My night of terror
I was never a fan of vampire or horror stories. Undead bloodsuckers, zombies, werewolves, what were they compared to the cruel machinations of humans? As a boy I was ho-hum about "scary" movies. What put the fear of God into me was nuclear war. My dad was in the National Guard and he brought home pamphlets about what to do in case of nuclear attack. Now this was real. Had I received warnings from the Department of Defense about zombies and vampires, I might have feared them. But this was the US Government telling me to be afraid of atomic war...and I was.
One disturbing public service announcement depicted stick figures rousted from their home by the shriek of a siren. The use of abstract stick figures was supposed to depersonalize the threat but to me, the effect was opposite. We citizens were anonymous future casualties of nuclear Armageddon. For years, the sudden flash in the corner of my eye could be the detonation of an H-bomb. As I rode my Western Flyer bike, I remained cognizant of every ditch, culvert, and thick wall to use as shelter from the certain atomic blast.
What scared me most was the Civil Defense siren--in particular the wavering tone which meant immediate attack: fifteen minutes until global holocaust. That undulating shriek was a jolt of terror stabbing through my ears and running down my spine to my sphincter. I could see the ICBMs leaping from their silos and arcing into the stratosphere. What cheery images for a ten-year old kid.
One night, it happened. The siren awoke me. It was the feared undulating tone exactly as I had memorized it. I wasn't dreaming. The siren's wail echoed throughout my neighborhood. Global annihilation was imminent.
I was too paralyzed with terror to leave my bed. I couldn't do anything but cringe in fear and sob. Why, dear God, were we going to die?
After minutes of tear-soaked misery the siren stopped. I expected the alarm to continue until the first blast shattered my bedroom window. But nothing. No explosion. No panicked mobs in the streets. Nada.
The city of Las Cruces, in their usual small-town idiocy, built a siren on top of the fire station. Every time they dispatched a truck, they'd sound the siren. If the firemen had to work at night, why not wake up the entire town? So my tears of grief were shed for nothing. I had survived nuclear annihilation and I was disappointed.