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The Promise
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-020-5
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 213 Pages
Published: November 2013

From inside the flap

This book includes the never before published novel 'RED SKY' a sequel to 'THE PROMISE'

A meteorite crashes to earth and a strange virus kills all the adults in the world. What would you do? Ryan and his brother travel south, stopping in towns on the way, searching for survivors, determined to save mankind. They've made a promise - never give up - never say die, and always help anyone they can find, even when those children seem to have reverted back to savages.


Reviews and Awards

Five Stars!
THE PROMISE by Jennifer Macaire is a riveting short novel that speaks volumes about the fragility of human life. The setting is the near future, not unlike the world of today. A simple meteor enters the atmosphere of the Earth and lands near the Gulf of Mexico. Ten years later, a fisherman catches and is bitten by an odd looking eel with a shell. He promptly transports it to the nearest laboratory, where he jokes about having the fished named after him, Jake Brown. Instead a virus that starts in America spreads around the world and comes to be known as Jakebrown virus, after patient 0.

Initially countries accuse one another of biological warfare as it soon becomes evident that the fatality rate among adults is 100%. Children under fifteen are the only known survivors. One of these children, Ryan, at the age of fourteen decides to begin a journal to document the survival of the few children who survived the virus. By the time his parents die from the virus, when he is twelve, they succeed in training both him and his brother Alan how to survive and care for their baby sister Julia.

After recovering from the disease, Ryan sets out to fulfill a promise he made to his father. He and his siblings pack up and head for Paris to the centers that were set up for children orphaned due to the plague. Along the way there and to his final destination, he and his group look for any surviving children, particularly those who cannot care for themselves or have become subjected to abuse since the fall of the adult population.

Jennifer Macaire has crafted an excellent novel. Although this is a young adult novel, I would also recommend this book to older adults who enjoy inspirational pieces. Macaire's story is chilling in its realism as the reader imagines such a catastrophe actually occurring in modern days. Even more disturbing is the way Macaire portrays how ill equipped modern children can be in areas of basic survival techniques, though I daresay that Ryan was better prepared than many adults. Most important, THE PROMISE portrays realistically that despite devastation, as long as there is a glimmer of hope, there will always be survivors. This is a book to be enjoyed by readers who enjoy adventure fiction or science fiction/future world plots.

Copyright ? 2003 Katherine Maria Scott All Rights Reserved. Sime-Gen reviews

* * *

When the meteor fell to earth and landed in the Caribbean Sea people flocked to the impact zone to find it. However no remains could be found. Scientists determined that it must have disintegrated in the water.

A decade later a fisherman catches an unusual fish. When the creature bites his hand he thinks nothing of it. Little does he realise that this would start the spread of a strange virus that attacked only humans. All adults died. Most children also but some, under fifteen years old, survived.

Ryan lives in a small town just outside Paris. He and his brother and sister are the only members of his family to survive. Together with their dog, Sunday, they set out on a journey to find other survivors and create a new world on a farm in the south of France. As they travel they leave copies of the promise his father made them make:

"I will look after those younger than me. I will head South, away from winter, and bring all the survivors I can find with me. I will read books, and I will teach reading and writing to those who cannot read or write. I promise never to hurt another human being. I will only kill animals to eat. I will learn to farm, and I will learn to fish. I will destroy all firearms I come across... Come south and join us. Never give up."

The Promise is a gorgeous uplifting little story. It reads like a combination of Lord of the Flies and the TV series Survivors. The novel takes the form of a journal written, in the third person, by one of the children and charts their experiences as they travel south to set up their new life.

What is particularly well written is their overall learning experiences. It would have been all to easy to make the story about young adults rather than children. The author could then have explained away their apparent knowledge of essential skills as the results of a conveniently wide range of further education. Jennifer Macaire doesn't do this. Her characters range from infants to young teenagers. When the get sick they find books that tell them what to do. When they need to learn to ride or fish, again they find books.

It would also have been easy to make everyone friends who happily work together. Again, Macaire does something different. Some of the survivors are so traumatised by their experiences that it has a negative affect on their relationships.

All in all this is a superb original story of children's ability to survive. Uplifting and enchanting.

