Lights On

Posted: December 15, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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After filling gas tanks, Harry led Liz to the bike and pulled her onto the seat behind him. She clung to his black leather jack, too lost in her own misery to speak during the next three hours of riding. She laid her head against his back and let the world slip away.

Dusk was quickly settling around them when John finally slowed enough to allow Harry to pull his bike alongside side. They stopped in the middle of the blacktop.  He kicked the engine out of gear and he turned to speak to Harry.

“We need to find a place to stop. We’re not gonna make it to the Thompson Highway before dark and I don’t want to chance going through a pack of infected in the dark.”

“I know. Look for a place away from the road.” Harry answered then turned around to speak to Liz. “We’ll be stopping soon. Just hang on, Lizzy.”

Lost in the pain of seeing the infected family at the gas station, Liz closed her eyes to the outside world. She trembled uncontrollably as she imagined her own children’s bodies torn and bloodied like the younger reanimated children. Tears ran down her face. She had to find her daughters and protect them.

Harry pointed at a wood-frame house on a nearby hill. The property was surrounded by a pasture fenced in with several strand of barbed wire. A wooden fence separated the yard and buildings and back half of the property from the open pasture.

“That looks good.”

John kicked the bike in gear and eased over a culvert and faced the crossing the cattle guard.  “Let’s do this.”  He gunned the throttle and rolled over the cattle guard with Harry close behind.

 

They followed the narrow dirt lane toward the house, all the while looking across the open yard. John pointed to a fenced area at the back of the house. A horse and colt roamed the paddock munching on grass.

“What the fuck?” John cursed into the mic in the helmet.  “See the livestock. You think anyone is here?”

The men stopped the bikes at the gate of the fenced barnyard. John walked to the gate and unhooked the chain. He pushed the gate open until it caught on a clump of scrub grass. John rolled his bike through and allowed Harry to follow. Together they rode to the front of the house. Harry stepped off the bike and looked around. Finally, he cupped his hand around his mouth and called out.

“Hello, the house!”

They waited quietly as John looked toward the outbuildings. Chickens roamed the barnyard. An open barn door allowed the birds and animals sanctuary from night-time predators. He turned back to Harry.

“I don’t think anyone is here.”  John commented.

The two men stared at the graying boards.  The house had needed repainting years ago.  The lace window curtain at the side window danced on the light even breeze.  The place felt empty.  It felt deserted without any hint of the people who once lived there.

“I’m gonna check out the house, but I don’t think anyone is here,” Harry announced.

He walked up the concrete steps to the weathered porch and cupped his hand against the screen to look through the glass at the top half of the door.  “Hello?  Anyone home?”

When he heard nothing inside, he stepped back and opened the ram shackled screen door.   He knock on the glass with the barrel of his handgun. The sound filled the small house then faded away to silence again. After a second rap on the wooden door resulted in no response from inside, he turned back to John.

“We’re going inside. Lizzy, you gotta get your shit together. If anything happens, we need you.” Harry announced.

Liz looked up and swiped at the wet streaks on her face with the back of her hand. “I’m good.” She stepped off the bike and pulled the handgun from the back of her pants.

John stepped away from the silent bikes. He slipped his handgun out of the holster on his hip. He nodded at Liz to step behind Harry’s bike.

“If this goes sideways, you get on that bike and get the hell out of here,” John advised.

“That’s not going to happen.” She headed toward the house with a hard look on her face. “Let’s do this.”

Harry placed his hand on the doorknob just as Liz stepped on the porch. He turned the knob and pushed.  The door opened. Warm air escaped the closed up house with the smell of dried rose petals with a hint of dust. Harry stepped inside with Liz close on his heels.

The old fashion parlor had heavy burgundy drapes partially obscuring the late afternoon light. Harry flicked on a flashlight. He moved the circle of stark white beam from one side of the room to the other.

“Doesn’t look like anyone is here and hasn’t been for some time,” Harry commented. “Let’s make sure then settle down for the night.”

Liz nodded. I’m ready.”

Harry turned to John. “Watch the road.”

Together, Liz and Harry approached each room with weapons drawn. Once the downstairs was cleared, they walked up to the second story to do the same. They entered the first room and saw a guest bedroom and empty closet. The second door was a bedroom still in use. Nothing was out of place. A worn cotton nightgown of flannel lay across the pillow on a sagging double bed. A man’s plaid pajamas lay folded at the foot of the same bed.

