Arden and Gabriel: An Off the Grid short story by Alyssa Cole
Book three of Alyssa Cole’s Off the Grid trilogy releases on October 19. MIXED SIGNALS follows Maggie, the youngest Seong, as she ventures out into a still-recovering postapocalyptic world in search of her identity and comes face-to-face with a blast from the past.
To hold you over until Maggie’s release day, here’s a peek at life for Arden and Gabriel, the heroine and hero of RADIO SILENCE (Off the Grid, book one), three years after the Flare.
It was the smell of baking cinnamon and apple that finally lured me from our bed, the mixture of crisp autumn freshness and smoky caramelized sugar physically pulling me out of my dream like a vaudeville stage hook.
I didn’t mind. I’d overslept and it’d been one of those dreams, the fucked-up ones fueled by anxiety and fear that had started after the Flare and would seemingly never leave me. The world was starting to rebuild—I was even contributing in my small way with my administrative work for the Communications Department at Burnell. The dark cloak that had draped itself over the world three years ago was slipping behind us, but the memories of it were still sharp, pressing into you if you made one wrong move. Intermittent electricity couldn’t burn away images of death or the scent memory of your attacker. The ever-growing phone connectivity only reminded you of those who’d never be on the other end of the line.
I inhaled sharply and then released a long, slow breath between my lips.
You’re safe now. Everything is okay.
I knew that was true, mostly, but I still glanced warily around the bedroom of the little faculty house Gabriel and I shared with John and Mykhail at Burnell. The house was an oasis of safety and warmth on a campus bustling with governmental activity. It was the one demand John had made when offered a job by the Department of Infrastructure Repair; he was always thinking a step ahead.
Which reminded me…
I grabbed my cell phone from the bedside table and flipped it open. It still felt strange, even though pre-Flare I’d be scrolling through social media before I wiped the sleep from my eyes. Internet service hadn’t been restored enough to support social media. I was searching for a something much simpler: a text from my sister-in-law, Maggie.
It was her first day of school since the Flare, and we weren’t there to harass and bully her until she was glad to be leaving the house. Unlike John, Maggie was dead set on pretending things didn’t have to change. I couldn’t blame her. She’d just turned eighteen, but she’d missed out on all the social milestones that were supposed to lead up to that. I’d been scared to leave for Burnell; I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to go to high school.
My phone screen lit up. There was no message. Continue reading