A short story - part sf part horror
| “What’s for dinner tonight, dear?” He strolled across the room to put on some music.
“Something simple, I think. How about steak and potatoes?” Of course, she knew that was his favorite. Before he could reply, a bang sounded outside. His hand darted for the volume control on the stereo, turning all the way down. Again, they heard the sounds of visitors outside. After a few tense moments, shuffling sounds receded from the door. When he was sure they were gone he reached for the stereo to turn the volume back up, but this time to only half its former level.
“I wish they’d leave us alone.” His voice shook in anger and fear. “We can’t help them. Lord knows when it’ll even be safe to open the door!”
Presently, she summoned him to the kitchen for dinner. They ate in ominous silence. Suddenly she slapped her cup down slopping coffee on the tablecloth. “If I don’t get out of here soon I’m going to go batty!”
“You know that’s not possible.” He moved to her side and tried to comfort her by rubbing her shoulders, stroking her hair. He wished she would calm down. “Remember what they said on TV. It’s still too dangerous out there.” Even as he spoke, he felt his own resolve crumbling. “No!” he shouted and stalked away from the table.
Later that night, their sleep was interrupted by the sounds of people outside. Angry shouts and tortured screams penetrated their walls. “It’s a madhouse out there,” he squinted, still half asleep.
“At least it’s out there!” She sighed and tears welled in her eyes.
“We wouldn’t last a minute out there. Especially with them running around. He tried to reason with her and himself, to justify their self-imposed isolation. “It’s only for a little longer. Besides, we didn’t spend all these months cooped up in here just to throw it all away now,” he pleaded. “C’mon, let’s try to get some sleep.”
He awoke around noon the next day to the smell of fresh coffee. As she poured him a cup, she seemed very calm, given the events of the previous night.
“For the last time, what do you keep in that closet that is always locked?” she asked for the hundredth time.
“It is a surprise for when we get out of here,” he lied, knowing full well that she would neither believe his answer nor cease to ask the annoying question. However, right now, he didn’t really care if she believed him. He had been carrying on the charade for so long he sometimes forgot why he was doing it. As it turned out, his reply was sufficient to quiet her for the moment.
Two weeks passed before trouble between them started again. The adjustments he had made worked better than expected. Unfortunately they weren’t good enough.
“Look, I want to leave here as much as you do,” he said, “but it’s just too dangerous.” She was pacing back and forth across the living room as she had for the past few days. He started toward her in the hopes of comforting her. Then, before he could react she picked up a vase and struck him on the head. He slumped, unconscious, to the floor.
“I’m so sorry!” she cried. “But I’ve got to get out of here.” She grabbed the keys to the door and took off.
When he regained consciousness, he realized immediately what had happened. He ran for the bedroom and emerged carrying a tranquilizer pistol, his spare keys and a tool box. He raced out the door, slamming it behind him. He glanced about the barren landscape, looking for some sign of her. The charred remains of suburbia lay all around him. “Beware of mutants,” he reminded himself. Frantically, he searched for some sign of her, afraid that at any moment he would be pounced upon by the creatures he had heard in the night so many times. Finally, he found her tracks leading off to the east. He followed the trail for a few minutes and found a piece of her dress hanging from a jagged outcropping of concrete. “Better hurry,” he thought, when he heard sounds off to his left.
A few minutes later he found her, or rather, what was left of her. A hideous man-thing was just leaving the gory scene. He was too late. “Damn!” was all he had to say as he searched the remains for his keys. He found them and struck off at a speedy pace for home. The thing that had torn her limb from limb might come back.
He managed to make it back without being attacked, but he knew he probably wouldn’t be so lucky one of these days. Furtively, he glanced around in all directions before quickly slipping in and locking the door of the little cubby-hole he called home.
“Back to the drawing board,” he grumbled as he unlocked the door to the computer room. He read in the new adjustments and instructed the computer to begin construction.
He awoke the next morning to the smell of fresh coffee.
“What on earth do you keep in that closet, sweetie?” She glanced coyly at him as she poured him a cup of coffee.
He just smiled and replied, “It’s a surprise for when we get out of here.”