Outside is freezing. The snow has piled up so high it’s up to my thighs and I wade through
it more like water than anything. It makes my progress slow going. That coupled with the biting
wind doesn’t help me stay warm. It would be better if I were just walking through town. It’d still
be freezing of course, but the buildings would help block some of the harsh wind.
Unfortunately, I’m not in town.
I’ve hopped over the little rock wall—I couldn’t even see it beneath the snow—and now
I’m heading out in the icy cold toward the tall ruins of the Old World.
Normally, I wouldn’t be out here. It’s stupid being out here during winter, especially alone.
It’s why me and Jacob always hunted and worked together. If something goes wrong, if I fall
through a rotted floorboard or get caught by a hungry animal, or if I just get lost in the neverending
white, there is no one out here to help me or save me. What’s worse, it’s incredibly
That wouldn’t worry me too much most of the time, but lately it’s been a bad idea to do anything illegal. Selectors and other Elite have been unusually active in the Gate lately, taking
people in the middle of the night for Trials and Rehabilitation, then throwing what’s left of their
family to foster care… It’s never been this bad before. What I’m doing is just dumb. The worst
kind of dumb. The kind of dumb just asking for punishment.
Which is exactly why I’m doing it.
It’s maybe another mile until I hit the edge of the Old World. From there, I’ve decided I’ll
head west. Jacob and I haven’t seen all of the ruins, but we’ve seen a lot over the years and I’ve
got a good feel where things are now. Most days, I’m only out here looking for things to take
back to town. Stuff I can either use myself or things I can sell to the denizens of the Gate.
Today’s different. Today, I’m looking for something specific. So I’m headed to the west end of
the Old World town, in hopes of finding it.
I pull my coat tighter around me, tucking my chin so I can cover my face, ducking low into
my scarf. Only my eyes are visible, looking out across the wide expanse of white snow. Each
step I take I struggle with. It drains my energy and I wonder fleetingly if I’ll even make it back
when things are all said and done. I tighten my jaw, determination washing through me.
“I’ll make it,” I mutter to myself, my voice whipped away immediately by the fierce wind.
The cold air feels like needles against my skin, but I push forward anyway. Sometimes my
stubbornness pays off.
After nearly forty-five minutes, I reach the edge of the ruined city. It doesn’t normally take
me so long, but then I usually don’t go out in the midst of a blizzard to trudge through thigh deep
snow. All things considered, I’ve made good time.
Entering the city makes an instant difference. It’s still cold outside and there’s still lots of
snow, banks of it piled up against decaying buildings, and roads completely covered by it. But
the wind is less, thankfully. The buildings break at least some of it and what raw skin I have
exposed is grateful for any reprieve.
I’m careful while I move through the city ruins. Although it’s winter and no other sane
person is going to be out in all of this, I know animals aren’t quite the same. Most of them, much
like people, will be hiding wherever they can find warmth. But not all of them. Some will be out
scrounging around for food, searching for whatever protein and fat they can find. A frail little
human girl would make an awesome meal for the big cats that like to roam the area. I’m quiet as
I move, making for slow going. Every so often I’ll pause to make sure there isn’t anything
moving out there, or worse, stalking me. I’ll listen and watch and wait, then when I decide it’s
safe, I continue moving.
Most of the ruins look the same. The tall buildings boast dirty or broken windows, gates
bent or torn down altogether, and doors leaning open on their hinges. Inside, they’re filled with
filth. A mixture of collected dirt, rubble, and remains of whatever poor animal took shelter inside
to die. That’s how I know I’m getting close to the west end of the city. Things start changing,
fast. The buildings surrounding me get shorter. Some of them I’m sure were always short, but
others look like they were once skyscrapers like the rest of the city and have just crumbled since
being built. As they get shorter and shorter, other things start to change too. Black tar and
charcoal covers the structures.
There are square patches with metal skeletal remains, the only thing left of whatever
structure was once there. Nothing ever grows here, not even in spring or summer months. There
are scorch marks that cover the ground and even snow doesn’t seem to linger in these places. I
shiver, unable to control it. My eyes roam the ruins, glinting grimly, eager to get what I need and
get out of here.
Once, we came across a map of a small portion of the old city. I remember not being able
to read it, not because I couldn’t read, but because the symbols and everything on it didn’t make any sense. There aren’t any official maps left of the old cities, at least not complete one, only
fragments here and there like what we found. It’s difficult to say what exactly this place used to
be, but Jacob had a theory. He always had a theory. My lips quirk at that. I miss his theories.
He used to say this area was destroyed so much worse than the others that it had to have
been important. People only destroy things, try to erase them completely, when they rabidly hate
it—or when they know it’s truly important to someone else. He said when the God Wars
happened years ago, the Elite targeted places that were most significant to the citizens of the Old
I don’t know if his theory is true or not, but I wouldn’t put it past the Elite to destroy the
thing that was most important to someone. I wouldn’t put anything past the Elite. My lips tighten
as I keep trudging, eyes constantly scanning the area around me, trying to quicken my pace.
Walking through the charred landscape makes me uneasy now. The snow and the wind and
the cold were bad enough, but here, in this particular section of the ruins, things are… eerie. It is
weird there isn’t any snow on the ground, even though snow still falls from the sky. It is weird
the ground feels warmer and the air here feels thicker and harder to breathe.
I never liked being in this part of the city, but Jacob used to always want to come here.
“This is where we’ll find it,” he always declared, tone adamant, eyes lit with hope and
determination. “If there’s anything they’d want gone, completely eradicated, it would have been that. And they tried to get rid of everything around here.”
Whether he was right or wrong, we never found what he was looking for and after a while
he finally agreed the place was creepy and promised he’d stop making me come back here.
“Guess you broke your promise,” I mutter into the creepy too still air.
Because he is making me come out here, whether he meant to or not this time. My boots
clop over the blackened cement as I keep a sharp eye out. I’ve come here for something specific,
something that will guarantee attention.
Last night, I didn’t sleep. Not even a wink. Every time my eyes tried to slide shut, I had
this image of Rehabilitation flash in front of them. Like it was burned into my eyelids. I pictured
Jacob there, horrible things happening to him… and then Miriam would be standing beside him,
limp and just sort of staring with those wide gray eyes. She would watch, horrified as he was
hurt, hurt badly even, but she wouldn’t do anything. And then there was the body.
I always tried not to look at the body lying on the ground near Miriam’s feet, but I didn’t
have to to know instinctively who it was. My dad. Dresden Reardon, his light brown hair matted
down to his face and his hazel eyes just staring out at nothing… I shove the picture hastily from
my mind, refusing to give it a foothold. That’s what kept me from sleeping last night. The idea
people I care about are trapped there in Rehabilitation, being tortured just because they believe in
something the Elite doesn’t like.
