|OK I was drawn to this one by the title, and was not disappointed.
The story premise is a fresh way of experiencing a Post-Apocolypic world. It's a snapshot of a larger place. Like seeing a photo or home-movie; you get a good idea of what that place is like, of who the people are without actually seeing it.
Reading this I could piece together the world the characters inhabited, and understand their reasoning for being where they were without you ever having to say "My characters are doing this because..." And yet, you leave just enough wriggle room for the reader to place their own vision of what the world would look like.
Even though it is a Post-Apocolypic scenario it feels very realistic. I could very easily buy into the situation playing out should that happen. You're character structure, and the bits of information you do give about who now 'runs' the world feels authentic. Possibly even the most scariest part of this is not what happens, but that it could happen.
With Sal and Mort, the dynamic of the brothers in 'Of Mice And Men' comes to mind, which I love by the way. One being worldly while the other having more of an innocent approach to the world. With these two characters you play them nicely off one another. You can tell Sal cares deeply for Mort but is very much after what they think will keep them both secure in this Hellish place.
While Mort is pure, he sees something that he has been told is bad he doesn't want to go near it. And is only influenced by Sal's plan to keep them safe.
The Priests are a wonderful example of the kind of people who would take power in such a situation. Seeing a weakness and exploiting it for their own gain and beliefs. The fact you mentioned how scientists are now dubbed as Terrorists for trying to rebuild what was lost I think was an interesting point. Especially when the people who are calling them this, and demanding others to are in themselves carelessly 'purging' the tainted.
The dogs are characters in their own right. But I feel they serve a greater purpose. They almost feel like they are the collected consciousness of the wrecked planet. While they put your leads in a situation where they are tempted to use the very same tech that led to the catastrophic world we are seeing, and then punish the Priests for taking the opportunity to destroy those they do not deem worthy.
The only suggestion I really have; and this comes under the understanding that while writing this you were constrained by a word limit. But I would now add to this a little. What made Sal choose a John Wayne film? (By the way fantastic choice). What did the dogs sound like, look like? What kind of TV was it? How big (as in my mind I first imagined a old black and white TV.)
Apart from adding to your work, I really don't have anymore suggestions. This was a great short to read and truly kept me reading until the end.
I am completely comfortable in giving this a 5-star rating. It is fresh, unique, enthralling, and captivating. All while focusing on something we fear far more than anything that goes 'Bump In The Night'. It made me think and left me with a truly terrifying thought that stayed with me long after.
I think the Heath Ledger, Joker Quote sums it up nicely. "We used to look for monsters under the bed, until we grew up, and realised we were the monsters."
Please keep writing.