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The Light After The Fire

by Dov Arlauskas 11 months ago in science fiction
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An Emerald Hope

The Light After The Fire
Photo by Sorin Tudorut on Unsplash

I think I speak for the entire human race - at least for those of us that remain anyway - when I say that we’d all rather jump back in time to when COVID-19 became a global pandemic in March of 2020. One could even compare it to heaven - as opposed to the brutish hell in which we live today.

I am all alone. Today is a completely different world, unrecognisable. Sometimes I’m plagued by the thought that we must’ve unwittingly been transported into a parallel dimension of some sort… I only wish that were the case, that would mean that we still have a home to get back to - out there, somewhere. Unfortunately, this is the reality of our world.

Nine years ago the world fell into chaos. As if that godforsaken pandemic wasn’t enough, escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine finally erupted - long story short, Russia embarked on a full-fledge invasion into Ukraine. To which Ukraine kindly responded by detonating a sixty-five megaton nuclear warhead right into the heart of Russia. Needless to say, Moscow was obliterated, along with a large chunk of Russia and half of Ukraine itself. Those crazy bastards chose to sacrifice millions of their own people than let the enemy take over their country. Nobody even knew Ukraine had access to such power, some say they had been working on something in secret, others say that they were supplied it by another country - if so, my money’s on the U.S.

Luckily, the world did not become a nuclear war zone. Since Ukraine practically took themselves out in the attack, the rest of us watched and prepared for the worst as half of Eurasia plummeted into a punishing nuclear winter. The poisonous ash-clouds spread across most of the land masses, blotting out the sun for months in some countries, years for those that were closer to the impact. The day of the blast just so happened to be a windy one, the deadly radiation was swept all over the eastern hemisphere, before falling somewhere in the Indian ocean. To think this was only the beginning of our struggle.

Eventually the inevitable happened. Humanity was smart enough to stay their hand against global nuclear warfare, but there were internal upheavals. Within days of the blast, world-wide riots broke out across every nation.

I lived in London when it all happened, wasn’t all bad at first - but once the ash-clouds moved in above our heads, the country was rendered sunless. For two months the UK became a very cold, very dark place - abundantly more than it usually was.

It was a bad time to be in London, people were scared and running wild, shops on every high street and corner were scavenged and torn apart by rioters. Some of them were just afraid and wanted to ensure their safety, whilst others joined in just out of principle, for fun.

Isn’t it funny how easily we are reduced to our most primitive selves?

Block out the sun for a while and we begin to pillage and plunder, setting the streets ablaze as if we were vikings or pirates.

Not sure I blame them though, I remember looking up at that dismal sky and I never felt such fear, it was almost oppressive. Sometimes it was as though it looked back into me; piercing through to the darkest recesses of my being. The truth is humans are barbaric by nature, that part of us cannot be extinguished.

Every time I stared into those looming clouds, I couldn’t tell if the sky was unlocking something ominous within me, or if it was the growing feeling that something sinister coming, something of a malevolent nature was lurking in the atmosphere.

I couldn’t help but think of everyone who was situated closer to the devastation than myself, what life must’ve been like for them; my prayers went out to them all.

Before the nuke, we must’ve been on what I think was our twelfth lockdown - it got very hard to keep track of them. At least it was going to be our last.

Since the “Delta” variant that surfaced in India in late 2020, the COVID-19 virus had mutated thrice more. Becoming enhanced in its contagiousness each time.

The world as we knew it was over the moment Moscow was decimated, we just hadn’t known it yet - and not because of the worldwide panic riots; something far worse was already peeking its ugly head from behind the door.

As soon as the toxic radiation had begun to spread, it merged with the virus particles in the air. Causing it to drastically alter the genetic structure of the COVID-19 organism, mutating it into an altogether different pathogen; a brand new, deadly, vicious breed.

Remember what I said about the wind taking the radiation for a tour around half the globe? Well now imagine how much of the virus covers that area, then imagine every particle of the virus within that entire area had already begun to evolve.

Leading up to a month after the blast, apart from the occasional riot everything was quiet, no word of anything peculiar. Then out of nowhere, the world news flared up like a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night. Stories from different parts of Europe and Asia reporting people savagely attacking each other, ripping guts out with their bare hands and feasting on the corpse’s flesh.

I started packing in a heartbeat - I spent a whole day gearing myself up with anything I’d need. Preparing food, weapons, clothes - anything. The moment I was done loading the truck I got in and set off without ever looking back.

It is virtually impossible to stop the spread of an airborne pestilence, so this virus had of course dominated the globe - inside of a week.