At this point, I can’t help Miriam or my father. Miriam has come and gone from
Rehabilitation and whatever damage they did is already done. I can’t stop it or change it, and my
Dad is dead. Jacob is there in that camp now. And I can still do something to help him. I’m
determined to do something.
The problem is, I don’t quite know what that something is. I don’t know how to help him.
Miriam told me last night as we sat in front of the fire if I wanted Jacob back—and I do, I
desperately do—then I’m going to have to bring him back myself.
But she didn’t tell me just how I’m supposed to do that. So I stayed up, trying not to think
or dream, and came up with an idea during the night. It’s a stupid plan. It’s a plan that’s going to
get me into more trouble than I know how to get out of, I’m certain. But what do I have to lose?
Jacob is gone. My best friend, the only person in this world I still care about is stuck in some
glorified concentration camp. He’s basically a prisoner.
No one will let me see his sister, so I can’t take care of her. I can’t keep her safe or be of
any comfort to her, and that would be the only thing that would stop me from trying the
unthinkable. So… I came up with a plan.
I’m going to break into Rehabilitation.
“Yeah, brilliant plan,” I say to the cold, trying not to focus too hard on the other part of my
I try not to touch anything in the blackened area, still worried there’s something not quite
right about the region and it’s going to make me sick if I touch any of it. Instead, I use the toes of
my boots to kick at things, moving them around as I search the barren ruins.
I have to find something provocative. Something forbidden. That’s the other part of my big
plan. Once I realized I would have to get into Rehabilitation, I also realized there was only one
way I could do that: fail at Trial. Except that’s the kicker. I’ve had only one Trial the last few
years, compared to most people who have anywhere between two and ten Trials in a single year.
I never get Selected for Trial. Why? Because everyone knows I’m not a Believer. There’s no
point in testing me, it’s always been a wasted effort. After my mother’s death, I’m surprised they
test me at all anymore.
Most of the time, I would consider that a good thing. I always knew I didn’t want to go to
the Hall of Science and sit in a white room for hours while they tried to decide if there is
something in my head they didn’t like. Except now I know I need to get there, so things are
much more complicated.
First, there’s the problem that Selections are random. Random time, random place, random
person. Selection might be at the Gate this month, or up at one of the other sectors instead. They
might take only one person or they might take twenty. It’s impossible to predict, which is
deliberate. They don’t want to give us any time to prepare for our Trials. They like to catch us
off guard so they can discover the truth about what we think.
That’s not a huge problem though. Random Selections don’t affect me in this case seeing
as how I want to go to Trial. I just have to be patient and wait. Not my strongest virtue, but what
choice do I have?
The second problem is a tiny bit trickier though. When Selection does occur, how will I
make sure they Select me? I’m the least likely person to get Selected. No one’s going to be
suspicious of my beliefs. Absolutely no one. I sigh, incredulous that unbelief is a bigger problem
for me right now than Believing. That’s why I’m out here, kicking around the charcoal of the
Old World. I kind of hope me being out here at all is enough for them to look my way, but I
don’t think it is. They never noticed my frequent trips into the Old World before, so why would
they start now? No, I’ve got to give them a bigger reason. A reason they can’t ignore and I’ve
decided what that reason will be. I’m going to find something banned and get caught with it.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just get caught with a book or clothing or something they
know is from the ruins. Instead, I’ve got to come back with something bad… something from a
church for instance. The ghost of a grin crosses my face, and I can’t help feeling quite pleased
with myself in spite of the direness of the situation. So that’s what I’m looking for, a church. I
hope Jacob was right and this charcoal landscape is where the old churches used to stand. Even
more so, I hope amidst all the rubble I can find something truly incriminating.
I haven’t had a lot of luck as of yet and it’s starting to worry me. What if I can’t find
anything? What if there’s nothing to find? There’s every possibility Jacob’s searching all these
years has all been for nothing. Maybe—probably—the churches of the Old World are nothing
more than rubble, destroyed completely by the people we now call the Elite. I bite off a sigh of
frustration, but still refusing to abandon my big plan.
To my right I notice a building half caved in. It’s smaller than the others. It’s hard to tell,
but I’m willing to bet it likely wasn’t one of those buildings that disappeared into the skies. Its
bricks are blackened and what may have once been a door is little more than a pile of sticks on
the ground near an opening. But there is an opening. I go to it and step carefully over the cracked
wooden remains of the door. Inside, it’s stuffy and the air is stale. There obviously hasn’t been
anyone in here since it was burned down.
Once inside, I’m not sure what kind of building it is. The inside of it is different from most
of the Old World buildings I’ve seen or been inside of. Definitely wasn’t one of those sky
scraper buildings, that’s for sure. Moving deeper inside, I continue to study my surroundings.
There’s a long middle aisle that covers the entire length of the large, single room. Wooden
beams from the ceiling have collapsed on top of it, making it difficult for me to reach the other
side. Gray light filters in through the non-existent roof, making the room appear ghostly. The
quiet certainly doesn’t help. It’s not even the same quiet from outside. The quiet that fills the
west side of the ruins is all about instant destruction. It’s about the feeling people didn’t even get
a chance to take a breath before the end was upon them. This silence is different. I don’t know
why though, all I know is it feels… more peaceful somehow? Weird. I shrug to myself and
Along either side of the middle aisle are rows and rows of benches. Many of them are
charred completely black and are chipped so bad they’ve collapsed in the middle. Some have just
been moved out of alignment, skewed so that they’re running into each other, and some even on
top of others.
At the other end of the room it looks like there’s some sort of platform or dais, but the roof
has caved down on it, covering it completely so I can’t see for sure what used to be there.
There’s little more than piles of dust and debris from the roof all along the floor. I jump
over it and sidestep as best I can. It’s so quiet here I can hear my feet echo where they touch
solid floor and creak where they hit wood. When I come to the wooden beams that block the
aisle, I gingerly try to climb over them. Bracing myself with my hands, wrinkling my nose and
hoping I’m not touching anything toxic, I dig my foot in and heave myself over the huge beam. I
think I’ve made it and crawl over other pieces of wood to the other side, when I hear an ominous
I let out a cry just as the beams crack beneath me and I fall, landing hard on the ground
with a grunt pain. My breath whooshes from my lungs on impact. A cloud of dust drifts up into
the air, with light coming in through the roof making the individual specs of dust visible as they
float on the air. I lay on my back, gasping for air and coughing, taking a moment to make sure I
don’t have any serious injuries. I grimace, knowing I’m going to be sore later regardless.
I think I’m mostly okay, so I roll onto my side, ready to get to my hands and knees before
pushing up to stand. Before I do though, I pause, my eyes caught on something I’d never have
noticed had I not taken a spill of the beams. There on the floor, hidden under one of the long
wooden rows, is a small book. It’s old and barely larger than my two hands put together. My
eyes widen with surprise. I can’t believe I’ve found a book in this place. The only time I’ve ever
come across books with Jacob was when we scouted schools and libraries, and most of those
books hadn’t survived the brutality of time very well.
