The family of four had been surviving on their own since the War of 2012.
Five years had gone by, the last two without them seeing another person and there were no signs of their old world returning.
The bombs had made most of the land unlivable. The radiation and mutations had spread quickly and this small group was all that remained of normal life for hundreds of miles around their small cabin in. Set in the hills of Kentucky, it was a sturdy, nearly airtight shelter that had saved them the fate of their neighbors.
“What are ww..we hunt…ttiiin, daddy?”
The seven year olds stutter was painful to hear. It made the man’s heart hurt but he smiled at the golden haired child. “Turkey. It’s Christmas.”
That was something new and the boy grew appropriately quiet as they crept closer to the pond’s edge. Their movements were and slow and careful and yet wrong, like something was wrong with their legs. The lack of fresh food was taking its toll.
The noise brought a smile to both their dirty faces and the father silently pulled his sharpened walking stick from the pack on his back.
The sounds weren't right either, even for this post apocalyptic hell but the hunters paid it little mind as they sprang up from behind the decaying water plants.
Too late, they saw the wolves and the wild canines lunged toward them, leaving the looted duck nest.
The father swung his hand, where a flashing blade now began to blaze through the air. On a tightly wound rope, the sound of the Caller echoed for miles.
It was a howling, high pitched whine with horribly loud tones that made the boy cover his deformed ears.
The wolves reacted with confusion too, whimpering, and the man swung it harder.
It went higher and the predators began to back up, snarling their fury. It drove them back with only sound used and the small pack ducked into the underbrush with a last lingering glare.
It was spinning nearly out of control now and the man forced his fingers to let go. The object was not totally inanimate and the sound lingered for a moment even after it slid into the grass. It made an awful moan as it ended, leaving an amazed silence.
The child’s speech was clear as a bell and the father watched him run gracefully to the Caller. His eyes widened. The ears were normal!
The child flashed him a grin, an intelligent grin and the father struggled to breathe. What magic was this?
“The book was right, daddy!”
Not a trace of slur. The man took the object carefully, stunned. Now he knew what the inscription meant. “Your heart’s wish if it is pure.” He’d just been thinking how much he loved his son despite the deformities and flaws. And his wish had been granted! The boy was healed!
Later that evening, the man sat by the fire with a tattered notebook in his hand, listening to his wife and children talk as they prepared a holiday feast with almost no food. He thumbed through the brittle pages absently. Had it’s author survived?
The man rubbed his sore wrist thoughtfully. So many of the things in it were true! What if the people were also? A refuge for survivors.
“No, honey.” The nine year old girl nodded resignedly, thin shoulders drooping.
The man’s gust twisted with the need to do something. A refugee camp would have food and vitamins and water. He ran a calloused thumb over the journal’s weather beaten cover. The directions said always southeast. Surely a group that big wouldn’t be hard to find?
“I’m thankful anyway, momma. Cause Alex got fixed. Now, he can run!"
“We all are darling. We all are.”
The wolves had trapped them, starved them. His wrist ached deeper. Had. Now, there might be a way out and some magic to ease the trip.
“Love you, momma.”
“Love you too, sissy.”
“What about me?”
The three of them hugged, exchanging their emotions and the man could take no more. He stood up, ragged journal clenched tightly in his grip.
“Pack it up, woman. “ The hope in his voice shocked them all.
“We leave for Safe Haven at first light.”