“Mom!” The little girl’s cries were pleading and desperate. “Mommy!” she screamed again, stumbling through the grassy field. She was lost in the stampede of a terrified crowd. All running in the same direction, towards the safe house.
After the mutagen was discovered, the government began building safe houses in secret. Out in the country far from the crowded cities which inevitably held infection. The virus spread quickly, faster than anyone had ever imagined. It took out thousands and changed thousands more into something twisted and inhuman. Only a handful of survivors from every hundred remained, desperately clinging to the little shreds left of civilization.
Some distance away someone tripped, only to be devoured by the oncoming darkness. It was hungry and one man would barley quench its burning need for flesh.
Terrified screams and shouts filled the air. The little girl stopped and looked around in the confusion, blue eyes wide like a startled deer. In her small arms she clutched a pink and white rabbit, so tightly her knuckles turned white. “Mommy!” She called again. Tears streamed down her dusty face leaving silvery tracks in the dirt.
I slowed to a jog, the world blurring around me. Images of a not-too-distant passed flickered through my mind. People ran past me, one catching my shoulder and knocking me sideways. A broken memory of the abortion clinic. The girl turned in circles looking up at the tall figures running past searching for her mum. The voice of the nurse asking if I was sure. Her worried eyes found mine. I always regretted making this choice. She had matted blonde ringlets and a muddy pink dress but was altogether a beautiful little girl. I won’t abandon another child again.
I started to run again, stopping briefly to scoop her into my arms. “It’s okay,” I whispered “You’re safe now.” I said as a looked over my shoulder as the distance between us and the dark swarm of what used to be people got smaller every second, knowing that as I told the little girl she was safe that things could never be the same again. Never safe, never again a proper home but a crowded facility designed not to ensure our survival but prolong our deaths.
The girl struggled in my arms screaming for a mother almost certainly dead. But I held her tight and remembered the pain of losing my own child. She has lost her mother and I have lost my child. Maybe together we can be whole again.
We reached a fence. I wasn’t tall enough to lift her over so I set her down and started to help her climb over. I glanced over my shoulder. They were still gaining, climbing the fence was wasting precious seconds. I could see the safe house now. People were flooding in from several directions and as I myself climbed the fence I felt a tugging in my stomach, the nagging possibility that the Doors of Hope will close before we reach them.
The girl was only just at the top of the fence. I turned to pull her down but her small toy snagged on a loose wire. Fresh tears brimmed in her eyes and she reached out for it but I tugged her away. They were so close now we could waste no time. “You can get a new one later!” I shouted. I lifted her into my arms and carried on running.
She whined into my shoulder, the tears wetting my sleeve. We were now less than 50 meters away from the doors. 40. 20. 10. Come on! Come on! I thought to myself.
The doors began to close. My stomach sank. One of the men standing at the door looked into my eyes. “I’m sorry.” He mouthed. I pushed the girl ahead of me. The man pulled her inside and the doors closed with a faint thud.
I stopped running and collapsed against the hard, cold wall of the safe house. It was over. I watched the once-humans coming closer and closer. I didn’t get a flash of my life before my eyes or see a white light like the stories say. But I did remember the little girl I saved. She would never make up for the life I destroyed but I hoped someone would take care of her in there. Maybe someone would even give her a new toy to replace the one she lost.
Soon the creatures reached me. I hardly felt the rotting hands and bloodied teeth all I could see was the little pink and white rabbit still stuck on the fence. One ear flopped over across its face. Its limp arms hanging loosely. I looked into its eyes and saw my own child. It looked sad.