The sky split open and Middletown became the "City at Worlds End"
Kenniston realized afterward that it was like death. You knew you were going to die someday, but you didn't believe it. He had known that there was danger of the long-dreaded atomic war beginning with a sneak punch, but he hadn't really believed it.
Not until that June morning when the missile came down on Middletown. And then there was no time for realization. You don't hear or see a thing that comes faster than sound. One moment, he was striding down Mill Street toward the plant, getting ready to speak to the policeman coming toward him. The next moment, the sky split open.
It split wide open, and above the whole town there was a burn and blaze of light so swift, so violent, that it seemed the air itself had burst into instantaneous flame. In that fraction of a second, as the sky flared and the ground heaved wildly under his feet, Kenniston knew that the surprise attack had come, and that the first of the long-feared super-atomic bombs had exploded overhead....
Shock, thought Kenniston, as his mouth crushed against the grimy sidewalk. The shock that keeps a dying man from feeling pain. He lay there, waiting for the ultimate destruction, and the first eye-blinding flare across the heavens faded and the shuddering world grew still. It was over, as quickly as that.
He ought to be dead. He thought it very probable that he was dying right now, which would explain the fading light and the ominous quiet. But in spite of that he raised his head, and then scrambled shakily to his feet, gasping over his own wild heartbeats, fighting an animal urge to run for the mere sake of running. He looked down Mill Street. He expected to see pulverized buildings, smoking craters, fire and steam and devastation. But what he saw was more stunning than that, and in a strange way, more awful.
He saw Middletown lying unchanged and peaceful in the sunlight.
The policeman he had been going to speak to was still there ahead of him. He was getting up slowly from his hands and knees, where the quake had thrown him. His mouth hung open and his cap had fallen off. His eyes were very wide and dazed and frightened. Beyond him was an old woman with a shawl over her head. She, too, had been there before. She was clinging now to a wall, the sack of groceries she had carried split open around her feet, spilling onions and cans of soup across the walk. Cars and street-cars were still moving along the street in the distance, beginning erratically to jerk to a halt. Apart from these small things, nothing was different, nothing at all.