Our little serial experiment hits part 21 this week. It's old enough to drink, so a toast to it for reaching this milestone. And a toast to you for reading along, especially if you've been with us since October when this all started.
It doesn't feel like i've been doing this for almost six months,but I guess I have. I'm excited about this story. I'm excited about the new covers. I'm excited that it feels like something that could sell a few copies and find me an audience as a writer. As great as it is to see the number of visits that these posts get, I always wish it'd be more. Same is true with book sales. I don't need to be a best seller, but a better seller would be nice. I do think it'll happen. For some reason I have probably unearned confidence in that.
One last thing. Digi City, the standalone story set in my New Eden universe is free today and tomorrow at Amazon. If you like cyberpunk, dystopian, near-future scifi then you'll like this. It's got all the things of New Eden—data addicts and a corrupt corporate power—plus it features Miller, the possibly-too-earnest-for-his-own-good antagonist from Finding Faded Light. Plus it's got an ending that I love. Grab a copy here then tell all your friends about it.
OK, that's it. On with our story.
Welcome to the End//Part 21 -- It's Walter
“So you are a bit of a liar,” I say to Caroline.
We pause at an intersection and I let Caroline pick our path.
“You told me that you couldn’t do any of the magic your mom does,” I say while she decides which way we head next. “You said that was something you left to your mom and sister. Had no interest in it, I believe is what you said.”
“I did say that, didn’t I?”
We go right. It’s a little roundabout if we want to get back to camp quickly, but if it makes Caroline more comfortable then a few minutes detour is worth it.
“I guess my secret’s out,” Caroline says.
“Why is it a secret?”
“Mom doesn’t know.”
“She doesn’t? Why?”
“I made too big a stink about not being interested in it when I was younger. I didn’t know how to tell her I’d changed my mind.”
“So you had your sister teach you some stuff?”
“Her some, but mostly books. I’d study them at night when mom was at work, making sure to be careful about putting them back so she wouldn’t see them disturbed.”
“They have books on this kind of stuff?”
“Nothing you can get at the store. But, yeah, there are books. And real books too. Not some kind of thick leather-bound volume you see in movies with all that frilly handwriting that’s hard to read. These are book books.”
We pass under the interstate and are nearing camp. The neighborhood turns residential here. Older houses. Smaller. The population mostly lower income. It was an area ripe for gentrification but that never got a chance to push this far east. The homes were small but cute, and being this close to downtown could have gone for quite a bit if the right crowd had ever taken an interest. But they hadn’t, and it was too late now.
The number of bodies in the road has dropped and everything is painted now in a light brown thanks to the mud rain. But there’s something different about the neighborhood. It looks worse. More ransacked. More destroyed. Caroline notices at about the same time I do, and her pace picks up.
“What do you think?” She knows what I’m asking about. Something has happened. Wailers have been here. These houses look torn apart, and it’s only getting worse the closer we get to camp. It’s all visible now. Claw marks. Boards snapped and breaks that are obviously fresh.
Caroline’s walk turns to a jog then to a full run. I’m following behind her best I can, but my pack is slowing me down. She’s a few hundred feet ahead of me.
I call out for her, but she doesn’t stop. We enter Fair Park through a side entrance. She’s so far in front of me that I lose her. She’s turned a corner one way, and I’ve gone another. I turn toward the Ferris wheel, and that’s when I hear her scream. It stops me cold.
I break into as much of a sprint as I can, and that’s when I see Walter. He’s gone. Brutalized and lying in a heap near a planter box. Caroline is sitting near him. She’s holding a scarf that Maggie was wearing before the rain. It’s soaked and dripping water, but Caroline has it up to her face. It’s covering her mouth, but I can still hear her muffled cries.