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First pages


April 4, 2016


I decided to start writing in this photo book. It’s the only thing I packed with me from home that I can write in, aside from the book I have. I guess this’ll be my first entry.

April 4, 2016
Same Day

When I hear the word apocalypse I think of people coming back to life and eating other people. I think of crappy Hollywood movies that con people into spending their hard earned cash. I think of the tales I would tell my little brother before he went to bed to scare the crap out of him, because I'm the big, mean, older sister. It had never occurred to me that the apocalypse could be anything more than a crappy movie or a tale I told before bed. It never occurred to me that they had the zombie thing completely wrong.

June 8, 2016

When I was younger I remember that I always loved to talk. My mother and father would beg me to be quiet because I couldn't stop running my mouth. It was this reason that I would get into so many arguments with friends, family, and teachers. I never knew how to shut up.

Back then, I couldn't imagine a day going by without saying a word. Now I've gone months.

June 18, 2016

Lucinda Gregors, that's the name my mother gave me. I was named after my great grandmother, a woman I never even got the chance to know. I always used to hate my name. There was just something about the way it sounded that rubbed me the wrong way so I had people start calling me Lucy, it sounded way better than Lucinda ever did.

Despite changing it to Lucy my mother always called me Lucinda, no matter how many times I asked her not to. It's one of the reasons we would get into so many arguments.

Now, as I walk alone in the world that's falling apart around me, I'd give anything to hear someone call me Lucinda.

June 29, 2016

Life is never easy. It's difficult, messy, and sometimes a load of shit (excuse my french). There's the constant worry of whether you're good enough or not. The fear that people are talking behind your back, making fun of your old clothing and ripped sneakers. There are the standards that we feel we need to meet on a daily basis thanks to television and magazines. There are the social statuses that seem to define us at every turn. And there are the constant, judgmental eyes that follow us everyday.

At least in the apocalypse there's none of those things.

July 7, 2016

Sometimes, when I'm alone and get the chance to think of the past, I often recall the stupidest of things. Those memories that you never thought would actually be memories but, somehow, wormed their way in and stuck to you like a fungus.

I can recall this one day of my junior year so clear it's almost as if it were yesterday.

My friends and I had all been sitting around our lunch table chatting away happily. There wasn't a care in the world amongst us at that moment. I was sitting beside Emily, this girl who I had met by chance at the beginning of the year. She had long and wavy black hair that shone in the light and caramel colored eyes that could brighten a room. Her skin was a snow white pale and fit well with her short stature. She was relatively timid and fit in with our small group.

That day, she had bought me an orange soda and smiled brightly, saying thank you. At first I hadn't understood why she was thanking me, but then I knew. It was because I had befriended and welcomed her into the group.

I can still make out the orange can of soda she'd given me. It had been a somewhat darker color of orange and had all these weird lines on it that could, somehow, be classified as a design. The name of the soda had been Orange Fizz which I had found funny back then. Even now, the simple thought of it has me smiling.

I lower the arm I had raised up above me while remembering the past and drape it over my eyes.

It's strange how the stupidest of things from the past often become the fondest of memories.

September 25, 2016

Animals always held a special place in my heart. Even now, after everything that’s happened, I'm still fond of them.

There's this cat out behind the mall-turned-base I'm staying in that keeps me company every now and then. It's an orange and white male tabby. He's skinny enough that I can count all of his ribs. His used to be pretty fur coat is now tangled and filthy.

I had noticed him one day while I was out on guard duty. It's against the rules to leave our posts, but I was never one for rules to begin with so I left my post and went over to the cat.

At first, he had been wary of me, as most things are nowadays, but he casually warmed up to the point where I was allowed to pet him. He had purred loudly and it had drawn silent laughter from beneath my gas mask.

Since then I would sneak out and meet my friend behind the mall, bringing with me my leftover food wrapped in a small, dirty handkerchief. The cat ate everything I brought him greedily and hissed a few times when I'd reached out to pet him while he was eating. There were even a few occasions where he'd bat at my hand, trying to scratch me. I'd learned my lesson to let him alone while he ate.

It had crossed my mind many times to bring him inside with me and hide him away in my room, but no matter how much I wanted to I convinced myself it wasn't a good idea. No one but I knew about the cat as it were and if anyone else found out about him I feared they might use him as food. So I kept him a secret.

