THE TRAVELING STORY!
WHAT IS THE TRAVELING STORY?
5 Authors. 5 Days. 1 Story.
Each season of The Traveling Story will feature 5 well-known authors collaborating on one original, kick-ass story, with each author writing one of five episodes.
Follow the story as it’s revealed on each author’s blog over the course of a week!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
There are only three rules for The Traveling Story:
1) No brainstorming, outlining, or discussion of plot ahead of time. The first author writes the first episode of ANY kind of story they want and the next author takes the story WHEREVER they want to go! The last author ends the story however they see fit!
2) An author cannot make changes to any previous episode. Each author has total creative control over their OWN episode only, but it has to continue where the last episode leaves off.
3) HAVE FUN! The Traveling Story is meant to be fun for the writers but especially for the readers!
SEASON 3 AUTHORS:
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FOLLOW THE STORY AS IT TRAVELS:
Episode 1 – May 19 – Jessica Brody
Episode 2 – May 20 – Marie Lu
Episode 3 – May 21 – Robin Benway
Episode 4 – May 22 – Megan Miranda
Episode 5 – May 23 – Kevin Emerson
SEASON 3, EPISODE 3
BY ROBIN BENWAY
Sandie glanced down the street. There was a CVS drugstore on the corner, its windows smashed out and people streaming in and out of it like ants at a gourmet picnic. Looters, she realized, and instinctively tightened one hand on her bike.
“Sandie!” Max yelled. “Just get in the car already! Unless you want to be the first entrée at the drone barbecue!”
That image was enough to shake her out of her reverie and she started to wheel her bike back to the trunk of Max’s Audi. “Just leave it,” Max said.
“But I need—”
“At what point do you think you’re going to need a bike during the apocalypse?” Max said. He had already unlocked the passenger door and swung it open for her. “Do you really think you can pedal faster than a drone?”
He had (and Sandie hated to admit this part) an excellent point.
“Fine,” she said, and let it fall to the ground in a clatter as she walked around and got into the car. “But you owe me a bike.”
“Believe me,” Max muttered as he peeled down the street in such a hurry that Sandie’s head snapped back against the seat, “if we survive this, I would love to buy you a bike. I’ll even buy you two.”
“If?” Sandie said, her eyes widening as she looked at him.
Max didn’t take his eyes off the road. “When,” he corrected himself, but Sandie didn’t exactly feel comforted.
They drove down Crescent Heights, Max braking hard and turning left onto Hollywood Boulevard. “You’re not taking Sunset?” Sandie asked.
“Sandie, please! Which one of us is the government operative?”
“Excellent point!” Sandie said, turning in her seat to face him. “I cannot believe that you were lying to me this whole time.”
“I wasn’t lying, I was—”
“Lying,” Sandie interrupted. “And I can’t believe I actually thought you were a model. I mean, Valentino? Seriously? What are you, five-foot-nine?”
“I’m five-ten!” Max shot back, then made a hard right onto La Brea and careened past Mashti Malone’s ice cream shop. Sandie had never seen it look so empty before.
“And all those ads you showed me from your modeling book?” Sandie demanded. “What were those? Were they—”
“Photoshopped,” Max said.
“Photoshopped! Ugh!” She tapped her forehead with the heel of her hand. “I’m so annoyed with myself. I can’t believe I fell for this! And for you!”
“Look, I’m sorry that I lied to you, to use your word, but can you please focus on the bigger issue here?” Max said. He still hadn’t taken his eyes off the road and he swerved past several grocery carts that had rolled into the street. “Our city is sort of being blown apart right now so maybe we can save the arguing for later? You think?”
Sandie gripped the door handle as he turned onto Sunset. The city was eerily empty, save for several people running across the street carrying clothes in their arms. “Max?” she asked warily. “Why aren’t there more cars out?”
“Because they’re telling people to stay inside,” Max said through clenched teeth just as a cell phone rang. Both he and Sandie grabbed for their phones, and Sandie’s heart fluttered, then sank when she realized that it was Max’s phone that was ringing. Her mom wasn’t calling her.
“Yeah, I’ve got her,” Max said when he answered, steering with one hand as they flew past Amoeba Records. Its windows were busted out, too, and Sandie wondered what kind of people looted a record store during the end of the world. You can’t eat vinyl, she thought to herself, and the image made her laugh in a way that sounded slightly deranged, even to her own ears.
“No, she’s fine, she’s fine,” Max said, interrupting Sandie’s thoughts.
“Wait, are you talking about me?” she asked.
“We’re heading there now,” he said, ignoring her.
“Are you talking about me?” she cried, then lunged for the phone. “Who is this?”
“Sandie!” Max yelled as she accidentally hit the steering wheel with her arm. The Audi went across the center divider on Sunset, straight into the path of the Hollywood Palladium, and Max grabbed the wheel and yanked it back so fast that Sandie’s head collided with the passenger window.
“Ow!” she yelled.
“Don’t do that!” Max yelled.
