Tom stepped outside, took a breath of cool air, and squinted at the sun. Not yet noon, too early for anything but coffee. He stretched, glad there were no cars driving by to hurt his head with their noise, or his lungs with their exhaust. He turned his head to the right, toward his usual café. A roar, a series of rapid fire gunshots so close they had to be inside his head, flung him forward.
Tom’s knees crashed to the sidewalk and his eyes squeezed shut. The ground shook and he pitched forward. Tom lay face down, frozen as the ground shuddered. The motion lasted only a few seconds, and he sat up, unwilling to look behind him. The gunshots were replaced by an amplified hiss. Then silence.
Tom forced himself to his feet, afraid of what might lie back there. He turned his head.
His apartment building was gone. The doorway he had walked through a minute before no longer existed, four floors of dwellings now a single layer of rubble. No sign of what caused the destruction. People had to be in there. Tom was the last to get out.
He sighed and swore. He should worry about his neighbors but he didn’t. He was lucky to be alive. The whole damn building came down, and he’d been in it. He bent forward, rested his hands on his knees. This didn’t make sense, the rest of the block looked fine. It wasn’t an earthquake. It was like the world was out to get whoever happened to be in his building. If he’d stayed inside a minute longer, he’d have been one of them.
Tom turned from the place that no longer existed, the place he used to live. He smiled grimly, felt the air on his teeth and brought his lips together fast. He’d start making phone calls after coffee, arrange a place or places to stay. He wouldn’t return to his night job. He no longer had the things he’d needed money for. He no longer wanted them.
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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories