Doomsday: The Face in the Mirror

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The greatest destructive force in the history of mankind began and ended on one day. World War Three, 26th September 1983. The day would remain etched in the minds of her wretched survivors for as long as humanity hopelessly clung to the Earth's surface.

This story details the events of the day from the perspective of the man who created the 'New World'.

Submitted: July 05, 2017

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Submitted: July 05, 2017

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Doomsday: "The Face in the Mirror"

 

25th September 1983

Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

A loud piercing sound rang through Oleg's head, like an elongated police siren. There was something familiar about this noise he thought, something he had prepared for.

He heard voices around him, but it was pitch black and he could see nothing. "What!", he shouted at the 'black' noise, "What is wrong? What do you want!". He lifted his groggy head slightly, tilting it to the right and to the left. He realised that he was sitting at a desk.  His vision was blurred and he could only make out distant shapes. He saw something out of the corner of his eye. This something resembled a large computer screen and what looked like the outline of several figures.

His vision was clearing quickly and he realised he was sitting at his desk inside the Serpukhov-15 KGB Complex. He heard the voices again, clearer this time. He lifted his head fully and saw the faces of three work colleagues standing around him, Stanislav, Alexei and Viktor. "What... what do you want?", he slurred at them, still half asleep in his slumber. Nothing. Silence. Oleg looked at his watch, it read three minutes to midnight.

"What do you want?", he said again, more clearly. He noticed a strange look in their faces, a mixture of fear and rushed anxiety. "What is wrong?", this time he spoke more hesitantly. "Colonel...", piped Viktor. Oleg thought this unusual, he was simply a colleague of Viktor, an old friend, of equal footing in the KGB. However, at a quick glance around the room, he realised there was no sign of the Colonel.

"Colonel", a stern sound in Viktor's voice this time, his hesitation put aside. "Colonel, we have received the order from the Kremlin, proceed as planned." On the wall to his right, the clock struck two minutes to midnight.

Oleg looked at Viktor inquisitively. "What order, comrade? Are we expecting an order?", he laughed. "Colonel, we have received the order from the Kremlin. We are to proceed with Operation RYaN. A full scale nuclear attack on the United States of America." Oleg felt a numbing pain run right through his body, he jolted upright in  reaction to the news he had just heard.  Before he could summon a response,  Viktor had stood to the side. A bright red button appeared in the space behind him.

"Colonel, by order of the Kremlin, you are to launch a full scale nuclear attack on the Americans." Oleg thought nothing of this rank disobedience due to his state of shock. Then again, in the circumstances, he hadn't expected to be the Colonel in command. The clock on the screen in front of him read one minute to midnight. This seemed unusual to Oleg, he could have sworn it was bright when he had come in to work only an hour beforehand.

He refocused his attention on the red button in front of him. That powerful source of Armageddon.

 "A simple red button. The fate of the world, in his hands"

A full scale quarrel had broken out behind him. He could hear the sound of fighting, chairs being thrown through the air. "You traitor of the people", he heard someone shout at Viktor.  As he stared intensely at the red button in front of him, the thought crossed Oleg's mind that he had been a victim of circumstance, a victim of some attempted military overthrow. That would explain the unprecedented circumstances he found himself in, he thought. The fighting continued behind him. Oleg heard a punch thrown, but did not see anything such was his focus on the red button.  He guessed that it landed inches away from  him...

"BANG!"

 Oleg fell to the floor, with a powerful, full force strike to his temple.

...........................................................................

Oleg awoke and lifted the upper half of his body from where it lay. He had a terrible pain in his forehead, and once again did not recognise the darkness around him.  This was a more benign darkness however. A moonlit night-time darkness.  As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he realised he was in his bedroom, in his single apartment, on the outskirts of Moscow. The time in the bunker had all just been a dream. An alarm clock on his bedside table read thirty seconds to midnight. The pain in his head was subsiding fast, the vestige of a dreamlike pain. Oleg heard a feint noise outside, like a distant police siren.

