Happy New Year! Read For Free!!

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So thinking towards a bright and sparkling new year that is right around the corner, I decided to just put all my books on sale…for #FREE!

The only catch is that Noble Courage can’t be free because I had it on sale five days in December. But everything else I have solely put out there is going to be free until Friday, January 2nd.

This is your perfect opportunity to pick up the vast majority of my series for nothing out of your pocket. If you would just kindly leave your thoughts when you are finished, I would be most grateful.

And if you feel so inclined, I would love some Indie suggestions from you on the best books you’ve read this year!! Help a girl out here!

I hope you all have the best New Year’s celebrations. See you again in 2015!

Medal of Defiance: Chapter 8

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I wandered that afternoon. I knew it would get dark soon, but I had no clue where I was in relation to where I had been earlier.

“Hey you!” I heard a voice call out.

I stopped and turned toward the sound. Then, I pointed at myself when I spied an older man a few houses away.

“Yeah you!” he called out again. “You look lost!”

The accent registered with me and I nodded. I felt numb.

“I am,” I tried to shout back in my best interpretation of the local accent. “My house…” I said motioning behind me and swallowing hard.

“You caught in the quake, lad?”

I merely nodded feeling so tired.

“You need a bunk?” the man called out to me still.

“That would be lovely,” I replied walking toward him.

“My wife, Evelyn, will have supper done soon now. Fill your belly and we can make up the couch. The name’s Foster, Foster Pembrooke,” he stated holding his hand out.

I took the offered hand and gave it a firm shake. “I would appreciate that so much,” I breathed. “I am Winthorpe…James.”

“Nice to meet you, lad. Come on in, rest a little.”

It was such a relief to be welcomed by someone. After many hours of walking, he was the one to extend his hospitality. There was a light in his blue eyes that I took an immediate liking to. He was a good man and I would be off the streets for the night.

“So you say there’s a problem with your house?” he asked me as we ventured inside his humble home.

“There is nothing left, I’m afraid,” I replied. “I saw men get buried in the wreckage out there and knew the remnants of my home were not safe. I just started walking…”

“You poor dear!” Evelyn exclaimed bringing a pot of fresh tea into the front room.

I liked their home. It smelled like a home should. Like bread.

“I appreciate your hospitality,” I rambled taking a seat in a rocking chair next to the window.

“You are welcome as long as you need a place to stay, laddie,” Foster said quietly. “You look like you’ve had a rough few days of it.”

I chuckled and rocked the chair methodically. “You could say that.” My head fell back against the wood of the chair and I sighed.

I thought about Jack and his meaningless death and I had to wonder if my decision caused him to be taken so early from this world. Now, I was not a religious man by any definition, but it did make me wonder. Did Jack die so I could succeed? Was there another force that knew he would be mutilated until he “talked”? My friend died a swift and merciful death, if there is such a thing…I took comfort in that.

“We are ready to eat now, Mr. James,” Evelyn said resting her hand on my shoulder and speaking softly as to not startle me.

I sat upright and looked around and smiled. I followed the missus into their meager dining area and took a seat at the empty plate that was set.

Evelyn sat at the table to my right, Foster right in front of me.

“We rarely have company, it is a nice change,” she smiled shyly.

Evelyn reminded me of the perfect wife. She was quiet, demur, and kind. I could imagine them sitting in this very room together with a gaggle of kids, everyone making conversation and laughing together.

I smiled in response to her remark.

“Shall we ask a blessing?” Foster asked without meaning to be answered.

As if it were routine, he reached out and took his wife’s hand and she bowed her head. Her left hand snaked out from her lap to take mine and Foster reached over the table to take my other. I obliged and bowed my head as Evelyn had.

The sound of Foster’s soft spoken voice filled the room and my ears, lifting a sense of hope in my chest. I admired the love he emitted for God and wondered briefly how anyone could possibly love someone they didn’t even know existed for sure. That feeling, that electrical feeling that passed through me at that moment almost made me envy the man.

The food was simple, cold meat sandwiches and roasted potatoes with a glass of frothy milk. It felt like their milk was much thicker than what I was used to. It stuck to my lips and coated my throat. The bread was fluffy and soft, but still warm from coming out of the oven. The sliced meats were salty and full of flavor. The potatoes were swimming in butter with their shining red skins. It was the best meal I’d eaten in a very long time and I went back for more.

“I can show you where you can sleep when you are done there, Winthorpe,” Foster said taking his plate into the kitchen beyond.

I stopped chewing long enough to look up and nod. I did feel better, but I was so tired.

Evelyn was already tucking sheets under the cushions of the weathered old couch in the front room when Foster and I emerged from eating. She fluffed a giant pillow and threw a blanket over the top and I nearly swooned with the pleasure of comfort extended to me by strangers.

