Flash Fiction Challenge: The Last Stand

IMG_9266 immel road tu 12242013
Forest in heavy fog
by K.S. Brooks

The scene would have been eerie enough if it had only been a heavy fog. It wasn’t fog, of course. It was nerve gas – the kind of stuff we swore we didn’t have anymore.

Jenkins and I hunkered down, sweating away in our safesuits, weapons at the ready. The dead quiet was unnerving.

“You think that got ’em, Paul? That had to get ’em. Nothing could live through that.”

I closed my eyes as I heard the distant snap of a twig among the trees. I tightened my grip on the flamethrower. They were still coming…

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Last Stand”

  1. Nelson Q. Lewis writes:

    You think this is some sort of a game. You sit at your computers and make up cute little stories about carnage. This is not a literary diversion to amuse yourself with before you go off to your tennis match. The scenario above is real. It happened to me and it will happen to you. It’s just a matter of time.

    Will you survive the walking cockroaches that become stronger with each step? The nerve gas that permeated their shells only made them stronger. Their eyes glowed red as they emerged from the stinking mist. We had to use our flamethrowers and burn them one by one. It was a tedious, time consuming mass murder.

    Did they stop coming? No, my naïve friends. Their numbers increased and it drove us mad with fear. The mission would fail and retreat was our only option. My friends were brave, but I was a coward.

    Yes, I ran. I jumped into the Humvee and abandoned my brothers in arms. Before I slammed the door shut and floored the gas pedal I heard the screams, heard the crunch of bones as the mutants ate my friends. The sound wakes me at night, tortures me with the memory of the dark rhythm of snaps and pops.

    Don’t judge me. You know nothing of fear.

  2. My eyes popped open of their own accord. I saw silver suits approaching, walking awkwardly, with sliding joints like baggage carousels. Bipedal, the things had two arms but what looked like claws instead of hands. The heads were large, wider than they were long. The two things stopped amid the swirling toxic fog and looked around. Then one pointed at us.

    I wanted to run but my legs wouldn’t move. My breath hardened in my throat, a hard ball of air that I could neither breathe nor expel. I felt more than heard the gagging sounds that filled my helmet.

    One of the things pressed a button and its face shield slid open with a whoosh. Inside was dark, but I could see gray shapes, twisted and congealed like brain matter.

    “Mo … more,” came a strangled, guttural voice.

    “What?” I barely whispered.

    “It said no more,” Jenkins said. “They’re surrendering.”

    “More,” said the thing. “Give us … more.”

    “More gas?” I asked stupidly.

    “We have polluted our planet with a corrosive poison and are running out of gas to breathe. You can make this gas. You can save us.”

    “You breathe … hexadexachlorizine?”

    “Yes,” the thing said. “Please, give us more.”

    We did. We sprayed them. The other one slid open its visor, and we could see their thoraxes fill with the noxious gas. A guttural groan of contentment escaped from each of them.

    “What poison is destroying your planet?” I asked.

    “Horrible stuff,” the one said. “Oxygen.”

  3. The sun glinted through the unnatural mist like a candle burning on the other side of an unwashed window pane.

    “All right, Brooksie,” Perlin said. “Get out of the tent.”

    “No way,” Brooksie said. “It’s cold out there.”

    “You made your bed,” Perlin said. “Don’t start to crying to me.”

    “There’s probably wolves out there,” Brooksie said. “Maybe even a couple of bears. I get myself chewed to death by bears and wolves and how will you feel trying to explain to my parents?”

    “I don’t care about your parents,” Perlin said. “They probably feel bad enough about giving birth to you. You’ve got to get out of this tent.”

    “Can’t I wait until the sun comes up?” Brooksie pleaded. “There’s wolves and there’s bears and it’s way too cold…”

    “I told you to stop whining,” Perlin said. “Same way I told you that three plates of homemade beans were way too much for someone to eat on a camping trip. Now you get out of this tent before I throw you out.”