Oleg rose out of bed and walked towards the kitchen. He wanted a stiff drink to calm his nerves after that awful nightmare.  Walking towards the door of his bedroom he took note of his surroundings. It was definitely his room, but appeared somewhat different. A chair was misplaced. His work clothes, with emblazoned military insignia were lying in a heap on thered carpeted floor, which was just a shade darker than it should have been. Oleg squinted to see the insignia, it looked closer to a skull and crossbones than a hammer and sickle. The noise outside was marginally louder, the clock struck twenty seconds to midnight. When he reached the door Oleg grabbed the handle, but it would not budge, "That door doesn't lock on the inside," he said aloud in a mumbled and confused manner.

Oleg walked towards the window in his room, now his only source to the outside world, drawing the light curtains open with either hand.  He looked at the familiar dull, grey landscape outside. His apartment was on the 29th floor, and he could see far beyond the city limits, well passed the Vnukovo Airport. The airport had been a hub of activity, at all hours, ever since the 1980 Olympics. However, it looked unusually still  right then, an eerie calm in the distance. He also surveyed the apartment blocks for miles around, all of which had been built in the Stalinist era. 

The police siren drew louder and closer.

These apartments housed the poor and the destitute. The former peasant farmers and the former Kulaks of the Tsar's time. This paradise of parity , where every soul was as equal as the next.

"Some are more equal than others", he thought aloud.

The clock struck 10 seconds to midnight. As Oleg looked out upon the dimly lit landscape below him, he saw a few shady characters braving the cold of an early Soviet winter's night. As he looked further on, towards the horizon, there was a distant change in the colour of the sky.  A bright white light crept across the landscape, edging towards the city of Moscow. Oleg wondered as to the source of this disturbance, perhaps some far away military test. The clock in the corner struck midnight.

The noise grew louder.

This time it was clear to him. That police siren, the one he had trained for.  At that moment, the bright white blinded the landscape. Oleg stared directly into it, and was confronted by a strange distorted facial expression...

.............................................................................

Oleg jolted with such force as to wake a dead man from his slumber. He surveyed the room around him, and heard a feint ringing. He was in his bedroom again, but how could he be sure this time that this was not another dream? He looked at the clock on his bedside table. The bright red light from the alarm clock read '22.44'. He leaped from his bed to identify the source of the ringing noise. As it transpired it was the phone on his far bedside desk. He realised that the noise was the alarm he heard in the dreams, figuring that he was awake at last. He answered the call. It was from the Serpukhov-15 bunker, and he was required to come into work immediately.

 

 

26th September 1983 - 0.00

Serpukhov-15 Bunker, (near) Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

As the clock struck midnight, Oleg, a lieutenant-colonel in the military intelligence section of the KGB, stood outside the entrance to the Serpukhov-15 Bunker on this cold winter's night. He was smoking the last of his Belomorkanal, hugging against the wall to maintain the light ember from the cigarette . The bunker was located on the outskirts of Moscow, but the base was shrouded in evergreen trees, providing an air of mystery to the activity within. His mind was still misty. He had awoken to cover for the Colonel, who had reported sick for the nights duty. The cold Arctic breeze from the east was doing little to assuage his exhaustion.

Oleg had finished  a sixteen hour shift earlier in the day and he resented his commander for this incursion on his night's rest. "Probably hit the vodka bottle too heavy... again", he muttered to himself.  Nonetheless, Oleg was not overly concerned, he was still only due to be second in line for command. He was safe in the knowledge that he was nothing more than an extra body on duty.

Stubbing out the remainder of his cigarette, he walked through the bunker's entrance, saluting the guard on the way in.  Out of sight of the guard, Oleg clutched his Makarov pistol in his left sided holster, cold to a touch. It  had always discomforted him to have death within his grasp. Somewhat ironic then that he had commenced working in a nuclear bunker five years previously, but that was where he was posted and he felt compelled to his duties.

 He closed the heavy stainless steel door behind him. It provided an air of superior external design which was unmatched within. While walking through the cold, concrete facade of the hallway entrance, he passed a number of his colleagues. One of these,  Stanislav, worked with him in the command centre which housed Oko, the Soviet Union's early warning satellite.  Stanislav was next in command to the Colonel.

Stanislav signalled for Oleg's attention. Oleg caught him by the arm, out of earshot of the others who had by now made their way outside . As he did, he noticed a worried frown across Stanislav's face.

