It was late August and the Cascades had been snow-covered from bases to peaks all year long while temperatures in Yakima, typically over a hundred degrees in the summer, had gone over seventy-five just once in three years. It had long been clear to Clayton—and billions of others—the new ice age had begun.
He was taking his family south to Los Angeles, where he had relatives. Ice age or not, Southern California still had a growing season and a garden might be all that stood between getting anything at all to eat and starvation.
He considered himself lucky to get away this morning. After months of preparation, he and his family left Yakima just before sunrise. For the first eighty miles on I-82 travel was slow. But, as they passed the nuclear facilities at Hanford, the road got better. It was now almost 9:30 a.m. as he turned west onto I-84, at Umatilla, Oregon. He glanced in the rearview mirror to see how the kids were doing. Wedged between sleeping bags on the passenger’s side, his ten-year-old son, Robert, was trying to go to sleep. Robert had the dark hair and thin lips of his mother and he’d inherited her doleful expression that masked whatever was going on inside either of them.
On the other side of the van was Danielle; beautiful, blonde, barely five-two, and thin. She wore a black T-shirt with red lettering across the front that read:
or I’ll Kill You ‘til You’re Dead
The shirt was a sore spot with him, but what had him fuming was the fight she’d put up this morning when he’d forced her into the van.
At sixteen, Danielle shifted back and forth between moments when she was still a child to moments when she was the woman she was growing into. She had a boyfriend Clayton had never met and she swore she would never leave Yakima. So, she was the last to know—Clayton revealing it to her only as they loaded the van. He had fresh scratches on his arms from when she resisted. She had a slight swelling under her left eye from where he’d slapped her. She’d barely spoken since being forced into the van and she now stared glumly out the window.
In her lap, her six-month-old sister, Audrey, slept. Clayton had nicknamed her “Whoops” because she’d been unexpected—testimony that tubal ligations don’t always work.
On the front seat, next to him, sat his wife, Emily. He glanced at her. She’d been quiet since leaving and he had the sense to leave her alone.
It wasn’t leaving Yakima that bothered her. She’d have done anything for her husband, and he said they had to go. It was the way they left, without telling anyone, without inviting anyone else to come along, that upset her. Clayton told her she just didn’t understand: They had to go alone; they couldn’t save the world.
Miles rolled by. Large pieces of debris appeared in unlikely places on the road. Only the Army kept the roads clear anymore, and they didn’t do it as a public service; they had their own motives and agenda.
There were stretches where encroaching...