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Authors: Kent David Kelly

From the Fire III

BOOK: From the Fire III
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FROM

THE

FIRE

 

AN EPISODIC NOVEL

OF THE NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST

 

EPISODE III:

THE HOLLOW MEN

 

BY

KENT DAVID KELLY

 

WONDERLAND IMPRINTS

2012

 

 

Copyright © 2012 Kent David
Kelly

 

All rights reserved. No part
of this book may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the
copyright holder.

 

 

DESCRIPTION

 

On April 4th, 2014, 6
billion and 783 million people died in the blinding white fireballs of the
Pan-Global Nuclear Holocaust. Sophie Saint-Germain, wife and scientist and
mother of one, was not among them.

She lived for a time, and so
her words endure.

The reclamation of her
terrifying story is a miracle in itself. Uncovered during the Shoshone Geyser
Basin archaeological excavations of 2316, Sophie’s unearthed diary reveals the
most secret confessions of the only known female survivor of the Holocaust in
central Colorado. Her diary reveals the truths behind our legends of the High
Shelter, the White Fire, the Great Dying, the Coming of the One, and the Gray
Rain Exodus, her horrifying journey into the wasteland made with the sole
conviction that her daughter, Lacie, was still alive.

For these are the first of
words, chosen by the Woman of the Black Hawk: FROM THE FIRE / GIVE ME SHELTER /
THAT I MIGHT ENDURE THE STORM, / GIVE ME THE STRENGTH / TO PRAY MY DAUGHTER
WILL PREVAIL.

From the Plague Land, from
the Fire. This is the book of the woman who was, this is the codex of our
ancestors’ revelation.

~

An episodic narrative, FROM
THE FIRE, EPISODE III: THE HOLLOW MEN is the third installment of a serialized
novel by Kent David Kelly. This unforgettable novella comprises 17,100 words,
65 printed pages, and is preceded by the #1 bestselling action/adventure e-book
EPISODE I: END OF DAYS (
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0082SJY0O
)
and EPISODE II: THE CAGE (
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0084RNUWQ
).
It is followed by EPISODE IV: ARCHANGEL, also available from Wonderland
Imprints (release date Summer 2012).

 

 

INTERLUDE

 

“The night has been unruly:

Where we lay,

Our chimneys were blown down;

And, as they say,

Lamentings heard i’ the air;

Strange screams of death,

And prophesying with accents terrible

Of dire combustion and confused events

New hatch’d to the woeful time:

The obscure bird

Clamour’d the livelong night:

Some say, the earth

Was feverous and did shake.”

~

— Lennox in
Macbeth

(II, iii, 55-62), W. S.

 

 

EPISODE III

THE HOLLOW MEN

 

 

III-1

THE SLOWING AND THE
MERCILESS

 

Moist leaves of translucent plastic,
petals of soft and pliant crystal, cast their misted tracers down every
light-touched pane as the left hand of a woman pushed through their entwining
segments, the shivering and bloodless hand of Sophia Ingrid Saint-Germain.

Sophie’s left arm pushed through to the
shoulder, then her right hand’s fingers spidered in after it, the poise of a
diver committed to the descent. She took a shaky breath, held it in. With her
tongue constricted between her teeth, she braced herself and took one long step
forward. Through the plastic veils she went. Her arms slid free on the other
side, touched by humidity and the other air’s lifeless chill. Her face pushed
through the doorway’s plastic seal, to experience another alien form of touch
entirely — the strange wet plastic of the door, it was silk, it was artificial
skin — while a gunshot sounded from beyond the vault door far behind her.

She pushed through into the hallway
beyond the Great Room, trying to stop herself from screaming. She fell to the
floor. The bullet had hit home, and Pete’s cry from out of the ladder-shaft was
cut short by yet another gunshot. Sophie could hear only a young man shouting
then — “What the
fuck
, we needed him! We —” and the other, the huge man:
“Shut
up!
You’re gone! Get out of here!”

“Stop!” The girl out there was screaming
at the two men, her voice raw with horror and with pain. “Please, he didn’t
do
anything! Stop this!”

Stop.

Sophie pressed the heels of her bandaged
hands against her ears, pressing in hard until her vision began to star with
beads of scarlet light. Her sobbing drowned out the voices of all of the
survivors, the burning and fallen ones who had tried to break their way into her
locked-down shelter.

I gave them Pete, he trusted
in me,
she thought.
Never, never can this be forgiven. I left him
there to die, I ran away. I hate myself. I’m a coward. Worthless.
No, more
than even this, she decided. She kept her hands pressing in, she blinked away
her tears. She was not a coward, in leaving Pete to die. She was a traitor.

She had chosen the future over the
moment, her desperate hope for her own daughter’s survival over the death pleas
of a good and noble man. Pete Henniger had been abducted, tortured and
sacrificed by those of the outside, the shadow people who walked now in the burning
world as wraiths among the ruin.

