Posted in Dystopian, excerpt, Spotlight on July 8, 2015




Malcolm Carter and Ryan Boone, two New York City friends whose lives have been dominated by the financial markets, are about to exchange their charts and reports for guns and survival supplies—but not because they want to. When China and Japan decide it’s time to dump U.S. Treasury Bonds, an economic nightmare plays out in America.  The Federal Reserve watches helplessly as the dollar is decimated and the resulting food shortage spreads lawlessness across the land like a virus.

Malcolm is a successful day trader who always needs to make one more score before he’ll listen to Ryan and diversify some of his assets into real estate or gold. He figures an impressively-larger bank account might be the only way he can lure his Secret Service agent ex-wife back. Malcolm finally hits it big by aggressively shorting bonds when the market crashes, but waits too long to invest in tangibles. All that newfound money suddenly won’t by him a bar of gold, a pint of beer, or a minute of Hannah’s attention—especially when she’s in the field chasing down a former counterfeiting gang.

As luck would have it, Ryan turns out to be a closet doomsday prepper. The two of them attempt to escape the chaotic Big Apple and reach Ryan’s land in West Virginia, supplied only by the contents of Ryan’s bug-out bag. But it’s not going to be an easy journey. Travelling has become difficult and dangerous. Malcolm learns he must redirect the same tenacity which helped him beat the markets towards staying alive on the road …and, hopefully, finding Hannah.


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The constant smell of smoke validated the continuous sound of sirens on 8th Avenue. Foot traffic was busy. Malcolm reached inside his coat and felt his pistol, extremely grateful to have it. Ryan didn’t have a holster, so kept his weapon in the front pocket of his bag. For that reason he carried it loose over one shoulder. Still, Malcolm would be faster on the draw, and thus the probable first line of defense if they had any trouble.

Malcolm noticed he and Ryan weren’t the only ones bugging out of New York. The street was full of others also wearing backpacks, or else carrying travel bags of varying shapes and sizes. No one moved slowly. Most people headed north. Many looked no better prepared for the chaos than confused tourists would be.

“They’ll have a tough time going that way,” Ryan said.

“Why’s that?”

“There’s a ‘black bloc’ happening on the west side of Central Park. Pretty big, from what I hear. So the park isn’t exactly the safest place right now, either.”

Malcolm strained to see up the street. “What in the world is a black bloc?”

“This way,” Ryan said turning west on 52nd Street. Malcolm was happy to follow. The last place he wanted to pass was the alley two streets north.

“It’s best if we walk a few feet apart from each other.” Ryan used his arm to space himself from Malcolm. “I’ll scan the left, you watch the right. A black bloc is a street protest, a form of demonstration that originated in Germany. Thousands of protestors take over an entire street, or any large public area, all of them dressed in full black.”

“That’s how the anarchists dress.”

“Right,” Ryan said. “They’re usually in the mix pretty heavy in a black bloc. But so are other kinds of rebels. Word gets around and every nut on the tree shows up. Those things always end badly—with vandalism, violence, and the inevitable but wholly necessary use of excess police force.”

As they crossed 9th Ryan added, “I can’t think of anything more absurd than desiring anarchy. Well, those idiots might get their wish this time. Would serve them right. I don’t imagine many of them being trained in survival tactics.”

“Just don’t tell them that,” Malcolm said.

Ryan gave him a curious look.

They increased their pace. Soon they were past 11th, almost to the Hudson River, alongside De Witt Clinton Park.

“Let’s jog across the park diagonally,” Ryan said.

“Wait a second. You said parks weren’t safe, and that we shouldn’t go north.”

“I said Central Park wasn’t safe. And we’re only going a couple streets up. Come on!” Ryan nudged him and they began running through the trees.

A couple streets up? He must not have said that right. The ferry crossing was all the way at 39th Street. That’s where Malcolm figured they were headed. If the ferry was still running, it did sound like a good way to get off the peninsula. Unless they were taking a water taxi instead—but it seemed unlikely those would be operating today.

The two of them came out of the trees on to the baseball field at De Witt Clinton Park. Malcolm heard a dog growl. He looked in the direction of the sound. A bald man held a large pit bull by the collar, at the edge of the trees. The dog must not like people running. Malcolm decided to keep an eye on them.

The man then crouched beside his dog, shouted something, and let go of its collar. The dog broke into a sprint towards Malcolm and Ryan.

Was this really happening? That son of a bitch just ordered his pit bull to attack them.

“Ryan!” Malcolm said stopping. He drew his pistol. Ryan turned and saw the dog coming. He cursed and swung his bag around, fumbling for the front pocket zipper. But the dog was much too fast for him.

Not for Malcolm. He quickly had his pistol aimed at the bounding canine. Its owner must have noticed, because he whistled for the dog. But it was too late. The pit bull was committed. It picked Malcolm as the first target. Malcolm fired one round just as it leapt at him. The impact of the 5.7x28mm slug into the dog’s chest sent it spinning backwards. It landed on its head and crumpled, making no further sound.

Ryan finally got his gun out. The dog owner shouted in anger and began running towards them. Malcolm and Ryan both aimed their weapons at him in response. He stopped, held up his hands, and walked backwards.

Malcolm and Ryan resumed jogging, slowly, while holding their weapons and keeping an eye on the would-be attacker.

When they reached the third base line they stopped. Malcolm re-holstered his gun. Ryan put his safety latch on, and then tucked the 9-millimeter into his jeans, pulling his shirt tail over the bulge.

“I guess you were right,” Ryan said. “I’ll keep my weapon handier. Nice shot. That thing fires those little rounds impressively. Kind of wish we’d gotten the scumbag owner as well.”