Liz looked down and smiled. She could imagine the old couple who lived in the house before the world turned crazy. Then the image shifted to them stumbling through the streets together as one of the monsters, searching for warm human flesh to consume. She frowned.

“It’s clear. Let’s settle in.” Harry whispered softly.

Liz turned and left the room. She followed Harry until he turned to step outside. She headed into the kitchen while Harry went out to the yard where John waited. Liz watched John walk to the front gate and latch it then the two men brought their bike closer to the house.

The kitchen was sparsely appointed, but clean. There was a gas stove, an ancient refrigerator, and sink. The cabinets were filled with carnival glass dishes behind the glass doors. At the side of the sink, a coffee pot rested upside down in a wire drain rack with two coffee cups. A paper had been taped to the refrigerator door. Liz looked closer and realized it was a schedule.

That day, the day the world ended, was circled in red. In ink was written “last chemo”.

Liz picked up a stack of envelopes from the table and fanned through the return addresses. There were nearly half a dozen statements from a cancer treatment center in downtown San Antonio. The owners of the house would not be coming back. She turned away and dropped the stack of paper back to the table.

A sudden noise made Liz jump. She spun around with her gun drawn to face the sound. She stood staring at the kitchen window above the sink when saw a single drop of water fall from the kitchen faucet to ping on a metal pan in the sink.

She walked to the sink and turned a handle, not expecting water to flow, and jumped back when water streamed from the faucet. She turned the water off and looked toward the stove. It was a gas stove. She held her breath when she turned one of the knobs. It clicked twice then lit. She quickly turned off the gas and ran to the back door.

“There’s a gas stove and water!” She called to the two men parking their bikes at the back of the house.

“Fucking A….,” John answered.  “I saw some chickens so I’m going to look for eggs, maybe even catch one for supper.”

Harry laughed. “We’ll eat tonight.”

Liz asked. “Why is there water?”

Harry pointed to several solar panels on the roof of a metal shed at the back of the house. A black cable ran from the panels to a metal pump shed.

“It’s why the animals still have water. That and the infected haven’t found the place.”

Liz kept glancing out windows as she made her way around the house. The house was a time capsule of life before the attacks. In the kitchen, she opened drawers and cabinets. The woman of the house was an orderly housekeeper even down to the junk drawer. Liz pocketed two lighters and a book of matches before closing the drawer.

She opened a side door and stepped out on an enclosed sun porch and saw a freezer near the door. She reached out, her hand shaking as she raised the lid. She gasped at the cold white mist billowing from the depths.

When the air cleared, she smiled at the site of the treasure of food inside. She reached for one of the loaves of home bread. Liz took a loaf out, closed the door and walked back into the kitchen. John grinned as he held out a straw lined wire bucket with a dozen eggs inside.

“Bread!” John laughed. “Thought I’d never have bread again. “

Liz grinned. “It was in the freezer on the sun porch…It has all kinds of food inside.”

Harry walked to the sink and turned the faucet on. “Fucking unbelievable. This place is fucking unbelievable.”

He stuck his hands under the stream of water and sighed deeply when it grew warm. He splashed water on his face and scrubbed at the grime on his hand and face. He stuck his head under the faucet and let water run over it.

Liz glanced around the kitchen and found a hand towel hanging on the back of a chair. She handed it to Harry as he turned off the water.

“I can’t believe water and lights are still on.” She commented.

“It’s a real find.” Harry sighed. “I need a real shower, but we’ve got to do a few things.”

John laughed. “I saw a barrel of cans out back. I’m gonna set up rock cans between the out buildings out back. You find any string? If I don’t find any wire out back I can use it.”

“There’s some in the third drawer left of the sink,” Liz answered.

“Did you figure out anything out about the owners?” Harry answered.

Liz nodded at the table. “They were in San Antonio that day.” She walked to the stove and turned on the front burner. “Give me a couple minutes to fry some eggs then you can get busy.”

A few minutes later, they each gulped down an egg sandwich smeared with mayonnaise. They had run out of food the day before and they all three needed a quick meal that would fill stomachs. The two men were far from satisfied, but it was enough to get them through the next few hours. Liz picked at the egg, gagged then ate only the bread.

