Authors: E.E. Borton
A Novel By
Story Concept by
Chase and Keith Foster
© 2012 E.E. Borton. All
rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no
part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the
prior written permission of the author.
part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any Web addresses or links contained in
this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The
views expressed in this book are solely those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby
disclaims any responsibility for them.
characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real
persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Bringing a world to life
in a novel is considered a solitary endeavor. In this case, nothing could be
further from the truth. A collaboration among friends created this book, and it
would’ve been a more difficult road if not for a special group of people along
Sean and Keith, thank you
for trusting me with your vision and allowing me the creative freedom to move
in any direction our characters took us.
Gordon, Natalie, and
Jennifer, you three are the foundation on which dreams are built.
There are many others who
played an important role in motivating and inspiring me to create the work
you’re holding in your hand or reading on your screen. Thank you for staying
the course and keeping me on it.
– Business Development
– Cover Graphics
– Cover Model
For Gordon, Yara, Janet, and Rodney
She died at 8:13 in the morning. I’ll never forget the time
because my watch died as well. I don’t know why, but I still wear it. Maybe
it’s because they all died at 8:13. Maybe it’s because I’m hoping one day to
look down and see that it’s 8:14. Whatever the reason, I can’t seem to take it
I was lucky to be sitting in
gridlock a mile outside of downtown Atlanta when it happened. The poor bastards
driving at seventy miles per hour down the other side of the highway weren’t as
lucky. There were a few moments of absolute silence before all hell broke
loose. Some of them hit their brakes when they lost power; most didn’t.
It started with a few
piercing jolts of sound when they collided. Then, as if I were watching a movie
through my windshield, several cars tumbled through the air. Everything inside
them started spilling out, including her.
They were flying in every
direction like they’d been shot out of a cannon at the circus, but my eyes
locked onto a yellow sundress. The minivan was fifteen feet in the air when the
young girl flew out. There was nothing I could do except tighten my grip on the
steering wheel as I watched her come down.
I saw her face on the last
cartwheel; her eyes were shut tight and all her teeth were exposed in a horrific
grin. It sounded like somebody fired a shotgun in my ear when she hit the hood
of the car beside me. Most of her bounced off and streaked across mine.
It was over in thirty
seconds. The sound of the carnage was replaced with the sound of my heart beating
out of my chest when all of the cars had landed. The only things left in the
air were sheets of paper ejected from briefcases and bags that belonged to the
My fingernails were cutting
into the foam wrapped around my steering wheel when the silence was broken
again. As if on cue, the screaming, moaning, and yelling began. I looked to my
right to see a woman crying while she stared into her crushed hood. To my left,
a man was staring at me with no expression. All I could do was turn away and
face forward, watching as the blood streamed off the wax I applied the day
I don’t know how long I sat
there. Like I said, my watch stopped. The first thought I do remember was of
the yellow sundress, lying out of sight two feet away from me. I took a deep
breath and opened my door. It was hard enough keeping my breakfast down, and
taking in a lungful of gasoline vapors didn’t help. I held onto the door as I
stood, feeling my legs wobble. I looked down to see half of her sticking out
from underneath the car beside me. The feet were pointing in the wrong
direction. That’s when my brain decided it was a good time to get rid of that
There was no need to check
for a pulse. When I dropped down on my hands and knees to look under, the face
I saw a few moments before was gone. I stayed down until the second wave of
nausea passed. When it did, the screaming and crying around me intensified. I
stood to see every set of eyes turned upward.
When I looked into the clear
morning sky, I saw a burst of sunlight reflect off a metallic, silver wing. The
screams of the onlookers began to mix with the whine of the dying engines. The
large passenger jet was in a flat spin as it rotated toward downtown. We all
stood helpless with wide open mouths, and wider eyes, as the jet disappeared
behind the skyline. A moment later, the ground shook when its flight ended,
along with the lives of everyone onboard.
I turned my gaze to see a few
faces buried in the chests of their significant others. Their arms held each other
tight as if it were a safe place to be. People who were alone – like me –
started scanning over their heads while a fireball crowned the city.
I was on the north side of
Atlanta. The busiest airport on the planet was ten miles away to the south. For
several minutes we all stood motionless as we listened to the aircraft hitting
the ground, bursting like popcorn.
“Is she dead?” asked the man
to my left, oblivious to everything else going on around him.
“What’s happening?” asked the
woman to my right, as if I had an answer.
Imminent danger seemed to
pass with the same blinding speed as its arrival. It allowed me the first
chance to take in everything. As far as I could see in any direction, most
people were standing by their cars, paralyzed. There were a few huddles of good
Samaritans around the injured doing whatever they could, but it wasn’t much.
Fingers of black smoke slithered up from the burning cars. The smell of gas and
burning rubber was getting thick enough to taste. The violent screams subsided
and were replaced with murmurs and moans.
