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Chapter Twenty-Four – The end [For now. This first draft needs a major rewrite!]
The next morning at breakfast, Reinhold and Kimama had already packed their things in his rig. They were ready to go. I kind of wished I was going with them.
No sign of Dad, so I went to check on him. I pushed open the door to the room he’d shared with Reinhold. He was sitting on the side of the bed, his back to me.
“Hey, Dad? Reinhold and Kimama are about to take off.”
He jumped at the sound of my voice, sniffed. “I’ll be right out.”read more
The kids are home today, so rather than ignore them by working non-stop, I’ve decided to take this day off from THIRST in order to steal away a little fun time with my family. I’m sorry to make you all wait an extra week to find out what will happen to Eli. The time will go by quickly, I assure you. Enjoy your holiday! Until next...read more
“We don’t know for sure that Riggs is here,” I said. “Someone might have the same car.”
Jaylee points to the pewter skull hanging from rearview mirror.
Well, nuts. “Someone might have stolen his car.”
“Eli! Why would you think such horrible things about Riggs?”
Because I’m a horrible person, apparently. I just looked at her, unable to form any words that might make me look better.
Dad and Reinhold kept walking, so I did too.read more
The city of Gunnison had been ravaged. As we cruised through town, I didn’t see one store that hadn’t been looted. Every window seemed to be broken, every door hanging open, and every few block yards we’d see a body on the ground. Reinhold, my dad, Zaq, Hannah, and I made it three steps into the lobby of the Gunnison Valley Heath Center when I saw this would be ten times as horrible as I’d imagined. Dad sent Zaq back out to warn the others to wait in the vehicles. With Hannah in the lead, we made quick work of the place. She seemed to know exactly where both the drugs and the medical supplies would be kept. There were plenty of medical supplies to help ourselves to, but Hannah seemed to think that someone had already picked over the drugs. Still, we left the place each carrying a heaping box. We put the stuff in the back of Reinhold’s truck since he had packed light, thinking the rumors of clean water were bunk and he’d be back home tomorrow.read more
Zaq may as well have punched me in the gut. I couldn’t believe I’d just thought he was worthy of my sister.
“Zaq,” Lizzie warned.
“Yeah, my bad,” Zaq said. “I’ll ask something else.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Jaylee said. “He has to answer. Go ahead, Eli. Who did you like?”
I stared at her, speechless, wishing I would say anything at all. It suddenly seemed extremely warm in the house and I wished I could escape outside where the night was sure to be cool.
Jaylee’s eyes narrowed. “Is it someone here?”read more
“Sorry, man,” the guy said. “Looked like you were stuck. You sure got a lot of stuff packed in there. You guys headed up to Mount Crested Butte?”
“Uh, Cortez,” I said, instantly wondering why I’d told the truth. I didn’t like anyone looking at our supplies or knowing our business.read more
I moved cautiously, shining my light over every inch of floor before I took a step. From the intensity of the pungent sweet smell, I was expecting to find a dozen dead people, but Cree led us to a lone body, lying on two couch cushions—likely the missing ones from the lobby. The woman had dark, Native American skin, but her body appeared black and blue in places, almost a sickly green. Flies swarmed and crawled over her skin. Cree plopped cross-legged onto the floor beside the cushions and slipped her hand into the dead woman’s.
I had no words. I closed my eyes and began to pray. I didn’t know what else to do. Why was all this happening? The poor kid had been sitting around with her mom like this? How many others had been abandoned like this?read more
If I was going to be the leader, I couldn’t freak out like some middle schooler because Jaylee had picked Zaq. I had to be a man about this. Deal with it. Move on.
Be cool, McShane.
I was debating whether to walk away or say something scathing when Zaq’s hand slid down to the girl’s waist, revealing the number 14 on the back of her shirt.read more
It was a young woman. She stopped when she saw me, her face a pale mask of shock. She was Asian, and her hair was long and straight and messy. She was wearing a filthy white blouse and a pair of short jeans, the kind that end midway between a girl’s knee and ankle and have a special name that I can never remember no matter how many times Lizzie explains it to me. She was also barefoot and wore a silver toe ring one of her middle toes.
All this I noticed in the space of a breath.
“Please don’t shoot,” she said, her English perfect.
I lowered my rifle. “I’m not going to—”
She ran, sprinting past Logan and me as if her life depended on it.read more
I knew we shouldn’t have stopped at Target. I knew it!
My heart lurched inside. I had my right fist around the barrel of my gun, my left hand on the handle above the door. I let go of the handle, hoping to get my hands into position on my rifle. Lost my balance and slid out of the truck. My hiking boots twapped on the pavement.
“Don’t do it, boy!” Shotgun Man yelled. “It ain’t worth it. Leave the rifle in the cab and walk away.”
“I can’t do that,” I said.
“You’d better.”read more