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Marcus King, Tarnished Memories

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This story started when I met Liza, a refugee from Chernarus during the civil war. She had fled to America after her parents had been murdered. I found her at an all night dinner, working as a waitress. From the moment I walked in, I could barely keep my eyes off of her. They way her long dark hair fell over her shoulders, they way her eyes twinkled when someone complimented her, and her soft, kind voice that could disarm anyone. I had been coming there for years, my office was only a few minutes away downtown. I am not sure how, but by some magical chance she happened to notice me, and the next four years followed by a strange blur of pleasure and challenge surmounted together, hand in hand..

We got married, flew in her sister and two brothers, which were all the family she had left. They had stayed in touch via post, and after her brother finished college, via e-mail and Skype. I was glad to have them, and so was my family. We welcomed them with open arms, and when they left we remained friends, trying to visit at least once every few years, until we had our first son, Jeff.

Jeff was our beautiful bouncing boy. He had an energy that you could feel, even as he grew older. Jeff took to sports, especially track and soccer like he had been born for them. As time moved on, his aunt and uncles had visited a few times, and he always seemed ecstatic to hear about where his mother was from. Of course, then again, so was I. There was little to Liza that was not astounding. Beautiful, smart, hardworking, and no less in love with a man like me. I was nothing special, I never was.

I blended into a crowd the way trees blend into a forest. My whole life I had never really stood out. Yes I was great at my job, and it took me outside, something I once loved, but I was just an average man. With Liza beside me, I felt like I was touched by God, if I ever really had believed in such a person.

It was for Jeff’s fifteenth birthday we had decided to take him to see where her sister and brothers. It was going to be a huge surprise, and the school worked with us to get the time off for him, and provide him with his assignments. It was going to be early October, that we left, so he would have time to adjust before his birthday a week after our arrival. I think he was better prepared for it that I was though, as I only knew a few of the words that Liza used when she felt overly romantic or when I found some previously unknown way to upset her. She was a wonderful woman, but everyone is temperamental sometimes. 

We hinted for the next few months before telling him two weeks before we left. He had grown up since he had been that young energetic boy. In those fifteen years he had matured and become quite a well mannered young gentleman. However, his eyes lit up just like his mother’s used to, and he dove at us, arms wide open. Everything was set, all we had to do was wait out the two weeks for the flight. The time of course, passed quickly, and when we touched down it was quite different then I remembered.

Last time we had been able to come, things were only starting to get rebuilt. The place, although safe, still showed the signs of the brutal civil war fought in 2008. Gardens were flourishing, trees lined the paved roads, and the buildings looked new, sturdy, and well arranged. I knew that my company, the UACS (United Allies Construction Services), and Bob Mason, a co worker had been out here for a lot of the time working on roads, government buildings, and generally working to assist the government in rebuilding their infrastructure.

I hadn’t volunteered, and Liza wanted Jeff to go to an american school so we had stayed, but as we stepped out of the airport, I think both of us wished that we might have at least considered it. Her eldest brother,  Nazar, who was a chief developer for a software company I would never hope to pronounce picked us up at the airport Miroslavl. At the airport we saw something on the news, but had been so busy with pleasantries that we had missed it. There was a moment in life that if there was an opportunity, I would go back and slow down, absorb it all. Maybe we could have found a return flight and left the country entirely.

Her brother Nazar lived in the city, but he was going to drive us out to the family farm, thirty kilometers Northwest. After a time, we left the paved roads and followed on what appeared to be a deep trail. His knockoff jeep was more than enough to make it over the uneven ground, and we so found ourselves in the loving arms of Silvia, Liza’s sister, with promises that Niko, the youngest brother would be joining us for dinner. 

The entire scene was breath taking. Wide open fields, tall flourishing trees, and a handsome two story home that overlooked the meadow. Jeff was already halfway out of the car before I reminded him that he should help with the bags. I knew the look on his face when he looked around. Both of us were the outdoors type, and I am sure he wanted to explore more than anything in the world. He took both his bags and half of Liza’s and rushed in after Silvia who lead us inside to where we would be staying. Both Jeff’s and our rooms were small, but cozy, and quite welcoming. Bright floral wall paper, hardwood furniture, handmade blankets draping over the bed, it was cute, like a bed and breakfast.

Liza and I took our time unpacking, I remember brushing against each other, the soft whispers issued back and forth, followed by brief kisses. By the time Jeff knocked, her arms hung over my shoulders, fingertips tracing along my shoulder blades. We let him go, and Liza and Nazar took him outside to explore. The evening progressed quickly, and worn out and dirty, Jeff joined us for dinner. Niko had arrived an hour earlier, and we shared coffee and stories until the others came in.

The next few days went by in a rush, a whirlwind of riding horses, long walks, and even a little hunting, with evenings around the fireplace and exchanges of stories and news. Niko brought with him news updates of the strange riots in the Southern parts of the country. After Jeff went to bed this turned into a huddled discussion. Fear of another civil war or for that matter any civil unrest easily caused a stir among the populace of Chernarus, even years later. Memories of the war did not fade so rapidly, and even the flowers, trees, and new construction couldn’t cover the scars that ran the length and breadth of the country.

