The Redoubt in the Land of Plenty
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by Arch Stanton.
Twenty-eight-year-old United Nations Private Kawanzi Anigbo squinted into the rocket launcher’s sight aperture to get a better view. The rain was making it difficult for Anigbo to see through the opening on the miniature, ladder-like device that served to aim the weapon. Carefully remembering the instructor’s words, Anigbo squeezed the rubber-coated bar that served as a trigger. A low-frequency “whoosh” followed the trigger squeeze as the rocket left the tube.
“Damned rain,” thought Harry as he looked out into the steady drizzle in the light of the late autumn afternoon. It seemed to Harry that it had been raining since the UN-sanctioned evacuation-and-containment project had begun just over four months ago. Harry knew all too well how such rain hindered the efficient movement and foraging of the group now huddled together in the small, single room.
Harry looked around the concrete, bunker-like building they called the “redoubt.” The reason for the name was a sign Harry had found under some rubble inside the bunker after they first discovered the shelter. The sign was made from a slat of wood from an old ammo crate on which someone had scratched the words “REBEL’S REDOUBT” into the plank. Willy had cleaned the sign off and nailed it to a beam that was embedded into the bunker’s concrete ceiling. Since then the bunker’s name had always been “The Redoubt” to its current occupants. Harry moved his gaze over to the five other people who occupied the room.
A small kerosene lamp hung from the rafter beside the sign, casting a sooty, pale light that barely illuminated the motley group of men who occupied the cramped quarters of the redoubt. In the dim light Harry focused on the figure of “The Prophet.” The Prophet sat on a five-gallon bucket on the other side of the heavy, metal door a few feet away. Like Harry, he looked out into the rain through a small opening in the concrete wall.
The inside of the redoubt was damp from the humidity and the perspiration of the men. Because of this, small droplets of condensation dripped onto the Prophet from the top of the window’s opening. He continued to look sullenly out onto the hillside for any signs of activity. The Prophet’s real name was Paul; he was a balding man of 40 with a developing paunch. Paul looked like the computer technician he had been before the evacuation. He had once had a penchant for hunting, but although his enthusiasm for the sport had lessened in recent years, it had honed his marksmanship skills and he was still a crack shot.
Paul had grown up in a religious family which firmly and literally believed in the Bible as the revealed word of God. They had become what were termed “pre-millennial Christians” who believed that they would be spared the horror of the tribulations described in the Book of Revelations, the apocalyptic Book of John. But the “end times” had not turned out like the TV preachers had predicted in the popular interpretation of that book. Paul had always treasured his guns and ammo, but he had firmly believed that he was to be spared the “tribulation period” that he now considered firmly underway.
The fact that Jesus had not returned to spare Paul the experiences of the last four months had left him a puzzled and bitter man. Once a talkative, gregarious individual, Paul was now grim and mostly silent. When he arrived at the redoubt, he had told the other men his personal story about what he believed was God’s betrayal. After that, Stan had dubbed Paul “The Prophet.”
Harry’s intense stare slowly moved from Paul over to Stanley or “Stan” as the others called him. Stan sat cleaning his 9mm Beretta pistol behind a converted wooden crate that now served as a table. He had taken the pistol from a dead UN soldier as he fled the advance of the front-line troops of the UN forces. Harry felt a bit sorry for Stan. Stan was one of those guys who had lived the American dream, never suspecting how quickly that dream would become the nightmare they were all currently living.
Stan was a slender guy with fine features and thinning, blond hair; he had been a consummate runner before the evacuation had begun. He wore wire-rimmed glasses along with the now-filthy, upscale Eddie Bauer clothing. It was the same clothing he had left the house with so many months before on that fateful morning. The UN evacuation-and-containment had taken him totally by surprise. One day he was kissing his wife and kids good-bye at the door of his upper-middle-class home and driving his “Beemer” to his mid-town office suite, the next he was running through the woods in fear of his life.
Somehow Stan had stayed alive and made it to the redoubt after meeting up with the others. Just how he had survived, though, was uncertain, because he never related to the men how he had spent his time between that day he left the house and their present predicament. Now Stan silently wondered what had become of his family and if he would ever see them again.
