Monday, January 9, 2012

Challenge Story #2: Land Of Broken Dreams

Here it is. The second story in my challenge, Land Of Broken Dreams.  I hope you will take the opportunity to read it while I have it here totally free. Each week I will have a different story available on my website until the next one is ready to put up. Thereafter, the previous story will only be here as an except. You can read the entire stories on Kindle, Nook, iPad, or most e-readers. 


Shaun Kilgore

Copyright © 2012 by Shaun Kilgore

Published by Founders House Publishing

April 20th, 2017, 5:12 a.m.
Urbana, Illinois.

I couldn’t sleep. After three hours of tossing and turning, I sat up in bed, reached for the remote control in the dark, and let the glow of the television fill the room. I flipped through the channels for a while until I came to CNN. It was more of the same looped footage that showed throughout the day on the twenty-four hour news network. More of the same: President Richards making assurances that the last of the U.S. troops would be leaving Islamabad by September, a resurgence of riots across random sectors of Jerusalem and a deadly series of coordinated car bomb attacks across the Gaza Strip, and German scientists unveiling new genetic research that may have found a cure for HIV.

Just as I was about to turn the box off, a special news report filled the screen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. For past few years, tensions surrounding the border and immigration disputes with Mexico had been escalating more and more. Demonstrations were becoming regular across the western states, with southern California being the media center for the outpouring of radical Hispanic sentiments. Now, sitting in my bed, I watched Del Rio, Texas burning. A radical group calling themselves the MexAmerican Army had claimed responsibility for the devastation but no arrests had been made. Further bulletins started pouring in, breaking through even the newscaster’s practiced composure. Within a matter of minutes, the horrible scene was repeated in El Paso, Laredo, and Brownsville, though on different scales of destruction.

I got dressed but remained transfixed by the almost frantic news reports that were coming in. Explosions rocked El Paso—the source of the blasts still uncertain.

By 8:00 a.m., the broadcasts were merely replays of earlier recorded events. Camera crews from all of the major networks were vying for the space to cover the destruction of over half of Laredo, Texas. Thousands were reported dead in the fire and explosions.

I had to get away from the box now. My growling stomach gave me a reason. In the kitchen, I filled a bowl with Cheerios and ate in numb silence. I was nervous and apprehensive. It was same way I felt during 9/11. America had been attacked. But who was the MexAmerican Army?

It was this same question that dominated the press for the next several weeks. Speculation abounded at first. What made matters worse was the outbreak of race riots in El Paso. Gangs of young Mexican Americans squared off against the overtaxed El Paso police force, leaving scores dead or injured on both sides. Acting swiftly, President Richards sent National Guard troops into the border cities in order to keep peace. The responses varied among different segments of the populace. Both liberals and conservatives in both parties found themselves in agreement about something: They both condemned the use of military on American civilians, but comments by a shrewd congressman named Allan Davis stuck out among the sound bites. Talking to Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Network, Davis defended the president’s actions by saying that to let the war on terror rage on our soil again was an outrage.

While the rest of the nations watched the news develop in southern Texas, I tried to carry on life as normal. But, things weren’t normal anymore. Unrest in Urbana’s Latin community was taking its toll on my daily life. By trade, I was a computer technician. I worked out of shop that I owned in Champaign. I had built a good business from the ground up. But the largest portion of my customer base was Hispanic. As racial tensions mounted across the entire country, I found myself losing customers. People I had known for years suddenly took their business elsewhere. On the fifth of June, protest parades marched through the city and many Mexican storeowners closed up shop to show their solidarity to the cause. I went and watched the protestors, as did many others; Mexican flags filled the streets with a comparatively small number of American flags represented. A couple of occasions, American flags were deliberately hung upside down, showing such a blatant disrespect for the Stars and Stripes that even I felt a swell of patriotic anger.

