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Shattered Worlds Box Set
Read these bestselling tales of survival against the odds, dark worlds, dystopian regimes, and heroic rebels. Get all six books ON SALE for only $0.99.
Shattered Worlds features six full-length novels from bestselling authors. Immerse yourself in post-apocalyptic civilizations and bleak near-futures where hope still lives.
Featured authors and books are:
Elle Casey: Apocalypsis
Shalini Boland: Outside
Zoe Cannon: The Torturer’s Daughter
Scott Cramer: Night of the Purple Moon
Sarah Dalton: The Blemished
Katie French: The Breeders
Shalini Boland: Outside
Zoe Cannon: The Torturer’s Daughter
Scott Cramer: Night of the Purple Moon
Sarah Dalton: The Blemished
Katie French: The Breeders
This book blitz and giveaway is brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours. Please make sure you visit the other participating blogs as well.
(Kahayatle Book 1)
(Kahayatle Book 1)
by Elle Casey
My name's Bryn Mathis. I'm seventeen years old, and I live in a neighborhood outside of Orlando, Florida. I live alone because my dad died almost a year ago, along with all the other adults in the world. I'm almost out of food and the gangs of kids that roam around my town are getting more vicious by the day.
It's time for me to leave and find another place to live ... a place where I can find food and shelter ... a place where they won't be able to find me.
Alone, it might have been possible; but now I've got company. I'm worried that I don't have what it takes to get from here to my final destination.
And I have no idea what might be waiting for me when I get there.
*May not be suitable for younger, middle grade readers.*
I stuffed the sleeping bag down into my backpack with angry, punching motions, sick and tired of having to be here and having to do the same thing over and over again. I hated camping, I hated being organized, and more than anything, I hated what this exercise stood for.
“Don’t do it like that. I told you - you have to conserve the room as best you can. You have to travel as efficiently as possible. Take it out and start over.”
“I don’t see what difference it makes.”
“Trust me, it’s going to be a really big deal to you in the not so distant future.” His voice sounded hollow.
“Says who?” I was being ornery. I knew the answer to the question already.
“Says me, Bryn. And the news. Look around, would you?” He sounded like he was pleading now. “Stop defaulting back to the rebellious young teen act, and get serious. We don’t have enough time to play those games anymore.”
“They’re not games, Dad. I am a teenager. I don’t care what the news jerks and the government say.” I threw my backpack down on the ground. “And it’s not rebellious to not want to play friggin’ survivor in the backyard every day.”
My dad looked at me with a sad expression and sighed, reaching over to pull me into a tight hug. He dropped his nose to my head and inhaled deeply.
My face was pressed up against his shirt, and I could smell his sweat mixed with the sweet scent of his aftershave. My dad always said he was the last of a dying breed, using that stuff. He couldn’t have been more right.
“Maybe it’s not going to happen here … to us.” I said it just to hear the words, but I knew it was only wishful thinking.
I could tell he was getting choked up again when he started talking, his voice now hoarse.
“I wish, more than anything else in this world, that you didn’t have to be standing here with me in this backyard playing survivor.” His whole body started to shake with silent sobs. “Oh, God, Bryn. If I could do anything to change this, anything at all, I would. I swear to God I would. But it’s happening. No one can stop it.”
I put my arms around his waist, letting go of my earlier stubborn anger, now choking back my own tears. “I know, Dad. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
“Yes, you did,” he said, sniffing hard and clearing his throat, shifting to hold me at arm’s length. He was staring at me while he smiled through his tears, giving me that look. The one that always made me confess.
“Okay, so maybe I did mean it. But I’ll shut up about it for a little while.”
“Not for too long, though. You wouldn’t be my daughter if you weren’t complaining about something.”
I tried to slap him playfully but he moved too fast for me. My dad is light on his feet, an expert level-one practitioner of krav maga - a certified badass. He’d only recently taken up camping.
“Pick it up,” he ordered, now back in control of his emotions. “Do it again. Only this time, get the air out of that bag first, condense it down …”
I cut him off. “I know, I know … ‘down into the smallest footprint possible.’ Geez, Dad, I’m not an idiot.”
I shook the sleeping bag out and started rolling it up quickly, using the moves I’d been practicing for four months straight to squeeze it down into a lump the size of a small loaf of bread. I folded the whole thing in half, pushed it to the bottom of the backpack, and then let it unfold itself one time, before putting the other items in on top of it: unbreakable water bottle, half-liter of bleach, square of plastic, cup, hunting knife, and various other tools my father was quite certain I would need … once all the adults in the world had died off, leaving us kids alone to fend for ourselves.
