The crowd surged forward, eyes shining and eager hands outstretched.
“We’re going to pass the toilet paper out equitably,” Carly said. “Divided up by household.”
“That ain’t fair. Some households have more people than others!”
“Maybe everyone should get a share, not just households.”
“Adults and kids? What about Dagny? She’s just a baby, and babies don’t use toilet paper, so why should she—”
“Jesus, people.” Justin rubbed his face. “Look, there are twenty-seven of us—”
“Twenty-three,” Carly said softly. “The Swintons left, and then we lost Kross.”
Justin grimaced. “I’m sorry. Twenty-three of us. There are three cases of thirty-six rolls here. That makes one hundred and eight rolls, divided by twenty-three. Four rolls apiece. We’ll distribute it that way.”
“There’s sixteen rolls left over. Who gets those?”
Justin took a deep breath. “We’ll keep them in reserve, okay?” He glared around at the group. “There may be more people coming this way in the future now that—” He stopped because he didn’t need to say that travelers and traders might start coming around again now that Marcus’s men weren’t preying on them, and once the bad reputation this area had gotten began to dissipate.
“Any problems with that? Good.” Justin tore open the plastic wrappers and began to distribute it to the eager hands that reached into the wagon.
“It’s like being a kindergarten teacher,” Justin muttered to Carly when the last of the crowd had scurried away with their bounty. “Good grief, none of them even asked for the food.”
“The person who reinvents a way to produce toilet paper is going to be the richest person in the wasteland,” Carly said.
She turned and found the Reverend standing by, Dagny in his arms. She was chewing on her favorite toy, a set of plastic keys that she held out to Carly in an offer to share.
Carly took her baby into her arms and kissed her plump little cheeks. “No, thank you, sweetie, but thank you for offering.”
“Mom mom.” Dagny snuggled her forehead into Carly’s neck.
“I’m home now,” Carly said. “Sorry I had to leave you.”
“Where is Kross?” the Reverend asked.
Kaden was sitting on the end of the wagon, silent, staring off into the distance. The Reverend eyed Kaden for a moment and then rubbed his chin. “I see.”
“There were more,” Carly said. “More people. Beside Marcus’s crew, I mean. There were . . . victims.”
“The whole damn place is a blight on the earth.” Justin’s jaw clenched, and Carly saw that hard glitter in his obsidian eyes. “Cursed.”
The Reverend gazed at Carly. “Did it convince you that what you’ve done was right?”
“I don’t know about right,” Carly said. “But I know it was the only thing that could be done. What I’m asking you about is . . . they didn’t have any kind of funeral, and I feel like I should . . .”
“The dead don’t really need prayer, Carly. The prayers are for those who have to live on. But I’ll say a few words for them at our next Sunday service.”
She gave him a brief smile. “Thank you.”
Carly shrugged into the baby carrier, and Dagny kicked her legs in excitement. She said something that sounded like home, but it might have been hum, mum. Carly turned her head to smile at her and said, “Yes, going home.”
She took Shadowfax’s bridle, but before she could begin to draw the horse toward home, Justin leaned over to murmur in her ear. “I’ve got something I need to do before dinner.”
Carly suppressed a sigh. Didn’t he always? But this was the life she had chosen for them. “Go on. I’ll have your plate waiting for you.”
He smiled and kissed her before pecking a kiss on the top of Dagny’s head. She let out a little squeal and reached for him, but Justin just gave her a little wave.
Carly watched as Justin headed across the commons and wondered where he was going. She supposed she’d find out soon enough, so she and Kaden started down the street.
Shadowfax apparently felt that Carly wasn’t giving her enough attention and nibbled playfully at Carly’s shoulder while Carly led her toward the barn. Dagny laughed as the horse’s breath tickled the top of her head.
“Let me take Dagny,” Kaden said, eyeing the horse with eyes sharpened by caution, and Carly agreed, slipping the baby carrier from her shoulders. As much as she loved her animals, she knew they could hurt the toddler without meaning to, and they had to be careful.
Carly kept pushing Shadowfax away, but the mare would dart in as soon as Carly’s eyes drifted away and start again. Carly stopped the wagon to give her a hug. Shadowfax laid her head over Carly’s shoulder and lifted a foreleg to hook it around Carly’s hip.
