The Darkness

By: W.J. Lundy

Chicago Suburbs

Day of the Darkness, Plus 5

Everything was closed. Jacob’s co-workers jokingly called it a FEMA holiday, like a snow day in the summertime. Office buildings were locked up and the government declared a national shutdown with only essential employees required to report. It was rumored that police officers and even medical professionals were starting to walk off the job, refusing to report for duty.

Jacob willingly agreed to working from home until the crisis passed, happy to avoid the traffic for a few days. A long break from all the out-of-town travel would be nice, and he could spend some much-needed family time with his wife and young daughter. As the emergency progressed, internet connections and even the phones began to fail. He tried to call in to the daily meetings at the factory but received a fast busy signal and dead phone lines instead.

Grocery stores sold out of everything as the mass hysteria slowly spread. Gas, milk, eggs, water… everything was hoarded, or the prices raised beyond the average person’s reach. By the time Jacob figured out something real was going on, it was too late. He drove by the local superstore and saw armed guards at the entrance of the parking lot where shoppers were required to show cash before they could enter. The store delivery trucks didn’t even bother to unload their goods as merchandise was being exchanged right out of the backs, like a shady underground marketplace.

The news just seemed so far away and foreign. It was something that happened in the third world, not here in the suburban neighborhoods of Chicago. Jacob sat on his living room sofa watching a looping satellite broadcast of the chaos in Atlanta. The anchors warned that the rioters had already breached the lobby. Stairwells were full of piled furniture and the elevators sat dead at the bottom of their shafts, but still the rioters came and destroyed everything in their path—nothing was left untouched. Not knowing what else to do, Jacob stared at the TV. The loop always stopped at the enraged face of a man with pearly black eyes; the image would freeze before the video re-started.

Jacob turned to watch her pace the room while she dialed the phone over and over, receiving the same steady tone as a response. He knew she was afraid; everyone was. She wanted to go to her parents’ home near the lake, north of the city. It was out of town and quiet there; maybe she was right, but how would they get there? Jacob knew the city wouldn’t be safe—even the outer areas of Chicago would be chaos—and he couldn’t risk it on the interstate, not with Katy. Laura suggested the trains, but that was the last place he wanted to be stranded.

He knew the phones were down, but she tried nonetheless. Once she realized she would have no contact with her mother, she would blame him. He knew it was unreasonable but something he would accept if it helped her. Jacob didn’t want her to give up on him; he needed her to stay focused. He needed her and Katy to be strong. He couldn’t do it alone.

“Give it a couple days, Laura; if nothing changes, we'll try for the city.”

Day of the Darkness, Plus 7

“What happened?” Jacob muttered, pulling his head away from the airbag. He tasted blood from a broken lip and smelled oil dripping from a hot motor. Looking over the dash and through a broken windshield, he could see a second vehicle with steam still pouring from its radiator. Jacob could barely hear his daughter, Katy, screaming over the weather siren. In the side mirror, he caught a glimpse of a man in denim dragging his little girl from the car, then lifting her to his chest before turning to run.

Jacob strained and painfully pressed against the driver’s door, the metal screeching as he forced it open. Losing his balance, he rolled from the car and onto the street. His daughter’s screams faded. He felt anger rising, giving him strength; he scrambled to his feet and ran after the screams. His daughter fought, screaming and flailing her arms and legs while scratching at the man’s eyes and nose as she struggled. The man dropped her and put his hands to his face, but when he saw Jacob, he turned to lunge. The man’s eyes locked on his, and he howled while reaching for him wildly with oily, blood-covered hands.

With his hands shaking violently, Jacob raised his Ruger P89 pistol and fired quick shots from only feet away. The first rounds went low; the others, directly to the man’s chest. Jacob twisted away and dodged as the man's momentum carried him past before the body tumbled to the ground, landing on its stomach. Not waiting to see if he was dead, Jacob turned hard and stepped on the man’s back. Enraged, he fired one more shot into his head. The body stiffened before going slack. Jacob’s terrified daughter screamed from where she lay on the pavement; he scooped her up and ran back to the car.

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