“It’s his fucking birthday.” said Kayla, her voice quavering, “You killed him on his birthday.”
The body of Noah lay face up, baby blue eyes staring into space, his face strangely at peace. She fell down on the boy’s body, cradling him in her arms as she looked accusingly up at the sergeant who reeled back in shock, the gun held limply by his side, his eyes darting from one person to the other.
“He just turned eighteen.” She looked back down at Noah, tears streaming down her cheeks as she heard Pat screaming “Nooooo!” Then another gunshot. She looked up in time to see Roy’s body collapse, the gun still in his hand, a hole in the side of his temple.
“Oh, God,” gasped Pat, holding his hands up in frustration. “God No! Roy. Nooooo!” He looked around at the others who were cowering, except Kayla who glared at him in defiance.
“What the fuck is wrong with you guys?” she demanded.
Pat slumped down on the floor next to Roy’s body. He shook his head, avoiding Kayla’s stare. They all sat in silence for what seemed an eternity, when suddenly, an explosion rocked the building. Then another off in the distance, followed by a series of them, moving North.
“It’s started,” said Roy, looking up. “The final assault.” He jumped to his feet and picked up his assault rifle. “We better get out there.” Then he froze, staring in disbelief. Kayla had taken Roy’s Sig Sauer and was aiming it at his chest.
“No.” She said in a commanding voice.
“Why?” Asked Pat incredulously.
“Because we are going to fight anymore. That’s it. We’re done.”
Pat threw his hands up in frustration, “what are we going to do?”
“We are going to wait until they leave, then bury Noah, the way he would have wanted to be buried. In his religion. And maybe you friend, Roy.”
Outside, the distant rumble gradually became louder.
Pat sighed and looked at Kayla nervously, “they’re here. I have to report, it’s my duty.”
“I’m sure the army will bury them properly.
“You move, I will shoot you.” Her trigger finger began to tighten.
Pat’s eyes darted between Kyla and the door. Then he seemed to talk himself out of resisting, his shoulders slumped and he sat back on the floor, placing his assault rifle next to him. Kyla continued to hold the Sig Sauer aimed at him.
“Put it down,” said Pat, dismissively. “You won. There’s been enough killing.” Outside the rumble became deafening. A large convoy of heavy vehicles was moving down the highway, shaking the very ground underneath them. The thwop thwop thwop of helicopter blades could be heard overhead, everything moving northward. Then more explosions.
“Seems like it’s not going to be the pushover you imagined,” said Kayla.
Roy shrugged, “They’re just using drones. Once the drones are gone, they won’t fight. They’re cowards.”
“How can one side all be cowards?” It was Bowie’s voice. Kyla looked over to where Bowie had been cowering. He was now sitting back up, looking more alive.
“Are you okay, Bowie?”
Bowie nodded. He asked again, raising his voice to be heard above the roar of vehicles outside. “How can they all be cowards?”
“Just the way they were raised, I guess. All entitled little brats. Got medals for participation at school,” Pat shrugged, “They’re just different. Nothing is their fault. They didn’t even have to be fit to join the army, we lowered our standards to let them in. Instead of focusing on finding the best men for the job, they focused on being “inclusive.” He shook his head.
“But that doesn’t mean they are cowards,” said Bowie, defiantly.
Pat snorted. “Look how easily you escaped from that cell in the barracks. If that were a unit in the old army, you wouldn’t have even overcome one soldier.” He looked from Kyla to Bowie, “You’ll see soon enough. They’ve never had to fight for anything. It’s all been laid out for them.”
“They’re just different. Nothing is their fault. They didn’t even have to be fit to join the army, we lowered our standards to let them in. Instead of focusing on finding the best men for the job, they focused on being “inclusive.”
“What about the other side?” Asked Kayla, “People would say their just beer swilling, loud mouthed wannabe’s, who’ll be out of breath if they have to walk ten feet.”
Pat shrugged, “But there are a lot of ex-military and ex-police among them and those guys have seen action. They also love hunting and guns.” He gestured to Noah’s body, “Like your friend.” Kayla scowled at him and the look on his face told her he regretted bringing up Noah.
The group fell silent. Kayla leaned against the wall, listening to the rumble and the explosions which seemed to go on forever. She looked over at Zoey who hadn’t spoken since the shooting.
