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The disappointment of finding nothing for Kidd to eat, almost brought her to tears. She scanned the kitchen desperate for anything to feed her son. That was when she spotted the narrow door behind the door leading into the kitchen. Keeping her fingers crossed, she opened the door. A blast of cool dry air hit her in the face smelling of dust. Page pulled out her headlight and put it on. She gripped her baseball bat tight and worked her way down the stairs. What she found made her heart skip a beat. She did not know who these people had been, but they just saved their lives.

The large basement looked to run the length of the whole house. White shelves were packed in everywhere leaving narrow aisles to move between them. From the stairs, she could make out some of the supplies that filled them. Page had to fight the urge to run to the other house and drag Kidd here to see this. There was supplies, but it had been sitting here for two years. Chances were it was no good. The shelves nearest to the stairs were packed full of canning jars.

She wiped the dust off one and found a hand written label telling her applesauce was in the jar. Page wiped as much dust from the jar as she could and peered at the contents. It looked like applesauce with chunks in it. She unscrewed the lid and set it aside. Pulling out her knife, she pried the sealed lid up. The pop of the lid coming loose told her the seal had been good. There was no sign of mold inside the jar and it smelled just like apples. Page tasted a little just to be sure and grinned finding it delicious. Whoever canned these, had known what they were doing.

After putting the lid back on, she put it in her bag. Page wanted to check the other shelves and then she would grab a bunch of the jars. They would eat like kings tonight and come back in the morning to stock up. The farther she explored into the basement, the more she relaxed. This place had saved their lives. Not only did they have food, there was enough here to trade when they reached the castle. The house owners had everything here including household cleaners, items for personal hygiene, and even a good stockpile of games and magazines.

A thump upstairs made her jump. She cursed herself for relaxing. Moving toward the stairs, she kept hidden near the wall. Page turned off her headlight and waited.

‘Mom?’ came Kidd’s call down the stairs. Page sighed relaxing.

‘Down here Kidd.’ She called up and went to meet him turning her light back on. Dogg came down first and she scratched his head. Kidd followed and froze seeing the shelves. ‘Yeah, that’s probably the same look I had when I found it.’ She chuckled reaching into her bag. She handed him the jar of applesauce. ‘Eat up little man. We will grab a little tonight, and come back in the morning with the cart.’

‘It’s in the living room with all of our stuff.’ He told her. ‘I checked the fireplace in the other house, but it’s not real.’ Page nodded frowning. She had not thought to check it and had just assumed it was real.

‘Sorry love,’ she sighed. ‘I thought I saw ashes in it and it looked like it had been used.’

‘They were fake too.’ He said looking confused. ‘Why would anyone have a fake fire place? Wouldn’t it be better to have a real one?’ Page nodded.

‘Some people have more money than brains little man.’ She told him. ‘We can set camp down here. Come look.’

Page led him to the back of the basement. There was a large work area behind the shelves with various tools hung neatly on the wall. An antique wood stove with a wide flat top sat in the corner with a pipe leading up and into the wall. Next to it was a wide set of stairs leading up. Past the stairs, was a massive pile of cut wood, and a wooden box with newspapers in it.

‘Cool.’ Kidd said grinning.

‘I didn’t have time to check,’ Page said peering at the stairs. ‘but I think those lead to the doors I saw outside when I checked the house out.’ She looked to him. ‘If it leads out, we can spend the night here. I will drag the mattress out of the bedroom and bring it down here.’ He nodded his agreement.

Page went up the stairs and released the locks keeping the doors shut. The wind outside nearly ripped the door out of her hand. The sky had turned black and it looked like it would rain again. She had to put all of her weight into closing the big heavy door. Once it was locked, she looked to Kidd. ‘I will go get that mattress, why don’t you get a fire going. Make a little one first; just to be sure the pipe is clear.’ He nodded and she turned to go, but paused and looked back to him. ‘While you’re at it, pick out something for dinner.’

‘I hope they have pickles.’ He said excited looking at the shelves. ‘I miss pickles.’ Page smiled and headed for the stairs. Dogg stayed with her running around and sniffing everything. In the master bedroom, she took the bedding off the bed and found a mattress covered in the plastic from the store. Shaking her head, she pulled the full sized mattress from the frame. The box spring tried to come with it, but she managed to stop it from falling. Page frowned seeing something under the bed. After propping the mattress against the wall, she pushed the box spring aside.

