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Jeremiah Cooper didn’t like waiting. Never had. Waiting bugged him, like the guy sitting next to him who was ranting on and on about the times before the invasion. Jeremiah hated complainers.
“Dude, shut up.” Jeremiah closed his eyes and leaned his head against the warehouse wall.
“Sorry.” The other guy bent his head down and cradled his gun. He was only about fifteen, and probably a city kid. The last few months had been hard on him.
He shouldn’t be here, Jeremiah thought. None of us should. He looked over the kids slouching in the alleyway, some trying to chew the last bit of tobacco out of cigarettes that they had found in garbage cans and on the side of streets, the only place cigarettes could be found nowadays.
Most of them only looked scared. Jeremiah could tell even if they were hiding it. After years of experience, he knew fear. Whether it was a pig about to get slaughtered, or when his dad looked out the window at the swirling lights that had encircled his farm. That was right before the first wave hit. Fear was something Jeremiah could sense, and it was all around him now.
“Hey.” The kid next to him nudged his arm. “When ‘ya think we’ll get outa here? I wanna see what happens when we meet those things.”
“Don’t get trigger-happy now. I need to be in one piece when they arrive. If they arrive.”
The kid looked skeptically at Jeremiah. “You believe they’re here, don’t you?”
“No, of course not,” Jeremiah said. He whacked the side of the kid’s head. “Stupid. Yeah, I really believe that they’re not here. All the major cities in the world just blew up by themselves. Shut up and leave me alone.”
That’s all he wanted. Peace and quiet. But there didn’t seem to be any of that left in the world.
“My name’s Jack. Jack Jacobs.”
Gosh, this kid didn’t know when to stop.
Jeremiah turned his head so that he was looking directly at Jack. His eyes were narrowed. “If you talk to me again, Jack, you’ll wish that you didn’t even meet up with us.”
“Hey, you two shut you traps.” A big burly guy standing by the alleyway entrance gave them a death stare. Jeremiah’s mother used to look at him that way when he brought home a bad grade from school.
Suddenly, a boy ran into the alley, tripping over everything, but surprisingly still managed to stay upright. His face was bruised and he had a long cut on his right arm, which hung limp by his side.
“A patrol of them, Harley, a block away,” he gasped. Then he collapsed onto the concrete ground.
The big burly guy dropped down on his knees next to the fallen kid. He motioned to another guy. “Conner, bring Ryan back to base. He’s had enough for today. The rest of you, come on.”
They filed out into the sunlight, out into the ruined city. Half burned buildings, completely crumbled houses, and sidewalks that had been blasted apart greeted them.
Jeremiah glanced wryly around him. This sight was becoming as common as the green grass around his house used to be. He slung his gun under his arm and jogged along the street, dodging craters and enormous rips in the asphalt.
He heard them before he saw them. A piercing siren spilt through the air and Jeremiah winced in pain. The guys around him covered their ears, and a few younger ones began to moan.
Harley stopped and waved his arm to show them that they were to duck down. Jeremiah crouched down behind one of the several empty cars that littered the street. Their owners were either captured or dead.
Jack ducked down next to him. He grinned and patted his gun. Jeremiah rolled his eyes. The kid was way too excited about this.
Jeremiah heard the hum of their vehicles and the chatter of their unearthly language. He gripped and tighter and closed his eyes. Here we go again, he thought.
They let the patrol go past them, and then Harley sprang up and shouted, “Now!”
Jeremiah leapt to his feet and began firing his gun at the creatures. Jack was next to him, his own gun emitting bullets in quick succession.
The short but gangly creatures were thrown into mass confusion, but when they regained their senses, the boys had to throw themselves on the ground behind cars and buildings. Jeremiah looked over Harley. He was panting and sweat ran down his face. He caught Jeremiah’s eye and motioned to him.
Jeremiah nodded and slid backward on his stomach. Once he was out of range and sight of the creatures, behind a half destroyed building, he stood up and ran down an alley that led away from the fight. He turned to the right when the alley spilled out onto a street horizontal to one he just left. Turning right again, he came back to the long stretch of asphalt where the fight was.
Farther down the street, the creatures had the rest of the guys pinned down, their backs to Jeremiah. Harley ran up to him from the other side of the street. “Come on, let’s go.”
They inched down the ripped up street, occasionally dodging behind cars. When they were feet away, Jeremiah and Harley jumped out and blasted bullets at the creatures.
Shrieks rent through the air but soon died down. Jeremiah looked across the wreckage of the vehicles and mangled bodies to where the other kids were crouching. Some of them had helped when Jeremiah and Harley had attacked, but several were still hiding.
Harley’s chest moved up and down with his breathing, his gun hanging from his hand. Jeremiah moved about the wreckage and poked at several smoking pieces of metal. He wasn’t going to touch the bodies with anything.
“Is anybody injured?” Harley asked.
“Jason maybe, and the new guy got hit pretty bad. Don’t know if he’ll make it.”
Jeremiah walked over to were Jack was sprawled across the ground. He knelt down and shook his shoulder. “Hey, kid, you okay?”
Jack tried to grin. A red stain was seeping across his shirt. “Yeah, I guess. ‘Ya know what? I didn’t like it, the fighting. It wasn’t anything like the video games.”
“You thought this’d be like a video game?”
“Yeah, pretty stupid, huh? You can’t die in a video game. You can always come back. That’s what I thought. Well, anyway,” he coughed, and Jeremiah gripped his shoulder tighter. “Anyway, you won’t have to worry about me bothering you anymore. I won’t be around long enough.”
“Oh, come on, don’t say that.”
“Have to, I always tell the truth. G’bye.”
Jack closed his eyes, sucked in air one last time, and died.
Jeremiah slowly let go of Jack’s shoulder. Harley came over and stood next to him. “Sorry ‘bout that. Was he a good friend?”
Jeremiah looked away before saying, “Hardly knew him.”
Jeremiah picked up Jack’s feet and Harley pulled him up from under his arms. Together they carried the body and the group of boys slowly walked down the street.