A young boy stood by a barrel and held his hands over it to keep warm. His eyes moved from the barrel and stared into the darkness. He scanned the dark park and spotted a light that was approaching him. As it got closer to the boy, he recognized that it was his father holding a lantern. He smiled at the boy and took out a sandwich and gave it to his son.
“I hope you like roast beef?”
“Sure do.” The boy grabbed the sandwich and began to eat it.
“I've been searching around and found a way in, but its a tunnel. We are going to need more oil to go through it.” The man looked at his son's lantern and stared at the flame. “You should have enough to make it through, but you should not have it high. The tunnel is dark, and you will need your flame to guide you and protect you from the things inside.”
“Can’t I just follow behind you?” He looked at his father with a worried face.
“No, it's too dangerous. Besides, you are old enough now, and you must learn to walk on your own. There will be a time when you must face the dangers on your own.”
The boy frowned and grabbed the lantern. He did not want to walk alone in the dark, but his father padded him on the back and went to pack their things.
The next day they headed out and were walking on an abandoned train track. The grass grew between the metal tracks, and parts of it were uprooted by the small trees that were growing around it. Most of the roads were filled with cars that were burned or crashed. Smoke still lingered in the air, but it was faint. As the two walked in silence, a sound was heard on the right of them. The man stopped and held his arm in the air. The boy quickly ducked to the ground and looked at where his father was looking at. The bushes rustled, and a strange moaning sound was heard coming from it. The man aimed his rifle at it and waited to see what it was, he slowed his breathing and steady the gun. A few seconds later, a dog came out from behind the bush. Its tail wagged in the air, and it spotted the man and boy. It whimpered and walked away.
“Thought it was one of them.” The boy said as he breathed out.
“Let’s keep going. We have to be there before sundown.” His father adjusted his bag and continued onward.
They journeyed for some time until a small town was seen on the other side of the tracks. The man was crouched on the floor and observed the city through his binoculars. There was no movement of anything living and appeared to be abandoned. The man pulled out his watch then stared at the sun which was setting behind the mountains.
“We are not going to make it in time.” He looked back at the town.
“So, we staying here for the night?”
“We’ll see.” The man gave his son the binoculars and a radio. “I’m going in and see if its safe. You keep watch and don’t call until you see something.”
The man got up and slowly made his way to the town. He kept his eyes moving around making sure to check the corners and hiding places. He reached the first building and looked at the direction where his son was waiting, then he spoke through the radio. “Okay, I’m heading inside. Keep watch and stay quiet.”
The boy watched his father enter the building then he took out his watch and stared at the hands. He marked the time in his head and looked through the binoculars. About five minutes had passed, and the boy became worried about his father. He wanted to call him but knew that it would be a mistake to use the radio. Another five minutes had passed, and the boy could not wait any longer. He grabbed the radio and called out to his father.
“Dad, you there?” The sound of the radio was heard. “Dad, please say something.”
The boy became anxious and grabbed all the things and ran to the building. He pressed himself against the wall and slowed his breathing as he peeked through the opening of the door. There was not much light inside as the sunlight was fading. He pulled out his flashlight and entered the dark building. The boy carefully watched his step as not to kick anything. The inside of the building was a minimarket, and most of the isles were bare or knocked down. At the front of the store, the windows were blocked with newspapers and black paint. On the floor were random items and a large pool of dry substance that appeared to be blood. There was no sound in the store as the boy slowly walked around searching for his father. He headed to the back of the store and found a large hole which led to the building next door. He pulled out the radio and called again but as before only static. He sighed and entered the building.
The inside was just the same for the place was in a mess. However, the building was an office, and not much inside would be useful. The boy walked over to a desk and searched inside to find batteries. He smiled and placed them inside his bag. The sound of something moaning was heard, so the boy pulled out his lantern and turned the flame higher, then he turned off the flashlight. The moaning came from the other side of the hole, so the boy walked cautiously towards it. The small flame illuminated everything around him, and he was able to see shadows moving outside the building. He quickly ducked behind a desk and peeked under it. Two black legs were seen from the glass door and an awful moaning that spoke inside the boy’s head. He closed his eyes and whispered for his father to come to him. He tried to think of something to block the sounds, but it was no use as the moaning became louder inside his head. The boy was about to scream when it stopped as the flame grew bigger and illumined the whole room. He opened his eyes and saw that the figure was gone. He breathed out and stood to continue to find his father. When he reached the other side of the building, there was a bag on the floor, it was his father’s. The boy grabbed it and searched around, but there was no sign of him. He examined the bag and found no traces of it being damaged in a fight or that someone took it from him.