Harry moved his gaze further to the right, drawing Hector into focus. Hector was the “ultimate” survivalist and his appearance proved it. Although Hector had never actually been in the military, you would have never known it by looking at him. He was a lean individual who had maintained his physical conditioning for the past nine years in anticipation of his current situation. The military “camos” Hector wore were of the type that had the small squares all over it. Some of the squares in seemingly random patterns were blacked out, giving the odd impression of a kind of military crossword puzzle. Hector said it was for “infrared invisibility.”
Today, as he had every day for the last six months, Hector donned his full 782 gear compliment; 782 gear is what the Marines call the various combat fashion accessories like the helmet, gas masks and web gear. In fact his web gear and pistol belt were Hector’s fashion statement ever since the evacuation had begun. The web gear consisted of suspenders that supported the pistol belt that in turn supported the various knives, pistol ammo pouches, medic kit and other authentic surplus military equipment Hector had purchased in preparation for this day. By his own admission, Hector was “ready.” From the top of his Vietnam “boonie hat” all the way to his jump boots, he was dressed for the part, but recently doubts about his survival had begun to creep into Hector’s mind.
Before the evacuation, Hector had always carried a weapon; usually a pistol and always a few knives to assure proper preparation for the pending disaster that he knew would occur. The only question was when the disaster would occur, but not to worry: he was always ready. Hector’s favorite sayings were of the type such as, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” and “Let’s rock and roll.” He had even owned a shirt with this motto that featured the image of a skeleton holding an M60 machine gun. Now, after four months of hiding and maintaining a constant vigil that included sleeping with his weapon, Hector was beginning to tire of the daily reality of self-defense and fighting for…for what no one in the room really knew. There really wasn’t any other reason for their actions other than the most basic: to survive. There was no cause, no banners or flags to follow, no battle cries to yell as one went to his glorious death. In fact there was no glorious death; there was only the grim reality that a moment of inattention would almost guarantee a sudden and senseless demise.
Harry continued to move his gaze around the small, drab room, his eyes settling next on Dieter. Dieter appeared as a ghost from the past in the form of a Waffen SS soldier. He was wearing a WWII camouflaged SS uniform with its distinctive and rather archaic camouflage pattern. Leather “Y” suspenders and belt completed the outfit along with a “coal scuttle” Stalhelm, which now lay beside Dieter on the floor with its rim upturned. Dieter felt tired, very tired as he sifted his hand through his short steel gray hair that he had cut himself. Like the rest of the small group, Dieter was middle-aged and feeling too old now for such games, games that, like the regime whose uniform he wore, were already lost. Dieter shifted the Walther P-38 at his side to obtain a more comfortable position on the cement floor. Before the evacuation, he had been a military collector who specialized in selling authentic and reproduced German equipment from the WWII era. When the evacuation began he simply went into his inventory and took the best equipment that he felt he would require. He had taken a Mauser rifle, but soon ran out of ammo and now carried an M-16 acquired from a UN soldier he had inadvertently met up with during a foraging patrol. The Walther still used the same 9mm ammo though, so he had kept it as his sidearm.
“Damned Nazi,” thought Harry in an unusually severe moment of bitterness. “Why don’t you wake up and see that the Nazis were a bunch of losers.” Initially, some of the group did not want Dieter in the redoubt but he had proven his worth at a critical moment when the UN forces had ambushed them on that foraging patrol. Dieter had killed two UN soldiers with his bare hands in close combat and saved Stanley’s life in doing so. As such skills were vital to the rebels, Dieter was begrudgingly allowed to join the members of the redoubt.