My secret amongst all the others.

November 5, 2016

I have this backpack of stuff that I keep by my side at all times. It's mostly just a bunch of useless things. Nothing that would be useful outside except for, maybe, my small, red pocket knife.

People have told me over and over to toss the things in it out and fill it with stuff that would be useful like flashlights, a gun, ammo, bandages, water etc., etc. I never listened to them, though because, even if it seems like a bunch of garbage to them, it's the world to me.

The actual backpack is what I used for school back before any of this happened. It used to be a light blue color which had been my favorite at the time. The time that’s passed since I got it has taken it’s toll on the material. The light blue color of it is still there, but barely recognizable. Now, it looks white and filthy from all of it’s use. The black straps I use to carry it are fraying at the edges and there are a few loose strings coming from the actual fabric of the bag. There are two pockets on the front of it along with the main one that should hold my binder and books. It came with a butterfly keychain that glows blue in the dark, but has long since stopped working. There had also been the option to get my name embroidered onto the bag. My mother had bought it for me, embroidery and all, despite the outrageous price tag that came with it.

Inside the backpack, I have five things in all.

An old paper back copy of Number the Stars by Lois Lowery sits at the top of the bag. It's been a favorite of mine since the day I read it in Elementary school. The cover is worn and bent. The spine has creases in it. Some of the pages are bent and a few have small tears. There are notes I wrote on the sides of pages and highlighted paragraphs that are my favorite to read. This has sentimental value not just because it's my favorite book but also because it's the first thing I ever bought with my own money, given it was birthday money, but it still counts.

Underneath the book is a T-shirt that I'll most likely never wear again because it's too small. On it are the names of my few friends that I went to school with. Each name is written messily since it's never easy writing on a shirt.

My eyes scan over the names fondly until I get to the only one that's written even the least bit neatly. It's in cursive and my eyes linger over each letter as I read the name Emily Masons. There's a painful heat behind my eyes for a few seconds and I bite down on my quivering lip hard to stop any tears that are thinking of falling. It works and, after a few more seconds of reminiscing, I fold the shirt neatly and gently place it down beside the book.

The next thing I pull out from my bag is my little brothers portable game system. He had never been one for stuffed teddies despite his young age. He had been all about games and puzzles.

The game system had died a while back and I hadn't been thinking enough at the time to grab the charger that went with it, though it's not like it would have mattered anyway since we don't have electricity. I flip over the black colored console and run my fingers over his name which he'd carved into it. Our parents had been absolutely livid when they discovered what he'd done and it got him a week without his games. The memory has me smiling as I place the system down beside the shirt and book.

The second to last item I pull out from my bag is a small, red pocketknife. There are a few scratches on the glossy red color and there's also dirt around the edges of it. I had tried to clean it a few times, but the dirt is too far down for me to get to. On the left side of the pocketknife are my initials. My father had carved them onto it before he'd given it to me a few days after the bombs fell. He had shown me how to take care of the hidden away knife so that it wouldn't rust or wear down. Since then, I take care of it everyday to make sure that it stays in good shape.

After setting it down with the rest of my stuff I pull out the last item in my bag.

It's a small photo book my mother had kept. It has a light brown leather cover with an intricate tree design on the front of it along with the word family. The entire thing is filled, cover to cover with pictures of my brother and parents, friends, other family members, and me.

My mother had leafed through this small photo book everyday and, eventually, multiple times a day after everything happened. I had taken after her and, now, this photo book is like a bed time story to me. It's what I hold close when I have trouble sleeping and it's what gets me through the most difficult of days. It's what helps keep me grounded when I know I'm losing my mind.

I run my hand over the brown leather cover before gently placing it back into my bag alongside the other items until, finally, my old and worn paper back book is looking up at me from the top of the small pile.

After one last, long look I zip up the backpack and place it beside my mattress.

If anyone had asked me the five things I'd take with me into the apocalypse a year earlier I never would have said any of the things I currently have with me. They never would have even crossed my mind. Strange how the objects differ when you're actually in the situation.

June 13, 2017

I have nightmares almost every night. At first, I only saw their face once a week, but then it became twice a week and so on before it became all the time. It's the same thing every single night. It ends the same every single night too. And every time it ends I wake up thinking the exact same thing.

