What Came Before

When playback from the camera resumes and an image blinks back onto the screen, Brenna and Drew are walking side by side down a dimly lit tunnel. They are a few metres ahead of Travis who is lagging behind walking much slower than they are.

“What do you think that was out there?” Travis questions. His tone betrays his hope that one of them will have an answer he has not been able to fathom himself.

Unfortunately, the response Travis gets is, “I don’t know.” It comes from both Drew and Brenna. They say it almost simultaneously. Though, Drew adds, “But we need to get out of the city.”

“Huh, you’re right. We do.” Travis says aloud. He sounds defeated and downtrodden and soon begins to wonder aloud, “What happens if this isn’t just contained to the city?”

The cameraman doesn’t even realise he’s speaking aloud. It’s just a simple thought that has entered his head and it seems he intends on following wherever it is that it may take him. “After all, there is nothing to say that it couldn’t be. This might be county wide. Maybe even across the country…”

Travis gets no further as Brenna stops, spins on her heels, glaring at Travis and spits, “Just shut up will you. You’re not helping.”

Brenna’s face is deeply furrowed. She is angry. That much is plain to see. The camera records every second and detail of it. She seems oblivious to its presence, or perhaps she simply doesn’t care. Nevertheless, the events unfolding now are a far cry from the joking and playful mocking of the first section of the vids playback earlier.

“Brenna, T might have a point.” Drew admits as his hand comes to rest on her shoulder. He’s trying to calm the situation down and stop it escalating into an argument, or worse, a fight. Neither possibility can change or ease the situation, whatever this situation that they are in is.

The background around Drew and Brenna is a mass of blacks and greys, all of which are shadows beyond the limits of dim yellow lights.

One such light is just visible at the edge of the cameras lens and is fixed, in some way, shape or form, along the joint where the graffiti plastered wall meets the mass of damp concrete above their heads.

Brenna sighs acknowledging that, whether she likes it or not, Travis and Drew are right. She didn’t want to have to admit it, but the thought had dawned on her too.

“We need to find out what’s going on.” Brenna admits finally. Though there is a great deal of hesitation in her voice.

“How are we going to do that? We’re in a tunnel. Nothing down here is going to tell us what’s going on up there.” Drew points up as he speaks. He even glances upward before returning his focus to Brenna, who he continues to then gaze at questioningly.

“We’ll…have to head back up to the surface.” Brenna admits begrudgingly. The tone of her voice indicates that she doesn’t like the idea and she even winces as the words leave her lips. Her own gaze even drops from Drew, quickly flicks to Travis and then descends to the wet hard surface below her feet.

“You can’t be serious.” Travis remarks, making it plain as day that he hopes Brenna is making some kind of joke he doesn’t understand the punch line to.

From the expression on Brenna’s face however it is obvious that she is not joking even a little bit, and that she is deadly serious. Though, she still adds, “We just have to hope that whatever froze those people isn’t still going on.”

“And how are we supposed to do that?” Travis questions in disbelief, his tone of voice pitching upward sharply. The sudden shift in pitch indicates that he can scarcely believe what is being said, as its complete lunacy.

“T, you know she’s right. We just need to find…” Drew says before trailing off as he turns about on the spot searching for something that might help. Suddenly he exclaims, “This should do.”

Drew heads away from Travis and Brenna. Travis follows his friend with the camera and tracks him across the otherwise empty tunnel to a poorly lit map that is bolted to a metal A-frame. In turn that metal A-frame is concreted in to the floor. From the looks of things the A-frame was added after the original floor was laid. The smear of the long since dried and hardened concrete suggests that, but there is no way of knowing for sure.

Drew hums for a time as he studies the map intently. Brenna is stood to his right, while Travis is on Drew’s left.

Finally, Drew jabs a finger at the grubby translucent acrylic that is laid over the top of the faded, and possibly once colourful, map. Then he announces, “We’re here.”

“OK. So…if we go…” Brenna begins but quickly trails off. However, her own finger, affixed with a long nail that will stop her hand from ending up smeared with the dirt that has come to stain this map, follows a path from where Drew is pointed to what appears to be a small square box labelled exit.

“Here’s our way out.” Brenna proclaims before a flutter of a half-smile quickly appears and then vanishes again.

