The Girl Who Didn't Leave Skid MarksPart 1
I wish I was more technically minded, because I don't know for how long, or even if this is going to work. But I guess I should try.
Hello and greetings to the end of the world!
****, that sounds utterly stupid. And I don't know how to erase it either. Oh well, who's going to notice?
Hi. My name's Trace Petti and I'm the last man on Earth. Well, make that the last surviving human being on Earth. That I know of anyway. I say that because everybody I ever knew is dead now. Even the people I didn't know, and that would mean the whole population of Stonelake, are all dead and rotting in the streets. But it doesn't stop there. The last time the TV worked a special report was broadcast on all the channels to let anyone who was still alive know that most of the world population was either dead or dying.
I'd like to say that it was because of all the radiation from the nukes that were fired at the invading alien space ships. The aliens were killed alright, but all that radioactive fallout turned most of the people into flesh eating zombies. Then, when the zombies had killed off all the regular people, giant monsters came out of the oceans and ate up all the zombies.
I'd like to say that, but that's not how it happened at all. In fact, the way everybody died is actually kind of hard to describe when I think about it.
It all started about three weeks ago, when a massive sinkhole seventy-two blocks in diameter swallowed up downtown Chicago. I know it was that big because that's what the TV reporter had said. And it happened in broad daylight too. There were hundreds of videos all over the internet showing the buildings disappearing into the earth. Estimates were all over the place, but the best guess was that it was about a mile deep, so there was no hope of finding any survivors. It was a huge mess trying to evacuate all the remaining people as well. I think more people died in the packed streets and highways than were killed in the collapsed part of the city.
For two days the sinkhole in Chicago was all anybody talked about until a second one appeared just outside of Houston, Texas, and a third one near Devon in the UK. That really made everybody start to panic. There were murders and suicides and raping and looting everywhere. And it only got worse. Five days after the first sinkhole appeared the news reported that scientists had counted over 14,000 massive sinkholes all over the world. And according to the scientists that were being interviewed on TV the satellite images indicated that there was no recognizable pattern to the holes. They said that not only was this unprecedented in all of human history, but that they didn't have a clue as to what was causing the ground to collapse. Some holes opened up near populated areas and others in the middle of nowhere. Some were close to fault lines and others were hundreds of miles away from any unstable geological sites. About the only thing they were certain of was that the holes were very wide and very, very deep.
The internet got clogged with chatter about it being the end of the world. Old forums couldn't handle the load so new forums popped up every day. It seemed like everybody had their own theory, and everything from religious prophecies to a black hole being caught in the middle of the Earth was claimed to be the only explanation. The hardcore sceptics had a hard time countering so many wild ideas because even they didn't know what was really happening. Connection times got so slow that I couldn't read my email. It sucked.
But then the holes just stopped happening. Six days after the first sinkhole no more appeared anywhere. After waiting a few days -- I guess to be on the safe side -- the scientists and geologists and whoever-else set up camps near the holes with truck loads of high tech equipment. I got to see this first hand because a sinkhole had opened up right next to Stonelake, my home town. Everybody had been evacuated days before, but I hung around; living in a tent in the wooded hills nearby. I kept my distance while I watched them do their scientific tests and measurements, but after a couple of days of the same old routine I got board and decided to move on.
On the morning of the third day I was packing up my stuff to leave when I heard shouts coming from the camp. When I walked over to the spot I'd always watched from I instantly saw what had everybody excited. There was something that looked like a fog floating up out of the sinkhole. It looked just like the fog that's made with dry ice that's used in cheep horror movies and old rock videos, with the exception that it was a dark, sickly green color. Everyone in the camp was freaking out as this dark fog flowed out across the ground. I saw one guy struggling to put on a gas mask, while everybody else jumped in their cars and trucks and drove off like maniacs. The guy with the gas mask walked over to the fog and tried to collect some of it in a jar, but as soon as he got near he just collapsed to the ground and was covered up by it. I couldn't say if he was dead or not, but there was no way I was going to go down there to find out. So, I quickly shoved a few things in my backpack and started up the hill. I figured that since the fog was staying close to the ground my best bet would be to keep climbing up as high as possible.
After a day's walk I made it to a truck stop. When I went inside I found everybody staring at the news report on the TV. Apparently the green fog I saw near Stonelake was coming out of all the sinkholes all around the world at the same time. The clips of the aerial footage they showed really creeped me out. The fog was pouring out like a huge green blob and covering everything in it's path, and any living thing that touched it just fell down and was swallowed up by it.
