A massive stroke of wind gushed through the dusty roads of what seemed like an abandoned and isolated town. It was though not as waste-clad as one would presume since the debris had either withered away or had become one with the stationary. There was no sign of any life anywhere. The absence of any traces of beings indicated how the place had long been deserted. A squirrel came out of a small opening to the sewer. It moved about for a while, searching for something to eat. The window-pane that lay behind her slightly gave way to reveal a dark pair of eyes staring directly at the little animal. All of a sudden, the window slid open as a woman, with her face wrapped in cloth, jumped out towards the squirrel. She chased the animal for a while. Then, a large number of humans started barging out of the different structures and corners of the block. They were all wholly wrapped in rugged clothes and were all chasing the small squirrel. A riot began amid the road as more people kept joining and jumping on each other, beating each other down and trying to grab the squirrel.
Suddenly, the public address system attached to the posts started sounding a substantial and long Siren, the sound of which could’ve rendered anyone deaf. The vast mob immediately started dispersing in a terrified manner, trampling over a few who couldn’t carry themselves well. The stampede left behind a few of them crippled, unable to reach back inside. The Siren went on for a few minutes and then became silent. No one was coming to help the fallen. The woman observed from her window-pane as the injured looked towards one side of the road with terrified expressions. They cried out for help, but no one listened. The winds started gaining pace. Everyone inside rushed further indoors. What followed was an enormous dust-storm. It continued for some time, causing no conspicuous damage to the buildings and other structures. They had apparently become used to it and had shed whatever they could have. As soon as the storm subsided, the woman slowly walked back to the window. She was shivering as she dared to look at the ones who had been left behind. They were all dead, and their bodies had turned black as if charred.
“Three more lost… They could’ve been fed to the scavengers…” said the young and muscular man standing on the window-pane beside her. She slowly turned back and walked inside. She then slid open a wooden cover on the ground, revealing a stairwell. Walking down, she reached a dark and small basement.
“Aasha…” she whispered as her sound reverberated.
“Aasha…” she repeated louder after hearing no reply. A small warm hand came and clasped hers. She took out a solar torch from her coat-pocket and switched it on. The light revealed a little girl sitting beside her in the dark. She was wearing half-torn and saggy clothes but had nothing covering her face.
“How many times I told you to cover your face?” the woman said in anger, as she looked for cloth in the little room.
“But… I don’t need it you told me…” Aasha said.
“No… but the world needs one on you or else they’d be afraid of you…” the woman said as she picked a ripped piece of cloth and started wrapping it around Aasha’s face.
“I feel Hungry, Mother…” the young girl said.
“I know… The storm hit before we could get any food. I’d be going out again soon. Did you finish the water-bottle I gave you? Preserve it. Asmit is acting weirder every day. He might not let many take their share of water next time…” the woman said. A rattling sound started coming from above immediately followed by someone saying “SCAVENGERS…”. The woman quickly pushed the child to a corner of the basement.
“No matter what happens… DO NOT MAKE A NOISE… AND DO NOT COME OUT…” she said while shutting her lamp off. She then climbed out of the basement and shut the lid, putting broken rubbles to cover it up. Everyone had gathered near the windows again. Outside, two black motorcycles had stopped, each ridden by one person. They both were completely covered in grey bodysuits which extended as helmets over their faces. They took out some electronic devices from their backpacks and put them on the road. Inside, everybody had picked up a piece of wood, knife, sword or any broken piece of equipment they could’ve used as a weapon.
“I have never seen such scavengers before…” said a young man standing at a corner of the building in which the woman stood.
The two riders were doing something with a signal-dish on the ground. One of them walked up to the charred bodies of the people who had died earlier. The other one said looking at their device “Radiation is low here… So is the groundwater… We can stay here but cannot extract for long.”
“Radiation is low… No Kidding… These are freshly burnt… We should expect company” the other one said while gazing at the charred bodies.
“Guess what… this place reported merely seven hundred thousand cases at peak…” the one sitting at the computer said.
“They must have migrated to the camps long ago… Damn, I feel hungry…” the other one said.
“Grab me that bar when you take one for yourself. I would do a pulse mapping of the place. We then move ahead. Sounds cool?”
“They have food…” said the muscular man standing inside the building. The woman looked at him and whispered: “Please do not do anything foolish Asmit…”
“Sarita… Why do you fear fights so much? Don’t you have that little girl below to feed? Feed her well, or she’d become too weak… and possibly scavengers’ food…” Asmit replied.
Sarita looked back at him with anger. He then gestured towards some people to come forward with their weapons. He reached inside his pocket and took out a revolver.
“Asmit… Where did you?…” Sarita questioned.
“It is just the two of them… We apprehend quick and steal whatever they carry.” Asmit said.
“And what about them?” Sarita questioned.
“We leave their fate outside… Storm or the Scavengers… whichever comes first.” Asmit replied. He then quickly opened the door, pointing the gun towards them. They were both startled. A crowd gathered behind him as he slowly walked forward.
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