A Novel by John O’Brien

This book is dedicated to my wonderful children, William and Heather.

Author’s Notice

The New World series is a fictional work. While some of the locations in the series describe actual locations, this is intended only to lend an authentic theme. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Picking Up the Kids

I step outside sliding my Beretta 9mm into the speed draw holster at my side and carrying my 12 gauge pump shotgun. To the animals around, it is just another day. The doves and blue jay that are sitting on the feeder, eyeballing the seeds scattered on the ground, along with several crows sitting on the various branches of the tall fir and cedar trees, take flight at my approach. One crow, taking up station on the tallest branch of a tree where the driveway meets the road, calls out its warning. A squirrel sits on the rock wall picking up sunflower seeds, holds them between its hands, and watches me.

“What’s up little bro?” I ask walking down the gravel drive towards my Jeep.

The sound of gravel crunching under my hiking boots adds to the surrealness of the day and the events of the past few days. I am still having a hard time coming to grips with the situation and the speed of it all. However, anxiety and worry over the kids overrides any stray thoughts or ability to focus on anything else. Even the blue sky overhead and the sun shining on the trees, the sun casting its light on the tops and sending rays of light through gaps in the branches, fails to bring its usual inner calmness and peace within. No, today was not going to be taking the top down on the Jeep, driving around with Iron Maiden blaring, and enjoying this beautiful day.

Walking up to the Jeep, I open the tailgate and slide the shotgun into the cargo area with the business end to the rear. I verify the duct tape is still there before doing a walk around checking tires, hood latches and such. This would be the wrong time to get stranded on the road for some stupid reason. The hood latches receive special attention. My memory momentarily floats back to the New Year’s party at a friend’s house; a night of drinking, fireworks, and good times with friends followed by some couch time. Then there was the drive home in the morning. Several miles down the road, my windshield was suddenly filled with a wonderful and close-up view of my hood. The bang alone was enough to drain my adrenal glands for a month. I didn’t want second helpings if I could at all avoid it — especially now.

Satisfied that everything is checked as well as it could be, I climb in setting the Beretta next to me, verifying once again that a full clip awaits me should I need it and crank my baby up. Fuel reads half a tank. Good enough for what I have to do now but make a mental note to stock gas cans and siphoning equipment. Backing up and starting down the road, I pick up my cell to see the magical bars and service. I have no idea how long this will last but thankful it is at least working now. I then call Robert back.

“Hey, Dad,” my son whispers on the other end.

“Are you still down in the basement with Brianna and Nicole?” I ask.


“Ok, stay there and don’t make any noise whatsoever. Is your phone on vibrate?”


“Ok, and both Nic’s and Bri’s phone are now turned off?”


“Any changes since we talked?” I ask, thankful I am still able to talk with them, that they are ok for now, and, most importantly, still alive.

“I heard someone walking around upstairs again and banging on the basement door just a couple of minutes ago. It’s all quiet now,” he says still whispering but I can hear the worry in his voice.

I have had the privilege of being this boy’s dad for all of his seventeen years of life and know him well. I also know that Bri, sitting beside him, though scared, will keep her head. Always thinking, that one was. In all of her fifteen years, I have yet to see the gears in her head slow down or not be working. And Nic there comforting her, keeping her own fears internal, worrying more about making sure Bri was okay than herself. They are all so precious to me and I love them like no other. They mean the world to me.

“I’m on my way. Don’t move or make any noise. Don’t talk to each other. Become a black hole in the basement there. No lights and make sure the light from your phone doesn’t show. You’ll most likely hear noise when I get there but you’re not to move or call out or come upstairs until I call for you. You got it?” I say wishing I was there now.

“Okay, Dad.”

“Tell the girls I’m on the way and not to worry.”


“I’m going to go now to save our juice. I’ll be there shortly. I love you Robert! Tell Nic and Bri I love them.”

“I love you too, Dad!” Then the click and dead silence of the phone disconnecting.

Driving down the country road, I realize it does not seem all that different. There are not many cars traveling here even during normal times. The day seems like any other except for the anxiety inside and the impatience of wanting to be at their house now. The sun is shining, sparkling off the water across the green field to my left. This is a small inlet that eventually makes its way to Puget Sound and the tide is in. Two does graze by the side of the road ahead of me, raising their heads to look in my direction before leaping into the trees at my approach.

I reach the Highway and it is here that things do indeed seem out of the ordinary. There’s not a car moving on the road. There are some cars to be seen; a couple are angled off the road and some sit in the grassy median between the north and southbound lanes, but not a thing is moving. It is an eerie setting with the gray lanes stretching away to both sides like some futuristic, post-apocalyptic scene.

 Looking north, to my right, the peaks of the Olympic Mountains, majestic in the distance with snow still residing on their tops, bask in the sun pouring down on them. They continue on with their existence as if it were any other day. The trees alongside the highway tell the same story; nature continues its everyday course just as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. I feel very small at this particular moment in time.

The only things moving are a few columns of dark smoke drifting above the trees in the distance towards town but it doesn’t seem like anything large is on fire. I find myself wishing I had more firepower but that worry is for later. As are many other aspects. First and foremost are the kids.

Turning northbound, I head towards them. The roads are amazingly clear. Not like the zombie apocalypse books I have been reading where all the roads were clogged with ‘impossible to bypass’ jams. I guess with the sickness, everyone has gone home. After all, where else would you go when you have the flu? I guess some were wanting to be elsewhere or trying to get there when they were overcome or too weak to travel further and thus the cars I see along the way. There are some shadows inside the cars as I pass by, indicating that possibly people are inside. Cresting a hill, a body lays face down in the grass by the side of the road. The once white, summer dress appears dirty or stained.

Ten minutes later, I turn off the highway onto the ramp leading to the north end of town, taking a right at the end of the ramp, and glance over to the Wal-Mart to my left. Barely a car in the lot. Besides the lack of cars on the highway, this is the biggest change I have witnessed yet and adds to the overall weirdness of the day.

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