“It looks like we’ve got to take the next left available to us.” Drew declares calmly. A satisfied yet cautious sits on his face.

“It doesn’t look like it’s very far though.” Travis chimes in, sounding more like his old buoyant self again now. With him not being in the frame of the camera lens however it is impossible to tell if his expression matches his tone or not.

“What do you think it is?” Brenna asks curious as to what the uninformative label of a room marked exit could be.

“Stairwell? Maybe.” Drew offers in response. He doesn’t’ sound sure at all and the addition of a quick shrug does nothing to strengthen his doubt filled words. However, there is some hope mixed in with his scepticism. After what the trio have witnessed thus far that is understandable.

“We can but hope.” Brenna says with a shrug of her own. She departs from the map soon after to continue the walk deeper into the tunnel and toward what, according to the map, should be a way out.

“Especially as this place give me the creeps.” The brown haired diminutive woman adds soon after.

“Yeah.” Drew and Travis agree in unison as they too depart the map sure of their course.

However, they only manage to cover about a hundred metres before the faint sound of rushing air can be heard. Even the built-in microphone on the camera picks it up.

In response, the trio stop and look at one another speechless for a bit until Brenna asks, “What do you think it could be?”

“Something tells me it isn’t anything good.” Drew returns sceptically, his brow furrowed.

However, the trio don’t move. Instead they stay rooted on the spot, even as the volume of the whooshing sound continues to increase and Travis pans away from his friends to look back the direction they have come from. He thinks that is where the sound is coming from and that is why he has turned in that particular direction. Whether Drew and Brenna think the same is unknown as they are out of shot and have said nothing.

Travis grunts in confusion and then zooms the camera lens in to get a better view. He is sure he saw something. The image is blurred as he zooms but once he hits max and the image is allowed to stabilise for a few seconds the sight becomes clear. There are white sparkles swirling in the air and those same white particles, glinting and glistening in the limited light, are surging angrily toward them.

“Oh shit!” Travis exclaims as it dawns on him what it has to be.

“What?” Drew asks while Brenna questions, “What is it Travis?”

The camera spins back and quickly refocuses on the sight of Brenna and Drew again. They are evidently waiting for an answer, but what they get instead is a simple command, “RUN!”

Travis evidently at this point begins to rush off as the camera rocks from side to side in time with flashes of shadow that are the frantic movement of Travis’ legs.

“Why?” Drew asks confused by Travis’ panic.

“Cause that fucking wind blast is coming for us!” Travis roars loud enough for the cameras microphone to pick up his reply. It also picks up Brenna exclaim, “Fuck!” as Drew cries, “Not again.”

Suddenly the camera shifts and drops so that it is down at Travis’ side. It’s still recording though and now has a shaky, blurred view behind Travis as he races down the tunnel heading for where the exit marked on the map should be. Behind him and in clear, albeit bouncy, view is Brenna who in turn is followed by Drew. And just behind Drew are the sparkling white shards that continue to swirl in a vortex like pattern that is rapidly gaining on them.

Still, Travis manages to turn the corner into whatever the room that was marked as an exit is supposed to be. The camera spins, having glanced off the concrete wall, and is now facing toward the approaching Brenna and Drew once more.

Brenna, who looked over her shoulder to catch sight of the swirl, skids around the corner, barely making the vital turn. She disappears out of view of the camera lens as a result leaving only the still sprinting Drew out in the open area that is the empty tunnel. Everything behind Drew is flash frozen and coated in thick layers of twinkling white ice.

“Come on Drew! Come on!” Travis screams at the top of his lungs as he extends his right arm to offer Drew aid. His arm is covered in a thin long sleeved jacket; it’s a muted green colour, perhaps because it has been over washed and subjected to countless cycles of being rinsed and swirled within a washing machines metal cylinder.

But the swirling blast of air is faster and soon washes over Drew like a wave. In an instant he is flash frozen.

The tips of Travis’ outstretched fingers are burnt. The cameraman withdraws his arm as fast as lightning. It’s a reflex and he isn’t even aware he’s done it. Meanwhile, Brenna can be heard screaming somewhere off camera. She’s hysterical now and goes into a meltdown asking, “What the fuck is going on? I can’t believe this! This can’t be real! No, no it isn’t real. This is a dream. It has to be a dream. There is no way… Drew.”

