Get ready for The Road to Nowhere book 3!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


1 Lost

I’ve killed. I’ve murdered dozens, if not hundreds.

The first thing I remember is waking up in a dark room with sterile white walls, and the smell of cleaning chemicals. I couldn’t remember how I got into the room, where I came from, or even who I was.

I tried to think back, to remember something. A few hazy memories slipped away as soon as I tried to grasp them. Why couldn’t I remember? Was there an accident? Maybe I hit my head on something. I still knew what things were. I knew what I was laying on was called a bed. What I didn’t know was what I looked like, or my name. How could I have forgotten? What happened?

My hand couldn’t reach the call button, because my arm felt  weak. In fact, everything felt weak. My entire body felt sore and throbbed with sharp jabs of pain, my mouth felt dry, and my vision upon waking was blurred. It took a moment or two for it to adjust.

Once I could see, I could barely turn my head enough to make out an empty IV bag that led to a needle stuck into my hand. It throbbed with pain, and probably was what had woke me up from my sleep. I wondered how long  I was out.

I tried to call for a nurse, but I doubt the  guttural croak that came out of my throat could have been heard from outside the closed door of my room.

I took a few slow breaths and forced my hands to reach across my body far enough to pull out the tube and needle from my hand. Tape kept the needle firmly inserted. Several sharp tugs caused further pain and discomfort, until it was finally free. A few drops of blood ran down my fingers before it stopped. The copper smell of blood sharply contrasted the smell of cleaning chemicals.

After a few attempts, I finally moved far enough to push the nurse call button. Nothing happened. I pushed it again, but still nothing. After looking around, I noticed none of the equipment that surrounded me was on.

My room was completely dark, except for a small amount of light that escaped around drawn curtains. Was the power out? I thought hospitals had back-up generators.

I cleared my thoughts and realized, I needed to get outside of the room. I needed to find out what had happened to me. I grabbed both railing but was unable to push myself up. Instead, I pulled my body down to the bottom of the bed. My legs hung down, and I rolled myself over to my stomach.

The ground felt unsteady under my feet, and before I could brace myself I was laying on the floor in pain.

I felt weak, but managed to crawl to the door. It had appeared closed from the bed, but it was slightly ajar. I pulled it open, but the hallway outside the door was dark.

Overhead lights occasionally flickered on and off, giving short bursts of light that illuminated the hallway.

No one was visible in the hallway in front of the door, so I pulled myself out. I noticed there was a wheelchair in the hall.  I was able to pull myself up on to it with some effort. From the higher view of the chair I saw that there was no one else in the hallway.

Something looked off. Papers were scattered everywhere, some stuck to red stains of what looked like splattered, dried blood. What had happened?

I rolled the wheelchair down the hall, past what looked like the nurse’s station. It was difficult to see while searching. I was almost completely blind whenever the lights flickered off.

I kept going down the hallway, and tried my voice again. I knew that my voice wasn’t loud enough to be heard, unless someone was close enough to hear me, but I still tried. What I really needed was some water. A cool drink would ease the arduous thirst from my throat.

I made my way past another hall. There was still no one, and nothing to see, except for more  blood. Blood that trailed into (or out of?) most of the empty rooms, and now started to looked as though it had been rubbed on both walls of the narrow hallway.

The questions kept on piling up.

I finally reached a flight of stairs, I began to worry. I doubted my legs were strong enough to handle the steps, and I didn’t think that I could make it down in the chair. Thoughts reeled my mind. I had passed a few elevators, but with how the power was acting, they were probably inoperable.

I was able to push open the door to the stairs, but there was no light. The hallway flashes showed that it was  fairly wide, and at a gentle slope. 3rd Floor was written above the top of the stairs. It was a relief to know I wasn’t all the way on the highest floor.

I had to find other people. I had to know what was going on. Concentrating on those thoughts, I rolled to the edge of the stairs. 

I kept a firm grip on the two wheelchair hand rims, and began my descent.  The first step rocked my balance hard enough to almost topple me off the chair. The second and third step went easier but then the wheel hit the fourth step too hard, and I went out of control.

My balance was lost, and before I could react my body tumbled out of the careening chair, and struck hard against the concrete floor. I felt a sharp flash of pain as my head hit the wall and heard a faint ringing sound  while my ears muted. I clutched at my skull, and stifled a yell. Instead it came out as a grunt of pain.

I sat in place for  a few minutes. There was nothing but pain. Pain in my body, and more pain in my head. Slowly it faded into a dull ache. I felt around, groping in the dark. My hand came across the chair behind me, but I wasn’t going to try it again. The next time I might break my neck. Instead I pulled myself down the stairs, using the handrail.

Having fell down only one flight of stairs, there would be three more flights to make it to the ground floor. I was able to put my feet under myself, enough to hold myself up. I half stumbled down to the first floor. My legs ached, but felt slightly stronger.

I opened the ground floor door, not knowing what to expect. It was a scene almost identical to what was upstairs, except for even more blood and scattered debris. What had happened? Was there some emergency, but no one remembered to get me? Was I forgotten? Left behind?
Until I found someone, I would have no answers to those questions.

