Intervention – A Short Story (updated)
Note: the actual story has been added at the end of this post.
A few weeks ago, I discovered another site for posting fiction, Upliterate. Although it’s still a bit rough around the edges, I figured I might as well post a few stories that I’ve posted elsewhere and see what comes out of it. I posted Vacation Days pretty quickly. Then, early last week I saw that they’re running a short story contest centered around the end of the world. Ok, that sounded interesting so I figured I’d give it a shot. At least 1,000 words. Shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right?
The prompt for the contest was pretty straight forward:
The end of the world is in two minutes, and you (or your protagonist) just remembered something very important.
So I set about finding something very important just before the world ends. The result is Intervention.
It’s a story about a man sent on a mission to save the world from the end of the world. In the end, he finds himself in a bit of a pickle and his own survival is suddenly at risk.
Anyway, it’s a 1,500 word story so feel free to check it out. Check it out below:
Darkness. Silence. Stillness. Then pain. An uncontrollable rotating sensation gripped Tim as he felt himself spin faster and faster, thrown violently in all directions. He burst through the veil of unconsciousness and found himself retching on the floor on his hands and knees. He swallowed hard, pushing down the sour taste that had emerged in the back of his mouth before he leaned back against the bed behind him, breathing heavily.
As his mind slowly pushed away the fog that was clouding his mind, is eyes were overwhelmed by a bright light from outside the window. Squinting, he looked away and shielded his eyes with his arm as he carefully struggled to his feet and over to the window.
What’s going on?
He unlocked the latch and opened the window but immediately closed it as a mix of screaming and shouting, barking dogs and cacophony of car horns greeted his ears. He tried to get a glimpse of the source of the bright light but had to look away. Suddenly, a million little knives seemed to poke the inside of head. Reflexively, he covered his ears with his hands, closed his eyes and sat down on bent knees with gritted teeth as he fought the urge to scream. Slowly, he regained control of his senses and stumbled over to the bed, sat down and looked around.
Where am I?
The room was small, large enough only for a bed in the middle and a small table and a chair by the wall opposite the window, on the other side of the bed. A dresser with a TV perched on top was positioned across from the end of the bed. Tim figured it had to be a hotel or some sort of hostel. He glanced back at the table and saw his laptop computer, screen on, its screensaver dancing across the screen to some silent melody.
The computer. A chill went down his spine. His chest tightened and Tim felt as if his heart skipped a beat. He looked down on the watch on his wrist.
It was 9:47:17pm exactly.
Adrenaline rushed through his veins as he jumped to his feet and leaped across the bed. He scooped up the laptop, snapping it closed in the process and rushed out of the room and down the stairs while frantically searching his still foggy mind for a missing piece of the puzzle. The bright light. The screaming people. Two minutes exactly. He knew it all meant something.
The courtyard at the abandoned hospital. That was it. That was where he had arrived many months earlier. He had to get back there. It was his only way out.
He sprinted out through the front door of the building and bumped into a screaming throng of people on the street. Everyone was running in random directions, searching in vain for an escape from the inevitable. A few stood and stared, pointing, eyes and mouths wide open, their faces glowing yellow. A grandmother held a grandchild on a rocking chair across the street, content to sit in the shadow, holding her most priced possession while tears streamed down her cheeks.
Tim pushed through the crowd to the other side and dove into a narrow alley between two apartment buildings. Dark and damp, it was abandoned except for a few rats that quickly scattered as he ran through. For a few moments, the noise of the street faded, replaced by the echos of his footsteps as he ran as fast as he could.
A minute and fifteen seconds. Barely. He was running out of time. He glanced toward the sky at the bright light created by the approaching asteroid as it tumbled through the atmosphere and heard the rumbling as it plowed through the air. The people around him didn’t have a chance and many of them were just realizing it for the first time. He had known before he even arrived. His mission briefing had contained the few details of the disaster that had survived. The rest he had picked up over the last few months as the governments of the world had worked together to try to find a way to save civilization and humanity.
Shelters had been built in secret years ago, as soon as the asteroid had been discovered. The intent had been to populate them with the best and brightest from around the world, those that would have the best chance of not only surviving the impact but also the aftermath. They had to be abandoned after riots erupted worldwide once it became clear that those that could not enter the shelters would likely die. Tim knew that in reality, construction went on as the politicians pacified the public with platitudes while working behind the scenes to ensure the continuity of civilization.
The last few years, everything that was practical had been tried, from shuttle missions to rockets armed with nuclear warheads. Nothing had worked. The asteroid kept coming, its collision course with Earth unchanged. In the end, they ran out of time and instead started counting down time to impact. The crews of the space stations in orbit around Earth as well as the astronauts on the international lunar base would have a front row seat to the cosmic collision.
As Tim struggled through the throng of people on the street, he couldn’t help but think of the hope he had felt when he was selected for this mission. He had been excited. He would be able to provide humanity a new scientific solution to the impending extinction event and save humanity. What he had failed to anticipate was the hostility and dismissive attitudes he would encounter when he arrived. The scientists of the past thought they knew best and paid little attention to some unknown know-it-all that insisted on untried methods. For a time, Tim had fallen into a depression and locked himself inside his apartment, refusing to hear about humanity’s futile attempts to save themselves.
After wallowing in his own misery for a while, feeling sorry for himself and his failure to make a difference, he remembered that while he had a way out, a way back to the future, those around him did not. He could not, in good conscience, just leave them be in their ignorance and return to the future, as bleak as it was, leaving them to die. He had to keep trying.
In the end, Tim had still failed. The coming apocalypse was not be avoided despite his best efforts.
Lost in thought for a few seconds, by the time Tim made it across the street through the pedestrian traffic and cars parked all over the streets, he had less than one minute left. He ran through a door that lead into the lobby of an apartment building, almost knocking an elderly woman off of her feet.
“Watch where you’re going, young man!” she yelled after him as he rushed out the door on the other side of the building and across the playground in the backyard. He jumped a fence and ran across a blocked off old street by the old hospital, ducking through a pathway leading into the courtyard.
He stopped in the courtyard and reached into his pocket for the portal recaller, his way back to the future through a hole in time.
Where is it?
He checked his other pocket. Nothing. A chill went down his spine and he felt dizzy as he dropped his laptop and quickly patted down his pockets, his eyes now toward the sky and the approaching bright light while his hands desperately searched for the portal recaller.
He must have left it in the apartment. He looked back towards the pathway, realizing there was no way he would have time to run back there to get it and still make it back here in time.
He glanced at his watch and up at the sky. He hadn’t expected to be here for this moment. He should have been safely back in the future. Inside, an unnatural calm descended on him. He knew there was nothing he could do. He was out of time. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Any moment now.
The brightness around him increased in intensity, and the rushing roar was almost unbearable.
He felt a disturbance in the air around him and suddenly felt himself tumbling forward through the air as the heat and the roar of the approaching asteroid faded.
Tim fell down on the metal grating in the gate room of the space station. Strong arms picked him up and helped him into the medical bay. A team of doctors dressed in all white quickly examined him before giving the thumbs up to someone he couldn’t see.
“Welcome back,” his commanding officer said as he appeared next to his bed, a smile on his face. “Looks like we came looking for you just in time.”