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 In the After

In the After 1

by

Demitria Lunetta

Acknowledgments

There are so many people involved in making this book come to be. I want to thank my amazing editor, Karen Chaplin, who made me dig deep and helped me build such a wondrously frightening world. I would also like to thank everyone at HarperTeen—my supportive editorial director, Barbara Lalicki, and always-helpful editorial assistant, Alyssa Miele; my fantastic designer, Cara Petrus, who made the book come alive in such an amazing way; the detail-oriented production department, including production editor Jon Howard, who corrects my sometimes-incorrect use of grammar; and the awesome marketing and publicity departments, including Kim VandeWater, Lindsay Blechman, and Olivia deLeon. You have all done such an incredible job. This book would not be what it is today without all of you. I couldn’t ask for a better team.

I’d also like to thank Maria Gomez, who responded so positively to my book. I’ll always remember our first phone conversation in which she was as excited about In the After as I was.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary. You’re, quite simply, Awesome with a capital A. You’re the best agent anyone could ask for.

PART ONE

AFTER

CHAPTER ONE

I only go out at night.

I walk along the empty street and pause, my muscles tense and ready. The breeze rustles the overgrown grass and I tilt my head slightly. I’m listening for Them.

All the warnings I remember from horror movies are wrong. Monsters do not rule the night, waiting patiently to spring from the shadows. They hunt during the day, when the light is good and their vision is at its best. At night, if you don’t make a noise, they can shuffle past you within an inch of your nose and never know you are there.

It’s so very quiet, but that doesn’t mean that They are not near. I walk again, slowly at first, but then I pick up my pace. My bare feet pad noiselessly on the cracked sidewalk. Home is only a few blocks away. Not far if I remain silent, but it may as well be miles if They spot me.

I’ve learned to live in a soundless world. I haven’t spoken in three years. Not to comment on the weather, not to shout a warning, not even to whisper my own name: Amy. I know it’s been three years because I’ve counted the seasons since it happened. In the summer before the After when I’d just turned fourteen.

A branch snaps in the distance and I stop immediately, my body tense. I shift my bag slowly, carefully adjusting the weight so the cans inside don’t clank together. Every little noise screams at me that something is wrong, but it could be nothing.

Clouds shift and moonlight suddenly brightens the street. I glance around, searching, studying an abandoned, rusted car for any signs of the creatures. When I don’t spot Them, I almost continue on, but at the last second I decide to play it safe. Stepping into an abandoned yard, I disappear into the shrubbery. I’ll wait until a cloud passes in front of the moon and darkness reclaims the night.

I can’t take any chances, not with Baby waiting for me. My bag holds the food we need to survive. We only have each other. I found Baby shortly after the world failed, when I still believed things would return to normal. I no longer hold that hope. Nothing this broken can ever be fixed.

CHAPTER TWO

This is how I think of time: the past is Before, and the present is the After. Before was reality; the After, a nightmare.

Before I was happy. I had friends and sleepovers. I wanted to learn how to drive, to get a jump start on my learner’s permit. The worst thing in my life was math homework and not being allowed to date. I thought my parents were so clueless; my dad with all his “green” concerns (I told my friends he was an eco-douche), and my mom, who was never home except for Sunday-night family dinner. I was kinder to my mom, though, and only called her a workaholic. Her job was with the government, her work very hush-hush.

I always thought of myself as smart, and I was definitely a smart-ass to my parents. I loved seeing them squirm, letting them know that I didn’t buy into their “because I said so” crap. I was good in school. I could always guess the endings of movies and books. Now there is no school, there are no more movies, no new books, no more friends.

The creatures arrived on a Saturday. I know it was a Saturday because if it were a weekday I would have been at school and I would be dead. Sundays I went with my father to visit his parents at Sunny Pine, and if They had come on a Sunday I would also be dead.

I remember that the electricity flickered and I was annoyed because I was watching TV. I had wondered if my father was on the roof screwing around with the solar panels. They didn’t require much maintenance, but he liked to hose them off twice a year, which always messed with all our electronics. I checked the garage. His electric car was gone. He was at the farmers’ market, probably overpaying for organic carrots.

I microwaved some pizza bagels (the ones my mom hid from my dad at the back of the freezer) and sat back in front of the TV, flipping through the channels mindlessly. I’d wished my parents would listen to me and upgrade to the premium cable package. I thought life was so unfair. My mother had bought my father a brand-new electric car for more money than I would probably need for college, but she wouldn’t spend fifty bucks extra a month to get some decent television.

I checked my cell phone but there were no calls from Sabrina or Tim. I was supposed to go to a movie with them later. Tim had been madly in love with Sabrina forever but her parents would only let her go out with him if I tagged along. I joked with Sabrina about being the old spinster in a nineteenth-century novel. “No secret love child for you two,” I’d tell her with a wink. “Not while Matron Amy is on duty.”

I didn’t really mind being their chaperone; they never made me feel awkward or like a third wheel. Sabrina hadn’t even decided if she was all that into Tim. I’d been friends with her since fifth grade, when I was the weirdo who skipped a grade and she was the nice girl who didn’t treat me like I had the plague. Pretty soon we were friends and stayed besties through middle school and into high school.

I tossed my phone on the coffee table and kicked up my feet, giving my full attention to the TV screen for the first time. But I noticed that even when I changed the channel, the picture stayed the same. I paused, curious. The president was making a speech. Boring. I ate my snack, only half listening.

“It has come to our attention,” the president droned, “that we are not isolated in this attack.”

I sat up, my bite half chewed. Attack? I was too young to remember the string of terrorist attacks at the beginning of the century, but my mother worked for the government and was constantly talking about our “lack of counterterrorist mechanisms.”

I turned up the volume. The president looked exhausted, bags under his eyes, makeup caked on for the

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