Here is an excerpt from the first chapter of my novella. I hope you enjoy it!
CHAPTER ONE: TEMPEST
A ladybird the size of a bottle cap tickled the fine hair on Rosa’s arm, and her eyes flew open. She peered at the beetle and noted the mutated amphibious webbing along its tiny hind legs. They didn’t need to spend time in water, so why were they growing unnecessary parts?
She watched the ladybird crawl across her hand. It was rarer to find normal bugs than mutants lately. Everyone said the world had changed since the waters had risen, they always said it with a sigh as if remembering better days. Rosa hadn’t known any other world, but the changes happening in front of her, like the amphibious ladybirds, were unsettling.
“If you’re going to ignore me, Rosella—”
Rosa jumped, suddenly noticing the man sitting beside her in the back seat of the car.
“—I’ll get going. It’s been what, eight months since I saw you last and you’re still carelessly sleeping out here alone. Use that smart head of yours for something other than reading and tinkering with useless junk for once. Anyone could find you, and then . . .” Greg shook his head, but Rosa saw his hand twitch above the machete at his side.
She cast a wary eye over him while attempting to regain her composure. A giant hunting knife was fastened to Greg’s left boot, but the straps over his shoulders where his shotgun usually hung were empty. His grey-streaked beard hadn’t been trimmed for some time—he must have come straight to see her before his tyres had cooled from travel.
“Eight months and two days,” she said, “and the same old argument as if you’d never left.” She pretended to fiddle with the buttons on her shirt, checking the treasure in her pocket. Rosa had awaited Greg’s return with both impatience and trepidation. She always missed him, but this time was different. This time, Rosa had found something that could change their lives, maybe even change the whole country, forever. But Greg came in here without even a hello or asking her about her progress on the project in the corner of her workshop, so her treasure would have to wait. “Where’s your shotgun?” she asked. “You took it off to sneak in here, didn’t you? You wanted to catch me unaware. Were you spoiling for a fight?”
“Do you ever listen to what I teach you?” asked Greg, sighing. “Not all mutant wildlife are as seemingly harmless as the ladybirds. The Wild Dogs aren’t make-believe, either. They decimate settlements. What if I’m on the other side of the country when something happens? I’d come back to find you gone.” He reached out and ran his gloved fingers through Rosa’s hair.
She pulled her head away. “No-one comes in here,” said Rosa. “But just in case, I always have my ratchet handy, so if I needed to I could conk someone on the head.”
Greg caught her wrist, the ratchet hovering inches from his forehead. “You’d conk a gang member on the head, would you? Just like that? Wouldn’t matter if he had a gun or was stronger than you?” His grip tightened.
She yanked her wrist but couldn’t extricate it from Greg’s strong grasp, so she leaned forward to get right in his face. “Your annual lessons won’t keep me alive, Greg. It’s me out here, just me. I can handle myself.”
With a gentle twist, Greg disarmed her and handed the tool back with a sad smile. “Are you sure, Birdie?”
Rosa thrust the ratchet into her belt and turned away from him.
“Righto,” he said, “I get it. I’m not your bodyguard. If you’re going to put yourself in such idiotic situations, then I’m done. I don’t need another Joy.”
Rosa shrank inwardly. She couldn’t even think of asking Greg to help her now. His partner, Joy, had died out there.
“I don’t have time for this,” said Greg. He placed a small parcel wrapped in a clean red cloth on the seat between them. “Happy Christmas.” He got out and made his way amongst the salvaged cars.
Curiosity piqued, Rosa unfolded the parcel, wrinkling her nose as the grease on her fingers rubbed off onto the clean wrapping. A grille emblem with six stars fell into her palm. It had been polished and mounted on a small metal cone. Her star. Rosa smiled. She had searched for a star emblem for years to top her Christmas tree of salvaged hood ornaments.
Rosa got out of the car and jogged after Greg. She caught him in a hug before he had time to strap his shotgun on. “I missed you.”
Greg pulled her close. “I missed you too, Birdie.”
She breathed in the leather and gun oil and crushed oak scent that was Greg. This was her moment to tell him what she had found and ask him to come with her . . .
Aire’s alarm bells sounded. Three times.
To be continued.
If you would like to purchase my novella, here are some purchase links. Thank you.