What Came Before

When the camera returns for the fourth time, Brenna, who is the focus of the shot, is rushing across the sidewalk to a TV that is sat behind the window of a small electrical store. The window is dirty but the picture from the TV is crystal clear as its backlit pixels shine proudly.

Travis, with camera in hand and no longer hanging at his side, is close behind her. Most of his view is quickly filled with the myriad of other equally confused looking faces that have begun to huddle around this TV as well. It’s the only one of the six, in view, that is tuned into a news station. It also happens to be the largest of the lot.

Somehow Travis manages to force his way forward far enough that the camera is able to get a clear view of the screen as well as the subtitles that are relaying what the news anchor, a pretty young woman with loosely curled auburn hair, a grey blouse and black jacket, is relaying to any and all who might be listening.

Brenna is still in shot, just, of Travis’ camera and her brow is deeply furrowed as she listens to the barely audible voice of the news anchor, who relays, “…it’s part of a continent sized storm that is currently sweeping the world.” The news anchor pauses as she reads the teleprompter. The pause doesn’t last for long and once it is over, she continues. “As a result this storm is able to blast, at high speed, super cooled air down to ground level. And we have been told by scientists that this air can only have achieved this feat if it were to have first been sucked up high into the atmosphere. Doing so would have rapidly cooled it and that, as a result, is how it is theorised to be capable of flash freezing everything it touches in an instant.”

The faces of those gathered around the TV, at least those that are in the frame of the camera, twist with shock and disbelief. Several, including Brenna, are left with their jaws hanging and their mouths agape as a result of what they have just heard relayed to them.

“The advice is, everyone should get to shelter as soon as possible and do everything you can to stay warm. We are being told this will pass. Repeat, everyone should get to shelter immediately and do whatever is necessary to keep warm.” Is the advice/warning that the news reporter gives from behind her oversized and curved pine coloured desk as she stares directly into the studio camera with her hazel coloured eyes.

“This cannot be real.” Travis mutters aloud as many of the people who had been gathered around race out of shot, evidently fleeing for their lives to follow the advice they have been given. Some scream, shout and curse as they withdraw.

Meanwhile, Brenna spins round so that she is face-to-face with Travis. The camera pointed up at her from a little lower than chest height as it records.

“We have to go Travis.” The diminutive long brown haired woman states bluntly.

But she gets no reply from Travis, who can be heard doing nothing other than breathing heavily and audibly over the cameras microphone.

That is why Brenna grabs a hold of Travis’ shoulders and shakes him twice while declaring, “Travis, did you hear me? We need to get going, now!”

Suddenly Brenna catches sight of the camera, her expression changes and turns dark. Then she queries, “Are you recording this?”

“Yeah.” Travis mutters without thinking. His voice is distant as though his mind is still elsewhere, working on something that it has deemed is more important.

“What the fuck do you mean yeah? Why are you recording this?” Brenna explodes angrily. Her face twisting with rage as her hands start to ball up in the space between her and Travis. They are indications of her frustration.

“I don’t’…” Travis begins but trails off never to finish his statement. He isn’t focused on Brenna that much is clear, even if he isn’t in the cameras frame to prove it. Not that it needs proving as he soon asks, “Do you hear that?”

“How can you be so stupid? You’ve been recording all this time, haven’t you? I don’t get it! I just don’t fucking get it! Why is the first thing that enters your fucking head, to film this?” Brenna says continuing to rage. She hasn’t heard Travis’ questions as she instead bares her teeth in anger.

Then Brenna hears a sound, it’s the sound that Travis had questioned her about. The same sound that the cameras microphone has picked up on. It is unmistakable and why the recording quickly ends up blurred and shaky as both Travis and Brenna launch into a run, as fast as their legs will allow.

They cross the street. Brenna is still in shot, somehow. And then they dive down an alley. They don’t explain why but it seems that they hope the freezing blast will be unable to venture down the narrow opening after them. But, it does and Travis spins the camera to show the icy funnel of air wrapping its freezing tendrils over everything it touches.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!” Travis can be heard spitting even as they burst from the narrow alley and right through a wide open doorway on the far side of yet another seemingly empty and lifeless street.

Travis spins the camera again. This time so it is pointed forward once more, and the structure they have just burst into is revealed to be a warehouse unit. There’s no one about and by the looks of things everything was abandoned mid-way through whatever task the workers had been in the process of performing.

By the looks of things that task was preparation involving a bunch of packing crates that are neatly piled to the right of the cameras frame.

“Travis, over here.” Brenna calls from out of shot.

“What? Brenna this is not the time. We need to get out of here.” Travis returns as he spins about, the cameras image becoming blurred as he does.

“I found us a ride.” Brenna replies succinctly.

“Oh thank…” Travis says as he turns, and then rounds some tightly packed shelves only for the ride to come into view and revealed to be a truck.

“Please tell me you’re joking.” Travis exclaims having laid eyes on the vehicle in question.

“Would you rather stay here and wait to be turned into a Popsicle or drive?” Brenna retorts sharply as she stares toward the camera lens.

“I can’t drive that!” Travis exclaims with a mixture of disbelief and frustration.

“Would you rather the woman without a licence try?” Brenna fires back in response with a testy bark.

