The black dog tilted his head, swiveling his ears toward the rusted metal dumpster that rested on its side against the brick wall of the Red Rocket station. The vicious look of the scarred muzzle and head stood in stark contrast to the large, curious eyes and lolling tongue. The lids of the dumpster were open and most of the ancient contents spilled across the cracked concrete had long since petrified into a solid, unidentifiable mound. The sounds of banging were mixed with muttered curses from inside the dumpster, and the dog tilted his head the other way after one particularly loud bang.
“Finally got it,” the girl crawled out of the dumpster, rubbing her head.
She showed her prize to the dog, a metal can she had pried from the hardened debris in the dumpster. He sniffed it briefly, then watched her expectantly. She dropped the can in her tattered pack and shouldered it, wiping her hands on her dirty, patched jeans. The dog whined a little, looking up at her with sorrowful eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that, we have to wait until we get back to open it,” she rubbed the dog’s nose and picked up a walking stick as thick as her wrist and about as tall as her 5’8″ frame.
The girl pulled up her frayed hood and led the way west of the Red Rocket station. The ground quickly became rocky, with a few patches of scrub and prickly grasses clinging to the bits of dirt between the rocks. They picked their way over the uneven ground for nearly an hour, crossing washed out ravines and blasted fields, keeping eyes and ears tuned to the distance. Finally they come upon an old camper. Once pulled behind a family car or truck, the rusting hulk served as their shelter.
The camper sat in a small hollow, surrounded by hills and rocky crags except for one level pass between the rocks. Rubber wheels had long since rotted down to the steel rims and the broken windows were all covered by scrap wood. The black dog set to sniffing everything in the little hollow for signs of an intruder, and marked a few places he felt had been tampered with by other animals. The girl pulled back a heavy piece of plywood that served as a door and entered the rusting trailer. She gave the small interior a quick scan, checking for any vermin that may have moved in while she was away. It wasn’t uncommon for a radroach or mutated rat to find a way in and decide to take up residence. Other than the clutter of old cans, a dirty mattress, some scraps of metal and wood, and a faded old chair there was nothing else in the small interior.
From an old metal cabinet, whose doors screeched on rusted hinges, the girl took a small dented pot and metal spoon and carried them outside. A small fire pit lined with old cinder blocks was dug into the ground a few feet from the caravan and she set the pot on the bricks. She dug in her pocket for a small flip-lighter and set to work on the tinder and twigs already in the pit. The dog watched, eyes full of expectant curiosity as she worked to light the pile of sticks, his stubby tail twitching against the ground. Once lit she added a few larger bits of wood and deadfall, blowing carefully on the fire until it began to eat at the new wood.
With the fire started she pulled off her pack and dug out the unidentifiable can and a manual can opener. The dog whined a little, shifting his feet and letting his tongue hang out a little further, just in case the girl didn’t know just how hungry he was. She shushed him and set the metal hook against the lid of the can and began to deftly work her way around the lid to open it. Once she had the entire lid cut through she set the opener down at her feet and held the can up between her and the dog.
“What do you think, boy?” The dog tilted his head the other way, “Fruit cocktail or beef stew?”
The dog gruffed and licked his lips.
“Well, let’s see,” she set the can down and slowly lifted the lid, revealing the brown liquid contents. Her shoulders sagged a little when she saw the brown mush and the dog inched closer to look in and sniff.
“Beans again,” she said a little sadly. She spooned about half the can into the metal pan and set it in the coals. The rest she put in front of the dog who began to noisily eat, holding the can between his paws.
While the beans heated the girl dug a small metal tin from her pants pocket and slid the top open to reveal three small pills marked Rad-X on each. She shook the tin to make sure no others were stuck in the back. None rolled out so she took one of the remaining three between her fingers and popped it into her mouth, swallowing it dry.
“We’ll need more of these boy,” she said to the dog, who was still focused on getting every bit of food out of the can.
Once the beans were hot the girl pulled the pot away from the fire and set to eating with a spoon she pulled from her shirt pocket. She listened to the sounds of the wind blowing through the stunted brush outside the hollow. Large insects buzzed in the distance, and a couple of quick gunshots rang out but were far enough away she didn’t worry. The beans, as usual, were mostly a mush of sweet syrup and beans with some bits of meat mixed in.
Before she finished she could hear thunder in the distance and quickly ate the rest of the beans. She scraped the residue into the fire, then scrubbed the pot with sand before setting it out again to catch what rainwater might come out of the clouds that were swiftly moving in to darken the evening sky.
“Come on boy, we better get inside,” she gestured for the dog to follow her into the trailer. The dog dutifully picked up the empty can between his teeth and carried it to a bin holding a small pile of similar objects.
The storm hit quick, lashing the metal roof of the trailer with sheets of pelting rain, while thunder rolled outside. The roof of the trailer kept the water out, but the metal shell did nothing to muffle the noise. The girl and her dog huddled under a tattered blanket, listening to the storm batter the wasteland around them. Each clash of thunder caused the dog to growl, and the girl to jump awake as she tried to nod off between the rumbling reports.
Eventually the storm moved on and she drifted off, only to be awoken by another low growl from the dog sometime later. She reached out and rubbed his head to calm him, but his hackles were up and his ears turning frantically. Just as she was about to ask what he heard, she heard it too.
“I knows I smelt it,” a low, grumbling voice whispered loudly somewhere outside the trailer.
“Fire don’t burn in the rain dummy,” another voice said a little louder.
The girl froze, putting her hand around the dog’s muzzle to stifle his growling. The voices were low, and deep, and belonged to beings none too smart, but incredibly dangerous. She’d seen and heard most of the denizens of the wasteland around Boston, and no one ever forgets what a super mutant sounds like. She listened intently, her body tense and rigid as a board, hoping that they would not spot the trailer down in the little muddy hollow. Just when she thought they might have gone away she heard the first voice.
“Here, lookit. Suppose there’s meat in that can?” He asked his companion with a laugh.
The voices weren’t muffled any longer, meaning they were in the hollow or close to it, and there was no mistaking what he meant by can. The dog whimpered in her hand, wanting to be let loose to defend his home, but the girl shook her head and put a finger to her lips. She never knew if he really understood her or not, but the dog quieted and she set to slowly pulling back a piece of the flooring, moving carefully to avoid making noise.
Shortly after moving into the trailer the girl had found the loose floor panel and below it access to an old drainage tunnel that led to the city. She didn’t know if the trailer had been placed there on purpose, but with the previous residents long gone she had no way of knowing, and in moments like that she didn’t really care. All that mattered was she and the dog could slip out of the trailer unseen, and pull the panel back to cover their escape, and that’s exactly what she did. She grabbed her pack, which was always packed with her belongings, and lowered herself into the hole. The dog followed and she slipped the panel back. The tunnel was low, so she crouched as she led the way toward the city through the old drainage tunnel. Down the center channel ran recent rain water and collected debris that had flowed in from the earlier storm.
After only getting a few feet down the tunnel she heard a tremendous crash behind and looked to see debris, including her pot, falling through the hole that had led to her home.
“Seems da rabbit has a hole,” she could hear the voice again now, and it was followed by a head peering into the tunnel.
“Go!” She shouted to the dog.
She knew the mutants wouldn’t be able to follow through the small tunnel, but exit options were limited and she knew they had to get out and away before the creatures found the exit and had them trapped. They scrambled away into the dark, followed by the sounds of hungry taunts.