What Survives of Us (Colorado Chapters Book 1)

BOOK: What Survives of Us (Colorado Chapters Book 1)
7.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



of Us



Kathy Miner



About the Author:


Kathy Miner lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with her family and critters.  She welcomes comments, questions and conversation about her book, and can be contacted via email at
[email protected]
, or you can visit her website at
  She’s also active on Facebook at
, where she shares updates and pictures.



Copyright © 2014 by Kathy Miner


All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.


No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without express written permission of the author.



This is a work of fiction.  All characters, locales and events are fictitious or are used fictitiously, and are the product of the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business establishments or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.  However, care was taken to present plausible scenarios, and several books were instrumental in supporting this endeavor:


by James Wesley, Rawles.


Diseases in History: Plague
, by Kevin Cunningham.


Outdoor Survival Guide
, by Randy Gerke.


The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
, by Samuel Thayer.


Discover your Psychic Type: Developing and Using Your Natural Intuition,
by Sherrie Dillard.


The last book in particular provided a map in an uncharted land, for which the author was grateful.  For the most up-to-date information on superbugs and the threat of plague, one must turn to the internet and use great caution.  The most credible, and easily the most terrifying site the author accessed was the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/.


As with all works of the imagination, any exaggerations, inaccuracies, inconsistencies or outright errors are the fault of the author.




You can tell a first-time author by the length of the dedication, and I will be no exception.  Writing is, first and last, a solitary endeavor.  In between first and last, though, countless people encourage, collaborate, brainstorm, nag, commiserate, harangue, enable and finally, celebrate.


I have been supported in spectacular fashion by a fleet of patient and brilliant friends, many of whom proofread and offered advice.  Until they write books of their own, they’ll never know how grateful I am.  Cheryl Rose, Laura Martin and Candice Moriarty – my fellow warrior moms in the world of Autism, your insights and corrections were deeply appreciated, as is your continued friendship.  Tammy Themel, you are the smartest person I know.  When you said you liked my book, I cried with joy.  Annette Milligan, you may be a gifted artist and a talented proofreader, but you’re an even better friend.  I can’t possibly thank you enough for the hours you spent at my kitchen table designing this cover.  Kim Bender, my sister-in-love, I thank you for your corrections and comments, but most of all for your encouragement and love.  Nan Anders, you caught an error not one other person did, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, even though it’s not your usual cup of tea.  And Cody Crosby, my beloved nephew and youngest proofreader, your insights were invaluable.  Who could have guessed, when I was changing your diapers, that I’d benefit from your thoughtful and analytical reading skills one day.


Phyl and Max Miner, mom and dad, you have supported me through absolutely everything, and
, not even
, have you told me I was nuts, even when you
to be thinking it.  Your love is the solid rock I’ve built my whole life on.  Mom, your curiosity and life-long love of learning are qualities I have always admired and tried to emulate; I keep choosing to be just like you as I grow up.  Dad, you are and always have been a place of calm and peaceful reason for me to return to, and your good opinion of this book meant the world to me.


Jesse, Casey and Kaya Reynolds, my babies, you are the air in my lungs and the beat of my heart.  Without you three, I wouldn’t have enough depth to write copy for the back of a cereal box.  Jess, you are pure golden joy, as I’ve told you all your life, and the fantastic person you are flat-out tickles me.  Casey, my wounded cub and my greatest teacher, you keep inviting me into the Unknown, and I am so grateful for that, for you.  Kaya, my Mach 5, high-octane, full-speed-ahead daughter, you are delight and laughter and sweetness.  I can’t wait to see how the three of you will change the world.


Rob Anders, my love, without you this book would never have made it past that weird, “I dreamed about this character, and her name was Naomi…” stage.  You yanked me out from behind every excuse I propped up, brushed aside my “Oh, so busy!” laments and said, “Yeah? So?  Are you a writer or not?”  You ticked me off so much I started writing, and that is a debt I can’t imagine repaying.  Your support has been rock-solid, your belief in me honest and constant, and your love has enriched this whole family beyond words.


