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June 21, 2024 27 mins

Tilda and Madison have an encounter with some of the few survivors remaining in the world with devastating consequences. 

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha. I'm welcome to Steffon
Never told you a predictive of iHeartRadio, and we're back
with our spinty fiction, which, as a reminder, is a
once a month thing that we do. Christina makes them amazing.

It's on going. The story has been ongoing for quite
a while now. We are in part two of a trilogy,
the Terminus Chilogy. This is technically called Big Things Start Small,
but that's my confuse people. So but I like reminding
you because I was fond of the Dame and this
is something that I wrote, I believe in twenty eleven

as part of National Novel Writing Month, as the sequel
that to the previous one I had written during twenty
ten National Novel Writing Months, which by the way, is
right when I got this job as an intern twenty ten.
And I don't edit them too much. I have to
say I did edit this chapter a bit just because it,
like I don't wanna it was intense. This chapter really

like goes up a notch in terms of what it's
been and I just didn't want to really disturb is
too strong a word, but I didn't want people to
be listening like, WHOA wait a minute. So I did
edit this chapter a little bit, and this is part
This is the second part of the last chapter. Because
my chapters are so long, too short, I never get

it right. But yeah, I will admit I edited this
one a little That being said, content warning for violence, disease,
threats of violence, violence against children, death, just the same
that is always there, but I would say it's actually
more explicit in this chapter. So that being said, Also

the recap, briefly, we've got this disease that's really killing
off the human population, and it has to do with pregnancy.
And there's this the government and the religious organization that's
controlling all aspects of getting pregnant and having children. Our
main character, Tilda, has run away with her son Madison,
has been illegally like on the run with her child,

has met a bunch of people along the way, including
a resistance that wasn't what she thought it would be,
and then has found out that the leaders of arm
the religious organization are her son's grandparents, his paternal grandparents,
and that they have basically made it impossible for anybody

to get the vaccine that does exist, but they did
give it to Madison. However, Tilda was able to escape
with him and brought cast out on their system what
they've done, and everybody's going to DC to fight, and
Tilda and Madison are running in the opposite direction, and

Madison is having these real questions of wait, what does
it mean I could help people? That? Could I help
other people make a vaccine? And Tilda's really wrestling with
wanting to protect her son and not trusting anybody with
the fact that yeah, maybe, So they're having big conversations

about that while they have nowhere really to go and
they don't really have any supplies, and bad weather's coming in.
They're on the run from a mysterious man on the
horse who they stole the horse, and horse's name is Scout.
Now they're making their way south, but something, it seems

like something or someone is following them. So that is
where we are. Let's get into it. At the sign

that read Roanoke eight miles, they could see it through
the gaps left by the pines and leafless trees. It
was nestled in a valley surrounded by purple mountains and
rolling foothills. On one of these hills was the Star,
composed of white metal and industrial lights, captioned in large
enough letters that they could read it. Once they approached
the outskirts world's largest man made star. Now, why in

the world would you want that? Czar? They veered away
from Roanoke and its giant star, even though it pained
Tilted to leave all of that civilization. But surely there
were people who still inhabited the city that was close
enough to be in the shadow of the capitol, an
electron and the first level of orbit around the nucleus,

and people needed to be avoided until they put a
much greater distance between them and DC. The road they
were on tracked alongside the border of Roanoke, following a
river on the outskirts that they could look across and
see into buildings and houses, gas stations, and schools. Tilda
didn't see any signs of life, but if there were
people living here, and there most likely were, they'd be

nearer to town center in a more fortified location. At least,
she hoped. She really didn't want to be seen passing
by much less on a horse. As the buildings became
less dense, the road curved to the right, taking them
in a more southwesterly direction, which suited Tilda. There were
signs for bigger interstate highways, but Tilda ignored them. That's

what the people journeying to the capital would take, at
least those knew to life on the road. They passed
another town called Salem, which Tilda assumed to be the
suburbs of Roanoke with how close together they were, and
then a couple of hours of nothing apart from a
single guy station along the road shuttered long before the
onset of HSV five. The rivers sneaked back their way

