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Baptized By Fire

Prologue to my dystopian novel (Feedback appreciated!!!)

By Brin J.Published 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 13 min read
*Made in Procreate*

My lungs burn with every inhale I take. I don't have a destination, but I know staying put means certain death.

It was after midnight, and I was casually driving along the dark, deserted highway, Lana Del Rey playing in the background, when an unexpected emergency alert went off. I spared a quick glance at my cell, annoyed at the interruption, but then I saw the word 'ATTACK' flash across the screen, and my heart skidded to a halt.

I immediately pulled over to the side of the road to park and switched on the radio. Icy dread flooded my veins as I listened to the broadcast playing on every station, warning us missiles were fast approaching all major cities in North America and for everyone to seek shelter. They were just about to reveal the culprit responsible for the attack when static promptly hijacked all channels.

I was in a state of complete panic and disbelief, unsure if this was a joke or not, given that Halloween was just around the corner. Call it instinct, but something told me that this wasn’t a prank.

While I was making sense of this, I recalled reading an article a few years back about how to survive explosions. The one thing that immediately came to mind was that driving is the worst thing you could do in the event of an explosion. If the blast didn't have enough force to crush you or send your car toppling, the intense light would blind and disorient you, leading to a crash.

A car might as well be a coffin.

Without wasting any time, I abandoned my Jeep on the empty highway, and put as much distance as I could between myself and the incoming threat. Leaving my car out on the open road was the last thing I was worried about.

I'm brought back to the present as I recall my mission to stay alive, and I push my exhausted legs harder, determined to survive. Each step comes with a sense of desperation as I run for dear life, far away from Seattle, and search for a safe place to wait out the attack.

Wait for me to discover it was a stupid prank after all. A nervous laugh slips free at the thought, but my humor quickly dissipates as that nagging feeling in my gut returns to haunt me, insisting this isn't a joke.

Frustration builds as my feet blindly hunt for purpose on the rough terrain, making me lose momentum, and I can't do a thing about it. In this wooded landscape, there's nothing to illuminate my surroundings. Oppressive darkness engulfs me everywhere I turn. And in my panic, I forgot to grab my flashlight.

Even the moon is absent tonight, as if unable to bear witness to the oncoming cataclysm.

I don't blame it. I wish I could do the same.

My skin crawls with a sense of unease. The sound of my feet crunching through the dead leaves and twigs intensifies my fear, but I don't dare stop. There's no telling how long I have before the missiles strike, and every inch could mean the difference between life and death.

Swallowing around a dry throat, I quicken my pace, darting between the trees like I'm being chased by an invisible enemy- except according to the emergency alert, it's not invisible. It's very real.

I cry out as a twig slaps me in the face, nearly getting my eye.

Are you kidding me? As if trying to outrun a bomb isn't enough, I have to worry about being stabbed in the eye?

The only thing that seems to be going in my favor is the early October weather, making the night feel warm. Otherwise, I'd be battling the cold as well.

I decide to slow for a moment to catch my breath and search the darkness for a suitable spot to hide. My sense of direction is completely out of whack, and I have no idea where I am or if I'm even going to find anything.

I press forward anyway, the urgency driving me onward, despite being lost and unable to see. My other senses sharpen to compensate for my lack of sight, and my harsh, unsteady breathing might as well be nails on a chalkboard for how it abuses my poor ear drums. Every jagged inhale stings my throat, leaving a metallic taste on my tongue, yet with each breath comes a whiff of damp soil and wood.

I hate that its peaceful aroma contradicts the advancing dangers, as if trying to lure me into a false sense of calm.

An ominous whistling sound halts my movements, making panic claw at my throat. I instinctively look behind me to locate the source, but all I find are silhouetted trees from the dense forest. I'm about to turn and continue running when something above the treeline catches my eye.

A bright yellow light cascades in an arc among the stars- as if a firework had just begun its descent from the sky. Only it’s larger and plunging rapidly toward the direction of the city, and I know full well the result won't be a beautiful, colorful display… it'll be destructive.

I turn forward to start running again, only to hesitate when I see the same thing in front of me, just slightly farther. Another missile, but this one’s heading for Portland.

