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Page whipped the packed snowball as hard as she could. It sailed through the air and smacked Ulysses in the side of the head. The behemoth blinked at her and huffed in laughter. He scooped up a massive snow bank with his huge hand.

‘Oh crap!’ She said panicked before diving behind a tree. The snow pile exploded against the tree covering her and everyone in front of the base. Page shook her head dusting the snow off herself. ‘Note to self. Never start a snowball fight with a behemoth.’ Kidd giggled just before hitting her square in the chest with another snowball. ‘Why you little,’ She scooped up another handful of snow and went after the boy. Dogg plowed through the snow following the two barking excited.

‘Page!’ She paused looking to the door. Hank was standing there frowning. ‘You are late for physical therapy and Kidd is late for class.’

‘We are playing hooky.’ Page told him grinning. ‘Don't tell Hank. He is an old stick in the mud.’ She threw the snowball at him and he ducked back into the bunker avoiding being hit. Kidd tried to get her with another rouge snowball, but she was able to duck.

Both dove for cover as Ulysses scooped up another snow bank. ‘Truce!’ Page yelled coming out with empty hands. ‘We surrender.’ The big behemoth huffed in laughter dropping the snow pile back to the ground. He sang to Page before vanishing into the woods. Page did not need to speak behemoth to know where he was going. Off in the distance, she could hear the song of a female behemoth.

‘Aww,’ Kidd sighed disappointed. ‘It was just getting fun.’ Page nodded her agreement.

‘Well if you two are finished,’ Hank started again. ‘There are things to do inside,’ Page rolled her eyes and looked to him just to be hit with a snowball. ‘That will teach you to call me a stick in the mud.’ She laughed shaking her head. The doctor frowned. ‘Mouth is on the radio asking for information on you again.’ Page sighed

‘Unless we can get our hands on a ham,’ she said as they joined the doctor, ‘there is no way to contact him. Hell, even if I got a ham radio, I don’t know how to set it up. The guy who gave me the last one set it up for me. There is no way I will ever be able to find another sat phone like the one I had.’

‘We could walk to the settlement.’ Kidd suggested ‘I think Martin said they had a working ham radio there.’

‘That's a good idea.’ Page said nodding. ‘I am not even cold thanks to these furs you made us.’ He grinned.

‘We tested them good didn't we?’ He said wiping the snow off his own fur coat. Page nodded her agreement.

‘That is a long way to walk in the snow.’ Hank said worried ‘I am not sure you should risk it. You may do more damage to your back.’ Page sighed looking to the woods. Both she and Kidd were getting restless sitting in the underground bunker. She had been free from the bastard for two months now and she felt better than she had in a long while. Kidd's look of disappointment made up her mind.

‘We will go for a walk.’ She told Hank. ‘If we aren’t back by tonight, then the walk didn’t bother me and we will make a break for the settlement.’ She scratched Dogg’s head. ‘Dogg will cut a path for us and that will help.’ Hank shook his head and vanished back inside the shelter.

‘It took him long enough to figure out not to argue with you.’ Kidd giggled. Page nodded and they headed for their packs, which were leaning against the bunker. Page insisted they take them every time they left the shelter. A slight pain running up her spine was the only discomfort she felt as she put the heavy pack on. After grabbing her bat, she checked to make sure Kidd was ready. Seeing the boy standing by with his bat, she nodded and headed down the path.

Dogg plowed through the snow ahead of them cutting them a wide path. The puppy was getting huge. Page worried those at the base would get annoyed with how much the growing pup was eating. More often than not however, she caught people slipping him scraps. Dogg and Kidd were the two most popular forms of entertainment in the bunker. Blaire had told her how they had been talking about finding some dogs to bring into the shelter. That having Dogg around had released a lot of stress and tension.

She scanned the thick woods for any sign of wild dogs in the area. If they spotted some, she could tell those at the bunker and they could help tame them. Page looked to Kidd to share her thoughts, but paused seeing the haunted look on his face as he stared at the woods.

‘What is it little man?’ She asked worried. He looked to her frowning.

‘I messed up.’ He said ‘I ran and panicked. You told me never to panic and I did.’ Page shook her head and stopped kneeling so they could see eye to eye.

‘Tell me everything.’ She said. She had tried talk with him about it before, but Martin was always sniffing around her like a dog in heat. This was the first time in weeks that they were alone together. Kidd sighed and did as asked. Page was not happy to hear how rough the boy had it the three days he was alone in the woods.

‘Listen to me son,’ she said gently pulling him into a hug. ‘You did not mess up. In fact you did a hell of a great job.’ She pulled him away looking him in the eye. ‘Yes you ran, and yes you panicked at first, but that is normal.’ She could not stop her blush as she grinned. ‘How do you think I got myself so lost after the dollar store incident?’ It happens. It is what you do after that matters, and you did everything right.’ He nodded frowning and did not look convinced. Page sighed. ‘Trust me Kidd. That panicked dash through the woods saved your life.’ The boy looked to her confused. Page did not want to talk about this yet. She was not ready, but the look on his face tore at her heart. ‘I remember little after I was shot, and I am sure I blacked out for a while. I do remember waking up to find the bastard cursing because he could not track you. He planned to have you as his dinner that night.’ The boy paled eyes widening.

