Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Literary Week - Day Two

My friend Lynn back in Buffalo mentioned that I had started, and left unfinished a story on my old Myspace blog, which I must admit, I bailed on since I didn't realize that any of you were actually reading it, and subsequently completely forgotten about.

In addition to Lynn's being righteously indignant, three of you e-mailed me and also indicated that you were less than pleased that I had left that particular story "twisting in the wind".

So we'll revisit that one here. Who knows? Maybe I'll actually finish it this time.

By Jonathan K. Lee


The "Black Thursday" attacks of September 11, 2012 cascaded into an unprecedented worldwide event. What began as a nerve gas attack by an Aun Shin Riyoko cell in Korea escalated by leaps and bounds as every nickel and dime terror organization used the ensuing worldwide confusion as a cover and excuse to launch their own attack against whatever government, corporate, or religious entity they took issue with. For six days the words "Domino Effect" took on an entirely new and horrifying meaning.

The results of these opportunistic attacks were devastating. New York, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Berlin, Los Angeles, London, Madrid, Seoul, Moscow, Teheran, Riyadh, Paris, Beijing...

All gone.

New York City, Moscow, and Berlin were smoking craters.

So was Teheran after someone decided that the Iranians were responsible for the delivery of the suitcase nukes to the Americans, Russians and Germans. The three nations hit the Iranians simultaneously in what was the last time any large powerful governments agreed to work as a coalition.

It didn't help, as by this time, across the globe, soldiers deserted their respective military organizations by the thousands to try to save themselves and those they cared about.

The Superpowers were no more. It was starting to become evident that Einstein was right, we were on a fast ride back to the days of sticks and clubs unless something changed... somewhere.



Jonah decided to open the doors.

He had been thinking about it for nearly two weeks, and had lost count of the times he had taken the elevator to the surface and stood in this very spot.

It wasn't the first decision he had made in the last two weeks.

Seven days earlier he had made the decision that he was no longer an NCO in the United States Army, and the first chance he got, he was going to arm himself to the teeth and leave this place to try to find someone, anyone he actually cared about.

He just wanted to go home.

If home was still there.

His stomach knotted as he thought about the video and still images he had seen on the satellite downlink before it went dark. The world seemed to be over. Maybe the Mayans had been right too.

But he had to see for himself. He took a deep breath, steeled himself and reached for the keypad next to the blast doors.

"Gonna do it Sarge?"

He jumped.

"Jesus fucking CHRIST Tony! Make some noise next time, and stop calling me Sarge. This Army bullshit is over. I'm just Jonah now."

Tony, (in Jonah's mind he had been Specialist DiNatale until seven days ago) gave him the goofy grin that he knew put people at ease.

"Sorry Sarge... I mean Jonah. So you're dressed like something out of a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. You've got enough boom there to take out a building. Does this mean you're gonna do it?"

"Yeah," Jonah replied "If there's anything for me out there, I gotta know, and I gotta know now. It's been five days since we heard a peep from anything resembling a solid command structure. I think it's a safe assumption that we're into some every man for himself shit now, and if anyone I care about is still out there, then they need me more than you three do right now."

"But if I come knocking on this door again..." he trailed off.

Tony looked back towards the elevator.

"We got your back Sarge... Jonah. Actually, the guys and I were just down there talking, and we were thinking that one of us should go with you. You know we would if you asked... and you know you could still order one of us to go and we'd follow without question."

It was Jonah's turn to look at Tony.

"And that's why I'm not gonna ask any of you to go out there with me, this could be a fool's errand. And for all we know, whatever bioagent took out Toronto could have blown across Lake Ontario and still be out there. I'm the only one from here, if there's anything out there, I'll come back and let you know... shit Tony, maybe I'll find out that everything out there is peachy-keen and you can go back to Ohio and your pretty little wife and daughter."

Tears immediately welled up in Tony's eyes at the thought of his wife and daughter in Cleveland.

"Even if there's nothing out there Sarge... just come back and tell us..." Now it was Tony's turn to trail off.

Jonah held out his hand and Tony shook it.

"I'll see what I can see. Now get your ass below before I open these doors." He turned away.

Tony flashed his goofy grin again. "Is that an order?"

Without looking back Jonah began putting on a gas mask and replied "If you wanna be a numbnuts and stand here without a mask when these babies swing open, that's on you, but I got shit to do and now you're just holding me up."

Tony was already in the elevator and called out: "Keep your head down..." The doors closed.

