Aftertime (Aftertime Series #1)

Aftertime (Aftertime Series #1)

by Sophie Littlefield


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373803361
Publisher: Luna
Publication date: 02/15/2011
Series: Aftertime Series , #1
Edition description: Original
Pages: 375
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri and attended college in Indiana. She worked in technology before having children, and was lucky enough to stay home with them while they were growing up. She writes novels for kids and adults, and lives in Northern California. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

That it was summer was not in doubt. The nights were much too short and the days too long. Something about the color of the sky said August to Cass. Maybe the blue was bluer. Hadn't autumn signaled itself that way Before, a gradual intensifying of colors as summer trailed into September?

Once, Cass would have been able to tell from the wild-flowers growing in the foothills where she ran. In August petals fell from the wild orange poppies, the stonecrop darkened to purplish brown, and butterweed puffs drifted in lazy breezes. Deer grew bold, drinking from the creek that ran along the road. The earth dried and cracked, and lizards and beetles stared out from their hiding places among the weeds.

But that was two lives ago, so far back that it was like a story that had once been told to Cass, a story maybe whispered by a lover as she drifted off to sleep after one too many Jack and Cokes, ephemeral and hazy at the edges. She might not believe it at all, except for Ruthie. Ruthie had loved the way butterweed silk floated in the air when she blew on the puffs.

Ruthie, who she couldn't see or touch or hold in her arms. Ruthie, who screamed when the social workers dragged her away, her legs kicking desperately at nothing. Mim and Byrn wouldn't even look at Cass as she collapsed to the dirty floor of the trailer and wished she was dead.

Ruthie had been two.

Cass pushed herself to go faster, her strides long and sure up over a gentle rise in the road. She was barely out of breath. This was nothing, less than nothing. She dug her hard, sharp nails into the calluses of her thumbs. Hard, harder, hardest. The skin there was built up against her abuse and refused to bleed. To break it she would need something sharper than her nail. Teeth might work, but Cass would not use her teeth. It was enough to use her nails until the pain found an opening into her mind. The pain was enough.

She had covered a lot of ground this moon-bright night. Now it was almost dawn, the light from the rising sun creeping up over the black-blue forest skeletons, a crescent aura of orange glow in the sky. When the first slice of sun was visible she'd leave the road and melt into what was left of the trees. There was cover to be found—some of the native shrubs had survived. Greasewood and creosote still grew neck high in some places.

And it was easy to spot them. You saw them before they saw you, and then you hid, and you prayed. If they saw you at all, if they came close enough to smell you, you were worse than dead.

Cass stayed to the edge of the cracked pavement of what had been Highway 161, weaving around the occasional abandoned car, forcing herself not to look inside. You never knew what you would see. Often nothing, but…it was just better not to look. Chunks of the asphalt had been pushed aside by squat kaysev plants that had managed to root in the cracks. Past the shoulder great drifts of it grew, the dark glossy leaves hiding clusters of pods. The plants were smooth-stemmed without burrs or thorns. Walking among them was not difficult. But walking on pavement allowed Cass, now and then—and never when she was trying—to let her mind go back to another time…and when she was really lucky, to pretend all the way back two lifetimes ago.

Taking Ruthie, barely walking, down the sidewalk to the 7-Eleven, buying her a blue raspberry Slurpee, because Ruthie loved to stick out her blue tongue and look at herself in the mirror. Cutting across the school parking lot on the way home, jumping over the yellow lines, lifting Ruthie's slight body and swinging her, laughing, through the air.

Yes, pavement was nice. Cass had good shoes, though she didn't remember where she got them. They seemed like they might have been men's shoes, plain brown lace-up walking shoes, but they fit her feet. A small man, then. How she'd got the shoes from him…it didn't bear thinking about. The shoes were good, they were comfortable and hadn't given her blisters or sores despite the many days of walking.

A movement caught her eye, off in the spiky remains of the woods. Cass stopped abruptly and scanned the tree skeletons and shrubs. A flash of white, was it? Or was it only the way the light was rising in the sky, reflected off…what, though? There were only the bare trunks of the dead cypress and pine trees, a stand of dead manzanita, the low thick growth of kaysev, a few of the boulder formations that dotted the Sierra Foothills.


