Sunday Snippet: Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning

Today’s Sunday Snippet is from the New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic Romance Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning. It was self-published by the author and is currently available as a paperback (ISBN 978-0-9847010-8-7 , To be published 10-15-19) and an E-book (ISBN 978-0-9847010-9-4, To be published 10-15-19). Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning is aimed at readers aged 18+ and does contain one sex scene and a handful of extremely mild curse words (ie “damn”).

book cover New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic Romance Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning

Synopsis of Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning

What if the apocalypse was manufactured to save mankind?

Threatened by an ailing planet and insatiable human advancement, world governments agreed to ban the modern way of life, cutting off electricity, technology, and medical services, dismantling the global economy for one hundred years.

Twenty-five years have passed in this self-imposed darkness known as the New Beginning. Crops are dying and the sickness -a zombie-like plague of rotting flesh and fractured minds- is ravishing the East Coast of the United States.

One woman has been entrusted by the clans to remedy their food shortage. Breaking the rules is nothing new, but She -a nameless nomad- must abduct a privileged villager named Ren, bringing her too close for comfort with his entitled world. Together, they discover the root of the plague as their desire for one another grows, even as the differences in their two worlds collide.

Through deception and the horrors of an expanding pandemic, love thrives were a world chose to die.

Chapter One

If I could have gasped or cursed a string of revolting idioms, I would have donated my longest minutes to do just that. I would have used every foul word in my vocabulary three times over, then I would have cross-referenced them to start all over again. But I had been hiding for some time in a damning mix of prickle bushes and discarded bones, feeling my legs cramp and my neck stiffen, waiting for my moment. Any form of movement or sound could ruin my progress like a hole in the foot.
The chill of the ground seeped into my bones like the slow tug of death. The weather had shifted early this season. While the trees were fairly full, the tasty berries and ripe foraging of warmer times were long gone. My stomach could attest to that. Spasms twisted my muscles the longer I laid there. Hungry cries from my belly fell on a deaf, heavy plot of earth.

It was about to pay off.

The unmistakable crunching of tires on gravel grew louder until a vehicle was rounding the bend, just within sight. It came to a sudden stop in front of the small utility building, where a man had been standing with a rifle slung over his shoulder since sunrise.

Tree limbs and contorted weeds squeezed the structure, causing a natural camouflage over cheap siding that lost its war on nature years ago. Attached in front was a modest overhang, used as a shield from inclement weather. It wouldn’t protect from the dangers of drifters, but that wasn’t a necessity out here. The entire plat was so removed from the main highway, I was certain these roads hadn’t been mapped since that sort of thing mattered. In fact, had I not known what to look for and where I would have easily missed it. Which was the point, obviously.
The short, emaciated driver hopped out, no larger than a shriveled thought of a man, to greet the burly guard on watch detail. Their conversation traveled the thirty yards to my ears. His croaky voice brought to mind cigar smoke and sweat that threatened to sting your nose hairs like a freshly cut onion.

This was the shift change I had silently been suffering for. The emaciated stranger and his vehicle were mine, though he wasn’t quite what I expected. I had been told to take the guard in the Land Rover. He didn’t exactly look like he could guard a dung pile from a beetle. Then again, a bullet didn’t need to exercise every day or eat well. A clear path would do.

Anyone could kill you at any time.

I would have bet two deer that my skill and muscle outmatched his, even if he had a weapon. Yes, he would be easy to cow. Silently, I thanked Gaia, our Mother Earth goddess, for a simple mark.

“Home in time for dinner,” I congratulated myself before rolling into the nearest mound of thickets.
As the men ended their greetings and entered the building, I quickly and quietly closed ground. Squatting behind a large tree just to the side of their location, I took stock of their guns.

You’re almost done, I repeated in my head. I sounded nervous. I wasn’t nervous. But it wasn’t like I had ever done this before.

I was a little nervous.

Inhaling and exhaling in abrupt succession, I popped to my feet and burst through the doorway. The men were utterly startled. An unexpected budding sense of pride radiated through my chest.

Before the burly guard could swing his gun over his shoulder, I Tased him. This had been a recent gift, as I hadn’t known of its existence two days ago. The clans rooting for my success in this mission saw that I was adequately prepared. And I was smart enough to know that a dark world hadn’t erased everything. Well-hidden places still existed that harnessed manmade energy. The government saw to that, along with the required maintenance of power plants and anything as equally dangerous.

