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Some Kind Of War Zone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: BoMoWriCha Prompts


Written for a BoMoWriCha daily challenge.

Submitted: July 26, 2018

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Submitted: July 26, 2018

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Some Kind Of War Zone

The first sign that there was anything wrong was the explosion. It had to be a big one because it was not very near, and yet still it rocked the whole house. Looking out of the window, the only thing I could make out was smoke, billowing up in to the sky from the south.

Sirens, so it was being taken care of. Nothing to worry too much about. At least that is what I had thought......then.

Life carried on. It was a weekend, so I’d be taking it easy until the night. Saturday night, party night, each and every week. There was something odd in the atmosphere though, something that, now the explosion had got me up, kept me up.

Mom was out, visiting her parents. She’d not be back until the following afternoon, and Dad had got lumbered with the Saturday shift, wouldn’t be back until after dark. There was just me and my younger brother Jacob at home – at eighteen and fifteen we were judged old enough to be left on our own. We could be trusted to behave responsibly.

I went out in to the hallway and listened by his bedroom door. Well, it was clear just what he was doing, going from the shooting, the screams, the background music. Gaming as usual. I doubt he’ll have even heard the explosion, so it’s hardly worth my interrupting him.

Coffee! I’ll go and start brewing some, perhaps have an unusual breakfast, but no, I’m not hungry. I’ll stick with coffee, browse through a magazine or something. Kill a bit of my extra spare time.

Another explosion jolts me from my reading, gets me up on to my feet and across to the window. I can’t see much from downstairs though, so I head back up. Jacob opens his door and joins me; it had been loud enough, then, to break in to his concentration, draw him away from his computer.

What’s going on, Rachel? It sounded like a bomb or something.”

I don’t know, Jake. There was one earlier but I just presumed it was a one off explosion. I saw the smoke, it was miles away.”

He follows me in to my room, across to my window. Side by side, we look out and the smoke is so much nearer this time. Uncomfortably near. I can taste it.

What’s going on?” I hadn’t really meant to ask the question out loud; after all, as the oldest I should be offering the reassurance.

Do you think they could be bombs?” Jacob’s mind was still in his war game and that was the most logical explanation for him to come up with.

Could be, I suppose. But who would be planting bombs here. Maybe there’s some kind of gas leak or something like that. I’ll turn it off from outside, just in case.”

The gas tap is located just outside the front door. I go outside, see some of our neighbours have had similar ideas. I wave at a few of the people I know, but whereas Dad or Mom might have stopped to speculate with them, to ask, I don’t say anything. Just head off back indoors.

Jacob is on the phone when I get back inside. “Okay,” he’s saying. “I’ll tell her. See you later, Dad.”

What? Is he okay at work? Not caught up in the explosions or anything?” He would have to phone up the moment that I was outside.

No, he says he’s fine. But he said he wants us both to stay here, not go anywhere, either together or alone. He was going to try and phone Mom again, as there’s some problem with the signal out Gran and Grandpa’s way.”

Just how I want to spend a long Saturday, cooped up in doors. I could just go out, disregard Dad’s message. He’d never know, after all. Yeah, I could, but I won’t.

Why don’t you come and have a game for a while. You know you used to enjoy it not so long ago.” Jacob holds out his hand. “And I’ve got a spare controller.”

I’m really not that enthusiastic. It’s been a long time since I’ve played these games but on the other hand there’s not much better to do. What the hell, might as well. “Sure Jake. You want your ass kicked, I’m the girl to do it!”

So that’s what we do. He sits up on his chair while I prefer to be cross-legged on the floor. Takes me a few minutes to rediscover all the buttons, work out what does what, but soon we’re in full swing, firing and blasting away at each other’s troops while trying to keep our own alive.

As I’d expected, Jake pulled in to an immediate lead, but once I’d got more into the game, his lead began to lessen and I was rewarded by the look of determination and concentration on his face. I was proving not to be the easy to beat opponent that he had expected.

I don’t know how long they’d be going on for before we noticed them. Gunshots, outside. And not that far away either. Just the odd single shot to start off with, the sharp crack clearly audible above the soundtrack of our own war.

We look at each other and without saying a word, Jake shuts off his computer. Another couple of sharp cracks, and then the more sustained fire of some kind of automatic weapon.

Impossible as it is to believe, it seems that our quiet street is under some kind of attack. Who from? And even more, why? There’s nothing here apart from houses.

As if we might be under observation ourselves, both Jacob and I creep along the hallway and back in to my room. If we approach the window from the sides we’d not be seen from the street. The drapes were open so we could just look past their edges.

The street seems to be filled with soldiers, all dressed up in some kind of suits and masks. They appear to be equipped with a vast range of weapons, ranging from guns, rifles, to hand grenades. And more of the armed forces are arriving, including tanks, missile launchers.

A helicopter is buzzing around in the sky. “Stay indoors! Do not open your doors or your windows. Stay away from windows and find a safe place on the ground floor of your home.” It seems to hover almost right in front of us, as if the pilot knew we are standing there, looking out. The entire message plays over and over again.

What the.....” Jacob begins, then stops as I reach over and drag the drapes hard together, shutting out whatever is playing out on the street.

More shots sound, then something else I can only describe as a high pitched whine. There is a loud crack, much more violent than the previous one and the helicopter roars before it explodes into a fire-ball. We can hear bits of it raining down on to the street, on to some of our neighbours houses too.

Whatever this is, it is all too real. Soldiers are shouting, some of them screaming out in agony, maybe hit by the debris of that helicopter. The realization that my brother and I are alone suddenly hits me, and I freeze. What about Mom and Dad? Are they under attack, too?

Jacob grabs my arm, pulls me roughly away from the window. I might be the oldest but he is the biggest, plus I wasn’t expecting it. “Rachel, come on! You heard what they said! Ground floor! We need to get moving.”

Shaking the thoughts from my head I follow him to the stairs. We are almost at the bottom when there is another of those strange whining noises and the whole house seemed to rock on it’s foundations. Had it been hit? We both fling ourselves down the last few stairs to land on the hallway floor.

The house is still standing at least, and doesn’t seem to be falling to pieces. It must have missed us, but it was terrifyingly close. Neither of us get to our feet but crawl our way in to the kitchen. The oak table, that big sturdy monstrosity that our Dad was so fond of, that seems like the best thing to get beneath. If that didn’t stay standing, nothing would.

Another bang and with a sizzle the lights go out. It isn’t really dark, being daytime after all, but the drapes are pulled and there had to be so much smoke and dust outside that there was very little light at all. I want to see what is going on, but at the same time, I am too scared. I think Jacob feels the same, although he doesn’t put it in to words.

We don’t talk. What is there to say? The noise becomes more constant, more violent; even if we’d wanted to speak we would have had to have shouted just to make ourselves heard, in spite of sitting beside each other.

Time drags by and time seems to stand still. It is as though we are paralysed and blind. All we can do is listen.

I don’t know how long we’ve been here when the house next door takes a hit of some sort. The rumble and roar is deafening, shaking it’s way from our toes to our head. Bits of it are crashing in to our own house, there is the sound of breaking glass from somewhere upstairs. My room maybe, right where we had been standing.

We cling to each other, my brother and I, both shaking, both too scared to ask the question that is on both of our minds. Would our house be hit next?

The smell of burning pours in to the kitchen. Is our house on fire? We’d have to check it out. Jake goes off one way, I the other, both of us keeping low to the ground. No fires. It was the smell coming in from the window.

I don’t know which of us decides to look first but we both peer out of that broken glass and what we see is almost beyond belief. The soldiers are fighting but not any enemy they had much chance against. They are being targetted by some kind of alien pods in the sky.

Back downstairs and under that table we look at each other, speechless. If it had been an army of....people...maybe we’d have been in with a chance. Maybe they would show us pity, mercy. But an army of alien beings, well, that is very different. If they showed any mercy it would only be because they wanted to experiment on us, take us captive or something. Death had to be preferable. But even though we thought that, we remain hiding, waiting.

It goes on and on. The bullets, the whines, the explosions and the screams. At one time I could not stand it any more, curled up on the floor and covered my ears with my hands, shut my eyes. ‘Go away! Go away!’ I screamed inside my head. I even slept for a while, impossible though that might seem.

When I wake up, Jacob is asleep beside me. He looks much younger than his fifteen years, as he sleeps. I can see the streaks of tears on his cheeks but I’ll not mention them; no doubt I have plenty of my own.

The fight is still going on outside but maybe not to the same extent. Was someone winning, someone losing? Had it moved off to somewhere else or was it coming to some kind of final conclusion.

The coffee still stands in the jug. It will be cold but it will be wet. The water, if there is any coming from the taps, could well prove to be undrinkable. I crawl my way over to the counter, open the cupboard to get out a mug, only to find that most of them are shattered. Only two mugs remain undamaged. One for Jacob, one for me. It’s like some kind of message telling me that we are the only two survivors. No, that is nonsense. I refuse to believe it!

I drink the cold coffee, it’s over-brewed, the bitter taste kind of suited to my situation. Jacob wouldn’t like it though. He wasn’t fond of coffee at the best of times, and that was when it was white with sugar. We had some cans somewhere. I’d get one, then go wake him up.

He takes the can from me and drinks it greedily. Strange, but although we’d not eaten for who knows how long, neither of us are hungry. We sit there, side by side, listening to what is left of the battle. It is definitely winding down now, the shots becoming far more sporadic. The explosions, when they come, are further off in the distance.

And then there is no more noise, not that we can hear. No shots, no whines, no bangs. We’d wait a while but it would only be a matter of time before we venture outside. We have to see for ourselves the extent of the devastation.

Again we don’t talk, don’t discuss it and come to any agreement, but just walk towards the door together. Part of the frame has given in, it is slightly open but still takes a bit of effort to open with the warping of the wood.

The first thing that strikes me is how few houses are still standing. There would normally have been about twenty easily visible from where we are standing, instead there are merely four. The rest have been reduced to rubble, to dust. I don’t want to look too close, worried about who I might find lying in the wreckage. Better not to look at all. At least the soldiers will be strangers, people not known to me.

Where are they? There is not one body to be seen. Weapons litter the ground, some blown apart while others look like they could be picked up and used straight away. Those masks are there too, along with those protective vests.

So many pieces of evidence of the battle that has just been raging and yet no sign of a single body. It does not make sense.

Jacob and I exchange puzzled glances. “It’s not just the bodies that are missing, Sis. Look at the ground! There is not one single splatter of blood.”

He’s right! No matter how closely I look I can not see even one miniscule droplet of blood spilled on the concrete side-walks, the tarmacked streets. And yet there have to be close on two hundred masks here. Had they all taken them off, laid down their weapons and walked away?

Reluctant as I am to do it, I need to get a better view of the demolished buildings. I’d seen so many people outside in the street when this was all beginning to play out. They couldn’t all have walked away. As macabre as it might sound I needed to see a body to make the whole thing real. As it stood, it felt like I had been held inside some kind of crazy mixed-up nightmare with my brother.

Mr and Mrs Harris from the house opposite, Irene and Duncan, they were both standing there together when I’d turned off the gas. They had to be in the wreckage somewhere.

I grab Jacob’s hand, pull him across the street. “What...?” he asks, clearly confused by what I’m doing.

Look for anything. A hand, a foot....There’s no need to look at it closely, I just want to see some evidence of a....body,” I finish weakly.

We search through the stone, the bricks, the torn and ripped apart timber. The glass, the furniture that is still smouldering in places. No sign of a body at all. It just does not make any sense.

I grab hold of Jacob again, pull him back towards our neighbours house. Half of it is still standing so maybe one of them has survived. We both search and search, Jacob now picking up on my desperation to find something, anything.

Shouldn’t there have been some sign of it’s approach. A sound or even a shadow? It catches us both by total surprise, that pod that settles in the sky above where we stand. It is stationary, silent; like a malignant being above our heads.

Then the whine and Jacob is no longer there. No clothes, no body, no trace that he had ever existed. All that remains of him is that momentary look of agony as he turns his face towards me.

I drop to my knees. If nothing else there must be some dust. I reach my hands down to the ground, move them around and there is no dust. Nothing! I stay on my knees, my head bowed down towards the ground.

The whine begins again but I will not give them the satisfaction of reacting in any way. They might want to see the agony on my face as whatever their weapon is obliterates me, but they are not going to.

I’ll take my obliteration with my eyes fixed firmly on the ground.

 

(2880 words).

 


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