Tess breathed in deeply. She had always loved the fresh smell of pine. Nostalgia filled her as she remembered all the past camping trips with her parents. There would be no more.
The ache that pulsed in her chest nearly took her breath away. She blinked the tears away and strolled through the first floor.
The entry led into a large foyer which held an enormous but dying Christmas tree. She stared at it. She'd forgotten that her birthday was nearly one month after the festive holiday. The decayed-fir branches decorated with all shapes and colors of stockings plus miniature teddy bears, and candy canes.
Tess let out a sigh as she passed it, and continued onwards.
The expansive hallway opened to a huge den area with an enormous stone fireplace heavily decorated with wreaths and strings of white lights. On the same wall there were windows all around the hearth. This would have been a sight to behold with snow falling in the background, while inside, all illuminated with holiday lights, and jolly music playing.
It would have been close to heaven.
Right now she felt closer to hell rather than heaven. Tess shook her head and turned away, and headed for the stairs. So far, she didn't see anything she could use. At the top, she turned right and briefly inspected each boarding room. Nothing. She turned back and went down the other hallway. Nothing in these rooms as well.
Everything had been cleaned out. Someone had come in here and left with whatever necessities that were possibly left behind. If that was the case then there were probably survivors lurking out there ... somewhere.
Her eyelids felt so heavy. Tess spied a ladder above. Hmm, there must be a loft up there. She reached up and pulled down the ladder, and cautiously climbed.
She peered over the edge. She spied a king sized bed all decked out with heavy comforter and thick pillows. Tess glanced over at the single round window. It was getting dark. She really could use a few hours of sleep before heading on. Clambering onto the bare hardwood floor, she turned back and pulled the ladder back up. Didn't want to take any chance of something sneaking up on her while she slept.
Tess crawled under the dusty, thick covering. Her head slowly sunk into the fluffy pillow. She pushed her backpack to one side, yet still within reach. She glanced at her watch. Three hours. No more.
And closed her eyes.
Her entire body ached. Silence and warmth enveloped her. Tess didn't want to open her eyes. She wanted to hold on to the hope that this was all just a bad dream. That she was still in her own bed, in her own bedroom. That Mom and Daddy were down in the kitchen, eating their breakfast. She so wanted all this to be true.
Tess slowly opened one eye.
It was dark, but the room was starting to brighten slightly. There were thick beams over her. Her heart sunk.
The nightmare was still with her.
She shut her eyes tight. Why should she keep on running? To where? What was the point? She just wanted to be with Mom and Daddy.
Opening both eyes, she noticed how light it was getting. Then it hit her.
Oh, no ...
Tess sat straight up and glanced down at her wrist watch. She'd overslept by like several hours. The alarm didn't even go off.
She quickly slid out of the bed, and pulled on the back pack. Had those creatures caught up by now? She hoped not.
Tess moved to the lone, round window and looked out. At first, she didn't see anything, but then ...
"I'm so dead." She muttered when she spied movements in the trees. They were out there.
Think, think! Tess pressed her forehead against the wood paneled wall. Daddy used to work here as a maintenance worker. Didn't he mention something about an underground pipe system that ran from the lodge to the dam some two or three miles away?
It was something.
Tess lowered the ladder and slid down. She zipped down the hallway, and flew down the stairs to the main floor, and paused. Something was outside, wandering around the perimeter of the building.
She could hear the snarls.
Tess pressed her body against the wall as to keep out of sight from the windows. She shuffled down a wide hallway towards the door near the other end. She turned the handle and slowly opened it. Musky air filled her nostrils. This must be it. And stepped into the darkness, closing the door quietly behind her.
The steps were un-even and rickety. Once she reached the bottom she found the floor to be dirt, not cemented or tiled.
Okay, now where to?
"C'mon, Daddy ... where is it?" She whispered as she strained her eyes ahead.
Suddenly, a loud crash sounded from above. .
Tess swallowed hard as she moved forward, hands out in front, as she felt along the cold wall until they ran over a steel grate door.
This must be it!
She located the locking mechanism and pulled it out. The door opened with a loud creak, which caused Tess to grimace.
Hope they didn't hear that.
She stepped inside, and closed the door behind her. She didn't see any pipes. Just a long, narrow corridor ahead of her. Tess shrugged and began jogging, ignoring the pain in the injured knee.
The corridor intersected another corridor. She looked one way, and then the other way. She opted to the left, guessing that this would take her away from the lodge, and continued to jog. Several hundred yards later, she came to a wall.
Suddenly her area filled with echoes of animal sounds.
Oh no ... they'd found her trail.
Tess leaned her back against the cemented wall, and faced the darkness.
Death was coming for her.