Chapter 1: Aftermath
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
Vivid flashbacks of the day the asteroid hit had always
haunted me. Not only because the asteroid demolished the
world I knew, but because it led to The Great Famine, a
deceitful murderer ten times worse than the asteroid itself.
Two things had circled around my mind in constant
rotation when I thought about my last day on the earth I
knew. The loud, deafening cry my mother let out, when the
leader of our nation made the announcement that we were
all doomed. And the actual sight of the asteroid, with the
circumference of a small strip mall, when it breached our
atmosphere. It blazed bright orange and muted yellows
flames trailed behind it as it sailed across the powdery blue
Plopping down on my porch swing that day, I
marveled at the asteroid. My mouth had dropped open and
I kept my eyes on the cratered monstrosity, lost in a trance
as it passed over my house. Even though I knew the
amount of destruction the asteroid would cause, I still
found it beautiful. The bright colors reminded me of a
brilliant display of fireworks shot off on the Fourth of July.
Our neighborhood was like an intersection in an
overpopulated city. People were frantic, running from their
houses to their cars, grabbing everything they could. Police
officers were parked in between the cluster of people and
cars, shouting from megaphones, blaring their sirens, and
shooting off rounds of bullets into the air, trying to take
control of the situation. But it didn't matter, because
nothing they did worked.
One of the men in the street clubbed a police officer
on the side of the head with a baseball bat. Then, the people
who didn't have cars trampled all over the poor police
officer, trying to evacuate. Terrifying screams played out
like a song on the radio. And in just seconds, the amount of
people in the street doubled.
My parents didn't panic like all of our other
neighbors. Yes, my mother had been startled and yes, she
had screamed. But my parents were focused and set a plan
in motion. Only seconds after the President finished his
speech, my father was out the back door in a flash with a
shovel in his hand.
I'd glanced at my mother, confused. "Where is he
"To build our new home," she answered solemnly.
"Where at?" The President had informed us that the
asteroid would have breached our atmosphere in six hours.
As I watched more of our neighbors flee, I'd
squinted, puzzled as to why they thought it was necessary
to shout and carry on like escapees from a mental
institution. Did they think panicking was going to help
their situation? Would spouting off like lunatics save them?
Now, as I looked back on that day, I understood.
Nobody expected a global apocalypse. Nobody
expected a massive ball of molten, burning rock to fall
from the heavens and disintegrate anything and everything
we knew. And most of all, nobody expected The Great
Famine to sneak in, like a thief in the night and leave the
remainder of the human population, starving and mad.
Everything had been wiped out. All of the houses,
buildings, and skyscrapers, that were once carefully crafted
wonders had become heaped over piles of rubble. Cars
spontaneously combusted as a result of too much
radioactivity. Plants died from the earth's soil being
tainted. And shortly after that, the animals died, leaving
what was left of the human population to rot from the
At the time, I'd thought people would have been
more educated on what to do if a catastrophe struck. But
people weren't educated. And because they weren't
educated, they weren't prepared. They were ignorant. Now,
two and a half years into The Great Famine, everyone is
hopeless and lost, left to fend for themselves.
The following two months after the asteroid hit
were dismal and depressing. My father had constructed this
tiny underground home for us, but it wasn't completed and
we spent most of our time huddled together, wearing
surgical masks, and going without food for days at a time.
Honestly, thinking back, if we would have continued on
like that, I was certain that within a few months, our
carcasses would have been rotting on the side of the road
with most of the other survivors.
The name of the state I used to live in was
Nebraska. And the city used to be Lincoln, the capitol.
Now it was nothing. There were only fourteen surviving
families left. Fifteen if you counted mine.
It had been a long time since I breached the surface
of the world above. My parents wouldn't allow it. So, as far
as I knew, the survivors that remained were savages. I'd
seen a few things while our colony was being built, and
most of the inhabitants left ran wildly through the bare,
desert terrain, filth covering them from head to toe, bones
protruding through their leathery skin, foam dripping from
their mouths in search of one thing…
A high pitched squeal pulled me from my thoughts.
