And their nightmare is just beginning.
Generation 0 is a new work of post-apocalyptic fiction by Alex Vorkov that follow the lives of four survivors into the collapse of civilization: social misfit Josie Revelle; street-smart, hard-punching Shawnika Williams; tomboy Grace Cavanaugh; and charismatic, megalomaniacal teenage psychopath Zane Barzán. While the three girls must fend off gangs, snipers, starvation, and worse, Zane is busy turning his violent cult into a blood-soaked empire modeled after Hitler’s Third Reich
When a maelstrom of events drives these four strangers together, not all of them will survive the night.
Misfit. Brawler. Tomboy. Psychopath. Are they the end of humanity, or a new beginning?
The one-eyed girl, shin deep in rot, clawed at the knotted mass of green-brown plastic. So far she had only turned over the slime of three-year-old garbage. Nothing close to edible.
Carter climbed onto the dumpster and peered inside. “Come on out. You ain’t gonna find anything in there.”
The one-eyed girl kept digging. Looking at Carter meant twisting around. He was on her blind side. She yanked an empty Bud Light from the muck and dodged a wad of slop that flew up with it. She tossed the bottle over the side of the dumpster. It shattered on the asphalt.
“Jesus! Are you retarded?”
Josie had been with Carter for a few weeks now, and sometimes that seemed more than plenty. “No one’s around. They left.”
A gang of kids armed with rifles had come marching down the center of North Avenue an hour earlier shooting at windows and signs, most of which were broken anyway, and laughing and acting like clowns. Josie and Carter had hidden in Flamingo Garden Center behind torn-up bags of wood chips until the gang passed.
Hidden for what? She half wished they would have found her and killed her.
Josie dug out another empty beer bottle, tossed it to the corner of the dumpster where it ricocheted with a clang, and resumed searching. Her hands slid over something hard under a plastic bag. She stood. “Found something.”
An upright dumpster was rare after all this time. A few months ago, during the hottest part of summer, she’d found one up by the burned-out Loyola campus. Someone had chucked a can of beans in there. Today she hoped for soup or pear slices. Tomato sauce. Cat food. Anything.
She pulled the garbage bag away. Carter slipped and fell to the pavement.
Two skeletons, adults, lay in the slime, their frozen grins facing skyward. Patches of hair and skin still adhered in places, but they were mostly bones. Their kids must have dumped them. Josie wondered who would put their dead parents in a garbage bin.
“You shouldn’t stand in there,” Carter said, peering over the lip again.
“They’re not exactly fresh.” Josie grabbed one by the leg and tried to unstick it from the muck. A can of beans or soup could be under there.
The femur came off in her hand.
Without warning, Carter leaped into the dumpster, sending a spray of slime into her tangled, dirt-caked, once-blonde hair. She glared. “What’s wrong with you?”
He crouched in the corner farthest from the skeletons and pulled the revolver from under his belt. “Someone’s coming.”
Josie stood to inspect, but he tugged her down. “Don’t be stupid,” he said.
She handed him the femur. “Here. Beat them with this.”
Josie reached under the muddy frill of her yellow-flower sundress and withdrew her switchblade. “You distract ’em by acting stupid, and I’ll sneak up from behind.” She thrust the knife at an imaginary foe.
“Would you shut up?”
She stood again and surveyed the desolate lot behind the derelict electronics store. A blue jay picked at something between cracks in the asphalt—a dried up worm, maybe—then gave up and flew away.
The last good rain had come ages ago. The air tasted like dust. She hadn’t seen a moving car in a year or someone on a bike or a skateboard in a month. Most of the time, wind pushing old papers or Styrofoam across a parking lot or down an avenue made the only sound. Sometimes, a door would fall open when a hinge rusted through, or a window would pop out of its frame and shatter. Until that gang came through an hour ago, she hadn’t even heard that many gunshots lately.
Baltimore was a ghost town.
“No one’s there,” she said. “Just a bird.”
The sun continued its descent, about to slip behind the skyscrapers. It would be dark in an hour. Time to go back to the nest. “Come on,” she said, hopping over the side of the dumpster and onto the broken pavement. She scraped the muck from her boots and then slung her canvas bag, empty for the third day in a row, over her shoulder.