"Where are you going Comrade? Are you not aware that you are my great commander for the night!", Oleg dryly stated, as he mockingly raised  his hand in salute.

"Important duties Oleg, I cannot state anything further. You are in charge for the night."

Without another word uttered, Stanislav briskly walked out the entrance to an awaiting convoy, leaving Oleg alone in the darkly lit hallway.

Oleg felt a newfound tension on his shoulders, as if the weight of the world was holding him down. He thought to his earlier dream, which had begun to slowly fade from memory.

"Bah. Pure coincidence", he muttered aloud, "nothing ever happens here." These were tense times, however, and everyone had been on heightened alert that month.

As he walked through the cold hallway of the bunker, Oleg thought to his short discussion with Stanislav. He wondered as to the nature of the duties which had brought Stanislav out of the bunker. Very little information ever made its way around the ultra secretive KGB, never mind that it would be heard externally. However, the organisation's cautious nature had heightened in recent years due to increased tensions at a political level.  This had been mounting since the election of President Ronald Reagan in America.

Reagan was viewed as something of a Cold War 'fire brand' in the USSR, having proclaimed the country an "evil empire." Oleg and his colleagues reviled the President. They viewed him as a symbol of American ignorance, and the embodiment of capitalist excess.  To them, he was nothing but a former actor, who viewed the world as a Hollywood movie, voicing continuous empty rhetoric. Still, if they viewed the President's remarks as meaningless, they were nonetheless concerned that he may act upon them. 

Making his way to the main command centre, Oleg reached the chestnut brown door to the elevator. He peered through its narrow window to see that the lift was waiting. He opened out the heavy door, and hopped into the unsteady elevator, which had no outward facing door panel . He watched as endless floors passed him by, making sure not to lean forward lest he lose a finger on route. When he reached his floor, he edged towards the canteen to pour a cup of strong black coffee. He hoped this would counter the strain of staying awake. 

As he walked into the command centre, Oleg couldn't but note how this faded quarter still managed to impress him. Now that he was commander for the night, he took greater notice of the soaring ceiling and detailed video analysis of satellite activity from around the world, dotted on computer screens lining the four walls. He had been in this room thousands of times, but it took on new meaning as a commander, even as a stand in replacement.

Oleg also took much greater notice of the team around him, sitting at quiet screens waiting for any flash of activity. Many were sat reading the daily newspaper, Pravada. Others were smoking badly rolled cigarettes, or engaging in joking conversation with each other. It could have been any office in the USSR, or anywhere else on Earth, he thought to himself. He was not blinded to the risks of this job either, that feint dream still playing on his mind. 

Oleg  informed his fellow colleagues that he would be their commander for the night. "Did the Colonel have a zapoi since his brother's wedding, comrade?", his young colleague, Alexander, laughed.

Oleg shouted at him for his ineptitude, in suggesting the Colonel had engaged in reckless drunken behaviour. "You will not address your commanding officer in such a manner, comrade!"

Alexander suddenly straightened up and apologised for his remarks. "You may be new in here, first year, but you have a lot to learn yet!" This jab towards Alexander's inexperience was a clear signal to the young officer of Oleg's seniority within the KGB.

Oleg may have secretly agreed with Alexander, but he had enough nuance to realise that this behaviour should not be tolerated publicly, lest it make its way back up the food chain to senior command. Such ineptitude had a habit of blocking promotions and earning disfavour within the notoriously political KGB. Yet many of them still joked with one another in private, as he did with Stanislav.

Oleg took his seat in the commander's chair, sipping his black coffee. He read through that day's Pravada, in a further attempt to keep himself awake. The newspaper had a report on the Maze Prison escape in Northern Ireland, in which thirty-eight IRA prisoners had escaped from prison in Belfast the previous day. Oleg laughed as he read through the article, thinking that for the "so called" advantages of western democracy, the British government could still allow something so outrageous to happen within its own territory. "Here these prisoners would have found themselves hanged or rotting in a gulag", he said to one of the officers nearby, "Infact, so would the guards..."

