The small group huddled in the corner of the postal warehouse. Undelivered packages lay open on the floor alongside blankets, eaten food packages, and flies.
The last of the afternoon light dwindled.
“I can’t spend another night in the dark,” Sarah said with a tremble in her voice.
She wrapped her arms around her legs and wept into her knees. Around her, married couple Lance and Glen put their hands on her shoulders. On the other side, Priyanka and her son, Ashwin, reached up to touch the fading light.
The warning sirens started their nightly ritual, “Woo-woo-woo.” For five straight minutes, it would continue until the timer turned off – a relic of those first few days. It didn’t cover the sound of the agonies of the living, the half-living, outside the tin walls that protected them.
“Make it stop, Mommy,” Ash cried. Priyanka pulled the toddler close and hummed a sweet lullaby. Her gentle rocking settled his tears for a moment.
“Don’t you worry, Ashwin,” Glen said with a slight gruff. “We’ll be saved soon. The army will be here any day now.”
“No, they won’t,” the boy said. “The monsters will get them too. Just like Daddy.”
“Shh, shh,” Priyanka said, covering Ashwin’s ears. “Don’t fill his head with such nonsense. We know we will have to make our own luck if we’re going to survive.”
She picked up her son and laid him down on one of the blankets. She continued to sing a song until the boy’s breathing became steady and slow.
Priyanka inched back to her side of the makeshift bedroom and sighed.
“Dads?” Sarah whispered.
“Yes, sweetie?” Lance and Glen said.
“Can we try the radio again?”
“Only if you keep it down,” Priyanka said with a hiss.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Lance answered.
The teenager fumbled in the dark for a moment before the sound of static filled the room.
She moved the dial, the frequency of the static changed with each turn. She moved it fast and slow from one end to the next for several minutes.
“Don’t leave it on too long, hun,” Glen said. “Conserve the batteries.”
“Okay,” she turned one last time and heard a voice on the other end.
“Repeat, if there are any survivors out there, you are not alone.”
The group gasped in varying states of surprise. Survivors!
They listened intent on the transmission and the words said: their names and their location – an abandoned army base and a laundry list of ways to survive on the outside.
“The key is light. They hate light.”
The transmission ended and Sarah turned the radio off. The group sat in silence for a moment.
“How are we going to get all those items?” Sarah asked.
“I know where some batteries are,” Glen said. “Mr Saunders – ”
“The man with the little dog?” Lance asked.
“The very same… He used to keep a jar of batteries… for the apocalypse.”
“But Dads… he was one of the first to turn.”
“Then he’s long gone now,” Glen said.
For the first time they ignored the cries, the gurgles, and the bangs around the warehouse. They had hope.
It wasn’t until they all stood, like a giant mob, at Mr. Saunders’s door the next morning that they realized the truth. Overgrown grass and weeds covered the once immaculate lawn.
He greeted them from under the front porch. Batteries and a tiny dog head stuck out of the bulbous form.
Their screams were hushed as they became one with the host.