Chapter XXVII

We saw them moving, systematically, void of all meaning, into their 35 foot tombs. We felt the engines whirring in the air and smelled the gasoline drifting across the field. I wanted to believe that things were never going to be the same here, here in this small patch in this Midwestern plain. I wanted to think that the atrocity brought upon this area, the screams, the blood, would all leave an impact that would last and hold itself up to future generations of whatever species ruled this planet and present an argument that we don’t have to reach this level of hatred, that there could be something more. But I knew it already. I saw it. Saw it like I saw those just like me moving onto a perfectly planned execution, saw a small girl carrying the life in me away, saw that more deaths and more blood would have to be sprayed across these fields before someone realized the full scale of this current depravity, and we would just have to endure until then.

The air had a warm feel to it. The lights that showed upon the base seemed to illuminate and radiate to the surrounding area below. We were now less than a hundred yards from the complex and could hear the buzzing from the posts. The lights whirred intensely and the closer you stepped the more you could feel the warmth crawling up your skin.  The momentum of it moved slowly, like ships moving towards an uncharted shore to avoid hitting coastline. The closer we stepped the more uncomfortable we grew due to heat finally encompassing most of our bodies. The lights stood tall over the base. From past the fields the area looked large but unimposing but now we could see the vast area that was being covered. The base stretched far and away and was more long than wide. It was tall however but didn’t seem to be more than one story. The building had a rustic yellowish-hue to it leaving one to think that the area as simply taken over to be used for this one instance but the area around it still seemed fresh. The amount of blood that was shed here had colored the base in the short amount of time that it stood upon these grounds. Along the walls of the building you could see scratches as well as indents. The floor on the outside was now completely turned to mud from all the foot traffic. The air started to fill with the smell of turned up dirt. The sediment seemed to fill in the nostrils and the moisture of the floor filled in around the soles of our feet. The ground smelled almost as if it was decomposing and along the ground you could see footprints among the mixture of water, saliva, and blood. I turned and saw that the blood on Garrett’s’ hands had started to dry and that his eyes were fixed on the lights above the compound, the lights that we now just stood on the edge of.

“I’m not sure how to do this without getting killed.” I said looking towards the base.

“If they look like they are going to kill us, we fight.” Garrett replied

“They are going to notice the blood on your hands.”

“Good. I want them to.”

“This isn’t about agendas or revenge.”

“Everything is.”

I had been afraid of Garret since the moment I met him at The Divide but this was a different fear. I felt in this moment that I couldn’t trust him to hold the personal pain and the need for violence in order to save Rowe and Maggie. I felt the anger that all men feel when they go past desperation. I felt the need for more and that no amount of bodies would fulfill it. In this state no men could be trusted. Even if we weren’t technically part of what was considered mankind. We felt the same as them. I’m sure that we were only no more than a percentage off from them. I saw the same hatred, the same wants and needs. One percentage of anything though had proven throughout history to be sufficient enough to make one party owners of a fake superiority. Garrett was vital to this operation but also could be a vital part to ensuring we don’t survive the ordeal, someone was going to die at the hands of his irrational tendencies, someone always does.

“I have a plan Garrett.”

“What is it?”

“Capture me, take me up to them holding my arms around my back, and tell them you caught me out here in the fields.”

“Then we both get arrested, what makes you think they won’t shoot the both of us on sight?”

‘I don’t know, they might, but if it works, we have to make sure we don’t do anything to make them want to do that, understood?”

“If I see that Maggie is already dead, I’m killing every last one of them.” He said looking straight at me.

Garrett then grabbed my wrists and started leading me to the fence. We saw an opening on one side that looked as if it led straight to the courtyard. We were fully in the light at this point and once we reached the entrance to the fence we could see the buses lined up across the property with rows of them getting on with a small gathering still sitting on the floor with zip ties holding back their arms. Guards were standing directly behind them but looking towards the convoy. Suddenly an alarm went off and started blaring through the property. We saw yellow lights pulsating frantically. Soldiers started coming out from the building and some of the guards watching those sitting down turned around to face us. One by one the soldiers. All weapons drawn. Cachug, Cachug, click click click. They all motioned out swiftly toward Garrett and I.

“Stop where you are! Get on your knees!” One yelled. He was wearing a skull painted mask and holding a rifle that looked ready to fire right through us at any moment.

“Get on your knees now or I will shoot!”

“I captured one of them! I saw him in the field so I captured him and brought him here!” Garrett yelled frantically sounding desperate.

“I said get on your knees now or we will shoot!”

“I captured him! We can make a trade!”

“I said get on your fucking knees!  Now! Three! Two! One!”

Garrett dropped to his knees and pulling myself down with him. He held on tight to the back of my wrists. I could feel his hands shaking violently but I could also feel his heart exploding in his chest. He wasn’t nervous, he just wanted to fight. His hands clenched tighter until I had to motion him to settle down. The soldiers then start circling around us. All rifles were pointed directly at us at this point, all of them seemed ready to fire. The one that ordered us to kneel down put the barrel of his rifle against my cheek, pushing into my jaw.

“We can try to make a deal, please” Garrett said softly.

“Captain!” The soldier yelled.

The crowd around us then started to shift. A parting started to form between them and in between the bodies you could see one man walking through them. He finally reached the front and knelt down in front of us. He was young, short-haired, military made.

“Hello, I’m captain Johnathan Halls, and you are both now under our control” He said.

“I wanted to make a deal, I thought if I captured him, then I could secure my safety from being persecuted.” Garrett responded looking towards the ground in front of him.

“We don’t make deals here.”

“No, please, please just consider it.”

“I already did. I got a deal for you though. Will you listen to my proposal?”

“Yes”

Halls pulled out a pistil that as hanging it on his side then put it against Garrett’s head, pushing it in his skill and causing an indention in his skin.

“If you get on one of those buses within the next five minutes, I won’t spray your head across this asphalt, how do you like that deal?”

Garrett nodded back slowly.

“Good, okay boys, put them on there.” Halls said, then stood up and walked out through the crowd

Two soldiers grabbed us by the back of our neck. They were all wearing gloves that had pointed edges on their palms so when they grabbed us they dug their hands into our skin and caused blood to flow from the base of my shoulders and trickle down my back. They grabbed our arms in the same manner and twisted and pulled them until they could no long move without dislocating our joints. It was at this excruciating moment they applied the zip ties and kept us in that painful position. They then walked us quickly across the courtyard. We moved through the crowd of those sitting on the floor. I tried looking to see if Rowe and Maggie were in there but they kept our heads down and forward the entire time. They then led us onto the bus that separated the driver and passengers by a thick glass with fencing built inside of it. They led us to the closest seat which was near the front and all of a sudden we were surrounded by cries. We did it, what we set out to do. We were captured, and we were also in hell. I looked out the window and saw halls looking directly towards me, looking as if he knew our plan, and was excited to see here it all led to. He then looked around, saw the convoy almost ready, and then let out his command.

