2013 – The planet has been fried by solar flares turning it into a desert. The surviving population has been effected by solar radiation, turning them into Zombies. Only a handful of people remain unaffected. A family of civilians, guided by a crack army unit who has seen more action than they can handle, must make their way to the safety of a UN base at the South Pole called New Atlantis.
But can they make it to this oasis alive or will they only reach it as the undead?
Here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure:
The shelter was completed just in time. The President gave his goodbye speech and told us to save ourselves, if we could. Tears streamed down my face as we took our most prised possessions, our pets, some plants, books to read, the usual gumph, and locked ourselves in the bunker. It was cramped, to say the least, but we were alive.
Small, uncomfortable bunk beds lined the walls. There was an open plan kitchen and dining room area. There was even a TV and DVD player, with a collection of all our favourite movies. The bathroom was specially designed to recycle the water. Our air supply was filtered and recycled. My parents had gone all out and spent their life savings building it. Money wasn’t really something we would need to worry about with the world ending and all.
We stayed down there for over a year. It’s amazing how irritating someone’s habits can get in a small confined space. There was many an occasion where I would happily have throttled every member of my family. It was basically like living in a very small prison with my immediate family. Being the only single person with a couple of twosomes can also add to the frustration, if you get my drift. Cleaning up dog shit every day is also not much fun. On the plus side, my brother and his wife were expecting their first child when we went in. Even with all the death and destruction going on above us, life was growing and flourishing in our little safe haven underground.
By the end of a year our supplies were dwindling and if we didn’t want to starve, we would have to venture out and forage topside. The risks we would have to face outside the safety of our shelter were diminished by the thought of slowly starving to death. We’d seen too many movies about cannibalism. It never ended well for anybody concerned.
Climbing out of the tunnel that led to the outside world was nerve wracking. We didn’t know what to expect. We’d had no contact with the outside world, no crackling radio signals, no emergency beacon. All we had were our over active imaginations. We hoped that we’d find the world as we’d left it. That we’d been the targets of an elaborate hoax and that the year we’d spent down there in our hole had been a waste of time.
What we discovered was far worse than any of us had imagined.
Our house or what was left of it was little more than a burnt out shell. There wasn’t much left of our small neighbourhood. There were no trees lining the streets, no grass, no flowers, just ash and sand. A desert had claimed our once lush, green garden. From the top of the hill, where the Botanical Gardens had been, I could see what was left of our once beautiful capital city, Pretoria, and as I looked around at the ruins, I realised that my apartment was gone. All my furniture and belongings were gone and most of the people I’d known were now dead. Most hadn’t been buried, there hadn’t been much left to bury or anyone to bury them. Most of the bodies had been incinerated, but those that hadn’t had been left to be bleached by the never ending blaze of the sun and eventually turned to dust, blown away by the relentless wind.
We decided to stick close to the safety of our bunker and venture out in concentric rings for foraging purposes. We found a few tins of food at the small supermarket that had once been just up the road, but was now a few sand dunes away. The store had, by some miracle, survived the initial solar flares. Sand was blown in by the wind, over the few standing walls and through every open gap it could find. We dug through the sand to find shelves and fridges and ice boxes. We’d shopped there since I was a little girl and seeing its walls broken down and burnt, broke something in me. I screamed and howled like a woman whose only child had died. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to get hysterical.
“It’s okay. Let it out,” James said. His arms hugged me tight as I pounded into his chest with my fists.
“It’s not okay,” I screamed. “It’s never going to be okay.” Sobs shuddered through my body as I tried to calm down. “We might be the last people on the planet. Do you realise that?”
“Yes, I’ve thought about it,” James said, as he pushed me out at arm’s length and looked down at me from his 6ft 3inches height. “But I can’t let that get to me. We’ve got to stay strong. We’ve got to think about little Steve and,” he paused, unable to look me in the eye. “Mary’s pregnant again.” The revelation was a shock. “We have to keep it together for them. I need you to help me. Can you do that Maxine?”
I nodded. He only ever called me Maxine when he was being serious. This wasn’t a time for self-pity or weakness. This was a time to grow up and be tough. Time to be a survivor and put on my big girl pants.
“Have you told Mom and Dad she’s pregnant?” I looked up, squinting so I could see his face and not get blinded by the sun. He shook his head.
“We’re waiting for the right time. We don’t want to worry them.”
“But it’s another life. It’s something that should be celebrated,” I said, trying to sound as happy as I could. I was happy, but I was also worried about Mary. Stevie’s birth hadn’t been easy. James was a paramedic in the old world, before all of this and his medical training came in handy, but he wasn’t a doctor and we didn’t have all the medical supplies necessary for a safe delivery. We didn’t have any prenatal vitamins for Mary to take. There was no way to know if the baby would be healthy. I tried not to focus on all the things that could go wrong. We had to accentuate the positive, even if there wasn’t all that much to be positive about. We were alive and that had to count for something, right?
Carting back the few supplies we’d found at the store, James and I trudged up and down sand dunes in silence. We each had our own morbid thoughts to deal with. Being a survivor was hard work.
I’d once thought that having a day job and a career was hard, but going to work and dealing with clients and an annoying boss was easy in comparison. I longed for the normal days when the only thing I had to worry about was which outfit I’d wear or if I’d worked hard enough for my clients or if a guy in the building liked me. No amount of therapy or training could have prepared me for this.
“Look at what I found,” My mother stood next to our old Weber barbecue, looking rather proud of herself, as James and I walked through what had been our garden gate, but was now little more than twisted metal that still hung from a piece of burnt concrete. She must have found it lying somewhere in the sand. Her white, long, cotton dress flapped in the breeze.
“Where’d you find that?” James asked with a grin and touched the Weber as though it were some ancient relic worth a fortune in gold.
“It was across the road …” She frowned. “Well … you know what I mean,” she said, as she gestured in the general direction of where the house across the road had been. “How it got there, I don’t know.”
“Are you sure it’s ours?” I asked walking towards her and giving her a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.
“Does it really matter whose it is?” James asked, looking at me with a sad, lost look in his eyes.
“Guess not.” The thought of the old couple who’d once lived across the road not needing their barbecue anymore threatened my resolve to be strong. My mother put her arms around me and hugged me tight. The softness of her body against mine was comforting. I was grateful to be alive and that I wasn’t completely alone. We had each other. Our family was still intact and in that there was hope. Perhaps there were other families out there going through the same thing, thinking that they were the only ones. And maybe, just maybe, by some miracle we would find each other and be able to rebuild together. Stupid and naive, I know, but a girl can dream. Can’t she?