If you are new to this series here is the link to Chapter 1 Part I.
Chapter 2, Part III
Quietly approaching the back door I creep up to the rear window and look through. There’s a corpse laid out on the kitchen floor with a large red circle around the shoulders, head and neck. Turning the knob proves useless. Locked. Moving to the kitchen window I try to raise it. Locked. I can see through the glass the lock is loosely latched. On the ground is an aluminum can in a recycling bin, using my folding knife I cut into the metal around the top of the can allowing me to rip off the top. By folding the two layers on top of each other and creasing it along the edge of the wooden railing I’m able to create a very thin but rigid shim. Pushing on the lower half of the window creates just enough of a gap to fit the shim through, it’s tight but the latch begins to move. Jiggling the window and rocking the shim slowly back and forth releases the latch allowing me to slide the window open. Laying my pack by the door I slip in through the window.
Before doing anything I close the window, latch it and move to the door. The deadbolt isn’t double keyed, it has a knob on the inside. I slowly release the deadbolt and turn the doorknob cracking it open. The door can now be opened from the inside and the doorknob on the outside is still locked. After pulling my pack inside I quietly shut the door. When it’s seated I turn the knob and give it a little push.
My literal back door is secure but I can easily make an escape grabbing my pack on the way out and won’t have to fuck with the dead bolt.
Sweat is dripping from my forehead into my eyes while I methodically check every corner and crevice of the house. The air is dusty, stale and dank. The owners not only didn’t have any windows open, but they hadn’t remodeled this place since the 70’s. The carpet and the drapes are at least 40 years old.
Satisfied I’m the only thing moving through the house, I head back to the kitchen. Sliding down the door to the fridge I rest leaning against the metal refrigerator door. The deceased owner lies on his stomach in a pool of dried blood, eyes long since missing, his empty stare focused towards the door. He almost made it, but I’m not so sure he would’ve made it all that much longer anyway. He looks like he was about 90. I take a moment thinking of who this man might have been. What life he must’ve led, he might have been in World War II or Korea. Maybe he was an engineer who worked at Houghes Aircraft or Rocketdyne during the 60’s.
Under the old telephone hanging on the wall is a drawer. Focusing in on it I open it. The junk drawer. Next to the medicine cabinet this is another gold mine. I rummage through the Chinese take out menus and old decks of cards. Ah, there. Perfect. A brand new four pack of 9 volt batteries. Turning the package over reveals the expiration date isn’t for another two years so I know they’ll be good. Eventually all these will be dead and I’ll have to find some rechargeables. If the electronics haven’t been fried in a small solar charger I might be able to squeak out another year or two of life from my flashlight before having to go to a lantern.
In the living room there’s a baby grand piano, it looks like it’s in perfect condition. Making my way over to it I trail my fingers over the keys creating little dust trails. I dare not strike one of the keys for fear of making too much noise, but lift the top of the piano and see a pretty good candidate. Walking down the hall and looking in the bedroom, there’s a blanket on the bed and it will work fine for what I need to do. By propping up the lid with the wooden post I can stuff the blanket on top of the strings to deaden the sound. I pick one of the longest, thinnest strings, I think it’s from the treble section but I’m not a piano player. It doesn’t really matter which section it’s from really, the thinner the string the better But the thinnest ones are too short so this one will have to do. With my multiplier I’m able to jam it down deep enough to cut the wire. With all the tension it makes a ‘Thwang’ sound but the blanket works perfectly deadening the volume. At the other end I’m able to pull it through the fitting and coil it up into a neat circle like a brand new guitar string.
Even though it’s broad daylight outside it’s pretty dark inside the house, all the curtains are drawn and daylight is peeking through the slits in the curtains like laser beams. The particles of dust dance in the light.
The house has a worn yellow look to it because of the light filtering through the worn drapes. Walking slowly down the hallway I find the linen closet. Inspecting the shelves there are many medical supplies for older people, I feel completely normal rifling through peoples lives now. At first it was awkward, like I was spying at a cocktail party and I might get caught at any moment. I still feel as if I might get caught at any moment, but not for the same reasons.
In a box there’s some clear medical tubing still in its package. I stuff this in my cargo pocket with the piano wire and move on. If I need to build a solar still it’ll come in handy to drink from the accumulated water without having to disturb the still. In his bedroom there’s stacks of books, mostly science fiction and some classics. I really need to start reading again. All I wanted when the world was still in motion was to not have to work and have the time to read. Every time I would go into a library or book store I would be amazed at how much there was I hadn’t yet read. Here I am now with out any type of job to go to and I think I have less time to read than before the collapse. I certainly can’t read during the day, and there’s no light at night to open a book unless there’s a full moon. Even if I could use a light at night I don’t want to carry the extra weight a hundred pages would cost me. Perhaps when I get to Willet it’ll be secluded and safe enough to sit back on a porch and open a book. Maybe there’ll be a rocking chair where I can put my feet up and just relax. With the drapes drawn tonight I just might be able to read a few pages with the batteries I’ve found. The LED flashlight I have is pretty efficient. Glancing through the titles I pick out A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway, it was one of my favorites in High School and I haven’t read it in 30 years.
Going through his bedroom dresser I find a vintage Springfield Armory 1911. There’s two magazines, eight rounds each. This thing is so damn heavy it’ll stop a bull by just throwing the gun at it, let alone what would happen if you fired a round at it. The whole point of this gun, the reason it was invented was that they needed more stopping power over the .38 caliber pistol during American involvement in the Philippine war in you guessed it, the year 1911. I wonder if there’s more ammo anywhere in the house. It’s doubtful a guy would have a gun like this no matter how old he was and only have 16 bullets. At the very least there should be a box of 50 with 16 missing.
Off the kitchen is the door to the garage. It’s even darker in the garage than in the living room. There are no windows on the garage door, only the ambient light from the door to the kitchen. All of a sudden the stench hits me like a wave of heat. Rotting flesh, infected – putrified flesh kind of stink. When I opened the door, I didn’t think of keeping sound discipline and realize it’s swinging into a trash can just out of my reach knocking the can over. That’s all it takes, dropping your guard for one split second.