by Edmund de Wight
I remember someone once told me that a glacier moves about three feet a day; that guy never saw Las Vegas glacier. Vegas glaciers are like crazed horses. They race along, grinding everything in front of them to paste. You know when they’re approaching. They’re audible even over the roar of the blizzards that haven’t stopped since the day the sky turned to blood. First you feel it deep in your chest. A subsonic rumble rattles everything for two blocks. Next, a sound like a wood chipper trying to digest concrete blocks tries to draw blood from your ears. Within seconds of this shock and awe sonic assault the actual glacier gallops into view. They lurch and buck like living things. It’s a wall of gray ice defaced with the black smears of pollution and the shards of shattered civilization. Every once in a while a splash of red decorates the ice where some poor soul who was too slow or stupid to flee got ground to paste. Not a lot of people get run over though; most humans caught in the open by a glacier become fodder for the creatures riding on top, the yeti. I call them yeti, God alone knows what they really are. They’re built like eight foot tall silverback gorillas covered in white fur. They have these enormous fangs and glowing red eyes. Whatever part of Hell they came from, it wasn’t one of the parts with fire and brimstone.
I could hear a glacier approaching up Las Vegas Boulevard even from twelve stories up. There wasn’t a lot left of the Tropicana hotel but I called it home. The interior of floors nine through nineteen was exposed to the outside by a crescent shaped hole that looked like the bite of some titanic creature. The room where I lived was on the far side of the building from the bite. Every day I had to climb up shattered concrete to get from the ninth floor to the twelfth. The inaccessibility kept me safe from the roving creatures who hunted in the snow.
A shout drew my attention from watching for the glacier. I leaned against the window to see to the street below. A figure in a tattered blue parka balanced atop a snow covered bus. He was waving toward the shattered facade of New York New York. The faux cityscape looked like Godzilla and King Kong had brawled through it. The remains were then buried in snowdrifts thirty feet high. The figure knelt and began to sweep snow away from the windows of the bus which rested on its side. The figure waved again and another shout rang out. I couldn’t make out the words but the voice sounded male. Six figures crept from beneath the skirts of the headless Statue of Liberty. They trudged through the waist deep snow covering the boulevard toward the bus.
Couldn’t they hear the glacier coming?
The man on the bus stopped his clearing motions and stomped twice. He staggered forward. He must have kicked in one of the windows. He waved once more and then disappeared into the corpse of the bus. The other six people were bundled in ski jackets and layers of blankets, anything to protect against the cold. They reached the bus and two more clambered aboard. Several minutes passed, my forehead was growing numb where it pressed against the window. One of the figures within the bus emerged and tossed a bag to one of the four on the street. An assembly line of bags, coats and other goods found their way out of the bus into the waiting arms of the street crew. That’s when the glacier galloped around the corner ridden by half a dozen howling yeti.
The warning was a squeak that would have embarrassed a church mouse. I staggered back from the window terrified that one of the yeti might see the spectator in the nose bleed seats.
“Oh God, oh God.”
Mere whispers of my concern. My knees trembled and I felt ice crawl up my spine. I was safe in my aerie but my heart raced as if I were standing in front of the onrushing wall of ice. They needed to run. They were going to die. I stepped forward to pound on the glass, warn them. I hated myself as butterflies in my stomach robbed my arm of the strength to rise. I felt tears spring from my eyes. I was so ashamed. I couldn’t even risk doing the decent thing and shout a warning.
One of the street crew turned and pointed at the glacier. I think he shouted a warning but it was too late, the glacier was upon them. The wall of ice slammed into the rear of the bus. The roar of impact of metal and ice was deafening even twelve stories up. Shards of metal and plastic erupted like a volcano and the bus spun like a top. The screams of the people were drowned out by the roars of the yeti as they leaped from their perches. The four street crew scattered like roaches when the lights turn on.
