Authors: Philip Tucker
Tags: #vampire, #urban fantasy, #dystopia, #dark fantasy, #miami, #dystopia novels, #vampire action, #distopia, #vampire adventure, #distopian future, #dystopian adventure, #dystopia fiction, #phil tucker, #vampire miami
Published by TransientMe LLC at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Philip Tucker
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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Cover art: Copyright © 2012 Philip Tucker and Sophie
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Table of Contents
It's hard to be succinct when so many people
have had a hand in your success. This novel would not be what it is
today were it not for the unswerving support of the Kickstarter
community that rallied behind my vision for this series, and both
Jenn Sommersby (http://commanaut.com/) and Sophie Wong
(http://sophiewong.wix.com/sophiewong) who consequently were able
to help me by editing and designing the cover art.
I'd also like to thank Bryan Delius and William
Pomerantz for their feedback on the manuscript. Good, wise, and
insightful friends are invaluable when it comes to proof
Finally and most importantly, I want to thank my
wife Grace for her love and understanding these past five months.
Her faith in what I do has helped bring my dreams one step closer
Selah sat hunched on her bus seat, staring out
the window, music blaring from her headphones right into the center
of her mind. As if volume could stop her thoughts, could ease the
tightness in her chest and wash away the battery acid that flooded
her stomach. Stared out the window at the bright Florida day, at
the trees luxurious amidst the abandoned homes lining this side of
the interstate, the occasional army truck or Humvee roaring past
toward the border crossing. That was her destination, and coming
ever closer with each passing minute. The border crossing in the
wall that surrounded Miami, the edge where the US stopped and the
vampire city began.
It still was unreal, being here, inside an
actual deportation bus. In the videos she’d watched in both Mr.
Condarcuri’s history class and on her own, the buses had always
been filled with people, their gaunt and hollow faces caught by the
cameras through the windows, collected from around the country and
ferried to the border for whatever legal reason. That had been
right after the war had ended and Miami and LA had been ceded to
the vampires. It had been abstract for her, a source of surreal
horror to watch but still strangely reassuring: the videos made her
feel safe, untouchable, all the way up in New York City.
A touch on her shoulder and she startled. It was
one of the four soldiers who’d been assigned as her escort at the
Ft. Lauderdale Airport, the only other passengers on the bus.
Pulling off her headphones, Selah stared up at her, into blue eyes
ringed with fatigue.
“We’re about five minutes away,” said the
soldier, her voice quiet.
“Okay.” Selah tried to sound disinterested,
despite the sudden fisting of her stomach. The soldier didn’t head
back to her seat but instead stood there, looking down at her.
“What’s your name?” she asked at last.
“Selah,” she said after a beat of hesitation.
Not like it was a secret.
“That’s a beautiful name,” said the soldier.
Selah didn’t respond, but instead simply stared
up at her in the manner that usually made high school teachers
uncomfortable and jerks on the streets step back. She had grown
sick this past month of having strangers offer sympathy, ask
questions, give advice. She stared into the soldier’s blue eyes and
tried to project a calm and maturity that she didn’t even come
close to feeling.
The soldier’s smile faded but she didn’t seem
fazed by Selah’s scowl. Instead she sat back on the arm of the seat
behind her, steadying herself with one hand on the headrest.
“How old are you, Selah?”
“Can you leave me alone?” Selah felt her face
flush. “You’re not my mother, I don’t know you, and I don’t want to
talk.” She turned and stared out the window, not seeing the
brilliant green trees that blurred by just past the crash barrier,
the endless red rooftops. But the soldier didn’t get up.
“I hear you,” she said, sounding tired. “But
I’ve passed up opportunities to speak in the past and come to
regret it. So ignore me if you like, but I’ll speak my part,
anyway.” Selah moved to replace her headphones, but something held
“In about five minutes, we’ll get to the border
crossing. You’ll be processed and then sent on through. Usually
we’d drive you all the way down to Jackson Hospital where we’ve got
our embassy set up, but it looks like you’re being picked up at the
The muted roar of the bus engine. Selah saw an
old billboard rush past, featuring an attractive white woman in a
colorful bikini. The musty smell of the cracked bus seats.
“Anyways, I just wanted to tell you to remember
yourself. That probably sounds strange, but the rules in there are
different. You know that, but what you might not know is that
people change when nobody’s enforcing the law. Don’t forget who you
are, is all, the things that make you
. Try not to let
that city break you, make you somebody you’re not.”
Selah’s heart was racing now, her mouth dry. She
turned to look at the soldier again. Christina’s face was pinched,
her mouth a thin line, and this time she couldn’t hold Selah’s
gaze. She looked away, down and to the side, and stood. Adjusted
her heavy belt, took a sharp breath, nodded to Selah, and walked up
to the front of the bus, her heavy boots clomping on the aisle
floor. Selah watched her go. The bus began to slow. She looked past
Christina, and saw through the front window of the bus the wall
that surrounded Miami. They’d arrived. Trembling, she reached out
and pulled her suitcase close to her side.