About the Author
Elle Casey is a full-time writer of New Adult and Young Adult titles in several genres, including romance, urban fantasy, sci-fi dystopian, and action-adventure. She's an American girl who's been living in southern France with her husband and three children since 2010. She loves chatting with her readers, so feel free to drop her a line.
(The Outside Series Book 1)
(The Outside Series Book 1)
by Shalini Boland
A post-apocalyptic romance thriller.
The world of the future is divided by Perimeters: high-security gated communities where life goes on as normal. If you’re inside you’re lucky, if you’re outside life expectancy takes a nose dive.
Riley is fortunate to have been born on the right side of the fence. But her life of privilege comes crashing down when someone breaks through the Perimeter and murders her sister. She forsakes her own safety to go in search of the killer. Luc decides to go with her otherwise she’ll be dead before she’s past the security gate. But what awaits her outside is more unbelievable than she ever expected.
Cut to the present day where Eleanor's world is falling apart. This time next year, civilisation won't be quite so civilised . . .
*Suitable for adults and teens aged 13+*
Pa is a black marketeer. Nobody and everybody knows this. Pa pays people not to rock the boat. He pays the guards, he pays the neighbours and he even pays his friends. He pays off just about everyone – a litre of whisky here and a bag of sugar there, and in return we live a life of ease and comfort. Pa believes in the carrot approach just as much as the punishing stick. As long as he doesn’t draw too much attention to himself from the wrong quarters, we’re safe and free.
Pa can get his hands on just about anything from before. If you’ve got a craving for a pot noodle he can probably magic one up from somewhere. But it’ll cost you all you’ve got and more besides. He isn’t swayed by threats or tears. He’ll hold fast and stare you down and if you can’t pay you might get a bullet in your head, or worse.
This morning, my parents are standing together in the doorway of the sitting room. Behind me, the sun floods in through the windows and they edge closer to avoid squinting into the too-bright light.
Their faces are ghost white and Ma’s nose and eyes are pink and swollen. She shivers and her teeth chatter as though she’s chilled and it isn’t the warm July morning it appears to be.
‘Riley, can you sit down?’ Pa asks.
‘Okay,’ I say. They’re acting weird. It’s freaking me out. My legs are heavy wood and I’m not sure I can make the three feet required to reach the sofa.
‘Okay,’ I repeat. But I don’t move. I just keep looking from one to the other and they stare back almost as if they’re afraid of me.
‘Riley, sit down,’ Pa says.
I walk to the sofa and sit in one corner with my hands on my lap. The leather is cool against my legs in the warmth of the room. Fear has travelled up from my stomach to my throat and I can’t swallow. I feel sick.
‘Riley,’ he says, running his hands slowly through his hair.
‘No!’ Ma loses it. She sobs and stumbles towards me. Sits and buries her head in my chestnut curls, rocking me backwards and forwards, moaning and muttering. I can’t breathe she’s holding me so tight.
‘Sweetheart, let go, you’re crushing her. Go and lie down upstairs if you want. I’ll tell her.’ Pa’s voice is soft and broken. It doesn’t sound a bit like him.
She lets go of me, cups my face in her hands and kisses my face all over. ‘No, It’s alright, I’m alright,’ she says not taking her eyes from my face. ‘I'm not leaving my baby.’ She leans back, trembling. I press my hands back into my lap and she wraps her arms around herself, still shivering and rocking.
Our house has always been a light and happy place. I don’t understand what’s going on. My face and pyjama top are wet from Ma’s sticky tears. I let my mind wander for a minute, away from the awful strangeness of what’s going on and I hear the low background hum of the generators overlaid by the familiar whirr and thrum of a copter hovering overhead.
Has my father done something wrong? Are we in danger? Do we have to leave the Perimeter? All the most awful things I can think of crowd my brain. And then … Skye! Why isn’t she here? My little sister is usually up before me. I hesitate, not wanting to pose the question. Maybe she’s too young for this conversation and they’ve sent her out of earshot. She won't like that; she’ll kick up a real fuss. But then I would have heard them arguing and everything has been quiet this morning; abnormally quiet up until now.
An unwanted thought creeps into my head and I push it out quickly.
