Happy Monday, everyone — or a miserable Monday to anyone having an awful day!
It is the start of my writing challenge week, where I will post a new piece of fiction every day until Sunday! If you haven’t given me a prompt yet but want to, you can do so in the comments below or visit my Twitter/Facebook and leave a comment there!
This day’s story is 650 words. Prompt: Sirens.
Let me know what you think about it and, of course, show the love by sharing!
State of Alarm
GARTEK WILL NOW COMMENCE ITS ANNUAL PERSONAL ALARM SYSTEM TEST. BE ADVISED. THIS IS ONLY A TEST.
Across the nation, half the population slowed and stopped what it was doing. It was 2:30p.m. on a warm summer afternoon. In each city, in each town, things were calm and quiet. After the murder cult killed two hundred people three years ago, a large percentage of the population had elected to have Gartek’s innovative personal alarm and GPS tracker installed in their sternums. Gartek guaranteed action within five minutes should the user say their pre-decided panic word and did not answer their phone immediately after.
GARTEK WILL NOW TEST ALL ACTIVE IMPLANTS IN…3…
The murder cult tried to continue operations, but Gartek responded within minutes and were able to track down kidnappers before they could cut the implant out of their victims. Then the Gartek specialists would deal with the cultists with utmost aggression while police looked the other way. It only took a few months for the cult to all but disappear and so, more people got the implant.
Every year, Gartek initiated a test for users to let them know if their implant required replacement. It was seen by the users as a minor inconvenience, like renewing a license or paying a bill. All it took was a single Gartek employee to check that the frequency was correct and press a button. This year, Dennis Waterman had been assigned this job. He was hungover from the wild night he’d had before and stumbled into the office late and with a pounding head. Dennis sat down at the small metal counter in the tiny concrete room and looked at the screen that zipped through graphs, profiles, and metrics. It was all a foreign language to him. On the counter in front of him was the frequency dial and a large red button upon which read “TEST”.
He squinted at the screen and tried to focus on the frequency readout. His head spun. He read a 9 as a 6 and adjusted the dial as he thought was necessary and, with a sigh, pressed the button.
The test started as normal. From the chests of millions of people came a blaring siren, almost exactly like that the city used for tornado drills, but at a safe audible level. At first, the users smiled as they glanced down. All was well, their tech was working, they were safe.
The test continued past the normal thirty seconds.
The siren began to grow louder, rising in a shrill shriek. Across the nation, the cacophony overwhelmed everyone, reaching even the ears of the passengers on planes that flew overhead, echoing upward and ever higher, before dissipating into the cosmos.
Those without the transplants clutched at their ears, trying to protect themselves against the pain of the aural assault. Those with it clutched their chests as their sternums shattered against the powerful vibrations. Their hearts thundered in rebellion against the violation, but inevitably failed.
One by one they fell, some flat on their faces — shattering nose cartilage like fine china on pavement– and some onto their backs — their skulls thudding in a way that should have been audible but wasn’t over the hellish noise.
It took Dennis only three minutes and six seconds to figure out where the override emergency cut-off switch was: under the metal counter and at the right-hand back corner. The majority of Gartek clientele were dead within two minutes and forty-seven seconds. Any survivors died soon after from heart failure.
Those without the implant, but within critical range of a victim, were deaf for the rest of their lives. Those just outside the critical range suffered a range of symptoms; tinnitus, reduced hearing, crippling migraines, and nosebleeds.
The next year, Gartek went bankrupt instead of paying out the lawsuit filed against them by the victims’ families. A new company emerged six months after that, offering high-end, state-of-the-art hearing aids. They were called AudioTek.
Don’t forget, I’ll be posting another story tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled!
x P.L. McMillan