Authors: Luke Shephard
The Complete Collection
By Luke Shephard
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Discover more books by Luke Shephard and Wynwood Publishing:
Colony Z: Beginning and End (Vol. 4)
Camp- America - 2032
If Owen had learned anything in all his years of running, hiding, and escaping the clutches of the beings that so terrified the colonists, it was that a good story could take one’s mind away from the horrors of the world.
Curling up with one of the Stephen King books he had shoved so hastily into his beat-up leather suitcase over thirty years ago when the storm hit, was one of the few sanctuaries that Owen still felt he had left. ‘Thank God I had enough sense to grab those, at least’, he often thought to himself while reading those tattered books.
Flipping through the yellowing pages, however, was somewhat of a moot point. When you’ve read a book as many times as Owen had read
you knew it well enough to whisper the words as you read along. The book was more of a logical thing to hold while you went through the story in your mind like a picture that used to play in those things they called ‘movie theaters’.
It often bothered Owen that his children would not know the beauty that was a big city in America before the Zero-Hour hit, or interesting places like libraries and movie theaters. No, his offspring would only ever know this island, this beach, this unnamed and constant fear. Just as the characters in his precious book forgot about the way the world was before everything went black.
Before everything went wrong.
The crying of the baby interrupted Owen’s wandering thoughts. That shrieking sound from the babe often occurred when its mother was far away and feeding time came around. A near twenty-month old child ought to be finding its way into eating real foods, rather than simply the breast milk of its mother, Owen often thought. Isaac, however, did not have this option, as there was nothing found on the island or the surrounding beaches that was suitable for a child at such a young age.
Owen stood up from his shady place on the beach, swiping the sand off of his makeshift shorts, held together with duct tape. He knew the time would soon come when he would need to send his Warriors off into the real world again, to find supplies and food. Much as they tried to salvage what was on the island, it was nearly impossible to repair tents and cabins without proper tools and materials. Especially after the wear and tear of nearly twenty years was wrested upon the island, which only stood three miles in circumference.
And the colonists could hardly live on coconuts and fish forever. Well, they may be able to, but it wasn’t much of an existence.
Owen inspected his cabin before entering to sooth the child. His logical mind was always alert, prepared to fix a leak or mend a hole, never leaving the opportunity for a storm or winds to damage his home and make him painfully aware of the things he should have already spotted.
The cabin was small, but neat. Two hundred square feet was a modest cabin for the five inhabitants. A large door stood with no knob, but a sturdy lock lay within. Though only one room, the cabin had a good sized beach-view window that was covered up with a fit piece of wood during the heavy rains. Hannah, however, had been pestering him to bar it up for good. ‘How easy would it be for someone to push it through?’ she had often asked. Owen knew she was right.
The cabin stood fifteen feet away from the shoreline, far enough so the tide, even at its highest, would not flood it. Still, the cabin was close enough to the water, just in case a quick escape, God forbid, would ever be needed.
When Owen entered the wooden house, the first thought that entered his mind was not a concern for the baby, but for the stability of his relationship with his eldest son. He caught him doing something he should not have been doing.
Seeing your oldest boy carving pictures into the walls of the only place you could call home wasn’t a welcome sight. As Michael finished what looked to be a squiggle that was representative of a strand of hair on his depiction of a young woman, perhaps in her teenage years, Owen’s heart squirmed. His first instinct was to yell and shake his fist, throw a tantrum, and maybe force the boy to fix his mess and sleep on the sand outside for a week. Yes, that would teach him.
But, instead, as his wife would have asked of him, Owen calmed himself in the moments before Michael turned to the sound of the opening door and stopped sculpting his artwork in a state of shock.
“…Dad…Dad, I…I was just…”
“Who is she?”
Michael’s voice broke on this word, as he tried to regain the will to fight. But the words would not come. He had no answers to give his father, for even he did not know who the woman was.
“Who is that girl?”
Owen sighed deeply, stepped into the cabin, and shut the door gently behind him. He walked silently over to the baby, as Michael lowered his knife in an awkward sign of defeat. Owen lifted the child from its cradle made from tree limbs and a strip of fabric and rocked it in his mighty arms. Within moments, the infant was comfortably asleep. Pain struck his heart as he was bitterly reminded of another child that used to lie in his arms this way.
“Sit down, son.”
“Sit down before I get angry, son.”
Michael knew the tone of voice his father was using well. It meant he was about to get a beating he wouldn’t soon forget.
