“Whatever you do, don’t stop!” Peter kept hearing the words in his head as he ran. His older brother Lou had fallen some paces behind him, unable to keep up and when Peter had tried to help him, he’d done nothing but scream at him to go on. “Don’t stop!” It was like a mantra that wouldn’t let up, drilling into the teenager’s brain as his legs pumped faster and faster.
It wasn’t just Lou he could hear in his head. All around him amidst the blood, guts and waste that had been left after the explosion, were others like him, running, crying . . . dying. Don’t stop! Lou’s phantom words kept him going. Peter knew he should try to help others. Those that unlike Lou could actually move; could actually run, but he didn’t. His fear made him cold to anything other than his own survival.
He leapt over a small pile of debris, wondering how a television had ended up so far away from the apartment buildings. Wondering if Family Guy was going to show tonight. He almost laughed at that. There were no more TV shows, no more networks, just boxes like that one with broken glass screens.
One of the first things they took when they came was the media. Most people thought the internet blackouts were simply protests against SOPA and PIPA, how wrong they all were. How very wrong, until it was way too late. A cliché that hadn’t been lost on Peter.
The blast shook Peter’s core and the screaming voices got louder. His running decelerated to a strange slow motion movement that was unlike a jog and not quite a walk. His body trembled, his nerves wary from the jolt they had just received. Don’t stop! And so his legs kept moving, in this strange fashion, his arms following slowly along behind them.
I’m still going! I’m getting away! He almost shouted to those around him, those who had stopped running; those that were still dying. Lou would be proud. He’d always told Peter he could do whatever he wanted to, he just had to believe he could. Even when their parents had passed when he was eight and Peter felt he wouldn’t be able to stop crying, Lou had been his rock. His protector and the one who always told him to keep going when times were tough . . . don’t stop!
Then came another blast…
Peter’s stomach folded and twisted into knots. He tried to move, willing himself forward, but this time, his body stoutly refused. Instead he was still, bent left leg raised slightly and some inches from the right, arms positioned in the similar fashion of one about to break into a confident run. It’s the weapons they use, Peter found himself thinking as his knees gave out, the strain as he tried to keep himself upright too much for his limbs to bear.
The invaders’ technology wrought havoc on human physiology. Peter had outrun the blasts before, many times in fact, but this time, one had caught him full on in its path. He fell forward, feeling a sharp pain, then a stinging burning sensation. He’d cut his face it seemed; the warm liquid flowing down to his neck confirmed it.
“Hurts,” he whispered to himself.
He was aware of those running past his limp body. Of those that like him, wouldn’t stop. He wondered how long they would outrun the blasts. He wondered where Lou was. Peter’s eyes closed.