Kickoff written by Joanna Michal Hoyt

Alarms and Subversions

or, The Way It Might Have Happened

The alarm bells rang louder and louder; the sound shook the buildings, shook the sky, crashed down over me like a wave of iron filings…

I woke up as my feet hit the floor, and by the time I got down the hall to the telephone I more or less remembered who and where I was. “Hello?” I said, leaning against the wall and clutching the receiver.

“You were already awake, Stace?” Philo’s voice was light as ever, but for once in his life he didn’t sound as though he was laughing.

“No. You woke me up out of a nightmare…” I thought again about the bells and the shaking. “No, blast you, you rang me up at four a.m. and gave me
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a nightmare, and then got me out of bed, and the hall’s freezing. What’s the idea?” Not, I told myself wryly, an urgent declaration of love; last year I might have wished for that, now I knew better.

“Have you seen the interweb reports?”

“I’ve been sleeping, I told you. Some of us have to work during the day.”

“But they broadcast an urgent alert…” There was a brief pause in which I remembered that I had agreed last time Philo told me I ought to have an alert-enabled commscreen. Probably during the same pause Philo remembered that my stubbornness came out more in words than actions. “And you had no way to hear it,”
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he said resignedly.

“I don’t like machines telling me what to do,” I said. “Any more than I like you waking me up at this hour. Tell me whatever you have to say and let me get back to sleep.”

“If you’d been paying any attention…” Philo began. He paused, resumed about half an octave higher. “They’re already here,” he said.


“No time! Lock the door, keep the lights off, keep the screen off, pretend you’re not there, don’t open up whatever happens. I’ll call again if…”

He stopped.

“Philo?" No answer. “Philo!” I yelled. That was one good thing about finally having my own house; I could yell at Philo without worrying
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about waking the neighbors. He still didn’t answer. I couldn’t hear noises either—couldn’t hear anything. I shook the phone, hung it up, picked it back up. No dial tone.

Nothing’s happened to Philo, I told myself. The phone line’s dead, that’s all. I scuttled down the hall and slid the deadbolt home—the first time I’d ever done that.

I had taken two steps back down the hallway when I heard the knocking. Not a full-bore, open-in-the-name-of-the-law knock, but a soft hesitant tapping, and a voice to match it—not much above a whisper, ageless, genderless, tight with fear. “Let me in,” it said
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Award this author for a well-written and beautiful follow-up. The two story parts blend seamlessly together.

Plot twist

Award this author for a very awesome unexpected radical change in the expected direction.