chapter One

Chapter One

Present Day

“Listen to my words, my brothers and sisters! It’s not too late to repent!” The pastor cried out as he waved his tattered Bible around dramatically.

The patrons of the bar kept drinking or didn’t acknowledge the pastor’s presence as they walked in the bar, which only added to his passionate rant. The man was far from well kept, his clothes were dingy and tattered. Pages from his Bible hung loosely and littered the area around his feet. The pages blew away with each passing car that flew by him at the busy street intersection.

“The Lord is coming and soon all you will all feel His wrath if you haven’t given your life over to Him! Just give your life over to the Messiah and you will be spared damnation! You shall be granted eternal life in Heaven!”

As the pastor dropped to his knees to gather the loose pages, the bar owner stood behind the old man. He felt pity for this old man but also didn’t like the commotion he was causing just outside his bar. The bar owner had to play it cool when he asked this religious zealot to move on, especially in this day and age of social media. Everyone had a phone and the means to show him berating a poor, defenseless old man. If something like that went viral on the internet and social websites, his livelihood would take a hit. The bar owner looked around cautiously and spied several pedestrians holding their smart phones in his direction. Fuck!

The bar owner took a deep breath to calm his nerves but nearly gagged as he inhaled the plethora of odors that emanated from the good pastor. He couldn’t hold back a coughing fit which caused the pastor look over his shoulder. He smiled, revealing a mouthful of missing teeth and decay as he spoke.

“The end is coming sooner than expected. You my friend must be made ready! Join me in my crusade!”

The bar owner slowly back away, shaking his head but the pastor reached out and pulled him into a tight embrace.

“You’re the first person to come forward and join me in this realization! Please allow me to savor in this monumental moment!”

Feeling uncomfortable, the bar owner had two things running through his mind: how can I keep my lunch down while being so this close to this man and I hope like hell that’s actually a green velvet vest he’s wearing and not an ever-growing mold under this crusty, stained jacket.

“What’s your name sir?” the pastor jubilantly asked.

“Todd,” he bit out past the bile that coated his mouth and throat, “Todd Riggs. I -”

“TODD!” The pastor cried out. He waved his arm around, still holding Todd next to him, “He has seen the signs and has chosen to stand with me to profess his love for the Lord as we wait for His return!”

Todd scanned the streets around him. He noticed more on-lookers gawking and was probably recording this whole scenario. He wanted to bury his head somewhere so none could see his burning red face but that would mean tucking into the pastor’s petri dish of a coat. Hell, Todd thought, it might be worth it! I could pass out and hopefully get driven to a nearby hospital to get treated for…wait, was that an explosion in the distance?

“Sir, I’m only out here to ask you to move away from my bar.” Todd chimed in, “You’re scaring away my business with all this End of Days talk. Could you possibly do this across the street, maybe?”

“No I can’t do that!” The pastor hissed, “I must stay here in this spot until it is my time to go!”

“I can call the cops and have you removed, you know.” Todd sternly replied as he pushed away from the old pastor, “Is that how you want this to go down? Getting dragged off in handcuffs for disturbing the peace?”

“I won’t be here long enough for that to happen. I shall be taken away to the Promise Land for my heart is true. I’ve devoted my soul to the word of God!”

Todd was about to head back inside his bar, but felt what seemed like a tremor and the sound of sirens wailing off in the distance somewhere. Confused, Todd looked around and to his surprise he saw black smoke billowing in the sky. What’s happening? Are we under attack? Todd looked back at the pastor and saw the strangest thing happen. The pastor had a look of sheer jubilation, the creases on his visage grew brighter as the dirt-encrusted wrinkles fell away. He spread his arms wide, as if he was waiting to embrace someone and said, “I’m ready! Take me home!”

And then…he vanished!

Todd fell backwards against the sun-warmed bricks on his bar, his head swimming and uncertainty crept into his mind. He saw several people who were recording the scene running across the street shouting at him, wanting to know where the old pastor went and how the trick was done. Hell, I want to know the same thing too! Sirens seem to be blaring everywhere today as the sound of metal crunching mixed into the symphony of chaos that surrounded Todd. Cars flew by wildly like out of control missiles and mowed over the gawkers that chose to run across the street, their bodies went flying in the air or got dragged as they got caught on the undercarriage.

To Todd’s horror, all the vehicles had no drivers in them. Everyone and everything was now a potential accident waiting to happen as more cars rammed their way down the streets. Todd ran into his bar for his own safety and saw that the place was empty. Where the hell did everyone go? There’s no other way out of here except for the main entrance. Although there was a back entrance used exclusively for deliveries, Todd had a feeling that had to be where everyone ran off to but why leave at all? Upon surveying his bar, he noticed that there were a lot of personal belongings left behind. Purses and jackets sat on the back of chairs or on the floor. It was an eerie sight to see and it made him think everyone was about to pop out from somewhere and scream “SURPRISE!”

