You are on page 1of 50

Steal Tomorrow

A Flash Fiction Collection

by Ann M. Pino
This collection is based on previously web-published content
inspired by my novel, Steal Tomorrow
Stories have been selected and edited
for a print-based readership.

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2009 by Ann M. Pino
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information
storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the author.

All prints in this book are the property of, or licensed to the author.

This book is a free distribution and not for sale.

ii - ii -

ABOUT THE STORIES.....................................................................V

CIVIC DUTY...............................................................................3
ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN..............................................................6
THE BEAUTY QUEEN....................................................................9
POST-PANDEMIC HOOP DREAMS.....................................................14
FIRST DO NO HARM..................................................................19
ON THE BRIDGE.......................................................................24
THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING........................................................29
SPECIAL DELIVERY.....................................................................34
PRACTICAL NURSE.....................................................................38
ARS GRATIA ARTIS....................................................................41

iv - iv -
About the Stories

These stories are prequels to Steal Tomorrow, a novel

set in a world devastated by a pandemic that spares only the
young. Children and teenagers are infected with the same
deadly retrovirus that killed their parents, and sometime
between their late teens and early twenties, they too will die.
In the meantime, the most resilient of them seek ways to
survive the wreckage of civilization.
The young people in the stories that follow will all end
up at the luxurious Regency Hotel, either as members of the
Regents gang or as independent allies. To reach this place of
relative safety, they will have to decide what price their
survival is worth.

vi - vi -
The Stories
2 -2-
Civic Duty
Reymundo Guzman Morales (Mundo)

“Diesel,” Jimmy muttered as his spade struck a rock.

Mundo looked across the field at the idled backhoe. The
work would go a lot faster if they hadn't run out of fuel for
the heavy equipment. “That would be nice, but don’t hold
your breath.”
“What about food?” Carlos asked. “They can’t expect us
to keep working like this without feeding us properly.”
“No deliveries,” Mundo reminded him. “There’s not much
they can do.”
“Bullshit. They're hoarding MREs. Everyone says so. ”
“They could at least let us rest,” Jimmy added.
Mundo glanced up and down the row of exhausted,
ragged boys. As the one who had called them together in a
spirit of civic duty, he had a responsibility to them. It was
one thing to volunteer to help collect the trash and bury the
dead, but it was something else to tolerate abuse. He set his
shovel aside and climbed out of the pit.
The city employee was a thin, nervous man named
Preston. He reeked of garlic and had a cluster of tiny ulcers
on his lips, but Mundo could see the tell-tale shadows under
his eyes and a faint sheen of sweat on his skin. He would be
dead soon, his efforts with garlic and Vitamin C no match for
the pandemic virus. Mundo had once felt pity for the
grownups as they sickened and died, but now he was merely
numb. “We need a break.”
Preston shook his head. “We have to be ready for a
thousand more before two o’clock.”
“Just fifteen minutes, so we can rest and have some

“There’s no more water. Maybe they’ll bring some when
they deliver the bodies.”
Mundo looked at the pit, where the rest of the crew had
stopped working and watched him with expectant eyes.
“We’ll just rest, then.” He motioned for them to lay down
their shovels and come out.
Preston reached for the Glock at his hip. “You can’t do
that. This is a civil emergency.” His hands trembled as he
aimed the gun at the muddy teenage boys climbing out of
the trench. “Get back in there. This is an order. This—
Mundo slammed a shoulder into Preston's frail body,
knocking him to the ground. The Glock fell out of his grasp,
but before he could reach for it, Carlos vaulted himself out of
the pit, shovel in hand, and prepared to strike a killing blow.
Mundo held up a hand to stop him, then turned his
attention back on Preston.
“Did it ever occur to you that whether we bury a thousand
at two o’clock or at two-fifteen makes no fucking difference
when the dead in this city number in the hundreds of
thousands? In another few weeks, you’ll all be gone, every
one of you. It’s the end of the goddamn world.”
Preston's panic turned to the cold rage of fear. “And
what’ll you little bastards do then? There’ll be no one to run
the electric plants or treat the sewage. No more deliveries of
food and fuel. It’ll just be you ignorant kids and a bunch of
rotting corpses.”
“In that case, what does it matter if we take a break?”
The man laughed, a high-pitched, hysterical sound. “Go
on, then. Rest. In fact, have a party. Call each other on
your cell phones if you can still find a signal. You’ll be
tearing each other apart soon enough. Without adults to
guide you, it’ll be just like Lord of the Flies.”
Mundo wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but he knew
an insult when he heard it. Preston was weak, yet still had
the nerve to abuse Mundo and his friends, who would be the
only authority in the city before long. They would probably
screw it up, but how could they do worse than the adults who
had created this mess in the first place? “We’ll find a way,”
he said. “Too bad you’ll be dead, because you might've been
4 -4-
Before Preston could answer, Mundo motioned to Carlos,
who silenced the fool forever with a blow from his spade.
“That’s one who won’t die from the Telo,” Carlos said.
Mundo picked up the Glock and removed the holster and
extra magazines from Preston's body. Things were getting
crazy and being armed would come in handy. With his crew
watching him warily, he strapped the gun on. “I'll find
weapons for all of you as soon as I can. We won't let them
push us around any more.” He jerked his chin in the
direction of the road out of the park, back to the city streets.
“Come on, guys. Let's go find us some food.”

On Earth as In Heaven
Paul Gallard

The answer, of course, was prayer. But although Paul

prayed fervently, the deaths continued. “It’s because there’s
so much sin in the world,” his church friends said.
Paul’s parents and older sister hadn’t been religious, and
it had been two weeks since they were tossed into mass
graves. Nevertheless, Paul was reluctant to ascribe their
deaths to sin. The explanations of the scientists didn’t help
much either, though. It was a pandemic; it was no one’s
If a just and loving God ruled the earth, how could He
allow such devastation?
Paul shifted his weight on his knees and tried to focus on
his prayers. The other young people who had been living at
this church weren’t agitated like he was. Heads down, hands
clasped before them, they were believers and would be
among the saved. Paul, on the other hand, would surely go
to hell.
He tried to force the pandemic out of his thoughts. Since
the words of Jeremy’s anti-plague prayer refused to come to
mind, he softly mumbled the only words he could think of.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven….”
He felt more than heard the presence of someone at his
side, but for the moment he kept his eyes clenched shut. “…
forgive us our trespasses….”
A hand fell on his shoulder and Paul looked up into Jeremy
Worthington’s stern features. Did he know Paul had already
forgotten the new prayer? As the preacher’s son, Jeremy had
taken over after his father had been called to Heaven. The
spiritual integrity of the remaining congregation was a duty
he took seriously.

