Princess Luna flew over the SUV when they were one mile away and engaged the fleeing truck a few feet past the welcome to Dos Broncos sign.
Again, Aaron thought someone was telling him to snap out of it. But again, there was just Well. Aaron looked back at Well to see if he was joining the fight.
Well shook his head. “The magical exchange between Luna and the mask is too fast for me. I'll be lucky to protect our drivers and car from attacks.”
Aaron nodded and turned to look ahead. Blue and black blasts of magic flew between the truck and Princess Luna. He wondered how long she could keep up the constant barrage of spells. Too bad they didn't have the support of AID mages and or SWAT teams. He called Flash.
“Flash here,” Flash said.
“We need some magical support, can you help us?” Aaron said.
Flash sighed. “Well, we're trying to get another transport. One of them is busy helping the police. If we can get one, I’ll send it your way though it might get there too late.”
Aaron looked out the window. So far no flames or obvious chaos. “Do what you can.”
“Yes,” Flash said and hung up.
The truck started pulling away.
Aaron knew what was going on. His driver and team were getting tired. There was one thing he could do. Authorize Nitro. Nitro was a mix of drugs that enhanced the performance of drivers and teams. There were many side effects though. Each dosage raised the chance of a heart attack. Also, nitro users could damage themselves by overexerting their bodies. On the other hoof, Aaron needed to get close to Atanciel's truck. If they lost it, things could spiral out of control.
He hit the intercom button. “Driver, I'm authorizing Nitro.”
There was a sigh on the other end. “Sir, I'm not sure this is a good idea.”
Aaron frowned. He didn't like forcing the driver to take a drug that could kill them. “If we lose track of that truck in front of us, many will die. Please take the nitro.”
Another sigh came from the driver. “Fine sir. Alright boys, it's nitro time!”
Well peered out the front window. “I hope we just can do this once.”
The SUV jumped forward and the sudden acceleration pushed Aaron and Well back in their seats.
The back door opened on the truck and a green pegasus stallion with a gun appeared.
Aaron tried to look past the pony to see the inside of the truck, but a curtain blocked his view.
The pegasus fired his machine gun at the SUV's driver and team.
“Oh crap!” came over the intercom.
Aaron leaned out the window to fire at the pegasus, but Well used his telekinesis to grab the shooter and toss him to the ground, where he got trampled by the driver and team.
The creature didn't even get a chance to make a sound.
A blue blur flew above them. “Rainbow Dash here! What do ya need me to do?”
“Greetings Ms. Dash. Agent Hock do you have any suggestions?” Princess Luna said.
The truck pulled away from the SUV like it was standing still.
Rainbow whistled. “Wow, that truck is moving! What are those ponies on?”
“Please, Dash, keep close to the truck. Agent Hock, we're going to try to keep up,” Luna said between gasps.
Aaron was quite sure the princess didn't fly this fast too often.
The truck was so far ahead of them Aaron could barely see it.
Well frowned. “Maybe we should have the driver take another shot of Nitro?”
Aaron shook his head. “No, it won't make them move faster. In fact, if a team member dies, the whole team’ll be slowed.” He wondered if they would catch up.
“What the heck? The truck is crashing!” Rainbow said.
Well peered at the truck. “Oh no! Hock, it's crashing.”
Aaron watched as the truck turned and wobbled on two wheels before hitting the road. Sparks flew as the metal scraped. Then the truck broke up, jagged sections of metal headed towards their SUV.
“Boss, boss, what do we do now?” The driver said through the intercom.
Aaron could hear the panic in his voice. Even worse, he could hear the screams of the truck's doomed team as the vehicle tore them apart in its death throes. They couldn't get out of the harnesses in time to escape.
Well's horn glowed as he blocked the flying metal pieces from the truck. They clunked and clanked as his magic pushed them off to the side of the road.
“Princess, Rainbow Dash, what do you see?” Aaron asked while peering through the windshield.
A bloody leg hit the window and made him jump.
“Oh man, those ponies...” Rainbow said.
“Keep it together Ms. Dash. We still have much to do,” Princess Luna said.
The rest of the wreckage headed for the side of the road.
Then Aaron saw it. A horse made of shining white glass burst through the wreckage. Several runes glowed on it but he could see a spreading darkness in some areas.
Well pointed to the glass horse. “There it is! Atanciel will be weaker now. We just have to push it harder so the corruption magic destroys the glass host. Princess Luna can you keep blasting the horse?”
For a few moments, they just heard the princess gasping. “Yes, I’ll keep blasting. Ms. Dash, can you strike the horse with your hooves?”
“Heck yeah!” Rainbow said.
Rainbow flew at the galloping horse and bounced off.
If this was a TV show, Aaron would've laughed, but they were approaching Northern Yonagunikers. At this speed, the reservoirs were not that far away. If that horse got to them and jumped in...
“Um, Luna, a little help here!” Rainbow said.
“Remember who you're talking to!” Princess Luna snapped.
Aaron sighed. “Please, Princess Luna and Rainbow Dash. If we don't smash that horse, many ponies will die.” It annoyed him that they were so far behind the galloping target. There was nothing they could do.
“Alright, I'll try again,” Rainbow said.
Princess Luna just gasped over the phone.
It seemed to Aaron that the horse was slowing down. The blackness seemed to cover more of the glass.
“Wait, did I just see it stumble?” Well said. “Yeah, it's slowing down.”
The SUV gained on the fleeing horse.
Aaron could see that the glowing runes were now flickering.
Then Rainbow struck the horse in the back and cracks spread from the impact.
The horse split in half. The rear shattered against the road. The front half somersaulted in the air and hit the road. The mask flew off of it.
“The mask. Get the mask!” Aaron yelled.
Rainbow grabbed for it and missed.
Well and Aaron watched as the mask headed for the ground.
Then Princess Luna grabbed it with some telekinesis. The blue of her magic fought with the black of the mask's power but she managed to keep a grip on it. “This is a foul thing. I hope you have a better way to contain it.”
The black magic from the mask started to travel up the blue beam but Princess Luna added more power to push the black back.
The SUV stopped near Princess Luna and Rainbow. Aaron and Well got out and ran up to the mask.
A familiar voice entered Aaron's mind.
Put me on and this won't happen.
Aaron saw an Equestria that was gray and oozing black. Herds of animated lumps of flesh wandered slowly. He was one of
them with a smaller lump at his side. Black contaminant dripped from him but that wasn't the problem. It was the liquid left by other creatures. There was nowhere to go since the whole world was like this. But they couldn't stop trudging.
The smaller lump said, “Daddy, I hurt.”
Aaron just sighed. “I do too, Robbie.”
I swear I won't rest until I have this world!
“No, Atanciel, we have won. You will be sent away and by the time you return, if you return, you won't be able to do what you did here.”
Foalish and ignorant pony, you have no idea what sort of horrors lie at the edge of your feeble sun's reach! There's a star that already has a great disgust for mortal life. A few words from me and I can turn that contempt into hatred. You have no idea what it can do.
Aaron could feel the compulsion to pick up the mask slowly building in his mind. All he had to do was to reach out and things would be better. He shook his head, but the desire to wear the mask grew. If he took the time to call for help, at the first vowel, the mask would be on his head.
He pushed back the rising need for the mask and thought about the anti-mind control training. Coercive telepaths could be blocked if he could find something else to concentrate on. The problem was, he didn’t know anything that could fill up his mind. All of the songs he liked weren’t not that catchy.
Just when he was about to give up, he remembered what Robbie was watching on Mootube. Some stupid song about somebody touching something. It took several days to get that out of his head. An image of a cartoon bear’s head superimposed on a pony singer’s head appeared in his mind. “Somebody toucha my sphaget. They are in this HOUSE...”
Robbie had played the song several times and giggled loudly.
Aaron focused on the stupid song, and slowly the desire for the mask faded away along with its ravings.
For a moment, it seemed like he was in a racing SUV rushing down a dark road, but that feeling faded away.
“Can you do something to help?” Aaron said.
Well nodded. His horn glowed and the blackness around the mask was pushed back.
Then the blackness surged up the beam from Princess Luna. It almost reached her horn before she focused and pushed the darkness back a bit.
The ravings from Atanciel threatened to break through Aaron’s concentration. “Well, do something!”
Well gasped. “I’m getting so tired.” The blackness was pushed back as Well tried to help Princess Luna.
Poor Princess Luna was getting a nosebleed as she focused all of her power to push back Atanciel’s foul magic.
Aaron could feel his resistance being ripped apart. In a few moments, it would all be over for him.
Then golden magic covered the mask.
Well sunk to his knees along with Princess Luna. For a few moments they stayed in that position with their eyes closed.
Aaron stumbled into a bow and looked up. A smile of relief crossed his face. He had been so involved in fighting Atanciel, he didn’t see Celestia or her transport arrive. It was a welcome sight to see the Sun Princess’s horn glowing brightly in the darkness and containing the mask. Most of Aaron’s surprise had been swallowed up by crushing exhaustion. He pushed back thoughts of lying down and resting.
Well stood up.
Princess Luna sniffled. “You’re a welcome sight sister.” She stood up slowly.
Well and Rainbow bowed too.
Princess Celestia nodded. “What are we going to do with this?”
Princess Luna shrugged. “Tis a disgusting thing. Please tell me, Agent Hock, that you have a place for this.”
Aaron frowned. “We might have a place. But I wonder how we can transport this thing there. Please give me a second.” He called Flash.
“Flash here, we're a few minutes out,” Flash said.
“Do you have a container for the mask?” Aaron said.
“Yes. Just hold on for a few more minutes,” Flash said.
“Princesses, we have a container for the mask. It will arrive soon,” Aaron said.
Princess Luna smiled wanly. “Huzzah! Now we have to worry about putting this mask in containment.”
Princess Celestia frowned. “The last place they contained the mask failed. I have great doubts that any place on this world would work.”
“What about Tartarus?” Princess Luna said.
“Considering the types of creatures there, I wouldn't want to store the mask in that cursed place,” Princess Celestia said.
Well smiled. “Maybe you could send it to the moon?”
Princess Luna gave him some stink eye. “I will not tolerate my moon befouled by that mask.”
Aaron nodded. “The sun would destroy the mask and things might get worse.” He wondered how Princess Celestia knew of the problems with containing the mask. Was she a member of the secret ranks of upper management?
The sound of an approaching gray AID transport made everypony look up.
The transport landed and Flash galloped down the stairs. She was at the group in a few moments, carrying a golden suitcase. “We got lucky. I have a container that will block Atanciel's power. The story on how we were able to make the case is very interesting, but I'll tell you later.” Flash placed the container on the ground next to the mask.
Somehow, the mask was able to punch through the song in Aaron's head.
“I will tell the two cursed sisters about this-”
Flash used her telekinesis to open the case.
Princess Celestia and Princess Luna placed the mask in the case and closed it.
The angry screaming in Aaron's head ended abruptly. He sighed in relief.
Flash looked around at the assembled ponies. “So, what did I miss? What do we do now?”
Princess Celestia and Princess Luna frowned.
“We were trying to decide what to do with the mask. Sending it to the moon or the sun was ruled out. I have to say, I don't like taking the case to a site,” Well said.
Flash nodded. “How about just sending the mask out into space? Nopony will be able to go into space and even if they could, it’d be years or longer before it would bother anypony else..”
Aaron frowned. “We could just be bucking the can down the road for our children to deal with.” For a moment he thought about the threats Atanciel had made. He decided to put them in the report but not to tell anypony here. It might not be relevant.
Well nodded. “We're dumping our problem on some other lifeform out there?”
“Please give me a second. I need to research something,” Flash said as she started fussing with her smartphone. “The distance between stars is vast so I doubt the mask will just land on another world. We might get lucky and the mask could end up in a black hole or get grabbed by a neutron star. The best scenario, the mask just floats out in space for a very long while.”
Well looked up then down. “A black hole could solve our problem but spaghettification could destroy the case.”
Princess Luna’s eyes narrowed.
Well sighed. “Spaghettification at the edge of a black hole’s gravity well means that a person or object is stretched out long and thin. They don’t get covered in tomato sauce.”
Again, Princess Luna shot Well some stink eye.
Flash nodded. “Yes, but without an engine, the case couldn't escape. Even if the mask is destroyed, the being would have a hard time escaping the black hole's gravity. Even light can't escape a black hole.”
Aaron stepped in to speed things up. “Fine, how are we going to get the case into space?”
Rainbow raised her left fore hoof. “I can fly it out there.”
Princess Luna shook her head. “No, you have to fly very fast to escape Equus' gravity. Then you have to survive in space.”
“No problem. You or Celestia can cast some spells on me,” Rainbow said then smiled.
Princess Celestia looked at the case, then at Princess Luna.
Princess Luna shook her head. “No, no! I'm not going back to that dusty cold prison!”
Princess Celestia looked away from her sister. “Please give us a moment.”
Princess Luna and Princess Celestia walked away from the group.
Flash smiled. “Ah, yes! If they launch the case from the moon, it will go farther. The moon has less gravity.”
“Where is the Egghead princess? Oh yeah, there she is!” Rainbow said and pointed at the lavender-colored transport.
“Excellent, I'll get the ion engine spell from the Hoofvard researcher,” Flash said.
“Ion engine spell? Is that the one that works by emitting charged ions?” Well said.
Flash nodded. “The speed also doubles every few seconds. That was the flaw that they had problems dealing with. For our purposes it’ll do fine. Since there is very little friction in space, the case will just keep going when the spell fails.”
Princess Luna and Princess Celestia returned.
Princess Celestia gazed at her sister with love. “My sister has agreed to go back to the moon. From there she will fly from the surface and launch the case.”
Rainbow frowned. “I could do that!”
Princess Luna got a napkin from her saddlebags and wiped her eyes and her nose. “Yes, but it would take too long to cast the spells to protect you from the cold of space. I already know what to do. Thank you, brave Rainbow Dash for your offer.” Princess Luna sighed, “Celestia, let's get this done!”
Aaron bowed to the princesses. “I have work to do assisting the local police with the chaos that Atanciel brought to the city. Do I have your permission to leave?”
Princess Celestia nodded. “I wish you well in your career.”
Princess Luna faced Aaron. “I'm sorry if I was curt. You have done well protecting the realm.”
Aaron bowed again to the princesses and went back to the SUV.
Well followed Aaron.
If I was sitting beside you, I would clap. My dream was quite well done. Wake up, Aaron and drink deep of despair when you
realize that you have failed to protect your world. Awake and embrace the true nightmare for you which is Reality.
The Mask of AntancielThe Mask of Atanciel
Calming Word smiled as the warm sunlight hit her dark green coat. She shook her coal-black mane and tail as she trotted over to Horseald Park. At last, she could enjoy her twenty minutes away from fuming and bitching ponies and sip her four-bit green tea in peace. For a moment, she wondered if she should’ve gotten a lid for her drink. So far things were going her way. She got a table not marred by pigeon crap. The homeless ponies that lived in the park were not too smelly.
Calming wasn’t alone in the park, there were other ponies enjoying the sights. She took a sip of her tea. It seemed like this was going to be a calming break for her.
Then the griffon appeared. It was wearing a white mask with gold highlights. The fancy mask was at odds against the filthy lab coat that swished around.
The griffon stumbled into the park and started to dance around. Then it said that de
Ugh, the moment that I hated was coming up. The moment that I dreaded. One which will drive me from this comfortable psychiatrist's office back into the indifferent arms of the cold cruel world. Heck, even my parents weren't that supportive. Not so sorry mom and dad.
Dr. Saul Levine fixed his brown sorrowful gaze on me.
Please don't drive me forth with just a weak defense, please. Managed not to cringe like a whipped dog. Barely.
"I'm sorry Lydia, but our session time is over. Please remember what I've tried to teach you so you can handle what's out there," He said while ushering me to the door.
No, no! I don't want to go. Here I feel important, listened to. Out there, no one would listen to me even if I went off like a small nuke. People would just pause, and then go on with their own affairs.
"Please doctor, can I stay five minutes?" I pleaded.
Dr. Levine shook his head angrily. "You know I have other patients, and giving you extra time while cutting into their time is unfair. Also, unless your HMO supports it, I can't do it."
Ha, he has other patients? I've waited for an hour in the hall, and never saw any other patients. Then again, I didn't do that on Thursdays, only Mondays. I nodded like a sad child, and stepped into the hallway.
The door closed. Felt so final like the slamming shut of a coffin lid.
For a moment, I imagined I was like Adam and Eve locked outside the garden of Eden. Well, it wasn't that bad, at least I can go back next week. And I didn't eat any forbidden fruit. I sighed and walked down the hall.
My long brown haired reflection followed me. For some reason, I looked at one of the shiny brass panels. Wished my brown eyes weren't so sunken in. Almost could pass for a freshly risen zombie. Damn, reflections can be sooo depressing. I continued to the elevator.
After a few minutes after I pressed the button, the elevator came. The brown paneled doors opened revealing more brown and brass panels. No biggie. The decor didn't impress or sicken me. I was impassive to it. I wanted to get this over with so I can get on the moving filth platform they called the subway and head home.
The elevator stopped, and more people got on. I have issues, yeah, but claustrophobia wasn't one of them. As long as folks don't get too close to me, I'll be fine, well, not really. Just okay.
The elevator stopped at the next floor, and I started to feel something approaching me. It wasn't one of those space invading folks. You know, folks that have a personal space bubble of a half inch. Folks that get closer to me than my damn shadow. No, this wasn't inside the elevator. I felt like a wave of disgusting crap and garbage was roaring my way.
No, please. How was I feeling this? The stink of unclean toilets and worse was making me queasy. Somehow, I managed to look around. People were fussing with their phones, and just looking bored. Why didn't they smell what was coming? Should I say something?
Then it hit me. I blacked out.
I was somewhere so clean even my mother's pristine kitchen would seem like a cesspool. A cold golden glow surrounded me. It was like taking a cold shower using water that barely tolerated me. No welcoming, just a grudging acceptance. Then I woke up.
"Hey, lady, you okay?" Someone said.
"What the hell is that? Looks like some weird alien logo or something," Someone else said.
I slowly opened my eyes. Ugh, I was sitting on the floor of the elevator. How did I get there? No answers came because I still felt groggy. Then I remembered some things. Wish I didn't. The taste of the crap tsunami as it went through me. Felt the pieces of... My stomach churned. No! I will not barf in this elevator. The memory of the cold clean place faded away like my hopes of having a happy life. My eyes closed.
Then someone touched me.
No! DO NOT TOUCH ME!
"Hey, lady. Do you know what's floating over your head?" Some guy in plaid said. Who wears that anymore?
I looked up. Didn't see anything.
The guy grimaced. "You really don't have a clue?" Then he stuck his phone in front of me. It made a clicking noise, and then he showed me the picture. "See. What the hell is that?"
Above my head was a golden glowing oval with bright red squiggles inside. There were three lines of red squiggles outside the oval. What the hell? I just gawked at the picture like a fish looking at a sunken bicycle. What the hell? Was this related to the tsunami? My thoughts were broken when some guy yelled shut up.
A tinny voice from a smartphone started talking. "This is Phil Richards from Channel two news. We've learned that some strange orange fog is filling up Central Park. Hey, call the weather station there and see if they know something."
"Just called. I just called them. All I get is their voicemail," Someone else said.
"This is Tina Shepard, I was interviewing some sunbathers when the fog just appeared. Some people just ran out screaming that something touched them. I'm heading back to the office," Tina said.
"No, Tina, don't. We, um, the viewers need to know-" Phil said but was interrupted.
"Rick! Rick! I'm sooo gone," Tina screamed.
"Tina, what happened to Rick the cameraman?" Phil asked.
"Something fucking climbed out of a black hole and fucking snatched up Rick! I'm getting the fuck out of here!" Tina screamed.
Phil screamed, "Go to a commercial. Tina! Tina!"
What am I going to do now? Um, first thing, get out of the elevator. While all of this was happening we were stuck on a floor.
Someone yelled, "What the hell happened?"
"Don't know. Can you get to the lobby?"
"Yeah, it seemed that all of the buttons went dark. Let me hit lobby," Someone said.
The elevator jerked and started downward.
I checked my clothes for stains. There weren't any. Not sure what to make of that. Yeah, I'm glad I don't stink of crap, but on the other hand, I wondered if I'm going nuts. No, I'm not going nuts. Something weird happened. Oh and that's better than being crazy. Whee.
The plaid guy tapped me again. "There are more folks with glowy stuff above their heads. Wonder how that fits with the orange fog?"
Please don't touch me again. "How do you know?"
He smirked. "Checked out some of the news stations online."
Great, I'm not the only person with glowing glyphs. It would've been pretty awful if I was the only one. Preferred being ignored than being special. Strange things happen to special people. Not so good things.
This was the longest elevator ride I ever had. It seemed like it took decades to reach the lobby. All the while, the people in the elevator kept looking back at me. Not with honest full on looks, no, with sneaky side looks. The same type of looks you give something unpleasant when you wish it would just go away.
Finally, we reached the lobby. I managed not to run over anyone. If this was a normal day, I would just head for the nearest stink spewing subway station. Well, today wasn't meeting that criteria now. The lobby was a lot of brown and brass like the rest of the building. No room for me to stand and think, so I went outside.
Took a few steps away from the entrance into the dark shade of the building. It was late afternoon and I really didn't want to be in the streets when night came. Missed my smartphone, could've used it to get news updates if they were showing them. It's going to be hard to plan with very little info.
What did I know? Something was going on in Central Park. It was probably filling up with some sort of orange fog. All I have to do is go home, lock my doors and I'll be safe. For a moment, that felt like the best thing to do.
Then an image of bright orange fog slipping under the door made me nervous. Also other thoughts moved in. I saw the first Cloverfield movie and the Godzilla movie in NYC. I just lived a few stomps away in the west on eighty-ninth. If something were to happen to my building, well, all of the locks won't help me.
Looked up and saw a jogger across the street with symbols floating over his head. They bobbed up and down as he went down the block. Looked down so I wouldn't catch people giving me sideways glances. You know, the ones you use when you want to watch someone that might be a threat, but you don't want them to see you watching them. I wish I didn't have this stuff above my head. Gotta get back to deciding where to go.
Then there were the other issues. If the fog has nasty hostile things inside, there will be blood. Did I want to be just a few blocks away from the fighting? Um, no. Also, it might be possible that things could go south even before I could get home. Maybe I should go somewhere else?
To my parents? No! I'd rather be eaten alive. Show the monsters what a woman of good taste is like. Wait, that's kinda harsh, but I really liked the distance. A short five minute call was fine, any longer and the awkward pauses would pile up. Then folks would start stammering and sounding pained, and put upon. Nope, no parents.
Fine. I could get a room in a hotel for a few days. I checked my pockets, and felt the familiar firmness of my wallet. Good. I was never the purse type. Purses are for showoffs. Now, where do I go?
Manhattan is an island. Better off getting away. Maybe the Army will destroy the bridges and tunnels to contain the orange fog? I'm on sixtieth and eighth. Have two choices, Bronx with my parents or New Jersey. That was a tough call until I thought about things going south before I could get to the Bronx. That also meant that I couldn't get to the George Washington Bridge. The chaos from the park would spread and probably block northward traffic.
I would be better off heading south to the Lincoln Tunnel. From there I could go to New Jersey. If things get fixed up later, I can catch a cab back. For a moment, I thought about going east, but then I had to pass into the danger zone. No, it's better to head away. Okay, let me check my wallet.
A quick look through my wallet showed me some good news. I had my credit and bank card with me. Cash wouldn't be a problem. I almost smiled. Almost.
My next step was to get a cab. Hopefully, it will take me to the Holland Tunnel and into New Jersey. Maybe in a few hours, I could watch the goings on from a room with a tv? That's kinda morbid.
Again, I wished that I didn't leave my phone home. Getting an Uber would be so easy. I stuck out my right hand. Hey! Hey! Skinny white chick with somewhat sunken in eyes wants a cab! Didn't have to wait long before a yellow cab drove up.
"Where do you want to go?" The cabbie asked.
"Any decent hotel in Weehawken or Union City. Take the Lincoln Tunnel. You do know what's going on in Central Park?" I said. Yeah, this was going to be easy.
"No, I don't know what's happening, but I know a Best Western in Union City. It will cost you about two hundred," He said.
Crap, put on a bandit's mask. Was going to bitch, but then I realized that I didn't have a lot of time to waste. "Fine."
He looked up. "That stuff going to cause trouble? It won't fit in the cab."
"What stuff?" I asked then I remembered the glowing glyphs above my head. I shrugged. Hoped that they wouldn't punch their way through the guy's roof.
The cabbie shot me some stinkeye, but then he pointed to the back. "Get in! Let's go!"
I got in, and locked the doors. It seemed that everything would be alright. Even the strange music the cabbie was listening to was alright. Well, not really but at least I was moving.
Of course the cabbie had to break into the music. "I have to know what's going on. If they blow up something, it would be good to know what it was."
I sighed then nodded.
The cabbie stopped his cassette player and put on an all news station.
Cassette player? Hey, at least upgrade to nineties tech. Check out some CDs.
"Police have started putting roadblocks five blocks away from Central Park. No traffic is allowed in or out. SWAT teams are also being deployed.," The guy on the radio said.
I hoped that this wouldn't affect our trip south.
"The Mayor will have a news conference in an hour. Meanwhile, he urges folks to be calm. He also urges people to stay in their homes, and those who aren't home should stay where they are for the moment."
Yeah, right. I'm calm as long as I get to the tunnel. If the cab can't go any further, I can walk it. Have walking shoes will travel off of this doomed island.
The radio played a bunch of commercials as we stopped and started our way south.
"Well, I'm glad I have no family here. Do you have family here miss?"
"Nope, not on Manhattan," I said. I allowed myself to smile. Yeah, looks like I'm going to get away.
Then the stops got longer and the starts not so much. My smile started to fade.
The cabbie kept looking out the window and tapping the steering wheel.
We just sat there in the intersection and west forty-second and ninth.
The cabbie sighed.
Not a good sign. My smile was hanging on by its fingernails.
"You know, I never saw anyone actually walking in the Lincoln Tunnel. I'll drive you to Weehawken. No extra charge," He said apologetically.
Crap. There goes my smile. "What do you mean, you never saw anyone walking. Isn't there a walkway?"
The cabbie turned and nodded. "After thinking about what I heard, I don't want to be here if things go badly. This tunnel isn't like the Brooklyn Bridge."
Damn. "Fine, let's do this," I said. But I was already thinking that things were going slowly south. Three minutes had passed, and the cars ahead of us weren't moving. The idea of walking through the tunnel was started to lose its appeal. What if they blow up the tunnel? Or cars start exploding?
Or even worse, what if the lights go out? I'm not a wuss when it comes to darkness, but yeah, I don't want to be walking in a pitch-black tunnel.
The street was filling up with more people. Not sure if they came from the cars or the neighborhood. If they were heading to the tunnel, maybe I have a chance too.
"This is not good, not good. Five minutes, traffic should be moving now," the cabbie said with a fear filled voice then he looked at me.
Damn, I wanted to be free, be safe. Not thrown back into trouble. I leaned against the door.
"Wait, wait! You gotta pay me!"
I nodded. Even though we might die soon, I still had to pay him. "How much? You didn't do what we agreed on."
"It's about halfway there so pay me half. Seventy-five should be enough unless you want to wait until traffic clears up," The cabbie said.
Yeah, right. The time I spend waiting, I could either be hiding somewhere or chancing the tunnel. Wait, there is another alternative. "Can you get me to the Holland Tunnel or at least close to it?"
The cabbie looked around a bit. "Hmm, that might work but we have to get out of here. Out of the intersection to head south."
I looked around too. We were in an intersection with another cab on one side and a SUV on the other. There were too many people on the sidewalk to chance going there. "What can we do?"
The cabbie started going through the glove compartment and shoving stuff into a pack that was in the seat next to him. "My name is Abhay Agarwal. You can call me Abby. I will come with you to Jersey. What's your name?"
I was surprised. Having someone watch my back would be good. Especially at night. Then again, maybe he'll rob me at the right time. Maybe? I, um, we need to get going. "My name is Lydia Horstmann."
Abby turned and smiled. "Can I call you Lydia?"
"Yes, yes, let’s go!" The crowd was getting larger outside.
"I'm familiar with the area around the Holland Tunnel. It's quite a walk, hopefully, we can get in and across before dark," Abby said. He opened his door and dragged a pack with him.
I got a good look at him. He was a tall overweight Indian guy with a mustache and no beard. His pack was green, and had pictures of pastel big headed ponies on it. No, I won't judge. Um, yeah I will. How old is this guy?
I got out.
He pointed down the block, and I followed him. Maybe we have a chance?
So far walking through the crowd was almost festive. Kinda like a normal Thursday afternoon. We passed many interesting stores. I thought about getting something to eat, but I worried about wasting time and searching for a bathroom. Not a fan of buying expensive drinks in a crappy bar just to use the can. When we get to Jersey, there would be plenty of time to eat and go to the bathroom.
Lucky for me I was in some sort of shape. Sometimes I would walk from my therapist's to my apartment. This would just be a bit longer.
When we got to Spring and Varick, my legs felt like they were on fire. No matter, we were close to the Holland tunnel and possible safety. I almost started to smile until I saw the cars were backed up here too. Maybe this tunnel has a walkway? I looked at Abby.
He was crouched holding his legs. "I should walk more."
"Um Abby, what should we do now?" I wasn't sure.
He slowly stood up. "I thought about getting something from the Starbucks, but it looks too crowded."
"Do you think that the cars might start moving again?" I felt that time was running out. Not a fan of walking around a city where weird things are happening. Wasn't a big fan of walking around at night even when things were normal.
"Maybe, but maybe not. We could try something else like a ferry or walking to the Brooklyn Bridge?" He grimaced.
Ferries would be crowded and expensive. Beyond peak demand. Also if something went wrong, I can’t swim. "I don't know about ferries. Could be too expensive and if things go wrong, we could drown."
Abby smiled then grimaced. "Sorry, not used to walking this much. Ferries here have life preservers. If something goes wrong, you put on the vest."
"What if something goes wrong before you put on a vest?" I said, thinking of a cold dark drowning death.
"You like to think of bad things don't you? Well, I worry about being stuck on land while the island blows up. At this time the ferries are going to be crowded-"
I wanted to reply that it was my job as a financial analyst to anticipate events that would reduce optimal fund expansion, but then I held my tongue. So yeah, looking for bad things was my job. The one that forced me to go into therapy. Well, that wasn't the total truth. Took a few shallow breaths so I could push back the sick crap in my childhood. Don't have time to deal with that now.
Some woman interrupted us. "Don't bother with the ferries, Governor Ribesi shut them down. He said something about containment. I'm heading to the Brooklyn Bridge before the army blocks that off."
Before we could thank her, she strode off eastward past a shiny glass building. Her reflection struggled to keep up.
I looked at Abby.
He sighed. "My legs hurt, but maybe I would be in more pain later."
The burning in my legs had faded away. I nodded. "Let's go."
That's when I felt it. A wave of something heading south. The same type of wave I felt in the elevator. My stomach remembered, and started to churn. I looked up the block to see what was coming fast.
Abby looked at me. "Lydia, what do you see?"
The wave seemed even more gross. I swallowed, and tried to keep my stomach calm. Dry heaving is not fun.
"I don't see anything. Hey, don't do that crap my cat used to do. Stare at nothing and swish its tail," Abby said.
He doesn't feel it? It's going to hit almost now. No! I'm not going to be raped by this wave of filth! No!
For a moment, I had an image of a golden pure clean place. Held it close as the disgusting stuff sloshed toward me. It flowed past me and headed south. I opened my eyes expecting to barf at the sight. There was nothing to see. Things looked just the same and felt the same.
Abby looked at me. There was fear in his eyes.
I almost thought things would be fine until I felt the wall rise up in the west. There was another one in the east, but it was some distance away, and I didn't feel it as much. It wasn't a visible wall, but I could feel it. Could smell, no, that's not right. It felt like a wall made of sewage. I couldn't smell it with my nose or even see it. To my other sense, the stink was unmistakable. How am I sensing this? Does it have to do with the marks over my head?
Looked up at Abby, he seemed concerned and scared.
"Don't you see? All of the lights are out. It seems that we're in a blackout," He said then looked around.
