BOOK 1 OF THE SCAVENGER SERIES
Holding his baby girl’s lifeless body was one of the worst feelings Kyle had to endure in his life. He couldn’t help but reminisce on the first day he laid eyes on her in the Labor and Delivery room at Penn Hospital. She was the spitting image of him. Now, it was fourteen years later and she was no longer with him. Tears poured from his bloodshot eyes and pain masked his face. Pulling her tight into his body, he buried his nose into the top of her head, engulfing in the aroma of her shampoo. He immediately recognized the strawberry scent of the Herbal Essence shampoo Chloe would always beg him to pick up from the market. It all had to be a bad nightmare; this couldn’t be a reality. No parent should ever have to outlive his or her child. “It’s all over now princess, you don’t have to suffer anymore,” he whispered before puckering his dry lips and kissing her on the forehead. “I love you.”
It was humid and muggy. The summer heat was blaring through the small attic window. Kyle looked over at his wife, Jacqui, who was still in shock. Her soul looked as if it was ripped from her body and thrown into the pits of Hell. “Why? Why did it have to be her? She was so young and so innocent,” Jacqui murmured.
Unable to console his wife, Kyle pulled his daughter in close again. Her thin body was wrapped in his stocky arms. After brushing her hair away from her face, he leaned in and kissed her forehead once more. He had no answer for his wife and no remedy for their pain. What could he possibly say to her? In the back of his mind, he knew she was partially responsible for his daughter’s death. How could he comfort someone he felt so much anger towards? Keeping space between them would be best for them both. If she knew how he truly felt, she would be devastated.
“We should have left when we had the chance,” Kyle said while avoiding making direct eye contact with Jacqui.
“Don’t say that.”
“I’m serious; we should have just —“
Jacqui cut him off, “I said don’t fucking say it. We didn’t know those monsters were coming here.”
The consistent tears magnified Jacqui’s gray eyes. They were like two chrome faucets that someone had turned on, as tears pooled in her eyes. There was nothing but fear and grief running through Jacqui’s body. She crept up to the window and scanned the exterior of their house. The scan was brief, once her teary eyes locked on the two dead bodies that were left to rot in front their home. Jacqui knew her husband’s military experience would come in handy one day, but she never fathomed the idea of witnessing him take a life. The barrel of the rifle was still smoking as it was propped up against the window.
“Kyle, do you think more of them will come?”
“I know more will come,” he replied sternly. “I just need to know that you will be ready when they do.”
“You know this is hard for me. Everything is so different now and we lost so many people —”
“— and we will lose more. Especially if we aren’t prepared. We must prepare for the worst.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You were a fuckin’ Marine for God’s sake. I was just a school teacher. I never shot a gun and I damn sure never killed anyone.”
“You just killed our fuckin’ daughter,” Kyle barked. A mixture of saliva and tears spewed from his mouth with every word he spoke. His pain quickly turned into rage and it was all aimed towards his wife.
“Really Kyle? Are you fuckin’ serious?” Jacqui was heartbroken and dropped to her knees. “I didn’t mean for it to happen,” she mumbled through her sobs.
“All you had to do was put your mask on and you couldn’t even do that. I told you not to take it off before those two assholes threw in those gas canisters and the first thing you did was put it down.”
“I didn’t ask Chloe to give me her mask. I told her not to and she did anyway. Now my baby is gone.” The sobbing increased greatly as Jacqui came to grips with the fact that her negligence caused her daughter’s death.
Seeing his wife in such turmoil calmed Kyle down a tad bit. He laid Chloe’s lifeless body on the bedroom floor and embraced Jacqui. Her tears soaked through his torn t-shirt. Swallowing back the emotional bulge in his throat, Kyle looked away from Chloe’s body; tears flowing from his eyes. Although it was the perfect time to console Jacqui, there was still an urgency to stay alive. The danger was still lurking.
Kyle did his best to seal the gaps around the bedroom door and the air vents, to prevent the deadly gas from seeping through to the room they were held up in. He picked up the skills during the time he served in Iraq. Kyle usually made due with a cot and a blanket in his outdoor camp in Baghdad. When it was time for him to spend nights in small shacks, it was his responsibility to seal the doors to prevent sand and dust from entering the clear air he had indoors, so sealing a small bedroom was nothing to him. If the gas reached them, they would face the same fate as their daughter and half of the country. A chemical gas that was created by the U.S. Government for the purposes of fighting the war on terror had wiped out fifty percent of the United States population. Not only did the chemical gas kill many people, but it also worked its way onto the black market and was now in the hands of criminals and thugs like the two men Kyle shot dead in front of their house.
“I knew this day would come. I told you this all would happen,” he muttered. “Everyone thought I was crazy for stocking up on MRE’s, can goods, and ammo. Oh, and not to mention these gas masks,” he stated while gripping the mask that was dangling from his neck.
Kyle literally prepared for the worst and that is exactly what occurred several months prior. Protests had become a common occurrence all across the country. They went from peaceful, to combative and finally reached the level of full out violence. Citizens were attacking police officers during the protests and line of duty deaths nearly quadrupled across the country. America never experienced incidents of such magnitude before. The military had to be brought in to assist local police departments. At that point, the police stopped policing and that is when it all went downhill. Martial law, criminals running wild, and the massive attack on the white house. It was complete chaos across the country. To make matters worse, the military put out a warning for everyone to stay indoors and that is when the chemical attacks began taking place. The very weapons that were created to fight against the enemies overseas were now being used on American citizens. The intention of the gas attacks was to eliminate all threats, which were said to be anyone violating Martial Law. Therefore, if you were on the streets after ten o’clock at night, you were considered a threat to the government. Those weaponized chemicals wiped out almost half of the United States population, including children. Some families looked at it as the government overreacting, so they did not follow the specific orders that were given out regarding sealing up their homes. Millions died in their sleep, unaware the gas had worked its way inside their homes. There had been rumors of some casualties mutating as an irreversible effect of some of the experimental gas the military used, but no one knew for sure.