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World gone cold

by Shelby Schwartz 7 months ago in Short Story
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Will this war ever end? Will we ever see the sun again?

World gone cold
Photo by Jamie Hagan on Unsplash

No one has seen the sky in years. The world has gone gray and cold. Nothing but dirt and gravel cover the land. Trees and plants have all died, decayed, turned dark and gray, even the bugs have gone. Animals died, gone extinct, carcasses lay, the lowered temperatures slowing down the decomposition. Remains litter the lands, the dry, frigid, empty lands. How are we surviving? We are barely making it to the next day. Some of us continue to go out looking for food that was left behind. Anything. We have to be careful when we go out past the gates, though. The enemy could be anywhere.

The war started ten years ago. Massive fighting broke out between countries. Anyone that could fight was given a weapon and sent in with very little training. More and more factories started popping up to support the guys in the front lines. Smog filling the air. Covering up the sun. Then the plants started to die, then the animals. The war became more than a fight for who was better and more powerful, it became a fight for food and survival. The ones that are able to survive, are the ones that will win.

I'd tell you who's winning, but I don't know anymore. I don't think anyone does. The world is a mess. Even with the factories shut down, smog still hangs around the sky. They have been shut down since the plants first started dying. It was the only thing we could agree on. Unfortunately, the fighting hasn't stopped. We just have to go back in time and live like our ancestors. Fight like them and work like them. Only we still have modern items, such as cell phones, canned food, better weapons and cars. Well kind of. We don't have internet anymore and we can't get gas to fuel our cars. Cars lay abandoned, rusting in the wake of this nightmare.

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Today is just like any other. I wake up on my rack in the barracks, a thin blanket lays over half my body. I lay still for a minute, staring up at the ceiling. I'm on the top rack, my partner below me. I hear him stirring below as well. Light is peaking through the windows, casting the gray over us. It's dull and dreary and it makes me dread the day. I dread every day; I just want this all to be over. I know we all wish it would be. I didn't realize how much I depended on the internet and fuel. I miss my car.

Before all this started, I was just a regular kid. I was 16, just got my license and my parents bought me a Saturn SC2. A manual 2 door coupe. It was ten years old by time I got it, but it still ran like a dream. I took excellent care of that car. Unfortunately, after two years of owning it, I had to leave it behind. I was drafted and sent here. I've been here ever since. I don't know what happened to that car. It's probably still sitting in my parent's driveway, or they sold it for food. My dad was drafted too, but we got separated. I haven't seen my family since the war started. I used to write letters and they would write back. Then the mail stopped coming. They could be dead for all I know.

I jump down from up top and grab my seabag for some new clothes and my hygiene bag. I walk to the head and my partner, Sargent Collins, is not far behind. He yawns and runs a hand through his short messy brown hair. It's ruffled up in all sorts of places. It doesn't matter how much he tries to brush it; it never lays flat. My midnight black hair has become long past my shoulders. I usually keep it tied up in a bun. I used to always cut it, but now I just don't care anymore. I got no one to impress.

I used to always care about my looks and looking good for the ladies. With my sharp jaw and stunning baby blue eyes, I could make any girl swoon. That's all in the past now. Scars and a beard now litter my once smooth face. I don't bother shaving anymore, it covers a large scar going across my chin. No one would recognize me from back home. I look nothing like I did at eighteen. My eyes aren't even the same color. They aren't baby blue anymore. Now they have turned gray, matching the sky outside.

We take a quick shower before putting on our uniform. I'm not even sure why they bother making us wear uniforms anymore. I swear we are the only country that still does. Everyone else stopped caring years ago. Then again, it kind of makes sense. At least we know who not to kill when we go to battle. I brush my teeth and my hair, then put my hair up in a bun. That stupid man bun that I always hated was now something I wore every day.

My partner and I walk out, ready to go to training. Though, we don't get very far after putting our stuff away, we are stopped. It's one of the Corporals from headquarters. Poor guy got stuck in headquarters after getting seriously injured from a battle over a year ago. They can't risk him going back out there, so they put him in the only safe place they know. He does good work for our commanding officers.

"Whatcha need, Lance?" I ask, leaning against a rack, slinging my rifle on and letting it hang in front of me. My hand resting over the trigger guard.

"They want you both in the office, Sargent." He turns around not waiting for us to follow.

I roll my eyes before stepping forward. Collins right on my tail. We only get called in the office when we get a mission. I'm not sure how many more of these missions I can take. We always lose one or two people. At least it's one or two less mouths to feed. Got to look on the positive side of things just to get by. It's harsh, I know, but it's the truth. It used to hurt really bad in the beginning, but after watching so many people die, it doesn't hurt much anymore.

