HIDEAWAY AT LIBERTY BEACH
A STORY BY DAVID BALLARD
The Beach didn't change too much. The waves still crashed against the shore... Just as they had always done.
Jack stared out of the mouth of the cave toward the sea and lit a cigarette. He inhaled, drawing the smoke down, deep into his lungs, holding it, tasting it, feeling it, then letting go slowly. There was nothing like it, he thought, lost in the sheer indulgence of it all. He was smoking one of his own, a home grown and rolled cigarette, A real cigarette, not one of these new fangled, oh-so-healthy, tree hugging, hippy pieces of crap. Truth be told he was actually breaking the law, but Jack didn't care. The Doctors had advised him to stop smoking years ago, and they were talking about the legal stuff, He'd had one heart attack already, another would surely kill him. Some times at night when there were hardly any other sounds, Jack was sure he could hear the damn pacemaker ticking away inside his chest. Smoking was bad for him but Jack didn't care about that either.
An urgent announcement on the CB rig caught his attention. A lot of the frequencies these days were government owned and controlled, pirate transmitting was strictly a no no. Just owning a rig like his could lose him the right to bargain collectively for three to six months but Jack didn't care... Not anymore. Besides, he was only listening, that was still legal.. for now at least. He turned up the volume just a little.
"Repeat, stay in your homes! Stay in your homes. Do not, repeat, do not venture outside until the situation has been resolved. Once again we have reports of illegal gatherings of Apes running wild throughout the City. Officials continue to deny rumors of similar disturbances throughout the Country. The situation is expected to be under control by morning, until then assist your Government by staying in your homes. All registered Ape owners are until further notice required to confine or forcibly restrain their animals regardless of sex or species."
NET BROADCAST MPEG CLIP
Jack pulled a face. It was bull he knew, the Apes were out of control, had been out of control for nearly a month now. Despite official denials and a public willingness to ignore what was happening, the tide was turning. The Government might tell you that it was situation normal in cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago but any amateur radio Ham with a decent rig could tell you otherwise.
Jack didn't for a moment think the Monkeys could actually win, but things were bound to get nasty until the authorities got their act together. Unless they stopped pussy footing around and issued a shoot to kill policy there would continue to be human casualties. The cities were just too damn dangerous right now, At least that's what Jack and many people like him believed. He grinned to himself, it was like a jungle out there. A few decades ago he might have been called a survivalist, his wife had accused him of not so much preparing for an possible holocaust but actually hoping for one. She had wanted fancy vacations, Jack had wanted to fortify and supply his cave. Jack got his way and his wife went hers... Along with his baby daughter.
Jack's mood shifted from resentment to sadness as he thought of Megan. He knew he had never given her the attention She deserved, what parent ever did? But he loved her and She was out there in the City with only that shrew for protection. He would call on them tomorrow, He'd risk a journey to the city and if the silly shrew wouldn't come along... He'd throw her to the monkeys and bring his daughter to the cave alone.
He looked around the natural cavern. Okay, maybe it wasn't worthy of Batman but it was his. It was clean, well stocked and it even had a nice view of the sea. It was almost impossible to reach unless you new exactly how, it was easy to defend and it was far enough away from civilization for him to be unconcerned about many of the problems that currently plagued it.
The worst part of it all was that Jack was alone. God he wished he had a Dog! A good Dog was worth more than a thousand stupid monkeys. He'd always had a dog, right up until the plague hit. Like millions of others, he'd been forced to watch helplessly as his beloved pet slipped into a coma and died. He'd heard stories about how some parts of the world had remained uninfected and that Dogs and Cats still thrived there but Jack didn't believe it, he hadn't seen a live Dog in over twenty years. He shook his head sadly, he'd always had a dog, You'd never catch him with a monkey.
He flicked the stub of his smoke onto the ground and ground it into the dirt with his boot heel. Enough of the pathetic nostalgia trip, he thought. Forget the past and look to the future.
His mood lighter, he walked over to his bunk and began unlacing his boots. He took off his glasses and laid them carefully on the small table by the side of his bed. He raised his hand to his mouth, spat out his false teeth and dropped then into a waiting glass of water. Jack lay back and rested his head on the pillow. Tomorrow he would drive to the city and bring Megan to the Cave. She would be fine here, at least until this futile display of Simian rebellion was snuffed out. He had a few of her things here to make her feel at home. Some clothes, CD's, that stupid doll that She had adored as a toddler, the one that said, "Ma Ma" when you pushed its tummy.
