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I wake in a hospital bed, frantically worried. I heave a sigh of relief because I am safe, but I still wonder why I'm in a hospital bed, clad in a body cast. The room around me is bright and bare, and there seems to be no color. Of course, this is how a typical hospital room feels. Suddenly, I remember what happened. I distinctly remember an enormous, vibrant flash in the distance. Then, a large shock wave crumbled the ground and shattered the buildings. I don't remember anything after that.
A nurse casually walks over to me. "How are you feeling?" she asks.
"What happened to me? How did this happen? Where am I? Who the hell could have done th-"
"Just, just... just hang on, sir," the nurse interrupts. "You were found in the ruins of Chicago. The ceiling above you collapsed during the catastrophe. You were crushed under a pile of concrete, most likely unconscious by then. You were lucky to have survived. We don't really know how this disaster happened, but you've been airlifted to Pittsburgh. The entire area was destroyed."
By now, I am crying inside. I am pondering what could have happened to my dear wife and children. "Is my family okay?" I ask the nurse.
"I'm sorry, but no other survivors were found yet," she replied.
I am so grief-stricken and rage-laden that I want to get out of my bed and flee as fast as I can. But I can't. I'm incapacitated. So I repress my deepest emotions and try to relax. I still have many questions, though.
"I know this revelation has been quite overwhelming for you. We're doing the best we can," the nurse explained.
I nod, but I don't agree. The nurse leaves.
An hour later, the nurse comes back with news. "More survivors have been found in the wreckage!" she exclaims.
I doubt that any of them are my family, so I just nod and look away. That's when I see it.
A flash lights up the sky, and a shock wave spreads over the land, destroying everything in its path. The windows shatter, and the hospital crumbles....
I wake up in my bedroom. Everything seems to be normal, so I dismiss my experience as a horrid nightmare. I get dressed and run downstairs to eat breakfast, which is usually simple toast with butter. My family doesn't seem to be awake yet, so I just eat breakfast alone. When I finish, the memory of me waking up after my nightmare recurs. My psychologist told me that my brain has mysterious impulses that may be the next step in human evolution, so I sometimes have memories flash before my eyes, especially memories associated with distress. As my brain forces me to watch, I realize something strange. My wife is not in the bed, which is unusual because it’s a Saturday. I must not have noticed her absence because I had just woken up from a terrifying nightmare. I find the phone and call my wife’s cell number, but no one answers, not even the automated voicemail messaging system. Confused, I walk back into the kitchen and realize that the blinds are completely closed, which is very unusual. I open the blinds and gasp as I see the horrid sight in front of me. All the buildings have been leveled, and the ground has enormous fissures. Could this be reality? Could I be the sole survivor of such a calamity?
I hesitantly take a step outside and call for any sign of human life. After I take a few steps out of the house, I turn back to my house to grab my emergency supply kit. Now, I can see that the house is completely dilapidated. How is that possible? The only explanation is that this is not reality, but it’s a dream.
I wake up once again, and this time, I rush to my window, and view the outside world. Everything is normal, and the streets are bustling with activity. I wake up my wife and tell her about my dream. She just passes it off.
"Honey, it's just a preposterous dream. You know I will stay at your side all the time, and if I have to leave, I tell you."
"You're right, I'll just ignore it," I replied, doubtfully.
On the bus to work, I felt more apprehensive that I ever have in my life. I begin to suspect that maybe I'm still inside the dream.
Suddenly, I see a white light burn the clouds. The other passengers scream as buildings are flattened and the bus is upturned. A large crack forms in the ground and the bus rolls into it. The bus freefalls into the bottomless mantle of the earth.
I wake up, again, in a hospital bed, once again. I am in the same hospital room as before, but the nurse is not here, and I am not in a body cast anymore. I look out the window, and it appears that the disaster has not occurred. The nurse strolls into the room.
“Good news! More survivors have been found!” she exclaims.
Something then crosses my mind. Didn’t she already say that before, in a past dream? Yes… and the catastrophe happened immediately afterward. “Take cover!” I yell.
The nurse and I crawl under the bed. We can hear the ground crumble as the building above us collapses. We are almost crushed by the weight on the bed, but we narrowly survive. We both push the pieces of the building away as we leave the small area under the bed and stand up. I can see past the top of the now-destroyed wall, and there is a seemingly deranged man limping in the distance. We start to walk over to him, and when we do, we see a horrid sight.
Bodies lie mutilated and melted on the cracked ground. Entire families, groups of friends, and everyone else who were just going about their daily lives seconds ago have been transmuted into a nondescript paste. Cracked glasses rest on a giant puddle of blood, and a handkerchief lies burnt next to a half-melted eyeball.
When we reach the man, we ask him if he’s alright.
“Yes, I’m perfectly fine. God’s plans are God’s plans,” he returns.
We decide to let the man alone. Then, off in the distance, something catches my eye. Another man seems to be waving desperately at us. We approach him, and he enthusiastically exclaims, “I work for the Pennsylvania State Police Department and I have just called a chopper to come rescue us! Gather as many people as you can; we’re getting out of here.”
About two hours later, the helicopter finally arrives. We have gathered many survivors who were inside buildings during the explosions and didn’t get crunched by the falling rubble. The helicopter lands, and several men rush out. Then, they aim their weapons straight at us and fire. Everyone scrambles, but I stay put while the men from the helicopter brutally murder the nurse and half of the survivors. I glance at the man who was waving at us before, and he stares back, grinning at my gullibility. “Just letting you know,” he tells me smugly, “I’m not a police officer.” He tenses up his muscles, and a blinding flash originates from his heart as his body vaporizes….
I awake in a dull, dark room, lying on a bed, with electrodes attached to my head. I now begin to recall that the series of dreams was just part of the training schedule for my new recruitment into Salvation. Right before I started the training simulation, I was lying on this very same bed, waiting to start; then, my Salvation recruiters told me that some of my memories would be replaced with that of a middle-aged white man. I would take on the role of this man and have his memories, but still retain the memories of the simulation afterward. This simulation was designed to familiarize me with Salvation's enemy, the inferior white race.
Now, as I lie on the bed, I actually feel a pang of sympathy for our enemy.
A group of men wearing Salvation insignia walk in, exchanging banter. They approach me and congratulate me for completing my training. “Do you remember the man exploding at the end?” one man asks. “You’re going to be the first one to do that! You’re going to help wipe these damn people off the face of the earth!” I feel a euphoria by just hearing that. The outside world considers us extremists, but we see ourselves as the saviors of mankind.
The next day, I am briefed about my mission into the land of the whites. They then give me and injection with an explosive compound and a passport before sending me off.
As I arrive in the United States, I suddenly feel a sense of regret for ending my life. I decide that I am going to experience my life one last time.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I constantly postpone my mission to live my final moments, but my final moments are never really my final moments because I keep putting off my death. Life here is more graceful than I expected….
It’s been two months since I arrived in the United States. Occasionally, I remember my mission but dismiss it. Maybe I was never supposed to destroy these people. Maybe this is the life for which I was meant. Maybe these people are my salvation.
As I am working in the factory, an epiphany dawns upon me. Salvation is constantly checking the news for an attack on the city here. If they know that the city is not destroyed yet, they would send another volunteer. It’s been two months, so I believe we may be overdue for a successful attack….
It’s a remarkable coincidence that the day I realize that there could been another member of Salvation attacking the city, a great, white flash in the sky splits the ground.