Today we are happy to present our longest piece of original short fiction available on Sci-Fi & Scary. Brian Bowyer submitted Countdown to Oblivion to us a few weeks ago, and now it’s time for everyone to see it
Warning: This story does have a fair bit of foul language and content. It may be NSFW. Discretion is advised.
You can find Brian’s social media links at the end of the story. Please support him and check out his other work when you get a chance. – Lilyn
Chuck parked his car behind The G-Spot and went inside. He ordered a glass of whiskey at the bar. Then he found an empty table right in front of the stage and had a seat.
All around him the men cheered and whistled at Ginger on the stage as she twirled her blood-red pigtails and the powder-blue tassels hanging from her nipples in perfect time to the music of the live band on the smaller stage to her left, but Chuck sipped his whiskey in silence. The band wasn’t too bad (especially for a Tuesday night), and the whiskey wasn’t watered down at all. And though the men around him would hoot and yell for anything in a G-string, Ginger was a bona fide knockout.
She went backstage at the conclusion of her performance. The band kept playing and another dancer took the stage.
A few minutes later, Ginger sat down at Chuck’s table with a bottle of beer and he handed her a hundred-dollar bill.
“Where’s Jenny?” Chuck said.
She put the money in her bra. “Haven’t seen her.”
He gave her another hundred. “Since when?”
He sipped his whiskey and handed her another hundred. “Who did she leave with?”
“Who else?” Ginger said. “She left with Jericho.”
Son of a bitch, Chuck thought. I’ll fucking kill him. “Do you know where they went?”
He gave her another hundred-dollar bill. “Where did they go?”
She told him.
Chuck finished his whiskey and stood up.
“Do you know where that is?” Ginger said.
He nodded. “I do. Thank you.”
Chuck bought a gun out of an older car’s trunk in a bad neighborhood on the east side of town. A skinny black man (friend of a friend) with demonic eye contacts sold it to him. It was a Glock 19. The man told him it was untraceable. Chuck gave the man some cash and that was that. He checked to see if the semiautomatic was loaded while the man drove away and he saw that it was. Chuck thought that maybe he was doing the world a favor by buying the gun. If he hadn’t bought it, perhaps it would have ended up in some crackhead’s hand, and possibly aimed at some Hindu storekeeper from India who just wanted to send his kids to college. This way, only Jericho would get shot, and the Hindu guy could keep saving up money for his children’s education.
Chuck fired up a cigarette, took another shot of whiskey, and drove out of the parking lot. His destination was only about a hundred miles away. He could do the speed limit and still be there in less than two hours, easily. He didn’t know if his daughter was still alive or if she was dead, but either way, he was going to make Jericho pay.
He stopped for gas halfway there at a ramshackle filling station and went inside. The attendant was a middle-aged white man with thick forearms and a lot of amateurish green-ink tattoos.
“Surprised to find a place open at this hour,” Chuck said, “in the middle of nowhere.”
“And I’m not surprised that you’re surprised,” the attendant said. “Fucking idiot.”
Chuck had the gun in his waistband. The demon on his left shoulder told him to shoot the man in the face; the angel on his right shoulder told him not to.
Chuck paid cash for the gas. He went outside and pumped.
He drove away and parked his car about a hundred yards down the road. Then he took his jacket off, put a ski mask on, and walked back to the store.
The attendant was standing out front, smoking a cigarette.
Chuck looked around, but he didn’t see any cameras anywhere. He kept to the shadows at the perimeter of the otherwise empty parking lot, and then quietly made his way to the side of the store. He quickly approached the man and put the gun to the back of his head. “One wrong move and you’re a dead man,” Chuck said. “Do you understand me?”
Chuck forced the man into some woods beside the store and then shoved him to the ground.
The attendant looked up at him. “Money’s in the store, man. I don’t fucking have any.”
“I don’t want your goddamn money,” Chuck said. “I want an apology.”
Chuck raised the ski mask, revealing his face. “Yes. The demon wants me to kill you, but the angel is telling me to let you live. So if you apologize for calling me an idiot, I won’t blow your fucking brains out right here in these godforsaken woods.”
“Okay, man. I’m sorry. Jesus fucking Christ. I’m sorry for calling you a fucking idiot.”
Chuck nodded. “Okay. Apology accepted. Now give me your fucking wallet.”
“Man, I already told you: I don’t have any goddamn money.”
“I don’t want your goddamn money. I want your driver’s license.”
“My driver’s license?”
“Yes. And I’m in a hurry here, so unless you want me to shoot you in the fucking face—”
“Nah, man. Fine.” The attendant retrieved his wallet from his back pocket and proffered it to Chuck. “Here. Take my fucking wallet.”
Chuck took the wallet with his left hand while keeping the gun aimed at the attendant’s face. It was an old leather wallet and he found the license immediately in the top card slot. He tossed the wallet onto the ground and held the license up in the moonlight. “Buster Jones? Seriously? That’s your real fucking name?”
“Yeah. Why? You got a problem with my name?”
“No, Buster. I do not. Anyway, I just showed you how easily someone could kill your dumb ass for being rude to them. So from now on, be nice. You’ll have to get a new driver’s license, though, because I’m keeping this one so I don’t have to memorize your address. And if the cops come asking me any questions about this incident, I’ll find your ass and kill you no matter what the angel says. Do you believe me?”
“Good for you. Have a nice life.”
Chuck was crying on and off by the time he started seeing highway signs for his destination. He had a box of tissues on the passenger’s seat and a plastic bag on the floorboard that he was using to put his trash in. He sometimes got too emotional when he drank whiskey, but tonight the booze was not the reason for his tears. He was weeping because the demon was telling him that his daughter was dead; that Jericho had already killed her, and that Jenny most certainly was not in Heaven. The angel wasn’t saying anything, and if Hell existed, Chuck wanted to make sure to send Jericho there for whatever it was that he had done to Jenny.
