Author: GaiaCleaver PM
A look inside the mind of a defeated broadcaster.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy - Words: 1,294 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 2 - Published: 09-04-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7354318
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Henry Stillman slumped over his desk, and sighed, defeated and weary.
Having finished what he knew would be his final broadcast, a final, futile attempt at desperately trying to have his voice heard by anyone fortunate enough to survive the relentless onslaught of a seemingly invincible alien foe, he glanced upwards, looking at both the microphone, whose slender, silver form now seemed to tower over him, and the bottle of bourbon to its right, the reporter's one faithful companion on his journey.
Despondent, he managed to contort his mouth into a mirthless smirk, and glanced upwards at the bottle, his face both reflected and distorted by it, as though it was showing him how dishevelled and hopeless he had become over the past few bitter months, and, perhaps, simultaneously mocking him.
He looked downwards once again, and tried, in his isolation, to reminisce, to recall merrier times, before the invasion, before the alien juggernaut demolished all he had known and cared for and before he was hurled into despair.
He thought of Beverly.
My wife…my Beverly…
He recalled their first meeting before the bedrock of American civilisation, Independence Hall- he remarked upon the bitter irony- and their relationship. He, having recently started as an announcer and a newscaster, and she, a teacher, back when all they thought they had to worry about was an 'influenza epidemic' overseas. He recalled how they were, in all aspects, a merry couple. He recalled the corny yet important parts of such a relationship: their respective confessions, their first kiss, their vows before the altar. Not once did either of them dream of a cataclysm on the level of what had befallen the shattered States, content only to lead happy, successful, love-filled lives.
And, suddenly and violently, Henry was dragged back into the horrors of reality, as he recalled, once again, how the truck carrying his wife was overturned by quadrupedal abominations that ensnared her and spirited her away. He recalled how, amidst the panic and chaos, she looked at him, with that pleading stare.
How he, stricken with fear, remained paralysed, only capable of watching as she was dragged away.
My own wife looks at me, expecting a hero…and instead finds only a statue.
He let out only a dry choke as he cursed his own incompetence.
He recalled the members of government, Grace and McCullen, bastards all, who hid the invaders from the public eye, who were, to him, totalitarian and ineffectual, respectively, in his eyes. For all the good Grace did in constructing the defence perimeter, few ever forgot his hold over the nation, and, in his defeated state, Henry reflected upon the LDP, and how swiftly it fell when confronted with the full might of the enemy.
Goliath cannot be beaten by rocks alone…
As for McCullen, the leader who seemed to vanish entirely in his nation's time of need, he recalled his enraged rant several months ago, dimly, and remembered that he had made his stance quite clear.
What of McCullen, where's he? Safe in the presidential bunker, while the rest of us wait?
He, too, cursed them.
He thought of the invaders, the ferocious, misshapen monstrosities rampaging across the continent, unopposed. Even a cursory glance at the outside world made the fate of his nation abundantly clear, as he saw them, snarling, misshapen terrors, nearly human but not quite, stalking the streets, patrolling a desolate city devoid of human life. If there was one thing to cling to, it was that, miraculously, the creatures hadn't located him.
He was all too aware, however, that, if he defied fate and survived, all that awaited him was a dead, lifeless city, and a once-prosperous country reduced to a wasteland of rotting flesh and bone and warped metal.
He sank back into his chair, slumping forward once again as he took a swig of bourbon, hoping in vain that the beverage would clear his mind.
It never did, even though he tried, repeatedly. No amount of alcohol could stop his thoughts from wandering to the same places: the wife that he abandoned, the politicians that stood by and whose methods were ineffective, the barbaric swarms that robbed his people of everything they had…
And the boy and his father.
Despite it being months since personally witnessing the boy's capture by those skeletal horrors, Henry continued to struggle to hold back tears from his vacant, tired eyes whenever they crossed his mind. What he considered his most colossal failure, failing to save them, continued to haunt him, and, unfailingly, it forced him to recall his own scathing self-deprecation.
You know what I see?
His venomous words echoed inside his head, almost mocking him.
They reverberated, and Henry let out a low, weak sob, as he remembered, all too vividly, how the boy was ensnared, cocooned, and dragged into the darkness.
A poster boy for an action, content to stand idly by while those who he cares for are torn to pieces!
Choking once again, he balled his hand into a fist, slamming it down atop the table as, yet again, he cursed himself, regret and hatred welling up inside of him as it had constantly done over the past several months, all due to his perceived ineptitude.
Then he froze. His ultimate broadcast, still fresh in his mind, spoke to him.
I know, somewhere, the boy waits for me…he waits with my wife.
He pictured the boy waiting for him in the world beyond, forgiving him for failing to rescue him, absolving him of his sins and inviting him into a world free from the horrors that had mankind at their mercy.
So too, he saw Beverly standing beside the child, greeting him with a knowing smile, echoing the boy's words as she accepted him, embraced him like she had done countless times before as relief and joy overcame him.
Henry admitted that such a notion was a fanciful one, but anything was preferable to the hellish reality he found himself in.
Thus, with the boy still on his mind, and this promise of bliss, he recalled the night he visited him. He cast another glance out of the window. Slowly rising from his chair, he paced over, opened it, and proceeded to clamber out of it. He edged his way along the ledge, eventually reaching the scaffolding that had nearly claimed his life so long ago. Clawing his way across it, he stood up, shakily, as he reached the end, and found himself staring into the abandoned room that the boy was once kept in.
Of course, nothing was there now, save emptiness, but Henry still saw the boy there, imprisoned within that cocoon, his lifeless blue eyes gazing upon Henry in a dead stare, thin veins protruding from his mouth…
He clamped his eyes shut, briefly, trying to drive the image from his mind. Opening them and finding himself looking at a mere vacant room, he knew the boy was no longer there. Perhaps against his better judgment, the one thing he was unwaveringly convinced of was that he lay in a better place.
He looked below, first at the earth, then at the mass of extra-terrestrial monsters that walked and shambled beneath him, and, in that fleeting moment, he reflected upon everything; the invaders and the unchallenged victors, his losses, the inevitable fate of his nation after their futile struggle, his doomed people, the leaders whose methods had failed or who had left the people in the dark, the idea of reuniting with those who he failed to protect, being offered redemption, and much, much more.
He subsequently steeled himself.
The last man in Philadelphia took a step forward.