Escaping darkness book 3.., p.1

Escaping Darkness (Book 3): Landslide, page 1

 part  #3 of  Escaping Darkness Series


Escaping Darkness (Book 3): Landslide

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Escaping Darkness (Book 3): Landslide


  The Escaping Darkness Series

  Book 3


  E.S. Richards

  Mike Kraus

  © 2019 Muonic Press Inc


  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, without the permission in writing from the author.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

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  Special Thanks

  Special thanks to my awesome beta team, without whom this book wouldn’t be nearly as great.

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  Chapter 1

  The sky was a terrifying dark gray, hanging low over the farmhouse like a bad omen. The clouds occupied the sky completely, not leaving any space for even a shred of another color. It was absolute. Like the final page of a book or the last word in a movie. It signified the end and there was no way anyone could see it as anything but that. At the very least, that was how Linda felt.

  The woman had barely slept all night. She’d tossed and turned, unable to find a comfortable position where the blood didn’t seem to rush to her head. She knew, though, that even if her bed had been the most comfortable one in the world, she wouldn’t have slept a wink. How could she when her grandchildren were still outside in the darkness? It had now been nearly twenty-four hours and there was still no sign of them. They were missing, and her heart felt like it was breaking in two all over again.

  It was impossible for Linda to forget the grief she had suffered following the death of her son, Brogan. She had effectively locked herself inside for weeks, crying, screaming, and wondering if there was anything that she could’ve done differently that would’ve changed what happened. She knew in reality it was completely out of her control, but even to this day she still blamed herself. He was her son and as a mother, she should’ve been there to protect him.

  That memory was far too real for her now. The same feelings rushed through her body as she thought about Chase and Riley. All night they had been outside. All. Night. Even on a normal summer night, Linda would be stressed out and bouncing off of the walls because of it. Naturally now her emotions were even more pent up and out of control. As Jerry shifted in his sleep beside her, Linda decided she couldn’t wait any longer. They had to do something. She had to do something.

  “Jerry.” She nudged her husband on the shoulder, gently waking him from his slumber. “Jerry, wake up. They’re still not back yet.”

  “Uhh,” Jerry groaned and rolled over, his half-asleep mind not processing what Linda was saying.

  She shook him even harder, repeating his name. “Jerry. The kids. We need to try and find them.”

  Linda watched her husband carefully as he finally opened his eyes. They had a glazed look to them, a confusion that she was seeing more and more often these days. He looked up at her and blinked several times, the confusion only growing each time his eyes re-opened.

  “Jerry,” Linda spoke again, her voice wavering. She knew what was happening and it instantly brought tears to her eyes. Not now. Please not now. “Jerry, I know you’re in there,” her voice was soft, tender. Like she was speaking to a small child and trying not to upset them. “It’s me, Jerry,” she whispered. “It’s Linda. Come back to me. Please. I need you right now.”

  Jerry’s puzzled expression only grew as he looked up at his wife. Linda could almost see the cogs turning in his head as he tried to figure things out. As he tried to figure out if he knew her. “Linda?” He questioned slowly, the word hanging on his lips like he was uncertain whether it was the right thing to say or not.

  “That’s right,” Linda nodded with a faint smile. “You know me, Jerry. I know you do.”

  “Wh-where am I?”

  “You’re home, my love,” Linda spoke, her voice trembling with each word. She knew how much they needed to focus on finding Chase and Riley, but she also knew that it wasn’t something she could do alone. Her husband needed her and Linda needed to make him see that she was there for him. “You’re on our farm. Our farm just outside of Houston.”

  Jerry squeezed his eyes closed and took several deep breaths. Watching, Linda slowly slid her hand over the bedsheets until it met her husbands and she could curl her fingers around his. Jerry still had his eyes closed, but his fingers squeezed back. With that gesture, Linda knew her husband was returning to her. She held his hand firmly and waited, knowing that the moment would be over soon and she would have her husband back.

  “Linda,” Jerry breathed a few seconds later, slowly opening his eyes and looking at his wife with total recognition. “My love.”

  “Oh, Jerry!” Linda’s arms were around her husband’s shoulders in less than a second. She fell into his body, knocking them both back against the pillows like an excited teenager. Tears welled in her eyes again as she felt Jerry wrap his arms around her too, holding her body tightly against his own.

  “I’m sorry,” he murmured into her nightgown. “I left you again, didn’t I?”

  “Only for a second,” Linda replied, releasing her husband from their embrace and looking him in the eyes, seeing once again the recognition and the years of love that lay behind them. “I knew you’d come back.”

  “I always will,” Jerry whispered. “If you’re waiting for me, I’m always coming back. I never want to leave you. Never ever.”

  Linda nodded. “I know.”

