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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2310748
Set in the future Nan are bear-like creatures that terrorise and eat human
23rd December - 15,453 AD
Approx. 9:00 PM

Natalie Coleman, a pretty-ish pixie-cut seventeen-year-old brunette was walking through the dark streets of inner New Melbourne, just hoping to get home alive. Her slave-driving boss had insisted that she work late tonight, before her three days paid leave from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day.

Looking around the deserted streets of New Melbourne, a once thriving metropolis, until the Nan had arrived a few centuries ago, she thought: All I want for Christmas is to get home alive! But she didn't dare say it out loud, for fear of attracting the Nan. They had excellent hearing.

She was near the corner of Lonsdale and Swanston Streets when she heard a rushing sound across the road. Hoping it wasn't a Nan nest, she backed into a dark crevice near a shop doorway and looked across the road.

Two young men raced out of a doorway followed by half a dozen Nan. Vaguely humanoid, the Nan were vicious killers and devote meat eaters.

The two men were very fast runners, but the Nan quickly ran them down. Looking midway between long-legged bears and short-ish gorillas, the Nan dragged the two young men down and began tearing at them with their razor-like teeth which protruded outward, giving them a small snout.

Snorting like pigs at feeding time, they began ripping huge chunks off the two men and eating them alive as they screamed and cried for help that was never coming.

Wanting to look away from the horror that was happening across the street, Natalie was transfixed, unable to take her eyes off the six horrors. And the two teenagers, whom they were devouring alive. Snorting like pigs, they ripped away arms, legs, and genitalia to devour as the blood gushed over them from the living limbless once-were-men. Who were now just a living meal for the hungry Nan.

Please don't let them see me! Please don't let them see me! She prayed to a God she wanted to believe in. But no longer could.

She knew that she should duck down so that the Nan could not see her. But her legs refused to bend. So, on her feet she stayed, watching in horror as the ursine horrors chewed and slurped up the two teenage males, not caring who saw or heard them. Not afraid of anything or anyone, since they had taken over from Man centuries ago as the dominant species upon the planet Earth.

Who but another of their kind, would dare take on a Nan? Certainly not Natalie Coleman.

One of the Nan suddenly stopped eating and stared straight at Nat. He's seen me! thought Nat, starting at the sudden metallic sound from just behind her.

Looking around she saw the former shopping plaza's rollup metal shutters had started slowly, rustily upwards, shrieking metallically until they were up just under two metres. Then an old man with long grey hair stepped out carrying some kind of metallic tube. A gun? Nat wondered, although she had never actually seen a gun, or rifle in her young life.

"Get inside behind me!" ordered the old man.

Not needed telling twice, Natalie raced into the large marble-floored foyer area, as the old man stepped out a pace. Then he discharged the metallic device which made a horrid booming noise, shooting some kind of large pellet at the Nan.

The pellet exploded without hurting any of the Nan, falling well short. But the hellish explosion was enough to frighten off four of their number. The other two stood their ground, glaring defiance at the old man.

Putting another 'pellet' into the tube he fired it again. This time over firing and just missing the two Nan.

The Nan roared their rage at him. Then picking up one of the bloody limbless torso's each, they threw them across their shoulders, then raced after their fleeing companions.

Stepping back into the building, the old man pressed a red button on the wall, just inside the doorway. The metallic shutters started to shriek rustily as they slowly lowered to the ground. Then with a loud snap, locked into place.

Turning around, he said: "So what are you doing outside at this hour, little lady?"

"Slave-driver boss insisted on me doing overtime tonight. Before my three days Christmas Leave."

"That all you get, three days?"

"No, I get three more days over Easter, three over Mother's Day, and three for Father's Day. Twelve days paid leave a year isn't bad these days." Lowering her voice as though afraid of being overheard, she whispered: "I've heard rumours that people used to get four weeks paid leave a year, plus public holidays, whatever they are. But I'm no dummy, so I don't believe the rumours."

"Well, you're one of the lucky third who can still get work," said the old man: "The two the Nan got tonight were eighteen and nineteen and had never had work. They had to forage for food since their parents threw them out when they were eleven and twelve."

"Howja know?" asked Nat.

