For those who have so patiently waited.
Consciousness was slow in returning, seemingly on holiday. There was a buzzing in his ears that seemed to slowly fade, replaced by an aching throb that threatened to explode his head. He felt as if he were under water, struggling to reach the surface, to reach the air. Slowly he became aware of the fact that he lay in darkness, and his thoughts began to congeal.
He knew he was in the cellar, lying on the floor. He had hit his head when the steps had gave way under foot and he had plunged forward. He gently moved his fingers on each hand, testing for pain that would indicate injury. Next he moved his wrists, then his arms. Finding nothing more than contused flesh, he moved onto moving his toes and feet, and then his legs. His left knee was really sore, and felt as though it may have been scraped badly, but that was the extent of those injuries.
He reached up to touch the center of pain on his head, and felt the stickiness of congealing blood. He would need to tend to that as soon as he could return to the fireside. He rolled to his side and a twinge of pain shot through his head. He would have to move slowly it seemed until the wound was dealt with. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was a few minutes after 7 o'clock, but was it AM or PM? For that matter, how much time had passed since he had his accident?
He cursed himself for becoming careless as he knew that an injury could mean death if it was too serious. There was also the threat of infection from a dirty wound. It was so dark he could not see anything, not even the opening above the stairs. He located the lanyard connected to his mini-mag light and pulled it into his lap. It would not light up when turned on, so he assumed that either the batteries were dead or the light broken. Fortunately, when he retrieved the flashlight, he placed a spare set of batteries in his pocket, just in case.
He carefully replaced the batteries and was rewarded with light when he turned it on. He played the light over himself, examining his sore spots. There was caked blood on his shirt from the wound on his head, but that was all. He felt very fortunate not to have broken any bones in this mishap. Satisfied that he was intact, he played the light around the cellar, discovering that he had hit his head on the edge of a wooden shelf.
The cellar walls were lined with wooden shelves, most empty but a few had mysterious objects upon them. Mysterious only in the manner that he could not make out the labels on the cans and bottles due to a layer of dust obscuring them. He walked over to one of the shelves and picked up a bottle. He felt the contents shift about inside and then he blew on the dust covering the label to reveal its contents. He winced as this action brought a lance of pain that made him sway and catch hold of the shelf for balance.
"Ohhhhh... I won't do that again!" he thought to himself. He finished wiping off the label on his pant leg and read the name thereon.
Mrs. Gordon's Baking Powder.
"Hmmm... " he thought to himself. "I wonder what the shelf life is on this stuff?"
He spent the next twenty or so minutes examining the contents of the shelves, selecting a few treasures to return to the fireplace with. He placed the items in a doubled up plastic grocery bag and proceeded to return up the steps, carefully avoiding the broken one and placing his feet next to the area that was best supported by the nails holding it together.
He took his time ascending the steps, testing each one so as not to duplicate the tumble he had experienced. It was obviously night and the house was very dark. The first order of business was to get the lamp lit and the fire going. Then he would tend to his head wound. Lighting the lamp was a simple affair and since he always had a stash of kindling and tinder set aside, the fire was soon crackling and warming the space around him. He put some water on to heat and dug out his medical supplies, meager though they were.
His hair was normally wore cut short, like a military cut, so that would not be an issue when he began to dress his wound. One of the contents of his med kit was a small energy drink bottle filled with colloidal silver that he had made with his homemade generator. Silver has anti-bacterial properties, so he would use that to cleanse the wound prior to using Bag-Balm to initiate the healing process. He wished he had some sugar, for he remembered reading about how the Egyptians had used it as a wound dressing and how it was used on the skin ulcers of Diabetics to heal them when they wouldn't heal on their own.
He cut up one of the T-shirts to use for cleaning the wound, and laid out his supplies in the order which he would use them. The water was soon boiling and he placed several of the cloths he had made into it to sterilize them. While waiting for the cloths to boil he examined the items he had retrieved from the shelves of the root cellar.
The first item out of the bag was a rectangular box with the label which read "Winchester". It was a full box of shotgun shells for the 12 gauge he had found. Upon opening it, he found the shells were in much better condition than the shells found in the nightstand. All were serviceable so with a grin, he cleaned the dust from the box and stowed it in his pack. Next out of the grocery bags was a bottle that had a familiar shape. It was a nearly full bottle of whiskey. The label had long ago deteriorated and was no longer discernible. Pulling the cork from the bottle, he was rewarded with the unmistakable aroma of whiskey.
He wiped off the mouth of the bottle and took a short swig, rolling it around in his mouth and testing it for palatability. Satisfied that it was ok, he swallowed it and was rewarded with the burn of a good whiskey going down. He took a longer pull at the bottle and then replaced the cork. It was a fairly high alcohol content and would make a good disinfectant for the wound and the area surrounding it. He fished the now sterile cloths from the boiling water and proceeded to attend his wound.
