This is a horrible post and one that I wish I didn’t have to write. But I do, I definitely have to write this. It’s in relation to a failure on my part and one that I have to fully acknowledge to those readers who’ve read the Future of London books and wonder why the series (which began in 2016) is not complete.
Here’s the truth. I’m not sure there will be any more books. And yes, I’m well aware that the series is not finished and that the last time I wrote anything about this, I stated that book six was coming.
That was me being super optimistic. Thought I could do it, but I was wrong.
How did this come up? I received a comment on Facebook today. In short, a gentleman asked where the next book is the series was – a series that for the most part, I haven’t touched since the fifth book was released in 2017. I’ve worked on and off on the sixth book (as related in ‘Let’s talk about the Future of London, part 1’ – a much more optimistic post than this one), but it’s moving so slowly and it’s usually at the end of the day that I try to tackle this after writing other material and then performing other author-business related tasks throughout the day (ads, admin etc.) Add this to the demands of everyday life and it doesn’t leave a lot of time to work on anything else. Like having a life, or something closely resembling one.
Why don’t I work on FOL in the morning during creative/writing time? It doesn’t sell. I like the series a lot, but it really doesn’t do anything in terms of moving the needle. And quite frankly, as well as being passionate about writing and creating stories, this is also my job. Working on a series that doesn’t sell isn’t smart. I have to juggle the creative and business heads and right now, the Future of London makes no sense to either head.
This was a series that I started when I didn’t know what I was doing, at least in terms of how to make a living as an indie author. I understand that people who’ve invested time and money in the series aren’t going to like hearing that. I can assure you that it’s not only about money (if it was I wouldn’t be writing for a living and I wouldn’t have worked as a musician for ten years either). However, I can’t justify the energy, time and money investment in writing a series that does not sell. Added to that, I’m in a much different head-space than I was in 2016/2017 when I was releasing books in the Future of London series.
These days I’m writing what I’d term psychological thriller/horror/suspense. I’m not sure there will be anything on the post-apocalyptic or dystopian front from me in the future.
I’m contemplating taking the FOL books off Amazon because it’s not fair for readers to start a series that didn’t have a proper ending. I don’t advertise the books anymore. I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.
Despite the fact that the series is incomplete, I’m still proud of the world I created. It was original and exciting, which makes it a pity that it didn’t catch on. I’m not surprised though – it was always a bit of an outsider in terms of what’s going on in dystopian fiction these days.
I’m not slamming the door shut completely. Just saying that there is at present, precisely zero chance of me working any further on the series. That’s about as clear as I can be. If you’re one of the FOL readers and that pisses you off, I’m sorry. You have every right to be annoyed. I’m annoyed with myself – I’m not in the habit of starting something and not finishing it but I think the break from FOL was just too long. All the other series I’ve started, I’ve completed.
Should have stuck to trilogies, I guess.
I’m well aware that I’m letting valuable readers down. I hope those who enjoy my work will forgive me for this and stick with me. If not, I totally understand you bailing, storming off to Amazon and leaving one-star reviews. I get it. This sucks. It does for me too, believe it or not. But this is where I’m at right now.
Five people are trapped inside a New York nightclub, hunted by an enemy beyond anything in their worst nightmares.
For one of those five people, Dani Pellerino, it was supposed to be the first night of the rest of her life. Now Dani, along with her four companions, must fight against incredible odds to survive a night that no one will ever forget.
A night that will forever be known as ‘the hatching.’
The Hatching is a horror novel inspired by John Carpenter movies, as well as the classic stories of Stephen King and Richard Matheson. If you love taut, fast-paced claustrophobic horror, you’ll love The Hatching.
Apart from the King of Nigeria asking me if I want to go into business with him I’ve been getting quite a lot of requests about the Future of London series. These requests are along the lines of – will you be writing any more Future of London books? The last one wasn’t the actual last one was it? I get these enquiries. Makes perfect sense. I wrote the last FOL book (Kojiro vs. The Vampire People) in late 2017 and yes, the series is unresolved. Mack Walker has not yet caught up with Hatchet and Kojiro hasn’t caught up with Walker. So yep, it’s still on.