We walk out of the barracks and head across the compound to headquarters. Other soldiers walk around, going to training or to post. Weapons slung over shoulders, boots scraping over gravel. No one talks, it's silent besides our footsteps and the chilly wind that's wrapping itself around us. It's been cold for so long; I've gotten used to it. Sometimes I'll walk around wearing my trousers and a skivvy shirt. Collins thinks I'm nuts for doing it, but the cold really doesn't bother me anymore.

We make our way down the hallway of the dim building. Yelling can be heard down towards the end; from the office we are going towards. Yelling is never a good sign. Though, it's heard a lot throughout this brick structure. A place that used to stand tall and represent our pride. Now it is a husk of what it used to be. Corporal knocks on the door before making an entrance. The yelling ceases and everything goes quiet. There is a tired voice telling us to come in. We take cautious steps into the white, hollowed office.

"Sargent's Collins, Denver. Please take a seat." Says our Commanding Officer, Major Gunter. Also in the room with him is Sargent Major Ash.

"Yes, Sir." We say simultaneously and take our seats.

"We have word that Fort Atkinson has been attacked. No word on how bad it was, if there are any survivors. I need you two to get your platoon ready. You will be heading out tonight. When you get there, you need to do a thorough search of the whole Fort. Your main concern is to make sure that the vault underneath the compound has not been tampered with. If it has, we will for sure lose this war." Major explains.

"What's in the vault, sir?" I ask, twisting in my seat.

"That is need to know information. You don't need to know." Sargent Major bellows.

"If we have to make sure it's still there, shouldn't we know what it is?" I try my best not to growl. Sargent Major's eyebrow lifted up slightly. "Sargent Major."

"It can't be spread around. It needs to stay top secret. We can't risk telling you, just in case someone overhears. You two are my most trusted men. Normally I would have no problem telling you, but for this I can't risk it. You will know if it's there or not. You can't miss it. Once the sun's back, we will be able use them. " Major explains, his voice quieter, as if afraid someone is listening in.

We nod, understanding his reasoning. This isn't the first time we have been sought out to do missions. This surely wouldn't be the last. Major explains the rest of the mission to us, Sargent Major adding bits and pieces. Clearly not happy that we are getting the assignment. I wonder who he wanted to take it. I know I'm not one of his favorites, ever since I blew up an enemy compound about five years back. But I'm still the best for the job at hand. Collins and I both stand when Major is finished and gave him a salute, then we left the office.

"Let's go gather the platoon. Meet at pool." I suggest.

"The pool?" Collins asks, looking at me like I'm stupid.

"It's the only place we will have the privacy we need. No one's been in there since the war broke out." I remind him.

"Oh yeah, I didn't even think about that. Alright, I'll head to the training facility."

"I'll head to the barracks."

We split up and head to find our platoon. Our platoon is made up of fifteen guys and girls. E4's and E3's. Haven't had anyone lower than for the past 3 years. No one is surviving long enough to get drafted or join the fight. It's hard to know whose still alive. We can't travel as easily as we used too. We don't even have horses to ride. Their all dead. I find some of our platoon laying on their racks in the barracks. They immediately get their things and follow me. We swing by through some of the other areas on our way to the pool. We keep quiet as we team up. I don't have to explain myself to get my men and women to follow me.

We are the first to get to the pool. I keep a look out while everyone trails in. I don't need anyone following us. After making sure we are in the clear, I go inside. A few minutes pass and there is defined knocks against the door. I bring my weapon up, so do the others. I inch towards the door, and I listen closely to the knocks that are happening again. I lower my weapon. I open the door and in walks Collins and the rest of the platoon. As the last one walks in, I keep a look out, making sure no one is watching. I send three to clear the area, making sure we truly are alone.

Once clear, I have them sit, kneel or stand around me. Collins stands next to me, and we explain the mission. We answer any questions they have, making sure they all understand. It's going to take over 3 weeks to get to the Fort. If we were able to drive, it would only take a day and a half. Unfortunately, we have to walk and travel mostly at night. We are getting rations that we have to make last for the whole time we are gone. I'm hoping we will be able to find food along the way. Though, I am very doubtful.

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Fort Atkinson is nothing but rubble. The enemy completely destroyed the fort. We were hoping we would at least have racks and a shelter to sleep under, but that doesn't look to be happening. The walk has us exhausted and in need of a shower. All that wiped from our minds as we all stare in awe at the damage. If we can find anyone alive, I would be amazed. I order everyone to split up into twos. We will search the area for anyone before we search for the vault. I know Major and Sargent Major said that was priority, but I think looking for our people should be more important.

Bodies lay buried underneath the fallen walls. The boots of the soldiers can be seen covered in dust. If we can, we pull them out and lay them out until we can properly bury them. I will not allow them to lay here and rot without showing them some respect. I don't know how many the others have recovered, but Lance Corporal Thomas and I have recovered at least twenty bodies within the hour of being there.

