by Max Barry

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Region: Kantrias

Breaking News Broadcast from the North Wind Times

"Turmoil never seems to be far off in these days. Zoygaria has declared a state of emergency, and has entered Code Gevé, authorized by His Royal Majesty King Zobieski III. The military is rapidly mobilizing, and entire sections of the nation have been bulked up for war. Our neighbor to the west, Akaramo, has seen increased visits from the Zoygarian military, with a possible collaboration occurring, though this remains uncertain. The gemstones* have been undergoing back to back air raid drills, and the harbors have been prepared for evacuation if necessary. With our jets racing across the sky, we can only hope that our men and women in arms will defend us. That's all for now, stay tuned for new updates, and remember: liberty does in silence. I'm Kovek Sprigen, reporting from the North Wind Times Station in Dinsk."

*The Gemstones— Zoygarian Arastian Sea colonies

Oszk, Parva District, Czovoska

Thunder. Lightning. No...
Clouds of grey. A storm. But no rain...
The ground rumbles. An earthquake?
But earthquakes don't leave holes in buildings.
No sun. Then where is the light coming from?
Lightning. Flashes of lightning.
Storms don't go bang...
Not lightning... fire...
Not thunder... smoke...
Not tremors... tanks...
This isn't a storm... it's a graveyard...
I take off running, I have no idea where.
The market, the pier, the square, all rubble.
Faded memories...
The flag flies. But whose flag is that?
Is isn't red, nor blue.
It's... grey...
I run, they follow. A pack of dogs, surely.
They growl at me, hissing words I can't understand.
I duck. I run faster.
Bang, bang.
A flash. Fire?
I do see red... just not in the flag...
I fall. I tumble. I scrape.
The hounds have found me.
Can dogs kick?
Can dogs laugh?
These can. However, I don't hear them.
The only thing I hear is...

I woke up with a start. I hit my alarm clock, but the noise didn't stop. I checked it. 2:40 A.M... then where is that no—
Then it hit me. I need to get outside. I looked up. The flag was still there. I checked around me. Dozens of others, scrambling from their homes, flooding the streets in a single direction. Mrs. Stovoska, Ivka, Sir Abalov, they were all here. There were no words, only the sound. That dreadful sound. The air raid sirens. In the past 12 hours, 9 drills had taken place, including this one. I could faintly hear the echo of the sirens from our neighboring islands...
We moved as a group. We were many, but one. As I walked, I thought to myself. As if there was anything better to do...
In my dream... was it a dream? Those dogs... they weren't dogs, were they?