From the author of The End of All Things comes a collection of short stories about the Infection that swept around the globe, decimating the population, and leaving behind a small number of survivors, unprepared to deal with the brutal new world which had replaced the one they’d known.
The End of All Things told the story of Carly Daniels and Justin Thatcher’s travels across a shattered nation in search of a safe place to settle, after the pandemic. But it was also a journey into love, and an affirmation of hope. Carly finds strength in her faith that things can be even better than they were before, that compassion and charity are not luxuries; they are what make us human. Life endures, and so does love. The End of All Things is only a beginning.
And now, Lissa Bryan gives us three new stories in Tales from the End.
Two of them introduce us to new characters you will meet in the upcoming sequel to The End of All Things, and the other two are a visit with old friends.
L.A.’s mayor has declared quarantine to try to halt the spread of the Infection. Pearl sets off across the city to buy supplies, but already the world is changing. Something strange is in the air. The Horsemen are coming …
When Veronica’s mother doesn’t come home from work and no one answers the phone when she calls for help, a nine-year-old girl is thrown into the chaos of a world coming to an end. Veronica decides it’s up to her to find her family. “Veronica” is the story of a little girl’s courage in the face of the end of all things.
“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
They called her Shadowfax– the mare Carly and Justin found on their travels. But before she was found by Carly, the retired dressage horse was known as Cloud. An unusual tale of the end, told through the eyes of a confused and lonely horse, left in her pasture.
A previously-published bonus story. Carly knows Justin has never celebrated his birthday, and after society crumbled, no one knows what date it is, anyway. But she wants to do something special for him. Celebrating the little things helps them keep hope alive, and as a blizzard rages outside, a small gesture of love warms their home.
Tales of courage, tales of survival… Tales from the End.
Pearl scooped her purse off the passengerseat and hurried into the store. There were no carts in the parking lot andnone in the vestibule. When she got inside, she saw why. Lines stretched to theback of the store and doubled back to curve along the walls. People heldgroceries in their arms, for lack of other options. Pearl opened her bag andwithdrew the thin, nylon shopping totes she kept in one of the side pockets.
The shelves were almost bare, somethingthat struck Pearl as being almost as fundamentally wrong as 911 being out ofservice. She’d grown up in the land of plenty, where stores could not only becounted on to have an abundance of food but multiple brands and varieties ofit.
Pearl hurried through the aisles andsqueezed between other shoppers to grab cans and boxes off the shelves. Her jawdropped when a woman snatched a can right out of Pearl’s hand then scurrieddown the aisle before she could react.
It seemed the whole world had gone mad.
Pearl filled her bags, took her place atthe end of the line, and shuffled forward inches at a time with the rest of theshoppers. She took out her phone and read some of the novel she’d started lastweek, but eventually had to give it up because her arms ached so fiercely fromholding up the bags. She couldn’t set them down. She’d seen what happened whensomeone did that. After a woman put her bag down to answer her phone, a mansnatched it off the ground. He’d blended back into the crowd before she evennoticed and shouted at him to stop. No one paid this small drama any heed, andthe woman had left the line, weeping, to scour the quickly-emptying shelves,her hours of progress lost in a moment.
Pearl wondered if she could let the womanahead of her in line, but that was one crime the shoppers seemed united inpunishing. Line jumpers were forcibly shoved to the back of the crowd.
An hour later, Pearl rounded the end of anaisle and saw the manager heading toward the front of the store with a sheet ofpaperboard he taped over the door. NO FOOD, SOLD OUT it read. He locked thedoor and stood by to let out the customers who were leaving. A couple came tothe entrance and pounded on the door, despite the manager shouting and pointingto the sign. They rattled the handle, as though the door could be persuaded bypersistence. The manager finally turned away to ignore them.
“I’ll give you five hundred dollars forone of your bags.”
Pearl turned and saw a thin, blond manstanding to her left, but he wasn’t in line. He had a wad of cash in his hand,and he held it up. “What do you say?”
Pearl wondered if he thought she lookedlike she needed money. If that was why he’d approached her first instead of theothers. “No, sorry.”
The guy didn’t react. He simply turnedaway and walked over to a Hispanic man a few paces away. Pearl gritted herteeth.
A loud crash made people jump and scream.She spun around. At the front of the store, the people banging on the frontdoor had taken a propane gas cylinder from the cage outside and thrown itthrough the plate glass window. As the manager shouted, a man gripped the womanby the waist and boosted her over the sill.
“Are you crazy?” the manager yelled. “There’s no food left here! I’m callingthe cops! You can’t—”
The man hit him with a roundhouse punchthat sent the manager sprawling onto the glass-strewn floor. As if that hadflipped a switch in the waiting customers’ minds, some of them began to drifttoward the front of the store. As more became emboldened, they followed. Thecashier shouted at them to stop, but they paid her no heed as they swarmedthrough the broken window and into the parking lot. It was interesting, ifappalling, to watch the progression. Eventually, the line looked like whatmight be seen on a normal afternoon.
One of the cashiers closed her registerand ran up to tend the manager who still hadn’t moved from his place on thefloor. She managed to help him to his feet. He put an arm around her shoulders,and she helped him through the store. His nose gushed blood that created agarish red bib on the front of his shirt.
Within a few minutes, Pearl had reachedthe register. The cashier was crying even as she smiled automatically andrecited a mechanical Hello, how are you?
Pearl said she was fine. It was anautomatic response on her part, too.
“Thank you for staying.” The cashierscrubbed a hand over her cheeks to wipe off the tears.
“Just the right thing to do,” Pearlreplied as she repacked her groceries into the totes after the girl scannedthem.
“That seems to be in short supply thesedays.” The cashier announced Pearl’s total. “What’s happening? Why are people acting like this?”
“The Horsemen have been loosed.”
A chill swept over Pearl and she turnedaround to stare at the tiny, old lady behind her, who’d spoken in asurprisingly strong voice for her apparent age and fragility.
“Horsemen?” the cashier repeated.
“War, Death, Famine, and Pestilence,” thewoman said. “It was foretold in the Bible—”
The cashier rolled her eyes. “Whatever,lady.” She handed Pearl’s change back to her with a word of thanks, and Pearlheard the old woman trying to explain again, but the cashier wasn’t interested.
She stepped carefully through the brokenwindow on her way out and looked around with caution, because it occurred toher that the breakdown of law and order meant she had no choice but to defendherself and the two precious bags of food. Pearl didn’t see anyone lingeringnearby, so she walked swiftly through the parking lot, her bags clenchedtightly in her arms.