He kept his mouth shut and braced himself against the wind. The dust storm was howling around him and had come up suddenly enough that he hadn't been able to find a place to hide from it.
He cursed the wind for ripping away his bandana, making breathing much harder than it had to be. The dust clogged his nostrils and he had to hide his face in his coat and unclog them from time to time.
Eventually he saw the shape of a building in the distance. He leaned into the wind as far as he could and started moving towards it faster.
When he was close enough, he could see that it was a shed, but it would do. The entrance was on the opposite side of where the wind was coming from, so he could breathe easier here already. He looked around but couldn't see any other buildings around. It was probably far enough that the dust storm was keeping it hidden.
He tried opening the door but it was either locked or stuck. He rammed it with his shoulder and it flew open with a loud crack. He jumped inside and closed the door as quickly as he could. Enough wind came in to cause the dust inside the shed to fly around.
Even though some of it had been blown around, there was still inches of dust covering everything, like almost anywhere was nowadays.
When the nukes launched, the world had not responded with cool heads. It had been attempted to shoot the first volley out of the air. But when Seoul and Tokyo were destroyed, it became obvious that after decades of coming up with plans to use smaller rockets, lasers, drones and more stupid ideas to shoot nuclear missiles down, nothing actually worked.
Because as they were developing better defenses against a hypothetical attack, others were developing better attacks. And they weren't hypothetical.
North Korea had warned the world for years, and everybody had assumed they were just boasting. Empty threats. And most even believed that to be the actual situation. But when famine hit the country yet again, the embargoes placed on them caused everything to collapse. No crops, no food, people were dying and the Supreme Leader knew that if he didn't do anything, he would be the one to let the Kim Dynasty fail.
China refused their call for help. No other countries were listening.
When it became obvious this was the end for North Korea's communist regime, The supreme leader and the regime's most loyal army leaders decided to go out with a bang. Slam down the hammer of destruction. If the Kim Dynasty was to end, it would be in a way the world would never forget.
With the destruction of two major West-friendly Asian capitals and their surroundings, knowing that North Korea had already fired a second volley towards the United States and a third volley towards Europe, it was decided that retaliatory action was required.
It would take too long to mobilize a ground force or a proper air attack, especially since all volleys had been fired from different bases. If there were more coming, they would not come from locations they now knew about.
So the United States and Russia, an unexpected alliance at best, carpet nuked the entire country. India and Pakistan were readying their material but it had ended even before the last volleys fired by North Korea had even reached their targets. North Korea never fired more volleys.
The world's destruction was both over and still unfolding.
The third volley arrived first, and over the distance they had traveled, the missiles had veered off target noticeably. As such, they landed everywhere, from the UK all the way to Ukraine, from Norway to Italy. The second volley eventually decimated the entire west coast of the United States.
And then the real problems started. Hundreds of millions died in the time span of an hour. Hundreds of millions died in the year after, from radiation and world-wide famine. And the death toll just kept growing.
When the bombs went off, everything that could burn, burned. Firestorms raged in and around the cities that were decimated. The smoke covered the globe in a matter of weeks, cooling the earth down enough to throw everything out of order. Crops, animals, trees, all struggling to survive.
The ozone layer had been destroyed, with over 50% being ripped away. Solar radiation, together with the significant nuclear fallout, caused cancer in almost everything organic. Then the nuclear winter started. A term that was once scary, then became a thing nobody really understood anymore, and then became reality.
It had been decades since that happened. The temperature was nearly normal by now, though not many people were alive to remember the Time Before.
The dust storms had started a few years ago, and they had made an already difficult existence even harder.
When he had been among other people, someone had said they believed the dust was all human skin, blown into and around the atmosphere by the explosions.
He shook his head. That had been a weird guy.
His eye fell on something hidden behind a dusty book. He grabbed it and saw it was a tin of beans, still sealed. The expiration date was a year ago. He grinned.
He put his water canteen down on a dust-covered table in the corner so the sand in it could settle down to the bottom and he could have a sip.
He took out the multi-tool he'd found a few days earlier and flipped the tin over. When he popped the can opener into the bottom of the can, it hissed a little and he could smell that the beans had turned a bit sour.
"Nice", he thought, "this'll be the freshest thing I've gotten to eat for months."
Author's note: I thought that maybe, if I write this as fiction, it'll remain just fiction. That can happen, right? ... Right?