Editor’s note: Each year Dirt Rag solicits readers’ fiction, essays and poetry in our annual Literature Contest. In Issue #182 of Dirt Rag you’ll find the winner of our 2014 Literature Contest, but we received many submissions worth sharing, so we will be posting some of the finalists here over the next few weeks. We hope you enjoy the creative contributions of fellow readers.
Words by Paul Lowe
Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote. Life as a new recruit in the Resistance has been hectic. When they attacked two years ago I didn’t know what to do. I am finally old enough (or at least they think I’m old enough) to fight back and I have the most important job, I’m a courier. I’ll be 18 next year and that might be too late because the war may be over before then, so what’s the difference if they think I’m 18 or not. I know you wouldn’t approve but I feel that I have to do this. If I just sit back and do nothing the Invaders will come for me anyway. We may ultimately lose, but at least we’ll go down with a fight.
The Resistance has set up a defense along the foothills of the Front Range. My job is to bring messages to the front and back. Right now I take messages from Kenosha Pass to the F.O.B. at Waterton Canyon via the Colorado Trail. I turned in my downhill bike for a 29er cross-country bike. I needed a bike that could get me across long distances faster because we are the only way the Resistance leaders can communicate with each other.
Without power, information moves slowly but rumors run rampant. A rumor I have heard often (which makes me think it is true) is that we were the ones who shut down the power. Apparently the government had known they were here for years. I remember watching that old movie Apollo 13 with you. People say in real life when the astronauts went out of radio contact they were actually trying to make contact with the Invaders.
Well, they did make contact and it wasn’t good. The Apollo 13 crew was sworn to secrecy but now we know that they were probed and tortured during their trip around the dark side of the moon. The government decided the Invaders were hostile and tried twice to launch an attack with the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles to make them go away, but they were shot down. Instead, the government waited for them to attack and used a huge electromagnetic pulse to knockout their communication and anything electric, which also knocked out our communication and fried all our machines. Who knows, this could all be made up. What I do know is that the Invaders are real and my job is one of the most important because there’s no way for us to correspond without it.
Each side has worked to get things up and running. We now have tanks and Humvees, but no planes or helicopters. They chose to start with their UFOs or whatever you want to call them. I guess they aren’t UFOs since we know where they are coming from, but they look like the flying saucers in the old black and white pictures from 60 years ago.
Their ships make our job harder. They have some planes that fly too high for our anti-aircraft guns to hit them and then swoop down and take out the couriers. Early on we used roadies in spandex, but the roads are too wide open and a lot of good riders were taken out. Now we stick to single track and ride under the cover of the trees.
The engineers are still working on communication, but they said that they think the Invaders have come up with some jamming signal. If they ever do get the radios working, my job will be obsolete and they’ll send me to the front as a grunt. I’m not too excited about that, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of these jerks.
Anyway, the other day I met this guy named Nick from New Jersey. He said he was there when they first attacked. He happened to be looking out the window of his bedroom which had a view of Manhattan. He remembers seeing a flash of bright light and then Manhattan was gone. The whole skyline was leveled. He just saw smoke and burning embers. Moments later the power went out at his house and he was left in darkness.
He went outside and saw people running. He wanted to find out what they were running away from but he decided to run with them because his sense of survival was stronger than his sense of curiosity. As it turns out, people were running from a battalion of Invaders. He said they look like you would expect them to look from the movies. They’re gray and have big heads with skinny arms and legs. But they’re not naked like in the movies. They wear uniforms and armor. I’ve never seen one and I’m not sure if I want to see one alive.
They were walking through the streets using some sort of net weapon grabbing people. Once they had the people, the Invaders were spraying them with something that would make them stop struggling. The people would walk on their own to the ship that crashed near his house as if they were under some sort of trance.
He remembers getting caught in a net and the next thing he knew was he was sitting on the 50-yard line of MetLife Stadium with tens of thousands of others. After some time there, he saw the Invaders use the same spray on people and lead them out of the stadium to never be seen again. So he and some others decided to escape.
They dug right through the turf and concrete down to tunnels under the stadium. It took them a long time because they had to make their own tools and not get caught. I guess it wasn’t a clean getaway because he was the only one who made it out. He found an old Huffy and rode it all the way to Denver. He was one of the hundreds of thousands we saw crossing the Eastern Plains that spring after millions died the winter before trying to make the same trip.
Nick eventually traded in his Huffy for a fat bike and joined the courier crew. He carries messages from Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge. I only see him about once a week, but he is full of all sorts of great stories from both before and after the attack.
He told me this story about this girl he knew in high school. Her name was Gabriella. He was at this party with his friends which he called guidos. He said Gabriella was a real grenade. I asked him what that meant and he said she was “butt ugly” but she was grinding up on all his friends. He said he was creeping on Gabriella’s friend Angela and needed his wingman to distract the hippo so he could grind on Angela. I only understood half the things he was talking about.
So, apparently this girl named Gabriella had a few too many drinks. She was grinding on all his friends and falling over herself. She was in some sort of white dress that was ten times too small. He was having a good time with Angela when he heard screaming coming from another part of the dance floor and people running. Unlike when people ran from the Invaders, this time his curiosity won out and he walked over to see what was happening. Apparently Gabriella had puked all over herself turning her white dress brown and passed out on his wingman who was now struggling to get out from under her.
I don’t think I tell the story quite as well as he does. But I had to edit it because he swears a lot and I know you don’t want to hear that. Plus he gets so excited when he tells his stories in his New Jersey accent with his arms waving around. It is just fun to watch him.
Anyway, it’s late September and the leaves are starting to change on the Aspens. The trees are beautiful, looking like veins of gold on the evergreen mountainsides. Some of the 14ers are covered in a dusting of snow. It is so beautiful. I get lost in my thoughts and the view when I ride. Then I hear the mortar fire from the battle for Denver off in the distance and I am shocked back to reality.
It’s a terrible reality. I am super skinny. Between the 40 miles plus bike rides every day and the rationing, I am always hungry. One night I was on the trail I was starving and ate some berries. That was a huge mistake. Riding a bike with diarrhea is not very much fun. Also, when I am at Waterton Canyon the mortar rounds are so loud they sound like they are right on top of me even though they are east of Denver. The C.O. at Waterton says that the canyon walls amplify the sound and I shouldn’t be scared. Still, I try not to spend too much time there. As soon as I get the next message and a belly full of food I am back on the trail. The solitude of the trail makes it a little better.
I am glad you are not alive to see this world. When you got cancer I was so mad. I hated everything. Shortly after you passed, I wanted to join you. But soon they invaded and I realized God must have been sparing you the agony of seeing our world this way. Seeing how things could be so much worse, it gave me a new hope and I decided I needed to fight for what we had before they came. That’s when I decided to join up.
I miss you so much. I miss the chocolate chip cookies you would make. I miss your scrambled eggs and lasagna and cinnamon toast when I was sick. I miss all the food you cooked, except the meat loaf. I miss you driving me to swim practice and band practice and track practice and whatever other activities I was doing. I miss heading to the cabin in the mountains to hike and bike and fish and ride dirt bikes. I miss when I was little and you would send me to school with a kiss and every day say “TGI…” whatever day it was. And I would say “Thank God it’s…” whatever day it was.
I love you mom and I can’t wait to see you again. But I have work to do. I have an important job. It’s a dangerous job, but I am the best one to do it.
Rest In Peace,