Damien was standing on the cold Antarctic ice when the first earthquake struck. He felt the shake of the ground that nearly knocked him off of his feet. He witnessed the enormous glacier in the distance break in half sending avalanches in all directions. He saw the purplish-blue fumes begin violently billowing out in massive plumes of smoke. He ran towards the housing building of the research facility holding tight to the safety tether. The dark fumes engulfed him within minutes stealing all visibility outside of his mask. He pressed forward, finally finding the door. When he opened it, the fumes rushed into the air lock with him. Conrad was there waiting to assist Damien with his snow suite removal.
Being in Antarctica was a dream come true for Conrad. Growing up in a small farming town in Wyoming Conrad never fit in. He was into science and loved reading, the other boys were into girls. He was often picked on and never made any friends until Damien moved into town. Damien was from the LA area of California. He was wild, flamboyant, and completely open in his gayness. He spoke his mind and didn’t take crap from anyone. The most incredible thing about Damien, at least in Conrad’s eyes, was he could fight. A skill he proved on the very first day he transferred to Discovery Valley High School. The biggest bully tried him the moment he saw him. He laughed at Damien’s orange skirt and high platform boots claiming he was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. Damien knocked him flat out with one punch. Conrad had been enamored since and when Damien returned from suspension the next week the two became inseparable.
“What the hell?” Conrad intended to ask about the strange dark smoke swirling around him, but he never got the chance. As soon as he breathed the toxin in, the thoughts began. Kill him! Idiot! What the fuck!? I hate you! Murder! You did it! Bitch! They all did it! They are laughing at you! Conrad shook his head, but the thoughts only got worse as the toxin spread through his bloodstream. Kill them! Fuck you! You monster! Kill yourself! Whore! You’re ugly! Murder! Kill them! Kill them all!
“Agghhhh!” Conrad screamed and slapped his head over and over desperately trying to grasp reality. “Stop! Shut up! Shut up!” You don’t deserve to live! Stupid! Ugly! It was like several voices were screaming at him at once. Die! Die you bastard! His eyes blurred as he began seeing shadows dance in and out of his sight. Stupid! Why even live? Kill yourself! The shadows lunged toward him, mocking him and circling him. Conrad swatted at them, whirling around wildly he stumbled into the wall. Kill yourself! Bastard! Do it! Kill yourself! Without warning Conrad smashed his head into the wall cracking it in the process. Blood streaked down his stunned face.
“Babe, stop! What are you doing?” Damien reached for his helmet trying to undue the clasp so he could take it off. Damien never wanted to be in Antarctica and had been counting the days until they could leave since they first arrived for this mission four years ago. It was too incredibly cold for him, and the food was either fish or something processed and tasteless. Damien missed fresh fruit, sushi, and wine. He missed fancy dinners and nightlife. It had been such a long time since he had been in the mood to get dressed up, he didn’t even feel like himself anymore. But what is the point of dressing up here in this frozen drab place where everything felt grey. In the first year he would dress up every day, but he was always the only one dressed up and he could sense that the others felt uneasy with his appearance. It seemed the more comfortable Damien was in his skin, the less comfortable everyone else was. Everyone except Conrad. Conrad accepted him and loved him for who he was.
“Shit!” Damien shouted, still struggling with the clasp. Conrad snapped his head at the sound, noticing Damien as if seeing him for the first time. However, Conrad didn’t see his best friend and lover of over twenty years. He saw a twisted shadow like figure who appeared seven feet tall. He didn’t hear Damien’s words, “Calm down babe, I’m gonna get you help.” Instead, he heard deep growls and grunts as if from a demon. Kill him! Kill him now! Conrad charged at Damien; he pounded his fists into his chest shouting intelligible blabber like a caged animal. Die! Kill him! Stupid! They all hate you! Kill them all! Damien could have easily knocked him out, but he didn’t want to hurt him. Instead, he pushed Conrad off, rushed into the secondary door of the facility and slammed it shut trapping Conrad in the air lock room. Damien then watched in horror as Conrad smashed his head into the door. “Please.” Damien pleaded, as Conrad smashed his head again. “Stop. Please babe stop!”
Damien tried again at the clasp of his helmet realizing he had never actually taken it off himself, Conrad had always done it for him. A voice came through the intercom on the wall. “Don’t take your helmet off.”
“What? Why?” Damien’s confusion grew when the emergency lights began to flash indicating the building had been locked down.
“It’s the smoke.” The voice said, “Its making everyone go crazy.” The man behind the voice was George an old army vet who had been doing security on this base longer than anyone else had worked there. He was in the control room watching the security cameras. He watched as Conrad smashed his head repeatedly until he finally collapsed in a pool of his own blood. He watched the people in the other housing bunker, who had not been careful enough to keep the fumes out, fight each other in a massive brawl to the death. He watched Jamie, an intern, run right through the massive wall to wall window in the mess hall smashing the glass as she fell down with the snow.
On the other side of the facility in the research lab three scientists felt the shake of the quake but sat oblivious to the fumes consuming their coworkers outside of their airtight room. When the lockdown began, they were upset assuming it was yet another pointless drill. They pressed the buttons on the intercom demanding release from the small room they had been trapped in, but George couldn’t hear them. He was watching as the last standing fighter, the winner of the bunker brawl, took his own life by slitting his throat with a pocket knife.
Courtney was standing in the rooftop garden of her apartment building in New York City when the second earthquake struck deep in the Atlantic Ocean. “No way.” Courtney protested playfully shoving Matt’s phone out of her face. “I don’t care what google says, there is no way…” Courtney stopped mid-sentence when the building shook. She grabbed the ledge of the roof to steady herself. Matt wasn’t so lucky and dropped his phone off the side of the building as he fell into the wall.
“Shit! My phone! What am I going to do? I just got it…”
“Shhhs.” Courtney turned her head to the side straining to figure out where the strange sound that started after the quake was coming from. The sound seemed to get louder and louder, or maybe it was getting closer and closer, with each passing moment. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, something is wrong. “Do you hear that?”
The sound was the ocean bubbling uncontrollably releasing the same purplish-blue flumes at the sight where the quake split earth’s crust open. The sound was getting louder because the underwater crack it created was spreading coming closer and closer until it struck the island of the Statue of Liberty. The fact that Courtney could see the statue and a little bit of ocean between the city’s tall buildings from the beauty and serenity of this rooftop garden, was the selling point of this very expensive apartment. Courtney grew up poor, raised by a single mother who worked too many jobs. Courtney did not have any siblings, at least not on her mom’s side. She had never met her dad and often fantasized he would come riding in to save her from her dull life and whisk her off to a life of luxury where she would have siblings and finally not have to be alone. That never happened of course, so Courtney drowned herself in her music. She could play piano, guitar, banjo, and she knew a little bit about violin and cello. Her favorite thing to do, however, is sing. She wrote her first song at age four and has never stopped singing since. Courtney was only nineteen, but she had already landed a record deal and her first album was due to be released this summer. She had her own apartment and even though she was crammed right in the middle of the building surrounded by lots of loud neighbors, she couldn’t be happier.
Courtney strained her neck to see clearly. Lady Liberty swayed to the right, then swayed to the left, loud groaning and clanking sounds echoed out and then it tipped too far and fell into the ocean. The splash sent massive waves crashing through the city streets of Manhattan. Matt had forgotten about his phone and was watching the chaos unfold below as the fumes began raining down in a steady mist. Matt put his hand out letting the tiny silverly purple drops land on him, “It’s beautiful” was the last intelligent thing he said before the toxin took over his mind. Courtney, who stood miraculously unaffected, watched as her boyfriend of almost a year began tweaking. His arms jerked; he made sudden sharp unnatural movements with his body. “No!” He shouted swatting his hand in front of his face. “Stop! Stop! No! Stop!”
