ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

We walked down the slope and across the wolf-strewn valley.

I kept looking behind, expecting the flash of teeth, a guttural snarl, ripping claws.

It was going to be a bad night . . .

An hour and forty-five minutes after dawn, afraid every minute that we would be seen and apprehended even though the park seemed deserted, we reached the cabin. The sight of it filled me with the first warmth I had felt since the wolves had set me to sweating inside my bulky insulated clothing. The place was as I remembered it, a comfy nook nestled in a grove of pine trees with its back door facing a sheer cliff and its front door giving view to a breathtaking panorama of snow and trees and gentle foothills. It was not the sort of place a hardy outdoorsman would go to rough it. Harry and others like him paid well for the modern conveniences in the trappings of rustic simplicity.

I had no key this time. Even if I had thought of coming here right from the beginning, I would not have gone to Harry and implicated him by getting a key. This was my folly, and I would have to bear all the grief and punishment if things fell down around my head. I had to break a pane of glass in the door, fumble around for the inside latch, all the time wondering when someone would come running into the living room shouting, “burglar,” and wielding a twenty-gauge shotgun. But the place was empty as I had imagined it would be.

Inside, we found a cardboard box and used one of the sides to cover the hole I’d made, thereby keeping out the worst of the wind. I plugged the heaters in after He started the generator in the attached utility shed to the rear of the cabin, and I thanked the gods that Harry had electric heaters as well as fireplaces. The fireplaces would give off smoke that would have every World Authority ranger and copper down on our backs inside of the hour. The electric jobs would keep the living room sufficiently warm and the remainder of the house just comfortable. And that was sufficient. We could not expect total luxury in our position. This little bit of peace and quiet and rest, after our days and days of running, did seem like total luxury. The heavy, whining noise from the generator would have to be risked. It was well-muffled, and if anyone got close enough to hear its low whumpa-whumpa, then chances were they were already suspicious and investigating the cabin.

“Good,” I said, watching the coils begin to glow inside the heaters and feeling the first warm drafts of air as the blowers came on.

“The food,” He said. “I want to see what I have to work with.”

“This way,” I said, taking Him down into the natural icebox of the cellar. There was very nearly a whole cow hung from meat hooks embedded in the ceiling. The meat was frozen solid and filmed by a thin coat of fuzzy frost. It was most probably a tank-grown cow, but the meat would still be tender and tasty. The walls of the room, natural rock, were coated with thick, brown-white ice, as was the floor. The cellar had been carved directly from the base of the mountain for the purpose of food storage; it was a fine job.

Next, I led Him back upstairs and showed Him the pantry where Harry kept about two hundred cans of various fruits, vegetables, and meats. At one time, when World Authority was threatened with a power crisis and looked as if it might topple at any moment, Harry had rented the cabin and had fixed it up as the perfect bomb shelter here in the Alaskan polar winds that would be relatively free from fallout. He had never quite gotten over the fear of a world holocaust, and he kept his pantry regularly stocked against it, though the present solidarity of World Authority seemed permanent.

“Take out everything you will need to keep you for three days,” He said. “I’ll take all that’s left plus the beef down there in the cellar.”

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Categories: Koontz, Dean