Since that last FOL book I’ve written a lot of other stuff so I’m not surprised to receive these occasional emails asking where the hell is book six and reminding me that the series isn’t wrapped up. There have been negative reviews too based on the fact that it’s an unfinished series. When people contact me I usually send a brief (and equally polite) reply stating that I’m working on the sixth book, but very slowly as I’ve got other things to do that take precedence. And I kind of leave it there.
So what’s going on? Okay, I released the first Future of London book (L-2011) in the first half of 2016. Mr Apocalypse followed later that year and in 2017 I released three more – Ghosts of London, Sleeping Giants and Kojiro vs. The Vampire People. And then it stopped. Why? The books weren’t selling that much. As a reader you may or may not care about that but nonetheless I persevered with the series a long time out of the sheer love of it but five books in, although they were well received by most, I had to start thinking about moving onto other things. After all, writing wasn’t a hobby for me, it was a job. Can’t keep doing the same thing if the same thing isn’t working.
I’ll say it again. I love the London books. It’s my favourite series (of the ones that I’ve done). It doesn’t sell zilch either – it sells okay and the box sets are doing a little better these days as I work on my marketing. I’ve been working on the sixth book for a while but thus far I’m forced to do it slowly whilst working on other things.
Covid and the 2020 nightmare hit my sales hard too. It was a punch in the guts and I’m only just starting to recover many months later. When I get a little more breathing room I’ll be able to continue the Future of London books and hopefully do so at a quicker pace.
I won’t abandon the series. No way. I love it. Unfortunately though, sometimes the books we authors love the most are the books that sell the least.
So that’s where we’re at it. It’s probably not what you want to hear dear reader but that’s how it is. The Future of London book 6 (as of yet untitled) will be ready when it’s ready. It is coming but please bear with me.
So it’s July 2020 and guess what? The world is still caught up in the middle of a global pandemic that’s knocked the wheels off of so-called normality. That means it’s time to release a gritty and kickass post-apocalyptic novel where the shit hits the fan, right?
Probably not. But I’ve always been a drive on the wrong side of the road kind of guy. Covid-19 isn’t going to get in my way – at least not as far as writing is concerned.
So here we are again. Today sees the release of Deathflix, the third and final book in the Butch Nolan series. This is my Mad Max, John Wick and Clint Eastwood spaghetti western homage (rest in peace Ennio Morricone). If you’ve read the first two Nolan books – Nolan’s Ark and ManHunter, I hope you’ve been looking forward to the conclusion. If you have, here it is.
Deathflix is available now on Amazon. (Click the cover to buy).
Dystopiaville makes Black Mirror look like a utopian picnic.
Three books. Three shocking visions of tomorrow’s
stands out from the pack.’ – James Haydon
For the first time, all three Dystopiaville books can be bought together in one mega-value box set. Shut Up and Die!, WaxWorld, Killing Floor – three thrilling and terrifying tales of dystopian horror and science fiction guaranteed to keep you turning the pages.
What readers are saying about
‘Think Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, but
with books instead of TV.’ – CJ Sinnott
‘Another fabulously mind altering book by
Mark Gillespie. He is officially in my top five author list.’ – Kirsten
McKenzie, author of Painted.
‘Captured my attention and never let go…I loved everything about it.’ – The Haunted Reading Room Reviews
The third and final book in the Dystopiaville series, Killing Floor, is out now. I say it’s the final book – I’d love to write more of these dark scary babies but to tell you the truth, they’ve kind of struggled to find an audience. We shall see.
A nationwide cull of the British population will begin immediately after this special broadcast…’
Killing Floor, an up and coming rock and roll band, are on the brink of superstardom.
But things take a turn for the worse when a joyous weekend in the country turns into a nightmare of survival.
Just wanted to post something on this poor neglected blog of mine. Poor, poor thing. Honestly, I came into this website with good intentions. I would blog regularly! Become a blog wizard, buy a big pointy hat, take over the world and…
It didn’t happen. To be honest I’m too busy writing books to keep a proper blog running. That shit takes work. But I do want to use this space to keep people updated on what I’m working on as I’ve had a few emails recently asking about particular projects and where I’m at etc…
So here we go. I’m working on a few things at the moment. My main project is Nolan’s Ark, which is the first book in a new post-apocalyptic series of mine. This will be out in early December. (Sketch of cover above).