"They slept in here for the last few years. But none of us had eaten in three days, so they took the risk of going out tonight. Told them not to, but their bellies got the better of their commonsense."

He hesitated then asked: "Don't 'spose you've got anything for an old man to eat?"

Reaching into a brown paper bag she carried, she took out a small crumpled-up red and yellow cardboard box:

"Got some scotch finger bikkies my boss gave me as my Christmas bonus. Half a box actually, I think he ate half of them, then gave me the others so his wife didn't know he'd eaten them before coming home."

"No, I couldn't take your Christmas bikkies."

"'Cause you can. My three sisters and me have got heaps of corned beef and bread. We're planning to feast on corned beef sandwiches over the next three days."

"Well ... if you're sure," he said, taking the scotch fingers: "Corned beef sandwiches for Christmas dinner?"

"Yeah, pretty good, eh," said Nat.

As the old man started eating the small biscuits, he led Nat through the building to let her out the rear security door.

"You're welcome to stay here till morning."

"Nah, my sisters would panic if I didn't come home. They might do something dumb like go outside looking."

"Okay then."

With that, the old man opened the security door, looked carefully both ways outside, and then held the door open for Nat to leave.

"Bye," said Nat, being shushed by the old man.

Twenty minutes later she was in her three-room flat with her three sisters: Holly, a fifteen-year-old redhead, Petra, a twelve-year-old ravenette, and little Talia, a seven-year-old blonde.

"Whatcha got for us?" asked Talia by way of greeting.

"Only myself," said Nat.

"No bonus this year?" asked Petra.

"You got half a bag of stale lollies last Christmas!" pointed out Holly, clearly disbelieving her.

"Did you eat dah bonus yourself?" demanded Talia.

"No, I did not," said Nat, going across to the small fridge to make herself a corned beef sandwich with stale white bread and no spread. "All I got was half a box of Scotch fingers and I gave them to a poor old starving man, who saved my life from some Nan."

"A wikely torey!" said young Talia. Standing arms akimbo, like a miniature Wonder Woman.

"He needed them more than us. We've got plenty of corned beef and bread."

"Well ... hokay," conceded the little blonde girl. "Can you make me a corned beef sammich, pwease?"

"Here have this one," said Nat, handing it across: "I'll make myself another one."

The next three days went well enough for the four Coleman sisters, despite occasionally hearing screaming from outside in Collins Street. They glutted themselves on corned beef sandwiches and played Snakes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers, or Scrabble. Although Nat was the only one who had ever been to school, so she had to cut her three sisters a lot of slack with their exotic spellings. Having learnt years ago that it only caused hurt feelings if she tried to make them stick to correct spellings.

On the day after boxing day, Nat was up early to head off back to work.

"Remember to get us more food," said Petra.

"And hopefully some margo for our sammiches," said Talia.

"I would have got some margo before Christmas if Scrooge McDuck hadn't insisted on me working late."

"I didn't know that was your boss's name?" said Holly.

"Well, it is," said Nat with a smile, as she cautiously stepped outside.

Although the Nan usually only came out after dark, it paid to never assume that you were safe in New Melbourne. 'Better paranoid than sorry,' her father had said the day before he and their mother were killed and eaten by the Nan.

She headed up Swanston Street to Lonsdale Street. Down the centre of Swanston Street were strange-looking metal rails. She had once been told that something called trams, or Street Cars had once run along them so that you didn't have to walk everywhere. But she wasn't sure if she believed such a tall story.

At the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale she hesitated, spotting something tall and humanoid in an archway. Then a man, nearly two metres tall, stepped into sight, chewing something.

"Lucky B," said Nat. She hadn't made herself any sandwiches for lunch so that her sisters could have lunch. So she would have to find some small place to buy lunch. Vendors sold usually cold pies or sausage rolls out of pushcarts around the City. But they liked to change location every day. Afraid that the Nan might keep track of them.

Natalie didn't believe that the Nan was that intelligent. Still, 'Better paranoid than sorry,' as her father had said.

