STORMS, the fourth book in my Desolate Kingdom series, is a prequel. Set one hundred years before THE LAST ANGEL, it tells the story of Tommy's (the main character in THE LAST ANGEL) grandfather, who as a young college student, helped save a remnant of humans. Here is a tease from the introduction.
...“Charlie. I’m serious.” Spenser’s voice shook slightly. “Y-you need to see this.”
He moved over to the window. “What?”
A ball of fire appeared on the horizon, still small, but marked in the clear blue summer sky. It was moving slowly, but steadily, towards them.
“What is it, man?” Spenser asked. “It has to be something. But it freaks me out. Like one of those bad B movies or something.”
Charlie moved to the window, then hurried over to his laptop and began typing furiously. C’mon, Leah. Answer me! He only had to wait ten seconds before his friend in China responded. A one-word answer that made him swallow.
“What do we do?” Spenser said, his voice rising.
Charlie did not answer. Minutes passed, and slowly the ball of fire passing over the city grew bigger.
His roommate started laughing hysterically. “This is it, man! The end of the world!”
Suddenly the ball of fire dipped, and a great explosion, though silent, rippled into view. Within seconds, a mushroom cloud appeared over the city of San Diego.
She was right.
“Get your things. We’re going to the Hole,” Charlie said.
“Get your things! Now!”
Charlie started packing whatever necessities he could find in his room. Extra clothes. His cell and charger. A few packages of dried soup.
“What are you doing?”
“You were right,” Charlie said, calming his voice. “The world is ending. Do as I say and you may make it out alive. We have three minutes.”
Spenser stared at him, grinning like a fool, until he realized that his roommate wasn’t joking. He jammed a bunch of things into a garbage bag and followed Charlie out the door.
“Hey! Where are you guys going?” Rusty called, standing in the hallway in his boxer’s. “Party at Karen’s tonight!”
“Shut up!” Charlie said. “Be quiet or we die. Got it?”
Spenser, his drug addled brain not comprehending anything but the seriousness of his roommate, nodded.
A few others called out to them, but Charlie ignored them. As much as he’d enjoyed his time at Cole, he felt no special attachment to the rest of the student body, with the exception of Spenser, who was like a lovable dog without a brain. He was offensive, but only because he was stupid. He was also very kind.
They took the rusty stairwell down five flights of stairs. When they got to the ground floor, Spenser began to run.
“Where are you going?” Charlie yelled.
“I have to get Mae!”
Spenser had dated Mae last year, and though she’d broken up with him, he’d remained smitten with her.
Charlie’s mind flashed to the image he’d seen. He’d only seen such a picture once in his life, a photograph of Hiroshima after they’d dropped the bomb. Judging from the sketchy news regarding the other parts of the world – news that most major media outlets had ignored – it wasn’t difficult to put the pieces together. Leah had confirmed this.
He checked his phone as Spenser burst through the doors fifty seven seconds later with a lanky, black-haired Latino trying to extract herself from his grasp.
“You idiot!” she shouted. “I told you to stop doing weed. Let go!”
“We have two minutes,” Charlie said calmly. “Maybe less.”
Mae stared at him. “What are you talking about,” she said.
Charlie knew Mae from the track team, though they’d never spoken. “A nuclear blast blew up San Diego a few moments ago. If we do not get underground, we will suffer from the effects of the fallout. Come or don’t come. We need to be in the Hole very shortly.”
“C’mon, Mae!” Spenser said. “It’s Charlie! Do you think he’s joking?”
Mae fingered her eyebrows. Unlike most of the blue-blood girls at Cole, she had olive colored skin and black hair that fell across her shoulders in waves. She had a prominent nose and deep set eyes. She was wearing a blue knit skirt and a white blouse opened at the neck with a pearl necklace.
“Mae, you gotta come!” Spenser said.
She glanced over at Charlie, and for a moment, his look held her.
“Yes. I’m coming.”
They hurried down three flights of stairs into the “Hole.” The student lounge had a battered fifty inch TV, as well as a number of couches that were either shedding or sharing pieces of foam. During the hot months, the Hole was a welcome respite from the heat.
Charlie didn’t stay in the room. He led them into a tight closet that smelled of liniment. Through the closet, he opened another door hidden behind pails and brooms.
“Quiet, now,” he said to them. “You must not lose your wits. If you do, we die. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Mae said.
“Yeah! Sure! Whatever, man!” Spenser stared over his shoulder at the open doorway. “Where are we going?”
Charlie led them into a darkened tunnel. The sound of moisture dripped from a pipe somewhere, but otherwise the silence was startling. It reminded him of his trips as a child off the reservation with his grandfather. Away from the music. Away from the technology. Away from the noise.
‘Life begins in silence,’ his grandfather would say. ‘We yell when we come into this world, but when we are conceived, we are birthed in silence. And for the rest of our lives, we long for such silence, though we never again experience it quite so beautifully as we do in our mother’s womb.’
Charlie pointed to a rusty ladder attached to the stone wall. It was far too late for them to turn back, even if they thought he was crazy. They followed after him, his hands firm on the slick metal.
About twenty feet down the ladder ended, and Charlie leaped to the ground. It was a smallish room, perhaps ten feet by ten feet. In the middle was a battery powered grill. Two old sleeping bags covered the floor like a raggedy carpet. In the corner was a small refrigerator that had been hooked up to a battery powered generator. A lamp glowed dimly in the corner.
Mae dropped lightly to her feet beside him, her eyes wide but sharp. “What is this place?”
“Dude!” Spenser said. “Dude!”
Charlie allowed a slight smile to cross his sharp features. “Be grateful for the benefits of racism.” The smile disappeared. “And now we wait.”
Mae turned. Touches of grease and dirt smudged her expensive blouse. The intelligence in her eyes was unmistakable. “How long?”
“In a few moments, you are going to hear screaming. Whatever happens, you must not go up that ladder. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Mae said.
Spenser was too freaked out to answer.
“How long?” she said again.
“Until the end.”
Charlie checked his cell, but it was no longer working. He started counting. Forty seven seconds later the screams started to reverberate through their hiding place.
They did not stop for a very long time.