No. 162

Cal Rogers was sixteen. All his life he’d heard voices.
As soon as he’d been old enough, he asked his dad if everyone did.
“No, son, you’re special,” his father had told him. “When you were very little, a scientist asked us to help him. He had an idea that, one day, everyone would be able to hear voices all the time. He asked your mom and me if we would let you be the first person to try it out.”
“I need to get to 1292 Trenton Avenue,” said Cal.
“Turn left,” said the voice.
Cal smiled. He liked it when the girl went first.
“What’s your name?” he asked. His daily game.
“After three blocks, turn right on Candlestick Street,” said the voice. “And you know I can’t answer that.”
Cal followed the directions.
“What’s this place again?” he said.
The voice was different this time, one of the men. “It’s for your checkup.”
The man leaned back from the microphone. “It is for his checkup, right?”
Another figure, indistinct in the dark at the back of the room, answered. “That is correct.”
Cal ‘s voice crackled over ceiling-mounted speakers.
“You know, we should probably replace those. They’re almost twenty years old,” said the woman at the front of the room. Then she keyed her button and replied to him.
A hollow rumble filled the hall. A coffee mug vibrated off of a table and smashed on the floor.
Cal could be heard throughout the center.
“Hey, is this an earthquake?”
But nobody could get to their station to answer him. The shaking ended with a heavy hush. Every light flickered and then shut off.
The woman was the first to speak.
“Do we have signal?”
The man hauled himself back into his chair and checked his readouts.
“No,” he told her. “Everything’s cut off. Even emergency power.”
She put her hand over her mouth.
Cal stood up from the sidewalk where he’d fallen.
“Was that an earthquake?” he asked.
There was no answer.
“Guys? Hello? Anybody?”
He tapped the spot behind his ear.
“Are you there?”
Cal started to sweat. He felt goose bumps rise on his arms. He listened to the screams of the people around him, and the snap of the nearby flames, but all he heard was a terrible silence.