Jack closed his eyes and in so doing saved his sight.
The Cave was lit by an intense white luminescence that burned even through his eyelids. Jacks hands flew to his face and he rolled off the bed hitting the dirt floor with a grunt. The light faded, Jack opened his eyes and red and green spots danced crazily everywhere he looked.
He knew what it was immediately.
"Oh no" He gasped. "No, no, no, no, no."
The shock wave hit, the lights dimmed, Things began to shake, fall and tip over. The ground heaved violently, splitting and cracking. Parts of the ceiling splintered and fell.
"No, no, no, no!" Jack tried to stand but was shaken to his knees. "Megaaaaan!" He screamed.
Suddenly every thing was still.
Jack remained on his knees breathing hard, shaking his head in dumb struck bewilderment. He blinked, clearing his vision. Think man think! he told himself. There had been a detonation... Then the shock wave...?
FIRESTORM! MPEG CLIP
There was, he knew, a Tidal wave of radioactive destruction heading his way at hundreds of miles an hour. He should be safe if he stayed in the cave. He had planned and prepared for this moment but suddenly he was very uncertain. Before he had time to give it much thought he heard a tremendous roar approaching fast.
Galvanized into action he ran to the rear of the cave toward the oxygen supply. He feverishly snatched an asbestos blanket off the wall and cowered in the farthest, sheltered corner of the cave whimpering. He jammed the oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and curled up into a fetal position.
A warm pleasant draft wafted through the cave quickly followed by an audible "whump" as all the air was sucked out and the firestorm washed over the cliffs. It pushed before it the debris of a shattered city. Burning cars turned over and over within it's fury. smouldering bricks and rubble rained down. Twisted shrapnel whistled through the air with the speed of bullets fired from a gun. Miles away, The top half of a large statue smashed into the beach with enough force to send shock waves of its own throughout Jacks' shelter.
The wall of fire instantly vaporized the tough vegetation that had clung to the cliffs for millions of years before doing the same to the startled, terrified birds that tried to out-fly it. Sand turned to glass, the sea began to hiss and boil, then, with startling suddenness it had moved on.
In the cave Jack shifted under the asbestos blanket and peeked out, relieved to find that everything seemed more or less intact. Some pieces of paper were burning harmlessly, A lot of glass and china was broken. His locker had tipped over but otherwise the cave had protected he and his belongings from serious harm.
The silence following the storm was deafening. He checked the cave fearfully but there was no sign yet of any of the fine, grey, radioactive ash that would kill him just as surely as the blast might have done. Jack rushed over to the CB rig and switched it on, frantically turning the dial but receiving nothing but wild static.
He knew he was shielded from the EMP effects of the blast but it would probably be days before he'd be able to receive any transmissions... Assuming of course there'd be any.
Jack cradled his head in his hands and tried to think. Someone had nuked the City. Oh God, Someone had nuked the damn City!
He stood and staggered to the mouth of the cave and looked up at what was, perversely the most beautiful sky he had ever seen. Were other Nukes detonating right now all over the country... He wondered... The World!
Was the rumored Alpha Omega deterrent being primed? or had it been obliterated in the first strike? Were they still hitting us? Were we hitting them back? Were other countries launching preemptive strikes before someone else took the opportunity to hit them?
Far, far away, too far to cause his eyes any harm, there was another Nuclear flash. Jack sank to his knees and moaned. Covering his eyes he began to sob.
His daughters box of belongings,- His dead daughters box of belongings- slid off of a shelf behind him and scattered its contents as it hit the cavern floor. The doll spilled out and rolled over and over, only stopping when it hit a small rock.
Outside, the world was being undone. The United States had suffered only eight hits so far but the night was still young. Retaliatory strikes were already underway and things would only escalate.
But here, the beach hadn't changed too much, The sand was smoking, The sea was hot. The scorched remains of Seagulls littered the coastline and not too far away, what remained of Lady Liberty proudly held her torch aloft.
LIBERTY BEACH MPEG CLIP
The waves still crashed against the shore... Just as they had always done.
Hideaway at Liberty Beach:
Story written and provided to you by David Ballard from England.
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