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The Cries of Wolves

The winds howled with more hatred and emotion than in the cries of wolves on the night of a full moon. There was filth in the air and there were bits and pieces of a collapsing civilization that were decaying as they were carried about in the vile breeze.

There were sounds of screams in the air. Screams of pain. Screams of joy. Screams of utter disgust and screams of fear. There were sounds of destruction. Explosions, implosions and other varied forms of destruction and annihilation were there to be heard by all that were there and that could still hear. And then again, only a few were willing to hear.

In the shadows of the crimson sky, the crimson earth, with stains of dried blood and gore, was ravaged. The surface was a mess of the destroyed recent past. The past before the present. The past before the future, if there would ever be a future.

Figures scurried across the ground like squirrels did in peacetime. The figures carried tools of the devil. Tools to deliver pain, death and complete desecration. Tools that were very effective. These very tools had been effective, in a "partnership" with more powerful devices, in reducing the population of the planet by more than three-quarters.

A loud boom blasted in the background. The earth rumbled from the shockwave and the very force of the explosion could be felt as it reverberated through the atmosphere. Those that were above the ground as the shockwave passed felt their world move in a way that it wasn’t supposed to. And those that were below the ground felt nothing new. It was normal for their world to be thrown about. Their lives had felt the same.

There was a large clearing in the crimson landscape with the dried blood on the ground. There were no shrubs or any of the mutant plants that had covered the rest of the planet. Life had survived, in spite of all that man had done to stop it. Life would always find a way to survive. As long as man survived, while destroying the rest of the living, the living would survive like man. If he was the "ultimate" creation, they would follow him in survival, through to the end.

A few figures ran across the clearing. They held their "tools" close to their bodies and looked around in every direction that danger could lurk in. One figure held a rather huge sack. Too large to be anything inanimate, unless it was a large rock and man had yet not come to the point where he depended on rocks to survive through the war. It was not a rock. Probably a small creature trapped in the bag. Probably food.

Yet another figure stopped on the ground and then bent down and seemingly opened the ground. It was an ingeniously hidden door to the underworld, both literally and metaphorically. The "underworld" was a filthy place. There was dirt and grim. Red flames lit the place, since the utter destruction of most electric power plants had deprived a lot of the world of any organized form of electricity. The "underworld" was all that the ancient Greeks had ever imagined it would be like, with the only exception of Hades.

The figures disappeared under the ground and made their ways through the underground tunnels and passageways that lay constructed for people such as them. They separated their ways and took whatever paths they chose or whatever paths they had to choose. The one with the sack didn't have to go very far, compared to any of the others.

The "sack-carrier" took his "luggage" to a small room that was lit by an oil-lantern. It was one of the few that were in the entire complex. The "sack-carrier" threw the sack to the ground and opened the rope that secured the opening. The "carrier" left the room. The sack moved. Very slowly and very cautiously a small head appeared from the sack. It was the head of a young child. His face showed more fear than there was steel in the Eiffel Tower.

The room was dimly lit. The light was as feeble as the last few breaths of a dying old man. The light almost looked as painful as those few breaths. The lantern emitted a dim yellow light, which was better than the rest of the complex or the outside world, where red seemed to be the colour of choice, in the sky and on the ground. The child looked around as carefully as he could. He saw nothing in the room but walls. Walls that would protect him from the rest of the world. Or maybe even walls that would protect the world from him. He couldn’t make out anything else in the room other than him and his sack. He dragged the sack along with him to a corner away from what looked like the door. In the corner, he curled up into his own little world and dragged the sack over him. He was cold. And he was tired and lonely. So he slept.

 

There were beautiful flowers all around. There were daffodils and daisies and roses and even flowers that no one knew the names of. It was beautiful. There were shades of green, red, purple, yellow, white, blue, and of happiness on the ground. The sky was a soft, sweet blue. The blue that dreams were made of. And in the sky, soft wisps of "perfect" white clouds floated without the slightest care. There was a gentle breeze in the air that lifted the petals of the flowers just enough to send a poet into ecstasy. The breeze blew across the huge field that lay spread out in all directions. The breeze lifted the child’s hair with tenderness that he had never felt, but only dreamt of. It caressed his cheeks. It made him laugh.

In every direction that he looked, there were these green fields with flowers and blue skies with the clouds. There were even rabbits that were hopping about like… well, rabbits. It was a most beautiful sight. The child smiled and laughed some more. He lifted his arms to his shoulders and twirled in joy. He breathed in the wonderful air, with the tender scent of a million flowers. He was in heaven, or at least a small part of it. He sat down on the ground and felt the grass and flowers cushion him. He lied down flat on his back and looked up. It was beautiful. He blinked.

When he opened his eyes, the sky was a vile horrid crimson. The soft wispy clouds had gone. He got up and looked around. There were no rabbits, no flowers and no green grass. There was wreckage on the ground. The ground was stained with the remnants of slaughtered people. The sweet scent of the flowers had been replaced with the stench of decay and devastation. The gentle breeze had been replaced with an uncomfortable atmosphere of hate.

There was a loud blast. He shivered with fear. The ground and the air rumbled around him. He was scared again. He started breathing heavily. He couldn’t breath. The air was too foul to breathe. He was choking and gasping. He felt pain in his chest, He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t even do that. Then everything turned black.

 

"Wake up, you bloody brat!", a voice resounded in his small ears.

He woke up his eyes fearfully. The air was better. He was in the room again. He was dreaming, he hoped. Now there was a large, frightful individual holding him up by the collar of his old, dirty shirt. His beard was overgrown and dirty. He face was covered with scars and he had only one ear. The place where to other ear was supposed to be was covered with blood

"What’re you looking at?" the voice resumed it’s noisy trail through his ears. The bearded face turned away and looked at what the child thought to be some other ugly people. One of them looked strangely familiar. The bearded man was looking in his direction.

"Is this the best that you could do?" he shouted.

"The building was bombed. There was no one around. This stupid kid was there in a corner, shivering. I thought that he’d…" the reply came in a very quick and scared voice.

The bearded man dropped the child, walked up to the other man, picked up him by the collar and slammed him against the wall. The child pushed himself to the opposite corner and tried to watch without getting hurt.

"I don’t bloody well pay you to think what might be good. I pay you to do what I tell you. I needed somebody important. Who cares about a bloody kid? He’s a nobody!"

"But he’s a kid. People like kids. I like kids…." The voice trailed away.

The bearded man pulled out something from his pocket. The child couldn’t see what. Everyone took a step back. And then there was a bang. Blood splattered over the bearded man and over the room as well. There was a thud as the body dropped to the ground. The bearded man stood there for a while before he turned around and looked at everyone in the room.

"You think, you die! Is that a simple equation?" Then he turned to the child, and walked up to the small creature, lifted it and placed the gun to its head "And you’re next, you waste of flesh"

"Please don’t kill me, sir" the child whimpered.

The bearded one looked with astonishment and queried "Give me just one good reason why, you son of a…" the man stopped and waited.

"I need the picture" were the words that were spoken as the child pointed to the ground, below his dangling feet.

The bearded man and the child looked down. The man knelt down with the child and put the child in the corner. Then he picked up the photograph that the child had pointed to. The picture was of a man and a woman in a beautiful garden.

"Who the heck are these people?" the curiosity of the bearded man shone through.

"These are my parents. I’m going to take this picture with me when I die and I’m going to show it to God so he can tell me where in heaven my parents are"

The bearded man sat still dumbfounded by the child’s words. Then he shook his head and resumed his interrogation "How do you know that they are in heaven?"

"They were good people. They always told the truth and helped other people."

"How do you know that you’re going to be off to heaven?"

"Because I’m a good boy. I have never stolen anything, hurt anyone or lied" the child spoke with supreme confidence as he did when explaining his parents.

"You’ve never lied?"

"No."

"Then if you lied, would you go to hell?"

"Yes, sir"

All of a sudden the bearded man pulled out the gun and stuck it to the child’s head once more. "Now tell me, are you scared right now? I am not going to give you this bloody picture. If you say yes, I will kill you right now"

The child breathed quickly and tried to shiver with fear, but the man held him tight. He whimpered "No"

The bearded man pulled the gun away, got up, tore up the picture and threw it in the air. Then he spoke "You lied! You go to hell! You will suffer like everyone else! You’ll never see your bloody parents again! HA!"

Then the bearded man walked out of the room laughing and the other men followed him and shut the door behind them.

The child slowly crawled around the room and tried to pick up all the pieces. When he felt that he had got everything, he crawled back to the corner with the sack and curled up once more. He sniffed. A tear left his eye. He cried silently in the dim light of hell on earth.

 

Fire burned without remorse. The heat was unbearable. There were screams of pain and agony in every direction. Even with his eyes closed, it was brighter than the brightest day on earth. He opened his eyes and for one split second, felt something known to most men as fear. Then the feeling passed and he looked around the evil place. As he turned, he realised that he was in pain. He whole body was paining, not aching. He was being killed in every spot of his body. He tried to ignore the pain and move. He couldn’t. He was "chained" to where he was. He looked around and saw the same fate being dealt to others. Some were on fire, some weren’t, but all of them were screaming in pain and shouting for reprieve. All he could really see was fire and bodies, none of which were dead. He was stuck feeling pain like never before.

And then he was on fire. Flames engulfed his entire body and the pain increased a million-fold. He could feel his skin peel off, his bones crackle and be reduced to dust. Yet they were reappearing as they were destroyed. He would never die. He would feel this pain eternally. He screamed!

 

The bearded man fell out of bed screaming. He looked around nervously. He was in his quarters. He was safe. There was no fire here. There was no pain. He was okay. He breathed long, deep breaths and calmed down. It was all just a dream. It was just part of his imagination. His active imagination had got the better of him. He slowly got up as he told himself these reassuring bits of information over and over again.

When he had got up and was standing tall, he looked at the time-keeping device on his hand. He had picked it up from the body of some poor mutilated soul. This watch had survived a blazing fire. He didn’t know how and didn’t want to. He just wanted to know the time. And it was time for the big boom.

He began wearing his uniform. As commander of the "Rebellion Against Governing Empires" [R.A.G.E.], he had been very successful so far in his war efforts. The governments of the world were finally collapsing against his mighty forces after years of war. He would soon win the war. And with the big boom, he was going to hasten the process. And then he would rule the world. Or whatever remained of it. And he would lead the post-apocalyptic world into a new era of grandeur past this terrible war, that some had called World War 4. That had a nice ring to it. He smiled an evil smile of glory. He would be king and nothing could stop him.

 

About an hour later, in an underground vehicle, the bearded man, a few of his cronies and the child sat still as they traversed the underworld on a bumpy road. They were on their way to a parade. But they weren’t invited to this parade. The bearded man was smiling. The cronies were chatting. The atmosphere was a most relaxed one. Everybody was comfortable, except the child. He clung on to whatever remained of the picture of his parents. And he had a very heavy belt around his waist. It made him feel sick whenever it jumped with every bump that the vehicle hit.

The bearded man looked at the child "Are you happy kid?"

The child looked up. He didn’t speak.

"Stupid kid! Anyway, we’re almost there. You just have on job to do and then you’re free, ok?"

The child still didn’t speak.

"Ok, be that way! When we get there, you’ll go up to the surface and you’ll see a parade. Go to the parade and walk up to the most important man in the middle of the whole thing. And once you’re within a 100 metres of him, press this button" the bearded man pointed to a small white button on the belt of the child.

"What will happen?"

"He speaks! Have we been blessed?" the bearded man sarcastically responded. The sarcasm oozed out of his voice like juice out of a ripe tomato. "Well, there are going to be fireworks, very big fireworks. You’ll like it. And so will that important man."

The child listened, but with suspicion. He didn’t like the bearded man and didn’t like the sound of the idea of fireworks. Why couldn’t he take off the stupid belt?

"Can’t I press the button now, like this?"

The bearded man and his cronies turned and saw the child about to press the button. They rushed to stop it. Time slowed down to a hundredth of its original speed. But they couldn’t stop the inevitable. The button was depressed. And then a bright light shone through the tunnel.

 

The child woke up. He was lying on the filthy crimson ground. The sky was as evil as ever and there was nothing but wreckage on the ground. But he couldn’t smell any vile stench. He clothes were clean. He couldn’t hear any explosions or screams. He could hear laughter and singing. He looked around and saw a bright light shine, with a silhouette of a tall man. He covered his eyes and tried to look at the man. The man was beckoning for the child to go towards him. The child proceeded and stopped next to the man. The man bent down and stroked his hair with a gentle touch that made the child feel good.

"Am I dead, sir?", the child asked.

The man smiled and nodded his head.

"Will I go to hell? Please don’t let me go to hell", the child implored softly.

"You won’t go to hell. We’re going to meet your parents"

A smile extended over the child’s face "We are? But the picture is torn", the child pulled out what he thought would be the remains of the picture. But it wasn’t torn. It was perfect.

"We don’t need that picture. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine"

"What about the war? The important man?", the child asked inquisitively.

The man stroked his hair gently and spoke "Don’t worry. You’re going to be very happy"

The man stood up and extended his hand to the child. The child gave him his hand and they walked into the light.

 

The bomb exploded but the explosion did not proceed to destroy the parade on the ground above. The tunnel was constructed to be "bomb-proof". The tunnel did collapse. But the important man, the president of the world, survived. At the slightest notice of the explosion which started far away, he was taken away and was saved. The entire underground tunnel base of the bearded man lay wasted by the blast. Everyone was killed.

The war had ended, but life would be no better. More wars would ensue in time. Man would fight. He had to fight. It was an insatiable need. And the president of the world remained in power over what remained. He was let to live for another day. Another day in one world, with "one people" and where "Big Brother" would be watching. The dictator survived.