How could I have done that?

February 7, 2017

I argue with myself a lot. It always takes place inside my head, though, because I don't speak anymore, but I think it still means I'm going crazy. I'm sure it's only normal for people to argue with themselves to an extent, but for me it's become a daily routine. It's tiring and I wish I could stop the arguments but I can't. It's almost as if there's another me inside my head. Another me who doesn't know how to shut up.

She'll say things to me. Spew insult after insult. Yelling at me nonstop about everything. I try to stop her. To shut her up or retaliate, but it never works. She won't quiet down until I shutdown my mind. It only makes sense, though.

She is me after all.

April 4, 2017

There was this time, a few months after the bombs fell and I'd been on my own, that I thought everything had to have been a dream. I didn't want to accept everything that had happened and was happening then. There wasn't even an option back then to accept it.

At that time I hadn't found the people from the mall-turned-base yet. They were still a ways off. It was just me, the maddening silence that followed me everyday, the ever crumbling city, and my backpack of five things.

For days I simply stumbled around blindly with no real aim or goal. I had been too numb from the shock of what went on around me. During those days, I'd seen things, heard things, that I wish I could forget. I'd done things too. Terrible, terrible things that haunt me now.

Most of those days, however, are a blur to me. I had gone days without water or food. I finally understood what it meant to starve.

There's one day, though, that I can remember so clearly. It's as if it were burned into my mind so that I would never forget.

I had been walking around and I stumbled onto the outskirts of a forest. By this point I had no idea where I was. I could have been miles and miles away from my home city and not known.

The forest had looked like what forests look like in winter. There were no leaves on the trees and any type of grass had long since withered, browned and died leaving only the crunch of dead foliage under my feet as I walked deeper into it.

I remember that I vaguely thought that going in would probably be a bad idea, but I didn't listen to myself and proceeded anyway. At first, I was completely fine. The crunching sound as I walked had been a nice change of pace from the silence that had followed me around the last few days. It was the setting sun and the growing darkness that had started to get to me. For the first time in days, weeks even, I started to feel scared. The numbness that had inhabited my body gradually left and I started to get a sense of where I was.

I had stopped walking, then, and turned around to try and get back out. But, by that point, I had already been far enough in that I was surrounded by trees, no sign of an exit anywhere in sight.

For a long time I just stood there, terrified and clutching my backpack to my chest.

Finally, when it had gotten too dark for me to see, I had sat down on the hard, dead Earth beneath me, bringing my knees to my chest. I don't recall how long I had sat in that darkness until I saw a glimmer of light. It had been quick and, for a second, I had thought that I'd imagined it, but then it showed up again.

Panic and fear had taken hold of me stronger than before and I could only imagine what type of creature this might be. I remember thinking that it was probably something that'd eat me whole. It seems silly now, my thinking that because the light had been small and nothing near the size of a creature that could have eaten me whole.

When it had finally worked its way over to me I saw that it was nothing more than a butterfly. I had almost laughed from hysteria and my body had sagged with relief.

The butterfly had been no larger than my hand and glowed a blue color. It had been strange to me, because I had never seen anything like it. Sure, I had heard that the radiation was changing animals and insects, but, before the butterfly, I had yet to actually see any of these proclamations of radiation changed animals.

I think, having seen the strange glowing butterfly then, is what set the gears into motion of accepting what was going on around me. Maybe it's strange to start accepting everything after seeing a small, glowing insect, but that's what happened.

Out of nowhere I had burst into tears and silently cried, my voice already gone by this point. My chest hurt and my face burned from the hot tears. I had accepted it then. I had understood that it's not a dream. What's happening is actually happening.

The apocalypse is here. People are dying. Animals and insects are mutating. Plants are dying or mutating with the animals. Cities have fallen. My family is dead. And I am a murderer.

Part I

Chapter 1

When you're in the apocalypse time passes slowly. It's almost as if it never moves at all. The only indications of moving time being the setting or rising sun and the rising or setting moon to clarify the end of a day or the beginning of one. Sometimes, on really bad days, though, you can't tell how many days pass at all because the clouds will cover everything, blocking out any indication of day or night. During these times, we have oil lamps set up throughout the branches of the mall that we've secured, hanging up on hooks people had hammered into walls. It helps us to see and a few people to feel safe.

