In 2029, the year the First Wave began its migration around the earth,
mankind attempted a mass exodus to the frozen lands. Most did not make
The night breeze felt damp, the pant of a predator in the darkness, and
Kara swiveled her head side to side, trying to see all directions at
once. She and her brother were in a town once again—name unknown to
her—and her danger-radar had banged away for the last few hours. They
scuttled forward, the swish of his tennies and the rap of her flats on
the sidewalk as loud as drumbeats in her ears.
"This way," she whispered.
They darted down a street on which houses towered behind bristling
fences, took a right and passed a gutted store. They kept going,
sometimes jogging, sometimes running, never slower than a fast walk,
soon arrived at the outskirts and left the buildings and the sidewalks
and the streets for a trampled cornfield.
Clouds drifted across the north star, hiding it, revealing it, hiding it
again. North was the direction she and her brother traveled—to the
north—always to the north. The pinprick of light disappeared once
again, and she instinctively dipped into her pocket for her pink
Q-phone. She felt the smooth plastic and withdrew her hand. Her GPS app
was only a memory; her phone had died weeks ago. She'd tried charging
it, once while breaking into a house in search of food, but the
electricity was off, pole transformers exploding in the dust storms that
swept across the land, and she knew deep in her soul that the power was
In some weird way, she was relieved her phone had died. The stories of
the ghoul invasion—hordes of infected people migrating west, drawing
closer each day—had been too horrible to bear. She tasted dust in the
air and knew it was from millions of feet stumbling their way.
"I'm hungry," her brother said, for the tenth time today.
She hissed her words. "Keep it zipped. You want to wind up on someone's
The day Colby turned four, their parents held a party in the backyard.
He'd donned a cheesy hat and ate ice cream next to the kiddie pool. The
day he turned five, in the year 2029, he and his sister had crouched in
the cab of a wrecked truck and shared a rotten tomato. If they both
hadn't been chubby in the Before World—fat, if she was truthful—they
would have long since starved to death.
She patted him on the head, her way of saying she was sorry for her
sharp response, a touch that reassured her as much as it did him. They
had no one else now, something she reminded herself when he irked her a
little too much.
They stopped at a crossroads and she drank from her water bottle. The
clouds had coalesced into a storm—air growing colder—and lightning
sizzled through the darkness. Thunder rattled the heavens, and she
yanked the boy to the earth and lay beside him.
"People-eaters," she whispered.
She'd seen them in the yellow flash, men huddled over a body on the
road, the twist of a knife as it sliced a thigh, and she wormed off the
macadam into the weeds. Her brother crawled to her and she drew her arm
around him. Anger stirred inside her. A five-year-old boy should not
have to worry about winding up on a spit.
Lightning and thunder came again, accompanied by wind and the scent of
rain, and three men walked up the road. Black ponchos whipped at their
knees, and the man in the rear was dragging something. Lightning lit a
rope attached to a severed leg and she ducked her head and held her
The footsteps came closer, closer still, but did not pause as they drew
abreast. She waited until the men were gone, tugged her brother upright,
and retied his shoelaces. She licked her fingers and smoothed his
cowlick, gave up when the hair sprang back to attention.
Rain fell, persistent drops. She fit his head and arms through the holes
in a garbage bag, wriggled the bag down to his ankles. Kara grabbed his
hand and walked in the opposite direction of the men, almost tripped
over the torso in the middle of the road. She picked Colby up and set
him down on the other side.
"My stomach hurts," he said.
"Want me to send you off with those men?"
"Then hush up."
Guilty fingers gripped her heart; if she was a better provider, he
wouldn't be hungry. Her guiltiness turned into frustration—she was an
eighteen-year-old teenager—and taking care of Colby should have been
left to their mother and father, but there was no mother and no father,
not anymore. Soldiers had shot Harold Walsh when he refused to allow the
military to confiscate the family's gasoline, and Peony Walsh died when
someone stabbed her to steal the food she had in a knapsack on her back.
Before she passed, she made Kara promise to take Colby to the frozen
lands, which, according to the news channels, was the one location
humanity could survive this apocalypse.
The far north.
What were they supposed to do if they got to Canada? Eat snow?
Kara grudgingly rolled out from under the blanket, swung her feet to the
floor. She and the boy had found shelter in a two-story farmhouse set
well off the road. The house was still, no sound except for the push of
wind against the eves. A chill clawed the back of her neck, and she
fought the urge to shake Colby awake. Old houses gave her the
creeps—she'd seen one too many horror movies—but sleeping in a bed
was better than sleeping on the ground; it didn't matter how many times
she woke with scenes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre swerving through her
She tucked the blanket under her brother's chin. Colby had their
mother's looks, blond hair and green eyes, a face that grew more angular
each passing day. Kara had wound up with their grandmother's black hair
and long lashes, along with a pert nose and eyes so blue her father had
called her Miss Atlantic when she was a child. She patted her cheeks,
felt the hollowness, and looked down at her stomach. When she was in
school, she wore loose clothing and sucked in her belly while she walked
the halls. There was no need for that now. She'd gone down five sizes
and could fit into a skinny four. She knotted her tee-shirt at the waist
and cinched her belt in the only hole she hadn't used.
