Authors: Sam Sisavath
Tags: #Thriller, #Post-Apocalypse
The Ashes of Pompeii
Copyright © 2015 by Sam Sisavath
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Published by Road to Babylon Media LLC
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Edited by Jennifer Jensen and Wendy Chan
Cover Art by Creative Paramita
Formatting by BB eBooks
Thanks go to my last line of defense against bad writing. You guys know who you are.
Every war requires sacrifices.
The only way to survive in a post-Purge world is to keep your head down, but that’s not always an option.
Still stranded in the Louisiana countryside, Will, Danny, and Gaby race against the clock to get back to their friends, but the road home is treacherous and enemies lie in wait.
Meanwhile, Lara and the survivors at Song Island continue preparations for an inevitable attack. But what does a third-year medical student know about fending off a full-frontal assault?
As enemies close in on all sides, Will and Lara will be faced with life-and-death decisions. The lives of their friends—and possibly the future of humanity—will rest on the choices they make.
A year after The Purge, the Gates have held, the Stones have crumbled, and the Fires have burned, but now the Ashes will consume…
The little girl
begged her not to do it.
Not with words, because the fear was too much and the simple act of uttering a sound was beyond her ability at the moment. Instead, dirt-caked lips trembled and light brown eyes (large as saucers, as her father used to say) stared back at her as if the girl couldn’t comprehend what was happening or why.
Her father. When was the last time she had thought of him? Sometimes, when she least expected it, memories from her past rushed back to remind her of what once was but could never be again. Sometimes these disjointed flashes would stay awhile, but often they were fleeting.
The girl was still staring intently at her.
Brown eyes, large as saucers…
But her father wasn’t the reason she lingered on the girl’s face. Those eyes, they reminded her of him. Every pair of brown eyes she encountered these days did. She didn’t know why exactly, and the not knowing gnawed at her like an elusive tick. There was nothing extraordinary about him. Nothing that she couldn’t find in a hundred other men. A thousand. Tens of thousands.
And yet, and yet…
They’d found the girl hiding in the woods outside one of the towns. How she had managed to stray this far, for this long, was a mystery. Moonlight glinted off her large-as-saucers eyes as she peered out from her hiding place, a thick patch of undergrowth that had formed years ago, and would continue to grow as the planet consumed the remains of humanity. Even now, you could barely tell man used to tread these areas.
The ones who had found the girl swayed back and forth in the background. Her brood. They made very little noise. She once thought they were empty husks, useless flesh draped over frail bones, but she had been mistaken. There were still shreds of humanity in them, somewhere; they were just pushed into the background. Unlike her and the other chosen ones, it was difficult for her brood to reclaim what they had lost.
She crouched in front of the girl and watched the little figure shrink back in response, as if she could disappear into the thickets if she tried hard enough. The fear trembled across the parts of her rail-thin body that were visible, and the smell of fresh urine lingered. The girl wore dirty clothes and was barefoot, dried mud clinging to her toes. She folded her arms around scraped knees and peered up while periodically sneaking glances at the things moving quietly in the darkness around them.
“You’re safe,” she said to the girl. Her voice came out as a hiss and she hated it, but it was beyond her control. The transformation did things to her body at the cellular level, all the way up to the noises she made.
The girl didn’t believe her, and her eyes darted to the darkness again before returning. If she was terrified, the little thing was handling it well. She reminded her of Vera, Carly’s little sister. Carly had been her friend too, once upon a time.
“Yes,” she whispered, trying her best to lessen the hissing. It was difficult, a monumental task, and she didn’t know why she was making the effort. But there was something about the girl that she wanted to draw out. “You’re safe now. With me.” She couldn’t tell if the girl believed her that time. “What’s your name?”
The dirt-tinged lips quivered and a squeaky voice, like that of a mouse, said, “Mary.”
“Hello, Mary. My name is Kate.”
She smiled—or thought she did. Her lips didn’t always do what she wanted them to these days. It was so much easier to communicate with the others, with her brood. This old form of talking was crude and cumbersome and took too much effort.
“What are you doing out here by yourself, Mary?”
“My dad…” the girl said, her voice growing stronger with each word, her fear slipping little by little.
“Where is he?”
a voice whispered inside her head.
We took him two nights ago.
It wasn’t one voice, but many—a cacophony of fractured thoughts that clashed and merged and somehow formed meaning anyway. It came from the swaying figures behind her, from the ones keeping out of sight, as well as the hundreds racing across the darkened woods like children playing. There was no individuality among the brood; there was just the collective, the us. It was one of the few things that she still struggled with.
“Let me take you to him,” she said, and held out her hand.
The girl hesitated.
“You’ll be safe with me, Mary. I promise.”
“You’re not like them…”
“No. I’m different. I’m…something else.”
“You won’t hurt me?”
“No. I promise. Do you believe me?”
A slight tremor from the girl turned into a weak nod.
“Now, take my hand, and let me take you to your father.”
Soft fingers caked with a generous layer of dirt wrapped around her own long, slender ones. She was sure the girl’s fear would reclaim her and that she would retreat at any second, but the surprising toughness that reminded her so much of Vera caused the girl to tighten her grip instead.
“You’re such a brave girl, Mary. So brave.”
She pulled the girl out of her hiding place slowly, gently. Long, stringy auburn hair fell over a round face. One day, she would grow up to be a beautiful young woman. One day, boys would flock to her and other girls would be jealous and whisper cruel words behind her back. One day, those big brown eyes
(big as saucers)
would make her popular.
“Where’s my dad?” Mary asked. Her voice had continued to grow stronger, more confident.
“We’ll find him,” she said. She stood up too, extending her long thin frame, the joints
slightly as she did so.
The girl had to crane her neck to look up at her. “They won’t hurt us? The monsters in the shadows?”
“No. They’re my children. And they’re very obedient.”
“You’re their mother?”
“You have so many questions.”
Mary smiled. It was delicate and radiant. “You’re not like the others.”
“No, I’m not.”
“But they’re not.”
The girl glanced at the dozen or so of the brood that hadn’t hidden themselves well enough. Upon discovery, her children scurried back until it was just the night and her and the girl again in the clearing.
“It’s okay,” she said. “You’re with me now. They won’t hurt you.”
Mary looked up at her again, her smile widening. In the moonlight, she looked cherubic and pure. “We’re going to find my dad now?”
“Where did he go? I thought he’d left me.”
“No. He would never leave you. No parent would leave their brood.”
She tightened her grip around Mary’s wrist and led her toward the darker parts of the woods. There was stirring in the shadows as her children stepped back to make room. She didn’t have to tell them. They knew her wants and needs, and they obeyed without question.
“Kate?” Mary said. Her voice had gotten smaller, and she could practically hear
the fear creeping back into every inch of her small frame. “You’re hurting my hand. Kate? Kate?”
she said, putting one long, bony finger to her lips and looking down at the girl. “It’ll be over soon, little Mary.
“See the world.
Kill some people. Make some money.”
Well, one out of three wasn’t bad.
Okay, so it was downright pitiful, but then Keo was used to making lemonade out of lemons these days. First there was that whole end of the world curveball, then getting stuck with strangers in a cabin in the woods. He compounded those problems by falling in
something with a girl named Gillian.
And now this.
“This” being stuck on a luxury yacht adrift in the middle of the lake with Song Island behind him and God only knew how many guys with guns in front of him. On the plus side, he was well-armed; besides the shotgun, he still had the Heckler & Koch MP5SD submachine gun, and he had added an AK-47 and a silver-chromed revolver with five bullets left to his arsenal. If life before everything went kaput had taught him anything, it was that there was no such thing as having “too many” guns.