The End of All Things
By Lissa Bryan
I’m so excited about today’s blog tour! Not only do I get to review this marvelous book again, but we have a truly special surprise for everyone who stops by to read. An outtake, written by Lissa, and not posted anywhere else! Lissa Bryan is an incredible author and a great person, and she has generously written this outtake for you all. This is a scene that will not be in the book. Read on to enjoy, and don’t miss the chance to get The End of All Things when it is released! Also, as usual, if you want the chance to win a copy of this book, send an email to me at email@example.com with End of All Things giveaway in the subject and your name and email address in the body of the email.
And now, the outtake, by Lissa Bryan.
By Lissa Bryan
Carly slid the pan into the oven and turned the dial on the wind-up timer. Its ticking was loud in the silent kitchen. She still wasn’t used to how quiet the world was without the hum of a refrigerator motor or furnace, the rumble of traffic, the murmur of a radio or television.
She listened to it tick while she gazed out the kitchen window toward the barn, its outline almost completely obscured by the driving snow. Carly told herself it would take Justin a while to muck Shadowfax’s stall and lay down new bedding, and it would seem even longer if she stood by the window waiting for him.
Carly went back into the living room and snuggled up on the sofa under a throw. Sam was curled up on the floor beside the fireplace, his cat, Tigger, nestled up against his side. He thumped his tail when Carly smiled at him. He was waiting, too; he wouldn’t fall asleep again until Justin was back inside the house. When Justin wasn’t home, Sam made periodic patrols of the house, prowling silently from room to room in the low, slinking posture of wolves, his amber lupine eyes glittering.
Carly picked up the book she’d been reading and reached over to the end table to turn up the lamp. Now in a world lit only by fire, she missed flooding a room with brilliant light at just the touch of a switch, being able to read wherever she liked. And truth be told, she was a little afraid of the fire hazard presented by oil lamps and candles. It was a paranoia Justin shared; every room had a large fire extinguisher.
She tried to read, but found herself staring at the page without absorbing any of the words. Outside the wind howled and icy pellets of snow tapped against the windows. Carly frowned at the small pendulum clock on the mantle. Had Justin been gone too long? She hoped he didn’t get too chilled. What if he got sick? What if—
Stop it, Carly told herself sternly. Justin knew how to survive in adverse weather conditions. He wouldn’t risk himself. But she couldn’t help attempting to estimate how long it had taken to mix the cake batter, and add it to the time elapsed since she’d put it in the oven. She gave up and heaved herself off the sofa to go check the timer.
Her gently rounded belly was starting to make her awkward. She laid a hand over the mound of her stomach. She hadn’t felt the baby kick today, which worried her a little despite the reassurances of her books on pregnancy, it. She reminded herself it was early days, yet.
At first, Carly hadn’t been sure what she was feeling. The tiny flutters might have been her stomach growling, or even just her imagination. When she’d realized what it was, she’d tried grabbing Justin’s hand so he could share the experience, but so far, he hadn’t been able to feel anything.
The last time it had happened, she’d caught his worried frown before he was able to hide it, and Carly had inwardly kicked herself. It was just the kind of thing that would make Justin start worrying again. She’d even gotten out the book so she could read him the section which explained he might not be able to feel the baby move for another few weeks, but she could tell he wasn’t reassured by it.
He’d woken from a nightmare a couple of weeks ago, bolting upright in bed and shouting her name. He wouldn’t tell her what his dream had been, but she could guess, because the next morning, she found him at the kitchen table, squinting at the tiny print in his obstetrical text.
Carly had gone over to him and given him a kiss before firmly shutting the book and tucking it back in its place on the shelf. “I’m young,” she said to him. “I’m healthy and strong. Women were having babies for thousands of years before we had doctors and hospitals, Justin.”
“I know,” he said, and gave her a small smile, but his eyes had trailed back to the book.
The timer dinged and Carly jumped. She opened the oven door, pleased that no cloud of black smoke billowed out. Baking in a wood-burning stove was a tricky proposition at best. Justin had found her a cookbook printed in the 1870s that had given directions on how to tell if an oven was hot enough using pieces of paper, but Carly had struggled with cooking back in the days when she had an electric oven with a timer and thermostat.
She donned the oven mitts and took the pan out of the oven, sitting it down on the top of the stove, grinning ridiculously at her triumph. The cake looked gorgeous, a light golden brown, and the toothpick she poked into it came out clean.
This was the first time she’d ever tried baking a cake. Before the Crisis, she’d never seen the point in making the mess when the bakery down the street sold perfect, beautifully decorated cakes. Carly’s mom had loved to bake and she made her own cakes from scratch, instead of a powdered mix like this one, and it was from a vaguely half-remembered session of helping her mom in the kitchen that Carly remembered she could use a little oil in place of eggs.