Cass whipped her head around and saw the flash again, a fast-moving blur of fabric and oh God it was white, a slip of a little dark-haired girl in a dirty white shirt who was sprinting toward her at a speed that Cass could not imagine anyone moving, Cass who had run thousands of desperate blacktop miles one life ago, trying to erase everything, running until her legs ached and her lungs felt like tearing paper and her mind was almost but never quite empty.

But even Cass had never run like this girl.

She was twelve or thirteen. Maybe even fourteen, it was hard to tell now. Before, the fourteen-year-olds looked like twenty-year-olds, with their push-up bras and eyeliner. But hardly anyone dressed like that anymore.

The girl held the blade the way they taught the kids now, firmly in front of her where it would have the best chance of slicing through a Beater's flesh. Because that's what she thought Cass was, a Beater, and the thought hit Cass in the gut and nearly knocked her over with revulsion. Her hands went to her hairline where the hair was just growing back in, soft tufts, an inch at most. She knew how her arms looked, covered with scabs, almost worse now that they were healing, the patches of flesh falling away as the healthy skin pushed to the surface. But that was nothing compared to the ruin of her back.

She hadn't been able to clean herself in days, and she knew she carried the smell. The long hair on the back of her head, the hair she hadn't pulled out, was knotted and tangled. Her nails were blackened and broken. Real Beaters usually had no nails left, but how could the girl be expected to notice a detail like that?

In the second or two it took the girl to cross the last dozen yards of scrubby land, Cass considered standing firm, wrists out, chin up, giving her an easy target. They were taught well; any child over the age of five could find the jugular, the femoral, the carotid, the ulnar. They practiced on dummies rigged from dolls and clothes stuffed with straw. Sometimes, they practiced on the dead.

At the last minute Cass stepped out of the way.

She didn't know why. It would have been easier, so much easier, to welcome the blade, to let it find its path to her vital core and feel the blessed release of her blood, still hot and red despite everything, bubbling over the slice in her flesh, falling to the hardened earth. Maybe her blood would help the land heal faster. Maybe on the spot where her blood fell, one of the plants from Before would return. A delicate mountain bluebell; they had been her favorite, the tiny blossoms shading from pale sky blue to deep lilac.

But Cass stepped out of the way.

Damn her soul.

Three times now it had refused to die, when death would have been so much easier.

Cass watched almost impassively as her foot shot forward, nimbly, her stance steady and her balance near perfect. The girl's eyes went wide. She tripped, and in the last moment, when the blade flew from her hand and she lurched toward Cass, the terror in her eyes was enough to break Cass's heart, if only she still had one to break.

Everyone remembered the first time they saw a Beater. Usually, it was more than one, because even in the early days they gathered in packs, three or four or more of them prowling the edges of town. Cass saw hers in the QikGo.

Cass worked in the QikGo until the end. Where else would she go? She couldn't leave Silva, not without Ruthie. But as the world fell apart—as famine crippled Africa and South Asia, as one G8 capital after another fell to panic and riots in the wake of random airbursts, as China went dark and Australia mined its shores—Mim and Byrn held on all the tighter to their granddaughter. Cass had no detailed plan, only to wait until there were no more police, no sheriffs, no social workers, no one willing to come when Mim and Byrn called them to block Cass from seeing her daughter or even setting foot on their property.

When that day came, she would go to their house and she would take Ruthie back. By force if she had to. It would hurt, to see the anger and contempt on her mother's face, but no more than it had hurt her that Mim refused to acknowledge how far Cass had come, how hard she had worked to be worthy of Ruthie. The ninety-days chip she kept on her key chain. The two-year medallion she'd earned before her single relapse. The job she'd held through it all—maybe managing a convenience store wasn't the most impressive career in the world, but at least she was helping people in small ways every day rather than fleecing them out of their money, the way Byrn did with his questionable investment strategies. But she and her mother saw things through very different lenses.