  “Oh man!” Jerry suddenly straightened up, more memories flooding back as he remembered what had happened the day before. “The kids! Linda, what do we do?”

  “I don’t know,” Linda sank down into the bed further, grief filling her veins once again. “They should’ve come back by now.”

  Shaking his head slightly, a faint feeling of fogginess still filling it, Jerry forced himself to get up and out of bed. Walking over to the window, he drew back the curtains and looked outside. The sky hadn’t changed. It was dark, gray and unforgiving. The space by the side of the barn where the old pickup truck was normally parked was still empty, no sign of the vehicle that Chase and Riley had taken the day before. Jerry still found it difficult to believe that Riley was out there too. The letter she’d left for him and Linda was still downstairs on the kitchen table, but her words echoe
d in his ears. She had wanted to be trusted and now, they had no choice. The two of them couldn’t go out searching for them; they had to trust their grandchildren and believe that eventually, the two of them would make it home.

  “Why don’t we go downstairs?” Jerry suggested, knowing he had to distract his wife somehow and try to keep things moving forward. “I’ll make breakfast.”

  Linda looked at her husband and smiled. While on paper, he was the one who needed looking after, she knew that he took care of her just as much as she took care of him. Following the loss of Brogan and his wife, Lauren, Jerry had been there for her every second, without fail. He knew her better than she knew herself. He knew when she needed to be left alone and when she wanted someone to talk to. He knew exactly what to do and how to deal with her, before Linda even knew what she was doing herself. He was her rock, her saving grace through everything, and while he may be sick and his mind may be decaying, his love for her was still there and she knew it would outlast everything else.

  Nodding, she shuffled out of bed and picked up her bathrobe from the back of the armchair, pulling it on over her nightgown. Jerry handed Linda her slippers and once they were both ready, they padded downstairs into the kitchen. As he’d previously known, Riley’s letter lay on the kitchen table in front of them, both Jerry and Linda pausing for a moment to look at it.

  “They’ll be okay,” Jerry reassured his wife, giving her hand what he hoped was a comforting squeeze. “They’re smart kids. They know what they’re doing.”

  “I hope you’re right.” Linda pursed her lips. “I just want them to come back soon.”

  “They will,” Jerry answered, letting go of his wife’s hand and crossing the room. He swept up Riley’s letter as he passed, opening the junk drawer and depositing it inside. “Now,” he said with a clap of his hands. “What would my beautiful wife like for breakfast this morning?”

  Linda blushed; no matter how many years she had spent with Jerry, he could still turn her back into a teenager with just a few words. Sometimes the way he looked at her or the way he talked about her made her giddy. It was the most magical feeling—one she never wanted to lose. She had found a love purer and more significant than she’d ever thought possible. Without a doubt, she was one of the luckiest women alive.

  “We shouldn’t have much,” she replied, the knowledge of what was going on outside still dominating her thoughts. “We need to ration our food.”

  Jerry inhaled. Linda was right, however, he desperately wanted to put a smile on her face that morning. Technically, as there were only the two of them, they could eat Chase and Riley’s allotted breakfast share as well, but he didn’t want to bring that fact up.

  “Okay then,” he thought out loud. “That doesn’t mean we can’t still have something nice though. Why don’t you stay here while I go and check the chickens? There should be some eggs we can cook up.”

  Leaving Linda at the kitchen table, Jerry slipped away and went to check on the chickens in the mudroom. The second he walked inside he felt a gush of cool air around his ankles, a breeze sweeping in from underneath the outside door. Quickly he moved a bale of hay over to it, figuring they would rarely use that door to come in and out of the house anymore. The last thing he wanted was the house getting even colder. There was already a thick chill in the air from the fallen roof in Riley’s old bedroom. Jerry knew he needed to go and check on that soon as well, but as always—despite how foolish it may be at times—his wife was his priority.

  “All right then.” He smiled at Linda as he re-entered the kitchen, two eggs in each of his hands. “How do you want them?”

  “Fried, please,” Linda responded in kind, pouring freshly brewed coffee into two mugs she’d set out. “I found some frozen waffles we can have them with, if you want?”

  “Ooh, sounds delicious,” Jerry laughed. “The kids would be jealous.”

  Immediately Jerry regretted his choice of words. Linda stopped pouring the coffee and looked over at him, the smile missing from her face. Silence stretched out between them, Jerry watching as his wife’s expression morphed from one of easygoing enjoyment to fear and panic.

  “I’m sorry,” he quickly continued, placing the eggs down on the kitchen table and walking over to his wife. “I didn’t mean… I shouldn’t have brought them up.”

  “It’s okay,” Linda sniffed, “I know we can’t just stop talking about them. I don’t want that to happen, either. I’m just worried, Jerry. I wish they would come home.”

