In the William P. Hobby airport, CNN is on. Glazed stares and crying babies maunder through an almost-visible haze of cinnamon, fried fat, and cleaning fluids. On the screen, the anchor is reading tweets from the public. But then the bottom of the screen flares up, with a shining silver “BREAKING NEWS” badge. “GUNS ALL GONE?” it reads. Just as a few people start muttering, the airport intercom erupts with static.
“Please remain calm. A state of emergency has been declared by the governor of the state of Texas,” the toneless voice rings out.
At the FastCheck TSA security checkpoint line, a man in a battered cowboy hat stands confused, reaching in his jacket. “Where the hell did my piece go?” There’s dust all over his hands. He claps them off, confused, patting his pockets. Then he stares at the guy behind him. “You take my gun?”
“Naw man, what’re you even talking about, man?”
“I’m a fed, son. Don’t mess with me.”
The guy puts his hands up; sort of joking, sort of not. “I’m not messin’ with you, dude!”
From far back of the TSA line someone yells, “Hey! They’re sayin’ ALL the GUNS are gone!”
“What? Gone?” someone shouts back.
“They ALL GONE!”
Mumbling and jostling anxiety skitters down the lines, ramping into a buzz of fear.
The fed stands stock still, arms akimbo, glancing from side to side. “I’m an air marshal,” he says, more to remind himself than to inform anyone else.
The TSA agents look around in panic. This was not covered in the training videos. One of them stands up, sky blue gloves raised, and tries to restore order. “Please wait until we get further information!”
The marshal pushes his way to the front of the line, causing more people to grumble and the general chatter to get louder.
“PEOPLE!” he hollers, loud enough that everyone actually does stop and stare for a moment. “I am a U.S. Air Marshal! I hereby order you to REMAIN CALM and STAY WHERE YOU ARE!”
“Yeah, but do you have a GUN?” an anonymous voice in the crowd yells out.
The marshal’s hand moves instinctively to his empty holster, he looks down confused, and then pandemonium erupts.
“Blyaaaa!” yells a man, completely unintelligible, as he launches himself at the U.S. Marshal and bites his ear clean off. The ensuing screams are drowned in the clatter of the mob rushing over and past them, plowing their way through the checkpoint and howling with feral glee as they enter the sacred inner confines of the airport’s plaza.
Some react like animals, becoming predators or prey, asserting their dominance or running for cover. Some people lucky to not be pushed along in the raging torrent stare in disbelief, frozen. Deer with only other deer to fear.
By this point there is far too much screaming for anyone to hear the airport’s intercom. “Please stay calm,” the disembodied voice says anyway, flat with the conviction that it can’t compel a soul now.
Hours later, a family are huddled together in a fortified restroom entrance, walled in by chairs and baggage. The two boys’ faces flicker by the light of the blazing fire that used to be a Sbarro.
The mother glances around the corners, grimacing in the direction of a bloody pile where a police uniform lies in tatters over a mangled body. “I bet there’s a radio.”
The father nods. “Not a bad idea, hon. I’ll keep watch.” He hefts a home-made spear fashioned from a walking stick and a barbecue tool set.
She touches his cheek, and then lurches out past the baggage, as one of the boys grasps for her hand. “Mom, no! Be careful!”
Ducking fast, and staying close to the soot-stained wall, she eyes the infinite gates stretching past the roaring Sbarro fire. Nobody in sight. Far off, the sound of screaming, or maybe laughter. Behind her, towards the dead end terminal they came from, most of the lights have been broken. But no motion in the shadows there, either. Just bodies, quietly lying. She shudders, and looks at the body.
Grimacing, she kicks at the belt. Nothing. Empty holster, of course. But she grabs the heavy flashlight and sticks it in her waistband. “Stupid of them to leave that,” she mutters. “Radio must be on his chest.” Before rolling him over, she looks both directions again. Nothing moving.
As she pulls the body over, a sudden radio squawk makes her push it away with a sickening thunk. But that sound means the radio is still working. She grabs it, squeezes and yells, “Help us!”
Static fills the air. And then a voice cuts through. “Excuse me ma’am, this is a police channel.”
“I know. The, umm… the officer is dead. It’s total chaos here. Let me get back to, uhh, to cover. Call you back.” She flips the radio back off and hustles back to the wall, cradling it.
Her husband steps out and watches for movement as she ducks back behind their little fort. “What’s going on?” she asks into the radio, as he squeezes her hand and pinches his lips together.
“Sorry,” the voice on the other end crackles. “I don’t want to get your hopes up, but… I can’t help you. I’m locked in a radio room.”
“What’s going on out there? Is it like this… everywhere?”
“Pretty much. Some kind of high-tech nanotech mumbo-jumbo destroyed all the guns. Now there’s no guns anywhere, no way to protect ourselves, so we just gave up. There’s a few good police still trying to work how they can, but…”
“The federal government sent in marines armed with bows and arrows. They’re taking over all the states one by one like this. First, they get the guns. Then, they take over in the inevitable chaos.”
One of the kids yanks on her sleeve. “Mommy, why did God take away all the guns?”
She looks down, wiping a tear from her eye. “God didn’t take the guns, sweetie. THE MAN took all the guns.”