“Would you care to wash before you sleep?” Evelyn asked as she worried her hands a bit.

I stared at the bedding like a wolf stares at a sheep and shook my head to the negative. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to just crawl in and rest,” I replied.

She laughed a merry sound. “I don’t blame you. But let me show you where the loo is if you need it in the night.”

Motioning me to follow her, I trudged along just thinking about those crisp sheets and soft pillow. Just down the hall and to my right was the bathroom, or the loo. It was a very tight room, quite small compared to the community shower I was used to at the base. There was literally a toilet, a sink and a tub. I could turn on the water of the sink and wash my hands while sitting on the toilet if I so wanted to, they were that close together. My knees, I imagined, would smack against the side of the tub across from the toilet if I dared sit on the seat. I suppose small was an understatement.

“It’s old…” Evelyn said quietly.

“It’s lovely, Mrs. Pembrooke. Thank you for letting me stay with you,” I smiled. I was pretty sure they were tired of hearing my statements of gratitude, but I didn’t care. That was what I felt at the moment. I was comfortable and safe with friends.

I waited until Foster took his wife in their bedroom before I took out my flat tab and plugged my ear buds into the jack. Quickly I opened up the program that was an all frequency radio and clicked through each station in hopes of hearing any communication about Jack…or myself.

A thick British accent hit my ears and my finger stilled a moment. I listened with intent as words like “monarchy”, “money”, “food”, and “resistance” filled my ears. The voices changed from time to time as different people spoke their mind.

“We must take matters into our own hands, boys! We got families to feed! If the monarchy won’t help us, we had better take it ourselves! I say we plan a time at the change of the guard. Some sort of distraction should lure them all there and we take the gates. Kill anyone who gets in our way, I say! Even if it is the king himself.”

“What if we take the princess with us? Show her a little something about what we are going through?”

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea there, my friend. I’m tired of being hungry and not having but one bottle of water a day. I want a place to sleep where I’m not on the bloody ground! My kids won’t be quiet and my baby is sick now. Perhaps stealing the princess is the thing to do. Maybe it would wake up that king who lies comfortable in his bed tonight.”

“When are we doing this?”

“I think we could manage on Sunday. We should be there by ten in the morning. Then, when the change takes place, we set off some firecrackers down the street. When the guards investigate right at the 11:30 time, we break through the gates. Get all our friends together. All of us are suffering right now and the castle don’t care about us at all. What do you say, boys?”

“Sounds like we have a plan, boss.”

“Naw…I’m no boss. We are a team. A team of citizens under the protection of a crown full of holes and now we are getting rained on.”

There were cries of agreement coming through and I knew this was bad. I had to get to the castle to warn the family of the danger lurking. Surely they weren’t the only ones planning an attack of some kind. Perhaps the king didn’t know just how angry his people were. One thing I knew, they would not take what I had worked so hard to find. Paige.

I abandoned the search of frequencies and tucked my belongings away in the satchel. Then, I allowed myself to drift off into a deep sleep where dreams held color and the sound of rebellion rang in my ears.

My eyes fluttered open early, as I was used to. The house was quiet and it took me a moment to remember where, and who, I was. The weak light was just beginning to filter through the picture window across from me. Although the heavy drapes had been pulled shut the night before, I could see its brilliance finding the crack between the panels and glowing against the darkness of the living room.

I needed to get to London. It was just that simple. I had to warn the royal family of the impending attack on them.

I sat up on the couch and rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands. Why did I care so much? Why was I willing to risk my very life to just marry this princess, much less show up to defend her family?

There was no way I could answer my own questions.

Slipping my feet into those fancy shoes, I grabbed my satchel. I had no toiletries at all so using the washroom held little interest to me except to use the loo. It felt funny even thinking that word. To me, it was one of those words that made no sense at all and it made me feel like laughing.

So nature’s call won out and I slipped into the tiny washroom and emptied my bladder. When I flushed, an awful noise rang out. It was like it came from under the house and was like a ship being crushed in the mighty weight of ocean waters. Quickly, I washed my hands and took no time to dry them. I had to get on my way, no Evelyn to talk me into staying longer.

Opening the door when I had finished, water still dripping from my hands, I ran into her. Evelyn. Her warm smile that morning made me freeze in my tracks.

“I’m getting breakfast on, Winthorpe. It will be just a few minutes, I swear,” she said kindly.

“What in the world was that noise?” I blurted out.

She laughed. “Sorry ‘bout that. We forgot to warn you that our plumbing screams. Especially in the morning.” Then she motioned me back in the washroom. “Shower, and dress. You will feel a little better.”

