September Shocks #5 – Michael Dioguardi

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Lights! Lights!

by Michael Anthony Dioguardi


I put down my fork as my cellphone lights up, but I don’t read the emergency text—I know what it says. Everyone on Earth lifts their heads in unison as the sirens begin to blare. I’m alone, yet connected to every being on the planet; our fate is a collective one. 


All I can think about is Pop; he’s the only family I have left. I have to reach him before it’s too late, before the fires stop me, or the raining debris impales me, or the radiation weakens my bones to gelatin. 


Flakes of my ceiling trickle down after the initial shock—the first of a seemingly endless barrage. By my estimates, we should expect a strike every ten minutes until the sun sets permanently on earth. 


What if Pop’s already gone? Surely, the staff would have fled to the nearest bunker by now. Would they take the terminally ill?


The front door to my apartment swings inward, dislodged from its jamb. My exit into the street is followed by a paralysis of fear. Crevices run like tributaries through the streets, steam hovering above their abysses. Hundreds of sirens for miles in every direction blare out in an uneven cadence. So many people, deformed to unrecognizable lumps of charred flesh lay steaming among the wreckage. There are few whimpers: vocal cords are thin and easily singed. Breathing is becoming difficult. I remember reading about the metallic taste in the air, like biting into a battery.


The nursing home down the road is lopsided, one third of it already underground. Luckily, it’s not Pop’s wing. A woman is crawling out from the front entrance, foaming from her mouth, blood streaming from her eyes. I follow her bloody hand and knee prints to deformed steel steps. The banisters are sticky with more blood, and there’s a half-burned man huddled in the corner feeling around like a beheaded animal.




The sign has a crack in it but I know it’s Pop’s floor. I have to crawl under the doorway’s steel cross into the ward. It’s as dark as the stairwell, and the smell is just as putrid. With each passing step, more glass crunches beneath my feet; every window is shattered, but the natural light filtering in is gray and dust-ridden.


I pause before a chasm in the floor. As I look up, I see him. He’s smiling, sitting in his wheelchair with his favorite blue blanket draped over his knees. His customary shakes hadn’t dissipated yet. He looks happy, at peace. He turns to me, reaching out with his hand. He doesn’t know who I am—hasn’t for years. But he’s alive and we’re together—and that’s all that counts.


“Pop!” I shout.


He nods back at me—his head bobbing as his fingers shake at the glass-flaked window frame. I feel another rumble, followed by the last siren fading to silence. An orange hue grows over the horizon.


“Lights! Lights!” Pop shouts.


More flakes fall from the ceiling.


“I love y—”



Michael Dioguardi

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