Halfway up Lonsdale Street, she found a small chemist shop which had had the glass-frontage smashed to pieces. Inside lay the skeletons of the owners, clearly devoured by Nan. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to go inside. Much of the drugs had already been pilfered. But she found some vitamin D tablets for her sisters since they never went out into the sunshine. She also managed to find a few boxes of strong painkillers, a couple of boxes of antibiotics, and two large bags of Jelly Beans. Which had fallen behind the counter, which is why earlier raiders hadn't found them.

"Score!" she said, adding the lollies to her brown paper bag. She turned to leave, then decided to try the cash register. The money slots were empty, but when she forced her small right hand down the back of the till, she found thirty-five dollars in small notes that had fallen down there.

"Score!" she said again, pocketing the money.

"Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Li-Chang," she said exiting the chemist shop: "But we need this now more than you do."

It was nearly 7:00 AM by the time that she got to work.

"Just on time," said George MacDonald, her boss.

"As long as I'm not late," she said sitting down to switch on her computer. The business had its own generator for power, but whatever the internet was, if it had ever really existed, it was not connected to MacDonald's computer system.

Nat, placed her things into her drawer, carefully locking it, then started taking inventory.

By noon she was starving. She logged off and then headed outside to find a cold food vendor.

After half an hour, she located a small vendor selling small pies.

"How much?" she asked.

"Two bucks each."

"For those tiny little things? They're not much more than baby pies."

"Take it or leave it. And they're called party pies ... but don't ask me what a party is."

"Can I buy fifteen for a buck each?"


"How about thirty bucks for twenty?"

He considered for a moment, then said: "Yeah, okay."

She watched as he counted out twenty, placing them into a paper bag with handles, then counted out thirty dollars of the money that she had got from the Li-Changs.

"Business doing pleasure with you," the vendor said as she headed back up Lonsdale Street.

Nat had just started into Mr. MacDonald's office block when she heard screaming from behind her.

Looking around she saw a group of Nan had risked the daylight to grab three people. Including Mertyl, an elderly co-worker of Nat's.

As one of the Nan looked right at her. Nat slammed a fist onto the emergency close button and the metal shutter slammed down, locking the Nan out. Saving Nat, but sealing the destiny of Mertyl and the other two people.

"Sorry, Mert," said Nat: "But I've got three sisters who need me."

Five of the Nan went back to ripping apart and eating the three humans in Lonsdale Street. But the sixth one ignored the food and walked over to press its tapir-like snout against the metal guard, sniffing at Nat. Finally, it roared its rage at her.

It shook the shutter furiously, determined to reach Nat but was unable to get through the strong metal.

It's almost as though it has a personal grudge against me! thought Nat. Wondering if it was one of the Nan that she had escaped from three nights earlier.

As she turned to walk across to the steps, the Nan finally lost interest and returned to help devour their three human prey. Who like the two men three nights earlier, they ripped limb from limb, seemingly enjoying the hot blood splashing across them. Ignoring the hellish shrieks of their limbless victims, as they devoured their raw limbs first. Then chewed away their faces, before cracking open their skulls to devour their juicy brains. Which finally put the three people out of their misery. Although it would be another forty-five before they had reduced their bloody victims to mere skeletons.

Natalie raced up the steps so that she got back to her desk just in time.

Looking at his watch pointedly, MacDonald asked: "You didn't happen to see Mertyl did you?"

"Yes, she and two others got eaten, by some Nan."

"Oh no!" said MacDonald: "This is my busiest time of the year. How can I be one employee short?"

"My sister, Holly, has computing experience," said Nat. Not bothering to mention that it was solely from playing computer games.

"Excellent," said George MacDonald: "She's hired, bring her in here tomorrow at 7:00 AM sharp."

"She'll be delighted Mr. MacDonald."

"A job!" said Holly in horror as they heated some of the pies for tea that night: "I don't want a job. You're the worker in our family."

"Well, now we have two workers in the family."

"But who'll look after the little ones all day?"

"Petra is twelve now."

"Yeah, I can look after Talia," volunteered Petra. As much to piss off Holly as anything else.

"Aw, I don't want to work."

"Well, you're going to. We need the money."

"Yeah, we weed the nunny," said Talia.