A hollow, reedy voice sang to her as
Sophie shut the voices and screams and noises of the world away. She recognized
it at once: the voice of her younger and traumatized sibling who had always
envied her, her beloved sister Patrice. Patrice had died decades ago, her body
crushed and twisted by its impact beneath the angular devastation of a drunk
driver’s truck. She had been the only passenger in her boyfriend’s car that
night. The details had never been shared with Sophie, but she knew — from the
one time that she had seen her father cry — that Patrice had been alive when
the paramedics came, and when the steel jaws had sheared away the pickup’s
window strut to draw her out, the peeling away of the wreckage had caused all
of her pressurized blood to surge forth and to spill away. She had died as she
had lived, opened and frail and strong and unforeseen, a mystery to everyone, a
cipher even to herself.

Hollowed.

It was the faltering voice of Patrice
that Sophie had heard when she lost her virginity, and again when she had been
raped against the alley wall of a nightclub in Denver off of Broadway. It was
the tantalizing voice of Patrice that had whispered in her mind all the way
down the aisle, lilies quivering between her hands and a spun sugar of lace and
veil puffed and tufted all around her, hair poised aglow in moistened ringlets,
trembling as her father led her to stand before her Tom. Dead Patrice had
whispered to her, so sweetly:

Are you sure? Sophie, is he
the one? Sophie, are you really sure?

And there beyond the shelter’s
pressurized door seal, for the first time in eight years, the first time since
the stillbirth of Tom’s son a year before daughter Lacie had ever come to be, the
mutilated face forever chained to that beguiling and girlish voice was back
again.

Do not ever, no.
Patrice
pursed her phantom lips, a single index finger poised in the darkness before
them.
Do not, Sophie. Do not ever be weak.

She smiled in Sophie’s mind, a garland
of shattered, bloody, milk-white teeth.

“Pete
died
.” Sophie was trying to
stand. She was whispering as she rocked back and forth on her knees in the
concrete hallway, the center of the shelter’s spider-web. “He came here for
shelter, for me, he warned me and I left him to
die
.”

You must be the merciless,
my sweet.
Patrice was singing to Sophie, sharing her veins, her heartbeats. The
voice whorled beneath Sophie’s skin with the electric tingling of gravity,
blood falling through arms and fingers and surging back again in pulsing and
relentless coils.

This, this is all a mother
must do in the time of Fire. You, Sophie, must ever now be the merciless.

“He. Oh, no. Dying. For me. Oh, he was a
good man, Patrice.”

Peter was a man, yes,
Patrice
countered in her mind.
And so? Women are life, men are annihilation. This is
their ending, this is their one great glory. Let the men burn, they were made
for this. This war, this ruin, White Fire of the Archangel? This is what they
have always wanted. That is the secret, Sophie. The secret of the Dead, what
the Dead have spoken to me, I give to you. We as mortal souls, all of us, in
living we destroy ourselves. Women destroy from the inside out, one by one,
starting with themselves and then all those souls they dare desire. But men? They,
they set fire to this world. The men are lost, as they always longed to be. Souls
to the White Fire evermore. There will be others, always they are born for
battle. But what of the one? There is one good man. Mitch is not like the
others. Go to him. For what of your own beloved child, Sophia Ingrid? What of your
only daughter?

“Oh, Lacie ...”

Yes.
And
sister Patrice laughed, bereft of the merest willow-touch of empathy. She
laughed in the underflow of Sophie’s thoughts, a cruel and relentless soft-sound,
like the snapping of brittle sticks under a boot when the hunter is drawing
near.
Tom is dead,
Patrice sang on.
Peter is dead.
I
am of the
Dead. But you? You are the only, Sophie. Chosen. And Lacie, Lacie Anna? She’s
out there. Horrified, her only hope is you. She screams for you.

“My baby?”

Oh, yes. You need to be
strong. You need to fight, you need to find her. Lacie Anna, now, is
everything.

“Peter,” Sophie said. She raised her
head, opened her unblinking eyes and stared up to the cracked and girdered
ceiling. “If I had been brave, I would ... I would have saved you, too. As you
certainly would have done for me. I am weak. I could only save one. I had to
choose my Lacie. I am so, so sorry.”

All the interlaced shadows of Patrice
breathed uneasily, stepping away inside of her. The black truths had been
spoken, the damage had been done.

Patrice could not counter such
sincerity. Sophie was left alone.

She dropped her hands away from the side
of her head, to cover her mouth. Tears streaked down into her bandages. Looking
down at last, recognizing herself and the spirit caged within her flesh, she
saw that her pulped and meaty palms were bleeding once again.

She waited there enveloped by long moments,
a breathing and aware eternity, until the real voices of the man and the boy
and the girl out in the burning world once more faded away.

Alone.

