Without warning, the world ended in fire.
Or, at least, there was no warning for my people.
Mother correcting my brother's penmanship before school. Father ordering me to get a haunch of beef from the refrigerator to prepare for the lunch rush.
The lights go out. The ground bucks and waves. Massive slabs of meat buffet me as I try to dodge the barbed hooks clanging around me.
Even after the earth settles, the electricity does not return. When I finally find the door, it does not give. I have no way to tell how much time passes, how much time I spend screaming, pounding at the door. No way to tell how much of the fluid on my hands is blood or tears or excretion, as the smells combine with the rotting carcasses surrounding me.
“You were one of the lucky ones,” I am told over and over by rescuers, by doctors, by other survivors.
I do not feel lucky. How can such an endless nightmare be lucky? Almost nothing is left standing. Ashen remains blend into the rubble.
The emperor will not let this cowardly strike on innocents go unpunished. He will rain an answering fire on our enemies.
I do my part. The Red Cross nurses, foreign and incomprehensible, smile as I sprinkle the oleander blossoms on their desk and lay out the meager feast I have concocted from their rations. They will be the first to burn, from the inside out.