Chapter 4: Don’t come knocking at my door
The day had seamlessly made its journey into night as the James family had hustled about fortifying their house. Ben had just finished new security measures and ushered his family down stairs into the repurposed storm shelter. The generator is now silent the smell off fresh cut wood hangs about the basement as Ben swings around the rear of his workbench. The Depot which had been alive less than an hour earlier now stood in utter darkness. Gingerly the husky man shuffles deeper behind the bench to retrieve a plywood front he had constructed. He dutifully slides the fake panel between the wall and workbench it fits neatly in place. Squeezing his girth sideways down the length of the passageway Ben feels his way in the dark to the recessed door. Ben's burly hand finds the metal handle in the ink black confines with tug upwards the metal door whines open. He makes a mental note to oil the hinges on the door but he’d have time to do that later. All he knew to be important at the moment was that his family was safe. He ducks his large frame down slowly before entering the cramped shelter. An orange glow illuminates the inside of the structure there sitting in the center of the subterranean metal box was the rest of the James family. The children were still in party mode giggling and eating marshmallows with their bottom halves covered by sleeping bags. Ben struggles to turn in the tiny doorway he manages to come about. Reaching forward Ben grasps the heavy door yanking hard. The shock of the noise in the shelter silences the kids. Ben pulls the two levers on the back of the door in opposite directions creating a metal cross on the back of the door. Pistons drive themselves into the wall on either side of the door and at its top and bottom. The James family is now secure and together come what may in a room with six feet of head room and not much bigger than your average prison cell. Twelve foot wide by twenty feet deep with a small enclosure in the rear on the right that contained a no frills chemical toilet and sink basin.
“Hi Dad!” Brandon chirps from the center of the gathering. “Hey son….” Ben replies moving down onto the cement floor. He pushes his body into the double sleeping bag with his wife. Anne immediately wraps herself in her husband’s heavy comforting arms. “Dad …” Chip speaks up. “Why do you think nobody wanted to join up with us?” Ben looks across the orange light in the center of the family circle to his eldest. Benjamin James thought for a moment hunching his shoulders. “I don’t know Chip I think….. Maybe.” Ben looks quickly around his family biting his lower lip. “Maybe they think I’m overreacting or that I’m crazy.” From his left an indignant “huff” rose up as Belinda vaults to her feet. “You’re not crazy daddy!” The little girl places her hands on what would one day become her hips. “My daddy’s not crazy anybody says that and I’m gonna get’em!” Ben chuckles as his heart swells with pride. “You tell’em B!” Anne exclaims reaching for her daughter. Belinda wiggles into her parent’s sleeping bag. “Do you think you’re overreacting dad?” Ben Jr. quizzes. “Son when you don’t know you prepare for the unknown. If we knew what was going on we could prepare ourselves for it.” Ben sees a lot of his wife in his oldest son totally loyal as long as they knew the plan. “I believe you dad we gotta protect our family. It’s better for us to be safe than sorry I say.” With that Chip shoves his remaining marshmallow in his mouth. He reaches out with a fist to his dad who meets it with his fist. The boy drops down off his elbows pulling his sleeping bag over his head. Ben turns down the lantern and is serenaded by the sounds of sleep echoing around him. Ben falls asleep quickly embracing his daughter and his wife.
Ben awakes to a buzzing in his pocket he tries to reach it without moving to much. His daughter is plastered to his chest sleeping peacefully. His Smartphone’s battery was dying the screen blinks 10:18 am. Ben’s miffed he never sleep this late a days work had never taken this much out of him. According to the phone it was sunny outside and he’d missed six calls all from his neighbor Carl. Perplexed Ben sits up waking his daughter Belinda. The domino effect cascades around the small shelter first Anne, then Brandon and finally Ben junior stir from their sleep. The lantern light forces everyone to shield their eyes. Brandon stands over the light and pronounces “I’m hungry!” Anne sits up swiping her hair back over her head. “Alright gather round…” she stands moving to the impressive cache of stored food. “Honey …” Ben moves in behind her “I’m going topside to check out the house.” He whispers in her ear “Carl called me a few times this morning.” She nods in agreement over her shoulder. The couple parts ways with a tender kiss. “Brandon ……” Ben shouts “I’m going up top lock the door behind me.” The gangly preteen leaps over sleeping bags “Ok dad!” Behind him Ben hears Anne prepping breakfast for the kids. Ben pats his pocket for the pistol “Hey honey I’m going to grab the laptop and our phone chargers. I’ll plug them up to the generator for a bit today. I think we need to keep up with what’s going on for ourselves.” His son runs into his back in the darkened area “sorry dad…” the boy giggles. “Ok Ben that’s fine with Me.” she tells her husband. “Can you get my GamePlay charger too daddy?!” his little humming bird asks. “Oh mine too dad … Please … Please pleeaaaase!” Brandon pleads. “Dad since you is now taking request. Can you get my MP3 player charger too?!” “My boys are skillful.” Ben thinks to himself. They knew he wouldn’t tell Belinda “no.” So since their father was real big on “fairness.” He was honor bound to consent to all three requests. “Yes… Yes” Ben mumbles in frustration. Ben goes through the door “Now Brandon let me hear you lock it. I will knock once then pause and knock twice cool?” He rustles his son’s sandy curls with meaty hand. “Yeah dad I got it.” the boys closes the door and in seconds Ben hears the locking mechanisms deploy.
Ben clutches the gun tightly in both hands. He moves across the dark tomb like basement using his ears more than his eyes. There was no noise in the basement area and no footsteps from upstairs clapping the hardwood overhead. The man moves quietly up the stairs upon reaching the top. He breathlessly turns the lock on the door which opens smoothly. Ben steps out into the vacated upper part of the James home some sunlight filters in between boards on the windows. The house seems foreign to him momentarily he stands dumbfounded. Here he and his wife had lived and raised a family for almost two decades. Yet in less than a day the domicile has become sterile like a vacant hospital. He glides through the house finding the things he had been sent to retrieve. All appears quiet Ben finds himself relaxing somewhat. Soon walking back from the bedrooms his arms were full of electronics pistol dangling at his side. A thunderous racket arose from the front porch starling Ben. He drops the heavy gun on the floor with a clatter as he draws himself up against the hallway wall. Ben stands still against the wall from the corner of his eye he spies the gun on the floor as the footsteps stomp up the porch.
After some delay this week we are once again back in the world of The Living Dark. The James family has fortified their home but against what they don't know. Thus far Benjamin James the patriarch of the family feels an sense of unease about why he has abandoned his home. He has uprooted his family and they are living in their tornado shelter for the time being. Is he paranoid or just well ahead of the curve?
Check back the week of August 27th for Chapter 5 of The Living Dark