6 -6-
Jeremy gave a little jerk of his chin, indicating that he
should follow, and with a knot of fear in his stomach, Paul
obeyed. Was this it? Would he be asked to leave for lack of
orthodoxy? In a world suddenly without adults, electricity, or
food deliveries, how would he survive without the protection
and guidance of friends?
In the minister’s office, Jeremy waved Paul to a guest
chair and took a seat behind his father’s desk. “I’ve had my
eye on you.”
Paul sucked in his breath and waited to hear the words of
“As you know, it’s getting worse out there.”
“Jesus will save the righteous,” Paul said, hoping that was
the right response.
“Yes,” Jeremy agreed. “But not if we refuse to be
instruments of our own salvation.” He leaned forward and
rested his hands on the desk. “God has spoken to me, and
He says you should be on our salvage team.”
Paul blinked. “Our what?”
“The church pantry is empty and we can’t go on much
longer this way. We need a team to go to the stores, homes
and warehouses and get supplies.”
“Isn’t that stealing? We should trust the Lord to provide.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The Lord has provided by removing
the sinners who were keeping us from obtaining what we
need. Now we must collect it, like manna from Heaven.”
Paul didn’t care for the analogy, but Jeremy had a point.
Taking from the dead wasn’t quite the same as stealing from
the living.
“You’ll be given a weapon. Don’t hesitate to use it
against any infidel gangs who try to take supplies that God
has decreed are rightly ours.”
“I can't—”
Jeremy jumped to his feet. “Are you refusing the call of
God? I’m telling you, He spoke to me in a dream and you are
among those chosen for this special mission. The world of
sin and ugliness is passing and we are to lead the crusade in
bringing about God’s holy purpose. You are to find food to
feed His needy and you are to send anyone who opposes you
to Hell.” He fixed Paul with a feverish gaze. “Any questions?
Or are you a doubter?”
Paul had doubts – lots of them. He had seen the filth of
the streets and the wild gangs of angry, desperate children
struggling for survival in the wreckage. Realistically, he had
always known their group couldn’t hide in this church
forever, praying for deliverance. He understood that sin and
evil stalked the city streets, but he had hoped that if he were
to be called to a mission, it would be to distribute goods to
the hungry and preach God’s love to the frightened. What
good could come from being a common looter?
“There will be a team meeting in the church library in an
hour,” Jeremy said. “Be on time, and may God be with you.”
In thoughtful silence, Paul returned to the sanctuary. He
found a space among the other young people and dropped to
his knees. Surely it wasn’t wrong to take abandoned goods
and put them to use in the house of the Lord, so why did he
feel uneasy? He bowed his head over his clasped hands and
waited in desperation for proper words of prayer to come.
The Lord would guide him. He had to.

8 -8-
The Beauty Queen
Kayleen Bryant

Kayleen walked across the lobby, conscious of the sound

of her shoes on the marble floor. She tried not to glance
around self-consciously, since what was there to look at?
There hadn’t been anyone else here for weeks and the only
other living creatures were the rats and mice— disgusting
creatures who competed with her for food in the restaurant
She sank into a plush chair by the fireplace and picked up
a city guide from a mahogany table. She had leafed through
this particular magazine dozens of times and the glossy
images of boutiques, spas, and restaurants always left her
agitated, wanting things that were gone.
Well, not all gone. She still had her pageant dresses and
designer outfits hanging in her room upstairs. She was free
to visit the stores in the magazine ads, if she was willing to
take her chances and go looting. The hotel gift shop had
provided her with some very nice jewelry and a couple of
cute bikinis. But it had been the glamour Kayleen loved, not
the fashions and trinkets themselves. She fed on admiration
the way the rats now fed on the dead.
She set the magazine aside and looked around, willing
herself to not be spooked by the shadows and the sound of
vermin rustling in unseen places. She was used to people
looking at her, envying her golden hair, topaz eyes, and pert
little nose. Even alone, she couldn’t escape the feeling she
was being observed, judged, and admired, even if only by the
ghosts— and Kayleen was certain that with so many dead
decomposing in their rooms, this place was haunted.
It was hard to stay with so many ghosts around, but
where should she go instead? She wasn’t from around here
—she and her mother had come to do a little shopping in
stores too fancy for their small town. She knew no one, and
before the broadcasts stopped and the electricity failed, the
news had been full of warnings about violent gangs. Kayleen
was only a mediocre student, but she wasn’t stupid. A girl
with her looks needed protection.
Too bad there were no other young people at the hotel
any more. They could’ve formed their own gang. But many
of the kids left early in the pandemic, seeking aid for their
parents, never to return. Others had struck out for home,
hoping to avoid the roadblocks and praying they could find
enough gasoline to get them where they needed to go. One
boy, the hemophiliac son of a banker in town for a
conference, had died. A girl about Kayleen’s age had shot
herself after being raped by members of the Kevorkian gang
when she went into the streets looking for a place to bury her
It was better to stay at the hotel, even if it was full of rats
and ghosts. But as Kayleen stood to go into the kitchen and
check if there were any crackers left, a sound of shouts and
footsteps at the entrance made her duck behind a column.
On the other side of the doors was movement and color,
broken up and distorted by panes of beveled glass.
She dashed for the spiral staircase, nearly tripping in her
panic as she ran to the second floor. She dropped to her
knees and peered through the balcony rails as a group of
teenage boys burst through the front doors, tracking grime
across her perfect marble floor. They milled about for a few
minutes, gawking at the chandeliers, crystal, and gold leaf as
if they had never seen such things before. Kayleen sniffed.
They must be from a poor neighborhood. The one who
appeared to be their leader was almost certainly lower class.
Weren’t Mexicans supposed to stay in their barrios eating
tortillas or something?
“Looks like no one’s been here yet.”
“Bar is stocked—we hit the jackpot, man.”
“Check the kitchen.”
At these last words, Kayleen sat a little straighter. How
dare these low-lifes barge in here and take her food! But it
was the leader’s next words that chilled her through.
“Check for bodies and squatters—every room up to the
tenth floor. When it’s all clear, we’ll tell the girls and little
ones it’s okay to move in.”