Behind the bar station, there were several bottles of alcohol broken on the ceramic title, the contents pooling up and filling the air with the scent of Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, Vodka, and Bacardi. Todd sat on top of the bar, taking it all in when a loud crash broke the silence in his establishment. Todd rolled over backwards behind the bar, landing awkwardly on his side. He shifted his body to sit up on his knees and grimaced in pain. Todd looked down and saw that there was now a new red liquid mixing with the alcohol on the flood. Blood. He felt the left side of his body and found many tender spots as well as blood covering his hand. The glass had embedded into his skin as Todd gingerly rose to stand up to see what actually happened to his bar.

“Can this day get anymore fucked up?” Todd growled as he spoke aloud while surveying the wreckage as he plucked pieces of glass from his side. There was a now a huge gaping hole where his glass wall once stood. The decorative metal tables from the sidewalk were gone and what was in their place was a the tail of a small airplane.

An airplane!

Todd held his side as he worked his way through the chaotic destruction that was once his pride and joy to see if he was really seeing this or going crazy. As he stepped outside, Todd saw the rest of the small aircraft had smashed into the building next to his bar. Its tail ripped off when it hit his bar.

Todd saw people running in a panic from some unknown threat that he couldn’t discern. He felt it would be prudent to find a better shelter away from all the chaos. Everywhere he looked there were vehicles crashing or careening off the road. Every single one had no one in the driver’s seat. More of those tremors started coming but now they were accompanied with the sounds of earth-shattering explosions. Todd careened his head all around, trying to see where the explosions were coming from exactly. Not paying much attention he nearly ran into a woman. For whatever reason she had paused and then… she disappeared too.

“What the hell is happening?” Todd screamed as he clutched the sides of his head.

Is this what madness is like? Am I hallucinating? A sudden flash of light followed by an explosion and a shockwave of intense heat to his left made Todd drop down on the sidewalk, instinctively covering his head. He peeked through the slits of his fingers and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. A fiery crater, about the size of a city bus, had punched through the street.The flames emanating from it seemed to dance and move like they were alive.

Todd looked up to the clear skies and saw more fireballs reigning down like a cosmic shit storm. With his mouth gaping open, Todd could have sworn he saw the figure of a man flying in the sky. That can’t be right, can it? Todd thought as he got up and ran as fast as he could, glancing up at the sky, keeping an eye on the firestorm and the “man”. People were running everywhere in terror, trampling over those who fell and knocking other down that moved slow. More fireballs fell, slamming into buildings, causing them to explode like a macabre demolition show.

Todd pulled his tie off and wadded it up in his hand. He held it over his mouth and nose to keep from breathing in all the dust and debris that was blanketing everything around him. As he ran, Todd felt it would be best to avoid the crowds and chaos so he ducked down a deserted alleyway. Is this the end of day that the old pastor was speaking of in front of my bar? Other than an alien invasion, what else could explain what was going on? People vanishing, a man flying around in the sky, a firestorm where the projectiles seem to come from nowhere. Was this mysterious man causing the destruction of my beloved city? Was this the return of the Messiah? If so, Todd worried, I’m so screwed!

Todd’s mind was racing as he ducked behind a large garbage bin to avoid more fire that swept through the alley. He froze as he could hear screams of pain and terror from somewhere around the corner. The explosions continued as Todd mentally cried out, “Fuck! I don’t want to die!” He peered around the dumpster and through the myriad of heat mirages, Todd spied an old cemetery off in the distance. Strange as it seemed, Todd noted that the fireballs struck everywhere, except there. Was it considered sacred grounds and deemed untouchable by the powers of Heaven?

Clutching his left side, Todd decided to make his way to the cemetery. If I’m going to die, I might as well die there. I wouldn’t have far to go to be buried. He couldn’t stifle a maniacal chuckle at his joke but then another thought occurred to him. Would I be safe in there since I’m not really the church-going type of guy or will I get fried if I enter it? As Todd got to the end of the alleyway, the stench of burnt hair and flesh assailed his nostrils as saw the charred remained of people scattered everywhere. He bent over and gripped the side of an old pick-up truck and proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach. Todd squeezed his left side more to prevent the muscles from spasming.

Todd took a moment to wipe his mouth and then gaze up at the sky. The flying man looked like he was conjuring bigger fireballs. He was targeting the taller buildings and skyscrapers with the intent on bringing them down. When the first one hit the rooftop of the nearest skyscraper, the building’s exterior walls on each floor exploded outward as the fireball pushed through with so much force that when it reached the foundation, it blew it apart.

Only a flaming crater of concrete and twisted metal remained. Nothing it seemed could withstand this fiery onslaught but it didn’t deter the terrified people from using the skyscrapers as shelter, giving them a false sense of security. There was a sporting goods store up the road to Todd’s right that people were running towards, but the people inside that had already claimed it were now defending it. The defenders had busted out the bar-covered windows, shooting any who tried to enter.

