An Unfortunate Mistake

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: December 08, 2017

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Submitted: December 08, 2017

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The guard tower I sat in was crudely constructed of pilfered aluminum joists, hand-made bricks, and a lot of love.  There were 137 similar towers on the island with one located every mile on the coast of Oahu.  We don’t call it Oahu anymore, the island was affectionately renamed the Fallout Kingdom or FOK for short.  They were constructed so that survivors of the FOK could monitor the coast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.  There was never a time they were unoccupied and everyone took their turn manning the machine guns perched in the rudimentary towers.  Each tower had two survivors at a time rain or shine, no exceptions.

I sat in a yellow lawn chair with the polymer stock of the 249 snuggled lightly in to my shoulder.  I peered out at the turquoise-blue water and could smell the salt as the waves crashed loudly against the rocks below me.  We didn’t follow a calendar anymore, but from the size of the waves I knew it was November or October even though it was a gorgeous 80 degrees.  It truly was beautiful up here, and I enjoyed manning the towers more than any other of the other duties in the FOK.

As I watched the waves roll in off of the ocean, I couldn’t help but daydream about the times before Judgement Day when more than a billion people were instantly obliterated by the world’s first nuclear holocaust.  The FOK is one of the last places untouched by the radioactive fallout and vast plums of dust that covered nearly 95% of the planet’s surface.  It’s the one reason this small piece of land far out in the Pacific Ocean was so highly contested.

I was only six when the first atomic bomb unleashed its equal opportunity and unrestrained fury in Washington D.C.  The launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile carrying the nuclear payload was a stunning twist of fate, one that would change the history books forever and doom mankind to this awful destiny.  No one group had ever been made to endure the hardships that Lucille would bestow upon us shortly after she detonated over the U.S. Capital.  Her magnificent, blinding light was the last thing that 680,000 citizens would ever see, but they were the lucky ones.

After Lucille, there was Sebastian, and then Charles and so forth and so on until the world was a colossal radioactive clusterfuck of nuclear craters, confusion, and death.  Within a twelve hour period, the longest of anyone’s life, it’s estimated that over 637 nuclear explosions permanently scarred the crust of the third rock from the sun.  And speaking of the sun, many of the Judgement Day survivors haven’t seen it in eleven long years.  The dust from the detonations remains delicately suspended in the far reaches of the earth’s atmosphere, effectively blotting out the light, heat, and energy from the gigantic burning star.

Even though bombs shattered humanity like a shotgun blast to a glass bottle, this wasn’t the start of some politically charged conflict.  It wasn’t the result of Russia invading the United States or to foil some plot at world domination.  As I said a moment ago, it was just a remarkable coincidence.  It is the stuff that movies are made of or the plot of some post-apocalyptic novel.  In fact, I don’t think you could make this stuff up if you wanted to.

It all started with a metallic rock the size of a school bus named AST 2379.  It wasn’t particularly huge, but what made this rock so interesting is that it was expected to enter the earth’s stratosphere, burn down to the size of a Volkswagen Bus, skim past the earth at a blazing 8,886 miles per hour, and shoot back out in to space missing the blue planet by a mere 50 miles.  Every telescope on earth, astrologist, mathematician, scientist and normal citizen knew about the asteroid, and we were all watching it.  The calculations had been done numerous times, and the trajectory of the rock, although too close for comfort, would safely buzz by us.

It was on every television set, newspaper, and magazine and was all the talk on every social media account, coffee shop, and locker room.  AST 2379 had a cult following with scores of people rushing to Europe to get a glimpse of the once-in-a-trillion close encounter.  It was expected to light up the sky in ways that would make the aurora borealis look like it played for the junior varsity football team.  It was, to say the least, expected to be a spectacular experience.

AST 2379 was in fact benign, the calculated course was correct and the rock would sail by the earth causing only minor cellular and satellite interference.  However, every resource on earth was so focused on AST 2379 that they never saw AST 2380.  It was the much smaller, refrigerator-sized asteroid that would eventually collide with the larger asteroid and indeed create a light show so brilliant that that it caused partial or complete blindness in most that witnessed it firsthand.  The intergalactic collision was so powerful that it created an EMP that instantly knocked out power in most of the eastern hemisphere.  As devastating as the event was, it was going to get worse.  Much worse.

On December 7th  in the year 2044, the collision changed the trajectory of AST 2379 four degrees causing it to sail over the icy Siberian Tundra and impact Moscow with the unimaginable power of 100 nuclear warheads exploding at once.  The city was devastated, its existence wiped away forever.  The Kremlin was turned to dust and the ensuing fireball extended for well over a hundred miles and incinerated everything in its path.  But this was only the beginning.

Moscow was well prepared for nuclear war as a nuclear superpower itself and an enemy of the United States.  So prepared in fact, that they were equipped to retaliate, even after death took them to whichever afterworld they believed in.  In the height of the Cold War, the Russian Government developed a trigger called the “Dead Man’s Switch”.  It was designed to launch nuclear warheads at strategical targets throughout the globe with D.C. as its primary objective.  Within 30 seconds of the destruction of Moscow, the Dead Man’s Trigger hummed to life and launched the first nuclear weapon in a hundred years.

