Day 132

Alone

Abigail rose from the tangle of blankets, wringing wet. The bedding reeked with her sweat. She staggered to the window, chilled less by a limp breeze, more by what she would see when she looked out.

The barren street mocked her.

She rubbed her thin arms and turned away from the emptiness: empty cars that would never go anywhere again; empty benches where no one sat; empty sidewalks devoid of walkers. The worst? Lack of noise. No screaming sirens, wailing babies, horns honking aggressively, people arguing, the swish of skirts and click of high heels; coughs, snorts, sneezes and wheezes. Laughter. Nothing.

Simply silence.

She grasped the handle of a pan and threw it across the room just to hear the sound as it hit the wall. It thudded unsatisfactorily and clanged unconvincingly when it hit the wooden floor.

Abigail had selected the apartment for the view out the window. The pandemic that wiped out the world population, apparently leaving her the single survivor, had driven people from the neighborhood looking for safety somewhere; anywhere. The stench of death didn’t hover here, as it did in many places she’d encountered in her search for other survivors.

She was it. There were no others, not one.

She picked the pan up from the floor and returned it to the counter, setting it down with more force than necessary, just to hear the sound.

She’d had her pick of places to settle in. The complex she’d chosen wasn’t fancy but it was well-maintained. The studio apartment was on the second floor, facing the street. The higher you went, the better the view and the more expensive the rent. That didn’t matter anymore.

Her selection of the studio apartment came down to one thing – apart from the view; it was the only apartment on the second floor facing the street that stood open. All the other doors were closed tight and locked even tighter. Whoever had lived in 227 B had left in a hurry.

In her wanderings, before arriving at 227 B, Abigail had seen a perplexing mix of evidence that humanity was crazy as hell. She had heard – when communications networks were still functioning – that as bodied piled up in make-shift morgues, people went nuts, burning, looting, killing. Entire neighborhoods were decimated by violence. If the creeping, killing virus didn’t get you, the guy next door might, probably would, and then he’d steal you blind, rape your wife, kill your kids. You gave up trying to decide who was friend or foe. Survival meant you trusted no one.

Now there was no one left. Trust was no longer an issue, was it?

Abigail had plenty of food, most of it in cans with tab-top openers. For the cans that didn’t have tab tops, she had found a manual can opener at a trashed hardware store. At first, she left money on the counter when she took something, until she ran out. By then she’d come to realize she was the only one left.

Why?

It was a recurring and unanswerable question. Everyone in the world – as far as she knew – was gone. Dead. Until she’d come to this town, this neighborhood and settled in 227 B, the stench of rotting corpses had clung to her hair, her clothes, her body. She’d left death behind and was glad to be rid of it.

In her heart she believed – hoped – there were other survivors, but where? In this town, state, country? How did she find them? In the beginning, she’d taken cars abandoned along roadways, driven them until they ran out of fuel and then commandeered another one, searching always, honking the horn, hoping someone would run into the streets to flag her down; to say, “Here! Here! I’M HERE, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!”

But it hadn’t happened.

Yet.

She hadn’t given up hope.

Yet.

And if she came upon someone? What then?

Trust no one. Her mother’s dying voice rang in her head during the day and haunted her dreams at night.

The apartment, at least for the moment, had running water and electricity. The appliances were electric and in working order. If she didn’t know bone crushing loneliness, she would be fine. How long everything would continue to function was something Abigail chose not to think about. She was okay for now, and now was all the mattered.

The apartment also had the advantage of being small, which suited Abigail very well. Despite knowing she was alone, she was terrified of potential unknowns that lay beyond her door. When she was in the apartment, she set the deadbolt and for insurance, lodged a chair back under the knob to prevent anyone from entering. For added protection, she kept an archery set close by. She’d found it in a sporting goods store and taught herself how to use it. It was a skill she practiced every day so it became an extension of who she was.