The quick work of the Taser was jarring, as I had never seen electricity harnessed in such a manner. The guard’s bulky frame slunk to the floor, incapacitated.

“Don’t move!” I yelled at the weaker man.

He bleated, “Don’t hurt me! I’ll go!”

As he stood, hands trembling above his head, I noted his meek demeanor. No eye contact. No gun. No nothing. His back hunched in fear. His lips pursed tightly as if he were biting part of it. He wasn’t a guard at all.

How did he know I wanted him to go anywhere? I hadn’t said more than two words. This felt wrong.

“What the hell?” I muttered under my breath.

As I stared into his helpless eyes, an overwhelming force barreled into me from behind, propelling me forward until I spilled across a metal chair and crashed to the floor. The Taser spiraled through the air, hitting the floor a few seconds after me. It slid across the badly poured concrete, swishing to a stop under a table.

Skittering to my feet, I came face to face with a third man. This man, however, looked as if he had three standard meals a day and a shower anytime he felt inclined. I knew him. Not personally. Rather, I knew of him. He was a villager. A Privileged. Someone who had no excuse to leave the safety of his walls. There was no mistaking the spotless clothes and entitled attitude.

This wasn’t right!

Two guards. One shift change. One vehicle. That was the information passed down to me. This man wasn’t supposed to be here. He must have been hiding inside the vehicle. How could I have been so irresponsible not to check? How could I have assumed my information was correct? I lived in a nasty world that repaid foolishness with death. I knew better.

I was better than this, damn it.

Our eyes simultaneously fell on the gun still strapped behind the fallen guard. His body, having given way to the gravity of unconsciousness, left his weapon completely exposed.

Before the flaxen blond could lunge for it, I swung the chair in an upward motion from my heels, spinning my weight into it once around, landing it square on the stranger’s chest. He was a muscular opponent, though his loose shirt lied to the contrary.

A distressed sound escaped his lips. To my delight, he fell hard.

I remembered to breathe again as I stood over this man, who had strode past my senses like a shadow. Recovering swifter than I expected, he caught my right ankle in his palm before I had a chance to spring toward the fallen guard’s rifle.

“Stop!” the Privileged demanded. His voice was deep and strained.

“Never!”

I needed to subdue his assault, grab the little man, and escape as fast as possible to regroup. Leaving empty-handed was unacceptable, but my plan was collapsing into confusion in this stranger’s very grip.

“Get off!” I growled, cocking my leg back and kicking him repeatedly. The nasty squish tangled with the stubborn leverage of tooth roots giving way brought a knowing smirk to my lips. He would be walking away with fewer teeth than he walked in with.

The satisfaction I felt had no correlation to the enjoyment of causing pain. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I never had. But if it meant being caught or leaving a bad impression, I would dig deep and turn off my emotions long enough to get away. Every time.

This time I had my hands full.

Acting like he hadn’t just lost a tooth, the juggernaut recovered with speed, lunging at me with a fierceness I had never experienced, even in the open grassland against the sick, those of us affected by a brutal illness. I tried to kick him again, but he gained ground, dropping me to the concrete with a sickening thud. Hastily, he crouched over my torso on his haunches, not leaving a free move to escape.

I was pinned.

He took a moment to catch his breath and check his jaw. You’re still in one piece, I thought to myself, disgusted by my oversight.
Our fight was quick but brutal. He hadn’t expected such force. However, when he looked down, he grinned.

Looking up at the Privileged, I squinted my eyes, trying to mask the malicious thoughts swimming behind common sense.

“Are you done?” he asked.

I batted my long eyelashes. “I- I think we got off on the wrong shoe.”

His brow furrowed. “Foot.”

“What?” I asked, breathlessly.

“We got off on the wrong foot, is the saying.” Wiping the blood from his mouth onto the long sleeve of his pale green shirt, he added, “And yeah, you can say that twice.” But there was a hint of amusement in his tone.

“Here, let me help you,” I offered in my sweetest voice. By the time he was able to focus on the object in my left hand, it was too late. “Is this better?” I quipped, dropping the darling-little-thing routine as I drove the two-inch blade of my push dagger into the meat just under his right collarbone.

Unlike my previous advances, this stopped him in his dangerous tracks.

