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Twenty Seventeen

Updated on January 3, 2017

“The year is 2030 and life is better than it's been in a long time. The village is gathered around the community campfire. Friends are laughing, the kids are playing, and the stars are shining. Every now and then a wolf howls in the distance and the wind blows through my ears. It always reminds me of nights from my younger days. Days before that man.

It was an unusually warm winter night and the breeze was just enough to give you a chill. Stars filled the sky like a million tiny diamonds in a field full of wonderfully deep purples, blacks, and blues that faded into the brilliant glow of the full moon. There was a feeling that came over me when I saw the moonlight from behind the clouds. It made the most beautiful, yet mysterious silhouettes. That feeling was complete and utter peace that ran deep down into my chest and told me that everything was okay. I would stare at the moon for hours and not have the desire to move a muscle.

The full moon had a way of lighting everything around me in a light that I just couldn't find anywhere else. In the middle of the night, I could see everything from the individual blades of grass to the trillions of stars in the galaxy. So much detail. The scenery was completely different in a dark and creepy, but curiously mysterious way. The streets faded from black on the edges to white in the middle. The dying corn stalks were a glowing, but faded yellow with nothing but black in between each and every one. I remember one field in particular that to this day still stands out in my mind.

This field was large and vast with absolutely nothing in it except for one thing. The moon was behind me, so I could see everything. Without the glare of the moon washing out my view, I saw every star in the sky that night. They were rising up from the horizon in every direction with absolutely nothing to block them, except for a tree. I don't know what was so special about that tree. Maybe it was the way each individual branch swirled through a cosmic field of stars. Or maybe it was the moonlight reflecting off of its massive trunk, complementing the deep, yet vibrant blue sky spattered with bright white stars. Something about it just makes me feel......home.

Much like a tree on a dark Autumn night where there is no moon, there are no stars, yet the night is just as beautiful. The tree is dying from the inevitable onset of winter. But that’s okay because these trees have adapted to survive the winter, much like we’ve adapted.

Now imagine a dim, yet warming orange light from a street lamp creeping through the half-barren branches. That picture was the epitome of Halloween. Small town nights were the best back then before humanity took a turn for the worse.

It all started in the year 2016. Things were already pretty rough for my generation. Overpopulation was a problem. People were homeless and starving while businessmen pocketed millions of dollars. They kept amounts of money that weren’t even spendable in the average lifetime just so they could feel elite and superior. These guys were some of the filthiest scum on this planet. They sit in their yacht or private jet rolling around in piles of cold hard cash like pigs in a mudpit while I’m sitting here on my free furniture from a friend, typing on a laptop that had to be put on my credit card because I needed it for school. And school! Don’t even get me started. I pay thirteen THOUSAND dollars a year to go to school. Meanwhile, they give so little fucks about the students that attend their school that they can’t even hire actual teachers! The professors are there for one reason and one reason only: to do research. This college actually expects to turn out well rounded students when the guy teaching them has never actually taught a day in his life. He knows nothing about learning techniques. Worse yet, I’m a chemistry major. A chemistry major at a school whose teachers don’t know how to teach. Talk about a damn near impossible task. Class averages are at 50%. They have to hand out free points at the end of the semester so the entire class doesn’t fail! Is it just me, or does this make no sense to you either? OK, rant over……for now.

Anyway, as you could tell, things were kinda shitty, but we were trapped. Trapped by our “government” if that’s what you could call it. Remember those greedy bastards from before? Well they would buy out government officials all the way to the top. I’m talking about the president himself. Bought out by companies to make decisions beneficial to themselves, while not necessarily beneficial to ANYONE ELSE! You see, money rules this world. Money is the head of our government. We’re called a democracy, but I feel like we’re governed by an oligarchy. These greedy fuckers get to decide what’s best for you, me, friends, family, strangers…..everyone in this god-forsaken country.

Every 4 years, the same old shit would replay. Some random ass people would be bought into candidacy to try to win the most prestigious position available, President of the United States of America, leader of the free world. Sounds like a job for a professional right? Yeah, I thought so too. Instead they got monkeys, people who couldn’t think for themselves. People who let the money control them. They would make narcissistic commercials, glorifying themselves by naming off all their achievements since they were in middle school. More often though, disappointingly, their commercials would spew hatred at their opponents. Full of badmouthing and blackmail. Neither of which are qualities that I personally want to see in the person in charge of everything that I know and love. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

So every four years we elect a mindless animal to lead our country. And lately, things haven’t been good. Right now the president isn’t terrible, but he’s still cleaning up the mess from the last guy and he’s not going fast enough. But it’s not his fault. Our congress can’t agree to do anything right now so damn near everything is put on hold.