Abigail went out every day, bow and a quiver of arrows strapped rakishly over her shoulder. She did not walk openly in the empty streets. She skittered down back alleys, looking for anything she could use to survive. Stores of any kind that had battered down doors were fair game. She pilfered from a Walgreens, stocking up on bandages, over the counter meds, makeup (why makeup she didn’t know; she never used it), paper goods and nonperishable foods, books, magazines, batteries, anything that she could use to make her life bearable. There was also a neighborhood grocery store, not one of the chains, but well-stocked, although the fresh meats, fruits and vegetables had long ago gone bad, the bread products moldy or rock hard. She took sparingly from the freezers, hoping they would last as long as the food in them did. She stocked up on clothing that spanned the seasons, sensible shoes, practical and sturdy. She took what she could, day-by-day, stacking it up outside the apartment when she ran out of space inside 227 B.

How much would she need? She didn’t know, but she didn’t want to find out by not having enough.

Some days she would ask herself, “Why bother? Why not just roll over and die, take the still-functioning elevator to the top floor of her 24-story building and fling herself off the roof? She didn’t know why, but she was determined to survive.

Her restless night clung to her as she put on distressed jeans, found in a trashed boutique; $200 price tag, more than she’d spent on clothes in a year in the time before. She slipped a hoodie over her T-shirt and stepped into her favorite tennis shoes. It was a chilly day, early signs of fall in the air.

As she walked along, she wished she’d stayed in the apartment as she trundled her pilfered shopping cart down the alley, packed full of her finds. She hummed some half-remembered song from her youth to keep herself company.

“HELLO! HELLO! ANYONE? ANYONE?”

Abigail froze.

“HELLO? ANYONE THERE?”

Where was the voice coming from? Abigail darted her eyes side-to-side, not looking for the owner of the voice; she sought instead a place to hide.

Male? Female? She couldn’t tell. The voice was raspy, raw from yelling, as hers had been when she screamed and screamed the same unanswered greeting for days on end.

“HELLO! ANYONE THERE?”

The voice was coming closer. Trust no one.

Abigail quaked. What was she to do? She scurried down the alley like a frightened mouse and hid behind a dumpster that had never been emptied; its sour smell stagnated by time.

Footsteps approached, the sound plodding and dreadful.

Trust no one. Abigail swallowed a gasp of fear  and squeezed her eyes shut, as if she could shut out approaching doom.

“Well, well, well. What have we here?”

Abigail swallowed a sob and opened her eyes expecting something – someone – to be leaning over her.

“Looks like somebody’s been shopping.”

Abigail dared to peek around the edge of the dumpster. A woman, if the long brown hair was an indicator. Still, it could be a man, which worried Abigail. A man would take over. Steal everything, leave her with nothing, maybe not even her life.

The figure rummaged around in the cart and pulled something from the carefully arranged stacks. A Payday. Abigail’s favorite. For one foolish second she thought to leap from her hiding place and snatch the candy bar from the intruder.

Intruder? Isn’t this what she’d hoped for, another survivor, someone to share the burden of survival with her? But she remained still.

“What do you think of that, Chloe?” The voice asked.

Definitely a woman. Who the heck was Chloe? Abigail leaned further around the edge of the dumpster to see if there was another person there. No one, just the woman eating her candy bar.

“I think we found home, Chloe. What do you think?”

Dead silence.

“I agree. Now we have more provisions to add to the store we already found. Let’s go home.”

She started pushing the cart quickly down the narrow alleyway.

Trust no one.

Abigail knew then that she’d been found, that this greedy woman was taking over her life. She wasn’t about to let that happen. She rose from her hiding place, an arrow already notched in place and let it fly just at the woman turned and fired a gun point blank at Abigail, as though she’d known all along where she was hiding.


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

Quick Look @ Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light

Book signing and reception, 2 p.m., May 4
Paper Trail, 158 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, NM
Tune in to KFUN May 1, 9 a.m., for a preview.


Thunder Prime Hunter's Light


Follow Sharon @
www.vandermeerbooks.com
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Writing is what I do


Thunder Prime Hunter's LightAuthor Sharon Vander Meer: I love sci fi and I love contemporary fiction and I love mystery/adventure and I love poetry. As a writer, I’m told I should stick with one thing or the other, but if a story or poem pops into my head, it will end up getting written. Not everything gets published, but the work of creation is my heartbeat. A writer is what I am; writing is what I do. My dream is that you will enjoy the results of my labor of love.


