Maya hugged her arms to her chest as an icy wind nipped her
nose. Below her lay the ruins of New
York City, cold and forgotten.
There was no snow but the atmosphere was so cold, frost had
gathered on the rubble at her feet.
The Statue of Liberty was lying face down in the dried up
ocean bed, her torch a cracked shell that had been drug away from it. Lights
came from inside it and throbbing music told her that someone was using it as a
club to party in.
People darted like shadows in-between the buildings. The
occasional rusty car was seen driving sluggishly down the cracked roads.
Max stood by her side, holding her hand, surveying the cold
strange world below.
“We call this world the Nether World,” He told her.
Maya just nodded, too stunned to say anything.
“It’s parallel to your own world. That’s whyNew Yorkis here.”
Maya looked up at him, her eyes filled with fear.
“Hey,” He wrapped his arms around her, “There’s nothing to
be scared of. People here are harmless. They just look a little different, that’s
Maya could only nod and sniffle a little from the cold.
“Um…there’s one more thing,”
She pulled away, wiping her nose on her sleeve, “What?”
He gave her a lopsided grin, “We’re all dead,”
Maya blinked, confused. “Sorry, didn’t catch that,”
“We’re dead. Living dead. Like zombies only….not.”
Maya recoiled in horror, scrambling away from him.
He reached out to hold her but she flinched and drew back
“No! Don’t touch me!” She shrieked, scrambling up a large
pile of rubble.
“Wait! Maya, let me explain!”
Maya’s heart thudded in her ribcage, threatening to explode.
It couldn’t be true…It just couldn’t! She made it to the top of the pile and
grabbed a long metal bar, brandishing it like a sword.
“Stay away!” She reared back, like a baseball player about
Max held up one hand, “Don’t! Please, let me explain!!”
She wrapped her fingers tighter around the bar, her knuckles
“What’s there to explain?! You’re a freaking zombie!”
He sighed, closing his eyes in frustration, “Not exactly,”
She lowered the metal bar, letting its end touch the ground,
“Okay. Start talking.”
He climbed the last few steps up the hill and stood next to
“It’s like this – We can’t die. We can get injured but we don’t
heal. And we can’t ‘die’,” he made quotation marks with his fingers, “Until our
bodies are completely destroyed. We don’t eat, drink or age. Happy now?”
She took a few tentative steps in his direction, “So you don’t
He laughed loud and hard, “Of course not! Why would we need
to eat brains?”
Maya ran and hugged him, “Thank God.”
“You say that a lot,”
A long deep howl broke the moment, pulling them apart.
“Oh God. Oh God no. They found me. How could they have found
Max’s grip on her hand grew tighter.
“Who found you? What’s going on?”
He stared into the distance towards the full moon.
Vatias smelled his prey. He smelled the boy’s fear as strong
and putrid as rotting meat. He could feel the tender beating heart of the
living. With a single howl, Vatias called his pack to his side. Tonight they
would feast on a real living human. Tonight they would capture Maximus
Glowing red eyes appeared through the inky blackness. They
bobbed up and down, telling Maya that the beings they belonged to were running –
“RUN!” Max screamed, pulling Maya with him down the steep
Maya couldn’t find her footing on the steep decline and her
feet slid from under her.
She fell, dragging Max with her down the hill littered with
ragged bits of metal and stone jutting up from the blackened soil.
When they reached the bottom, Maya was so dizzy, she could
They leapt from the darkness.
Max pulled the poor disoriented girl to her feet as a dozen
hellhounds surrounded them. Their fur was black as crow feathers, red eyes
flashing in the light of the full moon. They parted to allow their leader to
step into the circle.
He was huge, his head rising above them, casting a shadow
over the land. But most odd was that his fur was white as snow, stark against
the dark world around them. Enormous wings jutted out from his shoulders,
stirring up the dust on the ground as they beat the air.
“Vatias,” Max hissed the word as though it were the foulest curse
in the world.
“Good evening Maximus. Will you come quietly?” The hellhound’s
voice was surprisingly kind and gentle, almost courteous.
“Never,” He grinned wildly – he was acting as if this were
all just a game…that he was about to win.
“Very well. Kill her.”
Maya was taken aback at this. The hellhounds began to snarl
viciously, closing their circle tighter around them.
A motorcycle flew over Vatias’s head landing just beyond the
circle of wolves. It turned around, stirring up a cloud of dust so that neither
Maya nor Max could see anything whatsoever.
The motorcycle’s headlight pierced through the dust cloud.
A figure hopped down off it and walked towards them.
“Good to see you, Wizard,” Max said, walking towards him.
The dust finally cleared.
It was an old man with a leather motorcycle helmet, goggles
hanging around his neck.
He was missing an eye and half his jaw was exposed.
A scraggly grey beard hung from his chin, braided with two
yellow feathers dangling from the end.
Maya swallowed her bile and walked over to him.
The hellhounds snarled louder.
“Shut your traps you mangy mutts! Let a man talk will you?”
The hellhounds backed down, momentarily confused.
“No! Ignore him! Kill the girl!” Vatias snarled.
“Why don’t you do it yourself, huh?” Maya snapped at him.
Vatias blinked his bright red eyes. Obviously this hadn’t occurred
He bent down and snapped his teeth at her, dangerously
close. Maya ducked to avoid him.
“MAYA!” Max cried.
Teeth sank into her ankle.
Maya looked down to see the smallest of the black hellhounds
and grabbed a hold of her leg while she was distracted.
The rest pounced on her, tearing into her clothing – and her
“NO!” Max lunged for the largest one, pushing it off her and
into the dirt.
Wizard pulled a gun from his belt and cocked it, “Darned
varmints!” He fired into the throng with perfect accuracy, one after the other
pulling away from Maya, whining.
Maya’s head felt heavy and hot. She sank to the ground as
the remaining dogs tore into her back with their claws and teeth.
Max’s screams invaded her fuzzy thoughts, black spots
dancing before her eyes.
Two shots were fired and the last of the hellhounds vanished
into the night. Vatias had long since flown off.
Max slid to the ground next to Maya, turning her over and
cradling her in his arms.
“Mmmax,” She murmured, touching his face.
He pressed her hand to his cheek, “I’m right here,”
“I know sweetheart; everything’s going to be fine.”
He held her free hand tightly.
His face was the only thing Maya could focus on.
Her heart began to thud loudly in her ears.
“No! Maya no! Don’t go to sleep!”
But her eyelids were so heavy. They were sliding down, down,
The thudding in her ears ceased. Her eyes closed.
“Maya! I love you!”
It was the last thing she would ever hear before she died.