Within minutes, nuclear missiles were sailing around the globe, indiscriminately killing hundreds of millions of people.  The U.S. nuked North Korea and Russia, the South Koreans nuked China and North Korea, North Korea nuked every-fucking-body, Israel nuked Palestine, and so forth and so on until every nuclear superpower had unleashed their nuclear arsenals.

And here we are.  The rest is history.

“Hey, Brant”, Alexander said beside me, startling me out of my daydream.  “Did you hear the FOK mayor is allowing a group of survivors in?”

I shook my head in response as I continued to patrol the water with my eyes.  “I thought the last ship was the last one she was letting in.”

“Me too.  This one is expected to have nearly 1200 survivors.  It’s an old Carnival cruise ship coming in from Alaska.”

I learned long ago that Alexander wasn’t the best source for information, but I mostly ignored him as I swatted a mosquito off of my cheek.  The island population was already a crowded 2.5 million souls and bursting at the seams with survivors.  The mayor made a public service announcement last month declaring that no more would be let in because resources were becoming too scarce and the waters had been over-fished.

“I don’t believe it”, I retorted, “We can’t afford 1200 more mouths to feed”.  I pulled out a plug of tobacco and placed it in my mouth and spit a long string of tobacco juice over the side of the tower.  “Besides, Camp Patriot only has enough tents left to house maybe four or five-hundred more people.  Even then, that’s pushing it”.

“I believe it.  I heard my dad telling a few of his friends when they were playing cards last night.”

I looked over at him and frowned.  His dad was a drunk and we all knew it, probably the biggest one on the island.  His information had been notoriously bad and was the source of most of Alexander’s “facts”.  As I frowned at him, I noticed the thick oil in his frizzy, sun-bleached hair and the acne covering his face and bony back.

Alexander was a tall kid, around 6’3”, just an inch shorter than me and what he lacked in personal hygiene skills I made up for.  He didn’t smell, but he definitely looked like he did.  The shower trailers were nearly a mile from our shared tent in Camp Cuervo but I made the trek every night when I got off shift

“Why don’t you go down in to the ocean and wash off.  I’ve got the tower for now.”

He shook his head.  “No can do, Brent.  You know it’s two at a time, rain or shine.”  He lifted his lanky arm and took a deep whiff from his armpit.  “Why, do I stink or something?”

“No.  I heard the salt from the ocean does wonders on acne”, I lied.  “I know how self-conscious you are about your acne.  You always complain about it.”

Alexander looked hurt, but he just shook his head and shrugged.  “I can’t help it”, he said, “It’s the product of being a teenager.”

I couldn’t argue with him because his reason was sound.  He was just 16 and I was a year older than him at 17.  But somehow, his genetics dictated that the trials of puberty would include acne and mine didn’t.

“Look”, I said, “just go wash some of that grease out of your hair.  I don’t want to be rude, but it could be genetics or it could be that you don’t shower enough.”

“Alright.  But if I get in trouble, I’ll kick your ass”, he joked.

I laughed out loud, and when I did some tobacco juice escaped my mouth and dribbled down my chin.  He was tall and lanky, and I was tall and muscular.  He would have to gain at least a hundred pounds before he could even think about kicking my ass and we both knew it.

He got up and stripped naked in the tower.  “You know”, he said, “My acne might be gross but that shit in your mouth is grosser.  It’s gonna give you cancer if you don’t stop.”

I just smiled to show him the tobacco in my teeth and spit another huge glob of it on to the floor next to him.  “Get going, Pigpen.”

The FOK sun beamed down on my face as Alexander stuck his foot in to the ocean to check the temperature.  It must have been satisfactory because he dove all the way in and began to scrub his hair with the brackish water.  As he bathed, I kept a steady eye on the horizon and took the beauty of the scenery in.

The sun continued to beat down on my face as Alexander enjoyed his frolic in the bath-warm Pacific.  I took my shoulder off of the weapon and grabbed the bag I placed under my seat in search of my sunscreen.  I dug through my backpack until I found the small, ketchup packet of sunscreen which was part of my monthly rations from the FOK pantry.  I relaxed a little bit and took my sunglasses off as I squeezed a portion of the packet on to my palm.  I closed my eyes and lathered the pink lotion over my smooth, acne-free face.

When I opened my eyes again, I saw a small black dot on the horizon.  I put my sunglasses back on and blinked several times sure the dot was just a sunspot in my field of vision.  It wasn’t.  Not only was the dot on the horizon, it was getting bigger indicating it was getting closer.  I tried to gauge the speed of the dot and quickly came to the conclusion that it was moving fast and would be on us in a minute or so. 

For a second, I thought Alexander’s drunken father had been correct and there was another group of survivors coming in from Alaska.  I quickly dismissed the thought because the dot was far too small to be a cruise ship and was moving way too fast.  At that speed, I knew they were Fallout Freebooters, a deadly group of Judgement Day survivors that repeatedly attempted to access the FOK without following the proper protocols.  Most of the Fallout Freebooters were convicts that had escaped prison or were released after Judgement Day.