10 - 10 -
Kayleen scrambled to her feet and made a run for the
nearest stairwell and her room on the fifth floor. She shut
the door behind her and secured it with the manual bolt.
Would they really check every floor? It wouldn’t make
much difference if they didn’t, since she had to come out
sometime. What would they do to her when they found her?
If they were like those horrible Kevorks, she didn't stand a
chance. She needed status, fast.
She flipped through the clothes hanging in her closet and
selected a spangled vermillion dress that pushed up her
breasts and showed off every curve. Then she sat at the
vanity mirror and with trembling hands, arranged her hair
and began applying makeup. She was ready when she heard
the hand on the doorknob and the kick of a boot against the
“Open up in there!”
For a moment, Kayleen hesitated. She could remain
silent, let them think there was only a dead person in here.
But she had heard the banging and stomping in the hallway.
They might break down the door just to be sure. “I want to
talk to your leader!”
On the other side of the door, a moment of startled
silence. “Come on out. You can talk to him downstairs.”
“No. Make him come here.”
“No one makes Mundo do anything.”
Another voice interrupted, speaking in quiet tones so
Kayleen couldn’t make out the words. Then footsteps
stomped away and the quiet voice warned, “We’ll tell him.
But don’t even think of trying something.”
Kayleen sat on the edge of the bed, toying with her rings
as she took deep breaths to calm her racing heart. With only
one weapon at her disposal, she had every intention of trying
something, just not what those boys probably had in mind.
After what seemed like forever, there was another sound
at the door, a knock this time, authoritative but respectful.
“You wanted to see me?”
Kayleen stood up. “Are you in charge of this gang that’s
taking over?”

“My name is Reymundo Guzman Morales, and yeah, I’m in
charge. Open this door or I’ll break it down.”
With a silent prayer that she wouldn't find the gang leader
too thoroughly revolting, Kayleen opened the door.
The young man was solidly built and had skin the color of
a Starbucks latte. He was dressed in dirty fatigues, and he
carried a semiautomatic in one hand and another at his hip.
There was nothing unfriendly in his eyes, though, and
Kayleen recognized the sudden light of appreciation as he
looked her up and down. He might be leader of a dangerous
gang, but he was still a man like any other.
Kayleen flashed him her best pageant contestant smile.
“So are you guys moving in here for good? I’m the only
person here, and I’ve been awful lonely.” She held his gaze,
hoping he would understand and spare her the humiliation of
spelling out her offer.
With the slow smile of a man receiving unexpectedly
pleasant news, he put his gun away. “I think I can fix that for
you.” He glanced over his shoulder and waved his gawking
followers away. “Finish checking the rooms, guys. Me and
this girl have some negotiating to do.”

12 - 12 -
Post-Pandemic Hoop Dreams
Julilla Walker

Julilla bounced the ball and looked around. Still too early.
That meant she had time for a warm-up. She went through a
routine of her own devising, dribbling and dodging imaginary
teammates as she moved across the blacktop and back
again, then to the free throw line for a few practice shots.
The first one bounced off the backboard, but she was
unfazed. Her first shot always sucked. She had envied her
teammates who never needed those first practice throws, but
a lot of those girls were dead now, and so was the coach,
while she carried on, muddling through the post-pandemic
She threw again and this time the ball slipped through the
basket without touching the rim and bounced off the asphalt
with a satisfying sound. Julilla leaped to catch it and followed
with a couple of quick lay-ups and a hook shot. As she hit
her groove, she forgot she was hungry and alone. She forgot
the ever-present reminders of the dead in the empty streets
and shops. She even managed to ignore the sickly smell of
rot that occasionally wafted from the direction of a nearby
parking garage where bodies lay piled up, waiting for
transport trucks that would never come to take them to the
For a few blessed minutes, Julilla’s world narrowed to just
herself, the ball, and the shadows of the dead and missing
girls who she dodged and scored off in her imagination. If
she let her fancy take hold, she could almost believe she was
playing for the high school all-stars again, rallying her team
for the final victory while her coaches, classmates, and dear
Aunt Veegee screamed her name and college recruiters
tapped their BlackBerrys.
A movement at the edge of the blacktop caught her eye,
bringing her back to the present. The children were arriving,
but there weren’t enough yet. She continued to practice,
14 - 14 -
adding a few exhibition moves—ball between the legs, catch,
over the knee and down again, then a high bounce with a
little twirl before catching it and spinning it on one finger.
A few more children wandered up and one clapped.
“I got better moves than this if you’ve got food,” she
One boy had some crackers. For him, Julilla showed off
her quick footwork, and shot three hoops over her shoulder
in rapid succession.
Another girl had a box of raisins. For her, she performed
a new routine she had been working on—a hard bounce, then
see how many times she could clap and twirl before catching
it. This pleased the girl and her friends so much that they
started digging through bags and pockets, and Julilla added
some hand jive moves.
The girls were giggling and pooling their food resources
into something that might take the edge of Julilla’s hunger
when a group of rangy older boys wandered up. The
chattering girls and clapping boys fell silent and Julilla
paused, bouncing the ball slowly while she returned the
group leader’s cool look.
“You a real basketball player?” he sneered. “Or just some
kind of Harlem Globetrotter showoff?”
Patience. Aunt Veegee, God rest her soul, always said to
wait to see what the other guy would do first. That way
you’d have time to plan. “I’m here,” she said. “So I guess
that makes me as real as anyone.”
The boy reached in his pocket, and for a panicked
moment she thought he had a gun. A lot of the older boys
did these days, and sometimes the young ones, too. But
instead of a weapon, he took out a Milky Way bar.
Julilla’s stomach growled and she swallowed hard.
“Eleven points,” he said. “You game?”
“Is that the prize?”
“If you win. Want to know what mine is if you lose?” His
gaze tracked across her body.
Julilla had seen that look before. It was the same way her
mother’s ill-chosen boyfriends had looked at her, including
the one who—well, the pandemic had been good for
something, at least. A wave of anger swept through her,
spurring the killing urge that her coaches had so carefully
channeled into a winner’s drive. “I won’t lose.” She tossed
him the ball. “You can even go first. That way your friends
can see you make at least one good shot before I wipe the
blacktop with your ass.”
“The only move on anyone’s ass is going to be mine on
yours, baby.”
The boy made a fast break, dodging Julilla’s blocking
moves and going for a lay-up. Julilla leaped to knock the ball
out of range, but he crashed into her with his shoulder and
she stumbled. The ball swooshed through the basket and he
caught it with a laugh while the children on the sidelines
screamed foul. Julilla thought of calling him on it, but could
tell by his labored breathing that she only needed to hold him
off and let him wear himself down. It was just like playing
defense for the all-stars.
Over the next twenty minutes, they panted, sweated and
cursed each other as the boy twisted and feinted, unable to
lose Julilla as she hovered over and around him, sometimes
knocking the ball from his hands, sometimes waiting so she
could block his shots. She took stomps to her feet and
elbows to her ribs, all of which he pretended were accidental,
but as she saw him grow winded and she stole the ball again
and again, she didn’t bother to call him on his fouls. All she
had to do was outlast this bastard, and as she sank her last
shot, she beamed at the crowd of cheering kids.
“I think I earned my candy bar,” she told the boy, as he
leaned forward, hands on his knees, breathing hard.
With a malevolent glare, he stood up and reached in his
pocket. He threw the Milky Way to the ground in disgust and
when he raised his foot like he would stomp on it, Julilla
lunged toward him. Fouls and bruises were one thing, but
that was breakfast!
To her surprise, the boy’s friends grabbed him and pulled
him back. “Let it go, man. She won fair.”
As they dragged him off the blacktop, Julilla scooped up
the candy bar and ripped open the paper. How long had it
been since she had eaten chocolate?