It would not hurt Cass to see her stepfather, who was finally weaker than she was, his ex-linebacker frame now old and frail compared to her own body, which she had made lean and hard with her relentless running. She anticipated the look of powerlessness on Byrn's face as she took away the only thing he could hurt her with. She looked forward even more to the moment when he knew he had lost. She would never forgive him, but maybe once she got Ruthie back, she could start forgetting.

That time was almost upon them. Cell phone service had started to go in the last few days and the landlines hadn't worked for a week. Televisions had been broadcasting static since the government's last official communication deputizing power and water workers; that had been such a spectacular failure, skirmishes breaking out in the few remaining places there had been peace before, that the rumor was the government had shut down all the media on purpose. Some said it was the Russian hackers. Now they said the power was out over in Angel's Camp, and every gas station in town had been looted except for Bill's Shell, where Bill and his two sons-in-law were taking shifts with a brace of hunting rifles.

Who was going to care about the fate of one little girl now?

Two days earlier Cass had stopped taking money from customers unless it was offered. Some people seemed to find comfort in clinging to routines from what was quickly becoming "Before"—and if people reached for their wallets then Cass made change. People took strange things. There were those who had come early on for the toilet paper and aspirin and bottled water—and all the alcohol, to Cass's relief. Now people wandered the aisles aimlessly and took random items that would do them no good anymore. A prepaid calling card, a map.

Meddlin, her boss, hadn't made an appearance for a few days. The QikGo, Cass figured, was all hers. No matter. She didn't care about Meddlin. The others, the fragile web of workers who staffed the other shifts, had been gone since the media went silent.

On a brisk March morning, a day after the lights started to flicker and fail, Cass was talking to Teddy, a pale boy from the community college who lived in the apartments down the block with a handful of roommates who didn't seem to like him very much. Cass made coffee, wondering if it would be the last time, and wiped down the counter. There hadn't been a dairy delivery in weeks, so she set out a can of the powdered stuff.

When the door jangled they both turned and looked.

"Feverish," Teddy said quietly. Cass nodded. The ones who'd been eating the blueleaf—the ones who'd lived— were unmistakable. The fever made their skin glow with a thin sheen of perspiration. Their movements were clumsy. But most remarkable were their eyes: the pupils contracted to tiny black dots. In dark-eyed people the effect was merely unsettling; in pale-eyed people it was both captivating and frightening.

If everything hadn't fallen apart, there would have undoubtedly been teams of doctors and scientists gathering the sick and studying and caring for and curing them. As it was, all but those closest to the sick were just happy they kept to themselves.

"Glass over over," one of them said, a man whose plaid shirt was buttoned wrong so that one side hung farther down than the other, speaking to no one in particular. A second, a woman with lank brown hair that lay around her shoulders in uncombed masses, walked to a rack that held only a few bags of chips and pushed it with a stiff outstretched hand, and as it fell to the floor, she smiled and laughed, not bothering to jump out of the way of the bags which popped and sprayed dry crumbs.

"Gehhhh," she crowed, and Cass noticed something else strange about her, something she hadn't seen before. The woman's arms were raw and red, blood dried in patches, the skin chafed and missing in spots. It almost looked like a metal grater had been run up and down her arms, her shoulders, the tops of her hands. Cass checked the others: their flesh was also covered in scabs.

Cold alarm traveled up Cass's spine. Something was wrong—very wrong. Something even worse than the fever and the unfocused eyes and the incoherent speech. She thought she recognized one of the group, a short muscular man of about forty, whose complicated facial hair was growing out into a sloppy beard. He used to come in for cigarettes every couple of days. He was wearing filthy tan cargo shorts, and the skin above his knees was covered with the same sort of cuts and scrapes as his forearms.

