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The storm was still raging the next morning. Page did not mind the delay. they could all use a little rest. She had been stunned when she woke in the morning after a nightmare free sleep. She had run out of pills two days ago. Hank had told her talking about what happened would be the biggest help. She had not really believe him until now.

‘Mom!’ Kidd’s excited call pulled her from her thoughts. ‘Look what I found!’ Page weaved her way through the shelves and found the boy under the stairs. There was a medal trap door tucked into the corner under the stairs. Page had to duck down so she would not hit her head as she pulled open the door. A wave of freezing cold air hit her in the face. The opening was just large enough to use the wooden ladder to climb down.

‘Stay here until I can make sure it’s safe.’ She warned Kidd. He looked disappointed but nodded. Page had a lot of trouble navigating the ladder. Her legs were so long when she bent them to step down she would scrape the wall behind her. Even more worrisome, this pit looked hand dug, which made her question the sanity of coming down here.

As she reached the bottom, she scanned the area worried. What she saw made her flinch surprised. ‘This has got to be a dream.’ She said looking up to Kidd. ‘There is no way in hell we are ever this lucky.’

‘What is it?’ he asked excited

‘Bacon!’ she called up before grabbing one of many vacuum sealed bags and holding it so the boy could see it. ‘Not just bacon, there are dozens of smoked meats stored down here.’

‘Is it still good?’ he asked eyes going wide

‘I don’t know, but I am willing to risk it to find out.’ She frowned thoughtful at the bag. There was writing on it. It told her it was pork bacon, hot smoked one year before the fall. Jimbo had told her a lot about smoking when she showed interest in setting up a smoker once they reached the cabin in NY. He had told her if it was done right and stored in the right conditions, smoked meats and home canned foods could last up to seven years.

The owner of this house seemed to know what he was doing. He had been smart enough to dig down into the permafrost to store his smoked meats, and to add to its shelf life he vacuum sealed all of it. She scanned the small room wondering if they had actually found a prepper’s house. The day before, it had been getting dark fast and she did not get to explore upstairs as much as she had wanted to. Even the little she could see of the basement had things that she would never expect to find in a regular house.

‘Mom?’ Kidd called down worried. ‘Are you okay?’ She looked back up to the boy.

‘Sorry love. Just thinking.’ She assured him. ‘This is not a normal house. I think the people who lived here were preppers.’ The boy’s eyes widened in surprise.

‘I guess that would explain what I just found.’ He said looking back toward the basement. ‘There is another door. It leads to a tunnel.’

‘Stay put.’ Page said. ‘I will throw you some stuff.’

‘Wait,’ he said and vanished. The boy returned a moment later and lowered something into the hole. It was a large wicker basket tied to a rope. ‘It was on the shelf.’ He explained.

‘You’re a genius sweetheart.’ Page chuckled. She put the bacon in and grabbed a large ham that was hanging from the ceiling. That would be their dinner tonight. She would add some of that applesauce, and the green beans she had spotted next to it. Page also grabbed a few packs of jerky to snack on throughout the day. The boy was far too thin for her liking and she needed to get some meat on his bones. ‘Okay Kidd.’ She called. ‘That should be good for now. We will get more before we leave.’

As soon as the basket was out of the way, Page climbed up the ladder. Now she knew it was safe, she would send the Kidd down here next time. He was smaller than she was and would have an easier time making the climb.

Kidd had set the basket aside and led her to the door he had found. It was partly hidden behind a shelf. With some effort, she was able to squeeze into the opening. Scanning the tunnel, she found the walls made of cobblestone. The roof had wooden supports, which made her think this had also been hand dug. With a lot of effort, Page leaned all of her weight into the door and pushed with all her might. The shelf blocking it squealed as it scraped across the concrete floor. The effort paid off however when she was able to open the door all the way. Kidd entered the tunnel and the two made their way to the other end.

Dogg darted past them nearly giving Page a heart attack. She shook her head annoyed. She loved the dog, but he was determined to kill her.

‘He scared the crap out of me.’ Kidd said panting and holding his chest.

‘Me too.’ She admitted. ‘But at least now we know there are no wild animals in here with us.’ The boy nodded and they continued down the tunnel. It was only fifty feet long and ended in another hand dug small room. A ladder led up to some place that was faintly lit. Page motioned Kidd to stay, before cautiously climbing the ladder. The light came from a little sun roof on the ceiling of a massive storage shed. She tried to peek out the door to see where the shed was, but the door would not budge.

She had seen no sheds this big when she walked the house. Thinking over everything, she had seen yesterday, she remembered seeing something in the tall grass but dismissed it as a bolder or an old car. She would go outside once the rain stopped and check.

