I pick up the phone to call Jasper until I remember that he doesn’t wake up this early. And that he was killed in the bombing. His voicemail still has that depressing message.
“Heeeey, it’s Jasss’purr. You know what to do. I know I do. OH! And if you haven’t already, come to The Red Emerald to see your favorite performers! This week, they’ll be doing a special morale raiser for the troops!”
It was so unlike him to die. That just wasn’t something he would do on the normal basis. Sometimes I like to think that he’s just lost someplace inside his big bag of antics and shenanigans; somewhere amidst the platform shoes and gadgets that made him such a bombtastic public performer. I haven’t cried since before the bombing, and I’m not going to start now. It takes too much energy.
It was the middle of the night when the first wave came. Georgia was always known for its summer thunderstorms, but the roar that tore through the air and shook the house from the bottom up was like thunder on amphetamines. It was a scouter jet flying low overhead at supersonic speeds. By the time I shook awake, it would have been long gone, but the sonic boom resounded and trailed behind it. My window shattered. I know my eardrums didn’t, but I could hear nothing.
I had just had a fight with Erick, so I wasn’t going to cry to him about how afraid I was. He was my dad; he should have come to check up on me. That he didn’t let me know squarely where we stood. I still stand there.
Instead of doing anything smart, I just sat there in my bed, my covers huddled up to my chin and my knees against my chest. I had started rocking but stopped when the bed creaked, as if the bombers would hear it and zero in on me. I wish I hadn’t skipped that school assembly where they were teaching wartime safety precautions. I think I was hungover.
And then it hit. My building shook like a shack and the night sky lit up like it used to on Independence Day, but more. Flames erupted from the ground in a blaze of fireballs that reminded me of Roman Candles gone savage. Thanks to the scouter, I could only hear muffled blasts from afar. I can’t help but wish that the bombers would fly overhead right now when I wouldn’t have a chance to hear them. Just surprise me and kill me. Then a particularly dazzling starburst lights up the sky to the east—the culture district. Jasper. He was working that night.
I imagine that the flares that exploded into the sky were the flaming trails of organic remnants of my best friend and his performers, all mixed with flammable synthetic material. It comforts me to know that his death was painless, quick, and that his body was torn to bits and shredded by the combustive pressure. Call me sadistic, but we are long overdue for a zombie apocalypse and I could never shoot Jasper in the head. And then I’m struck by reality as a transformer blows somewhere in the distance and the power shuts off.
The rolling blackouts aren’t terrible at this point as they are inconvenient. Annoying. The bombing had done a number on the city’s power grid, but our engineers are working their hardest to fix it. My mom is on the team that handles the upkeep of some transformer backend modules or something. I don’t really know what it means, but she assures it’s important enough to be gone for days and days on end.
I don’t worry too much. She can take care of herself. And so can my father, apparently. But judging by the moans that come through the thin walls of our thankfully not-super-damaged apartment, the man has someone else taking care of him. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman this time, and his constant calling the name “Taylor” doesn’t help. It’s unisex after all. I hope he or she dies with his cock in his or her throat. And he dies for killing her.
I know it’s mean, but it’s probably the nicest thing I can think about that parent. I click the remote, but the television doesn’t come on. I remember the blackout, evidenced by the darkness surrounding me. I get tired of hearing Taylor’s name over and over again and decide to leave the house. Maybe air would do me good.
I recall that I can’t call Jasper as I always do when I’m about to leave these days. I figure I’ll go to the Rations Center. Set up in the wake of the war with the United Kingdom of Nations of the Atlantic, the Rations Center pretty much makes sure that everyone can eat what little food we can still import with the naval perimeter enforced. We once upon a time had a garden, but when my sister was killed in armed duty, the secrets of tending that plot of land died with her. Now that I think about it, they died right along with the garden when she first went off.