“How are you doing, Zoey?”
Zoey nodded. “Okay I guess,” Kayla could see the tracks of dried tears on her cheeks. She looked at Pat and then Bowie. Both of them were deep in thought, lost in their own worlds. The rumbling was finally moving northward, as if the last of the heavy vehicles had passed.
Kayla looked at her watch, it was six pm.“It’s almost evening,” she said, “We should go out and bury Noah.”
Pat struggled to his feet, grabbed his assault rifle and walked to the door. He looked back to Kayla and then pulled it open. “They’re gone,” he said.
As they emerged from the warehouse with the bodies, Kayla thought she saw movement. She stopped and studied the surrounding area. A man carrying a child had been moving in their direction. He stopped by the wall of a building, watching them intently. A woman appeared beside him. They moved like frightened birds, quickly, stopping frequently and looking around . Gradually more people began to emerge from behind bushes and wrecked vehicles. They formed into a group and proceeded warily past, away from the direction of the fighting.
Pat shook his head. “Thank God this war will be over soon. Who would ever imagine we’d see scenes like this in America. The greatest country in the world.”
They found a small garden with soft earth and dug two shallow graves. As the only Christian in the group, Pat nervously presided over the funeral. Kayla fashioned two crosses out of broken pieces of a pallet they found in the warehouse. She stood with Bowie and Zoey, their heads lowered respectfully, as Pat recited a prayer and then improvised, speaking directly to God and asking for forgiveness for Roy, a faithful servant rendered insane by the side effects of the vaccine. When they were finished, they loaded up and walked off to the North, toward the building they’d been imprisoned in the previous night. Kayla wanted her Dirty Harry gun back and perhaps the satisfaction of seeing the demise of the army captain who had sentenced them to death.
“The building will be nothing but a burned out shell,” Pat warned her. “They would have hit it for sure.”
Kayla trudged on in silence. She felt an emptiness she hadn’t known since they murdered Billie. Shit, she thought, why Noah? She’d really grown to love that naive little redneck kid like a little brother.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she though of him. He really died a hero, she thought. Trying to save this privileged white… She looked at Bowie. She couldn’t bring herself to hate him, even though she wished he would man up sometimes. He’d been dragged into the clutches of the Cartel, just as Kayla had and she couldn’t blame him for anything he’d written in that environment. The Cartel scared the shit out of everybody. They bullied, manipulated and murdered. The country was burning to the ground now, neighbours were at each others throats. Racial tension was higher than she could ever remember and hate was in abundance everywhere. But it was just a game to the Cartel.
The sweet pungent smell of burned flesh got her attention. Kayla looked up to see the burned out shell of a military vehicle. Bodies and body parts lay scattered around it. Fifty meters away, lay the wreckage of something else, the twisted remains of a small aircraft.
“A drone.” Pat’s voice. She turned to him. “Looks like it got one of the vehicles and they shot it down,” Pat continued. “Bet we see a few like this.”
Bowie stopped and went into a fit of coughing, then vomited on the ground. Kayla rushed over and rubbed his back trying to comfort him. Zoey helped.
“You should be used to it by now,” she told Bowie.
“I just can’t take it,” said Bowie, his voice quivering.
As they walked on, the destruction became more widespread, with visible damage to surrounding buildings. A thick column of smoke rose from the direction they were headed.
“I think that’s our destination,” said Pat, pointing. “Not much chance of finding your gun there now.”
Kayla shrugged, “I’m going to try.”
They came across the first body 100 metres before the door to the building, a soldier, lying face down. He’d been shot in the back.
“He’s one of them,” said Pat with a chuckle, “See I told you, shot while running away. Kyla looked from the body to the building, “There must be twenty or thirty others, all scattered on the sides of the road leading to the entrance. Smoke poured from the windows of the building and a large section of wall was missing where a rocket appeared to have hit.
Kayla walked quickly to the front and opened the glass door. The reception area was untouched, except for a body stretched out on the floor and one still sitting in a chair. The lady Captain. Her face still frozen in the terror she must have felt as she tried to come to terms with her inevitable death. A neat round hole in the centre of her forehead showed where the bullet had entered.
“Looks like an execution,” said Kayla, glancing back to see if Pat was with her.
