Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Two Hundred

Day 200: 17 Feb 2011

The rumbling continued as Ronan finally let out his laugh, a long, sick, almost soundless chortling. But when he stopped laughing, the rumbling stopped as well.

"Wait. . . that's it?" I heard Cassie mutter from right beside me.

I turned to look at her, Jason Black and Jared just behind her, all of them looking confused and not insubstantially underwhelmed. I admit, it did seem a bit anticlimactic -- but it wasn't over yet. I turned back to Ronan just in time to see him start twitching. His body jerked spasmodically, as if he was having a seizure while standing up. Then, slowly at first, I saw movement from his head.

Where his right eye had been, something was. . . twisting. Writhing. Just as I figured out what it was, it dropped out of his eye. When it hit the pavement, it started slithering right towards us.

It was a worm. A child of the God of the Land. It wasn't alone.

Ronan stopped twitching, and more worms started pouring out of his wrecked eye socket, out of his open mouth, out of his ears. There must have been hundreds of them, and they were all slithering along the street towards us and the people all around us.

And that's when the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road exploded.

Purely on instinct, I dove hard to my left. A huge chunk of pavement smashed into the sidewalk right where I'd been standing. I checked on Cassie and Jared and Black -- all OK. The pavement had missed them, landing inches from Jared's wheelchair.

Then I saw him. He was kind of hard to miss, though. Taller than any building in sight, the God of the Land was halfway out of the crater in what used to be the center of The Strip. And from the roar that issued from the three mouths on his head, he was fucking angry.

I could hear Jason Black on his radio. He was calling his chopper, having them come in for a strafing run, but I knew it wouldn't have any effect. Normal bullets? Please. They'd feel like snowflakes to the God of the Land.

"Black! Skip the gun run! Have your chopper land on the top of The Mirage!"

Black looked at me, thought for a second, and nodded. He relayed the order through his radio, and we were on the run. Well, Jared was wheeling, technically. But he was faster than any of us.

We could hear the havoc behind us -- buildings smashed. People screaming. Fires, gunshots. But we kept running.

The power was still on in the Mirage, so we took the elevator all the way. The Black Hawk was on the roof, and we piled in, Cassie and I easily lifting Jared in his wheelchair. The chopper spun up quickly. We were airborne in seconds.

"So what do we do here?" Cassie asked as we climbed.

We could see everything from the air. The Bellagio and about half of Caesar's Palace were rubble. The God of the Land was steamrolling his way up The Strip, headed North. My guess was Area 51.

"I can call in a nuclear strike," Black said. "That'll stop him."

"What about evacuating everyone?" Cassie said.

"Look outside, kid. Does it look like that's going to be a problem?"

Black was right on that end, it seemed. Everyone who could move on the ground was headed away from the God of the Land. Not that it mattered -- he was killing thousands. "It won't work," Jared said. "He can withstand heat and pressure inside molten rock. A nuke won't kill him."

"So what do we do?" It was me who asked that one.

"We run," Jared said. "We get someplace where I can figure this out."

"And what about Vegas? Nevada? The rest of it?" Cassie asked.

"Nothing we can do, except maybe quarantine," Black said. "I'll make some calls."

As Black headed to the front of the chopper, I looked outside again. Most of The Strip was unrecognizable already -- he worked fast. We kept right on going past Area 51, out to. . . I don't know where we're headed.

You know what my fortune cookie said today? Today is going to be a perfect day.

Fucking fortune cookies.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Nine

Day 199: 16 Feb 2011

I'd just gotten back from work tonight -- late flight into Vegas, 20 minutes in traffic -- when Black called. I hadn't even put down my fucking keys yet.

"Cassie, it's Jason Black," he said, though I knew his voice cold by now.


"Is Travis with you?"

He was, and I said so.

"Good. We're getting more seismic readings. We need to investigate."

"Dude. I haven't even had dinner yet, yo."

"Sorry. Can't be helped. They're extremely localized this time, and they're in town."

"Here in Vegas?"

"Right under The Strip. Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road. Jared and I are on a chopper right now."

"Fine. We'll meet you there," I said, sighing.

"What's up?" Travis asked as I hung up the phone.

"Work," I said, shrugging. "I'll explain on the way."

Twenty more minutes in traffic -- The Strip was packed tonight. We finally just parked near Harrah's. Walking was going to be quicker, anyway. As we got closer to the intersection Black had indicated, the crowd thinned out just a bit. And as we made it to the street, we saw why.

There, standing in the middle of the road, was a man with his arms outstretched. He looked familiar -- big black guy. I knew I'd seen him before. He was missing his right eye.

"Holy shit," I managed to cough.

"That's Ronan."


"New Orleans. He led me up to Thule, but he turned on us. He was a. . . uh. . . what do you call it? Worshiper of the God of the Land."

"He got away?" Travis asked.

"No," Jason Black said, walking up behind us. "I shot him. Right in the fucking face with an M4. He should be dead."

"He is dead," Jared said quietly, rolling up next to Black. "Very dead."

"Then how --" I started, but Ronan turned to us then and smiled widely.

"Hello, friends," he said, his voice low and raspy. Like his throat was filled with gravel. He dropped his arms back down to his sides, and the ground started to shake around us. Windows shattered, and car alarms went aggro.

"What the fuck is happening?" someone yelled.

Ronan stared right at us.

"He is coming," Ronan said, barely holding in his laughter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Eight

Day 198: 15 Feb 2011

Lots of activity today. It all started when I got into the office, nice and early at seven this morning. Until we can find somewhere for me to live, I've been staying in a visiting officer's quarters here at the Area. I'm always early.

Jason Black and another guy I don't know were in the office when I arrived. The other guy was a little older, maybe in his 50s. Big dude, though. Powerful looking. I'm pretty sure he had a glass eye.

"What's up?" I asked as I wheeled through the door.

They finally got me a decent wheelchair, by the way. One of those cool motorized things. I'm getting pretty fast on it.

"Trouble. Perimeter alarms are going crazy," Black told me.

I checked the monitors -- we had cameras covering everything around The Area. Every angle, including straight up, is displayed on a huge bank of monitors in the office. I didn't see anything odd on any of them.

"I'm not seeing anything," I said, wheeling over to my desk and bringing up the counterintrusion system. It was going insane.

"Species 4-9?" the older man asked.

Jason Black shook his head.

"They trip the airblast sensors. Those are clear."

"He's right. These are seismic readings," I said, wondering what the hell Species 4-9 was.

"Earthquake?" Cassie asked. She and Travis had walked into the room a few seconds earlier.

"Not unless it's localized entirely in a one-mile radius," I said. "And moving towards the base."

We kept watching the monitors, but the disturbance never got closer than a couple of miles. It eventually stopped and went away. Black sent some people out to investigate, but I think we're leaving it at that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Seven

Day 197: 14 Feb 2011

So here's something interesting I didn't know I could do -- I can apparently draw really well. Really well. Jason Black asked for a map of where Cassie and I found the corpses of the Gods of the Seas and Skies, and I quickly drew him one. I did it without thinking, but the map looked almost photorealistic.

Jared saw the map, but it didn't surprise him.

"Yep. Perfect recall. You remember everything you see, and reproducing it is no problem," he said. "West Coast people had me do it a lot."

Jared and I went into Vegas for lunch today. Catching up on the past six years was. . . a bit awkward. Still a good thing. But strange nonetheless. He's not the same Jared I remember, but I'm pretty sure he could say the same of me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Six

Day 196: 13 Feb 2011

Spent the last couple days learning the systems at Area 51, specifically surveillance and counterintrusion. I learn fast now, and remember everything I see, pretty much. Black and his doctors think it's because the slug opened up my brain. Gave me access to more of it than the average person. I don't know about all of that, but I do suddenly feel a whole lot smarter.

Anyway, looks like my job is going to be here at The Area, doing some kind of analyst thing. Your guess is as good as mine. Good news is I get to work with my brother, who should be back in the office sometime today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Five

Day 195: 12 Feb 2011

Travis and I walked right off the plane at MacCarran into a day off. A girl could get used to this job.

Travis still didn't have a place to live, so we spent the day looking for an apartment or a house or something. Not too interesting.

We found him a place, but we both stayed at mine tonight before going back to work tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Four

Day 194: 11 Feb 2011

Cassie suggested I stop by my apartment and grab some things. I thought about it for a moment, but. . .

What is there for me there anymore? An XBox? Some clothes? A hacked-together Dell desktop I barely used since I got a notebook? I try to picture my old apartment in my head, and it's like I'm remembering someone else's house, someplace I visited once long ago.

So, instead, we got a hotel and crashed out before our flight back to Las Vegas in the morning.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Three

Day 193: 10 Feb 2011

Landed at Wilmington Airport just after sunrise. We had a small delay at Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska. Well, the delay was actually at Eppley International, where we boarded a commercial flight. The airport was closed at four a.m.

Seems even the shadow people don't think of everything.

Anyway, we had a car waiting for us at the airport. A black Charger. I think the military buys these things in bulk. Cassie suggested I drive, as I live in town and all. I had almost forgotten that. But still, it came back to me as I drove.

We made it to Carolina Beach an hour or so after sunrise, and it was pretty cold out. Didn't bother me and Cassie, but the Navy SEAL who met us on the shore was bundled up in a parka and hat.

"Chow and Sykes?"

I nodded, and he led us to a small inflatable raft with a motor on it. A few minutes later, we were back on the fake fishing boat. The same guys were all there, having coffee on the deck, bundled in cold-weather gear.

"You look better than last week," one said.

"Yeah, feeling better too."

My hand had mostly grown back, and was almost completely functional.

"Captain says all yours. You're in charge, just tell us what you need," another of the SEALs said.

"Um. . . I'm good. Chill out. I'll be back in a bit."

Without waiting for them to respond, I dove into the water and went deep.

His corpse wasn't hard to find, and it was a corpse. More than half of his body looked like it'd been chainsawed by a group of angry Canadian loggers. And he wasn't alone down there.

The God of the Skies. All that was left of him was an exoskeleton, some jutting obsidian shards where his wings had once been. He'd died fighting -- I guessed it was his wings that shredded the God of the Seas as they both plummeted, dying, to the sea floor.

I floated there for a moment, just looking at the two dead gods, the two creatures now gone for good.

Then I went back up. Time to report my findings and go back home.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-Two

Day 192: 09 Feb 2011

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

I have to stop eating fortune cookies at breakfast. It's strange when they're so creepily accurate, even if there are only maybe a hundred fortunes you could get. This one was right.

Day one at the new job. Cassie and I are headed from Vegas to North Carolina. Assignment -- confirm the God of the Seas is dead. Captain Black's letting us run this operation on our own, so it's me and Cassie. Kind of like it's been for. . . shit. Six months. Has it been that long?

Anyway, we're flying out of Vegas at sunset, but with the time difference, we're eight hours in the air. Won't make it to Wilmington until early tomorrow. And then. . . well, let's hope he's really dead. For good this time.

I really don't want to think about the alternative.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety-One

Day 191: 08 Feb 2011

Cassie and I are heading out on assignment tomorrow. For today, though. . . it's a day off. I'm confused. Haven't had one of those in as long as I can remember, and not sure what I can do with myself at Area 51 with some downtime.

Maybe I'll go for a walk?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day One Hundred and Ninety

Day 190: 7 Feb 2011

I feel clearer than I've felt in a long time, but that isn't saying a hell of a lot.

The wheelchair sucks. You'd think for a place with as much technology as this, they'd have one of those cool motorized jobs, but no. Of course not, right? I'm tooling around in the same type of crappy model they use to wheel you out of the hospital after surgery. Yes, I'm complaining. But I suppose it beats being dead.

The slug is sure dead, though. I know that much. I saw its body after they took it out of me. It was bigger than when it went in, and had tendrils stretching three feet or more in every direction. Looking at it was unpleasant. But they wheeled it out of here shortly after I woke up, no doubt to dissect the hell out of it.

Captain Black came by to see me. Told me that Travis and Cassie would be working for him now, that there was a place for me, too, because of the knowledge in my head. The slug used my brain like a hard drive, and I can remember everything about the past six years, and so much more than that. I can remember everything the slug knew, and that's a lot.

So, I figure I'll take him up on his offer. What else am I gonna do? If he gets me a better damn wheelchair, that is.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Nine

Day 189: 06 Feb 2011

Woke up in my shop's office with a raging hangover. In retrospect, going on a two-day binge wasn't bright. Apparently, resistance to alcohol was not among the superpowers that the God of the Skies' bug gives me.

Yep, he's still kicking. The bug is still with me, healthy as ever.

Briggs, though. . . I mean, the kid looks young, but goddamn can he fucking drink. I'm assuming he's who dropped me off here last night, because otherwise I have no idea how I got home.

Today was kind of cool. The air was nice and thin, and the temperature didn't go much above 70. That's good for a hangover, doesn't make you want to vomit. I find cigarettes are good, too, and I was outside smoking one of those when a black Dodge Charger pulled up in front of the shop. Two guys in Air Force dress blues stepped out and walked over to me.

"Cassie Chow?" one of them said.

"Mmyep. That's me."

"Would you mind coming with us, ma'am?"

"Long as you stop calling me 'ma'am.' I'm 26, jerk."

I got in the backseat. The two Air Force guys got in and started driving, and I noticed we were headed out of town.

"Where are we headed, guys?" I asked. Probably a question I should have come up with before getting in the car, but hey.

One of the Air Force guys turned around. He smiled.

"Ever wonder where they keep the aliens?"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Seven

Day 187: 04 Feb 2011

I woke up today in a long, low white room. I was in a bed, covers up to my chest, neatly folded and white. Somewhere nearby, I heard the hiss of a respirator, but it wasn't breathing for me -- no tubes in my throat, no IV in my arm.

"Welcome back."

The voice belonged to Captain Jason Black. He was sitting in an office chair at the foot of the bed, smiling. It was the first time I'd seen him in uniform -- Air Force blues -- but he didn't have a nametape or rank insignia anywhere.

"Um. . ." was all I could say.

"Where are you? Can't tell you that, exactly. But I should inform you that you're being recorded. Or monitored. Or both. And even though the law is merely theory here, I do like to keep in the spirit," he said.

"Uh, thanks?"

"No problem, Travis. Your brother's going to make it, or so the doctors tell me," Black said, nodding to his right, my left.

I followed his gaze and found Jared in a bed about twenty feet away from mine. The respirator was his, and he was unconscious. He looked awful -- his gray skin was cracking, flaking away.

"Looks worse than he is, I assure you," Black told me, standing up. "Turns out y'all's normal human skin is under the armor-plated stuff. His top layer started falling off once they got the slug out."

"Is he --"

"Doctors say paralyzed from the sternum down, probably. The slug really tore him up. But his brainwaves are good."

"So what's next?" I asked.

"Well, we wait for your hand to grow back," he said, pulling aside my covers to reveal my arm. My hand was indeed gone, but new fingers, stubby and underformed, were sprouting from the stub. It was. . . well, disgusting, really.

"Then," Black continued, "we talk about your future."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Six

Day 186: 03 Feb 2011

Medical flight to Nellis Air Force Base with Travis and Jared tonight. Big military plane, no flight plan. When we landed, Jason Black and his guys bundled them into a waiting truck and they sped off. Briggs and I were left standing around.

"Where are they going?" I asked.

"My guess? Area 51. There are doctors out there who deal with. . . nontraditional cases. If you know what I mean," Briggs said.

"And what are we supposed to do in the meantime?"

"I know a couple of good Vegas bars."

That sounded like the best idea I'd heard all week.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Five

Day 185: 02 Feb 2011

Dreaming. Or at least I think I am. If I'm alive, I'm dreaming. If I'm dead, the afterlife fucking sucks.

I dream that I'm missing an arm. The God of the Seas yanked it off with one of his many tentacles; the blood was everywhere. The pain was nowhere near as bad as it should have been.

I dream that Jared is alive, locked inside his nearly useless body. He's slowly slipping away, the slug long dead but still leaking poison into his system. My poison. The poison I deployed to kill him.

I dream that Cassie floats above all of us, saddened and frustrated by our inability to kill the God of the Seas. It's over now. There's nothing more she can do except watch as he raises his armies and destroys the human race.

I dream of the God of the Seas. He swims happily, the damage I dealt him already fully repaired. He has beaten us, and not even broken a sweat. He's won; we've lost.

And, inexplicably, I dream of the house I grew up in -- no electricity, no indoor plumbing. That's exactly what this feels like. This dream, or this passing on into the afterlife -- sitting in a dark, ancient Cracker house in the North Florida summer heat.

Finally, I dream of blackness -- no images, no sounds. Just a black, final title card covering everything.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Four

Day 184: 01 Feb 2011

So here's what happened after the God of the Skies crashed into the ocean with the God of the Seas: nothing. Neither one of them surfaced. The water turned red, as I said before, but that was all.

No, not all. The link was suddenly broken. The constant background whisper -- what I'd come to recognize as the God of the Skies' thoughts -- ceased abruptly and entirely.

I tried to reach for Travis, but I couldn't get near the water. Black saw the difficulty I was having and turned to his buddies.

"Frogmen, you're up. Pull out our boy," he said, and two of the Navy guys instantly jumped into the sea and hauled Travis onboard.

That was 36 hours ago. And now. . . now we're just sitting in the hospital with Briggs and Jared. Travis is still unconscious. Briggs says there's nothing more he can do for Jared, and he's not getting any response out of Travis.

So, not a great day.