She had been a good kid, his Jenny. Chuck was of the opinion that kids got meaner with every generation, and kids these days were not only meaner than ever—most of them were borderline retarded. Jenny, however, had basically been a decent human being and a halfway intelligent person. But then her mother died when Jenny was ten, and nothing was ever the same after that.
Jericho got her into the drugs and the alcohol when she was in seventh grade, and it was all downhill from there.
Jenny stopped going to school altogether when she was in tenth grade. Chuck never made her go back, even though he knew her mother would have wanted him to. He felt better having her home with him. He had been hoping that things would work out for the best. They didn’t, of course, and every bit of that was Jericho’s fault.
When Chuck reached the small town that was his destination, he didn’t immediately go to the abandoned church. First he went to Walmart and purchased a hunting knife.
The building looked as if it hadn’t been used as a church for quite some time. All of the windows were boarded up, and a broken cross still jutted from the eaves.
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. Then he got out of the car with the gun in one hand and the hunting knife in the other. He heard a dog barking from somewhere down the road as he made his way to the front porch. Firelight flickered through the crack between the door and its jamb. He put an ear to the door and listened. Whispers hissed from the interior. He also heard people grunting and moaning inside. He wondered how many people were currently living in the abandoned church. He pushed the door open and smelled the burning-plastic stench of meth-heads smoking their drug of choice. Chuck took a deep breath, and then he stepped inside.
He saw several faces in the light of candles burning in scattered coffee cans, and all of the faces looked the same to him: sick, skeletal-thin, and riddled with scabs. A woman—slick with sweat—looked up at him and opened her mouth, but she didn’t say anything. All of her teeth were gone. A glistening rope of drool hung from her lower lip. The pews were gone (undoubtedly used as firewood), so the meth-heads were sprawled out on filthy blankets strewn all over the floor. Chuck didn’t count them, but he guessed that there were probably twenty at least. A few of them were fucking on the floor like feral dogs, oblivious to Chuck and their fellow tweakers.
A skinny kid with greasy hair and black rings beneath his eyes looked up at Chuck and grinned. Most of his teeth were gone. “Want me to suck your dick?”
“I’m looking for Jericho,” Chuck said.
“Jericho won’t suck your dick, but I will.”
Chuck looked around. The stench of crystal meth and unwashed flesh made him gag. He covered his mouth and his nose with a hand and walked away.
He found Jericho at the front of the room where a podium had probably once stood. Chuck hadn’t seen him in a while, but he recognized him immediately. Jericho was pulling his pants up. He had just finished having sex with a girl who looked about as wasted as he did. Jericho turned around and fired up a cigarette, looking at Chuck.
“I’ll be damned,” Jericho said. “The news just broke an hour ago. Did you come to say goodbye before the world ends?”
Chuck raised the gun. His son was out of his mind and speaking nonsense. He aimed the gun at Jericho’s head. “Where is she?”
“Your sister,” Chuck said, “you dumb son of a bitch. Jenny. Where the fuck is she?”
Jericho shrugged. “Jenny’s downstairs.”
“Yes. In the basement.”
“What the fuck’s she doing in the basement?”
“Taking care of Trinity.”
“Who the fuck is Trinity?”
“Some woman’s little girl. I don’t remember the woman’s name. She died a couple of nights ago. And now Jenny’s taking care of Trinity. Not that it matters now, of course. Nothing goddamn matters anymore.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Jericho approached his father, smiling. He opened his arms as if to embrace him. “Haven’t you heard, Pops? The whole world’s coming to an end. So you should let your son give you a hug.”
And then Jericho lunged for the gun. He wrapped a hand around Chuck’s wrist and drove a knee into his stomach.
Chuck’s arm shot upward and he squeezed the trigger reflexively, sending a bullet into the ceiling. The knee to his stomach had stunned him, but he didn’t release his grip on the knife in his other hand. He brought the hunting knife up and rammed the blade deep into Jericho’s throat. Jericho didn’t have time to scream, but he did make a few gurgling sounds as his hands went up to the knife’s handle.
Chuck yanked the blade out. A thick gout of blood erupted and splashed on the floor beneath them. Then Jericho hit the floor and died in a spreading pool of blood.
“Holy shit!” Chuck heard someone yell. “Motherfucker just killed Jericho!”
Chuck—still holding the gun and the hunting knife—turned around and braced himself for an onslaught of vengeful meth-heads, but none came. He looked at the nearest one and said: “Which way to the basement?”
The wretched man pointed at a door to Chuck’s left.
Chuck went to the door and opened it. A stairway descended into darkness. Smoke rose from below, and with it came the burning-plastic stench of crystal meth. He saw firelight flickering from beyond the bottom of the stairway.
Chuck glanced back and saw that none of the meth-heads were even looking at him. Then he went downstairs into the church’s basement.
He found Jenny and a little girl sitting on the concrete floor of a small room illuminated by candles burning in coffee cans.
Jenny looked about the same as she did the last time he had seen her: slightly on the skinny side, but otherwise still attractive. She was a twenty-year-old woman who—despite her addiction—had thus far managed to avoid the outward physical ravages of crystal meth. She had a needle in her arm and recognized him immediately. She smiled, and Chuck was pleased to see that she still had all of her teeth. “Hi Dad,” she said. “How did you find me?”
“Ginger,” he said. “She told me you left the club with your brother the other night.”
