A short story written by Estera Kovač

October 16th

We have reached the end of Zone Y. We’ve found almost nothing. At the next meeting, we have to make our search radius wider. It has been four days since we heard something from Team Beta. I hope their transportation sequence went right.

October 27th

Regina and Jon have returned from their mission today. Jon is wounded and it will be a miracle if he makes it through the night. Somehow it managed to find them even though Regina made enough mud for the beast not to see them for years. Is it evolving?

October 28th

I had that weird feeling in my gut today like someone is watching us. When Rory entered my tent I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I really thought it had found a way to the base and was here to kill us. But then I saw Rory’s blue eyes. Unlike Rory, the creature has eyes as black as the darkest night.

October 29th

Jon passed away during the night. Regina is broken and David is drunk. Jon was the youngest Saltzman. They already lost their parents in the war. It’s not fair that it took their brother, too. We burned Jon’s body as the law indicates.

October 30th

Jon’s death implanted a seed of fear in us. Even Ares is afraid to bark and howl. We have enough food and supplies for the six of us for two months, but soon someone will have to go and search for more.

October 31st

David got sober and returned to his cooking duties. It was wonderful to finally eat something delicious like his curry. Considering the last two days, everything was normal today. Rory and I went on our regular camp check, Markus discovered a shorter passage to the safe house by the lake, Regina made some cover mud and Thalia trained Ares.

December 1st

The first snow fell today. Ares was very happy. As a husky, why wouldn’t he be? He jumped around all day long and the tension in the camp slowly disappeared. But, in the sunset, Regina started mumbling and she began to show the side effects of the switch. Only the Sikovitz twins, Markus and Thalia, saw someone being switched. Markus took David outside the tent so that he couldn’t see what was coming next and Thalia stabbed Regina through her heart. We burnt her immediately.

December 2nd

David hasn’t left his bed the whole day. Markus is with him. They are such a loving couple. Rory and Ares are keeping me company. Actually, Ares is keeping me company, Rory is just jealous of him.

December 5th

Morning brought us terrifying news. During the night, Ares either ran away or someone took him. That feeling of being watched returned. I’ve had my finger on the trigger all the time. During lunch, we decided that it was time to move to the safe house and request a transportation sequence. It’s only a matter of days before the creature will come.

December 6th

In three days we’ll start moving to the safe house. Tomorrow we’ll decide which route to take. Markus suggested a straight line from the camp to the house. I’m not sure about it. We will have to go through both Zone Y and R, with the creature lurking in the forest.

December 8th

We packed our gear early in the morning. Ares still hasn’t come back. We can’t even hear him howl or bark. There is a little piece of hope in me that he’ll find us so I’ve packed his toys, too. Rory, the closest one of us to a scientist, gathered all of the ingredients for cover mud and made some. He also packed a few things from Regina’s chemistry pack.

December 9th

We decided not to go through the zones but rather under them. (Back in time when there had been other 49 teams, three tunnels had been dug.) With the first sunbeams, we were near the entrance to Tunnel No 3, dug by Team Ro which means it is surrounded and filled with booby traps. I had no time to warn David when he stepped into one of them. The poor guy was sawn in half. Luckily, Markus had already entered the tunnel so he didn’t see what happened. When I told him, he just fainted. Thalia kept him inside while Rory and I burned David’s body, and after that, we all proceeded to the safe house.

December 10th

It’s my birthday today. A nice way to spend it: in complete darkness 4 meters underground. We stumbled upon one more trap. Thalia activated the acid one. Markus couldn’t take it. His twin sister melted right in front of him. He shot himself. At least Rory is still alive and here with me. Though I wish Ares was here, too. I got him for my seventh birthday.

December 11th

We finally reached the safe house. Because of the equipment, it took us two days to cross 30 km. We settled down and checked out the perimeter. Rory was nervous all the time. He finally lay down, put his head in my lap, and is sleeping now.

December 18th

My name is Rory and I found this notebook among Natasha’s stuff. I presume this was her journal. It has been a week since she died. It came out of nowhere and we had no time to defend ourselves. The creature ripped her heart out and vanished. I stood there looking at her corpse soaked in blood. I’m all alone in the house. Food ran out yesterday and I’ve just drunk the last bottle of water. After the war, almost every piece of technology was destroyed so I don’t think anyone is going to read this or find out about us.

But if you find this journal, it means I’m dead. Run away as fast as you can and don’t look back. Beware of it. You won’t see it coming.


A short story written by Jovana Vuković

A. and S. decided to unplug for 24 hours. Initially, it was unimaginable to disconnect; but after some time, S. succeeded in persuading A. and they decided to undertake this. In order for the experiment to work, their phones were left at home and the travel to the cottage up the hill began. Even though the idea was hers, S. could not free herself of a nervous feeling. Her mind agonized her with questions “what if” – what if something bad happened? What if someone got hurt? The organized, meticulous overthinker inside her would regularly prevent her from enjoying. A. on the other hand was utterly opposite – a laidback, easy-going ever-spontaneous lad. At that point, their relationship lasted for four years straight. In spite of the diametrically opposed personalities, A. and S. got along splendidly. After the very first meeting, a special bond was immediately created between them. As they grew together, they learned to balance each other well – he took on some of her composure and efficiency, and she took on some of his casualness and spontaneity. As per usual, A. successfully managed to calm S.’s overthinking mind. At least, for a brief period of time.

