He muffled a scream by biting down his palm, hard. He tasted blood, it’s nauseating tang. But it wasn’t strong enough to obliterate the gory visuals and inhuman noises that trailed him.
With his heart thumping in his mouth, he crawled on all fours and slithered across the forest floor. The charred leaves rustled and disintegrated. The rustling grew louder and closer. He wasn’t alone anymore.
They had caught up to him!
He had a split second to decide. He scrambled up and made a run for it. Whizzing past the gnarled trees, he deftly maneuvered the outgrown roots and fallen branches. He knew he had a head start when the acrid smell of burnt wood was replaced by fresh air. The low growls ceased.
The undead had brought down the last of the settlements, burnt the last house and the copse around it. The only one remaining on this edge of the district was his home.
His treehouse! A refuge when the townsmen had ostracised their family for believing and seeking a world beyond their own. A ramshackle shelter when his parents were burnt alive for exploring pathways to other galaxies, parallel worlds. The only solace for him and his little sister.
But not anymore.
The town was run over by the strain of a fatal virus that festered and mutated its host, creating an army of the undead. Neither foe nor friend remained. Only mutilated bodies, raised from the dead and burnt houses, razed to the ground.
He and his sister had survived only by living beyond the boundaries of the town. But he knew they were next. They were the last ones standing.
Their treehouse was just in sight. He broke through the dying forest and crashed against the hard, rough bark of his tree. He climbed up with remarkable agility and banged open the door. His sister huddled in the corner, staring at him with wide, teary eyes. His face betrayed any optimism that he tried hard to fake for her sake.
“We are going to die, aren’t we?” Her little voice broke.
“No! Don’t give up yet. They can’t get to us. Our tree-house is too high up for their uncoordinated limbs to scale.”
“But for how long? They will pull it down. Our tree, our treehouse, our home. They will torch it like they did to others. Then what?” She cried in dismay.
“Then we run. We need to find the wormhole to take us to the planet of our fore-fathers, one they escaped from centuries ago. It is dead and barren now, but there is still a possibility of life. We might find others like us. Mom and Dad had found a way to travel through the wormhole. It’s all in this journal.” He pulled out a tattered but intact book.
She tenderly touched the pages, the maps of a faraway world, of once vast oceans, sprawling mountains and dense foliage.
“What planet was this?”
His voice shook with hope. “The Earth!”
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