‘Where’s Skye?’ My voice sounds high pitched and distant, like my ears need to pop.
Pa comes close and crouches down in front of me. He takes both my hands in his and looks into my eyes.
‘Something’s happened.’ He breaks off. ‘We’re waiting for … We’re not sure ...’
And then something really horrible happens. My powerful, strong, wonderful father starts crying. Proper messy crying where his face twists and his voice sounds broken. I’m appalled. He never cries.
I’m not a typical daddy’s girl. I love the bones of him, but I feel easiest around Ma. We always talk make-up, fashion, gossipy stuff and laugh a lot together. Skye belongs to Pa and Pa definitely belongs to Skye. They’re a team. I never feel excluded exactly, but I don’t have the same natural connection they do.
‘Riley,’ he says. ‘I don't know how to say this.’ He looks over at Ma who’s staring at him in horror. ‘Skye is … Skye is. Oh Riley, she … she’s dead.’
I stare down at the patterns on the carpet. I’ve never noticed just how vivid the individual colours are. The over-all effect is of a soft warmth, but I focus on a particular strand of red that seems almost luminous, as if it’s going to jump out of the weave and hit me in the face.
About the Author
Shalini Boland lives in Dorset, England with her husband and two noisy boys. Before children, she was signed to Universal Music as a singer songwriter. Now, writing novels has hijacked her life and she is usually to be found with a laptop welded to her fingers and the house in a permanent state of neglect.
The Torturer's Daughter
(The Internal Defense Series Book 1)
(The Internal Defense Series Book 1)
by Zoe Cannon
When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca Dalcourt assumes it's the usual drama. Wrong. Heather's parents have been arrested as dissidents - and Becca's mother, the dystopian regime's most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.
To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents' innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn't expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents... and about her mother.
When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn't the only one with secrets - and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people she loves most. For Becca, it's no longer just a choice between risking execution and ignoring the regime's crimes; she has to decide whose life to save and whose to sacrifice.
It's easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? An Amazon dystopian bestseller, The Torturer's Daughter is a story about ordinary life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime... and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what's right in a world gone wrong.
Becca’s steps slowed as she approached Processing 117. The floodlights of the parking lot shone down on her, exposing her. Past the lot, the darkness threatened to close in. There was no other source of light nearby except for the dim glow of the streetlamps, nothing but trees for at least a mile in every direction.
The concrete structure loomed taller than its five stories—maybe because of the invisible presence of the underground levels, or maybe because in a moment Becca was going to have to walk inside.
Heather can’t have been arrested. If she were a prisoner, they wouldn’t have let her call.
But when Becca remembered the panic in Heather’s voice, the thought wasn’t all that reassuring anymore.
Becca took the last few steps across the not-quite-empty parking lot. The windows of the upper floors glowed in a patchwork of lights, showing who was working another late night and who was at home sleeping… or down on the underground levels. Becca knew that in one of those dark offices, a phone had been ringing off the hook for the past half-hour, its owner oblivious to Becca’s pleas for her to answer, to find Heather for her, to fix this.
Becca reached the double doors of the entrance—and froze. Her heart thudded against her ribcage.
Heather is in there, she reminded herself. Heather needs me.
She pulled the doors open and stepped inside.
The doors slammed shut behind her, the noise echoing off the stark white walls. Security cameras stared down at her from the ceiling. The guards, one to either side of the metal detector, pinned her to the floor with their eyes, but said nothing.
Opposite the metal detector from Becca, the room was bare except for a huge metal desk with corners that looked sharp enough to cut. Behind the desk, a dark-haired woman with a headset clipped to her ear stopped mid-yawn and jerked up to face her.
Becca held her breath and stepped through the metal detector. Its light flashed green, and one of the guards waved her forward. She let her breath out and stepped up to the desk.
She eyed the woman’s crisp gray suit, and the desk that gleamed like it had never seen a speck of dust in its life. Then she looked down at her own clothes, the jeans and wrinkled t-shirt she had grabbed from her dresser after hanging up with Heather. She crossed her arms around her stomach.
The receptionist’s bleary surprise had vanished, replaced by a stone mask. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for…” Becca bit back the name on her lips. No. If she were in her office, she would have answered the phone. Anyway, Becca could imagine her reaction at finding out about this midnight walk to 117. Becca was on her own.
