going on?” It wasn’t until he heard his dad’s voice did the unreality of the situation fade. Whatever was going on was deadly serious and Tim felt a sob crawling up his throat.
“I don’t know. No one knows. I’m in a storage room of some sort. At work.”
“Are you coming home?”
“I’m gonna try my best.”
“What do I do Dad?”
His dad sighed and Tim could hear, hidden underneath it, a cry, “I don’t know, Tim. I just don’t know. It’s the bugs. Can’t keep them out forever. All we can do is ride it out. Hope that whatever is making them crazy doesn’t last.”
A low drone was building in the phone.
“Are you safe Dad?”
“I don’t know Tim. Listen to me. Listen carefully. You know that plywood in the basement? Stacked against the wall?”
“Nail that over the windows in the basement. Then I want you to get the caulking and squeeze that all over any place small enough for them to get in. You listening?”
His dad’s words sped up, urgent, short and clipped. The buzzing noise in the background increased.
“Yeah. I’m right here.”
“Good. Get that done. Get some food and water down there and once your mother and brothers are home, get them in the basement and then put that caulking all around the door frame. Use all of it.”
“What about you Dad? I should wait for you right?”
Someone screeched into the phone, competing with the noise of the bugs and then Tim’s dad started screaming. Screaming rising in intensity, terrible, filled with pain. The receiver shook in Tim’s hand and tears slid into his mouth, down his chin. Tim dropped the phone as the house shook and trembled under his feet. A squealing engine and the buzzing of bugs sounded from the garage. Tim ran to the garage, opened the door from the house to get into it and saw his mom’s car inside.
It was crawling with a living dark skin. The windshield wipers whipped back and forth, leaving a green smear on the glass before it was covered with more. Screams filled the car with notes of fear. The cries of his brothers competed with his mother’s in a discordant cacaphony. Tim ran to the door, hearing the voice of his mother, so recognizable even when filled with fear. He pulled on the door. It was locked. He banged at the window, wanting to smash it and his mother’s hand appeared through the thick cloud of bugs to slap at the inside of the glass, squishing bugs beneath her palm. Tim put his hand on her palm, wanting to touch her one last time. The screams died, the hand patted the glass with a weak rhythm. His entire family was dead. The bugs swirled and danced around his head. He was untouched.
Tim’s Fun Facts: The city of Tokyo has more people in it than the entire country of Canada.