The Warned, First Chapter Preview

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The first warning, unreal, yet unmistakable. I ran to the window and looked out onto the deserted suburban street. It won’t be long I thought, not long before people get into their vehicles. Not long before traffic would stand still and we would be trapped with everyone else, waiting to die.
“Five minutes!” I screamed.
I grabbed as much as I could. Water, snacks, and canned goods. “Four minutes!” I yelled from the garage. We had to get on the road and fast.
“Mom, what’s wrong!” Katelynn said.
I stumbled back into the kitchen. Our eyes locked, I tried desperately to find the words. I saw fear in her beautiful green eyes. “Don’t cry,” I said as I squeezed her arms. I felt my mouth tremble. I could see my own fear through the expression on Katelynn’s pale face. “Get Michelle in the van,” I said.
“Ok, Mom,” she said.
I took two stairs at a time and ran into my bedroom. I looked out of the window at my neighbors. God help them, they looked desperate. They threw their luggage and kids in their cars. Joan my neighbor across the street screamed for her daughter Annie. She ran down the street. I watched her cover her mouth and look all around. I ached for her, but I couldn’t help her.
“Three minutes!” I yelled down the stairs. I grabbed my safe with our birth certificates and social security cards, then pulled clothes from the closets and shoved them into a bag. Two minutes left. I took two stairs at a time down to the living room and lost my footing. My ass was the only body part touching the last four stairs as I bounced down, but I managed stagger back onto my feet. I glanced at the television as I past the living room. The emergency broadcast glared from the screen. Evacuate.
Out in the garage Michelle was in the back seat of the van. My sweet fifteen year old stared from the window, her blue eyes were wide, pupils like needle points. I tossed the bag and my purse in the back of the van. Katelynn scrambled out of the passenger seat and met me on the driver’s side of the van. I pulled the camping gear from the garage shelves. She moved fast, throwing everything into the rear of the van until the shelf was empty.
“Pictures,” I said. “I have to go get the pictures.
“No, Mom!” Katelynn said. She grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the stairs. “Get in the van!”
“Just one minute!” I said.
“Mom!” she screamed. Then in a final tone, she said, “Times up. Let’s go.”
I felt a heated sensation rush across my face. I knew she was right. “Ok, ok,” I said. She held my shoulders and guided me to the van. I looked back at the stairs up to the doorway. I left the kitchen light on. I suppose that memory will be with me for a long time. I looked into the rearview mirror and saw Michelle staring back at me. Sadness filled her eyes. I think she knew we’d never return home. Our lives, if we made it out of here, would change forever.
I threw the van in reverse, “Buckle up,” I said to Katelynn. I stopped at the end of our driveway. In both directions as far as I could see my neighbors prepared to evacuate. I headed south and aside from Andy, Katelynn’s boyfriend, who drove his Harley with nothing more than a backpack, we were the first to leave, at least from our neighborhood. I sped up to thirty five, then forty.
Joan was still running down the street screaming for Annie.
“Mom, stop!” Michelle said.
“We can’t stop baby,” I said.
“No, Mom, I know where she is.”
“Who?”
“Annie, I have to tell her Mom. Stop the van!”
I glanced back at Joan, at the tears that poured down her face. I slammed on the brake. “You have ten seconds Michelle. Hurry!” I said. I sat there with my heart racing, watching my daughter. Joan grabbed her and hugged her. I heard her say, “Go to your mother Michelle. We’ll be alright.” And then she looked at me and waved her hand.
“Shit,” I said. My stomach felt queasy.
Michelle climbed back into the van as I stared through the mirror at Joan.
“Mom.”
I looked toward the back seat through the rearview mirror at Michelle. Her beautiful blonde hair hung straight, parted on the side, always the helper. Her expression, a satisfied one.
“Mom, let’s go,” Michelle said. “It’s ok.” Gray clouds rolled in and settled over my panicked neighbors. I stared through the mirror, taking in the horrid scene.
“Mom. Go,” said Katelynn. Her voice bossy.
A lightening bolt no less than a foot wide struck somewhere across town. That’s how they said it would start. After the lightening winds will reach hurricane strength igniting fires, and chaos is inevitable. Katelynn grabbed a map, I think it was the first time she looked at one. I stepped on the gas, turned right and headed west.
“Mom where are we going?” Katelynn asked. “We should go south.”
“No, sweetie, we can’t go south there will be massive floods.” She glared at me for a few seconds and grabbed her cell phone. I looked ahead at the traffic, a long line of cars preceded the 95 South exit, car horns blared, people screamed… chaos. Katelynn ran her fingers across the map and texted on her phone. I checked my rear view mirror. Michelle stared wide eyed at the cars we passed.
“Mom,” Michelle said. “How do you know where to go?”
“What?”
“Everyone else is going south,” she said.
“Not everyone, some are heading west,” I said.
“But how do you know that’s the right way?”
Katelynn stopped texting and gave me a hard, suspicious stare.
I hesitated.
“Mom,” Katelynn said, “How do you know?”