He measured out about half a cup of the whiskey and set it aside. He then took one of the cloths and dipped it into the still hot water and began dabbing at the crusted area around the wound to loosen the dried blood. After wetting the area thoroughly, he dipped the cloth once more into the water and then placed over the top of the wound to further loosen the dried blood. This step was repeated several times and then using some hand sanitizer from his med kit, he cleaned his hands and under his fingernails thoroughly. Then he explored the area around the wound with his fingertips to find the extent of the wound and to determine if further scrubbing was required. Satisfied with what he found, he braced himself for what he knew was to come and poured the whiskey over the injury, letting out a stream of invective as the alcohol first burned and then numbed the wound.
Once he could see straight again, he poured the silver solution onto another sterile cloth and began to clean the area of the gash. The gash itself was about 2 inches long, and should be stitched, but he had no way of seeing the area and so decided to just clean and disinfect, then slather some bag-balm on it. After he finished, he covered the wound with a large gauze pad and used his bandanna to hold it in place. He finished up his task with another pull from the whiskey bottle and then began to clean up the mess he had made. He started to boil more water and rinsed out his cloths to reuse for his next medical needs. He would store them in a Ziploc bag rinsed out with colloidal silver and that should keep them sterile.
With that task behind him, he turned his attention back to the remaining items in the grocery bags. One item was a 1 quart bottle containing what appeared to be lamp oil. At least from what he could make out of the extremely damaged label claimed that was what it was. The bottle was full, seeming to never have been tapped into. He removed the cap and was rewarded with the smell of kerosene. This was a good find, something that he would have been needing. He cleaned the dust from it also and then placed it next to his pack. He wanted to wrap it to protect from breakage before placing it into the pack.
It was growing noticeably colder again as he could see his breath hanging in the still air. Building up the fire, he turned his attention now to the meat that had been drying by the fire when he had began his explorations. It was certainly dry enough so he removed some of the now empty Ziploc bags from his pack and began to fill them with the jerky. From all that meat he ended up with only one Ziploc full. It wasn’t enough. He needed additional fats and carbs for energy and the amount he had left was not going to cut it. He had already cinched in his belt two notches since this ordeal had begun, and was feeling weakened during periods of heavy exertion.
It was time to move on from the shelter of the old house. He felt a fondness for it, for it had provided him much and was still a more than adequate shelter from the ravages of the weather. He stared into the crackling flames as they danced for him, lost in internal contemplation. Somewhere out there were his two sons, status unknown. The dreams that he had concerning them troubled him. Were they premonitions or just products of his yearning for their company? He checked his watch and it showed that it was nearly 10:00 PM. Time for him to hit the sack as he wished to get an early start the next day. Rolling up in his meager bedroll, he was soon in a dreamless sleep.
His body awoke a little at a time. First his eyelids fluttered, and then his feet twitched. Next his fingers flexed and he moved his legs. Now his eyes slowly opened and took in the ambient light, for it was just after sunrise. He glanced at his watch and saw that he had slept longer than he intended, so he sat up slowly so as not to aggravate his head wound. He poked the fire back to life and set out some water to heat in the blaze. He placed his last bit of instant coffee into his cup and began to munch on the last granola bar. He sighed as he sat surveying what had been his home for a short while. Looking out at the current weather, fog and rain, he knew that he would miss the warmth of the fireplace as he begin his trek once more. His belly rumbled as if to say that it wanted more food, which it did. It was time to break camp and head off.
He wrapped the bottle of lamp oil in a t-shirt and placed it in the center of his pack, protected by the other contents. Next to it, he placed the oil lamp, for he would not willingly risk it. He tied the fry pan to the outside of his pack, where it would not be too near the other fragile items. It might pick up some surface rust with the crappy weather, so he wrapped it in one of his contractor bags before lashing it onto the pack. After boiling more water he filled up his water bottles and donned the poncho, heading out into drizzling rain.
He hesitated for a brief moment, undecided on whether to change the dressing on his injury or wait until his next camp. Waiting seemed to be an uncertain prospect, but if he delayed his departure any longer he might as well stay the day. Unwilling to lose another day on his path to C1, he picked up the shotgun and headed out into weather. He had manufactured a sling for the gun out of some pieces of 550 cord left over from his boot repair. Both hands were need to navigate through the blackberry bushes that choked off the deer trail that he was following.
Because of the fog, he was not aware that he was on the western edge of a large field on the outskirts of town. He recoiled from the barbed wire fence as he almost stumbled into it after his foot became entangled in a particularly ornery bramble. The field was used as a storage yard for RV’s during the off season and he could see the shapes of them through the heavy fog. Visibility was limited to about 30 feet so it was hard to determine his exact location. He had been traveling for hours now, slowed to a crawl by the bramble bushes, and was getting hungry. Up ahead in the field was a small alder thicket that would offer some concealment from discovery by wandering eyes.
