Short Story: The Flash

The Flash

There was a flash like lightning. It lit the sky as daylight in pre-dawn. The momentary brightness gave way to a mushroom cloud of misery. As if meant to since it’s formation, the world changed in a blink. The nearest of its victims were vaporized. They were the fortunate ones. For what came next was a truth that mankind could never own up to; we are cowards, fools, children.

I was stationed near the far-edge of the blasts’ radius, just outside the critical radiation zone. I learned the truth of our nature first hand, saw its repercussions with my own, shielded eyes. Leader of my squad, and like them, clad in air-tight kevlar that stunk like week-old sweat even before our dirty flesh inhabited it. Had the enemy smelled our advance after the flash, the vaporization, the change of the world, they’d have surrendered for posterity’s sake– likely only as a bargaining chip to make as all shower, shave, have some R and R.

But war doesn’t allow for time-outs. That was something that had been drilled into the head of every recruit long before they’d ever joined the fight. Two decades of ground fighting saw the propaganda mill run like wild fire. Every standing wall left was blanketed with the colorful, subtle manipulations of a psychological war of a nation against its own. In a way, no one blamed them. It was the only route left to attempt to keep the peace. There was no longer order, only camps for the refugees, sick and dying. Meanwhile, cities that had stood the test of eons became the central zones of conflict. They were gone. Eradicated. All in a flash.

Our men on the front-lines hadn’t stood a chance, but neither did the enemy. That was the point. The particular phrases used? I remember them as if they’re etched into the blood on my hands: “Expendable assets,” “Acceptable Casualties,” “Cold Calculus.” For a layman they were confusing, but for a soldier they all meant the same thing; the men and women out there in the thick of it were to be sacrificed. The armchair generals had seen to that. They had watched from on-high, strategizing, and in a single thought, sealed the fates of those both friend and foe– sealed the truth of humanity’s cowardice.

Safely hidden away with the other officers, they made a “calculated decision.” Bullshit. They killed millions, raped the earth’s face to save themselves. That was all. My unit was sent in for “damage assessment and clean-up.” Euphemisms for confirming what we already knew, and murdering the poor bastards that hadn’t already been burnt to charred husks. Friend or foe, it didn’t matter, they were to be “neutralized.” I guess for some it would have been the final kindness we could grant.

When we made our advance through the furthest ruins, the buildings were largely intact. Or at least, as intact as decades-long bombing-runs, bullet-holes, and shrapnel could keep them. There were no windows, but you could sense where the refugees and soldiers had been. The former used scrap material to barricade windows and holed-walls. The latter left bodies, sandbags, spent ammunition and magazines in their wake.

The furthest outskirts of the blast were like wading through a physical history of the last twenty years. Bodies both decayed and fresh mingled with the skeletons of the long dead. The flies and other insects peppered the air as if a great plague had been unleashed. The buildings’ colors and brick were faded, pocked and divoted with destruction across their faces. Everywhere there were signs of scavengers– over turned bodies, out-turned pockets, emptied infantry packs. In this land, nothing was a sacred but survival. And now, because of us, even that had been hallowed.

When the clicks of the Geiger signaled the first reaches of the radiation, the sky was still dark. The land was silent. I doubt that even had anything survived in that place it would have been so bold as to make noise. My unit was silent but for the weary progress of our feet through ash and ruins. We had nothing to say, but our collective breaths of awe and disgust bled through our helmet comms. It was enough to tell that we were all present, accounted for, and mirrored one another’s sentiments.

It was almost dawn when we came upon a survivor. Though I hesitate to call her that. She was clearly dying; blind, dehydrated, irradiated, and burned all over. She heard us before we saw her, began to scream and wail for help. We found her under the rubble of a tin shack, its hot roof collapsed atop her. She begged for mercy, amnesty. At that we saw the tattered remains of her uniform. What hadn’t burnt into her skin was clear enough to denote that she was the enemy. Even so, we had our orders and none of us had the gall to tell her the truth.

I pulled the trigger myself. One round to the forehead. Her pain was over in a second. Mine had just begun. All of ours had. We had no idea what we’d find moving forward, but the scene of the woman became the exception.

What few people we did find were all dead. Most were civilians– refugees that had stubbornly refused to leave the war-zone they’d once called home. All middle-aged and more hardened than not. Their corpses were emaciated, soot-blackened, probably had been for longer than they’d known. It was saddening, but disappointing most of all. The groups here no longer knew why they were fighting. The militaries of both sides had long run out of volunteers, turned to draftees to do their dirty work. I doubt a single soul in that blast had any stake in the fight.

