Ground Zero

It was three in the morning and Richard was still intoxicated. Driving home after a night with the guys was a pretty rare occurrence. He’d seen a lot in his time; Surviving two gulf wars with nothing but a few scratches, his father committing suicide, his pill-head family falling victim to pushers. He’d seen enough to keep him on track. Drunk driving wasn’t really against his code or anything, just something he typically didn’t do because he knew better. A call from his girlfriend, asking him to come home “right now” was enough to break his better judgment.

Blue lights. Goddamn cops. I’m fucked. There’s a half ounce of marijuana in the glove compartment, I’m drunk as fuck, and the road looks like a chutes and ladders game from hell. Think, goddamnit… Okay, stay cool, follow the speed limit and if you get pulled over just tell them your girlfriend is sick or some shit… Fuck, there’s got to be at least TEN troopers?! There’s no way they’re after me… But they’re behind me. Speed up? No. There’s no escape. Pull over? They’re not close enough. Judging by the rear view they’re a good five hundred meters or so behind me…

In somewhat of a state of panic, Richard pulls his car over, submitting to the fact that he’s nailed. Hazard lights on, he leans his head against the back of the seat, waiting. It’s over, there’s no avoiding the consequences to come. A thousand thoughts rush through his mind. Thoughts about Jackie, and why she would ask him to come home “right now”. Thoughts about the shakedown. The dope in the car. The jail time. Losing his job. The contents of his evening’s stomach feel as though they’re slowly creeping up to escape…

Only time separates him from what is to become of the night.

The roar of the Crown Vic’s V-8 and blaring sirens rush past him like a class five rapid. They pay no attention to the drunk guy sitting on the side of the road. Within seconds of passing him, they’re out of sight. Chasing some other criminal or pusher or whatever. There’s a heavy relief crawling up his spine like a garden spider jetting for its trapped prey. Richard leans his head against the steering wheel. He’s sweating, sick to his stomach, and on the verge of chucking his groceries. He struggles for the door handle, kicking it open. The world spins as he leans out of the door and empties the evening onto the ground.

Dizzy headed and confused, he hangs out of the car, spitting and shaking his head, “Damn it all to hell. What’s so important that I have to come home right now? What are you doing old man? Get your shit together. Chug some water and figure this shit out.”

The cell phone in the passenger seat starts to buzz. Over and over. Incessant vibrations shooting through his head. What now? he thinks as he eases back up into the seat and closes the door. The phone reads “Jackie – Mobile” as he picks it up.

Christ, what in the hell is going on with her? She knows I’m on my way, what’s so important that she tells me to come home, knowing that I’m in no condition to drive. These vibrations, the waviness of the world. They’re still abundant and I should be laid out on Jeff’s couch, sunglasses on and an expensive cigar in my hand, slowly drawing on the embers until daylight. Relaxing, that’s what I should be doing. Shooting the bull with the guys and laughing at perverted jokes until we all pass out.

The phone still vibrates as he presses the green button, “Hello?” he says.

“Ritch! Oh my god, get here as soon as you can. Something bad is happening. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m vomiting blood, oh God, Ritch, get here quick. I feel like I’m dying!”

“Jackie, what’s wrong? Blood? Talk to me love, I’m on my way, what’s going on?”

“Ritch, get here quick.”

The line goes dead. The call either dropped or she hung up on him. A sobering blow to his consciousness. He shifts the car into first and shreds rubber as he enters back onto the motorway. The night sky is illuminated with a faint orange glow. Lights seem to have a streaking effect as he slams the transmission into fourth gear. The motorway is clear. No cars, even at this hour. There’s an almost eerie feel about something. A convoy of patrol cars, empty streets and whatever Jackie has going on.

Terrorists? No, that’s just paranoid thinking. There’s a rational explanation to all of this. You’re just inebriated and worried. Just get home and take Jack to the E.R…. Biological attack? Chemical weapons? NO! Goddamn it! Fucking PTSD, you’re home, this isn’t a war zone. There’s no possibility of such nonsense in a decadent, hole in the ground town off the interstate in Kansas. Just focus and get home, that’s your mission.

Several miles of empty asphalt and Richard hits the exit. Downshifting his car to compensate for the over acceleration of the off ramp, he’s nearing his destination. As he gets off the ramp, something looks out of place. There are no street lights. The traffic signals are out. It’s too quiet. He gets a sinking in his stomach. The beating of his heart feels like a ten pound sledge striking away on his sternum.

