PRESENTS. . .
The Land of the Shadow
by Lissa Bryan
Two years after a horrific virus swept the globe, decimating the world’s population, Carly Daniels and her husband, Justin, have made a safe home in the isolated southern town of Colby. Protected by fences and a vigilant population, the residents there had somehow managed to keep the Infection out. Until the sight of Carly and Justin’s healthy baby girl convinced them it was safe to allow Outsiders in.
Now, in the wake of fresh losses, the small band of survivors struggles to rebuild a community. With only nineteenth-century technology to aid them, they must learn skills long forgotten to provide for their basic needs. Each day brings new challenges, and every choice they make affects their long-term survival. While Carly and Justin adjust to a growing family, and to their roles as community leaders, they must rely on one another for strength and support when they face difficult questions.
Carly has to decide how to move forward in a world where equality, justice, and freedom from tyranny are no longer guaranteed. And when new threats emerge, she has to decide what she is willing to do—and how far she’s willing to go—to protect what she has worked so hard to build.
When the end has come and gone, it’s a journey down a long and broken road through The Land of the Shadow.
Justin was in the barn when he heard Carly scream, and the sound of it almost stopped his heart. It was a sound of sheer terror, a sound that could only mean . . .
He didn’t finish the thought. His brain clicked into action mode, based on training and instinct, pushing his own fear aside.
Justin jumped to snatch the pump-action shotgun mounted on pegs above the door and ran harder than he’d ever run in his life, pumping the weapon to chamber a round. He prayed as he ran. He didn’t know to whom he was praying, nor for what, but he prayed just the same.
Rounding the corner of the house, he saw Kaden and Carly running toward a goddamn big alligator in the front yard. Sam darted around its sides, snapping.
Justin caught up to Kaden just as the beast decided that Carly’s direction was a better avenue of escape than the path blocked by the snarling wolf and the two running men. It charged right at her, its mouth wide, tail thrashing in its wake. Carly jumped for the porch, clutching at the post, her foot braced on the rail. Kaden charged up the steps and swept Dagny up into his arms, flinging open the screen door to scramble inside the house.
Dagny yelled something that sounded like, “No, kay!” as the keys tumbled from her hand to clatter on the floorboards. Justin heard her wail as the screen door slammed behind Kaden. But she was safe, and that was what mattered at the moment. Carly still clung to the porch rail, her eyes wide. Safe, too, Justin noted, as his mind switched over to seek-and-destroy mode.
The alligator kept running across the lawn and straight into the cornfield, surprisingly fast for such a large, awkward creature.
“Not the corn!” Justin swung wide to try to drive the reptile toward the road instead, but the alligator saw safety and concealment in the thick patch of tall green stalks. It charged into the patch, clearing a three-foot-wide path of broken stalks with every swipe of its thrashing tail.
A flash of movement from the left caught Justin’s eye, and Pearl jumped in front of the alligator with a shout, waving her arms to prevent it from charging deeper into the field. The gator hissed at her and brandished its gaping maw, but began to back away.
More people from the town, who had been drawn by Carly’s scream, ran across the lawn toward the corn patch. The confused alligator found himself surrounded, and he turned, crushing more stalks. Justin swore.
He caught Pearl’s eye and didn’t even need to tell her what he needed. She shouted and feigned a lunge to get the gator’s attention, and it swung around to hiss at her.
He darted to the gator’s side and aimed the shotgun at the back of its head. “Clear!”
“No, Justin!” Carly shouted. “Don’t!”
Justin groaned. His wife, the animal lover. Was she going to say something like, He can’t help he’s an alligator, and insist Justin transport the thing back to the swamp? He was already picturing wrapping the beast’s jaws with duct tape or something to avoid losing a goddamn hand in the process when she reached his side.
Instead, she pulled out the .45 she wore at her hip and blasted the gator three times in the head. It slumped to the ground, dead as Caesar.
“I didn’t want you to use the shotgun and tear up the hide,” Carly said.
God, he loved her. He felt a grin stretch his cheeks.
She turned toward the house but called over her shoulder to the staring townspeople as she ran to check on her baby. “We have meat.”
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot…though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.
She is the author of three other novels, Ghostwriter, The End of All Things, and Under These Restless Skies.