My legs shook under me, and I had to lean on a counter to keep myself balance. My bare feet felt cold on the floor. Someone must have put slipper socks on me while I was asleep. The thin material that made my patient gown did little to keep me warm.

I reached a waiting room. There was no one waiting. The corridor led me to the main lobby. I had noticed the front entrance doors had been left wide open, and outside the door it was raining. From what I could see, it had been raining for some time. The curb of the street was flooded with a rushing pool of dingy water.

I walked out and the sun pierced through a few thick grey storm clouds. I felt almost blinded by it. My eyes squinted almost shut,  and I was forced to look down at the ground. I cupped my hands around my eyes, and the light was bearable, though only barely.

 I took a good look around. I saw the street in ruin and two bodies lying on the asphalt. There wasn’t much I could see from where I was, so I had to get closer. The thought of getting closer to two corpse was disturbing. They could have died yesterday, or a month ago for all I knew. They had definitely died at different times. One body looked more decayed and bloated than the other. However they died, it hadn’t been of natural causes.

The closer body had cuts that had taken small chunks out of his flesh. It had been a man, but I couldn’t tell whether it had been old or young. The dried blood and damage made it difficult to tell much. His head had been turn all the way around, so that I could see his face, even though his chest was laying on the ground. One eye was missing, and both ears had been removed, leaving ragged flesh surrounding earholes.

It was harder to make out any details on the body that had been there for a while. The shirt had been ripped off in shreds. His head had been pulled back to the point where it touched his shoulder blades. His throat had been sliced open to accomplish this. If it hadn’t been raining, I was sure that the smell would have been awful.

While standing there I noticed something had chewed the fingers down to tiny stubs. I hoped it had happened after he died. I couldn’t imagine how it must’ve felt to have something gnawing on them while still conscious.

I kept looking, examining, though I took a few steps back. I didn’t want to stand there too long. Even if it had been a serial killer or some other predator, it was overkill.  Long strips of skin had been peeled off the body where bone and strands of ligaments could be seen.

The shock of what I was seeing wore off, and I started to gag and dry heave. If I had anything in my stomach it would have been all over the ground. With how weak I already was, I fell to my knees. Once my stomach was back in control I saw that I was kneeling on a newspaper. It was soaked with rainwater, and looked stuck to the cement. I tried to make out what was written on it.

“Las Vegas, Nevada Bulletin”
Masthead; Insanity sweeps Across the Nation.

Was I in Las Vegas? I remembered what Vegas looked like, but there weren’t any casinos around that I could see. Maybe I was far enough from the strip to be away from them. What was I doing in Vegas? Vacation? Did I live here?

The rain had caused the remaining ink to smear into unintelligible nonsense. I tried to pick it up, but it fell apart in my hand. Insanity, I thought to myself. The words stood with me for a while until I noticed the hospital socks I had been wearing were  soaked in cold water.

It was one hell of a storm. Rain had poured down heavier than before. Black thunder clouds swirled overhead, and gusts of wind blew as much rain into my face as was falling onto my head. I backtracked to the hospital’s awning, which kept me mostly dry. Not that it helped with the cold, wet socks.

Across the street, I was able to see a small clothing store. I needed a change of clothes and dry socks. Shoes Wouldn’t hurt either.  I made my way to it passing abandoned cars, a displaced shovel, and a worn doll that had seen much use, but was now left out in the cold rain. What had happened to the doll’s owner?

The window in the shop had been smashed. An iron security gate had been half drawn across the front, as if someone didn’t have enough time to finish what they had started. I had to be careful entering the window, as sharp glass shards reached up from the window frame, ready to cut the unwary.

Once inside the shop I had noticed that on one wall a large cross had been drawn in what I hoped was red paint. Large letters underneath read, “GOD SAVE US”. I wondered if he had.

The overcast day did little to show the rest of the store in great detail. The closest racks of clothing looked like women’s clothing, but there was a mannequin dressed in jeans, a simple light tan shirt, and a brown leather jacket.

It took some work to pry the clothes off of the dummy. Trying them on took almost as much effort. They surprisingly fit, although the pants were long enough to need to be rolled up twice at the ankles.

There shoes in a rack near the entrance to the store that I had missed on the way in. There were no socks that I could see, so I ended up taking the ones I had been wearing off, and wringing what water I could out of them.

I put them back on, and tried to find a pair of shoes that would fit. The first two pairs I tried on were far too small. The third pair fit well enough, and was more like hiking boots, than regular shoes.

There was nothing else in the store that was of much use. I tried the phone behind the counter, but there was no dial tone. It didn’t surprise me.

I walked back out onto the sidewalk. The rain had let up some, and there was only a few drops falling now and then. The cold didn’t bother me in my new clothes, and I felt a lot less naked.

Now what I had to figure out is where I was going to go. I didn’t know which streets I should take, or even what any landmarks would look like.

My stomach was aching in hunger, so the first thing I had to do was get something to eat. The hospital was right there, but I wasn’t in the mood to stumble around in the dark. I picked a direction at random, and started walking.

