Somehow, I had made it through the night. My head felt as if it were disembodied. I had the beginning of what felt like a horrible migraine. I downed a glass of water and took a couple of painkillers. Shuffling into the bathroom, I got a good look at myself. My cheek bones looked sharper than usual and my eyes looked watery. There were two dark circles under my eyes. I pawed through my hair and gave up. Maybe a shower would tame my unruly mane.
After a long, hot shower I felt energized. I still felt floaty, but that was to be expected given my lack of sleep. I made an attempt to comb through my curls, dabbed on some concealer, and chapstick. I wasn’t a huge fan of makeup, but I still liked to look presentable from time to time. Normally my hair is thick and wavy. It could never make up its mind on color, it was red or brown. I remember someone once told me that it was auburn, but I think it really depends on the time of year. Summer it was like a fiery copper, and winter a dull red, like a fox’s coat.
It could get bushy just like their tail floof. It was something I always hated about it, but, I had good hair days too. I’m not a tall girl, but I’m not short either. I’m stuck between what guys considered cute and not cute.The girls that got the most attention in high school were small and petite. I’ve always been awkward, and quiet. Dating didn’t make much sense to me. I usually got through it by reading, playing games at home, and drawing. No one really talked to me because of my quiet nature and I sort of liked it that way. It was easy to keep track of a few friends from time to time.
I’m not sure why I was reflecting on this now. It had been five years since I had been there. Once I had gone to college, I had replaced my old friends with new ones. But even they had started moving on with their own lives. But when I thought about it, I was never one to fight very hard to be in anyone’s life. I guess I have enjoyed my own company just fine.
I can’t believe the one person that could count on believing me was gone. I had so many things that I wanted to share with him, ask him. Granted, we only had a week left. If this all was in fact the end of the world. I can’t say that I blame him, these visions are awful. They are so vivid that you can’t stand being in that moment, let alone know that you will have to face that pain at the end. I shiver thinking about how much suffering we will have to go through and the pure joy the creature’s will take devouring us all.
Will it really be so horrible? Or will I fold over and die immediately after the first blast. Even if the bombs only hit every major city, the fallout would be devastating. I couldn’t save everyone, but I could try to spread the word to several people I knew. Thinking about it depressed me, because who would really take me seriously?
They wouldn’t. I sag into the bed and tuck my legs under me. The only way they would understand is if they had seen what I have seen. That got me curious. If Zedd had seen them, there had to be others right? I can go online, seek others through communities and maybe discuss it with them. I have seven days, maybe we could all meet up and change other people’s minds.
Yeah, like a doomsday cult? Ugh. No, we’re fucked. No one would buy it and honestly, maybe it was just a freak coincidence. Some odd occurence that two people shared. I knew, in the deepest parts of my heart that was wrong, but I wanted to believe that somehow none of it were true.
I had been putting it off long enough. I stood, walked over to the piece of paper and opened it. I scanned, frowned and then looked at it again. It had not changed since yesterday. It changed every day, why had it not changed this time? What had I done differently?
Shit, I cursed silently, it’s because I haven’t slept. It had even changed the number of days, but the picture was the same. I only got to see it if I lived that pain and I would have to live that pain for another six days, almost seven. At least, it’s what I hypothesized. I had fallen asleep on the bus and the picture didn’t change, but I’m pretty sure that had to do with the fact that it was the same day. There was only one way to test it and I really didn’t want to.
I alerted the front desk that I would be staying another day and they said that it would be fine. It was the slow season, so no one had reserved the room. I told them there was no need for fresh sheets, asked for a few more towels and then got off the phone. I suddenly felt exhausted, there was no way I was going to stay awake, even if I wanted to. I wrote a note on the door to leave the towels inside even if I was asleep inside and then collapsed under the blankets.
When I woke, the sun had nearly set. It was low in the sky and the room had become very cold. I sat up and stretched, glancing at my phone. It was nearly six o’clock. I yawned and threw the blankets off of me, feeling good and refreshed. I relieved myself in the bathroom, washed my hands, and applied a bit more chapstick and base.
Ready to get out of the room for a while, I grabbed my phone, laptop, the paper, and changed into a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. I took one last look at myself, grabbed my wallet and was out the door. Thankfully, the town had a little strip and there were several restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. I settled on a diner that had wi-fi and claimed to have the best breakfast in town. My stomach grumbled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours as I slid into the booth.
The place was warm in colors and modernized enough that it didn’t feel like a diner. There was no tacky art, or cheap looking benches, and the colors were tasteful and calm. I immediately felt comfortable here, it was an environment that invited you to stay with soothing music and friendly staff. I couldn’t remember the last time I had ever felt like a place wanted you there for a while.
“Hey there,” the lady smiled as she walked up to me, “what can I start you off with?” I could tell she was older, but still extremely pretty. She had a kind face with warm brown eyes and silky dark brown hair. I hated to admit it, but I was pretty jealous of that hair. I’ve always wished that I could have those edgy, straight haircuts instead of my mange of fluff.
“Hey,” I smiled back, “is it OK if I stay here for a bit after I eat?” The woman grinned from ear to ear as if I were the most precious thing in the world. “Of course you can, sweetheart. Stay as long as you like. What can I get for you?” I glanced over the menu, quickly realizing there were way more options than I anticipated. “Uh,” I stuttered, “how about pancakes and sausage with some coffee?” Her eyes crinkled as she jotted down my order, “you want one or two pancakes?” “Three,” I say quickly. Her eyes widen, but she nods. “You take cream and sugar?” “Just cream,” I say. She nods again and then walks away calling over her shoulder that she’ll be right back.
I’m not sure why I keep putting off looking at the paper. I’m still in shock over the fact that I slept so peacefully. I honestly can’t even remember dreaming. Thank goodness for small miracles. I stared across at the little sliver of paper as if at any moment, it would catch fire in my bag. I wanted more than anything for the same city with the same hooded figures to be present. Maybe it was just affecting the new city I moved to. Either way, I wasn’t prepared at that moment to find out. I had the weekend to depress myself further. And then what? I wondered. Warn everyone in those two cities to evacuate? Yeah, that would go over well.
About the only thing I could do to make anyone take me seriously is phone in a bomb threat. I’m not familiar with protocol on this, but I’m quite sure they would dismiss it as a practical joke in less than a day. It may save several people’s lives though, so it was looking like my best option.
If they would even issue a city-wide evacuation. I grew more apprehensive by the second. There is no way the city would take a woman’s threat seriously. Even if it were a bomb threat. They probably received those at least once every few months. Shit, with all the crazy people out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were once a week.
I make a mental list of what I would need to do in order for anyone to take me seriously:
- Voice changer
- Google number
- Suspicious activity that could point to potentially being a bomb placed there?
This wasn’t going to work, why would I even think it would? I suddenly feel sick to my stomach. How in the actual hell do I make other people think I’m not insane? The one person that would have helped me is dead. At least he won’t have to suffer through all of this. I’m slightly jealous of that fact right now. I want to be gone, boom, light’s out. No pain, no skin peeling back or shards raking through the meaty pulp of my exposed flesh. No creaking bones, or dangling eyes.
I swallow, grasping at my neck. Suddenly, I felt extremely parched. My hands shook as I guzzled down the water the waitress had brought me earlier. If there were any hint of me finding some solace, it was gone. I felt heavy in my skin. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to. The weight of everything was seeping in.
How could so much have changed in a matter of a week? It went from the best moment of my entire life, to the single-worst experience I’ve known in my twenty-three years─ Never knowing when I was going to experience that nightmare again and again. A bullet to the head wasn’t sounding too bad right now. I remember taking a neuroscience class and the professor telling us that there were no pain receptors in the brain. Once the bullet got past the nerves on the flap of skin that covered my skull, I would feel nothing. I never thought about that before today. It’s developing into a sort of fantasy now. One in which I could squeeze the trigger and─
“Here you go, sweetie.” I jerked slightly at her soft voice, but managed a smile. “Thank you very much,” I quickly replied.
She paused and then takes on that sort of tone you only ever hear your mother make, “You OK hun? You’re looking a bit pale.” I take a moment looking into her soft, amber eyes and then shake my head at her, “oh, I’m fine. Just a little tired is all.” She purses her lips and raises a finely manicured eyebrow at me, “alright, I get it. I was a young girl once. Your food will be right out. You just holler at me if you need anything else.” She places a hand on my shoulder and pats it softly.
Normally physical touch would be something that bothered me. I would shy away or tilt my body in a way that would keep them from reaching me. Sort of an unspoken message about boundaries. I’d done it all my life. Strange how lately I’ve welcomed other’s touch, like an attention starved child. Both this waitress and Devon had managed to do it in less than a handful of days.
I sigh, content with a full belly. I’ve put the note off long enough, but I still go ahead and check my phone messages and emails first. Zedd’s funeral was going to be held on Monday and everyone from work was invited to come and pay their respects. Poor Devon, I wanted more than anything to make it better for him. It must have been hard losing someone that he was obviously close with and have a new employee that same week. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through right now. I tried thinking of things that I could send in a text message, maybe some comforting words, but my brain just drew a blank.
