• tab "Roy! Get down!" I whispered abruptly, ducking behind the opening and pulling my little brother with me. I pressed my hand against his mouth when he tried to protest, trying to quiet him. The crunch of shoes on grit became ever so louder as they approached our hidden shelter. Did it see us? Could it smell us? We hadn't had a proper bath in days, but still...
    tab The sound stopped right outside of where my brother and I were crouching. Involuntarily we both held our breaths. Seconds passed until I thought that they'd turned into long minutes. Finally, the footsteps continued on after what seemed or could have been an hour. I waited a few seconds more, though, before scuttling back away from the entrance way of the shelter.
    tab I scurried with him to the farthest corner, drawing a blanket over the both of us. Roy began to sob in fear, curling into a small ball and wrapping his thin arms around my waist. I held on him just as tight, listening as hard as I could to any sounds outside. A soft tapping of a rock on another rock made me start with surprise. This time I wasn't frightened.
    tab I whispered to my brother to wait there before I crawled over to the opening, pulling the mesh net to the side. A dark shape quickly crouched and darted in before I resealed the net. I heard my brother say, "Jack!" behind me while I made sure it was secure, then crawled over. Jack was the only one we both had to depend on. We'd found him after ducking behind a broken doorway to keep out of sight. Naturally, we'd become a trio instead of a duo. I went to forage for supplies sometimes but mainly he left early so I was there to stay with my little brother.
    tab "Who's this?" I asked quietly, seeing two shiny eyes peeking out from a heavily wrapped bundle.
    tab "I found her by the market." Jack explained patiently, removing the pack he wore on his back and placing it on the ground. "She was wandering around. I picked her up so that they wouldn't get her. She...doesn't know what happened."
    tab I sighed to myself as I pushed the blanket away from the little girl's pale face, finding gray-blue eyes and raven black hair staring at me. My brother often asked me to tell him the story so that he wouldn't forget. "Okay then."
    tab Roy stopped crying while I spoke, trying to calm the girl while Jack took stock of what he had. About 20 or so years ago, just a bit before I was born, every woman in the world mysteriously stopped giving birth. They couldn't get pregnant. Many grew depressed while others celebrated. One day, though, they began to have babies again. Only a few were normal, like me, my brother and Jack too, but a lot more were different. These ones had a certain "look" to them. Quiet, distant-eyed and plain-haired. They grew up like everyone else did, playing but with no real show of emotion or doing their homework with no questions asked.
    tab They grew up to different ages and the women of the world were happy to have children again. One day it all changed. My mother used to tell me and my brother stories from the Bible. When the Rapture was to come, there would be no more souls left in the "well of life"...The next ones born would have no souls, they'd be soulless. People everywhere were slaughtered by them when the sky suddenly turned a rusty red-brown, like drying blood. Little rain came and when it did, it burned. Fires were lit everywhere, even on top of buildings.
    tab The "soul" people fought back for a while, but it was pointless. The soulless ones had already had the upper hand from the moment the women stopped giving birth. Now that there are less and less souled ones left, the soulless have been hunting us. We get along by taking things from destroyed stores. It's dangerous to go out from a safe place, though you need to move regularly, but it's even more dangerous at night.
    tab My brother and the little girl had fallen asleep by the time I finished. I covered thm up in a blanket together and schootched over to where Jack was holding a brown bottle. The label read Hydrogen Peroxide.
    tab "Hand me that block of wood over there, will ya San'?" He said quietly, screwing the cap off. I gave it to him while he slipped the bandanna off one of his eyes. It was closed shut, liquid coming out from under it.
    tab "Jack..." I muttered nervously. I knew what he was thinking. "Jack, don't. It'll hurt."
    tab "If I don't get rid of the infection now, I'll..." Jack took a shaky breath. "...I'll lose more than my eye, which is gone already..."
    tab "You'll wake them up." I protested. We both knew that I wasn't talking about them, I was taking about the soulless.
    tab "Stuff rags around the cracks, alright? I need you to flush this stuff out with water after it works it's magic, too." He ignored me, going to stick the block in his mouth. "And...hold my hand, please..."
    tab I knew that he was going to go through with it, however much I didn't like it. We sat there in the tense silence, me gripping his hand and him gripping the bottle. Then, before he could change his mind, he opened his ruined eye and forcefully splashed the peroxide in it. I wrapped my arms around him as he fought back the urge to yell too loudly through the wood and rags in his mouth in case in would attract attention from the soulless searching around.
    tab Jack went limp in my arms after a bit, passing out from the immense pain. I used some of our hard-to-get water to clean the eye socket out, holding back the bile that rose in my throat. Now he could only use his right eye...I lowered him down to the quilted ground after dabbing his face dry and bandaging the empty socket, then turned off the already dim flashlight we used for a lamp. Soon I fell asleep too, cuddling into Jack's warm unmoving form.
    tab It was just as the sun was rising that I woke up. There was light from outside in our hiding place through where the mesh net would have been. It was pulled aside. Roy, Jack, and the little girl were still asleep, Jack's arm on top of me. My heart stopped as my eyes met the cat green reflective ones and the person standing it the middle of the opening, blocking any way out. Cold fear trickled down my neck when it spoke, a voice like grating stones.
    tab "Hm, found you."