Once my legs started moving, the muscles in them started to loosen. I felt much stronger that I had when I woke up, just really hungry.

I stayed in the middle of the street, hoping to be seen by someone else. I kept looking left and right, but didn’t see anything.

Once or twice I thought I saw something move in a dark window, but  staring there for a few more seconds revealed nothing. I must have just been imagining things.

A gas station on the corner seemed like a good place to search. I felt sharp pangs of hunger now, and I had to eat. I got to the front doors, which were locked. I knocked on the door, lightly at first, then more insistently. There was no answer.

With no one around, I decided to break the window, so I took a metal cigarette can near the front and smashed the glass of the door.

The sound of broken glass was louder than I thought it would be. I half expected to hear police sirens, but there was only silence. If this was Las Vegas, where were all of the people?

I stepped into the gas station. I couldn’t see anyone, but there was a horrible smell in the air. It was like a trashcan had thrown up into another trashcan. I pulled my shirt up over my face to help mask the smell.

The first thing I saw was beef jerky. I grabbed a handful of packages, as well as a gallon of water. The smell inside was too bad to eat in, so I went out. In a frenzy, I tore open the first bag and stuffed handfuls of jerky into my mouth. While I chewed, I opened the gallon of water to help wash it down. Before I knew it, there were four empty bags and half an empty gallon of water.

Still unsatisfied, I pulled my shirt back up and went in. This time I took a few bags of chips, some candy bars, and more water. I looked at the sandwiches in the cooler, but the green fuzz that had formed on them gave an unappealing look.

This time I was only able to eat half of the food, and some of the water. The chips and candy bars were not as satisfying as the dried meat. I had absentmindedly licked the melted chocolate and chip powder from my hands.

There was a beat up, red car parked at the gas pumps, door ajar. I cautiously approached the vehicle, and decided to look around. It had a Nevada State license plate, which helped confirm that I was in Las Vegas.

The interior of the car was empty. There was luggage packed into the backseats. Whoever left the car had done so in a hurry. The key was still in the ignition. I was going to start the car, and saw myself in the rear view mirror.

Why had I not thought to see how I looked like before? I didn’t remember who I was, or what I looked like. Seeing my reflection was like looking at a stranger. I examined myself with fascination.

There was a short beard on my face, not a well maintained beard at that. It looked wrong for some reason. I don’t think I normally wore facial hair. My skin was very pale, and long black hair hung unkempt on my face. I couldn’t tell how old I was. I could have been twenty five or in my early forties. The only distinguishing feature I saw was a thin scar that ran down one eyebrow and down my cheek. Whatever had happened, it must have just missed my left eye.

I felt as though I was looking at a stranger. I kept looking at the mirror, hoping for some flash of memory or insight to tell me who I was but none came.
I turned the key  in the ignition, not knowing what to expect. It didn’t start up. Probably a dead battery, I thought. I searched in the car for useful items. The glove compartment did have a flashlight, and a detailed map of south western America.

The flashlight had a cheap, plastic feel. It worked well enough, and that was what counted. The map had small, magnified maps of large cities. That would come in handy. I placed both in the inside pockets of the leather jacket.

When I searched the backseats I found the suitcases I had seen, they were full of clothes and photo albums. First I had thought that  the car might have belonged to someone on vacation, but who takes photo albums with them on vacation?

Another oddity was that the trunk was empty. Were they in too much of a hurry to throw the luggage in the trunk? Why?

In the rear view mirror I saw something scurry by. If I were looking directly at it, I may have seen what it was. Instead, I was sure that something had been there, and that was all. I climbed out of the car, and tried to see what it had been.

I didn’t see anything, so I walked back towards the street. At the far end something was digging through a pile of trash. I jogged towards it, and called out. A furry face poked out of the garbage it had been rooting through. It was a dog. It looked dirty and hungry.

When it saw me, it looked scared. Its tail dropped between its legs, and I heard a frighten whimper. I slowed down, and held my hand out. Before I could take another step, the dog turned and ran.
I tried to run after it, but my legs weren’t up to the effort. After half a block the dog turned a corner and was out of sight.

I was panting for breath, and felt dizzy. I didn’t know why I had bothered to run after the dog. It was just a dog, after all, and I couldn’t get any answers from it. Maybe it was just nice to see something else alive here.

The rain had stopped, but the sky was still overcast. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like it was getting darker. Was the sun setting? I wished I knew what time it was. I had to find someplace to sleep. I was tired. 

I walked for a few blocks, but the only place that looked promising was an open garage. There were a few houses, but I didn’t know what to expect inside them.

For all I knew someone inside might be ready to shoot anyone who tried to break in. I knocked on the door, but no one answered. Did they leave the garage open because they were driving out in a hurry? There were no cars in the garage.

There were a lot of boxes stacked up on the concrete floor.  I went through them and came up with quite a few useful things. A pile of old clothes and blankets made a decent bed. I even found a full Coleman lantern. It took a few minutes to locate a lighter, but a metal toolbox pushed against one wall had one.