"Hey," she said to him. He was standing in front of a shelf that held the few personal products left in the store—bottles of shampoo and mouthwash, boxes of Band-Aids. "Would you like…"

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Aftertime 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
aliciasays More than 1 year ago
I liked the story and the determination of Cass to find her daughter, but I'm taking away a star because the editorial mistakes really bother me. There were random
The_Alternative More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has read my book review blog for long knows that I really enjoy a good post-apocalyptic zombie story every once in a while (actually find them hard to resist) and that's exactly what Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield is, a very good zombie book. Forget the Beaters (zombies) for a moment and why they've changed into crazed flesh-eaters. Put aside the fact that the world has pretty much come to an abrupt and disappointing end. What carries this narrative is the character development and quest motif. Littlefield's characters are fully fleshed out (no pun intended) and real. Some are mysterious, others evil and self-serving, most are flawed and a few even resemble people I know. Which is what makes them so compelling. Everyone who's ever loved a child will understand the motive driving the main character. That it occurs in a savage, wasted land makes it that much more interesting. There's nothing inherently unique about this particular zombie story but because it reads so quickly and the plot is so compelling you won't want to put it down. An enjoyable time away from the mundane this novel is a recommended for all the zombie and post-apocalyptic fans out there. (You know who you are!) 4 out of 5 stars The Alternative Southeast Wisconsin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Post apocalyptic meets an Oprah book. I found reading thru this book that it was very interesting to read if not for all the hoopla. A women who survived a zombie like disease...then it just got boring. The plot moves along slowly only because the author keeps going back to the main characters past alcoholism and promiscuousity ...over and over and over...and over. The author kept going back to these so much that I actually verbally groaned after awhile and made myself read faster just to get thru these parts. Not to mention that the main character keeps getting hugged by people and then she cries, and cries...and cries. It made me wonder if the author had written this book to get some of her own problems off her chest and if she did you can actually read why she never got over any of them. Just read the first book of the series. Yer an alcoholic, you were promiscous in your youth, you couldn't take care of your kid and you survived a zombie-esque it. Now can we get to the story already....without so many huggsies. I'm not saying the author has to be more visceral, I don't need need non stop blood and guts...a good story that goes somewhere would be good enough, Just stop backtracking on your story so much and this would be a great read.
Megan Villani More than 1 year ago
Could be better. Interesting storyline and subject, but it would have been better with more character developement. Hope #2 is better!
JamesMarie More than 1 year ago
I was sorely disappointed in this book. The build up is not there and the character development is very thin. The only relationship between characters that can be related to is with the mother/daughter bond. The other relationships are very thin. Then, at the end of the book you are lead to believe there is a very tight bond between the lead character and her secondary which left me shaking my head. I think if Littlefield had taken this book to the next level and worked on the character relationships a little more it could have been a really fun read. As it is, the attention getting story is just not there.
badklv More than 1 year ago
Aftertime is a post-apocalyptic world, a desert of destruction, where disease has run rampant, and houses, towns, and cities have been ransacked. In this world, nighttime is man's best friend and Zombies "Beaters" outnumber human survivors. Aside from starvation, unbelievably unsanitary conditions, and the constant threat of losing your mind, being attacked and torn to pieces by a Beater is a survivor's biggest fear. After a bite, a victim's eyes glow, followed by extreme fever, followed by an emptiness that fills their entire being until the inevitable.they become one of them.the enemy. But Cass Dollar is an anomaly. She's been attacked, suffered the excruciating symptoms of the venomous Beater bite and survived, even healed from the severe wounds left behind. How did Cass survive and is she now a carrier of the lethal virus? Cass begins a journey across California Aftertime searching for answers and something precious separated from her during her attack. When I initially read the synopsis of Aftertime I was leery that it may be too far outside my comfort zone, first, because on the surface there looked to be no heavy romance involved, and second, because Zombies give me nightmares. But guess what? I was so wrong about both. I've enjoyed this book so much. Maybe it's because I am fascinated by the dark side of human survival when faced with adversity. I'm not sure, but regardless I loved the story. The sex was hot, but the story was so strong it would have been able to stand up without it. Of course, I prefer with. I read pieces of this story again and again, savoring the words and visualizing Sophie Littlefield's post-apocalyptic world.