"Oh, okay," said Holly, conceding defeat. "You know I'm only fifteen?"

"I was fourteen when I started working," pointed out Natalie: "So it's all agreed."

They set off early the next morning with Holly still sulking about having to work."

"Doesn't seem right at my age," insisted Holly.

"Just remember that you're experienced with computers."

"Who me?" asked Holly. Then: "Where are we going?"

"To see an old friend of mine," said Nat as they crossed over to a closed shopping plaza near the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets.

Natalie went to knock on the metal shutter, but before she could it started up slowly shrilling from rust and age.

"Well, my little friend," said the old man.

To Holly: "This is," began Nat, realising that she didn't know the old man's name.

"Just call me Bertie," he said: "And who is this?"

"My younger sister, Holly," said Nat, handing him two of the small pies: "I reheated them this morning, so they should still be hot."

"Many thanks...?"

"Oh, yeah, I'm Nat. Holly is just starting work today, at my boss's."

"Not my idea," complained the teenage redhead: "Anyway, shouldn't we be going?"

"Oh, yeah," said Nat, waving to the old man as they started at a run, down Lonsdale Street.

The next few days were a bit of a struggle as Nat had to surreptitiously teach Holly the basics of computer inventory. But by the end of the week, she was getting the hang of things.

"Pay time, girls," said MacDonald as they were getting ready to leave for the weekend.

"Great," said Holly taking her pay packet from him.

"I'll say," said Nat, grabbing her sister's pay packet off her.

"Hey, what gives? That's mine!"

"That's ours," corrected Nat: "Don't forget we have four mouths to feed, not just us two."

On the way home, they stopped in to see Bertie, to give him some cold hot dogs. However, when they reached the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale, they found the metal shutters wide open, even though it was starting to get dark.

"Normally he greets us through the security door," said Holly, a little fearfully.

"I'm sure he's okay," said Natalie. Hoping that it was true.

Inside they found chaos. Windows to old stores had been smashed, furniture had been reduced to rubble, and manikins had been torn to pieces, along with ancient clothing from a dress store. Rubbish bins had been hurdled about, some to smash windows, others for the sheer Hell of it.

Tentatively they walked through the darkening plaza, looking for any sign of life. Finally, Nat started down the thin corridor to the steel security door leading out the rear exit, where she found the skeletal remains of old Bertie.

"Oh, poor old man!" she said, turning back...

To see a single Nan sneaking up behind Holly.

"Run sis, this way," shrieked Nat, holding the security door open for her sister with difficulty.

Squealing in terror, Holly raced forward, in the dark, almost falling over the skeletal remains of Bertie. Then straight out the doorway.

Nat leapt outside after her, leaving the steel door to slam shut.

Behind them, the two girls heard furious banging from frustration on the security door, as the Nan did not possess the intelligence to know how to open it.

The two girls ran down toward Elizabeth Street, then crossed back to Collins Street before running back up to their rooms near Swanston Street.

"What kepcha?" demanded little blonde Talia, as the two older girls raced inside panting from exhaustion.

"A Nan chased us."

"A wikely torey," said Talia. Refusing to be placated until they took out the cold hotdogs.

"These need to be reheated," said Nat, leaving Petra to heat up their meals.

"Are there any jelly beans left?" asked Nat.

"No, day all got heaten," said the blonde girl.

"Of course they did," said Holly, still panting for air.

"So how much you get for your first four days of work?" asked Petra.

"Don't know, Nat pinched it from me."

Checking through it, Nat said: "You should've got four-fifths what I got. But it's more like three-fifths."

"Oh, yeah, Scrooge McDuck said I started on a lower rate being a newcomer."

"Oh did he, well we'll have that out with him on Monday."

"Till den we're hall safe'n soun hinside," said Talia. Looking around as they heard screaming from outside.

At her boss's business on Monday, Natalie tried having it out with her boss over the amount of Holly's pay packet. But MacDonald was having none of it:

"Don't think I didn't notice you had to train her to do even basic accounting after you told me she was experienced on computers!"

"Well ... she was ... sort of."

"Sort of?"

"Mainly on Space Raiders 148 through 200 and Night Terrors 1 through 56," admitted Holly.