The Geiger was red-hot when we hit the first wave of vaporized buildings. They were mostly ash. Fires blazed across the horizons in every direction, had already begun to spread to the buildings behind us. The heat inside our suits increased ten-fold, threatened to bog us down with exhaustion and smother the life from our cowardly bodies.

There were no survivors this far in, only corpses. Each was more decrepit than the last. Charred skin turned to gooey mush nearer the blast’s epicenter. The bones of the dead obliterated inside from the force of the shock-wave. What few, mangled husks could be accurately identified as humans were little more than containers of meat for their cooked organs and powdered skeletons. The terrain had changed too. There were no longer even hints of buildings, just upturned and cracked earth. It formed hills and dirt dunes, all brown and black, composed of scorched elements that could no longer be identified as specific. Be they human, building, foliage, there was no way to tell.

It took nearly a full week to sweep the entire blast zone. We were fortunate enough in our suits’ designs that we could sleep comfortably in them, were allowed a fresh supply of oxygen from re-breathers in the helmets. I’ll never forget the last day though.

We’d just begun the last leg home when we came upon the corpse of a charred-black woman. She couldn’t have been more than fifteen. More than likely she was one of the escort girls one side or the other brought to base for the pleasures of the men and women there. In her arms was the tattered remains of a swaddled infant. My unit stared at the scene, the greenest of us audibly sniffling over the comm.

We knew then what the rest of the world learned in that one, solitary act of inhumanity. We were cowards. Monsters. Everything our species had grown to become, all of its greatest endeavors, its most humbling mistakes, meant nothing. We were children who’d burned ourselves with fire. With little more thought than cold calculus, and the sacrifice of acceptable casualties, we’d given into darkness with a single, atomic flash.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: The Shelter

The Shelter


In the shelter,

there is no happiness, no hope.

Our only home,

is desperation,

a levee soon broke.


With wide gaze,

we look into the beyond.

Through an unbidden haze,

of the generations gone.


Day comes with darkness,

night turns to light.

We hope for attrition,

some end to the fight.


Still we continue,

for reasons unknown.

Someone is watching.

Our hands raw to the bone.


In all our existence,

there is but one.

Who comes from happenstance,

for all or for none?


Scraps of humanity,

are all that’s contained.

Here in the shelter,

where it never rains.


In time we’ll die,

as more will rise.

Those that’ll cry,

forever reprise.


Here in the shelter,

where we bleed for power,

beat the last hearts of mankind,

that forever cower.

Short Story: Deadman Part 1


Part 1

The missile silo’s outdated radar screens glowed with small, green waves. Before them sat the Lieutenant with his morning coffee, as he checked the bank of monitors above that read out telemetry for inflight ICBMs. Though useless in the absence of nuclear dispersal, a perpetual watch was posted at the ancient machines.

The Lieutenant relaxed in his chair to sip coffee, kicked up his feet on a second chair before him, and flipped-on a portable television in his lap. The news droned on that the snowstorm above the base was gathering strength. Roads, railways, and airports would be inaccessible for days. He sighed, flipped the channel.

They’d already been trapped for three days, the outside world further away for secrecy’s sake. Even with a full crew on-base, duties kept them from engaging one another. Only briefly did anyone see each other on their ways in and out of the commissary. In most senses, the Lieutenant was completely alone.

A beep sounded from the console. A button in arm’s reach depressed with an uninterested, habitual motion. Moscow’s confirmation required a physical response to relay that someone still lived to watch the screens. Everything was handled electronically, save for this job. Despite forty-odd years of Cold War terror descending into the schizophrenic creation of imaginary lines, every half-hour confirmation was still required.

The signal originated from the main missile-tracking computers beneath the Kremlin, and simultaneously pinged all silos in Russia. The operators then had five minutes to respond, before an alarm sounded. In war-time, confirmation was required every five minutes with only thirty seconds to spare. Any longer might signal a silo had been compromised. Likewise, if a silo registered something, the Kremlin’s technicians would call for on-site verification while alerting military leaders.

But it was peace time. In retrospect, it always had been. The war between nuclear powers had never come. The nuclear holocaust had never engulfed the Earth in the fires of Hell, and now the once-great, Red Republic’s relics simply kept people employed.