What in God’s creations is going on. This night couldn’t get any worse. Okay old man, forget the craziness. You’re almost there. Just a couple more miles and you’ll be at the apartment and everything’s going to be alright. Fuck, paranoia. Shouldn’t have smoked that herb, man. It’s messing with your head. Just get straight and man up…

There’s a roadblock ahead. Troopers lined up against a barrier, hazmat crews standing by. No entry into town. Brookville is totally closed off, at least from this entry point. Richard’s hands start shaking, sweat running down his neck. This thing, it’s big. Half of the county’s resources are at this roadblock. Unsettling, to say the least. Determined to get to Jackie, he slowly approaches the officers, hoping to get some type of explanation as to what’s going on. He rolls down his window as an officer approaches.

“That’s far enough, sir. Brookville is off limits,” says an officer with a slight muffled voice, speaking through his NBC suit. “No one is to enter or leave city limits. I suggest you turn around and head home. This site is officially quarantined.”

“Quarantined? What the hell are you talking about? This is my home! My girlfriend is sick and I need to get her to a hospital!”

“I’m sorry, sir. You’re going to need to turn around. We’re handling the situation and we’re doing everything in our power to get aid to those in need.”

“Aid? What are you talking about? None of this makes sense. What’s going on here? Why can’t I go to my home?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not at liberty to say. I’d suggest you turn back and head to Salina. FEMA has a camp set up there. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.”

“FEMA!!!? What the fuck is going on? Listen, ‘officer’, I spent two tours in the sand box. I can swear on my father’s grave that I’ve seen shit worse than whatever is going on here. I mean, NBC suits? What, did the county decide my tax dollars were going to waste? Why are you guys out here playing soldier?”

“I’m sorry sir. I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Heh. If whatever is going on in there is bad enough that you’re under orders not to talk about it, where’s the National Guard? This smells like marshal law and quite frankly, I feel that my rights are being infringed upon. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty intoxicated, so pardon my language… but my fucking girlfriend is vomiting blood. She called me and told me to come home NOW. I’m not about to turn around and just leave while some asshat with a badge won’t even tell me why I can’t go home. I’m going into town, and I’m going to get my Jackie to a hospital.”

“Sir, we’re doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of the citizens. In fact, the National Guard is on their way here right now. Give me the name and address of your girlfriend and I’ll be sure we get a unit sent over there as soon as we can.”

“WHAT! The Guard is coming in here? You know what? Fuck you and your cowboy friends. I’m through to find out what in the hell is going on.”

“Sir, you can’t enter the city. It’s off limits. The quarantine is in effect indefinitely. You must follow-”

Richard shifts the truck into first and dumps the clutch before Officer Blue-balls can finish his sentence. Tunnel vision takes hold as the barricade approaches. He crashes through, sending splinters and shards of wood against his windscreen. The policemen scramble to catch up, but stop before they cross the police line. Desperate, clueless, and angry, he speeds through the town. Just a couple of blocks until he’s home. There’s a powder in the air. It’s snowing. In July. The powder is freshly coating the streets, sidewalks, and businesses. It gathers on his windscreen until he has to turn the wipers on.

I’m dreaming. There’s no way it’s snowing in Kansas in July…. Wait… This… This is… Gray snow? No… Ash? What is this? It’s ash, falling from the sky. This can’t be real. Wake up man. This is some type of bad trip. Jeff laced your shit with something. Wake up dammit, just WAKE UP!

The ash gets thicker as he advances into town. He can barely see out of the truck. It’s sticking to the entire front glass. The truck digs through what seems like some type of coarse powder lining the street. His headlamps become more and more useless as he progresses. The ash cloud is too thick. Then he sights a sobering exhibition.

Half of town square is gone.

Rubble. Busted brick and mortar, cement and asphalt. It’s just gone. There’s no way to drive through. Through his obscured headlamps he can make out what seems to be a hole in the ground. The road is completely gone. He slows his pickup to a halt and examines the surroundings.

What the bloody hell is this? I’ve not seen this type of destruction since we dropped JDAM’s into the Al Anbar governorate. I was right! Terrorists! Domestic? Foreign? Who has the resources for this type of destruction? Why Brookville? It’s a damned hole in the ground… Ah, you idiot! Turn the radio on, there’s got to be something on there about all of this.

