“This is the final notice.
Beginning this summer the use of social media will cost money. Tomorrow at 6pm social media will require payment, this is by law. If you send this string to 18 different contacts your icon will turn blue and social media use will be free for you.
This message is to inform all our users that our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking you to help us solve this problem.
We require our active users to forward this message to each of the people on their contact list to confirm our active users. If you do not send this message to all your contacts, there will be a phonapocalypse as we will take it that your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours.
Your phone will remain inactive with the consequence of losing all your contacts, data and your phone operating system becoming defective. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.”
10 days later…
Field news reporter: There have been reports of digital devices all across the country going off and restarting repeatedly. It is believed by many members if the community that the phones, tablets, laptops and all digital communication devices have been infected with a mutated pink network software.
Member of the public: It is pink and it is furious! It makes phones and computers go mad. My advice to everyone that owns any of these devices, drench them in water and then run far far away, do not look back. It lives!
News reporter: It has now come to be known across the country as ‘The Pink’ because of its tendency to turn corrupted device screens a hot pink colour. The pink starts off as a tiny dot at the centre of the screen that rapidly spreads to the entire device. Mankind is in a panic as it becomes apparent that The Pink emits some sort of electromagnetic field that renders all electronic and mechanical devices useless when it strikes.
Member of the public 2: I remember it started with one of those “send to all your contacts or the world will end” messages. I ignored it as usual, I take it the rest of the country ignored it too. Looks like the warning should have been heeded this time.
News reporter: There has been no response from any of the telecommunication providers. Meanwhile, it is alleged that the cure is putting up one’s own face as the social media profile picture and circling it. This supposedly only works before the devices get fully defective. It is not clear as to how the circling of display pictures impedes the progression of the pink but it seems too late as the pink has gotten to most devices by now –
The reporter screamed and ducked as a helicopter fell out of the sky and crushed into a nearby truck.
Khai ran as fast as she could away from the scene, with a loaf of bread tucked under her arm. She still couldn’t believe how quickly civilisation had deteriorated, within days of The Pink attack, there had been riots, looting and mass hysteria like she’d never seen before.
The country was a wasteland; everyone looked out only for themselves and their loved ones.
All this because of a stupid phone, she thought bitterly as she ran up the stairs to her family’s flat. It was only her, her young brother, their cousin and their next door neighbour Andrew in the flat.
Andrew had lost his entire family when the car they were in crashed into an electric pole after one of the rioters threw a flaming glass bottle into their moving vehicle, Andrew had left the car moments earlier. He took responsibility of the three teenagers as a coping mechanism.
They kept the doors barricaded, Khai had to use the secret code knocking system to be let in. Their apartment was free of any electronic devices. Being the oldest of the three children, Khai had taken it upon herself to go get them something other than bland porridge without salt or sugar. Andrew had imposed strict rules against going outside, only he did once or twice since putting the rule in place. He was asleep when she went out. He wasn’t when she got back.
Sit down, was the first thing Andrew said to her. A command. He was leaning against the wall, from how awful he looked, Khai judged that his sleep wasn’t very restful.
I trust you know what I am going to say, he started. Khai nodded. You knew yet you went ahead and did it anyway…
Khai thought it wise to not say a thing.
Andrew sighed, walked to a chair and sat down.
He was quiet for what felt like an eternity to Khai.
It’s getting stranger out there, he said finally. Heard on the radio that there is a dark cloud with a mind of its own heading our way, it’s black, weirdly enough. They say it may have come about as a result of the fumes and smoke from the infected devices that has evaporated infecting the clouds. Word is that it tends to settle on houses, cars, people, disorientating them, driving them mad. When in cars, the only hope is to try and out speed the cloud.
Do you actually believe that, Khai asked, she still couldn’t find it within herself to look at him. Again, Andrew sighed. Khai had always kind of had a crush on him, he was handsome and a devoted husband and father.
I don’t know, Andrew said, there is so much nonsense and speculation out there lately. It’s what I’m trying to protect you kids from. I know, I’m not family but we need this, all of us, we need to look out for each other and maintain some sort of normalcy. I know staying cooped inside here doesn’t come across as normal to you but compared to what’s out there, and I’m sure you can attest to this, this is as sane and normal as the world can get right now.
Bread huh? I never really liked it much. Promise me you won’t do this again. Khai nodded. I need to hear it, said Andrew. I promise, Khai said quietly. Andrew got up, walked back to his radio and turned it on.
None of them could understand why it-the radio- was unaffected by The Pink but they kept it right on the edge of the bath tub which they had filled with water, everyone was instructed to tip it into the water if it showed any sign of infection.
