Tag Archives: Nuclear fallout

Exiles by Alanah Andrews, Chapter 1

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Exiles Alanah

I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. Genesis 6:13

 

The house was silent, except for the subtle tick-tick of the pendulum clock as it tracked the sluggish hours of the afternoon. Kirra placed some more wood onto the fire and then snuggled down into the couch, smiling as Flynn put his arms around her, squeezing tight. She relaxed into her boyfriend’s embrace, watching the tendrils of flames race hungrily across the dry wood, warming the chilly room. Above them, a large, painted angel poured the contents of a bowl into a speckled ocean, turning the waves crimson, like blood.

Flynn planted a kiss on the top of Kirra’s dark hair. “You know,” he said, his voice muffled against her head, “you have the most graphic paintings of anyone I know.”

Kirra smiled against his chest, and then looked up fondly at the painting on the wall. She was so used to seeing the angel watching over the family room that she had forgotten how unsettling the macabre nature of the image could be. The angel’s wings were draped back over its shoulders, painstakingly painted with hundreds of little dots that could only be appreciated when you got up close to it. “Mum painted them. We have one in each room of the house. You should see the one in my bedroom.”

“Is that an invitation?” Flynn’s voice was low, almost a whisper.

Kirra felt her face flush, and she pulled away, extricating herself from Flynn’s embrace. “I’d better check on Marli,” she mumbled.

As she stood, Flynn caught her hand. “I’m sorry,” he said earnestly, his blue eyes boring into her own. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I was just teasing.”

Kirra nodded, uncomfortably aware of the heat in Flynn’s hand, the softness of the skin on top contrasting with the callouses beneath. Flynn was the perfect boyfriend; both the Shepherd and her mother agreed. Caring, selfless and hardworking, he was a true god-fearing citizen. With his thick blonde hair and blue eyes, he was the complete opposite of Kirra—but she couldn’t help thinking that he was downright gorgeous. Kirra flushed, wondering if he could read her mind and thinking a brief apology to the Shepherd.

“I know you’re just joking,” she said, trying to pull her hand gently out of Flynn’s grasp. “But I really do need to check on Marli. She usually only naps for an hour in the afternoon or she won’t sleep tonight.”

Flynn nodded, but didn’t let go of her hand. “You’re okay?”

Kirra knew what he really wanted to ask, and her face grew hotter. “Trust me, it’s fine. I’m not going to report you to my mother over a harmless comment.” Her gaze drifted across to the angel on the wall, its expression severe as it poisoned the ocean. “She takes the scriptures and the Shepherd so seriously, but she can also take a joke. And so can I.”

Flynn squeezed her hand gently and then let go. “I can make another cup of tea if you like?”

Kirra breathed a sigh of relief as she was released from his hold, and then smiled down at him. “That would be great.”

She knew that her mother could certainly be intense. Leena’s all-consuming conviction in the scripture was unnerving even to Kirra at times, so she could understand Flynn’s unease. After all, people had been Exiled for less innocuous comments in the past.

As Flynn placed the kettle on top of the fireplace, Kirra crept up the stairs to check on her sister, dozens of bible verses staring down at her from the plaques attached to the walls. She could understand, of course, why her mother was so desperate to please God. Leena’s role as a caregiver meant that she was privy to the symptoms of the Lord’s wrath rained down upon humanity. Kirra often accompanied her mother, visiting houses and helping take care of the sick and dying.

Despite their attempts to keep the community inside the wall pure, humans were so easily swayed towards darkness. And—as the Shepherd constantly explained to them—not so long ago, that darkness had become so unbearable that God had sent his angels down to punish humanity, and now they had to pay the price. Whether the mutts were really the price of sinning, or simply the result of nuclear fallout from the last war, nobody was sure. But regardless of what they were paying for, Kirra had seen the deviations present on so many newborn babies; she knew first-hand just how severe the price could be.

No, it was best to keep God happy, that much was certain.

Tiptoeing across the landing to Marli’s bedroom, Kirra eased the door open and peered around the corner at her little sister’s single bed. Another painted angel watched over the room, doing the Lord’s bidding, and Kirra sought out Marli’s tumbled shock of dark curls.

Her body grew instantly cold, the way the dam froze over in the depths of winter, and she strode forward into the room, pulling the blanket back roughly. The bed was empty, the rumpled sheets the only indication that anyone had been there. Kirra placed a hand in the centre of the mattress. It was cold.

“Flynn?” Her voice was high-pitched and panicked as it flowed down the staircase.

Flynn raced up the carpeted steps two at a time. “Kirra, what’s wrong?” Flynn nearly collided with Kirra as she came out of Marli’s bedroom, and he steadied himself, placing his hands on her shoulders. Kirra’s usually dark skin was pale, her brown eyes wide with fright.

“It’s Marli, she’s not there.”