Richard punches the buttons on his expensive car stereo in a furious and excited attempt to tune into a radio station. The first one he comes across is broadcasting an FCC warning. The next station, broadcasting an FCC warning. Seeking through the FM bands, there’s nothing but an unsettling buzzing and automated recordings of “This is not a test”. Frustrated, he switches to AM radio. Most of the stations are dead or garbled. Punching through frequencies, he hits a band with signal, but passes it up. Something about “Government issued-” before he skipped it.

Tuning back to the station, it sounds like a recorded message. “All citizens are suggested to stay in their homes and await assistance. This is not a test. The U.S. Department of Defense and Homeland Security is currently investigating the events that have taken place across the nation. If you’re in one of the targeted cities, we are instructing you to seal up your windows and doors. Help is on the way. God speed and may we all prevail through this crisis. This is a government issued warning: Hundreds of cities and towns across the nation are under attack by an unknown enemy. All citizens are suggested to stay in their homes and await assistance. This is not a test…”

Richard turns the ignition switch off. His heart is racing, trying to formulate a plan of action for a situation that he knows nothing about. He beats his head against the side glass, thinking, plotting and planning a strategy. “I’ve got to get to Jackie. The road’s gone, there’s this gray shit flying around everywhere, and apparently we’re under goddamn attack by something. Think damn you, pull it together.” He’s saying it out loud, just as he opens the driver door and steps out.

“They had NBC suites, so this shit has a chance of being toxic. A blast this big probably has dust and ash spread out for a couple of clicks, most likely being blown east. Supplies. I need supplies. This is some serious FUBAR shit so moralities have gone out the window.”

Richard digs around his rear seat. Nothing of much use. A jacket, some empty soda bottles, a few miscellaneous tools and a flashlight. You’d think a guy as paranoid and prepared as Richard would have half an armory with him at all times. Dumping it all out on the ground, he fumbles through the junk that was thrown in the back. The jacket, possibly useful to filter out the dust. A few small screwdrivers, wrenches, the flashlight and a tire iron are all that’s left.

Without thinking, he rips his jacket up into strips and ties them around his face, covering his mouth and nose. He pockets the flashlight and takes a steady grip on the tire iron. At this point, reason doesn’t exist. Alice in Wonderland makes more sense than the current situation. He takes a good look around and finds an intersection. He sprints towards it. There’s a street sign, but it’s covered in ash. He pulls out the flashlight and wipes the sign off. “Baker Ave” reads the sign. He’s only about a mile or so away from his apartment complex.

Fear sets in. Given the state of the business district, there’s a chance his home may have been hit as well. With a quick click of the button on the flashlight, he jogs off into ground zero. Before he can make one-hundred meters, there’s a deafening sound overhead. A formation of transport planes. C-130′s. No mistaking that low tone rumble. Low altitude. At least ten of them, maybe twelve judging by the skewed lights blinking in the sky. Given the speed and altitude, they’re probably close to making a landing.

Goddamn weekend warriors. Probably headed for Salina Municipal, though I don’t know how in the hell those boys plan to land on that field.

Richard speeds up his pace, vaulting over rubble, dodging rebar beams and trying not to slip in the ash. He’s dead set on making it to Jackie. Visibility is less than ten meters and the ash is still falling from the sky. His heart is racing. Each step is quicker than the last. He’s pushing himself beyond his limits. Basic wasn’t even this intense. He paces himself. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. He pushes harder and harder until he loses his footing and falls into a pit full of jagged cement chunks.

“Fuck,” he mumbles, laying on his back, looking up at the sky. The ash is quietly falling with a terrifying beauty. “Get up. You’re alright. Got to move on, gotta make it,” he says as he stands up before falling down again. Sprained or broken ankle. He can’t gain his footing. He stands up again, slowly, bracing himself against some rubble… And then there’s a heart shattering shriek.

“Heeeelp meee!!”

A female voice, clearly distressed. But something… Something’s not right. The last time he heard such a painful scream was back in the sandbox. A bullet ridden kid from Detroit, choking on blood with a punctured lung with only a few moments of life left to breathe.

