It was a routine Tuesday night. One daughter was in the shower. One was on her phone in the living room. My wife was cooking pasta, and I was wrapping up work for the day.

I no sooner shut the lid of my computer, when from out of the bathroom where Sophie was showering and listening to music came a blaring siren.

Juliet ran in from the living room holding her phone, which was also now a blaring siren.

“WHAT’S GOING ON?” she yelled.

Then the sirens stopped, followed by deafening silence, and then an automated recording:


A few more seconds of silence as we stood staring at Juliet’s iPhone on the counter. Beth, stirring pasta, glanced over at me with a look that asked whether I was concerned.

I was.

“My fellow Americans,” there was a long pause before he continued, “what I’m about to share with you might seem unbelievable. But I assure you that it’s true.”

My heart raced.

“Roughly ten minutes ago, NORAD satellites detected the launch of hundreds of nuclear missiles from inside of Russia. More are being launched from Russian naval vessels in oceans across the world as we speak.”

We sucked the air out of the room like freedivers before the plunge.

He continued, “Our data indicates that the target for all of these warheads is the continental United States.”

Beth dropped the spoon and her hand flew to her mouth.

Sophie emerged from the bathroom holding her phone, with a towel wrapped around her torso. Jaw agape.

I turned back to the device delivering the dire message.

“The first of the missiles should be reentering the atmosphere soon.”

There was another long, terrible pause.

President Robles continued, “No one will be spared.”

Beth began to cry.


I looked up at her and slowly shook my head.

“There’s nothing any of us can do at this point. We do not know why this tragedy is upon us, as the Russians have yet to release a statement,” the President said.

I ran over to the television. Robles was in the Oval Office. He wore a button down shirt with no tie. He was unshaven. His eyes more serious than usual.

“Although the epicenter of this devastating event will be North America, experts I’ve consulted with said that it will have a global effect. Possibly even the extermination of our species. And so that’s why, as a human being, I have made the executive decision not to retaliate, and have urged our allies to follow suit. Additionally, I have ordered our military to stand down at posts around the world. Now is not the time for revenge, but for goodbyes.”

Fire trucks raced past our house. Otherwise, it was deathly still.

“At best, we all have about an hour to say goodbyes to our loved ones. Some of us sooner than that.”

He then removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and through tears focused on the camera and said, “May God bless us all.” Then the feed died.

After a second, Jeopardy was on. It was Double Jeopardy and Kip was ahead by $5,000. I switched it over to CNN to see whether what we’d just witnessed was real, or just some crazy dream.

Wolf Blitzer was center-screen. He was holding his hand to his ear. “I’m getting some …” he said. “Ok, we have word now that the first of the Russian missiles will be entering west coast airspace within twenty minutes. Hold on … there’s new information coming in …” Wolf was reporting as though this was a hostage situation at a mall in Milwaukee and for a second I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. That The Situation Room would give us some tips on how to survive this thing.

But then the lights went out on Wolf as scuttling and screaming filled the audio. A moment later, a commercial for erectile dysfunction played. I turned off the television.

Beth and the girls entered the living room with red eyes. “What do we do?” my wife asked, chin trembling.

I went to the front door and stepped outside. Neighbors had emerged from their homes, shrugging  and looking to the sky as they spoke to each other. Cars began to speed along our quiet street. Tires squealed. Sirens raged. And from somewhere in the distance a woman shouted, “IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?” over and over like a dreamer trying to wake.

I went back inside the house and threw open the laptop. Signing on to Twitter, it was clear in an instant that this really was happening. I closed the computer and returned to the living room where the three people I loved most were in an embrace on the couch. I joined them.

Less than an hour, I thought.

“Should we go into the basement?” Beth asked.

“I don’t think it will matter.” I said.

“Then what do we do?”

I didn’t have an answer.

“Exactly what we’re doing now,” Sophie said.

Outside the house the rise of chaos took hold. Sirens, car crashes, horns, and screams swirled around our cocoon.

Juliet got up and walked over to the television. She grabbed a remote and turned on the Apple TV. “I’d like to look at some pictures.” she said.

For the next ten minutes we stared into the monitor that hung on our living room wall and rifled through photographs of trips we’d taken, sports we played, and innocent moments that will soon cease to exist.

“Let’s go outside,” I said, not really thinking. “It’s a beautiful night.”

We laid down on the cool grass of our backyard and held hands. No one spoke.

“We need music,” Sophie said. Then she ran inside to get her phone.

“Hurry, Soph,” Juliet cried out.

“I just … can’t believe this,” Beth said.

When she returned, Sophie didn’t ask what we should listen to as the world comes to an end. She put the phone on the grass between us and after a few seconds … there was the sound of a heartbeat.

Dark Side of the Moon. I’d raised them right.

“I love you,” I said as we stared into the starry sky.

About halfway through the album, a gunshot rang out–startling us from our trance.

A moment later, another. Then another.

“Should we go back inside?” Beth asked.

“What for?” Juliet replied.

What for indeed. Besides, the way I figured it, those shots weren’t random. Maybe it was a father with small children he’d tucked into bed earlier who he couldn’t bear see burn.

Or maybe it was the sound of suicide.

But no one was out hunting humans this night. Except the Russians. En masse.

Church bells rose in the distance.

Any moment.

As the last song on the album started to play, I’d come to terms with what was happening.

I felt lucky. Grateful for the peace.

All that you touch

And all that you see

All that you taste

All you feel


All that you love

All that you hate

All you distrust

All you save

More gunshots.

All that you give

All that you deal

All that you buy

beg, borrow, or steal

From high above, a light appeared. It was no star.

All you create

All you destroy

The light grew brighter as it crossed the sky in an arc from west to east.

All that you do

All that you say

All that you eat

Everyone you meet

Another light from the west. Brighter than the first. And moving fast.

All that you slight

everyone you fight

All that is now

All that is gone

The ground started to tremble. I took a deep breath.


All that’s to come

And everything under the sun is in tune

But the sun is eclipsed by the moon


Holding hands.

A brilliant flash.

story of an hour


Jim Mitchem

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The Truth About Brainstorming

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.