“Fuck.” Travis exclaims in the moments before he rushes the rest of the short way over to the truck before hastily ripping the door open and then hauling himself up and into the cab.

The cameras image goes blurry and shaky again as a result, with only the sound of the slamming drivers’ door of the truck heard before the camera is dumped, unceremoniously, onto the dashboard.

As a result of the cameras abandonment, the scene is skewed, but now that the frantic shaking has stopped the image has at least manage to stabilise.

Still, Travis is out of shot. Only the very edge of his right arm clad in the green sleeve is visible. Though, Brenna soon appears back in the frame now that she has clambered her way into the cab of the truck and slammed the passenger door closed behind her.

“Sure you can do this?” Brenna asks worried.

“Nope.” Travis replies before the engine chokes several times and then rumbles to life.

“Oh thank…” Travis mutters in relief before trailing off as he tries to force the truck into gear.

His first attempt is met with a grinding sound and a volley of expletives that leave Brenna to ask, “We really need to get going.”

“I know. I know. Don’t rush me.” Travis returns hastily.

“Hate to break it to you but rushing is exactly what we need right now.” Brenna replies as Travis continues to curse before on what is his fifth attempt there is no crunching sound.

“Yes!” Travis explodes with joy because he’s achieved getting the truck into gear.

However, he wastes no more time, which is why a couple seconds later the truck begins to move as evidenced by the faint jiggle of the image.

The camera on the dash then begins to bounce and slide back and forth slightly as the truck accelerates and the light levels around them shift to reveal glimpses of a blue sky alongside some thick white clouds.

“Can’t this thing go any faster?” Brenna queries while in full view of the camera.

She is sat on the bench seat with her head turned to her left. She has to be looking at Travis and he responds swiftly with, “This thing was never designed for speed Brenna.”

All of a sudden the familiar and terrifying sound of rushing air returns. Brenna whips round, her head disappearing from view as she leans across to the far side of the passenger side and the front bench seat that she is sat upon. She’s trying to see where the whooshing air might be coming from, but Travis already knows the answer and declares with relative calm, “It’s behind and heading right for us.”

“Fuck!” Brenna spits as she whips back round to search for anything that might be able to aid them.

Her eyes scan the dashboard in front of her as she frantically searches for something, anything, that they might be able to use for survival. Suddenly, her eyes stop their desperate scanning and linger.

“Heaters, we can use the heaters. Just like the news said.” Brenna exclaims desperately.

“It’s worth a try.” Travis utters in the moments before a loud blast of air, this time from the heaters, fills the air.

Brenna rapidly goes about re-adjusting the angle of the vents in the centre and on the passenger side so that they are pointed as far left as they are able to go.

Following that, Brenna huddles up as close to Travis as she can. As a result she is now on the left side of the cameras frame as it continues to bounce and jiggle about as the truck hurtles down the street.

“Think it’ll be enough?” Travis asks.

“I don’t know. I hope so.” Brenna offers nervously in reply as the heaters belch hot air.

“Oh shit!” Travis blurts before long.

“What? What is it?” Brenna spits in panicked reply.

“There’s a turn up ahead.” Travis informs.

“So? Trucks can turn.” The diminutive woman says as she raises her head just in time to see why it’s a problem. And just as the recognition of the issue spreads across her face Travis advises, “Cause the road is flash frozen. It’s a sheet of ice. I can’t slow for the turn.”

“What do you need me to do?” Brenna asks with an expression of defiance having replaced the previous visage of wide-eyed terror.

“Help me turn the wheel. It’s the only way.” Travis orders with a bark.

Brenna complies without hesitation and grabs a hold of the wheel and pulls with all the strength she can muster. The hope is that if they can turn just enough then they’ll be able to make the right hand turn ahead.

Brenna’s face is deeply wrinkled with effort as she screams and fights with Travis against the steering wheel.

Unfortunately, the truck has no grip and so begins to drift, violently. As a result the truck viciously pivots ninety degrees right sending the camera off the dash and onto the floor of the truck. Yet somehow the camera lands in such a way that the lens is still pointed up while it continues to record the events in perfect clarity.

At the moment the view is of the headlining of the truck’s cab, still a slither of Travis’ arm and a good amount of Brenna’s body as she continues to fight the steering wheel which now demands to spin in opposite lock to the direction in which it is being hauled.

“We can’t hold it!” Travis screams at the top of his lungs as the whooshing sound of air outside the cab threatens to drown him out.

Then the wheel, what little of it is in the shot, is wrenched violently out of Travis and Brenna’s hands. Brenna manages to let go, but Travis howls in agony while a pair of sickening snaps, that are his wrists being shattered as a result of the steering wheel being torn from his grasp and him having held on for a second longer than he should have, can he heard.

“It’s right on us!” Brenna screams looking over her shoulder and out through the passenger window.

Then the blast of freezing cold icy air hits them. The heaters do nothing and the entire interior of the truck’s cab, along with much of the exterior, is flash frozen. Brenna is instantly turned to a block of ice, and it can be assumed Travis suffered much the same fate. Yet, the camera survives for a few further seconds before there is a loud bang and the whole scene plunges into darkness.

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