After the bright glare of the summer morning the area beyond the doorway seemed as black as night. Boxes and crates swam into my vision as my eyes adjusted themselves to the dim interior. I was my grandad's shadow as he stepped over the threshold; it was like entering a cool dark cave.
Grandad Tom turned towards me. "It's the canteen's storeroom," he said, answering my unspoken question. "Through there..." he pointed towards the back of the building, towards a smaller wooden door that was set into the wall, "...is another store room. It used to be the air raid shelter during the Second World War, when Andersen's was a munitions factory. I thought..." But before he could finish his sentence our whole world lit up, just as if Someone in the Great Above had flicked on a 1,000 watt light bulb. I actually staggered backwards and fell to the floor, eyes screwed up tight.
Grandad Tom swore and slammed the storeroom door shut with a bang.
For long seconds there was only the silence. Even the siren had stopped.
When Grandad Tom spoke his voice was old. "Davey? Are you all right son?"
I nodded and clambered to my feet, opening my eyes. A white after-glare, just as you get from a camera's flash, obscured my vision.
"Grandad?" I said, my words a mouse whisper. "What's happening?" But in my heart I knew.
"Not now Davey. Later. Right now we need to get busy." He nodded towards the door at the back of the storeroom. "Open that door and see if the light still works, there's a pull cord just to the left as you go in, and mind the step."
The light did work. A single bare bulb in the centre of the low-beamed ceiling. It shone with an aeaemic yellow glow. Inside the doorway six narrow wooden steps descended down to a dirt floor.
It was like stepping back in time.
The room was long and narrow. All along the left hand wall ran an array of metal shelving. This shelving was stacked to over-flowing. There seemed to be everything stored there, from reams of computer paper to work overalls to toilet rolls.
But it was the right hand side of the room that caught my attention.
Screwed to the brickwork were four simple wooden bunk beds: two at the top, two at the bottom. Under one of the lower bunks, covered in a thick layer of dust, squatted a cracked chamber pot. Beside the pot was a pile of books, mildewed and forgotten.
"Davey." My grandad's voice dragged me out of the past and back into the present. "Davey lad...help me get these into the back room."
Grandad Tom had stacked up box after box of Kit-Kats, Twixs, Mars Bars and crisps, piling them at the top of the steps. He indicated that he wanted me to carry them down into the inner storeroom. I nodded, and while I busied myself doing this, my grandad started hauling down bottle after bottle of mineral water.
I was on my third trip, arms filled with cartons, when the ground started to tremble. It was only slight at first, so much so, that I actually thought I was imagining it, but as it gained in momentum and was joined by an angry rumbling noise not unlike that of distant thunder, I knew it was for real.
All the colour drained out of Grandad Tom's face until his skin was as grey as his hair. He speeded up. Snatching hold of bottle after bottle after bottle, dashing down the six narrow steps, dumping them on the ground, then leaping up the steps for more. I followed suit, going into auto-pilot, grabbing up boxes and cartons, heedless now of their contents, and hurling them down the steps.
The whole world lurched violently sideways.
I was flung roughly down the steps. Landed with a thud on the floor: the breath knocked out of me.
Above us the door slammed shut. The bulb on the ceiling went out with a chink. Leaving us in total darkness.
I began to cry.
Instantly Grandad Tom's arms wrapped around my body, hugging me close. I snuggled into his chest, clinging to him like a limpet in the dark.
My grandad rested his head on the top of my own, and I knew he was crying too.
How long we sat there, huddled together, our tears mingling. I do not know.
Our waiting had began.
TO BE CONTINUED....