T Connor: Bitter Cold Apocalypse

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T Connor Bitter Cold Apocalypse
  • Название:
    Bitter Cold Apocalypse
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Kindle
  • Жанр:
    sf_postapocalyptic / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2021
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    5 / 5
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Bitter Cold Apocalypse: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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A nation in darkness. A bitter Northern Michigan winter. The harrowing journey of survival begins. Newly married, John and Angie Aikens are on a hunting trip in Northern Michigan when an EMP plunges the nation into darkness. They need to head back to civilization to reunite with Angie’s daughter, Sarah, but quickly discover that not only is their truck inoperable, the wild animals are acting weird… and becoming more hostile and dangerous by the hour. Now, they must fight not only the elements on their journey back home, but avoid the growing chaos and nefarious forces that are closing in on them. Note: This is the first book in a series. Rated PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence

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T.W. Connor

BITTER COLD APOCALYPSE

1

I was in the woods on the day my world imploded.

The hunting trip had been something Angie and I were doing for fun. Something that we’d decided on right after the wedding—a way for us to get to spend some time together, truly getting to know each other.

A honeymoon. Sort of.

And it was truly just us. Some camping gear, our rifles, and the wilderness. We spent the first day just enjoying the fresh air and quiet of the winter woods. As we sat in the tree stand that morning, huddled together against the bitter cold, I realized that I couldn’t remember a time when I’d been happier. Felt more secure, more safe. More like I thought a person was supposed to feel.

Later, I would look back on those few hours and wonder what would have happened if we had just stayed there. I would wish that we’d been able to do something like that, just to hold onto the happiness of our early days together. Before the lights went out and the Earth started to burn.

Of course I would follow that up with the truth of the matter: It wouldn’t have mattered if we’d stayed sitting on that log. We wouldn’t have been protected by what was coming.

“Easy, John,” Angie had breathed. “Wait for your shot.”

I tracked the deer in the scope of my rifle, enjoying the warmth of my wife’s hand at the small of my back. I also shut down the smirk I could feel growing on my mouth. No need to tell her that those instructions are unnecessary, I reminded myself. No need to tell her that I’ve shot guns more times than I’ve tied my shoes and could do it in my sleep.

Could kill in my sleep.

The thought sent my smile flying into the nether, and I quickly adjusted my focus back to the deer. This wasn’t war. This wasn’t Afghanistan. Those memories had no place here.

They had no place here.

Besides, I would freely admit that Angie was a better hunter than I was, having grown up in the upper peninsula of Michigan in a family that practiced hunting like a religion. She was pretty much an expert, even when you took into account the fact that I’d done three tours in the United States Army fighting insurgents in Afghanistan. I may not have had Angie’s knack for tracking game, but those long months of constant danger in the Afghan hills had taught me how to wait for my shot and make the kill.

I exhaled, my breath ghosting up around the rifle scope. I felt the chill air pushing into my limbs and allowing me to calm the adrenaline rush of the moment. Took a slow breath and held it, readying my trigger finger.

Then the deer jumped out of scope.

“Dammit,” I breathed, moving the rifle smoothly to the left and finding the deer again. It wasn’t uncommon for them to jump, but normally I could see it coming.

Normally they gave some sort of warning.

I had done a little hunting in my day. Seen a deer catch a scent and take off running before, when I didn’t know that anything had happened. But there was a process to it. A widening of the nostrils, a sudden alertness before the deer sprang into action. And there shouldn’t have been anything for it to scent right now. We were downwind from the animal.

Then it took off again, and I realized that it wasn’t running away. Not the way a normal deer would have. Hell, it wasn’t even running straight. The deer had started galloping in a tight circle at the edge of the clearing, staying in one place and digging out a deep circular trench in the snow. It seemed to be running as fast as it could, tossing its antlered head in all directions at random. It would slip and skid to the ground in the snow, then jump back to its feet and keep running. Around and around. Over and over.

“What the hell is going on?” Angie asked.

“Get the binoculars,” I told her on a whisper—not that I thought we had to be quiet anymore. Whatever was going on out there, it had nothing to do with us. “This freaking deer just went nuts.”

Angie pulled a pair of high-powered binoculars from the pack at her feet and brought them to her eyes.

“What the…”

“I know. Have you ever seen one do that?”

If anyone had, it would have been her. She’d spent much of her childhood in the woods, tracking different types of game with her father and uncles. At only twenty-six years old, she was a more experienced hunter than most of the guys I’d grown up with in Indiana. Yeah, I was a couple years older than her, but I still felt like the student whenever we were in the woods together.

She shook her head.

“I’ve never seen anything do this. It just keeps going.”

The deer continued in its frantic circle, its path slowly shifting toward a large tree at the edge of the clearing. We watched in silence, too shocked by what we were seeing to comment further. The deer never paused or slowed its crazed run—until it collided head-first with the trunk of the tree. It dropped to the ground, flopping on the snow until it finally grew still. Half a second later, the sound of its skull impacting the wood reached us, a sharp crack like the breaking of a tree branch.

My eyebrows shot up. “Holy shit!”

We looked at each other, wide-eyed, Angie’s pale blue eyes striking in the early morning chill. She brushed a strand of brown hair away from her long nose with a gloved finger, then turned and stared at the dead deer again.

“This I’ve got to see.” She slung her backpack onto her back and moved to the ladder, swinging out over the ten-foot drop and climbing quickly to the ground. I grabbed my rifle, threw it over my shoulder by the strap, and hurried after her.

She might be good in the forest, but I wasn’t going to let her go out there alone. Especially not with what we’d just seen. I didn’t know what the hell had happened to that deer, but I could smell danger like smoke on the wind—and it was my job to protect Angie from whatever was out there.

It was early December, and we’d gotten our first major snow of the season a week earlier. It covered our legs to mid-calf as we plowed our way forward, descending from the small rise that held the tree stand and crossing the clearing toward the fallen deer. The sun had risen on a thin layer of silky gray cloud cover, and a few lazy flakes of snow still drifted down. Everything was quiet in the clearing, the covering of snow absorbing any sound. The world around us seemed frozen in time, apart from the few brittle snowflakes that glittered in the air.

Then I realized that we’d been wrong. Or at least I had been. Frozen fumes of breath were still escaping the deer’s nostrils as we approached it. It was still alive, but had clearly knocked itself senseless when it ran into the tree. One antler had broken off entirely, and I picked it up with a gloved hand as Angie knelt to examine the deer.

“Poor thing,” Angie said. “Whatever it heard, it scared it half to death.”

She stood up, slung her rifle off her shoulder, and put it to her shoulder—but I put a hand out to stop her.

“What are you doing?” I asked quickly.

She gave me a look like she thought I’d lost my mind. “I’m putting it out of its misery, John. The thing has probably got bleeding in its brain, and it might have a broken neck. Would you rather leave it here to suffer?”

I stared at her, shocked once more by how complicated she was. This was a woman who had no trouble hunting, when it came to food and warmth. But if she saw an animal suffering, her heart went out to it. She would have shot this deer in half a second if she’d been the one aiming. But tell her that it might be in pain and she was going to fix the problem immediately, regardless of the danger.

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