My mom always used to say that 'things happened for a reason'. Looking back on those words, I always shudder a little bit, given my current predicament. Hindsight is 20/20 and you never realize the small details until long after the big ones have come to pass. That wasn't a pun, I assure you.
I always get people coming up to me and asking what it was like for me, just before everything changed and the time right after. At first, I barely had any time to think about it, and was so caught up in the moment that I didn't even really get a chance to compile my thoughts on it. Now that I've finally had time to collect my thoughts, I wanted to talk about it.
So this is my story.
It was a sunny day when I woke up, and it was far earlier than my typical 11am wake-up time. I lived in a room on the 2nd floor of our family's house, having a lot of really nice perks. You know your life is good when you're an 18 year-old kid who has his own bathroom attached to his bedroom.
All of this had been left to me by my father. He was a hot-shot lawyer back in the big city, and made more money in a year than most people made in ten. From what my mom told me, he spent a lot of his time working for environmentalist concerns, spending most of his days lobbying against increased industrial waste. Because of this, dad liked the rural community, and had a big mansion built about an hour and a half outside of the city.
My father passed on about five years prior, after getting into a car accident while in town. My mom blamed the city, and she made it a point of avoiding it following the accident. Aside from a few trips to some of the rural communities for groceries and food, my mom left any travelling into town up to my sister and I.
It was my sister Emily that did most of the trips. Emily was three years older than I was, enjoying the freedom of being 21, though she never really cared. You see, my sister was what you might consider a 'good girl'; she spent her days helping other people out with homework, volunteering in the city, or studying on her own. My sister planned on going to a prestigious local university, but decided to take a few years off to help my mom around the house, and expand her volunteering and charity work.
On the other hand I was a completely different type of child. I spent most of my time at home or at my friends, playing video games and browsing the internet. Some of my friends considered me to be one of the best FPS gamers in our circle, and I'd get invited to a lot of different parties to play against other players in severely handicapped modes. At the time, this was a pretty huge ego boost! Now, it just seems silly!
Today was just another one of those days. My best friend Curtis was holding a party at his apartment in the city, and he practically begged me to show up. In truth, I was really excited at the prospect of going to town for the day to relax with friends and play some video games. When Curtis instant messaged me the night prior and mentioned that beer would be involved, I was sold!
The trick was getting out of the house. Emily was scheduled to go on one of her infamous volunteer trips to the city, which would leave me out a car. Our family does have two cars, one for my mother and another that my sister and I are supposed to share. Despite our wealth, my mother always believed that Emily and I needed to have some restrictions while we were in her house, so by only giving us a shared car, it kept us from leaving all the time. What sucked, was that Emily's volunteers always seemed to take priority...
So, for once in my life I was quick out of bed. Setting my alarm at a bright and early 7am, I was able to have a shower, get dressed, and pack all my necessary gamer equipment in just under 30 minutes. My sister was usually up at 7:30, so I almost jogged out of the house, avoiding both her and my mother as I hustled outside.
The car was waiting for me, and I jumped in, throwing my bag on the passenger side seat. Without a second thought, I turned the ignition and pulled out of the driveway. I didn't even care to look back, and even if I had, I doubt my sister running and yelling would have stopped me from leaving. Looking back, that might have been the biggest mistake of my life.
But at the time, I was content believing that it was not a big deal.
I hit the border of the city about an hour and a half later. Given how early it was, there weren't many cars on the road. I think I passed maybe two or three other cars leaving town, but I did remember seeing a pretty big tanker truck making its way down the highway at breakneck speeds. Not sure where he was going, but that truck was in a hurry!
Once in the city, I spent the next thirty minutes getting to Curtis' place. It didn't take too long, but parking downtown was always a pain. I ended up about four blocks away, in one of those silly outdoor parking lots that charges way too much money for a small amount of time. It cost about thirty bucks for an all day pass, but luckily money was rarely an issue for me.
A couple blocks of walking, one buzz of an apartment, and a few flights of stairs later, I was in Curtis' sixth story apartment. The place smelled like classic 'gamer funk' and when I stepped in after Curtis opened the door, I could immediately tell that him and his other friends had been gaming all night. three people were playing games on the TV, while another was passed out on a second couch.
I looked over to Curtis and smiled.
He smiled back and slapped me on the back. "You don't know the half of it..."
From there, Curtis went on to tell me about every 'awesome moment' of their recent gaming fest. Every perfectly executed headshot, to the spilled pop at the worst moment, and even the hilarity of a few people who left their laptop hard drives on shared mode. Sufficed to say, there's some stuff you just don't want to know about your friends, so take that as a lesson to lock your PCs from other people's snooping.
Soon enough, I got to joining in and after two hours straight of game play, almost twenty people filled the tiny apartment. I was enjoying a long and uninterrupted winning streak in the latest FPS release, when the game suddenly cut out halfway into a match. A quick check revealed that the internet had been knocked out, after several of the other attendees couldn't access it from their internet.
Shouts came out from those in attendance of "We want LAN! We want LAN!", but eventually we just switched games to something that didn't require an internet connection to play. The strange part was that three people came from down the hall from other apartments to ask if something had happened to the connection in the building. Sure enough, both cable and internet were out.
We thought nothing of it, chalking it up to a problem with the cable provider. We kept gaming in pleasant ignorance.
Shortly after, that's when we heard the first one.