I wake up in bed, but not in my own bed. Where the hell am I? This isn't my apartment. I'm in some kind of large tent. There are beds everywhere, with injured people in every one, some in military uniform, some in plainclothes. A military infirmary? I try to sit up, but everything hurts. My head is all bandaged up, and my arm is in a cast.
I don't remember how I got here. I remember yesterday, and the days before that. But I try to look back to earlier today, and all my memory can muster are fragments. Walking to work. Hearing explosions. People running and shouting. Entire buildings felled. And some... thing towering over it
all. Then, rubble falling and... pain. That's it.
“Finally awake?” a voice asks. I turn my turn, even though it hurts like hell to do so. Sitting in a chair next to the bed I'm in is a dark-haired female soldier carrying a medical pack on her back. What happened? Where am I? Why can't I remember anything? All these questions, but all I ask
is, “Who are you?”
“My name is Sergeant Velma Chang. I'm a field medic in the military. And you're lucky to be alive. Your arm was completely crushed by the falling debris. A much smaller piece fell on your head and gave you that concussion. Thousands of more people... weren't so lucky”.
Thousands? Thousands of people are dead? In the corner of my eye, a white cloth is put over an patient's body. He was on life support. What the hell happened, and how did the military get involved? How were thousands wiped out, just like that? How was it that, I, of all people survived? Was my family safe? Or were they...
“What happened?” I ask.
“You really don't remember? Then again, you concussion WAS really bad, so that's not surprising. Anyway, it all started out as an ordinary day when that... thing appeared”.
The sergeant shudders visibly before explaining, “A monster”.
I can't believe my ears. Sure, one of the fragments of my memory is something towering over the destruction, but a monster? That's impossible. Monster's don't exist... do they?
“Of course, the higher-ups prefer we don't call it that. They think that's an irrational way of describing it, but that's the best way I can really describe it”.
“B-but... it can't be a... monster. There must be some mistake!”
“Mistake? There's no mistake. Everyone here just saw that thing raze all of Vancouver to the ground with their own eyes! Some mistake”.
I widen my eyes in shock. The entire city... demolished? Just hearing the death toll was enough, but the entire city...?
“Still don't believe me?” the sergeant asks. “Then come outside this tent and see for yourself! Your legs should be fine”.
I manage to get up and out of the bed. The pain, while still there, is not as bad this time. I walk limp over to the tent's exit, and when I finally get out into a military encampment on a hilltop overlooking the city, I can't believe what I see. Sergeant Chang was telling the truth. The entire city is levelled. Only a few buildings remain standing, and even they are in pretty bad shape.
In the distance, I see... it. The thing responsible for this destruction. A monstrous creature covered in charcoal grey chitinous armour, with a lithe, serpentine body like an eel; legs, antennae and pincers like a lobster; blade-like fins protruding from the sides of its body; and an eyeless beaked face. From how big it looked from this distance, it had to be more than a hundred feet long! Also in the distance I see tiny-looking tanks and jets firing on the creature, but they don't even seem to be slowing it down.
Memories come flooding back. I remember seeing this thing ravaging the city up close, tearing through building after building, including the apartment building where I lived... and where my wife and daughter still were.
I fall to my knees and tears streak down my face. Tomorrow was going to be my daughter's third birthday. My wife and I had a party planned for her. How I waited to see the smile on my daughter's face as she opened her presents... a face I would never see again.
“I'm sorry you had to find out this way”, Sergeant Chang say behind me. “You have a family in the city?”
“I did”, I correct her.
“We're still working on finding survivors while the troops over there try to draw that thing away from the city. Maybe your city will still turn up”.
“There's no point. I know where they were when the monster attacked. I saw the building go down”.
“Oh. I'm sorry”.
“Thank you, Sergeant Chang”.
I look into the distance at the creature. How could this have happened? Where did this thing come from? All of the answers I can think of sound like something out of a sci-fi b-movie. A creature from ancient creature gone undiscovered in the depths of the ocean until now, a creature mutated by pollution or nuclear testing, something from another planet, who knows? But I hold that thought, because the creature is moving away from the tanks and jets trying to draw its attention. Its coming... towards us!
Evidently I'm not the only one notice, because all of the military personnel on the encampment begins evacuating the place, wheeling patients out of the infirmaries and onto buses and helicopters. Sergeant Chang pulls me to my feet and quickly escorts me to the nearest helicopter. As I buckle myself in and the helicopter takes off slowly, I wonder: is this the only one of these things out there? If not, how many more are there? Will more cities fall victim to their wrath? And most importantly, how will we survive? I just saw that humankind's weapons are useless against this thing. Will we find a way to defend
ourselves, or are fated to extinction now?
As if reading my thoughts, the sergeant grasps my shoulder and tells me,“Everything will be alright”, like a parent comforting a scared child. Fitting, as that's how I feel right now. Like a child afraid of the monster he imagines in the dark. Only the monster I
imagine is real, and I've seen what it can do. I am no longer certain what is out there in the world, or what the future holds. I'm not even sure what I'm feeling. There's grief for the loss of my home and my family, relief that I'm alive, fear of what the future holds and, strangely enough... hope.
As the helicopter rises farther and farther from the monster's reach, I question myself, then reaffirm: yes, I feel hope. Hope that humanity will learn from this attack and be ready for the next one. Hope that we will ultimately survive. Hope... for a new beginning.