Tagged: car

The Bet

Dear Planet Earth,

They came to my cell today. The homies (trademark pending) marched in dragging a bloody Mr. Ozawa by the shoulders. I said his name, trying to mask any sense of shock or relief I felt. My elderly Japanese friend gave a small grunt as he fell to the floor and attempted to roll on his side.

I took careful note of my jailers. There were three of them, all middle-aged, if not older. They wore the same dirty, unassuming clothing you’d see any homeless person wearing on the street. They smelled almost as badly as myself (though I may be biased). The biggest of them had a large, gruesome scab on the left side of his face. He took a couple steps toward me and smiled.

“We have a little bet going on here,” he said. “We’re trying to find out if Carl here is completely full of shit or just partly full of shit.”

He stepped on Mr. Ozawa’s hand as I contemplated how Japanese the name “Carl” really is. He winced in pain and the big homie continued.

“According to him, you people saw him making off with your weapons and fellow upworlders, and that’s what made him flee in a ‘dignified’ manner.” He put more weight on Mr. Ozawa’s hand, who gave another short shriek. “Then you ambushed him outside our camp here, effectively destroying the truck and it’s primitive supplies.”

I interpreted all of this as quickly and clearly as I could. I sat agape as the entire room of enemies awaited my next response.

“He. . . He kidnapped them?”

Mr. Ozawa started to cough out plea after plea, alleging his unshakable devotion to “the cause,” decrying the “unscrupulous lies” of upworlders like me — all in perfect English.

The big homie smiled wide enough to reveal his many brown and missing teeth. He turned to his companions and said, “Looks like you owe me a Coke.”

He took out a large pistol covered with thin pipes and promptly blew off Carl Ozawa’s traitorous head.

Ode to Hysteria

Dear Planet Earth,

I’m puking my guts out again and they keep telling me that it won’t be long now. “The Big Guy” is almost here.

I laugh. I tell them, “If I could keep any food in me, I’m sure I’d shit from pure terror.” They leave my cell before I finish the sentence. They laugh.

I’m out of it. Days become weeks become months. I think back to Diana, her dead, vacant eyes looking past me, focusing on something important just beyond my reach. I begin to envy the dead and their secret knowledge, the only knowledge they have over us.

I find my way back. I’m back to that day we saw the labor camp and the people in shackles, dragging their famished bodies inch by inch, forced to work at gunpoint. I’m back there and my back is toward the contentious discussion behind me. They’re arguing about do we go in and try to save them and we have no weapons and what happens when they capture us and what if we’re not so lucky as to only be captured and what is a fate worse than death?

I can’t pry myself away from the nightmare in front of me. The binoculars mold themselves into my eye sockets. The images of wincing grandmothers and crying children become burned on my retinas.

My allies ask for my opinion, they grab the binoculars when I don’t respond. Maria scans the area and miraculously discovers our original transport truck nearby. It’s abandoned, overturned, but filled with our missing M16s assault rifles. This eventually settles their arguments and they begin to focus on a strategy to liberate the labor camp.

I laugh. I puke.

Humans

Dear Planet Earth,

I was out of it for awhile here. I ended up puking and shitting all over the floor of my cell. Maybe man wasn’t meant to live in an underground room the size of a closet. Maybe they’re starting to poison me.

Whatever the perpetrator is, my weakened body and mind reminded me of another recent situation when life and death were not so much choices, but random destinations stemming from heated conversations. It was right after we caught sight of the drill south of LA (now this is what I call a segue).

Lieutenant Halston quickly stopped the car, turned it off, and got out. The rest of us exchanged some confused glances and then followed him. He kicked the front tire.

“Fuck!” he yelled. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”

Private Karter leaned over the hood, resting his head on his arms as though he was about to go to sleep. “Something on your mind, man?”

“They’re dead! We’re dead. We’re all fucking dead.” He touched his temples and began to rub vigorously. “You guys wanna charge in there with no weapons and absolutely no clue if those old farts are even there and alive?”

I was about to mention that Rachel was just a little girl, but Maria protested first.

“And what’s our other option? Go back to the city? The library? That base that’s probably a pile of dust right now? Those ‘old farts’ are our friends. Humans. We can’t turn back without first seeing what’s there.”

“It can’t hurt to scout it out,” Linares added.

The lieutenant whispered back, “You don’t know that.”

“No. I don’t.”

So, we voted. And it was unanimous. And now I’m starting to remember that it felt a lot like a suicide pact.

In the Beginning

Dear Planet Earth,

The horror and confusion from that first day seems like a lifetime ago. It’s only been a week, but I still feel like an old man remembering the days we searched throughout the city for our presumably kidnapped comrades, defiantly holding on to hope and a “leave no man behind” mentality.

“Rachel!”