‘Hello momma.’ She whispered seeing three shotguns and an ammo can. This was pure gold for trading. Everyone in the safe zones wanted guns and ammo. They were safe to use with no rippers around to attack them.

Deciding she would come back for the guns, ammo, and pillows, she pulled the bed out of the room and to the cellar door. Already a wonderful smell of cooking food was rising up the stairs. Page’s stomach rumbled in anticipation. Her appetite had been so poor lately the sound actually made her jump.

Getting the bed down the narrow stairs had not been as easy as she had hoped it would be. It kept getting caught on the handrail and the stairs. While she was wedged halfway down the stairs, Dogg decided it was the best time to run up and down them.

‘Kidd!’ she said annoyed. ‘Call Dogg.’ Kidd whistled and Dogg vanished into the stacks. As she got the bed to the bottom of the stairs, the boy joined her with the pup at his side. ‘Thank you sweetheart.’ She panted. ‘He was trying to kill me.’ She reached down and scratched the dogs head.

Kidd assisted in getting the bed to the work area. He had a decent fire going in the stove and a pot on top of it. Once the mattress was on the ground, she went to the pot and peeked in. ‘What’s this?’ she asked as the smell of spices assaulted her nose.

‘The label said chili con carne.’ He said with a smile. ‘I found like twenty jars of it, so I made two. He gave her a hard look. ‘You need to eat too.’ Page sighed felling horrible.

‘I am so sorry Kidd.’ She said sitting at the workbench and rubbing her eyes to keep from tearing up. She shook her head and looked to the boy. ‘Hank pulled me aside before we left and begged me not to leave. He told me I was not ready to come back out here. That he knew what happened had affected me more then I let on. He was right.’ Despite her best efforts, tears spilled from her eyes. ‘I could have gotten you killed because I was too impatient to get back on the road.’ He went to her and hugged her tight. Page closed her eyes and held the boy close.

She would never forgive herself for this. Since the cabin, she was making one stupid mistake after another and if she did not get her head back on straight, she would get the two killed.

‘It’s okay mom.’ Kidd finally said. ‘I wanted to go too. I liked Hank and the others,’ he paused. ‘Well not Martin.’ That made Page smile. The boy had been more than clear about that. ‘The bunker sucked though.’ She nodded her agreement. ‘I found out from Woody they put stuff in all their food to make it last longer. That’s why it tasted so funny.’

‘Ty said the same thing when I told him how bad the food sucked.’ She said letting the boy go. ‘Better check the chili. We don’t want our first meal to burn.’ He nodded and went back to the stove. The boy stirred the pot, and then with the use of an oven mitt, pulled it off. He set it on the workbench before pulling his bowl from his pack. Page got up and took her own pack off to get her bowl. Once each had a generous serving they sat on the mattress in front of the fire to eat.

Page did not eat as much as she thought she would. Not because she did not want to. The chili was perfectly seasoned and was the best meal she had eaten since last fall. Her stomach was already full. She set the half empty bowl next to the stove intending to finish it later. Kidd however had no problem cleaning out his bowl, and then finishing what was left in the pot.

‘Look at you.’ She teased the boy. ‘I think you just out ate Dogg.’ Kidd smiled to her with sleepy eyes. ‘I know you’re tired little man, but I want to bring the cart down here. If the weather is clear tomorrow, we can take it out through the outside door and load it up right there.’

‘Why not just take it outside and around to the door tomorrow?’ he asked confused.

‘Because I plan to bar the door in the kitchen.’ She explained. ‘If someone stumbles in here while we are sleeping, I would rather they not have access to our cart.’ He nodded and they got up.

In the kitchen, Kidd grabbed what few belongings they had left and took them down the narrow stairs. Page grabbed the cart and maneuvered it down to the shelves. She went back upstairs and too the master bedroom. If someone found this house, she wanted to make sure they did not find the guns hidden in the bedroom.

Kidd’s eyes widened when she returned with the three shotguns and ammo can. All of it went into the cart. She looked to the boy.

