A Wishology Storycoin
Young Adult / Dystopian
When the city’s lights went out, it was the first time she had ever seen the stars. They twinkled and shimmered, boasting of their brilliance in the eyes of onlookers. Attention wasn’t their goal, just happy dancing.
Had she been on the streets below, the buildings towering overhead would’ve blocked most of the stars’ performances, but she happened to be on the rooftop of Aliento Del Cielo, or Breath of Heaven, the tallest building in Mexico. It was a symbol for all Mexicans of their newfound prosperity after the drug cartels had been eradicated from their country over thirty years earlier.
Some of the stars broke formation and shot through the night sky, and those were her favorites. For a brief moment, pinpoints of light in utter darkness created the most beautiful show she had ever seen.
“Look, Hernando!” she said, pointing to the sky. “There! And there! You’re missing them!”
“Sí, Mirari,” Hernando mumbled between kisses on her neck.
“There goes another!”
She knew they were just meteors, little pieces of rock that had survived space travel since the beginning of time only to be incinerated by the Earth’s atmosphere. Lightyears away, they may have been part of a larger object, an asteroid or even a planet, but something out there pulverized their homes and sent them careening toward Earth. They skipped across the Earth’s atmosphere like a stone across the water until they disappeared in a second or two of brilliant light.
The science didn’t matter to Mirari, though. The beauty of the spectacle was her only care, and she knew it wouldn’t last much longer. Those who didn’t stop to look up would fix the power grid, and the city’s lights would overpower the sky’s. More and more of the stars began to fall, and she didn’t want to miss any of them.
“Hernando, stop it,” she said, pushing him away. “Don’t you want to look at the stars while you can?”
“I can see them in your eyes, Mirari,” he said, as he gently took her hand. She snatched it away from him.
“Oh, wow! That’s a rough line!” she laughed, keeping her gaze skyward. “Seriously, that’s the cheesiest one you’ve ever come up with.”
“Oh, no, I’ve had way worse. But they work, don’t they?” he asked with a smirk. She sighed and broke her stargazing to stare into Hernando’s eyes.
“Sí, they work.”
Grabbing his shirt, she pulled him closer and kissed him. Their love was powerful, the forever kind. It was the kind of love where they knew they would choose to continue serving each other years after youthful passion had faded. Marriage wasn’t a question. It was an inevitable adventure. Her father would never allow it, but for Hernando and Mirari, her father’s disapproval made the adventure all the more exciting.
A subtle vibration came from the ground. However powerful their love was, it wasn’t powerful enough to make the Earth physically quake, which is why Hernando opened his eyes in a moment that Mirari would later wish she had savored.
“Mirari, look!” he shouted, pointing at the horizon where a huge meteor was blazing through the sky.
“Oh! Es bonito!” she whispered with her mouth hanging open.
The vibrating became more violent, breaking her trance. She clung to Hernando as they backed away from the edge of Aliento Del Cielo. The meteor disappeared over the horizon, and a few seconds later a bright glow lit up the sky, followed by a low boom in the distance. The glow burned brightly enough to block out the stars on the city lights’ behalf. They didn’t know it then, but they had just seen the stars for the last time.
“Come on!” Hernando yelled, tugging at Mirari’s arm.
Mirari stood there gaping at the ball of light coming from the horizon. A cloud of dust rose up in front of it, and she knew what was coming could not be outrun.
“We have to get inside, Mirari!”
Hernando forced her to run, almost dragging her behind him. If the door to the roof hadn’t been a few steps away, they wouldn’t have made it. They would’ve been blown off the top of Aliento Del Cielo or their lungs instantly crushed by the meteorite’s shockwave. But the door was close, and they barely made it into the steel and concrete stairwell.
The shock wave felt like the most violent earthquake ever recorded was ravaging the city. It knocked Hernando and Mirari off their feet, flinging them down a section of stairs. They struck the concrete platform below. The last sensation Mirari felt before blacking out was an intense pain in her right leg.
It was daytime when she opened her eyes, but she couldn’t tell exactly when. At the top of the stairwell, the door to the roof was blown open. The entire building was groaning with the sounds of metal scraping against metal and pieces of concrete crumbling away. The entire building seemed to be leaning.
She tried to sit up, but a sharp pain made her cry out. Looking down, she could see a bone in her leg bulging the skin outward. As a nursing student, it was a sight she was used to seeing, but she wasn’t used to seeing her own body in such a state. She vomited.
After catching her breath, her thoughts turned to Hernando, who hadn’t spoken. And while her thoughts had turned to him, her eyes didn’t want to. She could see his feet beside hers and knew he was lying facedown. If he was dead, she didn’t want to know. If she didn’t look, she could pretend forever that he was alive. But she was injured, and she needed help.
Holding her breath, she allowed her eyes to crawl up his body until they reached his face. His eyes were open, looking at her with love in them but no light. A pool of blood surrounded his head, and she knew he was gone.
She might have stayed there and sobbed until the despair stopped her heart from beating, but when she tried to hold him, the building shook her off. The movement shot more pain through her leg. She squeezed her fists until her fingernails pierced the skin of her palms. When it stopped, she knew what needed to be done.
Reaching for Hernando, she closed his eyes and kissed him on the cheek.
“Te amo,” she whispered, as she caught a tear on her finger and touched it to his lips.
Hernando’s leather belt would make the perfect tool for setting her leg so she could walk, but the first place it needed to go was between her teeth. She slid it loose from the belt loops of his pants and bit down on it. Even a soft touch of where the bone was threatening to peek out of her leg was too much. She gasped at the pain. It would have to be done quickly. One quick second of unimaginable pain, and her leg would begin to heal.
As if to scare the pain away, she began to scream as loudly as she could, biting down on the belt. With both hands she squeezed her leg from either side in one swift motion and gave it a slight twist. The bone snapped back into place with a muffled pop. The belt dropped from her mouth, and she vomited again.
A short length of broken rebar next to her made a reliable splint. She fastened it to her leg with the belt and used the stairwell’s twisted railing to pull herself upright. Using the railing and walls, she hobbled up the steps and onto the roof.
Wind blew steadily from the direction where the meteorite struck. It was too hazy with dust to see the horizon anymore, but she could see some of the city. The sky was entirely blocked by dust and clouds, and even though it was daytime, it was eerily dark.
When she made her way to the building’s edge and looked down, she wanted to believe she was still asleep next to Hernando. What she saw was a nightmare far worse than any she’d ever had, but it wasn’t a nightmare at all. It was real.
The city was flattened, except for a few of the strongest buildings. Everything still standing, including Aliento Del Cielo, looked like it had been weathered by centuries of harsh storms and erosion. The entire scene, with its tan tinge from sky to ground, was like staring into a vintage sepia picture.
Mirari searched for people but couldn’t find any. There wouldn’t be many that survived, and she wondered how far away the meteorite had struck or if it even mattered. It was possible the entire Earth looked like this. If she didn’t get to the ground soon, this building would collapse, and she wouldn’t live long enough to find out.
As she was about to head back to the stairwell, movement in the distance caught her eye. She squinted hard through the haze, but when she realized what she was seeing, she debated if going to the ground would be any safer than staying on the rooftop.
Dozens of people were pouring out of the side of a building not far from her, all wearing the same bright orange clothing. She recognized the building. Everyone all around the world knew it well. It was the huge maximum security prison built solely for the purpose of locking up the drug cartels and gangs.
The orange specks were flooding into the city in every direction. Getting out of Aliento Del Cielo in time was Mirari’s first concern, but it had also just become the least of her worries.
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Featured illustration by Ryan Rehnborg