  “Me too,” Jerry agreed as he curled his arms around his wife’s hips and held on to her. “And they will eventually. We just need to trust that they know what they’re doing until that happens. They’ll take care of each other. Chase won’t let anything happen to Riley, and you know Riley won’t let anything happen to him either. I wouldn’t want to mess with that girl at the best of times; she’s got your thunder.”

  “She does, doesn’t she?” Linda smiled in response. “I still can’t believe that she snuck out.”

  “What do you think you would’ve done in her situation?” Jerry teased. “I think we both know you’d be in exactly the same position as she is right now.”

  “Maybe you’re right.” Linda shook her head. “Thank you.”

  “For what?”

  “For making me feel better,” Linda explained. “You always know how to make me smile.”

  Jerry grinned, happy he could make his wife feel more relaxed. “That’s my job,” he acknowledged. “That’s what I’m here to do.” Planting a kiss on his wife’s forehead, Jerry stepped back and picked up the eggs again from the kitchen table. “So, fried?”

  With a smile on his face, Jerry moved around the kitchen with ease, refusing to even let Linda finish pouring the coffee. He took care of everything, dropping the waffles in the toaster and cooking the fresh eggs in a copious amount of butter for a rich, full flavor. Sitting across the kitchen table from his wife, Jerry couldn’t help but feel happy. He was aware of the dangers outside, the horrible fact that their grandchildren were missing, and that their one remaining child was at the epicenter of the disaster. But when he looked at his wife, all those fears and worries faded away. She had been the center of his life since the very first day he met her and there she would remain until the day he died. With her by his side, there was nothing that Jerry believed he couldn’t do.

  Chapter 2

  Looking back over her shoulder, Mia cast one final look at the farmhouse. It had served them well the one night they’d spent there. Nevertheless she had been adamant that they shouldn’t stick around any longer. Their journey had just barely begun and there was a lot of distance she still had left to cover. If she wanted to make it back to Houston before it was too late, they really had to pick up the pace.

  “It’s okay, Mia,” Jorge spoke in her ear. “We’ll make it home before you know it.”

  Jorge had actually been a very supportive aid to her in the last twelve hours. Being in the farmhouse had been harder than she’d imagined and Jorge had been there to listen to her fears overnight. They’d sat up for hours talking, the Spaniard learning more about Mia in those few hours than he had in the prior years of working with her.

  It wasn’t just each other’s families and feelings they had discussed through the night, but Mia’s theory on fracking as well. That had remained at the forefront of Jorge’s mind and he had been glad to pick Mia’s brains a little on the matter. Now as he walked, he looked for evidence of the activity and how it could have sparked the disaster they were currently living in.

  “I hope so,” Mia replied with a weak smile. “We’re going to have to start covering more ground if that’s to be the case.”

  Jorge nodded in agreement. “We’re cutting toward Route 90 now,” he remarked. “Once we get there, I’m sure things will pick up speed.”

  “I hope so,” Mia repeated, not enjoying how much of her life was left pinned on hope. She liked to be in control of things and that was the complete opposite
of how she felt. She was at the mercy of the eruption, constantly just trying her best to outrun it before the next wave of devastation hit. The sky above them was still drenched in dark clouds and the air was unsafe to breathe—all of them wore homemade breathing filters. Mia suspected it would be like this for many miles to come, but again, she hoped they would eventually find somewhere safe.

  “We can practically see the road from here,” Jorge encouraged, though his words held no truth. “We should be there in a few hours.”

  Mia looked at her friend again and nodded, appreciating what he was doing with her. Together they started walking, leaving the farmhouse in the distance as they caught up with the rest of the group. Patrick had noticed them lagging behind and slowed the group accordingly, Mia grateful for his kindness. He offered her a supportive smile as they joined up again, the man flooded with understanding for Mia.

  Of the whole group, it was difficult to define who had things the hardest, though Mia sympathized with Patrick a great deal. The poor man was forced to watch as his wife and one of his daughters were physically swept away from him in the lahars, one drowning in front of his eyes, the other’s body found the next morning. Although Mia wasn’t a parent by blood herself, she was one in her heart, and she could understand how painful it must be to lose your child.

  She thought that through, and then she looked over at Billy, the young boy whose mother had willingly abandoned him. Perhaps that wasn’t the right choice of words, but Lizzie had chosen to stay behind in the small village down the mountain from Helena Regional Airport, pushing her son to leave the dying hamlet and find a life that was worth living. Mia wondered how everyone from that village was getting on. Michael and Angelica featured most heavily in her thoughts. They both chose staying behind to take care of their dying mother, despite her desire for them to leave.

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