The Darkest Hour – Horror

Dearest Phoenix,

If you’re reading this, it’s already too late for me – I’ve been found. I tried my best to protect us, to protect you from a world that I am ashamed to have ever been a part of; but that’s the thing with love, it clouds all judgment, makes things that you don’t want to see nearly invisible and puts a veil over your eyes even when the truth is glaringly obvious. But time, it isn’t always kind, and I fear that our time together has come to an end, my sweet girl.

Just know that everything isn’t always as it seems. How we have lived for the past 13 years has been a lie. The world as you know it is unraveling, and I fear that you, my dear, are the only one that can save them.

I’m sorry to put this burden on you, but you’re strong; after all, you’re your father’s daughter. But remember, you have some of me in you, too. Use what I have taught you and fight. Don’t let them break you like they’ve broken me. Protect the cure at all costs.

I love you always,

Mom

I’ve read this letter a thousand times. The tear stained paper was beginning to crumble under my touch, but I didn’t care, it was all I had left of her. Outside the world seemed to be falling apart, the entire city that I once called my home reduced to ash and rubble. In the distance, the faint cries of people screaming for help or in fear shook me to my core.

I was afraid.

Empty cans littered my bedroom floor, the door barricaded with my dresser that I managed to push in the way, just in case the monsters made their way into the house.

Monsters.

They looked like my worst nightmare, their skin melting off under the sun, like ice cream on a hot summer day. The tears pressed against my eyes as I remembered all the times my mother and I walked down the road to the ice cream parlor for a cone.

“Mom, what do I do?” I clung to the letter and let my eyes drift close. A faint scratching sound startled me followed by a soft whimper.

“A dog?” I jumped up and gently pulled back my bedroom curtain and saw something that I thought I’d never see again – a dog. He was black, like the night that clung all around me. But something about him made me know that he was safe.

He looked normal. No rotting flesh or missing eyes, he whimpered a bit louder and I scrambled to move the dresser from my door.

Scraping against the floor, I cringed at the noise. Noise of any kind brought attention. And with attention came the rotting, walking corpses. But this dog, he needed me. Hell, I needed him.

Managing to remove the dresser from my door, I opened the front door. The dog jumped on me, sending me falling to the floor.

“Hey there buddy, I’m happy to see you too.” Licking my face ferociously, I giggled.

“Alright, alright, let me close the door. We don’t want those things getting in here do we?” As if he could understand, he stopped licking me and put his ears back. I latched the door shut and breathed a sigh of relief.

It had been seven days since my mother disappeared. Seven days since my city turned to what it is now.

“What should I call you?” I knelt down and pet the dog. His panting bringing me an odd sense of comfort. Other than the screams that broke up the silence, quiet has been all I’ve known for the past week.

I looked at his collar and felt sad for his owners that he lost. His tag said Ranger.

“Ranger.” His ears perked up. “That’s a good name.” I scratched under his chin.

“Looks like it’s just me and you, Ranger.” Resting my head against the wall, Ranger curled up next to me, putting his snout in my lap. For the first time in a week, I slept.

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