The place was dead silent, which made Lina smile. It was weird to be in such a building with that overwhelming silence. It was a bit scary but also kind of freeing. The place was enormous and it offered great possibilities to explore.
She knew that the city had been vacated by its inhabitants many years ago and everything had been left just as it was back then, when they all stopped doing what they were doing, work or school, shopping or exercising, to leave the city they had been living for so many years.
Lina checked her oxygen tank and saw everything was working according to plan. She had the impulse of checking it every few seconds, thinking she might be contaminated if she wasn’t careful. But the air, as she investigated with a rod-like apparatus, was not as polluted as they had thought. Of course, she couldn’t just remove the mask and start breathing. That would’ve been a very stupid thing to do.
This city had been the victim of a nuclear attack. Well, not the city properly but a military base located about fifty kilometers to the south. The winds that day were gentle so the city was washed in chemical residue, but it was contaminated anyway. People had time to take shelter because, after all, it had been war and the government had installed an audio system to alert the population of an incoming attack.
They were all certain it was going to come. They had no doubt of that. The military base, as everyone in the country knew by now, had been used to launch several drone attacks on several targets and it was obvious it was a prime target for their enemies. But they had also thought it would come in the form of a bombardment, setting the city and everything around it on fire.
But that didn’t happen. Well, not like that anyway. The nuclear blast tore down every major building although some lower ones still stood, as if defying that act of war. Lina had entered one of them, against the wishes of the leader of her group. She felt she had to enter, as it had been the one were people had not been able to escape. It was a television studio building and they had stayed behind to report. So they died, doing their job.
Lina gathered a few flowers and put them on top of a big rock, which seemed to have being part of something else. She said a short prayer and then left the place. It was probably not very safe to stand beneath a building that sounded like it would collapse in any second. But she had an impulse and had to attend to it.
When walking through the streets, back to her ATV vehicle, she noticed something strange. She had already felt eyes on her during her stroll around the city, but now she was certain something had been lurking next to her, all the way from the building to her transport. She started to sweat, but tried to relaxed and attributed it to the sun, that was very bright and no clouds stopped it rays from reaching the ground.
She got to the ATV but then she felt movement behind her. She ducked just in time to avoid being hit by what looked like a very big and hairy black dog. Or maybe it was a wolf. It seemed enraged; his eyes red and his teeth yellow and covered in white foam. It looked at her and she tried not to move to suddenly. If maybe she was able to get on top of her ATV… But the creature looked at her, already in position to jump again.
Just when Lina’s thought raced to have a solution for the problem, the wolf creature howled to the sun. That was very strange to see, as the throat and in general all the body of the creature, seemed to crack and move horribly as he howled to the skies. It was as if it was the last thing he would be able to do. Effectively, he dropped dead, or so it seemed, seconds later. Lina didn’t look at it for a second. She jumped into the ATV and raced through the streets back to the compound at the other side of the forest that was used as a natural border of the city.
All the way back, she still felt she was being followed. But it didn’t matter. She just pressed harder for full throttle, sweating like crazy. The ATV jumped on branches and tree roots when arriving at the forest. She couldn’t stop there but then a large creature jump in front and, stupidly, she pressed the brakes. That action made her body flies several meters over the forest ground, landing loudly on mossy soil, which was very fortunate.
Her back hurt a lot but she stood up fast, limping. She realized she had twisted her ankle but that was not important. The camp was too close to stop now. She walked for a few meters to a tree and looked around. Her ATV was apparently unharmed but she couldn’t see the creature that had crossed her path.
It seemed to her that this one was larger that the wolf she had seen in the city. This shadow was larger, more ominous. She regretted pushing the brakes because it was clear she could have continued with no problem. The shadow had only crossed in front of her, clearly not trying to knock her down. It did it miss?
A growl. Lina was already leaning on the ATV when she heard it, if she could, she would have screamed. The creature came out from among some tall bushes, by two thick oaks that appeared kilometers high. This one wasn’t a wolf but, like that one, it was looking right at her. She moved because her injured foot was hurting too bad. This did not seem like a good idea as the creature growled louder, visibly annoyed.
It was a horrible animal, if that was what that thing was. It walked on four legs but rather clumsily, as it had not yet learned to do it properly. Differently to a dog or a lion, its knees were thicker but its body was as covered in fur as much as any other creature of the woods. It moved towards Lina, who tried not to make a sound but that proved difficult as fear was making her move all her weight right on top of her injured foot.
The creature moved closer and, oddly enough, seemed to clam more and more as it came into contact with the woman. It sniffed her and she felt her odor: it was disgusting. It reeked of blood and spit and dirt. She tried hard but her body shook like mad. She inevitably collapsed to the ground and thought the creature would know attack. But she was wrong.
For some reason, the strange animal stood there, looking at her, as she was the most interesting thing it had ever seen. This relaxed Lina a bit who looked straight into the eyes of the animal. Somehow, she knew it was a male, something was clear about it. She couldn’t see her genitalia, to be honest it did not seemed to have any, but she just felt he was a male.
Against anything she knew was sane, she stretch one of her arms forward, very slowly. The creature was not scared by this act. In fact, it almost ignored it. But that was until Lina moved her fingers, trying to reach his head to stroke it. The woman now had all its attention. The creature and her appeared to be blocked by an invisible filed, about to be broken by Lina’s hand.
And then it happened. For a single second, she saw something in the creature. She actually saw it all, as a whole. And she understood. She pulled her hand back and the creature roared. Then, a whistling noise was heard and the creature dropped unconscious.
It had been Robertson, the leader of Lina’s group. He stood by a tree, with two others, and a rifle on his hands. He had shot a tranquilizer to the creature. They walked towards her and Robertson rode her ATV with her. It was a short journey to the camp but she needed to tell him before anyone else knew.
- That creature…
- He’ll be fine.
- He’s a human, Jay.
He couldn’t look at her as they were just arriving to the main tent but he was visibly unsettled by this discovery.