Thursday, February 11, 2016

"The Boy and the Battlefields"


I won't be able to post next week because of my approaching wedding and honeymoon! So, I wanted to get this post out this week. My story for this week is called "The Boy and the Battlefields". It was written for a Short Story group prompt called "Alternate History".
Let me know what you think. I'd enjoy any feedback!



"The Boy and the Battlefields"
by James J Meadows III

  "This way, folks," the guide called over the heads of her mostly attentive audience.

Justin, a short brown-haired boy at the back of the crowd, was not one of the attentive ones. He marched behind his parents, head stuck in his Gameboy console, while his brother Ethan skipped beside him, bobbing up and down with undisguised enthusiasm. Justin knew Ethan loved history. His brother spoke incessantly of his desire to visit the battlefields of the Canadian-American War. Justin, for his own part, was much more interested in zapping Aliens. If he could just complete two more levels, he’d have a new high score, finally breaking the record set by his friend, Tony. With two lives left, today was shaping up to be his lucky day.

"Here you see a picture of Lincoln standing beside the map of the ‘New America’ he touted during his Presidential Campaign." The guide continued. “His vision of the ‘New Manifest Destiny’ and the ‘Great American Dynasty’ inspired Americans, opening their eyes anew to the glory of the British, French, Prussian and Ottoman Empires. His vision of expanding the nation to the Arctic Ocean united a public weary of the turmoil and political battles raging over topics like slavery; uniting them behind a common cause. He easily won the public vote, capturing the presidential election by a landslide. The result sent ripples across the Northern Hemisphere, striking fear into the hearts of world leaders, and creating panic throughout Britian and Canada. Yet, their worst nightmares couldn’t have foreseen the events that would soon unfold..."

Yes! Justin thought as he blasted another alien from the game world forever, 70000 points and an extra life! Only 20000 more to go! He paused the game as they moved to a new location.

"The United States officially declared war on Canada on June 24th, 1861," the guide was saying. "As you can see on this map, the Canadian military and their French and British allies were fully mobilized, ready for the conflict. Still, as they would soon find out, they had severely underestimated both the tenacity and resourcefulness of the American armies."

The guide was still talking but Justin couldn’t spare her any mind. A boss alien had appeared. Justin pressed buttons as quick as his fingers could work, desperate to get through the battle. Of all times, it was at that pivotal moment when his brother jostled him. Justin’s finger slipped, sending the ship to the wrong spot. The ensuing blast from the monster cost him a life. He glared at his brother, who was too intent on the lecture to notice, as the game reloaded back to where the death occurred.

He renewed his assault on the boss with fresh determination. A minute later, he breathed a sigh of relief, as the level boss burst into a thousand sparkling pixels. Justin was moving to the next level, where he only needed 15000 more points. As the game played through a storyline sequence he had already seen a hundred times before, Justin was once again able to spare an ear for the guide. He glanced up absently as she led the tourists past various photos and diagrams.

    "By the time the Canadian and American forces met here at The Battle of Quebec City, Britain and its Canadian provinces were in a dire situation. They were desperately short on equipment and men. To make matters worse, their supply lines were in complete disarray. There was no hope for land-based aid as Generals Beauregard, Forrest, and Cleburne tracked down and crushed all reinforcements coming from the south through Mexico and the Caribbean.

    “Nor could help arrive by sea. In only 2 years America had constructed a fleet of as many iron clad warships as the British and French combined. Like most iron clad warships of the day, they weren’t very affective for trans-oceanic travel or fighting. Still, the City class and Monitor class ships were superior in design and faster to produce than their British and French equivalents. Along with assistance from the world’s first operational military submarines, the Hundley and the Alligator, America established an impenetrable blockade of both the Great Lakes and the Canadian coast. The outdated wooden ships necessary for the mother country to transport supplies and reinforcements across the ocean were simply no match. The only remaining routes for reinforcements required traveling the long land based paths through Greenland. These were far too slow to match the speed of America’s railway supply lines. The result left the British-Canadian army on its last leg as July 1863 rolled around."

    Boom! Justin scowled. The new level had hardly begun and already he had lost his first life. He had only two lives left and was approaching the final boss for level 23, a boss he’d never defeated before. With his points scrolling toward 89000, the fate of his game rested upon the next few crucial minutes. He tried to tune out the distracting voice of the guide as she rambled on but her words seemed to pierce his concentration, each fresh sentence assaulting his mind like gnats swarming his thoughts.

    "Here, on a snowy plain on July, 24th 1863, the main force of the British and French armies merged with a number of retreating smaller forces. Their intention was to confront America's main force led by Generals Robert E Lee and Ulysses S Grant. Meanwhile,  various American forces led by Stonewall Jackson, General Sherman, General Meade and General George Thomas arrived in pursuit of the retreating enemies forces. These merged with America’s main force to confront the allied enemy army. Over the following five days, the Battle of Quebec City became the bloodiest conflict in American history.”

    The moment had come. The boss, a massive Alien mother ship, which took up almost the entire video game screen, advanced against Justin’s ship. Justin pushed the A button as fast as he could. He directed his little space ship up and down trying to dodge the deadly fire of his unbeaten rival. The enemy’s life meter was dropping. So was his own. He was down to fifty percent, forty percent…twenty percent! Wow, we dodged a major blast right there. Crap, hit again, ten percent. Boom! His ship was gone. He was down to his last life.

    “On the second day of fighting, the main force of the French army found themselves trapped between Sherman’s troops and the river. They were cut off from their British allies and faced the prospect of a complete rout. With no hope of escape, they surrendered during the early afternoon hours when Sherman’s reinforcements arrived.”

    His new life was ready to start. The boss was down to almost fifty percent; he just needed to last a little longer. Pressing the A button again in furious agitation, he sent waves of laser blasts at the opposing ship. His life was down to seventy percent, barely ahead of the enemy ship, which was already down to forty…now thirty! Ouch, he got blasted by the villain’s main weapon. That hurt. Justin was down to forty percent. A touch of desperation crept into his attack. The villain was down to twenty, fifteen, ten percent! Justin was dropped to ten as well. This was the moment. The villain was down to five. He just needed to land one…more…shot.

    “Yes!” Justin shouted, hoisting his hands into the air.

    The boss was defeated!

    Jumping up and down, Justin pumped his fists in victory. Then, he froze. All eyes were looking at him.  He scanned the crowd with the sudden discomfort akin to finding himself in the middle of a bright spotlight. The tour guide looked shaken. Others looked shocked. A few of the grown-ups appeared amused but his parents weren’t among them, frowning down at him with disapproving glares. Justin lowered the Gameboy with a sheepish expression.

    “Anyway…” the tour guide stuttered. She seemed to be having some difficulty rediscovering her rhythm. “As I was saying, after the northern front collapsed, the battle was over. The British officially surrendered to General Lee at the Quebec City courthouse four days after the end of the battle. A year later, Congress ratified the new boundaries, dividing Canada and the Northwest Territories into the 51st through 65th states. Lincoln’s New Manifest Destiny and the Campaign to the Artic finally became reality.”

    Confident all eyes were off him, Justin returned his attention to the game console. He scanned the grey and black screen searching with fervor for the numbers he desired. Up in the corner, he saw the new point total displayed proudly for all to see: 90215 points.

    A smile of triumph crossed his face. He had gained another life, reached a new high score, and moved on to a new level. The adventure was just beginning.