Toxic Thunder

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It had been raining forever. At least it felt that way. I liked the rain, but I wanted to feel the sun on my face as I had done as a child. I remembered the yellow warmth, just about. The rain was always cold and wet, sometimes it would be a different colour too. When that happened people stayed inside for fear they might become contaminated. Though really, all water was toxic.

They claimed there was nothing they could do about it. It was a world wide disaster and the predicated death levels were higher then the War. That was the price we were paying for chemical warfare, the government said. Still, scientists and others were working around the clock for solutions whilst there was hope left. Everywhere warning signs stated not to drink unfiltered water, to stay inside as much as possible and report all health problems to a doctor.

Today, the rain was a lime green colour which was why I wasn’t allowed outside. Sitting in the window seat of the second floor landing, I watched a few brave people walking the street below me. They held their umbrellas up high and huddled in thick coats, as if that would protect them.

The book I had picked from our small library lay opened but unread in my lap. Since there was no going to school today, father had insisted we self-educate. My two brothers had taken over the library with their historical debates. Father was in the study and Mother had gone to lay down as as the lime rain had given her a headache, or so she had claimed. I could have gone to my day room, the family lounge or the parlour, instead I went to the best spot in the house to see the outside world.

I pressed the side of my head to the wet glass, knowing I’d be told off for getting my curled blonde hair damp. I didn’t care. I watched guards in red uniforms appear and began clearing people from the street. They must have been told that the toxic level had reached a high. A siren began to wail, confirming that. The street quickly cleared and just in time too as the lime rain picked up and started to change colour.

Black rain began falling and in the distance came a rumble of thunder. I tightened my grip on the book. The page corners curling under my fingers. I had always feared storms, but they were worse now. They said sometime toxic rain conducted lightening and exploded. Fires were common during storms and deaths.

I tried to relax my hands, the hard corners of the cover were digging into me. The thunder growled louder, sounding so close. The street before me went dark with only a few dots of light peering out. The lightening flashed, yellow red, capturing the street in that moment. I heard a popping sound and the lights around me all started to flicker.

The smell of gas and burning electricity filled the air. An emergency bell rang though the house, backed by the siren’s call. There was a rush of footsteps and voices. The clatter of things being dropped and doors moving echoed throughout the house.

‘To the shelter, quickly!’ my father bellowed.

‘I’ll get Madam,’ a maid spoke.

‘Where is Miss Victoria?’ another voice asked.

A flash of lighting hit the sky making me jump as it crackled away. I stood up, clutching my book and hurried two flights of downstairs. In the grand hallway, everyone was rushing into the kitchen, shouting at each other. I joined them hurrying into the cellars. My shoulders and skirts brushing maids and kitchen staff.

I tripped down the stone steps, losing a shoe, and my one of my brothers caught me at the bottom. He had to move me out of the way as the last people flew down and the metal door slammed shut. My brother rushed me down the corridors, through the wine and food cellars. My legs and feet hurt as we went further down. Finally, we arrived with everyone else in the last and deepest cellar. My brother hushed me into a corner and left me breathing in the damp air.

Huddling in the dim light with my family and servants, I caught my breath. My mother looking dazed was sitting on a small bed, half hidden by  a curtain. My father was sat comforting her and my brothers were giving orders to some of the servants. I tucked myself into a alcove, hugging my book and praying we would survived.

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Abandoned (Part 2)

Pripyat, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Disaster, Abandoned

It was hard to see what the first building they came across was. April tried to peer through the mass of green and brown plants. Perhaps it had been a house? It looked small enough. The crew moved on, Gun reminding them about not touching stuff and that there mission was just to document the environment and air.

‘What does the reader say?’ April asked, falling into step behind Trigg.

He shot her look, which of course she missed due to the mask and helmet, then looked down at the needle.

April tried to see over his shoulder, but she still couldn’t make it out.

‘It’s got a little higher,’ Trigg explained.

Feeling uneasy, April looked around them. More buildings were growing up out of the vegetation and trees. It was hard to imagine that the city had once looked very different. Fallen branches, leaves and rumble crunched underneath their heavy feet. They walked slowly, each member of the group, but April, seemly getting on with their individual tasks.

