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Wastelands: Stories of the Apocolypse by John Joseph Adams


Wastelands: Stories of the Apocolypse by John Joseph Adams

Author:John Joseph Adams [Apocalypse, Stories of the]
Format: epub
Published: 2010-02-20T12:00:00+00:00


XIII - JERRY OLTION - JUDGMENT PASSED

It was cold that morning, and the snow squeaked beneath my boots as I walked up the lane in search of Jody. Last night's storm had left an ankle-deep layer of fresh powder over the week-old crust, and her tracks stood out sharp and clear as they led away through the bare skeletons of aspen trees and out of sight around the bend. She had gone toward the mountains. I didn't need to see her tracks to know that she had gone alone.

Except for Jody's footprints there was no sign of humanity anywhere. My boots on the snow made the only sound in the forest, and the only motion other than my own was in the clouds that puffed away behind me with every breath. Insulated as I was inside my down-filled coat, I felt an overwhelming sense of solitude. I knew why Jody had come this way. In a place that was supposed to be empty, she wouldn't find herself looking for people who weren't there.

I found her sitting on a rail fence, staring out across a snow-covered field at the mountains. She sat on the bottom rail with her chin resting on her mittened hands on the top rail. Her shoulder-length brown hair stuck out below a green stocking cap. There were trenches dug in the snow where she had been swinging her feet. She turned her head as I squeaked up behind her, said, "Hi, Gregor," then turned back to the mountains. I sat down beside her, propping my chin on my hands like she had, and looked up at them myself.

Sunlight was shining full on the peaks, making the snowfields glow brilliant white and giving the rocks a colour of false warmth. No trees grew on their jagged flanks. They were nothing but rock and ice.

The Tetons, I thought. God's country. How true that had proved to be.

"I'd forgotten how impressive mountains could be," I said, my breath frosting the edges of my gloves.

"So had I," she said. "It's been a long time."

Twelve years. Five years going, five years coming, and two years spent there, on a dusty planet around a foreign star.

She said, "There was nothing like this on Dessica."

"No glaciers. It takes glaciers to carve up a mountain like that."

"Hmm."

We stared up at the sunlit peaks, each thinking our own thoughts. I thought about Dessica. We'd waited two months after landing to name it, but the decision was unanimous. Hot, dry, with dust storms that could blow for weeks at a time-if ever there was a Hell, that place had to be it. But eight of us had stayed there for two years, exploring and collecting data; the first interstellar expedition at work. And then we had packed up and come back-to an empty Earth. Not a soul left anywhere. Nothing to greet us but wild animals and abandoned cities full of yellowed newspapers, four years old.

According to those papers, this was where Jesus had first appeared. Not in Jerusalem, nor at the Vatican, nor even Salt Lake City.



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