Something heavy landed on his abdomen and he awoke coughing.
"Ow!" he said.
"Oh, jeez, I'm sorry man," said a man's voice. "I didn't see you there. You all right?"
"Huh?" He couldn't see anything. There was a thick gray haze. The air simultaneously burned and ticked his throat and he coughed.
"You all right?" said the man's voice again.
"What's going on?"
"You musta been outta it man. We're under attack. Here, I'll help you up." He felt arms pull on his shirt, and he struggled to get on his feet. His head pounded. There was searing pain in his ears. A fire alarm started droning.
"Aaah," he said, holding his head. Then he could see a face, inches from his. It was covered in gray ash. Two wide eyes stared at him.
"Looks like you hit your head. Prolly got a concussion. Not that it really matters," said the man.
"Where am I?"
"You're in some office building. Dunno which one. I ran in here when the building across the street was vaporized. Look, we gotta head for the core of the building. The stairwell. That's prolly the best protection we're ever gonna find. What's your name by the way?"
"I don't know," he said.
"Really? Jeez, amnesia. Lucky you. Look, can you walk?"
"I think so," he said.
"All right. Take my hand." The man shoved his hand into his. It was gritty. The man pulled him through the haze. There were emergency lights on. He could read the word 'exit' in several places. They veered from those. There were other bodies moving around. Then there was a loud rumbling and the floor shook. Several people screamed.
"Jeez, that's another one down," said the man. "They must want to take the whole city."
"Who?" he asked.
"It's not really a matter of who," said the man, "rather a 'what'."
"Exactly," said the man. "Hey, does anyone know where the god damned stairs are?"
"Everyone's coming down the stairs," said the voice of a woman. "You can't go there."
"It's gonna be the safest place," said the man.
"No! We gotta get out of the building!" said the woman frantically.
"Trust me, you don't wanna go out there lady. They got this napalm type stuff. They'll barbecue you." There was another rumble and shake. The woman screamed and was swallowed up in dust and smoke.
"I don't understand what's happening," he said.
"It's the end of the world bub," said the man. "We gotta be cockroaches now, if we're gonna survive." There was a closer rumble and more violent shaking. "Jeez! Where the hell are the stairs?!"
"Over there," he said, point into the direction of a crowd of people. "They don't have as much ash on them."
"Good thinking man," said the man. The man pulled him in that direction, and they found the door to the stairwell. They pushed past frantic with faces twisted in fear and stress. "Let us through! Let us through!" The people where trying to push them in the opposite direction. He could see that the air inside the stairwell was clearer, but the stairwell itself was packed with people pushing to get out. The man started punching at people with his free hand, and then they tried to avoid him, and they made some forward progress.
There was shaking without rumbling now, and it was rhythmic. It was getting increasingly louder. Then there was a bright light. It cast their shadows into the stairwell. There were screams, and the crowd stopped pushing. Then there was quiet, just labored breathing. Then someone said "It's here."
He turned around, and shielded his eyes from the source of the light. Something tall walked into the light on four legs. There was a sound like a revving engine. Then the man pulled violently on his hand, and they easily cut through the crowd and reached the stairs. He grasped the railing and pulled himself up the steps. Then the crowd started screaming again, and they changed direction, pushing on their backs. There was a loud hissing sound, and he felt intense heat on his back. He kept pulling himself up on the railing. Another hiss and more heat, more screams. The smell of burning hair and barbecue assaulted his nose. He pulled up on the railing. It was getting hotter and hotter. People stopped pushing against his back. He turned to take the next flight of stairs, and he looked down. There were the shapes of people, now black and glassy and steaming. They were frozen in place, screaming. Behind them was large nozzle with a licking little flame, and behind that was a hulking creature in a silver suit, with several arms. It aimed the nozzle at him, then began to pull back on a lever...
The man wrenched him up by the arm, and an intense white beam shot past his shoulder and hit the wall, searing a foot-wide circle into the concrete. The man pulled him up the flight of stairs, panting. They turned to take the next flight, and he finally found his footing. The ran up that flight, and another. There was more hissing coming from below them. Then the man pushed open a door and they ran out into an office. Papers and dust and debris was everywhere. There was light coming from the blown out windows. The man found a chair and propped it under the door handle.
"That's not gonna hold them," said the man. "We gotta find the other stairwell." The man ran off past a bank of elevators. "Come on!"
"No," he said.
"What?" the man paused looking back for a moment. Then, "Whatever." The man ran around a corner and disappeared. There was hissing behind the door, and then something hard knocked against it. The chair bounced, but held. He turned and ran towards the windows. Vertical blinds were blowing in the wind. He looked out at the street. Smoke and dust and paper swirled in the air. It was hot. There were more creatures out on the street, bathing stopped cars and people with the white light beams. Down the street skyscrapers were falling down. The air above was filled with flying ships that shot out red glowing missiles. Glass and concrete exploded wherever they hit. A massive walking machine crossed at an intersection. More of the creatures were sliding down on ropes from its belly.
There was an explosion behind him. He turned to see the door to the stairwell blow out. The frame was on fire. A nozzle emerged, then the creature. It shook it's arms violently, and he could hear a muffled roar from behind the suit. It pulled the lever, and the nozzle revved up. He extended his finger at the creature, then grabbed the window frame, and jumped out. The beam passed just above his head.