We have successfully funded POST by Brenda Cooper and The Sister Paradox by Jack Campbell, which is amazing, but we also have a week to go which leaves us plenty of opportunity for giving away bonuses, so please forgive us if we go on a bit longer. To check out the campaign visit http://tiny.cc/Novels2016
In the meantime, here is a second sneak peek at Brenda Cooper’s POST. (And, in case you missed it, here is a link to the first one: SNEAK PEEK – POST BY BRENDA COOPER)
It’s a good traveling day and soon another group catches up to me. This is a long train of people, even an old man being pushed in a squeaky wheelchair. I walk slow enough for them to engulf me, making me one of them by virtue of there being so many. There are a few teenagers like me. A girl who’s maybe two years older comes up to me. Her voice is soft. “I’m Lelani. We’re on our way to Seattle.”
“Where did you come from?” I ask her.
“California.” She spits the word out, like the state itself did something awful to her. “Southern California.”
“I heard the quakes were bad there.”
She sneers and shrugs. She is thin and wiry. Her hair is well-kept and clean, brown with highlights. “Do you hate people from California?”
“I don’t hate anyone.” I shift the blanket roll on my back so the slight pain cuts closer to my shoulder. “Did someone say they don’t like you because you’re from California?”
“There’s a nice little town halfway up here. I wanted to stay but they won’t take Californians.”
“That’s rude. What was the name of the town?”
“Wolf’s Creek. They built it on a park. It’s Post.”
Post is the word people use for things that happened after the good times. Not like there was a single event. But Before things were all good, I guess. Then During there was bad weather and the quakes that were medium here but huge in California, and sickness here and everywhere, and Hurricane Nadiya that took out New Orleans for good, or so we heard before our satellite TV died. Oskar told me the worst wasn’t the big things like quakes. He says it was the economy—the way money moves around. Money stopped working. Hyperinflation he calls it. People turned to trading stuff for stuff. The Board keeps a big stash of money, but Oskar said it isn’t worth much, and I think it must not be or Kelley would have given me some.
“What was nice about Wolf’s Creek?”
Lelani’s voice softens, wistful. “They had a school. I miss having a school so bad I can taste it. We had one in California for a few years, even after the quakes. Parents ran it.”
“There’s not enough water in California.”
There’s not enough water here anymore either. “Was it a big school? The one in Wolf’s Creek?”
“It had every grade. I didn’t get to go in and meet the teachers, because they said we couldn’t stay. It’s only for people from Oregon.”
“Not a very good example of globalization,” I say, meaning to be funny. Oskar and Kelley would have laughed, or said it themselves.
She looks at me like I’m speaking Greek. But then the garden is full of people with doctorates and a strange sense of humor. They did make me study every day.
A hand falls onto my shoulder and I feel startled and tipsy since the blanket affects my balance. “We’re not taking in anyone else.”
Lelani turns her face to him. “Please, pop. I want another girl.”
He gives her the kind of look that withers ripe fruit.
She takes my hand. Her hand is warm and grabby and a bit sweaty.
“Perhaps I’ll catch up with you later,” I say.
“I didn’t get your name,” she whines.
I pull my hand out of hers. “I’m Sage.” I speak to the man. “All right if I walk with you a bit? It’s a free road.”
He leans down and whispers in my ear, his breath smelling like toothpaste and orange juice, like the world before all of this. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “My daughter gets ahead of herself. We don’t have enough for another kid.”
“I can feed myself. I know what plants are edible.”
“Look, you’d be trouble. I don’t want any trouble. It’s hard enough to keep Lelani safe.”
This I understand. “There’s been three people try to rape me and two try to steal from me in the last year. None of them succeeded. I can teach her to be safe.”
“You’re too pretty. Back off.”
I can tell he means it, so I jog over to Lelani and tell her, “When people try to hurt you, if you say you got AIDS, they’ll leave you alone.” She’s skinny enough this will work for her.
She looks at me and nods, her face all solemn. “I’m sorry. I hope I see you again.”
She whispers, “Be safe.”
I’ll have to keep trying, or else settle for walking on the side paths and having hope. But I know what it’s like to be chased, and already I’m so far away from home that there are trees and ravines and rusty signs I don’t recognize by the road.
I fall back, watching Lelani and wondering if she could have been a friend.