The lantern cast a soft glow that filled the small space. The sun had almost set, and I could feel the cold air coming from the outside. I closed the garage door, lock clicking once it was shut. If it wasn’t left open, I would never have been able to get in. No windows, just a steel side door that had been bolted shut from the inside.  
I fell asleep almost as soon as I curled up on the nest of clothes and blankets. I don’t know how long I slept, but I woke to a loud ruckus outside the steel garage door. I held still, waiting to see what was going on. I jumped when something slammed into the garage. The garage door rattled, like someone was trying to lift it. Had the dog followed me?

I was about to call out, but I heard a sound. An inhuman growl and shriek of anger. Another matched the first, like an answering call. The garage door banged again, but this time in several places at once. I dug the flashlight I had kept in my jacket out, and turned it on. First no light came out, but after shaking it a few times, it started to work.

I had seen a metal claw hammer when I found the lighter, and grabbed it. I saw a heavy pipe wrench, and decided that the lamp gave off enough light to see, so I clicked the flashlight off, and grabbed the wrench instead. What was outside? Now something was scratching at the door.  

It sounded like wild animals. What kind of wild animals would roam Las Vegas? The noise stopped. My heart was pounding, and I had the strangest feeling that I should know what was outside. Was it a memory? I found myself frustrated from not being able to recall what it was.

Now something tried to open the side door. If I hadn’t been so afraid, I wouldn’t have been looking back and forth between the two entrances, but I saw the knob shake before it was slammed into. Animals wouldn’t know how to use a doorknob. It had been locked, and whatever was outside didn’t like it.

Another screech came from behind the door, followed by what could have been pounding fists. I jumped when more
bangs came from the garage door. Whatever was out there, I was surrounded by it.

The hammer and wrench seemed like poor excuses for weapons. I looked around, but the only other things that would be useful were power tools, and there was no electricity.

I rummaged through boxes hurriedly and scrabbled though them. It was all junk. Useless junk. Old board games, toys and other yard sale candidates. Why couldn’t this have been some survival nut’s garage?

Then I realized I could smell something. There was only a faint whiff I had caught. It was a rank, musky smell. I wondered if it was coming from them. Maybe some kind of gamey smell that they were putting out.

The smell seemed to grow worse, but the hammering stopped. What was going on? I crept up to the garage door as quietly as I could, and pressed an ear to the metal.

First I thought that there was nothing to hear, but as I strained my ears I heard something. It was as though my hearing was coming into focus. Something was breathing, no it was sniffing around the closed entrance. I could distinctly hear two different sniffs, moving back and forth.

The sniffs stopped, and I had a mental image of something outside listening, the way I was. I moved my head back before something heavy hit the door where my head had been, but it still made me visibly jump.

I was trapped. The dim light from the lantern threw dark shadows everywhere in the room. I kept the wrench, but took the lantern instead of the hammer. It made it easier to
see. The flashlight’s beam would be too narrow to see around.


More throaty growls and howls came from the front and side, but they sounded softer. Whatever had been out there seemed to be going away. Why? Had something scared them off, or had they just gotten frustrated at not being able to get in? What the hell was going on?

I clung to my weapon and light, expecting something heavier to smash down the door. My adrenaline kept me alert and jumpy.

After waiting a few minutes, I went back towards the garage door, and listened placing my ear against it. I couldn’t hear anything. Were they now just waiting for me? I didn’t like the thought of that.

I paced back and forth scanning up and down hoping for a small hole to see out of. The closest thing was a space on the garage door that had been bent enough for the seal to not be as tight as it should.

I looked through it.

I saw a pale, faint light outside, which must be the sun rising. Was that what scared them of? Maybe it only hunted at night.

I decided to wait until I was sure the sun was completely up before going outside. Even then I didn’t want to go out.

Whatever had visited me in the night now knew where I was. I had to leave some time or another. I had a map, and if I walked to a corner, saw a street sign, maybe I could figure out where I was at.

The first place I should head for would be someplace with the most people. Maybe I’d check out the strip. There should be thousands of people there. Hopefully not everyone evacuated Vegas. Maybe if there were people, someone would be able to tell me what is going on.

For the next hour I studied the map, and kept an eye on the crack. The pale light gave way to sunrise, and I had a rough idea where to go. The strip was part of the south eastern part of Las Vegas, and I’m sure the main roads would have signs for tourists.
On foot, who knows how long I would have to wander to get there. I could circle around forever, backtracking until I found it. In a car, it would take a lot less time. Now, if I could find a working car that would be the trick.

I doubt I would find a car with the keys in it again. Maybe if I got into a house, they would have left a spare key for a commuter car, or something. I wasn’t relishing the thought of breaking into someone’s home, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

Once I was sure that the sun was up, I tried banging on the door to get a response. There was nothing, so I even called out a few times. Still no response. I couldn’t just wait all day, so I unbolted the side door. If something tried to get in, at least they would only have the smaller door, instead of the big opening at the front.

I unbolted it, and paused. I raised the pipe wrench in my right hand and flung upon the door, ready to smash whatever had tried to get at me.

