No Dawn without Darkness: No Safety In Numbers: Book 3

BOOK: No Dawn without Darkness: No Safety In Numbers: Book 3
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Copyright © 2014 by Dayna Lorentz

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lorentz, Dayna.

No dawn without darkness : a No safety in numbers book / by Dayna Lorentz.

pages cm

Sequel to: No easy way out.

Summary: “With the power cut and the quarantined mall thrown into darkness, teens Shay, Marco, Lexi, Ryan, and Ginger must change in order to survive, and, when the doors finally open, they may not like what they’ve become” —Provided by publisher. * ISBN 978-1-101-60008-5 * [1. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 2. Survival—Fiction. 3. Quarantine—Fiction. 4. Biological warfare—Fiction. 5. Shopping malls—Fiction.] I. Title. * PZ7.L8814Nh 2014 [Fic]—dc23 2013047417

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


For Joshua

































WSCL Channel 9 News















October 28, 20—



For the families and friends standing vigil outside the barricade around the Shops at Stonecliff, there was more drama earlier this afternoon.

“It was like an earthquake,” stated Hortencia Carvajal, who has been camped outside the mall since her son, Marco, was quarantined inside along with thousands of others two weeks ago. “The ground shifted under me.”

A Stonecliff University professor who is studying seismic activity in the region confirmed that his instruments registered a minor shockwave in the area of the Shops at Stonecliff today. “Something on par with the demolition of a small building,” Dr. Jorge Kratowski, a professor of geology, explained. “Most likely manmade, given the relatively small amplitude of the wave and its location in a traditionally inactive seismic zone.”

Government officials in charge of the quarantined facility refused to comment on the alleged explosion, or the fact that all the lighted signs on the outside of the complex are now off.

This is not the first time family members and friends of those quarantined have felt left in the dark by the government officials managing the facility. Several days ago, thick, black plastic covers were fitted over all the windows in the mall. John Fletcher, Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security and point person for the quarantine management team, stated that the covers were put in place as a precautionary measure after several individuals attempted to escape the facility. Some families on the outside, however, claim that the covers are there to keep them from seeing how bad the conditions inside have become.

There have also been complaints concerning the government’s termination of a two-way CB radio system erected earlier in the week to allow family and friends to communicate with their loved ones inside. Though the calls were monitored by the FBI, and were often cut off for no perceptible reason whatsoever, it was still a comfort to be able to speak with those quarantined.

“My ten-year-old son is locked in there with his father,” Judy French, another parent standing vigil outside the mall, said. “The man’s practically a stranger, he only sees him once a month. Tommy needs to hear his mother’s voice.”

Deputy Fletcher stated that the CB communication center was terminated as a result of technical difficulties.

The government has repeatedly assured the public during news conferences that they are doing everything in their power to find the person or group responsible for this attack, and that everything inside the mall is safe and secure, that people have access to medical attention, and that there is even a school for the children trapped inside. But with the increasing isolation of those within the mall, and now the darkening of the exterior lights combined with the tremor, how long can the government stay quiet about what’s really going on?



am afraid of the dark. I know it seems stupid, one of those kid things everyone grows out of, but I never did.

It’s a secret, of course. It’s not something you share at the lunch table:
Oh hey guys, you know what? I sleep with THREE night-lights because I’m afraid of the DARK.
There’s only one person who knows: my best friend, Maddie. Which is why, when the lights snap off and the floor grumbles and shakes, she squeezes my arm and says, “You’re okay.”

This is more of a command than a statement of fact. We have not been okay for weeks—not since being trapped with a deadly virus in a mall run by creepy government overlords and psychotic security guards. We are not okay now, huddled on the floor at the back of the Stuff-A-Pal Workshop-turned-jail while all the
men, women, and children are secluded in the HomeMart. Maddie can barely move after having been Tasered by security. My hands are tied together with a strip of plastic that’s digging into my skin. But the dark is the worst part. All the noise and shouting stopped, as if the black stole not only the room, but all the people in it. After a heartbeat, the silence turns to screams.

Maybe I am not alone in being afraid of the dark.

Maddie and I keep our backs pressed to the wall. I focus on its solidity against my spine. I need to stay anchored in the darkness: the wall, the floor, Maddie’s hand on my arm.

Legs brush past us. My foot is crushed under someone’s boot, and the person stumbles, then falls somewhere in front of me. Maddie holds me tighter. Hands grip my hair as they grope for the wall, fingers graze my face. Voices cry out, the gate over the entrance rattles.

A dull lamp flashes on in the hall just outside the store.

Then more lights blink on above my head, off to my right, and above the security gate over the entrance. It’s the emergency lighting. Something that makes sense in this world!

Screams turn to cries of joy and spontaneous hugging of strangers. Seconds later, everyone’s pushing and shoving their way to the front of the store to bust out the gate.