For Oleg and many within the KGB and government, any news of a problem in the West was a welcome reprieve from the continuous stories around the Korean Air Lines Flight 007. The airline had been shot down over Soviet airspace earlier in September, heightening tension between the USSR and USA. Their relationship was now at breaking point, and the incident was exacerbated by the fact that a US congressman was among the 269 people killed onboard the flight.

Oleg took another sip of his coffee and took a quick glance at the early warning system. The system  monitored any potential missiles coming from the US, allowing the USSR time to retaliate. There was nothing onscreen. There never was  and Oleg believed there never would be, despite his earlier concerns about his dream. He looked again at his newspaper, straining to read the paper from exhaustion. There was an article on the planned launch of the latest Soyuz vessel. The vessel was due to visit the Soyuz T-9 crew on Salyut 7 space station.  Oleg felt a surge of pride in reading any story of Soviet space exploration. The USSR had started and often lead the space race. For Oleg, this represented a strive for real progress, not the phony kind espoused by the Americans, he thought.

Suddenly, Oleg heard a piercing loud noise, it somewhat resembled that police siren from his dreams.  The alarm shocked him such that he dropped his coffee mug, which now lay smashed on the floor.

"What is going on?", he shouted at the team around him, his voice shaky. "Commander... it... it is the early warning system... it ... it is indicating an incoming ICBM from the USA...", the now quiet voice of the young Alexander trembled.

Grave concerns filled Oleg's mind. Had the Americans finally gone mad, had President Reagan ordered an attack on the USSR?

Oleg's mind was racing, and he was panickingly shifting in his seat.  He knew that an attack would have a limited response time. Not that it would matter anyway, the response would not prevent American bombs landing. They would all be dead, but at least the Americans would go down with them.  He knew that this was not the first time the system had malfunctioned. However, on previous occasions, the political situation was much less strained, and it was easier to identify the malfunction.

Oleg made a split decision, he weighed all factors and realised that an American attack would probably consist of more than one missile. Nevertheless, his nightmare, the details of which had now largely faded from memory, played at the back of his mind.  

"Comrades", he barked across the room, "We will hold our position, for now. Wait, and inform me of any further activity."

With Oleg's approval, his colleague Viktor turned off the alarm notification. Oleg's heart was racing by now, the pressure was mounting as he wiped the sweat from his brow. The strain of exhaustion was killing him. "The fate of the world, the 'entire world', should not be in my hands", he muttered to himself. "This system of mutually assured destruction is insane, it could never last... it just required one idiot with his finger on the button... (me)," he pondered further.

Within seconds, a further warning noise pierced throughout the command centre. This one seemed louder than the last, reverberating against the thick walls and high ceiling. Oleg swore the room was shaking around him.

"Commander... " came a roar from across the room, "four further ICBM's on route from the American base in Montana... Commander, we must do something. NOW!"

Oleg put his hands on his head, his clutched hands forcing his hair back. His heart was pumping fast, straining to keep up with the stress in his mind. He was pumping sweat from every orifice and was fit to collapse with exhaustion. He could not wait any longer, his mind was still bleary, but a multiple ICBM strike from the USA was no computer error. He thought again to his dream.

"This is no dream." Oleg thought aloud furiously. He could sense the hatred rising within him. He was a pressure cooker about to burst, he could feel the veins on his forehead pulsate.

Oleg  knew that the ground radar would not pick up the missiles in time. He picked up the phone line which linked directly to the Kremlin. "Comrade... we have a serious situation here... we need the General Secretary on the line, right now... the USA have launched a nuclear strike!"

 

 

26th September 1983 - 00.26

The Kremlin, Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

The leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, who was better known within the country as the General Secretary of the Communist Party, had been tossing and turning in bed as he struggled for a few hours sleep. He had little opportunity for rest in the preceding weeks. Chiefly, this was due to concerns caused by the Korean crisis, and ongoing tension with the Reagan administration. Andropov was a Soviet hardliner in his foreign policy dealings. He had played a significant role in crushing the Czechoslovakian uprising in 1968. He was also well known for pursuing a hardline stance within the Communist party, purging many party insiders and minister from their duties during his time in office.  Fifteen minutes after falling asleep, he was awoken by the noise of footsteps in his room. Such an incursion was unusual and relatively unheard of.

