An emergency alert instructs everyone in an apartment building to leave their home.

Myles’ cellphone buzzed to life. This puzzled and vexed him because he always turned off his phone before live-streaming his gaming sessions. Since he wasn’t in the heat of a battle, he flipped over his phone with the intend to read the message before shutting it off. The message changed that plan.

“This is a nationwide emergency alert,” Myles read aloud to his hundreds of viewers. “Please stay calm, and follow instructions. Do not remain in your homes. I repeat, under no circumstances stay in your homes. Please stay calm and await further instructions.”

Myles checked and flipped the message to the camera.

“Which one of you is responsible for this?” he playfully accused.

He’d heard stories of other streamers being pranked or doxxed, which thankfully, hasn’t happened to him, but he has dealt with the sporadic racal insult from time to time. He watched the chat, waiting for the streaming delay to sync up, but no one responded. He looked at his viewer count and the number plummeted until it hit zero. He re-read the message again in a hushed tone to himself. With still no activity on his stream, he quit and stepped outside his apartment.

In the hallway, everyone was gathered together, confused. His neighbor across the hall, an elderly woman who lived by herself who preferred to be referred to as Ms. Johnson, walked up to Myles. She clung to her stroller as she showed her cellphone to Myles.

“Do you know anything about this?” Ms. Johnson inquired.

Myles took a look at the message. “No. I got the same message too.”

Ms. Johnson grumbled. “Anything about it on them Twitters?”

“Let me check,” he replied as he pulled out his phone. “Odd. I’m not getting wifi or a cell signal.”

“I’m going to listen to the warning,” Ms. Johnson announced as she made her way toward the elevator. “I didn’t get to be my age by ignoring warnings.”

The lights went out, leaving only the glow of the moonlight from the windows at the end of the hall and the emergency exit signs. Then one by one, each apartment was filled with a violent high-pitch scream. Everyone in the hallway covered their ears and some crouched in pain as the sound washed through each room like a wave. When the noise reached the end, it faded away.

The lights returned. Everyone’s cell phone dinged or buzzed with an alert. Myles pulled out his phone.

“It is safe to return,” Myles read out loud so Ms. Johnson could hear.

Myles returned to his apartment, leaving the door open as he carefully inspected his place for any damage. Nothing seemed out of place. He expected to find broken glass, but there was nothing wrong other than his clocks blinking 12:00. He returned to Ms. Johnson in the hallway.

“I’m going to go outside and see what’s going,” he informed his neighbor.

Myles took the three flights of stars down and rushed outside. The summer night breeze sent a calming chill over his skin. A short black woman in a police officer uniform commanded several other officers. As authoritative as she was, Myles felt she would be kind enough to explain the situation.

“Excuse me,” Myles interjected. “Is everything okay? What’s going on?”

The officer faced him. The name tag read Officer Mists.

“We’re handling the situation,” she calmly explained. “Are you hurt or anyone you know?”

“No, I’m fine and everyone on my floor seems to be okay. What’s going on?”

“Someone hacked the building’s system to scare everyone, including using the smoke alarms to make a high-pitch scream. If anyone is hurt or needs help, you come get me.”

“Will do,” Myles replied, feeling relieved.

Myles jogged back to the apartment as Office Mists turned to another officer.

“I told you that story would be an excellent cover,” Mists bragged.

“I didn’t deny it,” the other officer praised as he worked on his tablet. “The scans are showing the attack did kill three people, so we’re going to have to come up with explications for those too.”

“Damn,” Mists grumbled.

“I know. Who do this and why this apartment complex?”

Mists shrugged. “We were dispatched because of the non-terrestrial readings, so start there.”

This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “This is a nationwide Emergency Alert. Please stay calm, and follow instructions. Do not remain in your homes. I repeat, under no circumstances stay in your homes. Please stay calm and await further instructions.”

With it being October, I focused on a prompt where I could tell a spooky and unsettling story. Hope you enjoyed it!