Read This Would Be Paradise (Book 2) Online

Authors: N.D. Iverson

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This Would Be Paradise (Book 2)

BOOK: This Would Be Paradise (Book 2)
11.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
This Would Be Paradise: Book 2

By N. D. Iverson

Copyright © 2016 by N. D. Iverson

All rights reserved.

Cover design by Dave Fymbo /

Editing completed by Elizabeth Darkley /


No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by the reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

N. D. Iverson


I would like to thank my parents for their moral—and sometimes monetary—support in helping me on my journey to become a self-published author. I promise I will be out of your basement soon! Also I would like to thank my best friend, Jen, for letting me babble on about my works, with
grousing and offering her English degree expertise.

Chapter 1

I had that dream again. The one where I was stumbling around in the desert, no idea where I was going, with the heat bearing down on me, drawing out my endless thirst. I used to chalk those dreams up to watching
The Mummy
one too many times as a kid. Even as an eight-year-old, I could see that Brendan Fraser was a hunk. But I no longer thought that movie was the cause of my dreams.

No, the endless daunting future hung over my head like a guillotine blade. The dream was the result of my nerves slipping into my sleep. I had a plan. Well, maybe calling it a plan was generous. Driving toward a long shot was more appropriate. John’s gun shop was my current goal—having a goal helped center me. There was a time when I’d been more than happy to flounder, unsure what I should do in the future.

I hugged my knees to my chest. I was sitting on the couch propped against the front door. It was late at night and I’d jerked awake in a cold sweat. Chloe was lying on the mattress we’d brought down, still fast asleep.

She needed every wink of sleep she could get. When I’d returned from the medical center with the antibiotics—and bad memories—Chloe’s arm wasn’t the only issue I’d come back to. The cut on her arm had paved the way for an infection to set in. She’d developed a staggering fever and wouldn’t stop shivering. She couldn’t keep down any food or liquids and the veins running from the gash in her arm had become discolored. I was used to worrying about myself, but that first night, after the trip to the medical center, I learned what it meant to be truly scared for someone else’s life.

“Bailey,” Chloe rasped, “I feel
I shook my head to dispel the terrifying memory.

It had taken a couple of anxiety ridden days of me force-feeding her pills and food, but the antibiotics had started kicking in. My relief from when she started to recover was unparalleled. Chloe was eating solid foods again and regaining strength every day.

We’d been hunkered down in this house in Gibson for just over a week now—a week for her to recover from her sickness and a week since I’d taken a life.
Don’t cops get at least a month off after shooting a perp?

I couldn’t tell Chloe about what I’d done, so I kept it to myself, even though she’d asked about the bruises on my neck. She didn’t buy my story about falling down some stairs, but she didn’t press me on the issue.

I didn’t need a shrink to tell me I wasn’t handling the trauma well. I sometimes dreamed of that night, my subconscious forcing me to relive it. The dream ran on a loop and no matter how hard I tried, I could never change the outcome.

What will the others think of me?
They’d be disgusted, no doubt. I would be. But maybe John would be a little more sympathetic. He’d killed before, right in front of my eyes. Two of Riley’s goons. Did it matter if the person had deserved it? I’d like to think it did. I wished John were here to help me get through this.

So here I was, sitting on the couch, wide awake, struggling with my conscience again and trying to hash out a proper plan. Chloe was healthy enough to travel, but was I? It would be just her and me on the road, heading back toward New Orleans. I regretted coming here for Mardi Gras and wished to hell I hadn’t given in to Zoe’s stupid celebration idea.

I could be home with my family. At least then I’d know if they were alive. Instead, I was an entire country away from them, in an unfamiliar place, and dependent on people I’d only known for a few months.

I scrubbed my hands down my face. I needed to go over my plan again. While Chloe was recuperating, I’d made another run to the general store for supplies and syphoned gas from the neighboring vehicles. If I had to guess, I’d say we had about two more tanks’ worth. Hopefully that would be enough to get us to John’s gun shop, located on the outskirts of New Orleans. We had enough food and water to last us about one week, granted we rationed, and we could probably scavenge some more supplies along the way.