My time reminiscing about the past was over the
second my kid sister, Frankie waltzed through the door. I
rolled over on my cot as she plopped down next to me,
sitting Indian style on the concrete floor. "What's up,
"Were you sleeping?" Frankie was short for
Francesca. The name suited her. She was a short, petite
brunette that made the word enthusiastic seem like an
I propped my head up. "No," I commented. "I'm
She raised an eyebrow. "Thinking? About what?"
I let out a long winded sigh. "I don't know, Frankie,
just things." I didn't feel like elaborating.
Suddenly, Frankie, shot up off the floor like a
cannonball barreling out of a cannon. I flung myself
backwards startled by her spontaneous gesture. "Did Mom
let you have coffee today?" I inquired. She was hyper by
nature. She didn't need the added caffeine.
Frankie paced back and forth across the small room,
then giddily clapped her hands. "No," she squealed. "But I
have the most exciting news!"
I waited for her to go on with the story. "Well,
come on. Spit it out."
She stopped pacing, faced me and giggled out in
delight. "We're all being invited to the council meeting
tomorrow!" She went on. "Can you believe it? After all this
time we are finally going to see what goes on inside of a
I nodded. "Yeah."
Four months after the apocalypse we banded
together with the fourteen other families. The members
helped my father expand our underground home into a
colony, with tunnels that led to each family's household.
Shortly after that, they formed our colony council.
Once a week, the heads of each household met for a
council meeting. Only the heads of each household
attended the meetings. They never invited any family
members. So I found it odd that were inviting everyone
There were a number of reasons why the families
could be invited. They may have learned of some
advancement on new earth. Maybe there were less toxins in
the air now. Or they could be calling us in to give us some
bad news. That maybe our food supply was running low or
that they caught someone committing a crime. My gut told
me, whatever the council was planning, wasn't necessarily
good. I sat up some. "Where did you hear about the
families being invited?"
"I overheard Dad talking to Mr. Baker."
My father's involvement in the council worried me.
He was so kind, trusting, and easily impressionable. I
scowled at the idea of a weasel like Mr. Baker, a man who
was always sneaking around, planting some stupid idea
into his head. My father wasn't a natural leader but, he did
start this colony so he had to be included. I crossed my
legs. "Well, what else did he say?"
Frankie cocked her head to the side. "That's all I
really got. Dad said and I quote, 'we'll have to invite all of
the family members.'"
Seconds later my mother strolled into our room.
"Dinner is in ten minutes." She turned to leave.
Then I got up from the bed. "Mom, wait!"
My mother stopped, turned around and faced me
and Frankie. "What is it, dear?"
I spoke up. "Frankie heard something about the
families being invited to a council meeting."
My mother turned away from me, looking sternly at
Frankie. "Francesca, were you eavesdropping again?"
Spots of pink appeared on Frankie's ivory cheeks.
She stepped backwards, glancing between me and
Frankie. "Well, as far as I know, the topic is all really hush-
hush. But yes the families are being invited to the council
I narrowed my eyes. "And you swear, you have no
idea what for?" Even though she said she didn't know, I
knew sometimes she lied about certain things. She said she
did it to protect us.
She made an x across her heart. "Sweetheart, I
swear. I have no idea."
My mother turned to leave, giving Frankie another
hard look. "Francesca, you better start minding your own
business or I'm going to have to lock you in this room. You
Frankie rolled her eyes. "Yes, mother." Frankie
glanced at me as my mother walked out of the room. "How
is she going to lock me in? We don't even have a door."
"Believe me," I harrumphed. "She would find a way.
* * *
On the way to the mess hall, I brushed passed
MayVickers. "Sorry, May!" I shouted apologetically.
May kept her eyes on the floor, lost in a trance and
didn't look up. She hadn't been the same since her
daughter, Monica disappeared.
The council had set up some rules for the rest of the
colonists to follow. They maintained their importance
because it made our new life underground operate
Rule number one: You could not steal another colonist's food.
Our supplies underground were limited and
greediness was not tolerated. In fact, if you were caught
stealing, the punishment was severe. First, you were kept in
solitary confinement in a little room called the hole. You
had to stay in that hole, submerged in complete darkness
without food or water for three days. The punishment was
created to remind the guilty party what life outside of our
little world was like.