I worry this one hasn’t either.
With trembling hands, still shaken from my fall, I reach out for it, half afraid it might
disintegrate the moment I touch it. But it doesn’t. I breathe a minute sigh of relief and gently
slide it across the floor toward me. It’s covered in dust. I run a finger along the top of it and
wrinkle my nose, coming away with a thick layer of the stuff. I wipe my finger on my pants, and
taking a deep breath, I blow hard, blowing the dust off it, and making myself cough in the
process amidst the cloud that rises in my face. I wave a hand and wipe my nose, struggling not to
sneeze and pile on insult to injury.
When the dust clears, I can finally see the cover. I squint, but I’m only able to make out
one word on it. Prayer.
My lips tilt in a small smile. Jacob, here I come.
Unbelief Book 2 161 pages
What happens when your eyes are opened to truth?
I dream that night of walking through the ruins. Strangely, I’m barefoot. Yet the snow beneath my feet doesn’t feel cold, I don’t even feel cold. Somehow though, I’m going the right way, I know I am. I’m not sure how I know… it’s just a knowing I feel deep down in my bones.
Sinna has stumbled into a world unlike any she’s ever known. Her eyes have been opened and there’s no going back. She’s never considered herself a Believer, she always left that to Jacob, but things are happening fast.
Is there something to this faith stuff after all?
And if there is, is it strong enough to see her through what’s coming next?
This is a dystopian series set in a post-apocalyptic world with hints of romance. Books should be read in order. May be cliff hangers.
It’s easy to believe we’re still in the wastelands surrounding the Rehabilitation camp.
There isn’t much difference from one side of the wall to the next. The only thing any of us have
noticed that’s different is a small sense of relief within ourselves. I can see it manifested in both
of the guys. Alex sits sprawled next to me with one leg kicked up along the door frame, his boot
resting on the dash. Jasper, though still sitting straight and focused, appears to have lost a lot of
the tension in his shoulders that was visible before.
I don’t need to ask to know there are physical signs that have probably noticeably changed
with me too, since we made it through the wall. Somehow though I doubt they’re nearly as
dramatic. After all, I still have Jacob to worry about.
Jacob remains lying in the back curled in on himself, and he is the only one of us four who
doesn’t look any better. In fact, if anything he looks worse. Though the fever keeps his cheeks
rosy, the rest of him looks pale and sickly. Chewing on my bottom lip, a recent habit born of
nerves, I know we have to get him to a doctor soon. The fever won’t burn itself out, he needs
medical help, but that’s another of our problems: what doctor would treat him?
The barren lands past the fence are covered in thick white snow. They are flat, rolling out
for miles and miles, harshly beautiful and depressingly empty. It’s only after a certain point they
finally just disappear into the horizon, snow meeting sky, and I can’t see any farther. No matter
which way you look, it’s the same in every direction, except the one we came from. Even then,
once some distance spreads between us the white covered wall surrounding Rehab fades into
Despite it’s deceptively flat appearance, the ground isn’t nearly as level as it looks because
the truck keeps rattling and rolling all over the place, jostling us all about as though we’re toy
dolls. I’m not concerned about myself or the soldiers. We can all handle a bumpy ride, no
problem. Jacob is already in such a bad state though… I’m worried he won’t make it.
“Can’t we find a road?” I finally exclaim to Jasper, after the last bump in the road tosses
me into Alex, causing us both to grunt and my teeth to clack together, my tongue in perilous
danger of being bitten.
Jasper grimaces, doing his best to keep the truck as steady as possible without sacrificing
speed. It’s not easy on the snowy, icy ground. “Not really,” he grinds out, gritting his teeth.
Another bump throws me toward Jasper this time. I throw out a hand to catch myself,
rolling my eyes in exasperation. “Any particular reason?” I demand.
“Well,” Jasper starts dryly. “There is the one where any road we travel will be monitored
by the Elite.” He swerves sharply when he notices a large mound of snow ahead of us. I brace
myself against the dash to keep from sliding into Alex again, gritting my own teeth this time.
“Then there’s the one where you and lover boy over there are fugitives,” he adds,
motioning toward Jacob laying in the back. “Oh, and of course there’s that little problem of us
breaking you out.”
I feel anger building inside me, combating the fear and exhaustion that would otherwise
make me curl into a ball and cry. “Hey, you two,” I start, motioning to both Jasper and Alex, “are
the ones with a plan, remember?”
Alex straightens in his seat at that, his foot falling from the dash back down to the floor.
“Whoa,” he says, throwing his two cents in. “I did have a plan, one that would be working out
just fine if it weren’t for sleeping beauty back there.” He points with his thumb back toward
“Last I recall, on my end, there was a plan that did not involve two escapees,” Jasper adds.
“Well he is here,” I remind them finally, my voice strained with exhaustion and anxiety.
“And he needs medical attention. Now.”
Both Jasper and Alex look away, staring out the window at the whiteness surrounding us.
When no one says anything I realize finally just how bad things are. Even though I’ve gotten
Jacob out of that camp, I’m still not going to be able to save him. Not without help and a doctor.
I sit back gingerly, half expecting to be tossed in the air again, and fall silent. I don’t know
what else to say. Glancing back over my shoulder, I can’t help looking at Jacob for the zillionth
time. He’s still sweating profusely, hair plastered to his forehead in stringy wet clumps. Please let him be okay, I think to myself. But I know the mental plea is useless. I’m not
even sure who or what I’m pleading with. There’s no help in sight, just miles and miles of snow
that feels never-ending.
When I look forward once more, I see it. Through the windshield of the truck, off in the
distance I see something just barely visible through the hazy sky. At first, my heart sinks. I
squint, trying to bring whatever it is into focus. What if it’s another truck or an Elite checkpoint
we’re running right smack into? If it is, we’re done for, they’ll haul us right back to
Rehabilitation and throw us right back into that awful hole. What’s worse, this time they’ll throw
Alex and Jasper in too.
Guilt wracks me as I realize fully the risk I’ve put them both in. All of this just to save
Jacob, and it’s starting to look like he’s the one person who isn’t going to make it.
But when whatever is on the horizon looms closer—or rather, we get closer to it—I realize
“it” isn’t a truck and isn’t white at all. Not a checkpoint then. There’s a ring of fog up ahead
that’s making it difficult to see through, but whatever is visible on the horizon, it’s definitely a
darker color than the white Elite trucks and vans. It’s sharp edges jut out into the sky, and after a
moment I realize what it reminds me of.
The Old World ruins. My heartbeat quickens with a rush of hope and excitement.
“There,” I practically shout, pointing at it, now that I’ve identified what “it” is. The Elite
won’t be in the ruins. We can take Jacob there and— my thoughts skid to an abrupt halt.
