The Cabin – Part 1

Posted: May 12, 2016 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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On the third morning after arriving at the cabin, Della woke with the rising sun sending shafts of light through the open window. She climbed down the ladder from the loft. Sleeping there had turned out more comfortable than she thought it would be. Opening two trap windows at the ends of the cabin allowed for a cooling cross breeze.

Millie fed kindling into the stove. When the heat from the few glowing coals caught the kindling, she added three small split pieces of wood. She set a kettle of water on the stove to boil and readied the last of her strips of willow bark to soak. She sliced Spam and laid it in a cast iron skillet to warm next to the kettle.

“He ain’t good.” Millie announced when Della drew close.

Della nodded. “I know. I’ve got to find him antibiotics.”

“I ‘member seein’ a horse ranch about ten miles back. It said thoroughbreds. A big operation could mean vet supplies. Vets use same medicine as people.” Millie answered.

“I remember. Behind the white fence was a sign advertising Quarter horses, I think.”

“It could be dangerous. It’s close to that last town we passed.” Darlene added.

Millie nodded. “We need that young man. He’s the one that knew to get us out of Utopia and has kept us alive. If he doesn’t get antibiotics he might just die.”

As if in agreement, Steve moaned softly from the bunk at the back of the room.

The three women sat down at the table speaking softly.

“I have to be the one to go.” Announced Della. “I’m the only one that can go.”

Darlene looked frightened. “You can’t go alone.”

“I have to. Zack needs to check the traps if we’re going to stay here long enough for Steve to get well. If something bad happens and you have to leave, Zack’s the only one that will be able to protect the rest of you. Steve is too sick.”

“She’s right.” Millie agreed. “We’ll send Zack to check the traps because he won’t want to let you go without him.”

“I’ll take the ATV we found in the shed and take one of the five gallon containers of gas so I have plenty of gas. Zack already checked it out and it runs. If I take it, you’ll still have transportation since Zack filled in the wash and the road is wide enough for the truck.” Della argued.

Darlene’s mouth turned down with concern. “I don’t like you going alone.”

Millie answered. “If we’re going to make it, we have to do for ourselves.. We have to stop depending on the menfolk to do ever’thing. The world has changed.”

“Maybe I could come.” Darlene volunteered.”

Della answered. “You’re the only one left to protect Penny, Millie and Steve while both of us are gone.”

They all turned at the sound of heavy footsteps coming into the house though the front door of the cabin.

“All’s quiet. Glad I won’t be working on that wash again today.” Zack noticed the women seated at the table and asked. “What’s going on? Is Steve any better?”

Millie answered. “About the same. You need to head out early to check traps today. I need willow bark to make more tea for Steve.”

“I can do that. I can check the traps and be back with the bark in a couple hours.” Zack announced. “If I can get some breakfast, I can leave right away.”

Millie stepped to the cabinet and pulled out a cloth wrapped loaf of bread. She cut a wedge and laid a single slice of warmed Spam on top. She handed him the sandwich and a bottle of water. “Off you go. Don’t forget your hatchet and that knife you found in the shed. Remember, pink bark and don’t take it from the same tree.”

Looking a little confused by being pushed out the back door, Zack accepted the offering and stepped outside. He threw a wave over his shoulder and called out. “Later, I guess.”

Della chuckled. “Now that was a bum-rush if I ever saw one.”

Millie grinned. “Boy was a bit heavy and that walking every morning is trimming him down real good. He’s turning into a nice lookin’ young man without all sittin’ around.”

Della shook her head chuckling. “You always get what you want, Millie?”

Millie answered. “I see what needs done and that man needs antibiotics or he ain’t gonna make it.”

Della glanced at her watch. “I need to get moving. It’s going to take thirty to forty-five minutes before I get to the ranch. Give me an hour to find what I need and then forty-five minutes to get back. I should be back before noon.”

Millie gave Della a hard look. “Stay away from people, a black gal on her own could find herself in trouble. Some people might try to take advantage.”