“Do you remember the night we met?” he asked while putting his arm around her shoulders, profoundly looking into her eyes. “How could I ever forget your persistence in getting my attention? Your dance moves were hilarious,” she chuckled. “Ha-ha. How about you Miss. I’m- On-My-Phone-Don’t-Interrupt-Me?” “You knew perfectly I was dating back then. Yet, you continued being charming.” “Hey, what could I do? I fell for you at your first eye-roll,” he admitted. “Oh my. I’m still embarrassed…Don’t mention it. But, you know I can’t avoid my downrightness,” she confessed. “You should not be apologizing for that. I love how genuine you are.” “Thanks. Should I compliment you now?” she taunted him. “Ha-ha. That would be nice.” “Hmm, okay. I like your spontaneity. I like how you’re always in for everything. But most importantly, I like how you’re getting fat, so other girls won’t find you attractive,” she continued teasing him. “Next time, please remind me that you can’t compliment others. Regarding the fact that I’m hefty now if you didn’t know me, would you care to go for a cup of coffee with me?” continued A. seriously and persistently. “Look, I’m sorry, but I have a boyfriend,” exclaimed S. confidently. “Oh, babe. Cute, but wrong answer.” “Hey, I won’t cheat on you, not even with you. You set me to fail, but I passed,” she proudly answered. “No, but seriously now. Would you find me attractive now?” demanded A. “You know I could not care less about looks. Not that you’re unattractive, I find you very handsome. But what I like more, is your mind and heart. However, if I had met the Four-Years-Ago-You now, I think I would not fall for you.” “Elaborate…” said A. rather impatiently. “You’ve changed. And so did I. And I like that about us. You’ve grown on so many levels. No, let me stand corrected – we’ve changed each other and we’ve grown,” she stated candidly. “That’s nicely said. Nevertheless, I would date the Four-Years-Ago-You and the Seventy-Four-Year-You,” remarked A. “Do you think you could manage me forever?” she stumped. “That’s what I signed for!” exclaimed A. with enthusiasm. “Well, you have not signed anything yet, so…” noticed S. “Are you insinuating marriage?” “Are you proposing to me?” “Do you want me to?” they bombarded one another with questions. A slightly awkward moment occurred and made both of them reluctant to continue the conversation. She glanced at him and smiled: “Did I ever tell you a story about my grandparents? I always thought of them as a happily married couple, with a very simple, uncomplicated love life. A while ago, grandma confessed to me she had spent her whole life saddened because she always felt that grandpa wasn’t truly hers, but rather someone else’s. Apparently, grandpa had had a relationship before my grandma. She broke his heart and married someone else. Isn’t that devastating?” “It is. It is overwhelming for both of them. So, what do you want to say? What are your concerns?” inquired A. rather worried. S. looked at him and started reluctantly: “How can I put this delicately… We met very young. We’ve been together for four years. We’ve grown together, but what if we haven’t grown enough? What if we start
growing in different directions? What if we’re growing apart right now?” “How could we
tell? How could we know? I understand your concerns, but I’m willing to risk. What about you? Do you want something else? Do you want somebody else?” he asked slightly agitated. “How can you say that? Of course, that is not the case. I’m just scared. How have we come to this?” she asked rather frightened. “And what is ‘this’ at all? I sense the hesitation in you. If I’d ask you to marry me right now, what would you respond?” demanded A. “I don’t know,” she whispered. A. was defeated by these words. He opened the cabin door very calmly, very gently. The lack of his presence filled the room with silence and darkness. S. was left alone and devastated. The instance she said these words, she regretted. “Why would you say something like that?” she asked herself helplessly. She was certain she loved him. The next few hours brought nothing but sadness, sorrow, and worry. A sudden knock on the door. Her heart skipped a beat. There he was. The first few seconds seemed like hours. He stared right into her tearful eyes. He finally smiled.

“Drrrr! Drrrrr! Ring! Ring!” A. started mimicking a phone while bringing his palm to his ear.
S. looked at him bewildered. “What are you waiting for? Pick up,” he said to her enthusiastically. “Hello?” she muttered confused. “I just called to say that I love you. I’ve loved you ever since I met you. I know you’re scared, and so am I. I know you have doubts, and so do I. But, the thing I undoubtedly know is that I love you. And for now, it will suffice. We don’t have to get married now. Or ever. We can figure it out as we go,” A. bared his soul. “Why did you have to say that now? The second you left, I knew I didn’t want to spend another minute without you. I DO want to marry you. I love you.” They both started smiling. He embraced her tenderly, then asked rather tauntingly: “What have I got myself into? How will I manage you for good?” “I heard that men supposedly lose their ability to hear higher-pitched sounds and women eventually lose hearing on the low end. I guess that might help us to neutralize one another,” stated S. “What a great notion, you dork. We really unplugged ourselves today, didn’t we?”