Sci-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic, Futuristic Romance
by Linda Mooney
Word Count: 67.3K
$0.99 e / $9.99 p
It didn't come because of man's inhumanity to man. It didn't come from bombs, or plague, or even from aliens descending from outer space. In fact, no one knows what triggered it. And even if they did, there was no way to turn back time.
Only one thing was certain. One evening the sun had grown unexpectedly bigger and hotter, and heat and radiation unlike anything ever experienced washed over the Earth, bathing it in searing rays that devoured over three-quarters of the world's population.
Now the sun is smaller, and it doesn't radiate as much heat as it used to. The world is colder. Food is scarce, and people are fighting to stay alive.
Andrew Michael Tollson, aka "The Silent Wraith", was a man who roamed from settlement to outpost to city, offering his protection from scavengers and renegades. Years ago, right before the sun had exploded, when he had been a boy growing up in a small Texas town, he had felt his first crush for the little tomboy he knew as Jo. Now, as a grown man, he has finally made his way back to his boyhood home to see if Jo is still alive, or if she has been a victim of the Apocalypse. He has to know if the dreams and memories he has harbored were mere fantasies, or if the infatuation he'd felt then has grown into something else, something stronger and more tangible.
JoBeth Wythe was a member of The Triad, three leaders who protected their little settlement, and tried to recall the carefree days before the Apocalypse. All they wanted was the chance at a decent life, with enough food, some shared warmth, and a little hope for the future. She had never forgotten the pudgy little kid who had followed her around when she was growing up, the little boy she called Mikey. Every time she thought of him, it only brought back pain and a wistfulness for a past that no longer existed.
For Drew and Jo, it was only a matter of time before they would be reunited to fight together. To survive together. And to discover that the innocent kisses they had shared as children had grown into a love that would overwhelm them with desire.
Warning! Contains permanent extreme cold, love everlasting, survivalists, separation, a legend in the making, a brutal mass murder, childhood friends to lovers, and the end of the world as we know it.
From November 1st through the 30th, you can get the ebook for only 99 cents! (Available at this price only on Amazon and my website. Note: Click BUY EBOOK to get the Nook or PDF version.)
Yesterday, February 6
It had been one hundred thirteen degrees since before eight that morning. The big thermometer nailed to the tree outside the kitchen window only went up to one hundred twenty, making Drew wonder what would happen if it got hotter.
The electricity had been out since Thursday, but Cort Tollson had bought a generator to help keep the refrigerator going. On Saturday he unhooked their gas range from the main line, just to be safe, he said. They took to grilling their meals outside, cooking everything over an open flame.
The trees surrounding their house were dying. Cort was afraid to water them to try to save them, for fear the family would need the water for themselves at some crucial future time. So they sweltered in the heat from December through January.
The news around the world sounded even worse. Thousands were dying in Australia, which was in the middle of its summer season, under temperatures reaching over three hundred degrees. Africa was also slowly broiling. News reports told of trees exploding into flames. Whole species of animals were being wiped out under the relentless sun. Scientists even mentioned that the space probes on Mars were sending back temperature readings of inhabitable range—up to the forties in some areas during daylight hours.
Teena Tollson turned on the battery powered radio every hour on the hour to get the latest information and weather updates, then turned it off right afterwards to conserve the batteries. When she wasn’t cooking, she took to cleaning their clothes in the sink and hanging them over a line in the garage. For Drew, watching TV and playing video games was a thing of the past. He had yet to be enrolled in his local school, and from the looks of it, it would be a while longer before he could get the opportunity, since the local school district had closed its campuses until the crisis had passed. Alone, bored, and desperately missing Jo, he took to spending long hours simply sitting on the porch and watching the traffic go by, since it was too hot to go exploring.
Sunset came at six thirty-eight. Once the sun went down behind the treetops, the air cooled. Somewhat. By eight o’clock the thermometer still hovered in the nineties.
No rain had fallen in the past eighty-three days. None was predicted to fall, not even a trace, for the next sixty. Rivers and lakes were drying up. The snow was disappearing from the peaks of all mountain ranges. The oceans were evaporating at a visible rate.
From the scientific community came the explanation. The sun was dying, and this unexpected burst of radiance was its final gasp before it imploded. No one knew how long the world had before it released its one remaining wave of energy. Nor could they estimate how long the flare would last. They knew even less what the ramifications would be—what lasting effects would forever change the earth and life upon it. They could only guess, and even then their theories were mere shots in the dark.
When sunset descended upon the northern hemisphere, every living creature breathed a sigh of relief that they had survived another day. The night would give them the chance to lick their burns and hope to make it through tomorrow.
They had no clue there would be no tomorrow.
At four minutes past one in the morning, Drew felt his father shaking him as he called his name. “Drew! Get up, son! Now! We gotta go now!”
Dragging open sleepy eyes, Drew was surprised to see the day shining brightly outside. Confused and disoriented, he pulled on a t-shirt and jeans, and was in the middle of trying to find a pair of socks in his dresser when his mother ran into his room. “Come on, Drew. We gotta go now!”
Grabbing his shoes, she snatched a handful of his shirt with her free hand and half-carried him out into the garage, shoving him into the back seat and tossing his shoes at him. His father and David were throwing some things into the trunk before jumping into the car themselves. Cort Tollson tossed two life vests into the front seat as David jumped into the back with two more.
“Put the vests on, boys,” he snapped in a hard, tight voice.
Drew had never seen his father drive as fast as he did that morning. Staring out the window, it soon became clear they were heading for the lake. For what reason, he had no idea.
“Dad? Where are we goin’?”
“We’re going to the lake,” his mother answered. The air conditioner in the car was going full blast, but very little of it was making its way to the back seat.
“What time is it?” Drew asked. He normally didn’t sleep so late that it would be broad daylight when he crawled out of bed. But for some strange reason, his body felt as exhausted as if he’d just gone to bed.
Once again Teena Tollson turned her head slightly so he could see her profile. “It’s a little after one.”
“In the afternoon?”
“No, Brewski. In the morning,” David snapped in a condescending tone.
“Oh, yeah, right,” Drew spat back.
Their mother intervened before things went any further between the two. “David’s right, Drew. It’s still the middle of the night.”
Drew took all of five seconds to digest this bit of news. “How?” Outside the window the world was as bright as a cloudless day.
A frown suddenly creased his face. No, wait a minute. Yes, it was daylight, but it was a funny color of light. Orangish, kind of. And how come there weren’t any other cars on the road?
“Mom, is the sun exploding?”
Both parents glanced at each other, then Cort Tollson tightly answered, “Yes, Drew. It is.”
They reached the lake in less than five minutes. By the time they reached the parking lot, they could see the lake bed several hundred yards in the distance, glimmering like a fiery blanket. Not long ago the water had been up to the pier, lapping against the pylons which supported the short boardwalk.
“Everyone out! Run to the water! Hurry!” Cort Tollson shouted to his family. “David, help me with that canoe over there!”
Drew started to protest when his mother grabbed his hand and made him go with her. Underneath the relentless rays they could feel their skin burning with each passing second. When they reached the water, his mother didn’t stop, and went splashing into the warm water, pulling Drew along with her. Not far behind them Drew’s father and older brother followed, carrying the long wooden canoe above their heads.
“Go deeper!” Cort called out. “Go as far out as you can! Try to make it to the middle of the lake!”
Struggling in the depths, Drew threw his arms around his mother’s neck as she blindly felt her way along the bottom of the lake. Moments later, Cort and David joined them, swimming toward them while keeping the canoe upside-down overhead.
Drew stared in surprise as his mother took one end and his father took the other, keeping him and David in the middle. David was taller than he was, but his brother still had to support himself on their father’s shoulders to keep his head above the surface. There they struggled to remain afloat in the warming water while the sun beat down on the overturned canoe.
“Don’t touch anything made of metal,” Cort ordered. “If you have to grab something, make sure it’s wooden.”
At first, Drew wondered why there was a high-pitched hissing sound coming from all around them. Peering through the narrow space between the side of the canoe and the surface, he could see huge columns of smoke rising from the banks.
“That’s not smoke, Drew. It’s steam. Look closer. You’ll see the water’s boiling where it’s the most shallow.”
His father was right. Even where they were, the water was growing noticeably warmer. As he watched in fascination, he could swear he could see the water level in the lake slowly falling as the scorching sun drank. There was a huge, oblong rock in the shape of an airplane at the water’s edge. Right now most of it remained submerged except for the left wing, which sat like a white, bleached bone.
“What if the water gets too hot?” Teena asked her husband. She didn’t dare speak of them possibly boiling to death in front of the children, although the prospect was all too real.
“Mitch says the sun probably won’t stay hot long enough to get the whole body to that point.”
Cort kept urging them to go further and further into the deepest part of the lake. It if weren’t for the life vests, Drew would have given out long ago. They frequently had to throw water on their faces, or duck beneath the surface, in order to find some small measure of relief.
“How long do you think this will last?” Teena asked her husband at one point. Her arms ached from holding the canoe, and underneath the interior the air was quickly becoming humid and steamy.
Cort shook his head. “I don’t know, honey, but Mitch seemed to think no more than an hour or two.”
“An hour or two?” Her voice hitched with unshed tears. Her husband tried to soothe her.
“Have faith, honey,” he spoke in a calm voice, hoping their sons wouldn’t start crying, either. “Remember, if it weren’t for Mitch, we wouldn’t have known what to look for. Or be prepared for it, and know what to do when it came.”
Hearing his father speak of Jo’s father sent a spasm of sheer panic through eleven-year-old Drew. “Dad?”
“There’s... there’s no lake where Jo is. How is she gonna live?” Already he could feel the tears stinging his eyes, and he knew that when his older brother saw him crying, he would get ribbed mercilessly for being a weak baby. But he didn’t care. Thinking about Jo facing this same terror was almost too much for him to stomach. Thankfully his father knew just what to say to give him some measure of assurance. His eyes riveted onto the airplane-shaped rock across the lake. The water was down past the tail and body, and was sliding over the lower right wing. Before too long the entire rock would be above lake level.
“Drew, Jo’s probably safer than we are right now. After all, her father knows more about the sun and the solar system than most people on earth.” He gave the little man a small smile. “Don’t worry about her, son. She’ll make it through this just fine, just as we will.”
Drew didn’t respond. No matter how hopeful his father sounded, it wouldn’t stop him from worrying. In fact, he never stopped worrying for the next seventeen years.