It was on old fashioned radio, from the early nineties, it only took audio tapes, much to the amazement of the two teenagers, and the younger one seemed impressed with it. It had funny psychedelic lights on its speakers when it was on, they slowly changed colour with every few seconds that passed. Green, yellow, orange, red, blue then green again, with one colour morphing into the next. It was Andrew’s first buy from his first job, he was so proud of his radio that it was the only thing he took with him from his house. Khai expected he’d want pictures of his family, perhaps it was too painful for him, she thought.
Andrew turned the knob on the radio so as to get a clearer singal and then listened intently. It was like he was in a trance in moments like these. It was all he seemed to do, sit, listen to the radio and warn the younger ones of the impending danger. Even though Khai felt it was up to her to take care of everyone, she and everyone else respected Andrew as the adult and for her show of rebellion, no matter how noble her intentions, she felt deeply remorseful.
With a heart heavy with guilt, Khai walked to the kitchen. The younger children stood up when Khai walked in. She got the bread out and placed it on the kitchen table. How -her brother begun but stopped when he saw her staring out the window with a vacant expression. Instead, he went to the bread and started sectioning it up for everyone.
Was it bad out there, Khai’s cousin Donny asked. He was a boy of 9, very active and curious; the pink had not changed this. Khai’s brother Lenny hushed him, Khai will tell us when she is ready, he said. It was amazing how responsible he was turning out to be, Khai thought, just a week earlier her brother was a hell raising 14 year old, discovering all sorts of ways to be rebellious and possibly get himself and his friends arrested. She almost felt like she could forgive him for pinching her pocket money. No, said Khai to her brother, it’s ok Lenny.
Yes it was and is pretty bad out there Donny, a helicopter fell out of the sky and crashed into a truck. Seriously, exclaimed Lenny, cool, his eyes all lit up with excitement. Seriously, it really did, Khai continued. But how, Lenny put the bread down as he questioned his sister. I don’t know for sure, came the response, everything is just going cray. Even my weirdest dreams seem sane compared to what’s going on out there. I bet Andrew can tell us, said Donny.
He probably can, it was mad out, there were reporters everywhere, I think I got caught on camera. I wish my hair were done, Khai put her hand through her tangled her as she caught her reflection on the kitchen window. She sighed then took a small bag out of her coat pocket. I also brought back some sugar. I nearly lost an eye for it so please make it last, she said to her smiling relatives.
Khai felt the sun on her face as she looked up out of the car window to the olive green and brown tree leaves of fall. She could hear her mother and father talking as Lenny slept beside her. They had driven for hours. Her father loved taking his family along with him on business trips. She wasn’t sure what city they were in and she could hardly wait until they got to the hotel. She didn’t like long drives, didn’t have the patience for it. She closed her eyes hoping that when she next opened them, they would have reached their destination.
Khai opened her eyes with a start, she heard a scream. It was dark in the room. She looked over at Donny and Lenny, they were up too and so was Andrew. He was on the chair, seated but alert. He put a finger to his lips, a motion that indicated he wanted them to be quiet. The scream came again, this time it was followed by banging at the door.
“Let me in please”, the voice said urgently.
“Please” The woman pleaded, “They are going to hurt me. Let me in. Please!” It went on like that for a few minutes, and then the screaming woman stopped. They have probably decided to go elsewhere, Andrew said after a sufficient amount of time had passed to ensure that the people outside had left.
Ok, back to sleep now. It’s alright. I’ll keep watch. Go on, Andrew urged the younger ones.
The trick had become popular in the past few days. A group of robbers would kidnap a young woman, scare and threaten her, causing her to bang on people’s doors asking, genuinely, for help. But all those that would let her in would be robbed of their food and other essentials. The only good thing about them was that despite all their threats, they had never become violent. No one wished to push them to the point where they might have to be violent.
Khai pulled her legs up to her chest as she closed her eyes, hoping to get her dream -which was really a memory- back.
The shock of being shaken out of sleep gripped Khai, who woke to find a panicked Andrew waking Lenny and Donny the same way. I tried to let you sleep as long as I could but it can’t be avoided, we need to leave, now! The cloud is headed this way, carry some bread from yesterday and let’s go. Come on! He lifted Donny from their mattress.
With Donny on his back, Andrew headed to the door and started bringing down the baricade. Lenny rushed to help as Khai made her way to the kitchen to get some food. She got everything she could find and comfortably carry that they could eat without cooking. Khai! Andrew called out. We have to go!
Khai run out to them and as she went through the door Andrew held open for her, he whispered in her ear-the cloud is bringing up ghosts of the dead, allegedly. Let’s go, he motioned to Lenny as he lead the way out. For a moment Khai stood rooted to the spot. WHAT?! She screamed in shock.
