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The Era of Dust
A thick haze smothered the land .Its irrepressible darkness casting a shadow across the war-torn landscape. Craters lay intertwined within the once fertile countryside that surrounded the ruins of Boston, a scene studded with giant holes, smashed to smithereens. This was the bleak actuality of the post-apocalyptic autumn of 1982. The world had plummeted into the hellish nightmare of a permanent nuclear winter.
An insignificant figure walked across the dust-covered path that spread endlessly to the horizon. He walked as if deprived of life itself, staring down at the decaying road, his boots stepping in and around the elevated slabs of tar that had now twisted the highway. Behind the figure arose several men and women, their eyes devoid of hope, their faces portraying the poisonous effects of the radiation that had seeped into their bodies. The group was the last of mankind, long term survivors of the nuclear firestorm, the war their protectors and leaders had led them into, had made them believe in. The band of survivors now scoured across the landscape searching for whatever little remnants of food they could find.
The leader of the group was a frail individual. Unlike so many, Donald Winston retained some humanity, a humanity which fed some hope to his companions as they continued marching through the forgotten precinct now known as the Wastes of Boston.
Silence gripped the burnt out, scarred ruins of the inner city. Huge shards of broken steel protruded out of the scorched earth, monstrosities of a now dead civilisation leering and looming over the group.
Tears bubbled within Donald’s eyes as he clutched onto a tiny child, wrapped in the rags that once were garments. He covered the child’s innocent eyes from the visceral reality that seemed to scream ferociously at them. The tiny figure was Donald’s son, the last ounce of innocence left in his existence and the only motive for him to continue the burden of life. The feeble child’s name was Allen Winston, a common pre –apocalypse American name, one that was popular before the annihilation
Donald led the straggling group into the dismal depths of downtown Boston, shards of glass crackling beneath their boots as they moved through the abandoned roadway. Their pursuit, to find food in a world stripped bare of resources. Food was becoming more of a rare commodity, as was the prevention of the unbearable pain of starvation. Tears rolled down the stains that dirtied Donald’s face, his cheeks turned a searing red as he gazed with distress upon the deteriorating exoskeleton of a civilisation that surrounded him.
The group’s navigator Amelia Vinson moaned, struggling to walk through the muddy surface of a deteriorating intersection. Her bones protruded from her waist, stains of grease and dust covered her frail body as she continued limping through the mud. She gazed upon the clouds in a miserable state; drops of blood falling down the sides of her face as she collapsed onto the ground. Mud squirted around her expiring body as the last breath of air escaped from her gaping mouth.
The rest of the group just gazed at her corpse, few tears shed as they grabbed her body, stripping anything useful she may have had. They resembled a pack of ravenous dogs, ripping off her clothing , shredding her bloody corpse with no regard to her recent humanity. The chaotic scene suddenly came to a halt as a deafening roar pierced through the ears of the blood thirsty men.
“Get off her you bastards!” Donald screamed. He stood there with an old rusted rifle gripped tightly, his chest puffing furiously as gun smoke weaved around him and his child.
The nuclear war had ruined the lives of so many, billions of souls destroyed by the flames of the nuclear holocaust. The history, creativity and glory of the human civilisation had been spat on by the demon of warfare. The survivor’s left to rot with the decaying ruins of yesterday. Man’s childish behaviour had left his jungle gym to burn under the wrath of his fire.
Donald asked his fellow men to stand guard as he and his son entered what was a vibrant, light and clean supermarket. The slim hope of finding anything useful was immediately extinguished as he gazed upon the endless rows of empty shelves. Dust floated peacefully around the stores’ banisters as an atmosphere and emptiness filled Donald’s heart. It was only now that the truth of Donald and his parties’ predicament dawned on him. He knew that he and his son could no longer survive in a world shorn of life; a world that bore the scars of man’s extraordinary hate for each other, a world in which his fellow human beings rejected companionship and resorted to cannibalism.
It became evident that man’s last thread of hope was quickly unravelling, and that the chapter of a stupid, hairless ape was finally coming to its inevitable close.
