|Another Place to Die: Endtime Chronicles
Hammer & Tong (print & kindle)
344 pages + kindle (US) version UK Kindle + Print
It’s not when you die. It’s how you die that matters.
Be vigilant. Be warned. The virus can find your weakness and exploit it. Wash Your Hands – Wear Your Mask
Health Advisory Warning No 331
School could go to hell for all Kira cared.
The house was empty when she got up. Her alarm hadn’t gone off. Power was out. Now what? Bad way to start a day.
Red was real happy to see her awake and wanted a treat and some attention. Red was a Toller, a Little Red Duck Dog bred in Nova Scotia for cold-water hunting. Been with Kira since a puppy and they were inseparable.
‘No walk. I have to go to Culture and Media studies, unless you want to go for me. Probably do you more good than me, dog.’
Red would do anything for her, but probably not that, a dog has his limits. Two periods with Ms Scott and Culture, which invariably meant discussing Mexican primitive art or the significance of speed-dating on permanent relationships. Well, actually they never discussed speed-dating, but Kira had it on good authority Ms Scott was once seen in a bar speed-dating with someone’s Dad.
She knew that if she timed it right she'd be there for the 11am class and that, with luck, she would avoid going down in the ‘late’ book again. She didn’t care; sometimes it was hard to get motivated about school when Redemption was so close. The one good thing about Endtime was no school ever again.
There wasn’t any hot water without power; she had to take a cold shower. She pulled on her sarcastic ‘We’re all doomed’ t-shirt because she knew it annoyed Frances.
Red was waiting by the back door. She pushed him out into the yard. She threw him a Bonio to chew on and left him to his own devices.
She rode to school on her second-hand bike. (No one rode a new one if you wanted to ride it back.) She could do the distance in fifteen minutes flat, allowing for traffic and chaining up the other end. She used to be mocked for riding a bike but now it was cool to be green, it was the seniors in their cars who had tyres slashed or paintwork scratched if the car wasn’t green enough.
There was quite a crowd outside the school when she got there. She saw the ambulances and parents turning up in their cars with a look of panic on their faces. One masked police officer was getting out of his vehicle getting ready to pull on a HAZMAT suit.
Her sister May was running out of school, a distinct look of fear in her face.
‘What?’ Kira asked. ‘What’s going on?’
May looked at her and suddenly Kira could see she’d been crying.
‘Six kids collapsed in Mr Howard’s Math class. Started projectile vomiting. It’s in the school. Don’t go in, Ki. Don’t go in.’
Kira was already backing off. But she knew the rules. The Government posters were everywhere. ‘People shouldn’t be leaving. Everyone should be quarantined. Shit, May. You weren’t near them were you?’
‘No, I swear. I was late. We have to go, Ki. I don’t want to be quarantined. Turn around, move, we have to go before the police get here.’
Kira understood the panic now. Parents were coming to grab their kids before the cops could get hold of them. No one survived quarantine. No one. Might as well give up and die right here. Everyone knew that.
May was walking away. She wasn’t headed home however.
‘May,’ Kira shouted as she caught up with her on her bike.
‘Go away. You’re shunned remember?’
‘You are so dead if you walk back into our home. Which class were you in?’
‘I wasn’t.’ May looked at her, the challenge in her voice.
Kira knew what that meant. ‘You cut school again? I just saw you leaving.’
‘I was meeting Becky. She actually likes French.’
‘Where did you go this morning? Where were you?’
‘What’s it to you?’
‘Where did you go?’
‘It’s none of your business, sister.’
Kira sighed. She hated May’s sulky attitude sometimes. ‘Six kids in our school have got the virus. They’ll probably be dead by tomorrow. Anyone who got close to them will probably be dead too. Have you any idea how deadly this thing is?’
Police sirens pierced the air – more cops were on their way. Sounded like a convoy of them coming up Como Lake. Time to disappear.
May frowned. She hated being caught-out by her sister, especially when she was in the wrong. ‘I was in Starbucks with Joanna, OK? Satisfied. Can we go back to not talking now?’
‘No. Where are you going?’
‘The Mall. Where else, d’uh?’
Kira shook her head. ‘Think, May. Everyone is cutting class. That’s the first place they’ll go. Someone will take the virus with them. Go home.’
‘I mean it. Dad will be so pissed if he thinks you went to the mall. I’m calling him now to tell him the virus is in our school. Ok?’
May looked at Kira with only the perfect resentment that a younger sister can possess. But somewhere in her head she knew Kira was right. She hadn’t been thinking at all.
She turned around. ‘Don’t think you are getting one over me, Kira.’
‘I’m just trying to save your ungrateful little ass, May.’
Kira let her be. She texted her Dad. He’d want to know, if he didn’t know already.
‘Virus in skool. May and me cut class. We’re safe. Six kids sick.’
First time she’d ever admitted to playing hookey, but she knew that for once neither of them would be punished for it. Kira did wonder how long May had been cutting school. Her grades sucked, she couldn’t think of anything that girl took seriously, except her music and her friends.
They took the short cut home through the woods to avoid the cops. They would definitely have to close the schools now. All of them.
* * *
Her father was due to go to an emergency meeting of the Redeemers. He’d questioned May and Kira for a whole hour in the backyard to make sure they hadn’t been exposed to even the slightest chance of the virus. He had to be sure. Rule 6 of the Redeemer Charter meant no vaccinations, no blood transfusions, no hospitals. Redeemers were in the hands of God and put their trust in him (or her, they had no opinion on that). Paracetamol or Tylenol were permitted, as they hadn’t appeared on the list of ‘abominations’ when the Church was founded. This was fortunate as both May and Frances suffered from headaches.
Frances stared through the kitchen window at them with extreme hostility. She wasn’t sure about their story of cutting classes at all and was all for excluding them from the house and making them hand themselves over to the authorities. Anyone who didn’t get out of the school in time was now in quarantine along with their families, either confined to their home, or on their way to the new exclusion camps being set up in the interior.
May had expected to be in trouble for playing hookey, but for once had done the right thing. ‘Can’t we just go to the Island now Dad? Get ahead of the virus?’ She whined.
Mercer sighed. ‘I’ve told you before May, we aren’t fleeing the virus. We’re fleeing what comes after the virus.’
May rolled her eyes. ‘The reckoning. I know, I know.’
‘Perhaps only twenty or at the most thirty percent of people might catch the virus and die, May. That’s millions of us and that’s terrible enough. But it’s afterwards when the hydro is out for months because they can’t find anyone to operate the power stations, the food is rotting in the supermarkets and the farms, and there’s no drinking water and people are killing each other for scraps. That’s what we’re running from. God’s wrath. The chaos.’
‘Aren’t you late for your meeting, Dad?’ Kira said. She’d heard this rant a thousand times already. May shot her a glance of relief.
He glanced at his watch and realised she was right. He left. Frances reluctantly let them back into the house and frozen silence filled the space.
Kira took Red for a walk before that too was prohibited. She wore a regulation N95 facemask as ordered by her father and much to her surprise, everyone she met on the way was wearing one too. In a perfect world they would have invented one for Red too. Why shouldn’t the dogs be protected too?
That was the last day she never went to school.
© Sam Hawksmoor July 2020
Another Place to Die: Endtime Reviews:
'I was drawn into the story immediately and couldn't put it down. The characters are still with me. Excellent book.' Nick11 Amazon UK
A great story, well told - Austin - Amazon UK
Downloads Kindle (US) version- UK Kindle
You can order Girl with Cat (Blue) here
*Shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award & 'Honorary Mention' in the 26th Writer's Digest Book Awards