How far from the truth are the hidden lies?
|The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
-- H. P. Lovecraft.
Story prompt: ‘fear’
Word count: 798
March 10, 2035
4 pm EST
‘THE WORLD IS GOING TO END AS WE KNOW IT’.
Thomas read the words splayed across the tabloid’s front page, put it back on the rack and inched forward in the check out line.
“Why is the world going to end, Daddy?” Kathy asked.
Thomas looked down at his eight-year-old. “It isn’t, sweetheart … the world is going to be around for a long time.” Satisfied with his answer, she opened her sack of candy and followed her father out of the supermarket.
May 18, 2035
6 pm EST
In the beginning, Thomas didn’t believe the doomsayers. He ignored the talking heads when they appeared on television and told their prophecies of doom, he didn’t bother to read the newspaper stories written about the impending calamity, that was about to descend upon planet earth.
Thomas found Marsha in the family room watching the nightly news.
“How serious is this, Thomas,” she asked.
“All what,” he answered as he sat down beside his wife.
“There was a guest from NASA on the news tonight. He said a project called Spaceguard had detected two asteroids, possibly on a collision course with earth.” Marsha frowned and turned the television off. “Are we safe, Thomas?”
Thomas laughed. “They find asteroids floating around in space all the time, don’t worry about it. I’m sure they have a plan for something like this happening. What’s for supper?”
December 1, 2035
5 pm EST
Thomas stopped laughing three months ago. Nobody laughed anymore. Nothing changed immediately; it wasn’t like turning off a light and being swallowed up in total darkness. The change happened slowly and over time.
“Can you believe it, Marsha?” Thomas tossed his car keys on the kitchen counter. “Gas went up five dollars a gallon today? Most stations are closed, they cannot get gas delivered.”
“Did you remember to buy milk on your way home, Thomas?”
Thomas hesitated; reluctant to tell his wife more bad news. “There wasn’t any milk … the supermarket’s shelves are practically empty,” he said.
“Did you try Wal-Mart, Thomas?”
“Shut down … and the mall looked like a ghost town. People are scared, Marsha. They’re leaving the city and ...”
“And going where, Thomas.”
Thomas thought for a moment and looked into his wife’s eyes. “Folks are scared, Marsha. Fear can cause people to think irrational, do things they would never do otherwise. They are running from something they can’t run from.”
Marsha followed her husband out onto a cedar deck. A deck he had built with his own hands, made to last years, a place they had hoped their grandchildren would play some day. They both looked up at the evening sky. Two small specks, named Romulus and Remus by the media, twinkled, posed like diamonds set in blue taffeta, seemed so far away and looked so innocent.
February 13, 2036
9 pm EST
Thomas tucked the covers under his daughter’s chin, bent and kissed her goodnight, before he joined Marsha in the family room.
“Do we really need to watch this, Thomas?” Marsha asked.
“I would like to hear what the president has to say, Marsha.”
Thomas couldn’t believe the image he saw on the screen. Chelsea Clinton had aged far beyond her fifty-six years. She looked tired and lifeless.
“Good evening my fellow Americans. It is my sad duty to inform you NASA has confirmed …”
The President stopped, wiped her eyes with a tissue and started over.
“I will not keep secrets from you or cover things up. I will not hide behind a cloak of dishonesty any longer. Sixteen months ago, while monitoring for Near-Earth Objects, the Spaceguard project discovered two asteroids that had gone undetected. It was quickly determined their orbits would carry them toward earth. NASA, along with the combined efforts of other world-wide agencies, formulated a plan to divert both asteroids’ orbits.
Two attempts were failures and the third is in its planning stages, but will not be implemented due to lack of time. In less than twenty-four hours, the first asteroid will collide with earth in the Ohio valley, near Cincinnati. Approximately, nine seconds later, the second asteroid will strike the earth in the vicinity of Scottsdale, Arizona. These areas are being evacuated as I speak.
Again, I will not mask the truth. Both asteroids are over five miles in diameter and will collide with earth at an unimaginable speed. The damage and loss of life will be catastrophic, unlike anything the human race as ever witnessed before.
Our planet and the people on earth will …”
Thomas turned the television off as the President of the United States once again, began to loose her composure. He saw the look of fear in his wife’s eyes, the same look he had seen in Chelsea’s eyes … the same fear he was feeling.