It was a sharp, stinging pain in my leg.
Clearing my eyes of the liquid, I looked down at my hand. It is caked with red blood and deep brown pieces of scabs, seems I have another injury. Wiping off my hand on my shirt, I quickly do a check of my body and find I have a nice gash on my forehead, most likely from falling to the pavement that I am lying on. Pushing the pain aside in my leg, I struggle to my feet.
The world around me comes into focus, or more accurately, tries to come into focus. I find myself standing in a dried pool of what I can only guess, is my blood. My uniform is ripped, burnt and stained with dried blood and some food items, possibly tomato skins.
The only features I can clearly make out are a few large boulders and what seems to be a guard rail about 100 feet from where I am.
As I limp over to the boulders, the stale air makes its presence known. It smells acrid, like someone has burnt a computer monitor or a microwave oven very close by, the smells I associate with burnt popcorn, god I hate popcorn, burnt popcorn being hell in a bag.
A few more steps and I start to get the sky in focus, for the little of it that I can see at least. It's black with smoke, or what looks like smoke. It has to be smoke as the air is thick with smell of electrical fires ablaze somewhere in the distance.
Finally make to the boulders to have a seat. I make a very crude bandage for my head wound out of my uniform jacket. I survey my leg, which seems to be broken, or at least sprained, I can make out a new bump just below the knee-cap, must be the bone snapped in that area.
Just then my mouth becomes as dry as I can ever remember it being in my life. I struggle to command a few drops of saliva but it doesn't work. I reach for my water bottle, but it's not there. It's always there though, always hanging on my belt. But not when I need it the most, of course, my belt is also missing.
Luckily there is a nice puddle of fresh rain water near the side of the road a few feet away. I push myself away from the boulder to make my way to the puddle.
Opening my eyes didn't help to see. They are covered with some cool liquid. As I reached up with my right hand to wipe away the liquid, the first wave of pain hit my body. It was from my leg, wait a minute, am I dreaming? Didn't I go through this already before? I look at my hand and see that the liquid is water, water from the puddle that I took a dive into. I guess I needed water hours before realising I needed water, must've passed out into the puddle.
Having drank my fill of the water, which wasn't all that bad for roadside puddle water, I searched for and found a plastic bottle to collect some water with and take with me. I know I need to move on, just not sure where to move on to.
Getting to my feet and taking another look around me, I find the visibility has greatly improved. I can now easily see what I estimate to be 20 miles. To my left is a road that runs to the base of some mountains maybe 10 miles away, in front me is what seems to be a large complex, possibly military, and a huge mountain range possibly 15 miles away. To right, the same road leads in the opposite direction, though I can't tell what is at the end as there are more than a few smoke plumes rising from the ground in this direction. As I turn to look behind me, the sight I see is terrifying. A huge, simply mammoth stadium like structure that has seen better days, much better days.
The stadium is located on a plot of land that is immense. I can not see the end of the stadium in either direction, it feels as if it goes on forever. All around what could be a parking lot, are fallen palm trees, light posts and traffic signs all pointing away from the smoke plumes, almost as if someone planned each place for them to fall in.
I spin around again in a 360 motion to take one last look at my choices of directions to travel, the base looks huge and would take a long time to hike to anything resembling a building, the road to the mountains is just that, a road to the mountains, the road to the smoke plumes, well, it's far, and leads to obvious destruction and now in front of me is a rundown stadium. I begin the short hike into the stadium.
What looked like an easily do-able hike was really quite the test with only one good leg and down a pint or two of blood. But I made it just before sunset to what I think is the base of the entrance. It's too dark to read the signs on the ground or to see clearly the entrance. I can see that a few feet in front of me, there is a hole in the rubble, I cram myself in for a make shift shelter and decide to wait out the night here.
Waking up either from a sleep or another black out session, I see daylight. I also see a fresh layer of snow covering the landscape. Good thing I found shelter for the night, otherwise I would have frozen.
I make my way out of the hole in the rubble to survey my location. I can clearly see an entrance in to the stadium, so I proceeded that way. On the very short walk, I take a look at the horizon, and see the plumes of smoke still billowing in one direction, and some new ones directly opposite of the main group. Behind me is the large compex area, only now covered in snow.
