The stench from the river wafts across the darkness as I limp painfully down Canal Street, wishing I could disappear into the shadows. The weight of hidden jewels, sewn into the lining of my overcoat, beats against my thigh with each agonizing step. My eyes nervously search the street for any sign of life. I am a wanted man; I cannot be seen.
The moon glows an eerie red, like a demon’s eye staring down on my every move while casting its spell of pestilence on this forsaken city. Death cries echo through apartment windows above me. I shiver in the harsh, Chicago winds.
The rendezvous point comes within view – Meadowbrook Cemetery. I wonder if my corpse will join the dead tonight. Treachery and betrayal are expected but I have no other options.
It was the dream – the dream of destruction. I close my eyes and shake my head to try to break free from the vision of terror. Why didn’t I leave with the others? Why did I resist the truth, resist the inevitable? I ignored the warnings, clinging to the pleasures of a life I should have left behind.
I thought they were fanatics, ranting their doomsday prophecies, but now they are safe and I am surrounded by madness. Call me crazy, but I believe them now.
A sliver of the moon spying through the black, rolling clouds, casts ghastly shadows on the tombstones. I hobble over a mass of freshly dug graves toward the angel statue with the broken wing.
There she is, sitting at the feet of this broken angel. Her tangle of auburn hair whips furiously in the wind.
She rises to greet me. Her remarkable beauty gives her the appearance of an angel as well, but a fallen angel – doomed and damned.
“Jimmy,” she whispers, “you’re bleeding.”
I glance down at my bloody pant leg. My mother and sister were not as fortunate.
“Did you bring the jewelry?” she asks, stroking my arm the way she used to before the world turned upside down.
“Did you bring the passport?”
“Jimmy, baby, don’t be so cold. You know I have it. I wouldn’t try to trick you.”
Her wanton eyes resurrect my memories of her – memories that should remain dead and buried.
I rip the seam from my pocket and dig deep for the jewelry. My mother’s diamond wedding band and my sister’s locket among the treasures. They would not need them anymore.
She reaches out her hand to take hold of them. “Is that the hand they put the chip in?” I hiss.
“Oh, Jimmy, don’t get started with that superstitious talk. This is not the mark of the beast. What’s the matter with you anyway? You used to be a sensible guy. I miss those days Jimmy. Don’t you?” She leans closer, gently pushing her body against mine.
Familiar passions arise in me and I take a step backward. I belong to Another now. “Just give me the passport.”
Finally, the ticket to safety lay in my hand. I study it carefully. It is an exceptionally forged document.
“Where are you planning to go anyway?”
“Anywhere but here. Destruction is coming. All the nations that forget God will be cast into Hell.”
She laughs; that mocking laugh that makes me want to hit her. I turn to leave.
“They deserved to die!” her shriek pierces me with its cruelty. “They betrayed our country. They were fools. The god you boast of left them there to die and your only reward for trying to save them is a gunshot in the leg. They should have killed you too, you…you…you Jesus freak!
Oblivious to the pain in my leg, I hasten my steps to get away from her forever.
Slipping the passport into the ripped out seam of my coat, I head north toward the airport.
The unexpected force of the sudden explosion throws me face down on the ground. I quickly lift my head to see the ominous gray mushroom cloud rising as a beast, devouring the city skyline and rolling across the sky like a scroll. My skin begins to sizzle from the intense heat. I am too late.
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