“Today is October 18, 2021. It has been five-hundred and eighty-four days since the pandemic. If you can hear this message, there are survivors. We have a facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Today is October 18, 2021—” The radio repeated itself. The same message had been airing over the radio for over three hundred days.
“You think that’s legit?” asked a woman’s voice. The woman pulled out a pistol from her thigh holster as she walked up a long driveway, unkempt grass growing on either side of her. A small stone sign read Whispering Willows Care Home.
“Could be. Might be some cannibals leading people into a trap,” a man answered. He too pulled out a pistol from his thigh holster. He reached down with his other hand and silenced the small radio hanging from his hip. He wouldn’t need stealth for this mission, but he didn’t need any distractions.
The two of them bound up the small set of stairs, and they tore open what used to be two glass doors but were now reinforced with wood and metal sheeting.
Three quick gunshots broke the silence of the hallways of Whispering Willows Care Home, followed by the screams of the few residents that occupied the rooms.
Ingrid looked at Robert in a panic, maybe she had misheard it. Maybe something happened in the kitchens, it was time to make lunch after all.
Her doubts were silenced a moment later when a woman’s voice filled the hall. “You old timers don’t need all this food, so where is it?” The voice didn’t seem to be asking anyone in particular…not yet.
A crash that sounded like an explosion of wood that made Ingrid jump, but she quickly ran to the door. A woman stood at the end of the hall, peaking her head into the doorway as a rather large man entered.
“Regina,” whispered Ingrid, but as she stepped into the hall to help her friend, her partner Robert pulled her back inside.
“Get in here.” His tone bordered on harsh, but Robert closed the door behind them, leaving the door slightly ajar. Robert turned to face Ingrid, grabbing her arm and pulling her towards the window of their room.
They both froze as their world was pierced by two quick gunshots. Footsteps could be heard in the hallway, cries following them.
“Where’s the kitchen?” the woman’s voice echoed again. Three more gunshots rang through the halls, each accompanied by fearful screams and a soft thump.
“Go. Climb out the window,” Robert whispered, already dragging Ingrid across the room by the arm. He slid open the window to Ingrid’s first story room where she had been for the last five years. Almost five years of the two of them falling in love, until the world ended.
“Robert, I can’t. Where would we go?” Ingrid muttered back, and she jumped as two gunshots, closer this time, pierced through the air.
“We’ll go to Canada,” Robert replied, grabbing Ingrid’s hand and pulling her the final few steps towards the half open window.
“Where’s the food,” yelled the woman again. The screams of the residents got quieter with each room she passed.
There were five rooms in this hallway, the only hallway with people still living in it from what their intel had found out. Two rooms were searched. The woman chuckled to herself as she stepped into the third room. A quick look showed it was empty, but quiet cries of fear came from the bathroom.
She tore open the door and saw an elderly man in a wheelchair cowering from her.
“Are you going to tell me where you keep the food?”
The elderly man cowered further, trying to protect herself from his eventual fate. He pointed a shaky finger to the corner of her room, and an almost inaudible mumble came from her lips. “End of the hall.”
The woman smiled and knelt in front of the man. She kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear as she stepped away. “Was that so hard?” she said with a smile, pressing the gun to the man’s head and pulling the trigger in the same motion.
Robert helped Ingrid through the window. She straddled the windowsill and used her cane to help slide herself on to the grass outside.
As she got her footing, another gunshot sounded. Ingrid let out a whimper, tears streaming down her face.
“Robert, they’re here for the food. Let’s give it to them and they’ll leave us alone.”
Robert turned to the door. Being an army veteran in his younger life, he knew the truth. “If they wanted the food, they wouldn’t be using bullets.” He met Ingrid’s eyes with a lifeless look. All colour had been drained from his face.
Another cry could be heard, and if Ingrid and Robert had counted right, they were the only two residents left alive.
“Robert.” Ingrid muttered softly, holding his hands through the open window. She looked into his eyes, and she knew what was about to happen.
Robert let go of the woman he loved and hurriedly slid the window closed. He pressed his hand against the glass, Ingrid doing the same.
“I love you,” they both mouthed silently, and Robert closed the tattered drapes that hung over the windows.
A second later, his door flew open. The woman walked in with an excitement in her step, but the man stood in the shadowed hallway.
“I hear your name is Robert,” the woman giggled.
Robert stood tall but didn’t answer. He never let bullies get their way, and he wasn’t going to start now. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of the man’s face, and he understood how this mad woman knew his name.
“Get it over with,” Robert spat at her.
“If you insist,” the woman replied back, all too quickly. She was barely looking towards Robert as she took aim and squeezed the trigger.
Ingrid knew what the gunshot meant, and it took every muscle in her body not to cry out in sadness. All of her friends, everyone she had left in the world. Robert. They were all gone. Every single one, murdered by these killers.
She waited for a moment and peered into her room through one of the small rips in the tattered drapes. She saw the woman turn to face the man, who had now entered the room. The man’s back was towards the window, but as he and the woman walked to the door, Ingrid got a good look at his face.
“Alexander,” she muttered to herself, collapsing to her knees. Ingrid didn’t know what to do. Time stood still for Ingrid. The afternoon sun turned into a sunset, and soon after the moon was all Ingrid could see on this cloudy night.
The voices of Alexander and the woman eventually died down, and a truck could be heard starting off down the road.
The cool, autumn air broke Ingrid from her trance. Her whole body was in shock, and each step she took towards the front door was more painful than the last.
Ingrid stood just outside the doorway to her home, Whispering Willows Care Home. One more step, and Ingrid knew she would never leave. The sight of her friends lying dead in the halls, in their rooms, it would kill her.
Instead, Ingrid turned for the road. She couldn’t bring herself to see her friends, so she did the only thing her shattered mind could focus on. She walked off in the direction she heard the truck.
The quiet rhythm of her steps and her cane sounded like explosions on the silent night.
“Why Alexander?” Ingrid kept muttering to herself as she walked off into the near black night. “My sweet, sweet boy,” she answered with each time.