“Not the gate, morons!” screams some girl next to us in the back. “The stockroom!” She kicks the door Maddie and I were pushed through mere minutes ago. Are there still security guards back there? Would they help even if they were?

“Screw this,” a guy at the front yells. He grabs a stool and throws it at the glass display window beside the entrance, but it just bounces off and hits him in the chest. He goes down, disappears in the mass of bodies. I squeeze my back even harder against the wall.

“Remain calm,” Maddie whispers through gritted teeth. “I will think of something.” But I can tell from her grip on my arm that she is as terrified as I am.

Another guy grabs the stool. This time, he rams the metal legs of the thing against the glass, and it spiderwebs. He kicks out the whole panel. The crowd pours out the new exit into the hallway, and races into the dark. Their howls and cries echo around the cavernous courtyards.

Only when everyone else is gone does Maddie attempt to stand. “I thought that was it,” she says, hobbling toward the front. She stares out the gate at the vast blackness beyond. “When the lights went, I thought they were finally ending this thing and blowing us up.” A shard of glass drops from the window frame and shatters. “Cowards,” Maddie whispers.

She surveys the room, then walks back and holds a hand out to me. “We may as well get the hell out of here.”

I let her pull me upright. Until I’m standing, I’m not convinced my legs will carry my weight. Maddie releases me, then flips a switch on the wall—nothing. She hoists herself out the broken front window into the hallway and looks over the balcony at the floors below. People are still screaming. Somewhere, someone’s banging on a gate.

“These crappy safety lights are the only ones working in the whole mall,” Maddie says, crawling back in through the window and coming to where I stand, frozen. “Government must have cut the power.”

“Why would they cut the power?”

She takes a ragged strip of metal from the remains of the stool and begins sawing at the plastic binding my wrists. “Why does that matter?” she says. “It’s done. Maybe this is the prelude.”

Maddie is convinced that the government wants to blow up the mall with all of us inside it. That this is the only way to keep the virus from getting out and infecting the world.

“They are not going to nuke the place,” I say with as much conviction as I can pretend. I cannot believe that after everything we’ve been through, after how long they’ve led us to think we can survive this, that they’d just wipe us out.

Maddie slices the last of the plastic, then shrugs. “It’s what I’d do.”

“So now what?” I ask, moving on.

“We see if there’s anything useful under all this crap.” Maddie pokes around the store. Like anything of value would remain in the wreckage. The Stuff-A-Pal Workshop has functioned as a jail for days and even in this half-light looks about as good as you’d expect. The foil linings of ripped wrappers glint from every corner. Someone’s stained sweatshirt is draped over the register, which lies on the floor in front of the counter. Even the cutesy pictures of cartoon bears and giraffes have been made over with devil horns and buck teeth and . . . other parts. Private parts. Big, hairy private parts, some with faces of their own.

Maddie emerges from a squalid pile with something in her hand, raised like a trophy. “Half a fruit-and-grain bar!” She walks toward me, kicking balls of stuffing across the rug, and splits the bar remnant in two. She holds a piece out to me, shoves the other into her mouth.

“What if the person who ate the rest of that is sick?” I say. “What about germs?” I’m the girl who wipes the rims of shot glasses at parties.

Maddie rolls her eyes, gives me the
look she is so famous for. “Girlfriend, germs fall last on our list of current problems.”

I don’t agree. At least germs are not last on
list. I would rank germs just below the dark, actually. But I will not be able to stay vertical for much longer without some sort of sugar in my body, and so I brush the worst dust and dirt from the surface of the bar, pray that whatever germs were on it are dead, and choke it down.

“We should find a bathroom,” Maddie says, digging through more trash and emerging with empty bottles. “And we should fill these, then hunker down until the lights come back on. Or until they blow us up.”

“Stop saying that.” The one bite of food has made me ravenous. I slide down the wall to my knees and begin rummaging in the trash. There must be another scrap of bar lying around here somewhere.

“And flashlights,” Maddie says, continuing her planning. “Crap, those are probably all with the assholes in the HomeMart.”

She kicks a trash pile, scattering wrappers. I wonder if there’s anything stuck to the insides.

Maddie claps her hands. “Glow sticks!” she says. “They’re practically in every store with Halloween around the cor—” She catches sight of me. “You question my bar, but have no problem licking the inside of a wrapper?”

I start to cry. I don’t want to cry. “We’re going to die, aren’t we?”

Maddie kneels in front of me. “Hey, I’m the Debbie Downer of this duo. You have to be the optimist. Remember, your dad is going to get us out of this. Big Mean Attorney Franklin would never let them blow you up.”

I nod. The tears pour down my cheeks.

“Say it,” Maddie says.

“Dad will get me out of this.”

“Mean it!” Maddie yells, shaking my shoulders.

“My dad would never let me die!”

Maddie smiles. “That’s my Ginger.”

