The day was to begin as it always had for Jackie Tremarco. Shower, dress, breakfast, email, Facebook, check bank account and then head off to her job in the fashion shop close to the city. But this day was to be different in so many ways, Jackie could not even begin to imagine any of it.
As her eyes flickered open exactly one minute before the alarm clock radio sprang into life, she heard a voice beside her say, “Time to awaken Jackie Tremarco.” Startled, she jumped to sit on the side of the bed and stared suspiciously at the clock radio. Tentatively checking the manual dial — it was definitely still in the auto position she had set the night before — she pondered her reality.
Had she actually heard a voice coming from the radio before it turned itself on? “It’s 7am and this is ABC Radio News,” trilled the dulcet tones of the news reader. “No more bedtime wine for you my girl. You have an ancient but perfectly good clock radio to wake you. You don’t need mysterious voices to do it. Now get moving,” she giggled turning on the shower and deciding that her long dark hair could wait one more day before she washed it.
With a towel wrapped tightly around her slim body, Jackie slid into the chair in front of her computer. One email in the primary inbox, the usual couple of dozen in promotional and what seemed like thousands in spam. Ignoring the others, Jackie mindlessly opened the primary inbox. Shit! There in large capital letters was a message. TIME TO AWAKEN JACKIE TREMARCO. She stared at the words for some time, her eyes glued to the screen as her mind began a gymnastics of bewilderment.
“What the hell is going on?” she spluttered. “Who is sending me this?” Clicking the arrow icon onto the address she stared at the information. Just a series of numbers with dots between each, not even a proper IP address. Jackie was tech savvy enough to know that this made no sense. “Ignore”, screamed her logic, “Ignore. It’s someone’s silly game, but I’d better check the security on this PC,” she said to no one in particular.
“Could be a new form of hacking. Bastards.” To calm herself she opened Facebook. Her cousin in the UK was usually online at this time of the day and if anyone could see the funny side of these strange messages and cheer her up, it would be Sammi. As the home page sprang onto the screen, Jackie could see that no one was highlighted in her friends list.
Strange she thought, usually at this time of the day the chats were happening fast and often. Just one message appeared in the list. As Jackie moved the icon to open the message she was suddenly overcome by a feeling of foreboding. “What if?” screamed her emotions. “So what,” replied her logic calmly. “You have not been threatened or even informed. Just offered a suggestion.”
But as the page opened, the words suddenly took on a whole new meaning. TIME TO AWAKEN JACKIE TREMARCO.
Jackie felt the air rush from her lungs as she stared once again at the same words. A tingling had begun in her toes and fingertips and moved rapidly until her whole body quivered with a combination of fear and excitement. Something within her was awakening. She wasn’t sure what. Turning quickly, she reached for her mobile phone as it hummed. A text had arrived. She felt a smile stretch across her face; her coping mechanism for when something too awful was happening. Grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat, “I wonder what this will say,” she hissed.
TIME TO AWAKEN JACKIE TREMARCO screamed from the tiny screen of her Blackberry. Private number was the only additional information. Her head was getting ready to explode. Calm down. This is someone’s idea of a joke. The words fell into a void as she thought them. No, this means something. Just stay calm, stay focussed and stay aware.
As the 8:10am train pulled into the station, Jackie looked around at her fellow passengers and began her little mind game of ‘who are they and where are they going?’ She knew that today, especially today, it could be important to stay alert while everyone else was plugged into their phones listening to God knows what, oblivious to everything.
When she first began catching the train to work, Jackie was alarmed by the unawareness all around her. “Hey,” she wanted to say to everyone. “We are putting our lives in the hands of a hopefully well-trained man or woman, but even so, this is a metal cylinder travelling on tiny rails at warp speed or at least very fast, and anything could happen. Don’t you think you should at least stay awake? Stop applying your make up, look up from your computer and at least listen occasionally for where we are in case it all turns to custard.”
She didn’t of cause, say anything as she knew that most people who travelled the line just wanted to be left alone in their oblivion. Safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t happen to them while ignoring all news items to the contrary. So for her sake and theirs, Jackie kept her eyes and ears open and antennae switched to high alert whenever she boarded public transport.
As she sat down on the only spare seat beside a pretty Asian girl wearing a Hello Kitty backpack, the events of the last hour flooded back. Should she tell someone? Who? What could she say? “Hey, I’ve received these non-threatening specious messages from whoever and whatever.” No, it was silly. “For heaven’s sake, I wouldn’t believe it or take it seriously if someone told me about weird messages just appearing on their technology.”
Forget it and ignore it was the best she could come up with, but the tingling and sense of excitement continued to surge through her as she watched the stations and suburbs fly by the window. “The next station is Armadale,” said the voice from the PA as the driver slowly and deliberately applied the brakes. “Made it,” she thought. “Nothing happens in Armadale. Much too wealthy and well-bred for danger.” She smiled as she readjusted the shoulder strap of her carry bag ready to make her way to the doors.
Suddenly a cacophony of humming enveloped the carriage. Everyone was getting a text. There was no time for surprise or outrage, just reaction. Pulling her phone from her bag, the words spilled across the screen. TIME TO AWAKEN JACKIE TREMARCO. Looking down at her mobile phone, the young Asian girl sitting next to her gasped in horror. Without a thought in her head Jackie grabbed it from her as the text popped out in 3D. A NUCLEAR DEVICE WILL DETONATE IN MELBOURNE IN… Below, the words hung an hourglass and beside it a grinning skull emoticon began counting down… 20, 19, 18.
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