“…Heather Thomas,” she finished. “She called me half an hour ago and told me she was here.”
The receptionist’s expression didn’t tell Becca anything.
“She’s here… somewhere… she called me…” Becca’s voice trailed off. I’m not doing anything wrong, she told herself. I’m not a dissident. Heather’s not a dissident.
Which led Becca back to the question that had been circling through her mind since she had gotten Heather’s call. What was Heather doing here?
The receptionist turned away and tapped something out on her keyboard. It only took her a few seconds to find what she was looking for. She typed in something else and touched her earpiece. “We have a detainee in temporary holding,” she said to someone Becca couldn’t see. “Last name Thomas. Her file says she’s waiting for a relative to collect her. Right, that’s the one. Someone forgot to collect her phone, and she called a friend.” A pause. “No, that won’t be necessary. Just confiscate the phone.”
She turned back to Becca. “Heather Thomas is waiting for her guardian to arrive. Are you Lydia Thomas?” She gave Becca a skeptical once-over.
Becca considered saying yes, but even if the receptionist weren’t going to ask for proof, there was no way she could pass as Heather’s… aunt, she remembered after a moment. Aunt Lydia, the one who always looked at Becca and Heather like being in high school was catching.
The receptionist took her silence as an answer. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Becca wanted nothing more than to do just that. But she couldn’t leave and let this place swallow Heather. “If she’s waiting for her aunt to get here, I can wait with her until she shows up.”
“I’m sorry,” said the receptionist, already turning back to her computer. “The policy is clear. The detainee will remain in temporary holding—alone—until her guardian arrives.”
Becca was losing ground. And somewhere in this building, Heather was waiting for her. “I’m not trying to take her home or anything. I only want to…” To make sure she wasn’t locked away underground. To make sure they hadn’t gotten her mixed up with somebody else, some dissident slated for execution. “…to let her know I’m here. I promised her I’d—”
“Your refusal to leave the building when instructed will be recorded.” The receptionist placed her hands on her keyboard. “May I have your name?”
“At least tell me what happened. Why is she here? Is she all right?”
“Your name, please,” the receptionist repeated.
If she stayed much longer, the receptionist would order the guards to drag her out—or worse, in. She could end up in one of those underground cells… She shivered. They couldn’t do that to her just for asking about Heather, right?
“Your name,” the receptionist repeated again, with a glance toward the guards.
Becca slumped. “Rebecca Dalcourt.”
The receptionist blinked.
“Well,” she said, her voice suddenly warmer, “I suppose we can make an exception.”
About the Author
Zoe Cannon writes about the things that fascinate her: outsiders, societies no sane person would want to live in, questions with no easy answers, and the inner workings of the mind. If she couldn't be a writer, she would probably be a psychologist, a penniless philosopher, or a hermit in a cave somewhere. While she'll read anything that isn't nailed down, she considers herself a YA reader and writer at heart. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and a giant teddy bear of a dog, and spends entirely too much time on the internet.
Night of the Purple Moon
(The Toucan Trilogy Book 1)
(The Toucan Trilogy Book 1)
by Scott Cramer
Abby, 13, is looking forward to watching the moon turn purple, unaware that deadly bacteria from a passing comet will soon kill off older teens and adults. She must help her brother and baby sister survive in this new world, but all the while she has a ticking time bomb inside of her--adolescence.
*Parental discretion advised for readers 13 and under*
Thick fog rolled in and swallowed Abby whole. Unable to see her outstretched hand, she clenched her jaw to stop her teeth from chattering. Homichlophobia - fear of fog. Millions had the phobia, but how many of them lived in the fog capital of the universe?
Her father’s voice sounded far away. He’d been next to her a moment ago. She reached for him and grabbed damp air. A chill rippled through her and she started flailing her arms.
A hand pressed down on her shoulder. “Hey, sleepy.”
Abby opened her eyes and blinked at the silhouette, tall and lean with a curly mop of brown hair. “Dad!”
“Yeah, Cambridge.” Abby always found a way to let her dad know how she felt about moving from the city in Massachusetts where she had grown up—where her friends still lived—to a small island twenty miles off the coast of Maine. Her mom also shared part of the blame for going along with his crazy idea to move here.
“Tonight’s the night!” he said with a gleam in his eye and headed off to wake up her twelve-year-old brother Jordan.
