This story is by Karen Crawford and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
The alarm clock on her phone goes off, and Carol is on autopilot.
Make some coffee.
Feed the cat.
Hop on the treadmill? Maybe tomorrow. She thought.
Take the subway to work.
“Just another ordinary day, in an ordinary life, of an ordinary woman.” She said out loud to no one in particular.
Carol was a loner, with an entry-level job at the Weather Channel. She had hoped to eventually advance and make use of her degree in atmospheric science, but that was five years ago. Her dream of becoming a climatologist was quickly slipping away.
The streets were crowded that morning. In NYC everyone walks fast and with a purpose. For Carol navigating through the human traffic jam that was rush hour was no easy task. She was a block from her office when something caught her eye. Shimmering under the glare of the sun stood a tall, slender woman. Completely still. Oblivious to the frenzied flow of foot traffic around her. She stared intensely at Carol. Her long black hair, a stark contrast to the pale color of her skin. Her velvet coat, a dark blood red. How unusual Carol thought. Who wears a coat in the dead of Summer? The woman was haunting and beautiful. A vision. They locked eyes as everything around them fell quiet.
Then, out of the silence, she heard a woman’s voice.
“Grab the baby and RUN!”
Carol froze. Who said that?
At that moment a succession of gunshots rang out. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.
Panic erupted. A stampede of terrified pedestrians started running. The mysterious woman remained motionless as the crowd charged right through her… as if she weren’t there.
Confused, Carol tried to grasp the situation. What just happened? Am I the only one who can see her?
As if on cue, a stroller rolled directly in front of her and fell on its’ side. A baby’s hand hit the sidewalk, and it immediately started crying.
People were screaming and running and falling as bullets peppered the crowd. The popping sound grew louder as Carol quickly scooped up the baby and started to run.
Terror-stricken, Carol practically levitated over bodies that had fallen in her path. The mysterious woman appeared to be guiding her through the maze of mass hysteria, out of harm’s way. Gasping for breath, she finally stopped running when she heard the sounds of sirens in the distance. The baby, oblivious to the chaos, gazed up at her calmly, as Carol held her tightly. That’s when she noticed its’ eyes were different colors. One brown. One green. How strange, she thought, making a mental note of it. Determined to find the baby’s parents, she quickly made her way back to the sidewalk where the stroller fell.
The streets were cordoned off with first responders already on the scene. It was pure pandemonium. The sickening smell of gunpowder and blood permeated the air. She could hear the sounds of the injured moaning.
“Are you hurt? Is the baby OK?” A paramedic yelled.
Carol nodded numbly “We’re ok.”
Not sure where to go, she approached a police officer who directed her to a holding area where witnesses were gathering.
That’s where a woman ran up to her “My baby! Thank God! My baby!” Overcome with anxiety; Carol reluctantly handed the child over to the sobbing mother. As she did, she noticed blood on the back of the infant’s shirt.
“Oh no, please no…” Carol cried. Breaking down, she crumbled to the ground as the mysterious woman seemed to float towards her.
“Who are you?” she asked weakly. Instinctively, she knew that this woman was not human.
The woman placed her hands over Carols’ eyelids and gently closed them with her fingers.
In rapid-fire succession Carol was barraged by images of what appeared to be news headlines:
• The US pulls out of climate accord. Other nations follow.
• The World simmers in hottest year ever.
• Catastrophic storms annihilate entire cities.
• Water shortages reach alarming levels.
• Global warming fuels spread of deadly diseases.
• Planet Earth is facing certain death.
The woman then showed Carol visions of the future.
Carol becomes a professor of environmental science.
One of her female students generates headlines that all nations must come together to make our planet great again.
Carol sees that the student has different colored eyes. One brown and one green. She realizes it’s the baby as an adult!
The student becomes our first global leader. Elected as president of “The United Countries of the World.”
Carol wakes up in the hospital to the sound of news reports on the television. “6 dead and 30 wounded in terror attack in midtown Manhattan during the morning rush hour. Two gunmen fatally shot.”
Disoriented, the vision of the baby covered in blood assaults her. What happened to the baby? Panicking she tries to get up and feels a horrific radiating pain shooting down her leg. She lets out a yelp and realizes she’s connected to tubes and monitors. Her right arm is in a sling.
She starts shrieking “What about the baby! What happened to the baby?”
A nurse runs in, “Shhh, the baby is ok” she says reassuringly.
Carol is crying, realizing the blood on the baby was hers.
The nurse shows her a newspaper. A picture of Carol clutching the baby graces the cover with a headline that simply says, HERO.
“You’re quite a celebrity… saving her the way you did. Taking two bullets and all. The one to your leg is quite severe. We almost lost you. Don’t know how you ran all that way, it’s almost inconceivable.”
Carol leaned back in her hospital bed, silently thanking the tall, slender woman for saving the baby, her, and, possibly, the world.
Life would never be ordinary again.