Now, I have to admit that I'm not the most observant guy in the world, because even though I'd seen the fog for myself from a couple hundred yards away I hadn't realized what the newscaster pointed out next. He said that even in areas with strong winds it had been observed that the fog never rose more than two feet off the ground. He also said that the fog just kept on flowing in all directions regardless of which way the wind was blowing. I knew this was true because I had noticed a strong breeze that morning while packing up my gear, yet the fog hadn't been disturbed by it. In fact, the breeze was at the gas mask guy's back when the fog got him. If it was like a normal fog it should have been blown away from him by the breeze and not have been able to cover him up.
Anyway, we were all so mesmerized by the newscast that the sound of an old red Trans Am suddenly screeching to a stop out front made everybody jump. We all just turned around and watched as the driver, a real nice looking blonde chick, came running into the diner and started freaking out. She was crying and yelling something about the green fog having killed her boyfriend and her two cats, and saying that the fog was going to get us all if we didn't get the hell out of there. Right then, I felt kind of stupid not being the one to have warned everybody first. But in all honesty, I think her hysterics made the point better than I could have done; me not being much of a drama queen to begin with. As the girl went on with her sobbing and half-coherent warnings some guy looked out one of the windows and started shouting that he could see the fog approaching in the distance. This was enough to make everybody panic and haul ass out of the diner like a bunch of rats running out of a burning building. I used that analogy because when I was a kid my uncle's barn caught fire and I watched what looked like thousands of rats scurry out to safety. And I know I'm getting off track here, but since I don't know how to work this recorder that last part is going to have to stay in.
In less than a minute the place was completely empty except for myself and Lyla. Oh, Lyla was the girl's name who was crying about her boyfriend and telling everybody to leave. She told me her name during the car ride -- but now I'm getting way ahead of myself.
So after everyone had left, I walked over to Lyla and offered her some coffee. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I knew the fog wasn't going to reach the diner, at least not for another day or two. I'd watched for it the whole time I was making my way to the highway and I noticed that the hills I had just crossed were holding it back, kind of like a dam or levee. When she turned down the coffee I asked her where she was headed to. She started talking about wanting to die because her boyfriend was dead and she didn't have anything else to live for and a bunch of other nonsense. It didn't take much to snap her out of that attitude, however. I asked her if, since she was just going to lay down and die, she would let me take her car. That really p*ssed her off, and after giving me the finger she stomped out of the diner. I followed her to her car and asked nicely if she would at least give me a ride to wherever she was planning to go. She got in the car without saying a word and locked all the doors. I was certain that she was going to drive off and leave me there, but after sitting and staring at me for a while she decided to let me in. I almost regretted having climbed into the car when she peeled out of the lot and sped down the highway without any regard to the rushing traffic.
We really didn't talk much during our four hour drive. Besides her name, I found out that she had moved to Stonelake to attend the small college there. That's where she had met Ron, the guy who was killed by the fog. They had hooked up a year ago, and it turned out he was the one who had given her the kittens that grew up to be her precious cats, which were also killed by the fog. Now that I think about it, Lyla talked more about her cats during that whole time than anyone or anything else. She did mention that Ron was an amateur song writer, but only after I found his portable multitrack recorder on the floorboard; the one I'm now using to record this. And the only other thing she said about him was that the beat-up red Trans Am we were riding in had been his. I really didn't mind doing most of the listening because I was happy just to have a ride. Lyla never mentioned where we were going, but I was hoping it was somewhere I could at least crash for the night. I hadn't had enough time to pack my tent when I ran from the fog that morning and I didn't like the idea of having to sleep outside without shelter.
It was around 8:30 p.m. when we stopped to gas up the car and get something to eat. Lyla insisted that I pay for everything since, as the way she saw it, she had saved my life by giving me a ride. I never carried any money with me, but I did have a credit card with about $200.00 left in it. So I decided to use it. I figured that if the world was coming to an end anyway then I wouldn't have to worry about paying it off. As soon as I agreed to her terms, Lyla got out of the car and started filling the tank with gas. When I asked her if she wanted a deli sandwich she grimaced, then said that she'd rather just have a soda and a candy bar. The only thing I'd had in all day was the coffee at the diner, so I decided that I was going to have a couple of sandwiches, no matter how stale they might be.
That was my first mistake. While I took my time standing before the deli case trying to decide what I should buy, Lyla had climbed back into the car and had driven off. It wasn't until the clerk came yelling at me to pay for the gas that I realized what was going on.
My second mistake was that I had left my wallet in my backpack, and I'd left my backpack in the backseat of the car.
Copyright Victor Ward 2013