to be parallel with the road. Tilda kept an eye
on the bank until she found a break in the steep,
slippery mud and a slope that was easy to navigate,
and guided Scout down it, allowing her to take a
drink of slushy water. The entire time, Tilda keeping an
eye out for anything out of the ordinary. When Scout
had finished, Tilda directed her back onto the asphalt and
they resumed their trek. Tilda looked up at the sky

and couldn't help but think of that pocket watch ticking
away in her pouch. She wondered what time it was.
A large abandoned red train car in an empty field
appeared on their left across the river, Winding along the
road next to them through the dense forest of trees.
On the other side, Tilda could make out what appeared
to be a larger highway parallel to their smaller one,

which made Tilda nervous. A couple of times they passed people,
usually in small groups, that were seemingly too focused on
their destination to take notice of Tilda and Madison. At
one point, the two highways were so close together they
could have easily cut over to the other road, but
then they peeled apart again. After another hour or so,
four sixty led them into a small town called Lafayette.

While it was tiny, its emptiness made it seem vast.
The road took them right through the main square, passed
whitewashed antique shops, specialty stores, and petite restaurants, strings of
traffic lights sagging between iron lampposts. Tilda considered their options.
They could explore the houses for food, but that usually
took a while, and she didn't want to spend a

lot of time in one place, especially one still relatively
close to people. It would take some time to leave
the more populated eastern part of the country behind, though,
and they weren't really in a position to not take
a chance to find more supplies. A few blocks over
to their left, Tilda spotted a decently sized grocery store
called Big Owls and bright yellow letters. She navigated them

to it through blocks of empty stores and passed one
looming church sh of Gothic design into the parking lot
of Big Owls. Hopping down onto concrete outside the glass
doors and helping Madison down as well. She fastened scouts
reins to a bike rack outside, telling Madison that they
needed to be quick and that he needed to stay
close to her. The doors had been automatic, but without electricity,

they failed to slide open when Tilda and Madison approached them. Instead,
she pried them open aggravatingly slowly, just enough for the
two of them to slip through the gap. Big Owls
was shaped like a large rectangle, much wider than it
was long. Tilda went left down a row of shelves,
checking both sides as they made their way past rotten

produce and cheese and bread and bottles of wine. The
entire back wall of the store was dedicated to frozen foods,
so nothing useful there. The next aisle, Snacks and cereals,
yielded a couple of packages of pop tarts, some reasins,
snack bars, one hundred gallery packs of cookies and chips,
canned fruit, sun butter, dried banana chips, and some pumpkin seas,

which was more than they'd bagged at one place in
a long time, probably a place like the sof the
main highway, and with a tiny population. People had taken
what they could carry and that was it. The following
few aisles, Tilda picked up some canned vegetables and beans,
some more nuts, a couple of bottles of carbonated water
and juice, and some disposable toothbrushes. Her pack heavier than ever,

they checked behind the register, but all they found was
an overturned register and some stamps. All right, let's go,
She hoisted her pack for the upper shoulders, the cans
clanking together as they exited the store, Tilda having a
more difficult time maneuvering through the gap between the sliding
doors now that her pack was bigger. After wedging herself

through and back outdoor, she blinked rapidly, adjusting to the light.
After the dim grocery store and stopped short, hoping she
was hallucinating. Madison bumped into her and she felt him
go still behind her, there were two men standing in
the parking lot, only a couple of yards away. Both
of them were tall and large, wearing boots and jackets.

One of them had a rifle slung over his back,
a ball cap, and a graying beard. The other had
a pistol and a holster attached to his belt, and
brown hair and stubble on his face. Fine looking horse.
She got there, the man with the rifle called, and
what she could tell he thought was a non threatening voice.
Tilda didn't know what to say, so she just nodded,
wondering if they'd been following them, waiting for them to dismount.

