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A short story about two friends roaming an apocalyptic Canada, struggling to survive the horrors it holds.

In the tangled mess of broken buildings, flooded streets, overgrown trees, and creeping moss, the first snow of the season gently fell on two somber figures . A barricade of crashed cars full of long dead corpses blocked their path, and there they stood, looking at eachother with perplexed faces. Tim smelled the air with raised brows and Ash looked at him expectantly, awaiting his decision on which way to go. Ash absently wiped a bead of sweat off his forhead, revealing his ivory skin, that gleamed in the moonlight, under layers of dirt and grime. He reached into his gray torn-and-sewn, torn-and-sewn backpack and pulled out a shiny silver flask and a red plastic cup. As he poured water into the plastic cup, Tim licked his lips impatiently, making smacking sounds with his tongue. Ash placed the cup down on the ground and Tim greedily lapped up all the water inside, shoving his snout into the bottom of cup, only to lift it off the ground still stuck on his face. He started bobbing his head up and down desperately trying to remove it and Ash chuckled at him gently before taking it off his face.
"Do you smell food, boy?"
"Aroo?" Tim sniffed around the air again, the powerful scent of mold did a good job in covering the much fainter scent of metalic cans that Tim now knew so well usually contained food. His tail shot up in the air and he started following the smell, into the crumbled building on their right. Ash followed him in through the open doorway turning on his flashlight to reveal a mess of chairs strewn around the room.
"I think this is called a hotel. Jacob told me about these back in Toronto. People would stay here when they were away from home." Tim's ears pricked up at his voice and he panted heavily at Ash. "Maybe there's a kitchen." Tim stopped panting and looked at Ash with the look of understanding dogs make. Ash and Tim both looked to their left and through window paned doors they saw a large restaurant. Tim happily trotted over debris and rubble to the kitchen and Ash followed behind him, the sound of broken glass and wood crunching under his feet. When Ash reached the door Tim was waiting patiently for him to open it. He twisted the knob and pulled on it to no avail, then pushed and it gave a little. He leaned his shoulder into the door and pushed harder, and the door gave way little by little. Tim leaned his head against the door at the bottom and helped him push, and together they managed to crack it enough that they could both squeeze through. They quickly found their way to the kitchen where they found dozens of cans of beans and bottles of wine in dusty cupboards.
"Jackpot." Tim's ears shot up and he began panting happily at Ash. Ash pulled out a knife and started cutting open the top of one of the cans of beans and Tim's tongue waggled back and forth, dripping with saliva as he waited. When he opened it he pulled out his red plastic cup and poured the entire can in and set it on the ground. As he began opening another one Tim stuck his whole face into the cup eating up every last bit of food before Ash could even finish. When Ash's can was open he started pouring the can into his mouth, making sure not to eat too fast. Tim panted at him aggressively expecting more food. "Jeez lemmi finish first at least." Tim stuck his tongue back in his mouth and sat patiently. When Ash finished Tim looked at him expectantly again. "One more, between both of us," he said holding up his index finger. "And then we have to save the rest." Tim put his nose to the ground and whimpered. Ash rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You baby." He opened up another can and poured half into Tim's cup and the rest into his own mouth.
After they finished eating Ash pulled out a dirty tin case and opened it up. From the case he grabbed a crumpled cigarette and a match. He struck the match off his zipper, the popping sound made Tim jump and Ash lit up his cigarette revealing his worn face. He had brown eyes, shaggy dark hair, and a thin scraggly beard. He was only sixteen years old but looked like tired Vietnam vet. When the fire went out the room went dark again, with only the moon lighting the room through the windows. It was bright enough to see everything but just barely. Ash sat down on the floor, leaning on a counter, grabbed a bottle of wine and popped the cap off with his knife.
"Before the end of the world you had to be eighteen to drink this stuff"
"I know, it's dumb, and down south you had to be twenty-one." He shook his head and took a sip. "You want some?" Tim panted happily at him. He poured a small amount into Tim's cup and he lapped it up quickly. "How was it?" he said, exhaling smoke.
Tim whined and buried his nose under his paws.