Sitting in the corner, just past Dieter, Harry could make out yet another ghost in the form of a dim shape that lurked among the shadows. Harry surveyed the outline of William P. Beauregard III – at least that was his Christian name; but everyone called him Willy. Willy was a son of the South; a real honest-to-god Southerner whose forefathers had served both in the Confederate States Army and the CS Navy. In fact his great, great grandfather had actually been one of the few Southerners who had owned a large plantation along with the slaves that were required for such an agricultural enterprise. Willy was a tall, lanky, middle-aged individual who sported a handlebar mustache and a neatly-trimmed goatee. He stood ramrod straight and had a gracious attitude that had not been popular since the end of the genteel South. Willy was dressed in the torn and dirty uniform of a Confederate colonel. Oddly, he still retained the dress uniform’s gold sash with tassels and a saber. Normally Willy preferred Docker slacks and a sport shirt for his daily activities, but that fateful day, when the evacuation had begun, Willy had been en route to a Civil War-reenactment ceremony. Thinking a gang was up to no good, Willy had mistakenly run a government road block and had the tires shot out on his car. After he ran it into the ditch, Willy jumped out of the vehicle to find black-attired, UN troops firing at him, so he had “hightailed” it into the woods. It was obvious to Willy at that point that the UN soldiers were not going to let him surrender alive.
Harry was just about to return to his vigil at the window when he heard a loud, ringing thump and a metallic sound of a helmet scuttling across the room. As Harry turned his focus back toward the room, he heard Hector say, “Goddamn it! Move your helmet out of the middle of the room so I don’t have to step over it.” Dieter replied, “If you weren’t such a heavy-footed lout you wouldn’t need the entire room to move from one side to the other.” At this point Willy intoned, “Now gentleman, we have enough trouble without this; if we don’t stand together now, we will surely perish individually, so let us…” “Shut up, reb,” interrupted Hector, “you lost your war a long time ago.”
Paul yelled at no one in particular, “you clowns have been playing war while the Lord’s retribution is at hand; why don’t you wake up to the reality that the angel of the Lord will soon be calling us home with his trumpet.” “Hoo, Boy!” boomed Hector, “now we’re dealing with reality.” Stan looked up from his now assembled pistol saying: “Willy is right, don’t we have enough trouble already without this incessant bickering?” “Great,” said Hector. “Now we have the yuppie gallery siding with the Klan so we can hear about how we can all live together in our global village. Just where were you, Mr. Elite Snob, when we were out telling idiots like yourself that this crap was going to happen? Maybe you were sipping your wine and discussing your latest inside-stock-market coup with the other snobs down at the country club.” “Hector, you’re an asshole” replied Stan. “Yeah, sure I am. The truth still hurts, though, don’t it?” retorted Hector.
Dieter quietly interjected at this point, “why don’t we all simmer down and go back to cleaning our weapons?” “Goddamn Nazi, I told you to shut up!” thundered Hector. Dieter looked at Hector menacingly, “You are about to…,” but before he could finish, Hector, knife drawn, sprang across the room at Dieter like a tightly-wound coil released from confinement. Dieter deftly deflected the first blow as Hector came at him in a rage.
Like Paul, Harry’s attention had been immediately diverted from his post as a lookout; instead, it was now centered on the emerging brawl in the middle of the clammy bunker. Because of the fight, Harry and Paul both missed the forms moving towards the redoubt through the trees outside. The UN soldiers took up positions around the bunker, which by now was emitting the sounds of a deadly struggle.
The redoubt was well-camouflaged and the UN soldiers would have probably missed it altogether had it not been for the loud voices issuing from within it. Had Harry or Paul seen the UN troops moving outside, the small group of rebels could have possibly used the escape tunnel thoughtfully provided by the former tenants, but all of this was missed as the current residents of the redoubt waged an internal war of their own. The UN troops had almost finished encircling the redoubt as shots rang out from inside the bunker.
The fires of hate were gone in the aftermath of the intense heat generated by the UN’s white phosphorus round. It was much to Anigbo’s surprise that the “Willy Peter” – or white phosphorous round – that he fired into the bunker had found its mark. The missile had actually passed through the small, almost invisible window of the concrete wall. The reason for Anigbo’s surprise was that he had invariably missed much larger targets when practicing at the UN firing range.
After the round hit home, venting its incinerating warhead into the bunker, the Israeli lieutenant in charge of the UN-sanctioned “Racial-Purity Elimination Squad” slapped the top of Anigbo’s helmet. The Hebrew officer then said fluently in Anigbo’s native tongue, “Good boy, Anigbo, I’ll see that you get extra rations for this tonight.” Anigbo smiled; he had never eaten this well back in Africa. America really was the land he had heard of; it really was the land of plenty.