"Night Terrors! In real life, we call them Nan!"

"So, what about her pay?" demanded Natalie: "I've taught her the basics now!"

"Well ... okay, I'll pay her the same as you from next week!"

"Well ...?" began Nat.

"Yeah, okay," agreed Holly. Less concerned than her sister. Since the redhead couldn't spend any of the money on herself.

After George MacDonald had left, Nat complained: "You shouldn't have given in so easily. We had him on the ropes ... I only had to remind him that this is his busiest time of the year, so he can't afford to lose either of us..."

"What's the diff.," said Holly, switching on her computer and getting back to work.

Glaring at her sister, Natalie followed suit.

At lunchtime, they had gone as far up Swanston Street as Little Burke Street, where the glass-fronted shops had been converted to high-rise apartments centuries ago, looking for a food vendor.

"If we have to starve, I'm not going to go back to work," complained Holly.

"Relax, Red," said Nat, although her own belly was also starting to rumble.

"And don't call me Red," protested Holly. Stopping as she saw a vendor's cart lying on the ground: "Hey, look."

Tentatively, they approached down Little Burke, past a long-abandoned optometrist, whatever that was, until reaching the upturned wooden cart.

Holding Holly back with one arm, Nat cautiously popped her head around the corner of the next closed shop and saw the skeletal remains of the vendor.

"Ugh!" said Holly, looking green in the face.

"Don't you dare, throw up!" ordered Nat. Hesitantly, she crept forward to check out the cart. With Holly's reluctant help, she stood up the wooden cart.

"Score!" said Holly, as they opened the lid. Inside were dozens of steamed Dim Sims, sausage rolls, party pies, and beef sausages.

"Help me get them into the paper bags," said Nat. "We can't wheel the trolley, the Nan might hear it."

Wanting to get away from the site as quickly as possible, they hurriedly filled the paper bags, careful not to miss anything. Then afraid of being late, rushed back into Swanston Street, then up to Lonsdale Street.

"Oh God," said Holly, gasping as they got inside the building.

As they entered the ground floor, Natalie fisted the red emergency close button to be on the safe side. The metal shutters slammed down and locked into place ...

Seconds before they heard something slam into the heavy metal shutters.

Looking back, they saw the tapir-snouted Nan which had tried to stare Nan down the day that Mertyl had been eaten. Ignoring Holly, the Nan stared at Natalie, shrieking its rage at having missed her again. It started rattling the iron-mesh grate as though hoping to tear it down to get at the seventeen-year-old.

"He seems to know you?" said Holly.

Running up the few steps toward the stairwell, Nat said: "This is his third attempt to get me."

Five minutes later, panting, they reached their desks and plonked themselves on the uncomfortable computer chairs. Putting their largesse into the bottom drawers of their desks, they switched on their computer terminals.

Appearing, seemingly from nowhere, George MacDonald said: "Always just on time ... or just late."

"We were almost eaten by a friend of Nat's," explained Holly, still gasping a little for breath.

"You have nice friends, Natalie?"

"Not really a friend. Just a Nan that seems to want me for its dinner."

"As long as it's only you it wants to eat."

"Second the emotion," said Holly, getting a glare from her older sister.

That night at home, as they parcelled out their largesse, Natalie couldn't help thinking of the old man, Bertie. Not only missing him. But also she wished that the old man had taught her how to use the tube that he had fired at the Nan the first night they had met.

If I had one of those tubes and knew how to use it, I'd be a lot safer! thought Nat: And would be able to protect Talia and the others better!

"Hoo, Dimb Simbs," said little Talia, grabbing one in each hand to start eating. A bite from one, then a bite from the other, and so on.

"You're easily pleased," teased Petra.

"I wuv Dimb Simbs!"

With their larder well stocked for a while, Holly took to staying in MacDonald's at lunchtime for the next few days, which was fine by Natalie.

"You going out?" asked Holly, sounding surprised as Nat started toward the stair shaft as soon as George MacDonald called: "Lunchtime, girls."

"Just to stretch my legs," lied Natalie.

"My legs are long enough," said Holly. She had always regarded her legs as one of her best features.