Sunlight filled the doorway, blinding me for a moment. It gave me a terrible headache, but I forced my eyes open. All I saw was the cement path leading from the garage, some grass and nothing else.

The pain from the light faded to a dull ache, until it went away. I poked my head out of the doorframe, and looked around. There was still nothing. I had been expecting a trap outside, but what had been out there, really had gone away.

I lowered my arm, letting the weight of the wrench rest against my thigh. Whoever owned the house and garage must have taken their vehicles with them, as there were no cars parked out front.

I walked down the street, still jumpy from the early morning wakeup. I kept looking around, but no one else seemed to be around. No postal workers delivering mail, no moms taking their kids to work, no dads driving to work, nothing.

The fifth house down had a small car, a Volkswagen Beetle on closer inspection, parked in its driveway. I tried both doors, but they had been locked. I went to the front door, and gave it a few hard knocks.

There was no answer, which was what I expected. I was about to kick it in, when I had a thought. I reached forward, and the knob turned freely in my hand. The door smoothly opened. Who would be in too much of a hurry to lock their front door behind them? What was the hurry? The interior was well lit from sunlight that streamed in from open windows.
I called out “Hello, is anyone here? Hello!” louder than I should have. I waited a minute for any sound of reply, but heard nothing.

Once inside, the interior of the house was clean. There were no signs of a fight or struggle. Whoever had lived there, left in a hurry though. There was still food left on plates in the dining room. Moldy rotten food, but food nevertheless.

Seeing everything still laid out gave me a creepy feeling. Glasses of water hadn’t been knocked over either. There were four places set, so it must have been a family.

In the kitchen there was a message board, with several sets of keys hanging off of it. I pocketed the keys that had a VW logo on them, and dug through the cabinets. Again I felt the sharp pangs of hunger. The food in the dining room smelled awful, but I still needed to eat.

I found a can of beef stew with a pull top. Once open, I grabbed a clean spoon from a drawer and started to shoveling the food into my mouth. After I wolfed down the first can, I ate an entire can of backed beans. My throat was parched, but they had a five gallon water dispenser I drank out of . There was even a large plastic water bottle I filled before leaving.

As I walked to the car, I realized that I couldn’t remember ever driving. Could I still drive? I could walk, I could do a lot of things, but could I remember enough to drive? I triggered the unlock on the key’s remote, and to my relief it was answered by two beeps from the car.

The dark blue car’s interior had been as immaculately maintained as the house. The seat was adjusted for a very short person, but that only took a few minutes to figure out. Once the seat was right and the mirrors were adjusted I had no other excuse not to start the car and try to drive.

The engine easily turned over on the first try, but I wasn’t prepared for the blaringly loud female voice that came bellowing out of the cars stereo system. I jumped hard enough to smack my head on the roof. After having powered off the music, I rubbed the top of my head to ease the discomfort.

A sound was chiming, and it took a few moments to realize that it was because I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. Once buckled, I took a look at the gauges. The gas was almost full, which was a relief. I turned the stereo back on, and switched it to radio.
I had hoped to hear something on what was going on, but instead there was only static. I preferred the static to what was playing earlier. I guess I wasn’t a female pop fan. I checked the glove box, but it only contained the owner’s manual, and a registration for a Jennifer Ayala. I wondered what had happened to her.

I put the car into reverse, and pulled out of the driveway. I started very slowly at first, but started to pick up speed. Once I had driven a block or two, it was easy. There were a few abandoned vehicles I had to avoid, as well as some debris on the road.

I kept my speed around twenty five, which gave me enough time to look around for anyone else. With each empty street, I grew more and more filled with a sense of foreboding.

Where was everyone? Did whatever that tried to get at me last night get everyone else? Why were those two bodies left mutilated on the street? Nothing made any sense.

I drove until I reached major cross streets. It took a few minutes to figure out where I was in the map, but it was easy after that. After a few miles  I reached street signs that gave directions to the Las Vegas Strip.

Abandoned cars began to thicken on the streets. One street had been completely jammed, which necessitated a detour.
I tried driving one block over, but met with the same dilemma. Since there were no people, I took advantage of the wide sidewalks. The curbs made for very rough driving, but the little Beetle was able to handle them.

That is, until I reached a completely congested area. There were cars bumper to bumper, as far as the eye could see. Some had tried to use the sidewalks as I had, but crashed into each other. There was no way around, so I had to abandon my transportation.

On foot, my pace was much slower, but at least I could maneuver around obstacles with ease. Some cars had their doors left open, and I saw what looked like blood staining many of the seats. Broken glass was strewn across many of the vehicles that had the stains. Had something broken in to attack whoever was inside?

My former tiredness and exhaustion seemed a thing of the past. I felt awake and energetic, it was like I could keep going for hours.
This was a good thing, as it took several hours of monotonous walking, but I had finally reached the strip. Instead of flashing lights, clanging coins, and people- it was completely deserted. The silence was overwhelming, I felt like I had stepped into an old west ghost town.

