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Authors: Denise A. Agnew

Ashfall

 Ashfall

The Wasteland Trilogy, Book 1

Denise A. Agnew

Published 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62210-181-8

Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2014, Denise A. Agnew. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

 

Manufactured in the United States of America

Liquid Silver Books

http://LSbooks.com

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Blurb

After surviving an apocalypse, lonely Mally should feel safe. Until a deep, mysterious voice over the ham radio invites her into soul deep conversation and awakens mental and physical cravings.

Her voice calls on every fiercely protective instinctive inside Adam, and when she’s in danger he’ll do anything to protect her.

Dedication

For Terry. My hero always and forever.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank Marie D. Jones, who wrote an excellent non-fiction book on super volcanoes that gave me the idea for a Long Valley Super Volcano eruption in this story.

Chapter 1

“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”

Will Durant, American Writer and Historian

 

April 2

Buckleport, Maine

About sixty miles from Bangor

 

Feeling a bit low and alone, Mally Andretti swiveled in her chair and opened the big leather journal. She stared at the copious entries she’d made and wondered who she expected to read it. Perhaps no one, but when creativity wouldn’t cooperate, she wrote stone cold facts instead of fiction. She flipped through the entries and read them as if someone else had written the pages.

She stopped reading and glanced outside when movement caught her eye.

That creepy guy was standing outside the gate again.

He’d appeared three days in a row, and if anyone had asked Mally who the hell he was she’d have to say a previously friendly neighbor. Not so much now. Goosebumps ran up and down her arms.

From her vantage point looking out of one large window in the living room, she could see the man wore a blue flannel shirt, jeans and no coat, even though the wind bent the trees in her front yard. It was somewhere in the forty-degree range this morning, so he should be freezing. Day after day he arrived around noon and stared through the steel gate. Hands stuffed in his jeans, ball cap pulled over his short hair.

Before all hell had broken loose three months ago, sometimes people who still vilified her bat-shit crazy father would throw Molotov cocktails over the wall, but that had tapered off, especially since they did no damage to the compound exterior. But most of the people of North America had much bigger things to worry about than a preacher’s daughter. But this
guy
was a neighbor, someone she’d seen many times before and started to think of as Creepy Guy in capital letters. He’d talked to her more than once on her winter morning runs before she’d retreated permanently into this compound and before the disaster on January second. As he stood at the gate, a deep shiver ran through her. She didn’t want to watch him anymore and returned to the journal.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Okay, even if Father hit this one on the head, I still can’t give him credit. I can’t, because as I said before, Mother Nature is a bitch. She does what she wants and there’s nothing we could have done about what happened. Not a damned thing.

I guess the gamblers in Las Vegas should have left the city. They’ve regretted it, from what I’ve heard, when the Long Valley super volcano decided to blow early this morning. In a way it didn’t matter, because few people in California, Arizona, Colorado, hell so many states, realized they needed to leave the area, and some people dealing with damaged property and injury from the quake couldn’t get out fast enough. I don’t want to think about what they are going through. I watched the news all day today, my stomach tossing so much I can’t eat.

She hadn’t written anything for a few days after, and she knew why. She couldn’t formulate the right words, to choke any meaning out of the terror she’d felt eating her insides. She finally wrote again after the volcano had made its last, mad eruption eleven days after the first explosion.

After the super volcano first went up, they say pyroclastic flows burst from the caldera at several hundred miles per hour. Ash rained over the countryside for hundreds of miles. The ash fanned out in one day until it covered all the way to Kansas. Within another day the lighter ash drifted over us and into the ocean. Reports came through at the end of this week on all the people and animals dying. The television gave estimates of how many had died but I don’t want to know. Reduction in sunlight has gone down to around ninety percent. Long Valley finally rocked one last eruption, and that was so much worse. Worse even than Father said it would be. The sound was so loud it shattered eardrums as far away as Vegas. Two thousand miles away the noise split the air, and although I’m far away, my imagination runs away with me. I know what it must have been like for people. Not all of them could understand what happened in that moment. That things had just gotten a hell of a lot worse.

Another of her entries said,
The effects of a month of chaos are wearing on even me. Because of rampant lawlessness and craziness, the President declared a State of Emergency. Something I’d never anticipated but probably should have. The governor of Maine immediately stood up the National Guard. The Guardsmen are staying local, but most people figured out a long time ago they can’t rely on the military or police to protect us from each other. There’s way too many regular citizens and not enough law enforcement to control us. I don’t know how much longer it will be before Congress and the President declare martial law, and active duty military begin to police our streets.

They said on the news today the global effects of the volcanic event would linger at least three to five years. But the damage is already here. Food riots occur on a weekly basis, especially in bigger cities. There’s no way to bring food in and out of affected areas. Road transportation is limited, but in our area there’s not as much ash now—we’ve gotten rain off and on and it cleans the air. Rolling blackouts are common. Only my generator keeps me from spending time in the dark. Only the ham radio keeps me in touch with the crazy world outside. It keeps me more in touch sometimes than I want to be. I’m spending up to five hours a day on the radio.