Lenny ran back and pulled her, we need to hurry he said urgently. What is it? Khai shook her head and ran with him. You’ll be fine, I’ll protect you, he said. Khai couldn’t help but smile at that.
When they got out into the street, it looked like a war zone. People were running in all directions except one, she looked there and beheld the cloud. It was dark and huge, menacingly hovering ever closer to the city. She noticed objects were flying up to it, phones, computers, TVs, all electronic and mechanical devices smaller than a medium sized fridge.
Everything seemed to go in slow motion as people looked up at it and run, in the confusion Khai lost grip of Lenny’s hand and found herself falling. My God, she thought, is this it? Is this how it all ends? Kudos on the effects but it is all pretty sudden, I’m not ready. She laid there on the ground, people tripping over her, some even stepping on her. She closed her eyes and let her mind wonder back to the memory of the last time she saw her parents, back to that day, on that business trip.
She and Lenny had to go back home after a week because school was opening. Her parents had to stay on the trip as they were close to striking a huge deal. They made arrangements for the children’s grandmother to care for them while they were out. It was grandma who came with Donny. She went out before the children woke the day ‘The Pink’ struck and never came back.
Khai felt a strong arm lift her to her feet, she was fully expecting it to be her father, and instead she beheld Andrew, with Donny still on his back. Lenny got hold of her hand again. Khai felt tears prick her eyes, you’re hurt, said Lenny. She looked down and saw that she had scraped her knee and her hands when she held them out in order to break her fall, but that is not why she cried. Lenny put his arm around her waist to help her walk, she really could walk unaided but tears chocked her when she tried to talk.
They led her to a car, Khai had no idea how they had found it but was glad for it anyway. Where are we going, asked Donny. We need to get away from that, and the water. Andrew proceeded to drive like a maniac when he didn’t have to avoid the hordes of panicking people. Water, Khai repeated. Dam broke, Lenny said.
God! Could this day get worse? Please don’t say that, said Andrew. We don’t want to give whatever it is that’s causing this any brilliant ideas on how to make things even more exciting than they are. Andrew drove them to the tallest building in the city, it was abandoned. Why, thought Khai as they ran out of the car. Andrew knelt with his back toward Donny as an indication to the boy to get on his back.
Khai’s thought was answered when Lenny asked where all the people were. They are scared of the place, they say it is where the “ghosts” were seen to be coming from.
This response did not sit well with Donny, who gave an earth shuttering scream at the top of his lungs, sending a chill down everyone’s backs and struggled his way off of Andrew’s back ignoring all words or reassurance, reason or comfort.
How such a scrawny kid could give such forceful kicks was a marvel. He finally kicked his way to the ground, out of Andrew, Khai and Lenny’s grip and took off into the street. Even with water almost reaching his thighs, the kid ran like a champion. Go up to the furthest floor, I’ll get Donny and we’ll catch up, said Andrew as he ran off.
The water rose with increasing force. They run up the stairs as fast as their legs could carry them. When they got to the last floor they sat down in a cupboard and waited, they weren’t sure what for, death perhaps. Khai couldn’t see any other way out from where they were.
Maybe it isn’t all that bad, Khai thought. No more struggles, no more pain. She hugged her brother and held on tightly. And they waited…
It seems for hours, they waited.
Are we dead yet, asked Lenny. Khai wasn’t sure. She got up to see what was happening.
She put a foot down and it touched water, she retreated, shocked by how much the feeling threw her off, she knew there was a flood. At the back of her mind she kept thinking the power could come back on. Water and electricity is not a very life supporting match.
Slowly she put her foot back down, and followed with the other. Every step she took she found herself praying for her life, until she got to the window.
It wasn’t rising anymore, the water…
The sun was out, she realised that she hadn’t noticed this whole time that the sun had been out. All she could think was how pretty it all looked. It reminded her of pictures of the ocean, the ocean she had so badly wanted to see. And suddenly felt regret for never learning to swim.
Khai felt a hand wrap around her arm, she looked back at Lenny, surprised that she hadn’t heard him waddle through the water to get to her. We are alive, he said.
Yes we are. We’ve lost nearly everything but we are alive and we have each other.
Lenny shifted his weight on his feet. He wondered if Andrew and Donny had made it. He hoped they had. What happens now?
We can only make the best with the hand that life deals us. At least we have life. Remember what grandma used to say? Where there is life and water, there is hope. Khai stood quiet, letting her own words sink in, she meant them mostly for herself.
I wish the darn phones were not the evil un-dead so I could at least take a picture, she said finally.
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