“None of this matters, and we’re all going to die.”With only three days left until the predicted apocalypse, the small town of Franklin Springs, Georgia, has become a wasteland of abandoned cars, abandoned homes, abandoned businesses, and abandoned people. People like Rainbow Williams.Rain isn’t afraid of dying. In fact, she’s looking forward to it. If she can just outrun her pain until April 23, she’ll never have to feel it at all.“Supplies. Shelter. Self-defense.”Wes Parker has survived every horrible thing this life has thrown at him with nothing more than his resourcefulness and disarming good looks. Why should the end of the world be any different? All he needs are some basic supplies, shelter, and a sucker willing to help him out, which is exactly what he finds when he returns to his hometown of Franklin Springs.As society crumbles, dangers mount, and secrets refuse to stay buried, two lost souls are thrust together in a twist of fate—one who will do anything to survive and one who can’t wait to die.Perhaps, together, they can learn how to live.Before their time runs out.
I'm sitting in a booth at Burger Palace. I don't remember how I got here, or when, but the empty seat across from me tells me that I came alone.
The place smells like classic greasy burgers and fries. My stomach snarls in response.
God, I'm starving.
I glance across the bustling fast—food restaurant at the giant digital menu on the wall and notice four banners hanging on either side of the checkout counter. They're huge, hanging from the ceiling all the way down to the floor. Only, instead of showing pretty models eating airbrushed cheeseburgers, these things look like propaganda for the Antichrist. Each one is bright red with the silhouette of a hooded figure on horseback in the middle. One is holding a massive sword over his head. Another one has a scythe, like the Grim Reaper. One is swinging a mace, and the fourth one is charging forward with a flaming torch. Even though I can't see their faces, I almost feel like their demonic eyes are staring right at me.
This is a fucked up marketing campaign, I think, searching the terrifying banners for more information.
The only text I see on them anywhere is a simple date in bold white font at the top of each one.
What the hell?
I look around the restaurant for more clues, but all I find are happy little families sucking soda out of red cups with hooded horsemen on them. A little boy carries a Big Kid Box to his seat with an image of the Grim Reaper guy on it. A little girl licks blood—red ice cream out of a cracked black cone. And, on every wrapper, every poster, every napkin, straw, and ketchup packet, there's the same date.
April 23? I rack my brain. April 23. What the hell is going to happen on April twen¬¬¬¬—
Before I can finish my thought, the lights flicker off and the doors burst open. Wind whips through the small restaurant like a tornado, sending drinks crashing and people scrambling, as four hooded figures on giant smoke—breathing horses charge in.
Suddenly, the banners, the ad campaign—it all makes sense.
Today is April 23.
And we're all gonna die.
Smoke and screams and chaos fill the air as I scurry to the floor beneath my table, backing all the way up to the wall and hugging my knees to my chest.
I can't breathe. I can't blink. I can't think. All I can do it cover my ears and try to block out the screams of mothers and children as I peer into the darkness.
Flames climb up the black—and—red banners, illuminating a wasteland before me. Furniture overturned. Bodies strewed about the wreckage. Severed heads, missing limbs, torsos impaled on table legs. My hands move from my ears to my mouth as I muffle a scream.
Don't let them hear you.
Thick black smoke begins to curl and creep into my hiding spot, making my eyes water and my throat burn. I can hardly see past the table now, and suppressing the cough and the panic building in my throat is getting harder and harder to do.
I know I need to run—I have to—but my legs won't cooperate. I'm stuck in the fetal position, rocking like a child, as I pull my T—shirt over my mouth and nose.
I scream at myself inside my head, but it's my mother's voice that finally gets my ass in gear. "Are you going to stay home all day and wallow, like your father, or are you gonna get out there and try to help somebody?" Her scolding from this morning rings in my ears louder than the cries of the burning, impaled women and children all around me.
I want to help. Even if, right now, the only person I can help is myself.
Placing my palms on the filthy floor, I slowly bring my knees down so that I'm on all fours.
I can do this.
Taking one last breath, I straighten my back and prepare to crawl to safety. I can't see the exits through all the smoke, but I can see the two blood—spattered hooves that come to a stop directly in front of me when I take my first step.
I wake up at the tail end of a scream, just like I do every morning. Just like we all do, ever since the nightmares began.
Grabbing my cell phone off the charger, I hold my breath and read the date.
I sigh and toss it back onto the nightstand.
I used to feel so relieved when I woke up from the nightmare. Back when I still had hope that some scientist somewhere was gonna figure it out. But everybody on the planet has been dreaming about the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming on April 23 for almost a year now, and we still don't have answers.
After a few months, most of the world's top researchers either resigned in defeat, died from heart attacks, or went crazy from the stress of trying to figure it out. Every day, the news got worse, the crime rate skyrocketed, and eventually, the newscasters just stopped reporting. Without answers or hope or, hell, even fake news to calm us down, most people have just accepted that the world is going to end on April 23.
I still feel relieved when I wake up from the nightmare, but now, it's only because I can't wait for it to be over.
Three more days. I only have to do this shit for three more days.
I drag myself out of bed and groan at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Choppy, chin—length black hair frames my pale face, the same way that yesterday's smudged eyeliner frames my sunken blue eyes.
Where the fuck did my hair go?
My eyes scan the filthy countertop for a brush and land on my long black braid, still bound with an elastic band, lying in a heap next to an empty bottle of codeine cough syrup.
Way to go, Rain. Get high and cut all your hair off. Real original.
I try to remember what happened last night, but it's not even a blur. It's just gone. Like the hair that I pick up and toss onto my overflowing trash can on my way to turn on the shower.
We've been advised to use our bathtubs for water storage in case our town's supply gets cut off, but the way I see it, if we're all going to die anyway, why not enjoy a hot shower first?