Jake: Sacred Soap and Secret Places

Jacob woke to the sound of an explosion. It was distant, maybe a mile off, and at first, he almost mistook it for thunder. But the rumblings of the impending storm were different, and this echo was distinctly unnatural.

He slowly, cautiously, opened the door of the fridge and pressed his ear to the small gap to listen.

Nothing out of the ordinary. The rumblings of thunder were closer, but there was not another explosion.

Dang, Jake thought to himself, I thought this place was deserted. I didn't think that the occupation had made it this far out. There's not a safe place to hide anymore.

Adding worry to his symptoms of hunger, fatigue, and hopelessness, he unfolded his long legs and crawled from the fridge into the room that once was a kitchen. It was trashed. Jake had already went through every intact cabinet, looking for something useful. He had found a can opener amongst the broken shards of glass and splintered wood, but nothing else to bother taking.

He padded across the wooden floor of the tiny kitchen to the other rooms in the house. He knew, after he had initially searched the ruins, that he would find nothing. But just to be in a house that had once been the home of a family made Jake feel closer to the family that he didn't have anymore. He avoided the living room, where a huge hole in the wall opened the house to the elements, but passed down a hall to where the bathroom used to be. He hadn't really looked here.

Jake jumped as he caught sight of another person . His hand grabbed for his knife before he realized it was himself he saw in the broken mirror. But it wasn't the Jacob he remembered. This boy was taller, thinner, with dark, sunken eyes that had long lost their light. His hair was matted and dusty, his face covered in dirt. The bones of his cheeks and jaw stuck out in sharp contrast, creating shadows in his cheeks, under his brow and in the hollow of his neck. He realized he looked like his father now in many ways, only more caught in between a scrawny boy and a lanky man. He stared at himself for a long time, pondering all that had happened since the last time he had glimpsed his reflection. Things had made him harder now, but he still scared like a small child. Soon the tears were flowing, creating dark streaks where they met with the dirt.

Jake hung his head, sobbing quietly.

It was all just so hard.

He hated not seeing any other people. The little girl had hurt him. He hadn't spoke to her while she had followed him, for fear of attachment. Everyone that Jake had ever loved had been ripped away from him. For however much he had tried to be insensitive to the girl, it hurt him the way it had for everyone when she had gone.

Wiping his dripping nose, he opened his eyes and caught sight of a piece of soap on the ledge of the sink. How it had remained there made him wonder, but never had he been more thankful for a chance to clean up. He started with his face, using the tears to lather the heavenly bubbles, and before long, his whole body was cleaner than it had been in months.

He wrapped the small chunk in a scrap of cloth, and shoved it in with the precious few belongings in his pack.

Jake was turning to leave the bathroom, after stealing a less sharp piece of the mirror, when the floor creaked strangely. He paused, stepping on the spot, testing it.

"No..." He breathed. It couldn't be. He grabbed his knife and fell to the floor. He pried at the wood panel of the flooring, coaxing it to peel back and reveal its secrets. Underneath: a handle. Jake wasted no time in pulling at it, lifting most of the bathroom floor with it. Under the trapdoor was a dark space, dug low into the earth.

With one last glance around, he hoisted his bag and descended the rickety ladder. He pulled the door shut after him. It was dark, so he pulled a wind up flashlight from his bag and cranked the handle before turning it on. The tunnel went down about 10 feet before ending in a sort of root cellar.

Old house or not, who would put a root cellar in their bathroom?

He shined the light around, taking in the dark earthen walls covered by rotting two-by-four boards. The first thing he saw on a set of rusted metal shelves distracted him from the depth of the cellar.

Canned goods.

He ran at the food, ripping it from the shelf, almost crying again --from joy this time.

"Yes!" He shouted. The sound echoed slightly. But before Jake could scream any further, he heard footsteps above. He froze, switching off the light. The steps sounded human, careful as they were, but the aliens were experts at deception. He listened.

They roamed from room to room above, slowly and quietly; searching.  Jake backed into the corner of the shelves, knocking against them loudly. He cursed silently and stopped breathing when the steps paused overhead. This time he felt around and found the wall. He pressed his back into the corner and waited. The feet waited for what seemed a lifetime before moving again. This time, accompanying the shuffle was the sound of squeaking hinges.

Light poured down from above as the trapdoor was lifted once again, and Jake's heart fell.

The End

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