(Originally published in the MockingOwl Roost, Issue 1, Volume 1: Expectation.)
For some reason, my publisher decided that my very first novel would be released on January 1, 2000. In some ways, that made perfect sense to me. The first day of a new millennium – the perfect time to show the world something hopeful, something wonderful. At least, I thought it was wonderful. And I guess the publisher did, since, well, I was getting published!
My family, however, was a group of preppers. They were certain that the world would end the next day. My novel, my child of ten long writing years, was doomed, they told me. No one would ever read it. The publisher would crash, the world would end, and my book, my darling novel, would never see the light of day.
They were stockpiling toilet paper and canned beans, while I was hoarding newspapers and magazines announcing my title: “The Day the Dinosaurs Ate Me.”
The title sounds like I’m trading one disaster for another, but it wasn’t. Really! It was a hopeful, delightful novel filled with anything but tragedy. In fact, it was a fictionalized telling of my one brief jaunt into the world of paleontology when I thought I was going to discover more dinosaur bones. Mixed with time travel, a bit of magic, and the worst – but most comical – day of my life. But I digress.
Midnight was quickly approaching. I could see the hands ticking down time, getting closer and closer to release day. I had a book signing, my first ever – the first of hundreds, I hoped – in just twelve hours, at my favorite bookstore.
Around the room, seven people huddled beneath blankets, half terrified out of their minds. Most days, these were some of my favorite people on the planet. Today, they were not. This nonsense about the end of the world and Y2K being the death of us all. It was infuriating! My dreams finally found life and here they were telling me to bunker in and forget it.
There were no fireworks or champagne here.
“Forget this!” I leapt up and went in search of a New Year’s party. My family was wrong. My book was coming out in twelve hours! I was an author. The world was not about to end.
The neighbors had music blasting, so I knocked on the door. No one answered, but the boisterous laughter coming from inside felt like an invitation. I pushed the door open. They wouldn’t even notice me come in. And if they did, I had been invited. Sort of. They’d said everyone in the neighborhood was welcome.
The music shifted from a loud, obnoxiously rhythmic tune to a fun, upbeat something. I didn’t know artists and bands, I just knew if I liked them or not. I wasn’t sure if this was a like, though, but thought, “What the heck?” I grabbed a glass of something green off the counter and threw it back. I was an author, darn it!
“My book’s coming out tomorrow!” I shouted into the nearest ear I could find.
The man about my age turned and looked at me. “Your what?”
“My book is coming out tomorrow!”
“You’re an author? That’s awesome. I’m Dan, by the way.”
“I’m Tina. Tina Straid.”
“I’ll have to look you up. What’s your book called?” Dan shouted over the excited din.
“‘The Day the Dinosaurs Ate Me,’” I shouted.
“Interesting title!” he shouted back.
“Thanks. It’s a lot of fun.”
“It sounds kind of weird,” he admitted.
“Yeah. That’s the fun part.”
“Well, mazel tov!”
And then he was gone.
Well, gee. Isn’t that nice? Congrats to me! But who cares? It’s Y2K over here, too, I guess?
I looked around the party for a familiar face. I spotted my neighbor, Jessika, and her husband laughing it up in the corner with a couple of cute guys. I contemplated heading over, but hesitated. I glanced down at my outfit and sighed. Next year, don’t go to a party dressed up like a dinosaur hunter, okay? I mean, unless it’s a costume party.
The black tie attire around me might have slightly increased my self-consciousness. I grabbed another drink, this time something that resembled champagne, and glanced down at my watch. Midnight already?
“Ten! Nine! Eight!” The crowd started shouting a countdown. I hadn’t realized how close I’d come to missing the most important night of my life.
“Two! One! Happy New Year!”
Streamers and corks popped simultaneously.
And so did the transformers.
Shouts of glee turned into screams of terror as the whole grid went out seconds later.
People fled the house into the streets. Traffic was stopped. Cars were everywhere, piling up as computers failed. Planes were falling from the sky. Traffic lights were burnt out and everything was dark, save for the light of the moon, which weirdly silhouetted people as they screamed and ran from each other.
“They were right?” I asked.
The lights at my parents’ house were on. The only lights that could be seen for miles.
“They were right. Crap.”