It had been four months since Andy had been with Femi and Oreniwan but it felt like a year. Food had become harder to find and they were sure the world had finally run out of any kind of food. They hadn’t dared to venture beyond the safe sectors yet because they were certain the food in the other sectors would certainly be contaminated.
Ten years. Ten bloody, excruciating, years of nothing. It wasn’t exactly nothing because there was hunger and thirst and survival and madness. A few times, he was certain he was on the verge of madness, but he hadn’t gone over the edge. Not yet anyway.
Ten years ago, he was 25. He was once able to tell the time and date easily, but his only battery was long gone and he had no way to recharge. Now, he figured out the time by watching the sun and measuring shadows. The date, he meticulously kept track of in his journal. Today was August 28, 3012. Funny how he hated paper back when the world was what it was. Besides, it was expensive.
Andy drew his thoughts away from the passing of time and a time that was now long gone so he could focus on the task at hand. He continues to scan the area with Macy, the smart little device that he used to check the radiation levels everywhere he explored. Macy was probably the only thing keeping him alive. At least, for the most part, because he scanned his food with it too. If not for his background in nuclear engineering, he would never have been able to build her. He couldn’t remember why he had chosen to name it Macy, but that didn’t matter.
He was only two years away from completing his doctorate when all hell was let loose. It was all supposed to be some big old joke between two world leaders who didn’t see eye to eye. One bad move and that was it.
Macy had been reading 1 millisievert for a couple of minutes and Andy decided his protective gear could go. He had been trying to mentally suppress an itch in his butt for a bit, but he wasn’t quite in the mood to get radiation poisoning. Today, he decided to go south and south seemed good. He added a few notes to his journal and took off his protective suit before unloading his bag of supplies. He was sure this was how the early men travelled, carrying all their belongings with them.
He scans his food again to make sure it was still fine and it was, if a can of soda and a bag of jelly beans can be called food, that is. He has a few packs of chips and half a bottle of water left so he would have to find food fast. That he had survived this long was a surprise to him and he was sure the world’s supply of packaged food was almost entirely gone by now.
After eating, he decided to rest a little. He went off on a daydreaming spell and ended up spending a few hours lying in the grass. He mostly dreamed of having some group of persons from a country that had mostly survived the blast come rescue him. Somehow.
He had walked for about three hours before he spotted a fire in the distance. His first reaction was shock as he hadn’t encountered another human for over 2 months and the last ones he saw looked like bad news, so he preferred to keep his distance.
Andy proceeded with caution so he could see what he was up against and decide whether it was safer to stay away. He went close enough to see that it was a man and his dog. The dog lay on the ground facing the fire and away from Andy’s direction, while the man sat with his back to Andy. A couple of steps forward and Andy was wondering what he was going to do anyway, until the man’s voice startled him.
“Come join us. The weather is cold.” It sounded like a voice that hadn’t been used in ages.
Andy remained where he was as if frozen in time for three or four seconds. Then he looked in the direction of the dog and muttered “dog”. He could see his voice didn’t sound much different from the man’s. He thought about what was happening at that moment again. What if the man was a cannibal? Not that he had met any recently, but anything was possible, especially seeing as there was no food.
“Oreniwan won’t attack you. He would have by now if he was going to.” Andy noticed the man had turned to look at him now.
“Come sit.” The man’s voice suddenly felt nearly like home. He was the first person Andy had seen that he wanted to be anywhere close to.
He went closer and sat across from the dog. Dusk had fallen already. He would have had liked to ask a million questions, but he decided to be quiet and watchful for now. After a long uncomfortable silence, he said, “Why are you here and why don’t you have any protective gear on? My name is Nduka.” Pause. “But you can call me Andy.”
“My name is Femi and I don’t think I need a protective gear. Why are you without a protective gear too since you expect me to have one?”
Andy was about to explain but he decided to pull out show Femi his device instead.
“I use this to measure radiation in the air, my food and water. I made it myself. I noticed the radiation around here is low. That is why I have my protective gear off.” He didn’t mention that he called it Macy.
“So you know a lot about radiation?” Femi asked.
“Yes, I was a PhD student before…” he paused as if searching for the right word. “Well, before some idiot blasted the world with a nuke. I was already building Macy…I mean, my device, before it all went down. I perfected it later.”
When Femi didn’t say anything in response, Andy wondered if he should have prompted him. “So, why…”
Femi cut him short.
“I have been in this area for a while so I know it well. I stay here for the most part and only move out to find radiation free food. Sometimes, I check the other sectors too.” Pause. “I can’t say my calculations are right all the time, but I don’t care. Besides, I’m still alive.”
“I was a scientist at the Center for Radiation Studies…”
“The one in Ota,” offered Andy.
“Yea. The one and only. First of its kind in Nigeria. And West Africa actually.” He sounded like he didn’t like being interrupted but he continued anyway.
“So, after the incident, I still had access to some of my work files and on my own I figured out which sectors would be less harmful to live in.There are about 70 in total but I found only 3 places that are sparsely populated and this is one of them, so I came here. This is sector C. I stay here more cos there is a spring. It’s safe.”
Andy didn’t say anything for about 2 minutes, and then he said, “We made the world like this because of our quest for energy and comfort.”
“No, it was power. Fucking power politics got us here.”
And so they talked on and on until Andy started to nod off.
“You should sleep,” said Femi. Andy grunted in response.
“It was nice talking to someone other than Oreniwan. I must say I don’t mind the company at all.” But Andy was already gone and less than a minute later, he started snoring.
And so the next day began with man and dog plus one.
Femi told Andy of how his wife had died in child birth. The child was lost too. Andy could see the pain in his eyes as he told the story like he was reliving every moment. He had thought his own life had been shit, but he decided he had never had to go through anything quite as painful.
“Has Oreniwan always been with you?”
“No, I found him. And don’t ask me how he survives without protective gear. He just does.”
Andy was actually going to ask last night. He decided the dog was some sort of miracle dog, at least until he was ready to think about how he could have adapted or mutated or whatever.
“You’ve been destroying his name though.” Said Femi.
“Yea, I know actually, typical Igbo man who can’t pronounce Yoruba names right to save his life.” Pause. “What does it mean though.”
“Oreniwan roughly translates to it pays to be good, or something like that. I don’t speak Yoruba.”
“Don’t ask me why I chose the name either. That was what my grandfather had named his dog, so I copied him. That’s all.”
Andy said nothing.
Femi continued, “so what’s your story?”
“Meeh. Nothing extraordinary. Was orphaned as a baby. Nobody wanted me until some good Samaritan recognized me for the genius I was and paid for my education. That’s it.”
He felt bad for a fleeting moment about calling Nana “some good Samaritan.” The woman was a freaking angel, but that was in another world. All that mattered in the world he was in now was staying away from radiation.
It had been four months since Andy had been with Femi and Oreniwan but it felt like a year. Food had become harder to find and they were sure the world had finally run out of any kind of food. They hadn’t dared to venture beyond the safe sectors yet because they were certain the food in the other sectors would certainly be contaminated. Even worse, they were running out of safe water to drink.
It had been six days since they had eaten anything last and even then, they had shared a small bag of chips that had expired years ago. Oreniwan became excessively lean and weak.
Andy knew he probably shouldn’t have asked, but he did anyway. “What do you want to do with Oreniwan? He is not strong enough to walk again and we are too weak to carry him around.” He sounded half dead as did Femi when he replied.
“What are you suggesting?”
“Am not suggesting a thing. I only want to know what you would like to do with him.”
“Andy, to be honest, I can’t leave him alone… but I think I have to let him go.” Pause.“I am not sure of our next meal and would not like to see him go through more pain from hunger.”
For a minute or two, Femi stared at Oreniwan before saying, “I am thinking…” He sighs.“I am thinking I should kill him to stop his pain.”
“It’s fine Femi. I don’t think it’s a bad idea.” He paused and said in a lower tone. “Look at the bright side; we’ll have something to eat.”
“Where would we get the food from?”
In response to Femi’s question, Andy turned his gaze to Oreniwan.
Andy thought he might have said too much, but what else was there to do with a dead dog when there was nothing else to eat? Femi hadn’t said anything yet and Andy wasn’t sure what the dead look on his face was.
“We’ll do it tomorrow.” Femi said.
And so tomorrow came and when both men woke up, the dog was nowhere to be found. Andy was nearly certain Femi had hidden the dog, but Femi had done no such thing. They searched for a bit, but they were too tired to continue. Femi collapsed on the way back to their camp. Andy went to his side and lay next to him. They would die today, but he hoped it would happen when he was asleep. He shut his eyes.
The sun was setting when he opened his eyes and it seemed the hunger had grown tenfold. He was sure his stomach had started eating itself days ago and it was beginning to hurt. He just wanted to die. Femi was still lying there but he was awake.
Andy spotted something moving toward them from Femi’s side. No, it wasn’t moving toward them, it was coming at them at full speed. Andy wanted to do something, scream at Femi to get up, get up and run or whatever, but all he could do was half crawl, half stumble toward his tent where his bag was. It was about a 100 meters away but it seemed much farther than that.
The thing jumped at Femi’s face and dug its teeth into it. Andy couldn’t believe what he had just seen. He turned away and suddenly had the strength to move faster. Dying of hunger was one thing, dying like this. That was Oreniwan. That was fucking Oreniwan. If the dog had mutated to be able to adapt to the radiation, it must have happened again because the dog looked different. More vicious.
The pain in his stomach knocked Andy down and he looked back to see Oreniwan was still going at Femi. He would have thrown up if there was anything to throw up. He was almost at his bag and he crawled as fast as he could to it. He looked back to find Oreniwan was looking at him now.
He fumbled with his bag as saw that the dog was dashing toward him. He shut the zipper of tent and by the time Oreniwan was upon him, he had the knife. The dog jumped on the tent and Andy stabbed and stabbed and stabbed. By the time the dog has torn through the tent, he was too weak to do any damage to Andy, and Andy kept stabbing.
He knew he couldn’t eat the thing that Oreniwan had become. Not after he had done what he did to Femi. He would crawl to Femi’s tent and wait for his death there.