“If you catch a chicken we can have it for dinner,” Liz commented.

“Sounds good.” Harry grinned as the trio stepped out of the house.

They crossed the yard to a tool shed. After clearing the small building, Harry riffled through tools and gardening supplies and found a roll of thin wire intended for electrical fencing. He stuck a pair of wire cutter in his back pocket and headed back outside. He began stringing wire at the corner of the shed and headed toward the small barn. He walked about six feet, twisted the wire around the lid of the can, dropped three or four rocks inside and pushed the lid closed.

With a flick of his hand, the rocks rattled against the side of the can. John held the wire taught while Harry repeated the process half a dozen more times. He wrapped the wire around a post twice then secured the end with a twist of his wrist.  He looked back at the knee high red-neck alarms and grinned.

Liz asked. “How can I help?”

“Put rocks in cans and use that string to balance them between the wooden posts out front,” Harry stated. “You only need to put a couple on each section of fencing should do.”

“Try to get done before dark,” John added.

“Got it,” Liz answered.

Liz picked up a plastic bag from the kitchen, walked back to the can pile and filled it with at least a couple soda cans then headed toward the fence.

Liz got to the fence and picked up a handful of rocks. She dropped a few in the can and shook it. She stood up, looped the string around a post, then the can tab of two cans. She pulled the string taught and slipped another loop on the next post. She brushed it with her finger against the string and the stones and cans rattled. Not loud, but in the quiet of night without traffic it should be enough. She finished the “alarm” cans and headed for the house.

She walked past the guys crouched at the side of John’s bike. “I’m going inside and get cleaned up. Don’t be too long.”

Harry threw a wave and answered. “No problem. It’s getting dark so we’ll be in pretty quick. Don’t turn on lights if you can help it. Try to find candles and cover the windows.”

“Got it,” Liz answered.

An hour later, Liz wore a fresh pair of jeans that were too big and a man’s plaid shirt while her own clothes hung on a clothesline at the side of the house. John, good to his word, had spent ten minutes chasing chickens around the barnyard until he finally caught a scrawny looking gimpy hen. He cut the head off then delivered it to Liz with a big grin.

“That’s a pretty sad looking excuse for a hen.”  Liz commented.

“Lucky I caught it. Do you want me to gut it?”

“No, I can take care of it.  Just finish what you’ve been doing and come on inside.  This place makes me nervous.”

“We’re fine.  It’s quiet here.” John walked away glancing around at the deepening shadows.

Liz walked back inside to retrieve a pot of boiling water.  Having anticipating cleaning the chicken, she had filled a huge pot with water and placed it on the gas stove over a bright blue flame as soon as she came in the house.

She had filled a smaller pot with water and set it over the flame when she removed the first pot.  She carried the boiling water outside where the chicken lay on the back steps.

She grabbed the chicken and dunked it in the water, swished it around for a minute then pulled it from the water to tug at a couple feathers. The aroma of wet feathers wafted up from the scalding water.  When the feathers didn’t pull free easily, she jammed the bird back in the pot and sloshed it around for another minute.

When she pulled at the feathers a second time and they came out easily. A few minutes later, the bird lay nude at her feet. She threw out the water, picked up a knife and cut open the back end of the chicken. With a quick flick of the knife, she opened up the cavity and clawed out the organs. She dumped the offal into a bucket holding the feathers, saving the gizzard, liver, and heart. She dropped the chicken into the empty pan with the kitchen knife.

John walked just as she was finishing.  “I wondered if you knew how to do that.”

“You’re a day late…” Liz answered. “Do you mind taking the bucket to the garden and bury the guts.”

“I got it.” John retrieved the pale. “Since you’re cooking and I’m such a nice guy.”

“Well, nice guy, if you hurry up there’s time for both of you to shower while I fix dinner.”

Liz picked up the pot ready to head inside.

Harry opened the door to let Liz enter the back porch and turned to John. “Keep an eye on things while I shower. When I’m done, I’ll relieve you. I know the animals are still around and it’s been safe until now, but I think we need to keep watch.”

Harry followed Liz inside as she asked. “You don’t think it’s safe.”

He answered. “If the place doesn’t get noticed by roaming infected it should be. The flood lights had been turned off. That’s why no one has noticed this place. This house is off the beaten path and probably anyone who noticed it figured it was abandoned, just like us. We need to keep it that way. No lights after dark.”

