The next installment of my science fiction thriller series, The Event.
Government and military leaders around the world were pulled from meetings or their beds, and sometimes from the beds of others. Heads of two different states were roused in each other’s company. Quick response teams were swiftly notified and convened in person or by video conference.
The military’s rapid dissemination of information was not matched in the civilian sector. As one might expect, the onset of the event was so shocking that few people who witnessed it from the safe side recovered their wits quickly enough to think of capturing it with their phones before the plane of destruction had moved beyond the horizon in little over one minute.
In addition, the entire BBC complex had resided at the heart of London’s modern city center, and every studio, every editing bay, every camera were no more upon the earth, and the technicians and on-air personnel were largely incapacitated. Further, London’s entire communication infrastructure had been dealt a nearly fatal blow, save for the few satellite uplink vans stationed on the east side that day.
Initial social media posts were largely confined at first to textual accounts and images of the aftermath, save for those few individuals who had already been capturing video before the moment of inception and continued to do so. Still, the magnitude of the disaster was so broad that hardly any posts with visual documentation of the event itself were posted until after those on the scene had attended to their immediate needs and of those around them.
Being the most extensive metropolitan area right at the point of inception, however, the east side of London quickly became not only a communication hub and clearing house for information both outgoing and incoming, but would later be a staging point for the first frantic scientific studies of the ongoing phenomenon, obviously driven with a great sense of urgency.
But this had not happened yet when first images were posted documenting the results of the devastation seen from the Royal Observatory across all of remaining London. A few showed the swarm of humanity climbing over itself to reach the safety of the other side immediately after the event had passed.
This flood of bodies, however, had gradually lessened to become a rush, then a flow and, by the time NODAC had gone dark, was no more than a trickle as all who were close enough to see the promise of safety and physically able to move had crossed over or were well on their way to doing so.
Rescue teams and law enforcement had been quick to respond all along the Meridian line, but within minutes it was understood through experience that no vehicles nor equipment could penetrate beyond the interface between the affected and un-affected areas.
Training and courage, however, led rescuers, men and women of the cloth, and those of compassionate hearts to band together and walk headlong into the melee to assist the injured, comfort them if they could not be moved and carry them to safety if they could, while ambulances, medical personnel, and support materials gathered at the edge of the zone.
One particularly resourceful rescuer trying to negotiate the rough ground in the affected area bound some large pliant leaves to his feet with grape vines to create crude shoes that enabled him to more efficiently help the injured and also to provide the ambulatory with foot coverings for the remainder of their escape, as feet that have spent their entire time enclosed are not well-suited for scrambling over uneven terrain.
But, when he had led some initial victims to safety, the moment he turned and crossed back into the zone his impromptu footwear vanished and he was forced to fashion another pair. Other rescuers, trained to adapt to the realities of changing situations , quickly gathered natural supplies right at the edge of the line, which could be carried across and assembled on the other side.
One efficient worker sat just inside the safe zone, reaching over the interface to construct sandals, unaware that the arms of her long sleeved shirt became shorter each time she reached farther in to add a new pair to the growing pile, as reported by one of her co-workers charged with replenishing supplies.
In addition to being useful for the immediate tragedy, this discovery provided an essential clue that enabled the world to prepare for the final aftermath, once the event had run its course. And soon, all manner of potential material for fashioning makeshift shoes, clothing, bandages, splints, and stretchers (to improve on the fireman’s hold they had been using) were assembled just outside the affected area and then carried into it by other volunteers where an impromptu manufacturing center was established.
As victims emerged from the disaster zone, they brought with them tales of both terror and heroism. Though moving and poignant, for the purposes of this report we cannot diverge to dwell on them.
There is one story, however, that though unverified, serves as an example of British resiliency. Buckingham palace ceased to be within the first minute of the event. But direct news of this took several hours to reach the outside world as it came from those picking their way toward safety who were met by rescuers and then conveyed back to the front line – a round trip of nearly twenty kilometers taking several hours in poorly clad feet.
But as reported, when the venerable building vanished, and being five stories high with more than four hundred staff in attendance, many were killed by the fall to the ground or by those who fell from above them. Fortunately, the royal family, though naked and dazed, was not seriously injured as they were in front of the building welcoming a delegation at the time.
Instantly, the remaining staff converged on scene as the royal guard, now without weapons nor their famous uniforms, gathered in a circle around the royals and stood ramrod straight and as implacable as always until preparations were made to move them to safety.
Unfortunately, nothing more was heard regarding the honorable family, though the fact that its location is just under four kilometers from the London Zoo, whose bars had also vanished, has caused some to speculate.
Connected topically to the royals, it was almost simultaneously discovered that the crown jewels that were protected in the tower of London not five kilometers away had survived relatively unscathed in their cut form, though their golden settings had vanished completely.
This provided yet another crucial clue to the operation of the event as there was growing evidence that though anything man made had vanished, the dividing line between what was manufactured and what was simply assembled or brought together was often blurry.
It was almost as if some intelligence or intelligent system had made a choice about the estate of every material item independently through some sort of conceptual classification, though the criteria by which such decisions were made and the nature of who or what was making them remained shrouded in mystery, made even more mysterious considering that all of our computers combined would have been unable to arrive at that many determinations that quickly.
Here, it should be noted that while this report focuses on the logistic specifics of the event and our response to it, these understandings are a dispassionate framework laid across the greatest tragedy in all of human history to better grasp its meaning and significance.
By magnitudes, more people died in the first hour than ever before in such a small span of time, many of them horribly and in front of those they loved. And the number of injured within the zone included almost everyone lucky enough to have avoided outright demise – it was just a matter of degree. Only a few remained intact and unbattered, but even for those, survivor’s guilt and the ghastly scenes they had witnessed would haunt them for the rest of their lives, not to mention the almost unbearable loss of those they held close to their hearts.
It was against this background of high emotion that more images and videos of the event and its victims began to make their way to the outside world – sporadically at first, then a rush, and finally a cacophonous deluge as every news outlet and social media platform, was pouring out information, misinformation, learned speculation, and conspiracy theories.
The usual suspects were blamed: Act of God, Terrorists, and Aliens, as well as governments, super villains, the Illuminati, mass hallucinations, or perhaps a new disease. It did not matter that some of the suggested causes were unlikely to the point of being impossible. When faced with an unknown threat, any explanation is better than none.
People could be seen rushing through the streets seeking supplies and wearing masks in case it was contagious and aluminum foil hats should it turn out to be broadcast. Others kissed whatever religious symbol they carried and knelt or bowed in prayer. Churches filled, as did bars, but most people in the developed world hurried home and hunkered down in front of their television sets seeking understanding, guidance, solace, and a sense of safety.
Check out the entire Event series on Amazon beginning with: