Howling wind wrestled through the deserted starlit streets of Eagle Nest, New Mexico, awakening Gina from her much-needed sleep. It was past the midnight hour. Surrounded in complete darkness. Not a flicker of light came from outside her windows. No engines hummed past the stoplight below. “Is this a blackout?” she wondered after noticing the clock on the cable box had vanished.
Kicking the covers off her legs, Gina blindly felt around the night table beside her bed for her cell phone. Maybe Veronica would know what was going on. Several items got knocked over including a half-empty bottle of vodka, which shattered across the floor. Her room stunk of alcohol.
She leaned over the bed and caressed the floor. Strangely, instead of
touching broken glass, she felt a warm mist spray against her fingertips, like heat seeping out from a radiator. Then swirls of smoke began to rise from the cracks, gathering into a white fog that suddenly consumed the entire floor, rising up toward the ceiling.
Gina jumped out of bed believing the building was on fire. “What the hell is going on?” she thought, backing to a corner in a panic. She covered her mouth with her pajama top, tightly pressed her eyelids shut and slid her shoulders against the cold walls to find her way out.
“Wait a minute?” she thought. “If the building’s on fire, then how can the walls be cold?” Deeply she inhaled the smoke. She didn’t cough. No burning smell. It felt like she inhaled plain air. “What is this?”
Moving cautiously through the blinding smoke, Gina kept one hand close to the wall. Humidity increased. Sweat glistened on her skin. She lost touch with the wall. Even while leaning further to her side, she found herself swiping at nothing but smoke. Several minutes passed and not a stick of furniture was touched. Wandering inside the fog, Gina yelled in frustration, “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!”
Then at that moment, the smoke slowly evaporated. Cold air swallowed up the humidity and tickled her entire body, blowing in between her hair strands. The ground beneath her feet turned rough and solid, freezing her toes as if she was standing on snow. Moonlight bounced off her arms.
“How the hell did I get..?” she stammered, staring at towering buildings and billboards overhead. Wide intersections, avenue names on green street signs and an array of storefronts about a half-mile long. Unexplainably, she was standing
in the middle of Times Square. But, strange. New York’s most popular attraction spot had not one single person around. The place looked as if it had been deserted for years. Non-existent activity. No lights whatsoever. Windows caked in filth. Jumbotrons looked like blackboards.
Gina looked down and noticed that she was still wearing her black silk pajamas. “This must be a dream...but it feels so real.” Goosebumps bumped all over her limbs. She just hoped not to see a half-burned man jump out from the shadows with a one-handed set of claws trying to kill her.
Then a sign of life revealed itself. Toward 47th street, she noticed a golden glow pulsing through the dismal landscape. Her bare feet echoed against the cold and rough pavement as she ran to get a closer look. There! An object lying in the middle of street-side lounge tables. It looked like a police badge. She picked it up and examined its unique design: centered by a cross and a pair of spread wings behind it.
She gazed at its beauty like it was made for her. Drawn by its power. She felt a spiritual connection to it, more like divine. The pulse began to follow the rhythm of her heartbeat. Warm sensations race through her veins like fuel to a car engine. Golden light coated her entire body, shining as bright as a phoenix rising from its ashes. A transformation was happening. Divine power and unconditional love filled her heart. Four years of guilt and depression vanished in an instant. Suddenly, a harsh growl ripped through the desolate metropolis.
“What was that?” she gasped. The spiritual experience abruptly ended. Fear
jolted through her bones as she hectically looked around the Square, wondering who or what made that noise. Gina stuffed the badge inside her pajama pocket and speed-walked down to 45th street.
Every block she passed, the growls multiplied, becoming longer and louder. Her fast-paced feet moved even faster as she bolted down to 42nd street, the fog reemerged and rapidly formed into a great wall. Surrounded by ghoulish noises, she stood in front of the fog and was ready to leap through to the other side. Wait! Are those shadows within the fog, growing bigger by the second? She couldn’t see what was up ahead. Getting closer. Are those claws on their arms? Another set of footsteps? No. Not one. Many.
There was no place to go. She could hide, but for how long? Her curiosity was too great to run. Gulping her throat, she slowly lifted her hand, moving it ever so slightly toward the fog. She could feel the humidity brush against her palm. Shadows growing larger. Spreading further. Fog curling along her fingers. It’s not too late to run. Breathing faster, quaking in her bones, she shoved her hand inside the fog. Nothing. “OH, MY GOD!!” she gasped.
Gina jumped back frozen in absolute terror. Waves of defining roars pounded in her ears. Next, she saw multiple pairs of graying rotting hands shoot out from the swirling fog. A gang of zombie creatures paraded out to the night air, growling like caged mad dogs. Grotesque faces resembled decayed animals. Eyes were the color of blood. Yellow venom bubbled from the sides of their mouths. Tattered police uniforms draped over their molten-covered physiques. Wicked symbols imprinted on their corroded foreheads: a pitchfork combined with a downward arrow, coiled by a twisting number 6. Once spotting their redheaded prey, the zombies charged down the street like hungry cannibals.
Snapping out of her terrified trance, Gina ran frantically through Times Square. Looking for a place to hide, she ran into many buildings. None of them would open. They were either locked or blocked off by barriers. Running and running aimlessly down the dark streets, she lost her sense of direction. What she couldn’t lose, however, were the zombies trailing after her like bloodhounds in the woods. Each street started to look the same. She looked behind and noticed the group had doubled in size! If this goes on any longer, she will become a feast for the zombies to feast on for days.
Approaching 39th street, Gina ran toward a high-rise building with no front doors. The entire lobby was blanketed pitch black. “Great,” she thought. The blacker the better. She raced inside and kept going further and further, not
caring who or what was in front of her. But then, a strong feeling came over her. She wasn’t alone. Could others be hiding? No. Rotten odor filled the area, so grotesque that the nastiest gym locker room smell like a bed of roses. She slowed down, fearing she should turn back.
Wait...what is that? Whispery hiss? ...Exhausted breathing? ...Dragging growl?! Stop...listen...footprints? Walking...no, marching. Faster. Are those echoes? My God. There’s more than one! Her worst fear became a reality. By the faint moonlight beaming through the cracks of the boarded windows, she saw another army of creatures rushing after her. Gina jetted out of the high-rise,
only to be met by the original herd. Now one massive grotesque army wanted to
taste her blood!
Gina ran down to 34th street, exhausted but refused to be eaten alive. “SOMEBODY! ANYBODY!! ...help...me.” she cried out hopelessly, not knowing where else to go. Not even an utter of a yelping dog responded. She was the only living soul in these menacing streets.
Just then, beams of light burst out from the windows of an old cathedral a few blocks away. The front doors flew open. Gina ran toward the cathedral and dove inside. She slammed the doors closed and dragged over a couple of pews for a barricade. She felt safe for the time being.
Uneasy and fatigued, she checked the insides of the chapels, hoping to find a pastor or anybody who could help. But alas, the rooms were empty. She then checked the back office for a telephone. No dial tone. After tapping the switch hook several times, she frustratingly slammed the receiver down. “What...is going...on?” she stammered out of breath. “There has to be..? If the church is deserted, then how did the doors fly open?”
The basement! That would be the safest place to hide. Maybe someone is stationed by the windows on the lookout for survivors. She crept toward the bottom staircase. Flipping the lightswitch repeatedly, no lights flickered on. As she was about to step down, she heard something.
“Who’s there?” she shouted. Close by. Sounded like panting, coming from
the stained-glass windows. Ducking below the frame, she slowly stuck her head up to take a peek outside. She saw a woman standing under a spotlight, swinging a large wooden staff. Her long brown hair and navy-blue pajamas were completely drenched. “Over here!” yelled Gina, slapping on the glass to get the woman’s attention. No such luck. The woman dropped to her knees and
looked up to the sky. Gina recognized the face under those thin-rimmed glasses.
She pounded harder on the glass, but Alex wouldn’t turn around, as if the glass was soundproof. Gina grabbed a large candleholder from the pulpit and threw it at the glass like a javelin. She covered her ears from the deafening bang. However, the window didn’t break, not even one crack in the glass.
Suddenly, she heard loud thuds against the barricaded doors, becoming
heavier by the second. Pieces of wood began to splinter. She headed for the
rear exit but skidded back just in time to see the doors get ripped off its hinges. Dozens of zombies trampled inside and followed her into the pulpit.
Gina ran down the aisle, only to see the front doors explode open. More undead creatures bombarded the holy temple. Hundreds of ghastly faces with glowing red eyes surrounded her. Terror rushed into her brain like a bad drug. As the zombies moved closer, Gina closed her eyes and screamed out all the fright
in her body.
Just then, the badge inside her pocket began to glow again, pulsing faster and shining brighter than before. Zombies shielded their eyes and growled in pain. Golden light exploded throughout the church like an atomic bomb and shot up a beam that shattered through the skylight ceiling.
Sound waves rumbled around the deserted metropolis like an earthquake. Zombies crackled into piles of dust. A thunderous updraft rose from beneath Gina’s feet, nearly tearing through the entire church foundation like it was tinfoil. Stained glass showered down like candy from a piñata. The clerestory
collapsed. Bricks, glass, support beams, plaster, and statues came towering down around her. Smoke clouds balled up like cauliflower as it rolled up the midnight atmosphere.
And just like that, the blinding glow evaporated. Her screams echoed away. Winds stopped blowing. Quietness settled once again.
Gina opened eyes and stood in awe to what just happened. She took out the badge and thought it was not from this world, like an alien artifact. But seeing the cross reminded her that God was by her side. The church was in ruin. Building debris landed everywhere except where she was standing, being protected under the golden glow.
She looked up at the shimmering moon and let the tears flow from her brown eyes, relieved that her terror had ended. Planting a kiss on the badge, she whispered to the heavens, “Thank you.”
But the terror wasn’t over yet as she then heard vociferous roars that ripped through the atmosphere like thunder, embodying rage and death. She looked up with horror in her eyes as she watched the evening sky morph into a flaming
red horizon. Then, hideous creatures ejected from thickening burgundy clouds and circled the wrecked church, covered in red fur and sprouting wings out their backs like vultures.
Before Gina could run, sandy hands rose from the ashes below and clutched onto her ankles. The more hands she broke from, dozens more would form and latch onto her body. The creatures nosedived passed the holey ceiling and aimed straight for their horrified target. Razor-tipped nails were inches away from shredding her face to pieces. Then her alarm clock buzzed.
Gina woke up fighting the blankets and pillows on her bed. It took a minute for her to regain composure once realizing she was back in her bedroom. The clock on the cable box read 7:25 a.m. Her shift started in thirty-five minutes. Time to get to work.
It’s been almost four years since she moved to New Mexico and every night had been the same. One nightmare after another. Between her newfound habit of drinking vodka and watching television until the break of dawn, Gina’s health had dramatically declined. She gained ten pounds and developed high blood pressure. Her face aged rapidly from dealing with stress and depression day after day. She wakes up at times looking for a reason to live.
Gina sat on the edge of the bed and wiped the sweat from her hairline. That terrible dream played in her head like a horror movie, more wild than the others she has had before. This dream was different. Never had she experienced warmth and joy in such an abundance before, especially during a nightmare. Curiously she opened her night table drawer and examined the badge inside her wallet. Her Silver Star badge was round with a star in the middle. Eagle Nest Town Sheriff engraved in the plate. No similarities to the mystical badge in her dream.
Her state of mind has been in a morbid place since being arrested. Feelings of hope got buried with her promising career. No time to get over this nightmare. She had a job to do. All she could say was, “Lord, give me strength.”