The End: Story One
Border Town

By: David K. Montoya

As we approached the border buildings that separated California from Nevada, we saw the silhouettes of the old casinos—that once housed millions of visitors and possibly trillions of dollars. But now, they have become deserted tombs, nothing more than empty, towering monuments that symbolized a time that once was.

I remember as a child, the anticipation that would build when we saw the casino lights off in the distance. This was our parents favorite vacation spot and Richard and I spent most of our school holidays here. Mom and Dad used to give the both of us handfuls of quarters just to squander on those non–rewarding videogames, so we would stay out of their hair and they could have some time to themselves. They would spend hundreds of dollars just to keep us quiet, and that was before Rose and Tina were born. I could not even fathom how much money they had spent on four kids. I took Michael and his mother once, when he was a baby, but Maria never had the opportunity, since the 'Sickness' hit only a year after she was born.

Once we got into the area of the first three casinos, Maria asked if we could take a look around since it was her first time out of California. At first, I was a little hesitant, but Richard assured me that this area was still safe from the Unluckys.

We pulled onto the empty parking lot and sat there for a few moments in awe, looking at the themed paintings on the building. This casino's theme was set back in the old Klondike days of the 1800s. Even though some of the paint was flaking off from years of unprotected weathering, most of the scenes were still legible. For the most part the structure was in good condition, the only noticeable damage was the casino's sign; it had snapped in half after the huge earthquake in Boulder City back in 2024. We walked around the parking lot for a little while and Renee said that this was the last place she and her fiancee stayed before he got ill.

Then Rose had the bright idea of going inside. Now I openly voiced my disapproval, but I was clearly outvoted. In fact, Richard and the girls were already making their way to the main entrance before I finished my sentence.

#

As we stepped inside the main lobby of the casino, the smell of stale cigarette smoke and old money was overwhelming. I looked around the complex and after a good decade of being dormant, everything still looked fairly new. Too bad there was no longer any electricity to run this place; I would like to see it in its full glory one more time.

Tina called me over to the bar even though she was rummaging around behind it and was completely out of sight. She finally popped up holding a bottle of old German whiskey, which was the exact brand I would drink in my younger days, but gave it up shortly after Michael was born. I told the others to come over to the bar as well, as Tina sat a line of shot glasses in front of us and started to fill them with whiskey.

Rose snatched up her glass and said 'To Haven', and each of us joined in the cheer. They continued to drink, as well as had a couple of laughs, which I felt were needed. I had not seen my kids laugh and smile in years and even if it was alcohol induced, it was still good for their souls.

Michael walked over to me and handed me another shot of whiskey. I told him that I needed to stay on my toes for everyone's safety, but he would have none of it, telling me this would possibly be the last time he would ever have a chance to have a drink with his father. I laughed and tossed back one more drink with my son. After which I told him to go head back over with the others, that I was going to have a look around.

After a short time of exploring the casino, I wandered outside. It was the very back of the building, were everything was stored. I walked over to what looked like a huge storage tank that possibly would have been used to hold water. Curious, I turned a large valve and I was surprised to find that it was not water, but gasoline.

Shutting off the flow, I quickly ran back to the others. I explained that I had found gas and needed help finding something big enough to store it in. We all split up and searched the entire complex for a few good hours. Then Richard found an old barrel that might have been used for storing something like clearing chemicals, but I was sure that any contaminants would have evaporated by now.

We hauled the barrel back to where I found the fuel. Richard, Michael, and I used our thicker blades to remove the top of the barrel and rolled it over until it was underneath the enormous faucet. After transferring the gas into our drum which almost topped it off, we brought the SUV around back and loaded the gas into the back.

We all sat there for a moment in the shade of the huge container, resting from the strain of loading the drum into the SUV. I noticed the sun was in the middle of the sky, which meant that it was already noon and we were still 70 miles from Vegas.

We climbed back into the vehicle and made our way out of the casino's parking lot, back on to the freeway. The atmosphere was different this time around; everyone's spirit seemed up and we were talking and laughing with each other despite the scorching heat of Nevada's desert. It could have been the drinks from earlier or it could be that for the first time, everyone had a small feeling of hope.

#

Traveling along the old 'I' Fifteen, Tina noticed something quite large in the middle of the road a few miles up. Michael reached in the back and pulled out a pair of binoculars. He held the device to his eyes for a moment without saying anything, as he studied what he was at looking through the lenses.

He put the binoculars back down on his lap and looked over at me in a rather perplexed way. I asked him what was the matter and what did he see out there? Michael did not reply to my question right away, but finally he said that he had seen a group of trucks in a circle and that men where standing on top of the vehicles.

I asked him if he could tell what the men were doing. He held the binoculars back up to his eyes and paused for a second, then lowered them to his lap and shrugged his shoulders. We continued up the old freeway and once we could visually see the men, I had everyone arm themselves with a weapon. We were now close enough to see that the group of men (who were carrying automatic rifles) were tossing the bodies of dead Unluckys into the back of their trucks. It seemed as if they had been collecting the corpses for quite a while, as the bodies were piling up in the trucks.

Once we pulled up to the men, I rolled down my window and asked if we could pass. The men stepped away from their vehicle and surrounded ours. One of them walked over and asked where I was heading as he checked out the inside of our SUV. I explained what had been going on and that we were on our way to Haven.

When the word 'Haven' was spoken, the group of men began to laugh. The man (who I think was the leader of the bunch) stated that we were on a pointless journey because the city of 'Haven' did not exist. It was just a fable made up to give what was left of us false hope.

After a few more insulting giggles he headed back over to his truck, but the others stayed where they were. Moments later, I noticed another truck pulled up behind us (which blocked us in). Then the leader returned and offered safe passage to us if we wished to follow him back to Palace City. I asked him where that was located and he explained that it was the old casino that was done over as the palace of Julius Caesar. A few years back a group of settlers had renovated the complex and a city within the walls of the building. Now more than a hundred people resided there.

I talked it over with the others and we all agreed that perhaps it would be a good idea to take his invitation and we did. The man commandeered the SUV and we traveled east. No one said a word because well, quite frankly, none of us were sure if we were really prisoners or if we were guests.

To be continued…

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