Once it was agreed, we started getting packed. Besides our personal stuff and all of the remaining food, we took one of the deep cycle batteries (in case we needed to jump start my truck) as well as the remaining toilet paper, paper products and at least one of the buckets of clean water. That meant more than one trip and carrying a few very heavy loads.
While Chuck was reluctant to go back through the student lounge, Curtis was downright terrified.
"For a guy who plays some of the most gory video games, you sure are acting like a little girl" I teased Curtis.
"Tell you what, I will go first and make sure the way is clear to the other door we came through. If there is a problem, we will figure another way out, OK?" I added.
I took my backpack and shotgun, and covered my mouth and nose with a bandanna and rubbed some mint flavored lip balm around my nose hoping it would cut down on the smell. I went up the first flight of stairs and after verifying nobody liviing was around, turned on my flashlight and made my way across the room. It really was not that bad as most of the bodies were clustered in the front of the room by the main entrance.
The stairwell door on the other side of the room was unlocked and clear and I made my way up to the rear exit door of the building. My luck held as the door was unlocked and I stepped outside for the first time in over two weeks. The sky outside was gray and hazy, the temperature cold as was the dry wind blowing from the north. For a moment I worried about fallout and kicked myself for not taking the survey meter, but it was too late now.
My truck was still parked against the building by the two dumpsters and did not appear to have been noticed in the least. I carefully checked both ends of the building and did not see or hear anyone about.
I did not feel it was safe enough to leave my things unattended, so I went back down to the shelter to get Chuck and Curtis and start moving our stuff. Both guys were waiting apprehensively when I returned but were relieved when I told them the truck appeared to be alright and all was good outside.
We decided to move the battery, hot plate, water and our sleeping gear first. We would then load our personal stuff and food last. Chuck opted to stay with the truck after the first load while Curtis helped me get the rest on the second trip. I made one last run downstairs alone and made sure we did not leave anything of value behind. Then I turned off the LED lights and shut the door to our shelter for one last time.
We had a surprising amount of food left over. Chuck said it was because of our diminished activity combined with lethargy from being underground so long. Chuck separated a stash of protein and candy bars along with some single serve meals into a separate bag and then hid it beneath his seat. He reasoned we may need a back up stash in case we were stopped or robbed.
Curtis and I elected to walk over to out dorm rooms to check them out and to get any of our personal things we had left behind. We carefully went around the side of the building and made sure it was clear of onlookers before we went out.
There were only a few people on foot around campus. There was a group of pathetic looking souls standing in line in front of the student union building, probably about a hundred or so people. Most were dressed haphazardly and were bundled up from the cold with a variety of clothing most of which looked cast off and well worn. All the way, we did not see anyone we knew and most of the people looked like they had just wandered in from a homeless shelter.
In front of our dorm were three or four individuals clustered around a metal university trashcan tending a fire trying to keep warm. On the ground nearby was a pile of text books and broken furniture obviously for fuel.
They did not even look our way as we walked by and into the front door of the dorm. As expected, it stunk to high heaven inside. Body odor, urine, feces, dirty clothes and the far off scent of old food filled the air. Who knows when the water ran last here. There were people sitting at random places in the lobby, on the steps and landings as we went up the stairs. Individuals, children, young, old and all looking homeless and depressed. Some were dressed for the weather while others were huddled beneath old blankets, bundled up in dirty pajamas and sweats with socks and paper bags covering their feet.
We arrived at our quad and I went into my room and Curtis into his. We should have expected what we found. There were four people in my room. Two, a middle aged man and woman, were laying fully clothed on my bed. Another lay on Allen's bed and a fourth sat on the floor. The man in mine be was wearing one of my old shirts and a pair of my khakis I had left behind. While it was annoying he took my things without asking, I did not want them back any more either. They looked and smelled disgusting.
"You gots some food?" the man mumbled from the bed. "When is we gonna get to go down and gets some more food. We don't get nothing yesterday and we's hungry. Whatchoo got for us, huh?"
I ignored him and checked my dresser and desk. Everything was gone or broken. My laptop, my dress loafers, everything. The only thing I found left was a picture of my family forgotten on the floor behind the desk. I grabbed it and looked at it quickly before looking up and heading for the door before my eyes teared up.
The man on the bed pulled himself up and stood on shaking legs in front of me. His eyes were yellow, his skin sallow and his hair was patchy and falling out in places. "You looks like you been eating. Give me some of whatchoo got. I's hungry. We needs food too".
I pushed him out of my way and in his weakened state, he fell to the bed without much effort. The others just watched him fall and did nothing. I's gonna tell. You gots food and is holding out! Come back here, you gots to share!"
I met Curtis in the hallway where he was empty handed as well. "Someone smashed my Xbox and all the games. None of my clothes are left either." he blubbered.
"Don't worry about it. Let's get out of here before these people decide to eat us or something".
We beat feet downstairs and walked carefully back to the Applied Engineering building trying not to attract attention.
When we reached the truck, Chuck was standing by apprehensively. "Well, what was it like?"
"Gross" said Curtis. "Bunch of sick stinky people in our dorms stealing our stuff and looking for food. Nasty".
"Hell" I said. "Hell on earth. Let's get out of here"
Now the hard part. Where to go?