I’m caught right in between.

The burning blood in my veins instantly reverses to ice as understanding sinks in. No matter where I go— I’m going to die tonight.

Behind me, I hear the collision from the missile as it desecrates Seattle, followed by the one that takes out Portland. Thick silence chokes the air as I wait with bated breath for the ensuing fallout to unleash. It doesn't take long for the blazing inferno to ignite the forest of trees around me in its fiery orange glow.

I close my eyes to protect them from being blinded, which aids a tear in escaping that trickles down my cheek. My throat gnarls into a tight knot, making it impossible to breathe as I stand there with acceptance, listening to the roars and howls of devastation.

A sudden aggressive quake shakes the ground, catching me off guard, and I tumble. I scrape my hands and knees while trying to catch myself, but fail, and the hard impact I make with the earth knocks the wind out of my lungs. My face is last to connect with the solid dirt surface, bringing a searing pain to my temple and causing my teeth to clatter.

I silently chide myself, knowing I should’ve anticipated the shockwave.

With a groan, I raise my throbbing head. It morphs into a strangled gasp when I glimpse at the two new giant eerie clouds. Their creeping black and orange smoke travel so high in the atmosphere that they make mountains look like hills. Dread builds up inside me when I notice they seem so much closer than they should be, putting my death within reach.

Panic coils tightly around my stomach and I feel my bladder threaten to loosen. It reminds me of a familiar terror I felt not long after my seventeenth birthday. Five years have passed since the event, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

Since then, I've vowed to never let fear paralyze me to the point of becoming defenseless again. It was a harsh lesson I wish I never learned. Except this is different. This isn’t personal. It's an attack on the entire country.

I'm distracted by the memory when the force from the blast reaches me, and the hulking magnitude of it pins me to the ground.

My mind reels over its substantial ferocity.

I’m lucky to have already been lying here from my fall, or the surge of the blast striking me from both directions would’ve likely shredded me apart.

I close my eyes again and bury my face into my arm to avoid smoke and debris from pricking at my corneas. It blares loudly as it breaks through the forest, sounding like a scratchy howl, and scorching my skin with its blazing heat. I don't realize that I’m screaming until I notice a burning in my throat. Closing my mouth, the taste of dirt and ash settles on my tongue, drawing up a gag.

Trapped under the insistent wave, I’m left painfully immobile, at the mercy of annihilation and begging for it to spare me. I’m forced to endure every moment as I wait for it to finish its carnage. It could’ve been seconds, minutes, or even hours before I finally felt the pressure lift and the heat slightly dissipate.

I pry open my eyes, fighting the exhaustion that immediately ensues. Functioning at this point seems like an effort I don’t have the strength for. My limbs are sore, and my skin feels blistered–

A breath of shock punches out of my lungs so forcefully my head spins. I’m alive! Somehow, through the chaos, I survived!

My relief is short-lived as I take in my surroundings. Ash rains down from the sky like cancerous snow. Smoke pervades the air, a noxious fog of demolition.

How’d this happen? There was barely any warning— zero time for us to react. Zero chance of escaping the calamity. If I weren’t currently staring at the overshadowing billows of smoke displaying the horrific razing, I wouldn’t believe that this is even real. It started like any other day.

Earlier tonight, I went out with some college colleagues to a haunted theme park in Seattle for a small reunion. I left our gathering prematurely since I work in the morning, and recently moved to a small town called Chehalis, which is almost two hours away from Seattle, making my drive irritatingly long.

Trembling, I consider how fortunate I am to be far enough away that the blast wasn’t nearly as strong. If I had stayed tonight—

My thoughts are cut short by sudden crippling guilt and nausea swirling in my gut as I register that my friends probably didn't make it.

I gasp for air while tremors rock through my body- unable to breathe as I finally digest that billions of people have just died- only to break into a fitful cough after inhaling ash and smoke, reminding me of where I am.

Panic later. I think to myself. Right now, survive.

Regathering my senses, I focus on trying to move my limbs, but a ringing in my ears, along with what feels like heavy pressure compressing my skull makes every physical attempt laborious. I take a minute to allow my body the rest it desperately needs before deciding to try again. When I push off the ground, I immediately crumple back onto my slick hands and knees, hissing from the sting where a bunch of little cuts have scored across my skin.

