ECOPOCALYPSE CH. 4 - KABOOM
By MJ Heiser
As you watch your sister introduce herself to the switchboard operator at the White House (can you believe they still process phone calls through a freaking switchboard?), something inside of you snaps. Last night you were partying Bruce Wayne-style: lots of strangers—most of them in varying states of undress—gallons of booze, and lines of narcotics laying around. Through it all Milo was there as he always was, suspended upside-down and beer-bonging his way into the record books. Now those party guests have the world's nastiest case of rotgut, and Milo . . .
You've just watched Milo die.
"Gotta go," you tell Madge. She looks up from her phone call, her mouth slack as she registers the look of madness and desperation in your eyes. You turn your back on the room even as she begins to fling at you reasons for you to stay.
"Wait! I can get the President to neutralize everything!"
Fuck that, you think to yourself. Somebody's got to pay. Something's got to blow the fuck up.
You decide you need backup and you burst into a silent waiting room full of quarantined and terrified people. In one corner are several burly guys you hope are either football linebackers or Navy SEALs. You can tell already that the hospital staff are none too happy with the way you violated their weak excuse for quarantine; somebody has taken it upon themselves to set off a loud, insistent alarm.
Considering the fact that unknown numbers of security personnel are on their way to throttle you, you decide to cut about 98 percent of your speech. "You guys want to just sit here and wait to find out if you're carrying the shits, or do you want to do something about it?"
Just as you'd hoped, the big burly guys stand up, biceps and pectorals twitching. The biggest of them—your mind has already nicknamed him Hoss—smiles menacingly and says, "We thought no one would ever ask."
You're suddenly glad you've never been the publicity hound Steve Jobs was. You're a virtual unknown. "I know where the asshole who caused all this is keeping the master switch."
A guttural cry of assent breaks out among Hoss's friends, and they—along with several other twitchy people—follow you out of the waiting room. You run towards the Emergency Room, and you hear distressing noises behind you, like Hoss and his friends are using their fists to prevent your capture. You refuse to look back. It will only slow you down.
You burst through the Emergency Room doors to a scene of depressing chaos. There's shit on the walls in a startling variety of colors. The smell in here is ghastly. Your eyes start to water from the smell.
"Cover your mouths and noses!" you yell through your hand, hoping you haven't already caught the airborne nastiness. You then spot the crash doors leading outside, and—miracle of miracles—there's an open ambulance waiting there. "Come on!"
You weave your way through the equipment in the back of the ambulance and sit down at the driver's seat. You feel the back of the ambulance sag a little under the weight of your burly new friends, and, without waiting to ensure everyone's on, you gun the engine. You smell a distressing aurora of gasoline fumes around you and wonder if the last EMT driving this rustbucket ruptured a fuel line.
Fuck it. The gas gauge says I have enough fuel even if I spill half of it on the way. Okay, I have my crew, you think to yourself, giddy with excitement and high on adrenaline. Now I need some explosives.
"Any of you guys know where I can find a few bombs?"
Dead silence from the back of the ambulance.
You turn around and see that all of your new friends have brown fluid leaking from their eyes.
"Did you think I wouldn't know who you are?" Hoss asks you as he advances on you.
"Wait," you say, whipping your head back around to not crash into a building. "Come on, man."
"Were you really so arrogant to think that big guys like us don't keep up with scientific principles or breakthroughs? What did you think we were, linebackers?"
You say nothing. Again, you're hoping he's just angry and, of course, sick. "I'm not the person you're looking for, dude, remember? I'm taking you to the person responsible."
"We're fucked," Hoss says, inching closer. You think you hear a clinking noise. Shit is getting too real, so you swerve the ambulance to the emergency lane on the freeway and put it in park. Then you turn back to see what's waiting for you.
Hoss now has something brownish coating the inside of his mouth. His eyes are producing so much brown fluid it's falling in droplets from the edge of his square jaw. You see that he's carrying a cylinder of oxygen in his hands.
"We're so . . .fucked," he says, his voice slurring a little. He stumbles, but regains his balance on the edge of the gurney. "I speak for all my guys when I say we aren't going to wait for this shit to take us. We're going out, man. But we aren't going alone."
You know enough about oxygen to know it can't burn by itself—but suddenly, you realize it doesn't have to. That spilled-gas scent is stronger.
One of Hoss's friends has a match. Another one has the emergency escape axe.
What happens next is so quick you'd think it had been rehearsed. The guy with the match strikes it on the matchbook, then sets the rest of the book on fire, dropping it to the bottom of the ambulance. Next, the guy with the axe buries it in the oxygen cylinder's neck with such force it splits the tank open.
The concussion from the explosion isn't the worst of it. The worst of it is inhaling pure fire down your throat.