Available on Amazon.com ($14.16), Kindle ($3.99), Kindle Unlimited. Buy a paperback on Amazon, get the Kindle version free!
by D. M. Shiro
Available on Amazon.com ($14.16), Kindle ($3.99), Kindle Unlimited. Buy a paperback on Amazon, get the Kindle version free!
Two hundred years after a Nuclear War lays waste to the Earth, the United States creates a new Capital called the Grate. Sarah MacDonald finds herself in a terror attack, when she is taken to the Grate's hospital, where she struggles to recall the moments leading to her stay. When she begins having paranormal encounters, she is taken to Ward Seven, the Grate's mental institution. How will she go unnoticed when those meant to protect her are out to kill her?
When my eyes opened they had trouble adjusting. The flash of the hand grenade had left me blind, the sound in my ears a little more than disorienting. The issue was not any of these, however. It was the fact that my best friend, Anastasia, had left me behind after swearing she wouldn’t. I inhaled soot and dust, making my lungs sting. They refused to expand, refused to do their most basic function - breathe. Struggling against the black and red dots which swam into my vision, I believed I might as well be going blind. I could have run when Anastasia had, I could have taken cover when I saw the man with the machine guns come in. You saw this on the news, on television. You know this is real, but it never quite clicks in your consciousness that this is reality and could happen to you. They used to play it on the news like someone was part of this gangster group, back when terrorism both home and foreign were great threats. But that was back in the earlier 2000s; it should have become an extinct act by our time. The year was 2258, and I was lying on the floor in someone else’s blood waiting for the terrorist to walk up above my body, and just to make sure I am good and dead, shoot me in the back of the head. My mind played through the options. I could run for the door - no, that would take too long. He would see the movement, and turn quickly while spraying the whole area with bullets. He could, and I would be dead in a matter of seconds, at least here I still have a chance of staying alive. I felt my lungs throbbing, stabbing. They were working overtime trying to supply my battered body with oxygen. I... I can’t let go, not yet. I- I must stay alive! I looked around using my peripherals, most of the people were on the ground or still running. Another idea came to mind, what about the people running? They could just as easily step on my skull, kick me, or break my back not realizing I am alive. People don’t think of these kinds of things when they are in a panic. Not right now. I could play dead for a few more minutes until he starts making his rounds. I was almost ready to pick myself up and push myself onto my knees, until I realized I was having trouble moving. I felt a sharp pain go through my back and I gasped. Sucking in air, I bit my lip, trying to stifle the tears I knew were on the verge of spilling from my eyes. I knew that with that gasp the terrorist could easily have heard me, and if he did I would be dead. I looked to my right, having seen him from my peripheral. He had his back turned to me, and his gun was slung over his shoulder; his coveralls were green and gray as the dust had settled on his clothes, likely from the initial blast. His hair was black, shining in the light coming from the walls. His hand grenade was destroyed, but he still wore the pin on his finger like a woman who has newly been engaged shows off her engagement ring. His back was turned, and I knew that it was my only chance to escape with my life.