The bastard had demanded several times why she was not afraid of him. Overhearing that rant, was what had pissed Page off those four days. She gave him another tight hug before standing. ‘Enough talk about the bastard. Hank told me the settlement has a lot of livestock. If we make it that far, I want to see if I can trade them for some bacon.’

‘I like bacon.’ Kidd said excited. ‘I wish we could have made some from that pig we had last summer.’ Page nodded her agreement.

‘We sort of did.’ She told him. ‘You remember that fatty slab we got from its belly?’ Kidd nodded. ‘That is where bacon comes from. It was just not smoked or cured. Hank says they have a nice smokehouse.’

‘What’s a smokehouse?’ Kidd asked confused.

‘It’s a shed where they cure meat or fish with smoke.’ Page explained. ‘For some settlements, it’s the only way to preserve meat over a long period of time. Do you remember that ham from Treetop that Regina gave us?’ He nodded. ‘That was smoked.’

‘Oh,’ he said nodding. ‘I like smoked meat.’ Page nodded her agreement. The two traveled on in a comfortable silence. It was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods. The last few weeks had been bitter cold and one snowstorm after another hit the whole state. Yesterday, the storm front ended and the skies cleared. Now the sky was a beautiful deep blue without a cloud to mar it. The thermometer next to the door said it was in the high thirties, but thanks to Kidd’s cured furs, and lack of wind, it was comfortable.

The only thing that marred the nice walk was the growing pain in her left side. She tried to ignore it as long as she could. Page had no intension of going back to the bunker tonight. Even if they did not make it too the other settlement, they were equipped to spend the night outside.

‘Mom look.’ Kidd said excited. The title made her smile. The smile however faded when she saw where he was pointing. A large farmhouse was visible between the trees. The windows were dark and it looked abandoned. Her heart sped up at the sight of the dark wooden door. Her mind flashed back to the cabin door opening. The bastard step out with his shotgun aimed at her chest. She flinched as it roared in her ears.

Page jumped when Kidd took her hand. He was watching her worried. Page swallowed hard and fought back the panic building in her.

‘Sorry sweetheart.’ She sighed rubbing her eyes. ‘I guess I am just a little tired.’

‘Is your back hurting?’ He asked worried. ‘I saw you limping a little. Maybe we should head back.’ Page shook her head and looked back to the path.

‘I am okay Kidd.’ She assured him. ‘I kind of just want to walk. If it gets too bad, we will turn back.’ He nodded but stayed close. Page notice him glance back at the house. She knew what he was thinking. Kidd was just as miserable as she was in the bunker. The house was a potential temporary home for the rest of the winter. Fear of walking up to the house was overpowering however.

The two walked on for another thirty minutes, when an outraged roar tore through the air making the two jump. A female behemoth came through the trees glaring at them and letting out a deep angry chuffing. Page grabbed Kidd moving him behind her as she whistled for Dogg.

She had no clue why this behemoth was angry with them, but the three would not stand a chance if she attacked. Ulysses charged from the woods putting himself between the female and Page’s group. He sang to the female and it seemed to calm her. As soon as she straightened, Page knew why the behemoth reacted as she had. The behemoth’s protruding stomach and large breast made it clear she was with child.

‘Ahh, I see.’ Page said as Ulysses turned back to her. ‘Congratulations both of you. I am sorry we scared you. We did not know you were here.’ Ulysses cooed with a huge grin. The female sang approaching them looking relaxed.

‘Ggaallaagghheerr.’ Came a female call from her right. She looked to see a tiny halfling sitting in a tree. Page recognized her from around the base.

‘Hello Joy.’ Kidd greeted.

‘Kkiidddd.’ The tiny halfling greeted smiling ‘Ppllaaayyy?’ Ulysses sang to Joy before Kidd could respond. The little halfling sighed. ‘Ssttooorrrmmm. Bbaadd. Gggoo.’ Page looked back up to the clear sky. It did not look like bad weather was coming; however, she had learned not to question the behemoths or halflings when it came to the weather. They had warned them about the last string of storms.

‘Thank you guys.’ She sighed ‘We will head back to the bunker.’ She looked to Joy. ‘Dose she have a name?’

‘Ccaarrllaaa.’ Joy said bouncing excited ‘Ffrroomm ffaarr.’ She pointed to the south. Page nodded understanding and looked up to Carla.

‘Welcome to the north Carla.’ She said smiling to the big behemoth. ‘I will tell the others you are here so no one will bother you.’ She cooed to Page. Both behemoths and the halfling looked up to the sky at the same time. Ulysses let out a strange sound before scooping Page and Kidd up in his arms. ‘Whoa!’ Page said shocked. He picked up Dogg setting him onto Page’s lap. Then the behemoth ran through the woods, and in a blink, they were beside the bunker. Kidd giggled as Ulysses set them on the ground near the door.

‘Thanks Ulysses.’ The boy called as the behemoth turned back to the woods. He sang as he walked off.

‘Well,’ Page chuckled. ‘That was awesome.’ Kidd nodded his agreement.

‘I never knew they could move that fast until,’ the boy paused and gained a haunted look. Page understood immediately. She gave the boy a tight hug wishing she could erase those four days from both of their lives.

Submitted: January 16, 2016

© Copyright 2021 CJones. All rights reserved.


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