If The Light Escapes
by Brenda Marie Smith
GENRE: Sci-fi (post-apocalyptic)
A standalone sequel to IF DARKNESS TAKES US
A solar electromagnetic pulse fried the U.S. grid fourteen months ago. Everything’s gone: power, cars, running water, communications, all governing control and help—gone. Now northern lights have started in Texas—3,000 miles farther south than where they belong. The universe won’t stop screwing with eighteen-year-old Keno Simms.
All that’s left for Keno, his family and neighbors is farming their Austin subdivision, trying to eke out a living on poor soil in the scorching heat. Keno’s still reeling from the the death of his pregnant sister. His beloved Nana is ill, Grandpa’s always brandishing weapons, and water is far too scarce. Desperate thieves are hemming them in, yet he can’t convince his uncle and other adults to take action against the threat.
Keno’s one solace is his love for Alma, who has her own secret sorrows. When he gets her pregnant, he vows to keep her alive no matter what. Yet armed marauders and nature itself collude against him at every turn, forcing him to make choices that rip at his conscience. If he can’t protect Alma and their unborn child, it will be the end of Keno’s world.
IF THE LIGHT ESCAPES is post-apocalyptic science fiction set in a near-future reality, a coming-of-age story told in the voice of a heroic teen who’s forced into manhood too soon.
FROM CHAPTER 3:
A huge sliver of moon rises to the east, lighting up the park and Alma’s face with an orange-yellow glow. We pull ourselves up and sit wrapped together on top of the monkey bars like we rule the planet, gazing into our dark subdivision, on the southern edge of our emptied-out city, in the middle of the scary*** world.
“Keno? Alma?” Bobby Carlisle calls from the street… “Y’all come home. Now! …
The crickets and tree frogs have gone silent. I hear Bobby cock his rifle thirty yards away. …Alma and I gape at each other, and then we run.
When we reach Bobby in the street… I scan the trees behind the swings and monkey bars, half a football field away.
Before the sun zapped us, those trees would’ve seemed pretty. Tonight, they’re creepy. I’ve been too worked up about Tasha and Mom to even think about watching the tree line. As bad as things sometimes get around here, I’m still not totally used to life post-apocalypse and the never-ending vigilance.
“I don’t see—”
“Shh!” Bobby aims his rifle…
I shudder and run my eyes back and forth among the trees. With all the different-sized trunks in the deep shadows, people could be hiding in there and blending in. “There!” Bobby hisses, pointing to the north edge of the trees. And I see—what?… Two pairs of feet… Then …metal flashes in the moonlight. Behind me, Alma gasps. I pull my Glock, flick off the safety, and aim.
Flipping Our Doomsday Thinking
Leaving aside the debate over whether or not we are headed for apocalypse, to effectively plan to live through one or even to prevent one, we need to learn to think big.
Stockpiling a freezer full of food won’t help us when the power goes down for the long haul. Bags of gold or cash buried in the backyard won’t do us a lick of good if money becomes worthless.
Much of our thinking about survival needs to be flipped it on its head. I’d focus on real treasures worth laying up on Earth, regardless of our religions or lack thereof, and whether or not we expect an apocalypse to ever come.
Rather than stockpiling cash, precious metals, and investments in Fortune 500 companies, instead of collecting hot cars and designer homes and electronic devices, it’s best to invest in land and water resources. Solar and wind power, organic farming necessities, tools, goats, chickens, canned food, dried beans and grains, vegetable oil by the barrel, plus massive quantities of fresh water.
I’m talking cisterns, lakes, rain barrel collection systems, deep Artesian wells with hand pumps, solar-powered water filtration systems, great rivers, aqueducts and other plumbing fed by gravity, ponds stocked with bass and catfish, plow horses with hay and oats for them to eat, acres and acres of arable land, and food seed by the ton.
We’ll need bicycles, wagons, carts, dollies, wheelbarrows, roller skates, buggies with horses and food to feed them—ways to get around and to haul heavy stuff. Ropes, chains, skids, pulleys, etc.
If we can, we should stock critical supplies: soaps, matches, toilet paper, pens, pencils, paper, candles, needles and thread, ladders, toothbrushes and toothpaste, tools, knives, woodstoves, grills, firewood, water and food storage containers, charcoal, clothing, shoes, lanterns, kerosene, bleach, lime, wind-up radios (which will charge cell phones, if the phones still work), wind-up flashlights, washtubs, buckets and bins, clotheslines and clothespins, boots, shoes, long underwear, batteries, lighters, good jackets, and socks—lots and lots of socks.And whatever you do, DO NOT forget the duct tape!
We’ll need stockpiles of basic medicines: aspirin, antibiotics, antacids, anti-diarrheals, Tylenol, beaucoup asthma inhalers, insulin and other diabetic meds, blood pressure meds, first-aid supplies, splints, crutches, wheelchairs, IV equipment and fluids, scalpels, pump respirators, stethoscopes, otoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, tweezers, vitamins, minerals, skin creams, sunscreen, antibiotic and cortisone ointments, CBD oil, on and on and on.
We’ll want things to help us pass the time—especially long winter nights with poor lighting: board games, card games, dice games, jacks, paddle balls, outdoor sports equipment, acoustic musical instruments, art supplies, those balls you roll around in your hands when you’re tense, and books, books, books.
But perhaps most important, we should invest in each other. Keep our lines of communication open and our relationships intact. Keep our loved ones close at hand. Take good care of those in need. Join a co-op and learn how they operate, their systems of grassroots democratic governance: one member, one vote.
From a poem I wrote for the members of a student housing co-op I once managed:
“The magic of pure agreement, your most powerful tool
You must cherish it with all your earthly might
For it’s the whole of you, your vision, from whence attainment streams
Lock on toward It, plunge forth boldly, hold on tight…”
We should be prepared to set aside our egos and complaints so that we can work together to save ourselves and thereby save the world. Because it’s the ones we love who are the point, after all—our reasons to live.
It’s all been done before, folks, and it can be done again, assuming we have any air left to breathe. Best to start making sure of that now by planting trees, as in gigantic forests full of them.
Here’s hoping that our plans and stockpiles for apocalypse are never needed. Maybe if we start living more sustainably now, we can improve our odds of long-term survival no matter what happens next.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their own limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.
Her first novel, Something Radiates, is a paranormal romantic thriller; If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes, are post-apocalyptic science fiction.
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