“Alexander!” I yelled.  “We’ve got company!”

The wind had picked up to a light howl and the sound of my yell was caught in it and carried away from him.  I yelled for him again and this time he responded.  He gave me a thumbs-up to indicate he heard me but I could tell he only received part of my message and didn’t grasp the severity of the situation.  The boat had closed in to about a quarter-mile and I had to take action before they reach the shore.

I grabbed the 249 and jammed it in to my shoulder as Alexander continued to wash himself.  I placed my cheek on to the polymer stock and looked down the iron sights until they were perfectly aligned and the small vessel was clearly in my crosshairs.  By now, Alexander had also noticed the boat and was frantically swimming back to shore trying to get out of the range of fire.

At 200 yards out, I could clearly make out the flag of the Fallout Freebooters’ black and white pirate flag.  The safety of the machine gun made a metallic click at I smoothly moved it from safe to automatic fire.  I needed Alexander to help feed the belt-fed 5.56mm rounds in to the weapon to ensure it didn’t jam or double feed, but I would have to make do without him.  I inhaled deeply, exhaled, and held it as I had been taught on so many practice ranges at the FOK firing range.  I placed my finger in the trigger well and smoothly pulled back the trigger until the machine gun roared to life.

Bullets pockmarked the water all around the boat but I failed to hit the main prize.  I released another flurry of bullets from the metallic beast and missed again.  By now, Alexander was on the beach and running for the tower.  I fired again.  This time I placed several rounds in the bow of the boat causing the captain to veer wildly to his starboard.  As he swerved, one of the Fallout Freebooters lost his footing and fell in to the frothy drink.  The boat slowed down to pick up their unfortunate passenger but it was too late for him.  I caught him in my crosshairs and fired another volley of rounds, hitting my mark square in the forehead causing his skull to explode like a watermelon dropped off of a fifty-story building.

Confident the bastard was dead, I retrained the machine gun on to the boat.  Before I could fire, the .50 BMG mounted on the boat erupted sending bullets smashing in to the side of the shoddy tower.  I ducked down to avoid being hit and the impact from the bullets knocked dust off of the wall and in to my eyes.  To make matter worse, I got sunscreen and sweat in to my eyes as I tried to rub the dust out.  This was turning out to be one shitty day.

I got back behind the gun and through blurred vision fired blindly in the direction of the Freebooters.  I missed.  I ducked back down and frantically tried to use the edge of my sleeve to clear my eyes.  As I did, Alexander was yelling at me to shoot, the shrill desperation in his voice bringing me back to the moment.

I stood up and grabbed the gun again as Alexander sprinted towards the cover of the tower.  I looked back at the boat and noticed that it stopped moving; they had us zeroed in.  The first round caught Alexander in the arm below the elbow and blew it straight off of his body.  I caught the look of horror on Alexanders face as the impact caused him to lose his balance.  As he stumbled, another round demolished his hip.  He was down for the count.

“Alexander!” I screamed.  “Crawl behind the tower!”  He didn’t move and I knew he wouldn’t.  He lay on the beach as the large caliber bullets kicked up the sand around him and the blood flowed freely from his arm and hip.

In one final act of desperation, I mounted the gun again and scattered the boat with rounds.  To my surprise and relief, the boat erupted in to a gigantic ball of fire sending people, fiberglass, and propellers flying in to the air.  It was a lucky hit, but I’ll take luck any day over defeat.  The Fallout Freebooters must have had a case of explosives somewhere in the boat.  I wasn’t done yet though, I zeroed in on the stranded pirates and lit them up, killing all five of the remaining survivors as they bobbed helplessly in the water.  It was over.

Once I was sure the threat was eliminated, I jumped off of the tower and rushed to Alexanders aid.  When I got to him, I knew he wasn’t going to survive; the wounds were too extensive to fix.  I tried anyway.  I ran to the water and pulled a piece of driftwood from the ocean, ripped off my belt, and ran back to him.  We were taught first aid in the FOK academy and it was time to put my skills to use.

I focused on the arm first as I wrapped the belt high around the badly damaged limb.  I ran the belt through the metal buckle and cinched it down as hard as I could.  Alexander looked up at me as I worked my medical skills on him.  I watched the life fading slowly from his eyes as I feverishly labored.  I stuck the drift wood between the band and his arm and begin to rotate it.  I turned the makeshift windless until it wouldn’t turn anymore and used a piece of rope that was on the beach next to him to secure it in place.  Once I was satisfied with the hasty tourniquet, I moved down to his hip.

The bone and skin around his hip was badly mangled and looked more like hamburger meat than part of a human being.  I gagged dryly and ripped my shirt from my body.  I took the tail of my shirt and wrapped it around my finger.  I deliberately packed the cotton in to the wound until I felt the bone.  The warmth of his body was fading but I continued on packing until only a small bit of the shirt was left over.  I took the remainder of the shirt and wrapped it around his leg and tied it in to a tight knot directly on top of the wound effectively creating a basic pressure dressing.  It was too late, and Alexander slipped from the bounds of life right there on the beach.

 

 


© Copyright 2018 B.J. Mills. All rights reserved.

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