The violent, dull buzz of static flood through the room, waking me up sharply. It was much alike to a lost television station or a forgotten radio frequency, but all the more harrowing. It was fragmented, jagged, and incomprehensible. Every few seconds, a rhythmic drone could be heard in the background, recurring without fail, like the most regimented of armies. I’d never heard it before; the dullness of it offering comfort, but the sudden nature of its appearance instilled the deepest of my anxieties.
Everything was a faded, rusted orange-tinge, and a fine layer of the colour covered everything within the radius of my windows and doors. It had a mind of its own, as though it sought to creep through the minute cracks under the door and through the panes of glass to inch inwards. In a probably stupid move, I set forth to discover just what it was. Coupled with the ominous buzz, the orange powder was incredibly out of place. Obviously. I touched it, almost in disbelief, for it felt like nothing. Like air, like the thinnest water. It had no texture and no weight, it just existed. Just the embodiment of colour itself, floating here, covering whatever it wanted without mercy. But, how? Our district has no wind, no breeze, since the gunship attack. Since the laser attacks last year, nothing moved. No clouds, no cars. Everything was at a stand-still other than the panicked rustling of hidden survivors. How this rusted powder could get here, be blown under my door if no wind could push it, I had no clue. A weird thing to be fixated on, but I was fixated nonetheless.
I dared open the door to the wasteland outside. Once a chrome-plated utopia, the world I knew was destroyed in minutes. We made it work, though, what was left. Under the destruction were pockets of hope – tinned food, water supplies, and generators. That sort of thing, a survivor’s wet dream. They were little islands of paradise amongst a shark infested cesspool. Sadly, though, they’re rare. What, with scavengers and dicks like that, these tiny pockets of physical indulgence are stolen and scattered. Hope to find that tin of beans purchased before the attacks, good luck because the ruins of the shops have been raided. In fact, pretty much everything has. From the police station to the church, the grocery store and the hospital; if it could be moved or ripped from position, it was no longer there.
In all fairness, at least they didn’t waste the goods. Raiders are renowned for their resourcefulness; uneaten food went towards compost for crop growth, and waste was piled into their compound walls to fortify them even more. They were crafty guys with a true passion for rubbing it in our faces. The nearest raider compound was fairly close to where I was, a small yet towering area compiled of abandoned cargo crates and shattered doorways. It watched over the entire west side of the city, with other scattered outposts over-watching the other compass points. This one, nearest to me, was by far the most prominent though. It was jet black, spray painted with a haul gathered from an untouched car modification garage, and the raiders themselves wore leather studded suits, varnished with barbed wire touches to really bring out both the beautiful sparkling of the polished metal, and the sinister blood-red dripping from each sharpened point.
Other than the raiders, and apparently this stupid fucking sand stuff, there was only one other ‘alive’ group I’ve seen (cockroaches don’t count, okay, they can survive anything) – the cosmonauts. Even saying their name is bad enough in this new society and even a suggestion of them instills such anxiety that it can never be muttered lightly. They’re, well, cosmonauts. I mean, probably – they look like cosmonauts in that they wear those weird white space outfits, but what? Why in the middle of this place? The sun is hotter than a Californian drought and almost every item of clothing was at least touched in the attack. How are these guys so pristine, so calm, in such adverse conditions?
Anyway, they weren’t just cosmonauts, they were different. Inhuman. They could kill by just touching you – literally a fingertip touch. Some of the conspiracy-driven survivors blame it on the Russians, saying they invented cyanide-injecting gloves, hunting for all surviving Utopians to destroy, but that doesn’t make sense – after all, Russia was one of the first to be wiped out in the attack. No, they weren’t human. They had no emotion, no reaction, no capability of realization. They were machines; methodical, committed and motivated beyond any efforts. They’re pretty much exactly as they sound like in appearance, a pristine, glistening-white cosmonaut suit, without dust or scratch, no cracked visor, wall tubing attached in place. They were immaculate, unearthly immaculate.
They patrolled the streets methodically and in routine, following a strict route and keeping an even stricter posture; rigid and upright, no head movement in the slightest, no hand twitch. Just walking, on a mission of no description. I think that’s what frightened some people the most, their nothingness. They existed but acted as though they did not. I’ve witnessed a few of their killings, and I really couldn’t begin to describe it with enough conviction to portray the horrors the event gives. Like an invisible surge of electricity, their victims just drop. No bang, no fire, certainly no explosion. Just a silent and speedy method of executing with efficiency and stealth. You could never hear them coming. Another thing – they never walk together. Odd given the new world we live in, but they prefer isolation. In fact, I’ve never seen two of them in any one place, always territorial to their own area. If wolfs hunt together, these were the loneliest of hawks.
One thing we do know about them is that they emerged from the attacks, sent down from the ship. They were hurled towards us in cliche little space pods, burrowing into the ground on impact and emerging for the first time that night. Thousands of them came, we were told, infecting almost every known route through the city. To travel was now the hardest of tasks, and to stay still was the most deadly. I’ll always remember the first time we encountered them, probably the first time anybody encountered them, on the night of the attack. I took refuge in a forested area, taking comfort in a small, dysfunctional survivor group. The leader was odd, acting strange, before heading off to gather resources from the freshly destroyed houses nearby. He didn’t come back, instead one of the cosmonauts stood by the border of the forest, stood there. Staring. Not moving. He then slowly began his walk towards us and we ran. Was it a sick joke by someone? Were we paranoid? Clearly not – as we found out the following day, in uniting with another band of survivors, that they were killers. The day of the cosmonaut was born.