I’m not quite sure what we’ll be able to do for him once we get there, but anything is better
than wandering around the wastelands aimlessly, with no real plan. Especially jostling about the
way we are in this truck. I’m kind of surprised he isn’t throwing up by now between the fever
and the rough ride.
“Where?” Jasper questions. Then he points in the same direction I just did. “You mean,
there?” His brows collide and his tone is incredulous, making it clear he’s not thrilled with this
idea. Either he doesn’t realize just what he’s looking at, or he knows exactly what it is and like
everyone else has been taught to fear it. I press my lips together.
“Yes,” I insist, impatient now that I can see potential salvation in sight. Jasper can’t take
any more, and I’m terrified if we don’t do something right now, I will lose him forever. “We can
rest for a while there and not worry about the Elite finding us. No one searches the Old World
ruins. They never do.”
Jasper busts out into hysterical laughter, shaking his head. He looks past me to Alex.
“She’s crazy. You’ve saved a damn crazy person, you know that?”
I frown, ready to jump in and argue, but Alex responds before I can get a word out. “Relax
Jasper. She’s from one of the outlying colonies. It’s not like she knows anything about it.”
Anger starts to boil inside me. “Excuse me?” I’ve been venturing into the Old World for
years! I most definitely know what’s out there. The burn of indignation heats my cheeks, and I
know they’re probably flushed bright red. But neither of the young men pay any attention to me.
They continue their conversation, talking right over the top of me as though I’m not even there. I
resist the urge to stomp my foot against the floorboard like a toddler.
“Well maybe you should explain to your backwoods companion how stupid an idea that is
I bristle even more at the backwoods comment and am just about to leap into the middle of
the argument and pick a fight with Jasper myself. Except when I look over at him and see his
face I realize with a flash of insight why he’s fighting so vehemently against my suggestion.
He’s afraid. It’s written all over his features, from the thin lipped frown down to his stiff
shoulders and white knuckles gripping the steering wheel.
“Look, maybe she’s got a point—” Alex concedes coming to my defense. I look over at
him in surprise, clamping my mouth shut.
But Jasper still isn’t having it. He shakes his head violently, his already white knuckled
grip on the steering wheel tightening even more. I can feel him next to me, rigid and stiff, his
body nearly vibrating he’s wound so tight. Through our entire debate, he has been veering
slightly to the left of the ruins, making it clear he has no intention of driving into them. Whatever
has him spooked is making it difficult for him to listen to reason—or take a good look at our lack
“No,” he insists, his flat tone firm with resolve. “There no reason strong enough to justify
going into a dangerous, radiation ridden zone. Did you even pay attention at all during our
history lessons? Don’t you remember what the war did to those places that bore the brunt of it?”
Alex rolls his eyes, though I can see his hand shake a bit and realize he’s scared, too. I’m
not entirely sure what radiation is, but I can guess it’s not a good thing and it definitely appears
to have something to do with the war.
“Oh, come on!” Alex brushes Jacob’s objections aside, trying to sound casual. His voice is
a little tight though, so his attempt doesn’t quite succeed. “That’s all just a bunch of rubbish used
to keep us out of them so we don’t go poking around in things they don’t want us poking around
Jasper only gives his head a vigorous shake, pelting Alex with a hard glare. “You really
want to be the one to test that theory?” he demands hotly. His voice cracks at the last, and I feel a
glimmer of sympathy in spite of my irritation. He’s really and truly scared, which kind of stumps
me. I’ve been inside the ruins countless times with no ill effects, so I just don’t get what the big
deal here is.
What Jasper says makes Alex fall silent though. He appears to consider things more
carefully. I clench my hands into tight fists, trying to rein in my emotions. Whatever this
radiation is, it’s obviously bad enough to make two Elite soldiers very afraid. Afraid enough to
contemplate getting caught and prosecuted by other soldiers rather than risk exposing themselves
“Look, I don’t know what this radiation stuff is,” I finally interject into the silence, when it
seems as though they have reached a stalemate. I try not to let my desperation tinge my voice.
“But I’ve gone into the Old World for years and nothing’s—”
As soon as it’s out of my mouth, both Jasper and Alex whip their heads around to stare at
me wide eyed, expressions wary.
“Wait. You’ve gone into the ruins?” Jasper asks, his voice carrying a mixture of awe and
My brow crinkles and I shrug, feeling weird beneath their sudden scrutiny. “Well, not these ones specifically,” I say, gesturing to them. “But there are some not too far from the Gate.
Me and Jacob…” I glance back at him, my anger crumbling beneath the weight of knowing how
poorly he’s doing. “We used to go all the time,” I finish, swallowing hard. “Nothing bad ever
happened to us.”
Jasper and Alex share a look. “And you never got sick?” Jasper questions, watching me
I shake my head, giving him a confused look. “No. Why would we?”
Neither Jasper nor Alex say anything for a while, and I swallow hard and have to forcibly
relax my face when I realize I’m grinding my teeth.
“What?” I finally demand, when they’ve been silent far too long. Exasperation gets the best
of me as I shift in truck’s seat, crossing my arms with a huff and leaning back. I look from one to
the other, lifting a brow in silent expectation.
They don’t answer me. Instead, Jasper stares ahead at the ruins rising up in the distance,
getting closer and closer by the minute. I notice his hands are no longer guiding us steadily away
from them. He’s relaxed his grip and we are driving in their general direction, although he’s
slowed down the pace considerably. “Do you think it’s misinformation?” He glances over Alex.
Alex shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know J,” he answers. “But it sure sounds like it to me.
And I wouldn’t put it past him.” I frown, wondering who “him” is.
The ruins have moved steadily closer while we argued over their safety. It won’t take us
long now to reach them. All we have to do is just continue in this direction and I know we’ll
make it there before dark…
“Are we really going to risk this?” Jasper interjects quietly into the truck’s silence,
interrupting my musings.
Again, Alex just shrugs, his careless smile back in place. “What choice do we have?” he
tosses back in return.
Jasper doesn’t answer. We all fall silent again, lost in our own thoughts as the truck makes
steady headway through the snow, creeping closer and closer to the ruins of the Old World
Unbelief Book 3 165 pages
She can't walk away now...
This plan—this crazy, stupid, impossible plan—could work. At the very least, it will serve to get the boys back into the folds of the Elite, so they don’t come to any harm for helping me.
And it’ll get me back inside so I can try to save my father—but then what? How will I get him out? We have no guarantees this will even work…
Sinna is headed back to Rehabilitation.
Like it or not, she doesn't see any other alternatives. She can't just pretend everything is okay, and hide out in the Garden.
But how will they get back there?
And what will happen when they do? Will they be able make it back out alive a second time?
Sinna isn't at all sure about any of it, but her conscience won't let her back out now.
