29,040 / 50,000
Yeah...continued to write more than I needed. I coulda stopped at 28k. Or even at 28.8k, to keep a 2000 word count. But I kept going and ended up with hitting 29k. Go me!
So, on with Chapter Three, In the Kingdom of the Blind
Chapter Three - In the Kingdom of the Blind
While my vision was assaulted by whatever had bathed the entire lobby in so much light it felt that my eyes were fried by the power of a million exploding suns, someone had called up a concerted attack upon my eardrums, as screams erupted around the room, and beyond. Finding myself blinded and deafened, I was at a loss. I stumbled around the room, trying to find something to grab, and trying to protect my camera at the same time.
Vision was returning, but the recovery was slow. I could make out lumbering shapes amidst the darkness, and for a moment my heartrate quickened, recalling my nightmare. I stumbled backwards, and bumped into something more solid than a person, my camera forgotten for a moment as I tried to avoid the shadows.
I could start to make out colours again, for the most part just the shapes of faces of people in the crowd of brown and grey. Brighter colours in the costumes started to pop next, and then detail creeped in around the edges. Things remained hazy and indistinct for some time.
Trying to focus past the din and fuzzy vision, I looked for a safe spot to go, trying to avoid the milieu of people crashing against each other in their blind trampling rampage.
Even without my vision at 100%, I could still tell that something was wrong. Odd shapes were sneaking into my vision that weren't making any sense to me. It appeared that there were things in the air that shouldn't be, people maybe, but I couldn't tell.
I fumbled with the chunk of plastic and circuits hanging around my neck, and got it the lens cap back off, and the camera turned on by touch alone. Using my knowledge of the camera, I also effortlessly set it to default automatic settings since I was still effectively visually impaired, and couldn't trust what my eyes might tell me were the optimum settings.
Holding the camera over my head, I didn't even try pointing at anything in particular, just snapped around the room wherever it seemed a good idea. I also took shots with the camera more in front of me, to get things more at a regular level, and have some control over what I was getting, poor vision or no.
Not knowing what I was shooting at would make the pictures interesting to see later on, but they may also provide some clues as to what happened, or just what I may have been missing while I was out of it. Not to mention, they may well have been the most important and interesting pictures to take for the newspaper, but that was far from my thoughts at the time, at least my concious thoughts. I am sure some part of my brain was thinking it the moment I was blinded and heard the cries for help.
With all the commotion around me, I couldn't be the only one in the same predicament. That light was bright enough to cover the lobby around us like a nuclear explosion, and if I was blinded, everyone else, or near enough, must have been as well. Everyone was stumbling around blind, and only making things worse. The only solace I had is that my flash going off wouldn't have made anyone else any worse for wear.
I tried to orient myself with my chunky surroundings. I felt what I had backed against, and felt the cool metal of a railing, leading down to balusters going down to the ground. It felt curved, and there was an empty space behind it. I could feel something moving back there, moving up and down. I was fairly certain I was near one of the four elevator shafts, and if I was remembering correctly, I wasn't far from the esclators. Looking around, I was pretty sure I could see them, but with all the blinded, frightened, and trampling people, that seemed like a bad route to go. I doubted the elevators would be any better, and I would probably get squished in a door as it shut. Those things were bad enough trying to get into without a panic of blind men.
Turning around and looking up, I could indeed see the concrete column with some clarity raising towards the ceiling. It was large enough to be visible, despite being unclear in the details. Too many minute detals close to the ground to discern much of anything until my vision had returned, but that column helped me orient myself somewhat.
I remained where I was as everyone else continued to panic. I had to manuever myself out of the way of several people, and even managed to stop one or two from going right over the railing behind me and falling down to the floors below, and into the elevator shaft
Once my vision had returned enough to where I felt comfortable trying to find my way out in a safe manner, I started moving forward with a tentative hand outstretched, and one foot inching ahead of the other in a slow exploration. I shuffled along the ground, still not far from my peak, and wanting to not run into anyone else still panicking. The screams had yet to abate, and they were beyond panicked screaming by then. There were screams of pain mixed into the noise, and other cries I could not make out from the rest.
A particular sound rose above the rest and caught my attention, since it was right next to me. It was not louder than the rest of the noises, but I could tell it was directed at me. The sound was very distinct, like a rumbling, a low growl. It was not unlike a wolf or dog, but as I looked towards where I thought the sound was coming from, all I could see was a person, one of the Marvel Zombies I thought.
It would have been hard to tell from across the room with my reduced vision, but being so close, I could tell it was a Cyclops done up with the amazing zombie makeup. He had a full, leather outfit based off the look from the X-Men movies, and a visor that didn't quite sit squarely on his face, as if it was sliding off.
If the person wasn't shambling towards me like a real zombie amidst all the chaos, I may well have taken a few moments to admire the skill of the makeup some more, but then I realised the makeup was looking too good.
The teeth looked far more real in my distorted vision, as did the wounds, looking like they were actually dripping with blood. And that was when I smelled it, a growingly familiar smell of rotting flesh. I pulled my arm it was reaching for away from its grasping hands, and covered my mouth, wanting to be sick. I'd smelled too many things, both real and imaginary, over the past 24 hours that reminded me of that smell, and I had about enough of them by that point.
The creature continued to move forward, and I became more certain that the zombie makeup was not makeup in this case. As unbelievable as it may have seemed, the wounds, the movements, and the stench led me to the only conclusion that I could think of at the moment. If it had happened before there was a blinding bright explosion of light not more than five minutes earlier, I would never have believed the thoughts going through my head, but reality had seemed to check itself at the door to the Hyatt that day.
He still advanced upon me, and I was running out of space to back up into. Without knowing who or what I could back into now, I was going slower and being more hesitant than I would have otherwise been.
Everyone else in the open space seemed to still be lost in blindness, albeit recovering. My camera must have offered me some protection from the light wave, to some extent, and his visor probably kept his eyes protected as well, leaving him far better suited to hunt fresh meat. A room full of meals made the lobby a veritable buffet of goodies for him.
Unfortunately, I seemed to be his choice for catch of the day, and he kept coming towards me, no matter how many others he passed by and would have made better, easier meals. They were just standing there trying to get it together, while I was actively trying to make my escape.
I caught a glimpse behind my pursuer, and could see others of the Marvel Zombies starting to follow him, not unsurprising, most of them appeared to be X-Men, or mutants. Part of that was because the X-Men were popular characters to dress up in, but I couldn't help but be struck by the appropriate similarity of zombie X-Men following a zombie Cyclops.
I felt myself back into something, and turning around could see one of the half-height dividers between the main lobby and the bar. I pondered climbing over it and continuing my escape, since it should have slowed the zombies down at least for a moment or two, and that was more than I had before.
However, on the other side of the barrier, I could see other people. Someone with giant wings, real wings, stretched out, and making no end of a mess as they knocked into chairs, tables, cleaning them off with their span. Around him were others, all similarly changed. There was some furry red beast with large fangs and six tails between me and the winged person. The fangs disuaded me from wanting to leap over the wall, from one thing wanting to eat me to the other. Not much of a choice.
I turned away from the wall, paying it no more heed for the time being, and turned back towards my primary problem. The zombies were almost on top of me, moving faster than I had anticipated. I grabbed my camera and was ready to use it as a club, against all the screaming voices in my head at what I was about to do with my most precious possession. I argued the position that my body was worth more than the camera, and they quieted.
"Ok, fine." I planted my feet on the ground and held the camera over my shoulder, ready to swing. It was no shotgun, but it would have to do in a pinch. "But if I'm going out, I'm taking you bastards with me!"
I prepared to make my final stand against the zombie X-Men, a part of my brain realising just how absurd that sounded, but my time had not yet come. Just as I was about to dive forward swinging and praying for a way to get away, but as I did, I found the zombies shrinking before me. It took a moment before my brain realised that they weren't shrinking, but I was somehow being lifted into the air. The pain in my shoulders from trying to hold up the weight of the rest of my body was the biggest clue.
My mind scattered between the panic of somehow rising into the air and wanting to be let down, and the thought that going down would likely hurt considerably once I hit the hard, tiled floor, and returning myself into the throng of zombies.
While I considered my options, doing my best to ignore the pain, I gripped my camera all the harder, realising it was the only thing making me able to have such a chance to make a decision.
Looking down at the zombies, I could see 'Cyclops' looking up at us, and he pulled off his visor, firing a blast of crimson force past me. I let out a cry of surprise as it missed me by a wide berth, but only because I found myself jerked to the side.
"Hold on tight," I heard someone cry out, and it was only then that I bothered to look up, and saw that it was a flying woman holding onto my camera and carrying me up and out of the way.
I blinked several times, finding this even harder to believe than the zombies beneath me. I looked the woman over, recognising the Ms. Marvel costume, but while it still looked like my friend, as far as I knew she couldn't fly, and something about her looked different.
I stared for awhile, for numerous reasons, until it occurred to me just what was wrong about the whole thing, and it was the hair.
Before, and below, when we had met prior to the flash, the hair looked good on her, but it was still a wig, and it was easy to tell that, even to the untrained eye. But now as I looked, and became more certain as my vision had cleared, and despite the shock of everything happened around, and below, me, it was clear. That was real blonde hair from her head. The shine was different, it moved differently, and just everything about it screamed that it was real.
I feared I was beginning to crack up, even moreso than before, and all I could get to come out of my mouth was, "Meggan, is that you?!"