"Los Angeles Is Burning"
Harrison wasn't looking forward to lunch. It wasn't that he didn't like the restaurant -- in fact, Alisandro's in downtown L.A. was one of his favorite places to eat on a normal day.
But not today. Today, he was expecting an unpleasant conversation to go with his fettuccine alfredo. He thought about bolting before she arrived, but he'd put off this conversation three times already -- it was time to rip off the band-aid. He ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest from the waiter and kept an eye on the door.
Harrison was always early -- Samantha was usually late. They'd agreed to meet for lunch exactly at noon, and his beer arrived at the table at 11:45. He was on his second beer, and the clock was just clicking over to 12:20 when Samantha finally popped into the restaurant.
"Sorry I'm late," she said flatly. Her tone made it clear that she wasn't, in fact, sorry.
"It's OK. Want the usual?"
Harrison flagged down the waiter and ordered manicotti for her, fettuccine alfredo for himself. Instead of making small talk while they waited for their food, Harrison found himself looking into the old, crazed-glass mirror hanging just above Samantha's head. Earlier in the day, he'd worked out the perfect words to use in this situation -- as he sat there, he'd forgotten them all.
"So, are we just going to sit here and not talk to each other?" Samantha asked after a few minutes.
"Well, that wasn't my initial plan," Harrison said, trying to crack a smile.
"Look, I know what this is about. I've suspected for a while," Samantha sighed.
"At least since you got back from Afghanistan."
"And you didn't think to mention anything?"
"Hoped it might pass. Might get better. But it didn't."
Harrison sighed as the waiter placed their plates in front of them. He'd already seen this part of the conversation in his mind -- she was going to tell him that she still loved him, but she couldn't deal with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder anymore. He'd nod and apologize, but neither of them would say anything about the guy in San Francisco she'd been seeing for the last three months. He'd pay the check, he'd leave, he'd go beat the hell out of the heavy bag at the gym. Harrison just wanted it to be done already.
Before Samantha could open her mouth to say anything, though, the mirror behind her warped and exploded, sending shards of broken glass flying across the restaurant. Samantha screamed, and Harrison was on his feet before he knew what happened.
"What the fuck was that?" someone yelled. Harrison's waiter ran to the restaurant's front window to look outside, but the window shattered in on him before he reached it. The waiter went down screaming and bleeding.
"Samantha! Under the table and don't move!" Harrison yelled, running out into the street. He heard it now, the distant rumbling from the city center. He'd heard something like it before -- in Afghanistan, when a Hellfire missile had collapsed the side of a mountain.
He came across a cop standing outside of his car, staring downtown. Harrison followed his gaze and saw a cloud of dust heading towards them. As he looked up from the dust, he saw something impossible.
A mushroom cloud.
"Officer! What the fuck is going on, man?"
The cop just turned and stared at Harrison, shaking his head. His mouth was moving, but nothing was coming out.
Harrison grabbed the radio off the cop's belt, expecting to get the shit beat out of him. The cop didn't even move.
"14-Adam-42 to Dispatch," Harrison said into the radio. All he got back was static. He tried again, but the radio went dead.
"Fuck," Harrison spat, tossing the radio back to the stunned cop. The cop didn't move, and the radio bounced off his chest. Harrison could only stand and watch as the Aon Center building two miles away started to crumble to the ground.
"Nuked! We been nuked!" a young Chinese gangbanger yelled, running past Harrison and the frozen cop.
"Well, yeah," the frozen cop croaked. Harrison turned to look at him -- he realized he'd met the man a couple of times before down at the station.
"Oh, hey, Sergeant," the cop smiled.
"Officer," Harrison nodded back.
"This isn't a dream, is it, sir?"
Harrison shook his head.
"No, Officer. I'm afraid not."
© 2009 Trace Eber