Everything is eventually worn down. Washed away into the murky tide-pool of history. I cannot help but to think about entropy as I watch the plumes of sea water crash, crest, and vaporize over the cliffs before me. How many years until that volcanic rock is finally worn down? How many years until those cracks and crevices expand to consume the remaining structure? Until there is nothing more than the base detritus of sand that surrounds them? Impermanence is the only surety.
The spell is broken as I spot the black SUV in the lot behind me, past the local’s beaters and vans, beyond the sparse treeline. They do their job well. Over the past three weeks I have not left their sight, nor have they once been overt or obvious in their surveillance. I’m positive that they are fully cognizant of my awareness, but proceed with due caution and I respect their attention to detail.
I find it quite comforting to be working with true professionals again. This is a challenging line of work and while I have full confidence in my own abilities, I’ve learned that my success relies on everyone I work with. And any one of us can make a simple tactical error that would mean instant failure, death, or worse.
Only one night remains, and they will make contact to complete the transfer. Everything is ready. The cash is stashed, as they say, and the product is certainly en route by now.
Thirty days in their sights, and without any outside contact should be more than enough to assure the seller of my credentials and reliability. Not a single personal call. No internet traffic other than Netflix, Wikipedia, and the New York Times. This, in addition to the credentials I bear with my handlers in The Jalisco, should satiate them of the security of the trade.
Next month will be my fiftieth birthday. Most of my compatriots know me as El Viejo, “the old man”. And while there simply is no retirement for someone in my profession, I have managed to engineer a fairly decent arrangement at this point in my life. One job, and one job only, every six months. The jobs of course have grown in both size and risk throughout my career, but I have been diligent in ensuring an equal reduction in frequency, and equitable compensation for the risk. Though negotiating with the cartel can be fraught with it’s own risk, we’ve come to an understanding steeped in mutual respect.
I’ve been here many times before, but the streets still seem foreign. The washed-out refuse at the sides of the roads. The dark skinned workers sitting in the shadows by the walls. The elegant villa’s owned by American millionaires, proudly named after their mistresses’. Each glamorous glass vestibule overlooking the local children in the streets. The local children all but destined to grow up to become sex workers, and service those very same American owners ten years from now.
My place, on the other hand, is a low rent Airbnb. No glitz or glamour here, though I am grateful for the air conditioner in the bedroom. This is as it must be. The people who need to see me will, and I will remain invisible to everyone else. An old expat retiree, likely an alcoholic, living cheap near to the beach.
It’s nightfall when I arrive home, light a cigar and pour a generous helping of the local brew. I paid twice as much as I should have for the bottle of Mamajuana, but was happy to help support the business of a proprietor trying to survive the decline in tourism caused by the virus.
A storm is coming. Lightning cracks like a whip in the middle of a Quaker meeting. It takes several moments for me to determine that no, my building was not in fact struck. I was comforted for a moment before the second, third and following strikes rail around my building.
I lost power. The lightning becoming a pulsing, strobing rhythm of surreal snapshots finally settling into a beat that mirrors my pounding heart. Cautiously turning the curtains back I watched as the lightning strikes the ground over and over. Twenty feet away. Then five. Then again to the east and west. Trees split. Sand is crystallized. Sidewalks crack and fall in on themselves in surrender.
The final strike shakes the building, shakes the neighborhood, and the flash is so strong that I soon find that I am picking myself back up from the floor, groaning as my bruised knees press against the tile.
I look out of the window once more in my dazed state and whisper to myself “what the fuck….”.
Thick heavy snowflakes like I used to see back in New England as a child. Bright in the remaining lighting, powered by gas generators. Thick, slow falling snow. But it can’t be. I’m in the fucking Dominican. The record low down here could defrost a side of beef in an hour.
I close my eyes to let them adjust to the darkness and open them again. I observe the way that the flakes fall. They catch on the air and rock like feathers, sloping back and forth gently. Some of them catch a slight updraft and rise, before returning to their decline.
Not snow, Ash. Some sort of bright white ash. The strikes must have ignited or perhaps even vaporized some material on the street and sent plumes of dust into the air. The lightning has stopped now and there are children running out into the streets, shirtless and gleeful, dancing and spinning in the strange precipitation. They have no care for what the ash may be, lead, aluminium. Or even DDT, it matters not to them. It is pure joy as the flakes light upon their skin.
And light it does. I peer transfixed through the screen and watch the flakes land upon their caramel skin and glow for a moment. In moments their bodies are a dance of luminescence as their fervor increases. Screams and shouts ring out, not in pain but in pleasure. A sound precocious for their ages. Orgasmic. Intense. Frightening.
A ringing sound, much closer, joins their ecstatic cries and I pace my room trying to locate the source. I find the herald on the side table. My phone, silent for a month, now vibrating and skittering there on the table.
“One hour.” The voice says, in overly intentional English.
I snap the phone shut, and step out onto the small terrace. Looking out over the railing I notice a scuffle breaking out among the children, and their parents coming out into the street to stop them. Once in the streets, the parents do not attempt to pull the children apart. They begin to yell and flail violently at them and then at each other.
I’ve spent a lot of time here, and while I’ve seen some violence amongst people I’ve worked with, the locals never seemed quick to violence. I turned back from the balcony and closed the door behind me. Not eager to get sucked into the growing skirmish in the street.
The cry of an infant cuts through my open window. I check the locks and position myself to see the street below me.
There is a woman, now entirely naked, her skin pulsing with constant little flashes of illumination. She’s holding a child. Hers or someone else’s, I cannot tell. I watch silently as she raises him up, above her head. Her body twists sharply and the child is gone. It takes me a moment to connect her sporadic movement and the disappearance. Then I spot the two year old, two yards from her. Stuck between the fence and concrete wall, two houses down. Impaled and twitching by the wrought iron gate.
I back away from the window, stunned and muttering to myself. I can still see her from my dark room as she lifts a stone and begins digging deep gouges in her chest and breasts with it. Bleeding herself. The children falling onto their knees before her. As if to be showered. Showered in her growing streams of blood which she whips over them with her flailing arms. I see a man tear his right ear from the side of his head in one quick ripping motion beside her. A child, trying to force his fist down the throat of another. Madness upon madness plays out one floor below me until I pull the shades and drop onto my ass to the floor, my back against the exterior wall.
My head swoons and I almost lose consciousness but the pain in my chest and my pounding heart bring my attention back to myself. I’ve slapped myself sober more than once in my life, and I repeat the process now. Think. Think goddammit.
Some chemical, some poison. Something is falling from the skies and turning these people into beasts. Making them violent. Making them rage. I only hesitate for a moment before grabbing the mobile phone, and moving to the bedroom, putting one more door between me and the street, before dialing emergency services.
One call fails, then another. I notice that the signal strength indicator goes from full to empty immediately. Hearing the sound of screaming metal, I cautiously peer through the corner of the bedroom window just in time to see the mobile tower in the distance fall against the grey backdrop of clouds and murky air, and several fires begin to kick up on the horizon.
It’s fine, I will hide in plain site. Just like always. Just like the fourteen million in Pesos sitting outside in the trash can. Police or no police, I can get the job done.
Do the job and get out. That’s my mantra now. Do the job and get the fuck out of here, fast. I’m kicking myself for not renting a car and trying to rely on Taxis and Ubers. Something tells me an Uber is not going to work out tonight. I’ll need to find another way. Might have to steal a car. I can do that. And I’ll be safe in a car. At least from whatever horrific contagion has gripped my neighbors. Protecting myself from that white snow is as important than staying away from the crazed neighbors, clearly.
Ten minutes gone, then twenty. Not much more time. Just don’t listen. Sit, think, be ready but don’t listen to those sounds. You’re safe here. The doors are solid wood, not that American particle-board bullshit. Just wait. Wait and complete the trade. Then get out.
My mantra is shattered along with my front windows. I stand frozen against the door, my ear pressed to it trying to detect any movement in the front room. I can hear none. I crack the door open to gain a sight line into my living room.
There is a boot on the floor amidst the myriad shards of glass. At the broken window frame is a child. Maybe twelve years old, cut and bludgeoned, his eyes glowing that same ghostly pulsing color I saw when the flakes took to his flesh on the street below.
“Hermano, hermano americano, ven aca…. Únete a nosotros.” Blood drips into and out of his mouth as he beckons me to come outside.
Just as he grips at the edges of the sill, my body takes over. My thinking subsides and the crafty animal brain takes control. I raise my hands to shoulder height and tell him “Si.. Si..” as I slowly walk towards the front room.
In a flash I have the kitchen chair and shove it at the boy, trapping him between the four legs, somehow moving up and through the opening and not stopping. Just pushing and pushing until he is over the railing, and I hear his little body break on the stones below.
I snatch my hands back and press myself back inward against the exterior wall. Those flakes are still falling. A foot away, just past the roof line. Some of them winding their way inward on the breeze. Almost reaching the toes of my shoes. This is when I notice that I’ve caught the attention of the torn and ragged beasts below me. They are taking to the stairs, glowing eyes locked upon me. Dark intention in their glowing eyes.
Back inside, I grab the coffee table. Then the chairs. I tear the door of the stove away. Then I do the same with the fridge and cabinets. Building an arsenal of tools and makeshift shields near the breached window. They liked that performance? I’ll give them another. One big hole, a collection of plows and me behind it. I’ll send each and every one of them on their very last flights. Fucking business class.
A honking car horn catches my attention, and theirs. I see them heading back down the steps away from my balcony toward the sound. A darting, stumbling tumult of twisted and injured bodies changing direction. And I see the Black SUV parked just at the corner, under my bedroom window.
