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Daunting Decisions (Beyond the Collapse Book 2), page 1


Daunting Decisions (Beyond the Collapse Book 2)

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Daunting Decisions (Beyond the Collapse Book 2)

  Daunting Decisions

  Beyond The Collapse Book 2

  Kip Nelson

  Copyright © 2017 by Kip Nelson

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter One

  Adam found it difficult to forget all that Diana had shown him. He looked up at the ceiling. It was hard to believe that above them all, on the top floor of the apartment building, were piles and piles of rotting corpses. The people he'd seen as he'd walked through the building didn't look in good health, and he wondered how many of them would be added to the pile before too long.

  His eyes met those who were there sitting in the opposite corner. They looked at him, studying the newcomer with interest, but they did not speak or make any motion to welcome him to the building. Only Diana and Annabelle had offered him friendship, and really Annabelle had done all that work. He was sure that if he and Peter had run into Diana on her own she wouldn't have brought them back here. He owed his life to that little girl, although he doubted she realized that.

  “So, what do you usually do around here?” he asked Annabelle.

  “All sorts of things. We go out into the city a lot. I like that because I don't like staying in here. I like being outside, even though it's cold, but then again, I always have. In the Scouts we did lots of things outside. It's fun, although I prefer being in the woods rather than in the city, but Diana says we can't go out there because it's too dangerous.”

  “You know, I stayed out in the woods for a little while with Peter,” he said. Annabelle's eyes widened as though he said that he had met Santa Claus.

  “Was it dangerous? What was it like? Did you see any animals? Was there a river? Did you go kayaking? How long were you there for?”

  Adam was amused by the rat-a-tat nature of the questions that fired from her mouth. “I'm sure I'll answer all your questions in good time. We saw a few animals, yes, but we didn't see a river. It was dangerous at first, but we managed to build a shelter and we did alright for ourselves.”

  “I wish I had been with you. I know a lot about camping. We used to have to practice our outdoor skills a lot and I was the best. I had a lot of merit badges,” she said, and then her face fell a little.

  She looked down at the clothes she was wearing, clothes with no merit badges. Adam realized she was thinking about the world before, and how she never would get those merit badges back again. He didn't want her to lose herself in despondency so he quickly spoke, asking if she could take him to see the stores of food. It seemed to work, as she nodded, but she still looked as though she had a lot on her mind, and it was a terrible thing to see an eleven-year-old girl burdened with such matters.

  For once Annabelle was quiet as they made their way through the apartment complex, and Adam stayed close to her. They left their room and walked down the corridor. As they did so Annabelle took his hand, out of habit. It was a gesture that filled Adam with a sense of pride, and also a little fear, for he was responsible for Annabelle and he knew what Diana would do if anything happened to her. Adam never had had the opportunity to be around children, so this all was new territory for him. He hoped he would be able to serve Annabelle well.

  They passed more miserable-looking folk as they descended the stairs all the way to the ground floor. As they made their way down, the place was getting more crowded, and they had to push harder to make their way through the corridors. The smell was more pervasive as well, and Adam wondered if he ever would get used to it. It didn't seem to bother Annabelle, however, and Adam found himself wishing he could have her courageous spirit. He made sure for her to ask if it was okay to go off on her own, as he couldn't imagine Diana being happy with that. Annabelle agreed, but she was a trusting person and went with her own instincts. She merely told Adam that she liked him and she knew he wouldn't do anything to her. That was enough for Adam, and he hoped it would be enough of an explanation for Diana when they returned as well.

  On the building’s ground floor was a large communal hall, and it was used to store the food. From what Adam could see it was basically a large pantry. He went to enter it, but Annabelle pulled him back.

  “You can't go in,” she said.

  “Why not?” Adam asked with a puzzled expression.

  “Because of them,” she said, pointing to two men who were standing by the door.

  Adam had been so concerned with the food that he hadn't even noticed them. He knew he would have to be far more observant if he was to make it through this new world. The two men looked far different from the other people around him. They carried guns, and a menacing look upon their faces, but they didn't look devoid of hope or clad in rags either.

  “Who are they?”

  Annabelle shrugged. “They just come here to watch over the food and make sure nobody goes in without permission. We're only allowed food at certain times of the day.”

  “Really? That's terrible,” Adam said, shocked.

  It started sounding more like an internment camp than anything else, and he suddenly had more sympathy for those around him. The world truly had fallen into disrepair, and the prospect of humanity helping itself out of this hole was bleak. It seemed as though wherever he looked there were others trying to place their heel down, subjugating those less fortunate than themselves, less able to adjust. Adam wished he had the fortitude to raise his voice and rally the people to subdue these two men, to free the food and cast off the shackles of fear. But once again they were only dreams, and he was forced to face his true nature and remain in the background, never to be the hero of his own story.