Carter scrambled out of the dumpster and dropped beside her. “Don’t leave me in there with them.”
A cool breeze tore through the alley, chilling Josie’s emaciated frame. Normally she would mock Carter for still being creeped out by skeletons. Hadn’t he seen millions? But the breeze meant winter was coming, and food would be even scarcer. In a month or two those skeletons would be Carter and her, side by side for eternity. Or until animals came and scattered the bones. In the meantime, it would be slow, agonizing starvation.
Too weak and tired to bother zigzagging and sneaking back to their hideout, Josie and Carter ambled south on McCulloh Street.
“What do you miss most, besides food and your mom and comics and obvious stuff?” Carter asked.
“I don’t miss my mom.”
“Whatever. I mean what things? The Internet. Air conditioners. Nintendo.”
They’d had this conversation three times already. Josie kicked a bottle cap down the sidewalk. It rolled to a stop near the broken window of the Chinese market.
“Music, I guess. All those CDs lying around, and no way to play them.” She wound up to kick the bottle cap again when three gangsters armed with rifles leapt to the sidewalk from inside the Chinese grocery store, blocking their path.
“Run and you die,” said the kid in the sleeveless denim jacket. Seven or eight more boys piled out, the tinkle of broken glass about their feet as they formed a semicircle. These were the same gangsters Josie and Carter had hidden from before.
The biggest one, a redhead about seventeen, pointed his rifle at Carter’s face.
“Waste him,” said the one in the denim jacket. Nobody bothered to target Josie, a scrawny girl. She thought of fleeing and leaving Carter to his fate. She didn’t want to end up like Cara.
“Not yet,” said the redhead. “I gotta figure out what I want to do with him.”
Josie glanced to the right. Maybe if she ran into the Chinese market, she could lose them. She’d cut through there before.
The denim kid speared his rifle at her, and she threw a hand up to protect her eye. He laughed. “Dude, she flinched!”
The redhead laughed too, and most of the other boys played along. The two in the back, the youngest-looking of the bunch, eyed each other. Josie knew what they were thinking: Their leader was a sadist, and they were afraid of him.
The redhead poked Carter’s chin with the barrel. “Open your mouth and suck on this,” he said. “Do it, or I’ll kill you.”
“Todd, check it out,” the denim-clad kid said to the redhead, thrusting his rifle toward Josie again. “She’s only got one eye!”
Todd leaned in close and grabbed her jaw, twisting her head as if inspecting a farm animal for sale. “No shit,” he said, staring into the socket. “That is so nasty.”
Josie thought of biting his thumb off. Would it be worth it?
Denim grabbed one of the undersized boys by the arm and shoved him toward Josie. “That hole is just your size, Weasel.” The other boys laughed. Weasel swallowed.
Todd clutched Josie by the hair and pulled her closer. “How about it, bitch? You going to let Weasel here get a piece of the action?”
Images of Cara played in her mind, like they did a hundred times a day, only now it was going to be her. How could she and Carter have been so stupid as to walk down the main drag like it was a Sunday stroll? How could they have been so careless? Then she envisioned the switchblade strapped to her right thigh. She concentrated on it. Felt it pressing against her and imagined how fast she could get to it.
No. These sadists weren’t going to get what they wanted. They might end up killing her outright, but not before she took one of the scumbags with her. She’d been waiting for this.
Her hand was already in motion, swooping for the knife, when Carter whipped the revolver from the back of his pants and aimed it at Todd. “Let her go!”
Todd and the other boys stepped back, their cruel smiles vanished, and raised their rifles at both of them. “Drop it!”
“Leave us alone,” Carter said, his voice quavering. The gun wobbled. Josie saw that his finger wasn’t on the trigger. The two of them were about to be shot up for target practice.
Maybe it was better this way.
Todd stood straight, snarling for the benefit of his reputation. “Put that gun down, or I’ll shoot your kneecaps out and leave you here on the—”
A sharp crack split the air, and the left side of Todd’s face vanished in a spray of exploding blood and bone as the noise of the shot reverberated off the storefronts. He crumpled before Josie could grasp what had happened. The other boys all whirled to their right. More shots, blood splashing, bodies falling. Carter stared in shock at the carnage, his revolver unfired. Then Josie got it: Snipers were picking them off from across the street …