Jenny nodded and pressed the plunger, injecting herself with liquid meth.
Chuck looked down at the little girl beside her. She appeared to be about eight or nine years old. She was filthy and her clothes were ragged. Her face was covered with scabs. She was so thin she reminded him of one of the kids in those old photos of the starving Ethiopian children, except she was white. She was smoking ice by holding a lighter against a lightbulb converted to a meth pipe.
“Are you Trinity?” Chuck said.
She looked up at him. Chuck could see her clearly in the candlelight. She had blue, haunted eyes with dark sunken rings all the way around them. She didn’t say anything. She just stared at him and kept smoking ice out of the lightbulb.
“Yes,” Jenny said. “This is Trinity. Her mother died a few nights ago.”
Chuck nodded. “I know. Your brother told me.”
Jenny pulled the needle out of her arm and lit a cigarette. “You talked to Jericho?”
“Is he still upstairs? He should have been back down here already.”
Chuck shook his head. “Jericho’s not coming back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Yes. He tried to kill me, so I damned near cut his head off.”
Jenny cocked her head, and it looked to Chuck that it dawned on her for the first time that her father was holding a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. Her eyes appeared to go blank for a second, and then an expression of absolute horror seemed to transform the features of her face. “Oh my god,” she said. “You fucking killed him?”
Chuck nodded. “I did. And I’m not a goddamn bit sorry about it.”
Jenny was sitting on a blanket. She put the syringe down on the blanket and then abruptly stood up. “But Dad, you don’t understand! Jericho had the meth! We don’t have any! Jericho had the meth in his pocket!”
“Oh,” Chuck said. “Well, yes, I suppose that would be problematic for you. Want me to go get it?”
Jenny nodded rapidly, puffing her cigarette. “Yes. Please. Jesus fucking Christ. I just hope it’s still there.”
Chuck turned around and then hurried back upstairs.
He found Jericho’s corpse exactly where he had left it. Two male tweakers were standing over the body, looking down at it, probably trying to decide whether to go through Jericho’s pockets. He raised the gun and quickly approached the tweakers. “Get away from him,” Chuck said, “or you motherfuckers will be just as dead as he is.”
The two tweakers scurried off into the shadows.
Chuck found the meth in Jericho’s pocket. The ice was in a sandwich bag. The bag was so full that shards of crystal had poked through in several places. He put the bag in his jacket’s interior pocket. Then he grabbed Jericho’s wallet and headed back down the stairs.
He returned to the candlelit room.
“Was it still there?” Jenny said. She was pacing the room and Trinity was still sitting on the floor.
Chuck nodded. “I got it. I also grabbed this.” He proffered Jericho’s wallet.
Jenny accepted her brother’s wallet. “Thanks.” She took the money out of the wallet and tossed the wallet aside. Then she put the money in her pocket. “Some of that cash was mine, anyway. Not that it matters now, of course. Supposedly, everyone on Earth will be as dead as fried chicken by tomorrow night.”
“So what the hell exactly is going on?” Chuck said. “Did someone declare nuclear war while I wasn’t looking?”
Jenny shook her head. “No. At first they were saying an asteroid was coming, but now they’re saying it’s something worse.”
“They?” Chuck said, making air quotes with his fingers—despite the fact that he was still holding the gun in one hand and the knife in the other.
Jenny nodded. “Yes. They.”
“Who the fuck is they? Who the fuck is saying that?”
“Goddamn everybody, Dad. Jesus fucking Christ. Don’t you ever get online?”
Chuck shrugged. “Not often. And what the fuck could be worse than a goddamn asteroid?”
“I don’t know,” Jenny said. “My phone is almost dead. I need to get to a place with electricity.”
“So let’s go home,” Chuck said. “We can be there in two hours.”
Jenny shook her head. “No, Dad. That’s not my home anymore. Whenever I’m there, I see Mom’s ghost everywhere, and all I do is cry. Can we just get a room? There’s plenty of hotels in this town. I’ll pay for it.”
“Sure, if that’s what you want to do. And don’t worry about the money. I’ll pay for the room.”
“Thanks, Dad. I just need to grab my stuff.”
There was a suitcase and a duffel bag on the floor. Jenny picked the syringe up and put it in her duffel bag. “Give me your pipe, Trinity,” she said. The little girl handed her the lightbulb that had been converted to a meth pipe. Jenny put the pipe in her duffel bag and put the bag in her suitcase. She closed the suitcase and picked it up. Then she looked at Chuck. “Can I carry the meth? I would feel better with it in my pocket.”
“Sure.” He gave her the bag of meth.
She looked at it, nodded, and put it in her pocket. Then she looked down at the little girl. “Come on, Trinity. We’re leaving.”
Trinity stood up quickly and Jenny grabbed one of her hands.
Chuck drove. Jenny rode on the passenger’s side. Trinity was riding in the back.
“Can we go to Walmart first?” Jenny said. “I want to get a few things for Trinity. I’ll be fast.”
“Sure.” Chuck drove them to the same Walmart in which he had purchased the hunting knife.
They went inside. The store looked like most Walmarts do at going on four o’clock in the morning: all but empty except for overnight stockers.
Jenny grabbed a shopping cart, but—because she was holding Trinity’s hand—she looked at Chuck and said: “Will you push this?”
Chuck had left the hunting knife in the car. The gun was in the waistband at the small of his back. “Sure.”
Jenny bought some soda, a few snacks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, an outfit, and some tennis shoes for Trinity.
Chuck drove them to a motel down the road. It was a ranch-style building, with one long row of rooms, and no second floor. The room doors all faced the parking lot. According to the sign, vacancy was available. The office was lit up. He parked in front of the office, killed the engine, and turned to Jenny. “You want to wait out here with her, while I go get us a room?”