“A purple moon?” she called out. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Abby sat up in bed, still shaken by her dream. Just then the long blast of a horn signaled the 7 a.m. ferry arriving from the mainland. She had to hurry to get in the shower first.
She entered the hallway at the same time as Jordan, and together they raced for the bathroom. She ducked inside first, but he blocked the door from closing. Each pushed for all they were worth. Abby, a year older and stronger than her brother, slammed the gap shut and locked the door.
“Come on,” he said, banging. “I need to take a shower.”
“Save some hot water!”
“Can you say please?”
He banged again.
Abby kicked aside Jordan’s dirty socks and underwear he’d left on the floor and turned on the shower. She stepped into the warm spray and sighed. Sunday, two days from now, could not come fast enough. Abby would spend spring break with her mother in Cambridge. For the first time since moving to Castine Island three months ago, she would hang out with her best friend, Mel.
When Abby stepped out of the bathroom, she found Jordan camped in the hall. He pushed his way past her. “Jerk,” he said. “There better be hot water.”
“Grow up!” she fired back. “And get your dirty stuff off the floor!”
Later, Abby placed her backpack on the kitchen floor, ready for breakfast. Her two-year-old sister, Toucan, sat in her highchair eating Cheerios, grinning, and babbling. “Abby, Comet, Cheeries.”
Abby planted a kiss on her face. “Morning, Touk.”
Dad was washing dishes piled high in the sink - Power cleaning, he called it. Preparing for Mom’s arrival on Saturday, he always started picking up the house the day before.
Abby poured a bowl of cereal and studied the newspaper. The front page had a big picture of the comet Rudenko-Kasparov, named for the two amateur comet hunters who first spotted the fuzzy blob in the Andromeda constellation. The headline declared: GET YOUR BROOMS READY. That was a joke - nobody would be sweeping up space dust, but when Earth entered the comet’s tail for the first time tonight, astronomers predicted weeks of colorful sunsets and sunrises and, best of all, a purple moon.
Not everyone was looking forward to the comet. One cult believed it signaled the end of the world and were hiding out in a cave, as if a hole in the ground might offer some type of protection.
Abby didn’t worry about the world coming to an end, though she was quite curious what space dust smelled like.
About the Author
Scott Cramer has written feature articles for national magazines, covered school committee meetings for a local newspaper, published haiku and poetry, optioned a screenplay, and worked in high-tech marketing communications. His pursuit of a good story has put him behind the stick of an F-18, flying a Navy Blue Angels' fighter jet, and he has trekked through the Peruvian mountains in search of an ancient Quechua festival featuring a condor. Scott and his wife have two daughters and reside outside Lowell, Massachusetts (birthplace of Jack Kerouac) in an empty nest/zoo/suburban farm/art studio with too many surfboards in the garage.
(Blemished Book 1)
(Blemished Book 1)
by Sarah Dalton
A beautiful world comes at a price...
In a world filled with stunning clones Mina Hart is Blemished. Her genes are worthless and that takes away her rights: her right to an Education, her right to a normal life and her right to have a child.
Mina keeps a dangerous secret which she never thought she could share until she meets Angela on her first day at St Jude's School. But their friendship is soon complicated by Angela’s adoptive brother Daniel. Mina finds herself drawn to his mysterious powers and impulsive nature. Then there is the gorgeous clone Sebastian who Mina is forbidden from even speaking to…
The Blemished is a frightening take on a fractured future where the Genetic Enhancement Ministry have taken control of Britain. It will take you on a ride filled with adventure, romance and rebellion.
Once, my mum told me a story about a princess, and it began with her stuck in a castle. My story begins with my head stuck in the toilet.
It was my first day in Area 14 and my first opportunity to make a good impression at the school appropriately named St Jude’s. Any school with the Blemished as pupils deserved the saint of lost causes as their patron. I’d approached the old Victorian building with a hopeful feeling; this was a new start, a chance to finally make friends. But it was the same hopeful feeling which was beaten away within the hour. An hour was all it took for a GEM to push my head down the toilet and flush.
Her bony hand squeezed my skull. Water pulled my skin. It flooded my nose. I choked and my fingernails scraped the porcelain. I thought ¬– this is how I am going to die, with my face being sucked down a drain. Then, I almost did it again. In the twitch of my fingers I felt the urge to do the one thing my father told me I could never do. The thing which would get us both killed.
“Now you know your place, Blem,” said the girl. She released me and I gasped for air. “Next time I won’t let you go.”