“Who are you talking to?” she demanded, touching her hand to the now-tender spot above her temple. It wasn’t bleeding, just sore, and she decided she could live with that. Maybe she’d trade Max for some Advil later.
“I’m talking to another operative,” Max finally told her, once they were back in the correct lane and zipping over the Hollywood freeway. The cars were all at a standstill on the freeway, like half of Los Angeles had just parked and left them there. And then Sandie realized with a sickening feeling that maybe that’s exactly what had happened.
“Look,” Max continued. “You and I are not the only actors in this play, okay? This is way bigger than you and me.”
“They’re looting the Home Depot,” Sandie said, pointing out the window.
“Yeah, much smarter than looting Amoeba,” he said, and Sandie glanced at him, remembering why she had liked him so much in the first place. He was funny. He understood her. He got her sense of humor.
But that was before drones had been unleashed upon Los Angeles.
“So who were you talking to?” she asked Max. “Be honest.”
“Would you even know if I was lying?”
“Max. Wait, is that even your real name?”
Max let out a long sigh, then jerked the car to the left to avoid hitting a family of possums. Sandie watched them cross the street. If nocturnal animals were out in the middle of the day, that wasn’t a good sign. She had seen plenty of movies to know that if the animals were running, things were about to go very wrong, very fast.
“Yes, it’s my real name,” Max said. “I’ve worked for a secret branch of the government for about five years now. They recruited me out of college.”
“You went to college?”
“U.S. Naval Academy,” he said. “And I was talking to another agent.”
“Why did he want to know if you had me?”
Max just glanced at her, then turned the car to drive past Sunset Junction in Silver Lake. The skyline of Los Angeles loomed ahead and Sandie could see pillars of smoke rising up in between the buildings. “Mom,” she said before she could stop herself, and she reached forward and grasped the dashboard, like she could push the car toward her mom.
“My mom never liked you,” she told Max. “She always said she had a bad feeling about you.”
“Yeah, well, she should,” Max muttered. There were paper coffee cups littering the street and they made odd crunching sounds as he drove over them.
“Wait, what does that mean?” Sandie asked. She was still hanging on to the dashboard and she forced herself to let go, to sit back and take deep breaths and not give in to the panic. “What do you mean, she should?”
Max didn’t take his eyes off the road. “Let’s just say I’m not the only one who lied about my job.”
Sandie’s heart felt like it had been crushed under the Audi’s wheels, just like the coffee cups. “What are you saying, that my mom lied about her job? She’s a neurologist at Cedars, Max!”
Max just shook his head. “Nope.”
“You can’t lie about something like that!”
“Yes, you can,” Max said. It was easy for him to sound calm. It wasn’t his mom that was in downtown LA while the apocalypse happened all around her. It wasn’t his mom that may or may not be someone else entirely.
Sandie felt fresh tears sting her eyes, but before she could say anything, a building suddenly exploded next to them. “Shit!” Max yelled, jerking the wheel to the left to avoid being pelted with concrete, and Sandie instinctively bent down and covered her head and neck, her years of “duck and cover” conditioning still firmly in place.
“Hang on!” Max yelled, and he hit the gas pedal so hard that the wheels seemed to squeal. The rubble was soon in the distance, but the skies had darkened considerably, and Sandie saw a drone rise up from the south part of the city. “Max…” she started to say, but before she could get the words out, two fighter jets blasted the drone out of the sky, turning it into a puffy white cloud that, oddly enough, looked almost picturesque.
Sandie turned to look at Max, whose (lovely, sculpted, and lying) jaw was tight. “Max,” she said slowly, trying to control the shaking in her voice. “Tell me everything. Now.”
“Your mom was working with Almondine,” Max said. “She’s not a neurologist, she’s a programmer. She helped him crack the codes.”
Sandie felt her feet and hands start to tingle. “Why would she do that?”
“Why does anyone do anything?” Max said, as they drove through Echo Park. Downtown was only getting closer and Sandie watched as the buildings gave way to rubble. The drones had been here already. They were now in a war zone.
“Money,” Max answered when Sandie didn’t say anything. “But she also knows how to call them off. You really think she’s having tea with a friend right now?” He laughed. “Please.”
“But then why would she be downtown if—?”
“Every artist wants to see their work hanging in a museum.” Max turned and raised an eyebrow at her. “Right?”
The numbness spread to her arms. “I’m the bait,” she said quietly.
“I’m the bait.” Sandie turned to look at Max. “You’re going to use me to get the codes from her.”
Max, her not-a-Valentino-model/government agent/ex-boyfriend, looked at her sadly. “Sorry,” he said, and he did sound apologetic.
Sandie was about to protest, or fling herself out of the car, or use her cell phone to bash him in the head, when they both saw it at the same time. Max slowed the car to a stop and it shuddered against the brakes. The Audi was made for many things, but not for outrunning the end of the world.
Sandie and Max looked out the windshield, their mouths open as the sky went dark. Sandie was the first to speak.
“I told you we should have brought my bike.”
THE STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW ON MEGAN MIRANDA’S BLOG…
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