Comments Off on Dust Fiction, Science Fiction, Writing, Issue 9

By Teddy Anganes

Dust kicked up from the ground as large boots trudged down a long dirt road. Cold wind blew through the hazy air and pushed against a heavy green jacket. 

Milas checked his watch—twenty minutes left. He looked up from his wrist and saw the low sitting sun, its beautiful rays shining bright across all of the land. Beginning to rise, it colored the sky a vibrant orange. After all of this pain and all of the struggle, the sun would still rise every day. After all of this destruction, the sun would still shine bright and grace the skies with its radiant presence. 

Milas stopped to marvel at the beauty of it all. He wished that he could pull off this mask and breathe clear morning air. He wished that he could feel the cool wind blowing across his face. He wished that he could smell fresh morning dew. 

With a sigh he readjusted his backpack and continued walking. The long straight road he walked led through a large town. Houses with their roofs caved in, stores with the windows smashed out and the doors left wide open, rusted cars with greenery growing through them—this town, along with all of the others, had been long since abandoned. Everybody’s daily life tasks were instantly dropped. The people fled, leaving things like tools and their toolboxes lying next to now—rusted cars, or mugs still sitting on the tables of coffee shops. Now the only sounds to be heard here were the scuffing of Milas’ boots and the rhythmic rattling of his backpack. 

He turned to his right and faced his destination, a small convenience store. Just before stepping through the door, he noticed outside a tall pole on which the American flag hung high. It was torn and raggedy. But even when torn, it sailed in the wind with a defiant strength. 

Milas turned back and stepped into the store. The inside was just as one would expect a convenience store to be: a small, one-room store with shelves occupying the majority of the real-estate. 

Many of the once-plentifully-stocked food shelves were empty, but he scavenged through the dusty corners and cabinets for anything that he could eat. After a few minutes of digging, he found a couple cans of beans and a single can of tomatoes. He set his rifle down and pulled out his backpack, opening it by fighting with the clumsy zippers, and stuffed the cans in wherever they would fit. Slinging the pack back over his shoulders, he retrieved his rifle and headed for the door. Before stepping out of the door, he turned to look at the counter. It was empty and dusty, with an equally-as-dusty cash register sitting on top. With a sigh he turned once again and stepped out the door. 

He began to make his way back down the long road from where he came, the dust once again kicking up from his boots. He looked up at the sky; the golden sky had reached its peak, and soon the familiar blue color would begin to take over. 

The moment of peace was cut short as the crack of a gunshot went off and a sharp pain shot through his arm. After a split second of shock, he bolted to the nearest house, powered by adrenaline, and took cover behind it as subsequent shots flew by him. 

Bandits. Likely here to scavenge whatever—and whoever—they could find in this ghost town. 

Milas checked his watch again—three minutes left. He gripped his rifle tightly in both hands and took a deep breath. Leaning his head around the corner, he caught sight of two targets separated and behind cover. He was only given an instant before the volley of bullets returned and forced him to hide back to safety. The wooden wall splintered with a supersonic crack of the air to accompany them. 

He poked his rifle around the wall and took two shots, attempting to keep their attention to that side. He quickly sprinted around the other side of the house and across the couple of open yards to the next house up. He skidded to a stop up against its wall. 

Two minutes left. 

Milas quickly revealed himself again and returned a few rounds. He heard a shriek as he swung back behind cover. After a few moments of silence, it was the remaining bandit’s turn to change position. Through the side window of the next building up, shots came flying through.

Milas ducked down as a shower of gunfire soared above his head. He crept up to the window and raised his rifle above his head, wincing from his wound, and fired blindly. The sound of gunfire from the other side had stopped and was replaced by wood splintering and glass shattering. And then, the dreaded sound… click

One minute left. 

Dropping his rifle on the ground, Milas pulled a dirty handgun from his pocket and flipped the safety off. Moving up to the back wall, he said a silent prayer and held his breath. Swinging around the wall, he quickly targeted center-of-mass and pulled the trigger twice in rapid succession. The bandit immediately dropped backwards with a thud, and all fell silent. 

Milas quickly went to the dead bandit and pulled the mask off of his face. He unscrewed the mask’s filter, held his breath, unscrewed his own mask’s filter, and replaced it with the new one. He then reset his watch timer and took in a deep, fresh breath of air in relief. 

He sat down and checked his bag. There was something leaking inside of it. One of the cans of beans had a large hole punched clean through it. The bullet had flown at just the right angle to hit the can in his backpack, sending it outward to graze his arm. 

He laid back and stared upward at the sky. A weak smile stretched across his face behind the dirty visor. He thought of what it was like to breathe clear air, the sound of birds always heard in the trees, the taste of clean water—all of the things he would take for granted. As he pondered while gazing at the sky, he once again saw the tattered flag flying strong. 

After sitting himself back up and retrieving anything he could use from the dead bandits’ bodies, Milas began his walk back home. One final time his gaze went back to the flag, and then to the bandits. 

The door to the convenience store opened once more, and a familiar pair of dusty boots stepped back inside. Milas reached into his pocket, pulled something out of it, placed it on the counter, and left for his journey back down the road.

On the counter sat an old tattered one dollar bill.

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