05-20-2012, 03:04 PM
Dr. Melinda Shyne, MD, examined the hand X-rays on the flourescent screen in the examining room of St. Mary's Hospital. No sign of infection, no major fractures, no long term damage as far as she could see. Just a four-inch nail going straight through the right hand. It had taken the better part of an hour to extract it without incurring any more damage. A few stitches front and back, an Ace bandage, and the patient was good to go, with orders to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to replace blood loss.
The patient, of course, was none other than Criss Angel, Las Vegas' hottest new illusionist and resident daredevil. He had been bought into the ER after his latest stunt went wrong--attempting to catch a nail fired from a pneumatic nail gun at fourteen hundred feet per second. Dr. Shyne had seen and undone the damage caused by human stupidity and recklessness: firecrackers launched from hands, mouths, and in one case, the buttocks; Evel Kneval and Tony Hawk wannabes who had crashed into concrete without a helmet; accidental chainsaw massacres; and the list went on. Usually, the patients were a little wiser if none the worse for wear after their ordeal, but when it came to death-defying stunts, Criss Angel took the blue ribbon for sheer persistance. The only difference was that he got paid for it.
Now he sat on the examining table, his hand bandaged in gauze, his face indifferent. Dr. Shyne turned to her famous patient and looked him squarely in the eye.
"You got off lucky, Criss," she told him. "That nail could have ended your career for good. What made you think you could catch a flying nail in the first place?"
"Well, I caught an arrow a few years ago," Criss explained. "So I decided to up the ante and go for a nail from a nail gun."
"And you lost," Dr. Shyne said. "Look, Criss, do yourself a favor. Stick to card tricks and making coins disappear, okay? You might just live to see your next birthday."
"People don't pay me to just make coins disappear or just do card tricks, Doc," Criss retorted. "They want me to freak them out."
"Well, you certainly did with that nail gun. You're the only person I know who makes a living trying to kill himself."
"I'm not trying to kill myself, Doc," Criss argued. "I'm just the type who likes to push his own envelope, that's all."
"Keep it up and you'll be pushing yourself into your own grave," the doctor shot back.
"Been there, done that," Criss shrugged.
"Only you'll be dead for sure. You, my friend, are an adrenalin junkie," she told him. "You get a rush from danger. You get high from the adrenalin when you do those stunts of yours. You couldn't stop even if you wanted to."
"So what do you want me to do?" Criss asked, "go into rehab?"
"If there was a clinic for it, I'd say yes."
"Look, Doc, I'll be fine, really. Don't worry about me, or you'll be giving yourself an ulcer or something."
"It's not myself that's at issue here," Dr. Shyne said. "It's you. You're the one who's been living on the edge, and one day you are going to find yourself toppling over it with no one to save you. You can't keep cheating death forever, you know."
Criss picked up his jacket with his good hand. "When my time comes, it comes," he replied philosophically. "I don't fear death, I accept it. Circle of life and all that." He gave the petite, strawberry-blond physician a friendly hug. "I'll send you an invitation to my next birthday party," he said, smiling mischeviously as he left the examining room.
Dr. Shyne could only stand there, shaking her head in disbelief.
Fashion Week was still three months away, but Vivi DiLano of Las Vegas' ECRU was a whirlwind of activity. Fabric selections, fittings, alterations, redesigns, measurements, and all the usual stresses of preparing for a fashion show kept her going at a marathon pace. Though she was only a twenty-two year old intern for Vegas' own high-end clothing line, she was as determined as the designer herself that everything would be perfect for the big event. Vivi herself took care in her own personal appearance and behavior to reflect the integrity and the sophistication of ECRU. Her hair was fashionably layered with tufts sticking out in just the right places, her makeup was impeccably applied, and her clothes came from ECRU itself, a perk from her internship. She carried herself with dignity and grace, or so she believed. Her friends thought her divalike attitude made her seem snobbish, almost a caracature of the fashionista she pretended to be. Looking past her designer clothes, they saw the same plain-Jane Genevieve Delano from Pioche, Nevada, with a faceful of pimples and an impossible dream to become a fashion designer in her own right.