Jonah took his second deep breath and reached for the keypad again.



Jonah typed in the code, paused one final time and pressed enter. The small light at the bottom turned from red to green and there was an audible whoosh, metallic click and sigh as the doors unsealed, unlocked and slowly swung open.

He stepped into a dark garage bay that held two trucks and six humvees. It dawned on him that the building was no longer receiving external power if this area had no lights.

"That's not good," he thought to himself. Even though Buffalo was a stone's throw from the Robert Moses Hydroelectric Power Project in Niagara Falls, the city received its power from the Huntley Plant, an old coal-burning facility. If Huntley failed, Robert Moses would take up the slack. In theory, it was a good system. But since there was no external power, that meant both the Huntley Plant and Robert Moses had failed, or had been destroyed. When night fell he reasoned, there was gonna be a whole lot of dark out there. He activated an air-monitoring device he had put in one of his equipment bags and cycled it through it's routine.

The air in the garage was clean.

He manually unlocked one of the bay doors and pulled the chain, raising it with a tired groan. It had been years since anyone had opened any of the doors manually.

Unslinging his weapon, he set it to fire three-round bursts, and clicked off the safety. Not taking any fucking chances at all out here if I can help it, he thought. Sighting down the barrel, he cautiously stepped out onto Niagara Street looking both to the left and to the right, painfully aware of the fact that there was no traffic. Moving to his left, he spotted squirrels going about their business like it was just another day. He decided to continue and make a full circuit of the block the armory was on before he ventured further away from the only place he knew was truly safe.

He approached the corner of Connecticut and Niagara streets and looked left again.

To his disbelief and utter relief, a block away, he saw two Puerto Rican kids with skateboards. The kids spotted him, one shouted "HOLY SHIT" and they both ran, disappearing over a fence before he could react.

Well, he thought, at least I'm not alone out here.

He realized he was still wearing his gas mask, and took it off chuckling to himself. He supposed that if he was a kid, and saw himself suddenly appear, dressed as he was after all that had happened the last two weeks, he probably would have taken off like a bat out of hell too.

He reset his weapon to fire single rounds and thumbed the safety back on. If there are kids out here, he reasoned, we haven't gone back to being barbarians ...yet.

He keyed the mike on his radio and spoke to the three soldiers still in the data center deep beneath the armory using his old call sign.

"OVERSEER, this is HAMMER how do you read me?"

The response came immediately.

"HAMMER, OVERSEER, we read you five-by-five... any zombies and mutants trying to eat your brain?"

He laughed out loud, "Not unless you count the two kids I just scared the shit out of... It's a beautiful day up here, and the air is good. You guys might want to come up and secure the first floor and see what you're gonna do next."

Tony came on "You coming back in Sarge?"

Jonah looked around.

"No." he said after a moment, "I'm going home first, and I'm going to see if any of my people are still out here... and I'm going to try to find my dog."

He re-entered the garage bay, loaded his equipment into the back of one of the humvees, thinking about the last place he had called home.


He put the humvee in gear, and pulled out onto Niagara Street. Except for the utter lack of traffic, it was a beautiful October afternoon. He smiled a bit. "Maybe this is going to be livable" he thought to himself. But the fact that he hadn't seen any other living thing except for two kids and two squirrels still had him feeling tense.

He pulled his Beretta from its holster and placed it on the seat next to him, just to be safe.

Next he turned left on Hudson, and spotted a small group of kids playing basketball next to a school. They stopped when they saw the humvee, but as opposed to running for the hills, one of them actually waved.

He slowed to a stop.

The kid shouted, "Is the army coming?"

What army? Jonah thought to himself. The kids walked over to the humvee.

He spoke. "There are a few of us here, just checking things out... how's the 'hood?"

The biggest kid said "It's alright, someone just gotta get whitey to turn the electricity back on"

Jonah laughed. "We'll see if they can fix it sooner or later."

He drove off, wondering what would happen if people became aware that the fully loaded armory that towered over their neighborhood only had four... make that three soldiers protecting it.

He blotted that thought from his head immediately, not even wanting to imagine what the consequences of that could be.

Continuing up Hudson, he saw more signs of life and began to feel a little better, if not encouraged about the local situation. The city wasn't in flames... or at least only a small part is, he thought, looking at two oily plumes of smoke in the distance.

