Authors: Theresa Shaver
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Teen & Young Adult, #Dystopian
Snow and Ash
An Endless Winter Novel
By Theresa Shaver
Copyright 2015 Theresa Shaver
Kindle First Edition
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover art by Melchelle Designs.
It’s been a year since my last book was published and I’m happy to be back!
If you’ve read any of the Stranded Novels then you know I like to start a book off with a little chat. I like to give a brief overview of what I was thinking when I wrote the book and why I went in certain directions.
Let’s start with the most important part, THANK YOU! Thank you for reading my stories and for all the feedback and comments you give. You probably have no idea just how important that is to me. I’m not a professional, educated writer. I’m a stay at home Mom with a big imagination. I read every single review and comment made and then go back and reread them when I start a new book. I take the advice and constructive criticisms from the most important people, you the reader, and try to apply them to my writing. So thanks, teacher, I’m getting better because of you! Another reason reviews are so important is that author’s need them on their books to be accepted by book marketing web sites. Self-published authors like myself are responsible for all the marketing which means even when paying for all the ads, they won’t run them unless there are reviews on the books. So again thank you for that help. Even a one sentence review makes a big difference.
So, this book! Wow what a difference from the Stranded books. It’s a different style altogether and timelines are not aligned in the first half…sorry but it shouldn’t be confusing because it’s from two different, clearly marked, character’s POV’s. The first half of the story builds the characters and if you think it’s too slow…wait for it! The story aligns and we’re off to the races lol.
The other major feedback I got from beta readers makes me nod my head in total agreement. I write detail “lite”. Yup, sure do and always will. I’ve never enjoyed a book that is over the top in details. I don’t care what the room looks like, tell me what’s going to happen in the room! So that’s how I write.
Most importantly, this is book one so the characters are just getting started on their journey. I hope you will stay with them and me as they grow and change over the course of the series.
Book 2 will be out ASAP or at least less than a year. I’m in it right now and it’s smooth sailing so far so who knows could be a really quick turnaround.
You guys ROCK!
Sometimes I think that all the colours in the world died with my mother. She was an amazing artist that painted vivid natural landscapes. The colours of her summer meadow paintings were so lush you could almost feel the softness of the flowers and dampness of the dew on the leaves. I haven’t seen such beauty in the real world in seven years.
I was ten when the bombs dropped and man destroyed the world, changing all of earth’s glory and seasons into one long grey winter. I still don’t really know what happened to make someone push that fateful button and start the chain reaction that would send hundreds of nuclear bombs sailing through the skies to end everything I’ve ever known. I was a child and all I was worried about was my next dance class and if I would be invited to Sara Dresden’s sleepover. I never knew that the sun could be taken away and that everything could die. I haven’t been a child since that day.
My parents were polar opposites. My mother was an artist, always seeing the beauty in the world. My father, a former soldier that saw the ugliness. She used to say that they were the perfect balance. Her light lit his darkness and his dark kept her on earth instead of living in the sky with the sun.
I had no idea what was coming but my father did and he prepared for it, which is why I’m alive today when millions have died.
It was late August and my mom and I were headed to the mall for back to school clothes and supplies. She was only three weeks away from her due date and we wanted to get everything done before my new little brother made his grand entrance. I was excited about having a new brother. I had been an only child for ten years and thought it would be great to play the role of big sister. We had just stepped out of the house and were headed to the car when we heard the phone ringing through the open window. My Dad was in the house so we kept going thinking he would answer it. I had just opened the car door when the front door banged open and my Dad let out a shout, stopping us in our tracks.
“Van! I need you and Sky back inside right now!”
My mom shot me a look over the roof of the car but I just shrugged my shoulders and we closed the doors of the car and headed back into the house. Dad had disappeared but we could hear him banging around in the basement. I remember being impatient because I wanted to get to the mall. That changed to worry when he bounded up the stairs carrying two huge duffle bags. I knew what those bags were. He had called them bug out bags and gave me strict orders to never open them.
My mom’s forehead was crinkled with concern and all she got out was “Sweetie, what…?” before he started to bark orders out at us.
“You two have exactly five minutes to get anything you don’t want to live without for the rest of your lives packed up. We have to go…NOW!” He yelled when we just stared at him. My Mom put her arm around my shoulders and gave him a sharp look.
“Daniel, explain what’s going on. You’re scaring Skylar!”