Everybody knew what the border gate looked like.
It was infamous. Selah had seen it featured in countless memorials
to those who died trying to escape during the Week of Shame while
the Wall was being built, in endless documentaries, and even those
two movies about the war that had come out last year. The border
gate, where on the last day US soldiers had stood and fired upon
the surging crowds as they attempted to break free. The machine gun
turrets, the iron walls, the huge bales of barbed wire beyond it
coiled ten feet high, the ditch dug eight feet deep to prevent cars
and trucks from being rammed into it. The border gate, open now
five years later as it processed people going in and the lucky few
Selah raised her father’s Omni and took a
photograph out the window of the long line of the wall curving
around the city. She pushed it to her public Garden for all to see,
and whispered a caption to go with it: “Edge of the world. I’m
going over, and I might never stop falling.” The Omni blinked as it
sent the image out, and then the music resumed and the bus came to
a stop, brakes wheezing.
Selah realized that she was holding her suitcase
so tight, her hands hurt. She purposefully relaxed her grip, to
take a breath. Her heart pounded like a rubber mallet against her
ribs, and the words she’d just spoken into the Net echoed in her
mind. This was it. A panicky urge to run, to somehow escape, choked
at her throat, but she just sat there, turned to stone. How had she
thought this a good idea? Believed that she could ever possibly
learn about what had happened to her father by continuing his
investigations? Numb, she watched through the front of the bus as
they inched ever closer to the tollbooths before the gate
There were two cars ahead of them in their lane.
Selah wondered who they were. Almost nobody tried to enter so late
in the day. She watched, mind blank as the soldier on duty checked
the red car’s passports and papers, stamped them, waved them
through. The silver Mercedes before them rolled up, presented
papers that were also stamped, and then it was the bus’s turn. The
bus inched forward and came to a stop.
There was a hissing of hydraulics as the
accordion door folded open. Her soldier—Christina—rose to her feet
as a second soldier climbed on board. He was Hispanic, his hair cut
close to his skull, mouth a grim line. They nodded to each other as
Christina handed him their passports and paperwork. He scanned them
with quick efficiency, and then looked up for the first time and
stared back at where Selah sat. His eyes were dark, hard, and Selah
wanted to shrink into herself. No pity there. No compassion. Just
processing her through.
“You’re good to go,” he said, and with that,
turned and hopped out of the bus. The doors whistled closed, and
the light before them turned from red to green. The crash bar
jerked skyward, and the bus rumbled to life, began to move forward.
Selah felt her calm begin to crumble, her cool façade shatter. This
was it. She had envisioned this moment over and over again since
the court order had come through granting her request to be placed
in the custody of her grandmother here in Miami rather than a state
orphanage. Now she was here, though, now that it was actually
happening, she couldn’t handle it. With a wordless cry, Selah
leaped to her feet, suitcase knocked into the aisle, and began to
run down the center aisle of the bus. As the bus rolled onward, she
ran to the back, trying to keep the tollbooth in sight, the land on
this side of the gate. Christina called to her. Selah climbed onto
the last seat, pressed her hands against the window, craning her
head to see. The wheels rattled over the iron grates and the heavy
iron wings of the wall plunged them into shadow as they drove
through the gate—and they were through.
Selah slumped into the seat. She couldn’t think,
couldn’t think over the hammering of her heart. She was in, and
there was no going back. Selah realized she was trembling, not just
her hands but her whole body. Outside the window everything looked
the same as before, splashed in late afternoon sunlight, the gray
and dusty interstate, the green trees amongst the buildings. But
everything had changed. She saw a long line of vehicles waiting to
be processed through the border gate. Army and Red Cross trucks,
One World NGO vans, different vehicles belonging to volunteer
groups, churches, hospitals. Leaving at the end of the day, leaving
before night fell on the city and the gates were closed.
Her father’s Omni vibrated in her hand. Numbly
she looked down and saw responses coming in from her friends.
Sympathetic faces tiled the screen, seven already, four silently
mouthing recorded messages of sympathy, over and over as the Omni
waited for her to trigger each one and hear the actual words, three
live as they waited for her to pick up the channel. Selah felt sick
to her stomach and wiped them all off the screen. She didn’t want
to hear anything right now, from anybody. It was all she could do
to not cry. The music came back, but she turned it off as well. She
She studied the Omni. It was an old model, the
rubber grips faded, the screen scratched. It made no sense that her
father had left it behind; he never went anywhere without it. He’d
either had no time to grab it, or had left it behind on purpose for
her to find. If so, then he had wanted her to read his notes, his
speculations on the Blood Dust trade, the level of government and
military involvement in its trafficking. He hadn’t published
anything, but Selah was sure that he’d been taken because of his
investigation. Disappeared like so many others for violating
President Lynnfield’s Censorship Laws. Selah rubbed her thumb
slowly across the screen, and felt again the now familiar pang of
pain, loss, and anger.