Dacia is running a contest through the month of July to win a free signed copy of her latest book, Apparent Power.
This book is a suspense thriller that will keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning as a young mother tries desperately to be reunited with her young son and keep him out of the hands of a government bent on using him and her as guinea pigs.
With her permission, this is chapter 3 of her book.
Hopelessness over took her. She had to get home to her son. Somehow. All she could do was cry. Valerie mulled over the what-ifs and the things she could have done starting with not taking a shift so far from home. She cursed, screamed, and threw punches into the steering wheel. Her dad would have been so disappointed. He would just watch her throw her tantrum without an offer of condolence. He would watch in silence waiting for her to figure out a solution herself. Suddenly, it was clear what she had to do. She cleared her mind of emotions looked straight ahead at people running in and out of the chain drug store. She pocketed her keys, got out of her car, walked across the parking lots and through the open doors of the drug store. First she grabbed a pink backpack that sported a cartoon cat. She threw in plastic drinking bottles, nuts, and dried fruit that were still on the shelves into the bag. As she made her way out, she threw random items into the bag to possibly trade later when people were truly desperate. Without looking to her left or right or stopping to check out, she walked back out of the drug store and to her car. She collected her belongings and opened the trunk. She took out her wallet, tablet, and whatever lunch she had left. Everything else she left secured in her trunk.
“Roy, I need a ride to my dad’s. It’s only twenty minutes from here.” She yelled across the counter as she made her way through the facility to the break room. Stepping around the milk puddle, she took the five water bottles out of the kitty cat bag and set them on the counter. Her eyes drifted back to the puddle while she waited for the bottles to fill. To her, it felt like she dreamt the unmade coffee still sitting in the machine; and the milk puddle was the result of something that happened years ago.
Valerie was still deep in thought when August walked in. She had finished filling the last bottle. Her heart did a small flutter and the feelings were back. She ignored them and maintained her determined standoff.
“Valerie, the roads are blocked with stalled cars. There are no open roads out of here. You’d be lucky to make it out of the parking lot at this point.”
“Then I’ll walk.” She replied sternly as she shoved the bottles back into her bag. Did he expect her to stay there with him and wait for things to clear up? She was set on getting home, but the idea of staying lingered a bit longer than she had liked.
“Were you affected by the electric current?” He asked studying her. She stopped what she was doing but did not meet his gaze.
“The president has declared the entire country in a state of emergency, martial law in effect. It’s like this everywhere. They are placing those effected quarantine.” Valerie looked up at the young doctor. She studied his face but wondered what he was getting at.
“I don’t think the CDC has anyone’s best interests in mind. FEMA should have been here before the CDC, and their first response takes almost 24 hours. But I do think we should stick together. I want to show you something.” Her pounding heart was making her stomach sick, but she wanted him to keep talking. August pulled his cell phone from his pocket and placed it on the table. He slowly pulled his hand away. When he did the phone sprang to life. It blinked and vibrated with incoming messages. He brought his hand back to the phone and it stopped. The phone went blank and silent.
“Take your phone out and put it on the table.” Valerie could not move. She was afraid of what he was trying to tell her. She was more afraid of what she would see on her phone when it came on or if she would see nothing.
“It’s alright. I’m not going to turn you in.” He knew. She would fight with everything she had if he did turn her in. She never had any intention on going with the CDC. She was small but there was something to her that demanded that she be taken seriously. Valerie tried to stay put together even in her panic.
She fingered the phone in her scrub pocket a few more moments before she pulled it out and placed it on the table. She lifted her hand and slowly pulled it away. Just like August’s phone, hers sputtered and lit up. She watched the list of messages grow on her phone until Gia’s name appeared. She instinctively reached to snatch it up, but just before her hand could reach it, both phone popped and caught fire.
“NO!!” She screamed into the small fiery piles on the table. She did not understand how she caused the batteries to explode, but she knew she had.
“I don’t know.” August began thinking out loud. “It’s like a six inch bubble. Anything electronic within that bubble doesn’t work. Roy and Betty weren’t affected. It would explain why we couldn’t hook up those patients to any of the machines. I don’t think that any vehicles we get in would work either. It’s not the cars that are stalled. It’s the people in them. If we get anywhere close, nothing works. But it’s also inconsistent. We were about to get somethings to work when we really needed them to. I’m just happy I wasn’t on a plane today.”
