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Excerpt from Earth Haven Book 1 : The Cleansing
by Sam Kates
The man approached from the north, from the direction of her apartment. She sensed him coming long before she could see him. She looked in that direction, waiting for him to come into sight. He could, she knew, sense her presence, too. When he came into view, walking briskly, arms swinging by his sides, he was scanning the path ahead, looking for her. He found her and their gazes locked. Neither made any sign of acknowledgement.
Milandra watched him approach, wondering whether he would walk on by. As he drew nearer, she could see that he had a small knapsack on his back.
The man slowed, as though debating whether to stop. Then he walked up to her and stopped before her. He did not sit.
“Yes,” she replied.
She did not require his permission, not in her position, but she sought it anyway. She probed gently, merely nudging the surface.
The man nodded and she probed a little deeper, just far enough to see it. There! A small worm of doubt, mirroring her own that she was trying so hard to quell.
Milandra withdrew and smiled up at him, a smile that hinted at shared grief.
“Be strong,” she said. “We have to be strong.”
The man nodded again.
“I’ve come from Harlem,” he said. His tone was expressionless. “Going to work my way down through Midtown, then West Village and Greenwich. Battery Park by evening and on to Staten Island.”
Milandra didn’t need to hear this – she knew without being told – but she let him continue.
“Tomorrow Brooklyn and Queens,” he said. “Then a Greyhound to Albany.”
She glanced down at his ungloved hands. His right hand glistened faintly in the weak sunlight, the only hint of its powdery coating.
The man followed her gaze and held up his right hand self-consciously. His smile was almost embarrassed, sheepish.
“The hand of God?” he muttered.
Nicky Moran awoke on Saturday morning with a muzzy head and sore throat. He had slept solidly for nine hours, but didn’t feel any the better for it.
The previous day he had worked a fourteen-hour shift as a sous chef in the upmarket, waterfront restaurant, a stone’s throw from the opera house, where he had been employed for the past two years. Fourteen hours on his feet. It would be worth it if he was promoted to Head Chef when that lazy, grumpy bastard Maitland decided to retire. Or was given the push. If Nicky owned the restaurant, Maitland would have received his marching orders months ago.
Nicky wasn’t working the lunchtime shift today so, after a visit to the bathroom to empty his bladder and slurp some water to ease his raspy throat, he went back to bed. Before drifting back to sleep, he replayed the incident that had occurred when he’d returned to the apartment building last night. He had only the fuzziest recollection of standing in front of the lift, wanting only to get to his apartment and fall into bed, but having his way barred by that cobber from upstairs. The one who occupied the penthouse and dripped gold whenever Nicky saw him, yet never seemed to go out to work. The one who usually didn’t so much as glance at Nicky if they encountered each other in the lobby.
Strangely, Nicky seemed to recall that the man had greeted him like an old friend and had asked him to smell something. Something sweet. Something that was on his finger. Very strange…
When Nicky awoke again, it was late afternoon and he had developed a tickling cough.
By the time he finished his shift in the restaurant that night, the cough had become a nagging, rasping bark and Nicky had unwittingly infected four waiters, two diners and three fellow chefs, including Head Chef Maitland. So Nicky’s wish for Maitland to cease to be Head Chef would come true much quicker than he had thought. Sadly, Nicky would not himself be around long enough to derive any satisfaction from the grumpy bastard’s demise.
Nicky Moran was the first person in the world to become infected by what would soon become known as the Millennium Bug, so christened by some wag on a current affairs programme during the first days before the scale of the problem had begun to be truly appreciated.
If it ever was.
Click here to buy The Cleansing from Amazon (and it's an excellent read)
About the Author
Sam Kates writes science fiction and dystopia (Earth Haven series), horror (The Village of Lost Souls), short stories (Pond Life) and general fiction (Another Fine Mess). During his forty-odd years on this planet, he has spent a lot of time dreaming of other worlds (fortunately for him, he has a very understanding family) and started committing those worlds to a hard-drive in his early thirties. He has done a variety of jobs, from lawyer to barman, but it is as a writer that he has gained more job satisfaction than all others combined. If just one reader has been entertained by one of his stories, he feels a tremendous thrill and a great deal of satisfaction. Kates lives by the three Rs: reading, writing and rugby. Outside of writing, his main ambition is to see Wales beat the New Zealand All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup. He lives in South Wales, U.K.