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Chapter 10

“Captain, report. Captain? Hello? Is anyone hearing this?” Edward speaks to the radio microphone. “Verdammt!” “The EMP detonation has knocked out their radios,” Julian explains, “don’t worry, sir. It’s only temporary. We should have communications back soon.” “We better.” “But it seems successful. Or perhaps…the silence could mean that the men are dead...” Edward turns to him slowly, grimacing. “...Or it worked,” Julian murmurs with an expression of fear, “I’m sure they’re fine, sir.” Back outside, the men begin to frantically search for any remaining EMP grenades. “The EMP should permanently neutralize the creatures,” Edward mumbles to himself. “The creatures are electrical in nature, it is what they are, their whole being.” “You know as well as I do that that also depends on the intensity of the pulse. A standard EMP grenade would have enough to neutralize the creatures, but it might be temporary.” Edward looks at him with worry. Outside, the men have rounded up all the three remaining EMPs they have left. “Is this really all we’ve got?” Samuel asks. “Unfortunately, sir. We gotta make ‘em count.” He nods in agreement. “All right.”

Olivia is sitting on a bench somewhere in what seems to be a park, wearing her plain white blouse and long, floral skirt. Her hair is tied in a ponytail fashion. The bench was long and wooden with shutters in between. Those types make her uncomfortable sometimes; it hurts. The green grass surrounds her and the sun shines its rays down. She lays her notebook, writing, but then stops to look around, watching the passersby—walking with their eyes fixed on their smartphones—and the children laughing and skipping. Teenagers talking about last night’s party and how “sick” it was; how wasted they were; who they recently had sex with and the new band or gossip that everyone’s talking about. The few playing catch on the grass, running around with their pet dogs, not a care in the world. Her hand, running black with ink on some fingers, loosens and slowly releases the pen, seemingly worried. She lowers her head again and looks at her hand. “Olivia....” a voice whispers from nowhere. Surprised, she looks up again only to find that the people have disappeared. The area turns silent with nothing but the wind swooshing about. “Olivia!” The voice gets louder as it screams, “Olivia!” She turns her head, stands up, and walks away.

Lying on the street, she wakes up to Takashi’s voice as he shakes her. “Haha. Welcome back,” he says. She stares at him with her eyes wide open and then shakes her head like shaking off last night’s hangover. “Hey, Liv. Are you ok? You’ve been out for a while now. That thing knocked you out pretty bad.” “Urgh. Yeah, I’ll be ok. I must’ve blacked out.” She stands up and puts her hands on her back to stretch; the bones make a cracking sound like a branch bending. “Argh,” she moans. It was a little painful, a normal kind of jolt. Like that sensation you get after waking up. “What happened?” she asks. “We don’t know,” he answers, “things got quiet all of a sudden. We need to go.” “It is probably EMP,” Sergey says coming out of a building. He was on the roof looking through his binoculars, an old one with the rubber linings. He saw the result of the EMP on a section of the city: darkened. “Hmmm...” he mumbled to himself. The cool air of winter played on his face as it breezes through. But he didn’t budge an inch, a calm determination. “What’s probably an EMP?” Takashi asks. “A section of the city has lost power. Your military must have used one.” “Stop saying that. We’re not associated with them in any way,” Olivia states. “But of course. The creatures are electrical in nature. An EMP pulse would disable them, at least temporarily,” Takashi gets on the same page. “Da. We better hurry. This is a good window for us,” he says. “What are we doing again?” Olivia asks. “Do not worry. I have a plan,” he says. And with that they head off, heading deeper into the city while avoiding combat as much as possible. Back at the fray, one of the creatures gives a quick jerk alerting the soldiers; all the lights and equipment turn back on. The radio buzzes and a voice is heard. “Capt-- tthe--“ One of the sergeants turns to it. “Th-- crits--“ He picks it up and depresses the button. “Hello?” he says. “The creatures are not dead! I repeat: They are not dead!” Edward’s voice is heard too late as the creatures awaken. In realization, he turns around to warn the others. But one of them awakes and kills a grunt soldier, quickly disintegrating him. Screams are thrown everywhere followed by gunfire.