“Welcome and good morning! The time is 7:15 a.m. and the weather is B- E-A-UTIFUL. Another shout out to long-time most outstanding comic... next to Robin Williams, of course..., Jim Carrey, today as he makes his grand holographic appearance after 200 years of silence; to give a new audience some old material. The event will take place at the Holographic Materials Grandiose Institute. A knee-slapper for sure. “In other news we have no traffic, which is surprising because A-10 has closed for construction. Make sure you use those hovers, my good people! “Senator Aaron Becker has been accused of adultery and has been sentenced to public hanging on the 9th of August 2259, which, as we know, is the public hanging day of each year. Others being hanged are as follows: “Rutger, Omaley - 57, crime of seduction of a minor. Oscare, Reeles - 43, crime of trespassing and burglary. Owen, Jacob - 39, crime of loitering in a private area after hours. And last, we have Crimmy, Jason - 25, crime of stealing bread and peanut butter, not ensuring his money was utilized appropriately, and trying to steal money from a cash register when it was left unattended. Shame on you. As you know anyone who has not the money to pay for their needs shall be refused the needs until they have a proper understanding of how to utilize the money appropriately. If they cannot find it in them to do so, they will be hanged. “In other news, we find that criminals are rampant as we see the traitors who are going to be shot publicly, by firing squad on September 11th, in commemoration of these Great United States’ greatest tragedy of a millennia – the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. We will never forget. This day commemorates the falling of 3,000 U.S. citizens, and possibly some foreign persons. To commemorate, the following traitors will be shot: “Biscuits, Azelia - 20, foreign knowledge. Jessters, Brandon - 37, having private thoughts about forming a new Government. Antonio, Antwan - 18, having communications outside of U.S. staff’s regulations. The punishment shall commence at 10 a.m. “Last, we have traitors to our nation, to our civilization, and to our universe. It is known that since July 27, 2096 we, as a nation, must stand together against common enemies of our Christian nation. There is no other way of living, and we, as Americans, know this too well. We will establish a Christian base upon each continent, each country, and we will find favor with God as it shows in the submission of each person in each place. As an inexplicable penalty for otherworldly faiths, we also will have a public hearing of some others who have found themselves on the wrong side of history. Their persons will be destroyed by fire, and they will be boxed and shipped to their families. This will occur at 10 a.m. on October 31st, the day we know as Hollowday, when the children find their yearly ‘camaraderie’ as they set fire to the traitors. “Well, that’s all for today. The time is 7:20 a.m., and this is Rockin’ to the oldies.” I groaned as I stretched my arms and legs out over the bed. It’s basically the same thing repeated daily. I know what you’re probably thinking, what the hell happened? And to be honest, I don’t know. Nobody knows. All we know is that sometime around 2058 we had World War Three, where 1/3 of the world’s population was destroyed and incinerated. We have never quite recovered. But here we are, 200 years later, still singing Celebration. As we rebuilt, we became more paranoid than ever of the other regions of the Earth. No longer were we the caring, loving, parental United States; suddenly we were the father- whose-daughter-was-dumped-after-her-boyfriend-took-her-virginity-mad U.S., and we wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world. We shut ourselves in with walls a long time ago, long before the war. But the separation only got increasingly larger as time progressed. No longer were we the ‘new land of hopes and dreams’, instead we became ‘kickass’. By any means, I had no desire to be ‘kickass’. I wanted to live, experience, learn, and love. My name was Sarah MacDonald and I was 28 years old. My hair was long, thick, and brown with highlights that reflected golden in the sun. I had green eyes that appeared to be two snakes battling it out on my face, and I stood 5 feet and 4 inches tall. I was slender, even though I had to work out three times per week to stay that way. Food intake was suggested by a nutritionist, and we were supposed to be weighed every day. We received periodic injections which helped us remember. We must remember. Always remember.
I grabbed my bag and flung it over my head, reaching through the strap with only one arm, securing it snuggly at my side. I attempted to tuck it in so that it would not make any noise as to keep the terrorist from turning his burning sights on me. I couldn’t remember what had led to that moment. I got flashes which told me the story, but they were jumbled and confusing, so I forced myself not to think about them. I didn’t know which thoughts would be accurate and which my mind was substituting to make sense of the situation I was currently entangled in. I looked over my shoulder and got to my knees. I pushed myself forward, slowly, trying to keep relatively quiet so that I wouldn’t be noticed. Holy shit, he’s going to see me, was the only thought running through my mind as I had visions of him turning around and shooting me in the back, perhaps three or four times. I saw blood spatter across my vision, and could hear him talking faintly – who is he talking to? Himself? I was inching closer to the door when I heard someone to my right groan. It was a man, perhaps in his mid-fifties. His mouth was drizzling a steady stream of blood, and I knew immediately that he would never make it; he was losing too much. I grimaced as I laid myself back down on the floor, I had to appear dead. It must have been just in time, because not even five seconds after that I heard a gunshot and the man groaned no more. I was trembling, whether from excitement or fear, the adrenaline or realization I may die in that very spot, my body refused to remain still on the floor. I knew he was going to shoot me, only a matter of seconds now. I waited. Nothing. After five more minutes of laying on the floor, I heard cars pulling up outside; luckily, they were going for the front door which would keep the terrorist’s attention while I rose up and ran for the back door. I am sure there are people waiting on the other side, there had to be. A siren wailed. Gun shots fired. I stood and ran for the door.