A pathetic whimper escapes me as I shift to try again. It’s useless. The muscles in my legs are spasming in protest, demanding a reprieve.

I let out a breath of frustration and just lay there for a second, letting the oxygen flow back into my lungs. Now that the initial shock is wearing off, I notice the extent of my injuries, and my body trembles with a violent shiver.

I know I need to get up. Need to find shelter. But I can't. My eyelids are too heavy, and my head is pounding. The throbbing pulse in my ears is so loud I think I might be going deaf.

With a groan, I reach up and touch my head, surprised to find it slick with a warm liquid. Probably sweat, I rationalize, but when I wipe it away, a sharp pain shoots through my scalp. I suck in a breath through my teeth and shove my hand away.

Sonova- that hurt!

Frowning, I bring my fingers up to look at the moisture and choke on a gasp.

Blood. Lots of it.

I release a shaky exhale.

Oh, no. No, no, no.

If I have a concussion, I’m in deep trouble.

With a newfound determination, I sit up and frantically begin searching my surroundings again, trying to decide which way to go, only to notice hundreds of new glimmers emerging from the sky.

Spine-chilling dread overruns me, numbing my body to the bone.

More bombs?

They must be. Because the chances of a meteor shower happening on the same night as an attack seem unlikely.

I watch the glittering objects as they plummet from the sky in disquieting horror. How am I going to survive this?

All my scattering thoughts are silenced upon noticing a light that stands out from the rest. This one appears as a resplendent floating orb with a languid lavender hue. Unlike the others, it doesn’t leave a trail as it descends from the stars.

I’m only half aware as I watch it that instead of heading toward either of the cities, it glides in my direction. The closer it approaches, the more it eclipses my vision of the raging clouds of smoke that now loom over this part of the world.

“What is that?” I rasp out loud, cringing at my voice as it makes the only sound in the absolute silence of the woods. Now that the menacing quiet has come to my attention, my soul hollows as Earth’s deadened ambiance delineates its decimation.

I shiver, shaking the sad truth that is my reality from my head, and focus on the light instead. It abruptly stops and hovers over the trees directly above me. I gape in wonder at the sight.

Then, it starts to pulse.



The lavender rings that flow from the orb stretch miles and miles in every direction until I lose view of them. With every pulse it emits, the orb slowly descends. As it does, the forest is once again revealed by light.

I gasp, feeling strangely at peace the longer I stare. While lost in its divine essence, I swear I hear a voice in the back of my mind whispering comforting assurances, telling me not to be afraid.

An overpowering scent of smoke breaks me from my daze, and I blink rapidly, snapping out of my momentary stupor.

What on earth is wrong with me?

I can’t be daydreaming at the strange light at a time like this. It might be pretty, but seeing how it appeared while bombs were hitting their targets means it's not an innocent phenomenon.

As I drag my gaze from the light, something in me screams that I won’t be able to outrun my fate. But I have to try. I made a vow a long time ago that I’d fight to live, and I’m honoring that promise, even if the odds are against me.

Holding onto that motivating thought, I will my body to cooperate and force my quivering legs to stand. My muscles weep from enervation. I ignore them and turn in the direction opposite the orb, then take my first shaky step. I grunt in frustration as I fight the urge to collapse again. Thanks to my disorientating head trauma, I’m barely able to function, and the light doesn’t help now that it’s become so bright it's blinding.

By some miracle, I'm able to keep moving despite my critical state. I lift my hands to shield my eyes when out of nowhere I feel a warmth from the light reach my body. It quickly gets hotter, but I force myself to continue, determined to gain as much distance from it as I can.

… except I don’t make it very far.

It happens so fast, the light from the orb completely swallows me, and before I even realize it, I’m trapped within its center. The heat surrounding me intensifies rapidly, setting my blood ablaze and locking my muscles up with rigor mortis.

A sob escapes me. I’m at a disadvantage. There’s no way to outrun light.

