December 6th, 2033
I left the cabin before sunrise and dropped into Santa Clarita to rustled up a battery for my radio.
The hike south proved to be uneventful, as did the task of finding a car battery, but my return trip was anything but. When I came within a hundred yards of my new digs, I could hear Lucky barking like mad. Someone, or something was at the cabin.
I stopped dead in my tracks and hit the deck. If it were troopers, I didn’t want to get any closer, – but if it were people, I had to help. No questions asked. Especially if they are hurt, hungry or hopeless, – that’s just the way it is now. Service above self.
I kept low and crept forward, snaking my way through the dry underbrush to within twenty feet of the cabin. I was an arm’s length from the cabin when I saw the first of three silhouettes standing in front.
Three figures, – three, my initial thoughts ran Threak, but these silhouettes stood smaller. They couldn’t be Threak. These figures stood less than six feet tall, of that I was certain. They had to be human, but still, I wasn’t sure, not completely.
Then one of the figures slumped to the ground.
The other two immediately dropped to their knees to help, – they were human, – most definitely.
I pushed my way through the low hanging branches and stepped into the clearing next to the cabin. With a clear view, I saw that the three people were kids, two boys and a girl, – the oldest, no more than sixteen years old and they all were ill-clothed for the winter.
I ran to their side. It was one of the boys, the younger of the two, that had fallen and it was clear he was in dire straits.
“Is he conscious?” I said as I knelt over the kid. He was burning up, his clothes were soaked with sweat and I could feel the fever radiating from his worn, malnourished body.
“He’s sick.” The girl said and the other boy nodded in agreement and it was plain to see from their near expressionless faces and listless eyes, the pair were in shock and not doing too well themselves.
I scooped him up and turned for the cabin.
“Let’s get him inside.”
Lucky bound out from under the cabin and ran along side the four of us. The older boy opened the cabin door and I set the kid down on the cot. Dirty, disheveled and burning up. He was in bad shape. That was plain to see.
“Hand me those blankets.” I said to the girl, pointing at the stack of green and gray army issue cot covers piled neatly in the corner.
She didn’t react at first. Like the boys she was feverish, and suffering from shock as well.
I grabbed the blankets and wrapped him as best I could. I dipped a cloth in cold water and placed the rag on his forehead. He thrashed from side to side. I held his shoulders in place while the girl, who’d since come to her senses, held the rag to his forehead and whispered.
“Easy, Caleb. Shhh…, easy.”
Her words had no visible effect him, but they went a long way in keeping herself calm. I glanced over to the other boy, who was leaning against the north wall, and looking as if he was going to drop to the floor at any second.
“Do you have him?” I said to the girl and she knew what I meant.
“His name is Caleb, he’s my little brother, and, yes, I’ve got him, I’ve got him.” She said, keeping him still and pressing the cold compress firmly to his forehead.
I stood up and caught the other boy, as he slumped to the floor and ushered him across the cabin to a spot where he could lie down.
“Jessie,” the red-haired girl said, “you hang in there, it s going to be all right, we’ll find Mom and Dad, they ll know what to do, I promise, it’s going to be okay, I promise.”
I helped him to the floor and draped a pair of blankets over him. He grabbed the material and wrapped himself up tightly, curling up into the fetal position. His body shook involuntarily, but he gripped the blankets tightly just the same. Instinct told him it was time for nature to run its course, time to sweat this one out.
The girl, who I’ve come to know as Rachel, was hurting as well, and after Caleb finally calmed, she wrapped herself up in a couple of blankets and laid down.
I handed her a cold head cloth and she accepted.
“Rest. Keep warm.” I told her, you’ll be all right.
She looked up at me and nodded silently, okay.
I crossed the cabin to the propane camping stove.
“I’ll make some soup. It’ll be waiting for you when you get up.”
“Thanks.” She said, dropping her head to a pillow. “But, I m not really tired.”
Lucky crossed the floor and drew himself up next to her and stretched out along side.
They say dogs are the best judges of character.
Ten minutes later I had soup on the stove and three kids and a dog sleeping soundly in the cabin.
Three kids and a dog, what’s next?