Authors: Jeremy Laszlo
The Series (Books 1-6)
By Jeremy Laszlo
© 2015 by Jeremy Laszlo.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
The Blood and Brotherhood Saga
(Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy, Ages 15+)
Orc Destiny Trilogy (A Blood and Brotherhood series)
(Dark Fantasy, Ages 13+ for gore and violence)
The Beyond Series
(Adults only due to extreme mature content)
Beyond The Soul (The Beyond Book Three)
Children of the After series
(post-apocalyptic, Ages 10+)
Left Alive series
(Zombie Apocalypse, Adults only due to extreme mature content)
The Detective King Trilogy
(Adults only due to Extreme Mature Content)
Stand Alone Novels
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My name is Charles Duwain. I suppose it isn’t important what day it is anymore, or the year for that matter. If you’re reading this, all you need to know is that I was there. I was there when all of this happened. If that isn’t important to you, then I beg of you, put this down and leave it for someone who does find it important. Someone out there has to know what happened. Someone will need to know in the end.
I remember in the years leading up to all this that we were a people who idealized the end. We watched TV shows, stocked up on canned foods, and shared our plans to survive the apocalypse with each other. If we’re honest, we wanted it to happen. We wanted all the rules to burn away. We dreamed of a primal world where we could go wherever we wanted, do whatever we desired, and die as we chose. We wanted Darwin’s law to be the only law. As we sat before our TVs watching men struggle against unspeakable odds, we secretly envied them. I have never been more horrified by seeing a prayer answered. I think that if there is a God, then he let us reap all that we had sown.
Steven Hardy is the man responsible for this. Everyone knows that now. Just before the radios and the televisions went silent, his name had been the one on everyone’s lips, inside our ears. Steven was a professor at the University of Illinois working with researchers in the Amazon and in India, trying to save our world from deforestation. He wanted to accelerate the growth of plant life to match the speed at which we hacked it down. When others heard about the miracle fertilizer he’d engineered inside the U of I’s labs, they tried synthesizing their own to help farmers accelerate crop growths. Why just stop at saving the forests when we could solve world hunger as well?
Something happened. I don’t know what. I’ve heard a dozen conspiracy theories, but from what I’ve heard, it had to do with animals ingesting the feed grown with the accelerator. Their stomach acid broke down the compound, making their waste devastating. They said that once it was absorbed, it ruined the cellular walls of plant cells, causing them to be weak, to die. I don’t know the science behind it, but it spread like a plague through plant life. All across the Midwest, crops withered, trees rotted, and forests turned brown. They said that the soil was completely useless due to highly acidic toxins which destroyed all the minerals and nutrients plants needed to thrive. Everything started dying. We watched on television as the Amazon and lush forests in India began to wither and blacken.
The governments took action, quickly quarantining any infected areas, halting foot traffic, and trying their hardest to stop the spread. To be honest, it could have worked had we realized sooner. Everything along the Missouri, the Platte, the Canadian, the Pecos, Red, and Mississippi rivers all began to die. The runoff and seepage killed everything, turning the heart of America into a wasteland. Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru were all devastated as the plague headed south. India was ravaged as well, spreading into Pakistan before their quarantine measures started working. The spread seemed to stop then with the implementation of the quarantines for almost exactly one year, until winter.
Blizzards pelted the East Coast and the Rockies for months and when spring arrived and those snows melted, a barren waste was all that remained. The rest of the northern hemisphere witnessed much the same. Despair washed across the world as vast dust storms brought the plague over quarantine zones, dumping mountains of ash and loose soil in uninfected areas. Fires filled the skies with thick, roiling clouds of darkness. People everywhere began to panic. Governments toppled like dominoes. Ours held on the longest as people fled west, trying to cross the Rockies to the unaffected coast. But to many people, all that was waiting on the other side was a disappointing lie. The West was lost as well.
What came next was every horror fanatic’s wet dream. Chaos and anarchy exploded in the streets. The Federal Government was shut down before Easter. State governments couldn’t even control their own National Guardsmen. Everyone with a gun declared himself judge, jury, and executioner to whatever grievances they held. When the grocery stores stopped stocking their shelves, people panicked and began rioting, burning entire towns and cities to the ground. With everything dead, the fires raged onward, unhindered. I heard reports of entire nations taking to the waters to besiege islands unaffected by the plague. What was left of those islands were probably bombed husks of what once was, though that is only my own speculation as no word ever came of them.