I’d rather make a straight shot for the shop, but as much as I didn’t feel like it at the moment, I was still human. I needed sleep, so finding a secure place along the way was also a priority. There were so many variables, so many uncertainties. I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood. This wasn’t some fun road trip I was planning. Any details I missed could spell death. I hadn’t come this far to be the next name on Death’s to-do list.

“Bailey?” a groggy Chloe muttered from her bed.


The bruises on my neck had faded to a sickly yellow that told me they were healing. I could speak without pain, but my voice still sounded as though I smoked two packs a day and hadn’t drank water in days. Another souvenir from Riley, as if the trauma of killing him hadn’t been enough.
Every time I speak, will I be reminded of him?

“Why are you up?” Chloe asked.

“Can’t sleep.”

Silhouetted by the dim moonlight, her small outline turned away from me. “Is it because I got so mad at you?”

“No, Chloe, that’s not it.”

“I’m sorry I got so mean. I know you were just helpin’.”

“It’s fine. You have nothing to worry about.”

The double meaning in those words was only evident to me. She stared at me for a while, as if wondering if I was serious. Then she said something I hadn’t been expecting:

“Thank you.”

I nodded. “You’re welcome.”

“Are we leavin’ tomorrow?”


“Well then, you better get to sleep,” she said sternly, and I managed a small smile.

Chapter 2

The next morning flew by in a rush. I’d finished most of the packing the previous day, so that wasn’t so much the issue. Chloe and I were reluctant to leave our sanctuary. Travelling on the road meant being out in the open, and who knew what was out there. I pulled the couch away from the door and fresh air swept through the musty room.

By the time we were ready to leave, the car’s trunk and backseat were crammed full. We looked like we were living in our car, which I supposed we were. I’d always thought I’d be destitute after finishing school with all my loans, but I never pictured it like this.


I turned to face Chloe, who was pointing at an infected that had decided to wish us farewell. I gathered my axe from the back seat and marched toward it. “Get in the car!”

I didn’t bother looking back, instead keeping my eyes on the creature in front of me. It had been an old lady once, its purple sweat suit stained with blood. It snapped its teeth and made a low rasping sound as I approached.

“What? No goodbye?” It took me a second to realize I’d spoken out loud.

I raised the axe and brought it down square in the middle of the thing’s forehead. It dropped like a sandbag, and I yanked my axe free. I’d raided the nearby houses for supplies, and if I had to guess, this one had been the resident of the teapot-wallpaper house. I must have missed her during my earlier sweep. I wiped the decayed brain matter off my axe on the overgrown lawn and returned to the car. Chloe had gotten in the passenger’s side. I slid into the driver’s seat and started the Mazda.

“You ready?”

Chloe gave me a thumbs-up. I reversed out of the driveway, taking one last look at our temporary home through the windshield. Investigating infected, drawn in by the noise of our engine, followed after us. The mob behind us almost made me feel as if I were being run out of town. All they needed were torches and pitchforks. A short laugh escaped my lips, and Chloe sent me a questioning glance.

“You have the maps?” I asked, more as a way to distract her.

She held them up. “Yep.”

Chloe unfolded the Louisiana map I’d planned our route on. Using what John and Taylor had taught me about reading maps, I figured we’d get the majority of our interstate driving done today, landing one town away from New Orleans’s outskirts. Gas was precious, so I couldn’t speed excessively, keeping the odometer at fifty miles per hour. Strangely, that speed felt relatively fast. I guess anything would when I wasn’t driving alongside other vehicles.

I’d circled the area of the laminated map where I estimated John’s shop would be. All I needed to do was find the Brookshire grocery store we’d raided months before and backtrack from there.

The interstate was barren. Any vehicles on the road were immobile and looked long abandoned. A few infected had managed to wander onto the highway, but we easily avoided them. Around turnoffs, the road became congested, and I had to weave around parked vehicles.

As we inched past a blockade of left-behind cars, an infected threw itself at the passenger side door and Chloe screamed. I swerved the Mazda right and squished the infected against the car it had popped out of. A nasty crunching sound, like the cracking of knuckles, echoed into the cabin of the car. Chloe’s window was a mess of rotten skin and blood, so much so that I had to pull over once we were on another clear stretch of asphalt.

