Jacob walked the wasteland. The dust blew from every direction and no direction at once, swirling into eddies and breezing apart again. The humming, sharp sounds of the gasmask echoed in his ears. He was one of the few scavengers, and gasmasks were a priority. It was the only way to breathe on the surface. Just the week before, Colin and Faith had been lost to dragons. The beasts’ claws weren’t what did them in. They asphyxiated when their eyeholes were poked out by the golden-eyed freaks. Jacob turned his head to look behind him. The wasteland was as empty of life as it was in front of him, but it was never bad to be too careful.
He rooted through an old house and found, besides furniture, a few springs, a teddy bear, and a moldy candy bar. He kept the springs and the bear.
ONE WEEK LATER
Jacob felt the dust and wind blow against his clothes. He stepped through the other side of the airlock and it breathed shut behind him. The tunnel that led to the surface was short, steep, and at this time of day the sun shone straight onto the airlock door. Jacob lifted his hand to block the light, leaving the tunnel. He found a playground past the house he had searched last week. Most of the metal pipes that made the structures were rusted, and the plastic had been eaten through by who knows what. Jacob pushed the rocking horse on a spring and the metal screamed as it rubbed against itself, but the horse bounced.
Jacob was aware of the sound of the gunshot a moment before it hit. The bullet his his mask and the twist on the mask, and and his head, from the impact pushed him to the ground. Before he could think, he took a breath and dust filled his lungs. He coughed, and kept coughing.
Figures stood above him as he coughed and he was aware through his tearing eyes that one of them was holding a gun on him. They must be bandits. he thought. Only bandits would wear bandanas. It took him another moment to process what he saw. We were told nobody could stay on the surface without a…
“Oh, you’re immune, ain’t ya,” the man holding the gun said. “Well, it’s always good to add another to the band.” Jacob barely registered the man’s words in his shock. How am I not…I’m glad to be alive, but how…
Jacob was hauled to his feet. His mask was torn off. He kept breathing and coughed every so often.
“C’mon mate,” said the man who had been holding a gun on him. “Your old place will never take you back like this. They’ll think you’ll infect them. You’re with us now, the immune ones.” He cracked a smile, white teeth showing through dark and dirt-stained skin.