Sunday, March 2, 2014

Apocalypticon, by Clayton Smith - An Excerpt

My upcoming novel, Apocalypticon, tells the tale of two men's sometimes fun, sometimes gut-wrenching, always terribly dangerous odyssey through post-apocalyptic America, from Chicago to Disney World by way of the ruined South. I'm wagering it's unlike any dystopic story you've read before, and I hope you enjoy it! The novel gets its wide release on March 17. Here's a little preview...


It didn’t take long to plan the journey. Not because it was an easy journey to plan, but because there just wasn’t much they could plan for. There was a time, not so very long ago, when getting ready for a trip meant typing a destination into Google Maps and loading up the Santa Fe with three more suitcases than were necessary, most of them filled with shoes. All one really needed to “be prepared” was a full iPhone battery and a spare tire. But M-Day had made things a bit more unpredictable. For starters, the Internet was little more than a smoldering pile of melted tubes. And cars! Ha! Cars were completely impractical. The vehicles of the dead choked the roads, at least in the city. Sure, the interstates were probably a little less crowded, but even if Patrick and Ben could weave a car out through the city limits, they’d be out of gas before nightfall. If the charred remains of the BP down the street were any indication, there would be no fuel along the way. Bodies of would-be gas thieves with dried blood caked from their slit throats? Sure, plenty of those. But gas itself? No way.  

Since Patrick was the marginally more responsible one and Ben was the King of Food Mountain, it seemed natural that Ben should handle the canned goods and Patrick should be in charge of pretty much everything else: can openers, utensils, rope, blankets, his Leatherman, pens, pencils, notebooks, first aid kit, and anything else he could get his hands on. They would each carry their own clothing, of course, and any weapons they could scrounge together. Also, one of them needed to be the expedition leader. They were certain to face extreme dangers outside the apartment building--murderers, thieves, treacherous landscape, starvation, inclement weather, maybe even a few surviving Jehovah’s Witnesses--and if they were going to survive all that, they would need to think and act as one person with one brain. “And I will be that brain,” Patrick explained.

“Wait, wait, wait. Why do you get to be in charge?”

“Because this is my trip. It was my idea.”

“So? Maybe that puts you too close to the situation. Maybe you’re too invested in this trip to make logical, objective decisions. Maybe the fact that it’s your trip means I should be the one in charge.”

“No, it absolutely does not mean that, and I’ll tell you why.”

Ben crossed his arms. “Fine. Why?”

“Because Disney World is south.”

Ben snorted. “So?” 

“So why don’t you show me which direction that is.”

Ben hesitated. Patrick had leveraged his greatest weakness. He had to make a confident decision, and he needed to act quickly. He took a chance and pointed firmly toward Lake Michigan. 

Patrick nodded. “That’s why I’m in charge.” The point was conceded with no further objection.

“So Disney World. That’s where we’re going. That’s it,” Ben said.

“That’s it,” Patrick agreed. “If by ‘it’ you mean ‘everything.’”

Ben tented his fingers and shook them at his guest. “Okay, now I’m not saying Disney World is a dumb destination. But listen, Pat. Disney World is a really dumb destination. Seriously.”

Patrick reached across and grabbed Ben’s hands in his own. “No, Ben. Disney World is the best possible destination. Decades of snappy marketing tricks have made it so.”

Ben yanked his hands out from under Patrick’s. “Let’s make a list of destinations that are less dumb than Disney World. Ready?” He spread his hands wide, as if he were offering a magnanimous gift. “Las Vegas. Grown-up Disney World. Let’s go there.”

“Pass!” Patrick slapped the coffee table with both hands, his eyes growing wide and bright. “Disney World or bust!”

“No, don’t do that,” Ben said, shaking his finger at Patrick’s crazy-eyed face. “This is your trip; it’s your decision. All right, I get that. I understand. If you want to go to Disney World, well, hell. I guess we’ll go to stupid Disney World. But Disney World is for babies and honeymooning Christians. Not for real life grown-ups. And do you know the only thing lamer than Disney World? Burned out, rusted up Disney World full of charred baby skeletons.”

Patrick leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I once knew a Ben Fogelvee who would have thought a burned out, rusted up Disney World full of charred baby skeletons sounded awesome,” he challenged.

“Yeah, you know, it does sound pretty bad ass,” Ben mused. “I’m warming to the idea. But try this option on for size. Old Cliff in 13B says he knows a guy who knows a guy who hosts a battle royale once a week in this dirt circle arena in his backyard somewhere in Detroit. These guys, they come from all around with sticks and knives and bats and iron pipes and just wail on each other for three hours until everyone’s dead.”

“Hmm.” Patrick pressed a finger to his lips and thought carefully. “Now, that sounds like something I would certainly like to play a video game about. But are you sure everyone dies? What about the last guy? He lives, right?”

“Hell no, he doesn’t live! First place is the quick, painless release of death from this stupid post-apocalyptic life. Everyone dies, one just less painfully than the rest.”

Patrick squinted and pointed a suspicious finger at his host. “Are you sure this is a thing?”

Ben pointed back and met Patrick’s squint. “Here’s what I think. I think we find you a stick, and we make you a champion. If we’re going Code White, make it the bright, blinding white of nuclear self-destruction.”

“I appreciate where your head’s at, Ben. I like your thought process. And it’s tempting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely tempting. But we’re going to Disney World.”

“Why?” Ben sighed. “Do you at least have a good reason?”

“Of course I have a good reason. Because I’ve never been. And I read somewhere that you should go before you die.”


Apocalypticon will be available on Amazon in paperback and ebook formats starting March 17. For more information, find me on Facebook and Twitter!

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