Janos sat back at his desk with a resigned shake of his head. It suddenly seemed as though the end of the day was much too far away. It occurred to him that he should start leaving a little flask in his desk especially for days such as this.
Then, his desk shook. Not enough to knock over his pencil holder, but more than a tremor. He felt it and gripped the edge of his desk with one thought at the forefront of his mind: EARTHQUAKE!
Until he heard the distant roar of an explosion. He looked desperately at the detective who sat opposite his desk, Trinka, and wondered if his own eyes looked as terrified as Trinka's.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
At first, there was nothing but whiteness and light. All at once, Melinda knew she was surrounded by angels and love. An unusual placidity eased over her legs, her waist, her chest; she felt as if she were floating on clouds. She was aware of a great tumult somewhere, and knew it should concern her, but there was currently no need to worry, for Heaven beckoned. Her brain almost welcomed its departure from the world and welcomed the next step... whatever it may be. There were no more pressures, problems, or conflict. It was just all gone.
And then the weightlessness passed and the white clouds turned black with a searing thunderclap which hurt her ears. Her tumbling body had actually been airborne and tossed like a rag doll from the concussion of the blast, and presently it returned to Earth and collided with the pavement some yards away from where she previously stood. Melinda crashed and tumbled on the sidewalk until she skidded to a stop against a stone planter as millions of bits of concrete and glass pelted the area around her.
Though her body lay still, Melinda's head pitched and bounced as though it were trapped inside a rolling drum. She wanted to open her eyes and get her bearings – what the hell had happened? – but all she could see was blackness. She blinked, proving her eyes were indeed open, but the searing burn which accompanied that action forced her lids to snap shut. Even so, it did little to ease her pain. She suddenly realized that her entire head felt the crushing grip of a vice and her chest refused to obtain any air. It was as if gravity had just multiplied by 800%. She wrapped her arms around her head and moaned.
But heard nothing.
Now, the icy tendrils of fear made their way into the nape of Melinda's neck. Was she blind and deaf? How? Jesus Christ, what happened to her? Her conscious mind lagged behind as it fumbled with processing the unknowable, but the feral part of her brain, the throwback to the caveman times, instantly took charge and flooded her blood stream with heart-pounding adrenaline. Melinda gasped and got to a seated position. She was pretty sure her head spun, but there was nothing upon which to base that insight, because her eyes gave her no stimuli at all. She was vaguely aware of a warm wetness covering the side of her face but her mind could only focus on one thing at a time, and first things first was her vision. She blinked again and this time something moved, a grayness which swirled with the black. Her eyes still burned, but she blinked away the tears and continued to focus on something.
She could see the basic forms of her hands in front of her face but they were oddly colored. Ashen, almost.
She looked up and noticed the haze lightened considerably directly above her head, but the ground was thick and opaque. A thought struck through the gloom inside her head just then, Smoke. That lighter spot up there is the sun trying to pierce the smoke. Oh God. What happened?
Her brain's grasp of anything at that moment was tenuous, but somewhere back there a word echoed through the debris inside her skull: Explosion.
And just like that clarity slapped her in the face with enough force to snap her head backward and sting her cheek. The wetness on the side of her face was blood, likely from her busted eardrums, which also explained why she could not hear, and that her arms were covered with dust.