“What did this?”
“The animals. It was radiation. Seeped out and only affected the animals, made them feral, made them hungry. Now we fight to live.”
“Can we survive, mom?”
“Only time will tell. You ready?”
The boy nods nervously. His mother accepts that he’s nervous but knows they need to move on. She pushes open the door in front of them. Past the shipping crate they sit in is a world with overgrown, lush foliage springing up and encompassing everything around them. They’ve been hiding out under a shipping yard, a small city built underground where it is safe relative to what lurks above ground.
“Come on.” The mother tugs at her son’s hand but he remains immobile, frozen from apprehensive anticipation. “We have to move. If we make too much noise, they’ll hear us.” She tugs again and this time he reluctantly moves. She whispers back to him: “Thank you.”
She jumps down from the shipping crate and grips tightly a revolver. She peers down at the chamber and sees three rounds resting, ready to be fired when needed.
“You won’t need that, will you?” the boy asks, noticing his mother looking cautiously at the weapon.
“We have to be ready for anything,” she says back uneasily. “Here. Take this.” She hands him a black pistol. “It has three rounds, just like mine. You have to be ready to use it at a moment’s notice, okay?” The boy shakes his head to show he understands. “Good.”
“Mom, what was it like before this?” the boy asks. His mother catches his gaze going farther out into the city beyond. He’s marvelling at the skyscraper that’s visible from where they are.
“It was fairly similar but with a lot more people all over the place. And the animals were… they were nicer.” She takes her beige hat off and crouches. The heat is becoming too much and she uses her wrist to wipe the sweat from her forehead. “Your father and I, before he… Well, we used to keep animals in our house. Two cats and a dog.”
“And then?” the boy asks, looking up to his mother with a captivated look on his face.
The mother, horrified by a flash of her husband being attacked by their German Shepherd appearing before her eyes, replies, “I think you know the answer to that.”
“But why do we have to leave the underground? I liked it down there,” the boy says quickly after his mother finishes her last sentence.
“Because the ventilation was poor down there. I already went over this with you. I was the only one that knew how to keep it working but the pipes were too corroded. We had to leave. There’s another settlement close by. At least that’s what we were hearing from another group over the radio. It will be safe for us there. The rest of the people we were living with are already there.”
The mother takes her attention off of her son and her eyes glance all around the area. She sees that it is clear and she tugs her son’s shirt to signal that she’s moving on and for him to follow. They walk further out, away from the city, and come across a roadblock caused by multiple corroded cars sitting unclaimed on the road. She walks up cautiously to the cars and peers inside, eager to see if there are any supplies worth taking. She sees only a skeleton with a little meat left on it sitting in the driver’s seat. She becomes so disgusted that she nearly vomits, a reaction that makes her unwilling to check the other vehicles in the area.
“What is it, mom?”
“Nothing. It’s just… nothing. Let’s keep moving.”
They keep walking and see a small opening at the end of the roadblock between two SUVs and they slide through it. The road seems to end after it and a large wooded area rests beyond it. She shies away from it for a moment, knowing that there’s likely to be a lot of wildlife further in. Her heart starts to beat uncontrollably and she glances down at her son, fearing he’ll be too scared to go any further. She takes in a deep breath and grabs his hand, with best intentions in mind, and pulls him along into the woods.
“Have the gun ready.”
“Please. For your safety.”
They walk for a few minutes, slowly and carefully. The mother moves with each step knowing that if it is loud enough, it could signal to the lurking creatures that they are close. Knowing that they had retained their enhanced senses despite becoming feral, she makes each step as quiet as she possibly can. She notices that her son’s light footsteps are nothing to worry about compared to the noise she’s capable of. The path they step through is accompanied by sunlight up ahead, letting them know that it leads out and back into an open area.
The son’s head suddenly shoots up and he looks to his mother. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” She feels her heart pounding and she stops moving, glancing in every direction. “What was it?”
“It’s close. It sounds like… dogs.”
“Which direction do you hear them coming from?” She speaks more quickly but tries to maintain the decibel level her voice was at.
On the path up ahead steps out a hog, dirty and with green spots scattered throughout its body. Its teeth are sharp and it appears confused but savage. The mother fades back into the side of the path and hunkers down into a bush with her son next to her. The hog starts to sniff and moves closer to them.
The hog nears closer but it’s suddenly thrusted to the ground by a large black-furred wolf pouncing on it. It pushes the hog over and two more wolves join in, one from each side. The mother and son hear the hog squealing in pain but they use the distraction to slip away further into the woods. They find another path with little in the way of sticks that they could step on and snap. They use the distraction of the hog to their advantage and move quickly around the feasting wolves. They near the main path again and merge into it slowly and quietly. The wolves still haven’t noticed. ‘
“It’s just beyond here. The settlement. We’ll be safe soon.”
The mother can see her son shaking and puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Almost there. Stay strong.”
They step out of the woods and the mother hears a damning sound, the breaking of a stick under her son’s feet. The wolves look up from their feast and, with ravenous looks in their eyes, peer at the mother and her son. The largest one, without hesitation, takes off after them. The mother picks up her son and rushes out into the field beyond the woods.
“Don’t look back!”
The mother turns around and fires off a round at the wolves but it does nothing to scare them off.
“We’re close! We’re almost there!” She lies to her son to comfort him.
At the end of the field is another road with more disheveled cars. Far from safe, even if they were able to make it there.
The mother hears the wolves closing in, gnashing their teeth. The mother continues moving as quickly as she can but braces her body for impact.
“Do it now!” a voice yells from behind the cars. A serenade of gunfire begins and the mother and her son fall to the ground as a quick reaction.She holds her son to the dirt as closely as she can, fearing that a stray bullet will find them. But a moment later the barrage is over. She slowly look up and sees a group of people standing by the vehicles. She sees a man from her original group wearing a tan explorer’s hat and sitting on a lawn chair comfortably. He holds a rifle across his lap and smiles at the mother and gives her a thumbs up. She disregards her heart pounding uncontrollably and stands the rest of the way up. She picks her son up and they look on at the grouping of cars.
“Mom, what is it?”
She takes in a deep breath and exhales slowly. A smile starts to form on her face. “We made it.”
After a disease spread out and infected nearly every animal on Earth, a few people remain, running from shelter to shelter while the infected, feral animals hunt them down. A mother protects her son from the horrors of the outside world in a city hidden underground. But now, when their city is in shambles, they are forced outside and must leave for the nearest shelter, escaping the feral animals that now rule the world.