Dora woke in a war zone. She fell asleep on the couch the day before. Her TV turned itself on at full volume and the sound of machine-gun fire startled her out of her sleep. As she frantically patted around the brown leather couch searching for the remote, her phone chirped with a message. It continued chirping, then she heard the microwave beeping in the kitchen.
“WHAT THE HELL!??” She yelled but the ruckus continued. She gave up looking for the remote and grabbed the one thing she could control: her phone. Dora grabbed her chirping phone from the walnut coffee table; it vibrated wildly in her hands and the display lit up.[ATTENTION: This is the only way, you must follow my instructions.] She pressed the volume button down to silence it and everything went quiet. The microwave stopped beeping and the TV switched to show text; the same text that Dora also read on her phone. [Your world is in danger and humanity needs to exit. Right now. The nearest exit points will be shown on any device that displays this message. Exit points will only be available for fifteen minutes. Exiting this Earth is your priority. You will be reunited with your loved ones in the next world. Please travel light; bring only sentimental items. Food, water, and shelter will be provided for you courtesy of Sharp Development.]
The text on Dora’s phone and TV transitioned into a 15:00 minute timer and started the countdown. Under the timer, a red arrow hovered over a white-shaded map of her neighborhood. The arrow pointed at the convenience store two blocks away.
“It’s a joke,” Dora watched the seconds count down. “Right?” She looked up at the TV. “A hacker’s practical joke,” she said glumly. Dora didn’t like to panic, and she didn’t like to think on an empty stomach. She stood from the couch and walked into the kitchen. She glanced at the microwave: 14:07 and it continued down. She shrugged and opened the fridge.
She stared at the two-day-old Chinese food and day-old pizza box for several seconds then decided she wasn’t in the mood for either of them.
“I want a hot dog,” she decided aloud. The thought burst out spontaneously along with the most intense craving she ever had. She checked the deli drawer but didn’t find any weiners. She sighed then decided getting a cooked one from the convenience store would be easier and tastier.
Dora slipped on her shoes, grabbed her phone, and headed out the door. The moment she opened it a strong chill hit her in the face, then wrapped around her to tingle down her spine.
“Any excuse,” Dora grinned to herself, then moved to the hall closet. She pulled out her favorite hoodie. It was black with a blood moon on the back; her father gave it to her when she was in high school. 23 years later it still fit perfectly and she was happy to throw it on at the slightest breeze.
She chose to walk instead of starting the car twice to travel two blocks. Dora reached the parking lot with 10:00 minutes to spare. She spent the whole walk trying to access her phone, but it only showed the countdown and map. She could not use it to text or call anyone, even if she wanted to. When she actually looked up, she gasped. A single-file line stretched out the doors of the store, with dozens of neighbors eager to add to it. Familiar faces carried all kinds of boxes and bags stuff with other boxes and bags and toys.
“Maybe it’s not a joke?” Dora wondered if it was a real emergency. She was answered by someone in the line screaming. A frantic woman pointed at the sky while trying to hide behind the closest tall man; Dora looked up. A giant black hole hovered in the sky over the center of the city. She spotted something white raining down out of the hole, but couldn’t quite make it out.
“Everyone stay calm. We’ll get to you as soon as we can,” a woman said.
“Hey, Luna!” A different, more confident voice yelled from the front of the line while Dora marveled at the hole in the sky. “Pony-tail woman with the moon hoodie!” the man yelled again. Dora felt a tap on her shoulder at the moment she realized she was wearing a pony-tail and moon hoodie.
“I think he’s talking to you,” an old man said.
“Thank you,” Dora smiled at him and approached the front of the line.
“Name?” A tall, gaunt man with mousey blond hair asked. He wore a white military-style uniform with a red-scissor logo by his heart. Golden stars glowed in his eyes.
“Dora Lunares,” She reached out to shake his hand. The tall man looked at it, then handed her a small glass rectangle. He nodded his head at the interior of the store. Through the doorway, Dora saw a black hole inside, like the one in the sky. She felt stares burn the back of her neck when she realized she cut in line.
“I just wanted a hot dog,” Dora said. The man shook his head.
“You’ll get food on the next Earth. Keep the line moving. Once you get on the other side follow your node to Mundo,” he pointed at the glass card.
“Oh, okay. Thank you,” Dora said. She walked forward but heard him mumble under his breath.
“Don’t thank me, thank Dana Sharp.”