The Brief and Insignificant Life of a Lowly Tower Guard
Erich Earl Forschler | Cait Maloney
The guard walking back and forth along the inner perimeter wall of the recaptured nuclear facility stopped and lit a cigarette. Once the ember was full he lifted his chin and drew in a long, deep smoky breath. Then he resumed his oscillating routine.
Tower Guard 1 watched the walking guard from his perch, a metal box on metal stilts high above the rim of the wall. He scoffed and turned to Tower Guard 2 and said, “Look at him down there. Back and forth. Back and forth. Man, that guy’s life sure sucks.”
“Right?” 2 replied. He sat on a pile of sandbags with his back wedged into the corner, his hands busily whittling a piece of wood into the shape of a smaller piece of wood. “Glad I’m not that guy.”
They wore matching black coveralls with matching black MOLLE vests over their chests. Black gloves and boots and caps, all the standard fare, right down to the identical sub-machine guns that were effectively useless to tower guards unless the enemy was really, really close. But anyway.
“He must really believe in the cause.”
“Mm-hmm,” 2 replied without looking up from his whittling.
Tower Guard 1 grabbed a pair of binoculars and then set about scanning the horizon in every direction. “I heard they’re building a dirty bomb in there,” he said, still scanning.
2 shifted his weight on the bags and let out a sigh. “Nah, it’s some kinda robot-thing. Real big and has missiles and all that.”
“Maybe a big robot with a dirty bomb?”
“Nah, probably a really big submarine, actually.”
1 lowered the binos and gave 2 a sharp look. “A submarine?”
“Sure.” He whittled.
“Huh.” 1 resumed his magnified view of the surrounding terrain for a moment. Then he lowered the binos again and said, “But we’re miles from the nearest river or whatever.”
“So, a submarine doesn’t make any sense.”
Then 2 sighed and lifted his gaze to look at the other guard. “Look, don’t get bogged down with details. Point is, bad guys here, building something to dominate the world with, and then the good guy is supposed to come, probably alone or with minimal help from the comic relief, and then just before the doomsday countdown clock hits zero he saves the planet.” He shook his head and returned to whittling.
“So what are we doing here?”
2 groaned and slammed his hands to his lap. The whittled wood and knife both fell to the floor. “We’re waiting for the good guy or whatever. But you and that — that,” he paused to wave a hand in the direction of the walking guard, “idiot down there — you two — you’re paying too much attention.”
“Huh,” 1 replied. He turned toward the inside of the tower. “So, we’re supposed to do what, exactly? Take naps?”
2 shrugged. “Eh. Doesn’t really matter.”
“Well, who made you the expert anyway,” 1 said, turning his back to his partner and resuming his scan of the horizon.
“Just think about it — did the boss give you a name?”
1 lowered the binos but kept facing outward as he thought. “You know, I’ve never even seen the boss, now that you mention it.”
“Well, there you go.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
“Yeah,” 1 affirmed. “You’re just making this stuff up.”
“Oh yeah?” 2 said, standing.
“Yeah,” 1 replied, taking a step forward.
They stood facing each other with their arms folded.
“So, what did you do before this, huh?” 2 asked.
“Well, I was in the military.”
“Where? Huh? Which country did you serve?”
Tower Guard 1 felt his face tighten then as he stammered, “Wuh — well — well, this one, of course.”
“You don’t even know what country we’re in, do you?”
1 huffed. “So? Do you know what country we’re in?”
“No, I don’t,” replied 2, “and that’s how I know.”
“That’s how you know what?”
Then 2 waved a hand and sighed. “Ugh, nothing. Nevermind.”
“I still don’t believe you,” 1 went on.
“Yeah, you’re just — you’re just a — a — a liar, that’s all.”
“Fine. Whatever you say,” 2 said, turning away from the other guard and unclipping the straps to his vest. “Tell you what, give me the title of your favorite book and I’ll admit I was wrong.” Without looking at the other man, 2 removed his vest and laid it neatly on the sandbags. Then he set his gun atop the vest.
1 watched him while he rubbed his head. “Yeah, see, I don’t really read, though,” he said. “Say, why are you dropping your gear?”
2 ignored the question and made for the door in the floor, lifting the hatch and dropping a foot down to rest on a ladder rung below. “Tell you what,” he said, looking up while he spoke, “name your favorite movie, TV show, food — favorite anything.” Tower Guard 2 climbed down, one foot and one hand at a time.
“Uh,” 1 said, rubbing his head some more. After a few seconds he leaned over the opened hatch and yelled down to 2, who was halfway down the ladder then. “Well, this is my favorite tower!”
“Say, where are you going?”
“To take a dump.”
“Oh,” 1 said, standing straight and tall and mystified all the same, giving one last look out from the tower. He took up the binoculars again and scanned the perimeter. There he saw a single man, shirtless and musclebound and armed with a silencer-equipped pistol, charging wide-open down a hill. “No way,” the tower guard whispered to himself as he lowered the binos slowly for dramatic effect. And before the mystified tower guard could sound the alarm or shoulder his sub-machine gun, the musclebound and shirtless man fired a precise shot from 80 meters, hitting the tower guard squarely between his eyes and killing him instantly.