Mark was so startled by the appearance of what could be best described as a giant bear monster that he lost control of his bike and crashed into his sister. The collision tangled the bikes together and caused both of them to fall. To make matters worse, the crash attracted the attention of the six-legged bear-thing. It reared up and roared at the teenagers. Quickly untangling themselves, they ditched their rides and broke into a panicked sprint. They only had three more blocks to make it home.
Liz risked a quick look back to see how they were doing and was dismayed. “Keep running, Mark! The thing is gaining on us!” Mark couldn’t stop himself from looking as well, and a feeling of dread formed in the pit of his stomach. He turned back to renew his sprint and was greeted with a welcome sight.
“DOWN KIDS!” the man running towards them shouted.
Mark felt a wave a relief as their dad, fully kitted out in survival gear, pulled back a full draw on a compound bow. Jason Randall, the so-called King of Apocalypses, stood in all his glory. His military cropped hair and chiseled Sean Connery-esque features exuded calm in the face of disaster. If ever there was someone you’d want around in a crisis, it was their dad. Mark ducked along with his sister to give a clear shot at the charging bear thing.
“Crap!” he heard their dad curse as his first arrow went wide of the target. Liz and Mark’s recently found sense of relief was quickly replaced with their previous horror. Jason Randall, however, was not one to panic. He calmly took a deep breath, focused, and let fly another arrow. The bear-thing crashed to the ground as the length of steel lodged deeply into its eye socket.
“C’mon kids, if you’re okay to run, let’s get back to the house, your Mom is holding the fort, but there are weird furry things around our pond,” their dad said, giving them a quick hug while surreptitiously checking them for any injuries.
“Fuuzers are at our house?” Liz inquired.
“Uh, I guess, if that’s what we’re calling bitey death caterpillars. They don’t seem aggressive unless you get close, but they’re still not something I want wandering around our yard,” Dad said as he scanned the side roads, leading Mark and his sister the rest of the way home.
The remaining two blocks were blissfully uneventful. As they walked up the driveway they saw their mom wrangling a corpse of a Fuuzer.
Raising his eyebrow in confusion, Jason commented on the scene. “Mary, what are you doing?”
Mary, their mom, was an ER doctor at a nearby Hospital. Her five foot tall frame radiated strength and determination, and both kids had learned early on that big things come in small packages. It was sometimes amusing to see her next to their dad, as he had a solid foot on their mom, but no one ever seemed to think laughing at the forceful Korean woman would be a good idea. Many people would be intimidated when they first encountered her sharp features and intense eyes, but to her kids it was always comforting to know she had their back.
Right now she was dragging a giant fuzzy caterpillar across their yard. The land around their house comprised the entire block. It was the compromise their parents came to when Dad insisted on moving to a bunker in the mountains and Mom said she wasn’t willing to work night shifts at the hospital and then have to drive two hours to a bed. It was probably one of the biggest lots in Mountain Lake, Colorado. The distance it spanned made the fact that their tiny mom had dragged the creature nearly her size from the pond to the house all the more impressive.
“These things, I have no idea what they are, so we’re going to take a look inside and find out what we can,” Mary said, huffing as she dragged the strange creature towards the rear doors.
Their house was custom built to their dad’s paranoid survivalist specifications. It was roughly in the shape of an octagon, and the entire first level had reinforced concrete walls and practically no windows. The rear entrance where she was headed had a reinforced sliding steel door, and the kids knew from experience how heavy it was. Seeing her plight, Mark rushed over to the door and started pushing it open. Liz helped her drag the Fuuzer into the house.
As they made it into the large splash room their dad looked around nervously. “I’ll do a quick circuit to make sure we’re properly locked down, be right back.”
Mom nodded at him and then turned to Mark and Liz. She grabbed both of them into a hug and whispered, “Thank goodness you’re alright. We were so worried when we noticed all hell broke loose. Are you ok? Any injuries?” as she poked and prodded him and his sister.
“We’re fine, Mom, just a few scrapes from when Mark crashed into me and made us fall,” Liz said, giving Mark a quick glare.
Mark shrugged. “I actually am really sorry. I just wasn’t expecting a bear-thing to jump out at us.” This prompted a slew of new questions from their mom.
Liz and Mark took turns detailing their morning adventures. After a few gasps, and a couple more hugs later, they finished their tale.
“Thank you both for taking care of each other out there. I know it must have been terrifying, but you did good,” she said, patting their heads. Mark was just barely taller than her at this point, and Liz had a few more inches, but neither felt awkward at the action. Their mom had a manner that put them both at ease.
Pausing for a moment, their mom then turned to the Fuuzer. “Twelve years of med school and residencies have to be worth something. Grab some gloves if you’re sticking around. We’re going to figure out how these things tick. You’re welcome to stay and learn, loves, but this may get messy.”