In January I’m going to release a box set called Apocalypse Number One – this is a collection of first books in various series of mine, apocalyptic and dystopian. I think this’ll provide a great entry point to people who’ve never read any of my work before. Always good to provide the readers with options.
In February I’m putting out the third and final Dystopiaville book, Killing Floor.
March sees the release of the sequel to Nolan’s Ark (working title of Demon Sheriff).
And in April I’m planning to release a Dystopiaville box set with all three books from the first season included.
That’s as far as I’ve got with planning.
I receive a fair amount of emails asking me about the Future of London. Where the hell is book 6 and it’s a fair point, considering the last one came out almost two years ago. Regarding the future of the Future of London, I absolutely will be releasing book 6. I’m working on it but…slowly. As far as the London series is concerned, think of it trickling out in a traditional publishing timeframe, at least for now. No rapid fire release here. But yes, book 6 is on its way and with a bit of luck it’ll break the surface in 2020. Working on a second draft now, but remember – I’m taking it slow.
That’s all I have for now my friends. Thank you for being here and supporting this journey of mine. I’m eternally grateful.
It’s the piece of writing advice that annoys me the most.
Write a killer first line.
You might see it on how-to-write-a-novel lists and on these random top ten snippets of writing advice, and on blogs and blah-blah-blah. These are the things you must do or your writing will go to shit and nobody will ever read it.
Write a killer first line, so they say. Grab them from the get-go.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad piece of advice and if you can come up with a ‘killer’ first line then go for it. By all means. It’s better than a crappy first line, no doubt about that. But if anyone ever suggests this is a ‘must-do’ then feel free to discard their advice. Immediately. Get up and leave the room. Click away from the website.
It’s garbage. Total garbage.
Who gives up on a book if the first line doesn’t blow them away or give them multiple orgasms? Anyone who does that is not equipped to read books. What’s more important than a killer first line is an intriguing first ten pages, first chapter or first hundred pages. That doesn’t sound quite as sexy though does it? Personally, if a book doesn’t grab me after a hundred pages I put it down. Life’s too short to waste on bad books.
But after a tepid first line?
No. I’m willing to give the author a little more than that.
What’s the point of this post? Good question. I guess it’s just to say be wary of these top ten lists of things you must do if you want to write a good novel. Feel free to pick and choose what works for you. There is no hard rule to writing a great book or we’d all be doing it.
You’re in charge of your own story. Jam. Have fun with it.
Over the past year or so I’ve received a growing number of emails about The Future of London series. The question is always the same: will there be a sixth book?
Yes it’s been a while since the last one. If memory serves me right, book 5 came out in December 2017, and that was after me releasing about three London books that same year. It was a blitz and I guess readers had every right to expect it would continue at the same pace.
So what’s happened?
Several things. I’ve been drawn to writing other things. Since the last London book, amongst other bits and pieces, I’ve written the Exterminators trilogy and the After the End trilogy. Also, despite the fact that it’s probably my favourite series, the London books aren’t massive sellers. Too weird? I don’t know but for some reason they haven’t clicked. It’s a shame but right now it means that I have to prioritise and that means working on some other things.
The good news is that the sixth London book is in the works. It most certainly is. I’m working on it right now but I’m not working on it at the pace of my ‘A’ project, which is a new dystopian series premiering in August. About five days a week I’ll spend a little time on book six of FOL (Future of London) and although I’m not sure when it’s going to be finished it WILL be done.
Fear not. If Mack Walker ever catches up with Hatchet you my dear reader will be the first to know. Well…second, after me.
“Shut up,” Eda whispered. “Just shut up,
David’s voice came back at her – a faint
vapor of familiarity drifting across the darkness. Somewhere in the close
confinement of the tunnel, his whisper turned into a shout.
“What did you say?” he said. “Eda?”
Eda shook her head. She knew he couldn’t
see her but she did it anyway.
“Nothing,” she said, staring into the
“Were you talking to me?” David said.