He hears another voice from what seems to be a closer proximity. “Over here! C’mon guys! There’s another one! Hurry up, we’ve gotta end this!” He can clearly hear several footsteps, charging away at something, but he can’t quite get a visual. Tonight, of all nights, is a new moon. The starlit sky is thick with this cursed powder.

“Heelp mee!!!” screams the female voice, followed by silence. No footsteps. No screaming. No movement.

“Eiahhhhhh!” pierces the silence.

Richards’s heart stops for a moment. That sound wasn’t human. Or was it? His ears still ringing from what sounded like a mountain lion shrieking in pain, he hears, “Shoot her! Shoot goddamnit! What are you waiting for?!”

Boom.

A gunshot. Probably a shotgun judging from the signature and flash of light off to his right. The same footsteps, though much slower this time. He can hear talking, but can’t quite make it out. Low key conversation.

Goddamn vigilantes… Who am I to talk, I just busted through a police barricade to jump into hell on earth, no sense of direction or guess as to what I’m up against here. Might as well find out….

He crawls up out of the hole, favoring one leg and cautiously heads in the direction of the gunshot. Scrambling for his flashlight, he hears the voices pick up. “Who’s there? Identify yourself!” shouts a distant command as he turns on the flashlight.

“Over here! My name is Richard, where are you?”

“Keep walking straight, I’m looking down the barrel of your torch there fella’… But keep it slow and keep your hands in the open!”

“Okay, don’t shoot! I’m here for my girlfriend, what in the hell is going on here?”

A group of men fade into view, clearly armed to the tooth, guns pointed at him. Probably townsfolk freaking out from whatever happened here.

“That’s far enough Richard, keep your hands up! Bobby, check him out. Richard, open your mouth wide as it goes and look straight at me. You make one quick move and I make apple pie all over the ground.”

The guy shouting orders seems to be in lead of this group. A rather large fellow. Mutton chop facial hair, bald, covered in bandoliers of ammo. Bobby nervously walks up to Richard. Hands shaking. The handgun in his grip bouncing up and down. This guy’s shaken pretty hard by something.

“Look at me there guy, show me your eyes!” says Bobby as he blinds Richard with a light of his own.

“He’s okay Nick, no blood. His eyes are normal”

Nick must be the leader’s name.

“Blood? My eyes are normal? What the fuck are you talking about man?” Richard says, growing more uneasy.

“Just had to make sure you weren’t one of ‘em Richie,” Nick says. “It’s the goddamn apocalypse… Just a few of us left. We’re part of a militia. Rest of the guys are up in Kanopolis State Park. We come up here to scout a few hours after it happened. We’ve already lost seven guys. Just down to the five of us.”

Richard looks around, hands still in the air. Nick, Bobby, and three unnamed militiamen lower their weapons and come in for a closer introduction.

“You armed Richie?”

“Well if you consider a tire arm a weapon, yea. Otherwise, no.”

Nick walks up within a few feet of Richard, throwing his cigar onto the ground. He reaches over his shoulder and removes a hunting rifle. Looking Richard in the eyes, he tosses the rifle his way. Without thinking, Richard reaches out and catches the rifle, still dumbfounded by the craziness that’s transpired within the last hour.

“So why the guns? Who did you shoot? What’s going on here?” He quizzes Nick, half expecting or hoping that he’d say there was some type of insane riot or uprising.. But in his stomach he knows it is much worse.

“You don’t know? You been hidin’ under a rock son?”

“Well, I was a couple of hours upstate, drinking with some friends when my girlfriend called me and told me to come home…. She said I should come ‘right now’ when I first talked to her…. Couple of miles outside town she called again and said she was vomiting blood and to hurry before the phone went dead.”

“Christ….. They killed the cell towers a little bit ago… You sure you heard her right, Richie? Vomiting blood?”

“Yea. she was crying, sounded really sick. I’ve got to get to her and help her-”

“No use, Rich. She’s gone. They’re all gone. We’d hoped we could come over here and pick up what family me and the boys had before it got worse… They were all gone, too.”

“Stop beating around the bush you son of a bitch. Jackie’s in danger and somebody better start talking. What exactly are you talking about? What happened? Tell me, damn you!”

“Rich… How about I show you what’s going on here? Boys! C’mon, let’s find some high ground. Richard, we’re going to need your help. If I show you what’s going on, you in?”

