Chapter One

I started awake, only to have my body forcibly shoved back into the restraints, my half-healed burns still blazing, refusing to heal. I screamed, but my throat was so dry that nothing came out. Just the barest of whispers. My vision flickered from white to red to black to normal, and then repeated the whole process. I struggled under my constraints. I heard shouts, but nothing registered. I struggled harder, and then felt, through the searing pain, a small prick in my neck, then nothing.

As I drifted, I heard sounds. Screams of the dying. Shouts of doctors. Explosions. I felt the very earth tremble underneath my bed. Each time I would come halfway to the surface of the drowning blackness of sleep, I would be shoved back by pain.

I was thrashing again, but it wasn't my outsides burning. It was my very being, the insides, the soul, that was on fire. I screamed aloud and this time it resounded through a deep silence. I opened my eyes to see the destruction of wave after wave of nuclear strike. My body seemed to burn, and the fire that engulfed me proved it. The water had since boiled away and left nothing but the steam that jetted from the sprinklers. I writhed as the fire raged.

I awoke later to a quiet and steady beeping sound. I opened my eyes to a bright white light. I saw red and orange dancing around my body and began screaming anew. Yet I did not feel any burning. I was not in any pain. I was, however, still strapped down. I struggled against the chains. Yes, chains. Chains of the strongest tungsten carbide, which were glowing a bright white from the fire surrounding me.

I thrashed as a man in his later years rushed in, brandishing a hypodermic needle. I saw him, and fear coursed through me. He slid the needle under my skin, and injected a cooling liquid deep into my bloodstream. A blessed cold spread through me, calming me and making my vision flicker once more from the red and orange to a normal view. The fires died and the chains returned to a burnt black. I slumped down into the gurney and slowly inhaled and exhaled. My thoughts had stopped rushing around in my head and were forming cohesive questions.

Where was I? Why am I not dead with my family? Why did the fire not burn? What was in the needle?

I opened my mouth to voice my questions, but a cold hand lighted on my forehead.

"Sleep now, young man. Questions shall wait until later. Sleep." I was lulled to sleep by the hypnotic powers of the old man's voice.

A while later, be it hours or days or mere minutes, I awoke and was relieved to find I was not burning, and my vision stayed normal. I was not strapped down, and the room was blessedly cold. I looked around with my eyes, not enough strength to actually lift my head, and saw I was in a quarantine room. The plastic around my bed was emblazoned with a large red symbol. Radioactivity levels were unsafe? Then why did they have me locked in here? I was too tired to scream, and the icy cold in the room was bliss. I felt the tear slide down my cheek.

My lovely Andrea. My sweet, sweet wife who had done nothing but good was now nothing but a pile of charred bones and ash. And my daughter, Alya, who was just a child and had done nothing to warrant it, was dead.

I felt more tears, hotter this time slide from my eyes. I let out my cry of pain and let the tears fall. I let the memories of love and adoration flood me like a river. I let my entire pain course through my veins like some insidious tormentor, stabbing knives of guilt and sorrow deep into my gut.

I had never gotten the chance to tell them how much they meant to me. Never told them they were my whole existence wrapped into two soft bodies. I never told them how much I loved them, and now I would never be able to. I cried out in pain and grief for my child and companion. I cried out there names in a heart wrenching shriek of guilt. I should have protected them better. I would never see them again. Ever.

My world, my reason for living, was ripped from me in an n instant of fire and light. And I was left alive to deal with the hatred and pain. Hate coursed through me now. Hate for the monsters that had taken them. The room was no longer cold. It had steadily heated up and I fell deeper into sorrow and despair, and now the hate coursed through me, manifesting itself in tongues of flame sprouting from my balled up fists.

The plastic covering shimmered and wilted, then burst into fire. The gurney caught flame and was incinerated. My vision was all red and orange. I got off the floor, out of the pile of ashes and bubbling metal that was the gurney, and began running. I had no idea where to, but I ran.

Passing through the halls of the hollowed out hospital, the paintings melted as my fury passed in a blink of an eye, and wallpaper burst into flame, curling in on their blackened edges as I passed. I could feel the fury raging around me, the fire quickly rising into a bright whitish-blue and pulsing outward in waves, in sync with the rising pattern of my hate-fuelled heart. I saw an old man, the same old man, and he was ash before I was twenty feet from him.

Guards were at the front door. I screamed a barbaric yell of pure loathing and pain, and the fire around me went pure white as the energy exploded outward and destroyed the front of the building entirely. The guards were nothing but smoldering piles of ash, even the metals had burnt to dust.

As I pounded onto the pavement, it cracked, melted, and charred under my feet. I picked up speed and ran for the horizon, which was still red with the aftermath of the nuclear holocaust. Bones passed by in a blur. Burning piles of rubble seemed to flare anew as I flew past them. I was going faster than ever before, my lungs laboring and my feet numbing from the constant pound of heel-to-ground beating. Still I ran. I could think of nothing but my wife and daughters faces, and the revenge I would bring down on the beasts' heads. I hated them. Hated myself. Hated, hated, hated! Everyone must die!

I ran until my legs gave out. I fell to the ground and began to cry. I sobbed at the pitiful waste of life and the horrible people who had done this. The Clock was past midnight, and now, we all suffer.