“Dad, where did you go?”
The boy moved the lantern and spotted another hole. On the floor were drops of fresh blood and the boy became worried that perhaps his father was attacked or hurt. He placed all the things to the side and pushed the lantern on the other side of the hole then he went through. The other office was left untouched and seemed that no one had been inside for a long time for the floor was covered in fine dust. A set of footsteps were seen to lead to the back of a desk. He walked over to it and found his father passed out on the floor.
“Dad, what happened?” His father moaned, and the boy turned him around to see if he was hurt. There was no sign of any physical injuries. The boy looked at his father’s lantern which was not on. He grabbed it and light a match then placed it inside. A small flame rose inside, and his father began to move slowly.
“Dad, what happened to you?”
“What are you doing here?” His father asked.
“You were taking forever, and I came to find you.” The boy peeked around the desk and looked out at the glass doors. “There was one of those creatures outside.”
“Did you have your lantern on?”
“Yes, and it stopped the creature from getting inside of me.”
The man smiled and rubbed his hand on his son’s head. “Good boy, good boy. Never let your light go out.”
“I will get the stuff and—”
The man grabbed the boy’s hand. “I need you to leave this place at first light and cross the tunnel.”
“And what about you?”
“My light was out.” The man looked at his lantern. The flame was barely lit. “I don’t have enough oil in it so I will not make it through it safely.”
“You can have some of mine.”
“My journey ends here.” The man closed his eyes. “I showed you the way, follow it and don’t leave the path. Stay focus and do not listen to anything inside the tunnel.”
“I…I can’t do this without you.” The boy cried.
“Yes, you can.” The man smiled and grabbed the boy and hugged him. “You went through it here and fought the creature without failing. You are stronger then you think.”
“But I came looking for you.”
The man breathing became shallow as he gasped for air. “Stay on the path and don’t stray from it. He will be waiting for you on the other side with open arms.”
“Don’t leave me.” The boy cried.
“I…love…y–” The man passed away as the lantern’s flame extinguished.
The next morning, the boy was walking on the tracks and was sniffling. He pulled his lantern and stared at the oil inside. There was a lot of it inside, so he lowered the flame and continued onward. About midday he reached the tunnel, and there were many corpses on the ground with their lanterns broken around them. The boy saw a family laying on the ground, and they held each other’s hands. It disturbed the boy to see such horrors, but he needed to head inside. His eyes glazed inside the dark tunnel and wondered how long it was. He took a deep breath and adjusted his backpack and went inside.
No light entered the tunnel, and the only thing that gave him sight was his lantern. The walls were covered with a strange substance that dripped to the floor. The tracks were gone, and only the dirt covered it. Sounds of howling and moaning echoed inside the tunnel. As the boy walked deeper, the noises stopped, and the boy halted. He moved his lantern and examined around. There was nothing inside with him, but something called out. He turned around to see who it was, but there was no one. The boy swallowed hard and continued onward. The voice called again, but the boy ignored it as he walked. After a while the language became wrathful, and it shouted as the boy just closed his eyes and told himself to not stop and get out of the tunnel. The voice became more aggressive and started to say to the boy that it was his fault for the death of his father and to just let go. But he remembered his father’s words and did not listen to the voice. As the cries became intolerable, the boy fell on his knees and covered his ears. He shouted to stop it as he cried. In all of that madness, a whispered was heard and the voice subsided. The boy opened his eyes and looked in front of him. A faint light was seen in the distance, and the boy stood and dropped all of his belongings and ran to it with his lantern. He shouted that he was coming as a figure stood in front of the light. The boy reached the end of the tunnel and gazed at the person that stood in front of him with open arms. The boy extended his hand and smiled as his lantern was turned off.