“We move out in fifteen.”

 

 

Chapter XXVI

So we ran off into midnight. Heads down against the wind and feet breaking against the high grass of the Midwestern plains. We were invisible and diving deeper into the void. The base looked larger as we flanked around it. Garrett and I knew the intentions. We weren’t in pursuit of peace. We had no interest in harmony. Our goal stood simple. We were going to find Maggie and Rowe. There weren’t going to be any prisoners taken. We were deliverers of death. I knew that long ago that a line formed in our humanity laid destroyed. I didn’t know for sure when the moment had happened, but here we were, running relentlessly, our souls retreating as fast as they could

We stopped upon a small embankment. The grass covered us just enough. I could see Garrett looking on with rage. He saw his target and he had been wanting its’ blood for what now seemed like years. We could see a guard ruck driving around the perimeter. There were towers at each corner. All equipped with spotlights that reached a range of around 20 yards. There was no way we could charge it empty-handed. We wouldn’t reach the fence. Garrett knew, and I could see that he felt dead inside with just the realization.

“We can maybe try to distract one of the towers and go around the other side.” He said looking straight forward.

“Garrett nothing is going to work. Either you die or I will before getting inside. And then once inside, the one who made it will die also. There’s no situation where either of us make it out with Maggie or Rowe.’

“I can’t leave them in there. I’m not leaving here without them.”

“If you die, then they don’t have any chance in there.”

“If they die, I don’t have a chance out here.” He responded. “I’m going to get them, if you want to stay, then stay.”

As Garrett was getting up, lights started going off around the base.  He jumped back down.  The sirens then started blaring. Going off as if a bomb was dropping. They echoed throughout the plains. They could have probably been heard from the nearest town. Garrett and I shared a look thinking we had been spotted, but something else was going on. This was something different.

A single Humvee came out driving through the gates and out into the field. The lights were off on the truck. It drove out going west of our area and kept passing through. We could see motion still happening on the base. The lights and sirens were still exploding through the air. Finally, the crowd inside the fence started moving toward single direction. They were being herded into the building. Guards holding what seemed to be rifles started walking behind them. Little by little they disappeared into the building. Little by little, our window of opportunity was closing.

“They’re moving them somewhere. I think they are moving the whole base.” I said looking towards Garrett.

“I bet that truck driving out into the field knows where. It’s making sure there is nothing out of the base to hinder their progress. It’s going to run into us.”

“Okay. Let’s move then.”

Garrett and I stood up and ran relentlessly into the grass. We could see the truck moving further away from the base and going off into darkness. We kept moving as fast as we could. Suddenly it stopped in one part of the grass. The door opened and one of the soldiers got out. Garrett then ran around so he could be on the passenger side of the truck. I came upon the soldier fast, exploding out of the shadow. I tackled him to the floor and we both crashed with high velocity. The second soldier noticed what had happened but his reaction was too late. Garrett ripped open the door and pulled out the man who couldn’t have been much older than I was. One by one, Garrett peeled into his face. Blow by blow, the man’s identity meshed with the ground beneath him.

Crack.

Garrett raised his fist and then drew forward again.

Scream.

Blood was raining from his hands.

Silence.

Garrett continued until he was punching dirt. He looked down and saw through the other end, yet he wasn’t satisfied.  He pounded away a few more times, swinging at nothing.  He got up and walked over to me. The look of intensity only grew.

“Garrett no! We need him!” I yelled, motioning myself to keep him at bay.

“He’s one of them! He could be the one that killed your family!”

“He might know where they are going to take Maggie and Rowe.”

“Then ask him.”

I put my arm across his neck and pressed him into the ground.

“Listen to me. I can kill you right now. But you are going to tell us what is going on at the base and where they are moving all the prisoners, and then we will decide what to do with you.”

“I’m not telling either of you anything. You’re disgusting.” He said, barely breathing it out.

I pressed harder against his neck and held it for a minute.

“We can kill you right here in this field or you can just tell us what is happening on your base and you get to go home. Do you want die or do you want to go home?”

“Whichever of them you are looking for. You’re never going to get them. They’re already dead down there. They’re going to some place that will make sure of it. Some facility that higher ups made to fix the problem. The moment they get there, they’re going to be burned off this Earth. My advice to you, both of you, is to run, because the men that made that place won’t stop until every last one of you are gone.”

I stood off him and let him catch his breath.

“Kill him Garrett.”

Garrett attacked, tore out his vocal cords using only his hands. The boy tried to scream but no sound would come from his pain. I looked on over to the base. No one had begun to look for the scout vehicle, and now the area of the base that once held Rowe, Maggie, and everyone else was empty, nothing more than a mud-filled plot of land. I wish I could say that the sounds of the soldier, his writhing pain, legs fighting through the mixture of dirt and blood, weren’t soothing. I want to tell you that I didn’t find comfort in hearing that last gasp. On the verge of the new dawn, with the sun furiously chasing towards the horizon, I knew what had to be done in order to save the only two people that could resuscitate our souls.

“Garrett…we have to get caught.”

 

Chapter XXV

There we were, two strangers walking across the plains of Midwest America, watching as the clouds seemed to stretch on towards infinity. We hadn’t uttered a single word the last few hours, maybe because we both felt that in this moment that there was nothing left to say. There was only something to do. Something to drive forward for because our revival depended on it. Yes, Garrett and I had lost our lives long ago. Our breaths were taken away, strapped in the back of a truck, being held captive like poached animals. We lost what it was like to feel, to love. Our hope was placed on their shoulders. We were lifeless creatures simply stumbling toward two beating hearts that were miles away. Somewhere across the plains, somewhere past the infinite sky.

Every step seemed to come slower than the last. We ran for a certain amount of time but couldn’t keep up. The tire marks were starting to fade from the dirt. We only had less than day to find whatever it was we were looking for. Those soldiers, those civilized men, they move ferociously, act on impulses of domination. We couldn’t let Maggie and Rowe stay there for long. I couldn’t go on for another day without them. Without Rowe. It was a longing that was new to me yet couldn’t decipher it. Only Garrett knew the same feeling. I could see it. His eyes were set forward and never fell from their position. He hadn’t said a word or expressed a feeling, but his ferocious mix of determination and anger had the energy of the sun. It was a blaze that seemed constantly building, he needed support, love, anything that could provide relief in any small amount, and yet he had only another lost soul next to him. If we were going to travel this road, we needed reliability in each other, no matter how weak we truly were.