With fire and gore to his left and a human target practice to his right, Todd decided to make a break for the cemetery since it appeared to be the one piece of tranquility amidst all the chaos. The cemetery was surrounded by a black iron fencing that had sharp spiked tips at the end of them and was the size of two full city blocks. The main gate into the cemetery had been knocked down by a runaway rental truck and was blocking the way in. As he ran across the street, Todd thought back to what the old pastor said. Feeling like a hypocritical fool and having nothing else to lose, Todd spoke aloud, “I don’t want to die so if you’re listening up there…I repent ALL my sins and give myself over to you my Lord…just spare my life!”

Todd yanked the truck door opened and slid inside. The motor was still running but no one was in the cab, but unlike some of the other vehicles he encountered today the windshield had a massive hole in it and was covered in blood. Someone had been ejected from the cab at the time of impact. Quickly, Todd scooted his way to the other end of the cab and opened the passenger door and hopped out. He cautiously approached the prone woman’s body and noted there was a lot of blood loss from going through the windshield. She had went head first into a large gravestone marker. Her blonde hair was covered in blood and her head was contorted underneath her chest, giving the impression that she had been decapitated.

Todd’s nausea came back full force as he clutched his knees and started to throw up once again, the bile burning his scratchy, parched throat. He turned to look away from the dead body but noticed that the cemetery was quiet, eerily quiet. Todd could see more fireballs striking everywhere all around him, but no noise. The vibrations from each impact could be felt but even that had been dampen somehow. How was that possible, Todd thought, but then again today was a day where the impossible became reality? Maybe I was right to assume that this cemetery was sacred ground and protected, but why?

From the safety of the cemetery, Todd could see things from a new perspective. The flying man was definitely the one causing the destruction. The man, if you could call it that, would dramatically wave what appeared to be a staff around. The tip would glow the same color as the fireballs and then out of thin air, a fireball would coalesce and fall towards the city. Todd noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He tried to ignore it, figuring it was someone wandering aimlessly through the destruction. Todd wasn’t willing to run out into the open to aid whoever it was because he felt safe here in the cemetery and certainly wasn’t a hero either. If they want to find sanctuary like I did, they can come in here on their own, Todd thought as he tried to justify his cowardice.

With guilt nagging at him, Todd ran in the direction to where he saw the movement. I don’t need to leave the cemetery, I can get their attention and let them draw their own conclusion whether to join me in here or not. He waved his arms over his head frantically. When the pain from his left side coursed through his body, he clutched it and waved with his other arm. 

As Todd neared the fence, he noticed that the figure was a man walking calmly down the sidewalk, like he was out for an afternoon stroll. He noted that the man was strangely dressed. He wore several layers of tattered robes and fabrics while having a sickly green/brown cloak on his back. The man was bald and had a dark complexion like he hailed from the Middle East or some desert region. The boots he wore had the same sickly green/brown color.

The man lifted his hands to his lips and blew on them, releasing some sort of sparkling dust. It got caught up in the wind and was carried away to who knows where. As Todd watched on, he kept thinking this can’t be good either. He turned his attention back to the dark, bald man and saw that he was staring back at him with a creepy, skeletal grin. The man’s teeth were rotten and broken, his face as well as his hands and arms seemed gaunt. As Todd got a better view of the man, everything about this person was screaming starvation and hunger, but the man moved like he had the vitality of a teenager.

Within a split second, the dark, bald man went from the sidewalk across the street to being mere inches from Todd’s face, with only the iron fencing separating the two men. He was cackling as he blurted out with sickly green/brown glowing eyes, “Boo!”

Todd stumbled backwards and ended up tripping over a grave marker, falling on his back with his legs draped over it. He blinked his eyes several times, trying to make the black spots disappear. He rolled himself off the grave marker and saw that the gaunt man had moved on and was using his robes to waft more of the sparkling dust.

 Some of the dust landed on a small sapling and several potted plants. Each one shriveled up and died, like they were hit by a drought on steroids. Todd gaped as the strange man turned again to look at him. Todd mentally heard a strange voice scream in his head, “I’m the bringer of famine! Enjoy my plague, you cowardly worm!” 

Todd held his hands over his ears, trying to block out the maniacal laughter in head, but to no avail. Even as he left, Todd relaxed as the voice went quiet but he got the sense that he was no longer alone. Maybe someone figured out that this was a safe haven? It would be nice to talk to someone and be able to vent about the day’s events. But what if the rednecks that took over the sporting goods store decided to come here in full force and take this sanctuary away from me, Todd thought as paranoia kept whispering in his ear.