Brenna is sobbing now. Travis says nothing. He doesn’t know what to say. Instead he is just stood in place. The camera is still hanging at his side.

Brenna appears back in the shot. She’s pacing back and forth, her fingers woven through her thick long brown hair as she babbles incoherently. It looks as though she is having an argument with herself. Perhaps she is debating whether to rush to Drew’s side, even though he is clearly dead. Nothing could have survived the flash freezing blast that hit him. If it could then he wouldn’t have been frozen solid in less than a second. Yet, he hadn’t screamed or anything. That means it must have been instantaneous, or close enough that he didn’t have time to react.

All of a sudden Travis exclaims, “Brenna, why can I see your breath?”

Brenna doesn’t answer however. She is still pacing back and forth. The camera rattles and shakes blurring the image but captures Travis taking the three paces between where he had been stood to where Brenna is. He grabs her, to stop her and then shakes her to get her out of her hysteria. It works and she snaps out of it, her eyes leaping to where his face must be off-camera.

At that point Travis repeats himself, “Why can I see your breath?”

His tone is soft, almost a whisper, and his green cloth covered arms fill a good amount of the frame as Brenna seems to be contemplating her friends’ words. It is clear she cannot grasp why and so simply stares back and shakes her head.

It’s her silent admission of her not having an answer that she can give and it comes just as a freezing blast of air roars somewhere nearby. Travis and Brenna drop and squat where they are stood. As a result the camera at Travis’ side ends up in his lap, the lens pointing upward. The room they are in is revealed to be a stairwell, it looks cramped and the walls in view are dark because of watermarks which are large stains across the concrete walls. However, the camera gets a full view of the blast of life ending air that rips over the top of the stairwells surface level opening.

Then the view shifts as Travis helps Brenna back to her feet and they press themselves against opposing walls. The camera gets a full view of the panic-stricken look on Brenna’s face as she holds her breath, her eyes screwed shut to brace herself for what she seems to think will be her demise.

However, the rush of ice-cold wind de-materialises seconds later and the air, no longer audible, is still once more. Travis lets out a sigh. It is obvious that he’s relieved to be alive, even if he doesn’t understand how or why. Not that it stops him from quickly querying, “What are we going to do?”

Brenna shakes her head. She doesn’t know and is still preoccupied as she continually glances to the left. It’s the direction in which Drew’s flash frozen body is stood, mid-step, when the blast of air hit him from behind.

“Fuck that hurts.” Travis exclaims before a shadow reveals he is shaking his hand, the same one that had the fingertips burnt by the icy air.

Travis though, does not waste any time and quickly adds that his personal decision on that matter is, “I’m going up to the surface.”

In that moment Brenna’s face twists into a mask of pure terror. It’s why she steps forward to stop Travis. He managed only a single step forward before she almost threw herself into his path and as she did she issued the question, “Is that wise?”

“I don’t know Brenna. I really don’t. But we tried getting off the street. Going somewhere we thought would be safe. It wasn’t. And it seems that it might not matter where we go cause everything is fucked. But…I’d like a chance to see if I can find out what…is going on.” Travis replies. His voice is hollow and distant. He sounds as if he is resigned to his fate and takes a couple deep breaths before adding, “Don’t you wanna know what’s going on? Whether this is a weapon or part of some invasion, or whatever.”

Travis waits for a bit but having not been met with an answer he eventually sidesteps Brenna, who is still mulling it over. At least that what it seems her expression conveyed, as caught by the camera before she exited the frame because of Travis heading for the concrete steps that will take him back up to street level.

The cameraman gets about half way up the stairs, at least that is how it looks from the angle the camera has, before Brenna can be heard exclaiming loudly, “Fine. Just don’t leave me behind.”

Then the camera goes black and the recording ends for the third time without a change of view or a sound to be heard.

All of the children in the classroom are on the edge of their seats and hope this isn’t the end. This is riveting and they are enthralled by it. Miss Hannigan has to resist the urge to giggle as she wishes she had a camera to take a picture of her students and show them how invested they are at this very moment. She hasn’t and it is a pity. Yet, it’s a sight she won’t forget. She never does and she’s shown a great many people this vid.

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