It was a summer morning like any other; except the metropolitan area was covered in fog. But that was to be expected. It had rained the night before, and the temperature dropped nearly ten degrees. Nobody’s routines were deterred because of the natural phenomenon.
Alex woke up at five that morning. Just like every weekday morning. Went through her ritual of being ready in ten minutes. It took twenty minutes for her to get to work, and she planned her morning so she could get as much sleep as possible. Traffic never bothered her. There weren’t many who traveled along the same road that early.
She pulled her double-knotted laces tight, grabbed her water bottle and morning snack, plucked her keys off the table, and pecked her husband on the cheek. Trotted down the stairs of her split level and into the garage. She was running two minutes late in a schedule accounting for every minute.
The Wrangler roared to life, the straight six engine awoken from slumber. Alex maneuvered out of her subdivision with ease. Despite the fog. Thanking Jeeps for fog lamps.
On the main stretch of road that took her straight to her job, she had to pay more attention. There were dips in the landscape where the fog gathered thickly. She looked up at the sky. No sun could be seen. Sure, it was early, but the sun should’ve been peeking over the horizon line by now. The fog and clouded over sky blended into one.
Alex shrugged it off and continued. Further ahead, the sky did decide to clear, revealing multiple cloud patterns against a pastel sky. She loved nature. Admiring the skyscape until a particular vapor trail snagged her attention. It went straight up into the atmosphere until she couldn’t see it anymore.
Again, she shrugged it off. Just her perception messing with her from the airport about forty miles east. The sky disappeared again. Her thumbs tapped the steering wheel as a random tune played in her mind. Vision going out of focus momentarily.
Red lights appeared in front of her, and she hit the brakes, slowing at a stoplight. She blinked and looked around. The fog had engulfed everything. She could barely make out the rival gas stations occupying opposite corners. Barely made out the stoplight itself. When the light turned green, she continued at the speed limit. Versus the ten miles an hour over she normally did.
After two minutes of silence, the ground lurched beneath her, and a loud bang followed. Causing her to mount the curb in a mad dash for safety. White fingers gripped the steering wheel. Her wide eyes checked the rear view mirrors. The road was still there.
A distant roar thundered toward her. She ducked and covered her head as a shock wave exploded the glass from her Jeep. Ears ringing, she slowly sat back up. Shards falling from her. She swallowed. Eyes examining the area. What on Earth?
She searched the Wrangler. Eased it back on the road. The fog had been replaced with equally dense smoke. Crawling at a snail’s pace, she moved further down the road. A few cars were deserted. Abandoned in precarious places. Some people stood in groups while others sat on the side of the road in despair.
A fire truck flew by her. Then another. Cop cars, ambulances. All from separate jurisdictions. Alex remained pulled over on the shoulder now. Studying the horizon. It glowed. Faintly. But enough.
Her wonder was startled by a man throwing himself against the front of her Jeep. His clothes were tattered, burned, dusty. His eyes almost popped out from his skull. He waved an arm. “Get out of here! Go! Don’t you know what this is? It’s the end times! A missile has struck! Leave or die!” He disappeared back into the curtain of smoke.
Alex watched him run off. A missile? She sat in disbelief for a few moments. Threw the shifter in drive and forced the Wrangler around. Flying down the forty miles per hour road at eighty. Work was out of the question. Her jaw set. She needed to get back to her husband.
It hadn’t even been twenty minutes, and everything changed. She glanced at the rear view mirror again. Who knew what would be revealed when the smoke and fog cleared.