She thought of the gun in her waistband, but there
was no way to get to it without drawing attention,
not to mention the obstacle presented by her now much
heavier pack. And look at that a little boy, he
continued in his gravely tone. He's yours, I reckon, he gestured,
vaguely to the sores on her face. She nodded again,

her eyes darting to the other man when he took
a step closer, bit young, ain't you The question flirted
the line of threatening. He was implying that he knew
they must be on the run. Tilda said, in the
calmest voice she could muster, I'm older than I look.
That drew a grating chuckle out of the man. His

partner inch closer and til to fault the urge to
inch back. What are you two doing out here by yourselves?
Tilda deemed not to answer, turning to look outright at
the man that was advancing on them. She wondered if
giving them Scott would be enough for them, but she
doubted it. Don't worry, We're not gonna hurt you, the

man with the rifle said, drawing her attention back to him.
Let's introduce ourselves. I'm Ellis and this is Jake. We've
got a bit of a proposition for you. Tilda waited,
preparing a bluff in her head about how they had
a big group to get back to, but she wanted
to see how much these two men knew about her

and Madison before she tried to pull it off. His
next words rendered that plan inert. We've been following you
for a while now, that's the look on our face.
He raised his hands, jostling the rifle hanging by the
strap on his shoulder a little bit, and back pedaled.
Nothing creepy. We just wanted to get a sense of
what kind of people you are and the way you

take care of that boy and that horse, He pointed
to each in turn, Especially when I know you must
not have much in the way of supplies. He gestured
to big owls behind them. Well, we can tell you're
good folks, and we'd like to offer you a place
to stay by all. Rose untiled his throat, her heart

twisted uncomfortably. We got a place not too far from here.
It used to be a campgrounds for kids to go
around and learn to build buyers and tie knots, but
we've turned it into a little village. We grow our
own food, We have some livestock. Everyone's got a house.
It's a nice little place. He looked at Madison. Be

a nice little place to grow up. Madison shifted further
behind Tilda. And it's safe too, Ellis as shure. Tilda
pretty well off the highways. We got a fence all around.
We've never had a problem with enforcers or marauders. Tilda
highly suspected they were part of a group of marauders.

We don't offer this lightly. We're a tight knit group.
We take care of each other like family, and we're
offering you a chance to be part of that. In
what she hoped was a nonchalant way. She sidled over
to Scout's reins and undid the knot in one quick motion.
Jake took several steps closer to them, his hand hovering

over his pistol. Tilda snapped her gaze up his Scout
stamped nervously a gunshot wild scare her off. Ellis shot
Jacob look. Tilda said, in a voice with minimal quaver.
We appreciate the offer, but we're not interested. Ellis gave
her a toothy smile, a predators smile, parading us something harmless.

Why not? The cold months are upon us. It would
surely be safer for you, for your son. We have
plenty of women. Get along just fine. You'll fit right in.
Tilda fought back a shudder at the phrasing. Jake covered near,
hawk eyed, ready to draw his weapon. We're not interested,

Tilda repeated firmly. We're meeting up with some people. Ellis's
eyes darkened there aren't any more people. He practically spat out,
You ain't meeting up with no one. Jake took another
step forward. Well you got a real nice setup, real nice,
Alice told her, his breath hard and steely. But we

don't have any kids. We don't have enough people, tilt,
his breath quickened. If we're going to survive past this generation,
if we want what built to continue, and we do,
he shured her darkly, we need more people, people like

your son, people who weren't infected with HSV five. Tilda
felt dizzy. Madison clutched at her pack behind her. Ellis
switched tracks once again, reiterating kindly, we'll take care of you.
You'll be happy and safe, thinking quickly til the volleyed back.

You say, enforcers have never been a problem, Else agreed, clearly,
thinking he'd almost want her over. Who do you think
we're running from? If you take us to your camp,
the enforcers will find you, believe me. Ellis shook his
head with his two wide smile marred with blackened teeth.
I don't believe you, you said yourself. I look too

young to have a child. She pointed out, her eyes
darting back and forth between Ellis and Jake. Well, guess what,
You're correct. They are looking for us, and they will
not stop. Ellis clearly didn't buy it, he said, unconcernedly,
that's a risk we'll have to take. I guess been
a long time since we've seen a kid out here.

