“Hey, Hun,” Elise called, pausing as she grabbed her keys off the counter, eyes transfixed out the window in front of her.
“Yes?” Michael responded as he popped his head out of the bathroom. He followed his wife’s gaze. Toothbrush hanging out of his mouth.
She stood unblinking. “What’s wrong with the sky? Why’s it like that?”
He moved beside her. “I don’t know. Perhaps the clouds are reflecting the sunrise. It is almost five thirty.”
“Right. Almost five thirty?” Eyes widening, she trotted down the stairs. “I’m going to be late for work. I can’t get fired!” She flung open the door leading to the garage then elbowed the button to retract the large garage door. Placed her lunchbox in the passenger seat of her bright green Jeep.
However, her pace slowed to a crawl when she caught a glimpse of the outside world as she rounded the back of the Wrangler. Yes, the sun may start rising before five thirty, but it was never this bright. Nor was the entire air tinted orange. And that’s what it seemed like. As if someone spray-painted the air itself with a transparent, faint orange color. Never had she seen such a thing in her years of life.
“Whoa,” came Michael’s response as he stood in the doorway leading back into the house. “Were we transported into a video game in our sleep or what?”
She gave a short laugh. “Well, if we did, it was Fallout, and this is just after the bombs fell. But I guess I better get going. I can spectate this on my way.” After giving her husband a quick peck on the cheek, she pulled herself into the taller vehicle. Carefully backed out into the orange haze.
Honestly, the atmosphere was eerie. She wanted to declare this was an unbelievable phenomenon, but there was something about it that made her not want to make any final decisions on it. It was too quiet. Even for this early time of the day.
There were much fewer cars on the road taking her to her hardware store job. Normally, there was average of about fifty. Today, she counted thirteen. And they all had their windows tightly rolled shut even though the weather was lovely, despite the summer season.
Elise glanced at her two windows that were rolled down. Was there something in the air she didn’t know about? Did she need to roll up her windows? She looked around at the continued orange through the top of her windshield. Were there even clouds in the sky? She couldn’t see any kind of variations.
Ah, screw it. She was keeping her windows down. As weird as the sky was, it was too nice out to not have them down. Turning up the radio, she placed an elbow out the window. Thumb tapping the steering wheel. Although, her wary gaze didn’t lose true sight of the strange orange glow.
Soon, her nostrils flared. What was that burning smell? Her arm grew hot. She looked down and gave a yell of alarm as the top layers of her flesh bubbled red. Pulling her arm back inside the Jeep, she almost crashed the vehicle during her surprising discovery.
The subtle sizzling of her skin stopped once it was out of direct contact with the orange light. Her wide eyes studied her arm. She couldn’t feel much pain, but common sense told her not to put her arm back out. In fact, she rolled both windows up.
She stared at her festering wound. Returned her attention back outside. What was this orange glow? Where did it come from? There had been no alerts, no sirens in the night. Nothing to relay a national emergency. It clearly wasn’t safe, so why hadn’t she seen anything about it on her news feed when she played on her phone before getting ready?
Was this the result of government experiments? Or was this the pollution finally coming to wipe humans out. It wasn’t a bomb since there were no sirens. Unless certain people died, and no one was able to activate the sirens. She didn’t want to think about that.
The main worry for now was what could she find that would allow her to safely go out into the orange glow? Assuming she would ever find out what caused it and what it was made of. After sending a warning text to her husband, she continued on her way. If there was something she could make to protect herself, certainly the hardware store would have it. It didn’t seem to affect cars and houses, after all.
*Author’s Note: Yesterday morning, I did walk into my garage and lift the door to see the air painted with a faded orange. It was an unusual phenomenon. Of course, I ran through every fictional post-apocalyptic/sci-fi scenario I could before the science side of my brain kicked in and told me the crystalized water in the very low-hanging clouds was reflecting a bright orange sunrise down instead of out across the sky. It was ominous and beautiful at the same time. And, of course, I needed to write a short story about it.