I paused, hand on the ladder, my escape in literal reach – but I couldn’t go.

Roland, my best friend, was trapped on the ground floor of the abandoned workshop that we’d been looting, caught by a band of Others who called this wasteland their home. I pressed myself against the rusted metal rungs, willing my legs to carry me forward. In my jacket pocket I could feel the small cylinder that this had all been for  – the vessel that carried our hopes for the future.

Going back for Roland would mean sacrificing that, sacrificing everything. For one man?

Give us the item,’ the Other growl-croaked, his fingers tightening around Roland’s throat. ‘Or your friend shall not leave here alive.’

I sighed, defeated. I took small comfort knowing that my mind had been made up the moment I’d paused on the ladder.

‘No,’ I said quietly, though the echo carried it to their malformed ears. ‘No, don’t – I’ll give it to you.’

Smart human,’ the Other cackled – an awful sound, one I knew I would carry with me until my dying day. ‘Bring it to me.’

I climbed down the ladder, taking care on the rusted metal steps – no government incentives anymore meant nobody had gotten a tetanus jab in decades.

Finally,’ the Other said as I approached, cylinder held high. ‘After all these years of searching…

‘What is that?’ Roland asked, frowning at me and the cylinder I had almost traded his life for. ‘MacGuffin? What the hell is that?’

I shook my head at him slightly – I’ll explain later.

And now…’ the Other grinned down at me. ‘I have no use for you.

‘You’re forgetting one thing,’ I whispered up at him. ‘This place had a commercial energy monitoring system installation, a very long time ago.’

He looked down at me, confused, stepping in closer and closer…


I hit him with a headbut, right between the eyes, and the huge man–thing crumpled into a pile on the ground.

‘That was your plan?’ Roland shrieked.

‘Hey, it worked, didn’t it? Let’s get the hell out of here!’

And we ran.