After talking with Tawny, I don’t know how I’m supposed to go to this party and pretend
as though everything isn’t about to change drastically. She wouldn’t give me any details,
wouldn’t tell me what was going to happen next, but promised she would get us out of the ruins.
When I tell Alex and Jasper, they immediately want details, but I don’t have any to give them.
“We just have to wait,” I say, brushing out my hair and cleaning up as best as I can to look
presentable for the party. “Tawny said she could get us out of the city.”
Alex is relieved, although he’s still nervous about all of the Elite roaming around and of
course not being able to take the truck with us. But Jasper, he doesn’t look like he’s all that
happy with the answers I’ve offered.
“She wouldn’t tell you anything?” he asked for the third time since I’d come back to the
I sigh and shake my head. “No,” I say, yet again. “She wouldn’t give me any details, just
said to meet me after the party and that she would get us out of the city. Which means we need to
be ready to leave as soon as that happens.”
Jasper purses his lips together, looking just as upset over things as he did the first time I
announced it to him.
“How can we trust her?” he asks, pacing the small tent in agitation.
I turn to look at him, my hands going to my hips. “What do you mean, how can we trust
her?” I demand angrily. “These people took us in. Of course we can trust them!”
“That was before they realized that we brought the Elite with us,” he points out, stopping
his pacing to stare me down. “You never should have told her they were here.” He looks as
though he wants to curse, but restrains himself.
I shake my head at him. “How could I not? They need to know, so they can prepare.
There’s no guarantee we’ll make it out of here before they discover the Garden,” I tell him. It’s
such a dangerous situation and if anything happens to the Garden, and more importantly the
people in it, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive myself. They’ve done so much for us, and I
feel like we’re repaying them with nothing but mortal danger.
“Look, I’m sorry they’re being dragged into the middle of this,” he says, voice hard, but
beneath it I can sense he really does feel like it’s an unfair turn of events. “But the fact of the
matter is, we’ve seen only how these people handle peaceful situations. When you put someone’s
life at risk, there’s no telling how they’ll react. It’s like being thrown into a cage with a pack of
dogs. If they’re well fed, sure, you’re not in any danger. But starve them for a little bit?
Suddenly, you’re looking like a pretty damn good meal.” That time he does curse, and makes me
feel like cursing too, but I don't.
“I can’t believe you’re comparing them to animals!” I say to him instead, half-yelling. His
analogy is so offensive, so awful, especially when I think of Alessandra’s wisdom and kindness,
that I just want to shake him and tell him he’s being ridiculous and awful. Alex steps between us,
holding up his hands in a soothing manner and interjecting with, "Calm down, he didn't mean it
that way." I just glare at him, telling him silently to stay out of it.
Jasper runs his hand through his hair, the muscles in his jaw flexing. “You know what I
mean Sinna. In the end, people get farther and farther away from civilized behavior, the closer
they’re put to danger. Especially if they’ve never encountered it before.”
I fold my arms across my chest and grit my teeth. He’s being awful and ridiculous, I think,
but there’s a part of me that realizes he’s saying these things because he’s worried. About us and
about them. So I take a deep breath and struggle to calm down so we can talk about this
“Okay,” I say, speaking slowly and as calmly as possible. “I get it. You’re worried. But we
have to trust them right now. If we stay, no one wins. If we go, we have a chance, and they do
too. And Tawny knows that. She’ll help us get out of here, if only because it means helping her
Jasper considers my words for a long moment. He’s not one hundred percent convinced, I
can tell, but I know he’s a reasonable person. He's one of the most rational people I've ever
known. I’ve made a good argument, good enough that he nods his head finally and capitulates.
“Okay. What other choice do we have?”
We all agree just as the tent panel pulls aside and Jacob slips in. “I’m not interrupting, am
I?” he asks, looking at each of us in turn.
Jasper’s face shifts to a blank, calm expression, while Alex's face shifts to one of
annoyance. I turn to Jacob and offer him a smile. I know it's probably pretty weak. I shake my
head. “No. We were just trying to work out some details, that's all. I thought you were resting?”
He ignores my question and asks another one of his own. “About the plan you mean?” I
can tell he’s working hard to make sure we include him in what’s going on.
I hesitate for a moment. What do I tell him? I can’t tell him that Tawny’s going to help us
or that the Elite are in the city. If he knows these things, he’s going to start suspecting we’re
planning on leaving soon. And if he realizes we intend to leave tonight, things are going to get
He’ll never let us go without him. I almost feel like crying I feel so frustrated right now.
I open my mouth, not sure what I’m going to say to convince him nothing major is going
on, but before I get the chance, Jasper speaks up.
“We were talking about the truck,” he interjects calmly. He adds just a hint of worry and
frustration to his tone, making him sound incredibly believable, and I find myself unnerved by
how easily he can lie. “We still haven’t figured out where we’re going to find fuel for it, and
until we do, we’re not going anywhere. The truck’s on empty and it’s too far of a walk to get
back to the Elite on foot. Besides, they’d ask where the truck is.”
Jacob nods his head, understanding. “Maybe we could ask around the Garden?” he
suggests, thinking hard about the problem. “If anyone would know what’s in the city, they
I smile at Jacob, feeling a stab of guilt that I’ve created a problem for him we’re going to
just circumvent altogether, but what can I do? “That’s a good idea,” I agree, stepping closer to
put my hand on his arm.
He smiles back at me. “We can ask Tawny,” he continues. “She’ll be at the party tonight
I'm sure. Maybe we could ask her then.”
I freeze for a moment. The last thing I want him doing is talking to Tawny. Although she’s
on board with helping us, I’m not sure she’s okay with me leaving him here, especially if he
brings it up that he’s going with us. Quickly, I say, “No. Let’s not.”
He raises his eyebrows at me, surprised by my response.
Thinking quickly, I continue, “I just mean that it’s a party, you know? I don’t want to ruin
it by bringing up us leaving. And I definitely don’t want to create problems for them. Whatever
questions we have, they can wait until tomorrow, after the festivities.”
His eyes search my face, and for a moment, I worry he can sense my lie. We’ve always
been so in tune, so connected, I’m scared he can see right through my words.
But instead of calling me out as I fear, he only nods his head. “You’re right. That was
pretty selfish of me.” He gives a short laugh and rolls his eyes in self-deprecation. “I can’t
believe what a jerk I am sometimes.”
My heart hurts at his words, and I want object, to tell him there is nothing selfish about
him. He’s always been so kind, so generous and I’m the one who’s a terrible jerk. But I can’t tell
him that, so I paste a grin on my face and give his arm a squeeze, before poking him in the
shoulder playfully. “You’re not a jerk, Jacob.” It’s the best I can do right now.
He smiles back at me. “Thanks.”
