The sky burned with a bright golden magenta and dying embers beneath an ashen cloud. Fragments of broken buildings and incinerated flesh littered the valley floor like a black boiling tar.
A steady stream of smoldering forms limped and lurched in the darkness like a silent procession of ghosts, heading towards a river whose waters churned with death.
Firestorms raged in all directions. Gusts of wind ripped through the desolation and carried off pieces of men.
“Help me.” The words were in her mind but her mouth refused to say them. She could feel her tongue, but her tongue could not feel her teeth. She felt the weight of debris pinning her down, but could not feel her legs.
The last she remembered, she was talking to her sister, in her room. She didn’t know what happened. A bright yellow flash, a deafening boom…. Everything was gone. Everything she knew, her mother, father, sister, neighbors, school, the fountain at the turn of the block…
Black rain poured from the sky, adding to the nightmarish scene. She pulled herself forward inch by inch, her mouth burning of thirst. She tried to drink a handful of precipitation, but choked on the taste of ash and sprayed it all over her charred arms.
A few agonizing moments later, she managed to free herself from the rubble. Only then could she see the severity of her situation. Her legs were shattered and burned black as coal. Her body was naked and charred from head to toe, skin hanging from her face, arms, and chest, and she was completely numb.
Pulling herself facedown along the burning ruins, she made her way toward the river. The wind-driven flames drew ever closer. Her arms stroked the ground with increasing speed, racing the inferno behind her. Her nostrils filled with the smell of her own burning flesh as she inched closer and closer until finally rolling into the steaming sooty water.
Through the light of flames, she could make out the river, choked with burnt carcasses, what remained of bodies. She reached for the nearest one and hugged onto it tightly. For the first moment since it began, she could focus her thoughts on what had happened. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two, the time between talking to her sister and the end of everything. Nothing she could see was alive. The only sounds were crackling of fires and howls of the wind. Blackness consumed her world. Blackness, and death.