He watched Tilda for a minute, keeping his gaze on
her as he informed her, Now, Jake here is going
to take your horse. He slung his rifle off his
shoulder and into his hands, aiming it at them. And
the two of you are going to walk in front
of me, nice and so sound good? Is this how
you treat family? Tilda asked derisively before she could stop herself,

but Ellis just smiled at her insolence. When they misbehave,
he indicated with the barrel of his gun for them
to step forward, as Jake grabbed scouts reins. Us gonna
move on. Daylight is wastin'. There's nothing out there for you.
Trust me, you'll be happier with us. Tilda barely heard him,

her mind whirring with possible escape plans. Ellice chuckled, apparently
taking glee and seeing her reduced to a helpless powerless state.
She took slow steps closer to Ellis, stalling her approach
to him until a plan would hopefully fall into place.
Madison gripped her jacket tightly. Ah let me see the lad,

Ellis cooed, in an awkward and creepy way that made
Tilda wonder if he'd ever seen a child in real life.
Possibly he hadn't. Tilda halted a mere foot or so away,
unsure of what Ellis wanted her to do. Come out,
let me get a look at you. Madison did not move,
instead huddling closer behind her. Something pushed her forward and

she choked, surprised, almost losing her footing. Madison screamed and
Tilda spun so quickly her spine cracked. Jake had Madison
by the arms and was lifting him off the ground,
holding him like he would a plank of wood, moving
him from out behind the safety of tilda scout watch.
Stamping her foot. Tilda didn't think, she just reacted a

lightning fast. Her hand was in her jean's pocket and
lashed around her hunting knife, the one she dishonestly promised
herself she intended to use only for hunting. She flipped
out the blade and lunch forward, bearing it into Jake's back.
It was harder than she thought. It pierced the skin easily,
but then it took some muscle to push it past bones, scraping.

Jake jerked as though shocked by an electric wire, a
throaty gasp escaping his lips. Madison fell to his butt
on the concrete and immediately began crab crawling away, his
eyes wide and horror, Jake Ellis called out as the
man collapsed to his knees. Tilda barely managed him to
keep a hold of her knife as it tore out
of his skin. The body that had been blocking Tilda's

view of Ellis fell from view, revealing the stark, gaunt
face of the grief stricken man as he stared down
at the body of Jake, who was still alive and gasping.
Elis's face quickly morphed from one of grief to one
of rage, and Tilda ran at him as he raised
the barrel of his rifle, tackling him to the hard
concrete before he could take aim. He shouted in surprise,

losing his grip on his weapon. It clattered to the
pavement and Tilda's grip almost dropped on her knife, but
she readjusted and prepared to drive it into Elis's chest,
but he caught her wrist. Dark eyes swirling with an
insane rage, Tilda struggled against him, but his holed around
her wrist, tight and painfully, forcing her to release her knife.
It dropped dully to the pavement with a cry of rage.

He grabbed her hair and yanked it to the side,
causing her to cry out in pain. He used the
momentum of her body jerking to the side to flip
her over onto her back and effectively reverse their positions
so that she was pressed into the cold asphalt as
he was straddling her waist with bruising force. She flailed
her legs and hit at his face, but he captured
her other wrist, locking it in one hand. Tilda struggled wildly,

thinking of men Madison and what they would do to him.
Stupid Ellis spat out, closing his free hand around her throat.
We would have accepted you, We would have treated you
like one of our own, spots danced in front of
her eyes as she gasped ruthlessly for oxygen. He removed
his hand from her throat and hit her soundly in
the face. With a resounding smack. Tilda drew in a

tortured breath, not having time to think anything coherent before
she was hit again and again. I'm going to make
you suffer, Elice promised. We're to make you beg The
pressure lessened suddenly, and Ellis shouted, falling forward on top
of her. Madison stood over him, gasping heavily, his face
dark with terror, the blue handle of the pocket knife

she'd given him earlier that day sticking out from Elis's
lower back for a moment. Elis was reduced to a
primal animal sound as Tilda worked to shove him off,
but he was a dead weight despite this and desperate
in the side, and he gasped following off of her.
Her hand darted around the asphalt like a spider until

she brushed it against the cold steel of the blade,
and she closed her fingers around the handle. Ellis coughing,
rolling back up to his knees and lunging forward towards
Tilda again. She rammed her blade upward, bearing it in
his side. Ellis choked again, blood dribbling out of his mouth.
The warm red liquid pooling in the valley of Tilda's neck.