Feeling a tad defeated, I complied and retreated back into the cramped room that looked like something out of the classic Alice in Wonderland. I had to ask myself, “When did I eat the cookie?”

But I quickly stripped and started the bath pouring. I could smell toasting bread teasing my senses. My mouth watered.

It was odd, using a small bathtub. I couldn’t remember ever being in a tub in my life. Maybe a spa tub, but not a regular old bathtub. The thought of how many germs were actually invading my body as I sat in that water made my skin crawl. So I quickly soaped my hair and rinsed, using the bar of soap in the corner to wash my body. It came to rest over the tender area of my wrist. My alteration was healing nicely, but was still pretty angry.

My mind wandered to the real Winthorpe and if I had been found out yet. I drew a deep breath and had to believe I covered my tracks the best I could. But I also knew I had to put enough distance between myself and the RA so they couldn’t track me down. But if they did figure out what I did, I would be stuck in this country for the rest of my life, living low and sticking to the shadows.

When I could no longer stand it, I jumped out of the water and quickly dried. I did feel better being clean. I hated to put on the same clothes again, but I did. I had no choice.

I opened the washroom door one more time, looking both ways down the short corridor before I emerged.

“Breakfast is ready!” Evelyn called out.

I made my way back to the table where I had most enjoyed myself the night before. There was toast, a small stack of it, eggs that looked light and fluffy, sausages that were browned just so, and more of that delightfully thick milk.

Foster sat in the same place as before and appeared alert and excited. We prayed over the food once again and I felt that strange tingling sensation one more time.

“Did I wake you this morning?” I asked them, referring to flushing their toilet.

They both laughed. “No, not at all. We had been awake for a while before you woke. We just wanted you to sleep as you could get it. Sounded like you had a rough night.”

“It did?” I asked and dropped my fork a notch, eggs wiggling as my hand shook ever so slightly.

“It was a night of nightmares it sounded like. Crying about dead bodies and falling stones then yelling to Jack that there were guns at the castle,” Foster shook his head as he smiled at me. “Must have been a hell of a night for you!”

I poked my fork inside my mouth. I had said Jack’s name. Out loud.

“I never knew I talked in my sleep,” I grinned in response. “This has been an awful time for me.”

There was no way I was going to talk about Jack and who he was to me.

Evelyn’s hands fluttered to her chest in sympathy. “I can only imagine. I thank the Lord each day that the quake spared us.”

“You are most lucky. It is a war zone down there,” I said trying to be mindful of the information I had found before I went to sleep. My expression sobered and I pointed my fork right at the both of them. “Please listen to me…I know there are many who are devastated. Who knows what these poor victims will do when they have had enough. Please promise me that good people like yourselves will not offer lodging to any more strangers until conditions get better. I don’t want to watch the telly and see that you were hurt in any way. Promise?”

I was rather proud of my very British reference to the television.

But Foster and Evelyn stared at me as though it were my funeral and nodded their agreement.

“Just be careful,” I mumbled and continued to shove food in my mouth.

We ate the rest of the meal silently.

Happy Birthday to me! My eBooks are Free!

So I was born on June 18th, 1973. According to my kids, I am old. According to my body, I am old. According to my mind, I am old. But according to my heart, I am young. I will always be young.

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To help me celebrate my big 40, I am putting my eBooks on sale for absolutely nothing and this is only on my birthday.

With the release of The Benevolent Light happening soon, now is the time to catch up on the rest of the Aspen Series.

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Beginning at one minute after midnight, well, my time of course, you will be able to take advantage of such a sale. Don’t wait! Being able to break my own records of the most downloads would be such an amazing feeling on a day such as my own birthday. 😀 These downloads will be available on Amazon.com in Kindle books.

I want to thank all of you for following me here. I hit a very cool 100 followers just yesterday. Thank you for reading, thank you for believing in my dreams for me, and thank you for being fans. I think that the greatest experience would be to meet you all in person…spend a few hours just talking. That would be amazing because it is you, my readers and fans, that keep me going. You make me want to keep plucking away at the keyboard, one scene at a time and one chapter on top of another. It is true that I write for myself…but I suppose I also write for acceptance, for entertainment, and for your approval. It makes me most happy.

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When I blow out the candles and laugh with my family and friends, I will think of those of you who have read my work and who have raised me to where I am today.

I am forever grateful…

September 17th, 2013! Release Date!

So after much hard work and beating myself up for not making my May deadline (that was the deadline in my mind), I am finally ready to set a date in stone.

September 17th, 2013, The Benevolent Light will be available via Kindle or paperback. I can authorgraph your digital copies or send you signed editions of the paperback!

