A Fighting Chance

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: May 20, 2018

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Submitted: May 20, 2018

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A Fighting Chance

 

How many times had the town been searched before they went in to action? Okay, so those hazmat suits weren’t the easiest of things to go searching in, constricting both movement and vision, but it would easily be possible for the ten who’d gone in to do a thorough search.

No one else in the town apart from the infected. That’s what the report had said and that is what determined the action.

Fire bombs rained down on the town, one following another. The ground shook with the impact of the bombs and the demolition they were bringing with them. Smoke billowed out, followed by those massive flames that licked and scorched. Wood was incinerated, metal, melted and concrete just collapsed.

The screams of the sick were soon drowned out by the screeches of metal on metal, the rumbling of stone on stone and the further explosions, from gas, from oil. The fire grew in strength, ate up the smoke as it blazed full-throttle through the town. Once the smoke began to reform they knew that the worst of the conflagration was gone. The fire was dying down, running out of things to consume.

We’d be sent in shortly, to walk the perimeter. It would be a while before anyone could go inside. Those that were sent in would be geared up in hazmat suits once more but they were not necessary for the perimeter. Any airborne infection would have been burned out of existence; at least that was what we were told.

Six of us went out, keeping our distance from the choking black fog that was now billowing up. We separated, spread out to walk and inspect. There was nothing much to see other than devastation and flames, nothing to be heard but the hissing of a dying fire and the odd creak as the ruins moved then settled.

The cries were unexpected. No one could have survived that, could they? Hallucinating, that’s all I was doing, hearing the cries of the sick who had no hope and had now been put out of their misery. But that didn’t account for the movement that caught my eye as two figures, scrabbled their way from the wreckage and ran towards me.

Kids! No more than five years old, either of them, a boy and a girl. From their similarities to each other I could only assume that they were brother and sister. Were they sick? My mind struggled to make an assessment before they got too close to me. Tears streaked their filthy faces but to me they did not look sick.

They’d messed up. The initial assessment had been faulty and the entire operation had gone wrong. Two survivors coming out, two kids; I could only wonder how many more innocent and uninfected lives we had just destroyed.

They approached me warily. They needed help, did not know what to do, where to go, and I was an adult. Adults would help, that’s what they’d been taught, even ones that have just destroyed their entire existence. Now what? I did not have a clue what I would be expected to do. I’d take them in with me, radio first to let them know, to make sure the others were prepared to look out for what we had certainly not expected to find – survivors.

Kill them. They will be carriers. They cannot be allowed to exist.”

That was a response I had not anticipated. “But, Sir....”

No buts, soldier. You have your orders.”

I reached round for my rifle, gripped it in my two hands then let it fall back into place. These were kids, like my own back home. I could not do it. Could not bring myself to press the trigger, orders or not. But others would, without hesitation.

I beckoned to them to run, to get as far away from the ruins as possible. I could imagine the confusion on their faces as they stopped approaching. I made my gestures more urgent and it seemed that they finally understood because the boy turned, pulling the girl with him and together they began to run.

Where they would go I had no idea. How far was it to the next town, the next village, even the next inhabited house?

I watched them move further off in to the distance, almost disappearing before my radio crackled in to life. “Have you carried out your orders, soldier?”

Yes, Sir. They’re gone.” Well, it was only half a lie. I had not killed them but they were no longer in view. It was almost as though I had imagined them, for how could it be true? No one, least of all a couple of kids could have survived.

I’d imagined it. That is what I convinced myself, at least. The alternative, of course, was that my compassion or cowardice, depending on the way you looked at it, might just have condemned the entire country, the entire world, to a virus that we had no way of treating.


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