I wasn’t really scared but I was edging that way when I saw the flash of fear pass through my dad’s eyes. He took a deep breath before explaining why our world was about to end.
“I’m sorry Vanessa, Sky. Things are…I got a call from Bill. He said…”
I stopped edging towards scared and dove in head first. Dad was always calm, always prepared and he never looked scared. Uncle Bill was an old friend of his and my godfather. He was still in the military so whatever he had told my dad for him to react this way must be pretty bad. I felt Mom’s hand tighten on my shoulder as we watched Dad struggle to find the words to explain. He finally just shook his head and blurted it out.
“The first nuclear bomb dropped ten minutes ago and there are more in the air. It won’t be long before some start heading to this continent. We have to go. We have to get out now before that happens. I need you guys to pack what you can in less than five minutes!”
Mom’s grip on my arm was almost painful when she turned it into a soft shove towards the stairs. All she said was “Go”, and we were scrambling up the stairs to our rooms. I heard the front door slam open as Dad ran out to his old restored pickup truck to dump the bug out bags. I spun in place in my room not knowing where to start. His yell of “Four minutes!” had me diving for my back pack that was supposed to be replaced at the mall today. I started stuffing my favorite outfits into it as my eyes scanned for the treasures I couldn’t live without. There were too many things I wanted but didn’t have room for so I just started to grab stuff through a glaze of tears. I didn’t really understand then that I would never see my room again. I was just responding to the panic in my parent’s voices. I dashed to the door but stopped and turned back for one last look. My eyes settled on a shelf above my bed that held my greatest childhood treasure. His soft blurry orange eyes stared back at me. Mr. Quackers had been retired only a year ago after sleeping next to me since I came home from the hospital as a newborn. His plush yellow fur was rubbed shiny smooth in some places and his beak was threadbare at the tip from being gummed by me as a toddler. I was across the room in a heartbeat and he found himself thrust into my pack before I ran out of the room.
Mom was dragging a suitcase down the hall and her big belly led the way past the open door of the new nursery.
“Mom, what about the baby stuff?!”
She froze in place and I’ll never forget the haunted look in her eyes as she turned her head to look into the freshly decorated room that would never be used. After a short pause, she just shook her head and headed down the stairs. I watched her waddle away for a second before glancing back at the nursery door. It wasn’t fair! She had put so much time and effort into painting murals on the walls and now my little brother wouldn’t get to grow up in it. I hesitated for a split second when Dad yelled out the two minute warning and then barreled into the room. There were reusable shopping bags against the wall still filled with baby clothes she hadn’t put away yet, so I grabbed three of them and started to stuff them with the diapers that had been stacked under the change table. Anything within reach went into the bags from pacifiers to a stuffed monkey and baby ointments. I was tying the overstuffed bags closed with the handles when my Dad started to bellow my name. Hooking them over my arms I shouldered my backpack and flew out of the room and down the stairs. He waved me past him and out the front door before slamming it closed and reaching for the bags hanging from my arms. Everything was thrown into the truck bed before we jumped into the cab. One of the things he did made me realize that this was really serious and we might never come home again. Dad didn’t lock the front door of the house.
Driving through the city made me question everything Dad had said. There were no people driving like mad or signs of panic. It was just business as usual. I watched out my window as people did regular people things like line up in drive-thrus and push strollers down the sidewalks. My parents weren’t talking and after we cleared the last suburb and the mountains could be seen in the distance, I finally broke the silence.
“Dad, what if Uncle Bill was wrong? It doesn’t seem like anyone else is bugging out like us.”
I could see his knuckles turn white on the steering wheel before he answered me in a controlled voice.
“No one will know until it’s too late. We’re lucky he got the call out to us when he did. Trust me, Skylar, that’s not something he would be wrong about.”
I sat back and bit my lip in confusion.
“Where are we going then?”
It was Mom who turned around and answered.
“We’re going to the Man Cave.”
My eyebrows shot up in surprise. According to Mom, most men had a man cave in their basements or garages. My dad went and actually bought a cave in the mountains. Dad loved to hunt, fish and camp but wasn’t blessed with women folk who shared this passion. Mom and I enjoyed going to museums, flea markets and movies so we had never been to his man cave. I had heard them talking about it sometimes but the only thing I could picture was a dark damp cave that bats flew in and out of. This was beginning to sound like a practical joke to me. Were we really going to go hide in a cave as bombs dropped around us and Mom gave birth to a baby on a stone floor? This had to be a joke, right?