My brain started the
impossible task of trying to process the reason for the chaos. The instant
explanation was that anything powered by an engine died at the same time. That
theory was challenged seconds later when I grabbed my cell phone; dead. I
reached into my glove compartment for my iPod; dead. I hit the button on a
flashlight I kept under my seat; dead. I looked at my watch; dead. Everything I
owned – powered by electricity or a battery – was dead.
In a futile attempt I tried
to restart my car. I pressed the power button on my phone several more times
with no success. I looked at my watch. It was still 8:13.
My first decision to take
control happened when I popped the trunk. I needed to get my bag. I needed to
Three years ago, Mother Nature started kicking our asses.
Everyone began to pay attention when hurricane season introduced us to her new
attitude. Africa was cranking them out like a Gatling gun, shooting them across
the Atlantic. The second storm of the season made the meteorologists look like
idiots. Their initial predictions were that it was going to make landfall near
the Outer Banks as a Category 3. I was glued to my TV when the Category 5 storm
swung north and erased Cape Cod off the map. It drowned Nova Scotia before
changing course again.
The damn thing crossed back over the Atlantic and took aim
at Europe. For the first time in recorded history, a Category 4 hurricane
slammed into the Emerald Isle. The death toll in Ireland reached 1,800 before
it stalled and weakened over the U.K. In all, the storm killed 2,900 people.
Hurricanes weren’t the only muscle she flexed; earthquakes,
tsunamis, tornados, ice storms, volcanic eruptions, and floods were on the news
every few weeks. (I woke up last Christmas to four feet of snow.) But what
scared me the most was the increasing frequency of blackouts.
It was no surprise that the northeastern US was without
power for days after the big storm. It
a surprise when the
metro-Atlanta area went dark two months later in the middle of August. Georgia
Power estimated that three million people were affected. I was one of them.
I was heating up leftovers in the microwave when it – and
everything else that was plugged in – shut off. My immediate thought was of how
unprepared I was. Fumbling in the dark I found a flashlight I kept in a kitchen
drawer. It gave me thirty seconds of dim light before it was dark again. All I
could do was stand there and wait for my eyes to adjust.
A full moon and clear evening helped me get my bearings.
Shafts of eerie blue light beamed through my apartment windows, allowing me to
find my keys and navigate into the hall. The building maintenance staff was
just as unprepared. Every emergency light attached to a battery pack was
emitting less light than a tiny candle. When I made it to the windowless
parking deck, it was pitch black.
I flipped open my archaic cell phone. The green hue was
bright enough for me to see large objects in front of me, but it shut off every
ten seconds. By the time I reached my car, it was alerting me that the battery
was low. Feeling more secure in the driver’s seat, I backed out of my spot and
headed down the ramp. It was a short trip.
Flooded with bright light from the line of cars in front of
the unyielding access gate, I sat shaking my head.
How could they be that
We were all trapped by the metal bars designed to protect us.
Nobody was willing to break through and possibly damage their vehicle. That
would change by the time I came back later in the night.
To avoid getting pinned by the next car that was trying to
escape, I parked in the first open space near the exit to the street. My
journey to the pub – four blocks away – would have to be made on foot. I
reached under my seat for the only other flashlight I owned. After smacking it
several times, I threw it to the side and started walking.
Pushing open the thick metal door separating the garage from
the sidewalk, my stomach sank as it slammed shut behind me.
How could I be
Every access point to my building was secured by an electric
lock. The handle on the garage side allowed anyone to exit; there was no handle
on the street side. The keypad by the door was laughing at me as I pressed the
unlit buttons, hoping they had been smart enough to connect the system to a
back-up power source. They had not.
My stomach sank further when I turned to face the street.
Looking in both directions I realized the power was out as far as I could see.
With an anxious stride I walked uphill to the intersection of my block in
Midtown. From there I’d be able to see the skyscrapers of Downtown Atlanta
three miles away. I took a deep breath when I got to the corner. The entire
city was blacked out.
If I would’ve known at the time what was coming, I would’ve
ripped the rolling gate off the rail. But at that point it seemed a little
premature to panic. I decided to stick to my original plan of walking to the
pub and waiting this thing out. I had no doubt I’d run into a few of the regulars,
and I knew most of the bar staff. Even if they were closed to the public, I was
confident they’d let me in.
My walk to the pub was uneventful. The way was brightly lit
by cars reduced to a crawl from the disabled traffic signals. The mood from the
people I came across along the route was unimposing and even comforting. Most
were huddled on stoops and porches around candles or lanterns, in good spirits
with eruptions of laughter. A few of the groups offered me a cold drink in the
stifling heat of a breezeless Dixie summer evening. The initial worry I
experienced looking at the dark city was replaced with a sense of brotherhood
with strangers. We were all in this together, and for the most part, we were
all doing okay.
All my worries disappeared when I walked up the steps of my
pub to find the door wide open and the bar full of friends. I was welcomed with
handshakes, hugs, and a cold pint. Of the eleven people I knew there, two of
them would be dead by midnight.
