The clock hanging on a sterile white wall read 3:15 am. Below it the barista sprayed whipped cream onto my hot cocoa.
“Did you feel that?” My coworker set her coffee down with a small thump as the ground shivered under our feet.
“What’s going on?” I asked, looking around the hospital coffee shop. Other people around us had paused mid conversation and were getting up out of their chairs. I turned around to see a drowsy couple looking up at the ceiling, murmuring to one another.
The ground shook again. Muffled sounds echoed down the vast open entrance hall. Drawn by the weird sounds I walked away from the growing crowd.
Traci called out after me, “Is it an earthquake?”
Looking to the walls on either side of me I noticed a lack of cracking sheet rock and falling debris. Nothing. I called back to my friend, “I don’t think so. We’d probably would all be dead.”
The ground shivered again, accompanied by more muffled sounds. I tried looking out the wall of square windows, and rotating from entrance. Condensation blurred red and white flashing lights.
Someone in the crowd spoke out loudly, “Why aren’t there any sirens going off?”
I approached the empty front desk. Why isn’t anything going off? Where’s the night guard? I thought as the front entrance rotated, depositing frigid winter air into the lobby.
There just in front of the door stood a man in night security fatigues. A walkie-talkie hung in a limp arm. Something in the way his body sat gave me chills, more so than the cold air pouring through the entrance.
“Michael?” Tracie called after me, her voice suddenly sounding a lot further away.
I walked over to the rotating glass, feeling a sense of urgency fill my body. My breath fogged the passing glass. And then everything shook. Glass bowed in front of my face as I heard people in the hall scream. Cracks tracked through windows and doors.
Outside the man felt onto his backside. He started scooting away, mouth open in terror.
He’s screaming. My brain registered as reflexes snapped into action. I was pushing an emergency exit button and throwing myself into the night air before I felt the cold hit me. A symphony of sirens, and whistling of steam filled my ears as I grabbed the man. His screams melted into the maelstrom as I tried pulling him into the hospital. The ground beneath me bucked and I fell back against a pillar. To my left asphalt and concrete cracked as the ground gave way, sinking in on itself. Bits of glass and metal scattered into the ground from several stories above. A metal rod impaled a wheel chair access sign.
“Get in side sir!” I yelled at the man, who just continued to stare across the asphalt round-a-bout. A blast of heat engulfed us, vaporizing the falling snow right out of the air. I turned my head to see the main parking structure, three stories tall on fire. But it wasn’t on fire. Great clouds of vapor and mist poured from each level. Long tendrils snaked from the structure, disappearing into the air. Below a half-dozen fire engines were parked, lights rotating.
“What’s going on?” I shouted at the guard. He looked up at me in shock. I took a limp hand and pulled him to his feet. Mist continued to run up and down the sides of the building, twisting into the air.
“What’s happened?” I shouted in his ear. Somewhere within the structure metal scraped and tore. Fire men scrambled out of the mist, running past their fire engines. A shadow moved on the second level. With a crunch and groan of metal the smashed nose of a truck broke through a large framed opening. It flipped tail over head and smashed into a fire engine. Water sprayed from ruptured tanks, spraying water across the round-a-bout.
“What the-” I tried to say, but then another car careened out of the second floor, smashing onto the pavement below. Fire fighters were scrambling back into their trucks, trying to get away.
Clouds of vapor billowed around a vast form. It prowled back and forth, tossing vehicle after vehicle over the edge. I stood where I was, disbelief freezing me to the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
And then whatever it was inside the parking structure hissed. It was loud enough to cover all other sounds in the area. The guard, having now pressed past me ran into the rotating doors, screaming.
I stood alone in the night, watching the unknown, and unbelievable occur. Something large enough to throw cars was in that structure. With a deafening bellow it tore through brick and mortar, crashing down onto a hapless fire engine. Claws tore into metal frame like a heated knife through butter. A long scaled neck twisted back and forth as crocodile jaws opened into a roar. Flames shot from its mouth, engulfing the Emergency Department to my right.
“I-It’s a-a . . .” I stammered as great glistening wings, as black as the night, unfurled. Turning back to where it had just crawled out, the beast opened its jaws wide and filled the crumbled structure with flames.
I felt adrenaline kick in as my body jumped into action. I ran back into the hospital lobby to find half a dozen people paralyzed with fear. Tracie stared at me, eyes wide and mouth open.
I open my mouth and screamed, “RUN!” as the wall behind me erupted into flames.