It was boring, but the Lieutenant still preferred it to Moscow’s drudgery. Working as a political door-guard was never as glamorous as it sounded. With the general contention between the people and the government in the post-war age, the ignoble politicians felt threatened; even minor ones had four flank guards in each room. To him, it was astounding that such cowards were even allowed to grace those prestigious offices– but such was the way the world turned.

He drained his cup. Stood for the far end of the room and the table there beside the data-analogue recorders whose tapes revolved with lazy, languid repetitions as pointless as his own. He poured himself a second coffee, returned to his seat to reposition the TV.

The confirmation signal flashed again.

Had it already been a half an hour? He pressed it mindlessly, adjusted his feet, lifted his coffee to his lips. The phone beside the console rang. Half-irritated and half-curious, he leaned forward to lift it, carefully juggling the cup and TV.

“Silo 193, data-sector, we need confirmation on bogey at grid 712,” a voice said.


“Bogey, will register on your screen in 3…2…1…now.”

The Lt. saw it. A series of grids beeped in succession from the right screens. They glowed brighter as a dot inched leftward over them, designated RU:1289H-YnD. Cold-war terror was a feeling renewed; launched from silo 128, pad 9, carrying high-yield nuclear ballistics.

“Silo: requesting confirmation on designation RU:1289H-YnD,” the voice stated.

The LT. responded mechanically: “Moscow: Confirming designation RU:1289H-YnD at 19:30. Trajectory: West bound. Acquiring target… thirty-eight degrees, fifty-three feet, fifty-three point three inches North by Seventy-seven degrees, two feet, nine point nine inches West.”

“Silo: requesting confirmation of time to target. One hundred sixty minutes. ETA approximately twenty-two thirty.”

He couldn’t believe his ears or eyes. Was it another test? It couldn’t be, their tests were scheduled for once a month and this month’s had been recently. You never knew when they might drill but–

He stumbled over his words, “Uh… M-Moscow: Tar-target time confirmed: one hundred eighty minutes; twenty-two thirty.”

“Silo: confirmation received.”

The Lieutenant’s terror oozed through the phone in his sweaty palm, “Moscow: requesting interrogative.”

There was a pause. The Lieutenant swore he heard a fearful sigh.

The technician responded, “Go ahead, Silo.”

“Are we at war, Moscow?”

The technician spoke carefully, “That is… uncertain, Silo.”

More than a few thousand miles away, in NATO’s Cheyenne mountain complex, the General’s red phone was relaying a similar conversation. A fearful Master Sergeant stood nearby petrified. Maybe he had misread the radar, or perhaps the instruments had malfunctioned.

In the last fifteen minutes a dozen launches had appeared, each strategically aimed on American soil to decimate key military installations. Missile interceptors were launched with the entirety of the Air Force and Navy. Marines and Army Rangers were already working in co-operation with the Navy’s SEAL division to plan surgical strikes should the missiles reach their targets. But the President and several, high-ranking, military officials, were fearful of retaliation at this stage: It could be an instrumental malfunction, a sub-routine to test readiness, unintentionally triggered by someone or something. But action still had to be taken, the general population ignorant until zero-hour.

The General lifted a second, black phone to speak with the leader of the Russian armed forces, a man he knew well. He explained the situation, questioned an attack.

The Russian’s earnesty implied no malevolence, “We are reading the same thing on our screens, General. I assure you however, no-one in Moscow has given the order.”

The General replied formally, “I am required to pose this question; Are you being intentionally deceptive?”

He replied with a sigh, the sweat beading audibly on his forehead, “I wish that were the case. It would mean we know what is happening. Unfortunately, all we know is that there have been a dozen, unauthorized launches confirmed.”

“What the hell’s going on over there, Uri!”

“I… do not know, Jack.”

The Master Sgt. interrupted the General, “Sir, we have confirmation of twenty-more simultaneous launches.”

“Uri, what the hell’s going on?”

A second silence, and a remorseful sigh.

In a labyrinthine fallout-shelter, a console spanned a twenty-foot section of wall, divided in two, with large, flat-screened televisions that tracked the number and trajectory of launches. At the right, the Russian’s nuclear battery was zoomed to track across a global view. The other side, blank so far, had “United States” stenciled above it.

A young man in shabby, black fatigues approached an older man, “Mr. Niculescu, we have confirmation of all two hundred and thirty four launches from the Russian side.”

“Good,” Niculescu nodded.

A man appeared behind him, spoke with an American accent, “Alexi, this is a momentous day.”

