She had armour-plated the truck as best she could.
It was hit and miss with the welder at first, gradually getting the hang of it, with scorched hair and burnt fingers along the way.
There was already the convenience of tinted glass.
That would help.
Avoiding them wasn’t going to be a problem. They hunted mostly by sight; their hearing poor, senses dull, like them, slow and stupid. And luckily they were easy to outwit. When in groups they were more dangerous. Bolder. And some could be fierce; the largest and strongest launching frenzied assaults.
Little was done by instinct, next to nothing by wit.
Thinking wasn’t their strong point…
This made the future look brighter. Such a species couldn’t survive long.
When the vent between worlds first opened and the demon army poured onto the earth, the battle that followed had been devastating.
Both sides faced extinction.
Survivors joined against their enemy in a battle that was long and hard: whole continents laid to waste, land scorched by fire.
Food was in short supply. Even the creatures began to eat each other. It was no longer safe to remain with others, never quite certain when or from where the next attack would come.
The wise travelled alone.
So, alone she went out into the world, simply to survive, and to wait. Enemy numbers were dwindling. This battle for earth would end soon; though the world would be greatly changed when it did.
She took the truck through the city at twilight. A black hunk of irregular metal, engine ticking over quietly, no lights. Even at night the huge gaping rent in the sky dripped red light onto the earth. She didn’t need to see what lay around. There were only bodies, blackening blood and charred ruins.
Nothing lived here anymore. The city was a tomb.
The truck picked up speed as the roadway curved through tall pine trees.
Something flashed to the right: an indistinct shape glimpsed in the corner of an eye. She put pressure on the accelerator.
The engine growled as the huge wheels turned faster, ready to mow down anything that appeared in its path. Then she hit the brake.
The shapes in the road ahead were deceiving. Tall trees shed bands of impenetrable shadow across the road, so she could see only stripes of red and black where tarnished light filtered from above. Low dense scrub clustered at the base of the trees. She flicked on the headlights.
The sound that came with that sudden burst of light cut through her senses. A baby was wailing.
A child’s carry cot was in the middle of the road, a body strewn beside it, female with the chest ripped open. A dead creature lay decapitated nearby.
Her heart hammered.
She killed the engine. It was a trap, certainly. They had been known to use their own dead as decoys, and the child - if it hadn’t been left as bait - would have been dead already. She opened the door of the truck and stepped onto the road, a large blade gripped firmly in her right hand. She could smell them nearby - probably crouched in the scrub waiting for her - but how many she couldn’t tell. Their stench was almost overpowering. Her breath came fast and shallow. She shouldn’t be here - the risk was too great after surviving so much. But the cry of the baby cut through her senses, wrenched at some deep instinct within her.
She had to do this.
She lowered her head and ran.
They came at her from both sides, screaming, lips curled back, hurling their emaciated bodies toward her.
She rolled and slashed, came to her feet as one went down almost cut in two. A back kick and lunge drove the blade through another’s throat, spraying blood. A sinewy neck snapped and the last creature choked, its blood splattering her face as it slide from the blade.
The baby was still screaming.
All else was quiet.
She stood for a moment breathing hard, the blade held loose, dark viscous liquid dripping from her hands, then she walked to the cot. She slid the blade into a strap at her leg and lifted the baby. It was warm and squirmed against her body. She cast a satisfied glance at the dead humans at her feet then raised her face to the sky.
Red light reflected in elliptical pupils, and turned her skin to the colour of raw meat. A black tongue licked fresh blood from her lips. She looked at the child with a voracious smile.
She would not go hungry tonight.