I was no darling-little-thing. And my push dagger had a secret. Roughly thirty sharp teeth lined the edge of the blade, which hooked forty degrees to one side at the end, causing more damage if I chose to twist it in the opposite direction than it entered. Most people in the New Beginning didn’t have resources such as bullets for their aging firearms, which created a high demand for blades, bows, and spears. My push daggers had gotten me out of a number of situations, mostly due to being small and inconspicuous.

Silently, I thanked the old man who always smelled of cinnamon and homebrew for crafting my daggers special. He wasn’t my clan. None of them were. But desperation speaks louder than law when your family’s survival is in question. It was my job to move what was needed into the right hands.

In return, laws were overlooked and favors were granted. That made up for all the clan I never had.

“Get up,” I demanded. My delicate facade had vanished.

He did as he was told.

“I’m sorry, Ren,” the small man blubbered.

I barked, “No talking.”

“Don’t worry about it, Winston.”

“No talking,” I articulated slowly, barely needing to twist the knife for a painful effect.

He grunted, managing to look aggravated rather than weakened.

Turning to the little man, I ordered, “Give me the bullets out of the gun.”

He was practically vibrating, he was shaking so intensely. Never making eye contact, he did as he was told, slowly removing the gun from the guard, setting the bullets on a table between us. He never looked at me, not once.

I knew better than to take a gun with us. I had seen the gruesome leftovers from guns up close once before. Images that would turn my stomach until the day I was dust. No need to give my hostage a weapon of such ruin. I didn’t want to end up a pile of guts and tissue. Something the world coughed out and forgot about.

Grabbing the bullets with my free hand, I pocketed them.

“Now start the vehicle.”

He was frozen. Only his eyes darted back and forth, from me to the guy bleeding under my grip.

Motioning with the flick of my head, I reminded him, “The vehicle’s that way. Get moving.”

The excitement must have been too much because the underweight man fainted right in front of me. His body created a raucous band of noises as it fell into the desk, coming to rest in an ugly heap on the floor.

Standing in silence, immobile, I fought the panic threatening to rise from my beating chest.

What just happened?

As small as he was, I couldn’t throw him over my shoulder or shove him into the Rover while I had to keep this man at arm’s length.

I shrugged. “I guess it’s your lucky day. Keys?”

“In the ignition.”

I had decided to take the stronger man. A decision I regretted instantly. This man had a propensity for violence. It wouldn’t do to take him, but it wouldn’t do to leave everyone behind. This desperate idea wasn’t my brightest, but desperate times called for crazy women. And I was desperate.

People were counting on me.

Once we were gone, the driver and the guard would be too far away for any form of walkie transmission, cut off from their people, until someone ventured to check on the country outpost. They would be safe indoors in the meantime.

Moving to stand behind the Privileged, one hand gripping the embedded blade, the other wrapped around his good arm, we walked outside. I managed to lock the door before it shut, leaving the unconscious men safely inside. My hostage cocked his head, curious as to why I cared about their safety. I ignored the gesture, leaving him to speculate quietly.

Our exit was somewhat encumbered due to my line of sight being level to his shoulders. He was considerably taller by two hands. Pulling him across the lawn, we shimmied awkwardly into the black Rover. My hand never let the hilt of the blade. Never daring my luck further.

“Drive,” I ordered as I ripped the handheld walkie from the dash, tossing it out the window.

His hazel orbs stared at me as if they held worlds of wisdom that could never be mine. He scrunched his brow as he gripped the wheel awkwardly. “My dad never taught me,” he confessed.

“Drive,” I said matter-of-factly.

He shrugged. “It was worth a try.”

Turning the key, the vehicle vibrated to life. A moment later, we pulled onto the dirt road.

“Ready for a field trip?” he asked.

“Stop talking. Think of it as practice to stay alive.”

Once he had driven a handful of miles, separated only by a succession of trees and brush from the scene of his kidnapping, I tossed the bullets out the window and watched them scatter into the wheat-colored grass on the edge of the road, each one rolling into obscurity. It was a shame. They were worth an entire season of meat if traded to the right clan, but the god awful sound of gunfire accosting my memories would never allow them further than this moment.

I anticipated the mountains ahead as I considered my hostage. I had grown up in these hills. I knew them like a bird knows flight. How much did he know? He had been taught more than lived. That was the mark of the Privileged. To know everything without the scars from learning. To be so sure without the fear of trying first. To be a gilded animal surrounded by rot.

***

This post was submitted by the author Blakely Chorpenning

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