Things began to settle down for a while, and we celebrated Jeff’s birthday the following week. The long vacation was long since over due, and Liza and I took the time to share it together. Then the rumors came from town on our visits for groceries and other supplies. More riots, more trouble brewing in the south. Liza was getting extremely worried, and soon her brothers and sisters shared the same sentiments. Plans were made incase they needed to leave for a while. 

I received a call from work, the UACS, that I needed to pack and get out of there. Things were turning bad quickly. Bob Mason, and several of the others working in the country were being evacuated via plane, and they had booked space for us on it. Scared, I agreed and called Bob. I remember the conversation in great detail as it haunts me still, as do the things that came next.

“Hey Bob, it’s Marcus, work called, what the hell is going on.”

“Marcus… christ, I forgot you were coming here, man you have to get out now. They are going to quarantine the country…”

“Quarantine, what the hell are you talking about!? The news said riots.”

“Well they haven’t put it on the news yet. The CDF knows about it, and our company as a jumper flight landing at the military airport here where we usually load and unload equipment for the projects. Get your family and get here now. The CDF are buzzing man, shits going to hell fast.”

“Ya, ya, okay, let me go get my wife and son, but Christ, what about my brothers and sister-in-law, we can’t just leave them!”

“Dude, it’s alright man, they are setting up checkpoints along the border, doing some kind of screening. Russia has cut the border completely off but they might be able to stay in one of the quarantined zones. Just make sure they get there while you get here. See you at the airport Marcus, hurry,” he said as he hung up.

I called out to everyone, even Niko had been staying there, I told them what I had been told, and they quickly packed their bags and loaded the 4x4. Niko’s pickup truck followed behind after he locked everything up. I don’t remember much of the trip, except the fear, at least up until the first checkpoint. When I tried to explain to the soldiers who I was, they refused to let us pass. No one was getting near the airport. The argument stagnated, and Liza seemed relieved we didn’t have to leave the safety of her family.

The drive North was full of the sights and sounds of military convoys, packed trucks, and even several large groups of families walking the same road we were taking. It was a long, and slow journey, as we passed hundreds of scared people, scrambling for safety. By the time we got to the border, we saw the full force of the military, both Russian and Chernarussian. Fences were topped with razor wire, trucks blocking entrances and exits, forcing people down narrow winding strips of road with cars parked along the sides.

When we got to the checkpoint, Liza’s family showed them their I.D’s, and we showed our passports. We were told to park the vehicles and carry what we could. The winding lines of scared, frightened people did little to help calm our nerves. A health screening was being given to everyone, but after what seemed like several hours, we were given a ten number that we could store our stuff and rest.

Life there was short and dirty we found out. Soup kitchen like tents were setup, serving a morning and an evening meal. People mingled, discussing events, rumors, and some played chess on emptied military crates by fires. This went on for a week before things went south. During that time, we had no communication with the outside world, and no one was let out the otherside. In the distance we saw Russians building watch towers and erecting fences while tanks and soldiers menacingly aimed towards us through electronic scopes.

Rumors spread of other border sites coming under attack from mobs of rioters, but the soldiers only mumbled it under their breath, and the police that walked among us wouldn't say a word about it. Knowledge of a country wide quarantine was now well know, and many of us realized we would be trapped here, and none knew for how long. When our outpost finally drew attention, we knew it by the first gunshot from the front fence.

Screams were heard, police now dressed in riot gear forced us away from the fence. The first shot was followed less than half an hour later by another, then fifteen minutes later. Soon shots were heard in rapid succession, dozens of rifles sparking flames and roaring in the night sky. We saw what they shot at. People, they were shooting people that came to the fence. Anger welled up inside, and soon the police could no longer control the crowd of civilians. If only we had known what they were shooting then. But soon we found out. A group had tried to make a break for it, through the side of the little shanty town. Someone had grabbed bolt cutters and made an exit through the fence. That was where the first infected made their way in.

Someone must have thought the person was injured or sick, but when they tried to help them, they started the spiral that led to the death of everyone I loved. It only took minutes for the police to get overrun once the saw what was going on. They tried everything to protect people, but the people who had come in infected the people nearest that side, and they replaced those that fell. Niko was the first of the family to fall, then  Nazar and Silvia, as they tried to pull him out of the grasp of the strange dark hair woman, whose face seemed to have been torn off as if an animal had attacked her.

I remember grabbing Jeff’s hand as he turned, and throwing my arm over his eyes, hoping to save him from the horror. Liza just stopped and stared as her family was swarmed over by those that feel to the infection. It was then that I saw the military turn and finally begin to start firing into the crowds. Many no longer aimed. They were surrounded on both sides by swarms of crawling and running figures attempting to reach them, and they switched off what humanity remained within them, and they thought merely of their own survival. 