Character and plot development are like 1000-piece puzzles: you start with the edges and work toward the heart. You don’t get the full impact of the image until the last piece is in. Therein lies the secret of storytelling.

My latest novel – Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light – is now published. The last piece of the puzzle is in place. The book is available as an e-book  ($2.99), or as a paperback ($15). I will have copies available by April 5 if you would like to buy directly from me and get a signed copy.

Sci-fi action and futuristic politics combine in this story of a young woman who is on a quest to find her mother. Pella Soames will allow nothing to stand in the way of her search for Trish Soames, taken from Earth by a known galactic trader in slaves. Not a downed transport, attempts to abduct her and well-meaning friends who want to stop her mad and dangerous search for a woman who may not even be alive will stay her resolve. Fate, unexpected help and Pella’s wily sense of self-preservation keep her out of the hands of abductors… mostly.

When events conspire to bring her closer to reaching Chandor, a planet at the edge of the galaxy, Pella is faced with the difficult choice of protecting the children who have come into her care or using them as a means of reaching the holding of the hated Chandorian chieftain who took Pella’s childhood away.


This is my fifth novel. If you are looking for genre fiction from me, you will be disappointed.  If you’re looking for stories about independent female protagonists, then I have great tales to tell.


 Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light may be purchased from online retailers and directly from the author. For more information contact sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.

Other works include Blind Curve, Finding Family, Future Imperfect, and The Ballad of Bawdy McClure, two chap books of poetry and a book of daily inspirational readings.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central

 

My newest baby!

Thunder Prime, Hunter's LightYea! It is this close to publication! Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, is the sequel to The Ballad of Bawdy McClure (now under the title Thunder Prime, Fog Island),published more years ago than I care to admit. Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, has been a long time in the birthing.

Some readers will receive a print copy in the next week or so. Thank you to those who signed up to receive the episodes one-by-one over time as they posted on my website, www.vandermeerbooks.com. I hope you will all read the final version as some things have changed.

I can’t express how happy I am to get this into print. It’s a good read with strong characters and a story that could be told in any era, this just happens to occur in the distant future. I read somewhere that space novels are really nothing more than westerns with rockets in the cowboys’ pockets.

I don’t know about that, but in most westerns the good guy wins and rides off into the sunset with the girl. In this case, the cowboy is a girl and you’ll have to read the book to find out if she wins the day, and the guy.

Expected publication date: March 29, 2019. If you would like a review copy, please email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com. I will appreciate you posting your review in all the obvious places, and providing me with a link to the review.

The book will be available in paperback and ebook formats.


For more information or to pre-order Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.

Review: Future Imperfect

This review was written by Paul Dellinger, Yellow30SciFiReview, in 2010, right after Future Imperfect came out. It appears on Amazon as a 5-star review and I thank the writer for posting his thoughts. Reviews are important to writers and greatly appreciated, even when they’re not what we want to hear. Please buy, read and review my books, which may be found at amazon.com, or by contacting me directly at sharon@oneroofpublish.com.

Future ImperfectThe planet has been devastated by something called the Plague War. The ozone layer is failing. Life as we know it is threatened.

And then things get worse.

In F. S. (Sharon) Vander Meer’s science-fiction novel, Future Imperfect, the title is a perfect description of the setting. A scientist has developed a fast-growing type of tree to multiply and put out enough oxygen for an environmental fix. Unfortunately, the trees prove to have a side effect: vines that produce toxic effects on human beings, every bit as awful as the Plague War. The result is that those who have escaped the disease isolate themselves underground, while top-siders must deal with barbaric and diseased conditions.

And then we meet Hannah.

Hannah Evans does not even remember her own name, when she awakes as a naked prisoner in an unknown place. But she begins to recall bits and pieces of her life, despite a tiny implant by her captor which strikes her down with massive headaches when she tries to mentally reconstruct any part of her life. It is easy for the reader to come to admire Hannah, who starts out basically at zero and overcomes one bad situation after another by sheer personal character and resolve. She won’t give up. And we don’t want her to.

