What is fate? For Sarah Hale, it doesn't exist. That is until she finds herself on the wrong side of life where she learns that there is more than just black and white. There's a hell full of grey.
Where the hell am I, she wondered. She’d been walking at least thirty minutes and she couldn’t seem to find Joey anywhere. She’d been walking to the gamer convention with one of her best friends, Joey, and she’d looked away for just a second. Maybe a few seconds, but they were priceless. A blonde god was walking toward them wearing a crisp black suit with a grey metallic pinstripe tie and a pair of dark sunglasses. She couldn’t help thinking that the sunglasses were a damn shame.
For those precious seconds as he approached, it felt like he was looking at her and it was unnerving. Usually she looked at the ground or at scenery as she walked; anything but directly at the strangers passing her by, but this time she couldn’t look away. He couldn’t really be looking at her, right? Obviously he wasn’t, but with sunglasses on it was hard to tell. Even knowing that the possibility of him looking at her was small, her heart skipped a beat. Literally, she had to put her hand over her chest because as he passed her, he smiled and she couldn’t take her eyes away. It wasn’t a smirk or an “I’m laughing at you” but a real smile that made her wish he wasn’t wearing sunglasses because she bet it reached his eyes.
However nice it was, he was probably smiling at Joey and she was ganking his moment. That’s when she noticed that Joey was gone. The crosswalk was empty. Thirty minutes had gone by and she couldn’t find anyone. She didn’t know that was even possible in Las Vegas. It got dark awfully fast but her watch still said 6:30 and it had been at least ten minutes…she thought. At that point in her life she should have had some basic sense of time, right? She looked up and down the empty street ahead of her at the LED ads flashing as if nothing was wrong and she couldn’t help feeling a unsettled.
The normally oscillating doors of the Cosmopolitan were motionless as she approached and all she could hear was the echo of her own footsteps. What the hell is going on, she thought. This street was packed with people. “JOEY!” she yelled again for what seemed like the fiftieth time. Her voice echoed back to her. Maybe everyone was inside? She was aware of this extremely uncomfortable twist in her stomach because she knew that this wasn’t normal, but she didn’t know what else to do.
This kind of stuff just didn’t happen anywhere but in the movies. She was sincerely the queen of horror and suspense, but never expected something so strange to happen. She always thought that when something went wrong she would be the first to know and be so much smarter than the heroine in the movie, but she was wrong. She couldn’t just run away when she doesn’t know where to go. She had to find Joey.
Just as her hand reached out to push on the motionless door in front of her, she saw a shadow reflect off the glass in a quick sweeping motion behind her. “Holy shit!” she turned around and scanned the road and the walkway across from her, but there was nothing. Unlike a typical scary movie, the street was very well lit and she couldn’t see where something that big could hide. Whatever it was, it was huge enough to block all of the light as it had flashed behind her. Quickly she looked up at the sky, just in case. There was nothing.
Despite having such a clear view of everything, all bets were off. There was no way that she was going to turn her back on an open street so she backed up to the door again and give it a push. It started to give and moved about a foot and then stopped. It seemed to snag on something. Still watching the street, she pushed again and it gave with a little resistance and then lurched back against her. For the second time that night but for a wholly different reason, her heart skipped and started beating out of control. Trying to keep the street in the corner of her eye, she glanced behind her and screamed louder than she had ever screamed before.
Through this thin sheet of glass, she was face to face with something without eyes; patches of skin hung from its face and even as she froze in terror she saw something crawl through the side of its cheek. On seeing her terror stricken face, its mouth opened wide and a loud scream pierced the quiet night. The sound was muffled until she felt the glass between them shaking. Oh my God, she thought as she backed up, the danger in the street behind her forgotten as she turned and started running. Behind her she felt the hot pressure and a stinging sensation on her left leg before she heard the glass shatter.
As she ran, she scanned the buildings on either side of the street but there were more grotesque forms standing inside, watching undisturbed as she ran by. Why weren’t they moving? Did she find the one son of a bitch that was different than the others? Or was one just enough. Damn it…another building full of them. She stumbled slightly when she looked behind her and saw that the damn thing was keeping pace with her. Suddenly a huge form lurched out of the dark alley to her right, just missing her shoulder. The velocity was enough to make her topple. With a surprisingly nimble roll, he tucked herself between a dirty magazine stand and a pop machine. Her heartbeat was out of control because she was sure that one or both of those things were about to reach around the pop machine and eat her.
She winced when she heard a strangled shriek and a loud crunch of what she could only assume was the zombie being eaten. She was scared shitless, but she couldn’t lose the opportunity so she leaned forward and peeked around the pop machine. Oh seriously? That has to be why the zombie things were staying inside the buildings and not joining the chase. Where could she go from here? With that...thing that looked like a cross between a massive bulldog and Predator but roughly the size of a hippo; with that in the streets and the zombies in the buildings, she just don’t know where to go.
What was that? Where was it coming from? Again, it seemed so quiet against the grind and pop of bones coming from the street. Damn it all. It was coming from the alley. The extremely dark and likely filled with monsters alley.
She should run away. Whatever was going on here couldn’t be right. If this were a movie, that voice would be attached to some creepy child-like demon that would lay eggs in her brain or something gross and apocalyptic.
But what if it wasn’t. It didn’t sound like one of her friends, but what if it was someone like her. She might not be alone. And even if things turned out badly, could she really live with the knowledge that she didn’t help someone when she had the chance? No, she couldn’t. Damn it, she wished she had a flashlight, but then that would probably attract more attention than she wanted. If she were lucky maybe whatever monsters are in there aren’t nocturnal. Somehow she doubted that. Trying to keep an eye on the monster, she crept around the pop machine. She just barely managed to risk a glance at the dark alley to try to see what she was walking in to. That was no use; instead all she could do was feel her way along the building behind her. God only knows what that wet stuff was.
It’s not long before she saw a small strip of moonlight shining down; illuminating the end of the alley along with a red tint from an apartment window two stories up. She looked up from where she was but couldn’t see anything. She was a little scared to imagine what was blocking the view of the sky but whatever it was hadn’t hindered her journey yet, so she dropped the thought. She was a big fan of ignorance is bliss.
“Hello?” she whispered as she approached the light. For a second she thought she saw movement against the wall but when her eyes adjusted, she just saw him.
There is a mural on the wall that was so lifelike in size that she felt small compared to it. Wings rested on the ground at the feet of a broken man. Blood red paint dripped down the picture as evidence that the wings were once his. Dark mud-caked hair draped down to cover his face where he knelt in pious servitude. Pious? There had to be another word, pious felt like blasphemy set against the punishment in the mural.
In a place where she should have been running for her life, she was sad. She’d always imagined heaven and hell as distinct opposites; heaven being some beautiful place of unknown existence and hell being where all the bad things go. She never would have imagined a mix between the two. She couldn’t tell if this was a fallen angel or if one were snatched from heaven and ruined in this place. So many strips of blood raced down his back along with the ripped gashes where his wings once were. What could he have done to deserve this?
There is movement again in the corner of her eye. It didn’t seem to be coming from the dark alley behind her, but every time she turned her head, the movement stopped and she could see nothing out of place. Maybe if she looked away…She was almost afraid it would really move. She was certain it would, but at that moment she had to decide whether she wanted to be pounced upon unknowingly or cleverly try to see what was coming for her. She could do this. She focused on a place to her right; ever aware of what was in the corner of her eye. Her heart lurched when she saw movement again.
One foot stepped lithely out of the painted wall followed by the leg attached to it. Then a tentative hand stretched to touch the ground. By the time the last of him rested crouching on the ground, she had to close her eyes. Un-be-fucking-lievable. Not only was she stuck in a place so far from home that she didn’t know how to drive there if she had a car, she’d been chased by a zombie, almost eaten by Predator’s pooch and now this thing had just stepped out of a painted mural.
Her heartbeat was so fast that she was having trouble staying silent. She was so torn. She wanted to know what would happen if she turned and looked straight at him. Would he lounge at her? If she avoided looking at him, would he pounce? He didn’t look very able to pounce in the mural, but that could be a trap.
“Are you afraid?” The voice was so close beside her that she felt his breath on her cheek.