Earth: Population 2 (Paradise Lost Book 1)

 

 

 

Earth: Population 2

Paradise Lost Series #1

 

 

Aubrie Dionne

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, places, or events is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

 

If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware that this book may have been stolen property and reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher. In such case the author has not received any payment for this “stripped book.”

 

 

Earth: Population 2

Paradise Lost Series #1

Copyright © 2015Aubrie Dionne

All rights reserved.

 

 

ISBN-13 (print): 978-1-939590-49-7

ISBN-13 (ebook): 978-1-939590-48-0

 

Inkspell Publishing

5764 Woodbine Ave.

Pinckney, MI 48169

 

 

Edited By Kate Richards

Cover art By Najla Qamber

 

 

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission. The copying, scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions, and do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION:

 

To Joanne and Andy Dionne

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

ASTEROID

 

 

June 22, 2013, 9:33 p.m
.

 

“This is the first day of the cruel monotony of the rest of my life.” I hugged my legs against my chest as I stared at the constellation, Corona Borealis, with resignation. The tantalizing specks glimmered leagues out of reach, like everything else I wanted in life.

“Gawd, Julie. Don’t be so melodramatic all the time.” Hailey sipped her Budweiser and stretched her bare legs closer to the bonfire. The flames licked at the sky, the sole fickle light besides the stars, the half-moon, and the blinking fireflies on the edge of the clearing. “Let’s forget about the future and enjoy the moment. You only graduate from high school once.”

“Easy for you to say.” I left my own beer untouched. Being the product of a teenage pregnancy kept me from drinking, doing drugs, or anything else that would impair my judgment. “While you’re packing for UCLA, I’ll be ringing up groceries.”

Hailey smiled in pity. “All the more reason to have fun tonight, while we’re still together.” She pointed across the bonfire. “Look. Mike’s been staring at you all night. He leaves for NYU in less than a month. This is your last chance to hook up. Go over there and say something.”

Don’t look at him. Don’t look at him.
I glanced at Mike’s freckled face. He ran a hand through his brown curls and smiled like a sleazeball picking up a girl in a bar. I dropped my gaze and picked at the hole in my skinny jeans. He always reminded me of a Hobbit, and the image of the Shire popped in my head. I’d settled for everything else in my life: my future, my job, my cramped apartment with my mom. I refused to settle for one more thing.

Picking up my Budweiser, I faked a sip. “He jumps at every girl who’s interested. Remember when he went out with Sarah for two days? A whole two days. Then he ditched her for her best friend.”

“That’s because she skipped his wrestling match for a Bieber concert.” Hailey laughed. “She dug her own grave.”

I couldn’t decide who was worse: Bieber or Mike. “I wouldn’t go out with him if he was the last guy on planet Earth.”

Hailey shook her head, her long, straight blonde hair falling over her shoulders. “There’s the melodrama again.” She gave me a suspicious look, and I tightened my grip around my full beer can.

“You’re not still stalking Gale Williams, are you?”

I glanced at my feet. If she counted watching his Twitter account every hour, replaying his box office-breaking blockbuster,
Pirate Crusader
, on my laptop every chance I got, and reading the one time he tweeted me back over and over as stalking, then…. “No.”

“Good. Because it’s totally unhealthy to have pictures of some arrogant heartthrob in a pirate hat wallpapering your room. You need to get out more and meet some real people.”

Not all my pictures were of him in a pirate hat. I did have one movie poster where he flew a World War II fighter jet—and, let me tell you, he looked hot in that era as well. “He is a real person.”

“He’s an actor. Captain Jay Dovetail is a character in a movie. Gale Williams is not him.” Hailey smiled wickedly. “I’ll bet if you ever met him in real life, you’d be disappointed.”

I sighed, throwing a rock into the fire. “You’re probably right.” Life, so far, had never failed to disappoint me. Still, I allowed myself this one dream. I’d check his Twitter feed the second I got home.

“You know he’s filming some spy drama in Boston.” Hailey wiggled her eyebrows at me.

I refused to take the bait. “They’d never let us get close to the set, and you know I can’t leave my mom for that long.”

Hailey spread her arms out over the fire, and some of her beer spilled in the grass. “What’s going to happen to her? It’s not like she goes anywhere or does anything.”

Anger ignited inside me like the fuse to a bomb. When Hailey drank, she said things without thinking. “You wouldn’t either, if you only had one leg.”

“Sorry.” Hailey shrugged and pulled up dried grass to toss into the fire. “I just don’t want you to be tied down here in Nowheresville for the rest of your life.”

Unlike Hailey, who used college as an excuse to run away from her parents’ ugly divorce, I couldn’t abandon Mom so easily. “I’ve made my choices.”

I couldn’t leave Mom to keep track of her prescriptions by herself. She couldn’t even get to the grocery store. Besides, my illustrious cashier job at Save ’n Shop paid for the prescriptions and the rent. I was about as stuck as I could get, but I saw no way out of my situation without hurting the one person I loved.

So you should stop complaining and listen to your best friend.

Someone at the other end of the party screamed, and my stomach turned to ice. It wasn’t an I’m-having-fun scream like on a roller coaster. It was more like the screams in horror movies before everyone died a horrible death.

Mike shouted profanities and pointed to the horizon.

