No shelter (1) a post ap.., p.1
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       No Shelter (#1) A Post-Apocalyptic Love Story, p.1

           T.S. Welti
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No Shelter (#1) A Post-Apocalyptic Love Story

  Book One of the No Shelter Trilogy

  by T.S. Welti

  Copyright © 2012 by T.S. Welti

  ISBN-13: 9781476009230

  For Ronnie,

  who encouraged this lunacy

  and will never know how much that meant to me.












  11. FUNNY


  13. BURN IT UP






  “The end of the world will come with a violent choking breath, and the final gasp will be that of a child.”

  - Dr. Bradford Pike, December 21, 2042


  I didn’t know how sharp my blade was until Isaac used it to stab me in the back.

  I met Isaac Faulk during the Whitmore High School riot two years ago. Isaac, with his towering build and eyes the color of smoldering ash, immediately caught my eye as a potential ally. After the ice melt and the flooding, my mother and I knew we wouldn’t survive in this environment without a man around. Isaac fit the description, but he was intimidating.

  He didn’t look totally scary; at least not at first glance. The scariness came from the darkness that dwelled in his eyes and the hard shadows and lines of his young face. He was hungry in every way.

  He arrived at Whitmore High School alone, but he made friends immediately. My mother and I, mostly I, studied him from a distance.

  “Nada, you shouldn't stare. It makes people uneasy,” my mother said, as she cleaned the festering wound on her thigh. 

  During the flood, a broken tree branch gored my mother in the thigh. The wound had begun to heal nicely after a few weeks at Whitmore, but an infestation of bedbugs had re-infected the wound. She had been nursing it for more than six weeks now and growing weaker by the day.

  “I’m not staring,” I insisted, as I took the aloe from her hand and closed the jar. “This stuff’s not working, Mom. You need antibiotics.”

  “They’d sooner give us a knife in the gut,” my mother muttered as she leaned against the wall of the cafeteria and closed her eyes as she fiddled with the ruby pendant on her necklace. The last remnant of her life with my father.

  They’d sooner give us a knife in the gut.

  My mother was referring to the twenty or so hulking young men who lurked in the corner of the cafeteria all day. They called themselves the Guardians. They claimed to guard the Whitmore High School community from those who wished to take an extra scoop of beans in the lunch line or outsiders who tried to raid the auditorium, which doubled as a storage room for all the food and supplies. But Mother and I knew better.

  The Guardians wanted to gather enough men in their gang to take over Whitmore and keep all the food and supplies to themselves. Hallie Glover had whispered this information to me in the lunch line two days ago. I hadn’t seen Hallie since.

  The Guardians probably dropped her over the cliffs into the rising waters over what used to be Los Angeles. L.A. and everything I loved and hated about the city was under a hundred feet of ocean. The Hollywood sign made it out almost completely unscathed by what is now referred to as “The Event”.

  Of course, that wasn’t the official name of the storm that Dr. Bradford Pike predicted twelve years earlier. With everything either frozen, under water, burned to dust, or deserted, nothing was official anymore.

  As the atmosphere grew more toxic and the polar ice melted into the oceans, the water levels rose gradually for about forty years. It wasn’t a huge concern until Dr. Pike discovered a way to measure tectonic plate pressure. His discovery led to more and more research and evidence that predicted rapidly cooling oceans could increase the stress on tectonic plates and set off an unstoppable chain of biblical flooding, earthquakes, super volcanoes, and monstrous blackout storms caused by volcanic ash. His research was criticized as sensationalism and buried by the very government agencies that were supposed to promote environmental protection.

  The wealthy abandoned America in the years before the storm. The media left, the politicians left… We were the ones left behind. The lost souls wandering a broken environment and scrapping for food, clean water, and shelter.

  If you were lucky enough to find all three of those at the same time, you’d better keep it to yourself.

  Despite my mom’s advice, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. In the light of the trash can fires and candles Isaac appeared broken. Whatever happened to him to make him seek refuge at Whitmore, it must have stripped him bare. He was exactly the kind of person I wanted with us when the Guardians took over—someone with nothing to lose.

  The next morning, I approached Isaac. That’s when the fragile community at Whitmore High School shattered into a million pieces. 

  I grabbed a green plastic plate from the rack and walked quickly to catch up with Isaac in the lunch line, passing up the breadbasket—the only decent food in the cafeteria.

  “Hey,” I said.

  Isaac turned around and examined me from beneath the curtain of brown hair covering his eyes. “Hey.”

  “I… I need to talk to you.”

  He didn’t respond or look at me as he grabbed a plastic fork as if he knew what I was going to ask and he didn’t want to encourage my insanity. I had to make my plea quickly.

  “I can hunt and I’m good at hiding,” I whispered, as if I was on a survivalist job interview.

  “That’s not worth much around here. They’ve got enough food to last a year.”

  “It won’t last a year and you know it.”

  He avoided my gaze as he grabbed a thimble-sized cup of pudding from a tray. Next to the hundred or so thimbles of pudding were trays of finger-sized peanut butter sandwiches and tiny cups of reconstituted mashed potatoes.

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Isaac replied.

  Though I could already taste the chocolaty pudding on my tongue, I passed up the pudding, as usual, and took a peanut butter sandwich and a heaping spoonful of beans instead. My mother needed the protein and vitamins. Once she was better, I’d have pudding every day—if the Guardians allowed it.

