The World Over
Eight years ago, the zombies came and the world ended. Now, driven by the need to find her lost husband, River Kingston is drawn in by Mycroft, the invisible puppet master behind New Texas, who promises her answers in exchange for favors. But as the world continues to warp and change around her, River becomes more and more wrapped up in the secrets and lies of post-apocalyptic politics that will ultimately determine the difference between the life and deaths of the people she promised to protect. Because even with humanity dangling by a thread, people still like to have power. And they still like to abuse it.
Eryn stood atop Waimea’s famed jumping rock and relished the pull of wind through her short-cropped, bronze-gold hair. The second she was old enough to leave home, she would dye it pink.
She’d gone a bit crazy since being let out of her stark white room; sneaking out at all hours of the night to walk on the beach or prodding Jason into taking her for mid-night rides around the island on his moped. She’d gone on every hike listed on the Hike Oahu website, even the forbidden ones, climbed every tree she could put her hands on, and spent hours and hours just laying half-submerged in the surf as the tide rose in around her because she never learned how to swim. It was on her to-do list.
Today’s crazy stunt was cliff jumping, which should probably come after swimming lessons, but what’s an adventure without a little risk?
“Mom’s going to kill you when she finds out about this.”
Eryn grinned back at her twin, enjoying his almost smile and relaxed posture as he stood with his massive arms crossed casually over his broad chest. He’d always been so stiff and distant growing up, not that Eryn could blame him. Like Danny, he just wanted to take care of her, but there wasn’t anything he could do but watch and wait for her to die. That sort of thing would turn anyone colder than ice. It also made him grow up way too fast.
Only fourteen, Jason looked and acted closer to twenty. Eryn was just glad she finally looked, and could act, her own age. Or at least close to it. Some people still thought she was twelve, but that was head and shoulders above being mistaken for nine.
“If Mom didn’t kill me for hiking Stairway to Heaven in the dark, she’s not going to kill me for jumping off a rock. Ground me for sure, but not kill me.”
“Speaking of, aren’t you grounded now?”
“Yup!” Eryn giggled and clapped, then did a happy wriggle because her body—her healthy, strong, active body—just needed to move. “You jumping with me or what?”
“With you? No. After you? Probably. Someone has to pull your half-drowned corpse out of the water.”
Eryn stuck out her tongue over her partially clasped hands. “You’re such a spoilsport, Jay. Live a little!”
“I think you’re living enough for the both of us.” His voice was dull and disinterested, but his clear blue eyes sparkled with amusement. “Get your jump out of the way so we can go home. We have school today, in case you forgot.”
“Of course I didn’t! I get to go to school!” Most people wouldn’t be excited for that, but Eryn knew better than to take anything for granted; least of all her ability to attend an actual, physical high school. “And don’t rush me. There’s an art to this.”
Jason’s brow arched, something she would have struggled to see in broad daylight just a year ago, but which was now as visible a motion as if they were standing in a dimly lit room instead of outside on a moonless, cloudy night. “There’s an art to jumping off a rock?”
“There’s an art to jumping off this rock. It’s famous, you know.”
“So you’ve said.”
Eryn sighed and sat down on the rock’s jagged edge. The rough stone pressed uncomfortably into the underside of her bare legs, but miraculously, her skin didn’t break. All around, the ocean hissed its gentle lullaby of sleepy sighs while the tingle of salt lingered on her tongue. She’d never seen the ocean before her family moved to Hawaii, despite living only a few miles from the Puget Sound for over half her life. She’d never sat outside in the rain or taken a nap on the grass or even stepped outside for longer than the two or three minutes it took to load her into and out of her family’s van for hospital visits.
Which is why she felt she needed to make up for all those things she had missed now, immediately, without any delay, because what if her change wasn’t permanent? What if, someday, she stopped being healthy and started being sick again? What if she had to go back to white rooms and scratchy sheets and the monotonous hum of air scrubbing machines before she had a chance to do and explore everything the world had to offer?
The scrape of bare-feet on stone caught Eryn’s attention, but she didn’t turn as Jason settled beside her on the ledge. They sat in silence for a long moment before Jason lifted his arm and tucked it firmly around Eryn’s waist, pulling her into his side so he could rest his chin on her hair.
“Did I kill the magic?”
Eryn glanced upward. He was staring out at the vast expanse of blue-black sea, but she knew he couldn’t make out the depth of color or shift in the horizon; those were things only she could see, though even after a year, it still surprised her that she could see anything without her glasses.
“Just a little.”
The silence returned, but it was more comfortable this time. Most of her life, everyone seemed able to read her mind; always knowing what she wanted or needed before she knew she wanted or needed it. Jason was the only person whose mind Eryn felt she could read back, because it was usually the same as hers. They could sit together for hours, talking back and forth in complete silence. Locked in her room, those quiet conversations were the only times Eryn felt she had any sort of control over her life.
Outside of her room, sitting on Oahu’s famous jumping rock, the call back to the time before she was healthy was somehow comforting instead of terrifying. Maybe she would get sick again someday, and maybe she wouldn’t be able to do everything she wanted to before that happened, but she would always have this: her twin, her family, her memories.
Maybe it was time to start slowing down.
Snuggling deeper into her brother’s side, Eryn hummed softly in gratitude. “Thanks, Jay.”
“No problem, sis.”
The subtle blush of indigo on the eastern horizon indicated the start of nautical twilight. They would need to leave soon or they would be late to school.
“You’re still going to jump, aren’t you?” Jason said it resignedly but with a distinct undercurrent of amusement.
“Yup. Can’t expect me to slow down all at once, right? Besides.” Eryn climbed to her feet and winked. “We’re already here.”
Launching herself backward into a graceful arch, Eryn relished the rush of cool ocean air on her bare skin. The small skirt of her floral pink tankini fluttered almost audibly as she fell, and time seemed to slow as she hung upside-down and stared out into the vast expanse of open ocean and steel-gray sky etched with rolls and swirls of pewter clouds. She’d never seen anything so beautiful in her life.
Eryn hit the water in a perfect dive—she’d scoured dozens of YouTube videos for the proper form—and let herself sink headfirst into the depths. The ocean pressed in from all sides, swaddling her like a heavy blanket on a cold winter day. Twisting so she was upright, Eryn opened her eyes and looked up toward the sky as she sank further beneath the waves. Everything looked warped beneath the glass-like barrier, but she could make out Jason’s familiar shape atop the peak of the jumping rock, which looked much higher beneath the waves then it had from above. Was that normal?
Fighting down a grin, Eryn raised her arms to propel herself upward to call for Jason to join her. With a mighty sweep to both sides, the way she’d read about dozens of times, she waited for that first upward burst as she kicked. She kept sinking. Confused, Eryn tried again, sweeping her arms downward in-tandem with her powerful kicks.
She kept sinking.
Panic set in. Her mind screamed: sink or swim! Sink or swim! She flapped her arms like a demented bird and kicked hard enough that the ocean swirled around her in a miniature vortex. But she kept sinking.
She opened her mouth to scream for help, but water rushed in, choking her. She whipped and flailed, trying to grab something, but there weren’t any rocks or ridges nearby. Her lungs ached as they filled with water, and her vision blurred in a way that had nothing to do with the waves as she sank and sank and sank. Hot tears welled up and disappeared into the ocean, stolen away before they could touch her face.
It had never occurred to her that healthy people could die.