Repopulation Pt. 01byOzArrian©
None of the survivors knew what triggered the 37-minute nuclear exchange that constituted the Third World War. For the scattered remains of human society that survived the cascading explosions from Chinese, American, Russian and Indian atomic weapons after June 7th, 2012 survivors were more concerned with the immediate threats to their own survival, not analyzing history and trying to apportion blame. With only rudimentary skills and tiny groups of healthy people, declining capabilities to support technologies and economies that provided food, warmth, housing and culture before the cataclysm meant that life gradually became more and more brutish. And in the days, months and years after the apocalyptic war, the future of the human race became a ferocious and savage struggle, marked with acts that in a more civilized age would have been marked as barbaric and criminal.
Allie Cooke life took a tragic turn the moment when a Chinese ICBM slammed into the air force base outside her home town in rural Nebraska, not because she suffered horrific injuries but because unlike most of her family and her neighbours she survived the blast and the following months of radiation sickness. A college nursing student, she was drafted by the local emergency council that assumed all governmental responsibilities into the chaotic, collapsed medical system. Only 19 years old when the war devastated her country, Allie spent day after day consoling the dying, caring for the terminal radioactive-ill people, all the while grieving for her parents and her kid brother Billy. She knew there was no way they could have got away from the missile's blast zone; Offut AFB had been turned into a molten glass crater, and her family had their home only a couple of miles down range from the base. The only way to get through the numbing shock, the terror, the fear and the aching loneliness was to care for the yet living or the not yet dead.
As the summer of 2012 rapidly turned colder, thanks to the climate changing effects of the worldwide nuclear war, Allie and other people still alive in Nebraska found their lives harder yet again. First electrical power to the hospital she would spend hours each day at was cut after only a few weeks. The generators ran out of fuel, and couldn't keep up with the demand to warm the colder wards. Then, vitally important staff like Doctor Terry Johnson (the only surviving oncologist at Omaha Central) either died from radiation sickness itself, or like an older nurse Allie worked with, Mildred Pierce, collapsed through a nervous breakdown. The young Allie was burdened more and more not just with her personal losses, her increasing responsibilities and her deepening feelings of despair, she was almost overwhelmed by expectations from anyone who believed she could help them. When bandages ran out and the local government delegate refused to requisition more, it was Allie who had to beg him to bend his petty bureaucratic mind. As children and old age pensioners, jocks and invalids, mothers and father, men and women alike grew sick and died it was left to Allie and a slowly diminishing cadre of medical staff to try and keep people alive, healthy, functioning at some level.
By Christmas, probably the most heartbreaking day of Allie's young life, the weak and the sick were almost all gone. Wards and operating theatres that over 6 months had teemed to overflowing with the casualties of a war that had effectively destroyed the functioning USA emptied and grew silent. Omaha's population had declined to only 3% of its pre-war size, and Allie was one of only 3 nurses left on the hospital staff. She'd achieved at times near impossible levels of endurance. She'd suffered and hurt with every death till it numbed her as badly as the cold snows lashing the windows of her chilled room on the third floor. Her cheeks had gone sallow and her eyes dark and hooded. Life in a post-apocalyptic Nebraska was truly ugly and barren of any joy.
New Years Day 2013 dawned on Omaha Central wanly and with a cruel bite of ice in the air. Allie Cooke was dressed in the same faded nurses uniform she had worn for since the earliest days of her drafting into medical duties, and though she hand washed it every few days streaks of faded blood and other human excrescences marked the uniform. It was 8am according to the old fashioned alarm clock she religiously wound every night, and the promise of a cup of coffee was the only meal she had to look forward to until at least dusk. Fresh food stores had run out long ago, and scavenging bands had stolen much of the tinned food hoarded by the hospital staff in the basement. Hunger gnawed in Allie's belly, but with a mental resolve worthy of someone with far more years and physical strength, she went on duty.
The almost empty Ward 13 on the fifth floor was now only reachable by a flight of fire stairs that were perpetually in darkness due to the absence of electricity. The murky clouds and heavy snowfalls outside didn't alleviate the gloom for Allie as she walked with resignation to the doorway of the stairwell. "So cold today...what I wouldn't give for a big plate of pancakes." Allie mused to herself. Although drawn and tired, she had tried to at least appear clean and tidy. Her long blonde hair was held at the back in a ponytail, tied with a plain rubber band. The shoes that echoed on the unpolished floor were simple black low heels, given to her by another nurse who had stolen them from a Wal-Mart (before committing suicide), and through no conscious effort they still gave Allie a slight feminine sway with every step. Before the war, when she was a freshman at college she had known that a few guys loved to check her out as she walked to class. Now; well the only witnesses to her travail were the ghosts of dead patients, the mindless souls of those too traumatized to be aware of Allie's existence, and the half-dozen remaining patients of Ward 13.
There was nothing to indicate when Allie reached for the stairwell doorway handle that what lay in wait was another criminal and tragic incident in her young life. Somewhat immured to minor angst by the long-suffering in her life these last 6 months, a footfall or a suppressed murmur from the darkened upper stairs didn't really register. Allie's feet took each unseen step one after the other. She knew the count between the entrance on level 3 to level 5 to be exactly 40, with 8 right hand turns. On the stairs Allie counted them to herself.
"27...28...29...30...31...." A loud hiss above and to the right echoed She stopped counting and stared ahead. "Hello...anyone there?"
"32...33..." Allie climbed the next two steps gingerly, then heard a louder groan; an almost guttural moan that sounded like "Closerrrrr...come closerrrrrr."
"Is there anyone there? Daisy?" Daisy Williams was an older registered nurse who had stayed at Omaha Central with Allie, and had night duty so could have been coming down the stairs unseen. "Daisy...if you're there how bout saying something. It's me...Allie."
Allie held her breath, stopping and standing dead still in the inky blackness. A few seconds past. Nothing was said or heard.
"Going crazy...hearing freaking voices." Allie mumbled to herself and walked again. "34...35...36..."
Her right foot was about to land on the 37th step when without warning a massive black hand flew from over her left shoulder, grabbing her hard and viciously over her face. Another hand, bent and twisted into a stump sought and found her waist, and as it snaked around Allie's stomach her scream of surprise died. In the fingers that were digging into her cheeks and eyes sockets a handkerchief soaked in ether smothered her nostrils as well. In the lightless stairwell Nurse Allie Cooke collapsed into the anesthetic slumber that her kidnappers wanted. The 19-year-old girl was in the thrall of a barbaric new type of post-nuclear war survivor. A mutant misshaped into a slobbering, libidinous monster.