harstan More than 1 year ago
She is the first known human to survive an assault by the flesh eating beaters without converting into one of these zombie-like beasts. Although she remains mortal and alive, Cass Dollar suffered immensely during her ordeal and afterwards; she remained hurt with many scars on her battered body. Her lack of memory of her trauma frightens her, but not because of what the Beaters did to her. Her beloved daughter Ruthie is missing and Cass has no idea what happened to her cherished offspring. However, in spite of her agony, Cass has one objective and that is to find her missing daughter Ruthie lost somewhere in the biologically bombed California wasteland. Smoke an outlaw accompanies Cass on her quest while the militia, scientists and a female sect pursue her for diverse reasons. This is a terrific post apocalyptic science fiction thriller starring a beleaguered lioness with one obsessed thought: finding and rescuing her Ruthie. Courageous Cass is impressive as she remains resolute in her quest while musing she is in her "third" life. The harsh California landscape adds to the eerie atmospheric aftermath of the pandemic catastrophe as the heroine continues her trek. Mindful of the Charlton Heston science fiction films, Aftertime is a strong opening act with. Harriet Klausner
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Great quick read!!
Dee_K More than 1 year ago
Cass wakes up and the last thing she remembers is being dragged off by Beaters (zombies). She is pretty messed up physically and not doing much better mentally. Her only goal now is the find her daughter Ruthie in a post-apocalypse wasteland. On her journey back to the last place Cass saw Ruthie, she meets Smoke. Smoke is a very mysterious man and decides to help Cass on her journey to find her daughter. I found the beginning of this book to be a little confusing. Cass has flashbacks about her troubled past which come out of nowhere. I got used to them though and started to expect and want them. It gives you insight into Cass. The mood Aftertime is extremely depressing as most post apocalypse stories are. There is no hope for these people. Most are just trying to stay alive. And if Beaters weren't enough, there are the Rebuilders. The Rebuilders bully people into doing what they want them to do and play it off as if they're helping what little civilization there is to thrive. There is a good story here but I wanted more. I wanted to know more about Cass' past. I wanted to know more about Smoke. It felt like there should be more explanation of how the apocalypse happened. Many things in this book were too vague in my opinion. I guess I will have to read the squeal.
a_silent_song More than 1 year ago
This is a 4.5 star review. I was first exposed to Sophie Littlefield through Barnes & Noble reviewer Paul Goat Allen's Explorations blog, when he reviewed one of the books in the trilogy very favorably. At the time, I was a budding zombie writer myself with a newly signed contract for a post-apocalyptic trilogy under my belt, and I was itching to find other female zombie writers out there; we seemed to be a pretty rare commodity, to say the least. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to actually read the book until early this year, and all I could think was, "What the heck took me so long?!" AFTERTIME follows a woman named Cass Dollar after an outbreak of zombie-like creatures called Beaters crops up and wreaks havoc on the western United States, turning most of the west into a desolate wasteland full of Beaters and the survivors trying to avoid them. When the story starts, Cass is searching for her daughter Ruthie, who was taken away from her by CPS due to Cass's alcohol addictions. From there, the story follows Cass as she searches for her daughter in what is essentially a world gone to hell. In the process of detailing Cass's journey, Littlefield does an amazing job of building a world that is familiar and, at the same time, horrifically different from the world that Cass grew up in. Her attention to detail is astounding, and as I made my way through the book, I felt like I really got to know Cass and was rooting for her all the way. Littlefield has an amazing ability to make her characters feel absolutely real, and that is one of my favorite things about the book and this type of zombie literature. Unfortunately, at times, this attention to detail was to the story's detriment, and this has to do with the only reason I gave the book 4.5 stars. In several places in the book, Littlefield lavishes so much attention on the smaller details that it made the book move rather slowly at times. In several places, I had to force myself to continue reading and not flip past a much slower-paced scene. This may be a product of the fact that Littlefield's novel reads as far more focused on the characters than on the Beaters, but there are a lot of scenes that, if they'd been cut down, would have made the book move a lot faster than it did. This isn't necessarily a negative; it's just not something I myself am particularly into. Other than that little quibble, I enjoyed the book very much and would highly recommend it to fans of the genre who are more interested in following the survivors of a zombie outbreak and their struggles rather than the zombies themselves.
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Great read and a pleasure to read a zombie series that centers around a female lead who is strong but not perfect!
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