In Vivi's mind, however, her past was dead and gone. She had burned her bridges behind her and was on her way to becoming fashion's newest sensation with her internship with ECRU. To her, it was a stepping stone to fame and fortune. But for now, she had to get everything ready for Fashion Week, and make sure that everything was perfect. Erica Connolly, the chief designer for ECRU, was counting on her, and Vivi was not going to let her down.
She went into the sewing room to check on the gowns to be modeled at the show. Six were already hanging on the rack, ready to go. She carefully inspected each gown for flaws or imperfections. The blue low-cut looked good enough. The black dress with the hip-high slit seemed to hang just right, though she wouldn't know until the actual fitting. She measured the pleats in the sleeves of the winter-wheat after-six gown to make sure they were all equally spaced. To her relief, they were, but she saw some loose threads dangling from the ends. Very sloppy work, she thought to herself. Well, she'd have to snip them herself. She took a pair of shears from her toolbelt and was about to painstakingly trim the sleeves when she felt the floor move under her feet. It was as if someone had set the building on vibrate. Then, just as suddenly, it stopped.
All sewing stopped. No one moved for a few seconds, only murmurs of bewiderment. The word "earthquake" bounced back and forth among the staff. Vivi dismissed such a foolish notion. Earthquakes in Las Vegas? No way! LA maybe, but Vegas was miles away from the San Andreas fault. No, it had to be a truck or something going by.
"All right, everyone," she called out. "Let's get back to work now. Nothing to worry about."
Dr. Adams pondered the study done by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas seismic research team that he had just read. The one-point-five reading from the graphs had been just a minor tremor according to Reno and Carson City. Indeed, it hadn't even registered with them. Adams was tempted to pass it off as a fluke, but long experience had told him that dismissing the smallest tremor could have major consequences. The best course of action was to monitor the southern tip of the state for any future spikes on the graph. Only time would tell whether it was a fluke or a harbinger of disaster to come...
Earthquake risks around Las Vegas are significant. As the metropolitan area sustains its record growth rate, the potential for damage from a major earthquake continues to grow apace. Recent upgrades to seismic construction standards will help to mitigate risk. However, today we are a long way from truly understanding the potential consequences of a devastating earthquake, which must happen before we can adequately prepare.
"Wow!" Chaunte Fresh exclaimed. "Did you feel that?"
"You mean that vibrating under the sidewalk?" her friend Marie Austin asked her.
"Yeah," Chaunte answered. "Wasn't that wierd?"
"I didn't know Las Vegas had earthquakes," Marie said curiously.
"Maybe it was the subway," Chaunte opined. "They have a subway here in Las Vegas, you know."
Marie seemed relieved. "Of course! That must have been it!"
"Yeah, so let's get to the Luxor and see Criss!"
Both skipped happily to the Luxor Hotel, two young tourists from Wisconsin, Loyals to a fault. They had pooled their tips from working in a sports bar for this wonderful three-day vacation in Sin City. It took a lot of lifting endless pitchers of beer and enduring the goosing and shameless flirting from the customers to rake in enough cash to finance the trip, but in the end, it was worth it. They were in Vegas, home of Criss Angel, the hottest, sexiest, most magical hunk this side of the Mississippi! Nothing was going to stop them from seeing him, not if they could help it!
The object of Chaunte's and Marie's affection was in the production office, nursing his injured hand. His eldest brother, JD, sat next to him, a concerned look on his face, but not for Criss' hand.
"I'm glad your hand is all right, Criss," JD said, "but now we got another problem."
Criss looked expectantly at him. "It's Costa," JD began. "He's been kinda moody lately. I don't think he's slept for days. When I asked him what was wrong, he just blew me off, said it was nothing. And while you were at the doctor, he came in late and went straight into the bathroom. Didn't come out for almost an hour."
Criss grew concerned. True, Costa had always been the quiet one among the three, but this was definatly unusual. Coming in late? Ignoring his own family? "Something's wrong," he said.
"Wanna go talk to him?" JD suggested.
Criss nodded. "Let's go talk to him and see what this is all about," he said, rising. "Where is he?"
JD looked around. "Dunno. Gotta look for him."
He wasn't at his usual desk, he wasn't in the store, he wasn't in the front of the office. Only when JD looked in the back storage area did he find his wayward brother, sitting on some cartons, looking miserable.
