The snow had fallen for a week and piled high against the buildings and skyscrapers. People had abandoned their cars in the streets when they could no longer dig them out.
Mads shuffled between all of them, pulling a wood sled loaded with food, batteries, and medical supplies.
"You close?" Cindy asked over the walkie.
"It's all clear sailing. Not another person around."
"That's not what I'm worried about."
He clicked the radio off and hoped Cindy wouldn't respond. He wanted to pay attention to his surroundings.
He walked down the center of the street and watched every corner. His neighbours said something had come with this storm, and you were dead if you met it out here. The only thing that would save you was never looking it straight in the eyes.
Mads listened and walked head down—but also kept a pistol in his front parka pocket.
"I'm almost there. You see anything?"
"No." Cindy's annoyance was palpable.
"When did you look?"
"I'm looking now."
She didn't believe any of the stories. She thought it was tall tales shared by people locked up too long in their homes. "Nothing but cabin fever," she'd tell him.
Still, it never changed Mads' mind. He stayed as vigilant as ever.
He lowered the volume on the walkie and edged his way to the corner of his block.
The street outside his apartment was quiet. No one was out front.
The front entrance was his only way in, and there was no way around it. He'd go quick, eyes to the ground, and get inside.
He pulled the sled around the corner and trudged quickly towards the entrance. The door still hung on its hinges but had been frozen wide open. He could race straight inside.
"Hurry!" Cindy called out, but not over the radio. She was standing outside their building.
Unless it wasn't her.
He was only a few car lengths away, almost to safety, but he stopped.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Why are you here?"
"What do you mean? To help."
"I'm fine. Get inside."
"It'll be faster—"
He dropped the rope of his sled, drew his gun, and pointed it in her direction without looking at her directly. "Go inside."
"What the hell are you doing?" she yelled.
"Just do it. I'll be in right away."
"You think I'm your tall tale—?"
"I don't know what you are."
"Mads, I'm not—"
"Then just listen!"
"Jesus, Mads. You're as crazy as the rest of them."
He waited and listened until he was sure she was no longer there. Even then, he took a cautious peek from the corner of his hood.
She was nowhere to be seen.
Maybe it had been her all along. Perhaps he'd spent too much time inside, listening to tall tales, and needed to get out more. And maybe she was right.
Either way, Cindy would be pissed when he got upstairs if it had been.
He slipped the gun back into his pocket and reached for his rope. But then he heard the low growl above him and looked up.
Towering over him was a creature that was more alien than animal. Its arms hung from his body to the ground, and its white fur coat was stained red from mouth to torso.
Mads reached for his revolver but was far too slow. The creature lifted him and bit deep into his shoulder and neck. Its jaws were powerful, and he could feel its teeth crack and shatter his collarbone.
The pain was excruciating, and he saw his blood pour onto the ground. He was still alive when it dragged him into a dark alley and feasted on his body.
Sadly, Cindy never knew his demise.
After fuming in their apartment, she went downstairs to look for him. She found his sled buried deep in the snow, but no sign of him or the creature.
It was as if he had just vanished, and it was only then that she wondered if the stories her neighbours told had been true.
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