Again I found myself free floating in a space full of stars, tumbling slowly head over feet. I could do nothing to stop the momentum that had seized me. At least I could breathe. The complete silence was eerie, like a blanket being forcibly held around my body. Oppressive. I felt pressure pressing against my eardrums, and the tips of my fingers were ice cold, almost numb.
I floated for what seemed like an eternity amongst the strangely colored lights. Occasionally, I caught a glimpse of a nearby planet. Some looked like Earth, some were just water, or for some reason burning bright red. Asteroids passed me by, their porous bodies making me nervous–more than once I thought I felt something looking out at me from within. Gaseous nebulae drifted far in the distance, shining with bright pastel colors. To see such things with my own eyes…I must admit it was beautiful. I figured if I was going to die here, this was a good last sight.
All of these things winked in and out of my vision rapidly, long before I could do much studying. I was an outsider in this place. This place…in-between. I tried to occupy my mind with what I was seeing, but its fleeting nature kept me from concentrating. All I could really think about was what happened in that foggy place. All those people who just came and went out of my life as fast as any other, but were somehow close to me because of circumstances. Maybe I had even passed one or two of them on the street randomly before. I don't know.
They're dead now. I am not, at least not yet. It's scary, knowing your death is approaching, and yet also–at least in this kind of scenario—peaceful. The numbness slowly crept up my fingers through my hands up my arms to my elbows, and finally my shoulders. I couldn't move at all. So I closed my eyes.
All at once I felt myself being jerked around violently. Left and right, up and down. Whipped by an unfelt storm. My glasses slipped from my face and, with my eyes still clenched shut, I began to flail the best I could to try to grab them again. But they were gone. I tried to open my eyes then and felt the immediate sting of water blur my vision. Then I slammed into something hard and cold.
I found myself suddenly soaked completely through to the bone, every muscle in my body screaming in agony. I pushed myself up on my hands, feeling the cold, wet concrete on my palms. Finally my eyes opened and I saw I was back out in the street. I looked up to my left and saw the tall steel traffic light, the green "walk" sign blinking rapidly. My glasses lay beneath me, the left lens cracked and completely useless. I put them back on anyway, perching them on the end of my nose as I struggled to my feet.
I fell back onto the raised brick wall for support, desperately looking around for…anything. I was relieved, in a sense, to be back in familiar space, but I felt something was still wrong. To my right, back towards my apartment, I saw a flickering orange light through the grey wall of rain.
I stumbled towards it, my brain in a dense a fog as the kind that surrounded me. That orange flickering light…was a bus…on fire. Smashed together were a dozen vehicles, all on fire to some degree. Thankfully I could not see any bodies within any of them, but I knew they were there. Blood pooled and flowed all around the wreckage, mixing with the fallen rain and drifting down sewer grates at the curb designed to help with flooding.
That's when I heard the first scream. The ear-shattering screech of a woman suffering pure, abject terror. It came from across the street, over the burning wreckage. More voices soon joined, a cacophonous choir of fear. Things moved in the fog just out of my sight, grey and black blurs jerking in ways that sent chills down my spine. So I did the only thing I could think of, the only thing I'm really good at.
The apartments emerged from the fog, a brick and mortar monolith. The parking lot was still full of cars that had never left, never taken their drivers to work or school. The large truck the old man had been working on was still there, its hood still open. Tools lay on the side walk scattered about haphazardly…and bloody streaks led further down the walkway into one of the first floor doors.
I tore up the stairs to my apartment, plunging my hands into my pockets for my keys. They were gone. I had lost them somehow. I checked the door anyway and found it unlocked. A wave of relief washed over me as I burst into the living room.
The apartment was empty. There was a dark stain on the old couch where my roommate had been sitting, and an open plastic cooler sitting next to where his feet would have been. It was full of lukewarm, unopened cans of beer. And the TV was still on, though it showed only hissing static.
I shut the door and locked all three of the locks, I then put a chair angled up against the doorknob, hoping and praying that would be enough. Distant explosions and sirens told me things were still happening outside.
Exhausted, I threw myself onto the couch, careful not to touch the outline of my best friend. I don't know what to do now.