“Sure,” Jenny said.
Chuck got out and went inside the office. Less than ten minutes later, he got back in the car. “It’s already four in the morning. Since checkout time’s eleven, I booked the room for two days.”
He moved the car and parked in front of their room. The three of them got out and went inside.
There were two queen-sized beds in the room.
Chuck, holding Jenny’s suitcase, said, “I’ll take the bed by the window.” He put her suitcase on the floor beside the bed nearest the bathroom.
Jenny shrugged. “Works for me.” She set the bags containing her purchases from Walmart on the floor beside her suitcase.
“I gotta go grab my whiskey,” Chuck said. “Be right back.”
He went outside. The bottle in his car was halfway empty. The one in the trunk hadn’t been opened yet. He grabbed both and went back inside.
Jenny and Trinity were sitting on their bed. Jenny had already put her phone on charge. She had also already removed her duffel bag from the suitcase. She took the lightbulb that had been converted to a meth pipe from the duffel bag and handed it to Trinity.
There was a nightstand by their bed that was bolted to the wall. On the nightstand was a phone and a phone book. Jenny took the syringe and a bottle of water from her duffel bag and set them on the nightstand. She put the phone book on her lap and used it as a tray for the bag of crystal meth.
Chuck sat down at the small round table by the window. He took a few shots of whiskey while Trinity smoked meth and his daughter prepared some for injection. Jenny used the old crush-and-shake method that he had seen many of his friends (most of whom were now dead) use over the years: crush the ice into powder, mix it with water in the syringe, and then shake until the powder is gone.
After injecting herself with meth, Jenny got up and grabbed some of the Walmart bags from the floor. Then she looked at Trinity. “Come on, little girl. You need a goddamn bath.”
Trinity put her meth pipe on the phone book. Then she rose from the bed and followed Jenny into the bathroom.
Chuck got up with his bottle of whiskey and found the remote control. He turned the TV on and sat down on his bed. He flipped through several channels before stopping on a news station. His gun—digging into the small of his back—was becoming uncomfortable. He removed it from his waistband and placed it on the bed beside him.
He took a few shots of whiskey and watched the news. According to numerous reports, riots were already breaking out all over the planet in reaction to some forthcoming apocalypse. He was so drunk he had to keep putting one hand over an eye to keep from seeing two TVs.
He took a few more shots. Soon, he was unconscious.
Chuck did not sleep long. When he woke up, the little girl was asleep to his left on the other bed. To his right, his daughter was sitting at the table by the window, staring at her phone. A cartoon was now playing on the television. He stood up, grabbed his bottle, and took two shots of whiskey.
“Nice nap?” Jenny said.
He shrugged. “I guess. I’m fucking starving. I should have grabbed some food while we were at Walmart.”
“So have some of Trinity’s snacks. She didn’t eat any of that crap I bought her. She took a bath and pretty much passed out.”
Chuck looked over at Trinity. She was sleeping in the new clothes that Jenny had purchased. Her hair was still wet. “She looks like a fucking skeleton. I’m not eating her food. Mind if I smoke some of your meth?”
Jenny lowered her phone and looked up at her father. “I didn’t know you smoked meth.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “Smoked it once. Before you were born, so that had to have been over twenty years ago. I loved the goddamn buzz, but it took me like three fucking days to come down from the shit, so I never smoked it again. But now? Fuck it. I’ll smoke the shit.”
Jenny nodded at the bag of meth on the table. “Knock yourself out.”
Chuck took a shot and set his bottle on the table. “Be right back.”
He went into the bathroom. He evacuated his bladder. He washed his hands and splashed some water on his face. He put some toothpaste on a finger and brushed his teeth. Then he went back out and sat down across from Jenny at the table.
She handed him the pipe and a lighter. “Already packed it for you,” she said.
Chuck quickly smoked the crystal meth, and the ice hit him almost immediately. His drunkenness was gone, replaced by a soaring euphoria. The high was sort of like a cocaine buzz, but a whole lot more intense.
When he was finished with the pipe, he set it down and fired up a cigarette. They were in a nonsmoking room, so they were using disposable plastic cups half-filled with water to flip their ashes and put their butts in.
“Sorry about the cartoon,” Jenny said. “I changed channels for Trinity. Want me to put it back on the news?”
Chuck shrugged. “Whatever you want to do.”
“Then I’ll just leave it,” Jenny said, “in case Trinity wakes up. The news is a bunch of bullshit, anyway.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “What time is it?” The blinds and curtains over the window were closed.
Jenny looked at her phone. “Almost seven a.m. The president’s supposed to address the nation at eight.”
Chuck cocked his head. “At eight o’clock in the morning? Isn’t that awfully early for a presidential address?”
Jenny put some meth and some water in her syringe. Then she began shaking it. “It’s the end of the world, Dad. All of us are supposed to be gone by nine o’clock tonight.”
Chuck rolled his eyes. He had a hard time believing the whole world was coming to an end, but a lot of other people apparently believed that it was true. He remembered seeing news reports of people rioting overseas before he had passed out a couple of hours ago. He took a shot of whiskey. “Did you ever find out what the fuck’s supposed to happen?”
Jenny injected herself with meth. “No. Just like everyone else, I’ve heard everything from asteroid impact to alien invasion. But I’ve got a friend back home who says he knows for sure what is coming, and he told me that if we go there, he can show us.”
“Yes. He messaged me while you were sleeping.”
Chuck put his cigarette butt in one of the plastic cups. “Who’s your friend?”
