The wind whistles through the broken window. Shadows move as if ghosts through the room. Old dusty floorboards creak as the old building shifts. A pair of children cower in the corner behind the cot they share. Father leans against the wall next to the open doorway, readying himself. Whispers can be heard, floorboards are pushed to their limit as weighty spectres move across the room. Father prepares himself, he will protect them. He will do what he must.
This was the world now.
They keep moving, searching for something. One moves down the hall, toward the children’s room. Father says a silent prayer, hefts the heavy weapon in his hands. He glances at the kids, they’re scared eyes looking for reassurance in his. The moonlight shows a long shadow on the floor, moving closer. It stops to check another room. The building breathes again replaced by an unsettling silence. The shadow moves closer still. The children holding each other’s mouths to keep from making a sound.
The figure reaches the threshold, pausing. It’s back is turned. Father leans closer, feet spread, his muscles tense, sweat drips from his forehead. The figure moves, it turns and takes a step into the room. Realization sweeps across the stranger’s face, children are here. Suddenly a mighty crack erupts throughout the house and the figure slumps heavily to the floor. Father hefts the weapon again, peering around the doorway. The ghosts whisper loudly, arguing.
Father moves out of the room, motioning to the children to stay and hide. He creeps as quietly as he can, his boots making only the slightest sound. The whispers grow louder. They are in the kitchen he realizes. He reaches the doorway, listening intently. He can only make out two voices. The door’s hinges lay bearen, the task of holding the door long forgotten. He moves his head slowly until he can see into the shadowy room. The figures are animatedly arguing, blackened silhouettes against the moonlight. He tries to size them up, telling himself to stay come and be deliberate. This is no time for half measures.
He turns the corner letting out a mighty bellow. The figures jump in terror. Father picks up an old chair sitting next to the doorway, throwing it with one hand as hard as he can at the larger figure. Then charges the second raising his sledge above his head. He brings it down, but misses the head and the blow lands on the shoulder, emitting a sickening crack. The figure crumples holding it’s shoulder. Father turns, the other recovering from the chair. It is over in a second, Father jabs the face and brings the butt of the sledge down and across the head, the figure crashes to the floor unconscious.
The second figure, still holding it’s shoulder brings up a hand, asking for mercy. Father spits on the plea, asking “Why do you deserve to live?” He hefts the heavy sledge preparing himself once more. The figure pleas “I’m like you, I just want to protect my family.” He looks more closely, realizing the figure is shapely, feminine. He pulls the face up to see her eyes. Tears run down her cheeks, reflected brightly in the moonlight.
“I’m pregnant” she whispers. “Please don’t kill me.”