“We’re going to get to them Garrett. They’re not gone.” I finally said to him, the first words that had spoken in hours was nothing but a lie that neither of us truly believed.

“Keep telling yourself that David, keep hoping for that. I can’t afford to rest on it.” He said back to me, eyes still fully set off towards the distance.

“We are going to get to Maggie and Rowe, we are going to save your mother…”

“Maggie wasn’t my mom, at least not the last few years, she was the leader of our sanctuary, I couldn’t let myself see her as anything more than that.” He said coldly back to me. I can sense the weakness coming from the end of every word though. If there was a time he needed to speak, it was now.

“She raised you though.”

“Yeah well someone raised all of us.” Garrett said back a little more relaxed. “Someone raised you, and look what happened, they aren’t around anymore. Your family is gone, mine is gone too. Maggie couldn’t be anything more than a leader to me. Someone that I follow orders to. If I lose her, then another captain takes charge. No one can fill that void of your family though. A soldier, there are endless pieces.”

“Well you were the head of the sanctuary’s security, you guarded The Divide, but most importantly you were guarding her, weren’t you?” I said back fighting his insinuation.

“I wasn’t planning on being head of security, I wanted to be the leader of my army.”

“Your army?”

“I had found a group of us who were willing to fight. It was a good amount of us too. We had a plan, we had the weapons and we knew when we were going to strike first. Before I did it though I went to Maggie to see if the colony would help. At the time, The Divide had barely formed, they were still taking in refugees and figuring out how to keep it sustainable, keep everyone alive within those walls. I told her we had everything ready and the plan was in place, it was going to work. She stopped it. She told me to bring in my guys and have us help out with the sanctuary, form a security team, and that’s what we did. That was the last time I let myself see her as my mother.”

“It wasn’t a smart plan either Garrett.” I said back quietly.

“Why not? What is this better plan? Wait until they stop? There is a big misconception going around that if we do nothing, they will just stop. They will stop attacking us, stop killing our families, stop their quest of making sure that we don’t exist. That whatever we are, we won’t come up in history books. Look what running has done. We are on a road on our own, with a city of blood behind us and something unknown in front. We don’t know what they have up there. It can be a prison, some sort of camp or possibly something much worse. The humans, they aren’t going to stop just because we won’t fight back. We are allowing our on execution. The only way to make a difference is to fight back, to kill them before they kill any more of us. The second we reach whatever we are going to, I’m going to walk up to the back of the first soldier I see, and then pull out his throat.” Garrett said with finality in his voice. His last words came out dry, no exclamation, just a pure idea set in his mind. An idea that couldn’t be unhinged no matter how much one could try to shake it. He saw what he wanted to do, and nothing or no one could dare to stop him.

Sweat continued to chase down to the bottom of our faces. We could feel the dragging heat of a Midwest afternoon. As we continued to walk, the sun began to set upon our efforts. Before long, we were surrounded by stars, littering and dancing across the night sky. I couldn’t help but look up and wonder, if any of these suns had a world, something like ours, and that if in that world someone was in my same position, staring back at me. I couldn’t help but wonder if their situation was better. I hoped it was. I would rather lay among any of those millions of stars than continue here, walking endless steps, under constant persecution. I would hope that those other worlds had already learned by now, maybe mastered the impossible task of preventing genocide, and if they did, then why couldn’t we?

Garrett suddenly hit my shoulder and quickly motioned me to get down and look across the distance. I could barely make it out, but after a few moments I had begun to understand what I was staring at. There were lights, bright ones, creating a border around a base of some kind. Within the lights I could make out four buildings, an entrance gate, and then an area near the back, with something in this area that was constantly moving. The light didn’t shine will into this area but things were moving in the shadows of it. It seemed like a pile of ants busy working on a colony.

“It’s the prison. Maggie and Rowe, they have to be in there. They are keeping them their like cattle.” Garrett said whispering to me. “We have to get in and get them out.”

We dug our feet into the dirt and walked through the fields, flanking the prison. I looked up one last time. I knew whatever happened after this, whatever Garrett had planned, whatever blood we might shed, that nothing good would remain. No, tonight was our self-justification for our vacancy among our universe. That if there were those watching, examining behind hidden stars, that tonight would ban us from sharing this celestial home. We didn’t deserve our place in this void. We were given too much reign among this hallowed soil. Our existence in it only fast-forwarded the inevitable. All we brought was blood to these plains. All we did was set fire across infinite skies.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter XXIV

Science was never intended to be the fall of the human soul. It was never meant to stand on an altar, rain blessings upon the land, but man is so easy to cast and create kings that all Science had to do was prevail one problem and wait for the crown to be placed oh so ceremoniously upon its’ intellectual head. We crave the answers to the questions we never asked. We dare ourselves to know things that we wish we could easily forget. And in the midst of our bowing, our placing of robes and the fulfillment of knowledge, we lose sight of what the world was like before the arrival of our new God-king. We forget the mystical. Everything becomes an equation, easily repeatable and indispensable.  All we needed was one but yet we had a thousand. But, with that one, with a few drops of blood and traces of bone, we became like our ancient heroes, pushing towards an answer that we weren’t ready to know.

I was still sitting in that fluorescent room. The television was repeating through inaudible headlines. I couldn’t even begin to think of how long I had been sitting in the same chair, surrounded by the same noise. I was tired, but couldn’t think of a way to sleep. I was past that point of exhaustion. I wish I remembered what it was like to just peacefully fall asleep. I imagine it’s a blessing that no one ever considers. All I could do was sit here in this one spot. I felt like any more movement meant death. I looked down upon my uniform to see that the blood mixed dirt and mud had dried and become a thick layer, almost to the point of calloused. I knew there had to be more. I could feel the pieces of flesh that must have lied within the edges of my boots or creases of my pads.  Suddenly, the door burst open of the break room I was residing in. One of the main scientists in charge of the station looked at me, calculating me while I stared back emptily at him. He knew I was worn down and in front of him was nothing more than a vessel of blood. He went over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup and then went back to the frame of the door and paused. Without looking directly at me, his voice came out cold and deep.

“I know you are tired, but do you want to see why you are doing this? Do you want to see just exactly what you are fighting?”

“I think I already know.” I said back without flinching.

“No. You have no idea. Come on.” He turned and walked out the door, he knew I was going to follow him, he had no pause to his steps, he just walked forward. I got up, every muscle and vein starting from my feet screamed and anguished until the point where they became numb. I could hear screams echoing down each hallway we passed. After a few turns we reached a set of black doors. The paint had been chipped off. Stains ran across its face. I could smell the iron from just outside it. The room itself was unmarked. There were no labels or identification marks, but everyone knew what was behind the door. The scientist I was following knew it better than anyone. He was the gatekeeper to this hell. He lived in the vile. He was so accustomed to it by now that nothing outside of it must have made any sense to him. Too clean, too organized, too clear of blood. It took me up until now to realize I was following the devil to his home, but at this moment, I had come to realize that I had been hand and hand with the real devil all along, everything now was just continuing on the path.