After a few minutes, they came to a very large building that must have once been a high school. Whilst the others gathered on what once had been steps, but was now a level carpet of green moss and grass, April walked closer to the front of the building. She could make out no letters or signs, just the empty windows and was that sound beyond dripping water?

Deciding, she was wrong, April turned back and watched the men, digging around in their rucksacks for equipment. In her head set she heard Gun giving orders.

‘We need soil samples from these spots,’ he declared as he waved a plastic map in the air, ‘and air tests alongside them. If we find any water, we take samples of that too.’

‘What about animals or…humans?’ someone asked.

April guessed from the slightly nervous tone it was Babble. She picked him out, standing slightly away from the others on the left, in a faded blue suit with big baggy arms and a slightly wonky helmet. The glass visor on his mask looked slightly misty.

‘There shouldn’t be anything but us here,’ Gun spoke, ‘and if there is note it, but leave it alone. That’s not we are here for.’

‘Are we going to spilt up?’ Joe asked.

‘Not this time. Too easy to get lost and too dangerous,’ Gun explained, ‘we’ll start here, head towards the centre then come out again and go back.’

‘Sounds like a plan, boss,’ Nook cut in.

Gun carried on giving orders and make sure everyone knew they jobs. Finally, he got around to Nook and April. She had been walking back and forth in front of the building, trying to see further inside. However, the walls and roofs had fallen in blocking off what might have been classrooms and offices.

‘April get over here!’ Gun snapped.

April jumped and hurried over as fast as the heavy boots and difficult body suit would allow. Coming to stop between Nook and Gun, April thought she heard soft sniggering in her ears.

‘Guard duty here is extremely important. You need to stay visual at all times and report anything you see. Don’t just shot it. Remember the Code,’ Gun said in a low serous voice.

‘Right Boss,’ Nook rumbled back.

‘Don’t go wandering. There’s nothing worth salvaging here. It’s still all contaminated and we can’t risk bring any of that back.’

‘No problem,’ April put in.

Gun turned and addressed the rest of the crew with that statement. He ended with, ‘let’s get to work!’

Nook moved and began patrolling the area, drawing his gun as he did so.

April reached for her’s, finding it against her hip in one of her belt’s pouches. She took it out, barely feeling the weight of it in her leather gloved hands. She checked it then felt for her knife at her other hip. Feeling it there, she dropped her arms and began pacing in front of the building, her eyes darting everywhere and her ears listening for any other noises.

The minutes ticked by and April felt like they had been there a long time, though really it had only been about ten minutes. Gun hustled the crew along and they moved to the next marked spot on the map.

Coming to stand at what might have been a supermarket once, April clutched her gun tighter. The lack of bird sounds was really getting it her. It was well known that animals would go nowhere near the worse effected areas long after the third world war ended. Even now that was proving to still be the case.

She tried to recall things she had read and heard in the briefing about Pripyat. Beside from a little history about the original nuclear disaster and then the second one triggered by the war, she couldn’t remember anything else. She shivered and decided she had lost her interested in the place and wanted to go home.

The crew moved, leaving little green flags behind them at the marked spots, so anyone who came again could see where they had been. They arrived at the centre and April felt better that their mission was almost complete. Tall buildings rose on all side of them, battling with the trees to be seen. April felt a slight tugged to explore some of the buildings, the eagerness of seeing what lay within, but she stood her ground. She watched the four men taking all the samples. Gun and Trigg looking at the reader and talking softly about it whilst further away Nook walked slowly around them all, eyes glued to the ghost buildings.

‘We’ve got everything,’ Joe’s voice came loudly through.

‘Let’s pack up and move out. This place gives me the creeps,’ Gun added.

A muttering of agreement followed.

April sighed deeply and went to put her gun away, but a disturbing noise from behind her stilled her movements.

Abandoned (part 1)

Pripyat, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Disaster, Abandoned

The first thing April noticed was the lack of sound. It felt unsettling. She looked around taking in the tall green leaf trees and bushes that almost hid city. Breathing heavily through her mask, she wondered if the communication system had broken again. She reached her gloved hands up and felt for the mic at her throat.

