The makeshift door gave a metallic scream as Eilen pushed it open. Behind it, there was a small ramp that led into darkness. She had not been in this place but Buckley, her uncle, told her that it led to some underground chambers built before the Rage. Despite his warning to the clan that it would not withstand a full assault by the enclaves, the Chief decided to use it as a meeting point should something happen to their camp.
Eilen and Jessi stepped inside and as they pushed the door close an insect flew into the tunnel. Eilen heard it scrape on the door and as she watched it, it disappeared into the darkness. The light extinguished as the doors locked with each other. Only small rays of sunlight entered through cracks where they did not fit perfectly. Eilen pulled her flashlight from a rucksack she salvaged from the camp and shone it down the tunnel.
The tunnel was as Buckley described it. There were barriers that the men built to act as chokepoints but would have been ineffective. The girls began walking down the ramp until they came into a room. It was a good-sized room, a bit smaller than the common chamber at the camp. It would have been too small and crowded if the whole clan took refuge here. Eilen’s heart sank when she saw that it was empty. She hoped that there had been at least one survivor.
As loud as she dared to shout, “Is there anyone there?”
The only response was her voice reverberating back at her. After a minute or two, Eilen leaned against the wall and slid down into a small ball on the floor. Jessi, who had not said anything since leaving the camp, sat next to her and put her hand on her back. It was just as she feared; they were alone.
Eilen’s thoughts turned what she and her sister witnessed back at the camp. In the common chamber, everybody that she knew and loved was dead. She saw the look of horror on their faces. Buckley was one of them. He died at the main gate; a piece of metal went through his chest. In one corner, the younger children had huddled for safety but even they suffered the same fate. Eilen began wondering if her destiny and that of her sister was the same. Being trapped inside enclave’s security zone was a crime and for people like her, it meant death. Tears burned down Eilen’s cheeks; it was hopeless.
“I didn’t see dad,” Jessi said softly.
“Neither did I,” responded Eilen; another lie.
Jessi choked on her words, “Why isn’t here? Where was he? Did he leave us, Len?”
“NO! Dad didn’t leave us! He would never do that. Don’t ever think that again. He was there, we just didn’t see him.”
Time seemed to have stopped for a moment and Eilen was able to collect her thoughts. It was not Jessi’s fault for thinking that; it was hers. If she had just told the truth of what she knew about their father, this would not have come up. Still, Eilen was not ready to tell Jessi the truth but it was becoming a distraction.
“Sorry,” Jessi began to sob, “What are we going to do now?”
Eilen knew that the Chief had some supplies in this place but that meager stash would only be enough for a week, at most. She also knew that they did not know how to get back to Oklahoma. The Chief had maps and there was more food back at the camp. A chill went down her spine.
“I need to go back.”