Even though Michael was nearing eighteen years old, he had always been the lone child who was not understood. The black sheep. You would think, what with Michael having been on the trip when the migration of colonists reached the island, he would be closer to his parents than his siblings were. But his slight memories of the real world were a taboo subject, and he found that he had among him no allies who were interested in the workings of that distant place. All the rest on the island were either adults who knew to keep their mouths shut, or younger children who were born here. They were content to forget the past or to not know about America completely.
They were ready to move on.
And so Michael, being the curious boy that he was, continued to attempt to find other ways of expressing his love for that world. This picture, this…sculpture, that he was sure to be clubbed upside the head for, this was simply another attempt at grasping those memories like the reins of a horse on a buggy, and pulling them back so he could never forget. He did not want to forget.
But, being as scared of disappointing his father as he was of forgetting, Michael sat on the wooden bench in front of Owen obediently.
Owen continued to pace the room with Isaac sleeping soundly as he lectured.
“What were you thinking?”
“She’s been on my mind for weeks.”
“Who is she?”
“Just…someone I made up.”
He was lying, and Owen knew it. But he knew as well as Michael that this ‘figment of his imagination’ was not something he could pinpoint. A faint memory struck Owen’s mind. The memory of a little red-haired girl, maybe four years old, running off into the woods…beyond their reach…
And then the memory was gone. And Owen forgot.
Snapping back to reality, Owen realized punishment should be given where punishment was due.
“You’re almost eighteen years old, Michael.”
“I know, Dad.”
“…my birthday is next week…”
“Yes, it is.”
Owen hadn’t always been this way. Blunt. To the point. Hard. But the years of leading the island, the long toil of pulling a colony together, had not been easy on him. Someone had to take charge and be cold…and it was to Owen that this job was so graciously offered.
“…Dad, I’m going to be an adult.”
“You sure don’t act like it.”
“I’m sorry about the wall. Let me fix it, okay?”
“I don’t want you to fix it.”
“…then what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to get your things and get out. It’s time now for you to build your own home, make your own family.”
At this, Michael began to get angry. Sure, it was time to move out. He’d been ready for months, years even. But his mother would not hear it. He had even begun mapping out a great area for his cabin…somewhere as far away from this one as he could possibly get. But how could his father have known that? He never listened anyway.
And the one thing his father would never understand was that Michael would never have a family. Not ever. There was no one his age on this island. Not even close, really. With a population of a whopping thirty-two people, who was there for him to love? He had counted many times. Fourteen men, ten of them partnered off to the only ten women on the island, and eight kids.
His family took up a large fraction of the island on its own. Not including them, there were only five children on the island, and only three of them girls. That left Michael and four other men to scavenge between his uptight 14-year old sister Helen, an 8-year old named Amber, a 14-year old that they all called Eliza, and an infant Mary. Amber was betrothed to a young boy named Shane, someone close to her age, and the infant was already partnered with Isaac, not that Michael was at all interested. And, since the punishment of stealing another man’s wife was a brutal public beating on the island, Michael’s options were slightly limited.
And even if he was interested in a 14-year old named Eliza, which he wasn’t, he would have four grown men to fight for her. Four grown men who had been hoping for a partner for a much longer period of time than he had. Though his father refused to admit it, when it came to women, Michael knew the island was running very close to a series of open relationships. Six of the partnered women on the island were pregnant. And Michael hoped the children would grow quickly, if there was any hope for the colony’s survival.
Being born into the first generation of the repopulation of Earth was a very lonely lifestyle.
“What family, Dad? You act like there’s a pool of women just waiting for me out there.”
“What about Caleb’s girl? What’s her name…uh…”
“Yeah, what about her?”
“Dad, I don’t want her. She’s five years younger than me. She doesn’t even know what mating means…”
“And that’s the other thing about this island, Dad. Was it normal for girls as young as she is to be courted by men nearing their thirtieth year? You know, before everything happened?”
He had spoken the magic words. And he instantly regret
“Michael, I have done my very best to give you everything you need to grow up and make something of yourself. If you don’t think this island is enough for you, you can leave. No one is stopping you! But when you come back to tell me that there’s nothing but desolation out there, don’t say no one warned you.”
“But what if there
something out there, Dad? You haven’t traveled off of the island for fifteen years! What if there are civilizations…what if there are people?”
Owen’s face fell as he heard his son speak the very words he feared the most.
“Why do you insist on believing in these fairy tales?” Owen countered fiercely. “Do you think that, just because you’ve been off this island, you know more than the other children? Than me?”
“There has to be something more than this island, Dad! More than sending five men off into the world every couple of months to bring us supplies from desolate towns, avoiding those…those
…all the time. There
to be. We can’t be the only ones.”