Our eyes meet and I feel my cheeks flush with warmth. I’ve missed him so much, done so
much to get him back, and tonight… tonight I’m going to have to give him up, this time of my
own volition. My eyes drop down to his lips and for a moment all I want to do is close the
distance between us and…
“So. Are we going to the party, or what?”
Alex’s annoyed voice snaps me back to the present and I give Jacob a shy, silly smile,
looking away and feeling flustered. “Yeah, of course,” I say, moving past Jacob out of the tent,
dropping my eyes to the ground.
I peek up at him out of the corner of my eye as we walk, trying to see if he noticed how I
was looking at him just a moment ago, if he could sense what I was feeling. He seems normal,
the same old Jacob he’s always been, but on his cheeks I see the barest hint of red. For a brief
moment, I wonder if maybe he had wanted the same thing I had.
Jasper and Alex slip out of the tent, too, walking behind us for a bit, but when I look back
at them, only Alex is still following us. Frowning, I look around and spot Jasper walking in a
different direction. I meet Alex’s gaze, raising my eyebrows in question as to what Jasper is
doing. Alex doesn’t answer, looking over to Jacob first before mouthing, the truck.
I’m not sure what Jasper needs at the truck, but I don’t say anything. There’s a good
chance there’s a reason Jasper has ditched us and I don’t want to bring unnecessary attention to
him while Jacob’s around.
The party is at the courtyard in the middle of the dome. It’s dark outside now and there’s a
fire going in the very center where a pit has been set up. People are sitting in a circle around it.
Some are in chairs, some are sitting on the ground, while others are sitting on what looks to be
logs and concrete blocks painted in a variety of bright colors.
Alessandra is close to the fire right now, standing and talking to the people surrounding
her. She’s telling them a story, I realize as we approach.
Jacob leans down to me and whispers in my ear, “Let’s be quiet so we don’t interrupt her.”
His breath is warm against my skin and tickles my ear. The blush that has lingered on my
cheeks intensifies again, and I nod mutely, my mouth too dry to speak. Across the fire, I see
Tawny sitting with her friend Seth and a few others. They’re quiet, with serious expressions on
their faces. When she sees me, our eyes meet for a long moment. Though nothing is said, I feel
like an understanding has passed between us.
I steer Jacob deliberately away from her, finding a few empty seats near several of the
residents of the city. They welcome us with smiles, introducing themselves and explaining that
Alessandra is telling everyone a story about the old ways.
I expect Alex to sit with us, but instead he remains standing, leaning against a tree just at
the outskirts of the gathering. I frown, but don’t have time to wonder what his problem is or why
he's behaving so standoffish.
Jacob puts his arm around me and immediately I’m lost in his warmth. I let my eyes flutter
close, leaning against him and taking this moment for myself, allowing myself to enjoy it and
forget the worries of the day, just for now. The melodious sound of Alessandra’s kind voice
washes over me as she weaves her tale of the old ways.
Once, we were a people who lived with freedom. Freedom to exist as we were meant to
exist, to trust and love and believe as we were meant to. But this freedom existed in a broken
world, a world permeated with something called sin. We were speckled spots of brightness in an
otherwise dark land, a land unknowing of its own evil.
In the Old World the people were enveloped by the darkness. They didn’t realize it though,
mistaking the darkness for pleasures of luxury and entertainment. They were a people caught up
in the things and comforts of Old World, in the fleeting enjoyment of the moment, disregarding
or oblivious of the damage to their futures, the damage to their souls.
They were a race of indulgence, and even Believers were caught up in the very sin they
spoke out against. Their faith told them no, these ways were not His ways, but the web of those
who didn’t believe was wide and sticky, luring them in with false prophets, pagan beliefs
promoted as truths, and misguided notions of free-will coupled assurances of worldly happiness.
Believers and nonbelievers alike were seduced with promises of self-gratification, and
riches beyond measure. Insidiously, the treasures of the world, of a single lifetime, became more
important than the treasures of heaven and eternity, because the treasures of the world were
immediate and tangible, even if they were nothing more than lies.
The people succumbed to these lies, poor souls who let themselves fall prey to the mindset
and thinking of the damned, unaware or unconcerned with all they were giving up. And the more
they sought ideas of 'freedom', the more freedoms they lost, enslaved to the sin that blanketed the
Old World. Faith grew weak and lust for power grew strong. Soon, there were wars being fought
over the ideas of freedom, wars being fought in the name of God, and it wasn't long before the
Old World became hopelessly divided and torn asunder.
This was when the Elite saw their opportunity. They had been waiting patiently in the
wings for the moment the Old World would begin to crumble beneath its own follies. When it
finally did, they realized they had their opening to seize power, and they moved swiftly.
They created a Council. A Council of Reason, made up of men and women who judged the
world by their own rules. Rules created not based on the moral laws of God, centered around
love for humanity, but rules erected and made unto laws created by the minds of weak men.
Rules and laws made under the limited scope and frailty of human understanding, rather than
humankind's limitless and perfect Creator. They condemned the Belief that drove people to war.
They scoffed at Believers, and made them out to be mad, Believing in something that could not
be seen or touched, or proven to the Old World's satisfaction. After experiencing so much death
and destruction already, many willingly accepted their decrees in a desperate attempt to find
peace for themselves and their families.
This opened a door that could not be closed and the Great War came about then,
swallowing the Old World in fire and poison. All those who opposed the Elite were destroyed.
The rest bowed in submission.
Except for this city. Alessandra's voice is ringing out proudly now as she wraps up her
story, a thread of steel in her tone I'd never heard from her before. This city is little more than
ruins now, a place left behind like a gravestone, marking the lives and deaths of the people from
so long ago. But we are here still. We are here, alive and well, because we are the descendants of
those brave few people who would not leave their home. Those people who Believed so strongly
in their God and their home and their faith that they could not be swayed to abandon any of
They survived so we could stand here today, a beacon of hope for those still lost to the
false, damning ways the work so hard to Elite enforce. To those still lost to Unbelief.
And we will always be here to help those in need, to welcome those running from the evil and
pain of the New World, from the soul destruction of the Elite and their regime.
God Wars: The Beginnings
Unbelief Book 4 188 pages
In the Beginning...
Believing wasn’t always a crime.
Faith in God wasn’t always illegal.
In the glory days of the Old World, there were many who lived out their faith in full view of all, and taught their children, and their children’s children about God, their beloved Creator.
In those days, prayer was still allowed in schools, church was still held on Sundays with picnics and family get togethers afterward, and the spare change that jangled in everyone’s pockets still carried the words ‘In God We Trust’.
Then the God Wars happened. Life was never the same again.
This is a prequel. It's highly recommended to read the Unbelief Trilogy first.
When Ed Mullens dies, Sam Jackson is forced to accept the fact that all the men he trusts,
the only men he trusts, are getting old. He sighs. He has a new executive assistant these days,
Dennis Lyle, but he can’t say that he trusts him all that much. Not like he did old Ed Mullens.