“I still have to leave. I don’t have a choice. I can’t stay here. I have to go.” Valerie was pleading with her own heart and to him, hoping he would break her of the spell of wanting to stay. His eyes reflected the same.
“Grab some Gatorades from the fridge. I’ll get into the med room and get you some antibiotics before anyone else thinks to clean it out. If things are as bad as they are talking, antibiotics are what keep you alive when everything goes downhill. No sense in living through this if a simple infection kills you.”
Valerie took his advice and packed anything worth having. Her bag was considerably heavier than she anticipated. She only filled two of the water bottles since it was only a mile to her brother’s townhouse. She could fill the rest up there before regrouping. Her brother would have military gear more suitable for her trip than her kitty cat backpack. He would also have guns.
With one water bottle drained before reaching the main road, she replaced it with the other full one from her bag. Pillars of smoke rose from various directions and distances. The planes were probably just lifting off from the Colorado Springs Airport, she thought as she took another drink and decided to push it out of her mind. She did not have time to save the world from plane crashes. Her thoughts started working on a mental list of things she should grab from her brother’s supply. John would be on lock down on the military base, unable to leave and on communication black out as well. Madilyn, his wife, would most definitely be home, hiding under a bed. Valerie was never really impressed with her. She was weak minded and superficial; incapable of having an independent thought, much less doing anything on her own. She guessed this made John like a daily hero, rescuing her from pumping her own gas. On holidays, Valerie did her best to be polite. They took turns hosting. John and Madilyn had hosted New Years. Valerie was supposed to host a barbeque for Memorial Day in Denver. That would be difficult now. She laughed at the thought of Madilyn having to walk there for Memorial Day, like a giraffe in heels.
When she turned the corner of the townhouse community, it appeared to be abandoned. It had been hours since the first plane went down and the chaos erupted. She wondered if they had all been detained by the CDC or if they were just hiding. Empty cars blocked the entrances of the community. She felt uneasy, like she was being watched. She picked up the pace until she stood at a door adorned with a spring wreath with their monogram made with yarn and buttons. She knocked knowing no one would answer. After waiting a few seconds for any indication of life on the other side, she plucked an imitation rock from the mulch bed and flipped it over to access the cipher lock on the bottom. She keyed in the numbers and rolled her eyes. Of course it would escape Madilyn to bring the spare key in the house.
“Madi. It’s me… Val.” She set her bag down and shut the door. She heard shuffling above her as her slender sister-in-law emerged from her hiding spot. Once free the lanky woman bounded across the hall and down the stairs in full hysteria. She looked ridiculous dressed in her yoga clothes with heels and a full set of jewelry. Valerie was not sure if she was going to the gym or a night club.
“Val, where is he? Why isn’t he answering? He should be here. I don’t know what to do. Planes crashed and I heard gun shots. I can’t do this, Val. Why won’t he call me and tell me he’s ok?”
“Madi, look at me. We need to get Dad’s. I need your help.” Valerie spoke slowly trying to calm the blubbering woman. Madilyn was just under six feet tall and more thin than Valerie. Her long blonde hair that had been straightened earlier in the day was tangled from being under the bed, or in the closet. She was completely disheveled.
“It’s the end of the world, and John is not with me. He’s all I have left in this world and he’s not here.” Madilyn collapsed into the shorter of the two women, whose patience was wearing thin. Valerie struggled to find a way to motivate her sister-in-law to pull it together and quickly. She ran through a few different approaches in her head. First, and instinctively, she wanted to slap the woman and inform her that she was the least of her concerns, but she knew that if Madilyn’s need for attention was not appeased, she had might as well turn around and leave. It was pointless to attempt to explain why John could not be with her. Anything he was doing was a better use of his time than huddling with under their bed waiting for the end to come. Explaining this, of course, would take up too much time and the crying would continue. Her father’s approach would be to make the twit figure out the solution herself, but they were running out of daylight. It would take Valerie between two and three hours to walk to her father’s home. It would take Madilyn four hours. Valerie’s thoughts turned again to slapping the woman or at least shaking her real hard. Instead she pulled the slobbering figure from her soaked collar bone. With her two hands steadying her new companion’s biceps, Valerie tried to ignore how utterly disgusting and pathetic her sister-in-law looked despite herself.