“A human bone can withstand 19,000 pounds of pressure if healthy. These creatures, they withstand double that. The human body has the potential to run up to 40 mph. They have the potential to run up to 70 mph. We haven’t even calculated their strength or intellectual potential. Make no mistake with these things, we are inferior to them, and when they fully understand the scope of that, we won’t stand a chance.” He said as he stopped to stare at one of the carcasses lying on the table.

“We already don’t.” I said back staring around the dim lit room.

“You can’t just sit staring at the television, wondering what your next move is, what their next move is, you have to go out there and attack with everything and every last soldier you have, once those things realize what they are capable of, what they can do, you don’t want to be there on that day. This is why you fight.”

“How many others have you shared this information with?” I asked back to him hesitantly.

“Just you and other high ranking officials, sir.”

“Don’t tell anyone else, any other soldier, understood?”

“Yes sir.”

I walked toward the exit, following the neon light that reflected across the floors. I felt the sense of hopelessness ultimately come upon me to rip me open upon like the bodies that lied on the tables.  The world wasn’t ready for the knowledge that was now bestowed upon me. It wouldn’t be able to comprehend the notion of in-superiority. The only way now to fight this war was to rush to the front-lines, firing with every weapon available, constantly pushing until not one living thing stood in our way. This battle was a prolonged suicide, but for me, now, it didn’t matter. Maybe death was the ultimate goal. Maybe it was the ending I’ve been craving. All I knew now was that I’m not going alone. I  was going to try and take every last one of those creatures with me.

 

 

 

Chapter XXIII

I was never one of those church men growing up. Never had a broad sense of faith, only in myself. I was calculating, saw reason, couldn’t see of the miracles beyond ordinary. My mom must have made me read every verse of every chapter, of every book, and something always slipped from me. The doubt never left, never delved into belief, but, there was always a truth that stuck in the corner of whatever soul that lied within me. You see, I didn’t believe in the miracles, nor did I believe in the grace and mercy that was offered, but I believed in the Devil, in the evil that plagued this world, and as contradicting it is to believe in the evil, I knew it well enough to know very well that it did indeed exist. I saw it, growing up watching a man love and cradle a half glass of jack over his son, trading blood for bottles, saw it in the streets of a city subjecting to its own personal plague, and finally saw it in the lines of creatures moving through lines, systematically approaching genocide. No, I couldn’t see God, but I could see what happened when Men acted in his place.

“Keep moving! Let’s go!” one of the guards shouted towards the lines of anti-humans systematically moving through the filled halls of our station. They were ants being led by caving water.  Each hallway served a purpose. The first hallway they would enter served as a screening, measuring weight and height and checking the eye color to assure that they were indeed one of them. The hallway then divided into two at the end. On led down to the outside, a huge one acre piece of soil that was surrounded by twenty feet tall fences, all secured with enough voltage to power a small city.  The other hallway led to something far worse. A one acre jail cell was purgatory, edging paradise, compared to what lied down the other path.

There were rooms, all filled with the fain echoes of the screams that were right behind the steel doors. The first was simple, it was just the Examination area. Each one of them that were led in there were told to strip naked. There was no choice to this. Each corner of the room had an armed guard, each more thirsty for blood than the other. There was a hose connected to the center of the wall, with a table holding bags of baby powder right next to it. There was no true moment of examination of this room, no blood diagnostics or genetic observation, the prisoners, both young and old, were just forced to strip, and with that, forced to realize that whatever small amount of dignity or control they once had before entering this room, was now gone with the clothes off their backs. After that realization, the hose was brought out.

One of the soldiers would walk up to it and untangle it and move to where he and the hose was dead center in the room and hold it up right in front of the creature. And he would just hold it. Let it linger for a few seconds, let the fear settle in their eyes. And then, once he saw it perfectly sit, and saw tears start to fill in, he would turn it on, gallons of bone shivering water would instantly pound their skin, knocking them to their knees as if a freight train just ran through them.

Then, another soldier would walk over to the bags of powder and throw it on them, clouds of it would fill the air for a moment and when it all settled they would just be standing there, soul lost, frozen and covered in powder. This was just the entrance. They would then be led into the next door. Inside was just a dark room, full of the victims that were led in there before him. The room was smaller than the previous one and yet inside were more than a hundred of them, there just huddled together, naked and cold and still covered in the powder. This chamber had another door on the opposite end and every so often a guard would open it and quickly pull one of them out, dragging them while the others would be so shocked and blinded by the luminescent light from the outside that nothing could be done but watch and see the door, the only opportunity of freedom, close in on them once again. At some point, the guards would say, they just got used to the confinement. That after a day or so in there, they would just begin to stand or lean against each other, at one point in that dark room, each and every single one of them would forgot about the notion of escape and accept whatever awaited them, essentially killing themselves, because often not even the idea of survival is enough to truly save one’s life.

The one’s who were led out of the room though were led to far worse places. The other chambers were used to test things such as, how tolerant is each of the creature’s skin to an open flame. How many rounds does each weapon need and how does it vary between men, women, and children? Can their genetics be diffused by injecting various chemicals into their blood? One room was entitled, “The Deconstruction Chamber”, which was used solely to pull each creature that walked in apart piece by piece, to study tissue and marrow samples. Some were even kept alive during the process to understand the pain tolerance when breaking joints from sockets, vein from muscle. I’m sure they already knew most of these answers, now it was just for their entertainment.

I walked past the hallway and down to one of the break rooms. Another officer, I think his name was Peatty, was sitting at the table just watching the television that hung in the corner. The volume was so low that it was inaudible, but sometimes, it was better to just look at a picture than see what was around you. I sat at the opposite end of where he was. It was weird, to just rest in one place, looking down on my uniform I could still see I was covered in blood and dirt, but my body simply couldn’t bring itself to stand again.

“It’s Peatty right?” I asked softly, not even looking in his direction.

“Yes sir….you’re the new captain aren’t you? The one that led the raid that just got back?” He replied turning his attention away from the screen.

“Yeah, that’s me alright.”

“Oh man the whole base has been talking about you, that was one ballsy move, how did it go?”

Silence just settled there, I just didn’t have an answer for it.

“Oh, sorry man.” Peatty retreated, seeing the question linger in front of me. ” It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Can I ask you something Peatty?”

“Sure, of course.”

“Did…do you go to church, did you ever go to church growing up?” I managed to slowly make out the words, still just looking down upon my suit.