Eda shook her head again. “No.”
“Forget it David,” she snapped. “I
thought I heard something that’s all. Let’s get moving, alright? This place
is…never mind, let’s go.”
Eda kept walking. It wasn’t the first
time she’d imagined footsteps or voices on her tail and it wouldn’t be the last
either. Ever since they’d set foot in the Lincoln Tunnel things hadn’t felt
right. A permanent unease had lingered amongst them like an uninvited
companion. Where was the relief Eda had been hoping for? She was out for God’s
sake. Where was the happiness, the joy at breaking free from New York? Damn it.
Wherever the elation was, it wasn’t in the tunnel alongside the travelers. But there
was something else in there, Eda was
sure of it on a purely instinctive level. In the absolute silence, she could
hear it breathing, just a few paces behind her. Walking when she walked.
Stopping when she stopped. Sometimes she felt a gust of breath blowing on the
back of her neck.
But whenever she investigated, there was
nothing there. Nothing at all.
It was the darkness playing tricks with
her mind. She had to keep telling herself that over and over again, repeating
it like a mantra.
The alternative was to go crazy.
Thank God they were more than halfway
through the one and a half mile long tunnel, which was located under the Hudson
River. This creepy underwater bridge, shrouded in darkness, would transport
them from Manhattan, New York, to a place that David apparently knew well,
somewhere called Weehawken, in the old state of New Jersey.
“Frankie Boy?” Eda said. “Are you still
“Frankie?” she said, a hint of panic
creeping into her voice. “Don’t wander off for God’s sake. Not in here of all
Then she heard it. The sound of the dog’s
paws skipping over the roadway towards her. A light tap-tapping, accompanied by
the repetitive sniffing noise Frankie made as he took in some new, unfamiliar
scent in the air.
“Good boy,” she said. She reached down
and found his back. It was a tiny oasis of warmth inside the icy tunnel.
“How long David?” she asked.
“We’re nearly there,” David said. His
voice sounded further away, like he’d kept on walking while Eda had waited for
Frankie Boy to catch up.
“I think this place is getting to me,”
Eda said. “It’s like some giant haunted cave, don’t you think?”
“Try to relax,” David said. “Take slow, deep
breaths. It’s just the tunnel playing tricks with your mind. I was the same the
first time I came through here and I did it alone. Not being able to see two
inches in front of me – it nearly drove me bonkers.”
“Bonkers?” Eda said.
“Yeah, you know. Mad. Crazy. Off my head.”
“Never heard that one before,” Eda said.
David laughed and it felt like the tunnel
was shaking underneath them. “I grew up with an Englishman remember,” he said.
“Yeah,” Eda said. She wasn’t in the mood
to talk about David’s hybrid accent or his upbringing. “Well I’m right on the
edge of goddamn bonkers. How long?”
“You just asked me that,” David said.
“Not long to go,” David said. “Hopefully
no more than fifteen minutes if we keep a steady pace. Trust me, it’s worth it
if we keep pushing on and don’t think too much. We’re nearly out. And once we
are, New York and the Complex will feel like a bad dream.”
Eda groaned. Fifteen minutes. It might as
well have been fifteen days.
They kept walking.
About a minute later, Eda heard David
curse up ahead as he walked into the back of yet another abandoned car. It
wasn’t the first time either one of them had had a collision. There were a lot
of cars sitting in the tunnel in silence, like a fleet of ghost ships from a
distant era. Eda imagined that people back then, not knowing what else to do,
had driven into the tunnel to hide from the madness of the city. Now their
vehicles were still here, cloaked in darkness. Sometimes Eda caught a glimpse
of an impending trunk at the last minute and barely avoided a collision. Mostly
she knew nothing about it until she’d walked into the metal and taken the hit.
Pain took a backseat to frustration. It was something else to slow her down.
Afterwards, Eda would use her hands, feeling her way around the car, trying not
to think about what might still be inside.
That was easier said than done.
Judging by the stale rot that permeated
throughout the tunnel, they were walking through a giant, underground
There were patches of occasional debris
under their feet. As Eda and David stepped over these, a sickening crunching
sound filled the air. It was a blasphemous noise. Eda had by now climbed over a
small mountain of bones and if the ghosts of all those car owners were still in
the tunnel then surely she’d pissed them off big time.
