I thought, for something different, I’d share a partial chapter from The Downtrodden, the second book of the Brown Rain series. Links to purchase are at the end.
As for food, the damaged gas station was a bust. They spent the first night in a house, cheering when they found a mylar packet of rice dinner in a cupboard, untouched by mice. The next day they began their hunt for food. On Main Street they found a hiking store where they acquired two sleeping bags in the back room, still in plastic-wrapped boxes. Kyra actually whooped.
The other bags in the store were full of mouse nests. They also managed to replace their knives which had been stolen by the Children of God. Kyra was happy about that. Since they’d escaped she’d been afraid of running into more wild dogs or even wolves. Memories of the fight with the last feral dogs they’d run into haunted her dreams. She wanted a knife for close fighting.
The shop didn’t have any bows or arrows. She felt that lack most of all. A knife was good but better to have some distance between her and any enemy. It was her best weapon and she felt naked without it. The store also had two cases of dehydrated food, one of chili and one of chicken stew. The mice had demolished the chicken but there were several packets of chili that were still in good shape. Those went into the packs. The grocery store in the center of town had been thoroughly looted. “Looks like the Children did get over here,” Kyra said as they left the empty store.
“Maybe there’s one on the outskirts,” Alyssa said as she bent over the sidewalk, clearing a way. They stopped by any store that looked as though it would have gear or supplies, but it was the same as the grocery. By noon they were resting in the park in the center of Fern Springs where the town had erected a pavilion, similar to the one at their school over their spring. Kyra had found packets of honey at the hiking store and shared them out, two for her and two for Alyssa.
“I wonder what happened to the bees.” Kyra had her back to a pavilion support as she squeezed crystallized honey into her mouth.
Alyssa licked her fingers. “They may be all gone. The brown rain covered everything. Without flowers the hives, even the biggest ones, wouldn’t have been able to survive more than a year or two. The rain lasted four years.”
Kyra gazed at the little park. She tried to imagine what it looked like all green grass and leafy trees, the little stream from the spring meandering through the park, flowers growing on its banks. It wasn’t possible. She was so used to seeing everything covered with the gray-brown oily sludge from a toxic rain that ended over a decade ago that she couldn’t imagine anything else. The color of the path that Alyssa had healed so they could get to this pavilion was a startling green against the depressing oily sludge. “How big do you think this park is?”
Alyssa looked around. “A quarter acre, maybe.” She turned to Kyra. “Why?”
“Just thinking how nice this park would be if it was green, the way it should be. Maybe animals could come and eat the grass, drink the clean water.” She waved her hand. “Never mind, it’s a silly thought.”
“No it’s not. This is exactly what I came out here to do.” She stood up. “You can watch from here.” Alyssa danced down the spongy wooden steps and began to work. She started close to the pavilion, around and around in bigger and bigger squares. Grass mostly, but there were a few oak and maple trees in the park that she healed too. She stopped at the sidewalks that surrounded the park and washed her hands in the stream as it dropped into a culvert and flowed out of the park.
“There,” she said, her face full of smiles as she reached the pavilion. “An oasis in a toxic desert.”
Kyra handed her a bottle of water. “I like it. Do you think your paths and these patches will help?”
“I know they will.” She wiped her mouth and handed the bottle back to Kyra. “The toxins are breaking down, I can feel it.”
Kyra’s face lit up. “They are?”
“Yeah, but it’s going to be a long time yet. In the meantime, my little paths are a break. A spot for wildlife to get a toe-hold. Bugs, then birds, then bigger prey and predators.” She looked thoughtful. “To be honest I was completely surprised that dogs had survived. They must be finding something to eat. Maybe something we can eat too. ”
Kyra refilled the bottle. “If it’s going to be a long time we’d better get going. You up for more paths? I want to check more stores and if that fails, houses.”
“Sure.” Alyssa turned and walked to Main Street and made a path to the store side of the street.
That night they stayed in a house near the edge of town. As expected, pickings had been slim in the stores but for some reason the Children had left most houses alone. The two raided closets for suitable hiking clothes, dry goods, or anything else they thought would be useful. Just outside of town they explored a farm house with a large but mouse-eaten pantry. Fortunately a bag of beans was found and cooked, mashed into a paste and dried into patties as road food. They had enough to eat for nine days so they moved on.
End of Chapter Section
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