Cars were still everywhere, but again they were all abandoned. The casinos were dark reminders of where people should have been, yet weren’t. I thought about going in to them, but the interiors were obscured in shadows. I kept to the middle of the road as the casinos gave me a haunted feeling, like they were watching me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Was I the last person on earth? I walked as I tried to plan out what to do next. If there were no people here, where would they be?

I noticed that the empty feeling in my stomach was due to hunger, but deeper than that hunger was loneliness. If no one else was to be found, what would I do then?

I stopped walking and looked around the street. I was hungry, and right there was the Planet Hollywood Restaurant. I don’t know if they would have any food that was still good to eat, but I was hungry enough to not be too fastidious.

The door was intact, and closed. The dark tinting on it made looking inside impossible.

I made sure that my flashlight was working, and tried the it. To my surprise, it opened. The power was out inside, and I couldn’t see farther than a few feet past entry way.

I swung the light around, but it only showed an empty restaurant. I walked towards the back, surmising that the kitchen would be located there. On the way I was distracted by the huge amount of display cases.

There were movie props and posters everywhere. Futuristic looking guns, that I really wish were functional. Mannequins were dressed as characters from films I couldn’t remember.

While walking, I was drawn to a display case that hung parallel to the floor. 

Inside the case was a long sword with a white handle in the shape of a dragon, a katana I think it’s called. Next to the case was a large movie poster for something called Highlander. Maybe I had been a fan of the movie, as I couldn’t draw myself away from the blade that gleamed against the flashlight.

I looked around, self-conscious of what I had been thinking more than anything. If no one was around, what difference would it make if I were to take it? It’s not stealing if there is no owner for something. Besides, I would feel better with a weapon after what had happened last night.
I used a heavy metal barstool, and with one good swing, shattered the case. Glass flew in a wide arc, loudly clattering on a table and floor. The impact jarred my arm enough to make me drop the stool.

The noise echoed across the room, but rather than fade away, it grew. It wasn’t an echo, it was something else. The sound had begun with a growl, but was now clearly baying and screaming. I picked my flashlight back up, and pointed it towards where the sound seemed to be coming from.

There was nothing I could see at first, then something burst from the back kitchen doors. I recoiled in surprise, almost losing my footing. The first thing I noticed was that he didn’t look entirely human.

His lips had been cut off, leaving bare teeth in an angry grimace. Small pieces of metal had been driven into his skin in a haphazardly fashion. Fresh and old scars crisscrossed his face. I wondered if they were all self-inflicted. His clothes seemed to be roughly cut out of some kind of wet leather. Oh God, was that human skin?

Was he even human at all? He looked ailed by some sort of disease. Blotches of what looked like black mold had grown across his face. It wasn’t normal. He wasn’t normal.

I shined the flashlight up to his dark brooding eyes, which were completely black. He threw his hands over his face, and shrieked in agony. Not seeing through covered eyes, he ran into a table at the far end of the restaurant, knocking it and himself down to the ground. 

Once he hit the floor, I broke out of my reverie. I jumped up on a table to grab the sword, and turned to run. I stopped to look back, just in time to see the doors burst open once more. This time instead of a single figure, there was three.
3 Restless

I saw in the dim light that they hadn’t all been mutilated in the same manner, but they were covered in the same kind of filth. Dirt, crusted blood, and offal. They also had brittle, unkempt hair in a similar state.

One had fresh scars and open cuts slashed randomly across his face, while another was missing his entire nose. Where his nose should have been were two gaping holes, surrounded by ragged chunks of loose flesh.

The third was large and muscular, towering above the others. His hair had been burned off in several places, which matched the burn marks across the rest of his body. He was bare from the waist up, with long cuts running up and down his skin.

The largest one saw me, turned his face skyward and roared what sounded like a challenge. At his yell, the other three scrambled towards me, faster than I expected.

I leapt off the table, and ran for the street as fast as I could. I might be able to lose them on the street. Spurned on my flight, they screamed even louder and ran faster. I could hear their steps getting closer, until I knew one was right behind me as I hit the door.

A hand grabbed at  my leather jacket, and found purchase. I strained against insistent tugging, and turned enough to swing the sword against the face of my would be ensnarer.

My blade raked across his neck, and blood streamed out in quick spurts before I was able to pull free. Time seemed to momentarily freeze. Black eyes bored into mine, and I
smelled his hot fetid breath in my face. It stank of rot and carrion.

The impact of the sword jarred his hand enough for me to pull free. I could only imagine the horror that he had planned if he caught me. There was no humanity left in those eyes. All I could see was a vicious animal that should be put down.

An incredulous look of hate filled his face. It didn’t look like the injury had caused him any pain, just surprise. With the amount of blood running down his neck, I wondered if he had much time left.

He reached one free hand to staunch the flow of blood, while the other tried to sweep at me again. I was just out of his reach, thank God.

I kept moving out towards the door, opening the distance between us. He seemed less sure of himself as he took a step forward. Before he could take a second step, one of the others reached us. I expected that one would dash past him, and grab me.