• • •

We carry three empty plastic bottles each to the nearest bathrooms. There is a dim emergency light in the ladies’ room, and even in its meager light it’s clear the place has returned to its pre-senator-land state: The trash can lies on its side, its contents scattered, and the room smells like the outhouse at my old camp. Why did the senator’s nice totalitarian dictatorship have to fall apart? At least under her rules, the bathrooms were cleaned.

At the sink, Maddie pauses before turning the handle.

Water sputters forth. She lets out a little bark of a laugh. “We have water!” she cries.

There was a chance we wouldn’t have water?

“Start filling,” she commands.

I obey.

We fill the bottles, then take a moment to wash our faces and hands. Maddie ducks into the dark of a stall. I gulp water straight from the faucet. It’s almost as good as eating.

“Where’d you get those bottles?”

I lift my head from the sink and see a guy in the doorway. He looks like a college kid, but that could just be the Harvard T-shirt. In other circumstances, he might seem cute.

“We found them,” Maddie says. She stands inside the door to her stall.

“Looks to me like you have a spare one,” he says, walking toward me.

My heart races. I grip the edge of the sink. His eyes glint in the dim light like some animal’s. We have six bottles. Do we need all six?

“These are our bottles,” Maddie says. “Scrounge your own.”

The guy keeps walking toward me. “At least let me get a drink.”

Maddie steps in front of him. “Use the men’s room.”

The guy puts his hands on Maddie’s shoulders, like he’s going to shove her aside. She leans in, grabs his sleeves, pulls him toward her, and smashes his nuts with her knee. The guy drops to the floor.

“Stupid bitch!” he yelps, holding his groin. “I just want a drink!”

Maddie grabs her three bottles. “Then you should have used the men’s room.” She shoves my bottles at me. “Let’s go.”

“Should we tell someone he’s in there?” I ask.

Maddie stops mid-stride and faces me. “Stop worrying about him. Stop worrying about anyone else. This,” she says, pointing from her face to mine, “is all we worry about.” She grabs my arm and drags me along behind her.

• • •

“We will get killed if we try to get food now,” Maddie says. We stare over the railing at the mob raiding the Sam’s Club. It’s like a mosh pit, only the people are fighting over canned goods, not dancing.

“Let’s snag us some glow sticks,” she says, heading toward the stalled escalator.

The third floor looks abandoned. Maddie darts across the hall to the costume place, Shades of Halloween. I lope behind her. She stops at a display of glow wands and necklaces and cleans out the whole thing into her gargantuan purse.

“Go check the stockroom,” she snaps over her shoulder as she moves on to the next display.

“Is it a good idea to split up?”

“There’s no one here,” Maddie says. “Go now before that changes.”

Shades of Halloween is not a regular store for obvious reasons—every season, the space morphs into something else: “Shades of Halloween” to “Down Home Christmas” to “Blooming Bunnies” and so on. There’s little back in the stockroom, which makes sense. Why stock a lot of stuff if the store is only around for a few months?

I find one locked door. Maddie will kill me if I return empty-pursed, so I ransack the checkout counter and find a key ring marked
rattling around in the back of the bottommost drawer. Three keys into the ring, the door opens to reveal a closet packed with candy.

A laugh escapes my lips. Of course the closet is packed with candy.

When I was five, Maddie’s mom took me trick-or-treating for the first time. Maddie was a brown dog and I was a ballerina, dressed in one of my mom’s old tutus. Coming home, my bag was so full of candy, I could hardly lift it up the stoop. Mom took my bag as she closed the door behind me.
I can’t believe she lets Maddie eat this poison,
she said as she dumped my whole sack into the trash. Then she smoothed a stray hair back into my bun.
Serious dancers don’t pollute their bodies with junk food.
I wanted to be a serious dancer like her, so I never ate candy. Ever. Until now.

I tear a bag of Snickers open, pick out a mini bar, unwrap it, and bite.

It’s so sweet, I gag. Then I eat the whole bar in a single swallow. And another. And another.

“You trying to make yourself sick?”

I freeze mid-bite and turn to face Maddie. “I was hungry,” I manage.

Maddie snatches the bag from my hands and jams it into my purse. “Let’s start you slow on the sugar, okay?”

She fills both our purses, then shuts the door and locks it, stowing the keys in her pocket. “This will be our stash,” she says. “Let them eat chocolate!”

“Marie Antoinette died, you know.” The sugar is beginning to course through my veins. I feel like my head might explode.

“But not from starvation,” Maddie says, shaking a Snickers at me.

Something crashes out in the store. Maddie peers out the narrow window in the stockroom door, then holds a finger to her lips. I creep to her side.

There’s a group of people, guys and girls, rummaging around. They look older, but it’s hard to tell in the dim light from the one emergency bulb above the door. Is it me, or has the light dimmed?

“We should all wear the same mask,” one says. He holds up a gorilla head.

BOOK: No Dawn without Darkness: No Safety In Numbers: Book 3
3.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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