“I just want some answers, show me what’s going on and I’ll help you half-assed corn fed wingnuts.”

“Alright, let’s go.” Nick motions for the rest of the guys to follow him. “Let’s show our new recruit what we’re up against.”

The six men jog around from corner to corner, checking each and every street before making a move. They gradually make their way up to the highest point in town – City Hall… or at least what’s left of it. Twenty minutes of this charade and they’re at the door.

“Hold up!” whispers Nick. “Stand back boys.” He places the barrel of his shotgun against what used to be the front door. Waiting. Not moving. Listening. Nick lets out a shrill whistle, waiting once again. Silence.

“Alright, let’s move in!” he says as he kicks the door open. Not much is left inside. Most of the outside wall is crumbled into the floor. There is a sign lying against what looks to be a receptionist’s desk. “Vacancy,” the sign reads.

“Nick, this ain’t town hall. Does Brookville even have a town hall?” Bobby asks.

“Not sure. I’m not from around here, really. Maybe some type of hotel?”

Digging through the mess on the ground, Richard finds something.

A business card.

Brookville Hotel.

“Nick, I’ve got something here. This is goddamn Brookville Hotel! This town’s so fucked I can’t even tell where we’re at. It’s all…. Destroyed… It’s like I’ve never been here before. Everything’s wrecked… I don’t like this. We need to get on the move.”

“Nowhere to go, Richie-boy. Gov’ments not lettin’ anybody out to I-70. Anybody inside is considered a threat.”

“There you go again with that cryptic bullshit! For the love of God, show me what’s going on.”

Nicks face seems to pale a bit. From the looks of him this isn’t something that happens too often. Nick’s a hearty guy, at over six feet tall and probably pushing three hundred pounds of mostly natural muscle. He’s not the kind of guy that gets faint easily.

“Let’s head to the roof. Jon, you got any flares left?”

“Yea, a few. We’re running low. I’ve only got seven left. We used most of them on the way through-”

Jon stops suddenly, looking up at the sky. Richard immediately knows what interrupted him. There’s a distinct thumping off in the distance. Each in succession of the other. At least five or six heavy hitting thumps, miles in distance.

“GET DOWN!” Richard shouts as he runs and slides into the back side of a pile of brick and drywall.

A distant whistling sound gets closer and closer.

And then it hits.

Explosions, one after the other, the concussion blasting dust off of their surroundings. Close, but not close enough to cause any real damage. After the final explosion, they all look at each other for a moment. Richard shakes his head. “Artillery,” he mumbles. “Goddamn weekend warriors are throwing 120′s down our throats… Let’s get up to the roof. Now.”

The crew scouts around a bit until they find a broken stair that is in enough condition to reach the second level. The upstairs level is a hallway with rooms on either side. At least twenty or more hotel rooms to pass before they can make it to the fire escape. No light aside from the smoky torch beams slowly scanning the hallway.

“Easy there Rich, quiet. Let’s take this nice and slow. This side of the building’s still intact enough for somebody to be holding up in one of these rooms”.

“You keep talking like everybody here’s crazy or something.”

“Just keep your voice down and your finger on that trigger…”

They ease down the hallway. That unsettling quiet moving in like a fog onto a pier. The ash still filling the air, even the battle hardened Richie is on edge. Something doesn’t feel right as they progress ever so slowly to the fire escape, stepping softly as if not to wake up a tenant. Bobby is following behind Nick, with Richard tailing a few paces behind them. Nick holds up his hand, motioning for them to stop. He looks around, as if he senses something.

Before he can give the signal to move forward, one of the hotel doors thrash open with a shrill scream. Somebody.. some… thing, rushes out to Bobby. He turns to defend himself, but it’s too late. It’s on him. Taking him to the floor, screaming like a wild animal, it starts tearing away at his face. Bobby’s screams are all but drowned out by this thing’s shrieking as it chews and thrashes and scrapes away at his flesh.

Nick rushes up and kicks it off Bobby, knocking it to the opposite wall as he chambers a round into his shotgun in one smooth motion and blasts the head of what looks like an older man.

But something is different about him.

He is covered in blood. His shirt, his pants. His hands. All covered in blood. Huge gashes are in his stomach and chest, and they’re not the result of the shotgun blast. It looks as if this guy has dug into his own flesh. He’s bleeding out all over himself and Nick’s buckshot is not really helping with the image.