For a few brief seconds, I manage to remain upright. Then, like a fish out of water, I collapse to the ground and begin convulsing. Fire sears under my skin like the orb’s intent on invading my body. I bite back my screams until I can no longer bear it, and a blood-curdling shriek pierces the air with such brutality that it feels like even heaven starts to grieve as stars rain down from the sky. My cries are only silenced once the lack of air flowing to my lungs strangles them. I beg for it to smother me too, because suffocation would’ve been kinder than this.

Just like in the past, my pleas go unanswered, and I scream soundlessly as the merciless onslaught continues. It burrows into my body until it suffuses my bones, melding them together, and I’m powerless to flee its infernal assault.

To my extreme horror, the conflagration increases, making it feel like my insides are melting. The substantial pain wrenches any hope I have left of surviving.

Soon, there’ll be nothing left of me.

A shattering departing thought enters my mind while I incinerate, slowly dying on the forest floor in the worst imaginable way…

I’m all alone.

Fight. Live.

I choke on a sob at the familiar urging words and cling to them like a lifeline until oblivion finally consumes me.


Wow. This story has been a intense journey for me, starting it back in Thanksgiving 2021, and watching how it's grown since then. It wasn't even meant to be a book... The plot was inspired by a dream I had for 8 years that came and went. It wanted me to write it down, and I eventually did, giving into its demands. Then, I gave it life by including characters, giving them a purpose, and it took shape with each chapter I constructed.

It wasn't meant to be a novel. I wasn't meant to be a writer. But this story, this specific chapter, forged me as much as I forged it. I'm proud of this book, but I'm also a mess because of it.

That said, I'd appreciate any constructive feedback. If it's not too dark, eventually, I hope to publish it.

NovelFictionFeedback RequestedDraftCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Brin J.

I have a few stories and poems inside me that I want to share. Maybe, if I'm lucky, they'll reach people who'll enjoy them. 📖

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Comments (6)

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  • Test4 months ago

    A compelling and well-crafted piece that successfully engages the with its suspenseful narrative and evocative writing. Good luck with your writing journey, and I hope you continue to develop and share your work!

  • I'm not someone to rely on for feedback or constructive criticism, so sorryyyyy! But I freaking enjoyed this so much! I admire her will to survive. If I were her, I'd just happily drop dead, lol! Looking forward to see this being published into a book!

  • One thing I would recommend is looking a little more closely at the impact of nuclear detonations. Doing a quick Google search it appears that the largest weapon in the US arsenal is carried by bombers & is 1.2 megatons. Temporary light blindness on a clear night would be between 50-60 miles. Survivable air pressure could be as close as 13 miles, while 3rd degree burns are likely within 5 miles. Portland & Seattle are 173 miles apart which makes it unlikely you would experience immediate dramatic impacts from either if you're equidistant (86.5 miles from each). It's more likely you would experience the most dramatic effects from whichever you were closer, & would probably need to be significantly closer to experience the kind of things you describe. (This, of course, is based upon very cursory research on my part. If you have better info already, ignore anything I say, lol.) Of course, if another power has larger weapons that could affect things greatly. The only other thing I noticed (& I'm not sure what I'd do about it), is the frequency with which you return to that determination to survive right after wishing you'd just die. It felt a bit repetitive upon a quick first reading & like it could use a little editing, especially since it seems likely to be a recurring theme in subsequent chapters as you haven't told us what the traumatic experience that generated this resolve was. It feels as though it should be building toward its complete revelation rather than simply being repeated. Those are the only two things that come to mind for me. The story itself is pretty compelling, all the more so understanding that it's based upon a recurring dream you've been having for years. I look forward to seeing what you do with this. (Especially as concerns this orb.) BTW, wasn't meant to be a novel nor meant to be a writer--you could have fooled me. You have an incredible talent, Brin, evident not only in this but in everything I've ever read of yours. Even if you don't believe that (or resist accepting that about yourself), I want you to hear it not only from me but repeatedly.

  • Babs Iverson4 months ago

    Wow!!! Awesome & loved it!!!

  • Cathy holmes4 months ago

    Wow. That was incredible. The tension start right from the first paragraph and never let's up! Great job.

  • Ian Read4 months ago

    Wow! This was wonderful! I can't wait to see where this goes!

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