Outside after looking both ways for Nan, Natalie raced down to the corner of Lonsdale and Swanston Streets. Carrying a large torch that she had brought from the office (ignoring Old MacDonald's dictate that office supplies must never leave the office), Natalie started cautiously into the building where Bertie had once saved her life. If anything the inside of the ancient store looked even more chaotic than previously. After careful checking, she detected no sign of any Nan inside.

She spent nearly all of her lunchtime looking for the pellet tube that Bertie had fired and was on the brink of giving up when she finally found the large tube-like device, plus a box of two dozen or more of the large taco-sized pellets that it fired.

Hearing a roar from behind her, Natalie spun around to see the snarling face of a Nan less than four metres behind her.

"Oh shit!" she said, almost dropping the metallic tube as she struggled to find the place to put in the pellet.

The Nan roared again but stood its ground. Puzzled that the teenager had not tried futilely to outrun it.

Finally, by chance only, Nat managed to open a slot in the side of the tube, slipped the pellet in, luckily it would only go in one way, then slammed the tube shut. Then wondered: Now how the Hell do I fire it? She had heard of guns and rifles and had heard that they had triggers you pulled to fire them. But there was nothing like that on the tube. It was smooth all the way around when closed up.

"There must be a way to fire it?" she said, almost crying from frustration. Then she saw a faded label on the end of the tube saying, 'HIT HARD TO FIRE'.

Aiming the tube at the chest of the ever so slowly advancing Nan, Nat whacked the end of the tube with the heel of one of her shoes...

Then she shrieked as the recoil whacked into her belly, knocking the wind out of her, and sending her flying backward four or five metres across the grey and black marble floor.

The Nan also shrieked as the pellet blew a fist-sized hole straight through its chest, sending it flying backward also.

Winded, Natalie lay on the cold marble for eight to ten minutes just struggling to breathe. Let alone stand up, expecting any minute to be set upon by the Nan, or a companion of its.

Looking up, she saw the dead Nan and felt no regret, knowing that it had intended to eat her. And that it or its kind had eaten her mother and father.

Fearing that the explosion might attract more of the Nan, although it was equally likely that they would run away at the sound, Natalie hurriedly filled one of her bags with the steel pellets, picked up the pellet tube which she had dropped when thrown across the floor, and started out toward the street.

She tried to run but found that the pain in her stomach became unbearable if she moved at more than a slow walk. So, knowing that she would be late back from lunch, she staggered outside. She closed the metal shutters and locked them down with a key that she had also found in the box. Then started slowly down Lonsdale Street toward MacDonald's building.

"Oh God," she gasped as she tottered along, hoping that nothing was broken inside her. Doctors were few and far between in New Melbourne and tended to live out in the once-favoured Eastern Suburbs. Favoured when there were millions of people in Melbourne. Not a few thousand as there were at most these days. She had once asked George MacDonald if it was true that there used to be over eighty billion people in the world. "Maybe," he had answered, "but I doubt if there's eight million anymore. When the Nan first appeared from wherever they came from, they quickly overran China, 'Merica, 'Lund, and Nippon, four of the biggest countries, and virtually wiped out their populations entirely before coming to Australasia and the Southern Hemisphere... Far's I know the Northern Hemisphere was completely depopulated. Cause, I've never been there."

Finally, at least an hour late, Natalie reached the MacDonald Building and walked into the foyer a little more assuredly than earlier, her belly pain, now a mere dull ache.

"Hopefully that means it's not serious," she said aloud. As she slammed a fist against the red emergency close button to bring the shutters down and lock them into place. She was pleasantly surprised that for once she had not had to walk the Nan gauntlet to get into the foyer.

Hopefully, that means he's given up on me! she thought as she started slowly up the stairs: Either that or my stalker was the Nan I killed at Bertie's shopping plaza.

Sighing in relief, she swung open the stairway door, stepped into the workroom, and stared in shock:

The room looked like a whirly-whirly had passed through it: The monitors were smashed. Both tables were upside down, one smashed to kindling. The computer chairs had been torn to pieces. Great holes had been punched into the sterile white walls...

And blood had been splattered everywhere!

