This story is by Ilsa Maria McGuire and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Evie sensed early that morning that something was not going to work out well. Instead of staying in and letting her brother or husband make coffee, she slid out of bed without stirring Jim to do it herself. He’d been up extremely late with the other men, making merry with guitars and tequila. While the Mr. Coffee percolated, Evie stepped onto the back deck, and surveyed the skies. Only the birds had begun to stir it was so early.
The day started out magnificently. The weather was slated to be glorious. All the children were healthy and behaving. No one was argumentative or obnoxious. Yet there was a persistent nagging, the kind of nagging that started out as a menacing thought in the back of your mind, but before long was a deafening ring in the ear. Evie had no idea that day would bring devastation and she’d be alone.
The three siblings and their families came together that weekend for their annual summer getaway at the cottage on the bay, as they had for the past 40 years. The little house was located right at the end of the marina, boats docked all along the piers jutting out over the water. Picnic tables and Adirondack chairs scattered the deck outside provided an additional space to the small Cape Cod-style home. Rarely, did anyone commune inside, except on windy rainy days and when the voracious mosquitoes mercilessly dined at dusk and dawn.
The cool feel of a summer breeze in the early morning brought back wonderful memories of vacations past. The unknown excitement of a promising day bursts in little bodies of children, yet Evie felt a dread, which darkened her mood. Was there enough food? Did she forget the propane for the grill? Would someone get hurt on the boat or the jet skis? She stepped back inside to greet the java.
Coffee in hand, Evie navigated through the kitchen and dining area, stepping over the model rocket left behind by the kids the night before. The space program’s return to exploration had reignited their children’s curiosity and they had setup their own ship to launch. She was trying to make her way to the front door and sit on the stoop, a tradition she mimicked from her grandmother and mother. It was comforting to watch the sun finish its ascension on the day. Evie would make her mental list of things to do, which would be a short list since this was to be a vacation, not work. She wanted to enjoy the dawn alone, before the chaos began.
“Is that you, sis?” her brother Robert suddenly called out from the window upstairs. He’d been in the bathroom and would soon come down to join her. She lit her Marlboro and braced for what may be a quiet morning chat with her brother or a discussion on politics or the new controversial space program. That is how intense and varied he could be. When he appeared on the stoop, with his own coffee, he swiped her cigarette away and said, “thanks, sis”.
“You know, I enjoy solitude. I was perfectly happy sitting here alone, watching the sunrise. Isn’t it a bit early for you?” She pulled out another cigarette and lit it with her zippo. “You’re manning the grill for lunch today, right? Please don’t ask Carol to do it, ok?” He shot her a look and exhaled the smoke through his words, “I always work the grill, no worries”. “Hmmmf” was her retort and she got up to stretch. “I have a nagging feeling about today, don’t know what it is though. Maybe it’s gonna’ rain after all” she yawned. His arrival had ruined her solitary opportunity with the sunrise. Well, maybe tomorrow, she thought to herself as she climbed the stairs back inside.
By then his wife Carol had come downstairs and was pouring herself a coffee. Darlene, Evie’s younger sister emerged from the bedroom on the first floor. “Is there any coffee left? I’m in dire need!” she asked. “So, did you guys sleep okay?” Evie asked the two women. “Yeah, but I’m hungover, ugh!” Carol answered. Darlene leaned over the counter and snatched up the Bailey’s Irish Cream. “Glad I brought this! Anyone?” she offered to Evie and Carol. “No thanks!” the two replied in unison. “I’m glad we can spend this time together” Evie says, genuinely. The three enjoyed their coffees on the deck overlooking the bay. Evie’s hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end, yet she was reluctant to ask if they felt anything weird, too.
As the morning unfolded, the children were up, demanding food, and the feeling Evie had all morning was now on the back burner, and simmered. The neighbors were out and about, some folks were out on their boats, though the morning chill had managed to hold on a bit longer. There was some fog on the bay, so Evie shelved her idea of boating early. Thankfully, the kids didn’t bring it up either. The nagging feeling was burning her mind.
After breakfast and kitchen clean up, everyone went back out onto the deck, and the kids began to rinse off their noodles and rafts. Evie decided she needed one more coffee, and Bailey’s was now calling her name. Inside, she remembered she’d left her cigarettes on the dining room table. “Can’t have my coffee without a butt!” she exclaimed to no one in particular, as everyone was outside. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, through the window, she saw a flash, something large, bigger than an airplane, careen from high in the sky and streak toward the marina. Laser-like lights fired down and peppered the small boats docked along the marina. They exploded and shattered into bits and pieces of fiery wood, fiberglass and debris!
Evie was shocked first into stillness, unable to make a move. She stood there as the UFO dove and climbed up again in the sky, blowing up houses and boats with its laser beam. Her family had started to scramble off the dock to the grassy area near the front of the house, out of her sight. Whatever had come from the sky seemed to be a plane or something, but her brain had already told her what she knew in her heart; a UFO had attacked!
There was no way to exit the house from the back, there was so much smoke and fire where the little boats had been. So, next she turned and sprinted through the house to the front door, swung it open and raced out to search for her family. What she found instead looked like a war zone, and no one was in sight.
The echoing screams in Evie’s head were muffled by a ringing in her ears, which was so disorienting she stumbled right down the front steps. There was no way to know how long she had lain there. It was hard to believe she had sat there with her morning coffee and cigarette, all alone not so long ago. The sound of burning debris attempted to draw her focus away from her sole purpose: stand up, find her family.
Attempting to climb over the rubble, she strained to find the screams, make her way to her family. “Jim! Rob! Where are you!” she found her voice was gravelly, as if she’d just woken from a long sleep and hadn’t spoken for many hours. “Jim! Please, where are you?!?” No sound returned to her, except for the sound of burning….it seemed that the distant screaming had ended, frightening her more than the screams themselves had. It was more ominous, she felt deeply alone. Crossing the street to the neighbor’s house, she could see that the house was empty; it sat on two walls, and a partial roof showed the remains of a tree precariously perched on the southern tip.
Turning to scan the area, Evie saw no one. Where had they gone? Her children, Jake and Jessica, were they with Jim? Had Rob gotten them to safety? Carol was a nurse, she could help if anyone was injured. “Darlene! Carol! Fuck!” she yelled out loudly. Evie suddenly found the clarity to focus on one question: Where would they go for safety? Police station? Nearby school or church? The closest supermarket?
Evie decided where she’d search first. It was a close, stable building, a hundred years old, had a generator for power, an abundance of food and alcohol. She was certain that was where Jim and Rob would go. Liam’s Tavern served the community as the local watering hole, respectable enough to let the kids run around in, a place a lady and her friends could sit in together, Sunday after church gatherings, baby showers, funeral repass…Yes, Liam’s would be a great place to hole up. The sun started to go down. She stumbled along for hours and when she arrived, it was empty. She was all alone.