“Madi, we need to focus. I’m taking you with me to Dad’s house. You’ll be safe there and that’s where John would come looking for you. Dad has food and supplies stock piled, and he knows how to use all the guns you have here. But we need to get there and we need to leave soon. Ok?” Madilyn gave a whimper but nodded in agreement. “I need John’s ruck sack. It is a huge backpack with a plastic frame and a belt built into it. Do you know where it is?” Madilyn gave another affirmative nod. “Can you get it? And anything else that you might think is useful or that you want to take with you. Anything that is special to you that you cannot carry, you need to put it in the safe and leave it here.”
“Ok, I can check the garage first.” She was surprised how easy it was to get Madilyn to snap out of her pity party, though she still wanted to slap her.
While she was away rummaging through John’s military gear, Valerie opened the kitchen cabinets and began pulling out food, water filters, soap and other things that would make the extra house guest worthwhile for her father. Madilyn was tolerated by the family for the simple fact that John loved her. She was, after all, beautiful under normal circumstances and she would not possibly make it in society on her own. Valerie on this day she was thankful that she had not grown up in a protected bubble. Her father had taught them everything they needed to know in the case that something like this happened.
She eyed more water bottles on the top shelf of the cabinet and put them on the counter. Madilyn would need water, though, she would benefit more if someone were to carry her.
“Is this it?” Madilyn held up the object she was asked to retrieve. “And I found these, too. This one has a bunch of pockets and this one has no pockets but looks like a tiny backpack.” She held up an empty medical bag and a hydration system. Valerie smiled, thankful that she could at the very least follow directions.
“Perfect, Madi. I’ll carry the big bag and you can carry the one with pockets. That thing,” she pointed to the hydration system, “you fill it with water and use the straw to drink while you walk. It will be a lot easier than carrying all these water bottles and switching them out.”
“Ok, do you want me to start packing this?”
“No. We need ammo. I need you to gather all of it and every gun in the house. I don’t care how big or heavy it is.”
“Are we going to kill people?” Madilyn asked as if the answer would determine her further assistance in the matter.
“We are not going to kill people. But I don’t know when you’re going to be able to come back home. We can’t leave them here. It is just better to have them with us, you know?” Valerie maintained her instructive tone but was growing increasingly impatient.
“Ok. I know how to use them. I just don’t think we need to go around killing people just because the world is ending.” This was actually good information for Valerie. She knew that John would have taught her how to use them and also how to be safe with a gun. Whether she would use a gun to save her own life would be a gamble that she had no choice but to take.
“No murder. I promise. Just protection.” Valerie smiled again, though her entire being screamed at the dim woman. She really had no grasp on what was happening outside of her door.
Valerie took inventory and packed what she could carry. She allowed Madilyn one section of her bag for personal items. She was not forgiving when packing the remaining sections. Food, water, medical supplies, and ammo were heavy. Her sister’s bag was shaped like a huge brick and just as solid. It reached from the top of her belt up to her shoulders and covered the width of her back. The ruck sack that Valerie carried was easily twice the size of her torso with additional pockets on all sizes full to capacity. The design of the bags distributed weight evenly from shoulders to the waist band which would make the seventy-five pounds more manageable.
They both changed clothes and by three in the afternoon they were near ready to leave. Madilyn had come up with four fire arms: three nine millimeter hand guns and a military style AR-15 rifle. In case John returned to his home before meeting up at their fathers, Valerie instructed that she put one hand gun back exactly where it was hidden before along with a box of ammo. Each of them carried a hand gun in a leg holster. Valerie would sling the rifle once her bag was in place.
The women were helping each other get the heavy bags onto their backs when the door handle began to jiggle. Within a second, Valerie pulled the nine millimeter from her leg holster, slammed in a full magazine, charged the weapon and fired a round three inches above the door jam.
“If you don’t live here, you should leave.” Valerie shouted at the closed door. The silence that followed indicated that the prospective intruder took her advice. Once Madilyn was able to breath, she spoke in just a whisper.
“You said no killing.”
“I was aiming above the door on purpose. It could have been John. I wasn’t trying to kill anyone. They were probably just looters looking for empty homes to steal from. Last thing anyone wants is a fight.” Valerie was ready to leave when she arrived.
“It’s time to go.”
Apparent Power by Dacia Arnold