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by Jennifer L. Oliver
Dear Diary: I’m writing this so that years from now, when the pieces of our world have been put back together, people will know what happened. They will know what we had to go through just to survive. My name is Kennan O’Malley. I’m fifteen years old, and I live in a compound that my Dad built to keep us safe. I’m not even sure what day it is anymore. I just know that it feels like it’s been a long time since my life was normal. I used to be a sophomore in high school, an honor roll student. I had dreams of going to some big college in New York and being a famous fashion designer. I was popular, too. I had lots of friends, and I was a cheerleader. Not to mention, I had a boyfriend, Evan Mason. Well, he wasn’t my boyfriend yet. I mean, we talked all the time and hung out practically every day. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he asked me out. But none of that matters now. I won’t be cheering. I won’t be going to college. And I won’t ever know what it’s like to be Evan’s girlfriend. Because none of that exists anymore. That was my old life. And it’s gone. I suppose I should start at the beginning, so you’ll understand. Everybody thought my Dad was crazy, especially me. He kept duffel bags full of guns, ammo, and food supplies in our hall closet. He insisted on teaching me and my brother, Donovan, how to shoot. At first I thought it was cool. I mean, how many girls do you know that can handle a 30-30 lever-action rifle? Then he started taking us hunting and fishing with him. Every. Weekend. The first few times were okay. I thought it was just his way of bonding, you know? That it was some parental phase he was going through and he’d get over it soon enough. But then it got annoying. It was all he wanted to do. When we weren’t hunting, he made us practice with targets. And he always nagged me about shooting at an animal when I was hunting and not just playing around. He didn’t get that I didn’t want to shoot Bambi, or Thumper, or any of his freaking friends! And I certainly didn’t want to clean or dress them or whatever you call it. (EW, EW, EWW!) I tried to tell him I didn’t need to know how to do that stuff because I was going to be a fashion designer. Designers make clothes, they don’t hunt their own food. But he wouldn’t listen. He said it was important for me to know how to take care of myself when the time came. I kinda felt sorry for him. Even his friends joked about him. They laughed at him and told him how he used to be cool but now he was just some old, country redneck. They called him a survivalist and said he was preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse or something. He didn’t even deny it. He just laughed and shook his head. Turns out my Dad wasn’t crazy. Somehow, he knew the world was going to fall apart and he did what he had to in order to protect his family. And all those people who used to laugh at my Dad, they’re probably all dead by now. But it wasn’t zombies that destroyed the world. It was a monster far worse than that. It was us. Humans. I don’t know how it happened or why. I never understood all that economics and government crap. I never paid attention to politics. I’m a teenage girl; there are so many other things to worry about than who’s running for president, or mayor, or whatever, you know?
But then things started happening. Weird things. Bad things. Like this kid, John, that I went to school with; his Dad shot the principal because they wouldn’t let John have free lunch anymore. See, awhile back, John’s mom died from the flu. They didn’t have insurance because they couldn’t afford it. Then his dad lost his job and the bank took their house. They’d been living on the street for the last seven months. There wasn’t a soup kitchen in town any more, it closed down because it couldn’t get the funds to operate. So the only food John got was from school. I heard he used to bring leftovers home for his dad. But then the school’s policy on free lunches changed because of some law the government passed. It said that every child had to “earn the privilege of education.” Fees had to be paid for classes, books, and even lunches, or you couldn’t go. The school hired as many kids they could, but there weren’t enough jobs for everyone. Parents had to pay the rest. John’s dad couldn’t afford to pay, so I guess he kind of went crazy. The whole thing happened right in front of me. I was standing at my locker joking around with some of the other cheerleaders about our game later that night, when suddenly we heard someone arguing and yelling. I turned around to see what was going on. John’s dad was all up in Principal Johnson’s face, pointing and shaking his fists in the air. The principal kept trying to calm him down but the guy kept getting louder. Then John’s dad pulled this gun from his jacket. The shot echoed down the hall and the principal fell to the floor. Kids started screaming and running all around. Blood went everywhere. It was all over my clothes, in my hair. I just stood there, staring at Principal Johnson’s body on the floor. It was horrible. It wasn’t even the principal’s fault John couldn’t eat lunch, but he was killed because of it. I still get nightmares sometimes. After that Mom and Dad agreed that my brother, Donovan, and I should be pulled out and homeschooled. It’s the only thing my parents have agreed on since they got divorced. Figures. Of course, they argued for weeks about who we would live with and who would actually be teaching us. Eventually my Dad won out. He always does. Apparently, both my parents only went to high school. (I so wish I’d known that when they were fussing about grades and getting into college!) Since my step-mom, Michelle, had the highest level of education, that won her the grand prize of being our teacher. Yay for her. So that meant we had to live with Dad and Michelle. Mom was pissed, but she went along with it. Not long after that robberies started happening around town. Dad said that there weren’t many jobs any more and that’s what caused the “home invasions”, as he called them. Thieves just barged into people’s homes and took what they wanted. Sometimes it was jewelry or money, sometimes it was just food. People started boarding up their houses and buying dogs, fences, guns, whatever they could use to protect themselves. Then gangs started coming in from the city. They’d paint graffiti signs on the sides of buildings and in the streets so you could tell whose territory you were in. Michelle wouldn’t let me or Donovan out of the house alone because the next door neighbor’s kid got recruited into one of the gangs. She said she saw his tattoos and that the number of marks on his face represented the amount of people he’d killed. That kid was younger than I am, and he had four marks. Dad said stuff like this had been happening in a lot of major cities, all over the country, and that it must have finally filtered down to our small town. The police called in the national guard to help out. But instead of helping patrol, they took control. Dad called it Martial Law.
