Snakes and Pills

114 - kite

Buzz, buzz, buzz. The swarm was coming.

There was not much time, but Winston was still topping up his tanks. His opportunities to refill the fuel supplies he needed were growing fewer and farther between. Most of the stations he chanced upon were completely depleted, or derelict past the point of use. Plus, his last outing had him running deeper into his reserves than he ever had before. The memory of how light the tanks on his back had felt was still fresh in his mind. So was the fear. The fear that he might have run dry.

The buzz was growing stronger than a sound now. It had a pulse. Winston could feel it in his chest. The violent rumble of a million wings sent shockwaves through the air, and shook him from his repose. The time had come. Winston pulled the nozzle out, and closed all of the valves.

One more check to make sure that everything was closed, sealed, and in the proper place. Time was of the essence, but a mistake during haste would make everything futile anyway. Everything was locked into place, so Winston grabbed his kit by the straps, and with some effort, pulled it onto his back.

The tanks were heavy now. That was a good thing, though Winston couldn't hide the strain it was putting on his increasingly fatigued body. He straightened his legs, hoisting the mass up, and adjusting himself to be steady with this new weight on his back. Soon enough, it felt comfortable and familiar to him.

Dispersion nozzle in hand, he began moving across the street. Winston was moving toward the buzzing now, but he knew what he was doing. Heaven help the poor soul the hive catches from behind. Better to face them head on.

A few abandoned apartment buildings lined the block he carefully moved down, constantly trying to map out his surroundings in his head, making note of places for potential cover. Every step was met with an increase of the buzzing that now shook his entire body. He was very, very close now.

Winston flicked the switch on the nozzle that read "pilot." At the end, a tiny blue flame puffed into existence.

The bug wars had been raging for some five years by now. For those who chose to stay and fight, as Winston had, the horrors they witnessed every day were enough to harden even the faintest of hearts. Yet, without fail, every time Winston first caught sight of a swarm, it triggered a very primal fear within him. A fear he felt now, as he rounded a corner and was nearly face to face with the demons.

When faced with a wall of hyper-aggressive, baseball-sized bees, it was inevitable. Winston quickly swallowed those fears. If death were an option either way, it was easy for him to take the route that at least offered him some chance of survival. He found his strength in the tip of his right index finger, which pulled against the trigger in the grip of the nozzle that he wielded.

Without a moment's delay, a volley of bright orange flames shot forth, meeting the wall of bees with a wall of fire. Left and right, charred carcasses dropped to the ground. Winston advanced forward, carefully avoiding the dead bodies on the ground. Sometimes, the stingers survived the burn. His boots were thick-soled, but no need to take unnecessary risks.

The swarm was on the run now. Fire was the only thing they respected, the only thing they feared. But for how long?


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