Eternal Night Reviews



The Promise (Excerpt)


CHAPTER ONE

My name's Ryan, and I was there when the world ended. Despite what you might have heard about me, I'm not a seven-foot-tall super-hero. I'm used to new kids coming to the farm, seeing me, and being disappointed. I'm on the short, skinny side with nondescript brown hair and eyes the color of mud. Everyone seems to expect some sort of superman, but I'm not. I'm just one of the survivors of the virus.

The virus came on a meteorite that I was too young to have remembered, and it left as a sort of spore. I don't know what happened scientifically. But I do remember the first reports. My father was a journalist for a big newspaper, so he was right there when it all started.

The virus began in the Americas and crept eastwards, felling all the adult population in Eastern Europe, then Asia. Even the Pacific was no match for the virus. As the months passed it seemed to gain strength and it started to kill within hours, instead of weeks or days. The world reeled in shock as one continent after another was annihilated by the virus. All over the world panic was widespread as people fled, hid, or just knelt and prayed, but to no avail.

By the New Year, it was over. The wind blew, but the virus was no longer within it. It had mutated so quickly it no longer attacked human beings. It attached itself to certain rocks, changing their chemical content, making them into reddish, tubular stones. These stones were faintly magnetic and gave off a low humming. Then, one by one they turned over, pointed themselves at the sky, and using the earth's magnetic field lifted soundlessly off the face of the earth towards space. They disappeared as mysteriously as they had come. Only instead of one, there were millions. A scientist would have written a report on it, if any scientists had been alive to do so. But the only ones who saw the virus as it entered its last biological stage and left the earth to seed other planets were children, and I'm the only one to sit down and write about it.

I decided to write the report after we got settled. In the future, there has to be a record of how the world ended and what we did to try to create a new world.

I'm fourteen now. When the virus first became known I was eleven, and I was twelve when my parents died. I still have trouble talking about all that. It's easier for me to talk about our life as it is now. We live on a big farm. That was part of my parent's plan. When it became clear that the virus would kill everyone, our parents made plans for my brother, my little sister, and me. They looked ahead. Not everyone's parents did that. I guess we were lucky.

They insisted we go south where we wouldn't suffer from the cold when winter came. They told us what books to read to help us survive. They gave us maps and taught us how to make fire and prepare food, and then they died.

I'm going to force myself to write about that and then I'll never have to think about it again. But you see, my father was a journalist and he instilled a respect for the written word in me. I feel a real responsibility to write down everything that happened. Then, years and years from now when civilization has gotten back on its feet, people can read this and know just what happened.

When the virus struck a child, he had a fever and a headache. Sometimes he got better, most times he didn't. Adults developed the same symptoms, but they never got well and the fever never abated. It literally burned them up. The virus didn't even need living tissue. Long after the people died the virus kept the fever going, changing the bodies into a sort of dry dust that got more and more like a powder before it blew away. All that remained were clothing, and bits of metal like fillings and such. Pretty spookey. The dust blew through the air and settled on certain rocks and you know the rest.

The dust was a sort of spore I guess.

At any rate, there were no bodies to dispose of, and I suppose that was a good thing.

My brother Alan has just pointed out that I've spelled spooky wrong, that I'm getting really gruesome, and to hurry up and get to the part where we traveled south.

When our parents died, it was like the end of the world for Alan, Julia, and me. Julia was only two, and she cried and cried for her mommy, which made things worse for us. Because just when we thought we could handle it she'd start crying and we'd all end up bawling, sitting together in Sunday's bed, holding on to each other, and terrified out of our minds.

Sunday is our yellow Labrador. She's a bitch, which is the proper thing to say about a female dog. You could even say that to the queen of England and she wouldn't bat an eye. Sunday is five years old, and she thinks that we're her puppies and that she has to protect us from everything.

When our parents died there were maybe two weeks where we just wandered around the house like zombies. We were afraid to go outside, we were afraid to sleep. Then the electricity was cut off, and with it went the heat and the water.

Our parents had warned us it would be like that, and for some reason the fact that they had foreseen this and told us about it calmed us down a bit. Something, at least, had gone as planned. So we started getting ready for our own plan - the one our parents had made for us. We knew we had to hurry.

We had bikes and we had wagons that we could haul. In the wagons, we put cans of food, bottles of water, blankets, matches, flashlights, and a first aid kit. Then we put the things we really wanted to keep, like some photos of our family, our mom's jewelry and dad's watch. We didn't take any money. There were no more shopkeepers to pay. The stores were all there, but you could just take what you wanted. I was afraid to at first. I called it stealing. Alan told me not to be stupid, he said that the food would just go to waste, and besides, the people who owned the stores were all dead.