They are here. Do the job and get the fuck out. Maybe they would give me a lift now that they see what the hell is happening here. We can go to the airport together. Hell, I’d kick in half my take for this ride. The most expensive Uber anyone has taken, and well worth it.
But first things first. Garbage bags. No duct tape here but that’s ok. I wrap the plastic bags tightly, tucking them into my clothing, into my shoes. From boots to chin. I cover my face with clear kitchen wrap as fast as I can, being sure to cover everything except my eyes and nose. Then my hat and umbrella. In two minutes flat I’m standing on the porch like a two dollar hooker trying to cosplay a weird alien leather daddy.
“Fuck fuck No!” I try to shout but only manage to choke on the Saran Wrap covering my mouth and stagger. The two backseat occupants of the SUV are swinging the doors open and stepping out, automatic weapons (looks like M4’s) in hand.
One of them is down before he manages a single shot. I recognize the water delivery guy, still in his olive shirt, as he sticks the sharp bones jutting from his forearm into the bag man’s neck. His partner opens fire wildly, jerking around and making one kill for every 20 rounds. This won’t last.
But I can use the distraction to my advantage. I go over the balcony, hang as low as possible for a moment, and then drop. I stay low and scramble fifteen feet behind the trash cans. Turning the marked can over I haul the bag out from under the trash, and throw it over my shoulder. All the while ensuring that my umbrella remains aligned above me, and watching the slowly unraveling baggage covering my clothing.
That’s when I see the SUV shoot backwards, cutting sharply to the left. Shit. He’s out, taking off. The car is aimed back the way he came and I can tell he’s about to hit the gas hard, as his headlights brighten momentarily.
The alleyway. Positioning the umbrella slightly ahead of me, I run for it. I haven’t moved so fast in years, but if I had any chance of cutting off his escape this was it. A few of the bleeding beasts caught sight of me and are on my tail as I dart through the alley, navigating the trash and holes in the asphalt.
I reach the street just a couple feet in front of the fleeing SUV, but it is moving too fast. The world spins, light tearing from right to left in my eyes and my vision turns red as my shoulder screams in agony.
Looking up from the roadside I see the man leaning out the window, his arm frantically beckoning me inside, as I watch the small crowd making ground toward us from both sides.
Umbrella up. Bag retrieved and thrown over my good shoulder. Then I’m in the backseat, suddenly remembering the view I had just seconds ago in my mental haze. The drivers arm. Outside the window, waving. Catching little flakes on his hairy forearm, lighting up and glowing little flakes flashing as he invited me in.
Understanding struck the moment he turned to face me and his eyes shone in that strange pale light. I fought the weight of the bag on my shoulder to reach forward and snatch the man’s pistol from his holster. One, two, three shots. Back, neck, head. And the driver was no more. Everything had been a flash. The adrenaline coursing through me had taken complete control now, and it wasn’t until I was on the highway that I was able to think back and remember getting up front and shoving the man from the driver seat with my legs, and hightailing it out, crushing several attackers during my egress.
Free and clear now. The yellow lines in the road flying by. Chaos, fires and bodies at the sides of the road. Passing one horror after another. But I had the gun. A few bullets left. A full tank of gas. The money. The product too. I had it all, I just needed extraction.
Thirty minutes later I blew through the chain link fence and screeched to a halt in front of the hanger. Julio had better be there, as agreed. Everything counted on him now. If he had gotten caught up in this bedlam, I was done for.
Julio was there. Ready and waiting with a bottle of Patron. One third emptied. Lucky for me it seemed that he had spent the whole day, waiting and drinking. Having no idea of what was happening in the area.
I helped him with what remained of the bottle as we took flight. Sleep did not come, but the adrenaline subsided, the alcohol did it’s job and by the time we were approaching the Everglades I was in a numb, safe haze.
That was until I saw the fires. It looked like all of Miami was one huge burn that continued up the coast. We had no choice but to land. Our ride was not at the drop.
I am now stranded deep in the everglades. Sitting on a few remaining shots of tequila, 14 Mill in cash and fuck-knows how much china. Julio had to go. He caught a flake or two last night and I simply could not risk it. I didn’t even waste a remaining bullet on the man. Couldn’t afford to.
I’ve written this account in hopes that it may help someone to determine what exactly has happened, now that I know it is not localized to Punta Cana. I have no cell connection out here, but I do have a full charge, and I will hit submit to this subreddit as I hike toward “civilization”, just in case I catch a connection on the way, even if just for a moment.
Everything is eventually worn down. Washed away into the murky tide-pool of history. Entropy is the only reliable outcome in this world. We can only hope to witness it. Document it. And hope that doing so can contribute something to stemming the tide of the inevitable darkness of the future.
If there are any survivors out there. If anyone ever manages to read this. Stay inside. Stay covered. And stay alive. But most importantly, know that the only person you can rely on is yourself. You stand alone out there, the last stand against the great degeneration.