It was enough to make her walk faster.
When the light of the exit finally
appeared up ahead, Eda groaned with relief. Throwing caution aside, she hurried
outside and reveled in the gray, overcast sky that greeted them. They both
stood there for a while, basking in the dull light of either late morning or
It had been a long day so far.
“Thank God,” Eda said. She ran a hand
through her long dark hair. Despite the cold she’d felt inside the tunnel, her
forehead was hot and damp with sweat.
There was also a dull pain throbbing
around Eda’s temple. That was the spot where Lex had punched her. Her jaw ached
too. That brutal struggle in Manhattan was still fresh in body and mind and
despite what David had said earlier, it would be a long time before Eda could
simply pass it off as a bad dream.
At the very least they were out of New
York. That was official.
“Alright,” Eda said, adjusting her eyes
back to daylight. She looked over at David, who was no longer just a voice in
the tunnel alongside her. His wounds from New York added up to no more than a
few minor facial cuts. He was smiling, clearly in good spirits.
Frankie Boy strolled ahead, his black
tail wagging gently back and forth.
“I think you’re in the best shape out of
all of us,” Eda said, looking at the dog. “Talk about not giving a shit.”
She turned back to the gaping jaws of the
Lincoln Tunnel – three black holes, toothless and bleak, that dared to invite
them back to New York. Above each tunnel, a huge advertising billboard looked
down at the travelers. The images on each billboard had long since faded into
“Let’s go,” Eda said.
The road led
uphill into Weehawken. There were more cars sitting on the road as it curved
steeply away from the Lincoln Tunnel entrance. At first glance, it looked as if
this pack of vehicles had just emerged from the New York side and had paused
for a moment before continuing on into New Jersey. But in reality, these
rust-covered carcasses had been lying there for years. Going nowhere.
Eda didn’t get
“So this is home for you?” she asked
David as they walked up the hill.
“Yeah it is,” David said. “Not Weehawken
specifically but New Jersey. I’ve moved about over the years but somehow I
always end up coming back home. It’s like a magnet. It pulls me in and I
“Frankie!” Eda said, cutting David off.
The big German Shepherd had strayed too
close to the abandoned cars. Although it was unlikely there was anything to
fear – at least anything that was alive – Eda didn’t want to take the chance
that someone else, someone who wasn’t just a pile of dust and bones, was
waiting inside one of the vehicles to ambush the newcomers. Dead bodies were
harmless in comparison to the living.
Even though they’d left the Lincoln
Tunnel behind, Eda still had the strange feeling that she was being watched. As
she climbed the hill into Weehawken, her claustrophobia had morphed into a
sudden attack of agoraphobia.
She walked faster.
“Are you alright?” David asked, catching
up with her. “You look a little bit pale if you don’t mind me saying.”
“I’m just getting used to things,” Eda
said. “I thought a change of scenery would be easier than this.”
“You’ll be alright,” David said.
looked at him as she walked at speed. “So where do we go from here?”
“I know a place where we can lay low for
a few days,” he said. “Once we get there we can put our heads together and come
up with a long-term plan.”
“What is it?” Eda asked.
David smiled. “It’s my quiet place,” he
said. “Somewhere green, without a ruined car or a smashed window in sight.”
“Sounds good to me,” Eda said. “Is it
“There’s a bit of walking involved. But
it’ll be worth it, I promise.”
“Alright then,” Eda said. The thought of
a long walk didn’t bother her, not as long as it was taking them further away
from New York. A quiet place sounded just
The rotten scent that Eda had encountered
in the tunnel lingered in the air. It was like the breeze was coated in decay;
now it followed them like a shadow.
They made their way onto a large road,
which the signs called the 495. After that they walked west for about an hour. Eda’s
legs became tired quickly but the thought of David’s quiet place encouraged her
to push past the fatigue, to say nothing of exhaustion. The quiet place had
turned into a fabled paradise in Eda’s imagination. It was glorious. Nothing
she saw along the way of a shattered world could discourage her from the ideal
of perfection that awaited them.
