Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering
Genre: post apocalyptic
Publisher: Lilt Literary
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 95.000
Cover Artist: Laila Blake
Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.
Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie - an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything - are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south.
All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.
Warning: This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.
It was in the symmetry, of course. In the fifteen shocks of hair that fluttered in the breeze, as it swept a few leaves across the square. In the thirty pairs of shoes, all pointing up at the grey sky.
Emily took another step closer. She could hear her blood sloshing in her head, like she was underwater and she moved back again, turned away to watch Song. Sparrow started to fuss: even she could tell something was wrong. Very, very wrong. For once, Emily had no interest to investigate, no need to see what they could scavenge. She just wanted to pack up her children and run.
“Aaron,” she hissed. He was walking down the line of corpses, his shoulders stiff with anger, or grief, or maybe shattered faith. “Aaron!”
For the first time since their first days together, Aaron was a wall. He didn’t turn back to her, not until she was almost stomping her feet and biting her lip to keep from screaming. His gaze was blank when he did.
“They were executed.” His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well.
A shiver ran down her spine, and she found herself reaching for him. Her hand stilled in mid-air as though she’d only just noticed that he was much too far away. The breeze stirred the hairs on her arm and she let it sink, cradled her hand around Sparrow’s tiny head in a vestigial instinct to shield her.
“How… how do you know?” she asked, voice hardly loud enough to travel across the square.
He breathed in so deep, she found herself worrying about his ribs, imagined them crackling under the strain. He shook his head, nodded towards the ground.
“Hands are bound with zip ties,” he said eventually. “Looks like they were beaten before…”
“Come back here,” Emily said again, more urgently this time. “Please, baby.”
She could have been watching a movie, or one of those terrible war reports she remembered on the news from Before, the ones she would switch off before Song had time to understand what they were about. It occurred to her, then, that Aaron could have been one of those soldiers in the reports she was lucky enough to switch away from, replace his face with Big Bird, with John Cleese.
“There’s more behind the house,” he said in a monotone. She didn’t follow his gaze. “Must have been the entire neighborhood.”
“But… why?” Emily shook her head at herself almost immediately. Annika had been right: she had gotten cocky. She had forgotten all the things she’d seen after the end, before Aaron had made her forget that humans could be a disease upon the world, far more dangerous than the dead.
She sent one long last glance at Song, then she stepped out of his line of sight, hurried to Aaron’s side as quietly, as quickly as she could. She reached for his hand, squeezed it tight.
Her eyes were drawn downward almost against her will. They hadn’t wasted bullets. She stared at a line of fifteen gaping slits in fifteen throats, like fifteen twisted smiles. “They haven’t been dead for long, have they?”
He tipped his head back and seemed to peer directly into the bare late autumn sun before he looked back at the blood at their feet. “A week maybe,” he said. “Probably less. Hardly decomposed at all.”
She tightened her hold on his hand, tugged once.
“We can’t stay here.” She enunciated every word, slowly, quietly, trying to get through to him. They had slept peacefully, less than half an hour away from this spot. They’d had no idea. “Aaron. We can’t stay here.”
He didn’t respond right away, and it made her heart pound harder in her chest. There had been a night, years before, when he’d told her he’d never really talked about his time in the desert, that he’d never seen the point, and though she’d disagreed, they’d never spoken of it again. She wanted to kick herself now.
“Aaron,” she said, voice terse. “Song and Sparrow.” He finally stirred with those words.
“Get ‘em back in the trailer,” he instructed.
Character Name: Kenzie
The name’s Kenzie, I’m like 16. Maybe 15. It’s getting kinda hard to keep track. I was the oldest of five, but now it’s just me left. I’m Korean, well, American - but people always ask where I’m from, so: Korea. My dad was anyway. My mum was born here, like me.
When the whole zombie craziness happened, we moved to my uncle’s - my mom’s brother. Her family were farmers, so it worked out well. I don’t know, I guess I was a normal kid before, but I don’t remember all that much. Mostly I remember the three years at the farm, how everybody was always afraid, and how we tried to help survivors when they came alone or in pairs.
But then dad got bit, and he infected all the others. I was alone for a while, and then I met Mali. That’s pretty much it.
It’s a regular Cinderella story, right? Just add in some singing mice or something.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
Best quality is that I’m brave, and I kick ass. I’m also way smarter than grown-ups give me credit for. And I don’t have bad qualities. ‘Cept possibly that I’m not all that modest. But that’s totally a pre-zombie times trait, anyway.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
I don’t really want people to know all that much about me, if you know what I’m saying. Makes them think they get you, makes them all understanding. That’s what I want people to know: Don’t try to get me.
What are you most afraid of?
I’m not afraid anymore. What’s that word? I transcended fear. Booya.
What is your relationship status?
Ew. Single. Do you know what it’s like to live after the world ends? Two letters: B.O. -- Also, I don’t know, everybody’s either too old, or too dead, or whatever. And it’s not like I’m dying to date anyone. Ha. Pun.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
Apocalypse-ragged? It’s all the rage, I tell you. Basically, you wear anything that fits and keeps you warm and you only throw it out when it’s in shreds… or a zombie goes all goo on you. Ew. No way of getting that smell out without a washer and dryer.
How much of a rebel are you?
Apart from the fact that there isn’t all that much to rebell against anymore, sure. If that means I don’t always do what people tell me to do.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I’m still alive?
What is your idea of happiness?
Are you kidding? Probably having the rest of the world be alive and not dead, don’t you think?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Before, I might have said something like my sense of humor. I tell a really good joke. But now, I don’t know, probably being stubborn. You have to be to survive in a world like this, kind of like you’re flipping off the universe.
What is it that you most dislike?
Besides zombies? Probably people acting like I’m a dumb-headed kid just because I’m short.
Which living person do you most despise?
I stopped thinking like that when I realized my fourth grade teacher, who totally sucked, was dead, and so was the mean cashier at the store down the block from my parents’ restaurant, along with, like, my best friend from kindergarten. What was the point of hating anyone?
What is your greatest regret?
Maybe not being nicer to my parents.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Katniss Everdeen. Of course. I wish I could shoot arrows like her, but I’m better with a knife. I would have kicked ass in the Hunger Games.
Which living person do you most admire?
There’s no one left to admire. Maybe Mali, because he’s the only person left I know, but also because he’s not dead even though he’s all busted up. That’s pretty cool.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Maybe I’d make myself nicer. I’m always real quick to tell people off.
What is your motto?
Motto? Really? Uh, ‘never say die?’ Or, like, ‘shoot first, ask questions later.’
Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Liene, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar badly. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature as well as a number of popular TV-Shows.
L.C. Spoering has a degree in English writing from University of Colorado, and a lesser degree in sarcasm earned from the days of yore on AOL. A storyteller since she started talking, she now spends her days writing, reading and contemplating the universe through various pop culture lenses.