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STRIKE

by TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY 4 months ago in Sci Fi
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By Tanika Smith Wheatley

The last night, or a new dawn

STRIKE

By Tanika Smith Wheatley

Ironically, it was one of those brilliant sunsets, with pink and orange clouds smeared across a crimson canvass sky. Hardly a breeze stirred, hardly a sound could be heard. Cool and silent, like the calm before the storm. I was hardly aware of anything around me, including my own existence – so still the atmosphere - so hypnotic the scene. This is probably the last beautiful view I will ever witness.

A tingling sensation crept up my spine in anticipation. I knew ‘they’ were there, just above me – there were six ships, all lined up in a neat little military row – like metallic insects in the clouds hovering, biding their time – waiting to strike at the next defenseless humans they could find. As if we were scum – parasites – that had to be cleansed from our planet – annihilated from our own world.

They were not of our world – we were being attacked by aliens with craft and weaponry so superior to ours that within weeks of their arrival, the damage worldwide from just six seemingly small aircraft was devastating, and the putrid taste and smell of destruction filled the air. Even our defenses had surrendered – well, the small percentage that had not been completely obliterated – and any survivors abandoned to their own devices. We no longer had rescue patrols, we no longer had communications – no-one knew what was left, who was left, or where – and some no longer bothered to hide anymore; like me, exposed on a small hilltop rise in full view, waiting for the inevitable, longing for the end…

Those of us who were left were blistering from the blasting (theirs and ours) – swelling on the gases – choking on the fumes – and bloating and diseased from lack of food, clean air, and water. Those with excruciating injuries including torn limbs were calling to the skies, begging the intruders for a swift death. Babies no longer had the strength to cry, and parents no longer had the strength to help them. I was not hurt – but I was also eager to have this imminent assault end…

In the beginning of this attack, some called to our attackers for mercy, but their cries were ignored. Those who had believed in a God had given up praying, and some of those blamed their divine deities for the holocaust. And there were even some who believed the aliens were in fact their Gods; Gods who had determined they needed to cleanse the Earth of their own creation, which had increased to parasitic proportions; which in turn were defiling and polluting the planet and its atmosphere beyond repair.

No-one had succeeded in communicating with the conquerors, so no-one knew what they were, where they had come from, and why they were so intent on wiping us out. Neither was it established that they understood us, what language they used, or if they spoke at all.

I sighed as the purple sky turned violet – amongst the smoky fumes I could still make out the hazy sun setting – dropping into the dark azure ocean horizon - they had had plenty of time to blast at me as I stood in the open on top of a ridge, not too far below them. But as if they were toying with me, the way a cat sometimes prolongs the agony of its prey, they waited – and I waited - I even raised my arms and jumped about, shouting obscenities to the silent shadowy shapes above, to no avail. I couldn’t understand it. Their attack had been so furious and fast; like a monsoon sweeping through a tropical island, intent of getting rid of us all. Why had they suddenly stopped? Were they resting? Did they stop for dinner? Had they depleted their ammunition? Did an Earth microbe in fact eradicate them? I didn’t think so. Surely, they hadn’t decided they’d destroyed enough of us and hadn’t intended getting rid of all of us? I didn’t believe it.

I heard the waves crashing over the rocks below me – I heard a piercing scream of a sea gull – I could see the shadows stretch from the lowering of the sun and thought how wondrously sad that the world could survive such a senseless slaughter - and continue its daily cycle as if oblivious to the drastic end of a species happening on its surface – it’s happened before, with the dinosaurs; now it’s happening with us - and most likely several other animals and plant life will be destroyed as well…

They must have known I was there – I had been waving and bellowing in full sight, for quite a while now – but before the sun sank completely into darkness, I gave up and decided to return to what was left of our city down the bottom of the hill – I didn’t run fast, but I ran – jumping across boulders and fallen trees, in an attempt to yet capture their attention – I even laughed as I did so – I decided my last moments would be happy – I breathed deeply of the cool night air - I waited for the end – but still; none came – and it was with some disappointment that I slinked back, into the shelter of some of the fallen and twisted concrete rubble that had once been our city. I leaned against a wall, panting – then I let myself slide down into a squatting position on the ground. I supposed I should have been grateful for a little respite from the crazy onslaught of the past few weeks; but I was not. Prolonging the inevitable was pure agony.