I didn’t know what to say. I looked at the road ahead and back at Katelynn, “I need water,” I said. I needed time to come up with an answer.
“Mom, how do you know we are going the right fucking way?” Katelynn said.
“I just know, damn it!”
“You just know? That was the biggest bolt of lightening I’ve ever seen.” Her tone sarcastic, “A catastrophic weather event, and you just know?”
“I just fucking know, ok!”
“Mom!” Michelle screamed from the back seat.
I glanced back at her. Her face was pale. She stared past me, out through the windshield. I looked forward. An RV had stopped. I slammed my foot on the brake. Tires screeched. I turned the wheel and swerved around the RV.
“Mom!”
Katelynn dropped the map and cell phone. I looked ahead and saw Andy, but it was too late. I couldn’t stop in time. He and his bike went flying to the right. “Shit!” I held the brakes as hard as I could until the van stopped. Katelynn jumped out screaming, “Andy!”
I shoved the van in park. “Michelle, stay in the van,” I said, and ran to Andy. Katelynn helped him up.
“You could have killed him Mom!” Katelynn said.
I ignored her. There was no time to argue. “Are you OK Andy?”
“Yea, I think so,” he said. He had road rash from his wrist to his elbow, other than that he seemed to be fine.
“Get in the van,” I said. They both stared at me. “Now!” Katelynn grabbed Andy’s backpack and stomped toward the van. She glared at me as she walked past, then climbed into the passenger seat. I could see Andy’s blonde curls in the rearview mirror as I drove west. A few miles down the road, I asked “Where are your parents Andy?”
“They’re on vacation,” he said.
“Where?” I said. Katelynn snickered and rolled her eyes.
“Europe,” Andy said.
Katelynn snapped the map open. “What difference does it make, Mom?” she said between grinding teeth.
The truth was it didn’t make a difference. They were probably dead if they were in Europe, where it all started. Katelynn kept screaming at me. I couldn’t say anything. I drove west with a lump in my throat. I kept looking away, with teary eyes.
“Mom, aren’t you going to say anything?” Katelynn said.
I looked back at Michelle. Her blue eyes were wide and teary, staring at me. She needed me to be strong.
“Mom,” Katelynn said.
I finally broke into a sob, “Enough Katelynn,” I said.
She was quiet for a moment, as I tried to pull myself together.
“I’m sorry,” said Katelynn. “It’s just a bad storm. We’re going to be Ok.”
I closed my mouth tight. I couldn’t breathe with all the crying. I moaned. I sobbed, I said, “It isn’t a storm.”
Katelynn had a blank expression. She didn’t say anything. Then she looked at the side mirror, and adjusted herself in the seat and looked back out of the van. “There are more cars following us now,” she said.
“Many more will come,” I said.
Andy pulled on my seat and leaned next to my ear. “How do you know?” he said.
“If it isn’t a storm, then what is it?” said Katelynn.
I glanced at the mirror. Michelle stayed quiet.
“Mom, please say something,” Katelynn said.
“They warned us, years ago,” I said. I looked at Michelle. Her father said she had the gift. Before he died, he said she’d know how to get us to safety.
“What warning?” Andy said.
Up ahead, there were people standing on the side of the road. I looked back at Michelle again and mouthed, “I love you,” to her.
“Whoa, look at all the people,” said Andy. “They are looking at… us,” his voice trailed off.
I kept our speed steady. As we passed people I saw them in the side mirror, climbing back into their cars. Michelle climbed into the rear of the van. She planted her hands on the rear window and looked out at the people. She turned to me and said, “Go to Stony Man Mountain.”
Katelynn unfolded the map. She said, “Hawksbill is higher.”
Michelle glared at me. “We’ll go to Stony Man,” I said.
Katelynn ruffled the map, and sighed. She started to say something, but pressed her fist against her mouth. A moment later she said, “Mom.”
“Katelynn, I can’t do this right now!”
“Do what Mom, pretend to know what to do, or where to go!”
I knew she was scared. I told myself to shut up. I turned the radio on, and pushed all the preset buttons. Every station offered blaring news about the atrocities sighted all over Europe. Described as a war zone, “No terrorist group has claimed to be the source of the killings,” they said. Authorities had no idea who, or what was killing so many. “Prepare yourselves for the worst.” The message was clear.
We listened in silence. Andy leaned forward between me and Katelynn. I heard him snuffle, then swallow.
“My parents are in Europe,” he said.
Katelynn said, “I’m sorry Andy. We’ll search for them. I promise.”
I had a lump in my throat. My heart raced and ached. I knew their chances of making it out of Europe alive were damn near impossible. I turned the radio off. We fell silent again.
Katelynn faced me, she said, “Mom, what’s going on?”
“Mom!” Michelle yelled from the back of the van. “Go faster!”
Andy shuffled in the seat and said, “What is that?”
I looked in the rearview mirror. Lightening struck through ominous red clouds that rose above the horizon.
“Is that blood?” Katelynn said.
Michelle faced forward and stared at me with tear filled eyes. I had to get us to that mountain and fast, before it was too late.

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