She was black

In the days before the nukecaust, that had made a difference. Being in this community had put her back in touch with that lost part of herself, and that was good. But was it that great when it came to making her doubt J.B.? Besides the relationship they had built, there were more pressing issues: the companions had been through so much together, formed bonds of loyalty forged in fire. There were things that went deeper than age, race and sex: the knowledge that they would pull together without it even being spoken of or thought about.

And she was doubting that, denying it? There was a rift between her and the companions. But perhaps that was a good thing. It made her examine herself, her priorities and loyalties.

In the end, the ideals of the island were pitched against pragmatism and experience of reality in the world outside.

Some wanted nothing less than war. But who would make the sides in a war?


#66 in the Deathlands series

James Axler

Chapter One

Black clouds of pain and despair washed over Dean as he began to surface from the mat-trans jump. Like being lost in a sea of black, brackish water that infested every pore, clogging him with filth and filling his mouth and lungs, it was a complete isolation and a slow death. Every muscle flooding with lactic acid, making any movement painful and difficult beyond imagining, he began to stir, swimming upward to try to strike the surface. There was a patina of light that washed across the thin skin far above, separating the air from the water. He moved toward the light with a determination born of the will to live.

He struck the surface, emerging from the icy thickness below into the weak light of the air above, gasping as the oxygen hit his lungs, the viscous liquid falling away from his skin, dripping off his hair.

That moment between unconscious sleep and awakening, that fraction of a second that seemed to move on into an eternity…that was the time when the hallucinations came, the time when the dreams and nightmares at the back of his brain were called forth to haunt him once more.

It was always this way for Dean Cawdor and, as he floated on the surface of the sea of consciousness, breaking for land, he drifted back to the world of his deepest fears and insecurities, the things that he dare not admit into his conscious mind.

Although not always the same in every respect, often it was always the same in essence. A younger Dean— still the same strong, resilient youth, but still a boy— standing before his mother as she told him of his father, the son of a baron, not the man who was her husband and the powerful baron of his own ville. He could still see her face clearly. Sharona—Rona to him—had once been a beautiful woman. But that was something that lay in her past. She had been ravaged by sickness. Where once she had been slim and graceful, with feminine curves that had drawn the eye of Ryan Cawdor, she was thin and gaunt, her flesh nonexistent with seemingly only skin to cover her skeletal frame. Her once-attractive cheekbones were skull-like, her eyes sunken back into their sockets, resembling burning orbs in which the fire was slowly dimming. Her lank hair hung like hanks of rope tied into bunches to be pulled back from her forehead to stop irritating skin that was beyond pale. Ghostly and gray, her once-smooth complexion had broken out with sores in patches around her hairline and her bloodless lips. Her clothes hung like rags from her body.

“But why can’t I stay with you until you buy the farm—why can’t I be with you?” he asked, hearing himself as he was before his voice broke, the high pitch sounding alien to his own ears.

“Because it isn’t safe,” she answered simply. “When I die you’ll be all alone. I’ve taught you how to survive, but a little boy alone in the Deathlands doesn’t have much of a chance. Your future lies with your father.”

“If he’s so great, where’s he been when we both needed him?” Dean asked with disgust.

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Categories: James Axler