Excerpt: WASTELANDS 2 (Titan)

Various-Wastelands2Today, Titan Books publish Wastelands 2, a new anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction edited by award-winning editor John Joseph Adams. Featuring such mega-sellers as George R.R. Martin, David Brin and Hugh Howey, not to mention Pulitzer-prize winner Junot Diaz, the stories contained within offer “an eclectic mix of tales that explores famine, death, war, pestilence, and harbingers of the biblical apocalypse.”

Today, I can share with you an extract, the introduction to Christie Yant‘s story “The Revelation of Morgan Stern”

*

It is July 31, your birthday, and I can’t reach you. I’ve been trying all day, but the cell networks are down, the internet is down. I even tried a pay phone–there are two left in town that I know of, and I collected all of my change and walked to the 76 in the village. It was on fire. I watched it for a while from a distance as it painted a brown, toxic streak across the sky. It was a long walk back to the house, or what’s left of it. My feet hurt, and it was too quiet.

The back of the house fell in, but I managed to climb into the kitchen and recover a few things. Tonight we would have celebrated your birthday over video chat, the best we could do so far apart. I have no way to tell you that I salvaged a donut and lit a candle and sang to you. I don’t know if you’re alive or dead.

I thought it was just an earthquake. We’ve been waiting for “the Big One” my entire life, so what else would I think it was? Just the inevitable result of tectonic pressure–slippage, two goliaths moving past each other, barely a shrug in geological terms but enough to rattle the life out of us. I thought that an earthquake like that, one that could bring down a town that had known it was coming forever, surely that must be the worst of it.

I was wrong. We didn’t see the worst of it until after the sun went down, when furious angels filled the sky–from where, I don’t know–and with them, the screams that broke the silence.

I wonder if you’re safe. I wonder how far they can fly.

#

August 2

I didn’t know what to take from the house. I suppose it was stupid, but the first thing I thought of was your birthday present. It was a stupid, sentimental thought, but when I opened it I had to laugh. If there’s anything I need to take with me, it’s your birthday present.

This isn’t at all how we imagined it, is it? We talked about this sort of thing a lot, sometimes joking, sometimes serious: the trouble the world was in, and how it would eventually end. A biological accident, some virus cooked up in a lab; nuclear war, maybe a meteor strike. We’d look at the stars during those rare and precious times together, and talk about how it might happen, and what we would do if it did. So for your birthday I started to put a survival kit together, as a romantic, silly joke. In Case of Apocalypse.

We joked about the nonsensical ways: zombies, aliens, the Rapture.

I don’t think that’s what this is. They do not seem to discriminate the way I would expect the god of the Old Testament to do.

So far I have been safe. Luck seems to be on my side, and I am on my way to you. My fourth grade California history lessons will finally pay off: I am going to spend tonight at the old adobe Mission, and then walk south down El Camino Real from Mission to Mission during the day until I reach Los Angeles.

It’s quiet again, except for a sort of background noise, like a radio, or a conversation I’m not near enough to hear. There’s something familiar and almost comforting about it.

#

August 4

I only got as far as Summerland. Is it weird to say that I’m enjoying this part? Everything around me is in ruins, the survivors are grouped together in terrified clusters, some of them already talking about rebuilding. I try to avoid them as much as I can. But walking this stretch of the freeway is peaceful; the dolphins seem unaware of what’s happened, they swim just offshore as they always have on placid days. The air is cool, the sun is bright, the water the teal of early summer, and I know that this is the last time it’s going to be easy. Once I get past Ventura the way will be treacherous–the city scares me; crossing through the Mojave scares me more. But all that’s important is that I get to you.

I’m going to Wichita, like we said we would. It was a joke, I know, but it’s all I can think of to do. I’m going, and I hope you are too. I hope you remember where we said we’d meet, what the place was called.

I’ve only seen a couple of angels today, black against the clear blue sky. I think they mostly come out at night.

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