We were already unstable from a financial crisis in our country caused by, you guessed it, those rich pricks controlling everything. Then one day, we started seeing news of a presidential candidate. One who was old and brittle with crazy white hair, kind of like an old scientist, who’s voice was different when he spoke. He sounded like a father being stern with his children, yet you could hear the desperation in his voice because he just wanted to help the people of this country who were in dire need of it. He wanted to give us everything he possibly could just to make our lives a little better. You know what happened to him? He lost before he even had a chance. Our one hope to fix this mess, gone.

The other party picked an interesting candidate this time around. This man was one of those greedy businessmen I keep mentioning. The difference with this guy is that the common person knew his name before he ran for president. He hosted a very popular television show and had a catchphrase that was said around the country. People loved this guy for a while, so why wouldn’t he make a good president? And that, right there, was the beginning of the end.

When the country heard about him, they were cautious. He didn’t exactly have the best personality to be president. He was rude, vulgar, and about as stuck-up as they come. But he spoke about things that people actually cared about, not just boring politics. He was going to “Make America Great Again.” Boy was that a lie. Or maybe he was just that incredibly stupid.

Skip ahead a couple months to his inauguration day. People were so excited, yet still a little nervous to hear what he had to say now that he officially had the power of presidency. We were all waiting for him to take the stage. Some of us right there in the crowd, most of us at home watching from our televisions. When he reached the stage, the crowd was silent in anticipation. He went through the inauguration process like every president before him. Once the process was over and he was ready to give his first speech as President of the United States of America, he slowly turned to face the people in the crowd. His face was stone cold and expressionless. He stood there for what seemed like an eternity, taking in nervous looks from the crowd. I sat there watching from the comfort of my own home, but something about the look on his face made me more uncomfortable than I’d ever been. Then slowly, his lips curled into a smile. Not a happy smile, but a diabolical one. A smile that made chills run down my spine. I've seen this smile before. The smile of a psychopath in a horror movie. My heart suddenly sank and I knew that we were in for trouble.

“I want to thank you all for coming here today,” he began. “Not because I need your support, but because I want you all to witness my first order of business as president.” He paused and motioned for someone to come up on stage. The world saw a man bring the president a phone, a phone that we all recognized. The phone was red and shiny, like the nose of a clown, but even more terrifying. Terrifying because this phone made one call and one call only. The president picked up the phone and in that moment my heart stopped. He was about to do the unthinkable. He was about to do the one thing that could end life on this planet as we know it. He was about to start the war that we’ve been dreading since the end of World War II.

At this point, nuclear holocaust was inevitable. Our president just declared war with Russia. No more than a minute later, the screen to my TV turned to static and then a picture of Vladimir Putin popped up on the screen. He started off very sincere. Almost with pity for us. “I am sorry. Very sorry. I am sorry that what we worked so hard for has been thrown in the garbage. But your country is a democracy. In a democracy, the people elect their leader. Apparently you people have elected this man as your leader, and for that reason, I must assume that his actions represent your will. I will forever regret what I have to do now, but as you understand I must do it.” He walked over to a wall where there was a big red button with a plastic cover over it. He lifted the cover, looked at the camera with heavy, remorseful eyes, and pressed. Sirens blared. The TV then switched over to a video of missiles launching from the ground, missiles launching from submarines, missiles launching from trucks. The screen then displayed Putin again. “You have four hours until these missiles land. Good luck.” Then the screen went dark.

Mass panic. Those are the only words I could use to describe what happened next. I walked to my front porch when I heard the news. People ran wild calling out for their loved ones, looting stores, and breaking down into tears in the middle of the street as they faced their inevitable death. I returned to my living room just in time for the television to switch back to the president. I was hoping, no, praying that this was some cruel joke He said “Don’t worry, we have technology to stop the missiles in their tracks.” A small sigh of relief came out of me at the time, even though we were going to war with Russia, at least I wasn’t going to die in a nuclear explosion in four hours. He didn’t count on one thing though, Russia launched everything they had at once in hopes of wiping us out and preventing retaliation.