Uninfected citizens were torn apart as their truck mounted machine guns belted out round after round into the crowd, tearing through multiple people in a row. I watched as my wife slowly turned towards me, as I stood frozen in place, my son tugging at my hand. Before the unruly creatures reached her, she doubled over, being knocked a foot back from what must have been simply mathematical velocity discharged by the pointed metal slug. Blood exploded out from behind her as it went straight through her, and she fell to the ground, dead instantly. I can remember going numb. Not physically, but mentally. I knew my son was dragging at my arm, that bullets were smashing into both creatures and people around me, but I couldn’t react. I simply absorbed the information as my eyes and ears processed it. The carnage around me seemed so far away, even as dirt and blood sprayed up at me, landing on my clothes and my face. My son’s voice sounded distant, although I was aware he had reached up to shake my shoulders.

I felt a sharp pain in my jaw. My boy had punched me, jogging me awake. The creatures were advancing on us. Once he saw that I had come out of my trance, I took his hand and we ran away from the fire. In the distance, I noticed the Russians had not advanced on the bloody scene. They stood in their line, behind their concrete barriers and sandbags, watching, just watching. I turned to see that we had run fully across the camp, backed against a fence now with dozens of others who had been of like mind.

Above me, I could see the top of the fence was not covered in razor wire like the front and back of the camp. Quickly I called to the others to start climbing, and then grabbed my son and hoisted him up. Quickly he scampered over the fence, as did several other children and a few more of the lithe adults. The sound of gunfire was dying out and being replaced by screams. The line had been overtaken, and those tasked with protecting us instead received the justice of the damned, among them my wife, for having decided to not discriminate between man and beast.

As my son hopped down, I saw a handful of the infected take notice to us and turn towards us, then running at us in full sprint. Looking around for some way to defend myself, I saw a rifle, thirty feet away, lying in the hands of a dead police officer. Beside me I found a shovel which had apparently been used to fill sandbags as indicated by the uneven dirt around me. Hefting the shovel in one hand, I charged towards the forgotten gun praying that the magazine still had a few rounds left.

Nearing it, I saw spent shell casings on the ground, how many I couldn’t tell, nor did I get the chance, as one of the infected dove at me. With all of my strength I swung the shovel blade, merging it with the creature’s head. The force of the blow caused it to collapse, and as I let go of the shovel I fumbled for the AK laying there. Picking it up, I quickly pulled back the charging handle, expending one precious round into the air as I brought the barrel to eye level.

Things are fuzzy after that. I remember hearing the click at one point of the chamber bearing itself open to find no additional rounds available to load, bashing in the heads of multiple assailants while screaming like a mad man, and the bent broke rifle falling from my hands as an explosion went off. Looking back on it, I think it was the Russians, intervening from their distant posts. Tank shells most likely were used, destroying the entire camp. When I awoke next it was dawn, fires dwindled around me and I was alone. My son and the others were seemingly gone. The rifle beside me was bent, a feat that I could not, nor would like to remember just how it could have happened.

The more I looked around, the more I saw of craters and discarded scrap metal. It appeared that the outpost and been shelled from behind Russian lines, decimating the remains. I don’t know how I survived, I was cut up, bleeding, half deaf, and my face felt swollen, but some how I got to my feet. It was then I noticed that the fence was gone. Twisted metal wire lay nearby and I assumed that the fence and suffered the same fate as the rest of the camp.

I left, following the direction that I assumed my boy would have went. My left leg felt like it was made of bricks, but I limted along, hoping that being used would ease the tension in it. I only made it maybe a 100 yards from camp before I saw more smoke. Trees were collapsed, smoke was trailing in the air, and the air smelt terrible, just like at camp. As I drew near what looked like another bombardment, I saw the remains of what had once been either people or infected, I guess I will never know. I do know that I saw my son, curled into a ball, his flesh burned nearly black, and his legs missing. I won’t go into details, but I found out it was my son, and most of the others that had escaped the camp. The Russians must have been unsure and just shelled the shit out of them to make sure they weren’t infected. I’m not mad at the Russians, they couldn’t have known, and they were defending their borders. But now I was alone, lost, and scared.

I scavenged what I could from the camp, the cars, and the trucks as best I could and walked away from the border as fast as my legs would carry me. My mind tore at itself, my whole family dead, my son, my wife....

I cried a lot for the next few weeks, off and on at the little camp site I had made for myself. I had decided to hide instead of to look for survivors. I had rations for a month, and I figured after that I could scavenge again. My habits started to change, my heart growing colder. More than once I saw in the distance someone struggling or held up by the new growing groups of bandits. I just stayed back and watched, uncaring. What really mattered anymore? Survival at this point was an instinct not a purposeful pursuit. But that all changed when my supplies ran low and I had to rejoin what was left of the world. Chernarus, when will it end?

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I love it! Great description of what occurred at the initial outbreak. It can sometimes get tedious juggling lore details with a character's story but it is always so rewarding. Definitely can tell you have put a lot into Marcus. Excited to meet you in game!

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