She positioned the corpse of the thing into the shallow depression used for butchering meat. The splash room was designed to serve double duty and had a nice prep area for game. Although they never planned on dissecting strange new life forms in the area, it was well suited for it.
Liz’s eyes brightened at the thought of learning more about what was going on, but Mark felt a little queasy at the idea. He had butchered his share of things they had hunted over the years in this room,
“I’ll see if Dad needs any help,” he said, and wandered off.
“Liz, hold this here.” Mark heard the first sounds of cutting as he moved away while his Mom began deconstructing the creature. Double checking his dad was probably pointless, but he figured the routine would do him some good, so he started a circuit of the first floor.
Walking out of the splash room, he entered the enormous four car garage and workshop. Sun filtered in through narrow windows at the top of the walls providing just enough light to see. The backup generator obviously wasn’t working, as no bulbs were on in the room. In the far left spot his dad’s old army jeep was uncovered, which was odd. It didn’t see much use since his dad got his military Humvee, which was parked right next to it. Going down the line he glanced at the minivan they used for trips when Mom insistent on travelling in something that was actually comfortable. He imagined that would get little use in the near future. He turned to examine the last car in the line, the hybrid that Mom used to commute. It smelled like melted plastic and ozone, and that probably wasn’t a good sign. He’d have to mention it to his dad later. Walking past the long workbench running along the wall to the right, he also did a check on the reinforced garage doors. They were secured and looked just as impenetrable as always.
Heading back to the splash room, he poked his head into the next room over. The door leading to it was designed to withstand anything short of a pack of C4, and a quick glance confirmed that power wasn’t on in this room either. It lead down to the bunker and he consider going down to check it for a moment. Eventually he decided not to, as crawling around a bunch of metal shelves and a few cots in the pitch black didn’t seem like the best idea. He instead went back to check on his mom and sister.
He suppressed a wave a nausea as he walked back into the splash room. All the bits and pieces of the Fuuzer were removed and his Mom had just taken her gloves off to jot down her thoughts in a notebook.
“See here, these are all standard organs you’d find in a mammal, but this thing clearly has insect-like characteristics. Also, the mouth, clearly a carnivore here; those teeth are made for tearing meat and seem calcium based. But this thing, I have no idea what this thing is, but I’m pretty sure it was part of the creature,” she noted, poking her pencil at a rock-like thing.
“Fuuzer, Mom” Liz corrected, “And I think that thing is glowing. Are organs supposed to glow?”
Avoiding looking directly at the hacked-up body, Mark gasped at the glowy thing. “Mom, don’t touch that! What if it’s radioactive!”
“That’s highly unlikely, son, it was embedded in a natural fashion and no irritation was around it. This thing seems like a normal animal aside from the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like it on the planet. But you’re probably right, we should be careful about these things.” His mom grabbed some nearby forceps and carefully placed the rock thing onto the washing machine and started to clean up. Apparently, water was still running, as the sprayer turned on, washing the blood down the drain.
As their mom continued to wash blood off the floor, the washing machine thumped on briefly. “Well, that’s weird, that’s the first time power has come back on since we woke up,” she noted.
“Wait, I think I have an idea,” Mark said as he grabbed the rock.
“Hey, I thought you were all like ‘That’s radioactive’ a second ago!” his sister teased him, but paying her no mind, he tried holding the rock against his cellphone.
“Maybe we can get our phones working so we can figure out what the heck is going on out there!” he said. A few seconds passed with no effect, and then, almost without warning, Mark noticed his phone started smoking. Freaked out and more than a little jumpy, he tossed both the rock and the cell into the far corner of the room, and shortly thereafter, it exploded into a tiny fireball. A few shouts later, Mark had grabbed the hose and a spray of water was pouring onto the burning mess. The stone was still glowing, albeit a bit less, and the phone was slagged. Their dad had returned as well to witness the aftermath.
“That didn’t work out as well as I wanted,” Mark sighed.
“Ya think?” Liz’s voice was dripping in sarcasm.
Their mom interrupted the sniping by pulling them both into a tight hug. “Kids, I love you both dearly, but we don’t have time for this.” She placed a metal bucket over the smoldering mess. “Leave the glowy rock alone for now. We need to have a family meeting. We’re going to talk about what’s going on and what we’re going to do about it. And Jason,” she said, turning to her husband, “I will say this once, and only once, and if you ever bring it up again you will be sleeping alone for the rest of your life.” She paused a moment and took a deep breath, preparing to say one of the hardest things she had ever said. “But, you were absolutely right about preparing for the apocalypse,” she ended with defeat in her voice.
Their dad looked like he was going to raise his hands in celebration for a moment, but he caught on to the look of death their mom was giving, and instead simply nodded and strutted towards the stairs up to the the living room.
Mark, following closely behind, heard him mumble in a small whisper, just barely audible.
“Totally called it.”