The National Guard put up a fence around the downtown area. They said it was to protect the citizens. Dad said it was really their way of controlling the citizens. He said it’s easier to keep an eye on people when you know where they are all the time. Curfews were established and everyone had to get this badge made with our fingerprints and stuff. If you didn’t have a badge, you weren’t allowed inside the gate. Guards were posted everywhere and trespassers were shot on sight. No one was allowed to leave, unless it was for good. Once you made that decision, you couldn’t come back. Dad said things were only going to get worse. So he moved us here, to the compound. That was two days ago. But it was only yesterday when we learned about the bombs. We’d been unloading furniture and boxes from the truck all day. I can’t be sure, but I think pulled every muscle in my entire body. It hurt to move. I was so tired all I wanted to do was sleep, but Dad insisted we sit down and eat dinner like a family. Michelle had cooked for us. She never cooked, so I’m sure it probably sucked but I was really too tired to care. Dad made us listen to the radio while we ate. He said it’s the only way we would really know what’s going on “out there.” He made it sound like we were in our own little world or something. Which come to think of it, wasn’t far off since he confiscated our cell phones when we got here. Not to mention, there’s no cable or internet service way out here in the middle of God knows where. He said it was a good thing to live off the grid. I just rolled my eyes. Dad can be a bit melodramatic sometimes. But when he turned on the radio there was nothing but static. Every station had gone off the air. Dad looked at Michelle and I knew that there was something wrong. He ran into the office where he had set up his own radio equipment and started fiddling with buttons. I kept asking what was wrong but he just yelled at me to be quiet. Donovan and I stood in the doorway and watched. Michelle came up behind us and put her hand on my shoulder. She and I have never been that close but I remember thinking that I was really glad she was there. Finally, Dad found someone talking. The guy said there were huge explosions in a bunch of major cities. No one knew what was really going on. Rumors of terrorists and invasions couldn’t be confirmed. There was mass chaos everywhere. He said a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t understand. And then he said something that I’ll never forget as long as I live. He said, “What the hell? The ground just shook, like there was an earthquake or something. I’m gonna look to see – looks like another explosion. Wait, what’s that? Oh God! No! It can’t be… I don’t know if anyone can hear me, but if you’re anywhere near the Atlanta, Ga. area, please, please get to safety immediately.” And then there was nothing. Nobody said a word. We just stood there. I think we were all in shock. Donovan started asking questions and I just looked at my Dad. I’d never seen my Dad scared of anything before. But right then, with his face so pale and his lips thinned in a small line, I knew that whatever was going on, it was something awful. Every thing’s kind of a blur after that. We grabbed as much stuff as we could and boarded up a bunch of windows. Then Dad led us down this endless flight of stairs. My legs screamed at me because of all the moving I’d done earlier. Why he made the basement so far underground is beyond me. But it wasn’t really a basement. It was more like some underground shelter. He said we only had to stay down here for a few days, just in case there was some type of fallout from all the bombs. So, that’s where I am right now, sitting in the shelter my Dad built under the compound that’s supposed to be my new home.
I don’t even know what to think right now. Its like none of this is real. I mean I feel like, I don’t know, like I’m stuck in some kind of warped nightmare or something. Like I’m gonna wake up any minute and everything will be back to normal. But that’s not going to happen. Its never going to be like it was before. Never. My brother said to try to pretend we’re camping and it wouldn’t feel so weird. But I can’t. When we go camping we use a tent or a cabin that has windows. We don’t stay in some cinder block room with a steel door. I’m trying to be strong, but I can’t help wondering what happened to Mom. Is she okay? Is she even still alive? And what about all my friends? Did any of them make it? What about Evan? Will I ever see him again? And all those people out there that didn’t have a shelter to go to, what happened to them? What’s the world going to be like now? How are we going to live? Dad says we’ll be fine. He doesn’t know if Mom made it or not, but he said he’s been preparing for something like this for a long time and that she knows where this place is. So if she’s alive, he knows she’ll find a way to get here. We just have to hope for the best. He says the food and supplies we have won’t last forever, so we will have to learn to live off the land. And that people are going to find us here eventually. That they’re going to want what we have, our food, our shelter, our supplies. But we can only help so many without endangering ourselves. And when we starting telling people we can’t help them, then that’s when we’ll need to know how to protect ourselves. Because that’s when it will really get bad.
About the Author Trapped in the stressful world of a daily newspaper, Jennifer L. Oliver honed her writing skills in secret. After all, she's been creating intriguing characters and stories as far back as she can remember. Then one day, her husband saved her from that dreary life and she left small town NC behind for love and adventure in Florida. But soon after Jennifer's arrival in the Gulf, she was captured by the evil overlord of the tech world. Her talents were wasted in this world; no one there appreciated her stories of the supernatural creatures that lived in her head. So she decided to find others to share them with and brought her characters to life in the pages of her books. Jennifer is the author of dark urban fantasies and paranormal thrillers. The Unnamed is her debut novelette and prequel to the upcoming novel, Haedyn, due out in early 2013. For more about Jennifer, visit her website at www.small-escapes.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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