It was a huge rabbit, but she managed to capture it without much effort. She turned to her green-eyed companion who was still holding the duck in her jaws. This will keep them fed through the night. They exchanged glances with their friend. He had been looking around, as always, surveying the jumble of rusted vehicles, glass, concrete and other detritus. He tossed his head forward; back towards the direction of the red-brick building. They didn’t have to worry, trotting ahead of him; they always felt safe in his presence. Their arrangement had worked out fine. As dogs, they wouldn’t normally have to rely on a horse for physical protection. But they’d all learned not to take anything for granted.
Their loved ones – two-legged “mothers” and “fathers” – had disappeared into the bloody chaos of whatever it was that happened. They couldn’t make sense of the rumbling noises or the bright flashes. They only knew all that commotion pained their ears and their eyes.
They’d quickly learned something else: despite their differences, they could live together. They had no real choice. Not now, not at this time.
The trio ambled past the overgrown lawns of the one-story houses. The stench of rotting flesh had long since dissipated into fresher air and heavy rainfall. The scents of grass, flowers and dirt lingered more prominently.
They trotted alongside the blackened remnants of a row of buildings. And, as they moved through a cluster of trees, they smelled them again. More of the two-legged critters. A gaggle of them staggered from a small structure into the open space.
The dogs stopped and let their companion scamper ahead of them. He recognized what they had in their hands – sticks, large wooden sticks. One of them held a chain. That was a new one. He hadn’t seen any of them holding a chain before. They were kind of small, very short. He realized they were children; a fact that startled him more than the sight of the chain. Where did they come from?
He didn’t have much time to contemplate who they were and how they managed to get here. They started moving forward, shouting; their shrill voices scraping against his ears. They weren’t the sounds he had grown accustomed to hearing way back when. But he didn’t care. He couldn’t. He had to make sure the three of them got back to the red-brick building.
He reared up onto his hind legs and screamed at the group in front of him. His massive hooves slammed onto the hardened ground; generating enough of a dusty cloud to make the children hop back even further.
Then the one with the chain lunged forward; bleating out something, again unintelligible. He swung the chain towards the horse – missing him by a considerable distance. His tiny hand could barely hold onto it.
He began to rear up again, but not so much that the kid could yank the chain away. His left hoof came down directly onto the chain.
The kid stumbled backwards and fell. He was still closer to the horse than the others. He scrambled to get up.
With one swift movement of his left leg, he propelled the chain behind him. It rolled along the ground, like a snake. He jumped forward and reared up again; bellowing into the sunlight. When he came down, both of his front hooves landed on the kid. The little one’s chest exploded. He reached down, wrapped his teeth around the kid’s neck and hurtled him into the air. The kid’s flattened body cartwheeled several dizzying times before it plowed into a bundle of shrubs.
The horse turned to the other kids who had begun retreating. The dogs moved pass the area, each glaring at the children. The kids stepped further away from the horse. Finally, he joined his comrades.
The trio hurried to the red-brick building. They had to feed their people. They knew plenty of rabbits, squirrels and other small creatures populated the region. But none were ever enough to sustain the families.
The three trotted up the concrete ramp into the building and back down towards the garage area. People were screaming – shrieks and groans that echoed throughout the structure.
The other dogs and horses met them with casual, if yet relieved gazes. These trips for rabbits and things were always dangerous. Children with chains and sticks comprised only a small portion of that peril. More people roamed around out there.
Guarded by more dogs, the two canines crept towards the pit. A scrawny woman with reddish-blonde hair moved towards them. Her “brother” – or whoever he was, a short man with blondish-brown hair – stayed further back. The woman turned to him, and he crawled forward.
The dogs hurtled their kills towards the woman and the man. They began devouring them. These two were different; they were more subdued than the other people had been. Most had been considerably more aggressive; hence the need for the whole pack of dogs and horses to remain together and travel in groups, whenever they left the building.
The dogs moved back. Once the duo had finished the rabbits, they’d feast as well – all of them. Dogs and horses; they’d be set for a few days.
Then they’ll open the water faucets and hope more people would find their way to the building.