Knocking back one after the other, the first couple of hours
we were all in high spirits and enjoying the strange new environment. We were
drinking by candlelight, discussing the crazy weather and the second massive
tsunami that hit Japan the day before. We all blamed air conditioners and poor
city management for the blackout that brought us together for the memorable
evening. The festivities stopped when they came in the bar.
The young one was helping the old one walk. Even in the dim
light we could see the blood pouring out of the old woman’s face. She was
beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the corner, a hundred feet away from our
The young woman explained how she witnessed the attack by
the crazed group. Tears were streaming down her face while she apologized over
and over about being unable to stop them. Several customers dialed the three
useless numbers on their cells, trying to summon help for the old woman. The
one person who did get through to 911 stared at his phone as the recording
played on the speaker. We didn’t know at the time that every first responder in
the city was on their way downtown to fight the fires and stop the looting.
When the mood changed so did everyone’s priorities. All the
customers – most without saying a word – left the pub. I imagine they were
concerned about their own families and felt an overpowering urgency to put
their eyes on them. I’m an only child who buried his parents years ago; I’ve
never been married and don’t have any kids. The only person I was concerned
about was standing ten feet away from me.
Her name was Samantha, but we all called her Sam. She was
divorced for a year when she started working at the pub, trying to start a new
life in a new city. Neither one of us was looking for a serious relationship.
We had been quietly dating for a year before the power outage.
Sam was a knockout, bringing in a steady stream of guys who
thought they had a chance. They were all trying to impress her by leaving big
tips, coming back night after night. We kept our status a secret to encourage
their behavior. (I found out later that the only people who thought it was a
secret were Sam and I; everyone knew.) It didn’t take long before we found
ourselves in that serious relationship.
Thinking we were doing a good job of keeping the secret, we
spent our time together either at my apartment or far from her job. Sam loved
the outdoors, always wanting to find new places to hike or spend the weekend at
a cozy cabin in the mountains. I didn’t care where we went or how we used our
time. I only cared that she was with me. I only cared that she stayed with me
for the rest of my life.
A week before the blackout I bought her the perfect ring. My
plan was to put it on her finger when we arrived in Key West for our vacation.
We were leaving in nine days. I think she knew.
When the old woman was brought inside broken and bleeding, I
turned to see Sam spring into action. She gently wiped the blood out of the
woman’s eyes, putting pressure on the deep cuts on her face. She reassured the
younger woman who had brought her in that none of it was her fault. Sam was an
independent, confident, and strong woman. The old lady couldn’t have been in
Sam lived two miles from her job and didn’t own a car; she
took the subway wherever she needed to go. Knowing the victim had multiple
serious injuries, she asked me to get mine so we could take her to a hospital
outside of the disabled city. Sam was just built that way; she’d help anyone
who needed it. If I would’ve known it was the last time I would see her alive,
I would’ve told her that I loved her. Not because it would’ve been our final words,
it was because I did.
Running at full speed in the dark, I made it back to my
apartment building in five minutes. At least one of my prayers was answered
when I saw the sidewalk door that led to the parking deck propped open. The
other prayer wasn’t answered when I saw the garage gate still closed. Figuring
out a way to get it open is what added the forty-five minutes to the time I was
away from Sam.
The gate was made of cast iron that retracted into the wall
on a system of rollers. I tried lifting it off of the rail, hoping it would
fall over; the damn thing didn’t budge. When I gave up trying to lift it, I
tried pulling it away from the wall on the other side. It rolled back six
inches and then stopped after hitting a locking pin I couldn’t reach.
Grabbing the jack out of my trunk, I turned it sideways in
the six inch gap and started cranking. I was proud of my ingenuity when I heard
the loud ping of the locking bolt being sheared. Pushing the gate open, I tore
out of the parking garage, looking forward to being Sam’s knight in shining
Forty-five minutes; I was gone for only forty-five fucking
I saw the three men – who were never caught – walking away
from the pub with armloads of liquor and cases of beer. As soon as my
headlights illuminated the street, they dropped most of their loot and started
I parked on the curb by the front stairs and went inside. I
found the old woman first. She was in the same spot as when I left. The
bartender was five feet away, staring at me with dead eyes. His throat was cut
from ear to ear. I found the young woman naked in a pool of her own blood,
lying across the buffet table. Sam was beside her. That’s all I have to say
The three men did a perfect job of not leaving any witnesses
alive. It was a story repeated seventy-eight times in the city before dawn. I
knew the record number of murders in one night was about to be shattered.
From the first blackout forward I’d been preparing. I refused
to be helpless again; I refused to stumble in the dark, hoping luck would keep
me safe; I refused to be a victim of opportunity by the mass of cowards who
took to the streets to do harm. And if those cowards wanted to take from me,
may God have mercy on their souls, because I wouldn’t.