Finally, Kristy Zeluff, beloved sister, half my soul.  You are my beginning and my end, and you deserve an entire dedication page all to yourself.  By rights, I should list you as co-author – how many different versions of Chapter 13 did you read?  It wasn’t until I sat down to write this dedication, and tried to put into words how integral you have been to every step of this process, from first nebulous ideas to final draft, that I realized the truth of it:  I wrote this book for you.

ONE: Colorado: The First Day


              Naomi saw her first corpse in the Safeway on Nevada
Avenue.  She had stopped in to pick up some salad greens and a gallon of milk for dinner, as well as ingredients for her famous (if she did say so herself) ginger snap cookies.  The weathermen were forecasting snow, not unusual for mid-March, and the way the clouds were piling up over Cheyenne Mountain, Naomi figured they’d gotten it right this time.  Cookies would be cozy, along with the pot roast she’d had slow-cooking all day.

              Unfortunately, predictions of snow always made for long lines at the grocery store.  The line at the self-check stretched halfway to the back of the store; it seemed half of Colorado Springs had chosen this store at this time to stock up on storm supplies.  Naomi shifted gently from foot to foot, easing the ache in her knees brought on by the change in the weather and the 40 pounds she really should try to lose one of these days.  She let her gaze go unfocused and let her mind drift for the moment, resting the relentless hurry of her brain – a trick she’d learned at a self-help seminar or some such.

She had shuffled nearly to the front of the line in this delicious, peaceful state when a flurry of movement and startled exclamations yanked her back to awareness.  Up by the registers, someone had collapsed.  A cluster of people blocked Naomi’s sight until a man wearing a red Safeway employee vest shot to his feet so quickly, he staggered.  His eyes were comically wide – Naomi heard a few people around her laugh reflexively – then he threw his arm across his mouth and nose and walked away swiftly, straight out the front doors of the store.

Naomi blinked. 
How odd,
she thought, and the first tingle of warning slid gently down her spine like cool fingers.  She looked back at the fallen figure – a woman, she could see now – and that warning repeated, a cold burning.

She didn’t hesitate.  Calmly, she stepped out of line, and set the basket she was carrying on the nearest shelf.  Her walk was swift but unhurried as she followed the Safeway employee out the front of the store.  Not until she was locked in her vehicle with engine running and heat blasting did she process what she had seen.

That woman had been dead.  Naomi squeezed her eyes shut, but the image was still there – a young woman, her hair dark with moisture or sweat, stringing across her forehead and stuck to her cheeks.  Her skin grayish and strangely mottled, like Naomi had never seen before.  Her lips blue, cracked and swollen, parted over straight white teeth. 

And her eyes.  Naomi crossed her arms, clutched her elbows with her hands and squeezed, trying to steady the shaking that had started in her legs and moved up through her torso.  Her staring eyes, bloodshot, light-less, empty.  Naomi had never seen empty eyes before.

“Just calm down,” she muttered to herself.  “Just get home.  You’re okay.”  She took several deep breaths and eased her vehicle out of the parking lot, hyper-focused on the mundane tasks of driving.  Rearview mirror.  Reverse.  Brake.  Shift.  Gas.  She could hear sirens approaching rapidly, and she didn’t want to be here when the emergency vehicles arrived.

She didn’t want to question why she had abandoned her groceries and walked out – such a rude and graceless gesture, she despised finding other people’s castoffs in the grocery store, really, was it such an effort to return that unwanted item to its proper place?  Most of all, she didn’t want to think about the dead woman, or the way her face looked, like it was already rotting.  Naomi shuddered.

She had been to funerals, of course.  She had seen preserved, molded and made-up bodies from a distance, but always from a distance.  Naomi had never been able to explain the cold terror, the sense of terrible wrongness she felt at such events.  Those horrible corpses, so like and so terribly unlike a sleeping human.

