Vernon looked at the orange lit RentaStor building. It did not have windows just gray metal gates. He wondered how they would get in but luck was with them, one gate was open at street level. There was enough space to slide underneath but Vernon did not like it.
He could imagine that anything could be waiting on the other side. The fear that one of those disgusting flappy brained dogs could be lying in wait to get his leg or worse caused Vernon to frown. Of course it was possible that enemies were hiding along the aisles just waiting to attack. Vernon focused and managed to push down his fears.
“Vernon, who should go first?” Caroline asked while looking around.
It was getting dark and she did not want to be outside. She felt exposed.
Saul put his dufflebag down and kept watch on the street.
Vernon looked at the gate while he placed his dufflebag on the ground.
He decided to see if he could lift the gate with someone's help.
Vernon looked at Caroline. “Caroline, can you help me pull up this gate?”
Caroline took one more glance back at the empty street and moved to the gate.
She placed the box with the radio on the ground.
For a few minutes, they huffed and puffed and tried to lift the gate. It just gave a rusty shriek and moved up a few inches.
Caroline looked at the gate. “At least now, you can roll under and see what's on the other side instead of blindly crawling.”
“Yeah,” Vernon replied with little enthusiasm.
He then crouched with a grunt and rolled under the gate. A few seconds later, Vernon grabbed his dufflebag and pulled it into the building.
Saul backed up to the gate and placed his dufflebag on the ground next to the gate.
He bowed to Caroline. “Ladies first.”
“Ah, thank you sir!” Caroline replied.
She rolled under the gate. The cold concrete made her shiver a bit.
Saul slid the box to Caroline. After that Saul went under too. Caroline helped Saul get his dufflebag.
Vernon waited until everyone and their belongings were away from the metal gate before pulling it down. There was a latch on the side of the entrance way near the floor, it took him just a second to lock the gate. He felt a bit safer now.
Now to deal with whatever was in the place with them, Vernon thought.
Saul looked around, he was surprised the lighting was so bright, it was not like some of the warehouses in the movies. Straight ahead was a hallway with locked doors. Saul wondered which door would be unlocked.
Vernon checked out the orange neon sign that pointed to the offices. “Guys, we should see about getting some keys or we are wasting our time here.”
Caroline and Saul followed Vernon to the offices.
Vernon peeked past the door to the office. So far he did not see anything.
He whispered to Caroline. “Stay here and make sure nothing sneaks up on us.”
She nodded yes.
Vernon peeked again then crouch walked into the office while Saul followed him. After a quick peek at the rooms to the left and right, Vernon could see that they were empty. That left the room straight ahead. Vernon and Saul slowly crept up to the doorway and looked.
Other than an open gray green cocoon, there was nothing dangerous there. Just a gray metal desk covered with papers and mold from the cocoon. A gray metal chair stuck out of the cocoon. Saul spied a big keyring hanging on a hook to the left of the desk. It did not take him long to grab it and head out.
They left the offices and met up with Caroline.
For some reason Saul closed the door. That made him feel safer.
Vernon wanted to say that the mold would probably grow under the door but he decided not to bother.
Caroline looked at Saul's keyring. “Do we check everything?”
“No. Lets look around first,” Vernon said.
They started down the main hallway looking at the aisles to the left and right of them. The first two sets of storage containers were too small to live out of. The group kept walking down the hallway until they found the large container section.
Something was making a buzzing noise further down the hallway.
Vernon gestured to Saul and Caroline to stay in the hallway while he went to investigate the noise. As he walked past containers that were big enough for several people to live in, Vernon recognized the sound. Someone was snoring in the last container.
He wanted to laugh but then he thought about what would happen if the flappy brained dogs got in. It was probably better that they closed the door to their container if there was some air circulation. Vernon shrugged and walked back to Saul and Caroline.
Caroline asked. “What is making the noise?”
“A very tired person.” Vernon replied.
“You did not introduce yourself?” Saul asked.
“No, I didn't think it was worth waking the guy or gal up,” Vernon replied.
Caroline looked down the aisle.
“Yeah, lets go find our own container and get something to eat,” Vernon said.
The group went down the aisle to the container that was the furthest from the unknown sleeper. Vernon just felt that if the person had issues, he or she would have less to complain about if there was enough space between them.
After Vernon unlocked the lock on the container, he was a bit dismayed how flimsy the locking mechanism was. A few good whacks from a sledgehammer or even a rock could open it. One of those flappy brained creatures or a person could easily open it.
“Um, Vernon, I don't want to sound like a fraidy cat but none of these containers have light in them,” Caroline said with a bit of fear in her voice.
Vernon looked away from the lock and looked at Caroline. “No problem, we have an electric lantern. Also we are just staying here the night and moving on in the morning.”
“Everyone step back in case something comes out,” Vernon said and prepared to lift the gate.
Saul and Caroline stepped back.
Saul raised his gun.
Vernon pulled the gate up, it moved with a echoing rattling sound.
At the entrance of the container, it was somewhat lit up but the back was totally dark.
Saul smelled metal but he said nothing.
Vernon went through his bag until he found a flashlight then he turned it on and shined it into the container. It was empty. That was good, he did not feel like carrying stuff out of the container.
They ate a quick and quiet meal from the contents of Vernon's dufflebag.
Caroline opened the box and pulled the emergency radio out. It was made of cheap looking black plastic with a dull blue dial.
“Do you want me to crank it up?” Vernon asked while eying the radio.
“Nah, I got this,” Caroline replied. She turned the crank vigorously for a few minutes.
Vernon and Saul moved in closer when Caroline turned on the radio.
All they heard was static until Caroline went through the stations. Other than Emergency Broadcast messages, that was it.
Then after a few short conversations, everyone prepared to sleep. Saul took first watch at the entrance of the container.
His watch was uneventful, Saul was glad. Even though he thought something would happen, nothing did. He just sat at the entrance of the partially open container and looked and listened for threats.
Vernon relieved Saul after a few hours. Saul was so tired, he curled up on his blanket and slept.
Saul's mother was stroking his hair. She had been dead for at least ten years but this was a special dream. He was a young boy now.
“My precious little man,” She crooned.
Saul luxuriated in the feelings of pure love that surrounded him.
His mother started to hum a tune.
Saul began to feel uncomfortable.
“My precious little man, why won't you join us?” The thing that was his mother asked.
Almost against his will, Saul turned and looked. His beloved mother was one of those flappy brained things!
Crying and screaming with disbelief Saul woke up. He thought he had been screaming but he had just been gasping. Rage blossomed in his heart. If a flappy brained baby were to crawl past him, Saul would have scooped up the creature and smashed its brain against the wall of the shipping container. Then the rage faded.
What kind of man am I to hurt a baby?
Saul did not really understand why Vernon pushed so hard to leave the city. Now he knew why. These things were rummaging through his memories like jackals or other scavenging beasts going through garbage cans. He tried to picture his mother but for a few minutes all he could see was the monstrosity from his dream.
Anger started to build until Saul focused on his best memories of his family. It seemed hopeless until the flood of memories came back. He just lay back and let them remind him of happier times. When Saul finished his trip down Memory Lane, he could feel that his cheeks were wet.
Now Saul knew he hated the flappy brained creatures, he would not hesitate to kill them when it was necessary. While he was thinking about revenge, Saul heard someone quietly weeping.
A quick look showed that Caroline was still sleeping. Saul got off his blanket and walked to the entrance of the container to console Vernon.
Vernon was hunched over and when Saul walked up to him, he could see Vernon's face was wet with tears.
“S-Saul, I don't know how m-much of this I can take,” Vernon whispered.
Saul looked down at his friend. “I know. Maybe we need to get going once the sun comes up?”
Vernon nodded once and looked into the hallway.
Several hours passed while Saul and Vernon did kept watch together.
Caroline had heard the exchange earlier between Saul and Vernon. She did not understand what they were talking about. Her dreams were things that were quickly forgotten. Dreams were not her primary concern, there were plenty of things to worry about in reality.
With that thought in mind she walked up to the guys.
“Um, guys, I need someone to watch my back while I go to the ladies room,” Caroline said.
Vernon looked down the hallway. “No problem, Saul and I will go with you.”
They searched for the bathrooms and got a nasty shock. A empty cocoon was in one of the stalls in the women's bathroom.
“I am sooo not going in there!” Caroline declared.
“Fine. Enjoy it because once the power grid goes, that's it for flushing,” Vernon said.
“Vern, maybe we should get some of the toilet paper from the supply closet?” Saul asked.
Caroline was halfway into the bathroom when she replied. “Since I can't tell the difference between poison ivy and regular plants, load up on all the TP you find. I will carry it all!”
Vernon and Saul looked at each other with a smile.
After Caroline was done, she stayed in the doorway while Saul and Vernon washed up.
“Do we have enough time to check out our mystery snorer?” Caroline asked.
Vernon wanted to stay no, the nightmare he had last night was still very fresh in his mind. It did not fade like his other nightmares. He just wanted to be moving on.
“Yeah but we do it quickly,” Vernon said.