What did you say to someone that you barely knew about someone else you barely knew dying? I decided I would wait and do it later, I felt too scattered right now. I was on my third refill of coffee when I finally decided that I was ready. No matter what it showed me, I still had some time to think on what it was I could do.
With shaky hands I reached into my bag and removed the folded paper. I slowly pried open one side, and inhaled deeply─ steadying my heart. It was now, or never. I am about to find out if this is going to happen all over or just in my home town and back in Dallas. I knew it was hoping for too much, to think it all just coincidental, but who knew? Maybe it was all just a horrific coincidence.
The city of Santa Fe burned in front of me as I unfolded the last piece of paper. Crestfallen, I searched the page. The hooded figures were hard to see, but they were there in the mountains. The beautiful, charming city was a pile of rubble. The mushroom cloud loomed over it high in the mountain air. A single tear dropped down and landed at the bottom of the page. I swiped at my face, embarrassed to be crying in a public place.
Before I folded it up, I scanned back up to where the poem ended:
This night, hallowed night, They gifted the world to silence.
I had less than a week. I mused on the last line, really at the poem in its entirety. It sounded as if people were these little, lost creatures that death would guide home. Except this is nothing like I expected it to be, these horrible, awful beasts that enjoyed my suffering. From everything I’d ever been taught as a child the death bringers were supposed to be kind, compassionate beings that transitioned us to the other side. Granted, the four horsemen were another story in the book of revelations.
But, it isn’t like I would even be educated on any of that even if I did think that what was going on was biblical. I haven’t touched any religious book in my life and from what I did know I was a child at the time. I do remember one of the horsemen was someone that was said to bring war. Surely, these harbingers of death weren’t with a divine being that created us. Why would they even be created if they enjoyed so much─ suffering?
This was pointless thinking, where would it really get me? Even if I knew exactly what they were, I would be powerless to stop it. And six days isn’t exactly enough time to research anything properly. I slunk into the chair. Every waking moment was merely a countdown to the inevitable end.
Everything I was doing up until now was.
I stare outside into the beautiful, quaint town and then over at the kind waitress. I would certainly do my best to at least protect her. Maybe anyone that would listen. It may have been a fruitless endeavor, but at least I could die knowing I tried. I guess I’m just that brand of idiot.
I sigh and pull out my laptop. Maybe I could find something online that would help. Maybe others that are like me.
After more than an hour of searching, I’ve about given up. There are, as it seems, a lot of people that believe that the end of the world has been coming for a while now. There’s cultists, evangelists, standard forums with conspiracy theory nutjobs, and just about anyone in between but none of them have described what both me and Zedd had described.
I pulled the note out again and looked it over. What was I missing? Surely we weren’t the only ones. I even googled notes about end days, and bombs, and near death experiences with bombs. All of which had some─ interesting results, but not the ones that I want.
“Hun, I just wanted to let you know that you’re fine to stay as long as you’d like but would you mind scooching over to the smaller table there, in the back?” She motioned over to where the tables were back toward the kitchen. Her face looked genuinely contrite as if she’d disturbed me during an important bit of work. My face must have had the serious look my mom would always point out when I’d become lost in my art. “It’s just, I’ve got a family that needs seating and that table’s a might small for them.” I nodded my head and quickly shot up. “Of course” I stutter, “not a problem at all.” It takes a minute to realize how busy the place has gotten since I’d come in. I make my way over to the back to the smallest table I can find and set myself up again. The soft voices have risen to a dull roar as the restaurant fills with noisy guests. I know I could probably just go back to the hotel, but I prefer the company of the waitress and the people. It makes me feel less alone.
I again unfold the paper, hoping that I’d catch something else before I call it a night. I’d googled everything, except─ I’m noticing the name a few times throughout the body of the script: watchmen. I feel my excitement rising, maybe there was something to that. I try my luck at searching watchmen. I frown at all the cartoon images and shortly find out that there is a comic by the same name and a t.v. show. Damn. I try again, this time adding the term apocalypse with it─ and then, end times. All that manages to bring up are nut jobs claiming it’s the end times.
Nothing, or no one is mentioning them specifically.
Hooded figures brought up the usual comic-like illustrations of death, but nothing like the hyper-realistic drawings that lined my page. Nothing that could instill the sort of dread I had in the pit of my chest as I stared at their dark, hungry faces. I shivered, running my hands up and down my arms. I knew I had been at the diner for a while, but I didn’t realize how long until the smell of food made my stomach rumble.