"Holly!" she shrieked. Then getting no reply she started to look around and saw George MacDonald's feet sticking out from under an upended whiteboard at the other end of the workroom.

"Mr. MacDonald!" she called as she raced down to try to pull him out from under the whiteboard. Shrieking as his lower body came out...

With his body from the belly button upwards chewed away!

"Oh God!" she said, having to fight to keep the bile from rising in her throat.

"Holly!" she shrieked again, thinking that she had heard the faintest of whimpers. Cautiously she looked into her late boss's office, to find more senseless destruction. His large oaken desk was torn in half, and his metal filing cabinets, which he still used for God knows what tossed across the room. But no sign of Holly, or anyone else.

"Holly!" she shrieked even louder, hearing the whimpering again. Looking around the work room she saw two more doors. One to the basement, which she was forbidden to use, and the other door to the supplies room.

"Holly!" she called, hammering upon the supplies room door. Hearing whimpering, this time clearly from inside the room, she tried to open the door, however, it was locked from within.

After hammering on the door a few times and calling Holly's name, without getting an answer, Natalie sighed from frustration. Turning, she walked back to George MacDonald's office, and rummaged through the ruin of his desk, until finding a set of half a dozen keys.

Walking back to the supplies store, she tried the keys one at a time, until as she tried the fifth key the lock turned and she managed to enter the sterile white room. There were white shellacked cupboards and benches everywhere. But no sign of her missing sister.

"That's strange, I could have sworn..." Nat started to say. Stopping as she heard whimpering from behind her. Turning around, she walked across to a row of navel-height cupboards behind her and pulled open the doors one at a time.

In the third cupboard, she found Holly crouched in what looked like a yoga position gone wrong.

"Hollyhocks," she said. A nickname their father had called her when the redhead was only a toddler.

"Nat?" asked Holly, trying to wipe the tears of terror from her eyes.

With Natalie's help, the redhead managed to climb out of the cupboard and then fell crying into her big sister's arms.

Finally, Natalie said: "Perhaps we should leave, honey, we aren't gonna get paid for any more work we do here." Deciding not to call her employer 'Scrooge McDuck', after he had been half eaten by the Nan,

While Holly went across to the door to the stairwell, Natalie forced herself to go to the half corpse of George MacDonald to see if he had any cash on him. Finding only fifty dollars she took it along with his wallet, then went back to his office to check through the remains of his desk.

Sighing in frustration, she turned and saw the small, yellow safe built into the far wall of his office. She tried the handle, but it was locked, of course. Then she decided to look through the papers in his wallet, in case he had written down the combination of the safe. She found a dozen or more sets of numbers written on small cards and tried them all, But none of them worked. Even when she tried the numbers in reverse order.

Finally, giving up, she returned to the workroom and found Holly peering down the stairs, looking worried.

"What's wrong?" asked Natalie.

"I can hear movement from downstairs. Are any of the other offices in this building being used?"

"Not in the time I've been working here?" said Nat, then: "How long ago did the Nan break into the office?"

"No more than an hour ago, I'd guess. I happened to be in the supplies room when I heard them roaring at MacDonald. Then he started screaming. So I locked the door and hid in the cupboard."

"Shit!" said Natalie.


"If they were still in the building when I came back from lunch ... I must have locked them inside the building when I lowered the shutters!"

"Oh no!" cried Holly: "We can't get past them to get outside!"

Looking around and seeing the forbidden room in the basement, Nat said:

"We still have two chances. We might be able to get out from the basement," she pointed to the door in the opposite wall. Holding up the pellet tube she said: "Or worst option, I can use this."

Frowning, Holly asked: "What's that?"

"A pellet gun that old Bertie used to kill the Nan, when he saved my life. I found it at his plaza today."

"Do you know how to use it?"

"I killed one of them in the plaza with it today," Nat said. Not bothering to mention the agony that she had sustained from the recoil.

"So what's our best option?"

Picking up the bag of pellets, Nat loaded one into the tube, then said:

"Let's try the basement first. That's where he keeps all the stock he sells ... sold."

"Do you know what it is?" asked Holly as they walked across the room. All they ever saw on their monitors were meaningless stock numbers.

