Below, you will find the prologue to my upcoming, currently untitled novel, the first in what will eventually be a trilogy. This is subject to change as I progress in the writing process but it gives a general idea of the tone of the novel. I’m making good progress with it but I’m not certain how long it will take me.
The bitter, frozen wind howled through the parade ground, blowing the snow swiftly and somehow, elegantly, across the pavement. The light of fire and lanterns bathed the night in a gentle, orange glow. A few men were huddled by a fire speaking to each other, each recalling the day that everything changed and examining how their lives changed as a result. They all shared their own recollections of how they had come to this place, all unique accounts of survival with miracles woven into the fabric of their stories. The voices died down. All of them had shared their stories. All of them, save one.
“In retrospect, I remember that horrid, yet beautiful day fondly, believe it or not,” a calm voice resonated as the once-silent man spoke. Dressed in the thick accoutrements of animal furs augmented to synthetic winter wear with a warm cloak over top of it all, he held a cup of piping hot spruce tea in his gloved hands. Lowering the scarf from his face, exposing his face directly so that he could speak more clearly, he took a careful sip of his tea. Savoring its wintry taste, he took a deep breath and began to spin a tale, an unwritten memoir of his own experience within this grandiose, apocalyptic epic known as reality.
“It reminds me of how far we’ve come, how triumphant our success has been. I admit, however, that it wasn’t so amazing when it was happening. Initially, it was just a seemingly average September morning. I was still sleeping when the news broke; the town’s emergency sirens were going off but I imagined it was just a routine emergency or a test and I dozed off again. That’s when my younger brother, James, woke me up.” he paused and took another sip of the tea, warming him and filling him with the enthusiasm to continue the story.
“My parents weren’t home. My mother was at work, my grandfather was having lunch with a friend and my father was off work, accompanying my youngest brother, Lee, and my grandmother on a school field trip. That meant they were about an hour and a half away by car. Jim told me what the news reporters had said: that, within hours, the entire western hemisphere would likely be covered with thick, volcanic clouds which would probably result in a volcanic winter. I didn’t believe him. Not at first, anyway.”
The man laughed somberly, “It was such an outlandish story that I just took it as his attempt to get me out of bed before I wanted to, something that he had done many times before, usually to get on my nerves. It wasn’t until he showed me a live news feed that I actually believed him. A sense of panic tried to grip me but I fought it: the adrenaline kicked in and I jumped out of bed.”
The man continued to describe his memory, recalling how he dressed quickly and instructed James to bring their supply of wood into the house, wood used for various carpentry projects they had worked on in their spare time. He went on to explain how he grabbed some gear and sped off on his bike toward their grandparents’ house to find extra supplies they might need. The ride was a short one, as their grandparents’ house was just down the street. He described the panicked rush of cars speeding past him and the deafening howl of emergency sirens as the police attempted, in vain, to keep citizens calm.
The man paused once more and reflected on his memory. There had been disasters before and humanity had always come back from them, but this one, it was different. It was a catastrophe of proportions few had ever imagined. There was little hope of rebuilding society, at least in North America, as it would be uninhabitable for years, if not decades. As that thought ran through his memory, a determined, defiant grin spread across his face. With a shiver and yet another sip, he continued, “I chained my bike to the railing by the side stairway and fumbled with the lock when I got to the door. After I unlocked the door, I rushed to get the key to my grandfather’s gun cabinet. Then, I ran to the basement and I took all that I could carry, weapons and ammunition both, and placed them in a gun bag.”
He went on to describe how he also took his grandfather’s hunting bow, as well as his prized saber, won from fencing championships that he won when he was in high school. The saber was still strapped to his belt, even as he told them this story. Primarily decorative, the saber was mostly for show at this point in time, but it was still an effective weapon.
“I rushed back upstairs and grabbed any food and water that I could. I also took some other, random supplies with me, then rode home as quickly as possible.” he explained.
“After some complications, including a run-in with some would-be thieves, I finally made it home. Jim and I took the carpentry wood and boarded up all the windows and entrances except the two entrances that were easiest to cover. We gathered all the blankets and heating items to one place, knowing that we would soon need as much warmth as possible.” he said, reminiscing upon the teamwork between the two brothers. He grinned in bittersweet remembrance.
The man abruptly stopped and the others stood ready to hear more. Guiding them to a rounded, sheltered seating area around a sizable fire, he smiled roughly. The frigid wind was less intense within the shelter of this fire pit, thus he was able to continue without raising his voice, “Actually, that was the last time that I saw the sunlight untouched by the ash and snow.”
This text is Copyright © 2020 Jacob Fields