Chapter 1

This day started off like any other day in late spring in New England. The Red Sox were scheduled for their Home Opener, and the festivities were to begin precisely at noon. My wife, Sarah Hunter, and I, Jack, had cut our classes at BU (Boston University) to make sure that we did not miss a moment of the pageantry and celebration of the occasion. We had purchased our tickets the first day that they went on sale, and we had splurged for the best seats that we could afford.

No, we didn't have box seats behind home plate, only the richest people in the region could afford that! What we had were seats in the fourth row right behind third base. We wanted to be able to see into the Bosox's dugout, and we had applied all of our "college smarts" to work out the best seats for that. We even had binoculars along so that we would not miss anything that might happen. We were special fans of Hector Alverez, the designated hitter, and we wanted to follow his actions throughout the game.

The hated Yankees were there for the first game of the season at Fenway Park, and the weather was as nearly perfect as one could hope for at this time of the year. The sun was shinning brightly, and the two teams were already vying for first place in the Division. Sure, it was too early for that to mean anything, but any true Sox fan wanted to beat the Yankees, no matter when it was in the season and no matter what were the relative positions in the Division. Lander was pitching, and it was probably the last Opening Day start of his career.

The score was 1-0 in the Red Sox's favor at the end of the third inning; Alverez had hit a home run over the Green Monster in left field to the delight of all of the Sox fans. Lander had a no-hitter going, and all of his fans were practically holding their collective breath in hope that he could keep that up. Lander was just finishing his warmup pitches when a huge shadow fell over the ball park.

Everybody reflexively looked up to see what could be casting such a black shadow, since no cloud was ever that dark. What we saw looked like a refugee from a Star Wars movie! The object we saw hanging over our heads was so obviously a spaceship that everyone recognized it at once.

The umpire called for a time-out, for this was something obviously more important than even a Sox-Yankees game! A hatch opened in the bottom of the craft, if an opening no less than a mile square could be called a "hatch," and tiny black objects began to fly out of the opening. At first, these tiny black objects looked like confetti, but a few seconds later, it could be seen that they were flying objects and not chaff fluttering through the air.

The tiny black objects formed into echelon and flew once around the mother ship before heading out over the ocean. Only moments later, the objects returned, but this time they were recognizable as aircraft and they were buzzing the city of Boston as if they had every right to be there. The UFOs were around 300 feet off the ground and firing some sort of energy weapon as they flew.

This strafing was absolutely effective because anything struck by the beam was immediately set to burning if it did not turn to ash on the spot. Concrete walls exploded under the beam and steel girders turn white-hot and sagged. Any lesser item, such as human tissue, simply disappeared when it was touched by the energy beam.

The UFOs made four passes and managed to obliterate the city of Boston and its immediate suburbs in approximately 15 minutes of sustained fire by the UFOs. It appeared that there was not a living thing, animal or vegetable, left alive in the city and its immediate environs. Sarah and I had made a trip to the refreshment stand and could be counted among those few fortunate residents of Boston who were not vaporized by the first pass made by the UFOs.

By the greatest sort of luck, we had been protected from the direct beam of the ray by the concrete structure of the stadium. We had been bridged when the walls fell, so that we were not crushed by the falling debris. All of our injuries were minor, just some scrapes and bruises. We picked our way around the destruction in the streets as we headed toward our apartment.

Of course, when we reached "home," we found utter destruction. There was nothing left but smoking ashes. Even the brick walls seemed to have burned. All I could do was to shake my head in disgust, but Sarah relieved her feelings with tears. If only I had been so lucky.

Later, we found out that every major city in the northern hemisphere suffered the same fate as Boston. Not long after that, the southern hemisphere was attacked and the results were the same. Almost the only living things left on the planet where the individual humans, animals, and plants that did not live in or near a city. Naturally, all of the radio and TV stations that were still in operation were doing nothing but reporting on the disaster perpetrated by the attacking aliens.

By purest chance, the President of the United States was spending a long weekend at Camp David. The destruction of DC and Baltimore could not be missed, and he ordered the entire military force of the United States into a state of war. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State was dispatched to the radio station at Camp David with orders to try to contact the aliens to see if some sort of armistice could be arranged.

By this time, the aliens were taking care of the details, so they were concentrating their destructive forces on any emitter of electromagnetic signals. Naturally, this meant that the radio station at Camp David was obliterated along with all of the others in the world, including the active hams. That cut off any chance of contacting the aliens, but the aliens would have ignored any pleas for a cease-fire anyway. They were intent on destroying all organized resistance to their invasion of Earth, and they were doing a damned good job of it!

The various air forces of the governments around the world tried to attack the alien fighters. There was no contest: the alien rays took out any human fighter as soon as it brushed over the plane. The result was the same as what had happened to the cities of the Earth: utter destruction.

Any rockets or antiaircraft fire directed toward the aliens were destroyed in flight and the fighters' rays were used to eliminate any means the humans had of attacking anything in the atmosphere. By the end of five days, the Earth was helpless. There were no more than a few hundred thousand humans left alive over the whole planet, and most of them were totally demoralized and incapable of any hostile action toward the aliens.

We did not even know who had attacked us for another two weeks. The aliens had not bothered to show themselves to the defeated humans, as if the humans were simply not worth considering. The aliens landed a few representatives at strategic places around the globe, and a few humans caught sight of them. There was no doubt that these were aliens because they were so different from any creature on Earth.

The aliens were about eight to nine feel tall and looked like they must weigh on the order of 400 pounds. The nearest thing that the aliens looked like was the extinct T Rex, except that they had four arms that were all functional with four-fingered hands, with one of the fingers acting as an opposable thumb.

The aliens appeared to be nude, except for a harness extending around the chest and over the upper shoulders. To the harness was fastened several pouches, but there was no way of knowing what was carried in the pouches. Well, that was not quite true. A human did shoot at an alien and appear to wound it severely. This resulted in the nearby aliens pulling a weapon from one of the pouches and firing it at the human. He was instantly burned to ashes, and the aliens paid no further attention to him.

On the other hand, the wounded alien was surrounded by its fellows, and a discussion seemed to take place. After a few minutes of discussion, one of the aliens drew its weapon and shot the wounded alien in the head. Its head vanished instantly, and the other aliens began to cut pieces of the dead one's flesh away and eat it.

The reason for all of this was unknown to the woman who observed the affair. She did make a point of remembering the whole sequence of events and passed the word along to anyone she met. The interesting coincidence was that she had been a TV news reporter who had been away from Boston on vacation in the Vermont mountains at the time of the initial attack. Her husband was the man who had shot the alien. Of course, she had no way to broadcast her observations, but habit forced her to remember what had happened and to pass the story along to anyone who would listen.

The man who had fired the shot was considered a hero by all of us in Boston because this was the first alien casualty as far as any of us knew. The action of the aliens was really strange to us, but we had no standard to measure them by except those of humans. I had been studying anthropology at BU, and it was my guess that this was a ritual intended to fix the existence of the dead alien in the minds of its associates. They did not eat all of the dead alien, but only small chunks that I guessed were more ceremonial than anything else.

Most of the survivors had collected in a western suburb where there was a supermarket warehouse that had somehow survived the alien onslaught. That was where we found what little food that we had. A committee was formed very quickly to supervise the food situation. We all realized that we were going to be in sad shape when this food ran out.

I was not on the committee—I was classified as "too young" to have the judgment to know what to do. I didn't care as long as Sarah and I had enough to eat. Unfortunately, that was going to be only about two weeks, considering how many people were at the warehouse. I never did get a solid count, but I guessed that there was something on the order of 250 people there, ranging in age from 3½ to 77. I was sure that the very old and the very young were not going to last a month, but I did hope that I was wrong.

The women had organized themselves into various work crews who took care of preparing the food and generally caring for those who could not help themselves. We were lucky in that one of the women about 40 years old was a doctor. That was going to get us through a lot of tight situations as long as somebody could find the medicine and other things that she needed.

We men organized ourselves into roving bands of scouts. Primarily, we were looking for more food and other necessary supplies and for more survivors. Neither one was very easy to find, but we did find some people, two cats, and three dogs. The cats and dogs went a long way toward keeping the children occupied, and that was greatly appreciated by the adults.

Only four more people were found, all male and in the age range of 30-50. None of them had any especially usefully skills, but the mere fact that our population had increased did make everyone feel a lot better.