“Matt! What’s wrong?” Courtney tried to help him. She reached for him, but he pushed her hands away. Despite the fact that Matt was twelve years older than Courtney and often too busy to spend much quality time with her, he was still her dream boyfriend. He was a drummer in a band and the coolest person she ever met. He seemed to know everyone, and everyone seemed to admire him.
“Don’t! No!” He shouted stepping wildly. He bumped into a potted plant sending it crashing to the floor. “Get off of me!”
“Matt! Please! What happen?” Courtney stood on the side helplessly watching as Matt leapt headfirst off the side of the forty-story apartment building while begging the invisible hands to stop touching him. More shouts and cries could be heard throughout the city. Courtney looked over the ledge hardly able to see Matt’s mangled body through the sheer chaos happening below. Cars drove violently crashing at full speed through pedestrians and into buildings. People fought each other, some fought themselves. People jumped out of building windows bursting right through the glass breaking their bodies in the process.
Courtney was in stunned silence trying to process what was happening when the door to the stairs creaked open. She whirled around, “Mr. Delaney?”
Robert Eldritch Delaney IV came from a long line of rich people. He was eighty-seven years old, lived alone, and always had stories to tell. Courtney thought he was quite self-obsessed and blatantly raciest although he didn’t seem to acknowledge that little fact about himself. Courtney had a Mexican mother who said her dad was a mix of black and white, whatever that means. Nonetheless this unique mix worked well for Courtney. She was beautiful with dark curly hair, smoky grey eyes, and light enough skin that Mr. Delaney didn’t turn his nose up at her. He actually seemed to really like her. Courtney befriended him not only because he was the one who tended this rooftop garden that she liked being in so much, but also because she didn’t blame him for his beliefs. Times have changed since he was a boy, and he can’t help how he was raised. Besides, Mr. Delaney was old, slow, suffering from dementia, and harmless enough. He called her ‘pretty girl’ probably because he couldn’t remember her name.
He stepped onto the roof moving faster than usual. Courtney noticed right away he didn’t have his cane with him. Weird? Nearly every time she saw Mr. Delaney, he would stop her to tell her how his cane was passed down from father to son six generations and how he would pass it down to his son one day. Something Mr. Delaney had forgotten already happened. Robert Eldritch Delaney V was given the cane on his twenty-first birthday, he died shortly after from drug overdose. It’s actually quite sad.
Mr. Delaney staggered forward. Courtney could sense something wasn’t right with him. She hesitated from going to his aid. Where is his nurse? “Mr. Delaney are you alright?” Once close enough to see his face, twisted in a snarl, a fresh gash on the side of his head caked in blood, Courtney knew all she needed to know.
He reached his arms toward her grunting in burst, “Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!” She dodged past him easily since Mr. Delaney’s weak body moved slowly. She ran to the open door and just before closing it behind her she glanced back in perfect timing to see Mr. Delaney casually climb over the ledge where he stepped off and disappeared to his death.
Courtney gasped and ran for the elevator door. When it opened a woman from the thirty-third floor was there holding her tiny dog in her hands. The dog was nearly unrecognizable, its dead body mangled and matted over in blood. In fact, Courtney didn’t even know it was her dog until the woman threw it at her. Courtney jumped back but not before being smeared with the dog’s blood. The woman lunged for Courtney who dodged her and ducked into the stairway door. Courtney put her fists up preparing to fight the crazy woman, but she never came to the door. The woman was on the rooftop smashing plants and tipping over flowers. She eventually stumbled and fell off the ledge.
Courtney descended the stairs determined to get to the safety of her apartment on the fourteenth floor. She moved swiftly and quietly except for her breath which was heavy and strained, full of emotion trying to burst out. About halfway down two men burst into the stairway fighting each other full force. They were on the floor above Courtney who hesitated long enough to determine they had not noticed her before tiptoeing downward. One of the men threw the other so hard he rolled down the stairs landing a few steps away from Courtney. Courtney stared at the mans mangled broken body and the man stared back unblinking. Courtney was frozen in fear, unable to speak or move. The broken bodied man was not, he grunted, he moved his arm which had a bright piece of bone sticking out from around his head as if he felt no pain. He grunted again and tried to push himself up off of the ground. The man who was fighting him reached them, wasted no time jumping on top of the broken bodied man and proceeded to pound him in the face repeatedly.
Courtney finally found her legs and sprinted down the stairs. She reached the fourteenth floor and rushed into the hall without looking first. Anything to get away from the vision of the broken bodied man and the danger of the man killing him. Josie was there in the hall, she snapped her head up at the sound of the door clanking shut. Josie was a sweet eight-year-old girl who loved cats. Courtney acquired a kitten by chance just days after moving into the building. Josie fell in love with Sassy the same day Courtney brought her home. Josie visited every day; Courtney didn’t mind. Not only was the little girl useful by helping clean the litter box and feed Sassy; Courtney enjoyed having her company since most of her evenings were spent alone.
Courtney could tell immediately; Josie was not Josie. Blood was streaking down her face from where she had just been banging her head into the wall. She was standing between Courtney and her apartment. Josie charged full speed down the hall; arms outstretched reaching for Courtney. Josie was not as easy to dodge or slip by as the others had been. She attacked Courtney growling and shrieking.
“Stop!” Courtney pushed her off but before she could run Josie leapt on her back choking her around the neck. Courtney gagged and slammed backwards into the wall. Josie clung to her with an unhuman strength. She wailed like a wild animal. She dug her fingernails into Courtneys flesh. Courtney screamed out raising her head in the process. Josie took this opportunity to sink her teeth into Courtneys exposed neck. Courtney screamed again and bashed herself backwards into the wall with all the force she could muster. Finally, Josie let go. Josie was quick and tried to crawl towards her; but Courtney had reached breaking point. She turned and kicked the little girl in the face. Josie slumped to the ground and Courtney kicked her again in the stomach and then she kicked her again and again and again releasing rage, fear, and sadness from the overwhelming events of the past few moments.
Satisfied Josie wasn’t getting up anytime soon, Courtney grabbed her bleeding neck and hurried down the hall into her apartment locking it behind her. She grabbed a kitchen towel for her neck and ran into her bedroom. She closed and locked the door then ran into her closet and shut that door too. She took out her phone and called 911, busy tone. She called her mom, her best friend Tammi, her other friend Kate, all busy tone. She tried sending messages but only got errors. She tried her social apps but there was no service to her phone at all. She crept out of the closet where she could clearly hear the outside world actively going crazy, only long enough to retrieve her tablet and laptop. Then she crept back in and shut the door, quieting the sound to a dull roar. She tried again to call for help; the Wifi was out. She was completely without connections.
Angrily she threw her tablet into the wall. “Aagghhh!!” She screamed out loud until her throat hurt, then, she slumped onto the floor in the fetal position and cried hysterically for several hours, eventually falling asleep. Luckily the closet floor was huge offering her plenty of space to stretch out, and her carpet was a soft plush rug allowing her comfortable sleep, and there was a blanket folded in the corner that she retrieved when the chills of nighttime tried to wake her.
Meanwhile the crack on the ocean floor hadn’t stopped. After demolishing the statue of liberty, it abruptly shifted direction and spread down the east coast all the way past Key West where it finally stopped off the coast of Puerto Rico. The crack spread fast, taking less than a half hour to complete its path of destruction. The entire earth felt the effects. The toxic fumes billowed out of the massive split making the ocean look as if it was boiling. News crews were on the scene seemingly instantaneous, they broadcasted as the winds ushered the fumes onto the mainland poisoning the entire east coast of America and everyone on the islands throughout the Bahamas.