Her crusty eyelids popped opened like a a pair of mouse traps, tripped in unison. The stench of sulfur and decay immediately filled her nostrils. Confusion commandeered every available synapse that hadn’t been fried by the onslaught of gamma rays and heat. A low-pitched combination of sound and vibration intermingled with the echoing din of calypso music. The recording failed to maintain a constant speed, it’s pitch varying from normal to ultra-slow. Memories of being sea-sick as a child inexplicably filled her head.
“B.K.,” a raspy, garbled voice called out, sounding as if it had originated from inside of a steel drum.
Am I dreaming this? B.K. Alvar wondered, unable to adequately process the sensory overload. Her brain throbbed, as if the swollen grey matter and her heart had swapped duties. Prostrate, she turned her head to locate the origin of the voice. She immediately began to choke as the highly salinated water upon which she floated breached her trachea. Her body convulsed, struggling to expel the liquid brine.
Her fit of coughing passed. Once again, she faced skyward, uncertain where she was, or what to do next. The broad expanse before her offered no clue as to the time of day. A severe mind-fog diminished her capacity to reason. As a result, she could declare no clear victor in the present battle between light and dark. A faintly glowing orb was barely visible through the murky haze. It reminded her of an early evening eclipse, sans moonshadow.
Again, the voice called out.
B.K. tenatively forced her legs downward against the buoyancy of the Dead Sea. Paydirt was found—a bottom of salt and mud. Every sinew and muscle burned as she attempted to stand. Yet, as her pain continued to climb toward its threshold, so increased her resolve. Tenacity had always been a strong suit.
The small battle won, she now faced a new enemy…panic.
She stood frozen, as her eyes brought a horrific scene into focus. Countless bodies lay motionless atop the still water, save an elderly man, who stood waist-deep in and amongst the floating dead. He looked vaguely familiar.
The old man’s voice once again traveled through the poisoned air.”B.K….what the hell happened? Wha—”
“Stop!” Her hand shook as she slowly raised her pointer finger to parted lips. She helplessly looked on as the old man’s eyes grew wide.
An undefined form wavered directly behind the bald septugenarian. Transparent, it acted much like super-heated air behaved while undulating, mid-day, above the pavement of a desert highway.
“Oh cripes—n-no.” Before her, the old man’s skin began to crisp like human fried chicken.
B.K. unconsciously slid her feet backwards along the sticky seabed, her back bumping into bobbing corpses as she moved. Instinct demanded distance from the horrific scene unfolding before her. She felt the temperature of the seawater rise an appreciable amount within seconds, reaching a visual boil inside a five foot radius surrounding the old man. An overwhelming stench wafted toward her. Jaw agape, she wanted to look away, but her gaze was transfixed.
As he cooked, the old man’s eyes grew wide like saucerplates then burst forth from his now-smoking countenance. Both of his eyeballs plopped forth into the water like marbles, while his body fell backwards with a splash, causing steam to rise from the surface.
In that instant, mild shock set in. A burst of adrenaline triggering B.K.’s flight reflex. Presently at a depth where the water just barely covered her breasts, she began paddling, seeking a more shallow depth in order to gain traction. Once able to defeat the ultra-buoyant nature of the salt water, abject fear helped propel her body toward the Jordanian shore; one of the few remaining places on earth where man-made structures still stood erect. At nearly 1,400 feet below sea level, the cosmic cataclysm that comprised the apocalypse had delivered somewhat of a diminished effect on this lowest-laying area of the globe. And though the surrounding architecture remained intact, death had come to call on nearly every soul around her. Yet, she had inexplicably been left unscathed by the earth-scorching occurrence.
B.K. Alvar deeply wished otherwise, in light of what she had just witnessed. The newly perished now created an obstacle course that she was forced to navigate. She spun her head around to see if the unknown entity that had cooked the codger was evident. As she scanned the body-laden surface, her eyes betrayed her intuition.
There was nothing there to see, but she knew—whatever had taken the old man’s life now had a lock on her.
Now just knee deep in the water, she spun her head forward, only to find the beach rushing toward her face. Her lack of focus had allowed her feet to become entangled with the legs of a corpse. With no opportunity to break the fall, her face and chest plowed into the rough granular beach, full force. It felt as if someone had fashioned a boxing glove wrapped in sandpaper and delivered a prize-fighter’s blow. She briefly saw stars, until a combination of intense heat and needle-prick sensations covered every square inch of her skin. She then felt her 120 lb frame being lifted from the earth’s surface and thrust backwards through the air with impossible speed.
B.K. attempted to negotiate some form of understanding between her senses and her mind. This can NOT be happening. I’m flying through the friggin’ air. The sound of breaking glass rushed past as her airborne torso breached the third story window of a deluxe, low-rise, hotel suite, slamming against the far interior wall with brute force. Whatever it was that had taken hold of her now released it’s grip, dropping her like a stone. She writhed with pain in a crumpled heap atop the hotel’s berber floor covering.
Her nervous system now stressed to the max, a blackout was seemingly imminent. In her peripheral vision, she saw the yellow shoulder strap of her bikini top beginning to turn crimson, absorbing her blood.
B.K. felt herself losing consciousness, when a magnificent flash of white light, coupled with a sound comparable to 1,000 crash cymbals, filled the room. A rush of air was pulled aloft; the vacuum was created by the building’s flat roof being torn away. The four walls suddenly had a full, open air skylite. The murky brown of the atmosphere was now strangely revealed to the former interior space.
As if some form of energy had entered her system, her fading consciousness was mysteriously displaced by lucidity. The low pitched vibration, heard prior, diminished then stopped, as BK regained her composure. She fought desperately to catch her breath and get her bearings. The odd echo of steel drums could still be heard in the distance.
I’m having a nightmare. This is the middle east. Steel drums belong in the Carribean. No sooner had her logic come to this conclusion, when the varying drum tempo also ceased. There was nothing left but a roaring silence. Dead calm, save her labored breathing, and rapidly beating heart.
Several moments passed with nary a sound. B.K. gathered enough strength to crawl toward the king-sized bed before her. Exhausted, her mind and body craved respite. She reached the foot of the bed, raised her torso to a kneeling position, and rested her arms and head upon the mattresses surface.
After a brief pause, she struggled to climb atop the plush accomodation. BK lifted her head, when a strange sensation sent her beleaguered mind reeling once again. It felt as if there was something holding her down. Fear trumped the pain her nervous system delivered as she reached up over her shoulder. There was nothing physically restraining her, yet a second attempt to rise brought the same result. She was pinned down.
To be continued…