The City Burns: A Prepper's Struggle for The Truth

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The City Burns

Chapter 1


Blood trickled down from his nose. Bruises blotched his cheeks. His clothes were torn off and he sat naked in a chair with his hands taped behind his back. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been held in the cold, dark room. His head swayed back and forth as he struggled to see through his half swollen eyes.


No windows. Four concrete walls and a single locked door. Footsteps echoed faintly from the hallway outside. His body began to shake. The boots thumped louder. The sweat covering his body mixed with the dried blood. The door flung open and three men in army cargo pants and green shirts entered. “Good morning, sunshine!” The lead man had a buzz cut with a scar under his left eye and a pair dog tags dangling from his neck. He cracked his knuckles, signaling to the prisoner that more was to come.


The second soldier flicked on the light. The prisoner’s face winced as the light blinded him. The second soldier leaned back against the wall and wiped the sweat off his nose with his shirt. “I think we woke him up,” he said as he looked over at the lead soldier with the scar under his eye. “Mike, can you believe this guy?”



Mike grabbed the man by his hair and lifted his head up into the light revealing the open cuts and lumps on his face. “You’re not gettin’ sleepy on us are you?” Mike asked. He shoved the man’s head down hard. Mike glanced over to the third soldier. “Bob, we were only gone for what? An hour or so?”


Bob grinned. “Closer to a day.” Mike looked shocked. “A day?” He shook his head in disapproval while circling the trembling man. The prisoner’s breath became sharp and quick. “No, no, no, no, no. I’m so sorry about that.” Mike placed his hands on his knees and hunched down to look the prisoner in the face. The disoriented man’s vision was further obstructed by the hair that draped in front of his eyes. Mike put his hand on the man’s shoulder, gave him a few pats, and squeezed shoulder gently. “We didn’t mean to leave you in here for that long. I’ll tell you what,” Mike said. He knelt down before the man. “Why don’t we get you out of here, clean you up, and get you something to eat?” he asked. “How does that sound?


Bob smiled as he leaned up against the left wall of the room. “Sounds pretty good to me, Mike.” Mike whipped his head around and smiled. “Doesn’t it? Doesn’t that sound good, Brian?” He turned around to Brian, the other soldier, and nodded.  Brian flicked the light switch from his position by the door. There was a bucket of water with ice chunks floating in it next to him. “Best idea you’ve had all morning, Mike.”

Mike nodded in agreement. He turned back to the man, whose head swayed downward in exhaustion.  “Here that?” Mike asked the man. “Best idea I’ve had all morning. I bet you think it sounds pretty good too, huh?”


Mike moved closer to the man to the point of touching the man’s nose with his own. He spoke in a soft whisper, almost like he was telling a secret to a close friend. “I can get you out of here. I can get you a nice warm bed with a hot meal. You don’t have to stay in here anymore. All I need you to do is tell me who you’ve been working with. That’s all. Just fill in the blank for me and you’ll be free.” Mike’s eyes looked him up and down. The prisoner was still trembling. His shoulders began to shake. Little moans, barely audible, began to escape from his mouth. Mike rested his hand on his shoulder again. His voice was incredibly sympathetic. “Hey, hey, hey. It’s alright. Just tell us what we need to know.”



The prisoner mumbled something. Mike shook his head. “I didn’t catch that. One more time.” Again the prisoner mumbled; his chin digging into his chest. Mike turned around to Bob. “Did you catch that, Bob?” Bob shook his head. Mike turned to Brian. “Brian?”


“Nope, couldn’t hear it, Mike.”


Mike turned around again and lifted the prisoner’s chin up. “We couldn’t hear you. Why don’t you speak up a little bit?” Mike’s voice remained soft, but also had an edge to it. Tears rolled down the prisoner’s face. His chin rested in Mike’s hand. The swelling of his eyes were getting worse. Mike’s face was an unrecognizable blur. The man weighed his options. He wasn’t sure what he could tell them. He wasn’t sure what they’d do to him after he told them. It could just be a trick. They could just be trying to lure him out.  A voice came out of his mouth that he didn’t recognize. It cracked as he spoke. “I… d-didn’t… d-do anything.”


Mike’s face went sour. He shook his head as he held the prisoner’s chin in his massive hands. He moved his hand away and stood up. The prisoner hoped the soldiers had reached the limit of their interrogation methods.  He turned away from the prisoner and paced from Bob to Brian. “You see boys? You see what happens when you try to extend the hand of friendship to someone who just doesn’t want it?” he asked.


Bob shook his head. “It’s a damn shame.”

Brian agreed. “Sure is.”


Mike grabbed the bucket of ice water. It sloshed back and forth as he walked over to the prisoner. The man had gathered enough strength to lift his head back up on his own. He stared straight ahead, not looking at the bucket or his captors, but at the empty void of a room that was his confinement.



