THIRTEEN‘s characters try to celebrate Christmas in an occupation zone.
Part 1. The crawl space
Jack’s knees hurt and his hands were cold from crawling along the concrete. The ceiling was only three feet above the floor, so standing was not an option. The last time he’d been down there, his mom had sent him to hide from the soldier who had come to their door with food. That time, he hid behind the Christmas decorations, this time, he was retrieving them.
Christmas was only a few weeks away and although Jack didn’t believe in Jolly St. Nick, he always looked forward to the presents underneath the tree. This year was no different. Occupation or not, it was still December and it was still Christmas. Maybe the Canadian and US armies would save them by the 25th and they could have a normal Christmas. Maybe they’d find his dad and he’d come home. One could always hope, right?
His eyes adjusted to the low light from the flashlight in his hands. Without stores to buy batteries, the flashlight was used only when absolutely necessary. There were no windows in the crawlspace and the only entrance was a hole in the floor of a closet, so it was too dark to see anything without it.
The beam of light illuminated box after box, all full of unused items and memories. The light moved from one box to the next, until he found the first one labelled Christmas decorations. He dragged it back to the opening in the floor above him.
Sharp pains shot from his knees up his leg. He clenched his teeth and kept moving. The quicker he could find all the boxes, the faster he could get out of there. With the last box positioned under the hole, he started pushing them up through the floor to his mom and Kim.
“Did you get the box with the tree?” His mom’s asked.
“Yeah. I got them all. Can we hurry up my knees are killing me, not to mention my back. It’s cramped down here.”
“Is that it?”
Jack climbed up the small ladder to emerge in the closet. He stretched his arms up and hit them on the stairs above his head.
“Damn that stings.”
“Come out of the closet.” His mom ordered.
“Move the boxes so I can.”
Jack stretched his back by bending one way and then the other. A three foot crawl space was not an easy place for a six foot kid to manoeuvre around in. Kim really should have gone down instead, she was what? Just shy of five feet, maybe?
Kim had been too scared to go down into the black hole though, so it was up to Jack to go fetch. Kim was plagued by nightmares every night that were so bad she’d wake screaming. It was always the same, the soldiers came to her house in the middle of the night locking them away in a detention centre to starve. Each night the dreams would show her images of her family being tortured and executed.
Thing was, Kim’s family had been taken to a detention camp the day of the invasion. The only news they had of them was from Nick’s cop friends who said they were still alive, starving, but alive. Nick was trying to get them out, however, it was almost impossible as the family was segregated into a high security room and no one could find out why.
Shannon Peel is the author of THIRTEEN, a novel about a boy, his mom, a cop and an invading army. THIRTEEN is the first book in a series about North American kids trying to adjust to life under a totalitarian regime after a surprise attack utilizing terrorist and conventional tactics.