Tuesday, January 15, 2019
By Daniel Skye
Fire rained down from the sky and consumed everything in its path. The flames spread faster than anyone could have anticipated. The unprovoked attacks came without warning. Nobody was prepared for it, no one saw it coming. Nothing could have prepared us for an enemy of this caliber.
Jordan Oliver struggled to navigate his way through the sea of abandoned cars with the plumes of smoke and debris obscuring his vision. There was heavy foot traffic in every direction as people scrambled to try and put out the fires or find shelter and safety.
Pillars of smoke ascended from every part of town. Homes and buildings were reduced to piles of rubble, debris, and smoldering ash. Tunnels collapsed, bridge were destroyed, planes crashed from the sky. There was no escape. We were powerless to stop it. Not even the army was ready for a threat of this magnitude.
It wasn’t the apocalypse. It wasn’t the end of the world.
It was the dawn of a savage New Age.
The Age of the Dragon.
Not many in the area survived the onslaught of the first attacks. Jordan was one of the few lucky ones. The town was decimated, and all initial reports confirmed that the city of New York was in ruins.
Jordan had no clue how many other survivors there were outside the state. It didn’t take long for things to come unglued. TV and radio went first. Then the phones and internet. All contact was severed. Nobody was coming to the rescue. Now it truly was survival of the fittest.
Jordan endured by banding together with a small group of survivors and keeping underground, literally. The bomb shelter provided them with the safety and security they needed.
The group–consisting of Jordan, AJ, Tara, Hank, and Lynn–were in the midst of a heavy debate.
“I say we make a stand,” Hank said vehemently. “I say we fight. It’s now or never.”
“I’m with Hank,” AJ said.
Lynn balked at the thought. “It’s suicide,” she said. “If you want to commit suicide, I think I’ve still got a bottle of sleeping pills in my purse.”
“Winter is coming,” Jordan said. ‘Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll all die off.”
“I sincerely doubt something that breathes fire is going to freeze to death,” Hank said.
“You’re not very optimistic, huh?” Tara joked.
“I’m a pessimist. At least I’m never disappointed.”
“What a way to live.”
“You call this living?” Hank asked. “Hiding underground from those creatures? Sneaking above ground like rats every day to scrounge for supplies? This isn’t living. This is the eve of extermination.”
“Remind me never to invite you to a party,” Jordan quipped.
“You guys can joke all you want. But this is life or death, one way or another. Either we die down here of starvation, or we die fighting.”
“If we’re going to even entertain the thought, we need more weapons,” Tara said. Jordan looked her up and down. She was short and skinny as the pole that holds up a street sign, but she was feisty and she showed no fear.
“I know a place,” Hank said and smiled.
Hank was an ex-Marine. He carried a Desert Eagle on him at all times, but his weapon of choice was a Remington shotgun. The shells of the shotgun seemed to be one of the only things capable of penetrating the rough exterior of the dragons. But he was running low on shells. He was down to his last box. And he only had twenty more rounds for the Desert Eagle.
The group all had their own guns. Not that anyone other than Hank and Tara knew how to use them. Hank had the proper training. And Tara used to go down to the gun range with her father and practice with his pistol. But this new world forced everyone to adapt. It didn’t take long for Jordan, AJ, and Lynn to learn how to use them.
But they were all running low on ammo. And knives were certainly out of the question. You don’t bring a knife to a dragon fight.
“Where?” AJ asked.
“Outside of town,” Hank said. “It’s an armory. It’s hidden. But I know the location.”
“I don’t know about this whole ‘fight to the death’ crusade, but we do need more ammo,” Tara said. “It’s risky. But I think it’s worth the risk.”
“Should we take a vote or something?” Lynn said jokingly.
“Maybe we should,” Hank said. “All in favor…” Hank raised his hand, followed by AJ, followed by Tara.
“You’re all crazy,” Lynn said.
“Is that a no?” Hank asked.
It took a minute, but Jordan reluctantly raised his hand. “It is crazy, but it’s our only hope for survival. It’s too dark now. We’ll head out tomorrow.”
The armory was still intact, the weapons all untouched. They loaded the bed of the truck with as much ammunition and artillery it could carry. They had guns and grenades, and enough bullets to stop an army. AJ had stumbled across a flamethrower while wandering around the armory and couldn’t resist.
“For good measure,” he said as he loaded it into the bed of the truck.
Tara rolled her eyes when she saw the last weapon that Hank loaded into the truck.
“An RPG? Really?”
“For good measure,” Hank repeated.
“Just don’t blow us up with that thing,” Tara said.
“I know what I’m doing,” Hank assured her.
“How long were you in the Marines?” she asked.
“Long enough to know what I’m doing. The Marines was my life. I was always on the front lines. I saw things that nobody should ever be forced to witness. And I lost a lot of good brothers along the way.”