They walked slowly, veering off the 495
and traveling through a town called Secaucus. It felt small compared to the
enormous skyscrapers of Manhattan but despite superficial appearances, the
emptiness inside was identical. Broken-down vehicles lined either side of the
street, some of which had the driver and passenger side doors lying open, as if
inviting further investigation. Eda declined the invitation.
Shattered glass peppered the sidewalk. Eda
stepped over the gleaming, crystal-like shards and was immediately reminded of
the crunching noises she’d heard inside the Lincoln Tunnel when she’d walked
over the bones of the dead.
Eda noticed that David’s initially brisk
pace was slowing down too. His feet looked like they were sinking into the road
with each step.
“You getting tired?” Eda said. She hoped
he’d say yes.
David nodded but he kept his eyes on the
road ahead. “I forgot how far it was to the quiet place from the tunnel.”
“The adrenaline is wearing off,” Eda
said. “I know the feeling. Hey, how about this? Maybe we should rest somewhere
in between here and your quiet place. There’s no rush to get there, right? It
doesn’t have to be this afternoon. It doesn’t even have to be today when you
think about it. Not unless this quiet place of yours is moving.”
“Yeah okay,” David said. “We’ll keep
moving for now and stop in a little while. Okay with you?”
“Sure,” Eda said.
They walked through Secaucus and at the
edge of town, came to a long bridge that crossed over a broad, dark blue river.
Once they were standing on the bridge, Eda knew that they’d found a good place
to stop. She felt safe up there. It was the elevation – standing atop the
bridge, Eda and David were high above all the houses and cars and everything
else of the old civilization that stretched out for miles on either side of the
river. Nothing could touch them on the bridge. It was like standing on the roof
of a skyscraper in New York, safely out of reach of danger.
Looking down, the water was calm and
tempting. But Eda would never go in to cool off, not even on the hottest of
days. She knew that large rivers such as this one had been used as mass graves
during the war years. Below the surface, the riverbed was fat with human
remains. The surface, so blue and appealing from afar, would smell old and
The water level was high at the moment
and Eda wondered how many times this particular river had spilled over its
banks and rampaged through the empty town with no spectators to witness it
wreak havoc upon the neighborhood. Even if it flooded today, Eda, David and
Frankie Boy would be safe up on the bridge.
“What about here?” Eda said, calling out
to David. “This is the best hotel I’ve seen so far in all of New Jersey.”
“Here?” David said. He looked around,
seemingly unconvinced. “You don’t want to cover a little more ground before we
Eda shook her head. “We’ve got food,
water and blankets,” she said. “It’s safe up here. I say we sleep and recover a
little and then start up again early in the morning. Your quiet place – it isn’t
going anywhere is it?”
“You really want to stop here?” David
“Yeah,” Eda said. Her eyes roamed over
the bridge and nearby surroundings, and she was yet again assured of its
strategic advantages. They wouldn’t find anything better than this. Anything
safer. “If we stop in the middle it offers us a great vantage point. We can see
for miles on all sides and if anyone or anything shows up to say hi, we’ll see
them before they can get close.”
“Still think we’re being watched?” David
Eda shrugged. “I need to sit down,” she
said. “Fully digest everything that’s happened today. You know?”
David nodded. He slid Eda’s backpack off
his shoulder and held onto it by a single strap. They’d taken it in turns to
carry the bag so far; it contained all their supplies, a modest bundle of food
and water and amongst other things, two rolled up blankets, which had been fastened
to the front.
They walked to the middle of the bridge
and sat down on the road. Eda put her back up against the sturdy, stone barrier
and sighed with relief.
David ran a hand back and forth over his tired
calf muscles. “I’ll never get up now,” he said.
“No need to get up,” Eda said. “We rest. Start
again in the morning.”
They ate the leftovers that Eda had taken
from the Waldorf Astoria. Before the hastily assembled farewell ceremony, Eda
had helped herself to as much food as she could carry – enough for a few days
split between the two humans and Frankie Boy.
She offered some cold vegetable stew to
Frankie Boy who devoured it in seconds. Then she poured out a small bowl of
water, which she set it down on the road.
