The world was in a state of shambles. ‘Going to hell in a handbasket’, that’s what my father used to say. It started when rumors spread about a mysterious incurable virus in some country overseas. Pretty soon, it was on all the television and radio stations. Everybody thought it was a rumor.
Until people started dying. Left and right. Just dropping like flies. Or so the rumor goes. No one ever saw any pictures or proof of the dying, but apparently that wasn’t needed. Once reports hit that the incurable virus was fatal, the world went crazy.
First there were the end-of-the-world religious revivals. People were becoming religious overnight, and the churches couldn’t hold them all, so the revivals were held outside under big tents downtown. On Friday nights, me and Uri would sit outside on our porch swing, drink Mother’s homemade lemonade, and listen to what my Father said was ‘nonsense’. My Mother called it ‘catching the holy ghost just in the nick of time’. She’d always roll her eyes when she said it. To me the sounds of people crying, yelling out and shouting a string of syllables I couldn’t understand was just additional background noise to the setting of the book my nose was usually buried in. Uri was always trying to interpret it.
After that, came the insta-billionaires-the people who claimed to know the cure and convinced others to pay for the secret information. Alot of people got rich that way. I wonder what they’re doing with their money now.
Then there were the mass riots and rampant murder sprees. A clip surfaced online of a junior level scientist briefly mentioning some behind the scenes work on a possible cure. Someone found out what company he worked for, hacked the company’s private files, and posted a list of sensitive info about the possible cure to an online forum. Included in the info was the pharmaceutical make-up of the drug. People rioted pharmacies, hospitals, drugstores, regular stores, and private homes-looking for the ingredients to make it themselves. In a prison having a reputation for housing the most vile and notorious inmates, an inmate got loose, and raided the prison pharmacy for the precious drugs on the list. He stole them all, hid them in a wall, and used them to barter with the prison guards for the release of every inmate there. Prisoners around the world got wind and followed suit, and soon all of the nation’s evil were free to mingle with everyone else.The hacked company released a web statement saying the list leaked was not the ingredients for the cure as it was three years old, and until concrete evidence exists of such a virus, no cure would be found. This opinion should’ve been looked at as good news. I mean, if actual scientists believe the virus could be a hoax, couldn’t it very well be a hoax?
Apparently not. This statement just seemed to really piss people off. The very next day, every single scientist who worked there was found dead in their own homes-their throats had been slit. The images of their bodies were leaked online. No one knew who the perpetrators were. There were no officials to find out, at least that what I overheard Father telling Mother during a whispered conversation as they washed dishes. I was supposed to be in the living room with Uri watching a movie. Instead, we’d been looking at youtube videos of the news. Television anchors had taken to broadcasting from their houses. It was too unsafe to be outdoors.
Some people blamed the murder on the company’s competitors, other pharmaceutical companies and labs racing to find the cure and be the entire world’s heroes. Others blamed religious people, saying that with many of the renowned religious leaders would look foolish if after staking their beliefs on the world ending by virus, the virus were to be cured. But the target of the most accusation and hatred was neither the religious leaders or the pharmaceutical companies-it was the government. Rumor spread that the virus was government created and meant to lower the population numbers to reduce risk of overcrowding.
Me and Uri watched, safe inside our house, our faces pressed against the wooden boards Father had nailed over the windows, as people rioted in the city streets outside our home. We would play a game in which we both took turns to name the familiar faces that went by. That grew old quickly. Days went by as we holed out in our home. Mother alternated between cooking and watching online news. She’d hooked up her laptop to our tv. Father spent his time between sitting at the kitchen table while carving a piece of wood and watching Mother cook. Most of the time, Uri and I were in my room. Me lying on my back on the bed reading, and him scouring the internet on my wireless pad and reading me interesting tidbits of news.
I’d been restless and bored. The rioting crowds had died down, but the killing and robbing remained rampant and we couldn’t go outside. So when the green, growling heavy duty trucks rolled into town, the distraction provided a welcome relief. The trucks were huge, their matte black wheels were as tall as Uri was. They carried men, dressed in green and brown military fatigues, that stood in the back. Every once in a while, the trucks would slow down and a group of them would jump off. They’d go two by two to each house.
There are a few things I distinctly remember that day: How high and excited Uri’s voice was when he called for Mother and Father to come look; the comforting heaviness of my Father’s hand as he placed it on my head, bent to my level and told me to go with Uri to the bathroom, climb to the top shelf of the towel closet and hide there; the crash of glass against the floor as Mother dropped the glass she’d been holding; the smell of bleach-evidence Mother had just cleaned; the sweatiness of Uri’s damp hand as he’d held mine for climbing balance; the clipped voice of a strange man asking for my parents’ names and if either of them had children; the confident coolness in Mother’s voice as she calmly answered no; the sound of the screen door squeaking shut; metal against metal as Father secured the custom self-made locks on the door; and the timid, embarrassment thick in Uri’s voice when he’d told me that he’d pissed himself; the laughter that I tried hard to suppress when upon my asking why he’d responded that it’d just happened when he heard Mother lie; and finally, the sickening lurch I got in my stomach when I’d realized how grave the situation must truly be if Mother had lied.