“Yeah, I did actually.” He answered with a confused look on his face, lost with the direction of the conversation. “My father was actually the pastor of a local church down the street, we would be there five, six days out of the week, just preparing for different services, especially the Sunday morning. That man, I swear, he could recite every verse from the top of his head, he must have read the good book at least a hundred times. He uh, he quit though when people realized just what these things, those creatures, were. All the members just started leaving, not just our church but the faith altogether, my dad followed not long after that.”

“Do you remember anything? Any verse or parable, that stuck out to you, especially now, with all of this?”

“There was this one that always stuck out to me, It’s in Genesis, there were these towns, named Sodom and Gomorrah, and they were so wicked and evil that God simply couldn’t have them on this Earth anymore, and yet, there was one man, Lot, and his family and they were one of the few holy citizens left, but these cities, they were simply just too far down the road and past the point of saving so God had Angels lead Lot and his family to safety. Sometimes, when we go on raids, I wonder if God would spare me and lead me to safety, or if I’m one of the members still living in the city.”

“What happened to those still living in the city?” I asked finally looking up to meet his eyes.

“God killed them.” he replied staring back, “Every last one.”

 

 

Chapter XXII

Civilization ended with the concept of leverage. The world spent millions of years, evolving, moving, stretching out its arms in every direction it could to manifest any form of life. The first organisms pushed with a fervor that had yet been seen. They wanted growth. Craved it. Had the taste of progress on their lips and they could see a future that looked so much brighter, so much cleaner, than what they had. They crawled among the earth with their fingerprints streaking across the land while roots from below reached up for attention. The earth wanted future and moved toward it with a tenacity that had yet been seen and now will never be seen again. All these triumphs, all the years of scraping and climbing, all ended the moment that mankind realized that power holds some truth to it. When we recognized what it meant to stand above a fellow being, to suddenly realize that there was shift from equilibrium, and for a moment understand that one held the higher ground, that was the moment that all forms of unifying progress would cease to exist. All the efforts our first fathers could conjure up now became useless. The dream of a unified, peaceful civilization ended the moment we understood what leverage was. Those who had it could form their own “utopia” those who lacked, would hold the chain. Right now we were those chain bearers. They had taken everything. The last thing that Garrett and I were able to hold on to were taken from our grasps. We had become nothing more than just another link in our history of failed dreams.

“I’m gonna kill them all, every single one of them. I’m going to find them, hunt them down, and when I do…I’m gonna tear them apart.” Garret whispered under his breath. He was there sitting at the door step looking outside through the holes in the wood left from rampage. Suddenly he got up and grabbed the gun he had taken from the solider.

“Garrett no! Sit back down!” I shouted instantly from across the room.

“Sit back down? They have them! They have Maggie. They have yours. What do you think they are doing to Rowe right now? You want me to sit back down?”

“We are their best shot at survival! If we go and try to just kill them all we will end up dead and they will be there right next to us.”

“How do you know they haven’t already killed them? What if they already took that damn girl of yours’ and blown her head off?”

I saw the anger fueling through his eyes.  I could feel his disdain and I knew he could see mine.

“They wouldn’t have taken them if they wanted them dead. I want Rowe back more than you know. I wouldn’t want to live another hour if I knew she was gone, but I know she’s not. We have the best chance of getting them back. We can’t just risk that though because we are thinking like how they would have.”

“So what do you want us to do? Just wait? Hope they come back?”

I walked past him and exited the door and walked to the center of the road. I was finally able to see the destruction. It was apparent. A museum dedicated to the hand print of the human race.  Walls were cast upon the ground. The sun beat through open roofs, clearing the smoke fighting the sky. As terrible as the picture in front of me was, as heartbreaking as it should have been, it was nothing. It was common place, monotonous.  I had seen this, lived it, what’s one more neighborhood? I had no answers for the righteousness behind this, had no hidden meaning about the progress that drove the world, all I had was a lost soul that couldn’t have been more used the sight of flaming porches.

“They didn’t go back north, they went east. Why would they go back that way? Garrett, did you ever hear of a base or anything that they had in the east?”

“No, not that I knew for sure of.”

“What didn’t you know for sure then?”

“There were talks, about something out there. It was like a camp. I used to come across others and they would mention that everything is being relocated to one central area. That it was going to be the future. I would never go out that way. Those who got to see inside it, they never came out. Whatever it is, the humans, they don’t want the rest of the world to find out about it just yet.”

“Well then, how do we find it?”

“They find you.”

“We have to head back into town then. We have to get ourselves caught. It’s the only way where we might not die before we have the slightest chance of saving them.” I said while going back inside the home. I started fumbling, trying to find anything salvageable among the wreckage.

“We can walk right up to their gates and kill half of them before they even realize what is going on you want us to get caught? We don’t need anything else. What if we don’t get taken to where they are? What if they kill us before we even have the chance? I’m not sacrificing Maggie for a flawed plan! If you want that dumb little girl of yours to be hung or gagged or set on fire just let me…”

I ran over and put my hands around Garret’s neck and pressed him up against the emptied door frame of the house. I was tired. I was convinced he had said his final words and more importantly I was helpless. Desperation is the strongest catalyst for any murder.

“Her name is Rowe, and I swear if you mention her again I will kill you. I know you are hurt but right now they have the last remaining thing I care about. I couldn’t care less about you Garrett and I know you feel the same but right now we are their only hope and I’m not going to let them die because of your stupidity. We are doing this my way. If you don’t want to, I will kill you and spread your blood among the floor.”

I let him go. He slid down against the frame and started gasping. Tears couldn’t come out as we both has expended any amount of water we had during the battle, but I knew where he stood. He knew what state I had found myself in as well. We were two beings that had sought our identity in someone that was stronger than we were. We had put our hopes, dreams, and our very souls onto the shoulders of what was now a memory. They were gone, and with them so were we.  There was no answer. No plan of action. There was only loss and the ripples that it heavily carries. Past the smoke, across the fields and somewhere under the grey sky traveled the remains of our now feeble lives. We could only stare out onto the trodden path quenched with blood, seeping into the ground, waiting for us to do the same.

Chapter XXI

We had set a city of smoke, created it from dust, and filled it with ash that burned from the bodies that were still strewed behind. Limbs, charred and torn, left like roots from cropped up trees. The tires from the trucks left pieces of skin and organs with every rotation. The red mixed with the mud, leaving a dark hue that now led for a few miles. Our creation, pillars of dark clouds, reaching past the sun, eclipsed every skyscraper that mankind had made up until this very hour. Middle of America could view our civilization, from the shores of Lake Michigan down to the plains of Central Texas, yes, the children playing in fields to adults speaking of dreams could see the monuments we had made and could only wonder about the damage that was left upon its floors. Concrete and sacrificed lives were the foundation of every great structure created by man, ours though, reached for something far better. We no longer found use for concrete. We only needed blood.

“Goddammit! Was this your fucking plan? To get us all killed! You led us into a damn war zone and now half our men are dead! For what? We have seven of theirs and they have half of ours. I followed you here thinking you were going to lead us. I trusted you knew what you were doing. What were you fucking thinking Halls?”

I stayed there quiet. Hearing Officer Richards sound off few inches from the blood that had still been running down my ears. He was a few years younger, only had not even a winter of experience. Yet, he was right. I looked around to see the men I had just led nearly falling over on the seats they occupied. Their faces were covered in dirt except for the lines that were wiped by tears. They had all lost something. They had misplaced that look in their eyes. The one that had never seen the threshold of hell. No they had now been awoken by it and had never seemed less alive.

“You’re the worst man for this job. You’re just going to lead us to our deaths and we are going to be your damn sheep. It’s going to be us lying face down in the dirt while you get all the accolades for leading a “heroic” charge. We’re just your damn sacrifices. I’m not going to go down Halls as one of your brainless gunners Halls. No, if you can’t do this..”

“You’re going to do what?” I finally looked up, challenging his eyes with mine, from the look he hadn’t considered the notion of a response.

“Excuse me?”

“What are you going to do Richards? Tell your commanding officer just what exactly you’re going to do. Are you going to take charge? Do it then. Stop the trucks! Stop all of them!”

We came to a stand there right in the middle of American flatlands. We got out of the trucks, all of us. I dragged Richards over the one carrying the prisoners. The sky as cast in grey above us. If there was any sign of heaven, it wasn’t lying beneath the stars above. I opened the back door. We had them chained to the walls, no windows peered in the temporary cell they were in. A few male, one little girl, and an older female were, there shielding their eyes away from the light they hadn’t seen for a few hours now. I took out the Beretta that had been hanging to my side and handed it to Richard’s.

“Take charge Richard’s. Shoot all of them. Shoot me too. Say I got out of hand, that I couldn’t handle pressure. Say I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt for the men that died back there and I let them loose and the only choice you had was to shoot them and shoot and kill me right here. I’m giving you this option. None of the men behind me will say a word. Do it.”

“You’re crazy, this is..”

“This is what. This is war. Do it dammit! Shoot me! Kill me right here!”

“I can’t..”

“If you want to be leader this is what you have to do! Do it!”

“I can’t! Okay I can’t”

I grabbed the gun from his hand and hit him with it. He fell to the mud with blood streaming from the tip of his eyebrow. I put the barrel to the back of his neck.

“Don’t think for a god damn second that I wouldn’t shoot you right here. I lost some of the best soldiers I had ever been around back there, I’m not afraid to lose someone as useless as you. You don’t have the first idea of what I’m going through here. You wouldn’t know where to begin to comprehend it. But understand this, Richard’s, as long as I’m in charge you never challenge me again. I have sole ownership of your life right now, my job is to get you back to the home even though we both know there is nothing waiting for you there, I can easily make sure you never see it again.”

“Captain, I think that’s enough sir.” A fellow officer said quietly from behind.

I took the barrel off his neck and picked him up from his collar. His look was that of a broken dog.

“I’m sorry captain Halls, it will never happen again.”

He walked back to the Humvee while the rest followed after. I looked in truck and saw a pair of eyes staring right at mine. It was the little one. The one I had taken from the basement. I stayed there looking at her, feeling a conviction that had no seemed justified. I shut the door to leave them back to their abyss. I looked across the plains one last time. I saw no use for their sense of serene anymore. Nothing could force a calm upon me.

We got back on the road and drove for hours. Passing the hills, looking upon lakes that had seemed to be large mirrors placed upon untouched land. The clouds soon began to fade into the night sky. We were there, leading a crusade of broken men, returning to a home that we knew wouldn’t feel the same the moment we arrived. The houses, our families, colleagues, weren’t aware that only strangers would return. We arrived at three in the morning to see the lights of the base still flaming on through the night. The men got off immediately, all ran to the paramedics that were waiting outside the tented entrance.  I stayed a little longer in the truck. Just watched as the men ran, seem to worship the place that at one point thought they would never see again. I sat there, quietly, seeing them cry from joy about their return, wondering if I ever truly wanted the same.

 

Chapter XX

Long ago, before the hand of mankind had reached upon the earth, there was said to be a war. It wasn’t just any battle, marked with loss of life and painted with the blood of it’s fallen, no this was the battle for our beginning, our inception. It is said that a dragon, fierce, craving death and relishing in the chaos, set foot upon the land and unleashed its wrath upon the world. The dragon would eventually fall but before its demise its attack was hellish. It was terror. Fire covered the world and bodies incinerated to fill the air with the charred remains of flesh and bone. Those who survived would only speak of and recognize death, would be able to taste it on their lips. I could see it. I could see it because I was in it. The house was raining down upon me as if burning fragments of sky were raining down. The screams melded in with the rapid rounds of gunfire and glass shattering. The dragon had been set forth once again, this time without any sign of our savior in sight.

“Maggie! Get you and Rowe upstairs!” I screamed above the sound of the bullets flying through the air. “Garrett! We have to go out there!”

“If you go out there you both will die!” Maggie yelled back fighting through the fear.

“If we don’t we’ll die anyway! Garrett are you with me!”

“What do we do?” He said in his deep placid voice

“Move through the backyards! Try to fight from inside the houses. If we can circle around them maybe the will follow us out. I’m going to try and make it across the street but I need a distraction!”

And then suddenly the violence stopped. The earth below became still. I looked up and saw the top of the house had been completely opened up due to the car that came crashing through it. The sky was painted with streaks of air from the missiles that were launched. I motioned Maggie to take Rowe and go hide. Garrett and I remained there, crouched down, stuck in a sickening purgatory. Then with a cry and a sharp sound a voice came barreling through the speakers and resonated through the sanctuary.

“Attention, this is the division of Anti-Human control. We have come here not for removal, but for relocation. We intend to do no harm but if we are forced to we will use appropriate actions. Come out with your hands raised, all of you, and we will safely transport you to our central facilities. If you refuse to come out however, we will go in ourselves. You do not want that to happen. You have five minutes.” the metallic voice ended abruptly.

“What should we do?” Garrett asked whispering over to me. We were both there holding our stance against the wall.

“The way I see it is they are going to try to kill us whether we surrender or not. If we go out there with our hands up they will find an excuse to fire on us.”

“Going out there and trying to fight them is suicide. We don’t have anywhere near their fire power.”

“Then we just have to take it from them. We can’t just run anymore.”

Footsteps started approaching, our time was up. Whatever chance of survival that remained with us was fading away swiftly. It was now about choice. Our choice to survive versus our choice to succumb to the fear that was now rising within us. I could see it growing in Garret’s eyes. The man that had once been emotionless, who I saw as someone without a soul, did finally have a true sense of mortality. The officers stopped at the foot of the door. The cross of the threshold is where our lives would cease to exist. There was no more chances of avoiding conflict, staying away from death, no this marked the end of one life and the beginning of another.

“Clear to fire!” I heard from the other side of the door. As soon as the breath finished Garrett and I broke through the door and through the officer backwards. I saw a group of officers about to fire to my left so immediately I grabbed and hurled another. Garrett had managed to wrestle one of the rifles away from another officer and started firing at the squad. In a split second the whole group began to take their aim at the both of us. Suddenly Molotov bottles started being hurled toward them from behind us. I turned to see that the other owners and sanctuary leaders had begun to fight back as well. Fire from the bottles started exploding and forming flaming lakes around the feet of the officers in front of us. It was now a sprint to one another’s final death. We started running forward towards the firing squad. In a few seconds we had reached their front line with only a few shots hitting us and immediately we jumped above it and swarmed our way through. It was now chaos. I could see both sides pushing against each other like mountains colliding.  Shots rang with a constant tone. I started to move backwards and felt my feet stepping over casings and teeth. Blood was falling like rain. We were wiping our eyes from it.

“Pull back! All officers pull back!” I heard bellow from just outside the crowd. Those who remained started to sprint back towards the trucks that were still intact.  We formed a line, the ones who were still alive, Garrett stuck the right of me, and just waited. We were both too exhausted and too frightened to push forward toward the retreating officers.  I looked down around us and saw the carnage that remained. The ground had become soft with the blood of both the officers and us anti-humans. Garrett fell to his knees, and that’s when I saw it. It was only Garrett, two other leaders, and I that remained. The rest of us laid there on the floor, with arms and legs strewn out over the empty street. We were no cause for a surrender. It was our battle to lose. Something was wrong, something was terribly wrong. The trucks sped off and soon the smoke from the debris covered and embraced them until they were no longer visible. They had left their victory in a matter of seconds. This wasn’t right.

“Garrett, where are Maggie and Rowe?” I asked knowing the answer full well.

“They’re still back at the house. I didn’t see them leave.”

“We have to get back there right now, they took them, Garrett they took them!” I  ran back to the house. I kept slipping through the mud and kept feeling my fingers side through the tendons and muscles that remained from the battle. I couldn’t seem to get there fast enough. I ran through the broken door and started screaming for them. Screaming for something. The words were there but I couldn’t remember them. I was just yelling. My screams begged for any kind of response. I started flipping over the debris and then immediately ran upstairs. I was tearing through each wall, peeling back the paper and plaster. I flipped every mattress and every floorboard I could until the screams ran out and then there was just silence. They had taken them. Rowe and Maggie weren’t inside the home. I looked down and saw blood dripping from my hands to the floor of the once peace-ridden room. It was there, in that moment, that I learned what it truly takes to win a war. It wasn’t the fastest soldiers or the strongest weapons, no, it was which side is willing to hold a knife to their opponents heart close enough and long enough to make them wish they could just grab the handle, and kill themselves.

 

Chapter XIX

I woke up to a light shining across my face and my head leaning back against the door. My hands jumped up at once but there was nothing to grab. I was alone. I waited to hear gun shots or screams, but there was nothing. All I felt was warmth. Sunlight breaking gently through the blinds, dust swirling in the air, all of it painting pictures of distant memories and forgotten times. I stood up and heard talking coming from downstairs. The smell of bread cooking had begun to seep into the room. For this moment and this moment only, everything had begun to feel normal. There was a sense of complacency and it was welcomed. It was the type of life that many of us “Anti-Humans” would kill and risk death just to feel this fleeting sense and yet, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want the home, the comfort, the love, part of me couldn’t stand it. I wanted abandonment. I wanted to be surrounded by death and loneliness. It was all I knew.

I walked downstairs and saw Maggie taking bread out of the oven with Garrett and Rowe sitting at the table laying with cards. It was as picturesque as our world would probably ever come to.  Rowe for once seemed at total ease.

“I didn’t want to make any wild accusations but I think your traveling buddy here David is hustling me.” Garrett said smiling while laying his hand of cards down on the table. “You win again Rowe, for the hundredth time.”

“You’re just not a good cards player.” Rowe said giggling. She reached the card to shuffle them when Garrett reached and playfully snatched them from her hands.

“I’m dealing this round. I discovered your trick. She’s a natural David. I would watch out if I were you.” Garrett said facing my direction with finally a gleam of a smile coming from his face.

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

“Do you want some bread David? It just came out.” Maggie asked.

“Um no, thank you,I’m fine. Rowe you can eat my share if you like.”

“David, you haven’t had food for days, there’s plenty to go around.” Maggie said in her natural reassuring tone.

“Uh, okay, I guess I can eat a few slices.” I said back to her. I hadn’t had a chance to focus on food this whole week. I had been so caught up in our own survival that food and sustenance went empty in my mind and finally my body ached for it. It was probably the fastest anyone had eaten three slices of bread.

“Are you still hungry David?” Maggie asked.

“No. I’m better now.”

“Great, you can help me outside.”

Maggie and I stood up and stepped out into what seemed like remnants of a backyard. There were only dead branches and fallen leaves. A skeleton of a tree stood right in the middle. I turned and saw one of Maggie’s neighbors, a fellow head of a shelter somewhere, staring to see what we were doing. Not even among guardians did there seem to be a sense of trus

“What hideout does he watch over?” I asked looking away from him.

“He was in charge of a small group who found home in an abandoned warehouse. The police found the hideout a few weeks ago. He is in the same position we are, waiting, hoping for some form of good news to happen.”

“He’s just going to die waiting then.”

“Well we all have to hold out hope for something David, even if it seems like there is nothing to be found. I lost the sanctuary I had helped built from the ground up but I’m still alive, so are you, and I’m sure others are out there. There’s always something to hold on to.  ”

I looked around the backyard of the home and gazed through the old-wooden fence that surrounded it. I could see miles of flat land with a storm on the edge of the clouded sky.  The sanctuary was its own oasis. It was in shambles, worn down by weather and full of decay but the sense here was that this was home. This was as close to safety each of us would ever get to. The residents here knew what they were risking. Just being one of us already painted a target across our faces, harboring hundreds and even thousands of anti-humans, that was death to its slowest degree. We would remember every last agonizing minute. I could start to understand now just exactly why I was here. I start to see through Maggie’s eyes. Rowe and I were the only known remaining survivors of her sanctuary. I was an echo of the divide and what it stood for, what anti-humans like her stand for. We were her last remaining inches of hope. How disappointing it must have been to realize just how weak we really were.

“What do you want me to do Maggie? I can’t survive without her but I can’t live if I see her die.” I asked choking up while staring across the sky.

“Do more than just survive David. Don’t just save yourself. You have the option right now to live, to endure and enjoy the love of someone who sees you as more than you see yourself. You have made it through more than what we should be capable to handle, more than what anyone should endure, but I’m just asking you to push a little further. Don’t walk towards the end but chase it, go after it relentlessly, because I’m telling you right now that the ones who are trying to capture and kill every single one of us are doing the exact same thing. The choice is yours though David.”

“Let’s go back inside” I said after a few moments of just looking out upon the fields. “I want to just be around Rowe and Garrett for a while.”

We walked back in and I saw Garrett and Rowe still playing cards on the table. The timing was perfect. The world for one second had fallen into complete order. A path had been laid out in front of me, but then the second abruptly disappeared. A loud boom came from outside then right before my step a car came flying in through the roof and crashed hard upon the floor! Debris and wood scattered across the kitchen. Then with rapid fire bullets started spraying through the air tearing through the walls like fire from hell! “David!Help!” I heard from behind the car that just crashed through. I could hear missiles fly through the sky and land into the other homes. I could smell the fire burning through them.The choice was mine and the answer had never been more clear.

Chapter XVIII

The hand on the clock moved everlastingly forward toward the same destination. Round and round it went, each time seemingly passing with more poise and precision. Time itself was everlasting. Seconds pressed on without any hesitation. There was no backward motion and there was never a placid hour. No, time is eternal. We are just here for a moment of it, a blink,and then one day when our hearts stop beating and dreams stop forming then time will simply move forward, without any remorse or nostalgia. The sun would still rise and set and we would be left wondering why we ever thought we were so important to begin with. The concept of time’s mortality was only created to cope with our own realization of it. We would soon fade off but the world will carry on and unlike others who couldn’t stand that fact running through their heads; it drove me. Time wasn’t a peaceful concept, no, it was relentless. It moved forward and nothing on this earth had any chance of ever stopping it. Countless wars and innumerable deaths had no effect on it. I had to be one in the same. Like the hand on the clock I had to keep moving forward without any wasted motion and never any hesitation. I was in a war with no chance for victory.

“What’s the status on locating the neighborhood?” I asked the officers who were all sitting in a small room scanning through old files and searching across monitor screens. We had all been in this very room for nearly twenty hours now. All of us looking for the same prize.

“We have three locations as our prime suspects, all in southern Illinois. Our top prospect though is a small subdivision that was abandoned a few years ago. Only seven houses were completed.” said one of the officers looking at the computer monitor.

“Okay how far out?”

“Only around three hours out captain Halls.”

“Okay I want everyone to start mobilizing their units this subdivision has now become priority! We leave at seven hundred!”

“Captain Halls, can we please talk in private?”asked one of the petty officers.

We went around to an empty office away from the chaos that was ensuing on the battle-room floor.

“What is it that’s on your mind officer Rogers?”

“Captain, with all due respect, don’t you think we are just rushing into this? I mean none of us here have gone home or slept in the past twenty-six hours and now you want to lead an assault. We need time to rest.”

“There is no time to rest. Right now we have the advantage and I am your commanding officer for this mission and my objective is to capture or kill whoever was in charge of the divide and until then there is no moment to rest.” I resonated with authority.

“We don’t even know if this is the right place and you want to lead everyone on this wild hunt around southern Indiana. All you’re going to end up doing captain is get us killed.” Rogers replied with force in his voice.

“Well what are you doing with your life right now Rogers? What are you going home to? If we don’t do this mission, whatever it is you look forward to will be gone. Whatever it is you call home, will be destroyed. Maybe not today or tomorrow but soon they will get to it unless we start and move on them right now. They killed my best friends. They killed my mom. They won’t hesitate if given the opportunity to kill you or me”

“I didn’t know about your mother sir I’m sorry.”

“No one does. Walk into battle with me Rogers. Follow me and I won’t lead you wrong. I’m trying to command my first mission. I need you and the others to follow me. I can’t lead if I have no one.”

“Yes sir, I will help with anything I can.” Rogers said agreeing. He slowly exited the office and went back onto the battle room floor. I left right after him and went towards the exit and down the hallway. One hundred yards down was a small shooting range. I drew out the nine millimeter that was strapped to my side and put on the protective muffs and goggles.  I didn’t know what led me down here. I wasn’t sure why I felt I needed this. The metallic target was standing no further than thirty feet away. I didn’t need the practice, no, I needed the release. I openly shot and one by one the bullets flew out hitting the target dead center. one after the other. Repetitious and violent, the bullets hit and exploded in deafening chaos. In less than ten seconds I had finished the cartridge. I unhooked it and put another in there and fired again. Seconds went by and click I was once again empty. Quickly I  refilled again until click. Click, click, click,click. Over and over the rounds went screaming and crashing against that now warm metallic target.Over and over was I coming up empty with no hope of filling except for quickly cramming in cold cartridges. Over and over until I was out.

I took a step back and leaned against the wall. Empty shells lied all around me. I was kicking them with the bottom of my shoe, hearing them roll around from under me.  I hated this feeling. I was terrified and even worse, alone. My breath had become shallow and almost nonexistent. I could feel myself give way to my past. I could feel the memories I tried to bury come up from the ground, grabbing at my feet. I could feel them tug and drag. I could hear the screams I tried so desperately to forget. I could taste the metallic essence of blood. Yet, I couldn’t see her face anymore. I could feel the environment but I couldn’t touch the one thing that had meant the most to me. I was standing in a concrete cube but I was drowning unto myself. I started pounding against the wall. Pounding and pounding away with more and more ferocity until I heard the crack of my knuckles. The memories faded away and yet I was still there alone. I checked my watch and saw I had been in that cube for hours. I tried to gather myself and walked out of the gun range.

“Let’s get ready to move out!” I yelled storming back into the room.”I will ride in the first Humvee and the rest will follow behind. No one lag any further than a quarter-mile. Everyone stay in constant communication with each other.” We all loaded our trucks, seven in all, and took off from the base. The sun was coming up over the Chicago horizon. Tall towers of shadow was all that I could see in the back and a long empty road in front. We left the base in full force. The trucks roaring and echoing across the landscape. We echoed the great crusades of old, equally as courageous and ill-fated as they were. We pushed forward against the wind, moving at almost apocalyptic velocity. We moved on to try to kill those who were now our enemies but I had now just realized we pushed forward to escape the past, running away from monsters only to discover new ones. We pushed forward to run away, pushing forward to our death.