16 - 16 -
The little girl who had offered her raisins tugged at her
shirt and handed up a bottle of water.
Gratefully, Julilla accepted. Putting nasty teenage boys in
their place was thirsty work.
The girl still stared at her with big eyes. “Ma’am?”
Julilla stifled a laugh. She was too young to be ma’am to
“Can you teach me to play?”
Julilla assessed. The girl wasn’t much bigger than the
ball. “It doesn’t come easy. You willing to work hard?”
“Everything’s hard since Telo.”
“It was hard before, too.” Julilla broke off a piece of Milky
Way for her. “We have to make the most of what we’ve got.
That’s how we’re going to get through this.”
The girl sucked on her candy and nodded.
“Come on, girlfriend.” Julilla held out her hand. “I think I
can show you a few moves.”

18 - 18 -
First Do No Harm
Johnathan Windston Brody, Jr.

Johnny wound the last bit of tape around the boy’s finger,
securing the splint in place. “You’ll need to make sure this
doesn’t get wet,” he said. “Do you have any rubber gloves?”
“My mom used to wear some to wash the dishes.” The
boy frowned. “But I don’t live there any more. And I don’t
want to go back.”
Johnny recognized the look in the boy’s eyes. Children
who lost their families often couldn’t bear the memories
associated with home. Sometimes it was more than just
memories that sent them into the streets looking for new
homes and new friendships; many people died where they
fell ill, with no one to remove the body afterwards.
With a small sigh, Johnny rummaged in a drawer and
produced two latex gloves from his dwindling stash. “One for
now, one for later if the first one gets torn. But be careful
with these. And if you end up not needing the second one,
bring it back.”
Johnny pulled a glove over the boy’s hand. The child’s
fingers were so small that Johnny had to secure the glove at
the wrist with a rubber band. “You’re all set. How do you
want to pay for this?”
“I’ve got to eat too, you know. Food, water, batteries…
what do you have?”
“Nothing. I’m hungry, too.”
This had been happening a lot lately. When Johnny had
first set himself up in his mother’s old medical clinic, his
young patients had taken it as a given that no doctor would
work for free, even one who was fifteen and working out of
what he could read from books and remember from dinner
table conversations. But Johnny had been too generous. He
couldn’t bear to send a child away just because he or she
had nothing to offer. That wasn’t how he had been raised.
But things were different now. Supplies were becoming
harder to find, more children needed his help, and now there
was a violent new tribe on the scene, breaking into clinics
and pharmacies, taking drugs for their own use and for
barter. The Pharms had harassed Doc twice already and
they had tied up supplies of many of the pain-killers and
antibiotics he needed to do his work. Even if he could live off
air like a Tillandsia plant, he still needed payment in order to
barter with the Pharms.
Well, what was he going to do, break the boy’s finger
again? “Go on,” he said. “Pay me when you can. But tell
your friends I don’t work for free.”
The boy thanked him and hurried out the door.
Johnny began tidying the room for the next patient,
putting instruments and supplies back in their proper places,
checking supplies, and wiping surfaces with bleach. He was
writing in his notebook where he kept track of all his patients,
treatments, and supplies, when a shadow in the doorway
caught his attention.
The serious young man with the pistol on his hip didn’t
look sick. Neither did the two armed boys behind him.
Johnny jumped to his feet. “I’m not ready for my next
patient, but if you’ll take a seat in the waiting room—”
“I’m not a patient.” The young man stepped into room as
if he owned it.
“Look, if you’re with the Pharms—”
“Nah.” He waved a hand. “My name is Reymundo
Guzman Morales, but you can call me Mundo. I’m leader of
the Regents and I need a house call. Are you the doctor?”
Johnny hesitated. Weren’t the Regents that group of kids
who had taken over the Regency Hotel? He couldn’t recall
what he had heard about them, but if it was something bad
he surely would’ve remembered it.
“I don’t do house calls. Why can’t you bring your patient
“Too dangerous.” When Johnny gave him a skeptical look
over the tops of his glasses, Mundo added, “It’s a pregnant