For those of you interested that may not be caught up with the Aspen Series to date, my birthday is June 18th. Yes, that is Tuesday and I will put my books on sale through Amazon Kindle for the day. So not just “happy birthday to me”, you can score as well! Keep watching for freebie information and pass it along!

As the date gets closer, there will be some fun activities to participate in and possibly learn even more about me in the process.

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Darkness shrouds the Darktowers as the press forward, the familiar cliffs in the forefront of their minds as their journey comes close to the end.
Rothan sits over his mound of gold, the devil in command of his army with his evil eyes seeing each shadow, every corner, any opportunity with which to gain power, to flaunt the tree upon his palm and take what he covets most.
And through the storm that brews, the light fades until the blackness chokes all in its path. A battle of wills dictates which path will be taken and when the torment ends, Aspen finds one brilliant shaft of light. A benevolent light. The most beautiful beam of light one has ever seen.

Have a peek at the trailer:

NaNoWriMo Chapter 4

Chapter 4

It sounded like a Banshee was howling all around her, ready to take her to the afterlife when Natalie was woken from her sleep. It took her a moment to gain her bearings, where she was and why. Laying there in the pitch black she listened to the very eerie sounds of the wind above her. She could hear a sound, muted by the wind, that sounded far away and like a plastic bag being traumatized by the weather. And then there was the rain. It was relentless and was pounding the ground. Briefly, Natalie wondered who else was a victim of the elements as she was. She wondered how many had lost their lives.

Natalie had no idea what time it was. She felt like she had slept a long time. It could be morning or even the next afternoon, she didn’t know. She sat up and clicked on the flashlight to look at the time on her watch. 2:36 am. Wow. It felt like more time had passed than that.

She heard her stomach growl before she felt it. It had been a while since she had eaten, that was true. But with very limited food, she needed to ignore her stomach’s cries and wait until morning came. Once again, she covered her head up with the blankets and fell asleep listening to the dripping water beyond her door.

A narrow beam of light made its way into the small window giving the room a dank and haunted feel. Natalie woke after her very poor night’s sleep feeling spent and groggy. Emotionally, she felt numb and like her brain would not come together and function. It was almost the feeling of waking up after taking strong cold medicine before bed. Her watch claimed it was 10:22 am.

Swinging her legs around, she rested her feet on the very cold floor to find it wet. Quickly, she pulled them back up onto the couch and looked around. There was a skiff of standing water in her room. Not enough to reach the couch, but enough to soak the carpet and have some water sitting on top. Grumbling a few curses under her breath, she craned herself around to figure out how to get to the closet without freezing her feet in the water. She couldn’t do it. However, she did worry about how many of her things were suffering within her bags. There was no way to judge when all the rain penetrated her defenses. Was it all night? Was it in the last couple of hours? Unreal. Just unreal.

She slipped off her socks and rolled up the pants she was wearing. Then, she squished her way 15 steps to the closet and opened it to reveal very little water had made it over the metal rail that had been screwed to the floor. She knew nothing about construction, but was happy that her bags were fairly dry. Natalie drew one bag over her shoulder and tossed the other one onto the couch. Turning back, she hopped through the freezing water and onto the pile of blankets there waiting for her.

It was still warm in the mound of fabric, well warmer than her feet were. So she buried herself back in them and unzipped her emergency bag. Taking out a granola bar and a bottle of water, she ripped open the foil wrapper and had to tell herself to eat slowly. Just small bites…just in case, little sips of water, just enough to sate her thirst. She had a feeling that things were not about to get better soon.

“If I would have left and not messed with the television, I would be warm right now,” she remarked to no one in particular. It was a strange sound to hear her own voice talking in the hollow room, above the sound of the steady pat of rainfall against the small window.

To be in the ground during a flooding storm was not wise. She hadn’t thought this one out. Natalie thought that she could get her shoes on and see if she could find a house that was empty and not destroyed, one that wasn’t filling with water as the hours ticked by.

Pulling a two way radio from the bag, she turned it and prayed that the batteries still worked. It had been a long time since she had changed them. Switching it from the communication capabilities to the radio function, the gadget whizzed to life with screeching and static. Searching and searching for an information station that was still functioning, she swore loud as none were being found.

Finally, she heard a man’s voice. It was broken and full of noise, but she could make out parts of what he was saying.

“If you have…ones on the Eastern Seaboard…Natalie has struck…underwater, whole communities…new type of storm…strength, headed north. She…Canada’s coast, stronger than…Tsunami warnings have…every coastal area…The west is pummeled…eruptions…world.”

Natalie drew her shoes out from under the blanket and slipped into her socks before stuffing them in her light summer running shoes. She covered her bags with her blankets and ventured out of her safe area, sure to close the door behind her.

