“Where’s my goddamn air support?” screamed Lieutenant Colonel Paul Arias into his radio. “It’s a massacre out here!”
The 45-year-old Miami native and veteran of eight deployments huddled with a fire team behind an overturned Bradley Fighting Vehicle on the corner of 3rd Street and Collins Avenue. Tracers and artillery rounds laced overhead while an M1 Abrams tank, half imbedded in Story Nightclub, spewed plumes of acrid smoke into the afternoon air.
“Sir, we’ve no support to give,” responded an airman over the radio. “All assets are either currently engaged or destroyed.”
“Do you know what kind of pressure we’re under?” retorted Arias. “We’re barely holding on!”
Just then, a shirtless New Yorker in his 20s staggered over the Bradley and vomited on the man beside Arias.
“Sorry bros,” stammered the tourist. “You know where I could score some coke?”
“Man down!” yelled Arias before dispatching the college bro with a rifle butt. A medic rushed over to stabilize the wounded soldier.
Arias glanced around the corner of the Bradley and blanched. “Fall back!” he commanded. “We’re about to be overrun!”
The bro was but the vanguard of a drunken, shambling, endless press of humanity at its absolute sloppiest ambling slowing west from the beach. Girls scratched and scrambled over each other to twerk on police cars. Packs of frat bros in cutoffs shirts brawled over the last dregs of margarita mix. Instagram models duck-faced in front of burning storefronts. Thousands of TikTokers danced on every available flat surface. Pools of unidentifiable human effluence collected in artillery craters as fighter planes screeched overhead.
And still they came. Through collapsing buildings, past abandoned checkpoints, trampling over the comatose bodies of their compatriots, they came. Shedding mounds of solo cups, underwear, and beer bottles, they came. Urinating on Art Deco frescoes, they came. Shouting, laughing, crying, shrieking, they came. An endless wave of sweaty, throbbing, flailing limbs, unstoppable, unthinking, uncaring, unknowable, they came.
Arias stood on the MacArthur Causeway bridge, spurring his soldiers off the island. He grabbed a glassy-eyed lieutenant whose unfocused gaze barely met his own.
“Where’s Bravo company?” asked Arias. “They were supposed to be holding down South Pointe Park.”
“It’s gone,” replied the junior officer, her voice a lifeless monotone.
“The company?” he demanded, incredulous. “The whole company got wiped out?”
“Not just the company,” she replied. “South Pointe Park. All of it. I saw it sink into the sea.”
Arias grimaced and released the lieutenant. He waited until his last soldier was safely across before trotting over the bridge to a squad of combat engineers crouched behind sandbags.
“Blow it!” ordered Arias. An engineer flipped a control module switch, detonating C4 explosives wrapped around the pylons and collapsing the bridge into the ocean. A few miles north, similar explosions went off on the Venetian and Julia Tuttle Causeways.
The blast still reverberated in Arias’ ears when he heard a rhythmic tapping sound coming from the other end of the destroyed bridge. Raising his head above the sandbags, he saw a steady stream of Spring Breakers tumbling into the gap, the inexorable crush of people behind pushing them to their doom. To the colonel’s shock, the tourists sustained their inane babble, even as they fell into the ocean.
“I can’t wait to get me a spicy Latina!” exclaimed a guido.
“I’ll kill someone if I don’t get another White Claw in two minutes!” screamed a University of Virginia sophomore.
Fabiola Pierre, Arias’ Command Sergeant Major, approached the colonel and watched the cresting wave of humanity in silence.
“Looks like we lost the beach,” she said, at last. “But we might’ve saved Miami.”
Arias pursed his lips.
“Not yet, we haven’t.” he replied. “The fight for the mainland’s just begun.”
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