The Last Day of Summer

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: New Writers wanting Reviews

Chapter 5 (v.1) - T+ 5

Submitted: January 05, 2018

Reads: 155

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Submitted: January 05, 2018

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07:24, 22-August-2021

18 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska
 

I opened my eyes, I saw blue sky and a dark cloud cutting it in half. I had a nasty headache. I could feel the sun beating on the top of my head as I lay there shivering.

Why am I laying outside?

I remembered being so warm as I fell asleep. It's weird that I don't really remember last night, why would I leave my tent? I had such a strange dream too, I dreamt that Anchorage got nuked. Of course, that would never happen. I touched the back of my head and felt matted hair and a tingle on my skin where I had touched. The back of my head must have numbed from laying in the snow. I scraped at my matted hair and looked at my nail—blood. I must have tripped, but why so far from my tent? I sat up and looked toward my tent, it was sitting there just like it was when I set it up. The clouds were strange today, only a huge, oblong cloud hung in the sky nearly over me. It stretched out to the west, with a smokey column rising into it from below. The rest of the sky was clear and blue. It was hazy underneath the cloud, almost like it was snowing, but it was much too warm out for that. The haze was nearly to me, just across the valley to the west.

I stood up, brushed the snow off the back of my leggings, and looked up.

OhmyGod.

Where anchorage used to be sprawled out, now a massive crater laid in its place. I could see the glint of water already beginning to fill it.

That was no dream.

How? Why?—I questioned in disbelief. I stared at it for a moment longer in awe and then I finally snapped into action. If there was one thing I learned in my college physics class, it was that you should not be exposed to nuclear fallout right after a nuclear detonation—that was the most dangerous time, but why? I racked my brain, trying to remember what that old professor drilled into us. Seven-ten, seven-ten, I remembered. What did it mean again? It's been so long. Factors!—I remembered, they were factors. For every factor of seven increase in time, radiation levels decrease by a factor of ten.

How long have I been asleep? I remembered checking the time on my Kindle last night and it said 12:51 a.m. My Kindle was still on Colorado time so that would have been 10:51 p.m. local time. I half ran, half slid down to my tent, and grabbed my Kindle. I pressed the power on button—nothing. I reached for my phone and it also wouldn't power on. The nuke must have fried them. The sun was just above the mountains to the east, and with the sunrise around 6:30, it would be about seven or eight right now. It had been over seven hours since detonation so the radiation has dropped to a tenth of what it was at detonation, still could be more than enough to kill me though as I had no idea how much radiation was released.

I packed up my campsite faster than ever before. I needed to get as far away as fast as possible. Once that haze reached me it would most likely be the end of me, a terrible death too or so I've heard. I threw the straps of my pack over my shoulder and ran like hell to the ridge that I first came up on the day prior. Once I got there, I looked down and saw the mountain slope away from me for what seemed like an eternity—no way I could run down all that icy snow in time. I'd never had this feeling before on a mountain. I was used to climbing mountains, no matter how big they were, it was an easy mindset—just one step at a time. Sure, that sounds cliche but it's so true. Try hiking up a mountain and not telling yourself that at least once.

I considered hurling myself from the peak to gain some time, but that seemed like a terrible idea, still better than dying of radiation sickness though. Then, a brilliant thought hit me.

Jenny, you're so dumb.

I threw my pack on the ground and unstrapped my raft, and I can tell you I blew that raft up like no one has ever blown up a raft before. I must have looked like a chipmunk that just raided his buddy's stockpile of nuts. I only stopped a few times to keep myself from passing out due to hyperventilation.

Was this a better idea than throwing myself from the mountain? Slightly.

I threw my pack in the front and jumped onto the back in a superman pose so that I could use my feet to steer the death trap. The slope angle was brutally steep here so I was moving like a bat out of hell, but I needed the speed as it flattened out at the bottom for a while before the next drop. Rock ledges appeared here and there and I dug my feet into the icy snow to attempt to avoid them. I did pretty well, except for the last one I saw no way around. My foot rudder couldn't steer me away fast enough as I went sailing through the air. I have no idea how long I was airborne but I can tell you it felt like forever. When I finally landed, the raft compressed and sprung my pack and I back into the air. I landed again but not in the raft this time. My pack now occupied where I had laid, and I was hanging off the back of the raft, hands death gripped onto the straps of my pack. I pulled with all my might and barely got myself back into the raft. My legs were freezing from being dragged along the ice and we gradually slowed to a stop as the terrain flattened. I caught my breath and then jumped out off the raft and started pushing it over the next slope. This slope was a lot more gradual but it eventually dropped off into the grass, rocks, and trees of the valley floor. I slid along at a good pace and stopped the raft just before the next major drop. I quickly deflated my raft and strapped it onto my pack. I set off with a slow jog down the last descent into the valley floor.

I came up to the Eagle River and it split around a small piece of land jutting out in the middle—that would do. I inflated my raft, yet again, and pushed out into the river. I ran it aground on the piece of land, jumped up, ran to the edge, and pushed off again towards the river bank. I made it. After deflating the raft, I started to run towards the Eagle River Nature Center. I saw some houses nearby it during my hike yesterday.

I got to the nature center and the parking lot was empty so I looked for the nearest house with a car parked out front. I saw a Jeep in front of a big, two-story house so I ran to it. I banged on the front door and there was no answer. I tried the handle and it opened—I was in luck! I started searching for the keys to the Jeep. They weren't in the entry-way, they weren't in the living room or kitchen. If these people were anything like my parents, they might have left them in a pants pocket. I ran into the master bedroom and grabbed the first pair of pants lying on the floor—score!

I left the house and fired up the Jeep, driving it like I stole it—well, I guess I did but that's besides the point. As I drove north out of the valley, I didn't see a single car on the road. In fact, I didn't see anyone. The roads, stores, and houses were completely desolate. Creepy doesn't begin to describe the feeling as I turned east and headed towards the bridges that crossed the Knick Arm. Just before the first bridge, I saw three cars wrapped up into what appeared to be a terrible accident. I slowed as I approached it. There was someone inside!

I stopped the car and jumped out to help. I walked up to the car.

"Sir, are you okay?"

No answer.

"Sir?" I repeated as I reached in to shake him.

That's when I noticed blood all over the inside of the car. I shook his shoulder and he rocked as I moved him but made no movement of his own. I grabbed him and began to pull him out, but as he fell towards me I saw the left side of his face. Well, actually I didn't, because he didn't have it. I jumped backwards and held my hand over my mouth, trying to keep myself from puking over the gruesome sight. I turned away, took a deep breath, and continued on to search the other cars. Thankfully, they were empty. I jumped back into the Jeep and crossed the first bridge.

As I crossed the last bridge, the road stretched out before me for miles, mountains rose in the distance, and at that moment, I realized, I had no idea what to do.


© Copyright 2019 Joseph Long. All rights reserved.

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