Conversation was sparse. Exhaustion
settled into their bodies and minds and when the small talk began to dry up, no
one went out of their way to prolong it. Both David and Eda lay down on their
blankets. It wasn’t much of a bed but as far as Eda was concerned it was a slice
of heaven on Earth. She would sleep well here.
“Wait till you see it,” David said. His
voice was sluggish as he drifted off. He was looking up at the gray sky that
shielded the stars from view. “I should never have left the quiet place.
Everything’s so much better there. You’ll see…”
“Then why did you leave?” Eda said. Her
eyelids were closing over fast.
“Itchy feet,” he said. “Curiosity.
Adventure. The usual. Same things that always get me into trouble.”
A minute later, David was snoring
lightly. Eda rolled over onto her left side and saw Frankie Boy curled up
beside her on the blanket. The last thing she did before falling asleep was slide
her dagger out of the crumpled backpack. After that, she closed her eyes, wrapping
her fingers around the handle and laying the weapon flat against her chest.
In the morning they had a quick
breakfast, gathered their belongings and set off towards the quiet place.
Eda felt refreshed after the long rest. As
they traveled in a westerly direction, she set a swift pace that David matched
stride for stride. There was a renewed sense of purpose in the traveling party
now that the horrors of New York had faded ever so slightly further into the
Frankie Boy walked a short distance ahead,
probing the surroundings like a well-trained scout.
After about six hours on the road they
reached the city of Paterson. Paterson looked like it had been hit by a bomb
and of course it had many times over. But walking through the city, Eda thought
the destruction looked fresh – like it could have happened yesterday. Nobody
had tried to rebuild over this since it happened. Debris of all kinds – bricks,
stone and glass – were scattered all over the streets and sidewalks. The burned
out shells of cars were everywhere, some of them skeletal and barely upright.
David stopped in the middle of the
street. There was a strained expression on his face as he spun around, taking
it all in.
“I remember this,” he said. “When it
happened. All the noise and confusion – the shouting and screams. The worst
screams you could ever imagine Eda. It all happened right here.”
“You lived in this city?” Eda asked.
He looked at her with an embarrassed
“Think so,” he said. “I can’t remember to
tell you the truth. All I remember is running with a gang of street kids in a
place that looked just like this. A big city in New Jersey – how could I forget
“I grew up in a city,” Eda said. “I don’t
remember what it was called either.”
David sighed. “They were right when they
called it the wild years,” he said. “The things I saw Eda. I’ve never been so
scared in all my life and yet I had to act tough if I didn’t want to be one of
the victims. There was no way I could have kept that up for long. It would have
worn me down sooner or later.”
“You got out?” Eda said.
“Yeah,” David said. “Thank God, one day
someone found me. He took me and some of the other kids and got us the hell out
of here. He saved our lives. Took us somewhere better.”
He looked at Eda.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” Eda said.
“Are you really going to do what Shay
asked you to do?” he said. “Are you going to become an ambassador for the
Complex, find men and lure them to their death in New York? I mean, it’s none
of my business but why should you? You’re free of those women now – you can do
whatever you want without having to satisfy Shay’s bloodlust.”
Eda shook her head.
“I don’t know,” she said. That was the
truth. She hadn’t really stopped to give it much thought since leaving
Manhattan. “I’m not going to go out of my way to look for anyone. But at the
same time, if I ever meet some gaping asshole who deserves it then why not?
It’s an ugly way to die, that’s for sure.”
David nodded. He pointed to the backpack
on Eda’s shoulder.
“Want me to carry that for a while?”
“Nah,” Eda said. “I’m good.”
“How are our supplies?”
“We’re not going to starve or die of
thirst just yet,” Eda said. “But we’d better think about topping up soon or we
David’s eyes fell on the road that led
west. “We’re close to our destination.”
“So tell me,” Eda said. “What exactly is
this quiet place of yours? You’re not giving much away you know.”
David laughed, jerking a thumb over his
“There’s a massive stretch of wetland
that way,” he said. “It’s like a big wooded swamp, that kind of thing.”
