Vehicles stood abandoned, along the roadway Fred was following. Some were off the road, others seemed to have been driven until they could drive no more, and then had disgorged their contents where they stood. Fred had thought he would just walk until he reached Camp 5B, his desperation for Sarah and the kids was a force he couldn’t resist.
Finally, after falling down multiple times because he could no longer see where he was going, he crawled into the backseat of an abandoned car and passed out. He tossed and turned fitfully, dreaming. He dreamt that he’d gotten to Camp 5B and it was undamaged. He crested a hill and there it was, stretched out below him in a valley that was once a vineyard. The grapes were gone but the rows remained and a city of tents was arranged in a grid pattern across them. He could smell campfires and the dry scent of arid land. As he began to walk down toward the camp, he could hear the low murmur of voices, laughter and children playing, the occasional dog barking.
Then from his left, another sound.
A low hum at first, the noise got louder and resolved into multiple buzzing sounds, coming from the east. A flight of drones was sweeping down the valley toward the tent city. Fred’s dream eyes had binocular vision and he could see that the drones were bristling with guns and heavy with bombs. There was a small voice in his head that told him that armament was too heavy for craft that size but it was shouted over by the much louder voice of terror and adrenaline. He tried to run down the slope toward the tents, tried to yell but could only squeak out a warning.
He couldn’t move, couldn’t warn them. He watched in mute horror as the drones fanned out and strafed the camp. There was some resistance; someone with a shotgun took out one and a few others tried before being taken down by the drone fire. The drones flew in a pattern, driving people toward the center and back, toward the hills. That’s when the missiles fired off and the camp erupted in flames. Fred could feel the heat, smell his own nostril hair burning. Finally he could move but only slowly, as if walking through molasses. His dream enhanced vision finally saw what he’d been desperately searching for: Sarah and the kids. He tried again to yell but could only manage a dry croak. Sarah was pulling them by the hand, trying to run away from the drones, toward the hills. They ran out of sight behind a large tent just before a missile blew up the tent, leaving a crater and a wall of smoke. He couldn’t see Sarah and the kids. They had to be farther back, toward the hills and away from camp. He could see others too, melting into the woods while the drones hunted down and killed everyone else.
Finally silence. The drones had sped back down the valley. He could hear survivors moaning and crying out. His feet were glued to the ground. He kept looking for his family but they were nowhere to be found. Fred dropped to his knees, face in hands, sobbing. He’d come so far, and now they were out of reach again.
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