It was actually more graver than I’d realized, because later that night, when Mother thought Uri and I were asleep, I’d overheard her, father, and a few strange voices talking in hushed voices. Their words floated from the kitchen and into my room, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Early the next morning, Mother had awoken me and Uri instructed both of us to take a good bath. She’d cooked our favorite breakfast-banana waffles with turkey bacon and chocolate milk, but instead of letting us eat it, she bundled it up and told us we’d have to eat in the car.
As soon as the sun set out of the city, we’d gotten into the car and left. I remember, looking out the window, wondering if I’d miss the only home I knew and noting how odd the streets looked being so empty. Wondering why we even had to leave in the first place. The only thing Father would say is that the men who came to our house worked for the government, and they were collecting the names and social security numbers of everyone who lived in the nation. Uri had asked why, and Father told him it was because the government had made the cure for the virus mandatory for every citizen alive. Uri had wanted to know why we were leaving if the government wanted to help us. Father told him it was because the government wasn’t helping us, but trying to harm us. That had seemed to satisfy Uri.
The drive wasn’t long, but both me and Uri fell asleep after we wolfed down our breakfast in the backseat. Mother had woken us up sometime later. Father had parked the Volvo. We were in the middle of a field of corn. The stalks were father’s height, so we were well concealed. Mother had explained to us that we needed to walk from there. We’d traipsed on foot the rest of the way to the caves, where a few familiar faces had greeted us. Uri and I had explored the cave excitedly after a warning from Father that unless theres been a grave accident, we shouldn’t speak above a loud whisper.
I’m Lana Thurgood. I’m 17, and I live in a cave. It’s been my home for five years, and I share it with a few others who fled the city the day the big green government trucks rolled into town.
Back then, the world was in shambles. Rumors of a fast spreading, incurable and fatal virus had taken the world by storm. People were desperate for a cure, but there was none.
However, a pharmaceutical company backed by the government created a preventative vaccine. It wouldn’t cure anyone who contracted the virus, but it would make anyone who didn’t have the virus immune to it. The President wrote it into federal law that the preventative drug was mandatory for all citizens in the nation, and that in every city and every town, the military would ensure obedience to that law was enforced. Uri and I watched through the slats of our boarded up windows as the long convoy rolled into town. And less than twenty-four hours later, we sat in the backseat of our red ‘84 volvo and watched as the only place we’d ever called home disappeared from view.
Now, five years later, Father is dead, and the food storage is close to gone-rapidly depleting. For the last several months or so, I’ve been trekking into the city to forage for non-perishables to supplement our food supply. I know the risk I take every time I leave the hidden away, safe confines of the caves. In the past, I’ve had no trouble, but rumor at the caves is guards are actively roaming the streets,
The way I see it, I’ve got two choices: slowly starving during the winter that’s just around the corner or taking a chance and making another trip to get enough food to hold us over for another four weeks or so. On one hand, I could get caught by a patrolling guard and be taken against my will to live in Isis like mostly everyone else I used to know. On the other hand, there is a possibility that I could successfully forage around the city, find some canned goods and make it back home to the caves. And I’m hungry, so the choice is easy.
I mean, it’s not like I’ve never taken this trip before, and so what if guards are out patrolling for citizens to kidnap? I’m not who they think I am. I’m not one of the doped up, compliant, non-resistant citizens-made-victims that they prey on. I can still think for myself, and I’m fast on my feet. And, I’m very handy with a knife. All because I’m med-free. And I intend to stay that way.
And I definitely will, if everything goes as planned. And it should. Right?
Targeted Age Group:: Teen and YA
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve been writing for as far back as I can remember.
In 2009, I started working on an idea that was to become the foundation for The Girl Who Remained Elusive series, although I didn’t know that at the time. I ditched it soon after. Some years later I read ‘The Darkest Minds’ by Alexandra Bracken-and that’s how I was introduced to the dystopian genre-YA in particular. After I read it, I picked up work again on #TGWRE serials. So….to put it short, I guess ‘The Darkest Minds’ inspired me to write The Girl Who Remained Elusive Serials..?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Well, with the main character and protagonist, Lana Thurgood, she’d been floating around in my mind years before I knew exactly who she was or what her story was. The character of Jay-Lana’s possible/potential love interest-cropped up shortly after she did. The characters of the antagonists and other supporting characters sort of just ‘showed’ up when I needed them; in fact, except for the antagonist, the characteristics of the supporting characters tend to change often before the final rewrite.