"Far as I know Black Market crap that he buys cheap then resells at inflated prices. Who knows? Who cares?"

However, when they got downstairs they did care since they found a lockable freezer room containing box after box of canned foods, cartons of milk powder, toilet paper, chocolates, and many other foodstuffs and household goods.

"That cheap bastard," said Natalie. Picking up a large bar of chocolate, she broke it in two and handed half to Holly: "And all I ever got for Christmas bonuses were stale lollies and half-empty boxes of bikkies."

"Cherry Delight?" said Holly reading from the wrapping before taking a bite of the chocolate: "Mmmm, delish! Cherry delight is right!"

"Now with Old Smuck Donald dead, how do we get all of this stuff back to our place to nosh on?" asked Nat, thinking out loud.

"Aren't you forgetting our immediate problem?" asked Holly: "How do we get out of the building without getting eaten by the Nan?"

Putting down her half of the chocolate bar, Nat said: "With this!" Picking up the pellet tube. "You stay in here noshing, while I go out and kill them?"

"What if you get killed?" asked the redhead.

"Then you stay in here noshing until you run out of food in a couple of years' time..."

"Then I die...?"

"No the Nan would've eaten each other long before then."

"Both of them eaten by each other?" asked Holly, sceptically.

"If we're lucky," said Natalie, opening the freezer room door.

To find herself face-to-face with a snarling Nan.

"Shit!" she said raising the barrel of the pellet tube.

As the Nan charged her, Nat slammed the heel of one of her shoes onto the base of the tube. And was hurled backward into the freezer room, crashing into a stack of boxes of powdered milk. While the Nan was tossed backward into the main storage basement. With a fist-sized hole right through its chest.

"Nat!" shrieked Holly. She raced across to help her sister up to a sitting position.

Gasping for air, Nat said in a whisper: "I forgot to mention that to kill a Nan with this ... I have to also nearly kill myself."

She sat on a box of baked beans rubbing at her belly for nearly twenty minutes before the pain started to subside and she was able to stand unaided.

"So you think there's another Nan downstairs?" Nat asked.

"Or up in the office upstairs?"

"I doubt it, I think the blast of the pellet tube would have sent it running."

"Even so, how do we get it outside?" asked Holly.

"We ... or rather I have to let it outside."

"While I'm doing what?"

"Hiding in here," said Nat. She handed the key ring to Holly, showing her which key locked and unlocked the freezer room door: "Lock yourself in until I return."

"And, if for any reason, you don't return?"

"Then stay in here for a week or two. Then you'll have to hope that the Nan has starved to death in the foyer, and risk going out."

Down in the foyer, the Nan, hearing the explosion upstairs, had charged the rollup metal shutters, desperately trying to break its way through.

Behind it Natalie Coleman was sneaking quietly down the stairs to the foyer, hoping that it would not panic when it saw her. At ground floor level, Nat opened the door to the stairwell as quietly as possible and sneaked out onto the marble-floored foyer.

Making a strange crying-whining noise, that Nat had never heard before, the Nan climbed up the shutter, until it had reached the ceiling.

Sneaking up behind it, Natalie reached the front of the foyer, hit the emergency open button, then raced back a dozen or so paces.

As the metal shutters started to roll up into the roof the Nan shrieked in surprise and let go, falling to the marble floor, almost knocking itself out. Then seeing Natalie, it stood up and roared at her.

Holding up the pellet tube at the Nan, Natalie shouted: "Go now!" Pointing to where the shutters had risen enough for the creature to escape.

Looking around, where she had pointed with the tube, the Nan saw it could depart, and screeching in joy, it bent low and raced out into Lonsdale Street New Melbourne.

Natalie hit the emergency button again and waited until the shutter had lowered again, and locked into place. Then, turning, she went back to the basement to help Holly eat some more chocolate before they started for home in a couple of hours.

"Did you get rid of it?" asked Holly, still munching upon some Cherry Delight.

"Yep, I graciously allowed it to leave alive," said Nat: "Since the two times I shot one, I almost killed myself as well."

"That was gracious of you," teased Holly. Finally starting to get over her terror at the day's events.

© Copyright 2024 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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