I hung my head in my chest. I drew my legs up and cradled them with my arms. I blinked back some tears that had been gathering and were now threatening to roll down my cheeks. I had no home. I had no family. I had no pets. I had no job. I had no car. There were no houses. No shops. No offices. No moving traffic. Nothing…

Someone shifted uncomfortably nearby. I hadn’t realized anyone else was in this area when I arrived. Most had gone as far underground as possible – using subways and sewers as bunkers.

That someone cleared their throat to speak. “Was that you yelling like a crazy woman up at the ships out there?” It was a male’s voice.

“Yes…” was all I could manage…

“Well – if that’s all we had to do to stop the adversary…” he attempted a laugh but couldn’t quite achieve it. “I know a lot of worse vulgarities than you do...”

“Don’t let me stop you…”

“But I have a broken foot…”

“Oh – I wondered why you were not underground – couldn’t any of your family and friends help you to a safer place?”

He hesitated. “No…”

“Oh…” ‘Shit!’ I thought to myself, now I had to try and drag him. I sighed, got up and walked over to the man. “OK – I’d better help you…”

“No – there are two of us, and she can’t move far either…”

In the darkening evening, I hadn’t noticed anyone else – she was on his other side, and she was hugely pregnant…

“Oh dear…” I’m not a large strong person. I looked around to see if there was anyone else that could help; but we were quite alone. “Oh; dear.” I repeated and sat down next to the woman.

“I’m Gary,” the man continued, “and this is my wife, Nancy…”

“Hi – I’m Lisa – and we have to find better shelter – can you walk Nancy?”

“I think so,” she moaned.

I was a nurse, and I recognized that sound - she was having contractions. I looked around us. I knew we leaned against a small garden retaining wall – this was once a pretty fountain which stood at the beginning of the collapsed shopping mall opposite. Now the mall was a tangle of rubble and twisted pilings. Before I joined them, I had been leaning against the wall of a bank that stood still in place to the side of the mall ruins. I decided to inspect the other side of it. There was a bit of an overhang which provided more shelter than what was left of the fountain, but we were in direct sight of the ships above the rise where I’d been earlier. I went deeper into the bank, only to come to another wall of rubble. I would have to look at the end of the building, but then I’d be out in the open for a moment. I decided that before risking that, perhaps I should look in the opposite direction of the fountain, so I turned to go back, and noticed a dark opening on this side of the rubble. Large enough to squeeze through. I hoped the rubble would not collapse any further as I entered, but it held. In the darkness I had to feel my way along a wall with my hands. Then I came out in the middle of the mall and gasped. There was a large clearing that would have once been the center of the mall. It was surrounded by rubble, and there was a huge hole in the ceiling, but there were some overhangs still in place, which would not ultimately protect us from the aliens, but it would give us some shelter from the weather. At the far end, a small group of people huddled together for warmth. I informed them that there was another couple outside; an injured man and his pregnant wife, I asked if we could join them. No-one answered, but there was a general murmur of reluctant consent, but no-one moved to help me help bring the others in either. As I turned to go back out, I noticed above our rubble tunnel entrance that the opening to the sky was so large that we could see the ships from there. All lined up. All still silently hovering. I ran to get the couple I’d left at the fountain. Inside still seemed a minutely safer hideout than outside.

It wasn’t easy going, but with him between me and her, and with her holding her tummy with one hand as though that might keep the child from being born, we made it. Some introductions were made. Some gave up their coats to give the woman in labor as much comfort as possible. One of them was a doctor who told Gary that Nancy was doing well and assured the poor man that he would do what he could for his wife and coming child.