“Holey friggin’ moley.” Hailey’s mouth dropped open.

I followed her gaze to the sky above the bonfire. One of the stars plummeted toward Earth, trailing cosmic dust. The falling star glowed red orange, turning into a fireball as it burned through the atmosphere. It grew to the size of my fist then the size of my head.

A weird part of my subconscious reminded me to make a wish. The falling star grew larger, and I realized it wasn’t a star at all. It was an asteroid. An epic, Herculean one.

“Get up!” I stood and tugged on Hailey’s sleeve as she toppled over, drunk. “It’s headed right for us.”

Chaos broke out as everyone scrambled. I pulled Hailey into the forest. She stumbled, weaving like she didn’t know why we couldn’t stay by the warm fire. I caught her and dragged her behind me.

Branches slashed my face as Hailey cursed behind me. I tripped and skinned my knee on a boulder, and pain seared my leg. I clutched my calf as a thunderous rumble roared above us. Heat scorched the forest, burning my skin. Fear welled up inside me. What if I die? Who’s going to take care of my mom?

Seconds later, a tremor knocked us to the ground. My face hit the dirt path, and pine needles pricked my cheeks as I buried my head in the pine needles and dirt and held my breath.

Silence rang in my ears, and I gasped. The temperature seemed to rise ten degrees. Was I still alive?

I picked my head up slowly, examining the reddened skin on the backs of my hands. I glanced over at Hailey. While my face had hit the ground, hers had turned toward the sky. Her forehead and cheeks were swollen and red. I crawled over to her and smoothed her blonde hair. My fingers shook. So much could change in a heartbeat. If we’d stayed for ten more seconds, we’d both be dead. “Are you all right?”

She opened her mouth, but I couldn’t make out what she said. The explosion had deadened my hearing.

I stood, brushing off my jeans. Dizziness came over me, and I took a deep breath, bending over. The skin had torn below my right knee, and blood smeared the only pair of skinny jeans I looked good in. Besides that and my two-second sunburn, I was okay. My head started to throb as my hearing rushed back.

Had the others gotten away in time? As much as I didn’t want to kiss Mike, I still cared about him. “We should check it out.”

She grabbed my arm and squeezed it until the blood stopped flowing. “No. Friggin’. Way. It’s too dangerous.”

“What if one of them is hurt?”

“Then, we’ll go for help.”

“Hailey, we’re out in the middle of nowhere at a state park that’s supposed to close at seven. We need to go back and see if your dad’s pickup truck is still working. It’s a long way home.”

“I’m not going back.” She chewed her lower lip.

Anger rolled over me. “That’s all you do, run away from your problems.”

I dropped her arm and headed back to our campsite. Some of us had to stay behind. Some of us took our responsibilities seriously.

“Hey. That’s not fair.” She followed me as I retraced our path through the forest. “I’m not going to UCLA just because of my parents’ divorce.”

I swiped at a branch. “It’s the farthest school you got into.”

“And it has a decent English program.”

“So do most of the schools in New England.” I blurted the words out with such venom, I regretted it. I shouldn’t have pushed the issue. Hailey wasn’t married to me. She could go wherever she wanted. Was I really angry about her abandoning her parents during their divorce or about her abandoning me?

We staggered to the camp, and my anger died as shock took hold of my throat and I struggled to breathe.

A chunk of glittery black rock taller than Hailey’s truck sat where our bonfire had been. The asteroid had left a trail of burning leaves and downed trees, churning up the earth until a mound of dirt spilled around the jagged edge. Hailey’s pickup stood untouched just a few feet away from where the asteroid’s rampage stopped. The windows had been blown out by the searing gust of air.

“Where is everybody?” I circled the steaming black mass, hoping not to find any arms or legs sticking out from underneath. A glimmery sheen covered the slick surface. When I approached the asteroid, the edges of my reflection stared back, elongating my face so I looked like a horse. I stood back, and my reflection disappeared into an oily glitter. I’d never seen any metal or organic rock with those properties.

“They must have left.” Hailey bounced on her tiptoes. “Come on, Julie. We should go before the police show up. Look at all these beer cans. They’re gonna know we’re drinking underage.”

“Just one second.” Here she was, standing next to the single greatest discovery of the twenty-first century, and she worried about her image? Astronomy had interested me since the day I watched Shuttle Discovery take off on the cracked television I’d found on the side of the road. If I could have gone to college, I would have majored in science then secured a dream job at NASA or the Kennedy Space Center, watching for extraterrestrial communications. One mega treat just fell into my campsite.

“If my parents catch me out drinking with their truck, I’m done for.” Hailey tugged on my arm, but I shrugged her off.

A piece of the asteroid had broken off from the rest and lay in the grass a few feet away. The odd, symmetrical diamond shape caught my eye. How could it have broken off so perfectly? I picked it up. The slick rock burned my fingers, and I juggled it from hand to hand. The shard was no bigger than my shoe, but it must have weighed five pounds.

“Drop it.” Hailey slapped my shoulder. “It could have radiation. Or some awful alien disease.”

“Too late for that.” A crease ran down the side. A natural crack would have jagged edges, but this line cut straight into the rock. Apprehension trickled over me as I waited for it to cool. When I could hold it, I dug my fingernails into the crease and tried to pry the rock open.

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