“Life’s a bitch,” Lynn said.
“What kind of name is AJ?” Jordan asked as they finished loading the bed of the silver pickup.
“What do you mean? It’s just a name.”
“Yeah but what does it stand for? It’s gotta stand for something.”
“Your dad…” Tara started but trailed off.
“Anthony Senior didn’t make it,” AJ said. “Neither did my mom.”
“I lost my folks too,” Hank said. “Their house was burned to the ground by the time I got there. I was too late to save them.”
“You’re not alone,” Jordan said.
“Boohoo,” Lynn mocked.
“Damn, you are cold,” Jordan said. “What about your family? Don’t you miss them?”
“You can’t miss what you never had. My parents were gone long before all of this. I never knew them.”
“I never knew my dad,” Tara said. “My mom raised me by herself. She was living in Ohio when all this went down. I lost contact with her. I have no idea if she’s still alive.”
“When all this is said and done, we’ll find you a car of your own and we’ll get you to Ohio,” Jordan promised. “If she’s out there, you’ll find her.”
“I hate to interrupt this lovely conversation, but we have to get moving,” Lynn said. “It’ll be dark soon and we won’t be able to see them coming.”
“She’s a stone cold bitch, but she’s right,” Hank said. “Let’s get moving.”
Hank turned the truck around and drove back down the three-mile, unmarked path that had led them to the armory. He reached the beginning of the path, then turned back onto the main road, heading west.
“Fucking dragons,” AJ muttered. “Who would have seen that coming?”
“Nobody,” Jordan said. “That’s why they’re winning the battle.”
“But they won’t win the war,” Hank said.
They were a few miles from the bomb shelter when Hank jammed on the brakes, the pickup skidding across the road.
“What in God’s name did you do that for!?” Lynn exclaimed.
“Look,” Hank pointed. They still had an hour of sunlight, but a giant shadow had engulfed the road. The winged serpent descended from the sky and landed hard enough to crack the asphalt and make the ground quake.
It was a massive beast with a barbed tail and a crested head; its body comprised of thick golden scales that shielded it like body armor. Its vast wings appeared to be translucent under the fading glare of the sun.
The enormous creature stood its ground, its serrated talons digging into the asphalt. They all stared deep into the eyes of the dragon.
It opened its rigid snout, revealing its jagged teeth. A prehistoric roar echoed through the area as it summoned more of its kind.
“It’s now or never,” Hank said as two more dragons loomed over the horizon.
They exited the vehicle in quick fashion and loaded up. They opened fire and the dragon leapt from the ground and took to the air. The bullets barely left a mark on its tough, nearly impenetrable exterior.
The dragons were swift, agile, intelligent. And worst of all, they were powerful and virtually impossible to defeat.
AJ abandoned his double barrel shotgun for the flamethrower. “Time to fight fire with fire.”
He strapped the tank to his back and used the gun to release a long stream of flames into the air. The dragon hissed and recoiled.
It fired back, expelling a jet of flames from its mouth, and AJ just barely avoided becoming a human rotisserie. He fired back with another steady stream of flames, and smoke billowed from its now charred scales.
“It’s working!” Jordan shouted. “Keep it up, AJ!”
“We’ve got company!” Lynn screamed in regards to the two rapidly approaching dragons.
It was all out war. Hank blasted a deep hole in one with his Remington, but it kept on coming. They were persistent, relentless. This monstrous creatures didn’t understand the meaning of the word surrender.
Tara pulled the pin and hurled one into the air. Lynn dropped her matching pistols and followed suit. Grenades exploded like fireworks in the sky. An RPG soared through the air. Balls of fire rained down upon the road. The flames spread to the old silver pickup and it blew sky-high, leaving nothing but a heap of smoking, twisted metal. Just when it seemed like they had the battle won, the vicious roars echoed in the distance. Reinforcements. The battle was far from–
“Yo, Jordan! Wake up!”
Jordan snapped out of it. “What?”
“Class is over, man,” AJ said.
“Yeah…I guess so. It felt so real.”
“Daydreamer,” Lynn said with a disparaging tone. “Too scared to face reality, Jordan?”
“Give him a break,” Tara said as she gathered her textbooks. “I daydream sometimes during class. It helps pass the time.”
“You know I can hear you,” their teacher, Mr. Hank Friedman said from across the classroom.
A prehistoric roar echoed in the distance. Jordan wondered if he was still daydreaming. Was he the only one who had heard it? Had his imagination gotten the better of him?
Tara’s textbooks slipped from hands and dropped to the floor with a heavy thud. They all exchanged bewildered glances. Even Mr. Friedman looked a little pale and shaken up.
“The fuck was that?” Lynn asked.
The sound came again and they rushed to the windows and stood in awe.
Fire rained down from the sky and chaos erupted in their quaint little town.
Jordan wasn’t daydreaming. He was having a premonition…