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Midnight

tick...tick...tick...tick...

By Alexander McEvoyPublished about a month ago 6 min read
Top Story - April 2024
36
Midnight
Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

60 seconds…

59 seconds…

Time was slipping through his fingers, though he clawed at the falling grains of sand, he could not stop the hourglass from flowing. Around him, the silence was deafening. He had taken over every screen in the command centre, putting the terrible seconds before the terrified eyes of his friends and comrades.

His mind rebelled, trying to find alternative solutions. Trying to find reasons why this could not be happening. The invasion should be progressing well, reliable estimates said that they would be in Riga within weeks and Vilnius would fall not long after. Even with the support from the Nordics, there was little the West could do to protect the rebellious Baltic States against the sheer might Russia brought against them.

Ears ringing, Major Peter Ivanov tried to ignore the imagined sounds of Western silo doors grinding open. Tried to drive the air raid sirens that would surely be blaring back home in Samara out of his head. The war wouldn’t reach that far into the motherland, surely. Surely the West was weak, they would crumble under the sustained onslaught. Surely…

55 seconds…

54 seconds…

Really? So long?

Ivanov tried to rationalize where the time had gone. From his service in Ukraine, he knew that time had a strange habit of stretching, seconds passing like hours as enemy artillery thundered overhead. But could time contract? What a strange concept. Pulling him closer to the end of the world, no matter how hard he tried to resist it.

“Major,” asked Lieutenant Petrov, anxiety showing in bloodshot eyes. “Is there nothing we can do?”

53 seconds…

52 seconds…

“Major?”

51 seconds…

50 seconds…

“It’s in the air, Petrov. Unless they bring it down, there’s no way to stop it. Warhead’s already armed. I guess we just have to hope they don’t retaliate.”

“Sir, the French already-”

“That strike in Brazil has nothing to do with us,” Ivanov’s voice was like iron, it was the voice he always used with underlings who might talk beyond their station. “The Brazilians couldn’t fight back, I just never thought the frogs would actually follow through is all. I don’t think any of us thought French Guiana meant that much to them.”

Hope. That’s the only thing that could get him through the next minute. Hope that the West would cut their losses, hope that their population would protest the war enough for their governments to just give up the former territories. Not to mention the escalating war between China and India, NATO had more important things to worry about than Mother Russia reclaiming her wayward children.

Cursing the High Command, he wondered what had started that war. And why his commanders had thought it was a good idea to launch this new invasion so soon after the bombs started falling in Asia. Not even giving the West enough time to redeploy.

Not that his hope was very strong. NATO troops had been flooding into Ukraine since the first Russian tanks crossed the frontier into Estonia, and there was the battle for the airspace over Belarus. A battle Russia was losing. Even without the full might of the Imperialist United States on European soil and with the Hungarians turning on their former allies in the Balkans, the war was not going as smoothly as Moscow had hoped.

Privately, Ivanov thought that the Poles had been champing at the bit to join the fight since 2014. They had always been traitors, as far as he was concerned, and now they were only proving it by taking up arms against their rightful government. Then, as if to spit on the memories of their grandfathers, they allowed German soldiers transit their country to support the Eastern Front, as they called it.

The Western Democracies were weak, everyone knew they did not have the balls to fight. They would collapse into political turmoil and civil unrest as soon as the bullets started flying, it was the only way they could function. After spending so much time giving everyone equal rights, letting the queers get married, and tolerating civil disobedience, there was no other end for them. They had to collapse.

But still the fighting raged on. Polish and German troops thundered into Ukraine like the flood from a broken dam. Brave Russian pilots were shot out of the skies across the frontline as Spanish, Italian, and French forces mobilized. Türkiye and Greece had sealed off the Black Sea. The Hungarians losing ground to their former NATO allies. Belarus had not yet officially joined the fight, but Poland still massed troops on her border, reinforced by the rapidly deploying British while the Norwegians, Swedes, and Fins poured their strength into the Baltics.

Kaliningrad was all but lost, NATO navies had won that battle in a matter of days, securing the Suwałki Gap and allowing more soldiers to charge to the Baltics’ defence. The front line was collapsing. Ivanov thought that was the reason for the countdown. It only made sense, really. If the Kremlin had picked a fight they couldn’t win, then…

40 seconds…

39 Seconds…

One minute. How long could one minute last? Hadn’t he just been wondering about how short they were? How fleeting and ephemeral? Now their time was nearly half-spent.

The more he thought about it, the less certain Ivanov was that NATO would concede once the missile detonated. He didn’t know where exactly it had been aimed, did not even know whether or not it was a strategic or tactical asset. Only that it was already flying, already speeding towards the end of something, though he was less and less certain that that something would be the west.

For the moment, NATO seemed content with forcing the Russian Reclamation Forces out of their rightfully recaptured territories. But that could change. There was no guarantee that they would be content with pushing the Ukrainian border back to the 2014 line. And now Russia had taken the first step in the world’s deadliest game of chicken.

35 seconds…

34 seconds…

Ivanov closed his eyes, he did not want to see the numbers anymore. Silence still filled the command centre. No orders had come down to add their own nuclear arsenal to the assault on the enemy, so his men had no choice but to wait. No choice but to – the phone rang.

33 seconds…

Again.

32 seconds…

With trembling fingers, Ivanov picked up the receiver and held the speaker to his ear.