  “Don't people ever get angry when they want food?”

  “They used to, but not with the watchmen there. They keep things in line. It's better that way, I think. It's not nice to see everyone yelling at each other and shouting loudly.”

  “I guess,” Adam said. He was annoyed at Diana for not telling him about this. She had had ample opportunity to do so, and it was something he felt he should have known before coming here. “Are the two men always the same watchmen, or do they change?”

  “They change,” Annabelle said.

  Adam nodded as his thoughts turned. If they changed shifts, it meant that more of them were working together and they were part of a larger community, but that only led to more questions; Why were they so concerned with the people in this building? Why didn't they just take the food for themselves? Where were they staying if not here? The more questions he asked himself, the more he grew frustrated with Diana. It felt as though she was hiding things from him. After all the grief she'd given him about him and Peter being trustworthy it felt hypocritical.

  “So, you've been with Diana for a while then. What's she like?” Adam asked, trying to see if Annabelle would tell him anything that could shed light on the woman's personality.

  Adam still wasn't sure what he really thought about her. She was beautiful, there
was no doubt about that. However, he had fallen into the trap of his opinion being clouded by a woman's beauty before, and he didn't want to make that mistake again. He still wasn't sure if he trusted her completely, and he knew the feeling was mutual. Annabelle was the only one holding them together, since she was the only one both of them trusted unconditionally.

  Annabelle didn't have enough kind things to say about Diana. Her words were effusive, and it was clear she loved Diana and had much admiration for her. Indeed, Adam quickly found his own opinion of her increasing upon hearing Annabelle’s glowing admiration. Annabelle made her out to be a warrior princess, capable of doing just about anything. Adam didn't know whether to be more frightened of Diana or more glad that they had encountered each other. In the end he decided he could be both.

  “What about Peter?” Annabelle asked after she had finished praising Diana.

  “Peter is...he's different,” Adam said, still unsure if Peter actually had a mental condition or if he was just a little slow. It wasn't the type of thing he could ask, and he doubted Peter was going to volunteer the information. “He looks at the world in a different way from the rest of us. Sometimes that means he needs a little help understanding things. He can be shy as well, but he's really nice. I wouldn't have been able to make it this far without him.”

  “I'd like to see the world differently,” Annabelle said. Adam looked around him, at all the miserable people.

  “Me too,” he said.

  Then, there was some activity by the doors. One of the men stepped forward. “Alright, you know the drill by now. Let's not have any funny business. Just come in quietly, two at a time, and we won't have any trouble,” he yelled, while the other man opened the wide doors, and the food came into full view. Adam's eyes widened as he saw everything that had been stored. It was like a warehouse. No wonder food was difficult to find in the city if places like this had gathered up so much.

  “What do we do?” Adam asked as people around him began shuffling toward the door, mindless creatures just doing what they had been trained to do to survive.

  He looked at them, with their glassy eyes and sullen expressions, and realized they barely had minds of their own. They just were doing this because it was the way things had to be done. Even if he could have rallied a rebellion, it would have fallen at the first hurdle, for these people did not have the spark of fight left in them.

  “We get to go in and pick out some food! We'll get some for Diana and Peter as well. They open this a few times a day. So, it doesn't matter if you miss out on one, but you just can't take too much food.”

  “Why, what happens?”

  “The men aren't very happy. They shout a lot and, well, just make sure you don't take too much.”

  Adam wasn't entirely sure what constituted too much food, but didn’t ask. As he and Annabelle joined the queue, he soon saw the people in front of him move through the pantry and exit back out. The whole thing was an orderly process, with people lining up, waiting to be admitted. They were checked before they went in, then allowed to walk around freely. When they came out they stopped and were checked by the other man to ensure they had not taken any more than their fair share. Then they were allowed on their way. There was no trouble at all.

  Soon enough it was Adam and Annabelle's turn. The man didn't pay them any more attention than anyone else, and soon they were through to the food stores. Adam had been deprived of a good meal for so long it was all he could do to not run out and grab as much food as he could. The place was filled with all manner of biscuits, chips, canned food, anything he ever had dreamed about while he had been tearing shreds of meat from small animals in the forest.

  “We'd better hurry. They don't like us taking too long,” Annabelle said. She quickly gathered up some cans. Adam followed her.

  “How much can we take?” he said, wanting to gather as much as possible.

  “Not too much,” was her vague reply.

