Authors: John O'Brien
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic
Book IX of A New World
A Novel by John O’Brien
Copyright © 2014 John O’Brien
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in review, without permission in writing from the author. You may contact the author at [email protected]
Also by John O’Brien
A New World Series
A NEW WORLD: CHAOS
A NEW WORLD: RETURN
A NEW WORLD: SANCTUARY
A NEW WORLD: TAKEN
A NEW WORLD: AWAKENING
A NEW WORLD: DISSENSION
A NEW WORLD: TAKEDOWN
A NEW WORLD: CONSPIRACY
A NEW WORLD: RECKONING
There are so many people to thank for these books that it’s difficult to mention them all. I know you may be tired of hearing it, but my mother spends countless hours trying to make sense of the hieroglyphs that I slam down randomly on the paper. She manages to turn my gibberish into something readable and I’m thankful for her. She has a highly enjoyable series out,
The Blue Child Series,
and encourage you to read the two books already published:
On the Mountain
The North Road
Once again, I owe my thanks to the beta readers. Thank you for catching my many mistakes and your input is so appreciated.
And to you, the readers, thank you so much! I continue to be humbled by your support and kind messages. I truly feel that we are just one extended family. Through the years it has taken for this story to be told to this point, you have taken the journey with me. You have brought the characters alive. Again, thank you so very much for your support!
If you do happen to enjoy the story, feel free to leave a review. Reviews are important for two reasons. One is that’s how the books get up in the listing which of course means more sales. But more importantly, it lets me get a look at everyone’s perception. Looking though the online reviews, I feel that I become a better writer.
What started off as a simple off as a simple story of survival in a post-apocalyptic world has grown, and has far exceeded any expectations I had. Not that I had any to be honest, so I guess exceeding that wasn’t all that difficult, but it’s more than I could ever have imagined. I enjoy telling the tale and having the characters talk to me, telling me their tale. They have become an intimate part of me. I feel their anxieties, their joys, their sorrows. I hear their shouts, their thoughts, live the events with them. They give me hints about what is about to happen but I’m never sure until I sit down and start typing.
I won’t give any spoilers away but I took a little literary license in some parts. I had to simplify some parts to keep the story flowing without dragging it down with details. Perhaps I’ll explain where I did that with the next book. Okay, there’s a spoiler.
Also, there is some scenes that are written about from different perspectives. While it may not have advanced the story much or told for character development, it just felt right to tell it from different angles. I like going into this mode at times as it shows parts that aren’t observed from the other participants and, to me, I feel that it gives a deeper feel for the scene. So, I will offer my apologies for that in advance.
The part of the tale in this book ran away from me. There was to be more in the story line but the characters tell the tale how they want it told. I have little to say in what gets put down. I try to slow it down at times, or speed it up, but it’s to no avail. It comes out how it does. So, the parts that were initially in mind when I started out on this ninth book will have to be told in the next one. With that said, what do you say we get on with the story? If you happen to enjoy the book, if you would head back afterward and leave a review, I would be eternally grateful.
The equipment bag slams into the rear of the Humvee, filling the last available free space. In a jumble, crammed into the rest of the cargo area, a physical sign of the rush to load the gear, lay crates of ammo, several cardboard boxes of canned food, water bottles, and other sundries that were quickly gathered. With the sound of far off machinery drifting through the afternoon air, Drescoll slams the rear door down and looks around.
Several small groups of people are transiting the parking lot on their way to fulfill their tasks. Soft murmurs of conversation filter across the lot, interrupted only by a short burst of laughter from one group. Bringing the chill of fall with it, a breeze carries clouds across the early afternoon sky. Drescoll eyes the crowds to see if the noise of the rear door shutting has brought any attention to himself. The others continue on their way as if he didn’t exist.
With his hands resting on the closed door, the chill of the metal penetrating his gloves, he looks over to Cabela’s, which has been his home for the past few months. The building represents both joys and hardships. To Drescoll’s mind, it seems to project those remembrances outward. It holds the memories of his friends and his team. A flash of images sequence through his mind: rushing to the tactical operations center when this all began, finding Lynn alive, her opening the door with night runners hard on his heels. The memories continue with the deaths and close calls, the constant fear.
Staring at the compound, he realizes that what he did was a mistake, but it’s too late. There’s no going back now, and he can’t undo the actions he took…and continues to take. He thought he would feel better, but killing the shooter has only left him feeling empty. The grief and anger still reside within, but the emptiness stems from knowing he has to leave his friends, and knowing that he has disappointed them…disappointed himself.
The pressure, the built-up anxiety, the sheer weight of grief made it too much. He had to do something before he exploded. He watched, almost as a spectator outside of himself, as he made his way down the escalator and into the warehouse where the prisoner was held. The guards admitted him without question. Opening the steel door, its metal hinges screeching throughout the interior, Drescoll stared inside.
Large floodlights lit up the storage container, their stark white lights illuminating the shooter. He had been hanging from the chains overhead, his head sagging down with his chin almost to his chest. Drescoll remembers the man lifting his eyes to look at him, the sickly grin that crossed his face. Without a word or expression, Drescoll closed the door and crossed the distance between them.
Squatting in front of the prisoner, with emotions of anger and grief coursing through him,
stared into the man’s eyes. Attached was the fear of what he was about to do, but that was overridden by the other feelings.
The shooter stared back expressionless, but the light in his eyes changed and became a look of questioning. Then Drescoll saw fear enter, and the shooter’s sick smile vanished. With the prisoner looking on, Drescoll stood and withdrew his Beretta, screwing on the suppressor. Stepping behind the man, he placed the barrel close to the back of the man’s head. Knowing what was about to happen, the shooter hung his head.
“Do it,” Drescoll heard the man whisper.
“See you in hell,” Drescoll replied…and pulled the trigger.
The front of the man’s head exploded as the round punched through his skull. Blood and gore sprayed outward into the bright light. The bullet hit the floor of the steel container with a heavy sound. There was no ricochet as the round had already expended most of its energy. Blood, mixed with chunks of brain and flecks of bone, fell in streams from the ruined face of the shooter and pooled on the cold metal under him.
Drescoll, without feeling any remorse, unscrewed the suppressor with the same emotion as if he was peeling an apple, and holstered his handgun. Exiting the container, careful not to allow the guards to view the inside, he closed the door. He remembers telling the guards that Jack had ordered the prisoner not to be disturbed in any way, not even to keep him awake by tossing buckets of water. They weren’t to open the door until Jack said otherwise. The guards had agreed readily as they had no reason for distrust. Finding his team, he told them that he was stepping out for a while and began quickly gathering supplies.
Shaking himself out of the memory, Drescoll pushes off the vehicle with a heavy sigh. There’s nothing he can do now. He can’t go back and face his friends. He’s made his choice but it’s one he regrets. Jack and the crew of the AC-130 left earlier so there’s a good chance that no one will discover his actions for some time. With luck, they won’t find the body for hours yet and he plans to be miles away before that happens.
Starting the Humvee, Drescoll proceeds down the road leading to the exit with an unsettled feeling in his gut, an uneasiness, like what he is doing is wrong, compounding the mistake he has already made.
The guards posted at the entrance wave as he drives through. Returning the wave, he passes through the gates. He’s not sure where he’ll go now; he really doesn’t have a plan. Earlier, he had only thought to hurt those who had taken Allie from him, but now, with sanity returning, he knows that isn’t true. He proceeds to the interstate; sorrow and grief filling his heart. He’ll never see his friends again.
At the intersection, he halts to decide his next move. Looking north, with the reports of the increased number of night runners filtering down from Seattle, he knows that isn’t the way to go. That direction holds nothing for him, although a part of him wants to fade into oblivion…to die. Self-preservation still tips the scales in his favor. He knows that this isn’t what Allie would have wanted for him, but it’s too late now. He can’t turn back the clock and undo what he did.
Looking back to the concrete wall surrounding the compound, his vision blurs as tears form. He already misses his friends and comrades…he misses Allie. Grief engulfs him. Leaning his forehead on the steering wheel, he lets out his anguish. Sobs wrack his body, salty tears streaming down his cheeks. The sorrow is unbearable. Folding his arms across his stomach, as if that will help contain the pain, he rocks back and forth.
Allie?! Why did you have to leave? Why did I do what I did?
Slowly, the tears dry and he pulls back from the agony. Sniffling to clear his nose, he focuses. East or south is really his only option. He has no destination in mind but merely wants to get clear of the compound. It only holds grief for him now. His thought is to find a remote place in which to heal. He’ll determine his course as whims dictate. Putting the Humvee in gear, he turns and accelerates down the ramp and enters the freeway heading south.
As the miles pass, the feelings of remorse and sorrow ease. The emptiness doesn’t leave, but he’s made his choice and he will have to live with it. He still carries the regret of those choices, but what’s done is done and he knows that he’ll have to move on. Leaving the group in this manner doesn’t sit well with him and he can feel mental blocks building, shutting off that portion of his mind.
Coming to a small town south of Olympia, Drescoll notices an outdoor outlet store situated in a small strip mall. He had to hastily grab gear from Cabela’s and knows he needs more if he is to survive. The fact that he wants to survive surprises him. Turning off the interstate, he pulls into the parking lot serving the location.
Most of the windows are opaque from the dirt covering them and conceal the darkness behind. The store names, posters denoting one-of-a-kind sales, and public service announcements are only shadows behind the grime.
Leaving the engine running in case he needs to make a hasty departure, Drescoll steps from the Humvee and approaches the outdoor store. The front is cast in shadows from the afternoon sun. The windows of the double door entryway are broken with only a few shards remaining on the upper edges of the doors. Well-defined trails lead out through the accumulated dirt on the sidewalk, a sure sign of night runners within. He doesn’t care anymore. If this is his fate, then so be it. He steps inside.