My contribution was to find an underground storage place for guns. There were rifles and pistols, as well as ammunition. None of us could figure out why the guns were there, but the weapons did give us all a feeling of having some protection. Of course, that was a false feeling, but we did still relax a little when I showed up with a rifle and a pistol and the information that there were 27 more rifles and 13 more pistols in the cache.

I claimed a rifle for myself and a pistol for Sarah. I did manage to find a holster for the Glock 9 mm automatic and two magazines. The rifle was a World War II Garand M1, and I happened to know how to shoot it because my grandfather had been in the infantry and been sent to Iraq. He found the rifle there and assumed that it had been stolen by a local at the end of WW2. Anyway, he managed to bring it home in pieces, and he taught me how to shoot it. Hell, it was the rifle that won many battles, so I was not going to knock it!

My find was the only 30-06 rifle in the armory, and I picked up 8 clips and about 400 rounds of ammunition on the several trips I made to the cache. The rest of the guns were US Army M-17s or Russian AG-29s. There was some ammunition there for each rifle, but I expected it to be wasted on fully automatic fire if we ever got into a situation where we needed it.

Strangely enough, there were three rifles that seemed to use compressed air for the propellent instead of gunpowder. I was the only one interested in them, but I took the three rifles and all of the accessories, including bullet molds and some blocks of metal for casting bullets. The compressors could be operated by foot-power, so I was able to try out the rifles. My greatest shock was the accuracy of the rifles over 300 yards, the longest distance that I could test, and the fact that they were virtually silent in operation.

The caliber was .46, and each rifle was a repeater with a drum magazine. The magazine held 20 rounds, and the rifle could be fired on semi-automatic or full automatic. Since I was the best one of our group at shooting the rifle, it fell to me to teach the other men how to shoot. For this job, I used the air guns because we had no idea how to replace the gunpowder cartridges.

My biggest problem was in getting the other men to take the air rifles seriously. I finally had to prove how powerful they were by shooting at bricks at 100 yards. I consistently shattered the bricks with only one shot, and that was enough to convince most of the men. Naturally, there were a couple of men who just would not believe their own eyes. I wrote them off as being too dumb to be a rifleman and hunted around for other jobs for them.

Meanwhile, I did spend a lot of time teaching the men how to shoot accurately, and a few of them became quite proficient with the air rifles. I figured that they would be issued the air rifles if we ever got into some sort of firefight with the aliens. I also taught as many women as I could persuade to give it a try to learn to shoot. Only Sarah was enthusiastic about the training, and that may have been because her husband was teaching her. Sarah was naturally competitive, and I think that she was trying to better me. I didn't worry about it as long as she did learn to shoot accurately. Well, she did.

Our first crisis came when we ran out of food. It was bound to happen eventually, and it did happen after four weeks. That was longer than I had predicted, but we had gone on short rations to try to stretch out what we had as long as possible. The situation was dire, and we had a meeting to try to decide what to do. I proposed that we move out of Boston to an area that had not been hit by the aliens in their strafing. Of course, I was voted down. Sarah and I were the only ones who wanted to move. I guess that the others were hoping for some sort of miracle. The only miracle that I could see doing us much good was manna from heaven, and I was not expecting that to show up anytime soon.

Sarah and I could see no alternative, so we planned to sneak away as soon as possible. We were going to have to travel by foot, but that did not mean much. By this time, we were both in excellent physical condition considering our low food consumption, so we could head out without too much trouble.

We had talked to everybody just after my proposal was resoundingly voted down, and we knew that no one would want to come with us. Therefore, we had no compunction about just disappearing one night after everyone else had gone to sleep.

We secretly made up a travois to load with what we were taking with us. High on the list of things to go were the three air rifles with all of the accessories, "my" Garand, and Sarah's pistol. We did not take any food, but we did take four 2-liter plastic bottles of water for drinking and a small aluminum pot for cooking. We took two empty cans to substitute for drinking vessels.

We also took one of the dogs, a female of mixed pedigree that was gravid. We did not know when her pups were due, but we figured that we had time to make our getaway before they were delivered. A couple of blankets and the clothes we were wearing were the only other things that we took.

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Story tagged with:
Science Fiction / Post Apocalypse / Space / Violent /