We rounded the top of the hill, our feet aching after hours of walking through barren, frozen tundra. I seemed to be the only one left who had even a slight bit of hope left that the Vault existed, but with the way things were going even I was beginning to believe it was all in vain.
Our stomachs were all but empty, we were running purely on fumes. If this vault wasn’t nearby, we’d surely die out here from starvation. Or Frostbite. And then we’d become nothing more than a marker, or worse, food for the next sorry lot of survivors searching for the fabled vault.
Charlie let out a groan, seeing the large hill in front of us. Picking up a rock, he chucked it as hard as he could in frustration. The rock sank into the pile of snow, and made a clanging sound. This got our attention. I grabbed a rock myself, and threw it at the mountain, only to find it wasn’t really a mountain. It was a snow pile. And it was covering something, something metallic.
Surging with energy, all six of us scrambled over to the pile and began frantically digging through the loose snow. Our assault on it caused small avalanches, but none that were large enough to deter us from reaching our goal.
Steven stopped after a few minutes, and told us to as well. He made us back up, and he hurriedly climbed up a solid side of the hill. When he got to the top, and on the side of it that we were on, he was waist deep in snow. It took a few seconds for me to realize what he was doing. He was pushing the snow off the metallic object from the top rather than risking getting buried by pulling it out from the bottom.
Heather and Charlie were quick to go up and join him, followed shortly thereafter by Elizabeth, Savannah, and me. Between the six of us, we easily cleared the snow out from the top of metallic object, which now seemed to be a platform or container of sorts. Keeping my fingers crossed, I slid back down the mountain to the front, which had a massive door. It looked to be almost frozen shut.
I knew now that this was the Vault. There was nothing else for miles in any direction, what else could it be? Not wanting to give up when I was this close to my goal, I ram myself against the door, and feel it give slightly. Not a lot, but some. I ram against it again, and once again the door gives leeway. On my third ram i hear the sound of ice cracking, and I feel a second surge of adrenaline through my veins.
Again I throw myself at the door, this time getting a small running start. When I hit it, the hinges, which had frozen solid, shatter, and the door comes crashing down, with me in tow.
Moaning in pain, I stand, and look around to find myself in a massive steel tube tunnel. I turn around, look back out the open door, and gesture for everyone else to come in. It was warmer in the tunnel, noticeably warmer. It felt good to finally be out of the snow, and in some shelter.
Getting some help from Charlie and Steven, we move the door back into its frame, and barricade it with some boxes lying against the wall.
“Can you smell that?” Heather says, having traveled farther down the tunnel, standing under one of the large, flickering lightbulbs that illuminated the area. “Pine needles…” she says, before she takes off running down the tunnel.
“Heather, wait!” Savannah calls, and runs after her, with Charlie, Elizabeth, Steven, and me following closely behind. We run down the straight corridor, luckily seeing there were no branching paths that Heather could have ran down.
We catch up to her after a few minutes of running, seeing her attempt to pry open a pair of double doors, Savannah, standing behind her panting. Elizabeth walks over to Heather and pulls her off the doors. “Don’t go running off like that, you don’t know if anyone else might be in here. You know we all have to stick together.”
Heather sighs, and responds, “I know…i’m sorry…but…there are pine needles in there, I can smell them, can’t you?” she continues, her voice going from sad and apologetic to excited without missing a beat.
Pausing myself to take a few tentative sniffs, I realize that she was right. That was the smell of pine needles. It caused a slight tingling as i remembered back, all the years ago when i was a child, hiking out back on the coastal conifer forests in the late summer, feeling the warm Scandinavian ocean wind wash over me, the smell of cold salt water and sharp pine needles filling my lungs. I shake my head to break myself of the memory, and walk over to the double door.
I try pulling them open. Stuck. I try pushing. Also stuck. I try ramming it, like i did with the outside door, but this one doesn’t budge. Which makes sense, it wasn’t subject to the freezing temperatutes of the tundra, so it would be likely that nothing on this door would be frozen. I stand there, defeated by a locked door, the last thing standing between us and a chance at getting something to eat, something that could save all humanity. All stopped, by a locked door.