“Kyle Orban.” Jenny pulled the needle from her arm and set it down. “Smart dude. About your age. He used to teach physics at the university, but he got fired.”
“Not sure. I heard something about a scandal involving underage girls, but I’m pretty sure he was never charged with anything.”
“How do you know him?”
Jenny shrugged. “We used to date, but now we’re just friends.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “He’s my age, and you used to date him?”
Jenny lit a cigarette. “He’s like you: he looks a lot younger than he is. And you bang chicks my age all the time, so fucking save it.”
Chuck couldn’t argue with that. “What’s his name again?”
“And you think this Kyle Orban knows what the fuck he’s talking about? That he can show us what’s supposedly coming to destroy the planet?”
Jenny nodded. “I wouldn’t doubt it. I mean, he was drunk when he messaged me, but that’s nothing new. He’s like you: total alcoholic. But the dude definitely knows what the fuck he’s talking about.”
Chuck took another shot. “You want to go see him? We can be there in two hours.”
“Sure. But first, I think we should watch the presidential address.”
She grabbed the TV remote and began changing channels, stopping on one of the major networks.
“—reporting to you live from the press briefing room in the White House,” a pretty blond female was saying on the screen. “The president’s spokesperson has informed us that the address is now less than an hour away, so we’ll be staying live on the air until the address takes place. By now, most of you probably know the nature of the address, and that it relates to an impending apocalypse. Thus far, however, all the information we’ve received regarding the apocalypse has been unverified, so basically we don’t know anything more than you do. So stay tuned. Again, we’ll be staying live—”
Trinity grabbed the meth pipe and a lighter from the table. Neither Chuck nor Jenny had seen the little girl rise from her bed.
“Pipe’s empty,” Chuck said.
“Here, Trinity,” Jenny said. “Give me the pipe. I’ll load it for you.”
Trinity handed her the meth pipe. Jenny loaded the pipe and gave it back.
Then the three of them spent the next forty-five minutes getting high until an image of the presidential seal filled the TV screen.
The image of the presidential seal cut away to a shot of the president sitting behind his desk in the oval office. He was flanked by an American flag and a blue flag bearing the presidential seal. He wore a black suit with a white shirt and a blue tie. His forearms were at rest on the desk. His hands were clasped.
The president sat forward and cleared his throat. “My fellow Americans, today it is my duty to deliver the worst possible news to you and the rest of the world. I’ve spent the past two days debating if I should even tell you what I’m about to reveal. Many on my staff and even my wife advised me not to do so. They believe that it would be better for the people of this great nation to spend the last few hours of their lives in blissful ignorance of the doom headed their way from the blackness of outer space.”
Chuck glanced over at Jenny. She was looking at Trinity. The little girl was staring at the TV.
“Sixty-five million years ago,” the president continued, “an asteroid struck this planet and killed the dinosaurs. Today, mankind meets a similar fate. The object approaching us now, however, is not an asteroid. We honestly don’t know what it is. We do know that it is far, far larger than the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, that it’s moving with incredible speed, and that the certainty of impact with Earth is one hundred percent. There is no possibility of a miss. This is an extinction-level event. Today is the last day of life on planet Earth.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. Jenny put some meth and some water in her syringe. Trinity just kept staring at the TV.
“The main reason I decided to go ahead with this address,” the president said, “was to let you know how much time is left. All the scientists I’ve spoken to agree that we have about twelve hours from right now until impact, which puts the end of everything at approximately sometime between eight o’clock and nine o’clock tonight. I hope that each of you will spend the remaining time with your loved ones, and find whatever peace you possibly can. So long, America. And farewell, planet Earth. May God have mercy on our souls.”
The image of the presidential seal reappeared.
Jenny grabbed the remote. She turned the TV off and looked at her father. “Are you ready to go see my friend?”
Chuck nodded. He stood up. He took a shot of whiskey and grabbed his other bottle. “Come on. Let’s hit the road.”
Chuck drove. Jenny controlled the stereo from the passenger’s seat. Trinity smoked crystal meth in the back. As far as Jenny and Chuck knew, the little girl had never been to their hometown. For most of the two-hour trip, they listened to various news stations and talk radio. According to numerous reports, riots were breaking out and people were looting stores all over America.
“And it’s still early,” Chuck said. “It’s only going to get worse as the day goes on.”
They arrived at Kyle Orban’s house shortly past ten a.m. He lived in a quiet neighborhood of stucco and clapboard bungalows constructed many years ago. Most of those homes undoubtedly provided more charm than space, but Kyle Orban’s house was one of the largest in the neighborhood. A two-car garage was attached to the house. Both garage doors were down. The driveway was empty.
Chuck parked in front of the garage door farthest away from the house and killed the engine. “Nice place.”
“His parents owned it,” Jenny said. “It became his when they died. They left him some money, too. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t worked since getting fired from the university.”
The three of them got out of the car. Chuck had finished his first bottle a few miles back, so he was only carrying one bottle now—which he hadn’t opened yet. Trinity had a lighter in one hand and her meth pipe in the other. Jenny’s suitcase (she doubted that she would ever need it again) was in the trunk; her duffel bag was slung over one of her shoulders. She looked up into the bright blue sky and shielded her eyes. “Hard to believe something’s gonna come out of that sky and kill us in about ten hours.”
“I know you said your friend’s an alcoholic,” Chuck said. “But what about drugs?”
Jenny lowered her gaze from the sky. “Kyle takes drugs.”
“So he won’t mind us sitting around doing meth until the world ends?”
“No. Trust me: Kyle loves crystal meth. Us having meth will make him happy. Come on. Let’s go see if he’s awake yet.”
