The sentry chopper turned away as we drew nearer, leaving us with only the sound of the poisonous wind as it whistled through the open windows and the squeak of old U-joints underneath the bus. The fog was thicker here, and I tightened the straps on my gas mask, praying silently it would last long enough for me to help make the stand.
When the government put out the urgent plea for civilians to take up arms in order to defend our country against the invader, I’d snorted at the concept. Surely the military could defeat one offender? But as the death toll rose and modern weapons remained ineffective, the words gained weight in my heart. What did I have that meant more than any other middle-aged male alive? My wife was cold in the ground for two summers. We never had any children. I had no real property, aside from a rust-bucket Chevy that’d seen four hundred thousand miles and two owners before me. I was a nobody, that worked at a nothing job, and this could write me into history as having done something for the benefit of his fellow man.
I had no need to pack anything; the announcement promised to take care of my immediate needs. When I arrived at the recruiting station the line was hundreds of men long. Still, I waited, sometimes standing, more often scooting along on my rear because my hips ached. It was hard for me to sleep at night as my bones constantly munched on one another with every tiny move I made.
When the names were added up, there were better than twelve-thousand of us. We moved the whole assembly into the city’s football stadium because the fog was creeping in. A silent, deadly, curling fog that had the peculiar odor of used tea bags and old cheese. Strange, but not unpleasant enough to alarm anybody. But if a man stood out in it and breathed the air, the result was fatal. First, he’d convulse, as if locked in a seizure. His skin would start to melt, opening blossoms of red along his body. He wouldn’t have the chance to scream for he’d drop dead to the ground moments after that.
So many volunteers showed up the government ran out of transports, which is why we were in a yellow school bus. It seemed ludicrous, given the solemn temperament of every man and woman that jolted bonelessly with every pit in the road. Tears were shed, some for people lost already to the fog, others in fear for their own lives.
The fog was so thick, the driver slowed the bus. Through the whistle of air in my ears, I heard it: The thick, viscous, muck-filled sound of the invader. The bus pulled to a halt, and I tightened my grip on the weapon I held: my daddy’s old rifle.
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