Gradually, we learn that she was taken from topside at some point and made a prisoner of an isolationist scientist. The more she remembers, the less she trusts anyone — even one of the underground military commanders to whom she feels an attraction. She does achieve more freedom in the underground civilization, and several times becomes a pivotal figure in the political intrigues going on around her. People tend to underestimate her, but soon come to respect her courage and quick thinking.

Each chapter opens with a Bible verse which proves applicable to what happens in that part of the story. The ending reveals what is behind all the mysteries, but does not wrap up everything in one neat package. Perhaps that means a sequel, but enough is resolved to make this work as a stand-alone novel as well. F. S. Vander Meer has created a realistic future world and peopled it with interesting characters, especially Hannah. This book will appeal not only to science-fiction readers but to anyone concerned about just how imperfect our future may turn out to be. – Paul Dellinger


About author Sharon (F.S.) Vander Meer: Sharon has spent much of her career as a freelance writer, reporter and editor. She has been a storyteller since childhood and finds inspiration in everyday life. In addition to her latest novel, Blind Curve, she has written three other novels: Finding Family, Future Imperfect and the Ballad of Bawdy McClure. She has also written a book of inspirational readings, Not Just Another Day and two chap books of poetry. Her books are available at amazon.com or by contacting her directly at sharon@oneroofpublish.com. She lives in northern New Mexico with her husband Bob.

Subscribe to The Quest

Follow Pella Soames on her quest to right the wrongs of long ago.

When loyalists quelled an insurgent plan to take over earth nearly 20 years ago, they found Pella Soames and Bartholomew Casey among the captives destined for slave transports. Fog Island  was intended to be the first stop on a long journey to hell. Just as Pella escapes her captors, she discovers her mother is slave to Brutus Tauk, a brutal Chandorian overlord. Pella believes her mother is alive. She will risk anything to find her.

Episode 2 of Hunter’s Light, The Quest, will post on Friday. You may read Episode 1 here, free. Access to future episodes are by subscription. Thank you for subscribing.

Subscription

Access to all episodes of Hunter’s Light, The Quest. When the book is complete, you will receive a signed print copy. Episodes will post weekly on Friday.

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Episode 1

Hunter’s Light, Pella’s Quest

At the conclusion of Thunder Prime: Fog Island, Pella Soames is twelve, an orphan, it would seem. She is the victim of circumstances beyond her control. But she has no intention of remaining a victim. She refuses to be dependent on anyone as she sets out to find her mother. Is Trish Soames still alive? Is she a slave in the freehold of Brutus Tauk, a Chandorian overlord?

Now a grown woman, with a transport business of her own, Pella uses all the resources available to find out the answers to these questions and rescue her mother. But getting on Chandor isn’t all that easy. Getting information is even harder. And she must take on work to support her quest. She and her crew of four keep her transport ship, the Polaris, functioning as it moves people and cargo across the known universe, a lucrative business that gets in the way of Pella’s goal. To find her mother…

ORP Cover imageAboard Polaris

The woman beats at her attackers. Her body splits apart as a RHACS drub enters her. Not the first one; not the first time.

“Run,” the woman shrieks. “RUN!”

And the child does.

Pella awoke bathed in sweat and dripping tears. A shudder of guilt and horror scraped like thorns across her skin. A familiar tone penetrated her wounded brain as she rolled off the bunk and stood.

“Soames!” Strong, controlled, unlike the turmoil centered in her gut.

“Captain, the shuttle is cleared to land on Chandor.”

Commander Gouyen Walker’s statement knocked residual effects of the nightmare to the back of Pella’s mind.

“Noted. Who’s taking him down?”

“Aoife. Wants to get him to talk.”

Not going to happen. Their passenger’s poor disguise fooled no one, but if he wanted to cling to the illusion of anonymity, so be it. His privilege. He’d hired them for transportation, not companionship. She couldn’t help but wonder. Goodwin Harp, self-appointed leader of New Way traipsing around the galaxy on a reconditioned transport?

“Hope she doesn’t expect much,” Pella said

“You know Aoife, looking to gain an inside track.”

