Normally, that lot would be full. It didn’t matter what time of day I ventured this way or the few times I actually went to Wal-Mart, the lot was ALWAYS full. I always wondered who these people were that crowded the store at all times of the day. Didn’t they work? I would always think to myself.

Ahead is an intersection with a blinking red traffic light which I pass without pause, I mean, who is going to pull me over now? The blinking light tells me the electricity is still working whether by an alternate emergency method or not. I’ll figure that out later.  I do know the local power is provided by hydroelectric means from a plant a few miles up the road but whether the plant is still operating is anyone’s guess. The Fred Meyer to my right is the same. It is like everyone has just been removed from earth and left only the monuments to technology and capitalism behind. The only living thing in sight is the occasional bird flying overhead or sitting on power lines. The eerie feeling I’ve had since pulling onto the highway grows and becomes more surreal.

“Ok, time to focus,” I half say to myself.

The high school next to the Wal-Mart passes by and I glance at my 9mm for reassurance. There are 3 mags in my pockets aside from the one loaded. 14 rounds at my immediate beck and call with a further 42 on back up. I always load my mags one round shy in order not to lose spring compression. In my opinion, it would totally suck to have a round not chamber due to a lack of force, especially just when you would have truly enjoyed having that round available. Besides the Remington 870 in the back, a folding blade rests in my front pocket and my boot knife is in place.  I can use either with a fair degree of skill but I prefer to have the distance variable on the uphill side; the more, the merrier.

My anxiety both increases and decreases at the same time as I draw closer to the house where my kids are. Action time is coming and I am almost there. I am one who wants to get things done rather than have anything linger or wait. My memory pulls me back to the physical fitness runs in the Air Force. There was always a lot of milling around and taking time, stalling before the actual start. I would think, Come on! Let’s just get this started and over with!

A couple of turns later, I pull in front of the house which is similar to all of the others in the neighborhood. Most are two-story structures with the occasional single-story thrown in. There are really three basic designs with the only major difference being the color. Tan here, a darker brown there and several in various shades of blue. It is a small neighborhood built around an oval, track-shaped road with only fifty or so houses in the entire community. Built on the edge of town, it is surrounded on all sides by trees; their tips showing above the house roofs. The high voltage power lines, across the street to the east, pass close by. The usual humming of electricity running through them is gone.

Shutting down the Jeep, I leave the keys on the seat. Yeah, like I am worried about someone taking it. I want the keys there instead of on me in case the kids are able to get out, and, well, I don’t. Robert has driven the Jeep a few times and could manage to get it somewhere without involving trees or having a parked car intervene with his progress. I feel the warmth of the sun on my back as I holster my 9 mil and grab the duct tape from the back of the Jeep along with two flashlights. One of them is a silver monster with a bell-shaped light compartment. The other is a nice little LED I picked up from GI Joes a few years back. Well, it was GI Joes before it became just Joes and before it became nothing. The flashlight is almost perfectly cylindrical which makes for an effective attachment for the shotgun so I attach it to the barrel not feeling a bit shy about my liberal use of duct tape. The idea is to keep the light aligned with the barrel and not venture off on its own should I bump into something or from the recoil if I need to send the massed pellets outward.

Grabbing the 870, I load the magazine putting one in the chamber giving me five shots and head to the front of the Jeep. I have little intel on the house or on whatever these things have become. The front of the house has a large window built of smaller panes. A porch runs in front of the house and around the corner to the right where the front door is. All of this is overhung by the upstairs where two facing windows shine darkly back at me. My guess is the front contains a living room downstairs. Most houses like this have a kitchen opening to the right with a central hallway running through the middle to a bathroom in the back or rooms off the hall. Stairs are most likely somewhere close to the living room with bedrooms upstairs. The windows upstairs facing me are most likely bedrooms with either one or two more in the back with a bathroom. The basement door should be downstairs close to the kitchen or possibly in the back; most likely under the stairs leading upstairs.

