What the Old Man Did 13

April 21, 2012

We drove on for a few minutes, hoping to spot a decent place to wait out the storm. It was raining now and the sky had a funny cast to it, like there were green bubbly clouds.

Off to the right there was a new building and the windows looked unbroken from this side. I stopped and grabbed our weapon bag and food bag. She was nothing if not prepared these days. Suzy homemaker. I smiled. We ran down the highway embankment and found a fence in our way. Climbing up, I dropped down the other side while she did the same. From off to the side I saw one coming toward us, but on the wrong side of the fence. I don’t think they climb, but you never know. We ran to the building and up close we saw there was some damage to the upper stories. Apparently some bad storms had passed through here over the years.

Coming up to the side of the building, we peered through the glass wall. It was dark inside, but seemed empty.

“Let’s go around. The entrance is on this side,” she pointed.

“Not so fast,” I objected as she started to run. “Remember what can be inside buildings that seem empty.”

She looked at my wryly. Walking together, we rounded the corner after scoping things out. All clear.

The doors were locked. That could be good or bad. You never knew. She got out her tool kit but was flummoxed by the lock.

“Its electronic.”

I was against breaking glass since that would compromise whatever security the place offered, but just then a bolt of lightning struck not fifty feet from us, and right after that, hail started falling. My ears ringing, I wondered briefly how the car would fare in this. She was already moving forward, aiming a well-placed shot at the panel next to the door. It shattered.

The noise was rather loud and we instinctively looked around for any movement. None. Carefully stepping through the opening, I looked around, again trying to discern any movement.

“Gary. Come on. We need to find below-ground shelter.”

“Ok, but slowly.” This place gave me the jumps. We moved together to a large desk, each of us taking one side and sliding it over to the broken window, setting it up on its side and jamming it against the opening. Then we slid another one against it. It wouldn’t keep them out for long, but it might give us some warning. As we moved deeper into the structure, there were intervening walls that cut off the reduced light from the tinted windows and the already darkened sky. The building shuddered. The wind must be really strong now.

I moved ahead, scanning for anything. Just then I heard what sounded like a chair scraping on the floor. Freezing, we stood listening for anything more. Just like in some horror movie a terrifying face came around the corner ahead of us. It was truly ugly. It looked like most of the face had been eaten away. A living skull on a fleshy neck. This was a very fat man once upon a time. I was stunned enough that I was caught off guard and pulled the gun around late. It swiped at me. That was a new one. I jerked the gun out of the way, brought it back and fired. A horrible smell erupted in the room.

On hard alert now, guns training around the room, picking instinctive fields of fire, we moved very slowly forward. There was a crash behind us. Whirling around, we saw a tree branch had smashed through the door. The wind must be getting very strong. She started moving fast now and I had to keep up. Something awful had happened in here. But what?

Suddenly she came to a door, stopping to read the sign while I looked around.

“This is it,” she said. “Storm shelter. And it looks like it was never opened by anything.” The door was locked and this time it was a lock she could handle. We were in in minutes. Down dark stairs we went, pulling the door shut behind us, hearing the lock snap in place. Halfway down, we jumped simultaneously. Banging on the door. This was not pleasant. But the door was steel and the lock seemed strong enough. Turning our flashlights down we saw another door. This one was standing open. I cautioned her with my hands, and she let me go in front. Directing my light around the room, I saw it was empty. More banging on the door upstairs. I waved her in. She went to the back wall and gave a little squeal. The hair stood up on my neck.

But it wasn’t fear this time. She was reading something on the wall.

“We’ve got power!” There was a switch on the wall. She pulled it down, and sure enough, we had lights. Now that I could see clearly, it looked like this place was a bonanza. Sealed cans of dried food. A medical cabinet full of bandages, and drugs of some kind along with a surgical kit. Not that I could use that. But apparently she could, since she picked it up smiling. Twenty-five gallon water jugs that still looked clear.

Now, how did we have power? That’s what I wanted to know. She was way ahead of me as usual.

“This place was a demonstration install for geothermal heat and electricity. If it doesn’t break down, we could have power and heat forever.”

Just then there was a massive crashing sound above us. I went to the door and looked up the stairway. There was turbulent wind in the stairwell and the door was buckled. No zombie had done that. Fearing we might somehow be trapped, I climbed the stairs. Debating whether to try to open it, I hesitated and then slowly backed down the stairs. There was movement, shadows, outside. Moving down, I quietly shut the door at the bottom of the stairs and engaged the lock. She looked at me questioningly.

“The storm damaged the door above. I couldn’t open it without a lot of noise I don’t think, and I saw movement through the bends in the door edge. We need to stay here for a while.”

There was sleeping gear here. A first-aid bed and some blankets. I was suddenly hungry.

“I’ve got to pee,” she stated directly. We didn’t mince words much. I looked around, hoping for some kind of facility. Nothing here. But just outside the door there was a side entrance. Not thinking, I opened it. Three zombies were just standing there, staring into space. They didn’t move. I brought up my gun, but didn’t fire.

They weren’t monsters. They were some kind of advertising dummies. I laughed. There were janitorial supplies beyond them, with a floor sink for mops and so on. No toilet, but this would have to do.

“In here,” I said and she came around the corner and jumped about three feet I thought.

“It’s ok. They’re are new neighbors.” She was not happy. I laughed a bit at her expense, knowing I’d pay for it later.

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