The flash in the sky was blinding. I was outside when the world just blinked. That’s what is was or at least the best way to explain what happened; it all just blinked. One moment I was watching my daughter, Miko, do flips off her swing, ringlets of hair wildly flying around and then was a blinding light followed by darkness. It was as if the world flickered off and then right back on.
I waited with my eyes turned towards the sky waiting for something to happen, but nothing came. Nothing happened. Shutting my eyes I listened to the world that had fallen silent in a second. The birds had gone quiet. There was no sound of children coming from the school down the street. No wind gently rustling her hair. Even the smell of the world was wrong. A strong chemical smell came from the trees the yard reminding her of the tree shaped air freshener dangling from her cars rear view mirror.
“Mama, I’m hungry.” Miko whimpered as she dragged her feet on the ground below her swing.
“You just ate.” My stomach grumbled in agreement. “Okay, go inside.” Miko slipped off the swing ambled slowly towards the house. My stomach turned. Something was wrong but I couldn’t pin point the issue. My body felt sticky.
“Cereal?” I asked as I pulled the milk out of the fridge. Miko had flopped down on the table, head on her arms. “Love are you okay?” No reply as she looked back at me with dull eyes. “Here eat this.” I poured the milk into the bowl and was immediately meet with a rancid smell. The milk poured out in chunks. “
“Honey, is your cell working?” John asked as he walked into the kitchen. ”My computer crashed a few minutes ago. I went to check the internet connection and it isn’t working. My cell won’t turn on and all the electronics are fried.”
“Wonder if it had anything to do with that flash?” I asked as I pulled out my dead cell.
“I guess.” He didn’t look convinced. “Sweetpea what’s wrong?” He placed his hand on Miko’s forehead. “Hun, have you taken her temperature? She is freezing.”
A knock came from the front door. “I’ll get it. You help her.”
Outside two lanky men in suits greeted me. “Hello ma’am. I am Agent Mallow and this is my partner Agent Kimley. We are with the CGC may we come in?”
“Um, sure.” They pushed past. Glancing outside it seemed that the entire neighborhood were getting similar visitors. “This is my husband, John and my daughter, Miko.” I say following them inside. “So the CGC you say?”
“Yes.” Mallow said.
“Is that related to the CDC?”
“Yes.” They both said exchanging looks.
“Wait, are you investigating an outbreak?” John said his eyes slowly widening with worry. “Miko, our daughter, she isn’t feeling well.” Mallow nodded to Kimley. “My partner will take a look at her. I have some questions first. How long has she been sick?”
“Um, well I’m not sure.” John stated struggling to remember.
“She was fine a moment ago. Before the flash she was swinging and afterwards she was listless. Was that it? Was it a terrorist attack? Biological Warfare?”
“No, no ma’am nothing like that, but the flash, you remember that? Anything else. Anything after?”
“No, just that there was a flash. Then everything was a bit off.”
“Well, the air was different.”
“What about it?”
“It was warmer.” I looked around the room trying to gauge everyone’s reactions.
“Yes, go on.” Mallow encouraged.
Straightening up I began again. “Well, the smells, of the trees smelled off.”
“Yes, like chemicals. And the birds. There was a new nest in the tree with babies. They were singing, but after the flash they stopped.”
“Well they probably scared by the flash you saw.” John said.
“No, that’s the thing. The nest wasn’t there anymore.”
Mallow was scribbling in his notepad.
“Is this really important?” I asked.
“Yes, it is. John did you see the flash?”
“Interesting.” He scribbled a few more notes.
“Now,” he said turning back to me. “Do you feel different.”
“Yes, a bit. Kind of plastic. And itchy. That kind of itchy when new skin is growing over a wound.”
Kimley backed away from Miko, walked over to his partner, and whispered in his ear.”
Slightly shaking his head Mallow looked over at Miko and back towards as Kimley opened a small box. “I’m sorry, but you were correct about her being sick. We do have something that should stabilize her and I am afraid the two of you will need to be to be vaccinated as well in case you have contracted it.” Kimley handed a needle to Mallow. He rolled up Miko’s sleeve and injected her with a clear liquid.
“Wait, hold on we didn’t give you permission.”
“Ma’am your daughter is very sick. This will help.” Kimley said as he prepared two more injections.
“It’s okay. She needs this.” John said as he rolled up his sleeve as an act of good faith.
“Okay, Mary your turn. Give me your arm.”
“Wait, how do you know my name?”
“You told us. At the front door.”
“No, no I didn’t.”
“Your husband must have mentioned it.”
“No, I’m sure he didn’t”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now.” He said as he injected the needle into my arm. “In a few moments none of this will matter.”
My eyes started to twitch. I grabbed for the kitchen table as my body fell but I wasn’t in control of my arms. From the floor I could John laying on the ground on the other side of the table and Miko’s tiny hand hanging limply.
The world fades in and out. “Center of Genetic Control this Alpha 1.” Static rippled through my eyes. “We had a situation in Sector 183, block 873, unit 1,093. Yes, we terminated the specimens. One was a retainer and the other an defect. Please relay instructions…”
A sour metallic taste “Water.” I gasped.
One of the men gently lifted me off the floor. “Shh, don’t worry just be calm.”
“I need help.” I pleaded struggling to speak. “Am I dying?”
“The real you died 1,000 years ago. You are a clone of the real Mary Stockhouse.” His eyes softened. “The flash was both the ending and beginning of your world. It ended with a meteor strike. We cleared the last few memories that would could of the world dying that happened in the weeks after. We had been watching, cataloging your planet and species for a long time. When we were able to we brought as many of you back as we were able to and placed you in the last memory before impact. So the flash was your world ending and being restarted.”
“That whys aren’t important. As you can see we haven’t worked out the kinks. You shouldn’t have remembered the flash or noticed any differences in your environment. We can’t have that. Too many loose ends. And then there is your little one.” A sympathetic smile crossed his face. “Some of you ended up getting sick. We aren’t sure why but we know it is a defect on our end. We need to contain it. Learn from it”
“But John, he didn’t remember. He wasn’t sick.” My voice barely audible.