Today is one of those days. Large and dark, plump clouds fill the skies outside making it pitch black. The air begins to chill, dropping multiple degrees rapidly. A strong wind whips around myself and the other person I'd been partnered up with for guard duty today. They squeal at the strength of it. I simply brace myself and lower my chin to my chest, squeezing my eyes shut in the process.

It becomes harder to breath and I can feel myself begin to panic. My heart beats faster in my chest, almost shaking my entire being. We are rapidly being swallowed by an inky darkness that holds god knows what.

"Come on! Inside! Now!" A guard yelled through his gas mask. I jump in surprise at his sudden appearance. My legs are already starting to shake from the cold. Goosebumps are rising over my flesh one at a time and I can feel my body completely chilling all the way to my bones. It's almost painful which is why I gladly listen to the guard and scurry towards the entrance of the mall.

The equipment the younger guards get is nothing compared to that of the senior guards which means it's not equipped for the sudden temperature changes nor to deal with this darkness.

Two other senior guards are standing by the entrance, holding the door open and motioning for us to hurry. I'm faster than my partner and I dart ahead of them towards the entrance. I hear my partner shout something, but the wind is too loud and strong to make any of it out. My eyes stay focused on the opening because it's the only light now. The building around the doors can no longer be seen. The darkness has officially taken over.

I sprint through the open doors, only stopping once I'm a good distance inside. Behind me I hear the doors close and the guards begin to barricade. I pay no mind to them, however. Instead, I work on warming my body by hopping in place and rubbing my hands over my arms quickly, trying to generate any amount of heat possible. Despite being inside, the chill from the darkness is still leaking in.

"What is wrong with you?!" A female voice yelled. I know that the question is directed at me so I turn and look towards the person who'd yelled it.

Anastasia, or Anna as she likes to be called, is pulling off her gas mask and glaring daggers at me as she gets out of her guard equipment. Ever since I'd gotten to the base about two months ago she's given me nothing but a hard time which I don't really understand. Compared to me, Anna is like a goddess, in terms of beauty not personality. She has long auburn ringlets that frame her petite face and make her ocean blue eyes stand out. Her skin is pale and fare, not a blemish in sight. She's tall too, with a good figure that's shown clearly with her long sleeved red shirt and skinny jeans. It always has me wondering if she might have been a model before all of this happened. With her goddess like beauty, though, it's as if she doesn't belong anywhere in the apocalypse. She just completely stands out. I on the other hand don't.

Even before the apocalypse, I couldn't be classified as pretty, but not as ugly either. To many of my peers and few friends I was simply average. My dirty blonde hair was always limp and never had a good shine to it and my green eyes weren't bright enough to be pretty or stand out. I had pale skin and not the kind of pale that works on some people. It was the type of pale that makes someone look almost sickly. After the bombs fell my hair became more limp and grimy. It always has this oily look to it. My eyes seemed to dim and become almost lifeless and my skin just grew to look more sickly.

Many of the people at the base first thought I'd contracted some type of disease while traveling alone in the outside world. It took a long time until they realized that it's just how I look. Somehow, I'd managed to avoid looking completely sickly, though, by eating enough so that my ribs wouldn't protrude from my body, well, at least not enough to show from through my clothing. I think that was probably my only saving grace.

Now, as I stand parallel to Anna I'm just reminded all the more of these things. I look up at her, not saying anything. This only seems to anger her more. She doesn't say anything else and just storms off, not even properly putting away her gear. I let out a sigh as I pull off my gas mask and hang it up beside the others.

After a year with the radiation and the apocalypse people had started taking their masks off once inside. They believed that it was okay by this point and, once nothing happened to those few who did, others started joining in, glad to be able to breathe without a mask on. It took me a long time to be able to take my gas mask off once I had arrived here. Throughout my journey alone, my mask had become like an extension of myself. It seemed almost painful to take it off at the time.

This had gotten me many odd looks and whispers behind my back and I realized that maybe I was wrong about the whole judgmental eyes that follow you not being in the apocalypse.