She got a plate down from the cupboard and turned the pan upside down to dump the cake on it, giving the pan a little shake when nothing happened. To her horror, half the cake plopped out of the pan, leaving the other half stuck inside.
“Oh no!” she cried.
There was a scramble of claws on the hardwood floors as Sam and Tigger dashed to the kitchen, having heard the words that usually heralded one of Carly’s kitchen disasters and a helping of slightly-scorched peoplefood in their bowls.
Wincing, Carly snatched up a spatula and carefully worked the stuck side of the cake out of the pan and slid it onto the plate, fitting the two halves together the best she could. Really, if she covered it over with icing, Justin would never know, she decided. It wasn’t burned. That was the important thing.
Carly had hidden away a can of frosting. She’d been delighted to find the can jumbled in with some foodstuffs Justin had scavenged from one of the farmhouses in the countryside, delighted and very, very tempted to open it on several occasions when her pregnancy-induced cravings became almost maddening. But she had forced herself to save it.
She went back into the kitchen and found Tigger had jumped up on the table and was inching her way toward the cake. “Don’t you even think about it,” Carly warned her. She scooped up the cat and plopped her on the floor. Sam tossed back his head and sniffed at the air, giving Carly his best “starving doggy” look. Carly suppressed a laugh and went over to nudge his food bowl with her toe. Sam gave a long-suffering sigh and slouched his way back toward the living room, followed by Tigger, who gave Carly a haughty look, as though to say, “I didn’t want any of your dumb old cake, anyway.”
Carly chuckled and made a mental note to chip off the crumbs still stuck to the cake pan for them. They deserved a little treat, too. She took a butter knife from the drawer and peeled off the icing lid. She needed to hurry. Surely, Justin was almost finished with his chores, and she wanted to have the cake ready for him. She scraped all of the icing out of the container and began to spread it over the cake, humming as she worked.
It sure didn’t look like the cakes at the store. The icing had a gooey, runny texture she wasn’t expecting. She couldn’t even get it to stick to the sides. It kept running off, pooling on the plate rim. Carly frowned. Perhaps it had to dry or something. Maybe that was how bakery cakes got their perfectly smooth frosting.
The kitchen door opened and a blast of chill air made her shiver. Snow swirled inside as Justin closed the door behind him. Carly moved to conceal the cake behind her back.
Justin stomped to knock the snow off his boots and jeans. He peeled off his gloves and laid them on the bench beside the door before hanging up his coat on the hook, then headed over to the stove to warm his hands above it. “What’s that I smell? It’s delicious.”
He craned his neck to try to see around her but Carly adroitly blocked his view. “It’s a surprise. Warm up first. You look half-frozen.”
“I am. It’s colder than a polar bear’s … uh … nose.”
Carly giggled at his efforts at self-censorship. Justin was trying to break his habit of swearing before the baby was born, with varying degrees of success.
“Are Shadowfax and Storm okay?” Carly knew that wild horses did just fine in this kind of weather, but she worried about the filly. She was so small…
“Snug as bugs in a rug,” Justin promised. “They’ll be warm in the barn, but I went ahead and put the blanket on Storm just in case.”
“Am I warm enough? Can I see my surprise now?”
Carly grinned at his eagerness. She stepped aside and pointed to the cake. It wasn’t as pretty as she had envisioned. It looked more like a stack of pancakes, standing in a puddle of molten chocolate. “Happy birthday, Justin.”
He looked at the cake and then back to Carly in confusion. “Birthday?”
“Your driver’s license fell out of your pack when we were moving our things into the house.” Finding the license had surprised her. She’d had to talk him into keeping his passport because he said there was no point; the American government was dead. Finding the license had made her wonder if he had just a little bit more hope for the future than he let on.
“I know we’re not sure of the exact date, but according to your driver’s license, your birthday is around now.” Carly licked her lips, a little nervously. His face had gone impassive, as it did when he wanted to hide what he was thinking.
He looked away before he spoke. “It’s probably not my real birth date, anyway. According to my Children’s Services file, they searched for my mother by trying to track down any babies named Justin born on that date. They were all accounted for.”
Carly inwardly winced. She hadn’t thought about the possibility celebrating his birthday might bring up thoughts of his abandonment as a child. It must have shown in her face because Justin’s eyes softened and he smiled. “This was really nice of you, Carly. Thank you.”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I know.” He took her into his arms for a kiss. She remained in his arms for a moment, her cheek resting against his chest.
“Well, this is your official birthday now,” Carly declared. “It’s a new world, Justin, one we can make into whatever we want. And this is going to be a happy day for you from now on.” She went over to the cabinet and got two plates, wishing she’d thought to get him a candle.
Justin was staring down at the cake. “Um, Carly… Was this the first time you ever made a cake?”
