Chapter 13: The plan
I don’t know the cause, the weather perhaps, or the successful raid on Kurtis’s, but Dad had become emboldened. Reckless, I thought. Stressed too. He didn’t sleep much. Hell, none of us managed to get much rest. We were up all hours on raids and preparing for the escape.
Dad kept going on about his goddamn plan. He questioned us on any little detail that crossed his mind. He obsessed with the thermometer and checked the temperature several times each day.
Often, he could be heard to mumble, “Soon, very soon. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, but soon.”
The weather wasn’t having any of Dad’s plans. Cold for a few days, the temperature would then warm for a week or more. Moaners were everywhere now. The herd that passed over us had left stragglers. Hundreds more undead wandered Fishers Creek. During the cold spells, we raided at night.
With the cover of darkness and the cold, we ventured into territory we had not dared to go before. I experienced the primal fear of the night our modern world had tried so hard to vanquish. I came to understand, in a way that would have been impossible before the collapse, what the phrase, dead of night, meant.
Any seven-year-old could have told us not to venture into the darkness. Their naïve wisdom all too aware the Devil ruled this playground. The terror grew, night after night.
We discovered on our first night not to venture into basements. Down there, we didn’t know, but should have; did know, but didn’t think, and flirted with death for our lack of foresight. For you see, the beasts of the night were warm and moving deep in their subterranean tombs. Yes, we learned after that first house to secure the basement door the second we entered.
The fate of the Spells remained a mystery. “They knew the risks,” Dad would say. “They know the plan, too. When we leave, we’ll pick ’em up…” Dad never finished the sentence. There was no need, we all knew what he left unsaid. If they were still alive.
Klara got better as the days passed. Three or four days after her rescue, the fever broke. Her fingers were slow to heal. She didn’t talk, at least not to us. Sometimes, with Susan, when they were alone, she would utter a few words.
Susan explained Klara always came across a little strange, quiet, and very much a loner. Susan didn’t even know of any friends she had been close to. She got on well with the twins though. They played board games and she watched over the two when they were doing their schoolwork.
Christmas came and went. For the most part it was a miserable, stingy affair. Only Klara and the twins seemed excited by it. They even fashioned a tree to hang ornaments on. Not bad in the end, for a few days it relieved the tension that had mounted in the house.
December slipped away. We carried on with our preparations. Dad made us recite our escape plan daily. Klara even joined in. With her eyes closed, she listened and eventually started to mouth the words while we intoned the route. Up to Mel, three right turns, down Hancock place, right on MacArthur, past the mall, under the bridge, left onto the railroad tracks. On and on it went. We intoned the escape route in a singsong chant. We memorized each turn, road, and town we would travel on our way to the farm and quarry.
Dad believed the quarry to be our best hope for survival. Part of the quarry lay on Grandpa’s property. Two hills, quarried out, had tunnels and caverns, which now served another purpose. Dad thought food products were stored there. The caves provided excellent insulation, never too hot or cold. In short, an ideal location to store perishable goods.
“Perfect place for riding out the apocalypse,” Dad liked to say. Of course, we had to get there first.
A morning came when portentous clouds moved in. Low and gray, not threatening like a thunderstorm, but heavy with moisture nonetheless.
“Pregnant with possibilities,” Chris said.
The winds changed, too. They blew in from the northwest. It started to look a lot like snow. The temperature dropped throughout the morning. Afternoon arrived and so did the snow. All outside activity ceased.
“No need to draw attention to ourselves by leaving tracks,” Dad said.
All through the night, the snow fell along with the thermometer. By sunrise, the snow had stopped, but the temperature’s plummet had not.
Our time at number 7 Lucky Lane was drawing to an end, so were any thoughts of further raids. If we did not already have what we needed, we weren’t going to get it.