Jenny led the way. Chuck followed the two of them up the front walkway and they climbed three steps to the porch. Jenny pressed a button by the doorframe. They heard a doorbell ring inside the house. Moments later, a man opened the door.
“Hi Kyle,” Jenny said. “Did we wake you?”
Kyle was tall and thin. His long gray hair was tied back in a ponytail. He wore a bathrobe and was holding a cocktail glass. “No,” he said. Then he looked at Chuck. “You must be Jenny’s father.”
Chuck nodded. “Name’s Chuck.”
Kyle sipped his drink. “Nice to meet you, Chuck.” Then he looked down at Trinity. “And what’s your name, little girl?”
Trinity wouldn’t even look at him.
“This is Trinity,” Jenny said. “She doesn’t speak much.”
Kyle took another drink. “It’s nice to meet you, Trinity.”
Again, she refused to acknowledge him.
Kyle stepped back and opened the door a little more. “Come on in, people. We’ll have ourselves a countdown to oblivion.”
He led them through the foyer into a living room furnished with a sofa, a loveseat, and a couple of armchairs. Bookshelves lined the walls. There were empty bottles and an overflowing ashtray on the marble-and-granite coffee table. “Have a seat,” Kyle said. “And pardon the mess. It’s rare that I have company. Be right back.”
He left the room and returned moments later with a trash bag. Chuck, Jenny, and Trinity were sitting on the sofa. Jenny was in the middle. Her father sat to the right of her and the little girl sat to her left. Kyle put the empty bottles in the trash bag. Then he emptied the ashtray and carried the trash away. When he came back in the room moments later, he sat down on the armchair closest to Trinity’s side of the sofa.
Trinity set her meth pipe on the coffee table and looked at Jenny expectantly. Jenny pulled the sandwich bag of crystal meth from her pocket and put some in the pipe. Trinity (already holding a lighter) picked the pipe up, put a flame to the meth, and started smoking.
Jenny retrieved the syringe and bottle of water from her duffel bag. She quickly prepared some meth for injection. Then she stuck the needle in a vein and pressed the plunger.
Chuck cracked open his fresh bottle of whiskey. He took two shots and then looked at Kyle. “Jenny said you told her that you can show us what’s coming to kill us.”
Kyle sipped his cocktail. “I can. And I will. But first, I want to get high.” He produced his own pipe from a pocket of his bathrobe. It was a little glass pipe that still had some marijuana in its bowl. He dumped the marijuana out into the large ceramic ashtray. Then he gestured at the bag of meth beside it on the table and looked at Jenny. “May I?”
Jenny nodded. “Knock yourself out.”
Kyle packed his bowl with meth and started smoking it. “Goddamn,” he said, after only a couple of hits. “This shit’s dynamite.”
Chuck smoked some meth out of Trinity’s pipe while Kyle finished smoking his.
Then Kyle set his bowl down on the coffee table and rose from the armchair. “Okay, people. It’s time to show you my satellite-surveillance chamber. Follow me.”
The three of them rose from the sofa. He led them out of the living room, down a hallway, and into another large room on the other side of the house.
Two of the walls in the room were longer than the other two. On one of the longer walls was an immense screen about the size of most screens in a cinema. A map of planet Earth was projected on the screen. Cloud formations were superimposed on the map. Green lettering was superimposed on the cloud formations.
“What do the green letters mean?” Trinity said.
Those were the first words Chuck had heard the little girl speak.
“Weather conditions,” Kyle said. “Worldwide.” He sat down at a control console in front of the massive screen. “And all these other lights,” he added, referring to the blue, red, yellow, and white lights blinking steadily on the screen, “indicate the current positions of numerous satellites.”
“What do the satellites do?” Trinity said.
“A lot of them just handle electronic communications,” Kyle said.
Trinity’s eyes kept sweeping over the lights across the screen. “So all those satellites are just for cellphones?”
“Oh no,” Kyle said. “I mean, yes, a lot of them are just used for cellphones, TV, internet, and radio. But others are used for astronomy, meteorology, oil exploration, domestic surveillance, international espionage, all kinds of stuff.”
“Who owns the satellites?” Trinity said.
Kyle shrugged. “Government agencies. Military services. Public corporations. U.S. and foreign businesses. Doesn’t really matter to me, though, because I can access and use just about every satellite on that screen without the legitimate owners even knowing that their systems have been invaded.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “Are you serious?”
Kyle nodded. “Check this out.” He pushed a button on the console, and the map of planet Earth vanished from the screen. In its place, an actual satellite view of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey appeared. The borders of those three states were overlaid in orange lines because their boundaries would have been otherwise difficult to define when seen from orbit. Then he pushed another button and the camera zoomed all the way in on a license plate. An image of the license plate filled the entire screen. Kyle glanced up at Chuck. “Look familiar?”
Chuck shrugged. “I don’t know my fucking plate number. Is that mine?”
Kyle pushed a button and the camera zoomed out a bit, revealing an image of Chuck’s car parked outside in front of the garage.
Chuck took a shot. “So whose satellite is that, anyway? Goddamn NASA’s?”
Kyle finished his cocktail. “Yes, actually. It belongs to NASA.”
Chuck shook his head. “I’ll be damned.”
Jenny said, “So what the fuck’s coming to kill us?”
There was a keyboard on the console. Kyle tapped a few keys, and the image on the screen was replaced by a view of glittering stars in outer space. He clicked a mouse beside the keyboard to highlight a fuzzy, grayish shape among the stars. The smudge of gray had pinpricks of light in it. “That’s what’s coming to kill us.”
“What is it?” Trinity said.
“You tell me,” Kyle said. “What does it look like to you?”
“A silver dragon,” Trinity said.
