Cost of Survival

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Book #1 of the Worth of Souls series


Jill, Shelley, and Brooklyn – Thanks for your support. This book grew because of you.

Kammie, Connie, and Misty – Thanks for catching the important stuff.

Mandie – Thank you... I can’t even list everything you do.

Survivors – Thank you for requesting another apocalypse style story from me. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Chapter 1

Huge earthquakes didn’t happen in the northwest. The ground shook anyway and I grabbed the sink to avoid falling over.

My image wavered in the mirror and I focused on my white knuckles as I braced myself for stability.

I squeezed my eyes shut, fear shooting through me. My breathing hitched. Warned that hysteria comes on quickly, I lifted my gaze and pierced my image with a glare. “Get your crap together, Kelly. This isn’t a surprise.” I narrowed my eyes for good measure, in case I wasn’t taking myself seriously.

Slowing my breathing, I ignored my racing pulse. Nothing I could do about that.

Great, every fear my mother ever warned me about was coming to fruition. There’d be no living with her now. My fingers slipped over the cool ceramic as the shaking slowed, but didn’t stop.

From outside the small high-up windows, screams of other people started low and sporadic but increased in frequency and volume.

Protected by thick tiled walls in the girls’ bathroom, I turned off the water and wiped my damp hands down the front of my green shirt, leaving dark wet prints on the cotton.

Class had been in session when I’d taken the hall pass to get some air, leaving the rest of the bathroom empty. With all the muffled noise outside the room, I didn’t remember a time I felt so alone.

And I didn’t want to leave.

Another rumble sent the building into a spasm. A large crack spread across the ceiling, sprinkling dust into my pseudo-safe space. I sneezed, rubbing at the gritty particles powdering my skin.

Yanking open the door, I stopped and gasped. I should’ve stayed in the bathroom.

Kids ran, screaming and crying, toward the front doors or rather where the front doors used to be. The whole wall had disappeared.

Where the double-glass doors had manned the entrance of my high school, a large gaping hole let the late spring sunlight in mixed with dust and smoke. Twisted metal and mauled concrete gaped with angry jagged edges. The scent of burning wood and singed skin drifted on the rounded smoke clouds.

Breathe, Kelly, just breathe. But I didn’t want to. Breathing hurt. The smoke and ash in the air had a taste and scent I instinctively did not want in my body. I lifted my t-shirt collar and held the cotton over my nose.

No matter what, I couldn’t force my other hand to let go of the door frame. My fingers tightened and I stared. My eyes watered under the onslaught of smoke. The breeze outside might as well be nonexistent. The smoke and dust refused to clear.

Come on. I blinked, scanning the interior of the school hallway.

Bodey. Where was Bodey? He was supposed to be at the school for a track meeting. He had graduated the year and came in to help out with coaching and to train for track at the college. Had he made it to the gym? Or anywhere?

A girl dashed into my line of sight. Cyndi. Someone I recognized – focus on her.

I reluctantly released the frame and waved my hand at a girl I usually ate at the same table with. We weren’t friends – exactly – but in the immediate chaos, even lunch acquaintances were better than nothing.

“Cyndi! Over here!” Not that being with me was safer by any means, but at least I wouldn’t be alone and, with a shaky movement to her hands, she probably could use someone to stand with for a minute too.

Wild-eyed, she paused in her jagged scrambling through people toward the missing front door and her gaze fell on me. Recognition smoothed her jitters and she bee-lined for my spot, ducking and swerving around other screaming students.

As she approached, her screams died down, replaced by some kind of a whimpering moan. She looked left and right, behind her, back at me, like I was an anchor to help her get to one spot for security.

Finally a part in the smoke revealed a glimpse of the blue sky dotted with black items. A shrill whistle announced another explosion across the street in the new subdivision. I ducked.

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