The Dream That Can Never Be Shook
For the past five years, the Rukjan have slowly but surely been slaughtering the human race. No one is quite sure where they came from or why they are here. Of course, people have their theories. Some say they are superior beings from some other point in the universe, and after depleting their own planet have come to Earth for its resources. Others claim that we have brought the onslaught on ourselves, citing the fact that the Rukjan never kill, harm, or destroy anything other than human lives. They go on to say that the Rukjan have recognized our ignorant and self-destructive ways and decided to destroy us once and for all, for fear of what we may bring upon the universe at some future point. Still others claim that it is just another World Government conspiracy. Whatever the reasons, Earth will certainly be a much more peaceful place once they are done with their business here.
However, not everyone who comes in contact with the Rukjan dies. An infinitesimally small portion (less than .000001% chance if the calculations are correct) of humans will survive the inevitable encounter. Once again there are many competing theories as to why this happens. Some say it is pure chance. Others claim those that are spared have been deemed the “Chosen Ones” by the Rukjan to be the few to continue the human legacy into the future. Still others say that the ones who survive perform certain incantations and rituals that scare the Rukjan away. When the Rukjan come, you have two choices. Sit there and accept oblivion or run. My younger sister, Sera, and I have been running for the last three years.
Two years before the Rukjan showed up on Earth, the World Government received warning from an anonymous source. On 3 October 24XX, an interstellar frequency was picked up by a satellite UG-643 that was preforming surveillance exercises around Neptune. The message simply read:
The quaking and shaking lets you know we are coming
The angels will destroy you all, no sense in running
At first the message was discarded as either some sort of sick prank or merely noise that was misinterpreted by the overly paranoid World Government. However, a month after the transmission was received, Dr. Norra Rukjan, through a series of cross-frequency simulations and extensive research into the trillions of the messages received by the WG in the last 50 years, was able to prove that not only was the message authentic but there had been subtle hints to similar massacres happening in neighboring galaxies. With the submission of her report to the Head of State, Operation Comfort was initiated immediately.
Pulling clues from the messages referenced by Dr. Rukjan in her report, the WG began to perform various preparations based off of the below assumptions:
1. When the Rukjan come, Death immediately follows
2. The only hint to their approach is an intense atmospheric shaking and rumbling
3. It is impossible to kill a Rukjan
4. There is no ultimate hiding from the Rukjan
5. The Rukjan move slowly, relishing in the death they cause, making it possible to run from them
6. The Rukjan ignore any area that has no humans and instead jump from population to population
7. At the proposed rate, the Rukjan would arrive in approximately two years
Prior to the Rukjan`s arrival, Comfort Centers were set up all over the world. Comfort Centers consist of any large building (warehouses, mansions, schools etc.) that had as many airline-style seats installed in it as possible. The seats were nicely padded and had harnesses to hold you down when the shaking started. Admission was free and once inside there were various prescription drugs and forms of entertainment meant to numb the pain of knowing death was just around the corner. Once the Rukjan came, the WG moved all operations to the South Pole, so that they could continue to do their best to provide this service to us humans as long as possible. As the name says, Comfort Centers were advertised, predefined mass grave sites, intended to make the victims as comfortable as they could before going on. You were free to come and go as you pleased, however most people that entered a Comfort Center never left. Sera and I were different.
The Rukjan first arrived in Northern Canada giving us time (we were living in South Jersey) to prepare. Within a year, the Rukjan had made it through most of Canada and were knocking on the door of the Northern United States. It took another year for them to make it through New York State, getting caught up with the high population of New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. For the past three years, Sera and I have been traveling from Comfort Center to Comfort Center, gathering supplies, enjoying our time together, and slowly making our way south.
Because of the shaking that occurs before the Rukjan show up, it is easy to stay ahead of them and out of trouble. Instead of rushing to the south tip of South America and wait out the inevitable without any worries, we decided to slowly make our way through a land mass neither of us had seen. As long as we stayed a few days ahead of the rumbling, we even had time to make small excursions away from the local Comfort Center and really see some beautiful things. Depending on our mode of transport between Centers, we sometimes spent months in one area and only moved once we felt them coming. The best occurrence of this the three summer months we spent in South Carolina, living in a 6-mile long Comfort Center made of all of the mansions along the coast. Everyday consisted of swimming, eating, drinking and sleeping on the beach. During the first month, when we knew the Rukjan were still far away, we even paddled out to a small island we found and camped out for a fortnight. We would collect pounds of various fish and crustaceans and have huge seafood boils nearly every night that whole summer!