Colby rolled over, eyes glazed from sleep.
"I dreamed I was in a hot air balloon," he said. "It was red and green
and floated up in the clouds."
"I dreamed about cheeseburgers."
"Burgers," he murmured.
She had rarely talked about food, hoping the less they spoke about it
the less their stomachs would hurt. It hadn't worked. Starvation was a
brutal and persistent predator. It took from them every day, clawing at
their bodies without conscience, without remorse.
"Go back to sleep," she said. "I'm going downstairs to check the
She didn't need to say why.
Kara picked past broken furniture and sorted through a box on the sofa.
Above the fireplace hung a photo of two smiling people, man in a sports
jacket, woman in a black mini. She wondered if they had children and if
any were girls. The couple looked happy, so probably not . . . if her
own experience was any indication.
Her mother had called her daughter Miss Morose, and Kara deserved the
nickname. She had been a difficult child, never satisfied with what she
had. Her weight had been the source of her troubles, drowning her in a
private hell, where her sole happiness was making her family share her
When that didn't work, she receded into her secret stash of Ho Hos and
gorged until her stomach threatened to explode. The year she turned
fourteen she convinced herself she was bulimic and stuck her finger down
her throat. During the next month, she threw up so many times she lost
count, but she could not give herself the disease and gave up in a
tantrum of tears.
What she wouldn't give for one of those Ho Hos.
Kara went to the kitchen and opened each drawer. Nothing . . . nothing .
. . nothing . . . nothing . . . a lighter she stuck in her pocket . . .
nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing. She sifted through the trash on the
floor. Still nothing. . . .
She inched the fridge away from the wall.
A package of orange crackers lay in the dust against the floorboard. She
tore open the cellophane and nibbled a stale cracker. Hustling upstairs,
she shouted that Colby needed to get up because they had food.
Her brother ate a cracker and studied her with his green eyes, and she
knew what he was asking without him saying it. He did not reach for
another one until she told him there had been two packages and she had
eaten hers downstairs.
"All yours," she said.
He stuffed crackers in his mouth, grinning wolfishly, and Kara thought
she might be the happiest she had ever been.
They searched the house from top to bottom, went to the garage and pried
open the glove compartment to a Subaru hoping to find at least a stick
of chewing gum, got a useless driver's manual for their efforts. Hazy
sunlight shone through the window, illuminating a rack full of tools,
and she picked up a long screwdriver and stabbed the air. She handed the
screwdriver to Colby and told him to put it in their knapsack. He made
his own stabbing motions, face screwed-up in concentration, opened a
zipper and tucked the weapon into an outside pocket.
Wondering if the couple had raised a garden, Kara looked out the window
and almost shouted her excitement. Colby begged to see, and she picked
him up and held him close to the screen.
"What?" he said.
She pointed at the drone descending from the clouds, STARBUCKS COFFEE in
big letters on the side, told the boy the drone was about to land on
that concrete pad and deliver at least one cup of coffee, maybe two. At
least that's what she hoped would happen.
She'd written a term paper about Starbucks' new delivery system her
senior year of social studies and had discovered customers could buy
weekly, monthly, or yearly plans. The man in the sports jacket and the
woman in the mini must have had a yearly plan. According to the company
the technology was 100% automated, each main plant off the grid, and the
coffee would continue to flow in the worst of circumstances. She doubted
Starbucks had the apocalypse in mind when they made that claim.
The drone flew lower, buzzing audible through the window—a thousand
flies in delivery mode—and she had never seen anything so beautiful.
The fleet had two sizes, and the largest drone carried enough coffee to
pour 1,000 cups. This drone, sunlight bouncing off the cylindrical body,
carried 200, enough to handle the needs of a small subdivision. The
drone hovered—propeller churning—and for a moment she thought it
would fly away.
A brown-headed boy appeared; he must have been crouching behind those
rose bushes. He was eighteen or nineteen, she guessed, and had some of
the broadest shoulders she'd seen on someone his age. The boy limped
toward the concrete pad—good leg tugging his body forward, bad leg
bringing up the rear—and Kara's visions of coffee swirled down the
No, she wasn't giving up so easy.
She put Colby down and clutched a hammer, told him to stay inside. At
the door, she pondered if she should rush out or walk nonchalantly,
hoped once the boy saw the hammer he would back off and go away. He
twirled a rope over his head, and she stepped outside and ran forward as
the rope sailed through the air and encircled the drone's landing gear.