I smile over at my coffee mug. The waitress had been amazing and kept it full for me. I waved across at her and she quickly shuffled over. “What can I do for you? You about ready for that check?” I smiled sheepishly at her, “Actually, I’m starving and ready for round two. What’s really good here?” Her smile widened and she glanced over at the kitchen, then leaned in, “you won’t believe it, but we have the best enchiladas on this side of town. Even better than Enchilada’s up the street. The owner’s son makes his mama’s recipe and I swear to you, that boy puts love into every layer.” I grinned back at her, “Alright, um─ I pause looking at her nametag but frown when I don’t find one. “Laura,” she says softly. “Laura,” I repeat. We smile, “I’ll take the enchiladas with red sauce.” She makes an ‘ooo’ shape with her mouth nodding her head, “good choice um─” she looks down at me, her lips pursed comically as she waits on me, her pen posed in the air. “Kate,” I say giggling at the silliness. Man, I needed this in my life right now. “Alright Miss Kate, I will have those mouth-watering enchiladas out to you asap.” She swishes away and I’m practically glowing from the experience.
It’s been a long time since I’ve managed to really speak to someone else in this manner. I missed it. It reminded me of my college days with some of my closest professors and friends. The sun looks like it’s about to come up and I find myself wondering what time it actually was. I glance at my phone, and then look again─ it was 5:45─ in the morning. I can’t believe I had managed to be here for nearly ten hours. Enchilada’s must have been an anytime meal here but they sounded like a pretty damn good breakfast for me. I watch as Laura bustles about wiping off the tables and grabbing the checks. It was probably reaching the end of her shift.
I wanted to tell her, but not sure how to say it without her becoming alarmed, or thinking I’m some sort of nutjob/terrorist. I don’t look like a terrorist, it’s kind of hard to when you’re still mistaken for a teenager at twenty-three. But, she wouldn’t take it seriously unless I worded it carefully. At least I would have time to think over another hot meal.
In less than ten minutes, it’s in front of me and my mouth waters. It’s unlike any enchiladas I’ve ever had. They’re stacked like pancakes with layers of tortilla, egg, and cheese drizzled with the red sauce. It’s so pretty I almost don’t want to dig in with a fork. My stomach has other ideas, however, and I find myself practically wolfing it down. About halfway through, I slow down and really taste all of the flavors. There’s little crispy bits of fresh onion and I sigh in content. Normally, I’m not a fan of raw onion but somehow it just works with all the heavy cheese and red sauce. I need to get this recipe, this was definitely last meal worthy. Laura hadn’t been kidding when she said it was made with love.
I panicked when I didn’t see Laura for a few minutes, nervous that I had missed my chance to save her. My eyes teared up when she rounded the corner with a fresh mug of steaming coffee. “Hey sweetheart, I’m about to end my shift but I thought I’d bring─” she pauses, getting a look at my face. “I know it isn’t my place, but, you sure you OK? I got a few minutes before I need to head home and feed the pups.” I smile through blinding tears and through I’m trying to be brave, they manage to slip down my cheeks.
I pat at the chair across from me. She doesn’t even hesitate and slides into it. “What’s going on? Boy trouble?” She smiles with a faraway look in her eye as she stares out into the street. She turns back to me, her warm eyes widening. She places a hand over mine and pats it gently. “This seems much worse than just a man. You’re not in trouble are you?” She hesitates and glances around before leaning in and whispers, “my brother is a cop, he wouldn’t be awake right now but I could see if there is something that could be done for you.” She crosses her legs and leans back, her cool hand not leaving mine. “Some cities have piss-poor excuses for cops, you know the usual amount of corruption and politics. I’m not saying we don’t have any of that, we’ve got our share too, but the cops around here take care of us and I guarantee Rob would listen.”
I’m floored by this woman’s kindness. Back at home waitresses wouldn’t have hardly looked at you, let alone offer help to a stranger. Everyone was sort of buttoned up in Pennsylvania. You just didn’t talk about your problems, especially at home. Talking to a stranger? That would be unheard of. Mom and dad were good people, but not warm people. We’d always been quiet about most things. If I came home with a bad grade, I would get a head shake from dad and my mom would softly say, “Kate, you can do better.” It was that quiet that always pushed me to get some sort of reaction or acknowledgement of my achievements. The best I got was a satisfied grunt from dad and a smile and pat from mom. Maybe she would even rub up and down my arms affectionately. I lived for those sort of reactions, it made me warm and feel all glowy─ like I could accomplish anything.