A burly guard, having an unnecessarily rough grasp on my upper arm, propels me towards a sleek white bus. “Back row,” he grunts.
Where’s Uri? I take my time climbing the steps, peering behind me at the space that I’d last seen him. Had he run? ‘I should do the same,’ I think, just before I hear a clink and feel a heavy weight on my hands.
I look down to see that my wrists are shackled together in shiny silver handcuffs. The guard who’d done it, wedges himself in a corner in the front of the bus where, telling by the indentations and marks on the floor, a seat had once been. Now, a desk takes its place, chained to wall for stability. He doesn’t even glance at me when he mutters, “Hurry up. Move it.”
I make my way to the back. It’s already half-filled with kids, but despite the fact, it’s deathly quiet. The children are of varying ages; most appear to be in their late teens, yet all of them have blank slates on their faces as they stare straight ahead. None of them wear cuffs like I do. I settle myself on the outside of a seat shared by two others-a girl with braces and glasses and a boy with eyes who don’t even bother to glance at me when I speak.
Another guard, the driver, sits behind the wheel. He pulls on a crank, and then seems to reconsider. He turns to us and stand, towering above us in the aisle. “You kids are very, very lucky for being among the few chosen to go to Isis. You guys do know that right?”
The children around me nod their heads in agreement.
A murmur of rolls around the bus. “Lucky. We are very lucky.”
It’s the effect of the medication and the very reason we fled the city in the first place. Supposedly, the vaccination was created to make sure that citizens were protected from an oncoming virus that had been making headlines in the news. An amendment was added to the Constitution stating that every citizen must be vaccinated, and anyone who didn’t get vaccinated, will be labeled a terrorist and considered a threat to national security. But, seven years down the road, and there still haven’t been any outbreaks. Isis will say that there hasn’t been an outbreak thanks to the vaccinations. I and the others in the caves disagree. We aren’t vaccinated, but we’re not sick either.
I glance at the kids next to me. The boy’s skin is pale and grey and his eyes are dulled and glassed over. I’m suddenly thankful that my parents left the city with me and my brother in tow.
He looks at me, his head cocked to one side. “We are lucky,” he says his words stunted and clipped as if he never really learned the basics of making a statement. “You are lucky.”
I lift my shoulders in a shrug. I don’t want to talk. The only thing I can think of is Uri. Mother will die of a broken heart, and it’ll be my fault. I didn’t keep my promise to her to keep Uri safe. ‘With my life’ I’d said. I blink back the hot wetness threatening to breach my eyelids.
The girl leans forward into my view of vision. “You are lucky.” She speaks in the same monotone tune that the boy had. Her face shows no emotion, her mouth showcasing the squares of deteriorating metal braces in all of their glory. She gives a small nod of her head as if confirming her own words. “We are very lucky.”
We’re not lucky, I want to scream, but I don’t. Besides, they’ve gone back to their default positions, blankly staring straight ahead. It’s not their fault that they’ve been made victims of Isis. The thought makes part of me want to curl up in a ball and cry, but the other half of me wants to use my handcuffs to strangle the brainwashing out of them.
I don’t, however. I sit there, my hands clenching in my lap. A sense of uselessness and a profound feeling of dread creep up my spine, but these are overshadowed by the red hot anger in the bottom of my stomach. I’m angry at myself. I’d failed to keep Uri safe.
As the bus doors close and the engine purrs to life, that thought rings through my head, over and over like an annoying mantra. I hadn’t kept Uri safe.
About the Author:
Hey! I’m Whitney Pagano.I read ya sci/fi, poetry, murder mysteries and a couple of other genres. My favorite authors are Maya Angelou, Veronica Roth, Dick Francis, Agatha Christie,Suzanne Collins, George Orwell, Alexandra Bracken-to name a few. I dabble in poetry, young adult sci/fi and dystopian fiction, and short stories (usually psychological thrillers).
I’ve been writing for as far back as I can remember. I discovered books at six years old, and from then on I devoured everything I could get my hands on as well as started to keep diaries and journals. At first I read everything, then I discovered I enjoyed reading YA more than any other genre. At around 13, after keeping copious journals/diaries, and writing short stories and poems for years, I decided to try my hand at writing ya fiction.
In 2009, I started working on an idea that was to become the foundation for The Girl Who Remained Elusive series, although I didn’t know that at the time. A couple of weeks into it, I discarded it. In 2012, I returned to it. I fleshed the storyline out a bit and wrote more of the manuscript. #TGWRE (Pt 1) was published on Amazon through the KDP select program and hit the Hot New Release and Bestseller lists shortly after!
Besides writing I enjoy reading, spending time with my son, chewy brownies, photography and life.
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy The Girl Who Remained Elusive (Pt. 1 of a YA Dystopian Serialized Novel) On Amazon
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