He turned left again onto Wadsworth street, and glanced to his right at a tenement building that had housed Somalian refugees for about ten years, and saw several curtains being pulled back and faces appear at the windows, watching the humvees slow progress.

People are here; most of them are just staying inside and out of sight. I guess that's prudent, he reasoned.

He made one final left turn onto Pennsylvania Street and pulled into his driveway, going all the way to the back of the house. His landlord's and his landlord's girlfriend's cars were both parked in their normal places. He opened the humvee door and stepped out, holding the Beretta in his right hand.

He heard a joyful bark from behind the house and rustling as Dexter emerged from the garden and raced over to him, immediately nuzzling his hand, then throwing himself on his back, exposing a belly that needed desperately to be rubbed. Jonah knelt beside him, choked back a sob of relief and started stroking the dog's stomach. Dexter groaned as only a happy dog could, and began twitching one of his hind legs.

"I was wondering when you were gonna show up."

This time Jonah didn't jump, Darrell, his landlord, and friend of several years had a way of quietly approaching you that didn't make you feel like were at any risk. He stopped his belly massage, much to Dexter's distress, placed the Beretta back in its holster and asked the question. "Are you guys all alive?"

"Yeah," Darrell replied, we're all good. The power's been out for eight days now, but we're better off than that storm we had five or six years ago. Buying TWO generators after that fiasco was pretty smart if you ask me. House is locked up tight, we've got plenty of food and water, and I've been feeding your dog and cats. I've seen most everyone we know from the neighborhood. A few people panicked and left town, but it looks like most have stayed and are lying low... What the HELL happened?"

Jonah said nothing and stood up, Dexter lay there for a moment longer, just in case the belly rub might continue, when he realized it was done, he rolled over and sat, looking up at Jonah with adoring eyes, receiving a vigorous ear scratch for his efforts.

Darrell gestured at the hulking, sand-colored vehicle. "Nice car."

"I figured I'd rather take my chances in this than my personal ride… You want one?" he asked, thinking that maybe he'd better go back to the armory before nightfall, apprise the guys of the situation, or lack thereof… and do a little more "shopping". There were generators, he remembered, and about two dozen fifty-five gallon drums of fuel. Gonna need a couple of our guys to help with that…

He came back to the present.

"Help me get this shit inside, so I can see my cats and I'll tell you what I know." He began removing equipment from the humvee, handing Darrell a bag containing an M-4 SOPMOD assault rifle, identical to the one now slung over his shoulder. "I don't know who's in charge of what anymore, so until we figure what's what, this belongs to you so you can back me up if we should find ourselves in a situation where we need to… negotiate with anyone. It's almost identical in operation to the M-16's you trained with in your Air Force days, and there are thirty fully loaded magazines in here" he said, passing him one of the black canvas bags.

"THIRTY?? What exactly are you expecting to happen?" Darrell asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I don't know. But would you rather have too much ammo, or not enough?" he looked at Darrell.

Darrell looked at the ground, then back at Jonah. "Good point. I really hope it's not going to degenerate into that."

"You and me both." Jonah replied.

They carried the bags and weapons down the driveway to the front, Dexter bounding ahead of them, and looking back every couple of seconds to make sure he didn't lose sight of his master.

He walked up onto his porch and unlocked his door. He looked next door at Darrell on his porch, and smiled grimly at the sight of his quiet, unobtrusive friend holding an automatic weapon. "Let me get situated, then I'll come back over and tell you what I know, and what I think we should do."


Jonah closed the outer door behind him, and smiled at the familiar sound of scratching at the inner door. His cats, Isis and Mystique had heard his voice outside and were waiting impatiently to greet him and scold him, in no particular order. He unlocked and opened the inner door, both cats immediately scooting into the foyer and winding around his ankles purring. Dexter sniffed both cats briefly, chose to ignore them and trotted through the inner door.

"Hey ladies" he crooned softly, reaching down to stroke Mystique's head. The cat promptly flipped her tail up, ducking away from his hand. She looked at him, gave him a single plaintive "meow", re-entered the inner door and raced up the stairs closely followed by Isis. He started inside after the animals, paused for a moment frowning, and leaned one of the assault rifles against the wall in the foyer with a bag of magazines next to it.

Welcome to Fort Allentown, he thought, and carried the rest of the bags upstairs.

