Wind howled through the barren wasteland down an abandoned highway. Well, mostly abandoned. A lone figure walked along the equally lonely road, a slight gimp in his left leg. This was partially due to the fact that he was laden with several pounds of heavy gear; partially due to the stanched wound in the same leg.
Dull listless green eyes gazed out of the bug-eyed lenses of the securely fastened gas mask strapped tightly over his gaunt face. Dusty dark hair sprung out from the air-tight rubber seam of the mask in random directions. The filter began wheezing loudly after he took a few large ragged breaths.
He stopped cold. He felt as if his mind was staggering to come to terms with his situation. He raised his left hand up and stared into his watch, with its cracked and disfigured crystal, guiding him to a fearful conclusion; he had roughly an hour of clean breathing left. He reached nervously for the leather pouches at his belt that stored the spare filters. The first two yielded empty results, but something round and hard was packed into the last case. Hastily unzipping it with trembling fingers, he stood staring into what could have been his salvation, but was an already spent filter.
He almost vocalized his anguish; almost. He stoppered what would have been a waste of precious breathing time by instead hurtling the filter as hard as he could, and then punching out the magazine from the worn mp5 he cradled in the crook of his right arm. He glared into the clip, tempted to count the rounds held within once more, but instead slammed it back into the gun with an echoing click. He had already counted his ammunition several times before, and knew there to be exactly nineteen loaded shells, sixteen in the mp5’s clip, including the one in the chamber and the three in his m9 sidearm. The click brought his mind back to a time that felt almost too long ago now:
Thomas heard the gas nozzle click back as his car finished fueling. He stepped over to the pump and placed the nozzle back inside. It was a hot summer day, the kind of heat that made you want to sit in front of your freezer with the door open; the kind where it would have been unbearable to be outside doing any heavy labor.
Thomas had opened the car door with a creak when a loud siren began blaring somewhere in the near distance. It almost sounded like a bombing run siren to him, but that couldn’t possibly be, he didn’t even know if those sirens were still in working condition. His curiosity was peaked though and he sat down, leaving the door open to air out the stifling hotness in the vehicle. He slid the keys into the ignition, turning the AC to the maximum.
His hand lowered a few inches to the radio and turned it on, tuning to his favorite station. Instead of commercials or the usual sound of music, he heard a very calm voice relaying some sort of information. He began listening closely:
“…of casualties is undetermined. I repeat that there has been a report of an air raid in Florida. An unexpected attack with devastating results driven by what appears to be the North Koreans. America is under severe warning right now and DEFCON 2 has been declared. This looks to the possible brink of a new war”
Thomas stared blankly at his radio. He wasn’t sure how to react; was this even real? What was going on? His mind was reeling at this tiny yet life-changing bit of information. He reached down, his only interest in that of hearing more, and turned up the radio, but suddenly the man’s voice cut-out to be replaced by the emergency broadcast signal.
“This is an emergency broadcast for the town of Herald. There is a mandatory meeting at the local community center ASAP for anyone between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five. Please report immediately to your local community center. This is not a drill”
Thomas was dumbfounded yet again as the message repeated back to him several times. He sat there in a momentary shock, and then flipped through four more channels on his radio only to hear the same message. He decided his best choice was to do as he was told; so he closed the car door and his engine whined loudly as it started; it was time to go.