Today we have a sneak peek from author Mathieu Gallant’s apocalyptic science fiction novel, When the Levee Breaks.
In 2026, Robert Hendricks is searching for a place to hole up. The power grid is in shambles, and things are getting desperate. After a string of bad luck, and a decision to pitch in with relief efforts at the Saint John Regional Hospital, he comes face-to-face with his destiny, 153 years in the future. The story is only half told, and the worst is yet to come. What terrible memories still await the reclusive cab driver from Atlantic Canada?
Here is an excerpt from When the Levee Breaks…
I’ve seen enough news broadcasts to recognize the vehicle right away as an American-style military Jeep, widely known as a Wolverine. But unlike the well-maintained ones I’ve seen on TV, this one looks like it’s straight from a war zone; its olive green paint is heavily scratched, and its markings are faded. In some places I can see deep gouges on its armored body and the windshield has a crack running its entire length. Then there’s the matter of the huge pile of debris covering the machine-gun mount.
Wait a minute. I’m not sure that’s….
Before I can get a good look, a curious crowd of about fifty encircles the vehicle. I push my way through and arrive at the front just in time to see Abby emerge from the opposite side. When she speaks, she needs to yell to be heard over the buzz of the onlookers.
“What the hell is this all about?”
I shrug and shake my head.
“Your guess is as good as mine on this one.”
“Is there even anybody driving? I don’t see anyone,” she says, moving toward the driver’s side door. I fall into step beside her, ready to lend a hand.
The single body inside, bent sideways at a strange and uncomfortable looking angle, only becomes visible when we’re within arm’s reach of the Jeep. I’m hit by the nauseating stench of excrement and vomit when I open the door. It’s a fight to keep from losing my breakfast as I shift to mouth breathing. My first instinct is to back away, but somehow I find the nerve to lean in and help Abby pull the driver into an upright position. It’s a man, probably in his mid-fifties—it’s hard to tell for sure—wearing a wrinkled, light-blue dress shirt that’s mostly unbuttoned and soaked with sweat and all manner of other bodily fluids. He’s almost bald, lacking even facial hair, and the skin on his face is a reddened, blistering horror.
“What the hell happened to him?”
Abby doesn’t answer. She’s got a hold of the man’s limp wrist.
“His pulse is thready and weak, but he’s still alive! Help me get him out. Undo his seatbelt.”
I reach in, careful not to make contact, and push the button. When the belt retracts, I back away, and Abby calls the rest of her team to come forward. The white suits expertly get the man out of the driver’s seat and lay him flat on the ground. The crowd moves in to get a closer look, blocking out the sunlight.
“I need everybody to back away from the vehicle! We need some space,” cries Abby. Nobody seems to be in any great hurry to follow her orders until she gives her preliminary diagnosis.
“It looks like…radiation poisoning,” she says. The news sends a wave of murmurs spreading through the crowd, and with no further prompting, those not involved with the rescue scatter to a safe distance.