Her heels sounded against the tiles and the girl and her group ran off in giggles. I dragged myself up from the floor with shaking legs. At the sink, I took a deep breath and tried to calm my pounding heart and quell the rising disappointment. This was supposed to be my fresh start away from Area 10. I removed my headscarf and laughed. Moving here was supposed to keep me safe. Like my dad said – out of the frying pan and into the fire.
“If you can’t stand the heat…” I mumbled to myself.
“Are you all right?”
I jumped. When I turned there was a dark skinned girl staring at me sheepishly with a charming gap-toothed smile. On her black tunic she wore the Symbol of the Blemished – a circle containing a simple cross to remind us how we are the cross that society has to bear. Just like me. She was slightly plump and I estimated her age at fourteen, perhaps a tall thirteen, with pretty brown eyes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t step in…” she trailed off and stared down at her hands which never stopped worrying the long sleeves of her tunic.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “There’s no point both of us getting a beating.” I forced a smile to show no hard feelings. After all, I needed at least one ally in this awful school. I turned back to the sink and squeezed at my soaked headscarf.
“It’s just that, well, these toilets are GEM only and I only popped in because I was desperate,” the girl rambled. “Elena Darcey is a total cow. She thinks she owns the school because she might have a shot at London.”
A jolt ran down my spine. I had to remind my hands to keep going.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” the girl asked, her face scrunched with concern.
“Perfectly,” I lied.
“I’m Angela by the way.” She stepped towards me but I didn’t turn around, just watched her in the bathroom mirror. “You must be Mina Hart, the new girl.” She laughed quietly. “We don’t get many new girls at St Jude’s. Well, at least none that are Blemished. Here, let me help. It’s the least I can do.”
Angela pulled the scarf from my fingers and stretched it out underneath the hand dryer. The dark fabric billowed out, reminding me of the Resistance flag. I’d seen photos of them protesting once, my dad showed me. But then I thought of her and I had to close my eyes to regain composure.
“Is it always like this here?” I asked to break the drone of the hand dryer, raising my voice above the noise.
“Elena is nothing compared to the teachers,” Angela replied with a sigh. “Don’t talk back to the GEMs or Murder-Troll will put all Blemished on cleaning duty after class.”
“That’s what we call her – Mrs Murgatroyd. You’ll know why when you meet her.” Angela’s eyes widened to address her point, the whites bulged from her dark skin. She handed me back my headscarf. It was warm and soft. I pinned it into place, fingers working quickly through the folds, and Angela nodded as if in approval. “There you look like nothing ever happened! Come on, I’ll take you to kitchen duty. You’ll be fine with me.”
She led me through the echoing corridors of the old-fashioned school. It turned out I’d wandered into the GEM section, a place where Blemished were not allowed. The Ministry were strict on segregation – at least in schools – the Blemished had their place and the Children of the GEM, or GEMs as we called them, had everything else.
St. Jude’s made the most of its Victorian design which, at one time, separated boys from the girls. There were even two entrances and the School Council used these to ensure GEM and Blemished never had to mix. As she pulled me through corridors and swing doors it was quite clear from dingy grey, paint peeled walls that we had moved into the Blemished quarters. I noted our symbol painted neatly onto a classroom door, the only spot of fresh paint.
“What are your classes like?” I asked.
“The usual,” she said with a shrug. “Kitchen duties, needlework, cleaning class and sex Ed. Gardening in the spring.”
I nodded. The same as Area 10. With a sinking feeling I realised that despite fleeing my old home everything would remain the same. They would figure out my secret and then we’d have to run away again, leaving my friends and home behind.
“Excuse me. I think I’m lost.”
The sound of a male voice in the Blemished corridors startled us both, and we spun around in unison. Our heads would have collided if my headscarf hadn’t caught on a protruding nail from the wall to the right. It yanked me backwards ripping the scarf away and letting my damp hair tumble around my face. I shrieked and tugged, but it was stuck.
“Can I help you with that?” said the boy.
He was a GEM, he had to be. There were no Blemished people with skin as perfect. He was around my age – fifteen – with black eyes and brown hair. He had the chiselled look to his face that GEMs usually prefer; high-cheekbones and a strong jaw which often made them seem cruel. But this time the enhancements had stopped at just the right moment to achieve balance in his good-looks.
