by Savannah Hendricks
Ryan shuffled his weary feet down the deserted and frozen Las Vegas strip; the sound of his arms swishing against his jacket disrupted the silence. He was unaware of the day or month. Every form of media had ceased since July 4, 2018. Snow, which was more ice than anything had piled up against the edges of what Ryan could only assume was the sidewalk lip. Tire tracks created during the mad escape of vehicles were molded ice fossils to the road.
Ryan’s eyes caught the brass of the dolphin statues in the frozen waterfall staircase outside The Mirage. The hazy daylight would keep him safe from the Owats who would wake at night fall.
He crossed the street and made his way to the long patio of the Palazzo. Ryan thought of the Owats’ glowing black eyes, sticky wing span, and their ability to rotate their furry heads completely around. The Owats’ didn’t start out that way. They started as women, and then they grew owl type fur over their skin. The eyes, whatever color before, changed pitch black. Next their limbs were affected, arms turning into black sticky wings. Lastly, their legs shriveling up into two paws for balance with curled claws for hanging.
Looking into the remoteness of the patio that lay before him, Ryan glanced up towards the decorative faux beams. He saw two sleeping Owats hanging upside down when he heard the sound of a woman calling his name.
“Julie?” Ryan yelled toward the noise.
He had been searching for her for some time now.
Ryan followed the noise, tripping on the first few steps leading up to the entrance. His boots crunched on the broken glass from the damaged doors. At first all Ryan could make out was the intense black eyes creeping towards him.
“Julie?” Ryan called, the movement was heading his way.
Ryan felt for the handrail as he stepped backwards. The figure came into the daylight and Ryan knew it was too late. The transformation had started, and that’s why it was still able to move around during the day. Julie’s fur looked as smooth and soft as her skin once had. The Owats had gotten to her, biting her, changing her slowly. Her limbs had been affected and wings were taking shape.
Ryan now knew he could only save himself, to keep from being hunted, to keep from becoming a mere snack.
Ryan’s back banged into the Corinthian columns. The ice below made for a poor grip and his feet flew out from under him. His tailbone smacked onto the ice. Ryan pushed back into the column. He could still smell the flower notes of her perfume. Julie opened her jaw and let out a deep vibrating hoot. He swore he smelled cinnamon gum.
Ryan feared what would come next and he looked away. He could feel her breath on his ear…then wetness. Julie was licking his ear with the tip of her tongue. Ryan calmly turned his head back, their eyes meeting.
“Julie,” his voice trembled.
Julie’s mouth opened as if she was yawning, then she arched forward and nibbled with her ever sharpening teeth into Ryan. At the last seconds of conciseness he felt the crunch of his skull between her teeth, her tongue searching for his brain matter. As Ryan’s soul voided his body he saw what remained of Julie’s hands, now spread out on his lap as she chewed apart the succulent brain from the cranium like marrow in a dog bone.