Brian walked over and grabbed the back of the prisoner’s hair. Brian yanked his head back. He tried to resist, but was too weak to put up much of a fight. His breaths began to accelerate. His jaw clinched together as Bob threw a cloth over his face. The florescent light bulb looked scattered underneath the pattern of the cloth as the fabric puffed up and down from his breath.


Mike stood over him holding the bucket of ice water. His voice was stern as he spoke. “Who are you working for?” he demanded. They heard only the sound of the man’s gasps as the cloth rose and fell from his panicked breaths. Mike tilted the water over the edge and onto the cloth. The man gurgled and choked on the water as it soaked through the fabric. The water ran into his mouth and nose. The frigid water burned into the cuts along his face and down the rest of his body. Just when he thought he was going to drown and finally break, they stopped.


“Where’s the hard drive?” Mike shouted. He kept the bucket at an angle over the prisoner’s face while Brian kept the grip on the back of his head tight. The man coughed up water and spit as he choked for breath. Again, Mike tilted the stream of water over the prisoner’s face. The familiar icy blast of pain and panic rushed over him. The burning sensation filled his forehead as the water rushed up his nose and into his nasal cavity. He tried to jerk his head up, but Brian’s grip was too strong. Then everything stopped for a moment and with that, instant relief.


Mike set the bucket down. Bob ripped off the soaked cloth and threw it over his shoulder. Brian let go of his hair. The prisoner violently coughed in an endless motion that was painful to listen to.  He vomited water over his chest as snot dribbled down his nose. He felt the uncomfortable slosh of his own blood, sweat, and dirt trickle down his legs.


Barely recovered from the most recent ordeal, a smashing blow came to his stomach, causing more water to spew from his mouth. He doubled over and gasped for breath, but he couldn’t find any. Mike sent another blow to the side of the prisoner’s face. Blood gushed from his open wounds and splattered on the ground. The prisoner spit out a tooth as his head hung limp on his shoulders. Mike went and picked up the tooth on the ground. Blood pooled from his battered knuckles as he held the tooth up to the light. “Well now, you should keep this under your pillow tonight.”



Mike spun his head around to Brian and Bob. He started to laugh. “Maybe the tooth fairy will bring you something nice.” He tossed the tooth over to Bob. Mike put his hands on his hips and tilted his head to the side as he looked at the naked, beaten, and bloody man in front of him. “Well?” The man’s head just swayed in delirium. His thoughts were jumbled. There was a sharp pain in his side whenever he took a breath. He started to wheeze as his head finally came to a rest.


Mike rammed his fist into Jim’s face. He hit him again and again. Each time more blood flew to the ground in red droplets. The cuts across the prisoner’s face gushed open and he moaned as he spit up blood. Brian walked up and pounded away at his gut. Every blow that hit him made him feel as though his insides were collapsed. Brian threw one final punch into the prisoner’s stomach and there was a loud crack. Mike and Bob started to clap. “Sounds like you cracked his ribs, Brian. Well done,” said Mike.


Mike shook his head as he wiped the blood from his knuckles on his shirt. “Okay, it looks like we’ll have to try something a little different.” Bob walked over and handed Mike a file. He flipped open the vanilla cover and turned over several pieces of paper. “It doesn’t seem that I’m going to be able persuade you to tell me what I want to hear.”



Blood dripped from two fingers on his left hand. He could feel everything in those exposed fingertips. It was like knives were driving through them. Mike smiled as he took out a picture from the file. He held it under the light to get a better look at it. “Oh, here we go,” he said. “Hey, buddy, this might lift your spirits up.” Mike tilted the man’s head up so he could get a good look at the picture. A young girl sat playing with a cat outside of a tent.


“You’re little girl’s looking like she’s doin’ pretty good,” Mike said. “You think if we bring her over here it’ll refresh your memory?” The prisoner’s heart was thumping out of his chest. “If you hurt my daughter I swear to God—“


Mike cut him off. He flipped another picture in front of him. “Then how about your wife? I’ve gotta tell you, man,” he said while letting out a long whistle, “she’s got a nice little ass.” Mike leaned in to his ear and whispered again. “I’d hate to ruin those pretty little nails of hers, Mr. Kearny.” Matt Kearny pulled against his restraints as he summoned what was left of his strength, but it didn’t amount to much. He was weak. He was beaten. His family was in trouble. He stared at the picture of his wife and little girl in front of him.


Then he saw something. He saw someone in the picture he thought he recognized. The man was in the top right hand corner of the picture. He should have made the connection when he saw his daughter playing with the cat. Once he knew who it was he started to laugh. It started slow, but grew louder. It sounded like the laugh of a mad man.


“You think this is a game?” Mike threw the file across the room. He leaned into Matt as his laughter winded down. “When I bring your wife, along with that little girl of yours and her fucking cat I’m going to hurt them. Do you understand me?”


Matt smiled. “That’s not my daughter’s cat.”


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