Based on characters from Hugh Howey’s world of WOOL, “Last Walk” is the fifth and final episode of the best-selling Karma series and has just been published…
They’re fighting in the Silo— the battles are between the Up Top and the Down Deep, with the Mids caught in between. There are too many young people without work. They ink themselves with primitive face tats and guard their territory against incursions from below or above.
In Karma’s family, there is a critical fault splitting them right down the middle. Who will toe the line and stay loyal to the head of IT, Karma’s son… and who will join his wife in supporting the resistance?
Karma herself must go further than she ever has to protect her family and to help the Silo survive. Whatever she chooses, this is the end.
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of this 20,000 word ebook:
“Do you know that I’ve been on to you from the start, and not once did you pull the wool over this boy’s eyes?”
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
“Knowing the truth is always good. And better that it’s us discovering it than someone else, right?”
Hugh Howey, WOOL
The young people are fighting.
I see two of them, inked on the face with the colors of the Down Deep, locking bodies with two from the Up Top. It must have just started.
So much of this now, everywhere I go. In the halls, on the landings, on the great stairs. Even in the cafeteria.
A tall one with the white and silver dagger of the Up Top across his cheek is wrestling hand-to-hand with a shorter but more muscular opponent whose face bears a blue gear. I hear grunts and the sickening sound of a fist hitting bone. Something crunches and I shudder.
Where are the level guards? There are supposed to be two citizens on every floor to stop such fights. Maybe they were outmanned. I notice someone lying on the ground near the wall. Is he part of a gang or one of the guards? I can’t see his face.
The other two young men are circling each other, bloodied and purpling already with bruises they seem to relish. A grin passes between them, a moment of glory in the fight before they engage again. One of them gets perilously close to the railing.
Most onlookers rush away from the violence, eager to get out of sight and sound of the fight. Those with children push them down the hall and into the safety of home. Others are attracted to the excitement. I see men—particularly young men—and some women, watching with eager eyes to see who triumphs. Up here on seventeen, the home court advantage goes to the Daggers. The Gears sense this, and their fighting becomes more desperate.
A cheer goes up as the tall Dagger gets in a powerful blow, and the Gear is thrown against the stairs.
I gasp when the crowd whoops with encouragement. As the shorter man is lifted above the railing and balanced for a moment on the brink, his eyes catch mine and beseech me as I scream out for mercy. Others are shouting, some for, some against.
The crumpled figure near the wall lifts his head. “Don’t do it,” he croaks, but no one can hear him. I realize with a start that it’s my grandson, Abe. He tries to raise himself and I hurry over to help.
And then there is a wail—of relief? Of disappointment?—as the young man is pulled back over the edge and stands, panting, still alive.
“Get outta here, Gearheads!” the tall Dagger says. “This is our territory, and don’t forget it. Next time, I’ll throw you over.”
The crowd roars.
There is a sickness down here in the Silo. A sickness that has to do with stunted ambition and the frustrated need to explore… to expand. We need to go somewhere, but there is nowhere to go.
The young people feel it the most. They are exploding. Perhaps we bred too many of them in the time after the last uprising—an uprising that didn’t flare up on its own but was masterminded by Jeff, the derelict from IT—and which nevertheless left hundreds dead.
These children don’t remember that. They were all born in the aftermath. The restrictive birth lottery was halted for a few brief years, and during that period the population boomed. These are the children of that boom.
Too many teenagers, and not enough work. No military, no sports teams, no school past sixteen. Instead, they fight each other.
Ruth sets out the chairs in the small classroom. I put chalk on the tables in front of the slates. We still draw while we talk, giving cover for our cell meetings.
“How’s Abe?” I ask her quietly.
My daughter-in-law nods at me as she continues to arrange the seating. “Banged up, but okay. He felt terrible. He didn’t get there fast enough, he says. Someone could have died, he told me.”
“Ruth, there’s only so much he could do. It’s out of hand. Thank god he didn’t try to take on all those kids by himself.”
She stops and looks at me. “I know. I know.”
She shivers visibly and then sits beside me. “It’s worse in the Mids. There were two murders last week.”
“Oh my god. How…?”
“A Gearhead from down in Mechanical stabbed someone, and then the Dirt gang members threw him over the railing in retaliation.”
I shake my head. “Can’t the Sheriff do anything?”
Ruth runs her fingers through her dark hair, sprinkled with gray. “She’s trying. She’s added another deputy for each section, and there are the level guards… but it’s out of control.”
“Why haven’t there been any Cleanings?”
As soon as the question is out of my mouth, I am astonished. To think that Cleanings would be a good solution for anything is out of character for me. I give my daughter-in-law a rueful glance. “I can’t believe I said that.”
“I can’t believe you did either.” Ruth almost smiles, then shakes her head and goes back to arranging chairs. “We’ve got to come up with a way to channel all that frustration—all that anger.”
I nod, as the rest of the cell members begin to come into our makeshift meeting hall. “Instead of fighting each other, we need to fight against control from the top. Get them to help us with the resistance work.”
I see Ruth’s eyes cut to the door and stop talking as Celeste comes in. My lovely young granddaughter, walking the tightrope between cell membership and shadowing her father, Mars, to be the next Head of IT… a girl with great balance and a shaky future.
“Hi Mom,” she says, giving Ruth a hug as she passes by. She leans over me, taller than I ever was, and certainly much taller than I am now. “Hi Grandma.” She gives me a kiss on the forehead and plops down into one of the schoolroom chairs.
“I can’t believe how tiny these are. This whole room used to seem huge to me.”
“That’s because you were tiny when you went here, sweetheart,” I say, and squeeze her hand.
“How’s Grandpa?” she asks. Ruth looks up, awaiting my answer.
“He’s doing better,” I say. “His arm has bothered him for years, so that’s not going to change, but the headaches he was complaining about have disappeared.”
“So the doctor doesn’t think it’s… anything serious?” Ruth asks.
“Actually, the doctor says his cognitive function is good for a man of eighty-five. He says that it’s hard to believe Rick went through all that… trouble, years ago.”
“What trouble?” Celeste asks.
“Before you were born, honey,” Ruth says, before I can answer.
“Oh yes… the uprising. Dad’s told me about it.”
I raise my eyebrows at Ruth and let the conversation end as others begin to enter. But I do wonder what Mars has told his daughter about the uprising that took place before she was born. In fact, I wonder what he’s told her about everything.
Sample the book or buy “Last Walk” now and let me know what you think of the ending to this series!
In December, I’ll release the ebook containing the entire series. Look for Karma of the Silo: The Collection, next month. And in early 2014, there will be a print book.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month is a way to put on the jets and write the draft for the next book in one month. Mine is tentatively titled Day Zero and will be a full-length thriller.
Congressman Burke Grant is indicted for the murder of his former intern, a beautiful young woman that he was romantically involved with, despite his rep as a family man. No body has been found. To avenge her death, Cleo Gunther’s law school classmates band together to prove that he’s the killer and to see justice done.
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