Author: Terry Tyler
Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Psychological/Dystopian
The UK, year 2139. One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity. Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything. It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block, until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision, and promises to bring hope back to the people's lives. Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift's spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor's loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley. Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder's message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?
We set off down the usual track, the remains of the old road, to avoid the sodden fields and potential danger lurking in the woods. Astra matches my pace, while Fay hurries alongside on her chunky little legs, occasionally leaping in front when she wants us to listen to her chatter.
"Okay, so where's all this trouble you brave lot have to deal with?" She gestures at the empty road before us. "I thought the minute we walked through South Gate we'd be socked in the face by a million marauding outliers demanding their lunch!"
We laugh; as we walk further away from Blackthorn, Astra starts telling us about dangerous situations avoided during her time on the road.
As we get deeper into outlier territory, I'm only half listening.
I've got more important things to think about.
When you're used to patrolling, you get a nose for it.
The girls are talking too loudly. Like they're out on a jolly. I've noticed this before; the guards' tunic and belt gives you the illusion of safety.
But I can see it, just up ahead. The remains of a building. Just a few knackered walls with half the bricks missing, and half a roof with a weedy tree growing through it.
Enough to hide inside, though.
Any building can mean trouble, behind or within.
I run on in front, gesturing to them to slow down but carry on talking, and jerk my thumb back towards the barn.
Wrong move. Alerting them to possible danger has shut them up. Chatter, then sudden silence―a total giveaway. This is why I prefer to go out alone; I only have me to worry about. I can weigh up in a flash when to hide, when to run, and I run faster than anyone, especially malnourished outliers.
My eyes strain towards the building―I was right. My nose has not let me down. The long grass going round the far side is flattened, like someone's walked across it not too long ago.
I signal to Astra and Fay to follow me. I have my sword on my back and a knife in each hand; I creep across that flattened grass round to the side of the building, quick and silent as a ghost.
And I see them.
They're no group of bandits, but anyone with a knife is dangerous, and these two men, one woman, and a boy of about twelve are pointing four of them at me. They're dirty and thin, with that all too familiar appearance of utter desperation. The boy and the woman shake, as they cower against their shelter that was once someone's home.
Out of the corner of my left eye, I take in a broken down old chair, a table.
I see everything, even when I'm in danger. Especially when I'm in danger. Except I'm not, now. I know I'm not.
We can handle this, no worries. Hell, I could handle it on my own.
I stand, knives ready, in my sturdy boots, my leather tunic covering the padded body armour we wear when out on patrol. I'm well-fed, strong and ready to fight. I hear Astra and Fay advance behind me with their swords, see the outliers' eyes darting between us, trying to work out who they should attack first.
Behind them the sky is dark and forbidding; a gust of wind blows up this lonely road.
The taller of the two men takes a step back. He knows. There's no point. They're already beaten.
The wind whistles through the trees, blowing my hair away from my face.
But it's not over.
"Aiieee!" The smaller man hurls himself at me with a battle cry, aiming for my chest with his sad little weapon, but he's no threat.
In an instant, I've dropped both my knives and grabbed his wrists―as soon as I sensed Astra on my near side, saw the glint of her sword out of the corner of my eye, I knew it was safe to drop them, that all I had to do was disable him.
The outlier struggles, kicking out at me, but my shin pads protect me from pain, and he is helpless.
"Drop the knife," I say. "Drop it. Now."
Fay runs up, and yanks it out of his hand. I glance once more at the other, wiser man; he drops his weapon and puts his hands in the air.
"We're no trouble," shouts the woman. She has long, greying hair, dirty and matted. "We're just hungry!"
The attacker slumps, giving up the fight, and I let go of his arms.
Now I have a decision to make. Guards on patrol have instructions from the top, i.e. Wolf North, not to give food to outliers; if they want a handout, they must join the begging queue.
This is to prevent word getting around that Blackthorn guards are a potential food source to ambush.
"You can go queue at South Gate," Fay says. "They're giving out enough food for two days, and fresh water. One pack per person. Make it last."
"Ain't you got no jobs there?" asks the guy who attacked me. His thatch of fair hair is filthy, his sunken cheeks covered in sores. And he stinks; that I know, from being in such close proximity to him. No way would he get a job, even if there were any going.
"None left," calls out Astra. "I'd go get the food, if I were you, then head down to Lincolnshire; there's settlements in the Wolds. You might get taken on there."
The four of them stand, dithering. The young boy starts to cry; he doesn't look like he'll make it as far as South Gate.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Why is your featured book a must-read?
Because it has outstanding reviews from book bloggers, who have described it as 'absolutely outstanding', 'a book you live rather than read', 'captivatingly wonderful', and many of its reviews talk about the depth of the characters, the story's originality, the questions it provokes about our own beliefs, and how the charisma of one person can influence vast numbers of people. However, it is not a 'heavy' book, at all; it's keeps up a good pace all through, and is a story you can get stuck into!
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 51 books featured in the Beach Reads Bookish Event:
Runs July 17 – 22, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on July 30, 2020.
Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-one books available from Amazon, the latest being the dystopian 'Wasteland'. She is currently working on 'The Visitor', a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as her Project Renova series. Proud to be independently published, she is also an avid reader, and a member of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team.
Terry interests include history, and all things post-apocalyptic. She loves TV binges (especially The Walking Dead, scifi and crime), Twitter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.
Social Media Links: