Brad Morton emerged from his family bunker for the first time in nine months. The sixteen-year-old slowly pivoted on his feet, taking in a world he no longer recognized. He surveyed the gum trees in the vacant land across the road. They weren’t the gray he was used to, but black with vivid purple leaves. Skeletons lay strewn on the footpath, apparently dropping where they died, but it seemed that there was a different effect on the flora.
He wondered what turned his mother’s rose bushes along the front fence into huge red and yellow striped flowers the size of cabbages. His eyes furrowed as he pressed the petals of the flowers between his thumb and forefinger. They were tough like tanned leather. There was something missing; the sunflowers that thrived to either side of the roses. As he stared gaping at the entire flora in his vicinity, he realized that all plants had merged with their nearest neighbors to become a new and completely different species; but why? He had heard that his country would soon be assaulted with lethal gas missiles, but why had they killed some things and merged others?
In a daze, he trudged into the vacant land and saw a red and black butterfly, the size of a soccer ball flutter against the wind in his direction. Holding out his arm, he was delighted that the insect consented to land on his arm. It had no longer done so, when he saw it sink inch long fangs into his skin. He flapped his arm around wildly until the butterfly dislodged itself; his legs turning to jelly as he watched it flap away on the breeze. He saw the earth rise to meet with him, but was unable to extend his arms to slow his fall. All his limbs refused to obey him as he lay staring at the only view he was capable of; the tall stalks of dried grass ahead.
The grass rustled and suddenly the stalks ejected large brown rats the size of cattle dogs. They stampeded across the clearing with terrifying speed, bounding toward Brad, baring their chisel like teeth. He attempted to yell at them in hopes that it might deter them, but no sound would issue forth from his mouth. Not wishing to see his fate, he was about to close his eyes when a grey blur cut them off in mid bound.
The grey figure pounced on the back of the lead rat and closed its jaws over its neck, making Brad wince with the sickening crack of bone. Already the pack had turned to flee from the interloper, when it slashed twice more with long, wickedly curved claws. Although the rats attempted to swerve in varying directions, they tumbled to a lifeless halt on the ground.
From where he lay, Brad took in the rear of the gray beast; the upper body looked like the form of any desirable woman, but the hind feet looked elongated and a tail twitched irritably. As he studied the gray of her body, he noted that they were stripes fanning out from her spine, interspersed with brilliant white.
She suddenly leapt aside, out of his view.
“Ow,” came a voice, which sounded pitiful to his ears. “Oooowwwwwlrr,” it slowly built in crescendo, freezing the blood in his veins.
He felt something nudge his abdomen and work its way up his chest.
“Owwwrrl,” said the thing which essentially resembled a woman.
Brad took in the silver tresses which he could see had nothing to do with her age. She appeared to be a woman in her prime and more beautiful than any he’d seen before, but even so, her blood smeared mouth and chin did nothing to allay his fears.
“W-w-what are you,” he managed to stammer.
“Owwooo, the man-kitten speaks at last,” it cooed, before licking the back of her newly extended talons. “I am Teyata; a manine. What is your name?”
“Brad,” he managed to say from a dry throat.
“I like you; when you move again, we can play,” she said before bounding away.
In her absence, Brad tried to piece together what Teyata could be. She said a manine. It suddenly came to him, she had merged too; man and feline.
He refused to admit that he may be the last bastion of normality that remained of the old world. When Teyata returned; if she returned, he would ask her if more people were still alive.
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