Authors: Laura Franklin
Andrei’s eyebrows were raised in surprised. “I hope I was standing near the flag.” He tried to make light it of it, but the seriousness coming from Gennadi was palpable.
“Ah, I know you try to lighten the mood. But, yes, you are with the flag. You are staring out into the black and in your fighting uniform, ready to move into the chaos. I think you are set to fight it back.”
“First, it has been a long time since I have stood under any flag with our Russian bear on it. Your vision cannot be accurate. The Soviet Union is modern and sleek now. Second, I’ve been a fighter pilot, then a trainer, now head of our whole branch … but I’ve never been a John Wayne, my friend. Why would I stand alone and try to fight the whole world?” Now Andrei was smiling a soft smile.
“Oh, there are other small spots, I just can’t pin point them. I think you are going to join forces and save the world.” They both smiled at this grandiose language.
“And what do you want me to do about this tonight?”
“Nothing. I just wanted you to be prepared to do whatever you have to. You may be the only one who sees whatever happens as a global issue at the start. If you know that something big is coming, if you are prepared mentally; you can respond quicker, you can make better decisions to keep our people safe.”
“A sound speculation. So the coastal areas are danger zone, you think?”
“Are you taking me seriously?”
“Oh, I don’t really know, Gennadi. This is fantastical. I believe you are sincere. Do I believe it is a real premonition? No, I don’t really think so.” He shrugged, he did not want to hurt his friend’s feelings.
“You were always my favorite, Andrei. It is because you are brave and also balanced, not like so many military men. You don’t hunger for power just to have it. You are the closest thing I have to a son, Andrei. I am proud of you, but also feel protective of you.” The old man reached out and put his hand on top of Andrei’s. “I ask only one promise from you.”
“Just be prepared. Sometime after the height of summer, it will happen. I wish I could tell you more, but you must be prepared to step right into action; take control. If you move without hesitation to stay in control of our military, then we may have hope.”
“Our military? I am merely a General of the Russian Federation Air Force. I can keep control of my soldiers, but none others will follow me.”
“No, you must move to control all branches. All, Andrei.”
Andrei cleared his throat. Thought for a while.
“I shall promise you this, dear Gennadi. If such a thing happens, I will do my utmost to position myself so that I can control our military to ensure the safety of our country. But I will make no moves and do nothing beyond my own area until I see the coast lines of America and Europe under attack at the same time. Will that do?”
Gennadi squeezed Andrei’s hand. “That is all I ask of you. Then you will be prepared, then you may be safe.”
~ ~ ~
“Safe? Really Bob. You’re worried about being
?” Marc was dangerous and right now Bob knew he had Marc’s full focus. He scrambled to think of something that would distract Marc.
“I mean healthy. I mean to make sure we don’t get sick. That’s all I meant, dude.”
“Oh, right. Well we seem to be immune, don’t we? So stop acting like a pussy and let’s break into this yellow house. I know for sure that old lady had some gold.”
Marc moved forward. He was on the short side, not terribly short, but a little below average. He was stocky and swarthy, like a little Italian version of Napoleon. He acted bipolar, energetic and frantic one minute and almost murderous the next. Bob couldn’t remember how they had ever become friends. He did know that Marc’s family had a lot of money and were paying his full tuition. When he got really drunk at parties, Marc would rage about his pussy father who had abandoned the family. Bob didn’t blame the father, considering the hell-spawn Marc was, but would never say that.
Will was standing by Bob watching Marc kicking in the carved wooden door. Will had bright red hair, was tall and was also here because his family was paying tuition. He had slightly crossed eyes, which he claimed was why he couldn’t get any girls unless they were drunk. Bob figured it was because Will was just a dog out for sex and girls picked up on that.
Bob shrugged to himself and he and Will followed Marc inside. The room was dark because the curtains were all pulled closed.
“We’ll leave Middlebury this weekend. We’ll hit all the big houses and get all the gold and diamonds. When we get back to civilization, we’ll all be fucking rich!”
Will nodded and laughed. Bob was silent. Marc had turned instantly strange when the news came about the invasion. He had locked on the idea of stealing things the second he realized most of the people were dying from whatever was in the clouds. They had spent yesterday ransacking houses. Now Marc was getting bolder and waiving around a gun he found. Bob had the feeling he was looking for a reason to shoot someone. He was concentrating on not becoming a target for Marc.
The other students who were still alive at Middlebury College had either left for their homes or were staying fully clear of Marc. He had never been popular, he was just too quick to anger. Bob figured being rich but feeling your dad skipped out on you must have played a number on his mind. Then it seemed like his mother tried to make up for it by spoiling him, giving Marc whatever he wanted. He had turned from a whiney kid into a mean and demanding college student.
Will didn’t seem to have too much of a personality at all. So he sort of lived through Marc. It seemed to work for him. Bob guessed he must have gotten tied up with these two because he registered late and ended up rooming with Marc. Friends by default. What a mess.