"I know," he said with a chuckle. He took another drink and sighed. "I hope we get to Montreal soon." Tim laid his head on his paws and looked up at Ash curiously. "I hope so." He took a drag off his cigarette and wiggled his bottle to see how much was left, about half, then took one more large swig and set it down on the floor. He took another drag off his cigarette and then dropped it into the wine bottle and slid down the counter until he was lying on the floor. Tim stood up and trotted over to Ash, walked around in a circle, and then settled down, laying his head on Ash's chest. Ash wrapped an arm around Tim's head and closed his eyes, thinking of days gone by and days to come. As he fell asleep, memories of Toronto danced in his head, and he moaned and cried, but Tim reassuringly licked his hand.
Ash's eyes jolted open to the first sunlight peaking through skyscrapers. He was covered in sweat from the nightmares that plagued him. He looked over and Tim was still sleeping peacefully with his head rested on Ash's chest. His dirty brown coat had a streak of sweat from Ash's arm, but he never moved in the night. Ash took a look around, with the sunlight he could see the kitchen more clearly. It was dirty, like everything, and a thick layering of dusted coated every surface. The checkerboard floor was barely noticable, it look almost like a dirt floor, covered in empty cans and kitchen utensils. He shook Tim and said, "get up boy."
Tim groggily opened his eyes and looked at Ash. "Mgrmgrmgrm." He lifted his head off Ash's chest and stood up. As Ash poured him a cup of water his tail began to slowly wag. He drank it all as Ash finished off the canteen.
"We're out of water." Tim whined, then panted at him. "We'll find some later today."
Tim's ears pricked up and he cocked his head, looking toward a broken window. Ash looked at him with furrowed brows. "What?" Tim pointed with his nose toward the window. He heard faint voices that only a dog could hear, and the distinguished smell of human sweat. He began growling. "Hush," Ash said as he scuttled toward the window crouching underneath. Tim followed him and stood at Ash's side. He peaked his head out the window and saw a barren forest city, with a main street stretching down the horizon. In the distance he spotted a group of people walking toward them, full of energy and playfully rough-housing. Ash squinted his eyes to get a better look, from what he could tell there were seven of them, all men, and they were armed with swords, machette's, pipes, and one had a rifle. "Stay low, don't make a sound." Tim nodded his head.
Ash started to quietly sneak through the kitchen to the back door. When he opened the door it moaned loudly and led out into an alley. Ash's face winced at the sound the door made and he stopped. He squeezed through the half open door and Tim followed after him. When he got to the end of the alley he pressed his back against the wall and peeked around the corner. The street was empty but he could hear voices, not too far off. He stood there gazing at the empty street for a minute, and as the voices got louder, his hands began to tremble more and more. He reached into his belt and slowly pulled out his tiny snub nose revolver, bringing it up to face, leaning his forhead on the top of the barrel, almost like a prayer. A group of men walked from around the corner down the street, laughing and talking, completely unaware of the duo's presence. Behind him, on the next street over, Ash heard a noise. The distinguishing sound of clacking and hissing. His stomach rolled over and he turned toward the noise. As his breathing got heavier and his body began sweating, he heard Tim quietly growling at the noise. He turned back to the group of men and they had heard too. They had their weapons raised, the one with the rifle had it pointed down the street and the other six had their clubs and blades up and ready for violence. Ash hid around the corner and looked toward the hissing and clacking. It got louder and louder, echoing through the streets. He turned to Tim, who was still growling quietly and whispered, "We gotta move." Tim's ears pricked and he looked up at Ash, then turned back toward the alley and started running back to the kitchen.
As the two were approaching the door, they heard the explosive sound of a gunshot. Then a second. And a third. Neither of them turned around, but they heard the horrible clacking shoot right past the alley, multiple times. "There's too many of them!" A cry from the street. "Run!" One hissing source sounded like it was running down the alley toward them. As they approached the kitchen door, the hissing approached them. Only a few more steps and they were inside. The hissing sounded like it was right behind them. Tim jumped through the narrow entrance, and Ash squeezed in behind him, slamming the door closed on his way through. He stood, back pressed against the door, braced for action. When the seismic force hit the door Ash almost fell over onto his face. He balanced in mid air and slammed his back against the door again.
"Get something!" he shouted toward Tim. Tim ran off into the restaurant. Another loud bang and another wrecking ball blow to the door. Hissing and banging were right behind him, and his palms were so sweaty that his gun fell out of his hand out of reach. "Hurry!" he shouted to Tim. He was met with horrible shrieks and cries for help from the streets. One more bang on the door threw Ash onto his face, and before he could process what happened he was back on his feet to hold the door closed. When he pressed his back against it again Tim was standing in front him, tail wagging, with an iron pipe in his mouth. He snatched it out and stuck it in between the handlebar and a wall rack, jamming the door closed.
