He stared back the way he came. The bunker entrance at the end of the hallway appeared pitch black like a set of jaws waiting to swallow him. Without Ben, he couldn’t stay another night in the bunker. Today, after nine months, he had a taste of the world at large. He couldn’t go back to confinement. Still, if he wanted to remain above ground, he would in all likelihood need his father’s firearms.
He took a breath and a step forward. Something scratched at the door inquisitively, forcing him to drop to the floor. Holding his breath, he remained prone, not daring to move until the scratching eventually ceased. The scratching tipped the balance of fear in the bunker’s favour. He dreaded more what lurked outside than going down stairs.
Staying in position a few minutes more, he made his way through the hall and down the bunker stairs. He slapped on the light switch and made his way to the gun racks on the wall. Eleven in all, he quickly placed them on a cabinet top and then coaxed them into his curled arms. Halfway up the stairs, a sense of vertigo took hold of him.
“Not now,” he prayed, fearing that he might faint on the stairs.
Compelling himself to move on, he cleared the top of the stairs, almost buckling on rubbery legs as he staggered into the lounge room. He dropped the weapons on the floor, before collapsing on his knees. It took several rapid, then a few deeper breaths before he could straighten. A sense of dread overwhelmed him as the turned. The hallway beckoned to him once more. He’d have to return if he wanted ammunition.
He dropped his head, placing his hands over his face.
“Oh, Lord, please… give me strength.”
A few sharp breaths more, brought him to his feet.
Just one more time, and I’ll never have to go in there again.
His shoulders brushed against the wall as he descended. He scooped up a garbage bag from the closet and pulled open the cabinet drawers. Vertigo returned when he discovered two of the drawers were locked. Overturning them, he stomped down, smashing them open and spreading boxes over the floor.
Get them all he told himself.
He had no time to fish for what he needed, or specifically, didn’t want to spend a minute longer in the bunker than necessary. All the boxes ended up inside the bag, along with miscellaneous paperwork intermingled with the scooping of his arms. The room swayed as he took his swag to the stairs. Bunker walls warped, contracting; threatening to crush him in their restrictive hold. He threw himself over the threshold, and crawled halfway up the corridor before leaning against the wall. With his eyes closed, he waited, until all sense of vertigo passed.
Looking back down the hall, he smiled over his little triumph. He had never done anything brave before; his father continually reminded him of that.
Straightening, he found the pile of weapons, wondering which one to use tonight?