When I had finally taken the mask off people had swarmed to see what I look like. They had all quickly left, dissatisfied with my appearance. If this had been anything but the apocalypse I probably would have been completely defeated by that, but at that point I had stopped caring what I looked like because looks aren't what keep you alive.

I hang up mine and Anna's gear slowly on the correct racks. This is something I'd gotten used to. Anna thought herself better than others and because of this people generally had to clean up after her. No one ever said anything which confused me at first. It was quickly cleared up, however, when I realized how much she complains about everything. If anyone ever brought something up about her cleaning up after herself she would surely go into a yelling fit for god knows how long.

"Hey Lucy, I see you're cleaning up after Anna again." I turn to look towards the new voice and nod when I see Taylor. He laughs a deep, chest rumbling laugh at my nod. "Figures. So how was guard duty today?" I only answer him with a shrug and his smile falls.

People had gotten used to me not talking around here pretty quickly. No one seemed to mind or care for that matter. They also never made an effort to come and talk to me, either. The only reason any even knows my name is because it's embroidered on my backpack.

"You ever going to talk kid?" Taylor asked and I shrug again. I'd gone a year without talking now. I have no recollection of what my voice even sounds like at this point. Taylor doesn't say anything. He just looks at me with concern in his dark brown eyes.

When I had first gotten to this mall-turned-base Taylor had been the first one to welcome me with open arms despite the others worry that I might be sick. He hadn't cared about that in the least. What he had cared about was the fact that there’s one more person alive in this cruel world we'd been given.

I'd been wary of him at first, not knowing if I could trust someone who seemed so openly friendly. Taylor had been completely fine with it and thought that to be the reason I never talked. He knows it's something much different now, though he doesn't know what. Nevertheless he brought me into the base and even gave me my own place to sleep, mattress and all. It isn't ideal. The mattress is lumpy and uncomfortable and I only have one blanket and no pillow to rest my head on. I don't complain, though, because it’s luxurious compared to what I had while on my own.

Taylor sighs and runs his hand through his mop of dark brown hair, moving a few strands out of his eyes so he can see better. I watch him, waiting to see if he'll say anything else. When he realizes this he steps to the side and says,

"You're free to go. Get some rest alright? You're looking a little under the weather." I roll my eyes at this, but nod anyway before walking past him and deeper into the base.

The first time I'd laid eyes on the inside of the base I had been amazed. The mall isn't in perfect shape exactly, but it’s in well enough shape that people can live in and defend it. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen something like it. Something secure and almost whole. I had almost been excited when I laid eyes on it.

There are eight branches to the mall in total, though three of those branches are marked as danger zones because they're unstable and might collapse. The other five are where the thirty-seven people live. There's no designated sleeping quarters, everyone just kind of spreads out, claiming certain corners or rooms for themselves. Most of the people took to the mattress store, claiming the most comfortable for themselves as quickly as possible.

As I walk down branch one, the entrance and exit branch, I can see the faint lights from the oil lamps in certain stores. I can also hear the muffled conversations people are having with one another.

Branch two is known as the clothing branch seeing as it holds the most clothing stores. That's where most of the females my age and a little older set up home. It's also safe to say that's where Anna stays as well. The clothing branch is also where we got some of our equipment for going outside, though, most of it came from branch three, which is called the equipment branch.

The Equipment branch holds the guns and ammo that we might need if ever under attack. It also has the oil lamps and flashlights that we use while in the dark. Some of the stores also come equipped with hunting knives and survival manuals. It's sad to say the store with most of the hunting equipment is in one of the branches that's designated as unstable. I heard a few people had tried to go in and retrieve some equipment, but none of them ever came back out and they were presumed dead.

Branch four is the recreational branch which I found amusing when I first heard about it. Who has a recreational branch in the apocalypse? It holds useless things such as board games, puzzles, and books. Not very many of the people set up home there which is one of the reasons I did.

Taylor had originally set me up in the clothing branch with most of the other girls thinking I'd feel safer and more secure. I hadn't. If anything I felt kind of terrified being around all those other females. Before I'd come across the base, I'd been on my own and, as such, I'd grown accustom to being alone. Suddenly being around so many people had me feeling uneasy and sick to the stomach so I quickly packed up and left, setting up home in the book store. It felt more secure than anywhere else seeing as there's less people around.