“No,” I said sharply. “You can’t help me.” I placed a warning hand between us, palm up. The boy should know the boundaries between Blemished and GEMs. I wondered why he was acting so friendly.
Angela helped me with my headscarf, our fingers working together in the tangle.
“You need to go down the corridor, turn left and through the swing doors to get to the GEM side of the school,” Angela said hurriedly, her eyes never meeting his. “You shouldn’t be talking to us.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just that it’s my first day here and I don’t know…”
I finally pulled the scarf from the nail and hastily covered my hair. “We’re Blemished and you are GEM.”
“My name is Sebastian,” he said, ignoring my warning. He held out a hand for me to shake. “What’s yours?”
Whether it was the surprise of a GEM wanting to know my name or the way Sebastian’s eyes seemed to search my own – I don’t know. But I found myself putting my hand in his, feeling the instant warmth of his skin. It sent tingles of heat through my fingertips and along my arms.
“My name is Mina,” I breathed. “Mina Hart.”
“What a beautiful name,” he said.
I couldn’t control it any longer. My fingers twitched again and the door behind us swung open, almost knocking Angela over. Sebastian and I broke our contact and I backed away self-consciously, aware of my red cheeks and disorganised headscarf. Sebastian smiled and walked away leaving us alone in the corridor. At least, I’d thought we were alone. As I turned towards the entrance to the kitchen I was aware of someone watching us.
A middle-aged woman, thin to the extreme and sour faced, stood in the kitchen doorway with her arms folded tightly across a bulging chest. She was exactly like the kind of woman I had seen in the rich part of Area 10, the mothers of the first generation of clones who are desperate to be as beautiful as their genetically modified daughters. They could never be GEM so rely on the surgeon for nips and tucks and silicone and Botox until their faces concaved and protruded almost comically.
There was nothing comic about this woman; the look on her face chilled me bone-deep. The collagen in her lips made her mouth baggy and shiny, like slugs inside loose skin. Her cheekbones were too high and puffed outwards and upwards before disappearing into gaunt cheeks. Her forehead had the kind of shiny quality of a cheap plastic doll or stretched cellophane. Bright red tumbling curls sprouted from her head in an unruly and fierce fashion making me think of Boudicca, the warrior woman from ancient times. She didn’t say a word to us, only beckoned with a finger and disappeared through the doorway. Angela looked at me and I heard the “gulp” in her throat.
I suppressed a shudder. I knew instantly that this woman was not to be crossed. I knew instantly that this woman would not approve of a Blemished girl touching a GEM boy and it was at this moment that I realised just how dire my first day at St. Jude’s had turned out.
Well at least things can’t get any worse, I thought to myself.
About the Author
Sarah Dalton grew up in the middle of nowhere in the countryside of Derbyshire and as a result has an over-active imagination. She has been an avid reader for most of her life, taking inspiration from the stories she read as a child, and the novels she devoured as an adult.
She is the author of the popular YA dystopian series Blemished and the gothic novella My Daylight Monsters. She is currently working on a YA fantasy series titled White Hart.
(The Breeders Series Book 1)
(The Breeders Series Book 1)
by Katie French
“When the Breeders come for ya, there ain't no escape. They strap ya to a bed and all ya hear is the thud of your heart and the cries of your friends as they wheel ya down to hell. Then the doctors come. You squeeze your eyes shut and pray you can forget. But ya never do.”
Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world's last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches - moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders' long reach. The Breeders control everything - the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they're hunting Riley.
When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender - a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley's affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom?
The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico - escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is forced into the Breeder's hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother - a fate she'll share unless she can find a way out.
When the dust cloud appears, we know they are coming.
My mama and I spy the cloud churning up the road at the same time. Her potato peeler clatters to the porch floor, sending goose flesh over my arms. I stare at the cloud kicked up by dozens of approaching tires and then back to my mother. There's no mistaking it. The fear is written on her face.
She grips my shoulder, hand already shaking. “Get in the cellar.” Her face tightens. “Now.”
Her rocking chair scrapes against the porch floorboards. She yanks open the screen door and runs into the house, yelling for my brother.
I stand up, my own hands trembling now. The advance of the dust cloud has me riveted, like an animal caught in headlights. It's what we've drilled for, prepared for, whispered about at night. And now they're coming.
My mama's frantic screams pierce my thoughts. “Riley, the storm cellar! Hurry!”