Instead, he ripped my would-be attacker’s hand from the wound on his neck. One spurt of blood flew into the air, before teeth tore the long slash into a red gaping hole.  He took the wounded one to the floor, gnawing and biting at him. My stomach rolled with the scene before me. He was being eaten alive.

The second one fell on the bloody mess, apparently wanting his share. Lost in their savage struggle over a meal, they no longer paid me any attention.

I used their distraction to open the door. Before I could push it the rest of the way open, another one had come from the side and hit me through the door. I hit the sidewalk hard, but rolled to absorb some of the impact. Where did he come from? Why hadn’t I seen him before? Had he slipped around me in the dark restaurant?

I turned back to the open door. I was finally out but I wasn’t sure if it was over. He took two steps forward, until the sun fully shone on him.

Like the first one, he threw his arms across his face, and bellowed in agony. He thrashed backwards, hitting the doorframe, then stumbling back inside.

From inside I saw more vague shapes in the dark, glaring at me. Their bodies pressed against the tinted windows and some crowded the doorway. In frustration, several pounded on the glass. Were they all just sleeping and I woke them up?

Heavy chuffs and shrilled screams at being thwarted poured out of the small door, echoing off of the street.

The now dead body of their own was dragged back into the crowd. I wondered if this is what became of everyone. Had  all of humanity become something preternatural?

There were wet tearing sounds that I couldn’t avoid hearing. I tried not to imagine what was going on. I stood there in place, I wasn’t going to stay long but I needed to confirm something.

I aimed my light back at the entrance, and they screamed in agony. Those in the front pushed and pulled trying to get back. The back wasn’t having it. They pushed right back, keeping them in front as living shields to the light.

I backed away from just beyond the doorway and heard more shrieks and yells echo down the street.
I first thought that there were more coming up behind me, then I realized that the sounds were from the surrounding buildings.

The raucous noise poured out of the surrounding casinos. I stared about in shock and amazement. What had happened to all of these people. This had to be the madness I read in the soggy newspaper’s headline, but why?

The terrible din of their screaming pointed directly at me, and I didn’t feel safe. The sun was overhead, and was  probably the reason why they hadn’t just flooded the street to get me. How much longer would it be out?

I took off at a loping run, hoping to get far enough from the roused buildings to outrun their cries. I tried to hold the sword away from me, so that if I did fall it wouldn’t be on the blade.

After half a block the loud noise came from behind me, and grew more distant. I slowed my pace considerably, and panted for breath. I looked over my shoulder, but couldn’t make out anything coming from the dark buildings. The buildings on my sides looked just as deserted as when I first walked in.

How many of them were there? From the sound of it, there had to have been several hundred at least. I imagined them crowding the darkened spaces, either sleeping or laying in wait. I would never be able to take an empty building for granted now.
Maybe fate led me to see what they were without stumbling blindly into the wrong casino where there were more. Maybe, but I doubted it. I don’t believe in predestined fates. I think we make our luck with our own decisions and follow the roads we choose.

I walked on, lost in thought. The slow miles back gave me time to think. Once I’d passed the majority of cars abandoned in the traffic jam, I made my decision. I had to get out of the city. If I hadn’t seen another soul the entire time I had been wandering around, chances were that they weren’t here.

The real question is where people might be. I unfolded the map I had been carrying, and perused the route.  Las Vegas is in the middle of nowhere and past the city all I could see was hills and desert. The main highway ran east to west.

I decided to go west. There would be more big cities, and chances of finding someone else would go up. There would be more open desert if I headed east, which wouldn’t be easy to traverse. I just hoped I could avoid running into more of those animals.

I needed to pack up some food and water for the trip. I could break into a convenience store, or another house, but there could be some of those things inside.

If the house that I had went into had been host to a group of them, I probably would be dead right now. I was lucky once, and doubted that I would be again.

 I knew what I had to do. I could break into a random place, and risk running into more of those things, or I could go back to the first house. That is if finding my way back was even possible.

I eventually backtracked to where I left the VW Beetle parked, and was relieved to find it still there. Leaving it unlocked, and the keys in the ignition wasn’t the best idea, but I hadn’t really thought about having to come back to it.
I looked at the up at the sky. The sun had already passed over its highest point, and was burning into my neck. I wish I knew when it would begin to set. I knew I had to get off the street well before then.

I opened the car door, and was surprised by  the amount of heat pouring out. The leather seat burned where I touched it. Once again the ignition started right away.

I turned on the air conditioning. I needed it. Cold air blew out of the vents. The cool feeling spread across my skin, soothing the heat that had seeped into it. I finally stopped sweating, and the comfortable temperature brought a semblance of relaxation.

After a few minutes I put the car in reverse, and backed my way down the sidewalk. It was much slower and more difficult than driving forward.

After a few blocks my neck began to hurt from looking over my shoulder, but I finally had enough room to turn around, out of reverse, and drive on the street.

I don’t know how many wrong turns I made, trying to find my way back. Then I did the obvious thing, and pulled out the registration. I had seen the address when I first looked at it, but forgotten about it.

Looking at my map, I saw that I had driven farther than I had meant to, and had to double back. This took some time. I felt on edge but I wasn’t too far. I’d make it back before sunset.