They went down to the end of the hallway to the snorer's container. There was nothing there but a pile of crap and some empty cans of beans at the end of the container.
The group packed up and left the building following Vernon's compass.
Saul looked at the gray sky and wondered if it was going to rain. The meager light from the sky did not keep Saul's spirits up.
Vernon looked at Saul and Caroline, they were going to need some warm coats or jackets for today or other cold weather days. He did not need one because he had a gray rain coat in his dufflebag.
He looked at Caroline. “Caroline do you know this area? You and Saul need coats or jackets.”
Caroline looked away and though a bit. “This is the warehouse district, so we probably won't find anything here but if we go about four blocks up and two or three over, there is a Burlington Coat Factory.”
Vernon did not want to spend time backtracking but he did not want Saul and Caroline to get sick. “OK, lets do it.”
It took them about two hours to find the store. By then it was raining. Cold drops of rain pelted them while they slogged through the empty streets to find the store.
Finally they were outside the store. The doors were closed but not locked. Vernon walked up to the door and peered past the stickers on the windows to see if anything was lurking inside. He glanced at Saul and Caroline, they were shivering from the cold. Vernon opened the door and Saul and Caroline carefully stepped past him.
Vernon faced Saul. “We get the adult coats and we get out of here.”
Caroline pointed at the directory. According to the sign, adult coats were upstairs. They took the still working escalator up.
While the escalator went up, it showed them a terrible sight. There were open cocoons in some areas. Some of them were close together in groups. Saul wondered how many of these things were in the city.
The escalator was almost to the second floor when Vernon whispered,”We stay together and alert.”
Saul and Caroline nodded yes.
The second floor was dotted with cocoons rising out of mats of furry gray white mold. Vernon hoped that they can get what they need without having to get close.
It was just too quiet for Saul. He quickly scanned the aisles looking for men's coats. Grab a coat and get out was on his mind. Saul got a coat that was a good fit. Now, they just needed a coat for Caroline.
They followed her down the quiet aisles when a voice erupted downstairs.
“Hoo Yeah! Look at all of those coats. Come on Slick, lets live here,” A loud male voice said.
Another quieter male voice replied,”Shut up Dan. You don't know what's in here.”
Vernon was unsure what to do. It would be better just to slip away and not meet these people. He thought that maybe they were bandits and they would kill their group.
Before Vernon could think more about the situation, two voices spoke almost in unison,”Join us or be silenced forever!”
“Frag you! Freaks!” The first male voice screamed and a shotgun went off. After that there was just gunshots and splashing sounds. That went on for a few minutes.
Saul hoped they would not bring the battle upstairs.
Vernon thought the same idea. Also there was little cover to hide behind.
The gunshots stopped. Something was gurgling downstairs.
Vernon whispered to Caroline. “Get your coat. We are leaving!”
Caroline nodded yes and put on her new coat.
The strange gurgling noise continued.
The group crept up to the edge of the down escalator and looked down. No one could see what was going on. Silently, they took the down escalator. Vernon flicked off the safety on his gun. Caroline and Saul did the same while they headed closer to the ground floor.
Vernon could not see anything other than some of the racks with beachwear had been knocked down. He had to walk a bit toward the entrance of the store to see what happened.
There were several pools of blackish green liquid on the floor. Two headless flappy brain creatures where lying on their backs while blackish red blood pooled around the stumps of their necks. Green strands of mold were already growing over some of the blood. Vernon checked out the humans.
One poor guy had his head crushed by a store mannikin. At least his demise was quick. His friend lay in a pool of black stuff while he thrashed his legs and gurgled. Mold was growing over his face, some of it was quickly spreading across his neck.
A shot echoed through the store.
The poor man stopped thrashing.
Saul and Vernon looked at Caroline.
She just looked back with a cold look in her eye. “Lets see if we can use their stuff.”
A quick check showed they could. The group left the store and entered the cold pouring rain.
While they headed away from the store, Vernon thought about the grisly scene. The guy with the mold on his face, the flappy bastards got him by spitting black stuff on him. The other guy was a bit of a mystery. His head was crushed flat by a store mannikin. Vernon wondered how that happened. He figured that one of the flappy things grabbed the item and threw it. A bit of fear went through him at the idea.
Flappy creatures are strong enough to throw things. I really need to get out of this city.
Vernon looked back at Saul and Caroline. He quickened his pace while looking around at the dark empty street for threats. To him it seemed like the city he was born in and grew up in was turning into a dangerous place right before his eyes.
It was time to leave whatever way he could. Vernon resolved with a grim look on his face that tonight was the last night they were going to spend in this doomed city. Any means necessary, he was going to get out of here.