The lights come on right before I leave the door and I turn back to go inside and watch television. Fuck the Ration Center. If Erick and Taylor are hungry, they can feed themselves. It sounds like someone’s still choking on dick anyway. I still have a stash of canned goods under my bed. I sometimes wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life. To set my mind at ease, I take the blue envelope from the table titled “Draft” and stamped MANDATORY BY ORDER OF THE ARMED FORCES. I pick up Erick’s lighter and set fire to it, throwing it out of the window only after I’m sure my name and address have been burned off.
War is really fucking annoying and I just wish we’d bomb those so-called “people” out of existence already! Fuck homeland defense! If we launch a counter-invasion and immobilize their pussy ground forces, we wouldn’t be in this shit. As I stare out the window at the ground fantasizing, I hear the door creak open behind me. I turn around and Erick is standing there in a pair of shorts.
“Do you have any condoms you haven’t—”
“Check the Rations Center,” I tell him immediately and go past him into my room with his lighter. I set fire to the few condoms in my dresser and turn on the fan to blow the smoke through the window. The smell of burnt rubber gets pretty bad really quickly, but it’s better than hearing “Taylor!” all fucking day. And it isn’t even late evening yet!
I begin to wonder if I’m adopted and if my real parents would come and pick me up when… Well, nothing happens. It’s just that I’m so used to never being able to complete a full thought without being interrupted these days that I guess I don’t actually form them past the midpoint of the sentence.
But then the world explodes and the metal structure that holds my apartment together screams under the weight of what I’m sure if a missile. Or maybe it’s a silent bomber. I decide I don’t care as I run into my closet and take cover in the dark corner. I actually begin to feel morally wrong for thinking such terrible thoughts about my father and his friend when I hear, with crystal clarity despite my home tumbling down around me, two pairs of footfalls. THOSE FUCKERS ARE ESCAPING! Without so much as a howl to let me in on the plan.
I was so mad I could punch something. So I did. And the first item of debris crashed a foot away from me, followed by a wave of plaster dust. I say fuck it and go! The ground is shaking, unsure of its own molecular structure as liquid or solid as waves of energy shift the molecules of my only foundation. I decide to risk it all and run through the bedroom and through the living room. It feels like I’m running on pudding with rubbery legs, and I wobble the whole way. I get into the hallway of the building and join the waves of people who are also evacuating.
The first thing I notice is the smeared blood everywhere. Living on the first floor has perks. As I run, I almost slip in a bloody puddle. Some poor soul’s apartment must have been ripped apart worst than mine. As I continue, I see Erick and some unknown woman (I could have sworn Taylor was a man) on the floor just on the side of the doorway. My father is trying to coax Taylor back into the world of the living, but she seems to like the other world more. I hope she loses her ticket back and sends for Erick.
I’m through the doorway, and I wish I’d stayed inside. The sky is red and the asphalt is cracked so terribly that it looks as if magma is ready to burst out of the seams of the uneven street. People are either running or confused. I forget all reason as I run somewhere. Anywhere really. I won’t be the one standing around for the second missile to finish what the first missile left behind. The heat of the blast begins to set in on me and I feel bad for snatching the water bottle from the little girl in front of me as I continue on, but then I remember that I don’t. She’s more likely than I am to die.
I run and weave through people, being weaved around by others who attempt to get as far away as I do. Some hooker tries sealing my water, but I trip him and continue on my way, satisfied at the crunch of his chin meeting the pavement. I don’t understand why I’m being so selfish today. But, once again, it seems as if I can’t care.
But as I do give a fuck about the bomber I see on the horizon and making its way south, I turn east and run. Nobody follows me. As I go, I turn back to see if I can figure out where it’s going. I can’t. So I keep running. My ribs have long since been stretched past that point where one runs himself ragged, but I’m more focused on reminding my calves that the more muscle they let rip, the more likely it is we all die. And I realize that I personified my calves into another being, but I’m sure that if they’re insulted, I can get where I’ve gotta get without them.
I want to end my story here, because the next part has to start with a bang. I can already see my opening line forming. It’s getting closer with every second, nearly overhead. I forgot to put in my contacts when I was escaping certain doom (speaking of which, the crash in the background might have been my apartment complex) but I think I see a hatch opening up on the bomber’s underbelly. Yes, that’s a hatch.