The rain was coming in despite the makeshift cover that was over the opening at the stairs. Heavy winds had torn the edges from the rocks that held it secure. It was bulging downward through the spaces between the boards she had set beneath the tarp. She was about to get wet.

Gently, she lifted the black plastic away to be pelted by raindrops. She blinked rapidly to clear the drops from her eyes. There would be no dry wood for a fire, no dry anything to make a fire. Her pan was full of water, well, overflowing as it continued to try collecting the rain for her. She grabbed it by the handle and took it inside, setting it on the shelf in the top of the closet in an attempt to keep from getting anything in it or even spilling.

She had to get back to Wisconsin. Even if she walked, she had to make it.

Natalie spent hours scavenging for bits and pieces from her home, things she could use to survive and sentimental artifacts that held meaning for her. She happened upon her college graduation photo with her parents on either side of her.

Rubbing the dirt and water from the glass surface, tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. Where were her mom and dad now? Were they safe? Were they thinking of her? Had they heard the news and turned back in time? She hugged the frame to her chest shed a few tears over her predicament. Then, she resumed her search. In another day or so, she could hopefully start her journey home.

Several hours more passed and Natalie’s belly growled a menacing sound. The light was beginning to fade and she had found little that was not broken or missing parts. The rain had not let up and was beginning to intensify, the wind whipping at her clothes. Standing straight up, she looked beyond her little hill that she was on. The Stowe she knew was taking on water. The streets looked like they had an accumulation down there. The homes on either side of her appeared to be abandoned, yet they were disheveled and not able to use as a refuge. She swore again, under her breath, and then immediately apologized to God. It would be dark soon. It was going to get cold again. She needed to prepare.

Leaving the few buckets and pans she had found outside to catch water, she folded the plastic sheeting over the hole in the ground and placed the rocks on it as she had the night before. That cast the basement in shadow. Only the very weak gray light filtering in through the small windows lit her way.

There was a lot of water down there. Almost over her shoes. The couch was bound to be wet now.

She eyed the pool table lying pathetically in the corner where it had ended up after the tornado. It was like the tornado had tried to suck it right up the stairwell, but lost. Carefully, Natalie lifted the corner that touched the ground, the one with the missing leg. Pushing all of her body weight against it, she found that it moved fairly easily. She scooted it across the watery floor to the doorway of her room. It was too wide.

A loud growl escaped her. Twisting the table more on its side, she kicked at the legs protruding from the top until the remaining three were removed. Satisfied with the amount of frustration she had expelled, she slid the table top on its side into the room. She had to work quickly if she was going to keep the top from getting too wet. That would mean a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.

Sloshing through the water, Natalie moved the ottoman out of the way and pressed the two couches together, seat cushions facing each other. Then, she rested the pool table top on the arms of the couches, using them as a base to keep her relatively dry and off the floor. Flinging the ottoman open, she threw every blanket and pillow in the confines upon the pool table. She would be fine here one more night. Tomorrow, she would find someone out there to help her get out of here.

Climbing atop the table top, Natalie removed her shoes and socks that were soaking wet and tucked the blankets tightly around her feet that were cold from all the water. She turned on the radio hoping to catch some insight to what was going on in the world. Carefully munching on another granola bar, she scanned the channels hearing only static. No one was out there. She was alone.

A moment of panic attacked her. It became hard to breathe as she processed those thoughts for a while. The rain sounded louder, the walls began to shrink on her, the plastic rustled restlessly. Every part of her body felt something as though she had been electrocuted or had suddenly been brought back to life. She even thought she could hear the ocean, for crying out loud!

Thunder boomed somewhere in the distance and what light was left faded leaving her in complete darkness. Absolutely vulnerable. Every few seconds, a violent flash of lightning would strobe through the windows rendering her all the more blind. She figured the only logical thing to do was to sleep through it the best she could. Clicking on the flashlight, she studied her watch. 8:30pm. It was late enough.

The crunching of the tarp being harassed by the wind got her attention. Natalie felt as though she had been asleep all night already. It was still dark, however, so she knew it wasn’t morning yet.

With her heart racing after being pulled from sleep, she laid there listening. She could hear water running, like a waterfall and then the noise of the tarp stopped. Natalie closed her eyes and sighed, knowing she was no longer sheltered at all from the elements. The wind howled through the opening in the ground and water spilled in. She curled up in a ball and pulled the covers over her head. Tears of fear spilled over her lids and streaked her face with sorrow. She whispered a prayer to God that she would be able to make it home.

 

Chapter 3 of my NaNoWriMo…

 

Chapter 3

The teller at the window that Natalie stood at looked back at her like she was crazy. Natalie simply walked up and said she wanted to withdraw all of her funds. She shouldn’t have to explain herself, she shouldn’t have to justify it. They should just hand over her hard earned dollars because she asked!

