Chuck must have been more sensitive to odors as he started retching almost immediately. I managed to hold back and turned my flashlight into the room. There were bodies spread through out the room on couches and on the floor. Some had been covered with old blankets or clothing while others were left uncovered to decay.
From what I could tell. most of the bodies were missing hair, had burns, scrapes, contusions and other injuries. None appeared to be alive or moving and the room, with the exception of my flashlight beam, was pitch black. I turned to the vending machines and saw that the glass fronts on all of them had been broken and shattered. Apparently someone had the same idea we did and came looking for food and water.
Knowing what had to be done, I left Chuck in the stairwell and ventured slowly into the large study lounge. Instead of going to the door we originally entered, I went to the back of the room which led to the rest of the of the Applied Sciences Center. I was almost to the door when I heard the voices outside.
Without time to go back to the stairwell, I checked the floor behind me and stepped into the shadows against the wall as far back into the corner as I could manage. Before I extinguished my light, I waved it at Chuck and directed him to close the door which he hastily did.
The door to the hallway opened and two figures came in with holding something large between them. A third person held the door open with one hand and held aloft a lantern with the other.
"Just put it over there with the others.." the lantern holder said, "we got a couple of dozen more upstairs we need out of the way. We got two more buses coming up from Conroe tonight loaded to the gills."
The two shadowy figures tossed the limp body in the corner on top of some other unfortunate soul and hurried back to the door. In the dim light I could tell both persons had rags tied around their faces and did not look around at the jury rigged morgue.
"Man! This is nasty in here. I sure hope they..." the voice trailed away as the three bearers moved on rapidly without even glancing around the room.
After the door shut, I waited a moment and then went carefully back to the stairwell. I knocked once and Chuck peered out holding his nose.
As soon as the door was shut and we were back in the room with Curtis, I told them what I had heard upstairs.
"Things are bad out there. It sounds like refugees are being brought in from other places like Conroe. Since that is north of Houston, they were probably people effected by the blast, fallout or results of the war.
We have a room above us packed with dead bodies most of which appear to have burns and radiation related injuries. We can't stay down here waiting for our food and water to run out, we need to get moving"
"We need to see if my truck is still outside and if it can still run. Then we need to figure out what we can take and start moving it out to the truck."
"Wait a minute" said Chuck, "The fallout radiation levels may be manageable, but we need to be aware that generally, it is advised to stay under shelter for a time period and continue to shelter part of the time. "
"Chuck, sorry, but I have no intention of staying here any longer than I have to. It's disgusting up there and it is a matter of time before disease starts spreading. You and Curtis can stay if you want, but the only thing I ask is that we divvy up the supplies and I will be on my way".
"OK, we will all go," conceded Chuck, "What's your plan? Where do you want to go from here?"
"Ultimately, I am going back to Dallas and find out if it was hit by a bomb and if my home is still there and then to find out what happened to my family. For right now, I think after we get our stuff together and make sure my truck is where we left it. Afterwards, we can check our dorms or see if any of our friends made it."