She had to giggle. “That bad, huh?”
“I guess you didn’t know you’re supposed to let it cool before you put the icing on.”
Carly felt her cheeks heat up. “No, I … um … I was in a hurry. I’m sorry. I guess I should have asked you to help rather than trying to make it a surprise.”
He kissed her again. “It was a very nice surprise. And I’m sure it will taste great. Here, let’s have some.” He cut them both a slice of the gooey cake and they sat down at the table to share the still-warm confection. Despite the texture, it was pretty good. Carly held the bite in her mouth for a moment to savor it. This was the first cake she’d had in almost a year, since the Crisis had destroyed the old world and ended the luxury of treats like these. She realized it might be the last cake she ever had.
Justin took their plates to the sink and washed them while Carly wrapped up the remains of the cake and stored it in the pie safe. She’d learned quickly not to leave anything edible out. Tigger would hop up on the counter and knock it to the floor so she and Sam could share it. Carly suspected the wolf had somehow trained the cat to do that. She added a couple more pieces of wood to the fire.
Justin came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “Thank you, Carly. You’re always doing these sweet things and I don’t think I’ve told you how much they mean to me.”
Carly leaned back against him and smiled. It would take Justin a bit of time, she reflected, to get used to having someone who loved him; small gestures like these still caught him off guard.
Justin carried the lamp to light their way upstairs. He’d laid a fire in the bedroom earlier, and combined with the heat rising from the kitchen below, the room was toasty warm. Carly stopped by the window before she climbed into bed and looked out at the swirling snow, thankful they’d found a safe refuge for the winter. Justin moved behind her and set the lamp on the dresser as he stripped off his clothes. The changing angle of the light made her reflection sharpen in the window. Under her flannel pajamas, her gently rounded belly protruded. Carly turned to the side, trying to imagine how she would look in a few more months. Her baby would be born in late spring, the closest they could guess, in the time when the world was fresh and green, a time of new beginnings.
Justin slipped into bed behind her and snuggled up against her back, one of his hands cupped around her belly. Carly gave a soft sigh of contentment. “Good n—”
“Did you feel that?” Justin blurted.
He paused. “There! There it is again!”
She felt the tiny flutters of her baby moving and smiled even as her eyes welled with tears. “Happy birthday, Justin.”
The End of All Things is available for pre-order on the TWCS site (link below)
or iTunes. It will be available in paperback and ebook on Amazon, iTunes,
B&N.com and TWCS site on January 24th.
Link to purchase book:
Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold
medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure
for athlete’s foot…. though only in her head. Real life isn’t so
interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.
Her first novel, Ghostwriter was released October 11, 2012, and her second,
The End of All Things, will be released on January 24, 2013.
The End of All Things
By Lissa Bryan
Carly believes that she and the puppy, Sam, she rescued are the only survivors in her area to live through a terrible virus that has swept over the world, killing untold numbers of people. She meets Justin, another survivor, but can she trust him. Gradually, he shows her he is trustworthy, and they begin a trek from Alaska to a warmer climate, hoping to make it to Florida before the weather gets cold and threatens their survival. Together, with Sam—who turns out to be a wolf cub—a horse and a cat they rescue along the way, they make their way through a world changed beyond recognition, meeting other survivors, good and bad. How will they survive? Can humanity go on? What about future children? They face danger along with wonder and love as they try to figure out answers to these questions, particularly, how to live in a world without electricity, refrigeration or medicine.
I loved this book. I’ve read several post-apocalyptic novels, two of which I’ve enjoyed, The Stand and Alas Babylon, and The Stand is one of my all time favorite books. But Lissa Bryan’s entry into that genre is sure to become another much loved book. She gives us the devastation mixed with hope of other such books, but without the supernatural or weird elements of The Stand. As she always does, she creates vivid, believable characters, people you feel you could know and wish you could meet.
Carly, who doesn’t think of herself as courageous and yet finds strength in herself she wouldn’t have imagined. (Not to mention the delightful way she names her animals after Lord of the Rings characters.) Justin, who thinks he’s not worthy of being loved, who is one of the most endearing male leads I’ve read in a long time.
And of course, there’s Sam, the beloved wolf, who protects his “pack”, human, equine, feline and whatever else Carly decides to adopt on the journey. Shhh, don’t tell the humans, but I think Sam is my favorite character of them all!
I had to take a week after finishing this book, just to think about it and process it. It moved me deeply, and I knew I would never be able to find just the right words to say how much and why. One of the things I love is the humanity of this book. We don’t learn much of the gory details of the virus or follow the tragedies of characters before during and after the sickness. What the author gives us is a story of characters who are strong, who can survive and can love, even in the midst of heartbreak and a world changed forever. That’s why I love it so much, and why I’m still pondering it today and wishing I knew more and could see the world the survivors will create.