The Next Generation

They had started fighting out of the blue, as usual. As soon as Mother got distracted, Girl and Black Guy started to grapple, who knows why. Maybe it was because of some food-waste they had found under the debris, or just a dead rat. After the blast, everything had changed dramatically. There were no warm houses or ready-to-eat meals, no shelter from the cold or the rain. Sometimes, they'd spend days without seeing a single drop of water... Mother came back and put an end to that fight in no time. She grabbed Girl by the neck and just gave Black Guy a look. That was enough. Whatever had been the reason for their fighting, it didn't matter anymore. That was a very odd group that Mother controlled with just one look. Anyway, those were odd times too...

One month earlier, she had woken up bewildered under the remains of their family car. She had a hard time leaving where she was, limping, hurt and disoriented. No sign of her family. The smell of death in the air was only overcome by that of the smoke. There was nothing left standing in her house. She waited a couple of days before walking away, not knowing where to go. A week later, she found Girl and Brawny. They were also hungry, scared, and didn't know what to do. They ended up following Mother when they saw she was good at finding what to eat. Later, Black Guy and Jolly joined them. However, from the very beginning Mother didn't like Black Guy. There was no reason for it; she just didn't trust him. Three days after they joined the group, an accident took place and resulted in Jolly's death. Mother was still suspicious of Black Guy, and maybe had been responsible for the whole incident. He and Jolly were scouting the remains of a grocery store when the floor gave in and Jolly disappeared. Black Guy got out without a scratch and didn't seem to mind the end of his partner. Now, every time the group had a fight, as it had just happened between him and Girl, Mother kept an eye on him to make sure she wouldn't be caught by surprise. Even though Brawny offered protection, she knew she'd had to confront Black Guy sooner or later...

He woke up with a fright.

He thought he had heard another blast.

He knew it was impossible.

Since that big blast, he hadn't seen another human being.

The city had been destroyed and even rats or roaches were rare to come by. There was only destruction, useless machines, and silence. A cold, dense silence was sporadically broken by thunderstorms or sandstorms.

From dust to dust.

The world really seemed to be turning into dust...

He got up from the torn car seat where he had been sleeping and opened the door. Silence.

He got out of the car and stretched.

He needed to find another place to sleep, he thought, but the car was almost intact and, at night, all he had to do was lock the doors to put himself more at ease.

It's not that he needed to fear anything or anyone, but he was afraid something would attack him.

He hadn't encountered anyone since the blast, but the movies he had seen back then at the theater, those about the end of the world, always showed cannibals or mutants, or people who had only survived because they had killed the weaklings. 

He looked at the door to the movie theater on the ground. The entrance was destroyed, but the ticket booth remained surprisingly intact, full of tickets for an upcoming session that would never take place.

He loved the movies so much, before the end, that he had unconsciously come to live inside a car parked right in front of a theater.

He had been there several times before, with his wife and daughter. Now, he barely knew what had happened to them, but he was sure they were both dead.

But he wasn't.

He was melancholic. He sat down on the ground and cried a tearless cry.

He felt he desperately needed water, or he would quickly join the rest of the human race. He went on tracking the ground like a starving dog...


Brawny was on high alert. He tried to see far away and strained his neck trying to catch a glimpse of anything. Mother went to him to check what was going on, but he held his position, alert, focused on something he couldn't see. Girl and Black Guy came from the back, looking like they had been up to no good, despite their recent fight. Mother joined Brawny and now she seemed to feel it too. There was some kind of electricity in the air, something they no longer remember... Yes, it was there. Just like before. Some sort of smell.

Brawny tightened up his giant body. There, very far away, there was something moving. It seemed to be looking for something on the floor and, if they still could recognize one of them, even at that distance, everything indicated that the thing crawling on the asphalt was indeed a man.


He went on moving around the movie theater, searching the ground for any source of water. A pipe pouring water, a puddle, an old package where the rain had gathered, anything, but he found nothing.

He decided to go back to the theater when he sensed something changing in the air.

He looked around, frightened, and caught sight of the group afar. From where he was standing, it looked like there were four of them, but he could barely believe his own eyes. After such a long time, used to being alone, it was almost a miracle to see four of them in apparently good condition, and they were staring at him too. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Then he saw Black Guy lunging forward and he quickly understood everything.

He ran as fast as he could and arrived at the ticket booth quickly enough to lock himself inside, pressing himself against the back wall, surrounded by movie posters and paper tickets. Soon the four of them were throwing themselves against the booth. They seemed to be trying to open it, or worse yet, they might as well destroy the place to grab a hold of him. They spent quite awhile there, until everything stopped and silence was restored once again...

He took some time to recover. Finally, he got up from the floor of the booth and, through the broken glass, he saw the dogs sitting there, staring at him and waiting.

A muscular pit bull, even though he was now skinny. A poodle with a grimy ribbon tied around one of her ears. A thick black frightening rottweiler and a Labrador retriever that looked older, but had kind eyes and seemed to be the leader of the group. She might have been a beautiful pet in another life, but now she was a patient strategist that would await until he made himself available to become dog food...

The first few hours were easy.

Later, frustrated after trying to brake the booth, the dogs simply sat down and waited.

Inside, he sat down too in order to assess the situation.

There was nothing inside that he could eat, nothing he could use to defend himself, not even a stupid piece of wood―even though he thought it impossible to intimidate or dominate four dogs.

He tried to yell and knock on the walls of the booth, but that only scared the poodle. Still, she came back to her position after the older female growled at her. The rottweiler reacted to the challenge by knocking his thick head against the booth, which actually scarred him more than the dog itself.

Looking at them sitting there quietly, he saw their pink tongues licking their snouts anxiously. As the hours went by, he felt like a dead man walking. His head started to hurt.

First the terrible thirst, now the stirring hunger. The little food he had left―some cans of beans he had found on the underground of a grocery store―were locked inside the trunk of the car he had been using as his home. He could see the car from the booth. If only he could hypnotize those dogs, the food was there waiting for him.

He became delirious two days later.

He imagined the dogs could talk and, inside his head, he could hear them asking to give himself up willingly, that everything would be quick and he would barely feel any pain. He looked from inside the booth and they were there, in the same position. Sometimes one or another would go away, probably hunting for food, but they never left him by himself or alone with the poodle. It was only a matter of time...

On the fifth or sixth day, he gathered the little strength he had left and, thinking about how the future may not depend on the human race anyway, he stepped out of the booth.

ANDRÉ RITTES was born in 1962 and started writing in 1976; he didn't stop since then.

He was a nurse, a street vendor, a paperboy, and a cartoonist. Today, he considers himself an author, besides college professor who has a Master's in Education.

He wrote Máquina de fazer doido: reflexões sobre a televisão na era da absolutização da imagem [A Machine That Turns People Crazy: Reflections on Television in the Era of Image Absolutization]. Five of his short stories have received awards in Brazil: Domingo [Sunday], Tonico [Little Tony], O mal pela raíz [The Root of Evil], Viração [Twisting and Turning], and Amigos para sempre [Friends Forever].

He is currently writing his first novel, Tempo de morrer [A Time to Die] and a horror book entitled O fosso [The Ditch].