    “All right,” Brooksie said. “I’m going. You don’t have to get violent on me. Just let me straighten up and…oh god. I’m sorry. I can’t help.”

    “Oh man,” Perlin said. “That’s an unholy reek. Somebody ought to call for an exorcist. I think something has crawled up there and died.”

    “You want me to light a match?” Brooksie asked.

    “Better not,” Perlin said. “The label on my pajamas says I ought to stay away from open flames.”

  4. Three days of snow and we had enough for a snowball fight, first of the season. We were five next-door neighbor friends, ages three to eight.

    In the morning we made forts and ammunition. The main battle was always after naps with skirmishes whenever. What started boys against girls, always deteriorated into a free-for-all when ammunition ran low.

    ‘Oh-oh, here comes Jimmy. You girls hide,” Joel warned.

    Jimmy was the base bully.

    “Hey! Breed! I got something for you,” Jimmy hollered pushing a sharp rock into his snowball.

    “You can’t put rocks in snowballs,” I yelled back.

    “Watch me you ‘bleeping’ squaw,” Jimmy said taking aim at my head.

    Blood ran down my face. This time something inside me snapped. I evil-eyed Jimmy with the best Marine death stare I could muster.

    He laughed. “What! You want some of this,” he said exposing himself.

    MPs could have me forever. I was determined this would be the last time he picked on me, or one of my friends. I didn’t consider all five of us would tackle this seventeen-year old in force.

    However, it was three-year old Gerry who won the day. She had her target in sight and clamped down… hard. Jimmy screamed, fruitlessly trying to pull her face away from his groin. When he fell on his knees she let go. Blood stained her smile.

    Gerry was the ‘kid decorated’ Silver Star base hero. Joel’s dad, the base commander, smiled and quietly bought himself a replacement medal.

  5. ……or so I thought. That damn safe-suit and headgear made it almost impossible to hear. My imagination coupled with the literal fog of war had so enhanced my senses that fear and caution struggled to take command of my nerves but as a highly trained infantryman, caution prevailed.

    Fog and rain were nothing new to us. We used it to our advantage but this time was different. The gas was overwhelming and the suit was protective but ill-fitting and restrictive.
    “I can hardly hear you Jenks. This damn gas mask ain’t conducive to close-in combat. I mean, probably nothing is alive out there but, you know, who knows? Can you hear me?”
    “What”? said Jenkins.
    “That’s what I thought. Shhh!, thought I heard something.”

    Aware that the gas mask impaired my hearing, my every move was caution-filled Raising from our covered position, I took aim in the direction of the noise I may have heard. I was startled by a silhouette moving through the trees in our direction. I screamed out a muffled “halt!” through my mask to the intruder, who was in full protective clothing. A friendly. I motioned him forward and said,
    “Jesus” I damn near lit you up.” Just bout roasted you soldier.Know what I’m sayi’n?”

    “Sorry Sarge, got lost in that mess out there, you know, the gas. It’s bad-ass Sarge. They all dead out there.”

    “I told ya Paul, nobody could live through that, nobody.”
    “Looks like you’re right on Jenks, right on.”

  6. Their groans grew louder. I’d never heard anything like it before. I was afraid it was going to be the last thing I’d ever hear, too.

    Just then, Sarge’s voice came booming into our headsets. “Stand down!” he ordered. I glanced over at Jenkins. He was looking at me, with that same disbelief in his eyes. “Maintain your positions, but do not fire!” was the next thing we heard.

    A holographic, typed message scrolled slowly across the inside of my visor. “Hold your fire. Operation White Death now under way. Will advise.”

    Jenkins and I again turned to each other. “No frikkin’ way!” he blurted.

    “What the hell is Operation White Death?”

    “Dude, you don’t wanna know. We’re all gonna die.”

    There was panic in his eyes. A flash of light reflected in his visor. Instinctively, we raised our weapons. “What was that?”

    The groaning grew louder. Shrieks pierced through the poisoned air. Wails echoed off the trees. The fog was starting to encroach on our position. Soon, we’d be sucked into it. “I don’t like this, Jenks. We’re not going to be able to see anything.”