Kyle scratched his chin. “Interesting.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “Looks like a cosmic cloud.”
“To me,” Jenny said, “it looks like a little swirling galaxy.” She turned to Kyle. “But you’re the goddamn genius, so what the fuck is it?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. No one does. I do have a theory, however, and I think Trinity was pretty close when she said it looks like a dragon. But I don’t think it’s going to breathe fire and destroy us. Instead, I think it’s going to eat us.”
Jenny looked at Kyle. “Eat us? So you think it’s alive?”
She put a hand on a hip. “And you think it’s going to eat the entire planet?”
He nodded again. “Actually, I think it might eat most of the solar system.”
Chuck took a shot. “No offense, dude, but I think you’re fucking stupid.”
“None taken,” Kyle said. “And you’re certainly not the first person to think that. But we just started seeing these things yesterday, so no one’s had enough time to figure out what the hell they are.”
“Wait a second,” Jenny said. “Things? As in plural?”
“Yes. They began appearing yesterday all across the Eridanus Void.”
“The what?” Jenny said.
“The Supervoid of Eridanus. A space of absolute nothingness about a billion light years across. For years, the CMB couldn’t find anything there.”
Chuck said, “What’s the CMB?”
“It’s a map of the cosmic microwave background, which is basically electromagnetic radiation from the early stages of the universe. Anyway, for years, we couldn’t find anything in that massive space, and then, yesterday, these things just started popping up all the way across the supervoid. Strange, to be sure. Inexplicable, actually. But not an imminent threat to us, because the Eridanus Void is billions of light years away. Fast forward a couple of hours, however, and one of those things is practically right outside our door. In just a few hours from now, it kicks in the door and kills us all.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “So there’s no chance it misses us? Or maybe just passes right on by?”
Kyle shook his head. “None. I don’t think you understand how big it is. Go ahead and take another look at it.”
Chuck, Jenny, and Trinity all three looked up at the screen. The swirling gray smudge was already bigger than it had been just a couple of minutes ago.
“Those pinpricks of light inside it,” Kyle said, “are bigger than Jupiter.”
Chuck and Jenny looked at Kyle with their mouths open. Trinity just kept staring at the screen. Jenny said: “No fucking way.”
“And I think,” Kyle added, “that those pinpricks of light are its eyes.”
Jenny looked at her father. “Let me hit that whiskey.” He handed her the bottle, and she took a drink. Then she took another one and handed it back.
Kyle stood up from the control console. “I want to show you something. Follow me.”
He led them to a computer workstation in a corner of the room. Beside the computer workstation was a light table. On the light table were several large photographic negatives of the thing from outer space that was coming to kill them. Also on the light table were a few little handheld magnifying glasses.
“Go ahead,” Kyle said. “All three of you. Grab a magnifying glass and tell me what you see.”
Chuck, Jenny, and Trinity each picked up a magnifying glass and began examining the photographic negatives.
“I see tentacles,” Trinity said.
Chuck said, “I see a goddamn mouth.”
“Me too,” Jenny agreed. “And teeth. Jesus Christ. Look at those fucking teeth.”
“That mouth is big enough to swallow stars,” Kyle said. “And those teeth are the size of planets and moons.”
“And the eyes!” Jenny said. “Those eyes look absolutely demonic! What the hell is this thing?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle said. “They just appeared out of nowhere all over the cosmos yesterday. My best guess is that they came from another dimension, and now they’re traveling through our spatial plane, devouring whole constellations, and leaving nothing but cosmic voids in their wake.”
Chuck took a shot of whiskey. “Well, we’ve only got about eight or nine hours left, and even though I’m high on this goddamn meth, I’m fucking starving.”
“I’m hungry too,” Jenny said. “I haven’t eaten in about a week. You think anybody’s still delivering food on the last day of existence?”
“Doubt it,” Kyle said. “But I could make us all a big pot of spaghetti. How does that sound?”
Chuck took another shot. “Sounds good to me.”
“Same here,” Jenny said.
Kyle turned to Trinity. “How about you, little girl? Are you in the mood for some spaghetti?”
“Her mother died a few nights ago,” Jenny told Kyle. “I haven’t seen her eat anything since.”
“So it’s settled then,” Kyle said. “I’ll make us all a big pot of spaghetti.”
The four of them went back into the living room and did some more crystal meth. Then Kyle went into the kitchen and made a pot of spaghetti. Soon thereafter, the four of them ate spaghetti, bread, and potato chips at the table in Kyle’s dining room. For dessert, they each had a Popsicle.
“I’m tired now,” Chuck said, after the meal’s conclusion. “Think I might kick back and catch a little shut-eye.”
“Me too,” Jenny agreed. “I’m probably going to nod off for a bit.”
Kyle rose from the table. “I normally do the dishes right away, but not today. I am, however, going to take a shower. Just crash wherever you want. Make yourselves at home.” He turned around and walked out of the dining room.
Chuck, Jenny, and Trinity went back into the living room. The bag of meth was still on the coffee table. Trinity sat down on the floor, put some meth in her pipe, and started smoking it.
Jenny stretched out on the sofa and closed her eyes. “Doubt I sleep long,” she said. “Just need a nap.”
Chuck found a bedroom down the hallway. He went inside and closed the door behind him. He stretched out on the bed and took two shots of whiskey. Moments later, he was asleep.
“Dad! Wake up!” Jenny’s voice. “Dad! Wake up! Trinity’s missing!”
Chuck opened his eyes. Jenny was standing beside the bed, looking down at him. Her eyes and hair were wild.
Chuck got up and took a shot of whiskey. “She’s gotta be around here somewhere.”