She wrinkled her face in disgust and shoved him off
of her. He landed heavily on his back, arching off
the pavement with an airy streak. When the contact buried
the small knife Madison had planted between his kidneys even
deeper into his flesh. He flopped to his other side,
curling in, and Tilda coughed rough one hand at her throat.
She pushed herself up, her throat, burning as she drew

in wild breaths. The asphalt pressed into her knees as
the world's great in and out around her, choking as
she regained a life giving oxygen, while Ellis choked as
life left him. Madison was on his knee's at her side,
watching Ellis and Jake alternately, his eyes dancing with fear.
Tilda's gloves were wet with blood. Her fingers twitched. She

turned her head to watch Ellis's back, the heaving of
her chest easing her vision clearing, she couldn't tear her
eyes from their rapid and uneven rise and fall of
Ellis's back. Frozen in decision, blood erupted out of his
wound with every pump of his heart, the beating growing
more and more erratic and far apart. The knife she
shoved into his side taunted her. Should she pull it

out and stab him again, just to be on the
safe side, to speed up the process and grant him
some form of mercy. She couldn't use the gun for
fear of startling scout. She half glanced behind her and
immediately jerked her head away when she caught the blank, dead,
condemning gaze of Jake, but she could still feel his
empty eyes boring into her. Ellis was muttering something incoherent

under his breath. If he was right, and they from
a village not far from here, pretty soon someone would
come looking for Ellis and Jake and find them dead.
There was no way she and Madison could cover this up.
They'd be out for revenge. With jittery hand, she shakily
grabbed the handle of her knife. Ellis shuddered, crying out.

Madison whimpered. She pushed the blade back into its housing,
promising to clean it later, and pulled out Madison's pocket knife.
No reaction from Ellis. She retracted it and passed it
back to him. He took it mostly out of reflex, shocked,
the only emotion registering on his face, his eyes still
glued to Ellis, who had gone quite still. She picked

up Ellis's rifle and shouldered it. Too afraid to search
through his pockets for anything else, she pulled Madison to
his feet, words stuck behind clenched teeth. She stooped to
pick up Jake's handgun and stowed it in her pack
side pocket. Scout shuffled anxiously as she approached, and Tilda
held out her hands. The horse steadied, and she practically
threw Madison on the saddle and climbed up hastily after him,

barely seated before she snapped the reins, goading Scout out
of Big Owl's parking lot and back onto the highway,
pushing Scout to a slow gallop. And that brings us

to the end of this chapter. I hope everyone's okay. Also,
I apologize for the Southern accent that I did. It's
such a trope and I had to grapple with this
when I was editing over it. I was like, this
is such the trope of kind of the creepy southern

backwoods man that's appearing and is trying to quote help
you right, but definitely is not. And yeah, I this
was a rough chapter in terms of Madison as a
child having to attack someone, try to kill someone to

save his mom. It was just really intense. And I
think this is almost every apocalypse thing has this moment
of you know, the child loses their innocence in some way,
and the fallout of that is going to going to

come because in the first one it was he saw
Tilda kill someone, and now he's been involved, and so
that is definitely going to be dealt with. Also, again,
the name games, I'm telling you, when I read this,

I'm like, I know exactly who I was talking, and
I do. I am somebody who looks up like meanings
of names and things like that. But yeah, I hope
I hope that this met the hype that I was
building up and or you're just okay and not too
stressed out by it because it was just it was

kind of intense. But I also hope that you're enjoying
this because we do love doing this. Christina makes them amazing,
And if there's any suggestions in this realm of something
we could do like this, please let us know. You
can email us at Stephanie and momstuff atiheartmedia dot com.
You can find us on Twitter at momstaff podcast, or
on Instagram and TikTok at stuff When Never Told You.

We also have a YouTube page you prefer like that.
We have a deep public, and we have a book
you can get wherever you get your books. Thanks as
always too our super producer Christina, execut producer Maya, and
her contributor Joey. Thank you and thanks to you for listening.
Stuff I Ever Told You is production of iHeart Radio.
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