Donald’s rhythm of deep breathing grew increasingly louder across the ruins of a highway overpass, the pita patter of steps echoed as he sprinted up a mangled concrete road. The brief sparkle of a luminous object had attracted his curiosity, finding anything that could assist his son’s wellbeing was his first priority.
He quickened his pace before any of his peers could react to his ecstatic behaviour. Finally reaching his target, he grabbed the handle of an old pickup truck, drops of sweat spraying across the rusted surface of the broken vehicle as he desperately tried to prise it open. He smashed his boots in frustration against the side of the truck in frustration desperate to retrieve the object of his pursuit. In desperation he punched the windscreen continually; blood pouring from his hands as he ripped the shards of glass from the panel and finally extracted his target.
His bloody hands clasped around what appeared to be a tin can.
“There we go,” he shouted excitedly. A faint smile appeared on his face as he opened the can, its contents revealing a pool of peaches. The thick sweet odour, the warm liquid sweetness. It was heaven to his young baby. Allen gurgled happily, a sound that was almost alien in this post-apocalyptic reality of their lives. The aching hunger pains he had suffered from briefly diminished, a feeling he warmly welcomed. The brief period of happiness was suddenly interrupted by howls of hungry rage. The men surrounded Donald and his son, a ring of desperados closing in on the pair. Donald tried, but he could not reason with them “Don’t you see my son needs this, I can’t bear to watch him suffer! A child doesn’t deserve to suffer like this, back off!” It was of no use, their sanity had long been obliterated under the burden of nuclear trauma.
Donald frantically shielded his son from the fury of the savages, his greatest joy threatened by the insanity of mindless savages.
Donald slowly stood up holding the end of his rifle; his fingers trembled as he shot several rounds into the pack. Blood sprayed in the air as they were set upon. Donald whipped the end of his rifle against the first attacker, his nose cracked as blood and mucus sprayed across the road.
A click, shut and ring echoed through the cityscape as bullets pierced through the dead of night. Mad men dropped over the edge of the overpass as Donald pumped rounds into their blood soaked chests. Yet despite his efforts they broke through the barrage of bullets. He was overwhelmed. As Donald watched in hysteria, they ripped the child apart, his frail body being torn from all sides. The Childs last pain ripped through the group, he was pinned, and the savages bloody mouths spraying blood all over his face.
The drums of chaos thundered as he watched his son being torn to shreds. His tear strewn face gazed upon his son’s corpse, now lying in a pool of innocent blood.
Donald began to shake frantically as he slowly stood up, his eyes no longer in tears, but filled with the vengeance he sought to commit. His lips trembled as he screamed out in pain. Donald grabbed his knife; a whirlwind of air flew past the blade as it landed between the eyes of one of the child killers. Layers of flesh peeled off his cheek as the edge of the cinder block slowly cracked his skull. A blood bath was happening. Donald, seeing red, continued his rampage. Fury mounted before finally ending as the last corpse fell.
Donald sat on an old park bench, the rags across his blood - soaked body staining its splintered wooden surface. Tears rolled off his cheeks as he burst into tears as he saw what he had done. There was a horrific pile of corpses lying close to his boots. Donald’s eyes stared blindly into open space, his soul burning wildly as his body slowly started to shut down. The radiation poisoning was close to eating him away. Donald’s humanity had nearly died with the firestorm, his last remaining tether to sanity relinquished along with his son’s life. He gently placed his knife within his son’s dead, cold hands.
Donald had spent his entire life protecting his son. He had shielded him from the atrocities of the war, preserved his innocence from the chaotic reality of the deteriorating world, striving to quench the hunger pains that tortured him so often.
He could not bear the prospect of a slow and painful death without the company of his son. His fingers shook vigorously as he forced Allen’s lifeless fingers to the handle of the blade. It was Donald’s time; he yearned for the end, to be re united with his son in a better place. Donald’s lips opened as he whispered “I’m coming, son”.
The feeling of his lips clasping together was briefly shocked by the sharp steel of the blade sliding across his neck. All was quiet, except the tranquil gush of his blood. His pupils rolled back as he fell, His body now shaking uncontrollably. With his last ounce of strength he clasped onto his son’s corpse.
They were united.