“Da, it is John,” Niculescu said flatly.

“Deadman’s effectiveness is par-none. I must say; your Soviet predecessors did have us beat.”

“Ah yes, I believe they did,” Niculescu said, once more emotionless. “Soviet ingenuity always triumphed in the face of progressive adversaries. Though I must admit, setting it off was matter of American mischief.”

John smiled, “It was only a matter of a fly-by really. Low altitudes to avoid the radar, and a special package to trigger Deadman’s radiation and seismic sensors.”

He handed a glass to Niculescu, cast a glance around the room at the hundred or so young, shabbily clad men and women there.

“People, gather with me,” He requested. They formed lines before him, distributed expensive champagne into their tin cups. John waited, then, “If I may have a moment.” He cleared his throat, prepared them for his speech. “In the depths of the Cold War, a most marvelous means of destruction was created. Until this day, it went unused but maintained. Codenamed Deadman, this device was integrated into each of Russia’s nuclear-missile launch computers, designed to unleash an unstoppable counter-attack upon American soil should Moscow fall to a first strike.”

His eyes met each of those assembled in turn. “Until today, this system was largely considered a waste of time. But with your help, we have taken the first steps into a new era. Russia will fall once the American’s realize their imminent defeat. The Russians will be compelled to reveal the existence of Deadman in the last moments before America’s destruction, and when this occurs, a fury of retaliation will launch from America’s own soil. The world will wither in the nuclear winter that follows.”

He smiled, reassured, “However, with a million miles of underground complex in place, we will remain unaffected. Soon, we will descend to meet with our families and carry on our lives as the generations continue through the fallout. With the thousands of us here, it should not be entirely different to our lives now.”

Niculescu’s rigid demeanor relaxed as he picked up, “The greatest care and planning has gone into this decision. The most technologically knowledgeable and fore-thinking minds have been added to our population. They will stimulate growth through priceless, expansive research and development labs. We will live off cultured foods, and though there will be little meat at first, in time our cattle programs will thrive. We will be entirely self-sustaining, and in the days when we begin to emerge, each our future relatives will live as kings and queens.”

The two men at the front of the group raised their glasses, chorusing together: “To the future!”

The others echoed the toast at the resonance of their tin cups.

First Short Story: Forgetting the Moral

This will be presented in two parts. Today is part one. Next week is part two. Simple enough, right? Enjoy!


Forgetting the Moral

Part one

The Survivors

Our species’ cultural history has varied greatly through the passage of time, as have our ideologies. Geography has determined this, and as the human race has evolved over time, brought upon us poorly-divided arguments. The truth of this bears repeating, for in our own time we have learned to meld technology with dangerously conflicting ideologies. We have harvested the atom, the wave-particle, and the quantum particle; perfected nuclear dispersal, implementation, and eradication, all whilst forgetting the value of peace.

The severity of this has led humanity to the situation it is in. Our leaders, though meant to speak for us, willfully fought against our cries. But perhaps it would be best explain what led humanity to this predicament first.

Somewhere nearer or farther than two-hundred years ago, we discovered the atom. That is; we were able to see it with immaculate instruments, scrutinized and perfected since the time of the great Galileo. Where he wished to view the vastness outward, we wished to turn inward. To look upon that which has so gracefully eluded us, and is beyond the ranges of the most powerful microscopes.

And so we devised a quantum-nuclear microscope. Fusion powered and capable of reaching views in the billions of times, we looked down upon the minutiae with an awe found anew. But Our devious nature was bound to catch up with us. With this newly discovered subatomic sight, we began to experiment with the basic building blocks of all reality. And licking quantum physics by discerning the state of the universe at the Big Bang, created new technologies, elements, and a number of other fascinating advances. We agonized upon the most crucial of subjects, then perfected particle transportation.

This transportation, though limited in its range at first, went into wide-spread use. The first of the travelers through this strangeness, a feline aptly named Schrodinger, (or perhaps ironically, as this test made obsolete the man’s theories) was transported from one laboratory in Massachusetts, to another thousands of miles away in Berkeley, California. The trip itself lasted only six seconds; from the transporter firing at M.I.T to the other powering down at U.C.L.A.

But what of those who felt the machine might tear the fabric of time, sundering particles, and thus the universe itself? Naysayers, they were called. And the others, worried there were far too many, unpredictable circumstances might disrupt the transport? They were wrong. As were those that said the poor animal would be turned outside-in upon arrival– they and their riled activist groups.

