Water is a novel by Jeff Rosenplot
The end of the world is just the beginning.

During the past hundred years, the human species has contaminated, evaporated and poisoned most of the fresh water on the planet. Over the past twenty years, Earth has become warmer. Some argue it’s a natural phenomenon. Most, however, believe human recklessness has brought us to the verge of catastrophe.

The ice caps have melted. Coastlines are underwater. Billions are dead. The rest are dying. And the world hasn’t seen rain in over a year. Those who have survived face a world without power, fuel, or food. You are one of the survivors.

It’s been six months since the lights went out. You’ve buried your family in shallow graves. The United States has become a wasteland. The only food and drink you can find, you need to fight for.

And suddenly a voice on the radio tells you they’ve got the power on. They have running water. And they’re going to start over again. But the more you learn about who these people are, the more you realize survival comes at a cost.

What would you do to survive?
Who would you kill?
What would you give up for a drink of water?
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It was good to be king. And John Meadows appreciated it fully.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

Despite the heat, the girl trembled. A real girl this time. No ID required.

“I asked you a question.”

“Allison,” the girl murmured. She sat on his bed. She brought her thin arms up to cover her tiny chest. Her long, thin legs were crossed. Her clothes, filthy from months without laundry, lay in a heap on the floor. She was perfect. Eric would be commended.

“How old are you?” Meadows asked.

Rationed water and irregular meals in the refugee camp accentuated her angular features. Her wide blue eyes sunk into her face. Her ribs were stark slashes against her pale skin.

“Allison, answer me.”

“Thirteen,” she whispered.

Meadows smiled. It had been a while since he’d used the smile. It felt like a homecoming, like putting on a comfortable sweater at the first chill of fall.

“Do you know why you’re here, Allison?”

The girl shook her head.

“You’re a very lucky girl,” Meadows said. “God has shone His light on you. Chosen you to be saved. Hallelujah, Allison.”

The girl shifted uncomfortably on the bed.

“I said Hallelujah.”

“Hallelujah,” the girl whispered.

“This isn’t a time to be afraid,” Meadows said. “It’s a time to rejoice. You’re being saved.”

Later, Meadows stood at the window overlooking the dark city. The girl was curled in the fetal position on his bed. Her cries had tapered off to soft whimpers.

“Blood of my blood,” he said. Meadows glanced back at the girl. “Go into the bathroom. Clean yourself up.”

She dragged herself off the bed, clutching her stomach. Her earlier modesty was gone. She stumbled naked into the bathroom. The bathwater he’d run for her was still warm. In a moment, Meadows heard the sound of the water as she stepped in.

Meadows put on his robe and stepped into the living room. The lamps were an extravagance. But he deserved it. The generator on the building’s roof hummed above his head. Bath water, electricity. All of it was the old life. The civilized life. And he deserved it all. He’d brought them to the promised land, say amen.

It had been a long time since he’d had to pretend. The girl, young Allison, marked the new beginning. The fulfillment of his holy duty. A journey he’d started a long time ago.

Monica. Yes, Monica. Before he’d understood his calling, she’d called to him. She was the first. The smell of Juicy Fruit on her tongue. The white socks that barely peeked above the top of her scuffed Keds. Her thin wisp of summer skirt, the sound of the fabric against her skin. She had called to him. Before he knew it was the voice of God, she’d shown him the way. Monica Blake, walking home along that dusty Panhandle road. The moon high in the night sky. Cicadas chirping. It was always about blood.

A knock on the door pulled him from his memories.

“Come,” Meadows said. Gilman opened the apartment door.

“Eric, I’m glad you came.”

“Thank you, Father.”

“God has shown me another vision,” Meadows said. “I’ve seen lights, and life, and people, my son. The city, alive again. Thriving. We need to turn the lights on. People are afraid. Darkness makes them afraid. Sin and evil hide in the shadows. I want to look out this window and see my glorious city below me.”

“Generators?” Gilman asked.

“No, I think we can do better than that.”

It took a week but the lights came back. It was a man named Derek Montane, an electrical engineer, who brought the city to life. Not all of it, but enough. Thirty square blocks surrounding Meadows’ apartment building.

“Supplies are getting low,” Gilman said. The two men sat on Meadows’ balcony. They drank cold beer.

“The Lord helps those who help themselves,” Meadows said. “Organize reconnaissance teams. Focus on hospitals, schools, large grocery stores. Go neighborhood-to-neighborhood. You’ll find plenty. Bring back what you find and keep it safe. Find a warehouse or a building where you can control access.”

“More people are coming every day,” Gilman said.

“That’s good,” Meadows nodded. “The men are aware of the conditions?”

“No one who’s sick, no one who’s too old, and only those with the skills we need.”

“And those who can be saved,” Meadows added. “Have you been able to find more in the refugee camp?”

“There are some,” Gilman replied. “But the camp may have been exposed to cholera. Dr. Murphy is working to confirm that.”

Meadows sighed. “Well, so be it. If the doctor does confirm it, take care of it. Quietly.”

Gilman nodded and took another sip of his beer.

“Something’s troubling you, Eric.”

“I worry, Father.”

“What worries you?”

“The people,” Gilman said. “The new ones. The people who heard your broadcasts. The more we let in, the more we risk. Not just from disease. Your children are loyal. Those who come in, how can we be sure?”

“Gratitude,” Meadows replied. “The same thing that brings them here in the first place. God has spoken. And they’ve all heard His words. We bring them here, provide for them, make them feel valuable again. It’s why we are selective. God has been weeding out the weak. Those who have survived are strong. Or had the help of those who are. Give a man a second chance and he’ll grab it with both hands.”

Meadows smiled, but it wasn’t his public smile.

“You worry too much,” he said. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course, Father.”

“Then trust me,” he said.

That night, Meadows’ dreams woke him. God spoke to him in his dreams. This night, the dreams were dark.

There were two, a man and a woman. He could see neither clearly, but he’d met them both before. No, he hadn’t met them yet. He would, in time. Their goal would be to kill him. But God had shown him. Warned him. So he would be prepared.

The new girl sat on the floor, curled up in a ball. Meadows was losing patience. His dream had unnerved him. He grabbed the girl by the hair and threw her onto his bed. Her cries were his tonic, and his world fell back into place.
excerpt from the novel "Water" ©2015 Jeff Rosenplot
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