A NOVEL BY
LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY
Table of Contents
A Preview of 10th Anniversary
A complete list of books by James Patterson is at the back of this book. For previews ofupcoming books by James Patterson and more information about the author, visitwww.?jamespatterson.?com.
For Kim—my partner in crimes of passion
Many species have become extinct because of human destruction of their natural environments.Indeed, current rates of human-induced extinctions are estimated to be about 1,000times greater than past natural rates of extinction, leading some scientists to call moderntimes the sixth mass extinction.
A material object for children or others to play with (often an imitation of some familiarobject); a plaything; also, something contrived for amusement rather than forpractical use.
—The Oxford English Dictionary
I WILL NOT forget this moment for as long as I live, which, in truth, might not be that longanyway. I pop the ominous disc labeled “7-4 Day” into the player and sit back on thedusty, threadbare couch in my parents’ cluttered fallout shelter at our beloved lake house inthe north country.
I figure that something titled “7-4 Day” can’t be good news.
And it isn’t.
Wham!—no slow reveal, no fade-in. There are just bodies everywhere. Human beings are slumpedin car seats, collapsed on sidewalks, lying on the floor in front of the counter at aonce popular fast-food restaurant called McDonald’s.
Next comes a classroom in which high school students and their teacher are just lying, pale andbloated, at their desks.
A construction worker is dead in a cherry-picker, and it is possible that his eyes haveactually popped from his face.
A postman is sprawled on a porch, the mail still held dutifully in his hands.
A towheaded girl is dead on her bicycle at the bottom of a roadside culvert—and this finallybrings tears to my eyes.
It’s as if some master switch has been thrown, turning off their hearts and brains just asthey went about their daily lives.
Not everyone’s dead though.
In one indelible scene, elevator doors are pried open and a screaming, traumatizedbusinesswoman emerges—at least seven corpses of business types are visible behindher.
There is some hope at least.
A few hundred survivors are gathered at midfield in a baseball stadium, possibly in NewChicago. The camera pans around. Horrible! The pitcher is dead on the mound, his face buried indust. There are uniformed bodies at the bases, in the outfield, in the dugouts. Thestands are filled with fifty thousand forever-silent fans.
I’m light-headed and ill as I sit on my parents’ couch and watch all this. I’ve beenforgetting to breathe, actually; my skin is clammy and cold.
Now I view a snapped-off flagpole displayed against an urban skyline—a skyline of blackened,broken, and smoking buildings. They’re like teeth in a jawbone that somebody haspulled from a funeral pyre.
I’m beginning to suspect that this footage must have been staged—but who could have made such
a clever and horrifying film? How had they been able to pull off this hoax with suchauthenticity? And for what possible reason?
Now there’s street-level, hand-shot footage showing thousands of people coursing over bridgesand along highways. They’re carrying coolers, water bottles, blankets, smallchildren, the infirm. There are furtive close-ups of military patrol vehicles at intervalsalong the way. Checkpoints. Tall, broad-shouldered government soldiers with mirror-facedhelmets and automatic weapons attempt to bring order to this incomprehensible chaos.
The film’s final scenes are of earthmoving machines and the enormous trenches they’ve made.These trenches are as wide and deep as strip mines. Bulldozers are standing by to helprefill them, their scoops loaded with the uncountable dead.
The video ends and I sit in the dark, lost in shock, horror, and total confusion.
Is it some sick joke? A staged holocaust? Am I supposed to believe that some hideous plague hasbeen hidden from history? When did it happen? Why have I never seen anything like it
no one ever seen or heard about this? before? Why has
There are no answers to my questions. How could there be? What I have just witnessed simplyisn’t possible.
Suddenly there are hands on my shoulder, and I leap up from the couch, fists clenched, crashinginto an end table and knocking a coffee cup to the concrete floor. There is the soundof breaking glass, and my heart nearly explodes.
“Hays! It’s just me. Dad. Hays, it’s me! Down, boy.”
Of course, it was just my father putting his hands on my shoulders, meaning to comfort me.Still, I can’t quite give him a pass for this. It is his shelter, and his damnedfilm, and his hands.
“What— what was that?” I demand to know. “Tell me. Please? Explain it.”
“That film?” he says. “That, Hays, is the truth. That’s what really happened on 7-4 Day.They almost killed off the entire human race. What you learned in grade school,everything you read at university, is just a cruel hoax.”
FALL FROM GRACE
FORTY-EIGHT HOURS EARLIER—a mere two days before I watched the 7-4 Day film at my parents’house.
When I arrived at President Hughes Jacklin’s inauguration party that night in the year 2061, Iwas flying high, happier and more self-satisfied than I had ever been. I couldn’thave dreamed I would end up losing everything I cared about—my home, my job, my two darlingdaughters, Chloe and April, and my beautiful wife, Lizbeth, who was there by my side.
In the catastrophic whirlwind of those next horrible days, it would seem as if my world hadbeen turned upside down and any part of my personality that wasn’t securely bolted inplace had fallen into the void. And what was left was what I guess you’d call the essentialHays Baker—well, if you brought the old me and the new me to a party, I guarantee nobody wouldaccuse us of a family resemblance.
Lizbeth and I arrived at the presidential estate at around eight thirty, delivered in highstyle by our artificially intelligent Daimler SX-5500 limo. This wasn’t our usualcar, of course.
A cheery, top-of-the-line iJeeves butler helped us out onto the resplendent, putting-green-short grass of the front lawn. We promptly began to gawk at our surroundings—like acouple of tourists, I suppose. Hell, like lowly humans given an unlikely glimpse of the good
Even now, I remember that the warm night air was sweet with the fragrance of thousands ofroses, gardenias, and other genetically enhanced flowering plants in the president’sgardens, all programmed to bloom tonight. What a botanical miracle it was, though a bit show-offy, I’d say.
“This is absolutely incredible, Hays. Dazzling, inspiring,” Lizbeth gushed, her gorgeous eyes
shining with excitement. “We really do run the world, don’t we?”
By “we,” Lizbeth wasn’t talking about just herself and me. She was speaking of our broaderidentity as ruling Elites, the upper echelon of civilized society for the past twodecades.
Most Elites were attractive, of course, but Lizbeth, with her violet hair set off by ivory skinand an almost decadent silver silk gown, well, she sparkled like a diamond droppedinto a pile of wood chips.
“You’re going to knock them dead, Jinxie,” I said, winking. “As always.”
“Flattery,” she said, winking back, “will get you everywhere.”
Jinxie was my favorite nickname for her. It stemmed from the fact that she’d come into thisworld on a Friday the thirteenth, but there wasn’t a single thing unlucky about her—or ourlife together, for that matter.
I took her tastefully bejeweled hand in mine, inwardly thrilled that she was my wife. God, howI loved this woman. How lucky I was to be with her, as husband, as father to our twodaughters.
Every head turned as we walked into the huge, high-ceilinged ballroom, and you’d have thoughtwe were music or film stars from the bygone human era.
But not everybody in the high-society Elite crowd was pleased to see Lizbeth and me.
Well, hey, you can’t make everyone happy. Isn’t that the sanest way to view the world? Ofcourse it is.