  Adam decided to err on the side of caution. The two of them managed to get enough food to last them throughout the day. Then they followed the trail out of the pantry, stopping at the door to be inspected. For a moment Adam was sure the watchman was going to stop him and pry the food away, but he and Annabelle were let through, and they returned to their little corner of the building. Other people already were sitting down, chewing their food, and it was a pitiful sight. Adam hoped he never reached that point, where he just was counting down the days.

  “Where the hell have you two been?” Diana yelled upon their return.

  Adam groaned inwardly. He had hoped Diana would have been rational about it and not jumped to conclusions. It seemed as though he was going to have to have another argument with her. He wanted them to be friends, well, more than friends really, but she wasn't making it easy. However, it was Annabelle who came to his defense.

  “I was just showing Adam how we get food. It's okay. I like him, he's my friend,” she said.

  It was clear from Diana's expression that her trust wasn't going to be won so easily. Adam decided it was best not to air his frustration with her at that particular moment. Instead offered her some food, while Annabelle gave some to Peter, who looked thrilled. They sat down and ate in silence. Diana used a big knife to open the cans and shear away the metal.

  “We need to find you some fruit at some point,” Diana said, ruffling Annabelle's hair. Annabelle was eating crisps and licked her fingers clean.

  “At some point,” she echoed, offering Diana a cheeky grin. It was in moments like these when Diana seemed human and warm, when Adam actually felt there was a chance for them to move through this period of distrust.

  “Living like this makes you wonder what happened to all the rich and famous people, doesn't it? It's like everyone is poor now,” Adam said when he came to the end of his meal.

  “I'm sure they're doing alright. Money always gave them a way out. They probably have some secret bunker somewhere.”

  “I didn't take you for a conspiracy theorist.”

  Diana shrugged. “I'm not, but it makes sense. They had so much money and some of them had to have known that something bad was going to happen. You don't get that rich without knowing the secrets of the world. I know if I'd have had that much money I'd have built a secret place, just in case. A lot of those people had more money than some small nations. Where do you think it all went?”

  Adam wasn't entirely convinced she had a point, but he didn't want to argue with her. So, he said nothing in response.

  Chapter Two

  Once they all had finished eating Adam watched Diana carefully. He wasn't sure about her at all now that he knew she had been hiding something from him. When he had the opportunity, he pulled her aside where they could speak quietly, without anyone else hearing. Although just to make sure, Adam spoke in as low a voice as possible.

  “Why didn't you tell me about the people guarding the food? I would have liked to have known there are people out there monitoring my behavior!”

  Diana rolled her eyes. “It's hardly as bad as all that. They're not Big Brother. You're free to come and go as you please, you just can't get into the food all day, every day.”

  “But why not? Who are they? Where did they come from? Why don't they just take all the food for themselves? Don't you care about any of that? There are so many questions!”

  Diana folded her arms. “I'm sorry, I just don't see it as that big of a deal. The only things I care about are what affects me and Annabelle directly. Those guys are just thugs who come and make sure everyone keeps in line. They don't go out of their way to hurt people. Maybe this is how they get their kicks, I don't know.”

  “But what about when they change shifts? Don't you want to know where they go? Obviously, there's a group of them working together in this. So, what do they want? They might have a camp somewhere, and presumably it's better than this place. Otherwise, they'd be trying to take it for themselves, which they could do easily with their guns. And where did they get the guns from
anyway? Did they have them already, or did they take them from somewhere?”

  “I think your mind is way too active,” Diana said dryly. Adam was annoyed at the way she tried to dismiss him.

  “I can't believe you're not worried about this! What if I'm right and they are part of a larger group? Don't you want to know what they're planning?”

  “So what if they are? It's not going to make any difference to my life. Right now, I have my freedom and, yeah, they keep it tight around the food, but I don't care what their agenda is. They don't prevent us from eating, and as long as you don't get too greedy they're not going to stop you. I've never even spoken to one of them. If they do have another camp, then so what? I'm not going to waste my time trying to find it, since there's no guarantee it's better than this place. I have a roof over my head and a steady supply of food. As long as I have those things for me and Annabelle, I'm not going to worry about anything else, or try to do anything to change it. I suggest you start thinking the same way because this winter is going to be long, and you're going to need all the safety you can get.”

  Her words were harsh, and while they were designed to make Adam cower and fall in line with her way of thinking, they only served to get him panicked and he started along a negative train of thoughts. “But what if this is only the beginning? What if they just are seeing how much they can get away with, trying to lull us into a false sense of security, making us think that they're doing us a favor when really they're just planning to do something horrible? What if that's the only way to get anywhere in this world, if might makes right? If it is, then there's no hope for us, not while we aren't able to fight back. And how can we fight back when we don't have guns like them? How do we even stand a chance?”

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