I can’t say I’m grieving, because I’m more fortunate than most of the people I know. But I have felt an emotional numbness, a shutting down. I feel indecisive on some days, have trouble sleeping, I’m tired all the time, even though I’m trying to take care of myself. The isolation I feel wars with a desire to talk to others. I’m safe in the compound. The security system, the tall concrete walls Father designed, the steel gate not even a squirrel can crawl under…all of it keeps me safe. I’ve got enough food for a very, very long time. I wouldn’t have to leave this place for six months if I didn’t wish. But I do wish. Even if it means running into creepy guy down the street. Even if it means wearing a mask.

Mally lifted her gaze from the journal and sighed. She didn’t have much to complain about in the scheme of things. After all, she was a lot better off than most people. She was still half shocked by the light streaming into the enormous house above. All ten thousand feet of sprawling complex. Father had built a bulletproof glass and steel home, more steel and concrete than glass with the idea this place had to withstand the worst of the worst. So far it had operated beautifully. She smoothed her palms down her black leggings and stuffed her cold hands under her armpits. She never seemed able to get warm.

She crossed the hallway and walked into the expansive kitchen that opened into the huge living area. The sprawling house was decorated just as her father preferred, a style closer to traditional and Victorian than the modern exterior of concrete and glass. She found these familiar chairs, couches and throw rugs over the slate floors comforting, even if the place yawned with emptiness. Huge windows gave an expansive view around the front yard. Pine and aspen bent in a light breeze. Murky green clouds offered the possibility of a thunderstorm. She went to the window and stared. Nothing in the scenario in front of her told the full story of death and destruction.

She was safe in this compound and the bunker. But she lived a long way from the situation that sent her world, everyone’s world, into upheaval.

Yeah, Father understood what was coming. He’d always said the world would go to hell in hand basket someday. Someday had arrived. Too bad he wasn’t alive to see his prediction come true in raging, horrible detail. He’d gloat and spout a few bible phrases, and Mally would tune it out as she had most of her life. Sometimes, as she sat in her bunker she could delude herself and succeed in forgetting everything she didn’t want to acknowledge. Hell, she would’ve talked to her estranged father if he was still here. Just to have someone. Anyone.

No one with half a brain wandered around outside these days. Not without a weapon. Preferably a gun and ammo. At least Mally’s father had taught her well. She’d taken in his training kicking and screaming, but right now she was damned grateful he’d strong-armed her into learning how to survive in a world gone mad. Outside this compound people were desperate, and though most of them were good-hearted, a lot of scum had taken roost in the little city of thirty thousand. Correction. The small city used to only be thirty thousand. Now the area and the surrounding countryside had turned into a mecca for every camper, RV and survivalist in the universe. Little Buckleport’s population had doubled after Long Valley.

Tears stung Mally’s eyes as she closed them. Silence almost tempted her to put on headphones and listen to her MP3 player and try to find the inspiration to work on the manuscript she’d started earlier today. But she’d spent too much time staring at the television down in the bunker, soaking her brain in what passed for news. Only people with electricity could get the news. The reports were still sensationalistic, still rife with the sort of crap spewed
before
the disaster. She half wished all the news agencies on the East Coast had lost the power and will to broadcast. The other half of her was happy they stayed operating, informing as many as possible. She drew in one breath and then another. Fomenting her stress wouldn’t help. The more she stayed in the bunker, the more paranoid she became.

The more like her father she was.

Her stomach flipped. The last person in the world she wanted to emulate was her father. She would go downstairs and sleep maybe. Sleep cured everything with its oblivion. She took the stairs slowly down to the bunker.

Thirty-years-old and she felt one hundred mentally and physically. Of course, that might have had a little to do with the gin she’d sipped late last night when the story ideas weren’t coming. Maybe, just maybe if she drank enough one night her muse would return and the novel she’d started would fire to life. At least that’s what she kept saying to herself even though she hadn’t written a word since the world ended. Writer’s block was safer than stupefying fear and a healthier response than the outright denial many other people must be experiencing. She didn’t know really. She hadn’t talked to anyone in over a month, not even on the ham radio. Most people she’d known across the country didn’t answer their cell phones anymore—the numbers didn’t go through.

What would she find if she left Father’s cushy legacy and tried to leave the compound? The near thought sent a frosty chill up her spine.

Drinking herself to death might be an option, an alternative to the altered landscape the country had become. A new country covered in fear and filled with the choking ash raining down from an apocalypse everyone imagined might come but couldn’t have done a damn thing about. People liked to blame the government. As if the government, as if anyone, could have stopped what happened.

“Idiots,” she said.

A cold sensation raced over her body again, and she ached with a sudden need to talk with someone who had a sense of humor. Because she sure as hell didn’t have one right now.

She made the decision to return to the bunker. She snatched up her journal and headed downstairs to her office. After settling into the leather wingback chair, she returned to writing. Just a little more. Maybe if she kept writing about the disaster she could get some relief from her own fear.

The President warned us that global temperatures will stay about nine degrees lower than normal for the foreseeable future. During growing season the temperatures may plummet as much as eighteen. That’s already started to happen here in Maine, even though we are far from the worst of the effects. The sunsets are a spectacular yellow and red, and days are filled with a blue or green haze. A tiny micron of ash reached us here, but it washed away in the rain that came a day after the ash arrived. They also tell us there is a drastic increase in harmful UV-B. Wonderful. Just when I hoped to work on that tan. Things are too damned toasty.

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