20 - 20 -
girl, and I don’t want her out on the streets where she might
get hurt.”
“I don’t know anything about pregnancy. Sorry.”
Mundo sighed and a note of vulnerability crept into his
voice. “Look, Doc, we’ve got goods. We can pay.”
Johnny scanned Mundo’s face as he considered.
“Please?” Mundo ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t
make me have to kidnap you. Nisha hasn’t seen a doctor
since before the Telo and she’s having weird symptoms. I
want my kid born healthy, so just tell me what you want.”
Now Johnny understood and for a moment he forgot that
he didn’t know a thing about babies and had only the
sketchiest understanding of female anatomy. This was an
opportunity. A tribal leader with goods and armed guards
was willing to let him name his price. “I need supplies,” he
said. “And protection from the Pharms. Every time I find a
new source of meds, they show up and take them. Give me
barter goods and a guard, and I’ll—”
To his surprise, Mundo shook his head. “I’ve barely got
enough guards as it is. I can’t spare anyone to hang around
here waiting to shoot a Pharm.”
“I can’t help you, then.”
The guards behind Mundo shuffled their feet and Mundo
sized Johnny up through narrowed eyes. “What are you
really after, Doc? If you just want to practice medicine in
peace, I can set you up in one of our ballrooms. You’ll have
food, supplies from our forage runs, and guard protection
twenty-four-seven.” When Johnny hesitated, he added,
“You’re not particularly attached to this place, are you?”
Johnny looked around. He knew each wall chart, supply
cabinet, and treatment room like they were his own. Even
the coffee-stained china cups in the break room were as
familiar as his own name. He had been brought here as a
baby so his mother could show him off to her co-workers. He
had come here as a toddler and colored quietly under the
receptionist’s watchful eye. He had listened to nurse and
patient chatter, then quizzed his parents at the dinner table,
always wanting to know more. How did antibiotics work?
Why do you splint broken fingers but not broken toes?
Johnny wanted to know it all and he forgot little. Yes, he was
attached to this place. But he remembered the boy he had
treated a few minutes ago and brought himself back to
reality. There was something else his parents taught him
about medicine, and it was more important than a mere
Johnny lifted his chin. “If you want me for a private
physician, forget it. Go on and shoot me, if that’s what you
think you need to do. But if you’re offering me a real clinic
where I can treat anyone who needs me, I’ll do it.”
Mundo stuck out his hand. “It’s a deal.”
They shook on it and discussed the particulars of what
Johnny, who Mundo insisted on calling “Doc,” would need.
They agreed on a moving date, and then with a clatter of
boots on the hard stone floors, Mundo and his guards walked
In the silence that followed, Johnny looked around.
Nothing had changed, yet everything had. He picked up his
pen and notebook, but didn’t know what to write. He ran his
hand across a stack of brochures about diabetes and colitis,
but couldn’t think what to do with them. He contemplated a
chart of the major muscle groups. That would be useful. He
would take that with him.
At a small sound in the doorway, Johnny looked up in
alarm. A girl with dirty feet and ragged braids coughed
again. “Are you—?”
“Yeah,” Johnny said. “I’m the doctor.”
“I can’t—I mean, I don’t have—” she held out her empty
“It’s okay,” Johnny told her. “I’ve got a patron now. No
one needs to pay me any more.”

22 - 22 -
On the Bridge
Jay Gallard

Darkness above. Darkness below. The ring of boots on

metal. Was it really his boots? Jay stopped and listened.
Maybe the problem was his ears. Or his feet. He continued
The clouds parted and the moon appeared. The water
below sparkled—something to dive into and get lost in.
He leaned over the railing as the moon vanished again
behind a cloud. Now the water was dark like the sky, but it
was still there, waiting for him. Jump and it would all be over.
No more pills and crazy raids he only half-remembered. No
more waking up with bloody hands and patches of memory
that felt like someone else’s nightmare. The water would
consume him, pull him under, and he would become…what?
He took a step back and turned around, slamming into a
pole he hadn’t noticed in the darkness. It didn’t hurt.
Nothing hurt if you took enough pills and drank enough gin,
or whatever the group had managed to steal that day.
Sometimes it was the girls who brought him things. They
asked him for food and protection. They laughed as if the
pandemic was a joke, and for awhile the world seemed right
again, until he woke up with missing time and a girl he barely
knew lying against his naked skin. That was what Trina had
done, Trina who was supposed to be his friend’s girl. Oddly,
there had never been a fight or angry word about the matter.
And now there was nothing to fight over any more.
Jay moved back to the railing. No moon, no water, only
an empty pit of blackness. Of course the water was down
there. It had been there before, hadn't it? Was he in the
right place? He frowned and wished he hadn’t taken so
goddamn many pills.
But now he had an idea. Wouldn’t the overpass be
better? In the water, he might survive, but surely not if he
24 - 24 -
leaped off the overpass. Yes, that was the better way to do
it. He stepped away from the railing again, felt the world tip
and fell to his knees, fumbling for something to grab onto.
He pulled himself up against a lamp post, breathing hard.
He couldn’t get to the freeway in this condition. Not unless
he crawled. In his present state, the idea didn’t seem
preposterous. Crawling was safe. Hard to trip and fall that
way. But wasn’t falling what he was after? Yes, of course.
But one couldn’t fall just anywhere. It had to be from
someplace high. He needed to smash his bones and break
his skull so all the ugly memories would bleed out, leaving
his body free and his mind pure.
Water wouldn’t do that. He would have to find a way to
get to the overpass. But as he let go the light post, his knees
buckled and he sank to the iron grate of the pedestrian
Water would have to do.
He dragged himself to the guardrail and pulled himself up.
The dark water shimmered below, waiting.
Then a soft footstep beside him. A quiet voice. “Jay?”
He squinted at the boy in the pale light. Thin, about his
own age, with large soulful eyes that looked like they could
swallow a person whole.
“It is you, isn’t it? They tried to tell me it wasn’t.”
“Go away.”
The boy put a hand on his arm. “You know who I am,
right? Your cousin Paul.”
Jay tried to shake off Paul’s grip. “Of course I know,” he
lied. As if he could recognize anyone in the dark and after so
many pills. What had they been, anyway? Pharmacy stock
was all he knew.
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“Dumb thing to do.”
“But you’re my only family and I care about you.”
“That’s because you’re stupid.”
“God's not stupid, and he loves you.”
“Not after what I’ve done.”

“If you’re truly sorry, he’ll forgive you.”
“There’s things I've done that won’t get forgiven. Go back
to your church group, or whoever it is you’ve been hanging
out with, and read your fucking Bible.” He jerked his arm
from Paul’s grip and moved a few steps away, the better to
figure out how he was going to get over the railing.
Paul watched in silence as Jay struggled to swing a leg
over the rail. “You know,” he said, “You could always try this
another day.”
“Don’t give me that. You think if I sober up I won’t want it
any more.”
“I promise if you still want to try tomorrow, I won’t stop
you.” When Jay didn’t answer, he waved a hand in irritation.
“Come on—what kind of lame suicide attempt is this? You
can’t even do it in the condition you’re in. I always thought if
there was something stupid to be done, you of all people
could get it right.”
Jay leaned against a post and looked at him, trying to
understand this new tactic. The moon was brighter now and
he could see the shadows and angles of his cousin’s face. He
was thinner than he remembered, and seemed older. “You
don’t get it, do you? It’s over—us, civilization, even your
precious God.” He took a wobbly step toward him. “Do you
have any idea how many people I’ve killed?” When Paul
hesitated, he laughed, a mirthless sound. “Neither do I.” He
tried again to hoist a leg over the rail.
“If you die, how will you make things right?”
“You can’t do anything for the dead.”
“You could do something for the living. You used to like
to help people.”
“Fuck off.”
“I love you.”
Jay looked at him, then turned away, unable to bear the
kindness in his eyes. “I don’t deserve it.”
“We don’t always get what we deserve.”
“No shit.”