I shake myself out of my stupor and force my jellied legs to move. Running into the house, I spy my stepfather, Arn, at the pitted kitchen table. He slips round after round into his hunting rifle, his calloused fingers fumbling for more in the box that holds too few. He drops one. It hits on the floor and rolls under the table.
“Gawddammit!” he swears. His leathery forehead wrinkles as he searches frantically.
I run over, grab it and hand it to him. The bullet feels cold against my hot palm.
His eyes latch onto mine and a sadness creeps over his face. This frightens me more than anything. He grabs our pistol off the table and thrusts it forward. “You'll need this.” His eyes say one gun won't be enough.
The revolver is heavy and solid in my trembling hand. I curl my fingers over the wooden grip, worn smooth with use. I let my index finger stray to the trigger, place my other hand under the grip like he taught me and aim at the dust cloud. I look up at him, unable to ask what I need to know.
In this moment Arn looks old. His sun-beaten face is carved by wrinkles and his forehead is dotted with sweat. The patched overalls sag on his too-thin body. Before this he was out milking the cow or mucking out the barn, mundane, boring tasks that I wish he could go back to now. Arn grabs both my shoulders and fixes me with frightened blue eyes. “You 'member what I taught you?”
“Is it the Breeders? It is, isn't it?” My voice breaks with the terror that's sticking to my insides and knotting my stomach. Arn says nothing. He doesn't have to. His face tells me everything I need to know.
“I can fight.” The gun trembles, but I lock my elbows and grit my teeth. I want this chance to face the people who've been hunting us our whole lives.
Arn shakes his head, the lines around his mouth deepening. “Soon's they see you, they'd kill the men and take the women. Get in the cellar. I'll handle this.” His weathered hand squeezes mine. It’s the most affection he's shown me in months. I savor the roughness of his palm. Then, quick as it came, he drops my hand and goes back to slipping bullets into his rifle, his eyes marking the approach of our enemies.
From behind me: “Riley?!” My mama is near hysterics.
“Coming!” I sprint through the old farmhouse, the boards moaning beneath my feet. I skid to a stop at our bedroom and scan it for my brother. Both beds lay empty. Ethan's boots lie on their sides under his bed. His comic book is forgotten on the floor. He’d never leave it there on a normal day. But this isn’t a normal day. Angry motors growl closer. How soon before they get here? Minutes? Seconds?
I burst through the back door. The storm cellar sits fifteen paces from the house, dug deep in the ground. When we moved in six months ago, my mama showed us the cellar that, when shut, folds neatly into the dusty landscape. We've taken pains to camouflage the doors, but will it be enough?
The cellar doors yawn wide, revealing the dark earthen hole. My mama crouches at the cellar's mouth, her hand-sewn cotton dress gathering around her knees. My little brother, Ethan, descends the ladder. His hand clutches her scarred one for a moment before he disappears into shadow. He's gone. An urge to sob washes over me. I bite it back and run over.
My mama turns, searching for me. From this angle she is breathtaking in her loveliness. Her shoulder-length black hair shines in the hazy sunlight, and her left cheek is supple and pink. She’s a beauty queen, a ten as Auntie says. It’s the other side of her face that marks the horrors she's seen. Red angry burn scars travel her neck and face. Her skin bunches and grooves like a pitted dirt road. Her left ear is only a ragged, red hole. Yet, I rarely notice her burned face. This is the way she’s looked as long as I can remember.
I step to the edge of the cellar and peer at my brother. From the bottom of the hole, his eyes are wide as a jackrabbit's caught in my snare. His lower lip trembles. He looks five instead of eight. “It's okay,” I lie.
My mother grips my shoulder and presses down. “Get in.” Her voice is a choked whisper. She glances back at the dust plume. The gray cloud hangs huge, blocking out the horizon, a tornado set to tear our world apart.
About the Author
Katie French imagined herself an author when her poem caught the eye of her second grade teacher. In middle school she spent her free time locked in her room, writing her first young adult novel. Though her social life suffered, her love for literature thrived. She studied English at Eastern Michigan University, where she veered from writing and earned an education degree. She spent nine years teaching high school English. Currently she is a school counselor, doing a job that is both one of the hardest things she's ever done and the most rewarding. In her free time she writes, reads great books and takes care of her two beautiful and crazy children. She is a contributor and co-creator of Underground Book Reviews, a website dedicated to erasing the boundaries between traditional and non-traditional publishing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two children.
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