Decades after the nuclear war most families send out one to care and hunt. This story, based on the classic tale of Cinderella, tells about Cath who took over the position meant for her stepdad. While her mother Alissa fell into depression after her husband died, Frank brought in his two daughters Eyla and Enith to the small family. Without acknowledging it, they all depend on Cath to go out to fight in the wastelands and risk her life.
Cath opened her eyes, blinked at the sun and looked around. Her sisters were laying in their beds, snuggled into their patched blankets. She got up, grabbed her suit, the old gun and left the room. Loud snoring came from the end of the corridor and the floor reeked of alcohol. Frank had been drinking last night. The dusty floorboards creaked as she went down the stairs just to find her mother on the couch again. The old dress that she had been wearing since forever had new stains. Her mother had unsuccessfully tried to wash the blood from the bright fabric. “One day…” Cath thought, “…I will throw Frank out of this house. With or without his daughters.” She started her daily chores, skinning the rabbits she had found yesterday. The wood in the old oven ignited immediately and soon a soup simmered on the stove. Cath’s father had spent every free day repairing the house. He often talked about how homes and cities had looked like before the nuclear war, even though he had only heard the stories from his father. The little kitchen was all his pride.
The stairs cracked. Frank came down into the room, reeking of alcohol. He looked around and spit on the floor when he saw Cath. “Why are you still here?” She knew too well that it would be dangerous to counter Frank in this condition. Cath slowly went to the entrance, squeezed into her anti-radiation suit and fastened the gun on her hip. Just as she reached for her bag, Eyla and Enith came down the stairs. “Don’t bring rabbit meat again!” mumbled Eyla annoyed. “I can’t stand it anymore!” Enith added. Cath took a deep breath. Her step-sisters had absolutely no idea what she would encounter outside. Just as she was about to stow her mask in her bag, Frank grabbed her roughly by the shoulder. “Dare not to come back empty-handed.” One could have thought he was worried about the family starving, but she knew what he wanted. “I will try to find something”. She shook off his hand, grabbed the backpack, opened the front door and started walking. “No rabbit meat!”, she heard Eyla yelling behind her. Cath turned around. As always, her mother stood silently at the window as the sunbeams fell into her dishevelled hair. She would be standing in the same spot until Cath returned in the evening, hugging her wordlessly and then go to bed.
As th sun rose slowly, and Cath sat down on the old dead tree to wait. Old man should arrive soon. She never asked for his name and he never asked for hers. Besides a short greeting, they never talked. Still, Cath knew he cared for her. Maybe she reminded him of a lost daughter or it was just the way he was, but when they were trading, she always got more out of a deal than he did, even if she tried to make it equal. He soon sat down next to her and handed her a pack of fabric. She gave him the rabbit meat she had prepared in the morning and he smiled. “You care too much for me, girl.” He mumbled. “You’ve grown a lot these days and I fear this might be the last time we meet. I am old and someone else will go out to hunt now.” Cath saw his wrinkled smile. “I have a little gift for you. I know you do what you can for whoever depends on you. Be careful, I can’t guarantee for this.” With these words, the old man handed her a map, showing the area behind her usual hunting grounds. When Cath looked up, the man was gone. Maps are not items to give away when living in the wastelands.
She started to walk and, thanks to the map, found a well-hidden warehouse that she suspected Raiders living in. It would definitely have valuable loot which she could not only use at home but also trade with other hunters if she would encountered them. It was a high risk, but at this time of the day, Raiders would usually be out hunting like everyone else. Careful stepping into the main hall and searching around, she collecting as much stuff as she could carry until the sun rose to its highest point and she heard someone calling from the other side of the hall. “Come on, show me what’s in that backpack.” Cath quickly hid under a table. A self-confident voice answered. “Would you really dare to rob me?”. “Dare? Who do you think you are? Just give us your backpack boy.” Cath looked around, searching for the voices. A young man, around her age, stood surrounded by 7 or 8 Raiders stood in the back of the hall. One of them pulled out his weapon and Cath stood up. “Put that gun down.” She said in a calm voice, the shotgun she just found aimed at one of his comrades. The boy turned around. “Oh my, what a beautiful surprise.” He said smiling. The man with the gun looked angry “What were you doing in our storage?” The boys laugh echoed from the walls. “Robbing the Robbers, what else!”. The Raider shot and the boy dodged the bullet by a few centimetres. Cath switched to the Gun on her hip and found herself standing back to back with the boy. “John’s the name, by the way.” “Nice to meet you, I’m Cath”. Two bullets hit the first Raider, another one the second. “It’s dangerous to enter a storehouse like this Cath,” said John before firing his gun at another Raider. Miraculously, none of the bullets the other men fired hit either of the young hunters. “Says the right one, John.” Cath laughed and shot the last Raider in the chest. “Your skill is impressive, Cath.” John turned around smiling at her. A few dots of blood had landed on his jacket and smoke came out of his gun. Cath fixed hers back on her hip and grabbed the shotgun. “Thanks, same goes for you.”
Suddenly raindrops started to hit the roof. “It was sunny moments ago!” “What do you expect John? It’s the wastelands.” Cathy turned around and smiled at the young man before putting on her hood and the mask. “It was nice to meet you.” “Wait! Radioactive rain is…” “…dangerous, I know!” She started running. Frank would be too drunk to bring his daughters or her mother in the basement. She ran and ran until she could see her mothers face behind the little kitchen window. She was holding the girls, waiting for Cath.
The rain lasted the whole night and Frank didn’t show up. Eyla and Enith looked up to Cath. “Why don’t you go out and find him?” Eyla mumbled. Enith looked down “I know he is not a good man but…” Cath looked up to the trap door at the ceiling. “Did your dad ever tell you what the wasteland is? What hunters risk every day? What I have to do because he doesn’t go hunting for you?” She sat down in front of the girls. “He never told us. Mom went hunting while he drank and when we got here, you were the one.” “Do you want to hear?” They nodded. Cath told her sisters about RADs, the creatures roaming in the wastelands. About Raiders and other hunters. About the radioactive rain and the burns, it leaves on the skin. About the charming young man, she met who fought with her. When the rain stopped falling Cath smiled at Eyla and Enith. “Let’s search for your father girls”. “He is not our real father,” Alissa whispered. The sisters both looked at Cath. “Let’s not. He doesn’t care for us at all and it’s just a question of time until he…” “Next time we tell you about mom.”
Cath opened the trap door and helped her sisters and her mother out. The morning sun was beaming through the windows and the dead trees outside shone with the fallen rain. Eyla and Enith grabbed an old cloth and wiped up the small puddles on the kitchen floor. Slowly, life came into Alissa and she started to cook. Cath searched for her backpack to see what she got on her trip earlier. “No…”. “What is it, little?” Alissa asked. Cath looked at her mother. Her first words since years. She stuttered “I, I… Mom I think I forgot my backpack at…”. A firm knock echoed through the kitchen. Everyone stopped in their tracks. “Behind me. All of you.” Cath grabbed her Gun and approached the door. “Cath…” “Be careful…” Her sisters hold onto Alissa. Cath opened the door, pointing her Gun at the person in front of it. “Hello, Cath.” “John…” She lowered her Gun and her view fell on the backpack over his shoulder. “This might be yours if I’m not wrong.” A smile came across his face, handing her the old brown leather bag.