He quickly set up his poncho to sit under and dug out his meager rations. He removed three pieces of the coon’ jerky from the bag and pulled out a few of the cattail roots. While he chewed on the jerky he busied himself with peeling the roots and ate them raw. It wasn’t a very satisfying meal but it would have to do until the next encampment, where he would boil some water and cook the roots with some of the meat, creating a sort of stew. The fog was thinning a bit as a light breeze began to stir it about. Waiting until dark seemed to be the best choice to reduce the chance of detection as he moved through the town. Left with nothing to do while he waited, he decided to take a nap.
He awoke to the sound of voices. Children’s voices to be exact! Before going to sleep he had decided to lower the shelter to just be tall enough to roll over underneath, but not sit up. This served two purposes: being closer to the ground allowed more heat retention from his body with less exposure to the wind and it lessened the chance of accidental discovery by possible passersby. Fortunately the children didn’t have a dog with them and they seemed to have no interest in the alder thicket. He peered out at them as they passed within a stones throw of his sanctuary and noticed that they seem fairly subdued for children at play. They walked on and were soon out of sight in the once more thickening fog. Checking his watch, he saw that it was nearly 3 o’clock; the sun would be setting soon, its feeble rays unable to banish the fog entirely, giving up to try again at a later time. He did not want to start moving again until late evening, after everyone was home and preparing for bed.
His stomach growling, he dug out more of the cattail roots and peeled them as he chewed on some of the coon jerky. After eating he tried to doze off, thinking about how things had been before all this had happened. His small family had been very close knit, and had been that way since his divorce. Hell, he had almost raised the boys single handedly away, since his ex was always too busy surfing the net and chatting online. After the divorce, things became a struggle, but they had survived and when the boys became old enough to get themselves off to school, the pressures eased up a bit. Until the economy started to take a dump that is.
He awoke with a start, unsure of where he was in the blackness. Then, as memory returned him to his present location, he relaxed a bit. He lay there and listened to the night sounds, filtering out the sounds of nature and trying to find anything out of place. All seemed normal so he roused himself and began taking down his shelter in preparation of moving on. The fog made it difficult to see any distance, a double edged sword as it would make him harder to see also. Donning his poncho, he set out once more, just a few blocks from his home.
Even though he knew he should stay away, he could not resist the draw, to at least see it once more, see if the boys were there...
As he had remembered from when he had gone on evening walks, certain homes had dogs out in the yard and they would bark at strangers walking past. He kept to the opposite side of the street from these homes and walked as stealthily as possible when near them, minimizing the sound made by walking in yards instead of the sidewalk. He was startled by a motion activated porch light while doing this, and froze, thinking he might be discovered. Once he saw that was not the case, he resumed walking down the sidewalk and was soon only three blocks from his house.
He moved into a yard and dropped low to the ground behind some bushes. He strained to hear, listening for a tell-tale sound that might betray any watchers in the dark. Hearing nothing, he moved on once more and was soon just around the corner and across the street from his house. His heart was pounding in his chest, and thrills of danger ran up and down his spine! If he could just gain access to his back yard, undetected, he could get into the house and get his B.O.B. He would then have all he needed to continue on, not needing the supplies from C1, or C2 for that matter!
He was just about to gather his nerve and move across the street when a voice spoke from the darkness. “Screw it! I am going to have a smoke. There ain’t anybody coming near this place!” A second voice said “It’s your ass if the Sarge catches you! “ The first voice just grunted his acknowledgment and the sudden flare of a lighter lit up the face of the sentry. “Aw, what the hell! Give me a smoke.” Said the second voice. The lighter flared once more and soon there were two glowing points of light where they stood on watch. “What’s the point of having so many troops watching for this guy?” asked the first voice. “I mean, there are eight of us staking out every corner and posts up and down the street for a block each way!” “What a waste of manpower!” The second voice just mumbled something he couldn’t make out. Time to leave!
He slowly backed away from that spot, carefully placing his feet as to make no sound. He turned and quietly made haste from there and did not stop until he reached the street that paralleled the stream that ran through town. He followed a path made by the youth of the town down to the creek and then began following the path and stream east. Once he had made it to the edge of town he stopped and rested a bit.
He had narrowly missed being caught by indulging in his desire to be home again. If the sentries had been more disciplined, or had been non smokers, he would have been caught trying to cross the street. As it was, he had missed the other sentry posts by walking parallel to the street he lived on, but over two blocks from it. The reality of the situation was now firmly in place. There was no denying the facts.
There was no way home!
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