As for me, I was one of those fools—one of those bastards who dreamt of a world where the rules no longer applied. So what did I do when the shit started hitting the fan? I fled my comfortable job at the University of Michigan and I did what any sensible man would. I headed for isolation. I took to the dying forests, moved along the polluted coast of Lake Huron, thinking I’d found security and salvation in my father’s cabin out in the back woods. Against a palette of gray and brown, the old cabin endured. It had everything I would ever need, or so I thought. I had intended to live the rest of my days out in the cabin, letting hell rage out there. I hoped that soon the psychopaths would kill each other off, leaving the world to those of us who still had our silent dignity.
The road to my father’s cabin is all but gone. Trees have collapsed on it, blocking my Jeep in, but I think given enough patience, I could find a way out of here. There’s no one around for miles and the last time I saw anyone was only after I hunted them down. I tracked them for two full days before I decided to reveal myself. I gave them a can of Spam for whatever information they’d give me.
“Times are desperate,” the man had said, keeping himself between me and his wife and daughter, as if I’d rape them or worse. They might have been pretty once, but pretty hasn’t been around for a very long time. The world is colorless and unforgiving now. They looked half-starved and dying anyway. I took pity on them, but that was it. “I hear rumors of men turning zombie, feeding off the living. That’s just we need, huh? Zombies to make this place worse,” he had said.
I didn’t buy the zombie part, but packs of dogs and wolves hunting down travelers did sound about right. The first part of surviving is getting to safety. I had done that. I told them they needed to get there as well. Find some place safe, make it their own, stock it up, and defend it with their lives.
When I got back to the cabin, I couldn’t stop picturing that little girl’s face. Her wide, bright eyes. They were the color of blue that the lake once was. They reminded me of my girls thirteen hundred miles to the south. Florida is on the far side of the country. I thought about those wolves and fires and killers out there hunting for food. They’d kill a man just for a can of beans. There’s a lot of land between us. I suppose that was why I decided to write all of this down. The children are our future. As long as children walk the earth, there’s hope. If there is to be any hope of surviving all of this to face a new day, then they need to know. They need to know what happened. Well, that’s all I know. It happened too fast to get all of the details, but this is as much as I can remember. I hope whoever reads this is safe. I hope you found your piece of the world and have endured all of the chaos. I hope you found tomorrow.
I walked the shore of the lake today, checking the snares. I found a dead dog, a scrawny thing caught in my trap. It had died recently, but to be honest, I think I did the beast a favor. It was lean, half dead before it found my snare. Its ragged fur was dirty, caked with soot and mud. Its teeth had started falling out and its blackened tongue was swollen and puffy. Flies were already buzzing around the beast. It wasn’t even close to what I had hoped to find in my snare. Food is getting harder to hunt. I’m beginning to realize that the only meat I’m going to have left soon is going to be the kind that only comes in cans and even those are becoming few. I don’t envy this future. Scavenging is dangerous work.
The lake is full of death. The seepage has reached the lakes and has wasted no time in killing everything. It started with a massive algae bloom that covered the lake like a vast emerald carpet. I could nearly walk on it, it had been so thick. When it died, everything stank of rotten, putrid death. I have never seen so many fish in my life. Unfortunately, all of them are still, lifeless. Their glassy eyes stare up toward the heavens as if looking for an answer from God. They wash up on the shores, covering the pebbly beach with sickening decay that stings my nostrils. Lake Huron is now as much of a wasteland as the surrounding area. I can’t think of any reason to stay any longer. I thought the lake would dilute the pollution, but there’s just too much for her to handle. It makes me wonder just how much of the world’s oceans have been infected yet. Is there any way to stop this? The flies are as thick as a cloud on the beach, almost biblical in numbers. I swatted at a few who began investigating me and decided it was time to leave this hellish place.
What’s left of the forest is nothing more than the blackened teeth of hell. The trees that didn’t topple over are left leafless, branchless, and nothing more than blackened or grayed spikes. The bushes dried up and snapped off in the windstorms some time ago. I can hear the remaining trees collapsing in the distance. There’s nothing to stop the noise these days. I think I could hear a pin drop a hundred miles away. I hear voices, echoing through what remains of the forest, but there’s no way of knowing where it’s coming from or how far away they are. Sometimes I think it’s the voices of the dead. I make my way home with the dog thrown across my shoulders, a pair of scrawny squirrels tied to my belt. The ground has been rendered into a gray, rocky surface coated with dust and leaves. Everything is dead or dying. I haven’t heard a bird sing in months.