Five of the fanged beasts fought each other for access to the bus. They knew that there were tasty morsels within. The sixth yeti leaped to the street and gave chase to the slowest of the four scavengers. I don’t know how someone managed to still be fat after the apocalypse. The runner lost his blanket wrap as he staggered away revealing a broad body. He stood no chance of outrunning the 300 pounds of savage muscle that was the yeti.
I squeezed my hands over my mouth to cover the scream that tried to escape when the Hell beast landed on the runner. Blood geysered creating a Rorschach pattern on the snow. It looked like a dancing clown and I fought the crazed laughter that tried to force its way from my mouth. A man was being ripped limb from limb and I was seeing clowns in his blood. What the heck was wrong with me?
God forgive me; I hunkered down and hugged my knees to my chest until the roar of the glacier receded. I hid until I no longer heard the howls of the yeti or the screams of their victims.
I don’t know how long I waited. It might have been five minutes or it might have been an hour. Finally the sounds outside were gone and I felt that I should look to see if there were any survivors.
The bus looked like a soda can that lost a fight with a blender. Very little of its shape remained after the glacier finished grinding it to confetti. Blood covered the snow around the bus. The clown bloodstain was joined by a Rorschach butterfly closer to New York New York.
Maybe the other two had escaped; I’d never know from up here. I couldn’t go down there though, the yeti might still be nearby. Lies. I know I was just letting my fear control me. I had lived through this snowy hell for a while and knew that once a glacier moved on it took the yeti with it. But the blood, the bodies. I screamed at my brain to shut up. God would never forgive me. I wouldn’t deserve this relative safety if I refused to find any of the survivors. I wasn’t a hero but I couldn’t live with myself or face my God if I didn’t at least exercise basic humanity.
I pulled on my parka and my backpack; never leave home without supplies. I crawled through the door of my apartment expecting a yeti or other creature from Hell to be standing there. The howl of the never ending snowstorm across the gaping hole at the end of the corridor was the only thing awaiting me. I picked my way down the piles of crumbled stone and twisted steel. My pace would have annoyed a geriatric patient. No matter how long I wanted to delay things, the ninth floor soon greeted me. Nine stories of stairwell went faster than I would have liked. I looked every direction at least three times before I opened the door and stepped out into the snow.
The only sound was the wind. The roar of the glacier was long gone. I crept onto Las Vegas Boulevard. I tried to avoid looking at the shattered remnants of the bus. Splashes of crimson and chunks of gore were quickly swallowed by the snow and ice. Soon there would be nothing to show that five people had died there.
The cold was already making my feet numb by the time I reached the doors of New York New York. The building was dark. Sin City, once known for being eternally lit, was now ruled by darkness. The inside smelled of mildew, rotted food, and spoiled beer. It wasn’t exactly a four star hotel anymore.
My voice was swallowed up by the enormous casino. If the survivors were in here they could be hiding anywhere among the dust covered machines and New York building façades.
“The yeti are gone. It’s safe.”
“Who the fuck are you?” A man’s voice. The false bravado was doing a bad job of hiding his fear.
“I’m a friend. I saw the attack on the bus. I’m glad you’re all right.”
Something clattered to my right and the man’s voice called once more.
“Damn it Sharon stay here. It’s not safe.”
“Fuck you Dave, you’re not my boss,” she shouted.
The woman approaching me was short, barely five and a half feet tall. She was as thin as a straw and had wavy red hair that cascaded to the middle of her back. She held a parka in her left hand and was wearing tattered blue jeans and a tee shirt from some rock band I had never heard of.
“Willie? Harry? The rest?” Her voice shook as my face must have revealed her companions’ fates.
“There’s nobody left alive outside. I’m sorry.”
“You said you saw the attack?”
The man finally emerged from his hiding spot. He was six feet if he was an inch. He had a wild afro of black hair and a bushy beard that made his square face look three feet wide. He had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders which barely managed to cover his broad, linebacker body.
“From a distance.”
“Why didn’t you do something?” He shouted.
“Damn it Dave,” Sharon said.
