George woke later than usual, the sun of late morning pouring in through the windows into his eyes. He rolled off the bed and pulled on pants before walking on numb stiff legs into the living room. Though still in the grip of recent sleep, he began his morning routine with practiced deft movements, one hand clutching the television remote, the other turning on the faucet to let the water run for coffee. He clicked on the television and while he listened to a man’s voice announce the morning news, he prepared a breakfast of eggs and toast.
He cracked an egg into a bowl as the coffee began to drip and the wires inside the toaster began to glow.
America once again enters peace talks with insurgents
George watched the television for a moment, catching a summary of the top stories of the day, intoned by a man of middle age with gray patches dotting dark brown hair in a voice devoid of emotion.
Bombing continues against suspected enemy strongholds with a reported twenty-three dead and some hundred more injured. Military sources denied reports made by a local TV station accusing America of targeting civilians, namely a hospital on the west end of the city, which stands in ruin at this hour, a target of a missile strike.
George gathered his breakfast and coffee and settled down in front of the television. He placed a notebook next to his plate, ready to finish the work left from yesterday, which he began each day after hearing the news. As commercials played, he looked about the room, seeing the empty space and bare carpets, the light in the room coming through three large windows facing the street.
For the third consecutive day troops armed with automatic weapons and riot gear patrolled busy subway stations during the rush of workers arriving to work in the morning commute. The armed patrols guided the new arrivals through a series of metal detectors and other apparatus, which the spokesman from the local National Guard office said were to detect explosives and other manner of weapons of mass destruction. The measures slowed the morning commute to a crawl of humanity, which crowded through the temporary check points, all other routes closed off by ropes and tape.
“I’m sure we will have to carry travel permits soon enough,” George said, shaking his head with displeasure as he sipped coffee. He ate the eggs and toast without butter or salt, having forgotten to purchase these items at the market. He ate the tasteless meal, filled with a growing anger as he listened and watched the television.
George clicked off the television, his attention drawn to the windows looking onto the street. He stood and walked closer to see, against the belief of his eyes, the sky filled with fluttering black objects. He opened the front door and made his way down the steps to get a better view and the objects resolved into black rose pedals. He picked one off the ground, feeling the softness against his palm as he ran a finger over the black pedal. He looked about him, seeing neighbors on porches and pedestrians on the sidewalks, not one of whom gave a sign of notice to the phenomenon. As a café across the street, a man stood in a doorway smoking a pipe.
“Did you see?” he yelled at the man, who wore khaki shorts and an olive green tee shirt. The man stared at him, smoking in silence. George looked up at the sky, which blazed of hot blue summer, the phenomenon at an end. He stood silent and still in the middle of the street for some moments, shocked further to see no evidence on the ground of what he has witnessed save for the single black pedal in his hand. He dropped it to the ground and watched it vanish in to the tar of the road.
George returned to his work with little success, the fact of his being the singular witness plaguing his mind. The rest of the day passed in a haze, his mind trying to comprehend the apparition of the morning. Before turning in for the evening, he made a note in his journal about the event.
He did not sleep well and woke several times covered in sweat and remaining in bed until late morning, later than the previous day, the hour of noon fast approaching. He jumped from the bed and dressed, a feeling gnawing at him that if indeed the event occurred again, he might have missed it. He ran to the windows, looking out into the sunshine and clear blue sky, not a single pedal to be seen. He remained for some time, waiting and watching.
George gave up waiting and began his routine, breaking the silence of the room and starting coffee on the stove. As he listened to the news, he watched the sky, waiting.
A suspicious mushroom shaped cloud appeared in the city of _____ North Korea yesterday, prompting leaders around the world to decry the pursuit of nuclear weapons by General ____ and bemoaning what seemed to be a secret test performed by the North Korean government. A spokesman from General _____ office denied the accusations of the existence of nuclear weapons. United States war planes struck points in ____ overnight, claiming the lives of twenty-eight people, according to sources. In a related operation, American ground units engaged the enemy in close gun battles, which were reported to be fierce in some locations around the city of ____. A military spokesperson said a significant number of insurgents died in the battles, leaving American forces in control of several key sectors of the city. The spokesperson predicted the complete annihilation of the enemy in coming months.
Outside, George saw the first of the rose pedals begin to fall, with greater density and frequency than the previous day. He went outside and stood on the porch as the pedals fell, looking around as he did yesterday to see whom if anyone gave notice. The same man stood in the same spot smoking the same pipe, this morning watching George.
“Do you see it, sir?” George asked again. The man waved at him, as if to suggest impatience, and turned to enter the café. “Wait.” George yelled, crossing the street at a run, a few pedals sticking to his chest. The man waited for George to reach him, a hand resting on the door. “What is it you want?” the man said in obvious annoyance. “Did you see the roses, the black roses?” George asked. “You are crazy,” the man replied and entered the café without waiting for a response. George turned and walked back to his apartment, more disturbed than ever, his mind twisting and turning in various directions. “Am I the only person that can see?” he muttered as he shut the door. He did not attempt to work that day or evening, preferring to sit motionless on the couch, with his eyes closed until well past nightfall. He made a note in his journal before preparing to sleep, underlining the sentence several times.
Something is going to happen
George passed through a sleepless night, filled with anxiety and a growing dread about the day to come. When the first rays of morning began to break the darkness, he got out of bed, legs weary from lack of sleep. He took up station by the window and watched while the television gave dire announcements of the day. Hours passed as did a repetition of the day’s headlines, without a repeat of the phenomenon. Noon and a total of five hours spent at the post by the window came and went, his legs burning with fatigue.
The news crawled onward, again and again.
North Korea possesses nuclear weapons. America marches into Iran.
George saw the first pedal of the day fall. He opened the front door, but remained within hearing distance of the television.
An explosion rocked lower Manhattan, leaving many dead. A riot begins in south central Los Angeles, heightened gang tensions giving way to an eruption of violence. Thousands of Mexicans rushed the border overnight in protest of recent rhetoric by American politicians, leaving several border guards injured. Puerto Rico declared independence from the United States today. The symbolic announcement made by liberation party officials followed firework displays around the country and protests at the American consulate. In quick order, China, Russia and North Korea declare war on the United States. The President offered no comment, but promised a response within the hour.
Black filled the sky, pedals falling in great numbers and intensity. George watched the man with pipe pointing at the sky, his cries bringing several café employees onto the sidewalk.
George looked to the sky, the pile of roses at his feet growing, the light of early afternoon fading. He saw a great darkness descending, covering the entire sky with terrible speed. He hears, first singular and then with greater frequency, fell screams pierce the air, moments before a blinding flash of light and deafening roar rip the horizon.
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