"Hey, Criss!" he called out. "In here."
Criss trotted over to the storage area, wondering why Costa would be holed up in there of all places. "Cos?" he called out softly, so as not to startle him. "You okay, dude?"
Costa turned his head slowly toward his brothers, saying nothing. Criss and JD sat down on either side of him on the carton.
"What's up, bro?" Criss asked him, caressing Costa's back comfortingly. "Something wrong?"
"You wanna talk about it?" JD encouraged.
Costa sighed heavily. "I...I don't know," he shrugged. "How can I explain what I can't figure out?"
"Tell us about it," JD said, "and we can figure it out together."
Another heavy sigh. "I've been having this...dream, nightmare, whatever you want to call it, for three nights in a row now. It's driving me nuts!"
"What's it all about?" Criss asked.
"That's what I want to know," Costa replied. "I kept having the same dream of burning buildings, people crying out to me for help, but I don't know how to help them. I don't know if it's a warning or a prediction or what."
"Can you describe it in more detail?" Criss asked.
"Well, it looked like Nine-Eleven, only it was here in Las Vegas," Costa began. "Burning, ruined, collapsed buildings, smoke and fire, people covered in soot, bleeding, burned, and they all want me to help them. So much pain, so much suffering."
Costa broke off, burying his face in his hands. Criss kept up with the backrubs. "It's the same damn dream, over and over again!" Costa exclaimed. "You know how Dad always taught us to pray whenever we had a bad dream when we were kids? Well, I did that this morning, but it didn't help, not one bit! It's getting so I'm scared to go to sleep at night! Oh, God!" he moaned.
"Maybe you need some time off," Criss suggested. "Relax, do something you want to do for a while. Go back to New York and see Mom."
"Mom's in Greece, remember?" JD reminded him.
Damn! I forgot. "Well, anyway, maybe a change of scenery would do you good," Criss persisted. "Take a few days off and have a little fun. You've earned it. Then, maybe you'll feel better."
Costa rose to leave. JD and Criss walked out the door with him. "It's gonna be okay, Cos," JD assured him. "Maybe you're having a flashback to Nine-Eleven or something."
"For three straight nights?" Costa countered. "I don't think so."
"Hey, Nini!" Hadley Grace called out to the young clerk behind the counter of the MindFreak store. "Did you feel the earthquake just now?"
Serenity Luciano looked bemusedly at the slender brunette who was the very epitome of her surname, a dancer with Criss Angel's show Believe in the Luxor. "Earthquake? What earthquake?" she wanted to know.
"I felt it outside as I was coming in," Hadley told her. "It wasn't anything major, just a little shaking, like one of those old Magic Fingers beds they have in cheap motels, or something."
"No, I didn't feel a thing," Nini answered. "I've been in the shop all afternoon."
Hadley looked disappointed. "Oh. Well, it was nothing major, like back in Two Thousand Six."
"Whatever," Nini shrugged. "Say, the manager's in, and I'd get canned if I got caught gossiping during working hours again. Catch you later at LAX, okay?"
"Sure," Hadley nodded understandingly. Nini was putting herself through school, having no other resourses but her own, having been raised by her great-grandmother after her parents abandoned her at age four when they realized their teen marriage was a big mistake and went their separate ways. On her own for the first time, Nini balanced school and work with equal grace, landing a partial athletic scholarship at UNLV in volleyball.
Oh, yes, Hadley knew about struggle. She herself had been dancing since the age of five, and finally landed a spot with Believe after one failed audition after another. She lived with her sister, Marcie, in an apartment just off North Las Vegas. Both struggled with making the seven hundred and fifty dollar a month rent and keeping body and soul together, Hadley as a dancer, Marcie as a bartender.
One day, their ship would come in, she believed. Criss Angel was her inspiration, her guiding force. He was no quitter, and neither was she. It had been the greatest thrill of her life to be part of his show. He exuded confidence, and encouraged his troupe to work hard to make the show work. When she landed the spot, it was as if Heaven itself had opened up for her.
Hadley left the store in high spirits. "I feel the earth...move...under my feet!" she sang. "I feel the sky tumbling down!"
Last edited by Veritas; 05-21-2012 at 12:34 AM.