I took out a handful of napkins I’d found in the glove compartment and got out of the car. We couldn’t afford this mess to impede my vision. I’d scratched up the side of the car with my defensive driving, the red primer showing in spots. I hoped John wasn’t too attached to this paint job. I threw the disgusting wad of napkins on the ground, and as I was about to enter the car, my eyes landed on a marking along the interstate floor. A red, spray-painted eye looked back at me from the center of a crudely drawn hand. It reminded me of a pendant I’d once seen with the “evil eye” symbol, except this drawing was more simplistic.

“What is that?” Chloe asked. She’d gotten out of the car and was staring at the graffiti.

“I have no idea. And stay in the car, please.”

She looked at me and then back at the drawing before returning inside the vehicle. Then I followed suit.

“Was that supposed to be the hand of God?” Chloe asked.

“I’m not one for religion, but I don’t think that symbol came from the Christian faith.”

“What do you think it means?”

“The mark of the evil eye.”

Chloe stared at me as if I’d said something odd. “Isn’t that a look you give someone?”

“I guess, but it’s also a symbol.”
Not a good symbol to receive, mind you.

“Why would someone draw that then?”

I sighed. It looked like I was in for another fun-filled game of twenty questions.

“I don’t know. Maybe to ward off evil or maybe even to curse people? I’m not from the south, but aren’t some people here big into voodoo?”

Although Chloe knew some odd stuff for her age, I didn’t know why I was asking a nine-year-old about this.

“Once, Ethan let me go into a voodoo shop in downtown New Orleans. It smelled like smoke and stuff. They had dolls with pins in ‘em and stuff in jars. The lady at the counter had no hair and spoke weird. Ethan said the place was a tourist trap.”

I grinned at that. I could picture Ethan trying to explain the store’s contents to Chloe in a way that wouldn’t frighten her.

“Well, he was right.”

I drove right over the symbol and continued on our journey.

Chloe looked through the back window. “Drivin’ over that was probably bad luck.”

My luck couldn’t get any worse, so I just shrugged. Maybe the symbol was from a gang marking their territory? But then, I hadn’t seen any writing like “Westside 4 Life” near it, and didn’t gangs usually like to identify themselves? Spray painting a symbol in the middle of the road was rather odd, almost like whoever had put it there wanted travelers to see it.

The trip was taking longer than normal. Every once in a while, the sloshing of the extra gas in the canisters would reach the cabin as if to remind me why I was going so slowly. We needed this gas to last as long as possible. I didn’t have the strength to break into the underground tanks at gas stations, so I had to stick to syphoning gas from abandoned cars. I was getting really sick of the taste of gasoline.

“Why are you smilin’?” Chloe asked me.

I hadn’t realized I was. “I was just thinking of our supply run from a while back. I said something snarky to Taylor about sucking on hoses.”

“I don’t get it.”

“And you won’t for a few years.”

She crossed her arms with a

My thoughts drifted to Taylor and his final resting place at the cabin. Would we ever get a chance to return to his grave? Taylor and I hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but I wanted to pay my respects, and John wouldn’t let his grave be lost.

If he’s still alive.

I pushed the thought from my head. I wanted to believe they were all alive, that they had survived the infected that had overrun the cabin. They
to be alive. I’d survived and managed to get Chloe out too, so they must be fine. They were a hell of a lot more qualified to survive than I was.

“Look,” Chloe said.

The turnoff sign for Gretna loomed from the side of the interstate. The declining sun reflected off the metal sign as if it were a glass shard on a beach. Gretna was our stop for the night. I couldn’t risk crossing the river and getting caught in the city at night.

As I started down the turnoff, a dark figure flew out of nowhere, blocking my path. I slammed on my brakes, jerking us against our seatbelts.
Well, that’s one way to get yourself run over

I looked through the windshield at a man dressed all in black, a red bandana obscuring his face with an automatic rifle resting in his left hand.