She let the comment pass. “Notify me when the shuttle has landed on planet.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Pella dragged a shaky hand down her face. She had not intended to sleep, but several months in space jumping from one launch platform to another drove her to her bunk, and opened a door to the pain of her nightmares.

Like it mattered, awake or asleep, the dream pursued her.

She hid like a coward while Re-Hab Assimilation Camp human drubs traded off assaulting her mother. And then she ran away.

Pella hated to remember, but could not forget. It is what drives her. Somewhere in the galaxy her mother lives. Hear search will not end until she finds her.

Pella suspects her treacherous father knows where her mother is. She wants to find him, too, and ask that very question. After all, her mother is a captive because of his deceit.

Bile rose like a hot geyser. She hurried to her bathroom expecting to upchuck, but a few deep breaths and a cold cloth on her face calmed her unsettled system.

Her reflection in the mirror over the sink was anything but impressive, but she appeared to be in control, not at all the bundle of anxiety that ravaged her insides. Discipline was second nature to Pella.

“Captain?”

“Soames, here.”

“The shuttle has landed on Chandor.”

“Thanks.”

“And Captain?”

“Yes?”

“Adams’ cabin is clear and unlocked. Your visit will go unrecorded.”


Goodwin Harp
The gilded city flashed in the setting sun. Voluptuous exotic flora breathed poison into the atmosphere. Despite his mask and protective gear Goodwin Harp shivered, but didn’t slow down. He matched Emtet J’fal’s rapid pace step for step.

Harp’s rejuvenated body, massive ego, wealth, and an incredible memory convinced him he was superior to all other beings. Behind the mask and protective suit Harp had the appearance of a youthful and robust mid-fifties. His brilliant mind retained data he considered of import, including the contents of the book. He was the book. Should something happen to him before he reached his goal, everything would die with him, but he would not fail. He would become the greatest human who ever lived, bringing the Deity of Deities to the galaxy. And he would be immortal.

The skin on his face stung as icy fingers of cold penetrated the mask. Oh, how he hated this accursed place, but he needed these beings to solidify his standing galaxy-wide and establish New Way as the only way. First, he had to get to Bonnak Wallace, a direct descendant of the planet’s original settlers. Without Wallace’s support, New Way on Chandor was dead. And there were other compelling reasons to gain access to the planet. Perhaps it was best in the long run that his emissaries had been rejected, forcing him to come instead. Harp needed Wallace’s cooperation, but he needed Chandor’s rich resources of minerals and essential industrial gemstones more. He would not give up until he won Wallace over.

J’fal raised a cautionary hand. Harp stopped beside him with eyes lowered as a wizened Chandorian passed by flanked by guards and a bevy of exquisitely adorned Chandorian fems. Ugly as mud, to Harp’s eye, but no doubt real beauties by Chandorian standards.

So why, he wondered, did the males of Chandor seek true human fems, paying any price to possess one? Testosterone? It plagued every male in every species. Harp no longer had interest in fems for sexual purposes. When his sex drive diminished, he was glad to be rid of the animal urges of his body. Sex got in the way of ambition. Fems were nothing but trouble. For the same reason, he never had progeny. Filthy beggars all of them.

J’fal waved his hand bringing Harp back to the moment. He hitched his backpack higher on his shoulders as they moved on toward the government bureau entrance.

The door sighed open as they drew near and closed behind them with a hollow thud. Darkness was instant, followed by pinpoints of light that flashed randomly. Harp stumbled into J’fal.

“Fo can deca!”

Harp stilled, hiding the fury that raged through him. To have an inferior call him a clumsy shit deserved reprimand, but not now, not under these circumstances. But he would not forget.

A panel slid open revealing a well-lit austere waiting area. As they stepped through J’fal motioned to an industrial bin.

“Dispose of the protective garment and be seated. Wait until you are called. When you are ready to leave, I will bring a replacement protective suit and return you to your transportation.” With that he strode away and left through a door marked in universal galactic: No Entrance. Violators Will Be Detained.

Rumor had it that detainment meant being sent to the Chandorian mines never to be seen again.