26 - 26 -
“Sometimes God gives us better, for no reason at all.”
Paul held out his hand. “Come on, man. The bridge will still
be here in the morning.”
Jay took a step toward him, stumbled, and felt Paul catch
him in his arms. “I want to go to the overpass.”
“How about in the morning?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s okay. You don't have to.”

28 - 28 -
The Principle of the Thing
Cassie Thompson and Leila Ossarian

Cassie slipped from under the blankets and went to the

window. She and Leila had hung quilts over the curtain rods
the night before, hoping to keep some of the chill at bay, but
she wasn’t sure it had done much good. She pulled a corner
of the quilt aside and squinted at the pale winter light.
“Wake up,” she said, without moving from the window.
Leila burrowed deeper under the covers. “You go. I’ll
stay here where it’s warm.”
“We have to go together. Safety in numbers.”
“Can’t we eat MREs today? Do we always have to go out
Cassie folded the window covering back so she would
have enough light to dress. Dressing was a relative term.
Without gas or electrical service since the die-off, every place
was cold. Getting dressed to go out meant layering more
clothes on top of what one already had on. She picked up a
sweater lying across the back of a chair and pulled it on over
the one she was wearing. “We agreed to the rules together,
remember? Forage every day we can and save our food for
the days we can’t.”
Grumbling, Leila got out of bed and reached for her coat.
“Sometimes I think the dead people have it easy.”
“Don’t talk like that.” Cassie pulled on a jacket and fleece
cap. “We have to keep trying.”
“What for? We’re infected. We’ll be dead in a year or two
and in the meantime we go around eating bad food, trying
not to get raped or beat up by a gang, and being cold and
dirty in the meantime.”
“Maybe you’re dirty, but I’m not.”

“Rub it in, why don’t you?” Leila went to the dresser and
fumbled among the clutter for her gloves. “Like hell I’m
going to get wet when it’s freezing out.”
“I offered you the no-rinse camp soap.”
“It stinks.”
“It’s lavender. And it smells better than you.”
Leila reached for her hat. “What’s got into you today?”
“I’m sorry.” Cassie rubbed her face. “I didn’t sleep too
good. And I’m hungry.”
“I told you we should eat the MREs.” When Cassie didn’t
answer, Leila shoved her hands in her pockets. “I’m ready.”
Cassie grabbed her pepper spray, a few packs of
cigarettes for trade, and a ring of keys, ignoring Leila’s sneer
as she locked the door on their way out.
“If someone wants in, they’ll just break a window.”
“I know,” Cassie said, dropping the keys in her pocket.
“But at least if someone wants to rob us, they’ll have to work
for it.”
Leila shrugged and the girls headed down the sidewalk.
“Any ideas for where to forage today?” Cassie asked.
“I thought you had a plan.”
“The townhouses on Wilson Street?”
“They burned down.”
“Not all of them.” When Cassie didn’t get a reply, she
said, “Okay, how about Wal-Mart? I know it burned, but
those kids in Justin’s gang said it was becoming an open-air
“Like I’d trust anything Justin and his friends would say.”
Cassie looked at her askance. Justin Tibbs had played
football for their high school varsity team and had been nice
to Leila their junior year, leading her to think he really liked
her. “Just because he only wanted to copy off you in calculus
doesn’t mean he’s dishonest about everything.”
“Whatever.” Leila scowled and looked away. “Wal-Mart is
as good as any other place. Let’s go.”

30 - 30 -
Getting to the nearest Wal-Mart required leaving the
neighborhood and following Ingall Road to the freeway.
Ingall had a small strip center with a grocery store, a drug
store, a dry cleaner’s, and hair cutting salon. This was where
their mothers had shopped when they had no need to drive
to the larger, better-stocked stores a few miles away. The
girls had been here a few times since the pandemic and had
no expectation that anything was different now.
Nevertheless, they looked at the ransacked shops, broken
windows, and graffiti with dismay.
“Hard to believe—” Cassie began, then cut herself off.
Comparing the present to the past only made things worse.
When they got to the freeway feeder road, a dog leaped
from behind an abandoned car, snarling. There had been a
time not very long ago when the girls would’ve been terrified,
but Cassie had her pepper spray ready and got the dog full in
the nose. As he limped away, whining, Leila muttered, “This
shit with the dogs is getting old.”
“I hear some kids are eating them.”
“That’s disgusting. But I guess if they only eat the
dangerous ones….”
“A service to humanity,” Cassie said.
Leila laughed in a mirthless, half-hysterical way. She had
done this a lot at the start of the pandemic, but not as often
lately, as the winter cold and constant hunger sapped her
energy for seeing irony in their situation.
“We’re not far now,” Cassie pointed out needlessly.
“Let’s hurry. I bet they’ll have fires so we can warm up.”
When they came within sight of the Wal-Mart, they saw
groups of kids of all ages huddled in groups in the parking
lot. Some had built small fires of scrap, some had set up
tables and were trying to trade merchandise. Cassie and
Leila moved cautiously among the sale items but were
unimpressed. They already had gloves and winter scarves
and had plenty of toilet paper from foraging in their
neighborhood. The only kids selling food weren’t interested
in Cassie’s money and wanted more packs of cigarettes than
she had with her.
“We were better off staying home,” Leila said.

Cassie was about to reply when she noticed a group of
girls huddled around a fire at the edge of the parking lot.
They were dressed in short skirts and high heels and their
faces were heavily made up. One girl in particular caught
her eye. “That isn’t Emily, is it?”
Leila squinted at the pretty former drill team captain
touching up her lipstick in the afternoon sunlight. “I think it
They wandered over, startling Emily, who blushed
underneath her makeup and returned their greeting warily.
As they made idle chatter about the weather and where the
best food supplies were to be found, Cassie couldn’t escape
the feeling that Emily wanted them to go away. After a few
minutes, she saw why.
Three teenage boys with greasy hair and guns sauntered
over and looked the girls over. Finally the one who appeared
to be their leader asked, “How much?”
Cassie and Emily exchanged a look.
“You should go,” Emily whispered as one of the other girls
started negotiating.
“You can’t do this. There’s other ways.”
Emily shook her head. “It’s easier than scavenging, and I
bet I eat better than you.”
Leila had been listening to the negotiations and gave a
small shrug. “We sure don’t ever get to eat Oreos.”
“Oh, come on.” Cassie frowned and tried to grab Emily’s
hand. “You don’t want to sell yourself for a package of
cookies, do you?”
Emily jerked away. “It’s easy work. And I’ll be dead soon
anyway, so who cares?”
“We care.” Cassie looked at Leila for confirmation. “Come
with us. We found some rice yesterday.”
“No way.” Emily darted a glance at one of the boys.
“These guys have Hershey bars, or haven’t you been paying
attention?” She flashed a boy a smile. As he walked over,
she muttered to Cassie out of the corner of her mouth, “Go
away. Now.”

