“Hurry up Liz!” A breathless Mark cried, frantically pedaling down the street. The late spring morning was cool, but the fierce pace Mark was maintaining created a sheen of sweat on his body. He risked a quick reach over his shoulder to make sure his freshman project was still secured to his backpack. Today was the last day to work on it before turning it in and it wouldn’t do to have it fall off and break. He had wanted all of first period to work on it and planned on getting to class early, but here he was, way late.
There had been a major power outage, and all the alarms in the house failed to go off. This elevated their usual morning routine from their standard “crazed rush” to “total panic.” Their mom had just finished a night shift supervising the ER and was sleeping in, and they weren’t quite sure the last time they saw their dad awake before eight AM, so they had no help from that quarter either.
To make matters worse, the power must have knocked out the stop lights because nothing was even flashing at the first major intersection on their way to school. Fortunately, traffic was non-existent, and after a quick check Mark booked across the intersection. Normally, if they had a moment, they’d grab a bite at Siren’s Coffee on the way in, but that was not going to happen today. He had resist at first, saying it was a waste of time, but it turned out to be one of the few things he was glad Liz bullied him into doing. She seemed to think she knew everything about everything just because she was a Junior, but in this case she was right. Well, she was actually right a lot of the time, but she shouldn’t let it get to her head.
Mark looked over to the empty coffee shop lamenting his lack of caffeine while a growing sense of wrong started to flow through him. There usually was a line up the wazoo of people waiting to get their daily fix, even at 9:00 on a Thursday. The drive-in was also totally messed up. While there were cars lined up, none of them seemed to be running, and no drivers could be seen. Mark unconsciously slowed his breakneck pace and stopped on the corner to ponder the strange situation when his sister, having finally caught up, grabbed him by the shoulder in a painfully strong grip.
“Mark! What. Are. Those. Things!” Liz hissed in his ear.
Looking forward Mark saw what were best described as giant furry caterpillars wandering around the street in front of them. They were the size of an ottoman, and had two antenna sticking up in front. Their tan fur looked really fuzzy, soft, and oddly pettable.
“I, uh, guess, giant furry caterpillars?” Mark’s brain was in shock, and when you’re in shock, it’s generally good to stick to the basics. One of the creatures that had wandered in close reared up on four of its eight stubby legs to reveal a bloody tooth filled maw. Mark thought he saw part of a human arm poking out. “Killer furry caterpillars?” Mark helpfully clarified.
As they realized the seriousness of their situation the training their father insisted on kicked in. They both reached for their pepper spray and grabbed their batons out of the custom made kits on their bikes. The fortune their dad had made with his company selling zombie and other apocalypse Survival Kits allowed them such luxuries. Most of the time they were embarrassed to be riding around with the brightly colored zombie themed accessories, but today made up for all prior annoyances caused by their dad’s paranoia. Two jets of chemical burning flew into the fuzzy thing causing it to flail wildly and stumble towards them.
Without hesitating, Mark took a step forward and made a strong swipe with the baton, knocking the beast on its side. He stood over the thing, unsure of what to do next when Liz followed up with a blow to what he assumed was its head. Its twitching stopped and the only sound they could hear was the strange squishy footfalls of the rest of the things. The siblings turned to each other and the looks in their eyes effectively communicated their thoughts. Screw school, they were going back home.
“Wait, let me get a picture, not sure if anyone will believe us if we say giant furry caterpillars stopped us from going to school,” Mark said pulling out his cellphone. It seemed that the battery was dead, though. “Huh, thought I charged it.”
“I’m sure I did,” Liz grumbled as she pulled her own phone out, but found it equally dead. The general sense of wrong Mark was feeling expanded and was now a palpable cloud of unease. He finally realized what had him on edge. There wasn’t a single sound of civilization around him. No electrical hums, no puttering cars, nothing. He saw Liz looking around as well. She apparently had also clued into this new and disturbing fact.
Their heads turned to face each other again and they both said “Home” as more of the caterpillar things started to wander dangerously close. Fueled by fear and adrenaline, they sped down the street they had just come up.
“Keep an eye out for more Fuuzers!” Liz cried as they made their way back. Mark nodded and scanned the right side of the road. While he didn’t necessarily approve of his sister’s naming skills, it was still a good idea to keep watch. His mind was numb from trying to process the crazy morning so far, and somewhere behind him his freshman project was strewn across the street. He didn’t spare it a second thought though, as all mental processes were consumed by the latest fiasco that just roared into view.