A crackling stopped her searching fingers and she heard Trigg’s voice muttering. She turned and looked over her shoulder, frowning. He was only a few steps behind her, looking through his rucksack. He pulled out a toxin reader and then announced he had found it.

Turning fully, April watched the rest of the crew preparing to move on again. The six large men who had either been standing or sitting, seemed to move as one and gather their rucksacks up.

April patched herself through to Trigg.

‘I can’t hear anything,’ she said.

Trigg looked up at her, ‘did you get sand in your speakers again?’

‘No. I cleaned my mask before we left. Come over here.’

Trigg pulled on his bag and went over to her. Together they stood on the ridge looking down at the city once known as Pripyat. They could just make out the collapsed roof tops of the tallest buildings and what seemed to be a Ferris wheel in the distance. A gentle wind ruffled the trees and above them the dark blue sky was growing with grey clouds.

‘There’s nothing to hear,’ Trigg said in a low voice.

‘I know there’s been a lack of animals since we got here…but I thought with all this green we’d at least hear birds,’ April responded.

Trigg looked down at the device in his palm and pointed a finger from his other hand at the screen. A small red arrow was waving between an arch of numbers. April’s eyes read it, but her brain didn’t understand it.

‘There’s still radiation. It’s low here, but further on it’ll get higher,’ Trigg explained.

‘Is everyone ready?’ Gun’s voice called through both their headsets.

A rattle of positive voices replied from the rest of the crew and with a wave of his hand, Gun started walking. The other men fell into place behind him. Their metal boots easily making work of the rough nature taken over ground.

‘Don’t take your helmet off,’ Trigg hissed.

‘Huh?’ April replied.

‘You didn’t all ready did you?’

‘Of course, I didn’t. And I won’t. How dumb do you think I am?’

‘Very,’ Trigg muttered.

April whacked him on the shoulder, ‘I’m not!’

‘Hey! You can have your lovers tiff later, come on,’ Nook cut in.

They both glanced at him, taking in his big grey body suit and black mask, then looking away.

Trigg moved first and walked passed him to catch up with the others.

‘Knew bring a girl would cause trouble,’ Nook added, ‘you gonna stay there or come?’

April tried to shake her head, but the mask and helmet made it difficult to. With a sign, she gripped a last look at the long abandoned city below and trudged over.

Nook pushed her in front of him and April began struggling her way through the jungle like scene. Keeping focus on Trigg’s rucksack with the bright neon orange stripes, she wished she could pull her knife and cut back some of the foliage. The rules which she knew off by heart, rang in head and she started muttering them under her breath.

‘Always wear your mask, gloves, suit and boots. Plan everything down to the last detail and know what you are doing. Keep someone in sight of you at all times and make sure someone can see you. Take only what you must. Leave everything else untouched. Note all discoveries. Don’t cut, damage or kill plants and animals on the surface. Don’t look directly at the sun.’

‘Do you really believe that?’ Nook scoffed in her ear.

Ignoring him, April switched off her mic. She then stepped over a fallen tree and found herself on what once had been a road. She stopped looking both ways and saw to the left the burnt remains of a small car.

‘Document that,’ Gun’s voice sounded in her ears, though it wasn’t directed at her.

She started walking over, but Nook grabbed and spun her. April slammed into Trigg’s side.

‘Keep a hold of your little lady, hey,’ Nook rumbled.

‘She’s not mine!’ Trigg snapped back and pushed April passed him.

‘What’s going on? Quit it. This isn’t a place for messin’ around in,’ Gun growled.

He came in-between them, but Nook and Trigg had already stepped away from each other. Quietly, he gave them both different tasks then went back over to Len who was jotting notes down on a crumpled pad of paper. He totally ignored April.

Leaving the men to it, April walked down the road. The stillness of the place still unnerving her.

 

To be Continued…

 

*These characters were originally from the story Obsolate and Plane, published last month; https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/obsolete/ I really like them and am seriously thinking about writing a dystopia novel with them.

**This story was inspired by The Daily Post’s daily prompt: Abandoned