“She’s not,” Jenny said. “I looked all over the house. And I can’t find Kyle anywhere, either.”
Chuck took another shot, remembering the uneasy feeling he got every time he saw the way Kyle had looked at the little girl. He also remembered Jenny telling him that Kyle had been fired from the university because of a scandal involving underage girls.
“I’m still drunk,” Chuck said. “I need to smoke some meth and get my head straight.”
They went into the living room. Trinity’s pipe was on the coffee table beside the bag of crystal meth. They sat down on the sofa. Chuck smoked some meth while Jenny shot herself up.
Then they heard a little girl scream.
Jenny looked at her father. “Was that Trinity?”
The scream had sounded like it came from below.
“I don’t know,” Chuck said. “Does this place have a basement?”
“I think it does. There’s a door in the kitchen, but it’s locked, so I couldn’t open it.”
She got up, and then Chuck followed his daughter into the kitchen. According to the clock on Kyle’s microwave, the time was 4:06 p.m.
“Is that clock right?” Chuck said.
Jenny pulled her phone out and looked at it. “Yes. Didn’t think I would sleep that long. We have about four hours until the end of the world.”
She led him to a door between a corner of the room and the kitchen sink. The door could be secured from their side by a padlock, but it was not. The padlock was locked through the hole in the staple on the wall by the doorframe, but the hasp that was attached to the door wasn’t latched over the staple.
He tried to turn the doorknob; it was locked from the other side. “Want me to pick the lock?”
“You know how?”
“Of course I do.” He drew the gun from his waistband at the small of his back. Then he raised a leg and swiftly kicked in the door. It crashed open against the wall by a stairway that descended into a basement. “Ta-da.”
A weird stench hit them immediately.
“Jesus Christ,” Jenny said. “What the fuck is that smell?”
“I don’t know.” Chuck raised his gun. “It smells like lemons and ammonia.” He started down the stairs.
Jenny followed her father into the basement.
There was a light switch on the wall to Chuck’s right at the bottom of the stairs. He flipped the switch, and a series of lightbulbs on the ceiling came to life.
“Oh my god,” Jenny said.
Chuck said, “Jesus fucking Christ.”
The basement, evidently, ran the length of the entire house, and a long hallway divided it down the middle. And on both sides of the hallway, secured by chains attached to cuffs around bones and links in the cinderblock walls, the corpses of maybe fifty or sixty underage girls hung in varying stages of putrefaction.
“I had no idea that Kyle was a goddamn monster,” Jenny said. “No wonder he was always burning incense and spraying air freshener upstairs.”
“But still,” Chuck said, “the smell should be worse than this. Son of a bitch must use some kind of a witch’s brew to keep the stench to a minimum.”
And then they heard a little girl start screaming from somewhere down the hallway. They followed the screams down the hall to the last door on the left. The door was made of wood. There was a final bloodcurdling scream, followed by silence. Chuck didn’t bother trying to open the door; he raised his gun and simply kicked it in. Jenny entered the room behind him.
Kyle stood in the middle of the room. He was naked and had his back to them. He held Trinity’s severed head by the hair in one hand and a hacksaw dripping blood in the other. Her decapitated body lay on the floor. Blood was still fountaining from the neck stump and spreading all over the concrete.
Kyle turned around and faced them, smiling. His penis was fully erect. “The drugs made her hideous, but pain made her beautiful. She’s flying with all the angels now.”
Chuck aimed the gun at Kyle’s face. “Tell the devil I said hello.” Then he shot him right between the eyes.
“I wanna go home,” Jenny said. “I want to see Mom’s ghost before the world ends.”
Chuck nodded. “Me too.”
Chuck drove. Jenny rode on the passenger’s side. Chuck’s house was on the other side of town. According to the dashboard clock, the time was 5:31 p.m. Rush-hour traffic in the city always moved at a frustrating pace, but this evening, in some places, it was at an absolute standstill. There were stalled cars everywhere. The streets and sidewalks were becoming more and more clogged with people who abandoned their vehicles and took off walking. On the radio, there were numerous reports of people committing murder and suicide in the streets.
By the time they reached their destination, it was after six o’clock.
“Two hours left,” Jenny said. “Approximately.” She sat down on the living-room sofa. She dropped the bag of meth on the coffee table.
Chuck sat down beside her and took a shot of whiskey. “Did you bring Trinity’s pipe?”
“Yes.” She pulled the pipe from her duffel bag, along with her syringe.
For the next couple of hours, they talked and did a lot of crystal meth. They also listened to rock and hip-hop music. Chuck kept looking at the clock on his stereo; Jenny kept looking at her phone.
The sun began to set around eight o’clock. Twilight entered the world and the light withdrew. Jenny turned off the music and they listened to events on the radio. The announcer promised to keep broadcasting right up until the end.
There was a sound like thunder. Jenny scooted closer to her father and pulled him into an embrace. He took a shot of whiskey. Then he put an arm around her shoulders.
She looked up at a photo of her mother on the wall. “Do you think we’ll see her?”
“I don’t know. I hope so.”
Soon thereafter came the sound of a roaring wind. Jenny closed her eyes. Chuck saw a fast blur of motion beyond the window.
Brian Bowyer is a writer, editor, and a musician. He has lived throughout the United States. He has worked as a janitor, a banker, a bartender, a bouncer, and a bomb maker for a coal-testing laboratory. He currently lives and writes in Ohio. You can contact him at:
Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Coolthulhu Crew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
Though no longer involved with Ladies of Horror Fiction due to other responsibilities and a too-full plate, she was one of the original 4 co-founders.
Feel free to chat her up on Twitter as long as you aren’t hitting her up to review your book.