America watched as our military shot down the missiles one by one. But eventually our military stopped and the president appeared on the screen once again. “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that we underestimated the magnitude of Russia’s first move. They did the one thing I didn’t expect even them to be crazy enough to do. They hurled every single nuclear warhead at us that they had. We have managed to intercept around half of them so some of you might live to tell our tale. I’m sorry, I have failed you.” Then in one swift motion, he pulled a beautifully crafted 1911 handgun out of his jacket and placed the barrel in his mouth. You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen blood and brains flying through the air, short of special effects in a movie. It’s an image that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Two and a half hours from nuclear holocaust and Im still struggling with the thought of my own mortality. Thoughts keep running through my head about whether or not there is a God that could let something like this happen. Whether or not there is a God that could let a man that stupid make his way to the top. But I guess the world has seen this before. Hitler, Stalin, Mousseline; all evil men that caused the deaths of millions. They wanted nothing but to watch the world burn. But hey, we survived those guys so we can do it again, right? RIGHT? Please tell me that I’m right.

I sat in my home, alone. I had no one to hold. No one to say goodbye to. The idea of dying completely alone can really get in your head and terrify you to the core. At that moment I got up and went out to the garage. I grabbed an old piece of rope. I held the rope in my hand for a second and just stared at it. My mind was empty. Not even a single “should I or Shouldn’t I,” just silence. I stood there almost lifeless for what seemed like an eternity, then I snapped back to reality and realized that I wasn’t about to take the easy way out. I threw the rope to the ground and marched inside, gathered up my gun and bug-out bag that I kept in my closet for emergencies, and headed to the storm cellar. I hoped that no missiles would land near my secluded little town and the Earth would somehow survive. Please God, let me survive.

Another hour passed with no sign of an explosion. What happened? Maybe they shot down the ones headed for my area? Maybe it was all a hoax? Or maybe the Russians built faulty missiles. I decided to take a look outside. As soon as I opened the door, a blinding light flashed. A light brighter than a camera flash in the dead of night. I could feel my eyes burning, and it hit me. I needed to get back inside NOW. I ran to the corner and curled up in the fetal position. The combination of fear and adrenaline had me crying hysterically as I recalled my entire life. When I was 3 I accidentally ate a poisonous mushroom, when I was 7 I broke my arm, I saw my first crush, I saw my family all waving goodbye to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were alive or dead, or if they were seeing me in the same way I’m seeing them. Then came the shockwave.

It’s kinda funny, to this day I still can barely hear out of my left ear. The sound was so incredibly powerful that I felt it rattle every single bone in my body. It echoed through the air for a solid twenty seconds and then nothing. Absolute silence.

I couldn’t see anything. Am I dead? Is my soul in limbo right now waiting to be sent to heaven or hell? No, I can feel the ground around me. I try to move but there was a pile of rubble on top of me. It felt like mostly wood. Was it the floorboards from the house above me? It must be. My house had collapsed from the shockwave and the loud sound kept me from noticing it. I guess I got lucky this time. I pushed all around me to try to find a loose spot where I could push my way out. I finally pushed to me left and felt the board budge. I put my back against the wall and pushed with all my might, eventually breaking the board in half and making enough of a hole to squeeze myself through. I stood up and looked around. Absolute destruction. Garbage everywhere, and the smell of death in the air. I took a moment to gather my thoughts and say a little prayer. I’m in awe over the fact that I survived. Then I broke down into tears.

I finally gathered myself enough to grab my gun and my bag and then find my way out. Maybe I’ll be able to find other survivors…..maybe. I made my way through the rubble out the cellar door and there was just a pile of trash where my house once stood. All my hard work, gone. But I guess I have bigger problems now. Luckily, I’ve done my research and I reached into my bag and pulled out my potassium iodide pills that I bought for this exact situation. You see, Iodine sits in the thyroid and blocks the radiation from getting in there and fucking you up. It is only a temporary solution though, so I have to hurry.

I started walking around the neighborhood and I was speechless. It was eerie. You could still hear the shockwave echoing through the atmosphere, like rolling thunder. The sky was a dull-green-tinted grey that kissed the horizon.

Mindlessly, I started calling out for any sign of life. So far, nothing. I walked around for a while seeing absolutely no one. Can I be the only one left? It shouldn’t be possible. If someone like me can survive, there has to be others. Starting to panic at the thought of being completely alone, I ran through the streets, yelling, screaming in hopes to find someone, anyone.

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