Lyle doesn’t have the kind of dedication Sam expects of those privy to his inner circle. To
Dennis, this is just a job. Sam is fast approaching his eighties and his biggest wish is that he still
had the clarity of mind he’d possessed in his younger years. He’d always taken his sharp mind
for granted, and that’s never been more apparent than now, while his circle is shrinking.
Dennis is fast becoming a great disappointment. He has none of the qualities of his father
who had been the town mayor before he died. Lyle’s father knew and understood the value of
science and forward thinkers. He had been agreeable to relying on experts in various fields of
study for input and feedback regarding refinement of processes, and of pioneering new
endeavors felt to be essential to growing a strong and progressive society.
His son Dennis... not so much. In fact, Jackson is certain he doesn’t comprehend, much
less support the value of science at all. The only upside is that he hasn’t thrown his lot in with the
Believers either. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have a leaning in either direction, which is
annoying in it’s own right. “Maddening,” Jackson mutters. The man truly seems to have no
personality at all.
When Sam realized years ago that damned snoop David Moore had been hovering around
his house the day the secret council held their first meeting, his first instinct had been to kill him
then and there. “You have to crush the head of the snake while it’s still small,” he said at the
Robb, the chicken-livered wimp that he is, thought it would be a better idea to just fire the
man and discredit him. Jackson’s thin lips curl with remembered disgust. In the long run, he’d
grudgingly admitted that Robb's plan turned out all right. Moore made no trouble for anyone
once he’d been fired, and it didn’t take a lot of effort to help the man's reputation plummet. Once
he’d realized his big break wasn’t around the next bend, he’d retreated into a sodden state of
drunkenness. Sam smiles. From there it was nothing to share the gossip of David’s drunkenness
in the right circles and let human nature take its course. Moore was neutralized in no time.
Still, sometimes in the middle of the night, Sam loses sleep wondering what kind of trails
Moore might have left behind him. But he knows it’s useless to worry. Besides, enough time has
passed that even if something were to show up, it simply wouldn’t be possible to discredit the
Elite Group. It’s nothing more than a think tank comprised of some of the finest minds of the
century. An aura of sanctity has been carefully cultivated, and new, fresh minds are brought in
all the time, originating from some of the brightest and best graduate science programs around
Tonight, sitting in his condo suite, Sam has some measure of the peace he has always
sought. The people who look after him are well trained in everything from feeding him to
keeping his life organized. It had been difficult to let go of some of the reins of power when they
first began establishing the Elite Group, but somehow he’d managed. They’d paid top dollar for
top service and that’s exactly what they got. These days, they have the best cadre of scientists,
technical gurus and military intelligence money can buy.
Sam smiles again, pleased with himself. Governmental issues can be so easily controlled,
it’s almost laughable. All due to situations that are manufactured to achieve a desired outcome,
and key information that is disseminated to the right people the right time, for a specific purpose.
What’s that old saying, information is power? Indeed it is. Jackson chuckles quietly, the sound
getting stuck in his aging throat and morphing into a hacking cough.
He spits into a hanky, and stares out the window, blind to the golf courses that spread out
along the borders of his property and the golfers swinging their clubs. His gaze searches his
driveway, looking to see if any cars have pulled in yet. Jackson asked his cronies to come to visit
him this evening.
Rossi is losing it and it’s only out of courtesy for the old crook's past contributions to the
Elite Group that has Sam continued to include him in their planning sessions. Robb is laid up in
intensive care. His black old heart is failing him, which isn’t a surprise. Bob Reiger is mercifully
still at the top of his game. Gareth W. Pelzman... well, that there’s another issue altogether.
Gareth is younger than any of them but he has always been a law onto himself. Definitely the
wild card of the bunch.
Dennis Lyle enters the room and asks if he can be of any assistance. Lyle is a married man
and he has a couple of bright sons who appear to be far smarter than their father will ever be. So
unfortunate. Inwardly, Jackson sneers. Outwardly, he smiles graciously and says, “Please, take
the night off, Dennis. Go home to that beautiful wife of yours and relax. We're just going to have
a little poker session here and reminisce over our glory days.”
Dennis is married to Albert Rossi's daughter and she’s beautiful if you like thick-lipped,
big-breasted women with empty heads and little to say. The only reason Sam hired Dennis is
because Albert had made it clear it was the ‘right’ thing to do. That along with being Mayor,
Lyle's son made Dennis a good choice. Or so they thought.
He’s adequate, Sam supposes. At least for the kinds of tasks related to the Jackson persona
he presents to the world. Sam frequently attends gala fund-raising events but entertains very
little. When his old cronies show up at his place, to anyone who may be watching, they are just a
tight-knit group of crotchety old men enjoying retirement. Dennis, for his part, does what he’s
told and doesn’t ask questions. Mostly because he doesn’t have the kind of inquisitive nature that
demands answers. That kind of nature could be highly problematic for the great minds behind the
new social order, so there’s something else to be thankful for.
The other three men show up as Dennis is leaving. Albert takes a few minutes to chat to his
son-in-law and provide well-meaning advice on the care and rearing of his grandsons. Bob and
Gareth come and sit down with Sam. Before Albert joins them, Gareth cackles, “Maybe God is
on our side after all!”
Sam glares at him, wordlessly asking him a question.
Gareth shakes his head good-naturedly. “That flood. A natural disaster. It took out
thousands along the Bible Belt. A few more ‘acts of God’ as they like to call ‘em, and we could really wipe out those persistent pockets of Jesus-lovers.” It amuses Gareth to mock the narrowminded
religion of the people he knew when he was a child. “Trust in God,” his grandmother
said. Their so-called God took away his family one by one and left him a helpless child, a lonely
orphan with an aging set of grandparents who barely knew who the president was at the time.
Albert enters the room and shakes his head. “I'm glad my grandsons inherited their
mother's brains. That husband of hers is a pretty poor excuse of a man,” he announces.
Sam Jackson glowers at him. “Well, I'm sooo grateful you persuaded me to hire him as my
most valuable employee,” he grumbles sarcastically.
Albert waves a hand in the air. “Oh you know he is competent, Sam. He just doesn't have
any oomph to him, that’s all. No guts, no glory, eh boys?” Albert snickers, plopping his aging
body into an empty chair near the poker table.
Gareth drums his fingers on the tabletop, waiting for the side conversation to end. When it
doesn’t, he butts in, booming as well as he can with his aging voice, “I was thinking that perhaps
we could learn something from this natural disaster, gentleman.”
* * * MARGARET MOORE
Margaret Moore celebrates her fortieth birthday quietly. It’s a day that should be
celebratory but in reality, it’s now only a day of sadness. Her father had died on his way home
from spending her birthday with her and her son, little David. Or, as she calls him, Davey. She
blinks, shaking her head. It’s hard to believe fifteen years have passed since that dreadful day.