I looked around. All of the neon and traffic lights and even the Starbucks were dark. Confused and scared faces peered out the windows.
A few people moaned.
Alien goings on in Central Park, now a blackout? Wow, today is going to be a real sucky day. Can I wake up now? Had a quick thought about pinching myself. Heck, if I need a bit of pain to tell the difference between reality and a dream, then I needed more professional help.
Abby looked back at me. "What do we do now?"
The sun was going down in a blaze of orange, and we were all being painted. There was enough light from the sun and sky so things didn't seem so dark.
"Let's head for the bridge like that woman said," I said. My legs had stopped hurting. Also I wanted to get away from the stinking invisible wall to my west.
We had just taken two steps down the block when I sensed something. I stopped walking.
Abby stopped walking and faced me.
I looked back at the crowds on Spring and Varick.
Black holes opened up in the air. Not shiny, jet black holes like the stuff you see in a cartoon. Looked like a portable hole.
Several people stopped to gawk. Others raised their smartphones to take pictures, but they put them down quickly with frowns on their faces. Looked like their phones didn't work.
Abby raised his phone and took a picture.
"Your phone works?" I asked.
Abby nodded. "Yeah. No bars, but the phone works."
Naked old men jumped out of the black holes. Their skins were pallid, and some sort of black liquid dripped from their skins, but it never hit the ground. If you had a picture of a dirty old bastard, these guys would be it. Except they also were twisted and bony. I could count their ribs as they stuck out from their skin. One of them looked over here and the leer was enough to make my stomach churn again.
What did my other sense feel? In some way, these guys, yes, I could see their dangling unmentionables. They just stunk a different range of stink than the wall. Maybe I should leave?
Something touched my arm. I turned with narrowed eyes. DON'T TOUCH ME!
It was Abby. "Let's get out of here before they come for us."
I looked back. I had to know.
The pervy old men walked into the crowd then they started grabbing guys. One guy tried to fight a perv, but the creature smacked him down with a flick of a wrist. Then the perv picked him up like he weighed nothing and headed toward a hole.
I just knew that once the pervs got their victims, and jumped into a hole, you would never see them again. I started to get angry. Why? I don't know. Don't get me wrong, I'm not heartless, but what can I do? A rage started to grow in me like I was offended. My breaths were getting shallow.
"Lydia, are you alright?" Abby asked.
"This, this, it's just not right. No one-" I stopped as I had an image of a golden shiny ball in my mind. It felt clean, pure but also dangerous like a hand grenade with the pin pulled.
A cold voice whispered, "Burn them!"
Then a hole appeared right next to us and I had a chance to look inside. I shouldn't have looked.
Saw an alley in a city where the cement was pitted and gouged. Bits and pieces of skulls littered the ground. Somehow I knew they weren't from animals. They were from people, thinking beings. Poor beings whos last moments were filled with pain and terror.
It was getting hard to breathe, I was just so angry. My vision was blurring into a golden glow.
Abby yelled, "Get offa me you sick son ofa bitch!"
I turned to see Abby in the grip of a pervert.
His twisted leer was like a slap in the face though his expression changed to a grimace when he saw me.
Abby tried to fight back, but the perv slapped him in the head.
Abby slumped to the ground
For some reason, I was confused and couldn't do anything. My rage faded away.
Then a short black woman with several red symbols over her head ran up,"Not today, you sick bastard."
The perv clawed at her and missed.
She dodged the swipe and punched the perv in the head.
The creature's head blew apart spraying black filth! The body fell to the ground then rotted away with a sizzle like frying bacon. A few moments later there was a faint outline burned into the cement.
How did she do that?
She looked at Abby who was lying on the ground. "I can't help him, but you can help others, fight!" Then she pointed back across the street.
Some of the crowd tried to run away down the side streets, but there was still some people in the area.
I watched as a perv pulled a screaming man out of his car. No! I saw other pervs doing other things to people. No, I can't allow that. It was like I was insulted. It's the person stomping on my foot and walking away. Being groped hard on the subway. A person reaching through the doorway and snatching my new Ipod.
A burning rage filled my body. I raised my hands and golden balls flew from them. I almost wanted to cackle madly about my pretties, but I wanted the pervs to BURN!
The balls flew from my outstretched hands, and headed toward the pervs. When they hit their targets, they exploded in a bright golden flash.
I smiled as I saw some of the pervs writhing in pain before bursting into golden flakes. Yes! Wanted to make more, but exhaustion moved in on me. Felt so sleepy. Darkness gathered at the edge of my vision...
"Hey, wake up! Your friend's not doing so good," Someone said.
I slowly opened my eyes and looked down.
Abby was twitching on the ground. A white foam was dribbling out of his mouth.
I looked at my hands then back at Abby. What can I do? Only knew him for a short while, but I didn't want him to die like this.
I heard the black woman say,"Hey! We need some help here!"
Looked over and saw some guy in a t-shirt and jeans walk up. He had a blue oval his head with green and golden squiggles. "Maybe I can help." The guy knelt next to Abby and held his hands over him.
Now, Abby was convulsing. Thought I heard his jaws snap shut with a clack.
I hoped the t-shirt guy could do something.
"Are you healing him?" The black woman asked.
T-shirt guy said no.
The black woman's eyes narrowed.
The t-shirt guy looked back. "I'm just removing the sickness from the alien guys. Sorry if that came out wrong."
For a moment, nothing happened then a blue glow covered Abby. The convulsions stopped.
"Is he...," I asked. Just had to know.
The guy shook his head. "He'll be alright with some rest."
The black woman looked around. "He needs a bed not concrete."
Heard another voice. "Guys, I think you all should come with me."
Turned around and saw a short white police woman with green eyes and dirty blonde hair. Her gun was in her left hand, but it was pointing at the ground.
The black woman narrowed her brown eyes. "Punchin’ pervs isn't a crime."
"Pervs? That's what you call them?" The policewoman said.
The black woman looked around again then back at the police woman. "Yeah, there's something unclean, you can say nasty about the bony old geezers."
The police woman nodded. "Yeah, but at least I can shoot them. Do you guys know where they come from?"
All of us sigil wearing folks shook our heads.
"Guys, I don't know if you know this. Gimme a sec. I have to show you," The policewoman said then pulled out her cellphone. Then she holstered her gun. A moment later she turned on her phone's flashlight and held it up so we can see. She walked several feet away and the light went out. The she walked up to us and the light came back on. "Somehow, you guys are able to make electrical things work. We could use your help at the precinct."
I don't know. Wanted to get away to someplace safe. Now we're locked in with the pervs and whatever shows up later. Maybe there is a way off in the east? Did I want to risk it?
I yawned. Maybe they have beds in the police station? Felt so tired even lying on the ground seemed good but cold.
"Just so you know cop, I'm not sleeping in a cell with closed doors!" The black woman said.
Abby sat up and looked around.
"How do you feel?" I asked. Even though we had been together for a few hours, I somehow cared about him.
"I feel kinda weak, but okay. Who are all of these people?" Abby asked while looking at the police woman.
T-shirt guy introduced himself first. "My name is Stanton Simmons. Call me Stan, I got the sickness from the old guy aliens off of you."
Abby held out his left hand for a shake.
Stan shook it.
"Thanks. Old guy aliens? Those sickos need to invent or wear pants," Abby said while trying to get up.
"My name is Lydia Horstmann," I said while looking around for more perverts.
The black woman said her name was Christabel Hawkins, but her friends call her Chrissy.
The police woman laughed, "My name is Gwen Sziemanski. Now since we know each other, can we get to my car?"
Stan helped Abby up and we walked to Gwen's car.
Some of the cars we passed turned on their lights and played their radios. When we were some distance away, that stopped.
Not sure what to think of that. Actually, I just wanted to close my eyes and rest.
A moment after we stood in front of Gwen's police cruiser, a red-haired policeman with blue eyes crawled from under it. "Sorry Gwen, I saw those guys and I knew I couldn't stop them. What are you doing with those people?"
Gwen frowned. "No problem, McMurphy. I'm taking these people back to the precinct, they'll help us get things working."
McMurphy frowned. "How? Why?"
Gwen just rolled her eyes. "Let's go before the alien pervs come back."
McMurphy frowned again. "Come on Sziemanski, we can't fit all of these folks!"
"Yes. We can, someone will have to sit up front. It'll be tight, but the ride isn't too long," Gwen said while her green eyes flashed.
"You know that's against regs!" McMurphy said.
"Screw the regs! Today's situation was definitely not in the handbook. Hiding under a car like a pussy isn't either!"
"Sziemanski, don't go there!" McMurphy said while his eyes narrowed.
Gwen's voice got deathly low. "We either ride or I'll walk with these folks to the precinct. Let's see how they treat you when you ride in without a partner."
"You would back civvies over a brother in blue-"
Gwen interrupted McMurphy. "Yes, I would, they were more useful in a fight than you."
"Maybe if you had one of those guy alien things look at you like you were a box of power rings, you would see things differently," McMurphy said and looked down.
Gwen looked away for a moment.
It was getting dark, and I wondered if maybe we should be getting out of here. I wanted to take a nap. Then I wondered if more perverts would show up. Without lights and people, this area was making me nervous.
Gwen looked back at McMurphy. "Listen Murph, I'm sorry about what I said earlier. We gotta stick together. I swore an oath, and I know you did too to protect and serve. We can't leave these people out here alone."
McMurphy looked at Gwen. "Alright, how about we put some people in our car, and the rest take another car?"
Gwen frowned. "Sounds good, but I'd rather have everyone squished into one car so we can keep track of them all."
Chrissy frowned. "Heck, no! Not going in the back of a cop car. You guys go on ahead, I'll follow."
McMurphy sighed. "Fine, do it quickly."
I got in the police car with Abby. It was closer than the car Chrissy picked.
Chrissy just picked the closest car. It was a cab with an open driver's side door. Stan went with her.
Since there were no people walking around, we just rode up on the sidewalk like some car chase movie. Except that it wasn't.
It was a horror movie. Maybe we were the only living folks in the city? As we drove down darkened streets, I saw people walking around and some lit windows. So some people survived.
Now what? What will I do? When Monday comes, how will I get to work? No, I'm out of a job. I doubt the office will be open. What about therapy? Will I see Dr. Levine again?
I had an image of Dr. Levine being taken away by a pervert. What? Nooo! I need him. Another image hit my mind. A pervert dragging my father away while my mother clung to his legs screaming and crying. Nobody takes my family anywhere! Anger built up in me. A golden glow covered my hands.
Abby said something, but I barely heard him. The images of perverts doing horrible things to people just drowned him out.
Then a cold voice in my head said,"Find out more. Save your city BURN THEM ALL!"
Now everyone was asking questions that I barely heard. Somehow the bright golden glow around my hands faded. But my grin widened as the police car drove through dark and quiet streets.
Current Residence: Behind the Italian restaurant, next to dumpster.
Operating System: Windoze/Mac OS X
MP3 player of choice: Winamp
Skin of choice: My own skin