Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 10
In which Jones checks another vacation destination off his bucket list
|Glen Smuda||May 21, 2020|
When Jones woke again, they were in Vegas. Miles of gated apartment blocks lined the empty boulevards. The sun pulsed a steady drumbeat of heat on commuters huddled under umbrellas and canopies. They bobbed their heads to invisible concerts as they waited for the train. Solar panels collected the brilliant light reflecting off the miles of pavement and diverted it down into the ground, where Jones assumed it powered the massive air conditioning units lining the buildings.
Marvin cruised towards the heart of the city. A ring of desolation encircled the strip. Empty houses barred windows stood guard over lawns decorated with artifacts of the old era. Cracked neon signs, broken statues and wooden cutouts of cowboys decorated brown, gravel-studded yards. Chain-link fences encircled empty, rubble-studded lots. Abandoned motels with sagging railings advertised 'FEE HBO.’ Their rooms had no doors. Strip clubs with torn down blinds revealed empty stages. Former wedding chapels announced themselves with faded red hearts and white wooden arches strewn with dead vines.
In the distance, a rectangular, golden-paned tower broke free from the squatting skyline. Only the top floors were still intact. The lower floors had lost all the glass in their windows. Sand dunes welled up in the interiors of each empty, gutted level.
Marvin turned onto Las Vegas Boulevard and stopped. They were at the top of the Strip. Jones tried to match the scene with picture postcards of Vegas he’d seen from its earlier heyday. The palm trees were gone, replaced with wireless towers. The lights and faux Roman statues and billboards were gone too. Only the crowds remained. People packed the sidewalks and crowded through pockmarked beige buildings lining the boulevard. Men in t-shirts and jeans stood on the corners and exhorted passerby to take a picture with Cookie Monster, gesturing at their white knit chests.
“Here we are!” Marvin said. “I’ll be back for you tonight.”
Jones opened the car door, then slammed it against the blast of heat. “Are you sure you can’t stay? Maybe you could give me a ride to somewhere cooler.”
“We’re in the desert,” Marvin informed him. “Agent Moss wants me to run another errand. I can’t stay here. Besides, the electromagnetic interference is killing me.”
Jones jammed the baseball cap on his head, and braced himself as stepped out of the car. “Where should I meet you?” he asked.
“I’ll find you,” Marvin promised. “Have fun!”
On the curb, Jones slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and watched as his ride drove away. He was all in now. He had only two goals: to avoid heatstroke, and to find Mad Crab. Jones decided to find a place to stash his luggage and develop a plan of attack. He had no contacts. He had no clues. He had no choice but to gamble on his own wits.
"You're in Vegas," he murmured to himself. "It's time for a date with Lady Luck."
A shrill, piercing scream jolted Jones out of his pep talk. He turned, startled. A man in a plain white t-shirt and khakis was charging him, waving his arms over his head.
"Get the fuck out of here!" the man shouted. "Get to the high ground!”
Jones jumped back from the curb, looking around quickly. No one else was paying attention. The man sprinted past him, barely seeming to notice Jones as he shouldered him out of the way.
“We only have twenty minutes,” he continued, still shouting as he ran away. “Then, the wave destroys everything!"