‘It’s safe Kidd.’ She called down the hole and then scanned the room. Page shook her head seeing a large verity of rifles and pistols hanging on the wall. Under them were a verity of ammo cans. Far more that they could take with them, which was a shame. With this stash, they could live like royalty the entire way to NY.

In the corner were what looked like folding chairs. She went to them hopeful that is what they were. Of everything they lost, the cots and folding chairs had been the most inconvenient. Sleeping on the ground was killing her back and made it hard for her to move the next day. Especially with all of this rain they had gotten.

They were not chairs, but folding carts. There were two of them, one smaller than Kidd’s cart, and the other nearly twice the size of her old cart. It had a medal frame, but the deep basket was made of some kind of thick cloth. Page was sure the material was nylon, but tougher. It was yet another lifesaving find. The sides on Kidd’s cart were not that high. Maybe a foot at the most. They could not carry a lot of those jars and foodstuff in it when they left. Even the cart that was smaller than Kidd’s would be better then what he had now. It was deeper and seemed sturdier.

‘Cool.’ Kidd whispered behind her. ‘Check this out mom.’ She looked and smiled. The boy had found a pack just like hers. He had wanted one forever, but they had not been able to find one at any of the stores they raided. He set it down and opened it. She joined him and was surprised to see the bag was jam packed with supplies.

‘This must be his bug out bag.’ She said impressed.

‘You think a guy lived here?’ Kidd asked. Page motioned to the wall by the guns. There was a bunch of pictures of a thin man with various game he had killed. ‘Oh,’ he said and stared at the picture thoughtful. ‘I think he is only a little bigger than me. Think I can fit his cloths?’ Page looked studying the picture and then looked back to the boy.

‘Maybe.’ She agreed. ‘We will check the house once we finish here.’ They found a few other useful items including a portable water filter with purification tablets. That would help them clean the river water so they would not run out for a while.

It was Kidd who figured out how to open the door to the shed. He had discovered a switch near the door and they heard something release. Page went to the doors and they swung open with no effort. The storm was in full force, but Page still went out and looked to see where they were.

The man had used what looked like gray fiberglass to make the outside of the shed look like a large rock. The grass that had grown around it helped with the camouflage. Even from here, she could barely make out the house through the weeds. She was sure that is was on purpose seeing as this type of high grass was not native to Montana. The last time she had seen this stuff was in the fields of California.

‘Thank you.’ She whispered to the man. Alive or dead, human or ripper, they owed this man their lives. She had screwed up big time, and it took the genus of a stranger to save them.

Going back in, they sealed the door. Page sent Kidd back down the hole. Tying a length of paracord around the big cart, she lowered it into the hole. Kidd untied it, and she sent the small cart down next. They would use the small cart to transport items down the tunnel. Cleaning out the shed of everything they could use for themselves and trade took only a few hours, but left them both tired and sweaty.

Back at their camp, Page opened vacuum sealed packs of flour and salt. She had even found oil that was still good on the shelves. Using it all in a cast iron skillet hanging by the stove, she made pan bread. Once it was done, she sliced up the one pound chuck of bacon and left it to cook. She cracked open a jar labeled freeze dried eggs and took out the paper oxygen absorber. Pouring a generous amount of the crystalized egg power into a bowl, she dumbed in some water and stirred them.

As she cooked, Kidd sat by watching fascinated with her progress. She was sure the smell was what held his attention.  When the bacon was almost done, she poured in the reconstituted eggs and glanced to Kidd.

‘Can you check the shelves for some honey?’ She asked. He grinned and bounced to his feet vanishing into the maze of shelves. Page smiled and looked back to the meal. The bacon was just getting crispy and the smell had her stomach roaring in anticipation.

‘Look at these.’ Kidd said when he came back. He had the jar of honey, but also some vacuum bags filled with an assortment of foods. ‘The dates on the jars are mostly from two years before the fall, but the dates on the bags of stuff are from last year.’ Page frowned confused.

If the man had survived the fall, why was this place abandoned. He had not even taken his bug out bag. After they ate, they would explore the house and see if they can find some answers. She told Kidd her plan and he nodded his approval. As soon as the food was finished, she dished each of them a more than generous serving. She was sure they would not finish what she made, but she would sure try. The bacon was a little salty, but the honey on the pan bread countered it. Both cleaned their plates and Kidd shared what was left in the pan with Dogg.

‘I don’t know about you little man.’ Page sighed laying back on the mattress ‘but I think I may have ruptured my stomach.’ Kidd nodded lying beside her. Page sighed knowing they should go upstairs to explore. Full and content with her world, she slipped into a peaceful sleep.

Submitted: January 16, 2016

© Copyright 2021 CJones. All rights reserved.


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