“Please turn off the car,” the man yelled, still in the car’s way. He was close enough that the rolled-up windows didn’t muffle his words.

I was having flashbacks to when we first ran into Riley’s gang at the police station, and I didn’t appreciate the reminder. I contemplated running the guy down, but the car rode too low and this was a living body, not a dead one. I’d only damage the front end.

Chloe stared wide-eyed at the man, her little hands gripping the dashboard so hard her knuckles were white.

“Whatever happens, do not get out of the car until I say so,” I instructed her. “Nod so I know you heard me.”

She gave me a faint nod. I reached for the handgun in my bag and shoved it into my waistband. I got out of the car.

“Some reason you’re playing border patrol?” I asked.

“Yeah, we got people in town and we need to monitor who comes and goes.” Though he aimed the barrel of his weapon at the ground, his stance seemed alert.

“Fair enough, but it’s a free country, pal.”

“Not anymore. We can give you refuge if you submit to a person and belongings search.”

“Just you?”

He bristled. “Not just me.”

He whistled and I winced. After a few seconds, two more figures appeared farther down the turnoff ramp. They were each wearing black Kevlar vests and something to hide their face, like the first guy. I didn’t think it was necessary; I wasn’t that unhinged that I’d shoot them for no reason. Someone must have attacked them in the past for them to take such precautions.

“Are the bulletproof vests really necessary?” I was acting rather antagonistically; given how well armed they were, maybe I should tone it down.

“There are a lot of dangerous people out there and some want what we have.” Judging by the speaker’s distinctly high-pitched voice, my guess was that this one was a woman.

“All right, I’ll submit to a search, but if you try to help yourselves to our stuff—”

“We’re not bandits,” the man said, cutting me off.

I decided to play a bold card. “I want to see your faces too.”

The man looked back at the others and the female shrugged, pulling down the cloth covering the lower half of her face. The others copied her and three regular faces stared back at me. The man who had jumped in front of my car had dark skin, his age showing in the lines marring his forehead. He must have been in his late thirties or early forties, and judging by the roughness of his skin, he’d spent a good portion of his life working outdoors. The other two looked like generic office workers who hadn’t seen the light of day in ten years.

“Happy?” the jaywalker asked.

“Not the word I would use.”

“You have a kid in there?” the woman asked, looking past me into the car.

Her accent was distinctly Eastern European. Her hair had once been blond; the old dye had sunk farther down her straight hair, her natural brown taking over. These days, dying your hair was the least of your worries.

“Yes, and I would appreciate you putting away your weapons so you don’t scare her more than you already have.”

Guilt flashed across her face and she shouldered her rifle, as did the others.

“I’ll check the car.” The woman walked passed me and I stepped toward the vehicle, but the main guy stopped me.

“You stay here,” he told me.

The man patted me down and easily found the gun, pulling it from my waistband.

“I thought you said you

“Don’t worry, you’ll get this back. But for now, we’ll hold on to it.”

He confiscated my gun and deemed me clear. Behind me, the woman was gently coaxing Chloe out of the car. These guys didn’t give off a dangerous vibe, just a scared one, as if they’d been screwed over one too many times and wouldn’t trust that easily again, kind of like a rescued animal. Chloe looked at me and I jerked my head, telling her to come to me. She got out and shot the lady a venomous glance as she ran over. She stuck her little hand in mine and stayed close to my side.

“Hello there. What’s your name?” asked the man who’d confiscated my gun.

“What’s yours?” Chloe countered.

The man’s eyes widened. “Roy. And this is Tim and that lady you met is Karla.”

Roy extended a hand to me.

After a beat, I took it. “Bailey, and this one is Chloe.”

“Nice to meet you two. As you can see, we have some tight security, but it’s for a good reason. Would you like to meet the rest of our camp?” Roy asked.

I guess having a kid around had its benefits; people were usually on their best behavior around them.

“Did you guys take over the whole town?” I asked, genuinely curious as to how they might have done that.

“No, but you’ll see for yourself. We have a truck at the bottom of the ramp. Grab your car and follow us.”

BOOK: This Would Be Paradise (Book 2)
11.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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