  “You know what they’re doing,” I whispered, nodding toward the corner where Vic, the leader of the Guardians, watched our conversation carefully as if he could read our lips. “If you think they’re going to include you, you’re wrong. You’re going to need me as much as we need you when you’re out there without a decent rabbit or squirrel to sink your teeth into.”

  “Squirrel? Are you serious?” he replied with a sneer.

  Then he flashed me a look. It only lasted a second, but it wasn’t just any look. It was the kind of look that said, “I know exactly what you mean and you’d better shut up before you get us both killed.”

  I hung my head for a moment, ashamed of my brash behavior. It was so unlike me. Before the storm, I would have never approached someone like Isaac Faulk. Of course, before the storm I never would have killed rabbits and pigeons with my bare hands. Before the storm, I was your typical L.A. teenager with no real friends.

  I had a few classmates I spoke to in English class and a Chinese immigrant I befriended in gym class. During lunch, I spent my time alone in the library or helping my old freshmen history teac
her grading assignments. I was a complete social degenerate.

  After the storm, I learned to speak up pretty quick. I even teamed up with a younger boy—Jared—for a while as we learned to hunt. Two weeks after meeting him, Jared was killed by a pack of coyotes. That’s when we ended up at Whitmore.

  It was too difficult to hunt alone.

  Isaac began walking away toward the Guardians. Was he already one of them? Did they take some kind of oath? Was he about to tell them what I had just told him?

  I pushed past an elderly man with a walker and tried not to drop the food on my plate as I grabbed the back of Isaac’s hooded sweatshirt.

  He spun around with a wild glare in his eyes. “What do you think you’re doing?”

  “I just want to talk,” I whined with desperation. My eyes darted back and forth between the ferocious expression on Isaac’s face and the suspicious glare Vic was directing at me.

  Isaac grabbed my arm so hard I dropped my plate of food. “Get out of here,” he said, pulling me toward the cafeteria entrance.

  “You’re hurting me!” I cried, trying to wrench my arm free as crowds of onlookers gawked at me.

  “You need to get out of here,” he said, pushing me out of the cafeteria. “Go back to your room.”

  “I just wanted to talk to you,” I replied, trying to hold back the tears welling up in my eyes. “That’s all I wanted.”

  Something changed in his face. I couldn’t tell if Isaac felt guilty or if he pitied me for being so pathetic. “Go to your room, Nada.”

  He disappeared into the cafeteria leaving me in the hallway with no food or hope. As I turned to leave, someone placed a hand on my shoulder. I whipped my head around, certain it would be Isaac coming back to apologize, but it wasn’t. It was Vic.

  He clasped his freakishly large hand around my throat and shoved me against the lockers. I couldn’t breathe as he pressed his weight against me. Tears spilled from my eyes as my throat closed.

  “What are you up to?” he said, his nostrils flaring as he pressed his face against mine.

  His face swam in my vision. I tried to speak but nothing came out.

  He threw back his bald head and laughed. “What’s the matter? I thought you wanted to talk.”

  My tongue swelled inside my mouth. It felt as if a thousand needles were pushing my eyeballs out of their sockets. My hands were getting cold. Screams and chants filled the halls, but I couldn’t make any of it out.

  As the blackness began to close in, Vic let go. I crumbled to the floor in a heaping mess of tears and gasps. I tried to fight the blackness closing in, to lift my head, but the cold sensation spread from my hands to my arms then throughout my entire body. The blackness won.

  “Drink some water.”

  I woke with a headache the size of L.A. I opened my eyes to find Isaac hovering over me. He was bleeding from a deep gash on his cheek and the hair on one side of his head was matted with more blood.

  “What ha—” I couldn’t finish the sentence. I grabbed my throat, which felt four sizes too big.

  Isaac shook his head as he held a bottle of water to my mouth. “Don’t talk. Just drink.”

  I tried to lift my head to see where we were, but the pain in my neck seared through every part of my body. Tears streamed from my eyes. Isaac brought the bottle of water to my lips and poured a few drops in. I tried to swallow and nearly choked.

  He slipped his hand under my neck and lifted my head as I attempted to catch my breath. He brought the water bottle to my mouth again as he held my head up. I could smell the woodsy scent of sweat mingled with the sweet metallic scent of blood on him as he watched me take a sip of water.

  With my head lifted I could see we were in a cave with a small fire burning near the entrance. “Where are we?” I whispered. “Where’s my mom?”

  Isaac laid my head down gently on a pillow of fern fronds. He crawled to the fire and threw on a few more twigs.

  I rolled gingerly onto my side. My head and vision pulsed with every aching beat of my heart. “Where is she?”

  He crawled back to me and placed a blue scarf on the dirt floor in front of me. “She didn’t want to come.”

  I stared at the scarf. “What are you talking about? What happened to her?” I cried, my throat becoming even thicker with molten tears.

  “After you passed out, they torched the school.”

  “Who? The Guardians?”

  Isaac nodded. “I carried you all the way to your room, but your mother didn’t want to come. Her leg was too bad… I couldn’t carry you both.”

  The pounding in my head multiplied and spread to my chest. A sob lodged in my throat as I imagined my mother being burned alive. The pounding intensified until the walls of the cave pulsed with every beat of my heart.

  “Are you okay?” Isaac’s voice sounded far away.

  I managed a single piercing shriek of grief before I passed out again.

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