‘Get some rest.’ She coaxed ‘I am going to go and make sure there are no more guns stashed around the house. Keep Dogg with you.’ He nodded fighting a yawn.

The search of the house came up with no more guns, but Page found a treasure trove of useful trade items. When she returned to the basement, she found Kidd still awake and sitting on the bed watching the fire. ‘What are you still doing up little man?’ she asked worried as she put her finds way. He looked to her confused.

‘Why didn’t Hank think you were ready to travel again Mom?’ He asked ‘Dose your back still hurt?’ Page sighed sitting down in the chair. She did not want to share this with the boy. It was bad enough her weakness nearly got them killed, but she felt she owed him.

‘Hank says I have PTSD.’ She started. ‘That stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. People who have been through something like we have get it.’

‘What is it?’ Kidd asked frowning. ‘Dose it hurt?’

‘Well, not like a cut or bruise would.’ She told him. ‘I heard someone say it’s how your brain reminds you that you went through something horrible and not to do it again.’ she frowned thoughtful. ‘I should have know better.’ She looked to him. ‘Do you remember that house we saw on our first walk out of the bunker? Just before we ran into Carla for the first time?’ He nodded ‘As soon as I saw it,’ she shook her head not wanting to burden the boy with this. ‘I was afraid Kidd. Just the sight of that house made me see the bastard coming out of the cabin with his shotgun. Every house we passed, that is all I saw. I was to terrified to risk going near the houses. Because of my fear, we almost died. That is why I was not ready to travel. Hank knew it, and deep down inside I knew it. I just could not admit it to myself.’ Kidd got up and went to her hugging her. She held him shaking her head. She did not deserve his sympathy. He should be pissed with her.

‘I see him too.’ He said looking up to her. ‘Before you had me talk about it, I saw him when I slept. He always had his gun and kept shooting you. But it wasn’t a beanbag, it was regular bullets and I kept seeing him kill you.’ She shook her head.

‘I have the same nightmare.’ She told him surprised how good it felt to admit that. ‘But it was not me he shot. It was you.’ She scowled. ‘What happened inside the cabin never bothered me. I can handle pain. The rippers got me used to that and I healed just fine. When he shot me, all I could think while I was laying there was he was going to shoot you next. What bugs me the most is all of it could have been prevented.’ She looked to him ‘We need to add a couple more rules to the notebook.’ He nodded his agreement. Page let him go and got up going to her pack. The notebook she kept her list of rules in was in the inside pocket with her mp3 player and music drive. She returned to the bench and opened the notebook.

Page smiled seeing the list of rules she had started so long ago. All of them had been added after they had made a stupid mistake, but it also reminded her of how lucky she was to have seen so much and met so many wonderful people. Yes there had been horrible times, but the good out weighted the bad by far. Flipping to the first blank sheet, she wrote;

Do not let your guard down just because you are in a safe zone. Rippers are not the only threat.

Approach all buildings as if you are in ripper territory.

Bad things happen. Following the rules will help prevent it, but it takes only one mistake to land you in a bad situation. When it happens, do not lose track of who you are. If you let fear rule your life, you and your loved ones could be hurt or even killed.

‘What do you think?’ She asked the boy who had been reading as she wrote. He nodded his approval. Good, let me go bar that door, and then we are both going to bed. We will have a busy day tomorrow.’ He nodded.

‘I’ll go with you.’ He said ‘I want to help.’ Page put her notebook away and the two went toward the stairs. The door opened swinging into the kitchen. Once it was closed, Page pressed the button lock and then tired some paracord around the handle. She wrapped it right around the banister to hold the door closed.

‘Look,’ Kidd said pointing to the top of the door. ‘Does that work?’ She looked up to see some kind of bolt lock. She reached up and slid the bolt into place. A close inspection of the door revealed a second one near the bottom.

‘Kidd, it think we just found this house’s safe room.’ She said impressed. She unlocked to door handle and tried to open the door. It did not budge even a little. The two would be safe here. That is unless someone tried to dig through the floor. After locking the handle again, she turned down the stairs and the two went back to their sleeping area.

Submitted: January 16, 2016

© Copyright 2021 CJones. All rights reserved.


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