“Sounds like someone’s in trouble,” Olivia says looking up, overhearing the gunshots and screaming. “Da. We should keep moving... And stay low,” Sergey adds. They continue on, walking through the streets of Moscow in the cold; they can see their own breaths as they exhale. Olivia feels the strange presence again, but only for a moment. Though, she doesn’t feel scared, rather she feels at peace even amongst the bleak weather. Her mind drifts away to another moment when she was with Takashi on a small shop near the beach, drinking milkshake on a bright, sunny day.

The shop was playing various amounts of pop songs and hip-hop or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Even so, it was days like those that she cherishes the most. She had vanilla flavor while he had strawberry. He actually usually likes vanilla too, but sometimes you just want strawberry to switch it up. It was one of those days. The shake was cold and thick and bubbly. He was happily sipping through his cup while she was looking, not staring. She never felt so happy. “Why aren’t you drinking? Something wrong?” he asked. “What? Oh, no,” she chuckled, “just taking in the scenery,” she replied. She looked down briefly as she said that last sentence…then she started sipping. “This is good,” she expressed, smiling. “I know, right,” he agreed. The setting was perfect. For what, I’m not really sure. But they were there and they were together. He finished first, sipped like there’s no tomorrow. She took it more slowly preferring to enjoy the moment; enjoying the moment with him. He was enjoying it too. He felt the same way, but didn’t really show it. They were already together in a relationship, but he was unsure of what to think. His mind was in conflict. Some part of him felt that they are still/just friends while the other part sort of feels that they are together. It was strange for him, the feeling. The notion that a beautiful girl like Olivia could fall for him. He has had bad experiences in the past and chose to dull anything relating to relationships. He wasn’t really against it; he just didn’t think about it that much. And after a while he became used to it…it became normal. After all, people are deceitful and cruel. Well, that was what he thought and to some degree he still does. As the sun began to set on the horizon with an orange-reddish hue, the blue sea glimmered its last glimmer. He turned to witness it. On the beach he could see the various amounts of people, families, some still walking around while others are packed up and ready to call it a day. Everything started to darken as the light began to fade. “It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” he said. “What?” she asked. “The sunset… on the horizon. There’s something mystical about it, or maybe magical. I don’t know. Magical might be a more appropriate word since, I believe, people associate the word ‘mystical’ with evil,” he got on. She just sat there smiling at him, amused. “But that’s not quite right is it?” he continued, “I mean, magic can be evil too. Aren’t they like synonyms?” “Not really,” she replied, “but people today see it as the same thing. That happens a lot. Words that used to have different meanings now are basically the same because people simply just don’t care.” “That’s kinda sad. I guess that’s why we misinterpret things sometimes,” he said with a weird expression. She nodded. “Ah, anyway. It’s pretty cool. It’s just… I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s just this feeling that I get in moments like these. It’s… beautiful, in a way.” “That means you’re passionate. And you enjoy the little things, which is good,” she comforted him. He looked at her and she him. “Uh, let’s go,” he said. They both wiped their mouth and stood up and walked towards the door. He walked to the stone railing overlooking the beach. She could see his conviction and his struggles; she approached him and touched his shoulder and he turned around. “What?” he asked, smiling. She smiled back and put her hands around his neck and he around her waist. They shared a kiss as the final light of the setting sun flashed behind them.

They walked back to the bus station, holding arms. But he looked troubled. Like something was gnawing at his mind, and something was. “Hey, are you ok?” she asked. He didn’t answer. His mind was somewhere else. “Takashi?” “Huh? Oh, I’m sorry. W--What?” he answered. “What’s wrong?” “I don’t know.” His voice threw out confusion and despair. She stopped him as they were walking the footpath. “Are you gonna tell me what’s wrong or not?” she asked with a firm voice. He stared into the endless sea, illusively reaching the horizon, and let out a sigh. “It’s stupid and ridiculous,” he said with a hint of anger. “Well, how do you know if you don’t tell me?” “It’s just… I’ve been thinking about it and, well, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” She chuckled. “Baby, no one knows what they’re ‘supposed’ to do in their life. You just go with the flow, see what happens.” “Huh, easy for you to say. What if what happens is bad?” “Then you get through it. Life is unfair, I know. It’s very unfair, actually. But that’s why you should stop worrying and enjoy your life while you can.” She then gave him a smile. He sighed, “I guess. Can we go? I don’t wanna talk about this here.” “Okay,” she said smiling. They continued their walk to the station and, upon reaching it, sat on the silvery-gray metallic waiting bench sheltered under the station canopy. He looked up into the clear night sky, watching the limitless stars blink in the vast cosmos. “You know what I really wanna do? I wanna fly. I know people say that all the time, but… I don’t know. Flying through the air, wind at your face… Just going wherever, not caring where. It’s majestic,” he wondered. “That’s a very beautiful thought,” she said. “Thank you,” he replied, smiling, “bus is here. Let’s go home.”