I had a quick look around. Anything that could have been salvaged from the surrounding remains of the shops had already been taken. There was not much room left under the overhang that covered our group. I decided to huddle to a far side and as I moved there, I tripped over a plank. I kicked it aside and sat down among other bits of broken wooden planks of various sizes. I pulled my jacket around me closer and thought of the irony of having enough wood to make a fire for heat but couldn’t – that would be showing our enemy exactly where a few of us were hiding.

The whispered mumbles slowly ceased as people started dozing, until the only sound in the dead of the night was Nancy’s painful whimpers, Gary’s attempts at comforting her, and the doctor reassuring them that all was going well.

I could not sleep. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and I looked at the small group behind me. They were injured and weak. And because of this, they had not managed to get any further below ground. Somehow, I didn’t believe anyone was going to survive our ordeal eventually anyway, regardless of where we hid. Sooner or later, those in the under-city would have to emerge for food. They were only prolonging the inevitable. And the aliens most likely had the means to get to them anyway. They could gas the tunnels, or even flood them.

The eerie silence was disturbing. Was it only a month or so ago when I was tossing and turning in my soft Queen bed in my studio apartment because of the city noises like sirens and trains? The lifestyle we took for granted and complained about? Not enough wages, too much tax, expensive bills, heatwaves in summer, chilling blizzards in winter – we complained about our neighbors and their pets, we complained about our bosses, and they complained about theirs – we complained about the cost of everything; even as we were paying for our expensive take-away coffees – oh; how I would love a hot frothy cappuccino right now, I sighed in the darkness…

Over the last few years the news had been predominantly about the problems of over population and pollution – and how we had sucked the earth dry of her oil and other resources, poisoned her atmosphere, surface and water - to the extent that she was now having difficulties sustaining us all, and could no longer cope with all our waste – and most believed the increase in earthquakes and volcanoes; including diseases and viruses; were a result of all this - as if mother nature was attempting to cleanse herself of us – so even if the aliens hadn’t arrived; how much time did we have left anyway? How much breathable air, how much uncontaminated water, and food?

Yet I’d still had visions of ‘climbing the ladder’ at work, still had dreams of falling in love and marrying, moving to a house in the suburbs, having children and getting a dog – it was easy to ignore the news of the plight of our world – convincing ourselves that the problem was not that serious – and I wondered if the newcomers could save it, or do any better with it than we had done…

Then something beside me squeaked. Even in the darkness I could see its little whiskers moving as it sniffed around for food – I probably should catch it; it is food, but I wasn’t that hungry, yet – I should let the others know, but I didn’t – who knows how much time any of us had left? I decided to be merciful and let the rat continue its search for unlikely crumbs.

A shift in the shadows took my attention from the rat. I looked up at the ships that we could see at the far end of the small mall. With the barest sound, the closest one had dropped something – I recognized what it was straight away – when we were first attacked, and before almost everything was destroyed, the news described these small round spiky metal balls with an eye in the center as ‘body heat sensing’ bombs, the purpose, seeking hidden humans – it fell a few feet from the ship; then as if waking up, it stopped, opened its eye, and took flight – in our direction - for a moment it was blocked from view by a pile of collapsed city rubble – but I knew where it was going – and I was not wrong – the shiny spiraling ball glinted even in the dark as it descended through the gap in the roof – so the aliens had not been sleeping; they had been watching me the whole time – watched me give up tempting them to end my life – watched me return to the wreckage that was once our town – watched me move an injured couple into the more sheltered area of what was left of the mall – I gasped – I had bought this bomb to a group that had hoped they were safe…

The silver floating ball bomb was taking its time; the enemy was confident in their victory and assumed they could take their time now, to get rid of the few of us that were left – others were noticing it also as it approached – there was nowhere else to run – nowhere else to hide – they all waited in silent acceptance…

