Mark Bradford had always believed that the end of civilization would come in a single spectacular blow, much like the destruction of Alderaan. Instead he was watching everything he knew and loved fall slowly rot away; much like what had happened to the Indiana Jones franchise.
It was the fifth week of life at the Watervilet Arsenal, soldiers and refugees alike were starting to lose hope. No one knew what was going on in the outside world anymore, there were still a legion of zombies milling around outside the walls and worst of all the toilets were starting to back up.
Mark was waiting in the middle of a crowd of people, his parents were on either side of him. They had insisted he be there because the woman in charge of the arsenal, Colonel Fraiser, was due to make and announcement shortly. If she was going to make a plea for warm bodied young men to man the walls they were determined to make sure their son was among the volunteers.
The idea didn’t thrill Mark all that much so he secretly hoped there would be a call for able bodied young men to help repopulate the human race. That was a duty he could get into, especially since he had finally managed to lose his virginity, and during the apocalypse no less.
There was preaching going on within the crowd, Miss Mary Blackwood and a few of her like-minded spinsters were flooding the air with doom and gloom. According to her the dead had risen from their graves to feast on the flesh of the living on the direct orders of the sweet baby Jesus.
Mark wondered to himself if anyone else noticed that her particular brand of preaching was actually more like complaining. It seemed like she spent more time on her grievances than she did on quoting scripture. She complained about the way people behaved, she complained about the way the young women were dressed, she complained that the army chaplain giving Sunday services was a Lutheran.
Someone tapped Mark on the shoulder, he saw it was Pete. “Yo,” the taller man said.
“Hey buddy,” Mark said, “what did you think of last night’s game?”
“Who’s your friend?” Mrs. Bradford asked.
“Oh this is Pete,” Mark said, “he’s with the National Guard. Pete this is my Mom and Dad.”
Mr. Bradford gave Pete a disparaging look, “Does your C.O. know you’re out in public like this?”
Pete nodded, “Uh-huh.”
“Well, I guess everything really is going to Hell in a hand basket.”
“Woah!” Pete shook his head and retreated into the crowd.
“Dad,” Mark whined, “that wasn’t very nice.”
Mr. Bradford’s frown deepened, “I don’t know how you do it. No matter where you go you find all the screw-ups to hang around with.”
“They’re not screw-ups!”
“Did you see that guy’s uniform?” Mr. Bradford said, “He should be on KP duty forever!”
“And your friend...” Mrs. Bradford tried to be a little more diplomatic, “...he smells.”
“Will you lay off Pete?” Mark said.
“No, I meant the other one, he smells even worse.”
“Give Harry a break,” Mark said, “he was in the Gulf War.”
Mr. Bradford asked, “Which one?”
“I’m not really sure,” Mark admitted, “but while he was out in the desert he got out of the habit of bathing. I guess he never got back into it.”
“I swear to God...” Mr. Bradford had to turn away.
The crowd began to fall silent as Colonel Fraiser stepped out onto a rickety podium that had been constructed from footlockers and duct tape. Mark had only seen her once but she had aged visibly since that time he had accidentally stepped on her foot.
She cleared her throat before she began to speak, “This morning I received a report from Central Command that our nation’s capital has fallen. The majority of the House of Representatives have been eaten. The majority of the Senate have joined the ranks of the undead. Air Force One was shot down over Canadian airspace and President Beck is missing and believed dead...”
Sobs and gasps moved through the crowd, everyone tried to find someone to cling to. Mark wished one of the strippers were nearby.
“Central Command said...” tears were welling up in Colonel Frasier’s eyes, “...said that due to lack of resources they are no longer able to offer support to non-essential personnel. As we are a refugee center we are all being considered non-essential personnel.”
The sounds of sadness working their way through the crowd became cries of terror and outrage. Mark had never seen his mother so horrified; not even the night he had come home with the Rebel Alliance insignia tattooed on his right bicep.
Mark knew that in the movies it was moments like this that ordinary people pulled together to hold off the forces of darkness. He was sure that this experienced military commander had a plan and he vowed that whatever it was he would pitch in and help. Even if it meant manning the walls.
“I’m sorry.” Colonel Fraiser drew her side arm put it to her head and fired spraying blood and brains all over her subordinate officers.
Mark found her lack of faith very disturbing.