by Brad Fawcett
Hank pulled into the gas station and drove up to the hatches for the underground tanks. In the passenger seat, his son Josh slept on a pillow pushed against the door. Hank popped the trunk and quietly exited the car.
Hank pulled a siphon from the trunk. On the end of the siphon, a garden hose was attached with duct tape. The hose was necessary to reach the last bits of fuel that could be found in the tanks.
Hank let out a huff as he turned the cap on the ground. These caps became more and more difficult to remove as the years passed. As he screwed it off, there was a small pop and the cap came loose, followed by a rush of foul odor.
Dammit, it’s gas.
An orange cap sat a few yards away. It probably contained the diesel fuel that Hank needed. Hank had switch to a diesel car two summers ago. Gas was becoming scares and he quickly discovered that the diesel reserves were practically untapped. Hank gathered his supplies and moved to the orange cap. A few quick turns, another pop, and he was met with a smell similar to paint fumes.
Hank lowered the hose into the hold. He could hear the end of the hose scraping the bottom of the tank. There wasn’t much left, but it should be enough reach the next stop. Hank walked back to the car and slid the siphon into the fuel tank. After a couple of pumps on the siphon, diesel started flowing up the hose.
Josh let out a yawn, then twisted to face his father at the back of the car.
“Hey Dad, where are we?”
Hank tried to think of the last road sign they passed, “I think we just entered Kansas”.
Hank replaced the cap on his fuel tank, put the siphon back in the trunk, and returned to the driver’s seat. Hesitatingly, he turned the ignition.
Maybe it was gas that smelled like paint fumes.
The car started and it sounded normal. Hank let out a sigh, “All right, buddy. Let’s see if we can find a place to stay tonight”.
Back on the road, Hank rolled down the window. The air felt good as it whirled past him.
Josh jerked forward and pressed himself against the dash. He stared up at the sky with a huge smile on his face, “Look dad, you can see the sun”.
It was impossible to actually see the sun these days. The only visible sign of its existence was the occasional red glow through the black clouds. Hank was always surprised at Josh’s excitement over this faint visage of the sun. To Hank, it was a depressing reminder of a time when the skies were clear.
Hank turned to Josh, “Before you were born, there were days without any clouds, and the sky was bright blue”.
“You mean, before the meteor.”
The meteor hit southern Africa on the March 4 2002, five days after Josh’s first birthday. The impact threw a dust cloud into the atmosphere which remained for the past nine years. Most of the plant life died in the first two years. Without direct sunlight, climate had cooled dramatically across the entire globe. Winters were extremely harsh, but on warm summer days like this, it was nice to drive around with the windows open.
So much for global warming.
As he pushed himself back into his seat, Josh asked his father, “Where are we staying tonight?”.
“I don’t know, but keep your eyes open for a good place.”
After the crops started to die, everyone quickly became aware of the finite nature of recourses. Riots broke out across the world, and society descended into mob rule. Most people migrated to the cities where supplies were more prevalent. The cities turned from dangerous to deadly in a short period of time. Hank decided to take his chances on the road. He discovered that rural farm houses tended to be deserted but stocked with canned goods.
“What about that place.” Josh pointed off to the right past an old horse fence. A large red barn poked up over the crest of a hill. Most likely they would find a house next to it.
Hank came up to a driveway and turned off the road. Many of these country houses had driveways that stretched for miles. Before the meteor strike, Hank never understood how people could live like this. They were so isolated. Now, it didn’t seem so bad.
After rounding the hill, they came upon the house. The house was white, two stories, with a large porch on the front. A rusty truck sat at the end of the drive way. Hank stopped the car and told Josh to wait inside.
Hank entered the house and clicked on the flashlight. There was a light switch to his right; he gave it a shot. No lights. Most of these places didn’t have power any more. The cloud cover made it difficult to see inside during the day. The nights verged on pitch black.
“Anyone here!” Hank called out. There was no answer.
He checked the cupboards and found plenty of food. Hank could never figure out why these farm houses were always abandoned, but he didn’t much care to know the reason.
He continued his search upstairs. Every room was empty. He returned downstairs and found another door. Must be the basement. He swung the door open and was hit with the smell of rotten meat. Usually these farm houses had freezers in the basement where meat was stored. Without power the meat didn’t last long.
He shined the light down the stairs. At the bottom, two people lay spread out on the floor, a man and a women. Their whole bodies were covered in horrible wounds and cuts. The woman’s head was missing and most of her dress was torn away. The body of the man was contorted in to an unnatural position. His stomach had been slit open and the contents covered the floor.
Hank slammed the door shut.
Do we stay?
Hank had encountered scenes like this before. Sometimes he would find bodies in the living room. In those cases, he couldn’t bring Josh inside. This time, they were in the basement. He could just tell Josh to stay upstairs.
There was a scream outside. It sounded like Josh.
Hank turned and sprinted for the front of the house. As he passed through the kitchen, he noticed a knife blocked. He stopped and grabbed a butchers knife.
Josh let out another scream. As he pulled out the knife, he looked up and saw the car through the window. Outside Josh’s door, there was a dog.
Dogs had become a major problem recently. Many people realized dogs were a luxury that could no longer be afforded. As a result, most dogs were now feral.