“Me too. Now where are we going? The ferry landing?”


They came out of the park on 54th Street. Ryan pointed to the river. “Pier 96, right there. We better keep moving.”

“What, the kayak place?”

Ryan didn’t answer. He started off in a trot again. Malcolm ran to keep up with him. As they crossed 12th Avenue, Malcolm looked to the air. Several helicopters circled to the north. They must be over the black bloc.

A car horn blared, startling Malcolm, instantly drawing his eyes back to the street where a taxi sped by in front of them, easily doing 75. The crazy driver had a fare in the back seat. Must be someone important—or rich.

Malcolm and Ryan finished crossing the wide street, ran through the short section of the Port Authority parking lot, and continued on to the Greenway Lawn. Several homeless people were camping there. Malcolm tried to see if any of them were Dion, but it was difficult while running. He also kept an eye out for dogs.

The Manhattan Community Boathouse, a nonprofit organization, came into view. Most New York City residents knew about the free kayak rentals on Pier 96. On weekends during warm months you had to get there early or late if you wanted one without waiting for hours. Malcolm and Hannah came on a Tuesday evening once, and had no trouble acquiring a tandem kayak. Starting in May the boathouse opened at 5:00 pm on weekdays. It was only about 3:30 now.

But they looked open, judging by the half-dozen or so kayaks on the water. The kayakers didn’t seem to be flitting about, as was normal. Rather, they all paddled towards the west shore of the river. One was just leaving the floating dock.

As Malcolm and Ryan drew closer, it became apparent the kayaker leaving the pier wasn’t doing so with the well wishes of the staff. A man and a woman stood on the dock shouting angry voices at him.

That didn’t slow Ryan down. He ran onto the pier and down the upper ramp that led to the covered shed where all the kayaks were stored.

“We’re closed!” a stressed female voice shouted. “Go away!”

Malcolm looked to the voice and saw a petite, dirty-blond twenty-something behind a counter. She pointed back up the ramp with a purple fingernail.

“Where’s Tim?” Ryan said. “I’m here to see Tim.”

“Oh, are you here to help us?” The girl came around the counter. “Thank God! People are just coming and taking the kayaks by force, pushing us away when we try to stop them. Can you believe that? We’re a nonprofit group! I called the police three times and they still haven’t arrived.”

She then turned to the launching barge and shouted.

“Tim! Some friends of yours are here!”

The man down on the dock heard her. He walked up the lower ramp, shaking his head of curly black hair and stepping carefully in his flip flops. Malcolm felt a little out of place in jeans and a sport coat. But he noticed some of the kayakers out on the Hudson were also fully dressed.

Tim instantly recognized Ryan when he got to the shed.

“It’s gone,” he said raising his hands up. “Someone took it. Sorry. You should have gotten here a couple hours ago.”

Ryan tilted his head. “What do you mean, someone took it? I paid you a hefty sum to keep it on hand for me.”

The girl spoke. “What’s he talking about, Tim?”

“Man, I couldn’t hold it! Thugs are taking our kayaks! Tough guys—some of them armed, no doubt. There’s nothing we can do here. The city is in chaos, in case you haven’t heard.”

“Well, then give me back my $300.” Ryan held his hand out.

Tim looked down and muttered, “I don’t have it.”

“What?” the girl said. “You took a bribe, Tim?”

Tim turned to her. “I sold him the leaky green one. It’s been patched too many times now, and we needed to get rid of it anyway. He said he only wanted it for getting across the river.”

“That’s not what we do here, Tim—”

“You don’t have my money,” Ryan said glancing around the shed, “so you owe me one tandem kayak. Any of these will do.” He began reaching towards one on a rack.

“No!” the girl said.

“No.” Tim stepped in front of Ryan, blocking his path. “You can’t have one of these.”

Ryan only stared back.

At that moment, two more men arrived in the shed. They definitely didn’t work there. One was bald and wore a black leather vest and black jeans. The other had a spikey haircut and lots of piercings. He carried a duffel bag.

Malcolm didn’t take his eyes off the bald one. Was that the guy who had the pit bull in the park? Malcolm couldn’t tell. He studied Malcolm longer than was comfortable and sneered before grabbing a kayak.

“What are you doing?” the girl said to him.

“Going kayaking.”

“No you’re not. We’re closed.”

“Grab that end,” the bald one said to his friend. His friend slung the duffel bag over one shoulder and picked up the front end of the kayak.

“I said no!” The girl ran at them.

The one in front swung his bag so it smacked her on the side of the head. The girl shrieked as she fell. Tim then came at the guy, but wisely stopped and reconsidered when his adversary assumed a combative stance. Tim ended up bending down to help the girl, who was now crying and whimpering.

The bald guy stared at Malcolm again. Malcolm instinctively reached inside his coat. The bald guy didn’t care for that movement, and reached inside his vest in reaction.

Ryan moved his hand under his shirttail. The punk with the duffel bag then set his end of the kayak down, unzipped his bag, and put his hand inside. The four of them stayed in that position for the longest fifteen seconds of Malcolm’s life.

About the Author

AuthorPicKen Benton appears to be your run-of-the-mill city slicker at first glance, blissfully playing with his iPhone at the bar of the local barbeque joint while sipping on craft-brewed IPA. But he has a secret passion: doomsday survival prepping. And if you ever snuck up behind him to see what he was reading, it would likely be one of those apocalyptic-survival stories set after the collapse of modern society. Yes, he’s one of those nuts. But someday soon, Ken believes, those nuts may become the new upper class in society. Until then, we’ll just have to make do with story-telling. And preparing. Cheers.

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