The fifth branch is the food branch. It also holds the back entrance and exit. The fifth branch is where we go to eat and is located downstairs and away from the other four branches. This branch is accessible thanks to the escalators that have long since stopped functioning. This is the place where most people will hang out during the day. It's a big and open space and it can't really be classified as a branch per-say, but that's the name it was given anyway. There are tables scattered around the place with chairs to go with them. Some of the tables are broken and beyond repair. Those got broken up even more and tossed aside in case we ever had to start a fire for light.

I come to the end of the first branch and am greeted by the large opening in the floor. This had been a structural design the mall had, had before. There are railings all around the opening and it looks down and into the food branch. Some of the railings are rusted and broken, leaving dangerous gaps where people could easily fall through and break their neck. I walk over to a rail that's still in tack and look over.

Down below people are sitting at tables together, oil lamps sitting in the center so they can see. With the amount of people the whole branch is almost lit up by the orange flames in the lamps. Shadows of the darkness are dancing off to the sides and in corners. I don't observe long and instead turn and walk towards the recreational branch where my home awaits me.

The recreational branch is a little more run down than any of the others. The floor is filthier and more of the windows in shops are broken. Cracks from the floor run up walls connecting all the way to the ceilings. Every now and then, the building will rumble quietly and dust will fall from the ceiling like snow, covering the tiled flooring more. It's one of the reasons why few people stay in this branch. Another reason is because they don't find anything in the fourth branch to be useful. Most of the people stay in either the equipment branch or clothing branch so that if something happens they can grab things they deem useful. If something happens while they're in the fourth branch what are they supposed to grab? Games? Books? Puzzles?

I get to the book store I set up home in relatively quickly and find my bed nestled away amongst the shelves of Young Adult novels. My bag sits beside my bed, untouched and exactly where I left it.

Plopping down onto the bed I turn on my oil lamp. It takes a few seconds for it to light, but once it does I place it down beside my bed and pull my backpack to me. I set it on the floor in front of me before unzipping the main pocket. I pull out my paper back copy of Number the Stars and start reading it, content and happy that the darkness has decided to come around today.

I had started re-reading the book yesterday and had to stop at my favorite spot because of guard duty. Now, I have until lights out to read it, though I have no idea when that would be.

"Lucy?" A familiar voice called out my name and I set my book down before grabbing my lamp and peaking out from behind one of the book shelves. I spot Aubrey standing at the entrance of the book store in a long sleeved striped white and black sweater along with light blue skinny jeans.

I wave to her and she smiles widely, walking over to me. "I heard your guard duty was canceled because of the darkness so I figured we could go and grab something to eat before lights out."

Aubrey had been one of the first, and only, people to befriend me aside from Taylor. She hadn't been one of the people who disregarded me after seeing my face, or judged me because I can’t talk. She had also come up to me like Taylor had, gave me a hug, and introduced herself, not in the least bit scared of the possibility that I might be sick.

Aubrey and I are complete opposites so I guess someone had it right when they said opposites attract.

You're a complete opposite from Anna and you don't attract in the least.

My other self spit out. I pay her no mind as I sit back on my bed. It hadn't been until I'd gotten to know Aubrey a little better did I find out that she's sisters with Anna, though I don't know why I hadn't seen it before. They look alike with the same auburn curls and ocean blue eyes. The only way to tell the difference between them being their personalities. Aubrey is a complete angel while Anna is a total bitch.


About me

Shania N. Soler is a Young Adult author who spends much of her time reading and planning the future. She is a national gold medal holder from the Scholastic Art & Writing competition with her, currently published, novel "Ridley & Jay" which can be found on Amazon. She enjoys writing and creating numerous new characters as well as the worlds they live in and wants nothing more than to share the stories with those around her.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part of writing this book would have to be the fact that Lucy, our heroine, is mute. It was a challenge writing in her parts and communication with the other members of the book. I often found myself having her speak and then remembering that she can't actually talk.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
You can find more about me on my Author Page on Facebook: Shania Nicole Soler You can also find me on wattpad and read some stories I have on there:
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
I decided to become a writer because of Richelle Mead and her Vampire Academy series. I love the way she writes and the idea of creating my own characters and worlds that they live in greatly appealed to me. She's what got me started and where I am today.

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