“Look, I’ve been saving for a long time to take a trip. I leave in just minutes and I need my money. I do not want to use my card. It is my right to hold my money in my hands, is it not?” Natalie asked firmly.

“Uh, yes…yes, it definitely is, ma’am. It will just take a few moments to get this amount together, though,” the woman replied not taking her eyes off of the triple digit number on her screen.

“I just have a few minutes so let’s get this going,” Natalie said hoping the girl did not feel the panic in her voice as it bubbled out of her.

The woman disappeared and Natalie looked out the wall of glass windows at the clouds growing even darker, swirling in the sky. Rain was starting to fall again, she could see the drops rolling off the side of her car and onto the ground.

The woman returned with a paper in hand and asked Natalie to sign it. She handed over her identification and pressed her thumb to a plate of glass that scanned it. Then, she was handed her money in a bag of large bills. She had a feeling it had been difficult for the bank to pay her out without notice.

“I really appreciate this,” Natalie offered a small smile.

“We appreciate your business, Ms. Hunter,” the woman replied and beamed at her.

That, made Natalie feel better.

Walking outside, she looked around for anyone who looked like they would mug her. It was very odd to walk out with a bag of money. She felt like every eye was watching her, rubbing their hands together in anticipation the way a dog salivates over a steak.

She made it safely home, parked in the garage, and hurried about the business of packing her clothes for the trip home. She could hear the wind picking up in speed, the raindrops delicately pelting the window turned to sharp rapping noises. She looked through the blinds to find the hail coming down the size of her fist. She couldn’t see Stowe’s town in the valley anymore, it had become completely fogged in. Or perhaps it was just the clouds descending upon it. Quickly, she flung her bag over her shoulder and raced downstairs where she turned on the television. More news was blaring, catastrophes all over the world were happening along all of the coast lines from the huge earthquake in California. Tsunami waters were invading cities everywhere and more earthquakes were happening around the world. Japan, South America, parts of Africa and extending north and south. Tears welled in Natalie’s eyes as she saw the amount of destruction. And then, footage from Yellowstone showed more volcanic eruptions that had sent magma flowing through the cracks in the earth from further quakes in the Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming areas. Natalie’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle a cry. The ticker along the bottom was warning everyone to prepare for safety. Many tornados and hurricane weather had been reported along the east coast heading north at a fast pace and was growing in intensity.

A loud howl from somewhere outside made Natalie jerk away from the screen. She knew that sound. Her windows began rattling, her doors were being sucked in and then out but stayed secure in the jambs. The lights flickered and then went out and her entire house groaned under the pressure. Natalie ran to her front window but she could see nothing more than hail and mist. She ran to the back door that led onto a deck that faced the city below. That was where she saw it, the giant funnel cloud that was trying to decide whether or not to descend upon the inhabitants of Stowe.

“Oh, no!” she cried aloud and ran to grab her bag hastily making it down into the basement in the dark.

She unlocked her phone’s screen, the images of twisters and volcanic matter filling her mind. There was no signal. “Call Mom,” she spoke to it.

“I cannot complete your call, Natalie,” it replied to her and then a screen blinked at her. “No Signal Available”.

She let her head fall back against the cold wall and exhaled am abnormally huge sigh. “Please God, keep them safe. I may not be the most deserving of your grace, but I beg of you to protect the ones I love,” she whispered.

The ground began to shake and the rumbling above the ground became louder…and louder. It was deafening. She could hear windows breaking, thunder clapping, and the structure of her home was trying to fight back, not wanting to give in to the torment of Mother Nature. Yet, with a spectacular groan in protest and a scuffle within the walls, Natalie then heard the familiar smashing, crashing and wood splintering cries from the house and she could only imagine the extent of the damage. In the distance, she could hear her beautiful car crying for help as the panic alarm went off involuntarily. The door closing her into the room in the basement quivered like in the leaves of an autumn tree.

Natalie clapped her hands over her ears and screamed. It was almost too much to bear, the sounds, the images that had conjured in her head, the rumbling of the ground all around her.

It felt an eternity before the shaking stopped and the deep pounding ceased. Natalie was sweaty and shaking. That was worse than any tornado she had experienced before. She just sat there for some time before managing to climb to her feet and reach for the door knob.

The wind was still whipping outside when Natalie opened that door. She could feel it whistling down the stairwell. Dread filled her and a heaviness weighed in her heart. It was like time has slowed. It was difficult to walk forward, hard to see the pool table in the great room of the basement pushed against the far wall from her, one leg rocking back and forth, the table slumping lazily away from her. The light fixture lay in pieces on the carpeted, concrete floor. There was rain on the stairs and when she looked up the flight and where a door used to hang, there was only the elements exposed to her.