A week later, the Internet was circulating similar events from every city in the United States. A deep, yet undefined, fear took hold of me. Yet, what could truly happen, I tried to assure myself. We are the greatest power in the world. A ragtag militant terrorist group was no match for us. To confirm that my fears were unfounded, the weeks and months rolled by and the turbulence of Hispanic community subsided--at least in the public eye. New, juicier sound bites replaced the state of affairs along the Rio Grande. Most were saying that it had been a problem that had fizzled itself out before any real harm was done. But, this wasn’t true. I wasn’t getting any of my customers back. By reading less mainstream sources off the Internet, I was able to piece together a better picture of what was happening in the south. Remembering that major network merely stated it as a side note I was rather surprised to find out that over half of the more than 20,000 National Guardsmen were still on duty in the affected cities along the border, adding their numbers to the border patrols.

Tijuana came up in small bulletins as well; reports from local papers favored the propaganda of the MexAmerican Army strongly. Everything was at a low simmer, yet it could boil over again if sufficient heat was applied.

The big story that dominated the mainstream press was coming of the President’s deadline regarding Pakistan. The Middle Eastern nation was embroiled in full-blown civil war. Continued U.S. presence only exacerbated the situation. President Richards was under harsh scrutiny as was his whole administration and his approval rating had dipped very low since the Texas attacks. It did not look like he would get a second term. The cry of most Americans was for the troops to come home. The final verdict was a two-month extension on U.S. withdrawal. The outcries came from every corner of the nation. Even our allies in Europe could not understand President Richards’ reticence in removing the troops. In Pakistan, this led to increased violence toward the soldiers occupying the country.
*   *   *

September 11, 2017. 9:27 a.m.
On I-74 between Crawfordsville and Indianapolis, Indiana.

I had decided to take a few days off and drive to Indy to see my brother Greg and his wife Patricia. They had moved to Carmel back in 2011 and I had not visited them once. With business still sluggish, I was frustrated and feeling burnt out. When Greg called out of the blue and talked about me coming to visit, I actually accepted his offer. It had been so unexpected, I though Greg was going to change his mind. Thankfully, he didn’t so I headed east at about 6:00 a.m.

Speeding along at eighty miles per hour, I was searching the stations for classic rock to keep me awake. I hadn’t slept all that well the night before and felt lousy, but not wanting to disappoint Greg, I went ahead and climbed into my gray Honda Camry and started out deciding that consuming copious amounts of black coffee along the way would be good enough. By the time I reached the Crawfordsville exit, I was on my sixth thermal cupful. The radio was playing an old Bon Jovi song from the mid 1980s when a special new broadcast interrupted. I turned to volume down in order to hear the announcer clearly.

“We have a breaking news alert. Live from San Diego California. Local correspondent Jackson Walker reports.” I adjusted the volume again in the pause. A baritone man’s voice replaced the woman announcer. “At approximately six-thirty a.m., Pacific time, a massive explosion ripped through the central part of the San Diego area, followed shortly thereafter by a series of smaller explosions that spread out to cover the entire city. Preliminary reports, suggest the use of high explosives even small nuclear weapons. The extent of the destruction is unclear as the smoke from burning buildings has obscured the landscape for ten miles in all directions. We will keep you informed as updates come into our bureau offices.”

After the report concluded, I left the radio alone. The station DJ was joined by a local journalist. The music was suspended as the promised updates began to come in. I knew that I wasn’t the only one who was listening. The expressions of the drivers I passed confirmed as much.

I listened as reporters from CNN and all the major networks chimed in on the destruction of much of San Diego. The initial explosion that rocked the city center was, in fact, a small nuclear weapon. The subsequent explosions were caused by the broken gas mains all across the city. Preliminary guess on the death toll were already reaching above ten thousand. I could not believe what I was hearing. I started weeping. After a while, I had to pull to the side of the interstate until I mastered myself. Suddenly, I realized what day it was. September the 11th.

“Oh, God, no. Please, Oh God,” I prayed.

I arrived at my brother’s house about forty-five minutes later. Everyone was in various states of shock. Every television in the house was broadcasting images of the burning remains of the city. I ended up staying three days with Greg and Patricia simply because I didn’t want to be alone. Under the circumstances, nothing was said. We were glued to the footage even as millions of Americans were. All of the theories, speculations, and investigations related to the source of the bombings were debated back and forth among liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans.

If you enjoyed this sample, Land Of Broken Dreams is now available in most electronic formats. (Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, etc.)

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