A story for my Apocalypse Bingo card.
Therosa had been walking through nothingness for well over a week, and it was beginning to wear on her.
Certainly in a physical sense: unlike most of the places around, the rubble hadn’t been cleared, cars had been left where they stopped, and junk was scattered about. It was as if the Thing had hit yesterday and not nearly fifteen years ago.
Except the bodies. Scavengers had pulled out a lot of them, but there were cars with the windows closed and intact remains still inside; there were a few here and there, as if a giant had trampoline-jumped, throwing people up into the air so that they landed willy-nilly. Some of the buildings had faces pressed against the windows, faces that made Therosa reach for her gun, until she realized they were mummified, gone.
And there was nobody, nobody alive. There were hardly even animals visible, just the bleached bones of people and of society, crumbled bits of buildings and the long cracked main road she could sometimes see through the rubble.
She kept walking. She had never gone longer than four days of walking without seeing someone. Not necessarily friendly someones, but people, living people, and the evidence of their passing. Where had everyone gone? Nowhere she had been had everyone died, even if the death rate had been between horrendous and mind-blowing everywhere.
She scavenged a few things here and there, not deviating more than twenty feet from her path. There had to be people here somewhere. There had to be something that was going to jump out at her, or shoot her, or-
She was picking up a dropped backpack – a kid’s backpack, pink, with Minnie Mouse. There, in front of her, mostly covered by an old rug and only visible from this particular angle, was a trapdoor.
She was so going to get shot. Or worse.
She moved the rug aside and opened the trap door.
A ladder went down into a room she was pretty sure wasn’t supposed to be there, not in what had been labelled as a law office.
She made sure the door closed solidly above her but didn’t lock and put her flashlight on its dimmest setting. There, the shelf was just out of whack. She moved it aside, wincing every time it made a noise.
And there was a giant vault door, hidden behind a pretty decent curtain. Heart in her throat, Therosa began to open the door. If nobody had survived, if nobody had made it down here, there would be viable supplies. She could live down here. She could settle down.
The door stuck and jammed in her hand over and over again. Finally, she went back to the shelf and got a bottle of WD40, which she applied liberally to every possible surface that might need it. Using a rag to protect her hands, she turned the handle again. Nobody had opened this thing since the end and probably a few years before that. Visions of cans and cans of food filled her mind’s ey.
The door swung open. Therosa found herself face to face with as many people as could physically fit in the narrow corridor in front of her. The one in the front was ancient-looking; just behind him was a slender teenaged girl and an infant. They were all pallid; they were all dimly-lit and the light made them look almost green.
“Is it safe to come out?” The old man’s voice was a croak. “Is it safe now? Is the war over?”