“For your information Dave, I was twelve stories up when it happened. I think you know that there was nothing I could have done to help even if I was as close as you were.”
I let the unspoken rebuke hang. The poor man was just chased by beasts from Hell. I didn’t need to remind him that he was as much a coward as I was. He glared anger and ill concealed shame at me but subsided.
“Is it just you two? Were there any others who didn’t go outside?”
“Just us,” Sharon said.
She plopped down on a ratty swivel stool in front of a dead slot machine and pushed a stray lock of hair out of her face.
“I hooked up with Dave and the rest a few weeks back. I was hiding out in the Ellis Island Casino and they were scavenging their way down the strip. I figured it was smarter to be with a group than alone. Maybe I was wrong.”
“It’s easier to hide when you’re alone.”
“So what’s your story?” Dave said joining us and leaning against a frost covered slot machine.
“Not much different from yours probably. I was here on vacation, do a little gambling see a show, the usual. Then the sky went red and the blizzard came. I was staying at the Super 8 but one of the glaciers flattened it. I found a spot in the Tropicana about a month ago and have been there ever since. It’s easy to find food and water in the big casinos at this end of the strip and the yeti don’t come down here too often.”
“Well they came this time,” Dave said.
We shared the silence for a minute, the recent horror was too great to address out loud. I shook myself after a bit. It wasn’t healthy to dwell on the deaths of those people for too long.
“Look, I know where we can find food and water if that’s what you were looking for. We just have to get over to the Excalibur and then we can use the covered walkways to move between a couple of the other hotels.”
“To the Excalibur? But what about those things?” Sharon’s eyes were wild.
“The glacier is gone and the yeti with it. Didn’t you hear it go?”
They both looked at me like I was speaking Greek. I sighed in disbelief at their lack of survival skills.
“When a glacier is moving it makes a low rumble. You can feel it in your chest. It’s like a hum that gets louder as it approaches. If you don’t feel the rumble, there isn’t a glacier nearby. No glacier – no yeti.”
“But what if those yeti things are still outside somewhere?”
“All I know is that every time I’ve seen a glacier there’s yeti. When it leaves, they leave with it. Nothing is guaranteed in this insanity. I know what I’ve seen and I have to trust that. The other option is to sit inside until we die of thirst.”
“We could use some provisions. We ran out two days ago,” Dave said straightening up. “I could use something better to wear than this damn blanket too. If you know where we can find food and clean water, lead on.”
The look on both their faces was terrifying. I didn’t want to be responsible for these people. They were looking at me like I was a lifeguard holding out my hand as they drowned in the deep end of the pool. Sharon must have seen my indecision as tears began to well in her eyes. She was just so damn young. I cursed myself for caring and then cursed myself for daring to consider saying no.
“All right. Follow me and we’ll get you what you need.”
I turned without waiting to see if they were following. I honestly was hoping they weren’t. Pausing at the Tropicana Avenue exit doors I strained to hear any hint of the glacier. Nothing. Damn. I was out of excuses.
“Are they gone?” Sharon said.
I almost jumped out of my skin. They had followed me.
“Sounds like it. Look, we’re going to jump the fence and get across the street as fast as possible and then into the Excalibur.”
“Why not take the walkway?” Dave pointed at the concrete pedestrian overpass spanning the street.
“Things lurk up there. Besides, most of them are unstable. It’s not worth the risk.”
“Things? What kind of things?”
“Just — things. Look, you asked for my help. Do this my way or not, I don’t care. I plan to survive. That doesn’t include taking unnecessary risks.”
I crawled over the half collapsed fence and landed in waist deep snow. Without hesitation Sharon followed.
“Come on Dave,” she said.
Dave looked at us half buried in the snow and then at the raised walkway.
“Dave?” I had a bad feeling that he was going to say or do something incredibly stupid.
The big man shook his head and jogged up the cracked stairs to the overpass.
Idiot. My feet were already numb so I trudged across the street. Huffing sounds from behind told me that Sharon was following.