Darlene looked frightened. “I don’t like you doing this alone.”

“I’ve got the gun.” Della answered.

“Breakfast is ready.” Millie answered.

She set more bread and Spam on the table and the three women ate quickly. When they were finished, Millie handed Della a bag. “Got you a couple of those power bars and three bottles of water to take with you. You best be going. ‘Member what the boy said ‘bout that gas line being a problem.”

She and Darlene hurried to the shed and pushed ATV around the back of the cabin to the road. They pushed the vehicle down the road until they passed over the repaired wash and Della climbed on the tattered seat.

“Don’t forget the valve.”  Darlene commented.

“Got it.”  Della answered.

The machine had been used harshly over the years. The motor leaked gas somewhere so someone had added a shut off valve. They had mounted a rifle rack on the front and mounted an extended platform on the back.

“Are you sure about this?” Darlene asked.

“No. But I’ve got no choice. I’m not letting him die.” Della turned the key in the ATV and the motor roared to life. She clutched then kicked the machine into gear.

“Be careful.” Darlene called out as the ATV pulled away.

Della used the steep path to the blacktop to get familiar with riding the four-wheeled vehicle. She had ridden an ATV once, but it had been years ago. It short ride, since the guy she was dating didn’t care for the sideline. He lasted about as long as the ride.

When Della got to the blacktop she slowed the machine and looked both up and down the highway. There was a lot more cars than had been there when they last traveled the highway. She felt exposed and vulnerable when she pulled off the mountain road and onto the highway. She accelerated as she thought of Steve and the faint red lines spreading from the lesions on his left leg.

Della worried about a cluster of vehicles ahead.  She slowed as she approached the first vehicle. It had two flat tires on the driver’s side. She glanced through the open doors and was shocked to see evidence of a hasty exit. Suit cases had been thrown open and clothing left in a pile inside the vehicle. From what she could see, it was all adults clothing.

She stopped the machine and turned off the engine. Della glanced around and saw nothing to give a hint of where the occupants had gone. She decided to check it out since she was there.  She stuffed anything that looked useable and closed up the case.  She threw it into the carrier and lashed it down with a bungee cord.

When she was done, she stepped back on the ATV and cranked the engine.  She accelerated and the four-wheeler rolled forward. The next vehicle was disabled as well. Again she saw no one nor evidence of the occupants having been attacked by the infected.

Della dodged around two more stalled cars then accelerated down the open road.  The drive was almost pleasant with the wind on her face. Just as she got to the start of the white fencing she saw a terrible accident involving several vehicles locked together across the entrance to the ranch driveway. She stopped the ATV and pulled off the road into a small stand of bushes. Della turned off the key and the quiet was suddenly overwhelming.

She glanced from side to side try to assure herself she was alone. She took a deep breath trying to calm her racing heart and stepped off the four-wheeler. She picked up the small pack holding the handgun, water and protein bars. She pulled out the 9mm, released the magazine, checked the load, and slammed it back home.

“Okay. Let’s do this.” She whispered to herself.

She walked deeper into the woods at the side of the open paddock.  The ranch buildings were nearly half a mile from the entrance. A dozen infected fed on the carcasses of three horses. The pasture was a lethal prison for the half dozen or so horses left snorting and running from a couple monsters trying to catch them.

Della watched the horror in the quiet pasture for several minutes before she could drag up enough courage to move, she took a deep breath and stepped back into the shadows of the trees. She looked toward the stables in the distance. She could make her way toward the building and staying out of sight. She’d figure out how to cross the short expanse of pasture to the buildings when she got there, but for now she’d worry about getting there.

With a plan, she began jogging through the woods. Branches and briars whipped at her arms and legs. Devils Beggarticks, called stick-tights in Texas, clung to her pant legs, her shoes and the strings.

She came out of the woods a short distance from the stable and ranch buildings glanced back toward the feeding monsters. The surviving horses were all huddled together in front of her.  They stood trembling at the gate, eyes wild with terror. Where were the ranchers? Why were they not protecting the horses?

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