Several months ago I started blogging chapters from a post-apocalyptic novel I’ve been writing. I’ve had a bump in readership since then and thought it would be helpful to provide a brief synopsis of what’s happened so far for anyone just tuning in now.
Interested in catching up before the novel resumes later on this week? Start here. Skip everything after this sentence if you don’t want spoilers.
Daphne is a older single mother to two teenage sons who recently moved away to start apprenticeships. She lives in a small, rural community called Mingus in what used to be Arizona, and she’s known in her community as an eccentric, stubborn, and not necessarily trustworthy individual. (You’ll have to read the first half of the book yourself to determine if any of these accusations are true. 😉 )
After the Storm begins with Daphne desperately trying to avoid a flash flood. While sitting on top of a hill and waiting for the water to go down she spies a stranger who tries to continue on with his journey too soon. He’s swept away by the current and drowns before anyone has a chance to speak to him, although a waterlogged book in his possession eventually yields a few tantalizing clues about why he might have travelled to Mingus.
The next few weeks are quiet until a mysterious ailment begins killing people in Mingus at around the same time that soldiers from a city that claims to be the new capital move into the valley. Crops wither or rot as whole families are stricken by this ailment. Despite her fear of her neighbours Daphne is voluntold to take a place on the ruling body of Mingus due to severe a lack of able-bodied adults who can take on the role. All of her experience with the justice system have shown her how corrupt and prejudiced small town politics can be, and she has no reason to think it’s changed in the intervening years.
Daphne’s nosy neighbour, Neveah, and her family are particularly hard hit by the virus. When nearly all of the adults in that family die within days of one another, Daphne’s empathetic son Ephraim convinces her to take in the two small children and one very elderly woman who survived. One of the children was born with a physical difference that makes him an easy target in a society that has long since forgotten how genetics work. The polytheistic religion that many of her neighbours follow teaches that people like him aren’t to be trusted, especially during long periods of bad luck.
Without enough food to feed almost twice as many people as Daphne’s gardens normally support, the summer is long, hot, and miserable. A series of run-ins with the soldiers gives Daphne a chilling glimpse of the society that sent them. The people of Mingus are promised free medical care from a culture much more advanced than their own, yet they end up submitting to tests that do more harm than good and home inspections that are erratic and sometimes extremely dangerous.
As fall draws near things become more dire. Mingus is growing more and more wary of the soldiers’ interference in their daily lives, and one of Daphne’s fellow ombudsmen is beginning to help her reach out to other communities in an attempt to fight back. Between starvation and disease Mingus is quickly losing social cohesion, so they have to act fast.
In one of the final scenes of the first half of the book, a neighbour warns Daphne that people are beginning to turn against anyone they perceive as different. She and her family escape to Peoria, a neighbouring town, to wait out the chaos. They expect to only be gone a few weeks.