Stuck between the inner and outer door was a lonely place to be. I flicked a glance at the semi-automatic in my hand before tucking it into the deep pocket of my coat. It was old and had a tendency to jam, which meant I had a fifty-fifty chance that it would be of any use. That said, I had no desire to be in a situation where I needed to use it. If it came down to killing, or even wounding someone, I prayed that my self-preservation instinct kicked in. Compassion had no place in the post-apocalyptic world.
Still, how a person handled fear was not something you knew, not until you were called upon to face it, and by then, it was far too late.
The one-minute warning flashed on the door panel, and my adrenalin kicked in. I wasn’t supposed to be out here, and the wrongness was like an over-sized raincoat that no amount of belt-tightening could make fit.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this, Ava?” Lornie had asked. I blinked, driving the memory away. We needed medical supplies. But the combats had been cut off, leaving our community in an unusual situation of needing to fend for itself. Their message had been garbled due to interference, but it was clear something had kicked off. It happened from time to time; the natural ebbs and flows of power and ownership of the surrounding districts were nothing new. The fact remained that the combats would not be returning for several days, possibly weeks.
I was the best of the remaining residents, which wasn’t saying much.
My past life—the one I had been born to—was long gone. My parents were wealthy, and my life a coveted one. They had aspirations for me; I had plenty myself.
That once joyous future had died along with them.
The harsh reality of anarchy was that it cared little for who you once were. The good, the bad, the rich, and the poor held no context in the bounds of chaos. I had watched mothers fight over food in those dark days following the collapse. They might have been friends once in the old world, but not anymore. The need to survive ripped everything else away, considerations, respect, even love, they held no sway when your baby was so hungry it had barely the energy to cry.
Things were better now—a little.
The ten-second count sent a spike to my heart-rate. The belief that I could do this and the determination that I must surely die went to war inside my head.
The hiss of the outer door opening dropped the entire self-discussion because it was now very pointless.
A strange calm replaced the panic. It was dark, and the air felt sharp and cold. It had been so long since I’d felt air on my face and in my lungs, real air, not the processed, filtered stuff inside, that I was cast back to my childhood, and the garden at my home. The memory was so vivid I could almost feel the springy grass beneath my bare toes and smell the sweet scent of honeysuckle from the bush growing along the old stone wall enclosing the sunny courtyard.
The stench of diesel drifted on the air, thrusting me back to the present with an unpleasant jolt.
I stepped outside and turned to watch the steel outer-door close behind me, sealing access. Separation became a crushing weight. I was here now, on the streets, and I would not be going back until I had gotten what was needed.
A deep breath helped as I surveyed the immediate area. It was wet, and although it wasn’t raining now, the air held moisture like it could turn at any moment. There was no one nearby; the surveillance before leaving had indicated this, but it could change, and like the weather, it could change at any moment.
I knew the route by memory, and with a final lingering glance at that sealed door, I headed off.
Excerpt, Owned: A Post-apocalyptic romance © L.V. Lane