UNEDITED – Getting started on book 2 of our new post-apoc series! And guess what? It should be out by late June!
Elias reckoned that Liza had finished doing what she could for Marisol. The flow of blood from her wound was staunched and Liza had remarked that while serious, the wound was a “through-and-through,” which meant that the bullet had only pierced the flesh. Marisol lay across an old door that had been found in the remnants of a nearby hunter’s shed. Elias watched her lie there, shivering, her flesh puckered and bluish in tone.
“She gonna be okay?”
Liza looked over at him, her face dark with worry.
“Did what I could. I stabilized her. She’s young so that’s good and the wound wasn’t very deep. Thank God it missed her vitals.”
Elias nodded as Liza moved in close to him.
“Are you from inside that wall?”
Elias tipped his head. “Yep. What about you? I haven’t seen you guys in New Chicago before.”
Liza caught a look from Jessup and shook her head.
“No, we’re not from there.”
“So why are you here then?” Elias asked. “I mean, what were you guys doing out there in the grasslands?”
“Scavenging supplies mostly,” she offered.
Jessup looked over, “And we’re done. We got what we came for and we’re ready to push off.”
“To where?” asked Elias.
“None of your business,” Jessup responded.
Liza cast Jessup an evil eye, then turned back to Elias as the others encircled him, Liza gesturing at Marisol.
“Is she blood … kin to you?”
Elias shook his head, “She’s an Ape, a hunter, and I’m … I was … a Runner.”
Looks were exchanged amongst the others.
“I don’t know what any of that means,” Liza replied, summoning a smile.
“Okay, so it’s like this,” Elias said. “On the other side of the wall we’ve all got jobs, y’know? Like, mine was to run and hers was to hunt me.”
Liza stared quizzically at Elias. She looked to Jessup who glowered.
“Look, kid, if you’re making this shit up….” the big man said.
“Would anything you’ve seen make you think that I was?”
Jessup fumed and Liza smiled again. She had a warm smile, a genuine one, and Elias instantly liked her.
“So … I’m Liza by the way,” she said.
“Elias.” He pointed at Marisol, “Like I said, her go-by’s Marisol.”
Liza pointed to the bullet-faced man. “That’s Terry. Over there, Ava and Riley.” She pointed to the two girls with sad eyes and added, “they’re sisters.”
Elias looked around at the rest, waiting.
“Jon,” Liza said after a moment, alluding to the Hispanic who nodded, “Bennie,” she said of the black man who gave a thumbs up, “and that’s Blake and Harry” she said in reference to the off the assembly-line whites, including the one who looked like he was on death’s doorstep.
“Where are you from?” Elias asked.
Liza pointed out toward the Great Lake that was shimmering like a giant puddle of lead under the moonlight.
“We’ve got a boat out there.”
“We’re part of a bigger settlement,” Ava said, catching a nasty look from Jessup. Elias watched her recoil and surmised that she’d said too much.
“We really should get your friend to the boat,” Liza continued as the others gathered their gear. “We’ve got better supplies, water, food. We can keep her safe there.”
For a moment he considered running away, but then, out of the corner of his eye, Elias saw branches and blades of grass waver. His gaze locked in, but he couldn’t see anything. Something or some things had definitely been there, though.
A horrific screech echoed out in the grasslands, the war cry of the Thresher. Elias spun and helped Jon and Bennie hoist the door with Marisol on it and carry it up and over a skein of boxcar tracks and beyond a line of blacktop that was hemmed by telephone poles poking out of the ground like infected teeth.
Elias squinted at dark forms dangling from the poles, then pulled back with a gag reflex.
Whether they were Thresher or Longman’s victims, Elias couldn’t tell.
The group moved forward and Elias spotted something on the ground. Marisol’s backpack. One of the others had discarded it. It was lying partially open and something, some small doll had fallen from it. He grabbed the doll and stuffed it back into the backpack which he threw over a shoulder, following the others past the poles and down an embankment that led to an inlet that looped out into the lake.
Elias and the others snuck under a lattice of tangled vine that hung like webbing from trees and ducked under stands of angry bramble until they saw it. A long skiff hitched to a sapling, partially concealed by a thicket of scrub and sticker bushes.
Elias watched the others board the skiff, carrying Marisol aloft like a religious sacrifice. He hazarded a glance over his shoulder and saw movement out in the grasslands once again. Clawed hands emerged from the foliage and Elias saw a pair of white eyes.
The eyes stared hard at him, unblinking.
The face of the Thesher was visible for a moment and the monster seemed to be smiling at Elias. Elias blinked but when he looked back, the beast had vanished.
He stumbled back and helped push the skiff out into the ice cold water and then, sensing no other choice, he climbed aboard.
The skiff was hooked to a whisper-quiet electric motor and made good time across the inlet, Elias at the stern, watching the water lap by. He could see a much larger sailboat anchored out ahead, less than a quarter mile away. Movement overhead caught his attention and he peered up to see one of Longman’s drones as it flew a sortie high over the boat before returning back toward New Chicago.
“What the hell was that?” Jessup said, pointing at the drone.
“A flying machine.”
“I could see that,” said Jessup.
“What I meant was … it was Longman’s eyes.”
“Okay … so what’s a Longman?” Jessup asked.
Elias considered this for a long beat. “He built the city on the other side of the wall and runs it all. He’s the master. He’s the one,” and here he pointed at Marisol, “who pretty much did that to her.”
FROM JUSTIN >>> I skipped a little bit to go to this section, because I think it’s more fun when you get a book and haven’t read the whole intro 🙂 The book launches this Friday, so I’ll get back to making sure everything’s ready! Enjoy.