By the time it reached the UK, only two days had passed since the first reports - by which point I was already on the road, headed for Scotland. My goal was to isolate myself somewhere deep in the mountains, far away from everything.

I vividly remember hearing the emergency announcement that came in through my car radio, it was the government alerting the country that the virus has reached the UK. I recall their exact words,

“good people of Britain, this is your secretary of defence. Your number one priority should be to find a gas mask and never remove it. The virus is airborne. I repeat, find a gas mask and wear it at all times. Arm yourselves with what you can. These creatures are fast, strong and intelligent, god be with you all.”

The message was put on a loop and I listened till it was engrained into my skull. I pulled over and hoped to god I packed the gas mask, I opened the boot overfilling with food and clothing and started rummaging through everything.

There it was, I never thought I’d be so happy to see weird cousin Jack’s gas mask, he used to be somewhat obsessed with the world war history. Years ago, on one of my birthday’s he gifted me a gas mask - unconventional as far as gifts go; but in the end it was his present that saved my life. So thank you Jack.

I did wonder about that last part of the message, “intelligent” - what could that possibly mean?

Soon I’d find out exactly what it meant.

I was almost at Scotland’s border by the time of the emergency broadcast, when I arrived at the checkpoint naturally I was greeted by military personnel - but the conversation was interrupted when one of them tripped over a supply crate and fell face first to the ground, shattering his mask.

What came next was unholy, It happened so fast. His body was shaking as if he was being exorcised, he immediately stood up and ran at the others with great speed and agility, they opened fire but the bullets were useless. One by one he managed to tear off the masks from all their faces, and their bodies too began to quiver rapidly.

Once they all got up, to my utter shock - they spoke. They spoke with voices that were deep and distorted. The fear of everything I witnessed almost made me pass out. I remember hearing them say, “we must get to radiation core”.

That’s when they noticed me in my car and all simultaneously ran towards me. I floored the accelerator and ran them down, smashing through the border gate and kept driving, I didn’t stop once until I was at the foot of the mountains.

It was on that day which I learned that the masks filter out the virus particles in the air, and the moment it comes off, you have about five seconds before it’s all over. Those creatures, for them feeding is a choice but if they do the body stays dead. Meaning the virus needs an intact, healthy host to thrive. Problem is, they need to eat to survive - and they've only appetite for humans.

As I write this the year is 2034, in all this time I have been able to study these creatures and even figured out a clever way to ingest food through the mask so I don’t stave - quite amusing how the world went from face masks to gas masks.

Over the years, I figured out that everyone who becomes infected immediately develops the desire to get to the centre of the explosion site, in Moscow. Then it hit me - intelligent creatures born of radiation, all with the sudden urge of getting to the core of the devastation. My theory was that they were building something over there, the beginning to a new civilisation perhaps? - or an army.

Last night I met a woman who appeared here out of nowhere, she wasn’t wearing a mask yet she was fine.

She was gorgeous, fiery red hair with shimmering orange highlights, and those beautiful, piercing emerald eyes. I was transfixed, yet I never got her name and she disappeared as quickly as she came.

She seemed to be in quite the hurry - she said to me,

“I don’t have much time, I don’t know where I am, but it is imperative you take this and bring it to the heart of the explosion that occurred nine years ago, the fate of your world depends on it. What happened can still be undone”

She handed me a silver heart locket, I looked down at it, looked back up and she had vanished.

I was bewildered to say the least, I opened the locket to find that one half of it was a mirror, the other half was a golden ticking clock; I looked closer into the mirror, and it wasn’t my own reflection that I saw. It was a pair of eyes, enchanting bright green eyes. It was her, the strange woman I saw; her unblinking eyes were in the mirror face of the locket.

So my voyage begins, I have prepared all that I need and I leave for Moscow at first light.

I cannot be sure but my theory is that this woman must be some kind of time traveller, now she needs me to bring this miracle locket to Moscow - the radioactive desolate wasteland, now likely overrun with those creatures.

It’s going to be a long journey, I only met her for a second yet I have faith I’ll see her again. I feel like her eyes in the locket are there to guide me, I have no idea how I’ll protect myself against the radiation but somehow I trust that she will guard me.

I believe in her, and if she is right; if what happened can in fact be reversed, then I am prepared to risk everything.

I leave this letter here in the hope that someone might know my story,

If anyone’s reading this - there is hope.

Wish me luck.

-D.A

science fiction

About the author

Dov Arlauskas

Student filmmaker with a passion for writting.

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