This wasn’t quite the same feeling, though.  The woman’s corpse had been awful, but not
.  She tried to sort it out as she drove home, but couldn’t fit words around what she was feeling.  Those that kept coming made no sense:  Dread.  Danger.

Snowflakes were swirling fast and thick against her windshield by the time she pulled in her driveway, and what little dusk Colorado Springs experienced was gone.  Her headlights cut through the dark to illuminate her garage door as it rose; in the house, lights glowed, and the familiarity of it all brought tears to her eyes.  Home, heart, everything.

Scott’s car was already in the garage – home early because of the weather.  He’d called mid-afternoon to say he’d pick Macy up from her after-school program, and she predicted she’d find them both curled up with a book by the wood-burning stove in the keeping room; Naomi maintained a strict “no electronic media on a weeknight” rule for Macy, even on Fridays, and Scott had always and ever followed the house rules in support of his children.  Naomi gathered her purse and the shopping bags she’d collected on her afternoon errands, and headed into the house.

The scent of pot roast was rich in the air as she stepped inside.  Persephone was waiting for her just as she always was, soft, golden, butterfly ears perked forward, small head cocked to the side.  Her body quivered, but she stayed seated, as she’d been taught, until Naomi set her bags down on the bench in the
mudroom and hung up her purse and coat.  Naomi held her arms out and the little dog leaped.

“There’s my good girl, what a sweet girl, yes, I missed you, too,” she crooned, and closed her eyes, enjoying the dog’s soft, warm fur and comforting weight against her chest.  Persephone snuffled under her chin, gifting Naomi with tiny, enthusiastic licks along her jaw.  Naomi laughed and hugged her lovingly before she set the dog down, feeling tension drop away from her shoulders and back.  There.  She was home.  Her world was right once more.




“Check it out – how weird is that?”

Grace looked up from her homework as her little brother gestured at the TV.  Benji was watching the evening news for his social studies current events assignment, and the TV was tuned to a local channel.  On the screen, a fire truck, ambulance, and half a dozen cop cars were sitting in front of a Safeway store, lights flashing.  “What happened?  Did somebody rob the store?”

“Nuh-uh.  This woman just dropped dead.  Now they won’t let anyone leave the store because they think she might have a communication disease.”

“’Communicable,’” Grace corrected.  “Where is this – Colorado Springs?”

“Yep,” Benji answered.  “Southgate area, they said.  Where’s that at?” 

“Down south, not far from the World Arena – you know, where we saw ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ with Dad?” 

They passed through Colorado Springs once a month on their way to visit their dad, his new wife and their brand new baby half-brother in Woodland Park, and sometimes went on the
weekends to shop or catch a movie with their mom and step-dad.  Lately, Grace had been visiting even more frequently on dates with her boyfriend, William.  There wasn’t much to do in dinky little Limon.  She tried to think of what else would be nearby that Benji would recognize.  “It’s not far from the zoo, just a little north and east, I think.”

“Okay.”  He frowned in concentration as he wrote carefully in his notebook.  “Will you spell ‘communicable,’ please?”

Grace smiled. “Sure thing, buddy.”  He was so cute, with his polite, studious, serious ways.  As little brothers went he was bearable, though she suspected he had been in the bushes with his buddy Nate the other night, spying on her and William when he brought her home.  Some blackmail might be in the works.  “Did they say what disease they thought she had?”

Benji read from his notes in his best “Announcer Bunny” voice, not that he’d ever let his friends know he still watched
In Between the Lions
on PBS.  He was in 7
grade for pity’s sake – way too old for a show that taught kids to read.  “Authorities refuse to speculate as to the nature of the woman’s illness,” he read from his notes, “But we will keep viewers informed as this story breaks.”  He paused, wrote something down, then continued in his normal voice.  “They think she was a soldier from Fort Carson, and that she was really young.  Some people inside the store called the news station and talked to the reporters before the police took their phones away.”