“Whoa,” Kaden said. “What is that?”
“It’s the way she hugs people,” Carly said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Well, she’s a special girl.” Carly patted Shadowfax’s neck.
“No, I think Justin’s right about you. You’re some kind of animal whisperer.”
Carly laughed “Not quite.” She drew back, and Shadowfax turned her large head to gaze at Carly with one large brown eye. Carly stroked her velvety soft nose. “I’m sorry, girl. We’ll be able to spend more time together now. Sam’s mad at me, too, you know.”
She scratched the itchy place in Shadowfax’s mane near the top of her head, and Shadowfax gave a soft snort of enjoyment.
“I’ll put Shadowfax away,” Kaden said, taking over Carly’s grip on the horse’s halter and handing Dagny back to her. She propped Dagny on her hip and eyed him with speculation.
“Thanks. You okay?”
She raised an eyebrow. “No, really.”
“I will be.” Kaden shuffled his feet against the grass. “That’s the way it is, you know? You have to be okay these days.”
She gave him a hug, awkwardly with one arm but full of love nonetheless. “You don’t have to be okay all the time, you know? And when you’re not okay, we can talk about it. It really is better if you do. Ask Justin. He’ll be the first one to tell you that keeping it all bottled up inside isn’t a good idea.”
Kaden gave her a slight smile. “Yeah, but he still does it.”
“He’s working on it.” Carly bumped his shoulder with her own, and his smile grew. “Come inside when you’re done with the animals, and I’ll make you some dinner.”
“Okay.” Kaden headed toward the barn and then paused. He looked back over his shoulder. “Carly?”
She nodded. “Any time.”
~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot…though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.
She is the author of four other novels, Ghostwriter, The End of All Things, its sequel, The Land of the Shadows, and Under These Restless Skies.
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Praise for Shadows Have Gone
“I laughed, I cried, I was gently amused, but what could I expect? Times are tough, no one is trustworthy and yet there is a sweet innocence about some characters that hit you right between the eyes; they are always so positive and wanting to see the best in others. Once again, Lissa Bryan has taken the handoff from a previous book and run with it at breakneck speeds with barely a misstep in sight!” – Dianne Goodreads Review
~~OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES~~
After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly Daniels, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food. With her is Sam, a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. He becomes her companion and a reason to continue when giving up sometimes seems like the more attractive option. Still dazed with shock and grief, she hopes for the world to go back to normal soon.
She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.
Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.
But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.
This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.
Tales from the End Book 1.5
The Horsemen L.A.’s mayor has declared quarantine to try to halt the spread of the Infection. Pearl sets off across the city to buy supplies, but already the world is changing. Something strange is in the air. The Horsemen are coming …
When Veronica’s mother doesn’t come home from work and no one answers the phone when she calls for help, a nine-year-old girl is thrown into the chaos of a world coming to an end. Veronica decides it’s up to her to find her family. “Veronica” is the story of a little girl’s courage in the face of the end of all things. “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
They called her Shadowfax– the mare Carly and Justin found on their travels. But before she was found by Carly, the retired dressage horse was known as Cloud. An unusual tale of the end, told through the eyes of a confused and lonely horse, left in her pasture. Birthday
(A previously-published bonus story.) Carly knows Justin has never celebrated his birthday, and after society crumbled, no one knows what date it is, anyway. But she wants to do something special for him. Celebrating the little things helps them keep hope alive, and as a blizzard rages outside, a small gesture of love warms their home.
Tales of courage, tales of survival… Tales from the End.
The Land of The Shadow Book 2
After surviving the Infection and a perilous journey through the wasteland that was once the United States, Carly and Justin have found a safe home in the isolated town of Colby. Even so, balancing the duties of survival and a growing family isn’t easy. As they emerge as leaders, they face difficult questions about justice in a lawless land, basic human rights, and freedom in a world where strength defines worth. More than ever, they have to rely on one another for strength and support during the darkest of times.
The Crisis is far from over. Their fences won’t keep the world out forever, and a new threat is emerging—a gang of predators who see the town as easy pickings. When danger looms over Colby, Carly must decide how far she’ll go to protect those she loves. It’s a journey down the long and broken road through The Land of the Shadow.
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