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by Benjamin Rogers

“It was ten years ago son, that I caused all this,” the tall middle-aged told the little boy standing next to him on the grassy hillock.

They looked down over the small town, taking in the gingerbread adorned homes lined up down parallel streets that created the hamlet of Oakbrook.   The population at one time had run up on five thousand but since ‘The Event’ it had dropped significantly and the man had lived with that guilt all these years.  What would have been neatly pruned lawns ten years ago had been replaced with rows of vegetables that now provided much of the sustenance needed by the population.  One former yard was growing the neighborhoods pepper plants, nearly an entire block of yards handled the corn needs, and another series of homes grew all the tomatoes needed by the town.  This pattern continued over the populated portion of the town.  Carts and wagons had replaced cars and trucks.  This local high school now smelled of manure not because of a freshly fertilized football field, but because it now held the town’s livestock supply corralled off by their types.  Pigs were around the twenty yard line, cattle were at the other end of the field and chickens now occupied the what were once the locker rooms.

The man knew they had recovered well and he had led them a long way out of the darkness, but he still couldn’t get over that fact that a simple mistake had done all this.  It was a simple project he was working on.  Simply trying to improve his ride up to work was all that he wanted but it just didn’t work out that way.  Now he had to explain to his son how this had come about and how important his roll would be in the future.

“Son, I’m so sorry about all of this.  If I hadn’t been so selfish and done things the right way we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

The morning drive out the the freeway had always been quiet.  There was no heavy traffic, no slow cars, and no bad drivers.  However, once he reached the freeway to head downtown, the problems began.  The proverbial gridlock would inevitably set in and he would be stuck in traffic.  When traffic was like this he didn’t mind having the women putting on their makeup or another man shaving in the car beside him.  What really did bother him though were the people who cranked up their car stereos louder than the human ear should handle.  The vibrations of the bass would rattle his car windows and fillings.  If he didn’t have a headache when he woke up he had one when he got to work.  This had gone on for many years and made his dentist a pretty penny over that time. 

Eleven years ago was the worst experience he’d ever had.  The cars in front, behind and on each side had their stereos blasting.  The only way it could have been louder was if he was actually at the concert sitting in front of the two story stack of speakers that adorned the stage at any other show he’d been to.  Over a cold beer that night on the back patio the insane idea had come to him.  What would happen if he could knock out their electrical systems?

He knew that the police had something like this to handle street racers but he was pretty sure that it was illegal for him to own that piece of equipment.  What he needed to do was come up with his version to handle these road idiots.  He grabbed one of his wife’s little lined yellow notepads and began sketching out of of his beer fueled ideas.  Cars got sketched out like little rectangles on the paper surrounding his car.  Now all he needed to figure out was how to kill the electrical systems. 

It wasn’t until a week later when he was reading a novel about the electro magnetic pulses that get issued during a nuclear explosion.  Afterwards nothing electrical or electronic could work which was everything anymore.  Vehicles were run by computers.  All the lighting and power was distributed by computers.  All medical equipment was run by electricity.   He knew if he could deliver something like that to a small location he could take those cars out.  Knock computers in the cars and no more stereos.  It wasn’t a complicated idea but he knew that it would take some research to pull it off.

Month’s later he could successfully destroy a  radio within five feet of his make-shift pulse.  He sacrificed many cheap devices in the name of tests and he knew he could successfully pull it off.  This was going to work.  The man knew he would have his vengeance, now the final question was whether he could deliver the pulse or not. 

Once again genius was spawned by a few beers as he sat in the living room having a couple and watching some TV.  A commercial came on for a local hobby shop hawking their model kits and remote control cars.  With that commercial he knew how he would deliver the pulse to a vehicle a distance away.  The next day he drove down the road to the hobby shop and picked up some supplies for his contraption.  At home he opened the large box from his purchase and took out the chassis of a remote control car.  He hooked up a battery to the stock chassis car and tested the remote control to see if the car responded.  With a zip and a turn he drove the car right into the kitchen, spun it around and drove it back into the living room.  He took the car to his workbench and began to strip all the extra weight off it he could.  In it’s place he began to mount his little pulse maker.  All it had to do was stay low under another vehicle of his choice and trigger the pulse.

Pulling his car in the garage he mounted a small electro-magnet that would hold his little toy aloft with plenty of ground clearance.  Almost like a James Bond movie he could push a hidden button in the glove box and the car would drop off to the ground.  He could then steer the remote control car, position it under his target and hit the button to transmit a signal releasing the pulse.

Monday provided his best target and chance to test the little device.  In traffic that morning the usual happened and a Honda Accord pulled up next to him with the windows over tinted and one of those stupid mufflers on it.  As traffic came to a stand still near the next exit the boom boom of music began to drift the air.  As the man’s neighbor turned up the music the windows of the of his car began to rattle and held the potential to knock a filling loose.  It was now or never.  Reaching over and clicking the button in his glove box he could faintly hear the remote control vehicle drop to the ground.  He grabbed the remote control and steered the car to the left underneath the Accord and let it sit.  He took a deep breath and pressed the red button on the remote to trigger the EMP.

The music stopped abruptly, the vibration in his mouth and windows gone.  There was only one problem, the pulse turned out to be much bigger than it had been in the garage.  Looking down the road he saw the tail lights of the vehicles he followed shutdown.  It was like the pulse was using the vehicles to build strength and spread down the road.  People stepped from their dead vehicles trying to understand what had happened, grasping their cell-phones to try and call loved ones but it was to no avail.  The pulse had wiped out everything.  The electric traffic signs over the road, all the vehicles, and finally a traffic helicopter that had been over area reporting on the congestion.  The pulse had continued to grow reaching upward and outward, reaching up to the rotor driven aircraft.  It spun out of control as the pilot tried to perform a maneuver called auto-gyration where the momentum of helicopter is used to keep the rotors moving so it can land.  It didn’t work.  A large fire ball tinged with gray smoke shot from a neighboring field as the helicopter crashed to the ground.

“—and that’s what happened.  All I wanted to do was stop some loud music.  In the end I probably killed millions, son.  I’m a disgrace and now you will have to bear the burden of your father’s shame as you grow old.  You father has killed more people than anyone in history.”