Below them, the kettle began to whistle quietly.

“What?” Flynn marched into Marli’s room, flinging open the wardrobe and peering under the bed. “Go check the bathroom, Leena’s room. Check everywhere.”

Kirra snapped to attention, running down the corridor to her mother’s room, checking all the cupboards and Marli’s usual hiding places. “Marli, where are you?” Her voice was laced with dread.

The kettle began to scream, and as Kirra dashed downstairs to take it off the fireplace, her eye was drawn to the cupboard under the stairs. “Marli?” She eased the door open, hopefully, but the small space was empty save for the dusty cardboard boxes filled with her dad’s belongings. “Marli, we aren’t playing hide and seek.” Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks as she walked shakily into the kitchen, finally taking the shrieking kettle off the fireplace. The silence left behind in its wake pressed painfully against her ear drums.

“Marli,” Kirra called hopefully, “do you want some lunch?” The tick-tick of the pendulum clock was her only response.

“Kirra, come here.”

Kirra followed Flynn’s urgent voice to the front door, which, she saw as she rounded the corner, was slightly ajar. No wonder the living room had felt so cold.

“No,” she said breathlessly. “I’m sure that I shut it.”

Flynn indicated the chair that was near the door. “I think you have an escape artist of a sister.”

Kirra dashed outside. “Marli?” she screamed, but her driveway was bare except for the little wiry plants pushing their way up through the cracks in the concrete.

Flynn followed her out, then turned in a slow circle, scanning the immediate area. The houses nearest them were silent, shut up against the cold. “Where’s your mum today?”

Kirra sniffed, her hands shaking with a mixture of cold and fright. “Over at Aunt Ellin’s doing a check-up.”

“Run straight over there, okay, get her to alert the Shepherd.” He placed a hand on Kirra’s arm. “Marli will be okay. She might be lost, and a bit scared, but she can’t really get hurt, can she? It’s not like she can get out.”

Kirra shook her head. “Unless . . .” She wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Unless she went to the river? Or the dam?”

“I’ll check them first, okay? Now go get your mum.”

Kirra dashed off to do as he asked while Flynn jogged towards the dam, calling Marli’s name as he scanned the paddocks nearest to him. The dam was closer than the river, and with Marli’s little three-year-old legs, he doubted she would have got that far anyway. Chances were that she was hiding in the neighbour’s backyard, giggling to herself about how clever she was.

The north field had recently been harvested, so Flynn had a clear view across to the dam and the wall beyond, an imposing line of twisted metal rusting in the weather. Shielding his eyes from the weak sun, he thought he could see a dark shape in front of the water.

“Shit.” Flynn took off at a sprint towards the dam. “Marli!”

As he ran, the old air-raid sirens around the town spluttered to life, their wail making the back of Flynn’s neck prickle. There were very few emergencies these days, and they generally only heard the sirens at an Exile. The thought spurred Flynn to run faster. Kirra must have successfully alerted her mother and the shepherd to Marli’s disappearance. Soon, the town would be teeming with people lending themselves to the search effort. Flynn put his head down and ran as fast as he could towards the dam, his breath creating thick puffs of steam in the frigid air.

When he looked up again, the dark shadow was gone, and the patchwork metal fence loomed above him. He stopped at the side of the dam, hands on his knees, drawing in great gasps of air. The water was murky and green, with a thin crust of ice stretching across from one bank to the other. Thin lines criss-crossed the ice like veins on the underside of a leaf. Had Marli fallen in?

In the distance, Flynn heard the splutter of one of the last working trucks in the village as it careened out of its garage beside the station. There was no time to lose. He stepped off the bank and plunged into the icy water.

Click here to check out the rest of the story! 

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The Faceless People by Natalie Rix – Chapter 1

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The Faceless People Natalie

I always thought The Faceless People were a myth told by my people to keep children inside at night. Beautiful and intelligent beneath their metallic bubbles, they are also said to be violent and cruel, taking unsuspecting victims away in the night. I never truly believed this myth until I saw them for myself, beating and dragging my people away. Those taken never return. I have always lived in constant fear that the same might one day happen to me.

“There’s one, Peter,” I hear a deep male voice say.

I stand still at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. I have just separated from my friends and family. We dispersed across the abandoned terrain in the hunt for some food, perhaps some rats or a small berry bush. Peering through the dusky red dust clouds for the source of the voice, my eyes focus on a humanoid form a few yards away. A sharp wind blows over and clears the dust cloud. It is then I see the reflective surface of the metallic bubble. My mouth hangs open in surprise. The Faceless People… The humanoid stands upright, about six feet tall. Its legs and arms are long but bulky with muscle. It’s wearing a dense sort of fabric of the likes I have never seen before. Like the myth goes, it has no face – just a shiny metallic bubble where the head should be. I need to hide right now, but my body has gone numb with fear. My heart hammers in my chest and I feel slick with cold sweat.