I listen to my hand crank radio every night, waiting for signs that things are getting better out there. I listen to it now in the dim, fading light of the world outside. There’s more talk of the zombies on the radio. I suppose those strangers I found a few weeks ago weren’t so crazy after all. It’s a guy out of Port Huron that I listen to most of the time. The guy never shuts up. He’s a nervous fellow with a squeaky voice. I picture him huddled under a desk with marauders outside the doors of his house, calling out his name, trying to get his radio. He must have some sort of connections to the outside world. He talks a lot of what’s left of the government. Either that or he’s full of shit.
I don’t think there’s anything left of the government. I mean, I’ve heard all the stories about them holding out in Vermont and New Hampshire as well as parts of New York State, but it’s all a bunch of shit. The government went down with a loud and bloody fight, but there were just too many unhappy souls out there with too many guns. Too many people that wanted to see changes. Even in the end, free will was more important to most people than order and that’s just what it came down to. I suppose that explains a whole lot of the human condition in the end.
Another guy is a DJ in Grand Rapids working out of a radio station with a few well-armed psychopaths. He’s a fear-monger and propaganda man, but he tells the truth sometimes. He talks about the battles that are happening in Grand Rapids. Apparently the whole of the city is split along the river, two factions vying for what few resources are left. He’s trying to pull people toward Grand Rapids, which makes me distrust him all the more. All I can picture of the place is a war zone, and anyone foolish enough to head that way is getting what they’re looking for. Apparently they’re paying mercenaries in cans of food to fight for ‘their cause’, whatever that means. Are there any right causes in the post-apocalyptic world we’ve found ourselves in?
There’s an old preacher down in Detroit that also broadcasts long distance. Other than Port Huron, I listen to him most of the time. I’m not overly religious by any means, but I find his sermons and benedictions somewhat comforting. He’s the farthest south that I can pick up so I cling to his news at sunset most days with immense attention. He picks up reports from Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, and even as far east as Pittsburgh. He has some sort of long-range frequency he’s tapped into. I pray every day that I hear something about Florida, but word has never come.
The more I hear on the radio, the more I begin to understand how dire the situation out there truly is. I remember the riots on the campus, the day I left the office. I had all my stuff in my truck, ready for when shit really started hitting the fan. I wanted to head south, straight to Florida, but there were no flights out. Pilots were trying to get their families out of the country, trying to land their planes on islands to save everyone. Driving to Gainesville was a suicidal fantasy and as the riots turned violent in the sub, I locked my office door and called the girls.
Val had answered the phone. Like always, Val took charge. They were strong girls, both of them. Val had always been the more responsible one, the best at communicating. Lexi always had something to prove. Not to me, maybe not even to herself, but she was the one I always had to keep my eye on. Even so, Tiffany would have been proud of the both of them.
Val said that they were safe when last we spoke. She said that their campus was nearly vacant. Most of the students had evacuated long ago when everyone began to realize that this wasn’t just going to blow over and be a fluke. More than two-thirds of the campus had fled by the time I spoke to her. I was thankful that it was not like my university where everyone had remained, festering and growing angry.
They had planned to come to me. We’d had the same idea when we saw the writing on the wall. We needed to be together. Lexi had wanted to hop into their Subaru and head north, take their chances. Luckily, Val had reminded her of everything I taught them as kids. Hunker down, is what I had told them. Hunker down and stay safe. That was the first part of survival. They planned to move to a place outside of Gainesville where one of their friends had a beach house. They gave me the address. I wrote it down on my arm in Sharpie. Since then, every time I start to see it fade, I rewrite it. I think of them every night out there in a world even I’ve been too afraid to venture into.
What kind of a father leaves his girls to die? Preacher knows what’s happening, same as Port Huron. I don’t think the DJ knows it yet. That man still has fire inside of him. But I know, just as sure as I know the sun will rise again tomorrow, that we’re all going to die and a cabin full of canned food, survival gear, and hunting supplies ain’t going to do me any good in the end. I am going to die. They are going to die. But my girls deserve a fighting chance.
In the end, I can’t think about what the hell I’m doing. I promised Tiffany that I’d keep them safe. Granted, I don’t think she saw any of this coming. I sure as hell didn’t.
I decide I’m packing up the Jeep as I walk back through the threshold of my father’s cabin. I can see a glow on the horizon. That probably means someone did something stupid and the whole area will be a thick cloud of rolling smoke before long followed by a wall of fire. If I can get to the 46
and take back roads over to Interstate 75, I can get to Detroit. Of course, I’m depending on the roads to be clear. I’ll have to get out there to actually see what I can do. I’m sure it’ll be madness. I can just head south along the shore, but I don’t trust the waterline. There are probably others who are seeking the lake in hopes of finding food or just a way to escape. Either way, I’m making for Detroit first. I hope I still have time. I just want to see my girls again.