Second, after you were pulled out of the hole, you
were given lashings. One for each item that you stole.
Dylan Edwards once stole three eggs from the Baker
family. After he received his punishment, he lifted his shirt
to show me the deeply rooted lashing marks that stretched
horizontally across his back. As I fanned my fingers across
his scarred flesh, I shuddered. There was no way in hell I
was stealing anyone's food.
Rule number two: You could not, under any circumstances, leave the colony and venture out into what remained of earth unless instructed.
Monica Vickers disappeared about six months ago.
I was told that her curiosity was eating her alive. That she
was so desperate to peak outside that she just left our
world, never looking back.
Every week, gatherers were sent out in search of
supplies. That was different. They were given permission
to leave. But if anyone was like Monica and just wanted to
see what was out there, well, they should have seriously
considered digging themselves an early grave.
A twinge of remorse struck my heart whenever I
saw May, wandering around like a lost soul. But these rules
were made for a reason. They had to be followed. There
could be no exceptions because with exceptions came
Rule number three: You could not give food to outsiders.
Yes, there were outsiders. Mostly people that
traveled from other cities and states in hopes of finding
some kind of rescue or refuge. Sometimes, it bothered me
that we never invited them in. "You'd better erase that
thought from your mind, Georgina Carver!" my mother
would say. "Food is scarce and we have too many mouths
to feed as it is!"
"But, what if they need help?"
"They could be cannibals. We can't risk it!"
I didn't bring up the subject of outsiders too often.
It wasn't a subject my mother or anyone else liked to talk
about. And the punishment for feeding an outsider was….
Well, I honestly never knew because no one had
ever done it.
The members of the council made it perfectly clear
that if we were caught feeding an outsider, the punishment
would be more severe than any of us just stealing food. I
don't think anyone needed them to elaborate. Fear was
already instilled us after we saw Dylan Edwards being
whipped. Nobody wanted to experience a punishment
worse than that.
I caught up with my father as he walked down the
wide, muddy corridor with Mr. Baker. I reached out,
tugging on his arm. "Daddy."
He waved goodbye to Mr. Baker and wrapped his
arm around my shoulder. "What is it, Georgie?"
I pulled away from him, lacing my arm through his.
"What can you tell me about this meeting?"
He craned his head around, looking behind us.
"There's no point, Dad. Mom already yelled at her."
"I've got to start looking out for her and learn to
watch what I say when she's around."
Frankie was one of those kids that was like a talking
parrot. She couldn't keep a secret. And if she was in
hearing range of your conversation, she would repeat
whatever you said.
She was five years young than me. One time, when
I was thirteen and she was eight I accidentally screamed the
word "bitch." She heard me say it and even though I asked
her not to say anything, she ran around the house for the
next two days shouting the word. Naturally, my parents
found out she heard it from me and I was grounded for a
week. I learned to keep my lips tight around her from that
My father and I made a left turn, walking into the
mess hall. I unlaced my arm from his and stepped away.
"So, are you going to tell me more about this meeting?"
He placed both of his hands on my shoulders.
"Honey, I wish I could but you know I've taken a vow of
silence when it comes to the council. I can't talk about
what goes on in the meetings outside of them."
"Did Mr. Baker put you up to this? Why do you
always do everything he says?" It bothered me that my
father started this colony and Mr. Baker pretty much ran it.
There was something sinister about him that made my
insides churn when I thought about his fake, gap-toothed
smile. It was a smile that said, "I know something you
"Georgina, this has nothing to do with Mark. I'm
telling you, I took a vow and I will not break it. You need
to learn to respect that."
I pushed his hands off of my shoulders. "It's not
fair!" I protested. "You people keep us out of the loop for
all of this time, now suddenly you want us involved!" I was
more confident than ever that this meeting was going to be
bad. And more than anything, I felt betrayed. Council or not, my father was my father. And if he knew something awful was going to go down he should have told me.
He sighed. "Georgie, don't act like this. You know I want to tell you. I just can't compromise my position."
"Your position as what? A council member or my father?"
Storming off, I ignored him as he continued to call out my name. At the moment, I wished that whole council would disband. Then maybe my father would put his priorities as a parent above his priorities as a council member.