Richard came out of the hole and saw the sun hanging above the remains of the world. The buildings stood as silent witnesses to the death and destruction, ready to scream obscenities at the human kind for the misfortune they had bought upon the planet. The lack of any wind whispered accusations in Richard’s ears. He inhaled deeply the dust rich air and instantly started coughing. Each day he did the same thing, as a ritual, with the hope that one day his lungs would be blessed to breathe in air, a little cleaner, a little calmer, a little purer. And each day his wish was rejected.
A little girl’s head popped up from the hole from which Richard had crawled up. As she saw the yellow light spread across the ruins of the once famous skyline, a gasp escaped her lips. Sunlight had been a rarity since the time the massive dust storms had enveloped the earth. In fact, little Suzie actually couldn’t recall the last time she had seen natural light. The undergrounds were all lighted by kerosene lamps which she hated because of the smell and the fumes that they filled the tunnels up with when ignited.
Richard looked at Suzie and smiled at the fascinated expression which only a child can display. He took her hand and led her towards the road which led them deeper into the heart of once proud city.
‘Come now sweetie,’ he said to her, ‘Let’s find something to eat before it gets dark.’
He took her hand and started to move across the heaps of rubble, laid across the wasteland like the silent victims of
Richard kept his eyes focused on the store which was looming into view from behind the mountain of debris, as they climbed it. He took Suzie in his arms to speed up their ascent. He reached the top of the heap and could finally make out the broken signage on the store welcoming its visitors.
‘W- A- L- L- M- A-’ Suzie started to read it aloud
‘Shhh baby,’ Richard purred.
There was a small field separating them and the canned food inside the store.He put Suzie down and took a deep breath. ‘Time of reckoning.’ his brain commented.
‘You see that pole dear?’ Richard asked Suzie, pointing at the remains of a streetlight standing on the far right of the field.
‘Yes.’ Suzie nodded.
‘When I reach there, you go running toward the middle of the field, alright? Make as much noise you want. Ok princess?’
Suzie nodded again.
Richard carefully crawled towards the streetlight on all fours. He stood up and looked back at Suzie. She was still standing atop the hill of rubbish, her face already pink from the heat. A calm determined look was on her face as her eyes met Richard’s.
‘She knows.’ Richard’s mind chided him.
Richard felt a ball of lead falling deep into his stomach and his heart did a double flip in his ribcage, yet his brain didn’t let go of the command over his body. Richard felt an invisible force making him wave to Suzie, prodding her to move forward.
With a look mature beyond her young years, Suzie started to come down from the top of the rubble. Richard’s mind forced him to come out of the trance like state and move towards the depleted store.
Out of the blue, Suzie’s voice filled the amber sky. ‘Doggy.’
Richard stopped in his tracks and looked back. Suzy was standing at the foot of the rubble hill, looking back at him with a pleased expression, all the time pointing towards the gates of the store.
At the doors of the store stood a huge dog, almost the size of a little bear. It had been completely disowned by its fur except for some small, shiny patches of hair left here and there, as if to give testimony to what a fine animal it had been once. Half of its face had no skin or muscle, melted away from the massive heat of he sun’s radiation. Its white raw skull protruded from what was left of the face and a pool of saliva was forming at its feet while it looked at the strange figure in white pointing towards it.
Slowly the beast started to move towards Suzie, the first vibrations of a killer growl forming at the back of its throat. As the distance between them decreased, the speed and the fury of the beast increased.
Suzie sensed that something was wrong as the monstrous figure she had been marveling at a little while ago, came charging towards her. She looked back at her Uncle Richard for help, but he was already making his way towards the now empty door of the store.