We regrouped just behind the retaining wall. Someone foolishly suggested we scale the wall but I had no desire to slice myself to ribbons in the razor wire. Shells began to land all around us, as we scurried for cover. We headed for some burned out rubble in front of the wall. This had become a dangerous excursion and the night was far from over.
The moon was full and the ground was bloody as hell. Everything was bloody here.
“Lock and load.” Sarge yelled. “We really pissed em off this time.”
As I dove into the remains of a bunker, I realized that we were trapped like rats. We were just a few kilos of explosives away from freedom. The Wasteland was just beyond the wall. But Explosives were just too hard to come by these days. We were fortunate enough to have a few homemade hand grenades, but hand grenades wouldn’t bring down a wall that was two feet thick. A layer of dust descended over us from the dirt that was kicked up by the artillery.
The age of concrete and steel was coming to an end, but there were still remnants of both scattered about. Bullets began spraying in around us. They were close, close enough for ground fire. I slid to the ground with my back against the rubble I was hiding behind. I raised my rife at a forty-five degree angle and chambered a round. The imminent battle had stolen my breath. Then I heard the footsteps on the gravel. I knew the order would come soon.
“Cut em down, Cut them down.”
I jumped up and aimed my rifle through the gap of the ruined bunker. Hordes of security forces were running through the gravel towards us. I hesitated no more. My finger depressed the trigger and I brought down a number of guards with shots to their head. There is nothing on this earth more gruesome than a man’s head exploding. My vision was filled with flying brains.
One last barrage of light artillery preceded the infantry. They had finally gotten their aim down and explosions rocked the debris field we were entrenched in. Terrible screams followed and I knew that some of my comrades were about to become history. My shooting was efficient but there were so many of them and my gun went dry. As soon as I ducked down to reload, bullets began streaming through the gap. I knew that I would not be able to put my head up again. I had to displace. Before I could chamber a round they had reached the bunker. I saw black metallic barrels jut themselves through the gap. Yellow fire erupted from their muzzles. As I cowered in the corner I did what they should have done I the first place. I pulled a pin from my last grenade and lobbed it out the gap at their feet. Blood rained down from the hole. That would be the last explosive, I would ever touch.
I ran out the back of the bunker and saw a hole in the wall. One of their artillery shells had miraculously crumbled a tiny portion of the wall. I ran so fast, it would have made a track star jealous. I left my pack. I had what we needed in my knapsack. Bullets began thudding against the ground around my feet. Just as the wall grew near a grenade landed just in front of the hole. It didn’t detonate immediately. It was going to be close. I dove through the hole and rolled down the small hill beyond as the device detonated. I was covered in dust but I was unharmed.
I had almost reached freedom. Security forces would not chase me into the Wasteland but they would not be afraid to fire bullets into it. I had to reach the forest that lay in front of me. Fortunately they would have to wait for the dust to settle to lay down any accurate fire. I made it about halfway to the tree line before the bullets started to fly. I was almost out of range but anyone can get lucky. Then fireballs burst from the forest and struck the opening. I glanced back and saw soldiers aflame as they fell through the hole. I surmised that a few members of my unit must have survived and made it through the hole before me. I changed my course slightly but still aimed for the trees. I dropped to my knees as I reached the forest. My burned out lungs struggled to take in air. Somehow I forced myself to position myself facing the wall and aim my gun towards the gap.
Nothing came through the gap and the fires smoldered into nothingness. I knew I only had a few seconds before I had move again. They would soon bring up their artillery and shell the forest. We had to get out of range before the whole edge of the forest was on fire. They wouldn’t hesitate to use incendiaries. The information I was carrying in my knapsack was worth risking retribution. The denizens of the compound knew that if they harmed the forest it would risk open war, but at this point it was inevitable anyways. Unless one of their agents somehow recovered the map inside my knapsack, they were finished anyways. The last remnants of the old world were about to come to an end. What the future held no one could foresee.
I rose to my feet and began making my way through the underbrush into the heart of the forest. I was not fearful of their agents. They did not know the ways of the forest as we did and everything in the forest was hostile to them. It would be a shot in the dark for them. But I knew I had a few hundred yards to cover before I was completely safe. I made sure not to head in a straight line. I could find a new path to the rally point after I was safe from shelling. Just as I had predicted, I heard the pops of shells exiting their canisters. Fire rained down from the sky but it was not yet close to me. The further I made it through the darkness the safer I felt. I hitched my rifle and placed my hand around my saber. Bullets were of no use out here. That was what the crumbling government failed to realize. Their troops were well trained. Hell, they were the last remnants of the great American Army. But the old Empires were almost gone. The world had changed and the men back at the complex had failed to evolve. Soon I would have to abandon my rifle altogether. I had only a half clip of rounds left before it became a worthless hunk of metal and wood.
The information in my knapsack contained a map that designated the location of the last ammo dump in the Wasteland. If we could destroy the dump before the government reached it, the old world would be completely swept away. Some of us thought that the weapons would further our cause and that we should use them to our advantage but most of us felt that it would just perpetuate the old world. We had our own methods and it was time to let the old world scatter in the wind. It was time to form new allegiances.
My bandanna felt like it was about to freeze around my face. For the first time since the battle, I realized that I was cold. I took off my bandanna and wiped the sweat off my face before placing it in my pocket. It felt nice not to be carrying any gear, but it would make for a cold night.
The forest began to wail and creak as fire ravaged its end. The wind picked up as the forest attempted to prevent the fires from spreading. It was a fell wind, an evil wind, and I knew that forces were gathering behind it. It reeked of battle, one last bloody affair to end it all. I caught a glimpse of the moon above the dense treetops and longed for a smoke. But my sticks were back in my pack. In that one area the guards had scored one minor victory. Oh well I hoped they enjoyed burning my smokes.
The forest was a scary place. It was full of things that I am not sure I even believe in. And now I had to walk through it cold and covered in blood. I could barely remember a day without bloodshed and I longed for happier times.
I heard a snap of twigs to my left in the darkness and I dropped to my knees. My hand silently stroked the hilt of my saber. I did my best impression of a nightingale and waited for a response. It was our secret code but I really freakin’ sucked at bird calls. In the back of my mind I hoped that I was not attracting a predator with a taste for birds. But then I heard a familiar sound. I flicked my lighter twice to alert them of my position. The first rule of the forest was not to attract too much attention to yourself. It camouflaged our small band of revolutionaries but it was also full of old and dirty dealings. There were forces at work in there that were greater than all of us.
“Jesus fucking Christ that was insane.”
“Tell me about it. I just barely made it out of there.”
“Thank God for artillery.”
“Hah, I never thought I’d hear you say that.”
“Shit, I didn’t think I would ever say it.”
“You got a smoke?” I asked
“No, I’m out. What happened to yours?”
“Confiscated by the fuckheads, How far to the camp?”
“Pretty far we were going to bunk down here tonight.” He responded
“Fuck its cold.”
Morning arrived and the darkness receded as the first rays of light penetrated the forest canopy. I shivered myself awake and stood carefully. I lifted my rifle and scanned the perimeter. After I was content that nothing was trying to attempt to move in on our position, I sat down and woke my buddies. The forest was a dichotomy of light and dark but the daytime was much less fearsome than the night. It was as if the woods were on an opposite sleeping schedule to our own. Everything was bastardized now.