"Who would dare disturb me while I'm sleeping," the General secretary shouted towards the figure who had entered his room.

"General Secretary, we have an emergency situation," the voice responded. 

The General Secretary shouted back, "Comrade Ivashko, can someone else tend to this please, I am trying to sleep!"

The bleary eyed General Secretary was aware that,  for political appearances, he required support from the collective leadership for most decision making. This had been the case since Stalin's death. This young adviser just didn't know the ropes yet, and Andropov was sure his concern was insignificant. Best to leave this issue on someone else's plate until the committee could look into it,  Andropov drowsily thought.

Ivashko struggled to express his concern, "General Secretary... this cannot wait...", Ivashko swallowed nervously, "General Secretary, the USA have launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike."

Suddenly, Andropov was more alert, and shot up in his bed. This was the day the old, but inexperienced, Soviet Leader had been dreading and anticipating since his rise to the position 10 months earlier.

"General Secretary, there is no time to refer to the Committee, the US bombs will land in minutes... I have Commander Oleg Luchenko, from Serpukhov-15 on the emergency line..." Ivashko struggled once again with his speech, "General Secretary, he is looking for authorisation to launch a retaliatory strike on the USA."

Andropov had expressed concern with the USA amongst fellow members of the Soviet government. He, unlike many others, believed that the Reagan government was capable of launching a nuclear attack. He had been worried by the President's rhetoric earlier in the year and was deeply concerned with the announcement of the American's 'Strategic Defense Initiative' in March. The General Secretary had viewed this as one step short of a nuclear strike and was already on high alert. This was a confirmation of his greatest fear.

Andropov spoke briefly with Oleg, the most senior commander available at the bunker, on the phone about the impending situation. "Comrade Luchenko, can you confirm the news relayed to me by Comrade Ivashko. Have the USA actually launched a nuclear attack?"

He heard a gulp on the other end of the line, followed by an almost 'eternal' silence. Eventually, after a matter of seconds, Oleg confirmed the news, "General Secretary, I can confirm four inbound missiles. One headed to Leningrad, two heading for Moscow, and one towards Volvgograd. Awaiting your instructions."

The General Secretary stared intensely at the floor below him, the enormity of the situation had hit him. Millions of lives would be gone within minutes, including his own and everyone around him for hundreds of miles. The fate of half of humanity was in his hands, the other half, that was. It pained him to consider the prospect of creating further death and destruction, the same as that which would befall his beloved land. However, he had a duty of obligation, a duty to his country and to his comrades. 

It should have struck the exhausted General Secretary as unusual that the USA had only launched four nuclear bombs, given the armoury at their disposal. However, the responsibility of the past year had taken its toll on him, and his judgement had been impaired. He truly believed that the Americans had orchestrated an attack. Indeed, in a strange way, part of him wanted to believe it. If nothing else, it confirmed his suspicions.

"Comrade Luchenko. On my order, give direction to all Soviet installation's to launch a full nuclear strike on targets in Western Europe and the United States."

Oleg proceeded with the order, commencing with directions for the installation near East Berlin.

 

 

26th September 1983 - 17:37

'The White House', 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.,  United States of America

President Ronald Reagan had been entertaining the Ambassador and dignitaries of the embassy of the Republic of Korea on the South Lawn outside the White House, when he noticed the Secretary of Defense , Caspar Weinberger, advance towards him . The Secretary was holding a prototype Motorola DynTAC cell phone, the phone almost resembled a cereal box in length, and weighed more than a bag of sugar, the President thought.  The Secretary approached the President in an artificially relaxed manner, so as to not arise suspicion from the delegation, but the President noticed something was off with him.

"Mr. President, we have a situation for you to deal with."

The downing of Flight 007 had everyone on high alert and deeply concerned, none more so than the South Koreans. The United States had come to their support in the 1950's with UN backing during the Korean War. However, they knew that there was no hope for a UN backed response if the North were to invade again. The USSR was back on the UN security council and the People's Republic of China had replaced Taiwan on the council. Neither of these would be willing to authorise such an operation. They believed that there was no guarantee of American support under the circumstances. President Reagan was aware of this, and wanted to assuage their fears.