She just couldn’t walk up the steps to see her house gone. She wanted to throw up. Feeling weak and lightheaded, she just sat on the stairs, the water in the carpet soaking her behind. She just sat and cried until she felt sated, wishing she had someone to lean on at that point, a man to kiss and know that they could make it through this together. Instead, she was utterly alone, her parents were likely dead, and no one knew if she had lived or died. She had cut herself off from so many people, focused on making her way, defending people who lied, and obtaining material things that had just vanished beneath the scourge of Mother Nature. Now, she had been left to fend for herself, alone in this destroyed world.

Larger raindrops began to fall on Natalie’s head some time later, her brunette hair hung in wet clumps of disarray. Drops feel from her eyelashes like tears, like the ones she had cried out until she ran dry. Finally, as the light was fading and a chill was rising in the air, she wandered up the stairs and into the full force of the storm. She choked back a sob to see that there was little left behind.

What used to be her lovely, blue collar home was now strewn about as rubble. Bits of wood that used to be her walls lay in pieces as far as she could see through the rain. Shattered glass crunched beneath her feet. Her breathing became heavy as she struggled to keep calm after losing everything. Well, everything but her life. Broken dishes, pillows ripped apart, litter that was not even hers had been dropped there, and her car was upside down on the neighbor’s barely affected home two doors down. There was no going home to Wisconsin now. No way to find her parents. Barely any way for her to survive.

Natalie’s brain finally fired up the synapses in there and she began to think logically about her survival. She gathered up pieces of wood and found a random pan lying in the weather. She set it right side up to catch the moisture that she could use later for drinking. She threw as much of the wood down the stairs as she could before the light had all but vanished. Larger pieces, she drug over to the opening and stacked them over the hole in the ground to protect her from the elements. If the hurricane was still coming, she needed all the protection she could find. A large piece of black plastic sheeting flew by and slapped against a stud that was only halfway whole, ruffling wildly and noisily in the wind. She took it and spread it over the wood, keeping it down with some heavy rocks. The pan of water would be full by morning, she assessed and retreated back into the basement, securing the flap of plastic inside with rocks.

The light was gone, it was black as she felt her way down the stairs and into her room. She closed the door, regretting it not being a locked door. Never, had she thought it would become her front door. Opening the closet, she felt around for her flashlight and found it. Turning it on, it lit the room in a weak yellow light. Quickly, she stripped out of her wet clothes and pulled out her thermals from the pack and clean, dry clothes from the bag she had packed that contained her money. Using a towel, she wrapped her head to dry her hair and keep warm. Tempted by the hand warmer packets in the pack, she closed the door, telling herself it could get a lot worse before it gets any better. She may need them more on future days. Taking two blankets from the ottoman, she turned off the flashlight and flopped down on one of the couches. It had been almost 6:30 in the evening when she started fiddling with the tarp so she knew an hour had probably passed. There was little else to do but sleep and prepare for the next morning, so she snuggled down under the blankets and closed her eyes to the world that had forsaken her.

Chapter 2 of my NaNoWriMo…

Chapter 2

A very distinct ringing screeched into Natalie’s ear. She pulled her phone out from under her head and hit the snooze. Suddenly, all of the angst and nerves from the night before surfaced and she jumped out of bed.

“Lights,” she commanded.

Her satin nightgown slid against her skin as she padded her way to the window, the coolness in the air made the fabric inflict gooseflesh over her body. She drew up the blinds to find the valley socked in fog, the clouds in the skies moving fast past the glass, still dark and formidable. There was no sunshine, no warmth, just clouds and mist. She ran her hands over her arms in an attempt to warm herself. It looked like winter out there, not the last day of July.

Heading into the bathroom, she turned on the television. The morning news would come on in 20 minutes. She showered as quickly as she could manage and stepped out wrapping her head in a towel. Glancing at the screen, she noticed a ticker had come on at the bottom, an emergency warning was being displayed for the East Coast. Natalie was not sure that meant her area of Vermont, but a feeling of doom and dread filled her.

While applying her make up, the weatherman came on talking about the advances of “Hurricane Natalie”. She let out a snort at how they had named this storm. It was being reported that this cell was moving rapidly and not falling apart as it hit land. She put down her shadow brush and watched, hypnotized by the images of Florida that were being aired. Much of it was under water. They encouraged people anywhere near the coast to prepare for the worst. Natalie expelled the breath she had been holding.

The news broke for a commercial break and Natalie grabbed for her phone, dialing her work. She left a message claiming she woke with a fever and would not be in. She knew there was a court hearing that she had been busting her butt on, yet somehow, it didn’t matter to her at the moment. Hanging up, she sat back in her chair and stared at her reflection in the mirror.