“Where, Jamie?” Another male voice. This voice sounds lighter and more pleasant. The owner of the voice comes into view from behind one of the many derelict buildings. Another humanoid creature. Another metallic bubble. This one is slightly taller and slender than the other.

Two of them? I swallow hard, my tongue catching on the back of my throat. The Faceless People can speak English. How is this possible? Perhaps they have been watching us without us knowing. Perhaps they have been using our libraries that hold the books in which we learned how to read and write. But we would have seen them. This doesn’t make sense.

“Over there, you idiot,” Jamie says, pointing to my cousin. I was lagging behind, so he must have come back to find me. Panicked, I look around, catching sight of a low, broken wall. I scamper towards it, hurriedly trying to hide myself. My cumbersome feet catch beneath my gangly legs and I try not to trip over on the rubble strewn across the floor. I leap over a mangled piece of metal and scrabble over a mound of bricks. Now half hidden behind the wall, I can see my cousin scrabbling backwards across the dusty floor, also trying to get to cover.

“Fucking ugly, ain’t they?” Jamie says. I wince as he runs up to my cousin and kicks him in the face. There is a loud crack as Jamie’s huge booted foot hits him square in the nose. Blood pours down his face. My cousin wails as he falls backwards to the floor, shaking with pain.

I cry out. My voice sounds strange to my own ears; I sound like a wounded animal.

“What the fuck was that?” Jamie turns towards me. I duck my head beneath the wall, but it’s too late. He’s seen me. “Another one over there.” He runs over to me, but the slender one, Peter, runs after him and places a hand upon his shoulder.

“Our mission is to capture one and bring it back intact,” Peter says.

“But they’re ugly, filthy, disgusting animals. Let me just kick one about a bit.”

Peter holds Jamie back with an outstretched arm. “No. We must bring one back intact and unharmed for scientific testing. Save your energy and violence for the hell beasts saved especially for the festival. Donny is out rounding the hell beasts up in the cage as we speak. You can play with those, but not this one.”

“Spoilsport.”

“Governor Sam says he wants one bringing back safely, remember? And that’s what I’m going to do. If you’re going to jeopardise the mission, I’ll have no qualms in telling him that you are the one who ruined it, just because you can’t control yourself. You know how dangerous he is.”

“I don’t give a fuck what Governor Sam says.” Jamie folds his bulky arms.

“But this is for the High Lord.”

Jamie sighs. “I would do anything for the High Lord.”

Peter nods. “I think this one is female.”

“Who the fuck knows. They all look the same to me. Freaks.”

“I’ll talk to her.” Peter leans over the wall. My reflection stares back within the reflective surface of the bubble. I wonder what sort of face lies beneath it. “Can you talk?” he asks me.

I try to speak, but as usual, my voice comes out like an animal’s. I have a cleft lip and teeth that jut out in different directions, which makes it hard to form sounds and speak words in the way that they do. I wish I could speak the English I have learned from the books. I find it hard to look at him with my weak vision.

“It’s probably braindead. It’s just an animal,” Jamie huffs. “So we should treat it like one.”

“You had better not treat my dog like that or I’ll kick your head in.”

“Screw you,” Jamie huffs. “You bring the special hell beast then. Don’t blame me if it attacks you. I’m going back to the pickup truck.” He skulks away.

Peter holds his gloved hand out towards me. I stare at the long, straight fingers. There are five of them altogether. I reach my own hand up. It looks so different in comparison. I have four knobbled fingers on the one hand and a tiny thumb. Peter takes my hand.

“Come with me. I won’t hurt you.”

I wonder why he wants me to go with him, and to where? I try to ask, but he doesn’t understand my noises in the way my friends do.

“Don’t worry,” he says as he pulls me up onto my uneven legs. “Here, this is to relax you,” he says, placing a red cloth over my mouth. The smell is intoxicating, and even though it smells sweet, it is also pungent, and I struggle to breath. I flail my arms and legs out but then feel powerless to resist. Everything goes dark.

The Mutation Chronicles is a collection of three post-apocalpytic stories by Natalie Rix, Lozzi Counsell and Alanah Andrews. These short stories, while set in the same world, can be read in any order. Pre-order here.

Pre-order The Faceless People here (Aff link)

The Mutation Chronicles

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Two months ago, three authors planned out a book series together online in a group chat. One of those authors was me. Today, the first three books in this series of short reads have been edited over and over again, and are finally up for pre-order!

Closer to the date of each release, I will publish the first chapter of that particular book. Until then, I will leave you with this picture of all three book covers and their release dates!

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Pre-order The Faceless People by Natalie Rix here.

Pre-order Contagion by Lozzi Counsell (me) here.

Pre-order Exiles by Alanah Andrews here.

(Aff links)