32 - 32 -
Cassie and Leila did as they were told and started back
toward their neighborhood. They walked in silence for a long
time before finally Cassie said, “You were right. We
should’ve stayed home and eaten the MREs. That was
“I can kind of see her point, though,” Leila said. “We work
awfully hard and don’t have much to show for it.”
“At least we haven’t compromised.”
“Maybe not, but does it matter?” Leila waved a hand at
the trash and burned-out cars littering the deserted street.
“Look at this place. We have no future, so why give a damn
about the present?”
“I don’t know,” Cassie said, after appearing to think about
it. “Sometimes doing right doesn’t make any sense, but you
have to do it anyway.”
“So it’s the principle of the thing.”
Cassie took a deep breath and tipped her head back so
she could see the startling blue of the clear winter sky
instead of the muck of the streets. “Something like that. We
may be living like animals, but at least we'll die like humans.”

Special Delivery
The Twins

With a thwack, the knife embedded itself in the wood

paneling. Danny flinched. “That was close, love.”
Danica picked up another knife. “It was supposed to be.
You need to hold still.”
“I did. Your aim was off.”
“I’m never off.” Danica took aim but before she could
throw, a knock on the door made her jump. “What the—”
Another knock. This time Danny started across the room.
“Why would anyone come here?”
Danica put the knife aside and scampered after him.
“Maybe someone heard about us and wants us for a job.”
“That would be nice, especially if they can pay in food or
water filters.” Danny peered out the murky peephole. “I
don’t see anyone.” He reached for the semiautomatic he
kept next to the door. “Get ready to cover me, in case it’s
Danica grabbed a .38 and waited while Danny fumbled
with the bolts and locks. They were the only residents of the
building since pandemic, but that didn’t mean they were
safe. In the early months of the die-off, gangs had roamed
the area, but lately things had been quiet. So who was at
their door?
A small box, apparently.
After checking that no one was waiting to jump him,
Danny stood over the package and frowned. It was about
half the size of a shoebox and wrapped in neat brown paper.
Danica peered around his shoulder. “UPS?”
“Very funny. It might be dangerous.”
“I’m sure it’s just an ordinary delivery. Some of the kids
must be trying to re-establish a post office.”

34 - 34 -
“That wouldn’t explain why they brought something here.
It doesn’t have our names and address on it. Maybe it’s a
“Who would want to blow us up?”
“You never know.”
“I think it’s harmless and we should open it.”
A debate ensued, in which the twins discussed
possibilities as disturbing as explosives and anthrax to the
more horrific notion that the box might contain a fruitcake
from their grandmother, dead in the pandemic.
“Sometimes things get lost and don’t get delivered for
decades,” Danica pointed out.
“Whatever it is, I don’t like it. I’m going to move it out of
our doorway.”
“Why? It’s not in our way, since we always go in and out
the window.”
Danny found a mop and pushed the suspicious package to
the end of the hall where he left it by the stairwell. He
returned with a satisfied air.
As he locked the door and set the bolts, Danica asked, “If
it really is a bomb, what if it blows up the stairs?”
“Then we won’t have to worry about any more deliveries.”
Danica threw herself onto the sofa with a giggle. “That
would be nice. Maybe no one would bother us again, ever.”
She stretched with the sensual moves of a cat. “I didn’t
expect this much excitement on a non-foraging day.”
Danny stalked toward her with a grin. “The day’s not
over yet.”
“What more could happen?”
Danny leaned over her and ran a hand up her thigh. “Do
you need some ideas?”
Before Danica could answer, there was another rap at the
door, more urgent than before.
“Let them knock,” Danny said. He fumbled with the
buttons of his fly.
Danica helped. “Right. We’re busy.”
The knocking continued.
Danica paused. “Maybe it’s important.”
“Nothing’s more important than you, babe.”
“Then we should find who’s doing it and shoot them.”
“Too much trouble.” He gave a little tug at her pants.
“You going to leave these on, or what?”
Danica cast a glance toward the door. “I just wonder if—”
“Don’t wonder.” He pressed her shoulders into the
cushions and kissed her until all urge toward curiosity was
gone. By the time Danica squirmed out of her clothes so he
could make love to her, the knocking had become a distant
background noise, easily ignored.
An hour later when Danica wrapped herself in a robe and
peeked out the door, she saw nothing on the empty stoop or
in the vacant hallway. Even the original package was gone.
“That's odd.”
“Everything's odd since the die-off.”
Danica shut the door and leaned against it, frowning.
“Yes, I guess that's the apocalypse for you. You never know
what to expect.”
“It's all about us now.”
“So can I throw knives at you again?”
“Of course, love. Nothing matters but you.”

36 - 36 -
Practical Nurse
Rochelle St. Clair

“We’ll be there soon.”

Rochelle said it for herself more than for the sick boy who
lay curled on dirty towels in the shopping cart. She had
heard that the gang at the Regency Hotel had a clinic with a
real doctor—or at least a boy who had been raised by
doctors, which was the next best thing since the pandemic
had wiped out the adults. Word on the street was that John
Brody was smart and capable. Twelve year-old Rochelle had
her doubts—there were a lot of rumors these days. But she
was desperate.
She pushed the cart along the muddy street, past thin,
hungry children hustling for a meal. On a corner, a teenager
with painted face and a hard look in his eyes assessed her
with a steely gaze that Rochelle felt through her clothes like
the unwelcome grope of a pedophile. She shuddered, gave
the cart an extra push and hurried on.
When she arrived at the hotel, she found it under guard,
but a tall black girl with a Glock at her hip listened to
Rochelle’s words with compassion in her eyes. “Our clinic
isn’t free for people who aren’t in our gang. Can you pay?”
Rochelle shook her head. The only currency these days
was food, and she hadn’t eaten in two days.
“Maybe we can work something out.”
Rochelle was too weak from hunger to remove her brother
from the cart unaided, so the guard helped, and together
they took him upstairs to the ballroom, which had been
turned into a clinic. A slight, brown-haired teenager in
spectacles met them in the triage area and introduced
himself as Dr. Brody.
“This is Rochelle,” the guard said. “She says her brother
has some kind of infection.”

