Release Date: December 3rd 2016
Published by: The Writers Coffee Shop
Genre: Fiction, Dystopian
Her eyes caught sight of a pine tree. “Hey. Could you go over there and get me a small branch from that?”
“Sure. What is it?”
“It’s a white pine.”
Dylan tilted his head. “Looks green to me.”
“The needles always look green, dummy. Get me a branch.”
He obediently took their small pocketknife over to the tree and cut off a branch about the length of his arm. He brought it over to her and held it out. “There you go.”
“Thanks. Can I have your knife?”
That he handed over, too. Taylor wiped off a rock and began to cut the green needles into small sections.
“You’re making something, obviously, but what?”
“Tea, if you’ll bring me some of that boiling water now. Use the small pot to scoop it out.”
He did, carrying the steaming pot over to her carefully. Taylor dropped in the pine needles and let them steep.
“What does it do?”
“Grace said it had something in it. I can’t remember what it is. But it had some kind of . . . thing in it that people need, and we don’t get it anymore because we don’t eat the fruit we used to.”
“Vitamin C?” Dylan guessed, but he sounded doubtful.
Taylor paused, her head tilted thoughtfully to the side. “I really can’t remember. But it was important. When I was growing, she made me drink this every summer while the needles were fresh.”
“From the way you said ‘made you,’ I’m assuming it’s not very tasty?”
“It’s not bad. It’s . . . weird. It’s hard to describe. But it’s good for you.”
Once she’d judged it had steeped long enough, she poured some of it into one of their cups. “Get me some of the honey.”
She nodded. “We deserve a treat now and then, right?”
Dylan snapped his fingers. “I just remembered something. Put it on your blister.”
“I’ve never heard of that.”
“I have. It prevents infection. Think about it. Honey doesn’t go bad, right? Bacteria doesn’t grow in it.”
“That’s true. Is this one of your book things?”
He smiled. “See? Reading comes in useful once in a while.”
Taylor put a little of the honey into the tea and then dabbed a dot of it on her wound.
“That cloth really isn’t sterile,” Dylan said.
Taylor grimaced. “Really? What is?”
“How about if I boil it first?”
If it would make him feel better. He was treating this stupid blister like she’d lost a limb. Taylor nodded. He took the cloth she’d been about to use and dropped it in the pot of water he’d boiled. “I’ll just make another pot later for our drinking water,” he said, apparently feeling really proud of himself. After the cloth had boiled for a few minutes, he hung it up on the spit to dry near the fire. “It will be done before you know it.”
“Thanks,” she said. It wasn’t about the cloth. It was about his concern and care for her. “Don’t throw that pot of used water out yet. I’ll use it to wash my clothes.”
He looked excited by the idea. “I can finally wash mine, too!”
“That’s fine. We need to wait a bit for the water to cool down, and then we’ll just toss them in.”
“No, I’ll do my own, thanks.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I’d feel weird having you wash my clothes.”
“We’ll do it together, then. Here, drink your tea.”
He took a cautious sip of the pine needle mixture. She was right. The taste was . . . odd. He couldn’t quite compare the strong flavor to anything he’d had before. The closest he could think of was mint, but that wasn’t quite right, though it had the same kind of aromatic power.
“Good?” she asked him after he took the last swallow.
“Yeah, I feel healthier already.”
“You’ll thank me when you live to be a hundred and eight.”
He laughed. “Who do you know who was a hundred and eight?”
“That was the rumor about Old Bess, the Herb Lady,” Taylor said. “She was old, probably the oldest person around, but I don’t think it was true. You know how rumors are, though. Once they gain ground, they stick. But she was pretty spry for her age. She used to take me on long walks and talk to me about what the plants we found could do. We used to stop and snack on pine nuts. God, I loved those things.”
“I had no idea pines had nuts.”
Taylor grinned at him. “I would love to make a dirty joke so I could see you turn red. It’s cute.”
“I do not blush. I flush a manly, energetic red. But back to the pine nuts. Where do you find them?”
“In pinecones. You roll and crush the open pinecones on a stone, and they come out. They’re little tiny things, about the size of a water drop, so it would take a lot of them to make a meal, but man, they’re good.”
She poured herself a cup after he had finished his tea and took a deep whiff of the steam. The scent took her back to a time when Grace was taking care of her. When she’d felt like she had a mom even though her own mother was gone. Someone looking out for her and doing so by choice, not because she had to.
When had been the last time they’d shared a cup of this tea? Taylor didn’t know. The clearest memory was of her and Grace in their room of the motel. Grace slept on the narrow bed, and Taylor had a pallet on the floor, padded with sheets of cardboard. It got cold in there some nights when they didn’t have enough fuel for their tiny stove, an old rusty thing with a metal pipe for a chimney, fed through a broken pane in the window. But when they were sitting there, their chilled hands clasped around a mug of that hot pine needle tea, it had felt like home. Just for a moment, it had felt like home.
A generation has passed since the pandemic known only as the Infection ended the world as we know it. In a little town in the Appalachian Mountains, Taylor has known only a harsh and brutal struggle for survival in a land littered with the rusted-out remnants of a lost world. By day, she labors in a coal mine. In the evenings, she tends a secret collection of beehives, and uses the honey to pay for lessons in survival skills, such as hunting, fishing and collecting herbs. Her home is a single room in a crumbling old motel, and her only companion is a pet box tortoise named Go she’s had since she was a child.
When her town is destroyed by a vicious gang of raiders known as the Nine, Taylor escapes with Dylan, the son of the mayor. Their only plan is to head south and escape the Nine’s vast territory, avoiding areas contaminated by meltdowns and industrial pollution where mysterious illnesses plague the residents.
Dylan has never known hunger or hardship and struggles to learn survival skills. He’s never known a woman like Taylor either. He tries to pay her back by teaching her to read and telling her the stories passed down from the world of Before.
They certainly didn’t plan on falling in love. Taylor fights it every step of the way, because in her world, any emotional attachment is dangerous. She’s been taught since childhood that love slows you down, makes you weak. But the feelings growing between them cannot be denied.
Taylor finds herself slowly breaking every one of her hard-learned rules of survival. She discovers that perhaps some of those things she’s always fought to avoid are the very things that make life worth living.
. . . And death shall have no dominion . . .”
~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~
She is the author of five other novels, Ghostwriter, The End of All Things, its sequels, The Land of the Shadows and Shadows Have Gone, and Under These Restless Skies.
~~CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR~~
The End of All Things Series
Hope, love, and the strength of the human spirit are the backbone of this surprisingly uplifting offering from Lissa Bryan. ~ CBL Book Reviews
The End of All Things is more about hope and second chances, and I very much enjoyed the tale .... highly recommended for all fans of apocalyptic fiction. It's a well-written book with excellent pace, plot, and best, it has real soul. ~ Jade Kerrion, Goodreads