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DM Slate – Veil of Darkness
Disaster – Strange Matter/Anti-Matter
Location – Interstate Freeway
Helpful Item – Gas Mask
Disability – Elderly Parent
Imagine a world where uncertainty is the only thing that’s certain. A world where an entire city block can be swallowed and literally disappear, in the blink of an eye. That is the world that we live in, the world that is now our reality. In retrospect, it seems fitting that our apocalypse would be manmade…we did this to ourselves. Scientists created a strange-matter vacuum with greater power than they could’ve ever imagined, and now, there’s no containing it.
Veil of Darkness
By D.M. Slate
Beads of sweat drip from the nape of my neck, running down my perspiring back. The sun is relentless, scorching my arm as it glares through the driver’s side window. Reaching for the air conditioner, I flip the switch to high. Pete sighs in relief, and I glance toward the passenger’s seat, smiling through my sadness.
Tearing my eyes away, I look back toward the grid-locked interstate, choosing my words carefully.
“You know Pete, Sunny Acres is a really great place, and you’re going to make so many new friends that you won’t even have time to miss me.” The large black cat nuzzles against Pete’s arm, meowing. “And Gizmo will be there to keep you company, too. You’ll see…”
Slamming on the brakes, I grasp the steering wheel as vehicles collide and pile up in front of us. “What just happened? Pete – are you alright?”
With wide, disbelieving eyes, I stare through the windshield at the rift that’s opened up just before us, in the middle of the interstate. The black-hole creates a vertical wall of chaos, devouring everything in its path. Stranded motorists escape their cars, fleeing in all directions, running for their lives. I grab for the door handle, but then I hesitate, looking over at Pete. The man has become a father-figure to me, since my own family was swallowed in the Denver rift, last fall.
He’s slumped forward over his seatbelt, head hanging limply. In that split-second of indecision, the choice was made for me… the rift is upon us.
Nausea turns my stomach and my head spins out of control. I raise a shaky hand to my temple, pressing firmly against my skull.
It takes all of my strength to will my eyelids apart. Heart racing, I look to my right. Pete‘s there, motionless, with Gizmo prancing in his lap.
Confused, I scan the horizon. Its pitch black outside, and I can’t see a thing. I catch a dim reflection of my own eyes in the rear view mirror, and in that instant, the memory of the rift returns.
Gizmo nuzzles his head against my side, a small reassurance of life. I pet the animal briefly, before pushing him aside. “Pete? Can you hear me?” I shake his shoulder, gently, but he makes no response.
Reaching for the ignition I turn the keys, but nothing happens. Panic stricken, I crank again, and again. The car gives no response. Batting at the dash, I hit all of the switches. Only a dim interior light, and one single headlight respond. The beam of luminescence cuts through the suffocating black abyss, creating a single line of vision down the ominous black highway. I peer out, into the murky darkness, searching for answers…
It’s then that I finally stop, and listen, for the first time.
This isn’t right, at all. Squinting, I peer through the windshield, trying to make sense of the situation. Scattered before me, I see the haunting outline of several mangled vehicles.
“Gizmo, what’s wrong?” I turn, looking for the cause of his feral meowing. Then, I hear the noise.
Covering my ears, I try to muffle the sound. Its deafening…painful, even. Smacking at the radio I turn all the knobs in an attempt to make it stop, but the speakers aren’t emitting the noise. It’s just vibrating in the air, all around, from all directions.
Burying my head in my arms, I use my biceps as earmuffs. My brain rattles within my skull, and then, my body begins to seize. Shaking and twitching, I feel my eyes roll back into my head, and then everything goes black.
Gizmo’s sandpaper tongue rakes across my cheek once, and then again. I’m slumped against the driver’s window, and it takes an incredible amount of effort to sit upright. My body is drained. Weak. Everything moves in slow motion, and eventually, I make eye contact with myself in the mirror. Startled, I jump, alarmed at my own appearance.
A clotted trail of blood leads from my nostrils, down onto my lips, and then to the bottom of my chin. I swipe at it, clumsily smearing the half dried blood across my cheek. A black tar-like substance oozes from my tear ducts, blurring my vision. Crying out in horror, I claw at my eyeballs with both hands. Staring in the mirror again, I realize that that eyeball its self is changing color. The blackness spans from the tear duct, to nearly the center of the eye. My jaw gapes in horrified disbelief.
Looking to my side I see Gizmo, and then, I remember that Pete is here, too. My eyes skim past the elderly man to the crazed cat in-between us. He continues to howl, and a stiff ridge of hair sprouts on his back.
“What is it, Gizmo? What’s wrong?” I peer out the windshield.
My heart skips a beat when I hear a car door slam. I subconsciously hold my breath, waiting. Then, a small movement catches my eye. At the far edges of the light’s reach, I see someone, or something, approaching my car. The gait is slow, and uneven. I can’t make out a distinct outline, but I can see the denseness getting closer, and closer… yet always just out of view.
Gizmo is plastered to the floorboard, now silent and still. I’ve lost track of the thing’s movement. It’s out there, but I don’t know where. And then, I feel its eyes upon me. Ever so slowly I turn my head, looking out the driver’s side window. There, on the other side of the thin glass, stands a boy no more than 7 or 8. He stands motionless, staring blankly at me with his black orb eyes.
Without warning, the child disappears in a swish of air, followed by a trailing scream and the crunch of bone. I recoil from the door. My erratic motion jars Pete’s shoulder, driving him sideways into the passenger’s door.
“Pete – you have to wake up!” I shake his arm with intensity. He lifts his head, blinking several times, before turning his gaze upon me. My stomach drops. Blackness covers his eyeballs, and another eye-lens has grown over the orb, blinking with independent timing of the outer eyelid.
We stare at each other for a split-second, before he lunges. In a frenzy of flying arms and scratching nails, he comes at me, full force. Constrained by his seatbelt, I manage to avoid his grasp and flop into the back seat. Scattered boxes and belongings fill most of the space… there’s nowhere to go.
Now free of his seatbelt, Pete turns upon me. Frantic, I grab for anything I can find in the clutter. My fingers snag the rubber eyepiece of his World War II gas mask, and I swing with all of my might. The large metal-nosed filter connects with Pete’s forehead, stopping him in mid-motion.
The elderly man keels over to the side, unconscious. Without a hesitation, I lean forward into the front, opening the passenger’s side door. I stare out into the blackness, terrified. Adrenaline urging me on, I shove with all my strength, until Pete’s limp form slides out of the car. Clambering into the front, I pull the door closed, locking it.
Listening, I hear movement outside…something’s out there!
Before I have time to react, the piercing vibrations tear through the air again, rendering me unconscious.
My eyelids flutter open, and I squint in response. There’s a distant light on the horizon. Steadying myself, I focus on it, and then I realize what I’m seeing. It’s the sun. It’s rising! Hope flutters with my being.
I look to the mirror, finding my eyes to be no worse… the blackness hasn’t progressed. Creeping to the passenger door I look out. Pete’s body isn’t there.
Calmly, I sit in the seat and stare forward through the windshield, toward the rising sun. At this point, all I can do is wait to see what’s revealed, once this veil of darkness is finally lifted.
Veil of Darkness
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