    Then I felt the reverberations. A half-dozen choppers hovered above the mist, dissipating it to reveal a meadow littered with hundreds of dismembered corpses.

    “Holy Moses!” Jenks said. “I…I can’t believe it.”

    And smack-dab in the middle of that field of dead undead was a box of Milk Bones, with a little white dog tugging at the lid.

    That, kids, is the legend of Mr. Pish – Zombie Fighter.

  7. In the distance, they were faceless unknowns. That changed as they shambled toward us. The gas, it changed them, caricatures of their former selves, their former lives. Wives, husbands, children, those of us unlucky enough to have been left behind.

    “Hold steady, Jenkins,” I said. The barrel of his rifle shook at the site of the horde. I didn’t expect him to hit any of them, wouldn’t do much against them anyway. The flamethrower that was the weapon that might get us through this advance. But there were only a few of us with one.

    Further down the line a rifle flared with the explosion of early fire. That called the horde toward them. They hunted by sound and smell. A rifle blast was a turkey call telling them where to find the fresh meat.

    The way they shambled, you wouldn’t expect them to be fast. Never trust what your eyes lie to you. Several more cracks from a rifle echoed in the night air as the horde crushed toward the source in a wave.

    Jenkins screamed and fired in earnest as others in the line fired into the wall. It helped to spread them out a little but there were so many. I released a steady stream of fire as they came toward us, towards Jenkins and his rifle blasts.

    The world filled with black smoke of burning flesh. But there was more than that, the screams of the living as they over ran the line.

  8. The sharp crack of a twig snapping underfoot came again, followed by other sounds. They echoed in the gas-heavy atmosphere, seemingly without source. Suddenly it hit me there were humans out there. They were confident and they took their time, fraying our nerves.

    A deep rumble shut out other noises. A darker blob appeared at the edges of our sight lines, gathering substance as it neared. Trigger fingers itching, we watched it take form.

    The tank had no lights on. Its main gun and the machine gun appeared to be pointed at us. I moved stealthily, bringing the flame thrower to bear, and was surprised when the beam from a spotlight stabbed out, focused right on the wall we were crouched behind. It was so powerful it had a physical vitality.

    The booming voice startled us. “We have a message for you to convey to your superiors. Do not shoot. We will step out into the light.”

    Two men stepped out of the shadows, and though I saw only silhouettes, I was first surprised that they seemed to be sporting no weapons, then stunned that they were wearing no protective gear, only fatigues.

    I thought over things for a minute, but they seemed to know where we were, anyway.

    “What message?” I asked.

    “Your nerve gas does not harm us, as you can see. We can make millions selling the antidote to other nations. Or you can give us billions of incentives not to.”

  9. I heard a branch snap behind me. Swinging around, I squeezed the trigger of my flamethrower and a two inch stream of flaming, jellied death filled the woods.

    I signaled to Jenkins, twenty-five feet off my right flank. Again, we were moving.
    We trotted through flaming grass and twigs. Fog from the nerve gas dropped that morning mixed with the smoke from the flames, turning day into night.

    If we make it to the water before dark, we have a chance, I thought. Sweat poured over my face behind the helmet. The safesuits were heavy, adding seventy pounds to our already tired bodies.

    The terrain was rugged, but familiar. It took two hours to traverse a rise, moving at a steady pace. There was no use conserving energy for a future now uncertain. I wondered what Jenkins was thinking. If optimism prevailed as it did inside me.

    We looked at the smoldering valley we had just escaped. A trickle of sweat ran down the center of my back and I winced when it stung a patch of skin rubbed raw by the gas tanks. Without words or hand signals, we turned and resumed East, knowing both the enemy, and the smog of nerve agent carried by the wind, would follow.

    At dusk we found our boat. While I prepared the sails, Jenkins waded along the shore, washing her safesuit of agent. Once clean, she removed her helmet and shook her hair loose.

    She smiled. “We made it.”

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