The President attempted to rebuff the Secretary in  hushed tones, "Caspar, is this a serious concern? The situation in Korea is quite tense. You know as well as I, that there was no justification for what the Soviet's did. The Koreans need to know that they have our  full attention and support right now."

As he said it, President Reagan heard a worried cough coming from the cell phone in the Secretary's trembling hand. The President somehow instinctively knew that this wasn't news of a rumoured African coup or trouble in the Middle East, concerns which had become part of the daily grind in his role.

The Secretary stared the President in the eye and began to speak. "Our early detection system in Nevada has sent an emergency warning. Ron, it's the Soviets, they've launched a full nuclear strike. They've targeted every major ally in Europe and every major city in the country. There are at least five thousand nuclear missiles on route. The first bombs are going to land on Ramstein Air Base in three minutes. They're standing by for immediate instruction."

The President's usual vibrant and positive outlook disappeared in an instant. A stone cold look spread across his face, his eyes sunken to the depths of hell. The two men walked away from the delegation and towards the entrance of the White House, after reaching a safe distance the President struggled to speak to  the Secretary, "Caspar... hand... hand me the phone".

As the President spoke to Brigadier General Johnson in the military base, he could hear a piercing siren in the background. General Johnson was a hardened Vietnam veteran, a tough sonofabitch who took no hostages in his military career. 

"General Johnson, can you confirm the Secretary's report on the current situation," the President enquired of him.

 "Yes sir," came the response from the General, a hint of shocked obliviousness in his response.

The President paused for a moment to think. "General, I would like to thank you for your bravery, hard work and dedication to our great country. General, have you family?"

 The General was standing alone in a darkened military office, a terrified woman and a little boy were visible through the window. The little boy was waving his arms around in a playful manner, oblivious to the situation.  

"Yes, Mr President... my wife and my boy... they're just outside", the President heard a quiver in the man's voice.

"General Johnson, may god bless you and your family."

"Thank you, Mr President."

"General Johnson,  I can confirm our order to retaliate with full force and to instantly relay that information to all NATO airbases in Western Europe. General, thank you once more for your service to your country. You have the full backing of every American. May God bless you and may God bless America"

With that, the President knocked the call off and looked at the Secretary with the sort of blank expression, pure shock, close to that of hearing a loved one had unexpectedly passed away. He then veered his head towards the Koreans on the lawn, who looked back with the sort of knowing expression which recognised that was no ordinary phone call.

...............................................................................

Within two minutes, air raid sirens blared across the continent of Europe, across East Asia, and across North America. President Reagan sat in the Oval Office of the White House, the first lady beside him holding his hand tightly. The White House staff, the Korean Delegation, and Secretary Weinberger were in the room also. The congregation prayed in silent contemplation in their final moments.

Within ten minutes, a bright white light descended across Western Europe and North America, visible from the deepest reaches of the solar system. No noise followed, not a whisper. 

 

 

26th September 1983 - 00.59

Serpukhov-15 Bunker, (near) Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

Oleg stared at his computer screen with a blank expression. More than ten thousand nuclear missiles flashed on the screen in front of him, inbound from America and Western Europe. At that moment he froze solid, he had realised the error of the earlier reading and his misjudgement on the matter.

"FOURTEEN MINUTES TO IMPACT"

The screen in front of him read in bold red writing. Fourteen minutes seemed an eternity to him right then. He removed the pistol from his holster, as a thousand memories flashed before his eyes.

He thought of his late mother and father, and their old family apartment in Perm. Memories both happy and sad from his childhood to enlistment in the KGB. He thought of his brother, and his wife and children. He thought of police siren's and bright noise.  He thought of skeleton's and skulls, stripped of their skin, amidst a red ashen sky of shaded darkness. He raised the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger, falling to the ground with a deep thud.

Just before he pulled the trigger, once last image flashed before Oleg's eyes. Once again, he saw the distorted face from his nightmare. However, this time it was clear to him. It was the face of death. The face from his own mirror.


© Copyright 2017 P. O'Sullivan. All rights reserved.

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