"Go!" Tim took off running and Ash followed behind. The door felt another blow but the iron bar held firm. Tim gracefully bounded through the restaurant while Ash stumbled over trash and debris behind him. He squeezed back through the restaurant door into the lobby, and saw Tim trotting up the stairs. He followed behind and came to a hallway. He ran down past a few doors and chose one at random to hide in. With a running start he barreled into it with his shoulder and it burst open. He fell into the room, and Tim walked over him, stepping on his testicles in the process. He winced, but got up to his feet and closed the door, and followed Tim under the bed. The two of them waited for the horrible, hissing, clacking beast to follow them.
Ash reached into his belt to grip his gun, but his heart dropped after he realized he'd left it on the floor of the kitchen. He looked around under the bed for anything to use as a weapon. All he found was a solid looking piece of wood, and he grabbed it, squeezing the base tightly. Ash and Tim waited, the wooden plank in Ash's hand, now soaked in sweat, trembled with bloodlust. When the hissing and clacking started echoing in the hallways, Tim let out a gentle growl, and Ash shushed him with a stern glare. Ash's heart raced, and his breathing became louder and louder.
As the door creaked open, a large black claw squeezed its way into the room. It snapped its pinchers closed twice, echoing two large clicks. Ash winced at the sound, and Tim barred his teeth, ready to attack. A large furry leg followed in, and then the grotesque body of the beast squeezed its way through. It looked like an enormous spider, two meters wide, with enormous claws protruding from its back. It's face was just a slew of yellow and red oval eyes, and a gaping mouth, the size of a human head, filled with fangs and dripping with black sludge. Ash tried to slow his breathing, but it was impossible. The creature stepped into the room, its pinchers clacking away and it looked around, making hissing noises at everything it saw. It began to scuttle it's way toward Ash and Tim, knocking over a broken T.V. and lamp. It stopped right in front of the bed, then began to lean down, and when it's face appeared from above the bed, Ash bashed it in the eyes with his plank. He quickly scurried to the other side of the bed and got to his feet, while Tim jumped on top of the bed. The creature was covering it's face with one pincher, and swinging wildly trying to grab them with the other. Ash lept at it again, stabbing the wood into the creature's back, getting grabbed by the free pincher around the throat at the same time.
It lifted him off the ground and grabbed his leg with the other, then started to pull. Ash was getting torn in half, and it raised it's mouth to his stomach. Only inches away from injecting him with it's poison, Tim jumped on it's back back and started to rip it's flesh apart. It released a horrible cry, and threw Ash across the room. When he hit the wall, he thought it was weird that he was still traveling, and opened his eyes to see he was outside now. He looked up and saw bits of glass falling down after him, and a broken window he had just flown out of. Then he looked down and saw the ground. Then he saw darkness.
When Ash woke up the moon shined faintly, and darkness had fallen across the ruined city. Tim was licking his face, and when Ash opened his eyes, he playfully ruffed and barked. He sat up, his head swirling, and his vision blurring. "Damn." He leaned against a lonely street post and looked at Tim. "Poisoned, it must have gotten me." Tim's tail stopped wagging and he whined at Ash. His head was pounding, and it felt like he had daggers sticking into the back of his eyes. He winced. It was over, he made it this far only to die in the streets of some broken city. He pulled out his dirty tin case and grabbed a cigarette. He lit it and took a long drag. Tim looked at him in silence, with sad eyes. "Find some people, get to Montreal." Tears began to slither down his face. "This is my last stop." He rested his hand on his upturned knee and looked at Tim. The strength began to leave his body and he didn't feel like moving anymore. Tim licked his hand and nudged his arm, imploring him to stand up. "It's nice out tonight." A snowflake landed on his face, and streamed down to his chin. He leaned his head down, and snow began to fall heavily. As the snow started to gather in Tim's fur, Ash closed his eyes, the cigarette in his hand falling to the ground. Tim nudged him with his nose again and didn't get a response. Under snowy skies, Tim howled at the moon well into the night. He stayed there all night, never leaving his friend's side, and he howled. And howled.

Submitted: August 19, 2015

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