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Memoirs From the End of the World
The house looked less menacing in full daylight without predatory thugs with weapons milling about. Nevertheless, the three of them approached with caution. If it hadn’t been for Isabel, RC and Alyx may never have made it out of there. RC understood this fact all too well. Who knew what may have happened the following morning, or what may have happened when their captors realized Alyx had no intention of leading them where they wanted to go?
Ollie, on the other hand, never had to see this place before that moment. He looked at it with fresh eyes, more focused on tactics because he wasn’t being crushed by the memories. “I don’t see any footprints in the snow. That means they probably haven’t been here for a little while.”
“That, or they’re carefully covering their tracks like we are,” RC pointed out.
“Maybe,” Alyx conceded, “but I doubt it. These guys didn’t seem like the type to tiptoe around when we met them. They operated through fear and intimidation. Hiding their tracks would work against that.”
RC nodded, relieved by this analysis. The plan was for them to get in, get what they needed, and get out again as quickly as possible. Ollie had agreed to cover the second floor to see what supplies he could find up there, Alyx would cover the main floor, and RC would check out the basement. According to Isabel, provisions had been hidden all over the house. Spiked Club always squirreled away food and things in his room.
Before Isabel slashed his throat, anyway.
Stepping through the front door set RC on edge. She remembered the numbness of marching through the blizzard, the sting of the fresh wound on her collarbone, the hopeless feeling of being forced in the closet. She glanced over and saw the closet. “Memories,” she muttered.
Alyx nodded. “Definitely.”
The house met them with the eerie creak of floorboards as they fanned out, peering around every corner. RC’s heart slowly returned to a more moderate pace as she saw more reassurance that they were the only ones in the house. That’s when she took the journey down the rickety wooden steps into the basement. While Ollie and Alyx would search without turning on any lights, she didn’t have that luxury. She’d never be able to find anything in that dark pit if she didn’t flip the light switch.
The damp scent, which closely mirrored the smells RC recalled from other basements, lingered with another smell that she couldn’t quite identify. This other smell wasn’t overpowering, but it lingered in her nostrils, driving her to discover the source. Anything remaining unidentified was something that could possibly harm her.
The lone, bare light bulb hung from the center of the low ceiling, casting shadows everywhere. Piles of boxes lined the walls. And these boxes looked new, wearing only the lightest coating of dust. This meant they couldn’t have been there long.
RC was about to pull back the flaps of the nearest box when she heard shuffling. She paused in her movements, straining to hear any sound that might follow.
It’s probably a mouse or a snake, she told herself. Odds are it’s nothing.
A moment later, more shuffling. Then a low groan.
She briefly considered flying back up the stairs without investigating further. She heard the comforting sounds of Alyx’s feet crossing above her head, reminding her that she wouldn’t have to go far for backup. Yet such an action seemed cowardly, and in this world, the last thing she could afford was cowardice.
Slowly, with knife drawn, RC tiptoed away from the safety of the stairs and deeper into the room. She crept past a rack packed with winter wear, snow boots and shoes lined up underneath. She noted the snow shoes in particular. They would make it easier to traverse the deep snow, as well as making their path through the streets less visible from a distance.
If Gas Can and the others are using them now that the snow is this deep, would we have noticed any footprints outside? Paranoia began to creep up on her, but RC pushed it back down. Of course we would have. We were thorough about our check before we came inside. We aren’t idiots.
RC came upon the hot water heater. Right beside that was a pole that ran from the floor to the ceiling. A human figure huddled at the bottom. Covered in bruises and blood, hair matted. Hands chained to the pole, feet chained to a hook buried in the floor.
A startled yelp escaped RC’s throat, and then figure’s head jerked up. The face looked male, but was deathly thin and covered with dirt. Wide green eyes bulged out of his eye sockets as he stared at her. “Who are you?” His voice wavered slightly, and his tone was untrusting.
“My friends and I came here to loot supplies,” RC replied. “We won’t hurt you.”
A hint of relief brightened his expression. “My sister is tied up over there.” He gestured with a nod of his head. “You need to let us go. We’ve been down here for weeks. They’ll kill us if you leave us here!”
“Why are you down here in the first place?”
“There’s a resistance movement,” he replied. “We’re a small group, but we’re determined. My sister and I were captured when we came here to sabotage equipment. They’ve been torturing us for information, and we have to go days without food and water when no one is here.”
One look at the sister, who must have been a few years older than him, told RC that they’d been much harder on her. Even if she let them loose, she had no idea how they’d fend for themselves. These two would slow them down significantly. And yet . . . she couldn’t bring herself to turn away.
“Alyx!” RC called. “I need your help!”
Go to Entry #27
Go to Entry #27