Chapter 1 preview
I had eaten all the rations that were left in my house, except for five cans of baked beans and two bags of noodles. It’s all I’d been eating for a week, and if I had to have another bite of starch I was going to puke. I didn’t like the idea of going through my neighbors’ houses to find food, but the choice was being made for me now. I was desperate.
Morning would be the best time for me to make my move. I’d heard the sounds of other people – teens like me – moving around in the daytime; but usually it was in the afternoon or at night. Groups of them had gotten together, looking for stuff in the houses that didn’t have kids in them. None of the houses had adults in them anymore.
I needed to move without being seen. Leaving my house unprotected would be a very bad idea. I knew that these gangs were soon going to stop showing respect to the houses with kids in them like me. It was only a matter of time before the resources left in these neighborhoods dwindled down to an amount so small, it would no longer be enough to support the number of growling stomachs that roamed the streets; not without the hungry breaking into the occupied places too.
I hadn’t heard them hit the house behind me yet, maybe because there was someone living there. I’d never met that neighbor, though, and had never seen any sign of a kid there. There were two other houses on my street that used to have kids my age in them, but they had left – I assume to join one of the roving gangs. I guess they figured they had better chances of surviving in a group.
I didn’t feel that way at all. Before the world had gone into the crapper, I’d been pretty much a loner anyway. I liked my music and my books and didn’t bother with after-school clubs or hanging out at the local cafe. Besides, my dad had me in martial arts training every weekday and most weekends, practically my whole life; it didn’t leave much time for socializing. I’d only moved to this town six months before my dad was suddenly gone. He’d hoped to outrun the apocalypse, but it eventually caught up with him like it did anyone who wasn’t going through puberty.
The guys I trained with at various dojos over the years – I was always the only girl – were as serious as my dad about their skills. They lived for the feel of total control and absolute domination, in any situation. I appreciated the power, but it was never really my thing. I did it to make my dad happy. I’d advanced through the ranks, but didn’t get as far as he’d wanted me to. Now he wasn’t here to help me move forward, and I wished like hell I’d tried harder. For him and for me.
I decided to go to the house behind me to search for food. Maybe there was a kid there, maybe there wasn’t. It was worth checking out, at least. I could get there by climbing my backyard fence, and no one who might be out on the street would be able to see me. Up until now, no one had bothered to try and come into my house. I’d put a note on my door that said to stay the hell away and that I had a gun – which was the truth. But in doing that, I’d essentially become a sitting duck. Eventually, they would come for the things they hoped were in my house – food and fresh water. It was going to be time to leave soon. But until that day came, I needed something else to eat. My hunger was gnawing a hole in my stomach.
Two more hours and I’d go over the fence. My hand went nervously to the ring on a chain that hung at my neck – my dad’s old wedding ring that he’d given me just before he went away for good.