Eda shrugged, which made David laugh
“It’s about as far from New York City as
you can imagine,” he said. “There’s a beautiful river that runs through it, trees,
flowers, and things growing like that. Great Piece Meadows – that’s what it was
called before the war. I call it my quiet place. It’s not like anything we’re walking
through right now. Not like Paterson or New York. In the quiet place, everything
looks just like it did before everything happened. You’d never even know
there’d been a war. Nature takes care of you in there. There’s deer. Rainwater.
It’s got everything you’d ever need to survive.”
They traveled west out of Paterson and
onto a long stretch of blacktop highway with surprisingly few vehicles on it. It
wasn’t long before Eda saw a vast ocean of trees looming in the distance. This
blurry, mirage-like vision was every bit as inviting as the bright blue river
of Secaucus. This time however, Eda was going to take up the invitation.
After walking for another twenty minutes
straight, they came to a small, winding road that ran parallel to the highway. David
led them along this road until gradually they began to enter the wetlands of
Great Piece Meadows.
But before the swamp took over
completely, the travelers passed by the remains of a few shack-like houses.
These tiny abodes were lined up neatly on both sides of the road, the last hint
of old civilization to be found in the region. From there, the path into the
swamp narrowed further and the trees got larger and closer. For Eda, it was
like walking into a different world and so far at least, it felt welcoming in a
way she’d never encountered before. New York, Paterson and all the concrete
skylines in her mind began to recede slowly, figments of a dream fizzling out
in the morning sunshine.
Muddy puddles leaked out of the lush
greenery and spilled onto the road. It was as if the swamp was trying to escape
from itself, one tiny piece at a time.
“Great Piece Meadows,” Eda said, stepping
over one large trail of mud. “So this is it? This is your quiet place?”
There was a smile on David’s face. His eyes
drank in the environment, filling him up.
“You can see the appeal right?” he said.
He stopped and held up a hand. “Listen. What do you hear?”
“Nothing,” Eda said.
“Exactly. Best sound you’ll ever hear.”
“Uhh, sure,” Eda said. “It’s different,
I’ll give you that much. And right now, anything different is good.”
David kept walking. “Don’t worry,” he said.
“You’ll like it here.”
It was a while before either one of them
Eda peered into the swamp from the road.
She couldn’t see anything in between all the trees and the long, overgrown
grass. It looked like the Meadows didn’t want to be found.
“You really lived in there?” she asked.
“I sure did,” David said. “It’s not quite
as empty as it looks from out here on the road. There are a lot of animals
living in the Meadows. There’s life everywhere you look, even if you can’t see
it at first. I have weapons stored away – bows, knives. I’ve got plenty of traps
too. We can…”
Eda jumped when Frankie Boy started barking.
She knew that bark, fierce and frightened all mixed into one head-splitting
noise. It was a warning. The dog’s body was as stiff as a board, the tail
erect. He was facing the swamp head-on, barking at a blanket of trees and
Eda crouched down beside him. Her heart
sped up as she stared into the swamp.
“What is it Frankie Boy?” she said.
“There’s nothing there.”
David stepped over beside them and Eda
straightened back up. They stood side by side, frozen on the narrow path,
staring into the swamp because they knew that Frankie Boy wasn’t barking at
nothing. But they couldn’t see anything, just a dense blanket of foliage swaying
back and forth to a gentle breeze.
“C’mon boy,” Eda said. She patted Frankie
on the back several times, hoping he’d snap out of it. “Let’s keep walking.
Eda was interrupted by a rustling noise
in the distance. Like something big pushing through the trees.
They heard the distinct sound of twigs
snapping under feet.
“David?” Eda said. “Is that a deer?”
David shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
Eda looked harder, not allowing herself
There was something there, directly up
ahead. A man’s face had appeared in a small gap in between a couple of bloated
tree trunks. He was looking at them through the gap, staring at the travelers with
a calm, unblinking expression. The man was so perfectly still that Eda thought
she might have been looking at a statue. And then he moved. It was like
watching something step out of a dream and set foot in the material world – a
two-dimensional image slowly coming to life in the three-dimensional realm.
More twigs snapped.
The man came through the Meadows, gliding
towards them like a phantom.