01 Feb ALERT: THREAT LEVEL SEVERE
This morning I woke up in the pitch black to the sound of my phone making a tone I’ve never heard before. Sort of a rapid-fire pinging. I turned it on to see what was going on and there was an alert notification, a lot like the ones you see with Amber Alerts. What was odd was that I couldn’t close it or even turn my phone off, the screen simply would not respond to being powered off. I couldn’t screenshot it, either – all functions other than scrolling were disabled – but this is what it said:
On 10/10/16 at 0315AM CST the following alert was issued:
Reports of an anomalous signature on radar were reported near ST CLOUD
ADVISORY: Stay indoors. Bring all house pets inside. Turn off all noise-making devices. Seek shelter in basements or rooms without windows or doors to the outside.
Emergency services are suspended until 0530 10/10/16
THREAT LEVEL IS SEVERE. OBEY ALL INSTRUCTIONS TO PREVENT UNNECESSARY LOSS OF LIFE OR PROPERTY.
Alert is valid until 2100CST
Now obviously this was pretty fucking concerning. It’s late in the season for any large storms but it’s not unheard of, and we’ve had tornadoes here before. I could hear rain on the windows and the sound of wind, so I grabbed my three cats and took us down into the basement with some food and a sleeping bag. My basement is cramped and full of all kinds of junk, and I wasn’t thrilled to be spending time down there, but the alternative was clearly not an option. While the cats wandered around, digging in boxes and knocking things over, I had time to sit and read the alert over again- which is when things started to seem strange.
I must have missed it the first time, but now I noticed the warning to ‘turn off all noise-making devices.’ What did that mean? Why would that be important? Even with a television at full blast, you’d certainly be able to hear a tornado coming, or at the very least see the damage it was inflicting. I reluctantly admitted that, looking at it that way, it seemed at least a little more reasonable.
But now I was also looking at the alert itself. The interface of the warning wasn’t one I recognized. The border wasn’t consistent with any apps or the OS. It had clearly been opened by a third-party app, but I wasn’t sure which one, or how it could have done so. I wondered if it was a virus. I had to work in a few hours, and I didn’t want to stay awake for nothing. Leaving the cats downstairs, I went up and turned on the television in the living room. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I couldn’t help feel another jolt of fear when that same message popped up in a traditional emergency broadcast. That awful claxon made my heart rate spike, so I turned it off and went back to the basement to wait it out. I sent my boss a text on my old pay-as-you-go, which seemed to be unaffected for whatever reason, letting him know I might not make it in that day. As it turned out, he was also in his basement. He could hear what sounded like heavy rainfall and wind outside. We wished each other well, agreed that work would be cancelled, and went back to waiting. The cats settled in various places, and I curled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep.
We all woke up at the same time about an hour later. It wasn’t as much a jolt as a slow, confused awakening. Something wasn’t right. The cats’ eyes were wide, their fur puffed up. One, my oldest girl, had her eyes locked on the filthy little window at the far corner of the room. I was absolutely overcome by a palpable sense of dread, but my frantic glances around the room were fruitless. The cats began to hiss, all of them looking at that window now, but I couldn’t see anything except darkness. I turned toward the stairs and the change in direction allowed me to hear something below the growling and hissing. A very low hiss. Not like static, but like the sound of blood flowing through your ears when it’s quiet. It was incredibly unsettling to hear it coming from an outside source. It was such an intimate, familiar sound, and hearing it that way was… wrong. Very, very wrong.
And I could also hear, bizarrely, what sounded like calliope music.
At this point I was convinced I was losing my mind, or having an incredibly lucid dream. But when one of the cats leaped from a box to fly across the room and under the stairs, I realized what it was. I ran to the box and tore it open. I dug through the contents until I felt cold metal. I lifted out the toy, which had been activated by my cat’s weight, and scrabbled for the battery panel. Once the batteries were out and the music had stopped, I stood breathing heavily, holding the little bear in my hands. A music box my mom had given me as a kid. The bear, rosy-cheeked, smiled up at me, and I thought I would scream. The hissing noise was louder here, oppressive; it blocked out everything, even my breathing. I’ve heard the phrase ‘paralyzed with fear’ before and I detested it, thinking of it as a clumsy exaggeration. But now, I realized, it wasn’t. It was a very real feeling. The cats continued to growl and shriek, though here in the middle of the sound it was almost impossible to hear them. I had to turn around. I had to get away from the window, but I simply could not bring myself to move even a single inch. The bear grinned up at me and I hope I never come that close to the abyss again. The feeling of your mind slipping into that endless chasm is something you don’t forget. The bear was cold in my hands, the cats shrieked and howled, and the sound grew so loud I could feel it in my bones. The window rattled, pelted by rain and hail, and that endless hellish dark loomed closer and closer. A scream bubbled up and pushed against my teeth when I turned to look through the dirty glass.
Instantly, everything stopped. The cats, the hissing, the rain and wind. The basement was silent. The cessation of every single sound in that room was almost enough to send me teetering off the edge. I shivered violently, suddenly freezing. Something was outside. Looking in at me. It glowed dimly with a strange, completely alien light. Dirty orange. The color of a nuclear sunset. The panic was so great now that it had transformed into an almost ethereal disassociation. The calm before the predator rips into flesh and bone. Something was at the window. I looked at it with glassy eyes.
I don’t know what it was. Looking at it was painful in a way I can’t describe. The sight of it, so completely foreign, made my brain feel as if it was being exploded violently outward, tearing at the seams. The only thing that comes close is an optical illusion. Something that exists but cannot be. Whatever it was, it had no business here.
It was a kind of cloud. A solidified mist. Like smoke, but this smoke was very much alive and aware. And it was massive. I think it must have messed with some of my other senses, because I was very much cognizant of the fact that it was larger than my house, larger than many houses. And it had been drawn to the calliope music. It watched me, shapes swirling and dissolving constantly in it’s ‘body’. But it had no defined shape. It flowed like water- slid down the window in rivulets that did not obey gravity, but instead searched for cracks in the glass. I was aware of time passing, a lot of time. What broke the spell was the sight of one of those drops discovering, and worming its way through, a hairline crack in the window frame. Paralysis became flight. In what felt like an instant I was pounding up the stairs, my mouth wrenched open in a silent howl. The cats swarmed up past me and were gone the moment the door was open. I slammed it shut and ran for the bathroom, where I bolted the door and promptly vomited into the toilet. I flushed the strange reddish-brown contents and curled on my side, wedged between the toilet and the tub, my face against the cool porcelain. I passed out.
When I woke up, it was half a day later and my cats were furious at the lack of food. I’ve been in a daze since I woke up. The alert is gone, but it seems the phone lines are down. I have access to the internet, but it’s not behaving correctly. I have access to some sites but not others. I can’t bring myself to leave the house. The sound is gone, as is whatever was creating it, but how can I be sure it won’t come back? For now, I’ve silenced everything. The cats are calm and sleeping, but I’m keeping an eye on them for any warning signs. I’ll just keep quiet for a while.
It’s probably best if you keep quiet, too.