We had just arrived in a huge Comfort Center that consisted of four mansions patch-worked together in Scottsdale, Arizona. There were seats for about 500, but there were only about 200 hundred people in the area, making this a particularly comfortable Comfort Center. Word around town when we arrived was that the Rukjan had just passed over the Grand Canyon and would be arriving within the next week. The first day in Scottsdale, Sera and I did what we did every night that we could manage. We found the best quality food we could (most of it was canned but occasionally we would find a freezer that was still cold or a local farmer who still kept up with his patch) and spend all day laboriously preparing a fabulous dinner. We had a portable gas stove that we used on the road, but since we had made it to a Comfort Center we had multiple kitchens at our disposal. That first night was a feast. If I remember correctly we had crab cakes (Sera`s favorite), cornbread, Caesar salad, three-bean salad, fresh-squeezed pomegranate sangria, and a Scooter Pie each for desert. It was one of the best meals we had had in a long time and that night we slept soundly. In the morning we perused the town looking for supplies that might be useful or trinkets that caught our eyes. Amongst our newly found treasure was a tin of Da Morgada Sardines from Portugal, a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, a gold ring with Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori inscribed on the inside, a lucky rabbits foot, a sturdy walking stick for me, a small stuffed whale for Sera (her favorite), and a compendium of Edgar Allan Poe stories. We spent the next two days hiking the surrounding desert, drinking the rum, and taking turns reading the gothic tales to each other. But soon enough, sometime during the fifth night in Scottsdale, we all felt a very slight rumbling through the soles of our feet. The ETA after feeling the first rumble is less than 24 hours. The next day Sera and I were to make final preparations and continue on south.
We found a suitable car (a Bentley Galaxics), siphoned enough gas to get us to Mexico City, and packed our meager belongings into one bag each. With our bags in the trunk, we were just about ready to head out when I realized that we forgot Sera`s whale in the basement of the one mansion that we were exploring the previous day. When I told her, she didn`t seem to care too much and told me it was ok if we just left. It was barely past noon so I convinced her to go back with me, get the whale, loot the kitchen of its ingredients and head south. She agreed and we headed back into the Comfort Center.
We decided to get the food first and quickly filled our trunk the brim with spices, herbs, cans, boxes, and any equipment we could fit in. Next, we went down to the basement to go and get the whale. It was a regal basement, with a gigantic, vacant wine cellar, stone columns, and marble floors. We spent many hours reading Poe in this basement. We felt it set the mood nicely. I spotted the whale sitting on top of the chest I had been sitting on and headed over to grab it and get on the road.
I grabbed the whale and on my way back to Sera, a huge shock wave blew me onto the ground. When I got my bearings, I saw that Sera was on the floor as well. She looked up at me with a confused face but still gave me the thumbs up. As I smiled back, a bright light began to shine from the bottom corner of the room, a huge screech, and not ten feet from us, the Rukjan appeared. An ephemeral green light shone around it as it grew from a tiny speck into a being over ten feet tall and ten feet wide. She (I only say she because of its striking resemblance to a human woman) had golden feathered wings, over fifty limbs of various shapes, colors, sizes, and functions, and long black locks that swirled around her with the grace of a gentle river. She had two eyes, but four pupils, and her mouth seemed to be missing. For a long while, Sera and I stood with cocked heads, looking up at the Rukjan as the Rukjan looked down upon us. All of a sudden, the Rukjan`s eyes shifted to Sera, at which point her hidden mouth ripped the skin off her own face, and her foot long scythe teeth dripped with gossamers of blood.
She slowly began to descend upon Sera with her mouth wide open, ready to devour my sister. Sera was so shocked she could not move and I was so shocked I could not yell. As the Rukjan was within a couple inches of Sera, I did the only thing I could think of. I dove the couple and threw the whale in my hand at the Rukjan. The whale shot directly into the mouth of the Rujkan, and it immediately froze. A very high pitched squeal began to emanate around the room as the Rukjan began to vibrate and undulate. The movements became larger and larger and the noise lower and lower until the thing before us seemed to evaporate into the very matter around us. We both stood in shock for what seemed like hours. When I finally realized that I was feeling regular and increasingly intense vibrations through my feet, I snapped back to reality. I looked over and Sera was gone.
Panicking, I ran up the stairs and started racing through the halls shouting her name. The rumbling was making it hard to keep my balance and even harder for me to concentrate. I rounded the bend and found myself in one of the many Comfort Rooms housed at this particular Center. There were about 7 banks of chairs filling the room, with nearly all of them seating a human. They were all strapped in and shaking very violently. I turned around and when I came back around the corner, I looked down and there was Sera.
As I tried to motion to Sera, “Let`s Go!”, I noticed a very strange look in her eyes. As we stared at each other, with the pictures falling off the walls, the ceiling beginning to crumble, tables flying around the room, neither of us moved and I knew that Sera was staying. Neither of us said anything but merely nodded in acceptance and wrapped our arms around each other for one last loving embrace. We held for a long time not saying anything. As we let go of each other, our tear-filled eyes met and Sera asked me, “Can we still have dinner together tomorrow?”