38 - 38 -
The doctor instructed Rochelle to lay her brother on a
mattress and proceeded to examine him. The wound on his
leg had suppurated and gave off a foul odor. “You should’ve
come earlier.”
“I’ve been rinsing it every day and giving him antibiotics.
At least that’s what I was told they were.”
“Whatever you were given, it didn’t work. He’s
septicemic now.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means it doesn’t look good.” He took off his glasses
and wiped them on the tail of his dingy lab coat. “I’ll do what
I can, but it’s hard to get the right meds. Don’t expect
Rochelle’s heart gave a little lurch. “You mean he might
She sank into a chair and watched while the teenage
doctor worked on her brother’s leg. When he had done all he
could, he carried the boy into the convalescent ward. “I’m
not optimistic. But I’ll do everything I can.”
Rochelle was dizzy with gratitude. “I already told the
guard I can’t pay, but I can help in other ways. I’ll clean your
clinic. I’ll feed your patients and change their sheets, I’ll—”
The doctor shook his head. “Only group members are
allowed to work and you'd have to be voted on. But I’ll vouch
for you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What I mean is I could use a decent nurse. You kept
your brother clean and took good care of his injury. It’s not
your fault you didn’t have the right medicine to keep it from
getting infected. If you want to join our gang, I’ll be your
patron. That way you’ll get voted on right away.”
Rochelle hesitated. She had heard this hotel gang was
well-organized and relatively peaceful, but did she want to
give up her independence?
“Your brother's care will be free, and I'll teach you
everything I know.”

The doctor's eyes were kind and his words were wise.
Without skills or a protector, she was nothing. Rochelle
didn't much care what happened to her any more. The
pandemic had taken everything that gave her life structure
and meaning. But younger children like her brother needed
hope. And help. “I’ll be your nurse,” she said. “Just tell me
what I have to do.”

40 - 40 -
Ars Gratia Artis
May Ellison

May walked the city street with an empty water jug in

each hand. As she wove around piles of trash and picked her
way over debris, she tried to reconcile the evidence of her
eyes and nose with what her brain still struggled to
acknowledge. They were all dead—not just her parents,
tutors and professors, but all the adults, from newscasters
and bank presidents to hedge-trimmers and street musicians.
The ones who died first got graves. Later, the dead were
thrown into pits. The last of them still lay in the streets and
buildings where they fell, hence the smell that May tried to
counter by wearing a perfume-soaked scarf over her face. It
didn’t help much.
She saw some kids hawking bottled water on a street
corner, but although she was tempted, she continued to the
park. Here, the turf had been dug up for burial pits and a
broad open area showed scorch marks from an attempt at
mass cremation, but May avoided these hazards and
followed the stone path to the canoe launch. As she stooped
to fill her gallon jugs with river water, she heard a voice.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
She looked around in alarm, but then relaxed. The boy
looked to be about twelve and although he was dirty, there
was nothing about him that suggested danger.
“Everyone who drinks that water gets sick,” he said. “It’s
because of all the dead people.”
May turned back to her work. Ignorant child. Of course
the river water would make a person sick if it wasn’t properly
treated. But she was a chemist and the daughter of
chemists. She went to college at sixteen and would’ve been
in her third semester if not for the pandemic. She knew how
to keep from getting sick off the water. By the time she
capped the jugs and got to her feet, the boy was gone.

As she walked back to the vacant building she was
squatting in, she found herself mulling over the incident at
the park. They boy who had warned her was only trying to
be kind. Instead of ignoring him, why hadn’t she explained
about distilling and pasteurizing? Why hadn’t she told him
where to get chlorine or iodine? She knew how to survive;
science had taught her a lot of useful things. But if she
wasn’t going to teach others, what her purpose?
It occurred to her that she had the skills to put together a
cocktail that would kill her quickly and with relatively little
pain. Perhaps that was the best thing. She didn’t really want
to help anyone; she had spent her entire life doing what
other people wanted.
A pack of dogs ran past, chased by children wielding
baseball bats. A hunting party. Well, good luck to them.
May paused so they could go by but when she started
walking again, she felt something embedded in the sole of
her shoe. She muttered a curse and stopped to remove it.
The glass shard she pulled from between the treads of her
sneakers was bottle-green and caught the afternoon sunlight.
A flicker of memory stirred: mosaics at the art museum,
stained glass in church windows, the glitter of fanciful
costume jewelry on the necks and arms of the girls at her
high school—girls her parents wouldn’t let her be friends with
because she was so much younger and needed to study to
win a scholarship to Harvard. She had spent hours poring
over books and mixing chemicals in the lab when what she
really wanted was to surround herself with bright, colorful
things that sparkled.
May looked around the filthy streets, ignoring the curious
stares of a group of boys sitting on the curb, passing a bottle
back and forth. The glass of their bottle was brown and
would probably sparkle too, once its contents were drained.
She could smash the bottle, scoop up the glass, and…what?
What indeed? Who was to tell her not to take the ugly,
broken shards of civilization and make something of beauty?
The road was littered with blue glass, chips of mirrors, red
and amber bits of plastic, and who knew what else? It was
hers for the taking, and to hell with her parents’ goal of
seeing her in a lab. They were dead, and so were all their

42 - 42 -
May dropped the piece of glass in her pocket and picked
up her water jugs. They felt lighter now. In fact, her whole
body felt made of feathers and her heart fluttered with
excitement. There had been a time when she thought she
would have to wait a lifetime to realize her dreams, but who
was to stop her now? She would go home and distill her
water, and tomorrow she would scavenge art materials on
the city streets. Her life would not be long—she was infected
with Telo like everyone else. But at least her life was finally
her own.

About the Author
Ann Pino lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband Dan, her
cat Pixel, and her rabbit, Cadbury. She works for the
University of Houston.

About the Book:

When her parents died in a global pandemic, seventeen-year-

old Cassie Thompson thought her biggest problem was
finding her next meal. But “Telo” is a virally-transmitted
genetic disease that targets adults, and no one is immune.
Surviving to adulthood isn’t looking very good as her city
succumbs to food shortages, sanitation problems, and gang
violence. When Cassie accepts an invitation to join a group
of young people living in a luxury hotel, she thinks her most
immediate troubles are over. Her new tribe appears
committed to alliance-building, order, and civility. She soon
finds, however, that her new friends have dark secrets and
the boy she is falling in love with might be the most
dangerous of them all.

Steal Tomorrow is available in print and pdf at

and in Kindle format at This book was
previously serialized on the web and can still be viewed at, but it has not been edited
to the standards of the lulu and amazon versions.

44 - 44 -

You might also like