Fiction Fragment Outpost
This week is another story that grew from the first line getting stuck in my head. I don’t know what triggered me to think of it, but there it was and I needed to tell the story of that line. I did not know where it was going when I started. I did not even know the setting or genre and while writing I included and removed lines that changed that setting multiple times. It could have been fantasy, science fiction, or post apocalyptic at any point in the story.
I will want you that while my stories are usually light hearted this one is not. It will not be a funny read or an adventurous romp.
“Quickly, reinforce the north wall it’s about to come down. South wall, keep one guard and everyone else move to support the north. East and west give me some good news.” I moved through the outpost shouting my orders. The siege had been underway for over an hour and the situation was starting to look damn depressing. We were barely holding on with no help in sight. If they managed to breach any of the walls, we were as good as dead.
“East wall reporting. No buildup on this side. They’re taking pot shots to remind us that they’re out there, but that’s about it. No organized pushes in over fifteen minutes.” The woman giving the report sounded hopeful. If she had seen the state of the north wall she would not be holding onto that hope.
“West wall reporting. We’re screwed over here. Constant push that we’re barely holding back. They haven’t made it to the wall yet, but they’re getting pretty damn close.” His report was pretty much what I expected. The attack had come from the northwest and hit us first thing before breakfast. My people were tired and hungry, but adrenaline works wonders to keep you moving.
This was not working. We were cutoff from escape except perhaps to the south, but we had no where to go in the south. No one knew what was happening so we couldn’t expect help to come from another outpost or from the main settlement. We had enough food and water to last for days, but my people needed the time to use those supplies. It was painfully obvious that we would get weaker as time went on, but they had the luxury of setting the pace and would only get stronger as they further entrenched themselves in the surrounding woods. If we were to survive long term, I needed a plan that would be a game changer. Unfortunately, that kind of plan was not forthcoming.
I moved to the north wall team to assist with the reinforcement. The wooden outer walls had taken quite a beating. It had holes in spots, and we were wasting a lot of water putting out the fires that kept popping up. I held a 2×4 in place as one of my men nailed it up into the wall. Physical labor wasn’t the best use of my time, but it needed doing. That made me feel a bit more useful and sometimes a bit of distraction can help letting my subconscious work through issues without my conscious thought processes getting in the way.
“Jackson, get me our fasted horse and our best rider.” We needed help and it wasn’t going to come if we didn’t get the message out. The southern wall was either clear or there was a vicious ambush waiting. As I looked into the young woman’s eyes, I knew that I was either saving her life by sending her away or sentencing her to a horrible death. It is times like those that make me hate being in command. “What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Jamison sir. Racheal Jamison.” She was young and nervous but stood in perfect attention.
“Your mission it to ride out the south swing around and get to another outpost. The settlement needs to know what’s happening so they can send help and our communications have been jammed since just before this began.” I watched her try to project a brave front. “Let me be perfectly clear. Your mission is not to kill any of them. Your mission it to stay alive and get the hell out of here. You move fast and you don’t look back. Am I understood?”
“Yes Sir.” She seemed slightly calmer, but I if she wasn’t nervous then I would have known I was sending the wrong person. I didn’t need a hero I needed a messenger. I pulled two guards off the east wall to watch the south gate as it opened. The last thing we needed was a rush at the gate. She left with no incident though and the gates closed behind her. I watched her ride into the distance knowing that she might very well be our only long-term hope.
Things continued with little hope for the next hour and then they got bad. A jeep with a mounted machine gun came roaring out of the west. I have no idea how they got it running or what they were using for fuel. I had only seen a working motor vehicle twice in my life though I had of course heard stories from my father growing up. He said he was a car guy before the world went to shit. To this point they had only used light firearms and arrows, so I was completely unprepared.
The large bullets shredded holes in the west wall. “Ignore the vehicle and aim for the driver,” I screamed as I took a spot on the wall and returned fire. The Jeep had a large, reinforced battering ram attached to the front bumper that smashed into our wall. The wall had been sturdy, but between the bullets and the force it crumbled down around the vehicle. I watched at a broken board impaled the driver through the neck covering him in blood. His body spasmed and it must have sent is foot against the gas pedal. The Jeep continued to push forward through the debris finally coming to a stop on its side just through the wall.
For a moment everything went silent. The yells and screams from the north were gone and the gunfire had stopped. Then there was a wail. The sound echoed through the woods being picked up by more and more people. As a wave they rushed forward pouring out from the trees on the west. The forces that remained on the north started shifting towards the west as well.
“Focus your fire. There are a lot of them, but they have to get through a small hole. That’s where you aim. Don’t worry about anywhere but that hole. Anything that tries to come through it is dead and just doesn’t know it yet.” I tried to sound confident, but I did not feel it at all. I grabbed the closest person and had them help me flip the Jeep back up. If the gun still worked, it would be a huge help. I told myself that if we were about to die, I was taking as many of them with us as I could.
The gun did not work. The barrel had been bent when it flipped over and taking one look, I knew it was more likely to kill us then them if we tried to use it. The Jeep also did not start so any hope of using it to draw them away was dashed as well. I thought about pushing it into the hole, but there just was not time. They were filling the hole already and my people could not take the time to stop firing or we would be overwhelmed. As it was even with constant fire, we were only moments away from being overrun as it was.
I made the only call I could. “The outpost is lost. Anyone not actively engaged I want you on horses and out the south gate. The rest of us are going to buy you as much time as we can.” I knew we didn’t have many horses, but maybe a few of my people could get to safety. I wasn’t going to be one of them though. I took my place just behind the jeep and joined in the shooting. To my surprise very few of my people accepted the offer to run. Most took up positions and stood firm against the invaders. It made me proud, but I also felt sorrow they I was not bringing them home alive.
We were soon overwhelmed. There were just too many and we had to take time to reload. Our ammo was limited to begin with and there was not one free to bring more from the armory. Sharp searing pain filled my shoulder when I went to reload. I looked own to see an arrow sticking straight through it. I could see the poison staining the arrowhead along with my blood. It would have been worse if it hadn’t gone all the way through, but it still burned. My gun had gone tumbling from my hand with the impact, so I was unarmed when the savage leapt over the top of the Jeep and drove me into the ground. His fists pounded into my face until my vision went blurry from blood in my eyes. I was relieved when everything finally went black, and the pain stopped.
I woke on a makeshift infirmary bed. Most of the pain had come back and I could tell my face was extremely swollen. I looked over to my shoulder and though it was blurry I could tell the arrow had been removed and I was bandaged up. “How are you feeling?” I didn’t recognize a caregiver when you hear one. I didn’t know if she was a doctor, a nurse, or just a volunteer. She was helping the patients though.
“How many?” I asked.
“Odd first question. How many what?”
“How many survived?” It was the only question I really needed answered. I saw my messenger going from bed to bed and talking with someone. I knew she had brought help, but I had already fallen before they arrived.
The woman lowered her head. There was a pain in her voice that had nothing to do with physical injury. “Including you and your messenger there were seven survivors.” The outpost had a compliment of fifty people before the attack started. We had lost forty-three people who looked to me for leadership. I had one last thought before letting the pain overtake me and slipping back into unconsciousness. Why was I still alive when forty-three people who deserved life more were dead?