Series: After Life Lessons
Length: 310 pages / 95.000 words
Genre: General Fiction / Post-Apocalyptic Love Story
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Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.
Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie – a easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything – are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south. All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.
This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader’s discretion is advised.
Excerpt – Chapter Six
It was in the symmetry, of course. In the fifteen shocks of hair that fluttered in the breeze, as it swept a few leaves across the square. In the thirty pairs of shoes, all pointing up at the grey sky.
Emily took another step closer. She could hear her blood sloshing in her head, like she was underwater and she moved back again, turned away to watch Song. Sparrow started to fuss: even she could tell something was wrong. Very, very wrong. For once, Emily had no interest to investigate, no need to see what they could scavenge. She just wanted to pack up her children and run.
“Aaron,” she hissed. He was walking down the line of corpses, his shoulders stiff with anger, or grief, or maybe shattered faith. “Aaron!”
For the first time since their first days together, Aaron was a wall. He didn’t turn back to her, not until she was almost stomping her feet and biting her lip to keep from screaming. His gaze was blank when he did.
“They were executed.” His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well.
A shiver ran down her spine, and she found herself reaching for him. Her hand stilled in mid-air as though she’d only just noticed that he was much too far away. The breeze stirred the hairs on her arm and she let it sink, cradled her hand around Sparrow’s tiny head in a vestigial instinct to shield her.
“How… how do you know?” she asked, voice hardly loud enough to travel across the square.
He breathed in so deep, she found herself worrying about his ribs, imagined them crackling under the strain. He shook his head, nodded towards the ground.
“Hands are bound with zip ties,” he said eventually. “Looks like they were beaten before…”
“Come back here,” Emily said again, more urgently this time. “Please, baby.”
She could have been watching a movie, or one of those terrible war reports she remembered on the news from Before, the ones she would switch off before Song had time to understand what they were about. It occurred to her, then, that Aaron could have been one of those soldiers in the reports she was lucky enough to switch away from, replace his face with Big Bird, with John Cleese.
“There’s more behind the house,” he said in a monotone. She didn’t follow his gaze. “Must have been the entire neighborhood.”
“But… why?” Emily shook her head at herself almost immediately. Annika had been right: she had gotten cocky. She had forgotten all the things she’d seen after the end, before Aaron had made her forget that humans could be a disease upon the world, far more dangerous than the dead.
She sent one long last glance at Song, then she stepped out of his line of sight, hurried to Aaron’s side as quietly, as quickly as she could. She reached for his hand, squeezed it tight.
Her eyes were drawn downward almost against her will. They hadn’t wasted bullets. She stared at a line of fifteen gaping slits in fifteen throats, like fifteen twisted smiles. “They haven’t been dead for long, have they?”
He tipped his head back and seemed to peer directly into the bare late autumn sun before he looked back at the blood at their feet. “A week maybe,” he said. “Probably less. Hardly decomposed at all.”
She tightened her hold on his hand, tugged once.
“We can’t stay here.” She enunciated every word, slowly, quietly, trying to get through to him. They had slept peacefully, less than half an hour away from this spot. They’d had no idea. “Aaron. We can’t stay here.”
He didn’t respond right away, and it made her heart pound harder in her chest. There had been a night, years before, when he’d told her he’d never really talked about his time in the desert, that he’d never seen the point, and though she’d disagreed, they’d never spoken of it again. She wanted to kick herself now.
“Aaron,” she said, voice terse. “Song and Sparrow.” He finally stirred with those words.
“Get ‘em back in the trailer,” he instructed.
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- Ryan Adams – Oh my Sweet Carolina
- Amber Rubarth – The Edge
- John Mayer – If I ever get around to Living
- The Weakerthans – Without Mythologies
- Now, Now – Thread
- Modest Mouse – Little Motel
- Elliot Smith – Between the Bars
- Hozier – In a Week
- Bright Eyes – Four Winds
- Sufjan Stevens - Death With Dignity
- Foy Vance – Gabriel and the Vagabond
- Pearl Jam – Just Breathe