He rushes to Bobby’s side after a moment’s pause. Bobby is trying to speak, but his neck is gashed open. Blood is spurting out of his mouth with every attempt at a word.

“Bobby…. You know what I have to do…” Nick says.

He looks up at Nick and gives what appears to be a nod as he tries to lean up a bit before collapsing back down. Nick chambers another round, the empty shotgun shell flying out and bouncing off the wall with a rittle-rattle on the floor.

“I’m sorry Bobby,” he says as he puts the gun to Bobby’s head and turns away. It’s over with a quick pop.

Bobby is dead.

Nick slowly turns his head back around, staring Richard directly in the eyes. “You want to see what this shit is? Let’s go.”

The squad makes its way to the roof through the fire escape on the end of the hall. They climb the ladder to make it up to the roof. One by one the guys shuffle up and over to the edge. All lined up, guns at their side. Nick shakes his head, looking down with that thousand-yard stare.

“Flare gun, Jon. Hand it here,” Nick says. Jon reaches into his satchel, pulls out a red flare pistol, pops it open, and loads it. Flipping the barrel shut, he hands it grip first to Nick.

“You want to see what this shit’s all about, Richie-boy? Welcome to hell.” Nick props his foot up on the ledge and fires a flare over into the horizon. An eerie red glow lights up the outskirts of the town. Hundreds… thousands of people are standing in a hoard. Not moving, not talking. They all seem to have a vague resemblance to the old man inside the hotel.

“This, my friend, is the Apocalypse. Started about three days ago. East coast got hit first. Most – if not all — communication was out shortly after. None of the major news outlets had any idea of what was going on. Radio chatter’s mostly military code, but it seems like D.C. was hit first. Then most of the major cities on the East Coast. Then the West Coast. L.A…. San Fran. You name it. By the third day, the bastards had hit damn near every town and city in the U.S…”

“I don’t get it. What the fuck is this? Who hit us? Was this some type of attack?”

“Don’t know, Rich, couple of the guys up at camp have some HF transceivers set up. At first we thought it was Russia. Or North Korea. Or Iran. Hell, pick your favorite dictator or superpower. We suspected ‘em all. Long range radio still works, but all other communication is out. Once we got set up, we found out they’ve all been hit. Not just the US, but Russia, most of Europe, Africa, Asia you name it. Best we can figure is some rogue faction. Fuckers hit us with ICBMs. Small payloads, the blast zones are fairly confined… But it’s biological. Some German fella’ on the HF said it’s synthetically made. Something about messin’ with human DNA, increasing aggression and turning all those effected into mindless, violent, cannibalistic goddamn zombies.”

“So what now? I still need to get to Jackie, she may still be alive-”

“Ritchie, Ritchie, Ritchie…End of the road brother. Hell, I don’t even know why we’re still fighting. She’s gone. Hell, we’re all likely to be gone. It’s almost sunrise and I bet Kanopolis is gone by now. Three days of this shit on just a few rations and what food and water they’ve been able to scavenge from the park. Jon, how’s the battery on the radio?”

“We’re almost dead Nick… She’s got enough juice for a couple of minutes probably.”

Nick looks up at the sky, turning to the west. Jon and Richard look at each other as he walks to the opposite side of the roof. He pulls out a pack of cigarettes, his last one. He flicks the empty pack over the roof, and lights up.

“Forget it, Jon. It’s been good guys.”

“Wait, what are you talking about?” Snaps Richard.

Nick just points up to the sky as he sits down with his back against the edge of the roof. Bright streaks of light are ascending into the sky from all directions. Mostly from the West, but they’re scattered all about. The guys gather up beside of Nick and watch as most of streaks break atmosphere.

Except one.

“Missiles,” Jon mumbles.

“Nukes,” Richard says as he turns to Jon, almost as if correcting him.

“Yep, like I said… End of the line, fellas… Might as well enjoy the view.” Nick’s tone is full of disgust.

The single missile arcs in the sky and descends into the horizon. Brookeville isn’t a large enough city for a direct hit, but close enough that Richard and the rest know what’s coming.

Richard opens his arms, looking into the sky. Shrieks start to fill the air from the hoard entering the streets.

“I love you, Jackie.” Richard says as the fireball erupts.

A single bright flash.

Ground Zero.

 


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