Part One: The Journey
Chapter One: The Rubble
“There he is!” “Let’s get him!” “Wring his neck!” The maddened, bloodthirsty, rebels shouted behind him, but he knew better than to slow down, all he could do was keep running; he knew he could not stop until he made it to the safe states.
The safe zones were once again in the north it seemed, this country had an issue with divisions between the north and the south, he thought. He slipped under the rubble of a long since destroyed fast food restaurant and kept still, inhaling the musky odors of rancid meat and moldy potatoes. He heard the mob scramble past the derelict shell of the restaurant and allowed himself to return to an earlier thought: “why hadn’t the government seen this divide approaching?” He sat back against what was once the counter for the restaurant and wondered if anyone had been in this restaurant when the bombs had ripped through the one town in the state that had not sided with the rebels. He shook his head quickly and allowed himself to return to his earlier quandary, why didn’t the government expect the split? After the government had switched from one extreme in policies to the other no less than five times it should have been evident a greater problem would emerge. He picked himself up out of the wreckage and fastidiously dusted himself off; he still had not broken his habitual need for neatness.
As he rose he stopped and sadly looked at the city he had once loved, hollow shells of cars that most likely were not in much better shape to begin with. A tattered bumper sticker floated down towards him, he grabbed it out of midair and deciphered the motto of his hometown. He slowly turned to look at the ruined cityscape; the capital building lay in ruins. He slowly approached it and looked at the shattered windows and fractured statues. He remembered with a start that he had been here when it begun, though he had quickly fled. He looked upwards and saw the shattered window of the offices; the officials had all been thrown out of them, onto a white-hot fire that consisted of books from the local library. It seemed defenestration always came with rebellion; the ones at Prague did not fall into an inferno though.
He shambled out of the rubble that had once been beautiful, passed old homes and family owned stores, and at last wandered through what remained of a shopping mall, now it was little more than a pile of drywall, timbers, and the charred remains of the merchandise the stores once hawked. A blackened copy of a local extremist magazine fluttered by; printed on the cover the words: “War is Coming”. He laughed softly more out of sadness than anything else; nobody listened to those magazines, nobody on either side. He proceeded through the remains of a furniture store he had visited several months ago; he was going to purchase a new desk and chair. He walked slowly over to the display where his choice stood; even though now little more than three precariously balanced timbers were left, he recognized it on sight. He bent down and blew off a layer of soot and ash; he then slowly placed a small piece of paper on the remains of the desk and walked away. The paper was the business card of the man who had attempted to sell him on the desk; he was already sure he wanted it though. He had been two weeks’ wages short to be able to comfortably afford the set; he planned to come back when he had earned those wages. He had actually planned to come back the day he had gone to the capital building, but he had not gotten the chance. He looked back at the business card of a man who now was most likely dead, his family and friends along with him, and shed a tear; he did not handle situations like this well, but he had promised to come back to the store, and he did not break promises.
He finally emerged from the shopping mall, and proceeded to walk down the highway, heading north, towards freedom. When he reached the city limits sign, he turned to face the shell of a city and stared. He picked out the remains of every building he had known, whether he had liked or disliked them, a banner from two twisted streetlamps wove weakly through the air, proudly emblazoned with the same design as the bumper sticker: “Keep Austin Weird”.
He was a criminal now, the thought ran through his head as he climbed over a small stream in the forest. He had stolen something from the rebels, something they wished to keep secret. In the years leading up to the rebellion the leaders of the organization had tested new weapons of destruction; he had stolen details of the weapons and videos that showed what their potential was. One showed a melted city where the ground had heated into glass and the metal frames of cars sunk into themselves, light posts dripped molten slag like candles do wax. Another showed a seaside town covered in thick, sticky, tar, and of a hailstorm of tar balls that fell upon it. A distant figure lit a match and tossed it onto the street, which now ran with tar that flowed like molasses; in an instant the city was engulfed in flames, clouds of the poisonous fumes rose off the raging inferno which was now burning so high that the falling balls of tar were igniting in midair. Birds and other animals were caught in the flames, stuck fast in the swamp of burning oil. Another showed blue colored flares spreading out across an incredibly vast forest, wherever the blue light touched something living would be vaporized. Mere seconds after the blue lights began the impossibly expanding forest collapsed in a pile of blue tinted splinters.
He had to stop them