Hank silently open the front door and stepped onto the front porch. The dog immediately turned and faced him, it started sprinting towards him. Hank readied the knife. Something was odd about this dog. His tongue hung lazily from the side of his mouth. His tailed waived excitedly back and forth.
Hank lowered the knife and kneeled. The dog reached Hank and started licking his face. Hank couldn’t remember the last time he saw a trained dog.
“It’s okay Josh, he’s nice. Come over here and pet him”.
Josh shook his head, “NO!”. Josh had never been around a trained dog.
“Come on buddy, he harmless”. As the dog danced around Hank, he noticed a tingling sound. The sound was coming from the tags on the dog’s collar. Hank bent over and looked at the tags. He whispered to himself and the dog. “So your name is Sparrow. You must belong to the people in the basement.”
Josh finally opened the door and approached the house. “Is he really okay?”
“Yeah, he’s not going to do anything.”
Josh went over and pet Sparrow. Sparrow started licking Josh’s face which made him giggle.
“Lets go inside and get something to eat. I bet this fellow is hungry too.” Hank said as he gave sparrow another pat on the head.
Hank and Josh walked into the house and Sparrow let out a faint whimper. They turned to find Sparrow stopped at the threshold to the house. His head hung and his tail sank between his back legs.
“Don’t want to come in?” Hank asked Sparrow. “That’s all right, I won’t make you. How about I bring you something to eat out here.”
Hank found a dog bowl inside the house. Next to the bowl, a cabinet had a few cans of dog food.
I hope this stuff can’t go bad.
Hank placed the bowl on the porch and went back inside.
That night Hank and Josh settled down in the master bedroom. Even though he had lengthy nap in the car, Josh fell asleep immediately. Hank was finding it difficult to relax with the thought of the bodies in the basement.
His eyelids finally grew heavy and he dozed off.
“Dad wake up! There’s somebody in here!”.
Hank shot up and grabbed the flash light. He pointed it at the door; no one there. He pointed it at the windows; no one there. He jerked the light to the bathroom and the closet; still no one there.
Jesus Christ, he scared the shit out of me.
“Josh, there’s no one here”.
With a shaky voice Josh said, “No, he’s on the fan”.
Hank glanced around the room again. “We don’t have a fan.”
“That one.” Josh pointed to the ceiling.
Hank looked up. Barely visible in the darkness were the fuzzy outlines of five fan blades. He lifted the flashlight to the ceiling fan.
“See buddy, nothing up there. You must have had a nightmare. Let’s go back to sleep”. Hank laid his head back down on the pillow.
“Dad! There he is!”
“Josh there’s no one…”
Two yellow eyes stared down from the ceiling fan. A raspy voice whispered, “Come to the basement.”
Hank grabbed the flash light and pointed it at the ceiling; nothing there.
What the fuck what that.
“Ok buddy, how about we go sleep in the car. Grab some blankets.” There gathered up the blankets and pillows and made their way to the car. Hank tucked the blankets around Josh and laid down. Josh was still shaking. Hanks kept a watch on the door but eventually succumbed to exhaustion.
Hank woke, shivering. The car was freezing. He looked over towards Josh. The passenger seat was empty and the door was open.
“Josh! Josh! Where are you.”
The front door of the house was also opened. He got out of the car and ran inside.
“Josh! Can you hear me!”.
The front hall was filled with the smell of rotting flesh. The smell from the basement had spread throughout the entire floor. Hank turned the corner to the basement door. The door hung wide; he approached it cautiously.
“Josh? Are you down there? I told you not to go down there.” He pointed the flash light down the stairs. He saw Josh laying at the bottom of the steps, face down.
Fuck! He must have fallen.
Hank rushed down the steps, and dropped down next to Josh.
Wait… where are the bodies?
Hank grabbed Josh and turns him over. Josh’s left arm was missing. It had been ripped off.
From the corner of the basement came a wet chomping sound. Hank looked up from Josh. He could see the yellow eyes from the ceiling fan. Below the eyes was a row of long teeth, like white daggers. Hanging from the mouth was a small arm.
The monster stood and moved towards Hank. The giant figure hunched over in the basement. It licked the bone sticking out of Josh’s arm.
The monster was halfway to him.
Sweat poured down Hank’s face. He couldn’t turn away from the yellow eyes.
The monster reached for Hank’s head.
A pattering of paws came down the stairs. A sharp bark erupted and there was a blur of fur. Sparrow snapped his jaw onto the monster’s arm. The monster lets out a hideous shrill, like a nails on a chalkboard.
Hank jolted back to his scenes. He grabs Josh and ran for the stairs. He tripped on a step, but regained his balance.When he got to the top of the stairs, he heard a crunch followed by a yelp.
Don’t look back.
Hank sprinted through the kitchen to the front door. Heavy foot steps trailed him.
He jumped into the car with Josh in his lap. He turned the key and gunned the gas. He swung the car around and headed down the drive way.
Don’t look back.
Hank couldn’t stop himself. He looks into the mirror; yellow eyes hovered outside the rear window. The monster’s claws dug into the trunk of the car.
Hank cranked the wheel to the right and slammed the car into a ditch. Hanks head almost hit the steering wheel. He floored the gas again. The car lurched forward and he pulled onto the road.
He looks up into the mirror again. The monster was chasing him, but it was loosing ground. Hank didn’t return his eyes to the road until the monster disappeared from his view.