Science moves ever forward, yet again a day had come for it to show that eternal persistence. It was magnificent, marvelous. Though the public’s lack of knowledge into new physics does not permit a proper explanation, it was perfect in its function, and after an overhaul, in its form.

The transporters were manufactured with swiftness. New industries sprang up to accommodate them, others died out. The automobile was obsolete, as were planes, trains, and all other manner of transportation. So it went that particle physics became the aspiration for many, new minds. From cooks, to welders, and all in between, the sole occupation became programming assorted machines to the specifics of the clientele ordering it. The new technology became as common as the television, more so even through it boundless applications.

It was a beautiful time, it seemed. Science had clutched so tightly on the consciousness of man. As expected, it caused many an outcry from the faithful. However, in time each renounced their apprehension, in danger of being left behind in a new golden age.

Such great detail of this achievement has been imparted, but only because it was through this that we humans lost our true sense of right and wrong. In truth, none saw it that way– it is the folly of man that we become myopic in the sense of great pains and pleasures. We played with the fabric of our reality, and in turn were so fascinated with it, we wished to stretch it to our will– morph it into some facade of a canvas with which to paint.

Much of what came next has been lost, but enough is known to relay the effects.

Two decades after the wondrous new transporters were constructed, distributed, and subsequently marveled upon; a new imperceptibility was encountered. Fields became stagnant, industries threatened. Most of the learned were satisfied to begin research, (and not long after, production) of quantum multiprocessors. Once again these inventions were hailed as a venturous step forward, a great marveling of humankind. True to effect, they were bought and sold unscrupulously.

But it was in the first new industry that pioneers had been born. These pioneers, having made unimaginable fortunes in transporter technologies, saw the new computational industry as merely a footnote. In keeping with human behavior, they sought other, more profitable applications. There they found the epitaph to Earth’s story.

Several, major manufacturers and military organizations, under the false pretense that someday we would fear militant invasion by extraterrestrials, developed the Particle Bomb. The specifics of its construction were kept secret– unlike the transporter machines, a renowned story of mankind. But it was later tested upon a plot of land in Nevada. It was immediately apparent that something was terribly wrong with this new technology.

Worldwide organizations of peace lobbied for its destruction, pled for disarmament with our allies, whom vowed immediate conflict were the weapons not destroyed. Still the tests continued unabated, and soon their disastrous effects were seen by all.

It seemed an impossible thing to hide from the public’s eye: a portion of the Mojave desert, inhabited only by those few beasts that can live comfortably in such a clime, simply disappeared. The bombs differed so completely from our other weapons as to make Nuclear Fission primitive by comparison. Where an atomic or nuclear weapon exploded, leaving behind radiation, these bombs achieved critical mass. There, their vibrations triggered isolated, earthquake-like tremors. But what was there in place of cracking earth? The horrifying ripping of the seams that held together the fabric of space and time. Whole swaths of reality disappeared, the spans varied by yield.

It was not destruction. It was eradication. To see the Mojave afterward would leave one as empty as it is. The land rises and falls with normality. Then, isolated nothingness– a veritable black hole in the desert without the physical gravity to tear the shattered heart asunder. What a dreadful sight!

Once revealed to the other countries, they offered us an ultimatum; destruction of the bombs, or war. It was challenged, cast aside by the shortsighted leaders whom fought against us. Chaos ensued. The coming wars were swift, bloodshed a given. Those against their enemies equally offered their citizens safe-haven. But a coalition was formed, nuclear weapons of old reintroduced. By war’s end, the whole of North America had become incurably irradiated– but not without a moment’s revenge.

The particle bombs were dropped in clusters, disintegrating masses of Europe and Asia. Beautiful, timeless, mountains; serene brooks and fields; even the occasional, drab beauty of human habitation was cut-clean from existence as though that particular part of the universe had never fully formed. When the dust settled, all were eerily silent.

To tell of the rest would introduce far too many uncertainties, opinions, and speculation. Most of us, the Survivors, have wandered out and around the voids and radiation zones for so long our minds have left sanity behind. Those few who’ve retained that precious commodity have devised new aims for the particle technology: We shall leave this hallowed world, find a place to start anew. Cunningly devised ships, in only a few years time, will transport us to a new world to Terra-form it. One, perhaps, where we may finally learn to co-exist peacefully. Only one thing is certain now; where we go from here, only time may tell.