I slammed my hand down on the radio, dire need of shutting out the man’s voice rising inside of my chest. I yawned loudly and grabbed my blanket, tossing it from my body, all the while turning my body backwards, rolling from my stomach to my back. I flung my legs off the bed and tried to sit up. My mind spun, as did the room, and I tried to catch myself with my left hand. The bed was a green and ebony splotch against a white background. The room, my room, had emerald and forest green walls paired against a white carpet. Wouldn’t they call this a ‘shag’ back in the 1970s? I had this idiotic fascination with older times, before the war. Although a lot of the accessible information was jumbled up, or simply falsified to fit the new regime’s accounts of history. It wasn’t until later that Serenity and I found out the truth of things. Serenity was my best friend, she loved to drink and party, and she was incredibly flirtatious. Mind you, she wouldn’t flirt with just any man who flaunted himself in front of her like a peacock trying its best to impress a female. She just wouldn’t be interested. She had an hourglass figure, something the men liked, but she wasn’t by any means considered skinny by the other women. She was a beauty from head-to-toe, with wavy brown hair, big sapphire eyes, and she stood at 5’6”, so she didn’t necessarily need heels to make herself feel taller. Unlike me. She also had a good heart, and she has saved my life on more than one occasion. It’s only natural that she always got the men’s attention compared to me. She always had. I could hear the music playing from the neighbor’s window, as it drifted down the street from each window. Footloose. We had no idea who sang it, that had since been lost in time, but it pumped you up for an energetic and productive day. Regardless of your position, regardless of your living situation, you danced. I danced. I swung my hips left and right, and bobbed up and down, diagonally, this way and that. I spun around, and kicked out my legs. I played my imaginary guitar, something which had been banned to the public since 2026; anyone who owned one had been forced to burn it in the street and most were incinerated, but you still saw the occasional one here and there. The music carried me into the bathroom, which was located on the east side of the room. I cradled my arms around me and flung my head back, arms stretching out, making my final stance for the end of the song. The next song played on the radio, Feel it Still. That song always made me feel like a rebel, funny they would play this. I knew, momentarily, that I had won against the Grate when I had decided they had no idea how to care for their people. But they didn’t need to know that. So, I played my part. Pretty damn well, if I do say so myself. I knew enough, or so I had thought. I finished brushing my teeth, and brushed my hair back before I pulled it into a ponytail. I grabbed my clothes from the dresser, a folded pair of jeans which were dyed white, a white shirt with a collar which extended just past the collarbone; it had sleeves which were so starched that they essentially would poke out an eye, and it reached just past my mid-thigh. No-one needs to be different… I have no idea how that mentality was established, but when everyone was required to buy all white, monotonous, clothing many could not afford them. They were executed a week later. I rolled my head from one side to the other and back, when I felt a twinge of pain in my upper right shoulder blade. It hurt like hell. “I guess I’ll need to get that looked at...” fuck. I drifted from the bedroom into the Livingroom, which was attached to three other bedrooms. The Livingroom had a dining room and a kitchen attached in a triangular setting, each door outlining a new room. The three rooms were just one oversized circle. The doors were all white, the walls were all white, and the floors were all white. Hell, everything was white. It had no personality, whatsoever, because we weren’t supposed to. We were supposed to be completely submissive subjects; and our leader was a computer. Welcome to the new age. The fucking age of disaster. But at least our rooms we could decorate as we saw fit. I made mine as I did because it reminded me of a beautiful forest whose ground was coated by the fluffiest layer of snow imaginable. It reminded me of a time I had been innocent still. The Grate was what had once been known as the South-West of Virginia State. In 2258, we were the capitol of the United States of America, but I still don’t know why we ended up moving it from Washington D.C. Perhaps it was a more accessible location, as it had once been stated, in favor, for D.C.
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D.M. Shiro was born in California in 1991. Growing up, she loved history and often would write stories with historical backgrounds. She also found herself troubled by the questions left unanswered by religion. Entertaining the idea of multiple religions, she found spirituality the most accurate to her, as it pushes for acceptance of other perspectives rather than following one belief over another. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.