Winter in Korea

The future isn't so bright after all.

When I was a child my mother read to me stories of the future, as I’m sure yours did for you. In them were the most wondrous imaginings that captured my young mind and refused to let it go. If you’re at all like me then you thought that you’d grow up to see flying cars, tubes that zipped you from place to place instead of stuffy buses, and man colonising far flung worlds so unlike our own. Perhaps that could have been, perhaps in some alternate dimension all of those incredible stories came to pass but this is not that place, this is the dimension where humanity lost its place atop the totem pole and from coast to coast, all across this once vibrant planet, the darkness reigns.

The year, for anyone reading this, if anyone is left to read this, is 2055 and right now we are all royally fucked.

I don’t even know if you’ll have heard what happened, or If our plight has been told and retold to the point where any semblance of truth left long ago. Whatever the case, allow me to tell you the truth of the matter and I apologise if you have heard it all before.

The downfall began in 2020 when, after years of posturing and threats, North Korea finally followed through and launched the nuke at mainland USA. The missile made it about 50 feet up and out of the bunker before it crashed back down to Earth and obliterated the tiny nation. That could have been it. The ‘enemy’ had destroyed itself and the threat was gone but people just couldn’t leave well enough alone.

The USA and China began a war of words, each lobbing the blame for North Korea’s actions at one another. America claimed that China knew the attack was imminent and purposefully did nothing to avoid catastrophe. China countered by denying the claims and accusing America of provoking Korea in the hope of gaining reason enough to invade. Both claims seemed pretty damn plausible if you ask me.

Things got even muddier when international agencies, really just various suits hiding behind a series of acronyms, got together and decided that Russia must have had a hand in the events of that fateful day, though to what extent nobody could say.

Whatever the case, the whole world, or at least the powers that mattered, agreed that a multi-nation task force should be sent into the still heavily irradiated country in the hope of gaining some answers. Really, I think they were all just hoping to be able to find proof of one another’s involvement so they could launch headlong into a whole new conflict.

Anyway, so it was that around 10,000 troops and other relevant persons were dispatched from around the globe to North Korea. The media had a field day as they guessed at what would be uncovered. Conspiracy theorists were the happiest they’d ever been as they threw out insane notion after insane notion, hoping that something would stick and they could claim some form of legitimacy because of it.

They landed in NK on February 12th 2021, some eight months after the strike. I’m sure it was an eerie sight to see the secretive nation now a deserted wasteland, full of crumbling buildings and barren streets. There was no actual footage from the expedition so we simply had to make do with small bits of information handed down from the powers that be.

Here in England we were all just hoping that our troops would make it back safely and that war could be averted.

By March questions were being asked about why nothing had been heard in well over a week. I remember one particularly overzealous news reader claiming that the Koreans had survived the blast and mounted a surprise attack on the interloping forces. That isn’t what happened but man, I really wish it was.

Three months…that’s how goddamn long we were left in the dark without so much as a statement from anybody. Not one government jackoff, not one military leader, not even a solo investigator of some sort. Three months and then it started.

The first we heard was that a handful of troops had shown up just across the border into China. There were no interviews, pictures or anything but we were told they were alive and undergoing routine medical checks before being returned home. Then it all went quiet again.

This time film crews could actually go to the site and they took us all along for the ride via live TV. I think it was the most watched event in television history, not that it matters to anyone now. The filming started as the typically chipper field reporters approached the medical centre where the men were being treated. There was no sense of fear, I remember that, they were calm as if this were just another story and that they’d be home soon, hugging their families and worrying about their next exposé. God, I wish I could feel that carefree again…just for one second.

I don’t think I’ve felt a tinge of happiness since they stepped foot in that building. On any normal day, it would have been the cold cement walls and blindingly bright lighting that brought my mood down but there was something else in there that no one could ever have imagined.

As the crew made their way through the facility I can clearly recall seeing charts, syringes, and furniture thrown all about the place. It was as though a hurricane had ripped right through the centre of it. As they moved towards the room where the men should have been held I could feel the anxiety pouring through the television. They were scared, breathing fast, struggling to hold the camera steady, the works. I think I was shaking too, I definitely spilt my drink, I suppose my hands were shaking? It doesn’t matter really, nothing does now, but I can still feel their fear, that I know for sure.

And then they entered that room. That goddamn room. It haunts me still, you know? It probably sounds silly; it’s just a room and after all the horror of these many years it would seem the furthest thing from my mind, but it isn’t. Not at all.

It was pitch black at first, despite the daylight that should have been streaming through the windows. They had gone in during the day, hadn’t they? They must have, I know I saw their faces clearly when they were outside. Had they been in there long enough for day to turn to night? No, no that’s just silly, it’d only been a half an hour. And yet there was no light, none at all. And then there was.

It was a glimmer really. Just a small pulsating vein piercing through the all-encompassing blackness. What was really weird, to me at least, was that it was blue. Yes, it was a pale blue and it seemed to be getting stronger, spreading out through the room as though it were part of a network. Thin lines of light snaked their way over the walls and the ceiling, just pulsating. It was captivating. For a moment, I was lost in this absurd beauty that had so unexpectedly entered my world. I think the crew were too, else they would have heard it. Surely they would have heard it.

Then again, I know I didn’t until it was already too late. The cameras pan to the floor and I recall thinking that the operator must have tripped. I almost laughed at his clumsiness and then the screaming started. God, it was probably only thirty seconds but those blood curdling cries of agony seemed to stretch on for hours and I watched helplessly, desperate to know what was happening in that strange room.

I wish I’d never found out. That face still haunts me. I only found out later that it was one of the soldiers, an American if memory serves. Only, he wasn’t a man anymore. Those pale blue veins, like tendrils, bulged under his skin and those eyes, Christ those cold dead eyes. I swear he was staring straight into my soul. I almost didn’t even see the blood dripping from his hideously stretched jaw. I definitely wish I hadn’t seen the clumps of flesh caught between his misshapen teeth.

I think the broadcast cut off then, though I was in a haze at the time.

Anyway, that’s how it started. That’s how our end began. Soon those veins spread and with them came more and more of those creatures. I couldn’t tell you what exactly they are but I know one thing for certain, the longer you look into those pulsing lines, the more you’ll swear they are beckoning to you.      

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