It wasn’t as if they didn’t show affection or show that they were worried, it was just a different sort of love. This was open and raw. I really couldn’t wrap my mind around it, but I appreciated it just the same.
Finally, I manage to find my voice, “I need you to listen to me and not judge. Just, keep an open mind─ OK?” My voice comes out far shakier than I wanted it to. I never sound strong. I always sound like a scared little girl. I hate how soft my voice is. She raises her eyebrows and nods slowly, “alright, I can do that. Don’t you worry about how you sound.” Her voice is encouraging because she thinks she’s rescuing me from something. She thinks maybe I’m running away from an abusive relationship, or bad parents. If only it were something so simple.
I inhale deeply, steadying myself to try and sound like a rational human being. How could I word it to where she would listen? I decide on telling her the truth, but add a believable lie. I feel somewhat guilty about it, but it was the only way she was going to buy what I’m selling. I clear my throat, “my family works in the government,” I start. She frowns and then nods at me. I can tell she is realizing that this isn’t going to be a normal problem. I wasn’t entirely lying about that, my dad, now retired, had worked in the post office for over thirty years and my mother was a public school teacher. “I came out here because I wanted to see for myself if things were happening like back at home.” My voice sounded a little more confident this time and I feel my shoulders relax. I can do this, I tell myself, maybe I can save some people.
Laura has let go of my hand now and she’s hugging herself. “OK, go on,” she whispers. I look back at the restaurant and then lean in toward her, “You and your brother should get as far away as you can from any major city. I’m talking miles away, go to the desert or Colorado woods, or Arizona, or hell even Texas. Just─ get away from Santa Fe.” Her eyes grow hard and she purses her lips. She crosses her arms over her breasts and looks me up and down. Laura looks like a real mom now, assessing whether she’s being pranked or having something pulled over on her. The tears are really starting to come and I grabbed a napkin and swipe at my face and nose.
I can tell she isn’t convinced. “I─” my words falter a bit as I hiccup. I wipe again at my face and try again, “I just wanted to, you know, tell someone. I don’t expect you to believe me, but Laura,” I look deeply into her eyes, my brows creasing, “Something very bad is going to happen here and I need you to believe me. I’m not crazy, or some sort of conspiracy nut, I just wanted to help you because you’ve been very kind to me.”
She nodded, biting down on her lip. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here,” she paused, “but this is my home. I don’t know where I would go, and I mean, I just met you. You could be pranking me for all I know.” I sniffle. “I don’t think you are though,” she adds quickly. She looks off to the side, her voice taking on more of a resigned quality, “Listen, I miss a day of work and it’s a big deal.” She shook her head at me, “I’m comfortable, but it’s because I keep my longer hours and I have my regular customers.” She sighs, “even if it were something bad, Antonio could lock up the place and we could just hide in the back or stay put.” She’s dismissing it in her mind and thinks I’m some sort of spooked child.
“You can’t hide from this,” I say firmly, “no one can. It’ll take out half the planet, Laura, at least.” She stares into my eyes, “you actually believe this, don’t you?” I nod. “I don’t just believe it, I’ve seen it.” She fidgets with her hands, “like a bomb going off? They would have had that on the news, hun.” I’ve lost her, I can feel it. No matter what I say, she’s going to think I’m just some misinformed girl who’s father had scared her. She probably thinks he’s some government conspiracy nut too. There were a lot of them in government offices. How could I make her understand?
The answer was, I couldn’t. I could try my best at the end of the day, but it would boil down to what she would accept in her own mind. I feel sick to my stomach, but I realize this is all I can do.
“It won’t be in the news. It will just hit. And I know how all of it sounds, but I just wanted to help. There’s nothing that I can say to convince you, I just wanted you to know.” The tears keep coming and I dab at them gingerly.
“Well, I appreciate it sweetheart, but I think someone is just messing with you. If it were something this big, I think half of the world would have known about it by now. Especially with all these damn satellites, and movement detection, and thermo-whatevers─ these men have got their war devices on lock down. I don’t think anyone really wants to use them, you know? Doesn’t bode well for the planet’s health and just about everyone would die.” I nod, lost to my own thoughts. I knew this would be the way it would go, and that’s how it would be with anyone.
Even if someone told me the same way that I’m telling her. It was pointless.
I stood up, extending my hand, “Thank you, Laura. I really appreciate everything you did for me today. You take care of yourself.” I heard her mutter something but I’d already walked several feet away and didn’t catch it. It didn’t matter, and I couldn’t care about her anymore. She would be lost like the rest of them.