Standing in the middle of madness, I couldnt help but
think to myself how lucky we were that it was so late. Traffic had thinned out
after midnight on the night that the world died. Two cars had collided as every
vehicle around stalled simultaneously. A jeep had collided recklessly into a
small compact that was unlucky enough to be in front of it. The force of the
collision had sent both cars spiraling and rolling wildly off the bridge,
seeming to leap intentionally over the jersey barriers and vanishing into the
black. From all around my car I could hear the sounds of vehicles skidding into
each other. I braced myself for impact as I brought my car to a fast, but
hopefully safe, stop. No ensuing jerk into my seat told me that I had got off
easy. From the sound of it, you would have thought all the cars in Boston had
started a demolition derby.
The wind was cold enough to bite through my overcoat as I
climbed out of my station wagon. Being at the crest of the Mystic river bridge
didnt help matters much either. It immediately struck me how
exceptionally dark the world had become. I wasnt able to see Boston to
the north or Revere to the south. Where there should have been a bright radiant
skyline, was a mass of vague murky shapes looming up against a moonlit horizon.
A chill unexpectedly ran down my spine and I wasnt sure if it was the
cold or the sudden feeling of helplessness that swept over me. As I peered out
upon the world from the Tobin bridge it seemed as if God had thrown a switch
and turned off the modern world. A young, terrified looking couple wandered out
of the obscurity in front of me. Whats happening? The girl
asked of no one in particular. Her boyfriend pulled the girl close and they
ended up standing directly in front of me, just staring dumbfounded.
Any idea whats going on? The young guy
asked me. He tried to sound calm but made a poor job of it. I heard the same
shakiness in his voice that I was feeling inside of myself. I noticed other
people wandering from the surrounding dark as well. Everyone seemed to be
congregating towards the peak of the bridge. The young girl was looking at me
expectantly. The look I was getting made me think they had some bizarre notion
that I might have some answers. I assume that looking much older than they
were, they just instinctively looked to me for some sort of guidance.
I just sighed. No. I mean there really
wasnt much else I could have said at that point. I was in as much shock
as they were. The girl, visually shaken, seemed to be in the worst state of the
small group gathering together. Tears were streaming down her round cheeks
catching what little moonlight there was. Her eyes were pleading for
An EMP or some kind of massive solar flare. A
tall well dressed businessman stated confidently. I thought about this for a
moment. I knew what they were. Electro Magnetic Pulses; but I thought an EMP
strong enough to kill every drop of juice as far as we could see would have to
be the byproduct of a nuclear attack. Somehow, I thought we would have noticed
a nuclear explosion. Even a small one, I grinned to myself. A solar flare
seemed slightly more plausible, but strong enough to have knocked out
Maybe. I replied without enthusiasm. I was a man
of few words for a change.
Will it stop? The girl asked timidly. I
mean will things come back on soon? her voice was quivering with fear.
Unfortunately for her, no one had an answer for this. So we all stood, staring
from the bridge out into the night, even though there wasnt anything to
I think we need to decide what we are going to do for
now. I broke the silence after a minute. I mean, are we going to
stay where we are and see what happens, or are we going to get off this
bridge? The gathering crowd began to murmur amongst themselves at this.
Personally, I dont like bridges and this one is a whopper. So
Im thinking about walking to the Chelsea side of the river.
Ya wanna go walking in Chelsea in a blackout?! A
round balding man laughed from the crowd. I dont even wanna walk
there during the day if I dont have to.
Blackout? Now there was an understatement. I looked
up then, noticing the incredible sparkling sky, and I thought that I
hadnt been able to see that many stars in the sky since a river trip in
northern Maine. That was two hundred miles from the nearest town. Yeah, this
was one hell of a blackout.
Well, we could just keep walking on the highway until
we get to a place we want to get off. the businessman suggested. I guess
that was the best idea, because they just started walking. The young couple,
the businessman and the round man. A few others stayed where they were,
probably convinced the power would come back on soon enough, and maybe they
were right. Then again maybe they were wrong. I started walking with the group
south out of Boston.
The young couple sidled up to me as we walked.
Im Todd. The young man offered. This is Melissa.
The girl was terrified. She was clinging to her companion as much from fear as
from the strong wind that coursed across the bridge. She was dressed for summer
like the rest of us, but she was not dealing well with this cold snap.
Kevin. I introduced myself in return. I waited
for the other two men to say something, but they werent in a talkative
mood. Where are you guys from? I asked Todd and Melissa. I
didnt really feel like talking at that point either, but I could tell the
two of them were in need of a distraction.
Saugus. Melissa replied, trembling against her
You realize we are going to get to the other side of
this bridge, and everything is going to come back on, right? I did my
best to sound humorous for Melissas sake. I dont think I succeeded
Id still like to know what the hell is going
on. The round man grumbled. I nodded in response, not immediately
realizing the foolishness of nodding my head in almost complete blackness.
Yeah. I answered after coming to my senses.
We all would.
Each of us seemed to materialize in and out of the dark as
we trundled, disorganized, down the incline of the massive steel and concrete
structure. Moving towards and away from each other, glimpses of various colored
shirts and pants appearing and disappearing from view. I had been hoping that
as we came down the slope of the bridge, it would warm up, or at least lessen
the effect of the wind. Instead, it seemed to grow colder as we progressed.
