KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Flash Fiction: 605 words

This Is Not a Drill

by Linda Petrucelli

At 8:07 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time, a ping sounds from Kahele Kealoha’s phone. The text, an Emergency Alert from state officials, reads:

Incoming Ballistic Missile Strike.
Seek Shelter Immediately.

The other beach-goers’ phones begin to chirp, echoing pings in rapid succession. Kahele stares at the text’s last line, spits an expletive, then drops his board and runs to find his girlfriend. Three sunburned snorkelers, towels cinched around their waists, take cover under a kiawe tree and look up at the sky through its branches. A woman screams, stumbling in the sand. A man in purple board shorts races into the surf calling, “Mai-a! Mai-a!”

The assistant manager on duty at the Ginger Patch Bodega hides behind the cash register, the store still dark and the doors locked. Outside in the humid air, a handful of people have abandoned their cars in the parking lot. They push against one another, banging their fists on the store’s double-paned glass. A big-chested man yells, “Let us in!”

The Jordan family waits in the kitchen of their Haiku Shores condominium, while a plate of half-eaten manapua grows cold. The son asks, “Mommy, are we going to die?” He begins to whimper. His mother holds him close and fingers a silver rosary. Her husband scowls and parts the drapes; looking out the window he says, “Too late for prayers.”

George and Lani Richardson shelter in place in the guest bathroom, the only room in their house without a window. Lani sits on the toilet seat and chews the inside of her cheek, her face ashy, chicken skin prickling her arms.

George reclines in the empty bathtub fully clothed. “Somebody pushed the wrong button,” he tells her. “A well-paid official just butt-dialed Armageddon by mistake. I can’t believe this is happening.”

She raises her knees and hugs them, her hair still dripping water. With the door shut, a towel stuffed in the gap at the bottom, the air smells of shampoo, their morning breath, and coffee.

She looks at her watch, and her voice wavers. “Less than ten minutes before it’s supposed to hit. If it’s true... If this is the end... It can’t be, can it?”

He sits up. “What did you text to Nora? I hope you didn’t scare her.”

“I wrote that we loved her more than life itself.” She moans, erupting into tears. He climbs from the tub and cradles her shoulders—his fingers tremble as he touches the downy hair on her neck.

She turns her head away. “A nuclear holocaust. Who knew?” Her voice cracks as she reaches for words. “If this really is the end, there’s something I need to say.” She hesitates. “Please don’t hate me for telling you this...”

At 8:18 a.m., in the lobby of the Mauna Loa Hotel on the Big Island’s Gold Coast, Japanese newlyweds, wearing matching aloha shirts, hold hands, glance over their shoulders, and follow the other guests into a darkened basement the desk clerk calls “a perfect bomb shelter.”

On a Kealakekua coffee farm, two migrants from Honduras rake up the cherries they’ve just picked that morning. They laugh and gossip in Spanish, their backs warming in the sunlight until they spot their boss up the hill frantically waving them in.

Big Ed Mediros sits on a white plastic chair in the cool of his carport and uncorks the bottle of lychee wine he’s been saving for a special occasion. He twists the dial of his radio until a Jawaiian tune blasts from the speaker, then he lifts his glass and toasts whatever is coming his way.



Publisher’s Notes:

1. Full text of the false alert issued via the Emergency Alert System (EAS) over television, radio, and cellphones in Hawaii on 13 January 2018 at 8:07 a.m. local time:

Emergency Alert

However, the siren warning system was not activated by the state. Within a few minutes, at 8:20 a.m., the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency refuted via Twitter the initial alert by saying, “NO missile threat to Hawaii.” But the EAS did not send a second emergency alert until 8:45 a.m., which stated: “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.” (Details of this note are compiled from news articles published online).

2. Jawaiian: A blend of Hawaiian music and Jamaican reggae

Linda Petrucelli
Issue 11, Spring 2019

For most of her adult life, Linda Petrucelli has lived on islands—Taiwan, Manhattan, and the Big Island of Hawaii. Her article “Listening for the Tao in Eight Tones,” a personal essay about learning how to speak Taiwanese, appeared in the book Language Crossings: Negotiating the Self in a Multicultural World. She holds advanced theological degrees from Yale Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary but has recently abandoned religion for art. She posts her tiny stories at:

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