She breathes and exhales, standing still remembering that moment, her breath visible in the cold air. Takashi notices this and runs back to her. “Liv?” he asks, “hey. You okay?” “I’m fine,” she smiles. “Okay.” Snow starts to slowly fall around them. They shiver. “Sergey!” he screams, “it’s getting colder. We need to get inside.” “Da,” he agrees, obviously resisting the cold. His men now only numbers at 4: Alexander, Valentin, Viktor and Boris. “We can go inside here,” he continues. The snow quickly turns to a blizzard with high winds rushing about outside. You can hear the sound that it makes, a constant whooshing sound. They take shelter inside a small supermarket. All of the items are still on the shelves and fridge. The cashier, Anton Lievski, lies on the register, dead. Olivia walks towards him. They would do all of this just to get us, she thinks to herself, kill all these people. She clutches her left hand and feels a strange combination of sadness and anger; a tear rolled down from her eyes. She raises her right arm and touches his. Suddenly, she experiences a vision. She’s somehow seeing his past, his life. He was a good man, still young at 25 years of age, making an honest living, and tall too, about 7 feet high. He was counting the money in the register and about to close shop when the gas hit. Everyone started running and screaming outside. He started to panic, of course, but mostly he thought about his wife and daughter. As he started to seize after inhaling the gas, those were his last thoughts. His only hope was that they made it out alive, but alas, they didn’t. The gas swept to their house like a sentient being in the form of a green, thick fog, devouring everything in its path. His wife, Carmina, was a beautiful woman 24 years of age, and their daughter, Sophia, just shy of 8 years old, was also beautiful. With her straight hair, tied with a small bow on the upper-right side. She had some freckles on her right cheek, but a sweet face that would just light up an entire room. It was too early…for all of them. To be taken from this life. Olivia falls back and hits one of the stands behind, knocking it over. “Liv?” Takashi says. She lies there on the ground, staring at the ceiling, feeling lost; that strange feeling returns. Sergey approaches her. “Are you okay, my friend?” he asks her. “So many deaths…just for us,” she replies, still staring. “Hey, come on,” he says, putting out his hand. She looks at him and accepts his help. “We are not going to make it,” one of the men, Alex speaks, looking at the dead body. “Hey, hey! Look at me,” Sergey says to him, “we do not give up, all of us.” “But there is no hope!” he screams, “look around you! We are not just fighting soldiers, but monsters! What hope is there??!!” With a calm determination, he says to him, “There is always hope.” He can only look at him with an expression of despair, thinking his leader has gone insane. He walks away.

Takashi ponders what they just said, about hope. It’s strange because it’s not your usual emotion, he thinks to himself, it’s kinda special. It’s our ultimate delusion, at the same time the source of our greatest weakness, but also our greatest strength. It’s weird. We make ourselves believe that it’s there, a delusion, but it can also give people the spirit and the willpower to move on, to continue. On the flipside, when there is “no” hope, people can instead lose the will to go on, sometimes even the will to live. A paradox. “Are you okay?” he asks her. “I’m fine,” she replies. Of course he doesn’t really believe that. He looks at her as she walks away and a strange feeling appears inside of him. Fear, but also hope. And there it is again: hope. But it’s not your usual kind of hope. It’s definitely strange. He had experienced this before, more than once, back home. Once when he could not get his subjects for his studies in line. He felt this same feeling. He was afraid, but hopeful. He doesn’t even understand it, but he remembers this. He knows what he has to do. It’s what he’s always done, what everyone always does: keep going. Just keep swimming, they would say. It’s a nice saying, one that people abuse a lot. Even when everything is crashing down, even when everything is falling apart, hope will always be “there.” It will always “survive.” “Will she be alright?” Sergey asks. “She’ll be fine, Sergey. She just needs some time.” He walks towards the window to watch and observe the blizzard outside.
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