The boy sat down and yanked hard. The drone hovered for a few seconds,
as though it sorted out its predicament. The humming grew louder and the
drone flew over the yard, ten feet above the grass, the boy hanging onto
the rope and skidding on his butt. He grimaced as he bumped past.
"Give me a hand, why don't you?" he said.
She shook her head.
"Come on," he said. "I can't hold this thing by myself."
The drone dragged him back across the yard, and the boy thumped over a
stone walkway. He tried to wrap the rope around a tree trunk and skidded
back the way he'd come. She hollered after him.
"You'd have to be an idiot to go to that trouble for a cup of coffee."
"Who wants coffee? This thing's got chocolate in it."
She dove for the rope and held on, aware her body pressed against his.
He was all bone, smelled of sweat and that peculiar musk she had started
noticing when she turned thirteen. Colby ran up. Kara shoved him
backward and he sat down and drilled a pinkie into a flared nostril,
wailed his misery. The drone dipped down and slack formed in the rope.
The boy yelled over his shoulder.
"You let go."
He yanked the rope out of her hands and lunged for another tree, got two
wraps around the trunk and tied a knot. The drone buzzed above the yard,
dipping over the azaleas and a vine-entwined arbor, movement more
frantic by the minute. It had a camera on its belly, and the lens
swiveled around, as though it searched for the enemy. The boy limped to
the rose bushes and returned with another rope. He lassoed the drone
again, looped the rope around a far tree.
"That's how you do a steer when you want to brand it," he said, chest
heaving. "You get him caught between two ropes and he can't go
"You've done this before?"
"Cattle . . . up in High River. It's a little town south of Calgary. I'm
a bull rider, came down to St. Louis for a rodeo and hurt my leg in the
fourth round. Would've won a gold buckle if I'd a stuck." He spoke in a
teasing voice. "The way you went after that rope when I mentioned
chocolate, I thought you were going to haul that thing in by yourself."
His blue eyes were sunk back in their sockets—skin stretched so tight
over his face every bone, every ridgeline was in sharp relief.
"Do you have a plan," she said, "or are we just going to let it buzz
around up there?"
He tapped his forehead. "Big brain up here, always thinking."
"If those trees were horses, we'd just back them on up until the steer
toppled over. Since they aren't we'll have to tighten the rope by hand."
"I brought a hammer, I mean, for when it comes into reach."
His look made her feel as though she was her brother's age, and she
blushed her embarrassment. The boy—he said his name was Joshua
Fletcher—reeled in the drone an inch at a time. She told Colby she had
pushed him because she hadn't wanted him to get hurt, and he ignored her
and stared at the buzzing creature. Joshua tightened the rope until both
ropes were almost horizontal to the ground, drone within reach.
"Gimme that hammer," he said.
"Ten minutes ago you thought it was a ridiculous idea."
"I changed my mind."
"Joshua Fletcher, the deep thinker." She handed him the hammer.
The boy whacked the spinning blades and the drone nosedived to the
ground. It stopped buzzing, roped and beaten into submission.
"Screwdrivers and wrenches in that garage?" he said.
Kara nodded and thirty minutes later the three of them sat cross-legged
on the grass, draining chocolate syrup into cups from the kitchen. She
ate a spoonful, a burst of sweet darkness in her mouth. Self-conscious
under Joshua’s gaze, Kara was more than aware she was dressed in
clothes large enough to house two people. The camera swiveled,
herky-jerky movement, and she swatted it with the hammer.
"My brother's scavenging on the other side of town," Joshua said. "He
came down to watch me rodeo and tore up a knee in a bar fight with this
calf roper from Texas. Can't walk too good neither."
They ate until they were full, rested, ate again. Kara filled two
plastic bowls and snapped on the lids, a bowl for Joshua and a bowl for
her and her brother.
"You have a compass?" he said.
"We're walking mostly at night, using the north star."
"It's going to get too dusty to see anything at night."
"If that happens, we'll walk during the day."
Colby crouched behind her and tunneled a hand into a fold in her jeans.
She and Joshua spoke at the same time, and she motioned for him to go
"You could travel with us for a while," he said. "You know, if you want
"Sure, yes, my brother and I will come with you."
Colby ran to the garage and returned with their knapsack. She put it on
and handed him the bowl, told him to eat all the chocolate he wanted.
"There's one thing I should tell you up front." Joshua picked up a
duffel bag from behind the rose bushes. "Isiah won't like having you
A boy who didn't want her company?
Excerpted from "No-Name Girl (The NV-290 Zombie Series Book 1)" by T. J. Forrester. Copyright © 2016 by T. J. Forrester. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.