Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
She just knew it was Porter. She cursed in Spank, and she flailed and hit at him and scratched him with her nails. The man didn’t fight back; he just kind of stood there like a tree, taking her blows, with his hand on her shoulder.
When Rosa realized it was the addict, she stopped hitting him.
“Firoz!” she said, out of breath. “Were you looking for me?”
“Hey,” said Firoz, like they were old friends who had just run into each other by accident on the street.
“Hey,” she gasped. His black shape looked funny through the darkness. “You know where the others are, or what?”
He seemed amazed as he looked at her. Amazed at what, she couldn’t say. “Are you an angel?” he asked her. Rosa didn’t understand the question until she realized that, lit up by this moon, she must look kind of ghostly. She looked at her arms and considered whether the moonlight had transformed her into a creature of light.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Firoz had forgotten that he had asked the question. “I was hoping to find a Church out here,” he said. “I’m out.”
“What?” she demanded. “So you don’t know where everybody is, either?”
“I know where everybody is,” said Firoz. “But I’m out.”
“Where is everybody?” Rosa asked.
“Everybody is in the future.”
“In the future,” Rosa repeated, looking around. She had no idea what he was talking about.
Firoz nodded. “You want to go to the future?”
“Sure, Firoz,” Rosa said, losing hope again. She turned away and started walking off. Something about seeing him had made her less scared, but she wasn’t exactly happy to know that he was by himself.
“The future is this way,” Firoz said, and he started loping in another direction.
Rosa watched him for a second. Maybe he did know the way back. Maybe he was trying to tell her but didn’t have his words all straight. Grumbling, Rosa took off after him. She figured following after him was just as good as wandering by herself, at least until she could find the voices again.
At first he seemed to know where he was going. He started moving faster up the hills than down them. Rosa tried to keep up with him as best she could, but it was hard. Her legs were sore where they were cut in a couple of places, she was starving, and she just wanted to find a warm place to lie down and go to sleep. She wished she had Basil to talk to, or somebody, or anybody.
“Hey, Firoz! Where are you headed?” she called.
He didn’t answer. He didn’t say anything to her at all. For a while, he was moving pretty fast in one direction. Then he started walking a more and more jagged path. Then he was making big half-circles around places where he could have gone straight. Then he stopped to look up into the trees a couple of times. When he started looping around the tree trunks, Rosa knew they were both in trouble.
“Firoz, what are you going around those trees for?”
Actually, she knew. He was messed up and didn’t even understand what he was doing.
She thought about ditching him then. She thought about leaving the last grownup behind once and for all and taking her life into her own hands. But there was no way that made sense. Firoz might be crazy, but at least he was big. If they got caught by some other nasty people they might think he was protecting her.
She called out again. “Firoz!”
This time he stopped. He turned towards her like she had said his name for the first time. Then he sat down. He watched her as she came up to him. He was breathing heavy. “What do we do now?” he asked her.
“What?” She was astonished that he expected her to know.
He kept his eyes on her as she got real close to him, looking up at her like he was the child. His hand reached up to brush at her hair. She saw that it was lit up by the moon like a delicate spider’s web.
“Firoz, get up,” Rosa said, brushing his hand away. “We have to get out of here.”
Instead of getting up, he looked down and started rummaging through his pockets. He looked through each one slowly and calmly. Then he looked again. By the fourth time, he was beginning to panic.
“Can you offer me absolution?” he asked Rosa.
“No, Firoz!” she told him. “We’re in the woods, you freak.”
He started looking much more frantically in his pockets.
“Angel,” he said to her. “Can’t you tell me?”
“Firoz, we have to—”
“Tell me…” he moaned. He started to rock back and forth.
“Tell you what?” Rosa asked.
The addict looked like a little boy who has just been told he can’t have a dog. He opened his mouth and began to howl. She wanted to run away from him, but he kept staring at her with big, horrified eyes full of tears, and she couldn’t move.
He went quiet and looked at the ground. He tried to get up. Then his legs gave way and he half-fell, half-sat. “Are you okay?” Rosa asked. She tried to pull him up. She lifted his arm, but he brushed her away.
The addict groaned and started to shiver. He wrapped his arms around himself and shook. Never taking her eyes off him, Rosa backed away and sat down too so she could lean against a tree.
Rosa decided they probably weren’t going to make it.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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