Quantum Eruption

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Before the eruption ended the Eco War, the entire west coast had gone green. Our small special forces team had been sent in behind enemy lines to the eco terrorist capital, Seattle. We were posing, ironically, as hipsters. I still shudder when I think of the atrocities I witnessed—and that’s just the wardrobe.

Eventually, the real hipsters caught on to us and laid a trap. The plan had been to sink a freighter full of carbon neutralizer weapons. The intel was right about the guns. However, they were in the hands of full fledged Green Peacemakers. The op was a massacre. I can still hear my commanding officer’s dying words, “YOLO, brah,” as he pushed me off the ship. He never broke cover, right up to the end. I somehow made it back to the safe crib for extraction.

I couldn’t live with myself knowing I was the only one who made it out alive. If it hadn’t been for my baggy kevlar beanie… After that, I put my name in for the most dangerous missions. That’s how I found myself alone at the top of Mount St. Helens in the middle of a hantavirus outbreak.

The virus was just a ruse to get the park shutdown and evacuated. The hike would’ve been a real walk in the park if it weren’t for the basketball-sized quantum device I had strapped to my back. The military scientists told me it would cause an eruption larger than the one, nearly a century ago, back in 1980. The floating ash would block out the sun across Washington and the neighboring occupied states—effectively cutting off the greenies’ main power source while halting transportation and military maneuvers. The devastation of a nuke without the radiation and carnage.

The estimates for eruption to initiate were anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and change. Not enough time to clear the 10 mile blast zone. Yep, a suicide mission. I always said I wanted to go out with a bang.

I stopped to hydrate in the shadow of a hoverboard rental kiosk. Emblazoned on the side was:

BOARD THE BOWL!

I stared at the pictures of hikers boarding down and up the crater. I hadn’t hoverboarded since enlisting. I would miss that.

I climbed down into the bowl to the assigned GPS coordinates, took out the bomb, and gently lowered it to the ground. The nerds kept telling me during the briefing that it wasn’t a bomb. They used words like “quantum phases” and “strangeness” to describe it. I got the strangeness part, but that was about it. The scientists cringed when the colonel told me the tin can sorta worked like a refrigerator in reverse, sucking cold out of its surroundings and making things hotter. I really didn’t care. All I needed to know was press the red button and stand back. Which is exactly what I did.

Nothing happened. I was getting ready to curse when I started to feel…tingly. Rocks began to bounce off the ground in front of me. The metal orb glowed as the rock around it smoked and reverted to a liquid. I Felt my teeth and bones rattle as the sphere sank into the ground. After a few minutes, the vibrations died down and I was left with just a smoking hole in the crater.

I had done it. The mission was over.

I plopped down on the ground and let out a deep breath. I stared up at the blue sky. It was a beautiful day. I might as well enjoy while I could. You only live once.

“YOLO,” I shouted. I began to laugh louder and louder. All the hipsters in Seattle never stopped saying the stupid word. I had thought YOLO was just another made up word like “frado” or “swag.” I never knew it actually stood for something. My commander had been telling me to live, to not waste my life.

“Screw this,” I said. “I’m not dying lying down.”

I ripped off my extra gear and ran to the kiosk. I coughed from the smoke that was already coming up through small cracks in the crater. I kicked open the locked door, plundered the nearest board, and threw on a helmet. Hoverboarding down an erupting volcano, now that was living.

Five feet of fun hummed to life beneath me after I locked my boots onto the hoverboard. An earsplitting crack sounded and the mountain shook with enough force to knock over trail signs. I leaned forward and took off down the trail.

I carved across the scarred and blackened surface at an incredible speed. The wind stung my face and stiffened my kinetic body armour, but I kept up the acceleration. I flinched every time I heard the ground shift behind me from the building pressure. It could blow at any moment.

Finally, I was off the mountain and gliding over the lake. But, I was slowing. This kind of board didn’t work on water. I wish this had pow—

A flash of red light lit up the sky. I braced myself for what I knew was coming next. The shock wave rocketed me forward toward the lake’s shore. It felt like I had been hit by a dozen fire hoses. I clawed at my helmet; my ears felt like they were torn inside out from the deafening blast. I doubled over on my board, gasping for air as I witnessed the devastation behind me.

The mountain was still breathing an enormous jet of fire straight up into the sky, feeding a mushroom cloud straight out of an apocalyptic scene. Lava coursed down its sides as the volcano dispensed its glowing life blood. The few trees that still remained standing shook from the ongoing quaking as debris rained down from the sky.
I skimmed over the shore and dismounted. It hurt to breath. Everything hurt. But pain meant I was alive to YOLO another day.

About the Author: 
Matthew Broadhead is currently an unpublished author. When he isn’t writing or spending time with his wife and two daughters, he is working to raise money for cancer research through the charity he founded: href="http://www.donatetoner.org">Donate Toner</a>.