Then a thought started forming in my mind as I watched it approach, the eye turning and inspecting every little nook and cranny – it was about the size of a baseball – maybe a little larger - the plank I had tripped over moments earlier was about the size of a baseball bat – I used to be a baseball champion at school – I looked down at the plank near my feet – it even narrowed at one end, where I could get a good grasp of it – dare I? Could I? We were dead anyway – it would probably explode on contact, but we had nothing to lose - I might as well give it a try…

I felt; more than noticed the group stirring as I grabbed the plank and stood up – I slowly moved out into the open of the mall and faced it – it fixed its eye on me – it slowed as it noticed the others watching behind me – then sped up as it realized it had found humans – it was coming straight for me – I raised my elbows, holding the plank at my right – I was small, I was not strong – but I remembered my coach’s words ‘it’s not strength, it’s technique - take it slowly - move the bat back in conjunction with the ball’s approach, bring it around at precisely the right angle…’ – it was only about a meter in front of me – I held my breath – I swung my plank the way I was taught to swing a baseball bat – I hardly believed it myself – my coach would have been so proud - I actually hit it…

“Strike!” Gary called out behind me – but that wasn’t the most amazing thing that happened that night – little me had hit it so technically correct, that it soared out of the huge caved in opening in our ceiling - it soared up into the sky - it hit the first ship – that’s when it exploded – and like ‘dominos’, the force of the exploding impact caused the first ship to smash back into the next, and that one the next, all the way down their neat line-up to the last – all ablaze – all falling out of the sky in a burning inferno…

Those who were not too injured to stand came and held me on their shoulders – I thought of the way I used to show off when playing baseball and how sometimes with a similar hit, I’d walk around the bases or run around twice to the delight of the laughing and cheering crowd…

I blinked in disbelief at the sight of the exploding, fiery, falling ships – the group behind me were clapping and cheering – I’d saved what was left of us and our world – not with bombs, guns or canon, but with one swipe of a small broken plank…

The alien enemy fell from the sky and crashed to the ground – the ground near where I’d been standing earlier in the evening. The blazing inferno was so massive, that the heat could be felt from where we were, huddling in the wreckage of what was left of our little shopping mall – but we were safe – the enemy destroyed…

It took hours for the flames to die down – the sun was starting to rise over the smoking carnage when those of us who could walk ventured out of our hiding place – I closed my eyes and turned my face to the warm morning sun - but the sudden cry of a newborn baby made us turn back and rush to the new parents…

“This is a good omen,” one of the others murmured, “a sign of a new life, a sign of a new beginning…”

The doctor had wrapped the baby in his own jacket and gave it to Gary – Gary held it closely, kissing its head, before handing it gently to Nancy. Then he looked up at me. “Thank you – thank you so much…”

I shrugged. “The aliens would have been watching through the eye and seen me holding the plank - they obviously knew nothing of baseball…”

“Well…” Gary continued, “we’re extremely glad that you know something of the game…”

“I’m glad I tripped over the plank. Otherwise in the dusk, I wouldn’t have known it was there…”

Later, I strolled up to the smoking debris that had been our invaders. Some fires still burned. They had been so intense that nothing was even remotely distinguishable. A screeching gull took my attention to the sea and I looked out over the crashing waves below –sounds of the newborn baby crying came from the remains of our mall, and I sighed - I turned and viewed the rubble of our town and wondered how many of us might have survived, not only here, but all over the world – I knew there wouldn’t be many – Earth’s parasites had been cleansed to a more balanced number – we had been given a second chance – but had we learned from this holocaust, or would we make the same mistakes all over again…

END

Sci Fi

About the author

TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY

When I was a young child, I would wake up in the night screaming because of nightmares. As time went on, I realized that I was looking forward to my dreams. They were much more exciting than my real life. So now, I write about my dreams...

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