"Sargent Denver!" I hear my name shouted from across the fort. We look at each other quick and start running.

"What happened? Are you all okay?" I have my weapon up and ready to shoot.

"We are fine, but you need to see this. I'm hoping it's only a coincidence."

I walk carefully the rest of the way. I see one of my Lance Corporals kneeling over a body. Blood stains the uniform. Something I'm sure this man wore proudly. He's missing a boot on his left foot, and you can tell he is missing some of his leg and foot. The fake foot must have broken off in the fight, leaving the man with only a peg leg. His arms have been laid over his stomach, probably from my guys after pulling him out from under the rubble. I notice the name tag, it's my last name sewn upon his chest. His rank of Gunnery Sargent is worn, the gold underneath peeking through the black paint covering the chevron. I'm afraid to look at his face. I close my eyes, holding back tears, I haven't cried in years.

It was easier not knowing what happened. I would have rather never found out at all. I fall to my knees. My weapon landing to the side of me. I crawl the rest of the way to the man. Gravel digging into the palms of my hands and knees. I look at his face, a face I haven't seen in ten years. He has more wrinkles that I remember, but this war has aged us all, making us all look older than we are. I bring my hand up and gently caress his cheek. He's so cold and his face stiff. I'm waiting for him to open his eyes and yell 'Gotcha'. A prank he used to play on me when I was a child. But his eyes will never open again. His matching blue eyes will never see the end of this war.

My father was closer than I thought. I wonder how long he has been stationed here. I run my hand through his hair. It's short and has turned gray. I bring my head down and rest my forehead against his bloody chest. It doesn't matter if it was wet or not. I don't care. I let the tears out. I can't stop them. My body convulses, trying to breathe. I feel a hand rest on my back. I'm too distraught to see who it is. This war has taken a lot from me, but knowing it took my father, hurts more than I could ever imagine.

The others let me grieve for a few moments longer. Collins found a sheet or blanket, I'm not sure, and covered him for me. I wiped away the tears and cleared my nose. I'm more of a mess now than when I arrived. I finally stand, my knees hurting from the rocks pitting into them. I brush off the dirt and dust before picking up my weapon. The others had gone to find more bodies, maybe any survivors. Unfortunately, the search came up short. It's a decent size fort. We won't get through all of it today, even with us split up. It's going to take us a week or two to get through this mess.

Friendly and enemy lay within the wake of the destruction. We have recovered so many bodies, I dare not count. The only thing making this easier is that as we bury, it feels like there are less than what we have found. After a week of pulling bodies, Sargent Collins and I go look for the vault. We leave the others to finish. We dug up the main building in the fort within the second day. The one we were told the vault would be under. We head to the collapsed regiment. It takes us a little longer to find the entrance, as the map we have is for if it were still standing.

The entrance is in the commander's office. There isn't much left of the office. A tornado has gone through it. Not only from the explosion that had demolished the building, but the carpet is even ripped up. They were trying hard to find the vault. Drawers from the desk are ripped out and strewn across the room. I doubt an explosion could have done that. We move pieces of the wall around and out of our way. The desk never moved from its spot, the indents in the carpet gave that way. We push it away and rip more of the carpet up. Just underneath is a slab of cement not fitting in with the rest of the floor.

It takes the both of us to lift it out of its crevasse on the floor. It revealed a latter going down. I look up at Collins, both questioning wither we want to go in. I take the initiative and start the climb down. It's dark and much colder than what we are living with. A shiver ran down my spine as I made my way down. It wasn't a long way down and the second I put a foot on the floor, lights turn on. I whip my weapon up, ready to shoot, but there is nothing there, but a giant vault door.

"Lights must be on a reserve system." Collins says as he touches the ground.

"I don't think anyone's been down here since it was first built. Or the last time they put something in here." I run my hand down the metal door.

"Well let's open it." He urges.

"Calm down. We don't even know what's in here."

He rolls his eyes at me but says nothing. He stands behind me, looking over my shoulder as I enter the code. I can feel him breathing down my neck. I'm ready to kick him back when the door unlocks. I pull the handle back and the door opens wide and air hisses out. Another light turns on, illuminating the inside. We both gasp, staring at what is being held. It takes all my willpower to reach out and touch it. To let my fingers graze over the green glow. Something I haven't seen in years. I understand now, why this is top secret. This will win us the war.

Short Story

About the author

Shelby Schwartz

Hey, I'm Shelby and I've been an avid writer for about 6 years now. I mainly write about death and dabble in horror. I enjoy some poetry every now and then. I enjoy getting my words on paper and sharing my thoughts. Hope you enjoy.

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