The Excalibur once resembled a fairy tale castle. These days it looked more like the home of a mad scientist or blood sucking vampire. The pointed tower roofs collapsed under the weight of ice. The once colorful paint had peeled revealing the lie of the castle. It was not carved stone, just plaster and foam over industrial concrete and rotted furring strips.
I led Sharon to the base of the frozen escalator descending from the overpass to wait for Dave. The cold seeped into my bones as we stood. The wind whistled and whined through the shattered buildings. Small whirlwinds of snow sprang up in the street we had just crossed. It was too quiet. Dave looked like he was a healthy man. Crossing the overpass should have been a task requiring mere minutes. I looked up and down the street for any threats while chewing my lip.
“Dave,” Sharon shouted.
I cringed as her voice echoed down the boulevard. Be quiet woman, they’ll hear.
“Dave,” even louder.
Stupid girl, didn’t she remember the yeti?
“Shut up before something hears you.”
I looked down the street and then up the escalator. What are you thinking you fool?
“Stay here and be quiet.”
I ascended the stairwell which had not moved since winter blasted from a pit that opened on the side of a mountain in the Nellis weapon’s range. I remember someone saying that the aliens in Area 51 had broken free and were attacking. Anyone looking at the blood that filled the sky as the blizzard roared knew instantly that Hell had come to town. With each step upward I pictured some furred or scaled creature leaping from above to rip my throat out. The ice on the stairs was slick. The ice on the rail was jagged and tried to rip the skin from my hands each time my feet slid and I grabbed for purchase. I swear Satan himself organizes even the smallest indignities to test our resolve.
The snow on the overpass was shallow, no more than knee deep. A man as large as Dave should have stood out like a sore thumb but I could see clear to the other side and there was no sign of the fool.
In for a penny, in for a pound. I started forward scanning the snow ahead. He may have been hurt and buried.
“Dave.” A tense whisper was the best I was willing to risk.
“Help.” Dave’s hoarse cry had none of its earlier bravado.
By the sound he couldn’t have been more than a few yards away but I still couldn’t see him. I shuffled forward until he came into view, or at least his top half. Dave lay on the snow grasping a length of chain link fence torn from the upper reaches of the overpass. From the waist down, Dave was buried in the snow. I had to look a second time. By the angle of his straining body his legs would have to be somewhere inside the concrete of the walkway. The snow around his waist was rotating and pulsing like a mouth sucking him down beneath the surface.
“Sharon,” I screamed and dove forward to grab the dangling chain link.
I pulled for all I was worth but Dave remained buried to the waist in the snow or maw of whatever Hell beast was trying to suck him down. He was too heavy and the pull too strong for me to move him alone.
The spang of breaking metal split the air above me and the fence surged forward a foot as one of its anchors broke free. Dave was running out of time. Where was that girl?
I couldn’t hold on much longer. My fingers burned as the metal fence leached the heat from my skin. Dave’s eyes were wide with pleading. He was going to die or worse. My fingertips felt like they were about to snap off when I felt a tug from behind and Dave surged upward several inches. Sharon braced behind me and strained with her entire body against the pull of the snowy maw.
“I’m going to shift.”
Sharon nodded her understanding, and gritted her teeth against the strain. I rotated my torso to get my feet under me without releasing my grip on the chain link.
“Pull.” I matched my command with action and threw my entire bodyweight against the fence. We grunted and strained. Dave began to slide toward freedom. Inch by inch the sucking maw of snow vomited Dave back onto the walkway. A final heave, and Dave popped from the swirling snow like a cork from a bottle. Sharon and I crashed to the ground in a pile.
Dave’s pants were shredded. Hundreds of tiny tears in his skin wept rivulets of blood, staining the snow. From the waist down he looked as if he had stood in the path of a sand blaster with shards of glass mixed in. He wept in relief while Sharon and I struggled to pull air back into our lungs.
“We have to get out of here.” My voice was a wheezing whisper of exhaustion.