As to what happened to the people who fell ill but didn’t die, well, I know even less about that. I don’t truly know what their capabilities are or how they might be transformed. All I know from reading news articles online and such is that they are extremely aggressive in nature and attack on sight. There were those reports of them attacking and killing others, some of those reports even mentioning cannibalism. Everything has happened so fast. Another thing mentioned is an aversion to light. No ideas as to why were ventured. I guess there just hadn’t been enough time for anyone to have figured out these aspects.

What was known was that some sort of genetic mutation had occurred on a DNA level. Some articles ventured that higher cognitive abilities or self-awareness aspects had been burned away, perhaps from the onset of the high fevers or from the genetic changes. All of this is unknown; at least to me. I have some guesses, but that is all they are, guesses.

The light aversion might be from a sensitivity of the eyes, ultraviolet light, solar radiation, just a general aversion to birds chirping or the color green. All that was reported is that not one of these transformed things has ever been seen in daylight. All I really know is that one of them is possibly in the house with my kids and I am going to get them out.

It is amazing how thoughts fly lightning fast through the mind. I allow myself a few seconds of these meandering thoughts and push away from the Jeep. I want to just rush in and grab the kids but I have to take the time to do this right or I will do more harm than good. It has been a while since I had done something like this and never with the stakes so high. I just hope I am still as good as I once was.

Okay, entry. The two car garage to left the house is a no go. There are several cars in the driveway which alludes to the possibility that the garage is being used as storage which means clutter. The additional possibility that there is a garage door opener makes opening the doors from the outside a difficult option. My options are therefore the front door, the back door, the front window, or one of the upstairs windows.

I know from years with my ex that the doors are most likely barricaded in some aspect leaving either the upstairs or front window. Not wanting to scale up to the roof; age seems to made me a touch lazier plus, if I have to make a quick exit, that would mean I would have to jump from the roof leaving my knees either a permanent fixture on the lawn or shooting across the street to blast through one of the windows of the house across the street. I like my knees where they are so that leaves the front window.

Tucking the large flashlight at the small of my back and cradling my shotgun i, I start across the lawn. I climb the porch staying away from the window and approach it from the wall so as not to cast a shadow across the window. With my back to the wall, I listen for any sound. Nothing. Absolute dead silence. Even the birds seem to have left this zone of tension. Drapes are pulled across the windows so I can’t see far into the room. Keeping my ears open, I ease down to the corner of the window and slowly move to see if I can catch a glimpse of the inside through a crack in the curtains. No luck.

It looks like I am going to have to break the panes, pull the curtains down, and enter via the window. This is certainly not like times past when I always had the tools to do whatever was needed and didn’t have to break through a window like I was in some Chuck Norris flick. In the movies, the heroes are dressed up with more tools, weapons and supposed training than they knew what to do with yet they would all eventually crash through a window on the end of a rope. Really!!! Are you for real!?

I try the doors first. You never know and so ease around the porch to the front door keeping my foot falls light. Balls of my feet; slowly increasing my weight with step, testing for creaky boards. No window on this side so I don’t have to worry about being seen from the inside. Upon reaching the front door, I stay against the wall and try the door handle. Yep, locked. I leave the porch and walk around to the back door making sure to keep under the windows while keeping an eye on the neighbor houses just to make sure I am not in for any surprises. My head is a constant, slow swivel. Reaching the corner of the house, I kneel surveilling the back yard looking for movement or any indication that I am not alone and feel slightly foolish for playing commando here in someone’s yard. But the kids said someone was in the house and I keep that and the recent events clear in my mind.

Looking along the back side of the house, a small, basement window is set into the foundation at ground level. Robert was right; there is no way they could fit through that. Crouched there, I ponder whether I should peer in to let them know I am here or if this would cause them make noise either from startle, excitement, or hope. As much as I dearly ache to see them, even with a quick glimpse through a small window, I don’t want to

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