His attention snapped back to the present as they heard a board creak from upstairs.
“Shhh” hissed Marc. He was pulling his gun out!
“Man, someone’s here, let’s just get out,” Bob hissed back.
“Who…whose down there?”
It was obviously an old lady. Bob relaxed and started to walk toward the door. He was yanked back by his shirt collar. Marc leaned in, glaring at him. “No one said it was time to leave yet.”
Then Bob was looking down at a black head of hair as Marc marched further into the house and walked right toward the stairs. It was surreal. At the top of the stairs, in strips of light and shadow was a thin old lady with her grey/white hair floating like fuzz around her face.
She was staring down at Marc.
Marc lifted the gun up straight at her and held it for a while; he held it there to make sure she saw it. So she knew what was coming. Make sure she was terrified before he pulled the trigger. Her body thumped down the stairs, landing right at Marc’s feet, he never even moved back. He looked down at her and laughed.
“Now that’s what we do when some old fuck gets in our way!”
He stepped right over her to see what he could take from upstairs. That started it. Marc gave in to his sadistic appetite in full force. He wasn’t looking for gold anymore. He was hunting out anyone who was left alive. By the sixth or seventh murder, with Bob telling him how it wasn’t necessary at each killing, it was Bob that was strung up, hung by his ankles and dangling head down in the village green. There were some lovely old trees shading the middle of the village where they held outdoor concerts and markets and arts festivals. Now Marc was decorating it with living, dying, ornaments.
As he left Bob dangling and bleeding from a bullet hole to the stomach, he called back to one of his only friends, “How safe do you feel now, buddy?”
Laughter faded into the distance as Bob lost consciousness.
Father Steve Polus had kept his small group of 17 on the move for over a week. They left Rhode Island following the evacuation plans announced over the radio and TV when they had been working; staying ahead of any possible Taliban gangs that may have landed on the coast, set on pure murder. But things had changed in the Father’s mind as time had passed, each night he had the very same dream and each morning it did not fade away as normal dreams did.
A big lake, sparkling in the sun. The far shore was a haze in the light, with mountains rising very close to the shore. The lake was so large that sometimes in the dream he couldn’t tell if the clouds were the mountains. Steve was always standing on the east side of the lake. Always near a bonfire on the pebbly beach. Always surrounded by young people talking, laughing and moving around. They were not the people he was leading now. He could even smell food cooking over the bonfire. It was so real. It was so peaceful. The setting sun was sending out bright orange and pink streaks in the sky. He always woke up smiling.
Was it a trick?
How could the devil give him such feelings of peace if it was a trick?
Was he fighting a vision from God?
Steve was in agony not knowing what choice to make. Since he had not made a conscious decision, he now realized he was leading his group straight north, straying from the path the authorities had given out over the radio. He felt like he was a homing pigeon. He had no doubt that he was heading directly to this lake, to these strangers. He had prayed over their final destination, but received nothing in response except the dreams. Steve realized he was exhausting himself with mental torture and there were times when he almost missed the sound of engines, almost missed getting his flock off the road and into hiding before danger passed.
He was going to have to take this on faith. He looked deep into his heart as they were taking a lunch break. The feelings of peace that sunk into every ounce of his body couldn’t be denied. He was going to give over to his dream and take it on faith that he was being led to safety.
I’ve always been faithful to my God, I have to trust that this is His way of helping me and helping the people that are following me.
The priest had a renewed energy as they started out for the second half of the day. He tapped back into his motivational personal training skills as he kept them moving on, quietly and with sore feet.
Kim was the biggest challenge, she wanted to bitch and moan out loud. Time and again he had to walk beside her when she started in. She could drag the mood of the whole group down, and lay them all open to despair if left to rant on about all her ills. So Steve would make sure to touch her on the arm, face her full on and give her a nice glimpse of his eyes, his strong chest and muscular arms. He was shaking his head at himself, but it worked for Kim. She got quieter and softer and tried to flirt with him. He got what he wanted; a quiet Kim. He would softly squeeze her shoulder and say he had to go back to the front of the line, he would be back later, and please, for him, speak only in whispers. It’s hard to bitch and moan in a whisper.
~ ~ ~
The second day out from Brattleboro we heard motorcycles in the distance. All of us were immediately tense. Mick had his gun out and Ed took his rifle off his saddle. Sue and I headed into the trees with the horses again. This time I realized that Mick and old Ed were my only line of defense in this new world. I was going to have to step it up because they were not going to be by my side every second and Ed now had a bullet hole in his arm.
I am not a religious girl. But listening to the rumble of the motors coming closer, and seeing Mick standing at the side of the road with a gun, I started to say, “Let him be ok, let him be ok,” over and over again. Kind of like a chant or prayer.
It hit me hard, the biker killers must have been watching, just waiting to ambush any small group that went far enough away from the city.