At first, I thought it was just fireworks. The New Year’s Eve nonsense picking up steam. But then, I knew.
The bed shook, then the windows.
I’d known they were coming. I didn’t know how. I didn’t care how. I just… Knew. The date, the number sequence, the world stage. The whole thing so ridiculous and yet, to me, so painfully obvious. So banal, despite its own scope.
I got up from the couch and walked to my front door, which I opened. A few hundred yards in front of my house was a small lake. On that lake was a barge launching fireworks. But the men on the barge had stopped firing. I stepped onto my front porch and listened. I was able to hear the men’s voices, though I couldn’t make anything out.
They were obviously upset about something. And then, I felt it again: that ground-pounding vibration that I knew was something taking another step.
Something bigger than anything that most anyone, including me, could truly imagine.
And then all over the night sky large, blue spirals began to appear from the darkness. Quickly they shone, then disappeared, nothing left but the residual image that surely everyone else saw along with myself. For a moment there was utter silence, no one uttering a word in the field that surrounded the small lake.
I heard the popping sound as the barge launched a firework.
It exploded, lit the sky, and before us all stood a beast that didn’t seem possible given our planet’s gravity. When its foot came down, it displaced nearly every drop of the small lake’s water. The barge, after firing a barrage of fireworks, flipped into the air, landing upside down far from water. The crowds gasped. The beast roared as the bright lights exploded all around its twisted head.
The thing was at least one hundred and thirty feet tall. The legs were like redwoods. Its body was something like an elephant’s, including its head. Only instead of one trunk, it had three, surrounded by tusks that curled upward from the fray of the trunks, tusks big enough to take down buildings.
For a moment, the image of the beast made the crowd silent. The fireworks cracked and boomed around the gargantuan creature, smoke eventually enveloping it in darkness. When it reared back its three-trunked head and roared, the whole of the crowd shouted and began to run.
A whole hell of a lot of them right in my direction. I turned and ran, more frightened of the maddened crowd than the behemoth roaring at us.
I jumped into my Chevy, grabbed the spare key from the magnetic box under the dash, cranked the 350 cubic-inch engine, and shoved it into gear. The truck jumped to life, I shoved the pedal down, backing down my driveway. I spun the steering wheel, yanked the shifter into first gear, and drove away as fast as I could.
I could hear people screaming behind me. When the behemoth’s foot hit the ground, I had to use both hands to steady the wheel of the Chevy. There was no point in looking back, so I didn’t. A few miles down the road, I heard my own house crushed into so much kindling by the beast’s foot.
When the behemoth’s steps no longer vibrated the truck, I started to slow down. The old back roads wound forever. Above, the sky showed me stars that I’d never seen. I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t question what was right there, in the black and blue sky gleaming with points of light. Patterns began to appear, bright with colors, lighting up the night sky like auroras, things that did not appear in my part of the world.
I slowed the truck and watched the patterns shift and twirl in the sky, like something was painting them as I witnessed the whole thing. And then a blinding bolt of lightning cut across the color, turning all of them orange, then red. And then I heard a sound, like something on the wind. Something flying. But it sounded to my ears like the thing was far too large. Impossible.
I saw the Dragon cut across the red auroras, heard the wings, hundreds of feet in span, as their massive, tattered edges tore away at the night air. Only my bones detected the Dragon’s roar, as it was too low a register for my ears to hear. The windows shattered in my Chevy. The engine shut down. Both the truck and myself were stunned into inaction.
Fire lit all of the sky I could see. That fire was so hot that despite the dragon being high above, scorched the trees lining the road I was on. The sky stayed lit for quite some time as the swath of dragon’s breath died away without haste. Something came for me, cutting across the field to my right. I saw it in the failing firelight.
I turned the key and the engine did nothing. The heat of the Dragon’s fire caused lightning to streak across the night in all directions. The monster in the field began to take shape in the strobing light. I tried not to look as the engine in the truck failed again to respond. One more pattern of lightning streaks revealed my predator far too close, so I hit the button to pop the rear gate. In the rear of the Chevy was a jump-box. I hoped it still had enough charge to crank the truck.
Rain pummeled my head as I grabbed the box and ran back to the driver’s side door. I grabbed the plastic latch to unlatch the hood. Once I’d connected the jump box to the battery, nearly losing my mind in panic as the connections snapped off twice, I turned the key.
The old Chevy fired up. I yanked the box away, dropped the hood, jumped into the driver’s seat, pulled gearshift, and stomped the accelerator. I heard the thing howling, something between a wolf and something a hell of a lot worse. The ground shook as the behemoth that crushed my house was again drawing close. The Dragon breathed fire again, many miles away, but the heat still bringing the electricity that streaked the black and blue night.
Something hit my truck hard enough to spin it nearly 360 degrees. I kept my foot on the gas until the tires caught traction, at first spinning in mud, finally finding asphalt, and screaming as rubber burnt away. I almost screamed, it seemed like forever before the Chevy sped away from my attacker, again howling, enraged, trying to chase me down.
No way I was going back toward my house, back toward the behemoth, so after about half a mile, I spun the wheel, and put my truck back in the direction I’d been heading. It was a risk but nothing made sense to me at that point. The world had gone mad. Might as well be mad right along with the world.
Rain hammered that world, I could barely see a few yards down the road, yet I didn’t take my foot off the pedal. Something resembling small trees appeared in the headlights, but I didn’t stop. The old Chevy plowed through the shadows, sounds of bones cracking and more howls filling the air left behind. I didn’t know how much more the old truck would take.
Another few miles and I found the old road I was trying to find. It lead to an old look-out tower for the Forestry Commission. The thing had been abandoned over twenty years ago, and I wanted to see if it could still handle being occupied.
I drove the Chevy up to the old stairs of the tower and switched the key to the off position. Even without climbing the stairs, the ground elevation was enough to see, likely a hundred miles in the distance, the fuzzy glow of the Dragon’s orange fire, followed by blurred flashes of lightning.
The first few stairs were stable, as were the rest, so I made my way up to the tower. The door was locked, but old enough that several solid kicks broke away the wood behind the latch. Spider webs littered the old room. In front of the far window was a telescope. For a moment, I felt a shiver down my spine when the tower shook from the footstep of the behemoth. I knew I didn’t have much time but I wanted to see what I could see.
Storms and fire covered the world that I saw from the tower. Forest were burning all around. Beasts, tall and awful, walked through the fires, devouring what the flame did not take, crushing what they did not devour. High above, rings of white and blue dotted the darkness, monsters and flying things dropping out of them, portals ushering creatures back into man’s world that had not been seen for ages.
I finally had to back away from the telescope. My mind could take no more.
For a while the fuzzy white and orange lights swirled in my vision, hypnotizing me willingly, as I detached from all of the monstrous un-reality of it all. But when the tower actually began to lean as the earth shook from the weight of the ever-nearing behemoth that it seemed I would not be able to escape, I got up and made my way down the old stairs.
The old truck fired up. Mercy in the midst of Hell. There was nowhere to go; likely the whole of the world was being shaken.
But I was going to go somewhere, despite it.