Im freezing my ass off! the businessman
growled through gritted teeth, as if reading my mind. New England
weather, feels like its forty degrees and its goddamn
Probably some kind of a massive cold front sweeping
down from Canada. The round man shot out suddenly, as if struck by an
epiphany, making Melissa jump. Some huge storm probably caused all of
this! he shouted. I could just barely make out his arm sweeping through
the air, motioning to the world around him.
Maybe. I said. It definitely was too cold for
June, that was for sure. Even for New England it was too cold. I could remember
spring days where the temperature soared to eighty at noon only to crash down
to thirty by midnight. This was beyond even a New England summer night though.
I knew that had there been enough ambient light, I would be seeing my breath
come out in thin clouds.
Is it getting darker? Todd asked sounding as if
he had just asked the dumbest question in the world. A shiver ran down my spine
though, as I realized he was right. It had gotten darker somehow. The stars
seemed just a little dimmer, and even the moon seemed to be weakening in
Oh, Jesus, what the hell is going on? The round
man hissed loudly. Oh Christ. Christ. The panic surfacing in his
voice was nerve wracking, and it was certainly not helping.
Alright, just relax man. I said reassuringly.
Lets just focus on getting off this damn bridge. I wondered
how much panic was in my own voice.
Dont fucking tell me to relax. The round
man barked at me. This aint right. This is pretty damn far from
No one replied to him. He was absolutely right, and the
realization of it was sending groping tendrils of fear through my stomach.
Todd? Todd, whats happening? Melissa was
outright crying now. Sobbing loudly.
I dont know baby. Stay calm Melly, Im
right here. Just hold on to my arm. Todd soothed her. I couldnt
really see it, but I heard him kiss her quickly.
I guessed we were about halfway down the bridge when we
first saw the shadows. I passed it off as an optical illusion at first. Even in
the complete night of our surroundings, there were strange glimpses of black. I
squinted against them, but they werent something I could focus on. I
decided to ignore them for now, passing them off as my eyes playing tricks on
me. Until the businessman spoke up.
What the hell are they? The businessmans
voice cracked and he stopped walking. The round man, peering around, stumbled
into him, forcing the businessman to let out an almost feminine yelp. Do
you see those? For a moment, I actually thought he was going to start
crying now too.
We had all stopped walking then. The dark shapes had now
cropped up on both sides of us. Their oily black shapes slightly visible
against the dark space off the bridge. Posts? the round man asked
Signs. Todd said flatly, trying to convince
himself as much as anyone else.
They could have been any number of objects along the bridges
girder and cabled sides. When they started moving around, I thought I was going
to scream. They werent moving in unison, as if from the wind. Some were
moving up the incline of the bridge while others went down. Some werent
moving at all. The ones that had gained motion were not sliding or maneuvering
in any form of inanimate manner. They seemed to rise and fall slightly, moving
Oh no no nooo. Melissa cried pitifully into
Todds shirt, as she buried her face against him.
Whos there? The round man tried to demand
but his voice lacked any authority and it came out sounding more like a hopeful
None of us were ready for the response. It came on as a
noise that seemed to rise up from these strange shadows. It was a rasping sound
at first. Somewhere between the static of white noise and the high pitched
buzzing of heat bugs.
Jesus. The round man hissed nervously. His mouth
had pulled down into a sneering frown. What the hell is that
Its them! Melissa whined, pointing at the
It was a terrible sound, and the longer I heard it, the more
pronounced it became. There was something else as well. A vocal quality, hidden
within the rising din. Something akin to a chorus of unintelligible whispers.
The hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. As a group we had all
subconsciously moved closer to one another. Almost to the point of standing
shoulder to shoulder. Everyone stared into the night, desperately trying to see
something that hinted at more than blackness.
Slowly the shadows had stopped milling back and forth along
the edges of the bridge. They seemed to be standing still now, but the bizarre
lack of color and light made these beings look as though they were pulsating.
As if they were growing and shrinking slightly. They were not advancing towards
us which was somewhat of a relief if that was possible. I was intently trying
to focus in on one of them, but overall my mind was occupied with the plethora
of sounds. This is what insanity sounds like! I thought suddenly. I wasnt
sure why that had occurred to me, but the concept seemed to come into me from
without. As if the thought had been forced onto me by the noise itself.
A terrible idea swept over me then, sending a wave of cold
fear down my entire body. They are taking over our minds. This is some form
of hypnotic suggestion. I fought back the urge to block my ears and as I
looked around I saw that, except for Todd, the rest of the group was doing
their best to cover their ears. The round man had yanked up the shoulders of
his sweater and was pressing the cloth into his ears with his thumbs. The
businessman had simply jammed his index fingers in his ears, and apparently
thought that squatting down low to the ground would help. Melissas hands
were cupped over her ears and Todd was trying to help her by adding his hands
on top of hers.
That is what love is. I thought I would smile for a
second at this. If I wasnt in complete fear for my life at that very
moment, I think I would have applauded Todd. His selflessness. He was bearing
the cacophony, eyes squeezed closed and his head cocked to one side.
I forced myself to listen. The unimaginable blackness of the
creatures did not lend them to giving any hint of recognition or association
with anything. Their overall form was abstract, and each of them different,
both in size as well as overall shape. So I studied the only thing that had a
presence. Their voice, for lack of a better term.
The underlying whispers were what I was trying to discern. I
thought the rest of it seemed to be just an overbearing and distracting tactic,
meant possibly to make us more susceptible to what they were really saying. I
also fought with the notion that I had no idea what I was talking about and I
was just wrought with cascading paranoid theories. The sound of
insanity! Occurred to me again.