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I. Beginnings

1. Milton

2. Luther

3. Daiyna

II. Connections

4. Milton

5. Luther

6. Daiyna

III. Possession

7. Milton

8. Luther

IV. Origin

9. Willard

V. Captives

10. Daiyna

11. Luther

12. Milton

VI. Revelations

13. Willard

14. Daiyna


I. Contact

1. Bishop

2. Cain

3. Margo

4. Bishop

II. Turmoil

5. Cain

6. Margo

7. Bishop

8. Tucker

9. Cain

III. Rescue

10. Margo

11. Bishop

12. Tucker

13. Margo

14. Bishop

IV. Negotiation

15. Cain

16. Milton

17. Tucker

18. Bishop

19. Margo

V. Blood

20. Cain

21. Milton

22. Tucker

23. Bishop

24. Milton

25. Daiyna

Epilogue: Hawthorne


I. Awakening

1. Sera

2. Daiyna

3. Hawthorne

4. Samson

5. Sera

II. Reunion

6. Bishop

7. Daiyna

8. Sera

9. Samson

III. Annihilation

10. Luther

11. Sera

12. Daiyna

13. Bishop

14. Sera

15. Samson

16. Milton

IV. Conspiracy

17. Sera

18. Daiyna

19. Samson

20. Sera

V. Restoration

21. Shechara

22. Luther

23. Milton

24. Sera

25. Daiyna

26. Epilogue

Spirits of the Earth




For Sara

All come from dust, and to dust all return.

Who knows if the human spirit rises upward

and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?

Ecclesiastes 3:20-21

Part I


1 MiltonNine Months after All-Clear

"You'll be sorry!"

Jackson spits blood and drags his beard across the sleeve of his blue jumpsuit, leaving a trail of crimson. He stands over me with big fists clenched, knuckles spattered.

"You knew it could be any one of us, Milton."

I pull myself away from him, my battered body sliding across the slick concrete of the storeroom floor. My mouth works to speak, slurring.


"It's a random draw, Milton. Always is."

I wish it was. It should have been.

"Why her?" I manage, shaking my head to clear the flashing pinpoints of light.

"It was her turn." Jackson shrugs like it's just that simple.

I sob like a child, impotent rage dissolving into whimpers. The coppery tang of my own blood oozes thick from both nostrils, mixing with the sand and ash—

I jerk upright with a start, spitting to clear my mouth. For a moment, I don't know where I am. I look for Jackson, for Julia—they were right there with me in the bunker.

Not anymore.

I'm the only one here now. Outside. Free.

I'll never get used to the silence.

Dawn's golden fire breaks across the eastern horizon and crawls along a massive ridge of mountains in the distance. They look like sleeping giants, lying on their backs. Dark, with only their profiles aflame, they wait with craggy jaws and protruding bellies for the full light of day to awaken them from their slumber. Part of me wishes they'd rise up and greet me with a yawn. I speak to them sometimes, but I know they won't respond.

I'm not crazy. Not yet.

"Time to wake up, boys. It's a new day." I grab one of my hydropacks and take a swig, swish the stuff around. It's enough like water to do the trick. I wipe my mouth with a sleeve, watch the ash trickle out of my beard. I curse quietly. I must have rolled onto my face in my sleep. Probably would have smothered myself if I hadn't woken up in time.

Not a bad way to go out, I guess. Considering the alternatives. Starvation. Loneliness.

I bend down to tie up my bedroll. The thermal blanket is showing serious wear. Maybe I'll get lucky in the next ghost town I pass through, find an actual sleeping bag among the rubble.

"Any chance you guys can point me in the right direction?" I glance at the mountains, jutting upward from kilometers of desolate hardpan stretching out in every direction, parched and cracked, interrupted only by occasional wounded hills—shadows of what they once were in both size and shape.

Silence answers me. A slight breeze whisks across the ground, stirring the dust. The only sound, my own voice. And my noisy thoughts.

The mountains don't look as much like my giants now with the sun climbing over, burning across the scorched earth as far as my groggy eyes can see. For the past week or so, I've headed straight for that ridge, the only thing separating me and this barren wasteland from whatever lies on the other side.

"Just more of the same, right?" I sure hope not.

I still have hope? Now that sure is something. Maybe I am crazy, after all.

The sun cooks my face a little before I pull on my hood and tinted face shield. I guess I could sleep under some kind of makeshift shelter at night, but I like breathing the cold air. It chills my lungs, reminds me I'm still alive. Sometimes I breathe in a little too much of the ash and wake up coughing and spitting like this morning—but it's worth it. Being out under the stars makes me

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