Todd brushed the grass and dirt from his pants as he stood upright. He walked around, wearily trying to find who, if anyone, it was that was in here with him. Todd froze dead in his tracks when a soft hand was placed on his shoulder. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as fear took a hold of his stressed-out mind. Todd slowly turned around and saw a pale, petite woman standing behind him. She wore a very old but stylish long-flowing blue gown that matched her sapphire eyes. She seemed sad to Todd, her eyes were puffy and had dark circles under them. Who had this woman lost today? A mother? A sister? Hell her whole family was good possibility with what was happening today.

“Todd Raymond Riggs?” the woman asked coldly.

Todd back away slowly, uncertainty and unease eating away at him. “Who are you?”

The woman blinked and said again, “Todd Raymond Riggs.”

“Who wants to know?” Todd asked as he narrowed his eyes suspiciously at the stranger.

“I do, of course.”

“But who are YOU and how do you know me?”

“I don’t know who you are, that why I asked.”

“How can you say that when you just said my name?”

“I did?” the woman looked confused and distraught, “When did I say that?”

Todd growled,“It was the first words out of your mouth, you idiot! So I demand -”

The strange woman’s whole body started to shimmer and glow as she floated in the air. Todd stumbled as he backed away with terror in his eyes.

“You have no right to talk to me like that, you insignificant worm!” the woman hissed as her sapphire eyes blazed with her fury. “I could kill you where you crawl with a blink of my eye!”

He cowered behind a large grave marker but never took his eyes off her. He put his hands up in a submissive way. If she can fly and glow, Todd cringed, she probably could follow through with her threat. The woman landed softly on the ground, her bare feet making no noise. She continued to glare a moment longer, but then all emotion seem to melt from her petite face. She looked all around, like she wasn’t sure where she was or maybe looking for something.

The strange woman looked at Todd and said, “Todd Raymond Riggs?”

Todd gulped as he stood to walk around to the front of the grave marker, “I...I’m Todd Raymond Riggs.” 

The strange woman beamed him a toothy smile as she strolled up to Todd like nothing had happened and said, “My name is Purah and I’m here to take you away from all this!”

“Where are we going?”

“To the Promise Land, that’s where. It’s what you asked for.”

“When did I ask to go there?”

Purah blinked at Todd and then said, “Go where?”

“The Promise Land?” Todd asked, suspecting something was off in her head.

“Yes that’s where you wanted to go, you’re on my list to take you there!”

“How did my name get on your list, Purah?”

“Only those who have truly repented all of their sin and give their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ can go to the Promise Land.” Purah said with a twinkle in her eyes.

Holy shit! Todd thought as his face paled. That actually worked for me? Todd sat down on top of the grave marker, still feeling stunned that his pleas were heard. I’m going to escape from all this. Another thought occurred to Todd so he asked, “So, is this the apocalypse?”

“Apocalypse?” Purah laughed lightly, “No, no. This is the End of Days!”

Todd pinched the bridge of his nose, “And that’s why you’re here? It’s the End of Days for all of Mankind?”

“No, I’m here because your name is on my list.”

Todd thought this over and then realization hit him. “It was you, wasn’t it? You’re the one who’s been making people disappear everywhere, aren’t you?”

Confused, Purah responded, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m here for those on my list.”

Todd walked up to Purah. Anxiety was clutching hard in his chest being this close to her. This close, he notice that her skin appeared flawless, like a porcelain doll. He found Purah very attractive and if it weren’t for the whole End of Days, Todd would ask her out for drinks and maybe more. His lingered on her form for a moment longer and then asked, “Are you an angel?”

“A fallen angel, yes. Now we must go Todd Raymond Riggs. You’re the last one on my list and I need to start on my next list.”

“What will happen when I get to the Promise Land?”

“Did you never read your Bible or do you have memory problems like me?”

Todd cheeks heated slightly. He couldn’t help but wonder if she was like this because she fell from the heavens or was given the memory problems as a form of eternal punishment.

“I never went to church much. I read the Bible for a time, but that was so long ago that I’ve forgotten most of it. Please forgive me?”

“It’s not my place to forgive, even though I’ve got no idea as to what needs to be forgiven.”

Todd felt bad for Purah so he repeated his question, “What will happen to me when I get to the Promise Land?”

“All mortals will be purified and cleansed of all impurities and will be granted ever-lasting life.”

“I’m going to be…immortal?” Todd shouted, stunned by this new revelation.

“Of course you will be, which part of ever-lasting life did you not understand? Now, take my hands and I will take you to your new home and then I can start on my next list.”

As Todd took Purah’s hands and felt how soft and delicate they were, it made his mind wander about other soft spots on her angelic body. Maybe when she finishes up her next list, I can explore her body in private. Curiosity got the best of his so Todd asked, “What’s on your next list to do?”

Purah smiled at him as if he were a small child who knew no better and replied, “Why raise the dead of course!” and then they both disappeared.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two