Ten years earlier…
It was nearly 1:00 A.M. and Andrew King was happy. Really happy. He'd just received a fifty-eight cent raise from his boss, and was headed to his humble home that laid in the suburbs outside Phoenix. On his drive home, he noticed his fuel gauge was precariously approaching empty. Spying a gas station, he pulled into it, and saw that it was an unmanned self-serve. Looking around, he noticed the streetlights on both sides of the road were flickering forebodingly. The streetlamps offered little illumination, and he was worried that this would be the perfect place for someone to attempt a carjacking.
He couldn’t help feeling a little spooked, the empty road and the deserted lots all around him offered him few assurances of his safety. At thirty-one years of age, the out of shape office worker would only be able to offer token resistance to any who wished to do him harm. Scanning his seemingly deserted surroundings, he felt that he was probably safe, and decided to take his chances. Exiting his Chevy Malibu, he pulled his light jacket tightly around his torso. When he felt the chill brisk wind blow past him and through the deserted lot, he involuntarily shivered as he felt it pass through the thin fabric of his jacket, chilling him to the bone. Whether in fear at some imagined boogeyman hiding in the shadows beyond his peripheral vision, or in response the chill night air he didn't know. Wishing to be back on way as quickly as possible, he swiped his debit card at the pump. Pausing to examine the prices displayed on the pump, he narrowed his dark brown eyes in displeasure when he saw how high the price of unleaded had risen.
Nearly four dollars a gallon? Outrageous! he grumbled before sighing his resignation. Reaching to select the fuel grade, he paused when he felt the ground beneath his feet tremble.
“Whoa,” he said, trying desperately to keep his balance. Grabbing a hold of the fuel pump to steady himself, he looked on in amazement as the dimly lit streetlamps along the road wildly swayed back and forth. All around him, he heard the sharp cracks and snaps of bulbs exploding violently, covering the street below with a shower of sparks. Knowing this place wasn’t safe, he attempted entering his vehicle in hopes of driving to safety. However before he could move, the lights above him exploded, sending bits of glass and plastic raining down on his head. Temporarily blinded and disoriented by the shower of debris, he attempted steadying himself and reached out his hands to grab the roof of his car. But before he managed to grab hold, another tremor shook the ground, knocking him off his feet.
Falling backwards, he steeled himself for the impact, as he fully expected to hit his head against the pavement. To his surprise, he continued falling for far longer than it should have taken. Opening his eyes, he discovered he'd recovered from his temporary blindness. To his dismay, he discovered he was falling towards a large sand dune. Seconds later, he impacted against the sand, rolled down the dune, and came to a stop on his back.
“Oh, my aching head,” he groaned, spitting out the course sand from his mouth. Standing up, he tried gaining his bearings before being interrupted by a heavy crash behind him. Looking up at the sand dune, the heavy set man saw to his amusement two vending machines lying face down on the sand dune's crest. Looking up, he could see the gas station in what appeared to be a tear in the unfamiliar star filled sky overhead. Seeing his opportunity to escape whatever this place was, he climbed on top of one of the prone vending machines, trying to get as close to the tear in the sky as possible.
“Here goes nothing,” he muttered to himself, as he looked at the ground below. Involuntarily shivering and slightly afraid, he took a leap of faith, as he attempted to grab a hold of anything he could. At the crest of the jump, he felt his fingertips brush against the rip in the sky. Failing to grab anything, he landed in a heap at the bottom of the dune. “Oww! I’m going to feel that in the morning,” he complained, rubbing his sore and bruised backside.
Andrew stood up to make a second attempt. Dusting the sand off of himself and out of hi
This time Andrew had much better success. He managed to grab a hold of the ground surrounding the rip. Grunting in exertion, he attempted pulling himself up out of the rip and onto the pavement. To his dismay, he found that he didn’t have the upper-body strength to pull himself up. In desperation he managed to grab a hold of the rear wheel of his vehicles back left tire. Before he could pull himself up any further, the rip opened up further swallowing up part of his car. Knowing that his car could drop on his head at any time, he silently cursed his rotten luck. Taking a deep breathe he let go of the tire, and then fell into the unknown.
This time Andrew was ready for the landing, and tucked and rolled when he hit the sand dune below him. Once he had come to a stop, he looked up and saw that his car was now sliding through the rip and onto the sand dune below. Before the car could slide any further, the rip began closing cutting the car in two.
Andrew stared dumbfounded as the rear end of his car fell onto the sand below. “My insurance agent is never going to believe this,” he said, coughing as sand hit him in the face.
Looking up at the full moon high above him, Andrew felt grateful that it provided him with enough light to see. Climbing back up the sand dune to inspect the remains of his poor vehicle, he saw that it had missed hitting both vending machines. Using his keys to unlock the trunk of his now compact car, he checked to see what was salvageable. Fortunately he found 2 gallon jugs of water, a tire iron, some dirty clothes, a blanket, a tarp, several road flares, and a survival kit he had won the week prior from a workplace raffle.
Checking the survival kit he was relieved when he saw what it contained, a small steel hatchet, fifty feet of rope, a compass, a flint and steel, a rudimentary first aid kit, a sewing kit, a road map of Arizona, and the most importantly thing of all, a multi-tool. Normally not a very religious person, Andrew offered a silent prayer of thanks to the big guy upstairs for giving him a means of survival in this strange place. Feeling his stomach rumble in hunger he looked at his tire iron, and then the two vending machines.
Twenty minutes had passed and Andrew had broken into both vending machines relieving them of their contents. Both machines were half full of assorted candies, snack foods, chips, jerky, about two pounds of change and some assorted bills of varying amounts. Knowing he needed to ration out his food, he opened up a package of generic cream filled cupcakes and devoured them with relish. Taking a small swig from one of the gallon jugs, he shuddered at the taste of the water that had been sitting in his trunk for who knows how long. Looking up at the sky, he saw the moon was probably forty-five minutes from setting. Thinking back to his youth, he tried to remember his scout training as well as he could. From the top of the sand dune he was standing on, he saw what could only be described as badlands or scrub. Large boulders and dry grasses for miles were all around him as far as the eye could see. To the west he saw a string of mountains shrouded in clouds, with visible vegetation. Knowing that where there are plants, there will also be water, the stranded office worker decided his next course of action should be to head towards the mountain range and hope for the best.
Using pieces of his car, the vending machines, and a whole lot of twine, Andrew managed to construct a crude yet sturdy sled to help carry his possessions. By now the sun was beginning to crest over the eastern horizon, while the moon was setting in the west. With his rope tied to the sled and his waist, his multi-tool strapped to his belt and hanging next to tire iron he had attached with twine, the overweight and out of shape man began his long arduous trek towards parts unknown, with only the mountains in the distance as his only hope of survival.