31 seconds….

30 seconds….

His comrades watched, listened, barely daring to breathe.

25 seconds…

24 seconds…

“Yes, General,” as he wrote down his instructions.

23 seconds…

22 seconds….

He replaced the receiver. “Attention! Targeting coordinates received from General Popovich. Man your stations,” he handed the written coordinates to the Targeting Officer.

21 seconds…

20 seconds…

An alarm blared, tearing away eyes that had been glued to the countdown and forcing their owners to their stations.

Heads swam with memories and questions as the soldiers hurried to fulfill their orders. Names of loved ones, family, the predicted birthdate of children, debts owed to friends, friends long missed. Each head filled with questions. Some questioned why it had taken so long for the brass to find their balls. Others questioned why they were launching nukes at all.

Mostly, though, heads swam with the dangerous kinds of questions. Questions as to why they were in uniform at all. Questions about how dangerous the enemy really was. Questions about why they were risking the destruction of the Earth for some soon to be irradiated soil. But those questions were kept to oneself, one never knew who was to be trusted with their innermost, traitorous thoughts.

19 seconds…

18 seconds…

Keys slipped into their holes as the Targeting Officer adjusted the launcher. Only the officers in this room knew where their missile was going and every one of them was glad for it. Despite their desire to reclaim the glories of the Russian Empire, none of them wanted to be kings of a radioactive wasteland. Every one of them wanted to survive long enough to see their children get married, or finish school.

10 seconds…

9 seconds…

“Please, God,” muttered Ivanov, suddenly feeling the weight of corruption as his hands hovered over the launch sequence controls. “Please, let there be enough fuel. Please don’t let the manifests have been tampered with. Please…”

8 seconds…

7 seconds…

Ivanov pushed the final button, wondering who exactly they were hitting 100km north of Novgorod. Enemies of the state were everywhere, of course. But a bunker busting tactical asset, targeting within the Russian Federation? That could only mean traitors, but who were they? And why there?

6 seconds…

5 seconds…

The missile’s engines ignited. Slowly carrying it away from the newly independent Northwest Federal District.

4 seconds…

3 seconds…

2 seconds…

1 second…

Midnight.

ExcerptthrillerShort StoryPsychologicalCONTENT WARNING
36

About the Creator

Alexander McEvoy

Writing has been a hobby of mine for years, so I'm just thrilled to be here! As for me, I love writing, dogs, and travel (only 1 continent left! Australia-.-)

I hope you enjoy what you read and I can't wait to see your creations :)

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  4. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  5. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (26)

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  • Christy Munson3 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! 🥳

  • L.C. Schäfer24 days ago

    Jeeez the dispense!!! I don't know how long I've been holding my breath! 👏👏👏

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • AliMartabout a month ago

    Like it

  • Flamance @ lit.about a month ago

    Great job congratulations

  • Abdul Qayyumabout a month ago

    Your writing is incredibly engaging and vivid! I felt like I was right there in the scene alongside the characters." https://vocal.media/fiction/the-time-traveling-plumber

  • just4funabout a month ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Eleanor Harringtonabout a month ago

    People nowadays are really lost so this is all for you guys https://vocal.media/motivation/guiding-light-kpru0r8q

  • Abdul Qayyumabout a month ago

    he author's vivid descriptions and attention to detail really drew me in. It's great to see such in-depth reporting on unique subjects like this.

  • Gabriela Trofin-Tatárabout a month ago

    Wow so intense and gut-wrenching 😳👏👏👏 Congrats on top story! Well-deserved, chilling and thought-provoking 💭

  • Kodahabout a month ago

    Woaahhh this was incredible! Pretty intense though !!😅 Deservedly so top story! 💌

  • Belleabout a month ago

    Powerful story! I've been so interested in bringing history into these challenges and it's truly an eye opening and frightening thing to read. Congrats on top story!!

  • D. D. Leeabout a month ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Yayyyyyyy hehehehehehehehe you got a Top Story for this! Congratulations! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a month ago

    Oh!! I love the tension of this piece from start to finish, as well as how plausible/ realistic this is!! Great work my friend!!! Congrats on a quick and well deserved Top Story!!

  • Chloe Gilholyabout a month ago

    Captures the minute and drama perfectly.

  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    That is one good story. I could feel the drama unfold as I read it. Well done on a fantastic top story!

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    way too real. it is fantastic and way too real. congratulations on TS

  • JBazabout a month ago

    Excellent story line and all to real scenario Well with your pacing and emotion turmoil. Congratulations

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    That was intense. Great story! Congrats on the TS.

  • Silver Serpent Booksabout a month ago

    I hardly breathed reading this. What an insane story! It was too close to reality so it made the whole story feel so much heavier. I really loved reading this. It was a real thrill.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Omggggg, this was so fast-paced and intense! Gosh I was holding my breath so many times! What an experience reading this was! You nailed this challenge!

  • Novel Allenabout a month ago

    I try to pretend that wars do not exist, that we all live in a world of love and peace. Yet the fanatics keep rearing their ugly heads everywhere. I fear we are doomed to repeat, always on repeat, we march on to the trumpet. Well ead.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    Just mirroring what dana said! The tension though, felt real, like knowing what it would be like if this scenario were to come true. Nice entry, Alex!

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