“Got it. I’m boiling the chicken. There was a package of noodles in the freezer and potatoes in the frig.” Liz answered. “I found a whole box of dinner candles anda  package of emergency candles in the pantry.”

Harry accepted a short candle anchored to a saucer with melted wax. He disappeared into the gloom down the hall.

Meanwhile, Liz cut up the chicken and dropped the pieces in the boiling water. She added onions, salt, and pepper. She retrieved the potatoes from the frig, walked to the sink to peel potatoes. She watched as John appeared from around the corner of the shed with the bucket in hand.

When he stepped inside the kitchen, he set it down on the edge of the sink. Inside were lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.

“I noticed these in the garden. I thought it would make a decent salad.” He grinned.

Harry walked into the kitchen wearing a pair of overalls at least a full size too small. He could only hook a single strap over the shoulder.

John laughed. “Farmer Harry. Never thought I’d ever see you in a pair of overalls.”

“Fuck you.” Harry raised his hand with a single finger extended upwards. “I take it, all’s quiet.”

“I walked the perimeter. The place is fenced. If anything show’s up the fencing in back of the property will slow them down. Only vehicle access is the drive we came in on.”

Harry nodded then ordered. “Get your sorry ass upstairs and cleaned up. I hadn’t noticed how bad you smell until now.”

Liz smiled as she stuck a fork into the boiling chicken. “Don’t be long. Dinner will be ready as soon as I put the salad together.”

She opened the bag of homemade noodles and dumped them into the pot with the chicken and turned up the heat.

John grinned as he walked away. “Ten minutes top.”

She put two scoops of flour in a bowl, added a couple tablespoons of shortening, salt and added water with powdered milk. Liz spooned dumplings into the boiling chicken and noodles and replaced the lid.

Harry with a little help from Liz put the salad together. He set it on the table just as John appeared in an identical pair of overalls. Unlike Harry who barely fit into the faded denim, John buttoned both straps and even wore a borrowed white t-shirt under it.

Liz scooped up the dirty clothes, walked them to the porch and started the washer.

Liz sat the pot of chicken and noodles on the table beside a big bowl of mashed potatoes.

“I think I died and gone to heaven,” John commented as he scooped a pile of potatoes on his plate. He ladled noodles and dumpling on top and let a skinless chicken thigh slide to the plate.

“Looks mighty good, Lizzy,” Harry commented.

Liz sat picking at a slice of bread until she finally pushed the plate away.

“Harry watched her as he brought spoonful after spoonful of food to his mouth. “Lizzy?”

Liz looked up. “Sorry. I guess I tasted too much.”

She rose and walked to the window and looked out. The room had grown dark with only a single candle on the table. She pulled the blind in the window down making sure it touched the windowsill.

“I’ll check out front and make sure the door is closed.” She disappeared into the gloom of the front of the house. As she walked from window to window, she marveled at the darkness outside. With the stand of trees around the remote farmhouse, they wouldn’t see anyone until they were nearly at the door.  She stared out into the gloom.

“What’s the matter, Lizzy?” Harry asked from the dark doorway behind her.

“Nothing. I need to find my family.” She answered in a whisper.

“That’s not it.” Harry answered.

“You know as well as I do what the world is like out there. How could three men take care of them? Babies cry. If Claire cried, it could be death for all of them. A ten-year old can’t keep up with grown men if they have to run. How can we find them?”

“Lizzy, it’s turned into a really a dangerous world.” Harry shrugged. “But that’s not the problem, is it? We need to get you to your old man’s place. You can’t keep riding around on that damned bike. Not now.”

Liz placed her hands on her lower abdomen. “I have my girls to find before I can worry about this child.”

Harry blew out a breath. “No. We’re done. You’re girls are in God’s hands. We’ve been chasing around the country roads looking for military vehicles that we can’t even be sure passed this way.”

“But….” Liz protested.

“We can’t keep taking chances now. If you don’t survive, neither will this child. The girls will have no one to come home to.”  Harry turned to walk away then turned back and added. “What would your husband want you to do?”

Comments
  1. linda diggs says:

    That was very good,but what happen. I want to read all of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JanaCoyote says:

    Oh my stars! Oh my stars…..

    Liked by 1 person

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