 

* * * * *

 

When at last she could stand again, she
found that the air in this other place was cool and intricate with water beads,
a mist filtering down from a vinyl-ensconced ceiling grate. This pure air
smelled of a not-unpleasing and fragrant aerosol laced with something like
black licorice, redolent with undercurrents of utility paint and ozone. Socketed
and inset halogen lights along every girder made the moist air sparkle,
reflecting upon itself. Everything she could see there in the corridor had an
otherworldly clarity, a firmness which seemed too crisp and shadowless, almost
digital in its slightly-askew perfection.

I go deeper, ever deeper
into the mountain. No further, soon. Now there will be nowhere else to go.

There was very little damage there. Everything
was painted green, even the girders and their filament hanger-sheets were covered
with contoured panes of painted vinyl. These radiant plastic webs lent the
corridor an illusion of welcome, an ironic afterglow mirroring the effect of
ornate salons and galleries once enshrined in the world above.

All those places surely had turned to
dust.

There were four doors along the
shelter’s deepest corridor, solemn windowed monoliths of bolted steel. The
nearest to Sophie’s right was stenciled in shock-white brick letters as “GENERATOR
BANK” and the next beyond it, “TOILET,” the second bathroom in the shelter. The
third door to the corridor’s farthest end was marked “MATERIAL ROOM” and the
sole door to Sophie’s left, “SANCTUARY.”

Not bedroom, no.
Not here.
Sanctuary.

Sophie smoothed her wounded and sweating
hands against her jeans. When the survivors had first come and started pounding
on the vault door she had urinated over herself in fear. She was still very near
to panic, her ears popped as her jaw clenched and unclenched itself seemingly
of its own accord. Her trembling hands juddered back and away from her thighs
like wounded birds.

“Come on,” she said. “Breathe. Come on,
now.”

She needed to think, to regain control,
to act. How many survivors were there outside, desperate then to claw their way
into her shelter, and how many of them were still alive? Would they endure and
lurk in wait in the relative refuge of the cave as they plotted how to draw
Sophie out, or would they return to their cars, the boiling and crumbling
labyrinth of molten roads, seeking some other place of solace? There were few
places that Sophie could think of which were more secure and enclosed than the
waterfall canyon, its cavern and its end. She began to believe that anyone who
came to the cave and then found the vault door would remain there, if only to
die. And if three or more survivors had already found her, more people would be
coming.

Soon.

And what of the men of the Air Force, of
the National Security Agency?
They cannot all be dead.
Was this shelter
a secret after all? How long would it take the military to find and seize the
shelter as their own, and what would Sophie mean to men who took the Sanctuary
from her?

She remembered the last voice on Tom’s
phone, Tom’s murderer, that venom tinged with the sweet of ice, “Listen very
carefully, Mrs. St.-Germain. You tell
anyone any
of what you heard, and
we will execute you for treason. We will kill your daughter before your eyes.
Right in fucking front of you. Do you understand me?”

And, oh yes, Sophie,
sounded the distant taunting of Patrice.
The clever men, the savage men,
will ever come for more. Oh, delicious you.

“No.”

Perhaps there would come a time when a
group of those men would be hopeless and senseless enough to use explosives on
the door, a folly that would surely destroy the ladder-shaft and entomb Sophie
in her hollow of the world. And that design flaw, one Tom had known well and
had always meant to remedy
(And oh, sweet Sophie, you fought with him over
money at every turn, you guilted him, shamed him with faint praise and tiny
smiles, you pushed your beloved Tom away, forever)
, that was not the
shelter’s only vulnerability. There were pipes and venting and water gaskets
all along the cave’s shadowed ceiling, and despite their black-painted
camouflage it would not take long for a searching individual to realize that
Sophie could be poisoned, or fumigated, or perhaps even deprived of water and
simply killed. Perhaps she herself could even be made desperate enough to open
the door at last. And then?

Tom had always been worrying about the
indefensibility of the cave itself, and Sophie had grown so weary of his subtle
extractions from savings that she had finally closed off her own bank accounts
to his access. The final straw, she recalled, had been his “mutual procurement
golfing buddy” and the gray market assault weapons. The very weapons she was
now seeking.

You shamed him and still he
loved you.

But that was a foolish regret, one
minted in the lost and liquid gold of another age, an age already ended. Survival,
its glaring and ceaseless need, had become the lord over the moment.
Every
moment. Sophie had no idea how many people had survived the nuclear
devastation, or how many more would fall prey to disease, murder or
irradiation. Billions must have perished. But the few who survived, the
wretched and still-breathing would indeed — without even the specter of a doubt
— be driven to become something far, far worse than merely beasts. They would
be savages, bereft of fifty centuries of injected lethargy and the comforts of
the civil. The human spirit, locked in an oubliette of torpor and tranquility
for thousands of years, was about to shine through, burning more fiercely than
ever before.

BOOK: From the Fire III
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