While driving I saw a newspaper dispenser that I hadn’t seen on the way to the strip. I pulled up to the curb, got out, and had a look at it.

The headline read: “Presidential address on National Emergency, with detailed instructions”

The smaller text was unreadable through the dirty glass. I had no change, so I went back to the car. It took a few minutes of searching, but I eventually found a few handfuls of coins left in the center console.

I inserted the change, but the door refused to open. I shook it a few times, but had the same result.

I went back to the car, pulled out the sword and used the handle to smash the glass. I had to be careful not to cut myself, and pulled an issue out toward the bottom. The glass on top didn’t move. The issue slid out easily.
The date on the paper didn’t help, as I had no idea what day, month or year it was. The instructions didn’t give many specific details. They said to stay indoors, especially after dark. People should avoid roads and driving, even to get to loved ones.

An enforced curfew would take effect at sunset, and all those on the street would be subject to being fired upon without warning. All looters and rioters would receive the same treatment. Anyone with symptoms of infection would be released to military custody for isolation, and treatment.

Symptoms of infection included: Headache, fever, insomnia, dizziness, vomiting, irritability, irrational anger, dilated pupils, coma, paranoia, and mental instability.

All prices for goods were now frozen, to avoid people taking advantage of the emergency. Regular and Cellular telephones should only be used for emergencies, to ensure that circuits would not be overwhelmed.  Due to this emergency all payments due, including mortgages, would be suspended until this situation had ended.

Below this address was an editorial response to the statement. The editor claimed that there had been no success at treating or curing the infection. It was only passible by direct contact of bodily fluids.

Those infected were reported to extremes of self-mutilation, murder, rape, and cannibalism. The pupils of the infected became completely dilated which caused avoidance to bright lights, especially sunlight.
Now what I’d seen made more sense. The article went on to say that no cause of the infection had been found, and it had become a worldwide epidemic.

Guessing by the state of things I had seen, things must have gotten worse. Much worse.

The silence during the drive back gave me a further oppressed feeling. When I finally drove the car back to where I had first found it, the sun wasn’t more than a few hours until dusk.

I could have quickly grabbed what I could, and tried to drive out of the city. Of course, I’d hate to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. The roads might not even be passable.

As much as I would have liked to be gone, staying one night in the house might be the best way to stay safe. I felt the weight of the past few hours on my shoulders.

 I had to force myself to climb out of the comfortable car seats, and go into the house.

I held my sword in one hand, and my flashlight in the other as I entered the door. The interior looked that same as when I left. While there was still a small amount of natural light coming through the windows, I searched the house. If I didn’t have the flashlight, I wouldn’t have been able to see much, but it made a big difference.

The first thing I did was check all the rooms and closets. The downstairs was simple enough, but stairs creaked as I went up to the second floor. There was less light upstairs, it seemed like night had already fallen there.

My eyes quickly adjusted to the dark, bringing the area into focus. The hallway at the top of the stairs had three doors, and the two closest were left open. I worked my way through each one.

The first must have been a sewing or craft room. Bolts of fabric and a large sewing machine took up the majority of the space. There was nothing of use in the room, so I went on to the next.

The second open door was a bedroom. I went inside, and saw that there was pink and purple everywhere. It must have been a girls room. Something was large and aberrant under the covers of the bed and facing away from me, motionless.

Was it one of them? God I hoped not. I lightly patted the flat of my blade against the shape. It didn’t move. Was it one of those monsters, only asleep?

“Hey.” I said softly, through gritted teeth.

There was no answer. I built up the nerve to draw the covers off of it. I slid the tip of the sword under the blanket, and flipped it off. I took a half swing at the shape, expecting it to leap at me. Within the light I saw what it was, and I took a
long exhalation out. I was relieved. It was nothing but a large stuffed bear.  

I shook my head and left the small room.  The hall was dark and unwelcoming, in light of how close I came to skewering a stuffed bear.

The last door was closed. I had to tuck the flashlight under one arm to turn the doorknob. It loudly clicked as it opened. I gave it a good push and returned the flashlight to my hand.

The room was the largest yet. An enormous bed was the first thing I saw. Dark blankets and pillows were stacked neatly on top of it. Dark curtains obscured the one window, which was above a large wooden dresser.

One side of the room had a second door, the other a walk in closet. The closet was open, and my light showed that it was mostly empty. There were some hangers on the ground, and a small pile of woman’s clothes.

That seemed strange. Why would the house be so clean and organized, except for this closet? I wrinkled my brow in thought. If someone was in a hurry to grab some things and leave, that would make sense. I decided to have a closer look.

Surprise replaced my expression. The clothes on one side of the closet had been roughly slid aside to reveal a tall safe. The safe had been left open, and inside was a rack. All of the slots of the rack were empty, except for the end which held a



Copyright © 2011  Lee Argus

This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, incidents/ events, businesses, organizations, and places are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


All rights reserved, including the duplication and re-selling of this book, revisions, or usage of materials/ any part of this book without permission by the author.


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