Today, Davey is helping with the flood damages that have wreaked so much havoc on the
towns along the lower Mississippi. So, it seems like a natural day to spend time remembering her
father. Other than her son, she has no other family. Her mother died last year from a heart attack.
At least Davey telephoned her to wish her happy birthday. Margaret smiles as she looks at the
photo of her son, holding a prominent spot on the wall near the front entrance. He is such a handsome boy.
Unbidden, she has an immediate second thought and has to convince herself it’s not an
irreverent one. She clucks her tongue, mentally chiding herself. But if she’s being honest, Davey
is proof positive that God has a sense of humor. Just like most firstborn children she’s ever
known, Davey is the spitting image of his father. A weird phenomenon, but she’s convinced the
first child a woman has inevitably looks like the father, whereas the second tends to look like the
mother. Whether that holds true or not with everyone, only God knows. But that was certainly
the case with young Davey, much to her chagrin. When Margaret found out she was pregnant,
she realized almost immediately that she didn’t want to marry the man who got her pregnant.
The man who in fact, had been her boyfriend for nearly two years prior. He’d been great fun and
all, and she’d liked him well enough, but he just wasn’t the kind of man you chose to bind
yourself to for the long haul.
Maybe it isn’t God's sense of humor but merely a pointed reminder that having a child with
someone binds the two of you together forever in an intangible but undeniable way. She’d lost
touch with Davey's father years ago, and sometimes feels bad about that. Occasionally she is
reminded how arrogant of her it has been of her to deprive Davey of a father.
Margaret and her mother had been close but she always knew that she and her father had
shared a special bond. After her parents divorced, she and her father developed a different sort of
relationship. It became more mature and their discussions often became intense and highly
political. This was partially because she had been sixteen at the time and it had become easier to
run his radical ideas by a sixteen year old who could intelligently argue back, than it had been to
have such discussions with a ten year old.
Her father had been on the road for much of Margaret's childhood, covering stories and
seeking out deep secrets and hidden agendas. He was a crusader for good, her mother always
said. Even still, she divorced him. She’d been lonely for one thing, living on her own and raising
a child. She also once admitted years later that she’d been afraid too. “Your father never had any
fear of the repercussions of sticking his nose in business it didn’t belong in, but I did.”
The reports after her father's fatal accident claimed it was caused by drinking and driving.
But Margaret knew better. He'd had one glass of wine at her birthday party. He was not drunk
when he left her and Davey and began the hour-long drive back to his own home. He had
however, been agitated and distracted, which she supposed could have resulted in the accident.
The media reports were highly skewed, she was certain. She always knew that for some reason,
the head of Robb Media hadn’t liked her father, even after the years of excellent service he’d
provided for that company. Because of that, she chalked the negative reports up to journalistic
chicanery and the whimsy of an antagonistic ex-boss.
For whatever reason, the newspapers sought to blacken his memory as much as they could.
Margaret possesses her mother's personality and she has always been much less inquisitive than
her father. She could definitely see him driving too fast, obsessed with whatever thoughts were
tormenting him that day, and losing control of his car. Despite that, part of her knows if only
she’d been more like her father, she’d have seen a plot behind his death and she’d have pursued
that plot, looking for the truth.
Margaret roams restlessly around her living room and looks out the front window. Eyes
turned inward, blind to the present world, she thinks back to that day his car had pulled into her
driveway. He’d opened his trunk and pulled out one enormous box. It was plain, made of
cardboard. She’d thought at first it was her birthday present, especially when that was the only
thing he’d carried into the house.
She’d pushed the door open wide, ushering him in and said, “Oh is that for me?”
He’d set the box down in her hallway and replied, “No. This is.” Then he’d reached into
his pocket pulled out a small package that he handed to her. She fingers the locket around her
neck. That had been her gift. A solid gold locket.
He’d given the box a small kick with his foot. “This is just some papers I'd like to store
here. Old research and a lot of memories.” His tone was reflective.
When she’d looked at him with a questioning gaze, he’d elaborated. “I'm downsizing and
sorting out some things. I'll have more stuff I'd like to store here, if you don’t mind. Oh, and is
there any furniture of mine you have a particular liking for?” She’d felt something then, some
frisson of unease. Maybe it had been God forwarning her of what was to come.
The box turned out to be full of family pictures, along with an old antiquated Bible, the
heavy kind with the gold-edged pages. It also held congratulatory cards that had been sent to her
parents on her birthday – her original birthday, the actual day she was born. There had also been
a file folder with a thick stack of articles neatly typed and stapled together.
When she had to close up her father's apartment after the accident, she and her mother
went through that box together. They’d laughed and cried and reminisced. Then they’d each
chosen which mementos they wanted to keep to remember him by. Margaret’s heart aches as she
remembers her mother’s words that day. “Sweetheart, you know I loved him too,” she’d
All I could think of to say back was, “I know, Mom. And he loved you.”
At the end of it all, her mother took some of the furniture and Margaret took all his files
and his old typewriter. Now, on her fortieth birthday, Margaret thinks of that Bible and the
typewriter, both of which are on display in her front hall, set lovingly on a narrow, long-legged
She thinks again of the boxes of papers stored in her garage and the file folder she has
stuck in among the taller books on her bookshelf. All the family photos she and her mother had
diligently arranged in properly labeled albums.
Now, with Davey gone for her birthday, Margaret wonders if this was how lonely her
father had felt. Downsizing? He’d lived in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment. How far did he plan
to downsize, exactly? She remembers he often used to tease her about having absolutely no sense
of curiosity. He always credited her mother with giving her genes that kept her from sticking her
nose into dangerous places.
Feeling suddenly as though she’d let him down somehow, Margaret looks up toward
heaven and whispers, “I'm sorry, Dad.” Then she gets up and refills her wine glass. Letting her
instincts guide her, she wanders over to her bookshelf and pulls the file folder down from where
it has been stuffed for fifteen years.
She opens the folder and the first stapled collection of papers that catches her eye is one at the
back. It has a front page of yellow lined paper littered with her father's distinctive handwriting.
Bold big letters in thick black pen strokes. The rest of it is typewritten.
C.B. Stone is sometimes called author, writer, or purveyor of stories. One might even dub her a yarn spinner if you will. It's very possible she might be considered just a little left of normal by most, but she's cool with that. Really, she's too busy avoiding normal to care. On any given day, you might find Stone pounding away at a keyboard in sunny Florida, contemplating waves, contemplating life and dreaming up more exciting stories to share with readers.
Except Sunday's of course. Sunday's are God's day, so you'll often find her making her best "joyful noise" with her local church praise team. When not pounding poor fingers to bloody nuggets and reinventing the definition of eye strain, C.B. Stone enjoys living it up, doing the family thing, the kid thing, and the friend thing. And in her downtime, reading the minds of fans.