Finally in the stadium, well, inside the main ring of debris. There are seats strewn about the entire area, mixed with glass, concrete, and some large sections of the walls. The debris field runs from the smoke plumes to the new smoke plumes, I can not tell what the compass points are yet, as it's impossible to see the sun through the low cloud deck. I know it's there, it's light out, but don't where it is. That's starting to annoy me, I really want to know what direction I am looking, or walking. Guess it would to know where I am also, as walking south from nowhere doesn't help.
Continuing to inspect the stadium I find a large sign with the face of a white male on it, I know this face. He's wearing a hat and seems to be glaring at me. The sign is cut off just below his thick mustache. I know this guy, I know that I know this guy, but my memory is failing me. The sound of running water pulls me away from the man on the sign, I hobble over to fresh, running water out of a broken pipe. It tastes like a golden mountain spring compared to the puddle water I had yesterday. I pour out the water bottle, clean it a bit, and fill it with this new-found gold. Also was lucky to find several more plastic bottles laying in the rubble close to the pipe. I am set on water for a day or two. I also took the time to clean my head wound, as well as clean up a bit.
Having finished at the pipe, I begin to walk towards the middle of the stadium, the open part. It isn't long before something strange enters my mind, it's hot, really hot and there is snow covering the ground. What is the deal? I have been pre-occupied with my exploration of the stadium I didn't realise what I was calling snow could not be snow. It's way to hot for snow.
I bend over and scoop up some of the "snow", well, it isn't snow at all, it looks like ash. Volcanic ash possibly. This would explain the low visibility and heavy, low cloud deck. So I know I am somewhere near an active volcano, and near could be 3k miles away, this information doesn't help at all. I continue on towards the center of the stadium.
As I get close to the center of the stadium I find a destroyed ambulance, rummage through it and manage to find the items needed to treat and dress my wounds properly. There was even an air cast large enough for my leg, though while blowing it up I again passed out, this time only for a few minutes, I think. I take a last look around the vehicle, find a lunch pail! Quickly rip that sucker open and there are 3 sandwiches wrapped in plastic, an apple and a diet Pepsi. All items still fresh as can be. I slam down all the food as fast as I can, as if there are hundreds of people fighting me for it, sit back for a few minutes and enjoy the feeling of "full" that I have not felt for some time.
Hopping out of the ambulance, I feel revived, refreshed, recharged, ready to take on whatever the world can throw at me. I take a 360 look around me and find blocks of what used to be a wall, now just pieces of rubble, with letters on them. It's obvious all the letters are not here, and not in the order they once were. I can find the following letters:
They are red letters, huge, and are painted on to a white background. These too look very familiar, just like the man on the damaged sign from the entrance. I take a few steps back and sit down on one of the pieces and try to put this together. My eyes slowly move from the pavement under my feet to the edge of the pavement. There's an old, faded line painted on it. I gaze to right and see the line is along all the remaining pavement as well, it was painted before the disaster for sure. There are also see skid marks running on the pavement and at times across the yellow lines. Maybe this was an airport? Nah, too enclosed for an airport.
My eyes continue the search up, now looking across the center of the stadium, or the bowl. I can tell there was a wall running around the entire bowl. Only a small ribbon of maybe 6 inches remains of this wall, however. Moving up further, I can see the heavy concentration of seats that seem to have been dumped into such a position that points away from my location. Then finally those beautiful mountains, the mountains I have seen every February when the . . .
I quickly stand up and turn around, looking at the blocks with the letters on them, continuing with the memory of when I saw those mountains, the mans face, the pavement . . .could it be? Could it really be?
Putting all the clues together, the letter make up the words:
NE (L) LIS (STR) AI (GH) T (A) WAY - Nellis Straightaway
The man on the sign, NASCAR drive Dale Earnhardt
The pavement - a race track
These three clues added up faster than I could ever explain, a dizzying rush sped through my being. I was feeling nauseous, fright, flight, cold and fear all at the same time. I look up from the pieces of the wall and stare intently on the smoke plumes in the distance, I know what lies in that direction, I what direction that is, what I don't know is how I got here or what has happened to Las Vegas, Nevada.