“Huh.  The police took their phones?”  That struck Grace as extreme.  “Bet they weren’t too happy about that.”  She returned her attention to her own homework, but a part of her mind had locked onto the story, the facts clicking into place with too few pieces to complete a picture.  She’d follow up, she decided, later this evening, either online or on the late news. 
Grace couldn’t resist either puzzles or mysteries, and this story seemed like both.




              Brian Nelson flopped down on the bleachers beside Jack Kiel – Pastor Jack to the kids – and lifted his t-shirt to wipe his dripping face.  The raised shirt revealed a regretful expanse of white belly spreading over the top of his basketball shorts.  He tugged the shirt back down and wheezed in air.  “Darn altitude.  Can’t catch my wind.”

Jack didn’t smile, and figured that would count in his favor when the Day of Reckoning came.  Brian had moved to Colorado at least 20 years ago.  “Yeah.  It takes getting used to, that’s for sure.”

“Oh, shut up.”  Brian’s reply was easy and without heat.  “I’m fat and out of shape.  Even lies of omission are a sin.”

Jack laughed, and together they watched Jack’s youth group kids – including Brian’s oldest son – hustle the basketball up and down the court.  It would be Jack’s turn to substitute next, when one of the players needed a break or a drink of water.  Or a minute to flirt with the group of teenaged girls watching the action, Jack thought, and smiled.  Some things never changed.

“Small group this week,” Brian commented after a few minutes.  “Where’s Ava and the kids from the Springs?”

“She got called into work, last minute,” Jack answered. 

Ava Beckett was a Colorado Springs police officer who attended their Woodland Park church with her husband, also a cop, every week.  They were both Safety Resource Officers in Springs-area high schools, and had organized a group of kids to come up the pass to play basketball every Friday night with Jack’s youth group kids.  It had proven to be an interesting
experience; most of Jack’s kids were from sheltered, middle-class families, and the kids Ava brought all fell into the “at-risk” category.  Watching the two groups learn to mingle and understand each other, and to develop tentative, fledgling friendships had been immensely rewarding.

“That would stink,” Brian commented.  “One of the advantages of being an accountant, I guess.  Other than April 15
, I don’t get called in for emergencies.  Did she say what was going on?”

“Some kind of quarantine situation,” Jack answered, “I guess there was a death at a grocery store in the Springs, and they don’t know what the woman died of.  The health department took one look and called in the CDC.  Ava says they’re bringing in cots and bedding for the people still in the store, keeping them over night.  She’s working crowd control – I guess a lot of family members have gathered, and they’re angry and scared.”

“I would be too, I imagine.  Probably just another case of West Nile,” Brian predicted, then nodded at the action on the floor.  “Getting a little hot out there.”

He was right, Jack thought – elbows were being applied just a little too liberally.  “Hey!”  He shouted.  Shoes shrilled on the floorboards as the action stopped, and ten faces swiveled his way, several of them more flushed than they ought to be.  “Don’t make me come out there and whup up on ya’ll!  Keep the elbows tight, boys!”

Perfect time for a pastor to sub in, he decided, watching them scuff and grumble.  He stood and peeled out of his sweatshirt.  Unlike Brian, his thirties hadn’t brought weight problems with them, a fact he owed at least as much to good genetics and these Friday night basketball games as to his eating habits.  “Alright, you babies, which one of you wants to get a drink of water and sweet-talk the ladies?” 

He jogged onto the court, serenaded by a chorus of giggles from the girls, and slapped the kid with the reddest face on the shoulder.  “James, why don’t you take a break and give an old man a chance to play?”




Naomi dropped the last dish in the drainer and hung her soggy towel on the oven bar to dry.  Dinner done, dishes done, and a luxurious Friday night stretched out in front of her.  For the most part, she had managed to hold her sense of unease at bay; she hadn’t mentioned the dead woman in Safeway to Scott, and she didn’t intend to.  She wasn’t in the habit of keeping secrets from her husband, but she couldn’t see how any good would come out of talking about it.  Just a lot of baseless speculation, she had decided.  No need to let that into her cozy world this evening.

BOOK: What Survives of Us (Colorado Chapters Book 1)
7.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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