As he entered his apartment, the lights came on. Darrell had gone into the basement and connected his breaker box to the generators. On a whim, he picked up the TV remote and pressed "POWER". The screen lit up and filled with snow, he pressed the buttons on the remote, passing channel after channel with nothing but white static. He flipped the selector from CABLE/SATELLITE to ANTENNA and cycled through the VHF and UHF bands seeing nothing but the same snow on nearly every channel.

Except one.

On a UHF channel that he vaguely remembered was a Canadian Public Television station broadcasting from Toronto he briefly saw an image of what appeared to be a man sitting at a desk with a map of the world behind him. He was pointing at the map and talking, but the signal faded before he could make anything out. He turned off the TV, went into his kitchen, grabbed a room-temperature bottle of water from the pantry and headed back toward the stairs with Dexter hot on his heels.

* * * * *

"So who are we at war with?" Darrell asked. To Jonah's chagrin, he had field-stripped the rifle, and was scrutinizing each part closely.

"The fucking thing is clean man, MY guys maintained these weapons." he said somewhat indignantly.

"Sorry, I really just wanted to see if I remembered how to take one of these apart." Darrell held up the receiver. "Like riding a bike. I'm not sure I'm happy I remembered how to do this so quickly." He sighed and began re-assembling the rifle.

They were now seated comfortably in Darrell's studio, which, along with his gallery occupied the first floor of the house Jonah rented from him. He had replaced Jonah's lukewarm bottle of water with an icy-cold one from his fridge, which had been running on a generator since several hours after the lights had gone out for good.

Darrell's girlfriend Karen entered the room. "Hi Jonah" she said, "Darrell said you've come home to fight the war." She sat. "What the hell is going on?"

He leaned back in his chair, took a sip from his water bottle and spoke:

"As far as who we're fighting, my last indication was we were going at it with just about every enemy the last Bush created for us during that eight year clusterfuck of war for profit he called an administration. In addition to that, it also seems that everyone decided to come along for the ride on this one, from the Aryan Brotherhood to the fucking Animal Liberation Front. Those idiots released a shitload of diseased animals from a government research facility in Lyon, France. Before the satellite link from there went dark, they were telling us they had a real "28 Days Later" scenario happening."

"28 Days Later?" Darrell asked. He finished re-assembling the rifle, loaded it, and leaned it against his desk. Reaching down, he opened one of the drawers, pulled out a small bag of marijuana, and began filling the bong that was a permanent fixture in his studio.

Karen spoke up: "It was a movie from about ten years ago. A group of animal-rights lunatics in England released some monkeys that were infected with some pretty nasty shit. I won't spoil the ending for you, but it ends up with a hell of a lot of people dead."

The room went silent.

"That's pretty accurate. I enjoyed that movie when it came out." Jonah mused. "Anyway, here's what I know. Near as I can figure our military command structure is either badly damaged, or gone altogether. I left the only three guys who showed up when all hell broke loose at the armory. We haven't heard a word from any command, anywhere in nearly a week. That may change and I kind of hope it does real soon, because from the looks of things, I am the highest ranking member of the military around here."

Darrell laughed, "Well, that's not gonna be good for anybody."

"Damn straight." Jonah agreed, they clinked water bottles, and the three of them had a good chuckle.

Darrell took a deep toke on the bong, held it for a moment, and exhaled. He noticed Jonah staring at it.

"I don't suppose…?" he asked, holding the water pipe up.

Jonah immediately reached for it. "Whole fucking world is in limbo, I don't think whatever Army remains is going to be too concerned with me catching a buzz." He inhaled deeply as Darrell had done, held it for a moment, and exhaled slowly, blowing a smoke ring in the process.

"Like riding a bike… I'm very happy I remembered how to do this so quickly," he said, passing the still-smoldering pipe to Karen. The three of them laughed again.

Feeling a slight buzz taking effect, Jonah remembered something.

"About 20 minutes ago, I turned on the TV after you turned the juice on upstairs for me. Digital cable's dead obviously, but when I switched over to analog, I saw a snowy image of what looked like it might have been a news broadcast on UHF channel 19. If I remember correctly, it's a public television station out of Toronto, TV Ontario or something like that. We need to fabricate some kind of old-school antenna and get it up on the roof."

"Now?' Darrell asked, exhaling his second large toke.

"Yeah, that's a good idea… I haven't smoked this shit in ages… Let's go play on the roof!"

They laughed again.

There was an awkward moment of silence.

Karen spoke.

"Are we going to come out of this all right?"

"I sure hope so," Darrell said softly.

Jonah said nothing, and reached for the pipe again

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