Our hero faces his greatest struggle yet: surrounded in his unit’s Ukrainian bunker by a battalion of Russian zoomers, and constantly being stalked by a supernatural animatronic wolf, he must battle in his very body and soul against starvation and despair. For real…
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick…
Like maddening drips of water from a Chinese torture instrument upon my brow, the barricaded mess hall’s clock inconsistently ticked and tocked to a rhythm as predictable as the Chinese app which took its name.
Tick. Tock. Tick… Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick…
A briny solution of tears and sweat stung my eyes: ‘The clock. The clock! KILL THE CLOCK! KILL THE CLOCK!’ cried an heretofore unfamiliar voice in my head. Even a week earlier, I might have submitted to its demands—at least then I still had the spirit for it. Yet no amount of training or conditioning could have prepared me for three months in the same mess hall, ironically devoid of food after only two weeks.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick …
In happier days, our unit would have sprung to attention at that sound. But now, not even the officers could bring themselves out of the hot-hungry stupor of the present moment. This siege’s relentless assault on each of our senses took its toll:
You might think there’s nothing scary about the sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell of a three-months occupied military mess hall, and maybe ordinarily you’d be right. It used to be that I could only see my friends in other squads here, during meals. We’d catch up, tell stories of our romantic conquests: hunky Ukrainian women, easy Russian guys… whatever the hell Jeb Bush is… but we ran out of those stories after 15 minutes last October—also my arm started getting tired. Now, opening my eyes would reveal the same stinking mess hall in the same stinking bunker on the same stinking border of the same stinking countries. (I lost some vocabulary after a while with Mel.) My eyelids provided respite from the sight of our condition, yet my ears could not deafen themselves to the alarm clock. At least the alarm obscured the stalking screeches of the animatronic, always mechanically pacing outside our barricaded door, perhaps attracted to the stench of death and Axe which permeated the hall. I smacked my chapped lips, longing for my electric Fortnite toothbrush and the fluoride waters of America, and with Herculean effort, decided to get up.
Apparently, I was the first to rise, despite the unrelenting noise. Everyone else languished in their restless death, this mountainous bunker their pyramidal tomb. ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes man something something…’ I thought to myself, as I mechanically shebambled to the clock.
‘KILL THE CLOCK! KILL THE CLOCK! KILL THE CLOCK!’ The demon inside reached an orgiastic fever, in disproportion to the actual fever from which my body suffered. Still, the knowledge that I was the only one standing filled me with enough self-righteous energy to act: I killed the clock.
This disruption to the malaise was enough to jolt a few of the living stragglers in the room. Melvin was among them, as he rose up to greet another day. Melvin was in fact taking this well, as his civilian life was apparently not unlike this situation, just with less human contact. But even he had a breaking point, and for him, hope for rescue gave out before his will to act.
“Good morning. I like your cut G. I’m out.”
“Out? Tf you talking about Mel?”
“I’m leaving, no cap. I’m opening that door and walking home for real.”
“Mel, you headass critter. If you remove the barricade, we’ll be un-alived in seconds. Especially you.”
“I don’t give a rat-waifu’s ass what happens. Getting vored by that robot or busted on by a bunch of Russians is better than staying here, on God. Besides, who’s gonna stop me? You? I thought you didn’t care anymore…”
I realized he had a point. I shouldn’t care. Caring is mid.
“Ok. Good luck.” I said.
Mel concluded, “Bye, Felicia!”
With one last stupid meme, Mel turned and dismantled the barricade unimpeded. As I wondered whether an epitaphist would willingly carve those words on his grave, I heard the creaking of the door open, and closed my eyes, feeling a twinge of fear for myself and Mel.