By Tony Ortiz | August 31st, 2014
It was a Saturday Afternoon. A nice day too. Sunny but not too hot & a cool refreshing breeze blew at welcoming times. We were walking down Rockaway Boulevard by the new Casino.
“Have you been there?” Dave asked me.
“Once” I replied. “How about you?”
“Nah, I haven’t. I always lose when I gamble”, he said.
“When do you ever gamble?” I asked.
“Like when I buy lottery tickets. Scratchy tickets and shit. Stuff like that, you know?” he responded.
“Oh, please” I said, “That’s hardly the same thing. You actually have to think in these places. Put some thought into the games and try and beat them”, I explained.
“Oh really? How much did you beat them for?” he asked.
“I lost twenty bucks”, I admitted.
He burst out in laughter and asked; “What happened to thinking and all that jazz?”
“I didn’t say I beat them, dick. But that’s what people in the know say. People that know their shit and that play poker for a living”, I told him.
“Yea, yea Galileo. How was the place though?”
“It was alright I guess. A Casino. I just walked around the main floor for a bit. Didn’t explore too much but it was decent”, I told him.
“Cool. We should go back. Are you down to go tonight?” he asked.
“Nah, I can’t. I have plans with my girl already”, I told him.
“So they have $20 tables? Or $10? Dave asked.
“I have no idea”, I responded.
“What did you play then? He asked confused.
“Some nickel slots", I said.
And almost as if it were as involuntary as a leg extension during a patellar reflex test, he burst out into unmeasured laughter, where in between breaths he was able to muster: “You were giving me shit about scratchy tickets and you’re over there playing nickel slots like a 72 year old lady that took a break from knitting?! Give me a break! You great thinker, you”.
“Yea, fuck you too dick. My point is still valid”, I said back to him (although I doubt he heard my response under his whaling laugh).
The only reason that laughter stopped, was because of the loud noises and commotion we heard behind us. It wasn’t the usual New York – type of loudness. It was a ‘what the fuck is going on? – we’re in this together’ – cacophony of unfamiliar sounds, sprinkled with people shouting and screaming. It kept getting louder and whatever it was, was flying in the sky and fast approaching. And then it was hovering directly above us. It was a cross between a fatigued-out military tank and an Apache helicopter.
Dave and I stood there, immobile. Paralyzed by fear and general awe. We were directly across the street from the Casino Parking lot, in front of the entrance to the Hilton, which readily housed Pilots and Stewardesses that were between flights from JFK. This entire episode seemed like something out of a movie. I didn’t know if I should run or take out my iPhone and start recording. The suspense didn’t last long before we heard the clear but accent-rich voice pierce through some sort of speaker system coming from the Chopper:
“Every one of you is guilty! Exclaimed the angry voice. From the CEO of each Airline, to their board of directors, down to the laborers that allow themselves to be exploited by working for measly wages.” His voice seemed to get increasingly frustrated and agitated as he continued.
“From every Citizen that uses your overpriced and oppressive services to every Pilot doing their bidding. Collectively you’re all symptoms of the same diseased system! With a heavy heart, I will be the cure…”
There was a suspenseful thirty-second or so pause. A larger crowd began to gather; nervously awaiting the outcome of this, while some quickly fled the scene. Approaching Fire Engine and Police Cruiser sirens began to get louder as they got closer to the scene. What happened next was something straight out of a ‘Call of Duty’ video game. The chopper shifted and some side compartment opened up. A portion of the metallic side rolled up and in like a garage door, exposing what was easily the biggest most futuristic cannon of a gun that I have ever seen.
Within moments, sound-barrier breaking bullets pierced through the air and through the glass exterior of the hotel. Glass shattered and flew towards us with a similar ferocity to those shard-creating bullets. Parked cars were hit. Broken glass punctured tires and dented fenders also resulted from the impacts. People ran screaming, some hit by glass, and others lay there immobile with pools of blood increasing in diameter beneath them.
I could not hear a thing. Even though the automatic non-stop shooting was so loud I could feel the sound-wave ripples, everything went silent. The screams, shattering glass, people who were getting hurt, killed, cars peeling out to get away. All of it seen. All of it witnessed. None of it heard. The silence served as a cloak, shielding me from the harsh reality around me, but I never felt so vulnerable. As I stood there motionless, Dave reached up with his left hand and tugged at my shorts as he half lifted his tucked down head: “Get down here!” he said, instructing me to join him behind the mint green Buick LeSabre he was leaning on. And I did.
“What the fuck bro?! How are we going to get out of here?” I asked Dave.
“That crazy fuck seems to only have it in for this building. We’ll be OK. We’ll be OK. We need to wait it out here” Dave replied.
At that moment and for the first time since the incident began, the Chopper stopped shooting and began shifting in its place with the long barrel of the gun pointed toward the people and cars in the street. After what must have been a re-loading break the shots began to fire again. This time the targets were random. The Police cruisers that we could only hear at first were now visible but shot into oblivion as soon as they arrived. A couple of them instantly burst into flames as the Officers ran out looking for cover. They drew their weapons as soon as they could crouch down behind something and began to fire at will. A noble attempt, but their bullets seemed like mosquitoes that the Chopper just shooed away. Other cars and near-by buildings were hit too. Colorful bulb-ridden awnings of surrounding businesses that looked like mini-casinos themselves were getting picked off like empty beer and soda cans on a wooden fence in Texas. People were being slain. Bullets sliced through limbs like a rolling pizza knife. Innocent, defenseless women, children, seniors and men all gone. Shot down and killed in cold blood.
When all hope was lost and death seemed imminent to all of us that were left…at a distance behind the Chopper, five Fighter Jets were fast approaching the scene. They were in perfect triangulated form, completely in sync with one another. Pointed/flying toward us with crisp precision. With no warning and zero hesitation, the lead Jet began to unload rounds from the circular machine guns on either side under its wings. Most hitting the target dead on and only a handful passing it and hitting the mostly evacuated grounds all around us. Almost instantly, two of the flanking Jets separated from the triangular formation dropped down and went forward simultaneously. Each shot out a missile. Both of which approached the Chopper which was barely aware enough to react, and they each hit their target with unparalleled accuracy. It, along with anyone and everyone on board it, exploded in the sky. This time I heard it. Dave and I were both pinned down to the ground by the blast, but shielded from debris by the valiant Buick we hadn’t strayed from.
I looked up from the ‘head between my legs’ fetal-like position I was in. It was a confusing moment. It seemed to have instantly gone from afternoon daylight to dusk. The entire sky began to ripple as if everything were under water. In the distance I kept hearing someone call out: “Sanchez! Sanchez! Sanchez!” “Wake up Jarhead. It’s O-800. You’re on watch duty. There was another drone strike in Datta Khel. We’re moving out to go secure the area,” said Corporal Jones.
“Oorah” I responded as I came back to my senses.
It was all a dream…Well, being on that helpless, voiceless side of this mess, was.