We shouted their names from a Jeep we stole. We used to use the word “stole” back then.

“Randall!”

Malls, gas stations, restaurants. We raided any place we thought had the slightest chance of having our friends; all the while, foraging, storing for the upcoming fruitless manhunt we all knew (but never admitted) was coming.

“Margaret!”

Apparently, Mrs. Bing’s first name was Margaret. It echoed along the empty streets of Los Angeles as the uncaring sun baked us from above.

“Mr. Ozawa!”

Finally, a clue. A tire track from our transport truck — fresh and southbound, if Lieutenant Halston’s tracking skills could be believed. And back in the beginning, we were willing to believe anything that could bury away an ugly truth.

Holy

Dear Planet Earth,

We were attacked. Four miles out of Gary Goldberg’s Discount Cars, I heard the first explosion.

“Holy fuck. . . ,” someone whispered.

I jumped out of my seat and ran to the back of the truck to see the flaming remains of the other transport. A thousand thoughts flew through my head in those first few seconds. I wondered if the people on board felt anything, if my friends were on that truck, if we were next.

We made a sharp turn and the soldiers around me started arming themselves, pushing me back towards my seat and the other civilians.

“Get back!” they yelled.

They moved their rifles over the dusty scene, some moving more frantically than others. I heard someone begin to wail behind me, but I didn’t dare turn away from the action before me.

“Where are they? Where are the motherfuckers?”

BOOM!

A fireball appeared on the right side. The troops began shooting wildly as the truck seemed to balance on the left side wheels. The driver swerved, and the truck rolled over. I hit my head on a crate, and when I got my bearings, I could see the soldiers piling out of the truck, shooting at something beyond my vision.

I followed them. I had to follow them. I could hear screaming in the background, someone calling my name. My head was throbbing with pain, a pulsing, high-pitched dial tone. A part of me knew that the truck was on its side now. That I could be consumed with swift flames and not feel anything as my seventeen year existence came to a climactic end. That nothing I did ever mattered.

I emerged from the truck into a new desert, filled with other overturned transports and countless, puny human soldiers firing their harmless weapons into a hulking monstrosity of steel. It was a 20 foot tall snake with barbarous edges and an enormous drill on the front. And when it decided it had enough of our bullets and curses, it burrowed down into the sand, leaving nothing but a giant, gaping hole.

El Barto Was Here

Dear Planet Earth,

The rumor is Talpa’s back from his super secret mission and we’ll be heading out tomorrow onto Fort Some-Dead-War-Hero’s-Name. It can’t come soon enough, if you ask me. Things just got a lot more tense here since someone spray painted a bunch of cars with the message “DIE MOLE MEN” over and over.

With only a handful of kids among us, all eyes are on the angsty teen who disrespects old women and consistently asks to help kill mole men.

Of course, it wasn’t me. My respect for punctuation is too deep to forget a comma after “DIE,” though I won’t try to plead my case to my compatriots. The majority of survivors from invasions of mole people, and I include myself in this, like to hold on to the last vestiges of common decency they have afforded to them, silently berating those who have slipped into the tempting trap of organized anarchy — despite how washable said spray paint is or how much they may agree with the spirit of said message.

I’m getting enough dirty looks to know that I probably won’t be allowed to drive one of the minivans tomorrow.

In Insomnia

Dear Planet Earth,

I haven’t slept in over 24 hours. Despite everything you’ve heard, it is not easy to fall asleep in a roomful of snoring, smelly soldiers, children, and grandmas. It sounds like a circus here now at Gary Goldberg’s Discount Cars with everyone moving large crates from one place to another or complaining how the large crate they need isn’t right in front of them.

I was able to finally catch up with Dr. Eimer last night. He seemed to be avoiding me ever since the mole men emerged from the drill and I wasn’t shy about telling him.

“Long time no see, doc.”

I found him leaning against the dealership building, staring at the infinite stars above. If I smoked, this would be the cinematic moment when I coolly pulled out a cigarette, and right before lighting it, offered one to my old friend.

“Yeah. Scott. Long time.” He gave me a quick glance, then just as quickly resumed investigating the night sky. We stayed like that for several minutes.

“So. . .” Like many of our past conversations, I assumed this one would soon devolve into him recounting a traumatic memory and end with us both drinking his whiskey in a tent somewhere.

“You’re a smart boy, Scott.” I’m glad someone’s noticed. “I think I was a smart boy, too, when I was your age. Now . . . I’m just a foolish old man with some pieces of paper to show everyone how smart he is.”

This is when he would take a long drag on the cigarette I gave him.

“I said things to you that day — when they attacked — things no old man should ever admit. I still feel, I’m still afraid of dying. I’m sorry, Scott.”

I patted his shoulder. We didn’t drink any whiskey.