Nothing was funny about the cars ahead of us suddenly going out of control. My mouth gaped open in shock as a minivan swerved off the road and flipped as it hit the ditch. My Dad was yelling for us to hold on as he braked hard and pulled to the side of the road. I didn’t realize that I was rocking back and forth in my seat or whimpering as a semi-truck transport rocked past us and jack knifed to the side. It was like slow motion as the long trailer tipped over and slid down the hi-way sideways brushing all the vehicles ahead of it like a huge broom.
We sat in our truck just staring at the devastation ahead of us for a few minutes until my Mom broke the silence.
“What…what just happened?” It came out a whisper but sounded like a shout to me in the dead silence and I think I flinched.
Dad had his head in his hands and he scrubbed at his face before turning the engine over and putting the truck into drive. He didn’t look at Mom as the truck creeped ahead towards the wreckage.
“EMP. It’s what happens when nuclear bombs drop. They send out a pulse that fries anything electronic. Every car and truck just died as they were going a hundred kilometers an hour.”
Mom looked at him in disbelief.
“Then why is our truck still working?”
My eyes were glued to the crashed van we were passing but I heard him quietly say, “Because I built it to still work.”
Dad was slowly passing the upside down van when I saw movement in the crash. A lady was wiggling out of a shattered window and I screamed at him to stop.
“Dad, STOP! We have to help them!”
Mom’s face whipped towards the crash we were passing and then to Dad’s face. I couldn’t see him but whatever she saw there made her take a shuddering breath and look out the opposite window and away from the crashed van. My mouth dropped open in confused shock as he kept driving.
“What? What are you doing? Why aren’t you stopping? We have to help those people!”
He didn’t answer me but his knuckles flared white against the wheel again. I sat back and let the tears flow down my face and kept my eyes glued to my lap. I couldn’t bear to see the suffering we were driving past. I didn’t understand then how much in the world had changed when the bombs fell. I still believed in the good of the world, of helping your fellow man in need. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that to survive you could only help yourself and the people you loved. At ten years old I couldn’t grasp the scale of the destruction and the millions of deaths that were happening around the world. I only knew that my dad had chosen to look away rather than help and I started to hate him a little bit in that moment. I had no idea that in a few months, I would be the one looking away from the suffering of the world.
My parents spoke softly in the front seat but I ignored them and searched my pack for my iPod. I wanted to drown out everything that was happening but when all I got was a blank screen I realized that I wouldn’t be so lucky. Whatever had made all the cars crash had killed my small music player as well. I dropped it to the floor and closed my eyes. There would be no escape.
The drive into the mountains seemed to take hours and I dozed off now and then. I was half asleep when my mom let out a despairing moan. My eyes flew open and I searched franticly for what had hurt her. She was pressed against the passenger window with her palm flat against the glass like she could reach out and change what we were driving past. I followed her line of sight and my breath caught at the view. A tangle of cars were crashed together half in the ditch but what was so heart wrenching was the two figures standing beside them. I unbuckled my belt and slid over to the back passenger window so I could see them better. The boy was my age or a year older. It was hard to tell with the dirt and blood smeared on his face. In his arms was a wailing toddler that couldn’t be more than two years old. I searched the crashed cars for any adults but it was only the two boys standing. I could hear my Dad chanting “I’m sorry” over and over under his breath as the truck slid by the pitiful figures. When our eyes met through the window I unconsciously mimicked my mom by raising my hand and pressing my palm against the cool glass. The older boy’s forest green eyes stayed locked on mine as we moved past and at the last second he raised his own hand in a half wave and then they were gone out of view.
Mom was sobbing quietly in the front seat and Dad tried to comfort her but she batted his hand away. I had never seen anything but love and kindness between them before and it was just one more thing to absorb in this new world. His voice was empty when he started to speak.
“We have to take care of us now. We only have so many supplies and there won’t be any way to get more. If we start taking in others we won’t last very long. This is going to get a lot worse and there will be a lot more people who will need help. We just can’t…” He trailed off when his voice cracked and Mom turned her head to look at me before facing him.
“They were just babies. What if it had been Skylar and our son out there? What if they were the ones all alone and hurt and people just drove past them? What if it had been our babies?”
Sitting behind my Mom I could now see Dad’s face in profile. I saw his mouth tremble before firming into a hard line and his tone was just as hard.