“Yep. They won’t be taking prisoners,” said Pat.
“Why not,” asked Kayla, as she began searching through the drawers of the desk.
“There’s too much hate between us,” said Pat, thoughtfully. “A lot of those boys in the militia have lost family members, people taken to the reeducation camps.”
“But won’t the officers stop them?”
“They’ll turn a blind eye,” said Pat. “They don’t want those people around either.”
“But they are also Americ…” Kayla stopped speaking as she saw what she’d been looking for. A glint of silver caught her eye in the gloomy drawer. She grasped it and held it up triumphantly.
“Now that’s a gun, sister,” said Pat with a grin.
“I wonder where they put the ammo,” she said, scattering things desperately from the drawer. Pat began coughing in the background.
“We’ve got to get out of here, this smoke is getting worse.”
“Found it,” she said, pulling out two boxes. “And my Bowie knife. Now where did they put my back pack?”
“Is that it leaning against the wall?” Asked Pat.
“No, I think that’s Noah’s,” she said, grabbing it. She wasn’t leaving it here. Maybe it would be something to remember him by. Maybe one day she could give it to Noah’s mother and tell him how brave he was. She took one last look at the dead Captain.
“If only I could have been the one to put that bullet in your head,” she said, sweetly. “I bet that when you woke this morning, you never imagined this day would end with me standing over your body.”
She ran her hand through the corpse’s hair almost affectionately. She forced one of the corpse’s hands up from the chair and pulling out her knife, cut off one of the chubby, swollen fingers. She removed a gold ring. Her first trophy.
“Come on, Kayla,” called Pat between bouts of coughing.
Kayla carefully placed the ring in one of the front pockets of the back pack and turned to follow Pat out of the building. Bowie and Zoey were huddled together on one side of the door, looking around nervously. Kayla held up her gun triumphantly and Zoey smiled.
“I got Noah’s back pack too,”
“Where are we going, now?” Asked Bowie, looking around .
Kayla thought for a moment, “I know a good place to bed down for the night.” She winked at Zoey, “Have a warm shower and a nice comfortable bed.”
Beads of sweat appeared on his brow as he eyed them uneasily. It was as if he had just revealed something he shouldn’t have. He pretended to dismiss it. “Sorry, my mistake,” he said, “sit down, please. Drink. On the house.”
“You mean the…” started Bowie.
“The Brothel,” said Kayla. I bet they didn’t hit that. Who knows, I might find another pedophile to execute.” She looked over to Pat who was grinning.
He shrugged, “Sounds good to me. It’s been a long day.”
The Brothel was indeed untouched, but was locked tight. Roy knocked furiously on the door but to no avail. As he began to kick the door in, it suddenly opened and there stood a terrified, balding middle aged man.
With Pat’s rifle in his face, the man opened the door, but reeled back in horror at the sight of Kayla.
“We’re back, she said triumphantly, as she followed Pat through the door. After turning to check that other two had entered, she closed and bolted the door.
“Are there any guests you could introduce me to?” She asked with a grin.
“No Senators,” pleaded the man in broken English. “All gone. Run away.”
He followed them, hands up in protest, as they strode over to the bar.
“I could use a drink,” said Roy, checking the bottles at the back. He reached over and grabbed a bottle of Vodka holding it up. Anybody want to join me?”
You should go.” Said the owner in a frantic voice, “It’s very dangerous.”
Pat began laughing, “It’s over, old man. By tomorrow, we’ll have a new President and all of this fighting will be finished.”
Could that be possible? Wondered Kayla, an end to all this misery? It seemed to have been going on for an eternity. She looked from Pat to the bar owner. The man was shaking his head.
“No. Not over. You will see. You will all die. You must go.”
“What’s he talking about?” Asked Pat, who was already perched on a stool with a glass in his hand. “He’s gone mad.”
Kayla studied the man. He was certainly not crazy. She guessed he was Eastern European, maybe Russian. Beads of sweat appeared on his brow as he eyed them uneasily. It was as if he had just revealed something he shouldn’t have. He pretended to dismiss it. “Sorry, my mistake,” he said, “sit down, please. Drink. On the house.”
“Wait,” said Kayla. “What were you talking about? What did the Senators tell you?”