Having been unceremoniously discarded like stinking garbage, Harp did as instructed. Under the protective garment, he wore a form fitting body suit. This he covered with a golden-threaded tunic from his backpack. His silver white hair, released from the confines of the protective suit, cascaded down his back in a shimmering fall. Confident his appearance was now appropriate for meeting the ruler of Chandor, he turned his attention to his surroundings.

Humanoid Assigned Need Artificial Intelligence units sat at terminals spaced around the perimeter of the room. At the center was an arrangement of upholstered chairs for the comfort of those who were waiting. The seats were empty.

Harp approached one of the male ANAIs. It continued working as though he didn’t exist. Harp resisted the temptation to pull out his weapon and obliterate the useless pile of components that made up the pseudo-human, and then remembered, he wasn’t carrying a weapon. It was not allowed.

Harp resented talking to any ANAI as though it were human, but he did not intend to spend hours in the waiting area when he was the only one with business to conduct.

“When will Director Jonfellow be available?”

The ANAI worked without pause as it spoke.

“You will be called.”

“I have an appointment.”

“You will be called.”

Harp seethed. He needed to make his case to Jonfellow and speak with Wallace. As a man of consequence across the galaxy it was reprehensible to be put off in this manner. Inexcusable! His lips thinned and for an instant a hint of his former visage appeared, his eyes fired by hate for everything beyond his control. Nevertheless, he was here as a petitioner. He must focus on his objective. He must bide his time.


Aboard Polaris
Pella sat back on her heels and looked around Harp’s Spartan cabin. There was nothing that didn’t support his claim to be James Adams, a galactic trader. Of the fourteen passengers the Polaris carried when it left Earth, Harp was the only one booked to Chandor, the planet most distant from Earth. Harp had kept to himself, requesting meals be sent to his cabin. He was traveling alone, no aides or servants. Suspicious. Every time Pella had seen him on VidNet, he was surrounded by guards and acolytes. She shrugged it off. No business of hers. He’d paid handsomely for privacy and special treatment. With his creds in her account, her business with him was done except for getting him safely to Alpha 9, his destination after leaving Chandor.

She accepted that her uneasiness stemmed from Adams/Harp being on Chandor, the place she wanted to be. Not that the Polaris crew hadn’t been on Chandor, but only with access to Shirefel, the only metro on the planet. It was one thing to deliver cargo to intake; quite another to have access to the holdings of the elite. And that was Pella’s goal. To get to the holding of Brutus Tauk. What she would do when she got there ran headlong into a wall of ignorance. It seemed an impossible goal. She had no contacts on planet and no way to access protective gear, the only way true humans, and most off worlders, could survive outside the city.

As she left Harp’s cabin and headed for command bay, she trailed her fingers along the walls in passing, still delighted – and sometimes unbelieving – that this beautiful ship belonged to her. Before it was the Polaris, it had been Thunder II, the second transport in the Casey clan’s original company. As the company grew, the transport had been relegated to use for parts. During the time she was still working for Jake Casey, she had asked to purchase it. No, he’d said, just take it. It’s no use to the company. Pella couldn’t abide the idea of accepting what amounted to charity. The Caseys had done enough for her. She struck a deal to haul cargo and passengers at half rate with the rest of her income going to pay the debt on Thunder II.

Three intense years of hard work earned her enough to make the ship hers. It had a new name and a new purpose. With the help of her crew she’d honed the Polaris into a sturdy craft, and created a successful transport company ferrying people and cargo about the galaxy.

She should have been content, maybe even that thing referred to as happy, but every time she began to get comfortable, she remembered her mother’s screams.


Thank you for reading the first episode of Hunter’s Light, a sci-fi novel featuring Pella Soames, a young woman who survived an attack on her village by Re-Hab Assimilation Camp humans (RHACS) when she was a child. RHACS destroyed the life she had known. Now, years later, she sets out to find her mother and get revenge against her father for his betrayal. To continue reading about Pella’s adventures, click below to buy a subscription to receive episodes as they are posted. You will be provided with a pass code to access the new episode on Friday of each week.

Subscription

Access to all episodes of Hunter’s Light, The Quest. When the book is complete, you will receive a signed print copy. Episodes will post weekly on Friday.

$16.00