Through the opaque windows, a small amount of light leaks in casting the entryway and front part of the store in gloom. Darkness covers the areas deeper within. From what he can see, the store hasn’t been ransacked like many of the others he’s encountered. Gear lies stacked on shelves with clothing hanging on their stands, some turned over and lying on the floor. A musty smell, speaking of age, permeates the interior. A faint, rotting reek rides on top, reminding him of a locker room toward the end of a week.
Drescoll checks his M-4, ensuring that a round is chambered and that the safety is off. Dropping his NVGs into place, he walks farther into the store. He’d like to take the entirety of the store’s contents but will settle for what he can grab. A cold-weather sleeping bag, a tent, batteries, flashlights, ammo, weapons, and any MREs or freeze-dried food are at the top of his list.
Clothing sections are off to the right with shelves to his front and left. Several kayaks hang from hooks near the back with mountain bikes hanging from others. On structural poles, heads from trophy animals are suspended.
Passing two cash registers near the front, shrieks erupt from within the darkness. Although the sound sends shivers up his spine and causes his breath to catch in his throat, he doesn’t care. Any great fear of night runners is buried beneath his pain. He almost welcomes action as if that will burn the emptiness from his soul. That doesn’t mean he’ll just lie down and let them ravage him, but there is a desire to charge into their midst. He already feels lost to his friends, and almost lost to himself. There’s nothing inside him except for pain, and if that’s the only thing he has, he’ll live for that.
“Fuck you! Come and get me, assholes,” Drescoll shouts, bringing his M-4 to bear.
More screams echo in the darkness, seeming to come from everywhere at once. From the back of the darkened building, something falls to the ground with a heavy thump. A shelf falls with a crash, the items on it clattering across the linoleum floor.
Nothing materializes in the glow of his goggles, but he knows night runners have been awakened. The trace of fear within combines with the grief, twisting into overwhelming anger. Without uttering a sound, Drescoll shoulders his carbine and begins striding briskly farther into the store.
The interior fills with an increased volume of shrieks, filling the small outdoor outlet. Undaunted, or really not giving much of a damn about what happens, Drescoll drives onward. The barrel of his carbine dances left and right, following the direction of his eyes as he scouts the area around him.
To his right, the sound of bare feet slapping on the hard floor—barely heard above the screams—comes from one of the aisles. He shifts his aim where the aisles empty into an open space. On the run, two night runners emerge a few aisles away. With a speed rivaling time itself, they alter their path and turn toward him. Their pale faces glow in his night vision, eyes shining with brilliant intensity, mouths open in screams. The night runners streak in his direction, seeking to rend his flesh.
Anticipating their entrance into the opening, Drescoll fires a short burst into the closest night runner. Quick flashes of light, emanating from the end of his barrel, illuminate the night runners and nearby shelves. High-velocity rounds streak outward and impact the first creature, stitching it from the center of its chest upward. A tattered T-shirt, really just rags barely clinging to its upper body, absorbs some of the blood that leaks from the wounds. The exiting rounds spray blood against an array of fishing lures arranged at the end of one aisle. The night runner’s legs sweep out from under it; it falls on its back, hitting the floor with a heavy thump.
Drescoll calmly switches his aim and eases back on the trigger, sending another burst of bullets after the second night runner. The rounds hit, sending it crashing into the end of one of the shelves. Items fall from the rack and hit the floor moments before the night runner joins them. Drescoll walks toward them, putting a round into each of their heads before venturing across the open space in front of the aisles.
A flurry of motion erupts off to the side. Turning, he sees a night runner vault from the top of a shelving unit. Stepping to the side, he catches the leaping figure in mid-air with his carbine. Turning the night runner to the side, he slams it into the floor and fires a burst directly into the creature’s chest. The body jars as it absorbs the projectiles. Thick bubbles of blood slowly leak out from the open chest wounds, popping as the blood thins. Each gasping intake of breath is strained until the night runner collapses fully, exhaling its last.
Expressionless, Drescoll stares at the dead figure for moments before continuing on. With three night runners fallen, the din of shrieks has diminished, but he hears others scurrying in his direction. Rounding the corner of one aisle, he sees four racing toward him.
Any remaining fear leaves; he flat out doesn’t care what happens. The thought of retreating has no room in his frame of mind. His thoughts narrow down to getting the gear. The part of his world where fear of night runners existed has been pushed away. Raising the barrel of his M-4, he sends bursts down the narrow aisle. The four night runners are tossed into the shelves from rounds impacting into their torsos, chests, and heads.
The falling bodies knock sundries off the shelves and shake items from their hooks. The clatter of tumbling gear and night runners creates a small thunder of noise. Sliding down one of the shelves, taking the entire structure along with it, the fourth night runner slumps to the ground.