*Breaking News* caught her attention. The news left the air and in its place was footage of wide streams of hot orange magma flowing through streets and neighborhoods. The voice coming from the television explained that an earthquake that measured off the charts hit the San Andreas fault line. The coast of California was a disaster, untold numbers of deaths littered the west coast. Natalie stared in shock at what the shaking cameras were showing her. Buildings had toppled. Bridges were rubble. Bodies scattered. Utility poles were lying on the ground as though they were dominos that had been flicked by God’s finger and a domino effect occurred across the west. Deep gashes in the earth’s skin had swallowed cars, homes and trees. Others were bleeding magma. Clouds of steam rose as the molten rock spilled into the ocean. Clouds of smoke billowed out of buildings only standing at half mast.

Holding her breath, Natalie sunk to the couch cushions and stared at the devastation. Each new image was a whole new nightmare to process. Phone in hand, she absently dialed the number of her closest and dearest friend in the whole world. She needed his comfort and to make sure he was okay.

“Hello?” greeted a man’s voice on the other end of the line hundreds of miles away.

Out came the breath Natalie had been holding in. “Derek?” she answered quietly.

“Nat? Is that you? How are you doing? I haven’t heard from you in ages! Are you all right? Are you watching the tube right now?” Now he sounded panicked.

“Derek, you shouldn’t call it the ‘tube’. There are-“

“No tubes in televisions, I know. You always say that,” he chuckled.

“Are you okay, Derek? I mean, I know you are still over there by mom and dad, but I don’t know what is going on. I see California is a mess! We are due for a hurricane any moment…Are you safe?”

“Calm down, Natalie. We are fine over here. You need to come home and not weather that hurricane. Please. Just get in your car and drive home right now,” Derek said with urgency.

“It hasn’t been any big deal so far, a little wind, some hail and rain, nothing to be concerned about. I’m in the mountains, man. They break up storms. I doubt we will see the same problems as like New York,” she said, silently glad that he still cared about her like a brother.

“I want you to keep an eye on my parents for me. Make sure that if anything bad happens there, that you will all stay together and take care of them. Promise me!” she pressed.

“I can’t promise you. They left just a little bit ago. I saw their motorhome pull away. I think they went to Yellowstone?” he ended as though he were asking a question.

Natalie closed her eyes and sighed as though she were an old woman. “I didn’t think they were leaving for a while,” she said trying to swallow the sick stomach in her throat.

“I guess their plans changed. When did you talk to them last?”

“Last night. She said they were leaving in a few days, not this morning!” She was afraid Derek would be able to tell that she was freaking out. Her heart was thundering and she could feel a pulse in her ears, her hearing felt muted.

“Calm down, they just went for vacation. If anything goes wrong, they will come right back. Do me a favor, go to your bank and pull out your money. Get your emergency supplies together and hit the road west. I will be watching for you,” Derek said sweetly.

She hadn’t even thought to withdraw her funds. “I will. I need to call Mom. They need to come back.”
“They will be fine, Nat. Just worry about yourself.”

“You don’t see what is going on? The earthquakes? Eruptions? Derek, Yellowstone is pretty much one huge volcanic outlet. It could blow big time. Maybe with little warning!” Natalie pointed out. “I’ve got to call Mom.”

“Listen to me. I will call your mom. You get your stuff and get the hell out of there!” He was getting impatient and a little angry.

“See you soon, love you,” she said, feeling like she was about to cry. She never cries.

“Love you, hurry up!”

The line was closed. Natalie just sat there and stared at the same shaky footage on the screen as before. She could hear the wind whistling around the walls of the house on the mountain.

“Move, Natalie. You need to go. Get back home where it is safe. Get your money and just walk away,” she reasoned with herself.

Making a conscious effort, she flicked the button on the remote and was suddenly sitting in the midst of a loud storm crashing outside when the noise of the news had been silenced. She picked herself up off the couch and numbly moved through her house and up the stairs. She shrugged into her clothes and discarded the wet towels. The housekeeper would be there later to do the laundry.

Smoothing her hair quickly, she threw all of her toiletries in an overnight bag. Hurriedly, she brushed and stuffed clean towels in her bag. It felt like her body was moving in fast motion, she half walked and half ran down the stairs, the severity of her situation becoming more real by the second. It wasn’t just a hurricane coming, it was disasters from all corners. The earthquakes would cause tsunamis and that would devastate other areas of the world, who knew when the storm heading her way would let up. It became stronger everyday, barely grazing Cuba and the Caribbean but washing out the entire east coast as it hit land. She was right in the middle of the end of the world!