Somehow the opening was actually a tunnel-slide of sorts that dipped and turned. It was wet and seemed to have a stream running down it. She slid along thoroughly enjoying the clean water on her skin.
“How long has it really been since I’ve had a proper bath?”, Celeste wondered. Hitting the water with a decidedly unladylike plop she was immersed. It wasn’t nearly as gross as she’d remembered. Maybe because the raw sewage dumped into it had decreased so dramatically from all the plagues depopulating..?
She floated a minute and thought of how she’d felt when Allen walked away. The good/bad news was she’d been true to herself. His eyes had truly told the story all along. She just hadn’t wanted to see it.
Shaking her head to clear away the memories, Celeste looked around and spotted the reflection of a bent and twisted log on the water. She swam over and climbed up onto the log. Celeste splashed a bit at the water before she began her ascent, memories of a time at the lake with her brothers and sisters flooding back and making her choke a bit as she giggled at their silliness. From there it was an easy climb up onto the ledge above the water.
Sitting there dripping wet Celeste gazed across the murky water and her mind wandered back to the office of Arnold’s. The aged yellowing walls were comforting in their longevity. Dozens of boxes of laces, insoles and other supplies lined the walls of the adjacent store room. Sitting in there at midnight was both cozy and spooky.
Celeste would have loved to be able to continue in that world! With the world now there were simply two hopeful options, completely change it or break it in two. For a long time Celeste had simply dreamed of tomorrows. One day she realized you have to make your own tomorrow happen!! Her past had made her odd so she’d learned to forge ahead as a loaner. And the books she’d found in that basement had led her to other possibilities for her life.
Tears of joy slowly trickled down her cheeks as she noticed a barely visible wooden ladder going up the steep hill to a tiny walled landing. Way up there in the brush was the hidden door to her new sanctuary and she let more tears flow as she discarded years of stress from living rough and alone. For the most part she’d been free to roam wherever she wanted, but definitely hadn’t had the freedom of any sense of security.
Once safely inside and her door secured, Celeste surveyed all her meager possessions. Yes, all were still there! Nice 🙂 Looking around she noted how cozy the cave was and the faint sound of rain and thunder from the air shaft. She could tell it was suddenly raining very hard but there appeared, so far, to be no dripping. Really, there seemed to be no evidence of any past leaks either.
As she stood there the second tunnel beckoned her, drawing her in. She grabbed her tiny oil lamp and entered slowly. 🕯️ The walls were smooth and the floor uncluttered as she walked along. Her light was very very small so she couldn’t see ahead more than a few feet, but suddenly, there was a faint light ahead. Before she came to the light there was a sudden split in the tunnel! Should she go to the left towards that faint light or go right into the deep dark it held?
Celeste chose to go left, towards the light. About forty feet ahead she spotted an old ladder lit by light from above. Celeste paused and took a long, deep, silent breath, exhaling ever so slowly. This could be dangerous, but the tunnel still showed no signs of there ever being any humans there. She tiptoed, paused, tiptoed, paused until she found herself at the ladder. Looking up Celeste could see an old floor with some slats of wood missing.
Carefully grasping the ancient looking ladder she listened and heard only the storm above. There were drops of water coming down through the floor. They were cool and had a musty-dusty smell from the old building above. She gave the ladder a firm shake and stepped carefully onto the bottom rung, praying it would hold her weight. One slow step at a time she climbed rung by rung until she could see somewhat through the floor. It appeared to be a garage and there was a car and a fridge.
Celeste pushed gently on the floor and found it was an old trap door! She pushed up and it groaned as it opened, the hinges squeaking in response. Still no motion or sound but she was concerned someone might be silently there. She had learned as a small girl that silence does not mean safety nor that you’re alone in the room. “Fear! How long can I let fear control me?!!”, Celeste exclaimed and poked her head up into the garage and looked boldly around.
Yes, just a garage. A lot of potentially useful supplies here. Quite a find after so many scavengers had ransacked since the beginning of the pandemics. Looking up she noted the walls and roof were shot. That building could go if the wind picked up too much. 🥺
Celeste took a breath and climbed up into the garage. She gathered everything she wanted and piled it by the trap door. She found a few decent buckets which she filled and lowered into the tunnel. She popped outside a moment when the storm was at it’s craziest. What then? A good thorough rinse down was a treasure! And, sh, don’t tell.. she’d found an old bar of Olay soap. Such luxury! Her last bar of soap had been so many years ago. She found a spot along the garage shielded by bushes. First she lathered her hair. It felt so amazing. Soap and running water! Next she thoroughly scrubbed her whole body, using the shelter of the bushes as a private shower stall. She felt like a storybook princess. 👸
After her shower Celeste tucked that bar of soap in a pocket and surveyed the outside of the garage. She remembered passing it earlier so it would possibly be a backdoor for her home. But, really, it could also be a huge security liability. She’d have to secure that door from below!! 🔐