"10:34pm, on the 130th Floor of the Faucet Street Apartment Tower in Downtown Riverbank, HAN-ter01; October 28th, 2034"
On the night of the 28th - a Tuesday - it was cold, wet. Mona stood chilled in the modest back bedroom of her cube apartment and filled a brown suitcase as best she could with clothes. With each armful, she allowed the pile to dip down an inch and spring back up with a light, careless toss that seemed nearly pleasant, while Mona scrambled back to gather up shirts and paper and clothes hangers in a frantic, balled fist.
Outside, time was ticking bright in the clouds over the skyline of buildings blackened into silhouettes.
The other cities were quicker, she thought - went quicker. She had heard from her sister in 03. There was never any real warnings beyond rumors. It was said there was a light light, a tight shriek, a breath inward, a small, arterial pop, and you were gone, just like that, everyone gone. This idea did not sit well, and her ears popped lightly. She began to weep. More clothes.
The crowd in the square was much larger now, and the large displays showed maps and evacuation routes out of the city, the screens beaming bright, hot, purple slants of shifting glow through a sprayed mist on the surge of people too stupid or too stubborn to run. One woman flipped the screens the bird and shouted something awful, another looked skyward at a distinct kind of mindless nothing and wept, many others just watched - millions of glassy eyes in watery awe, a horde of the dead before dying in their city, their shouts and worries mixed together perfectly into a monotone song that, at a distance, could be mistaken for an ocean.
Mona's fingers hurt, were sliced and banged up in places where she wasn't careful. Her hands shook as she snapped the lid shut and grabbed the case. She hefted it with a certain amount of strength and, all at once, all of the lights in her apartment flicked off. Everything was, momentarily, very quiet and far off.
In the distance, the long sounds of losing power danced along down the street as, one by one, the impossibly large, steel brothers of the city switched off with huge, solid, thumping sounds. BUMPF! BUMPF! BUMPF! BUMPF!
Mona stood in her apartment at last, suitcase in hand, the effacement of accommodating light complete, the only light in her life now being that which hung in a shroud above the world, a choking smoke the color of pneumonia. The electric yellow light of weapons flashed distant and little on the horizon. The light, bumping sounds of explosions played a small symphony of lights in the sky.
She looked out the large plate of her front window and noted the crowd now darkened in the absence of power. So far down and confused, the sea rolled away in streams of running, some scared, some just very simply in a hurry.
The suitcase was heavy in her left hand. Her right hand lay still over her mouth, covering the inaudible expression of shock.