I still had a hard time just taking things, so I got into the habit of leaving little post-it notes behind saying thanks. I still do that. Alan thinks that's dumb too, but I have my reasons.

The first thing we did was to go and see where all our friends were. We lived a ways out of the village on a quiet street. All the houses around us were deserted; most people had fled to the countryside trying to escape the disease. As with most contagious diseases the people in the cities died first and fastest. Our village was only a half an hour outside of Paris.

We rode our bikes to the village and looked for our friends. There was hardly anyone left. As matter of fact, only three children were still there. They were three brothers, all younger than me.

We found them sitting in front of their house. They had a strange, blank look of shock on their faces. When we rode up on our bikes they hardly even looked at us. I had to shake the oldest one on the shoulder to get his attention.

"Hey, are you guys alone here?" I asked.

The oldest boy looked at me, and his eyes were bleak. "They just left," he said slowly.

"Were they sick?" I asked gently.

"They couldn't get up, they wouldn't get up, and now they're gone! They left us alone!" he cried, his voice getting shrill.

"Don't cry, it'll be all right." I said, trying to sound sure of myself. The truth was, I wasn't sure about anything. Panic was just on the edges of my mind at all times, and I was having a hard time not screaming and telling him to stop crying, that it was scaring me. But somehow I didn't scream. I sat down next to him and put my arm around his shoulders.

He blinked and tears ran down his face. "They just disappeared," he said. "I don't know where anyone is anymore."

Alan and I looked at each other. We didn't know what to say. The three boys were all looking at us with hopeful expressions.

"Do you know where everyone went?" the youngest boy asked me.

I swallowed hard. "Your parents are dead," I said finally. I decided that maybe I just better stick to the truth. "The virus was really weird, it turned people to dust, that's why you can't see them anymore."

The boys just looked at me. The news didn't seem to surprise them. I guess they had known all along but were afraid to admit it.

"What are your names? How old are you guys?" I asked.

"I'm Paul Marne, I'm eleven," said the biggest boy. He was a serious boy with dark brown hair and green eyes. "My brothers are Pierre, he's ten, and Charles who is six."

All three boys were serious looking, with dark brown hair. But Charles, the youngest, was chubby and had blue eyes, and Pierre, the middle brother, was thin and wiry with brown eyes.

"What will we do now?" Charles demanded. His blue eyes were worried, and he looked like he hadn't slept for days.

We took the three brothers with us. They all had bikes, so only Julia rode in a wagon. I wondered where our friends were, and I hoped they were all right.

For me, the scariest stories I had heard about the virus were about the parents who killed their children when they found out there was no hope left. When I first heard a story like that I had nightmares for weeks. I still do. It's so dreadful. But some people just give up easily, my dad said. He told us we came from a long line of pioneers, and that we were tough. "Never give up, son." he told me, just before he got sick. "Promise me you'll never give up. Die if you must, but die fighting."

I loved hearing him talk. He always talked to us like we were adults and he had the gift of being able to make the most boring things interesting. He would laugh and call it hyperbole, but I think he would have made the best teacher in the world.

Before we headed south, we went north, to Paris. The reason was the big 'virus child-care shelter' that I'd heard of. If there were helpless children there I felt I had to try and save them. The television had broadcast emergency warnings the last few weeks before it stopped working. It had stressed the importance of getting very young children to a place where they would be well cared for. There were special virus shelters all over the country, and the biggest one was where we were heading.

On the first day of our journey, we passed through six towns. We went slowly, because we wanted to make sure we didn't miss any little kids who wouldn't make it on their own. I don't know why, but I felt I had a duty to save everyone. So just in case the parents had gotten sick and neighbors hadn't had the presence of mind to take the children to the shelters, we checked all the houses we passed.

We didn't find anyone. We were starting to get very discouraged. We were also becoming more frightened. The feeling of being alone in the world was terrifying us. We needed proof that we weren't alone. Then one evening we passed a little house in the last village. Just as we got to the house, Sunday got very excited and started to bark.

(I have to take two minutes to say that besides looking for children we looked for dogs and cats trapped in houses. We opened all the doors we could, and left them open. We also set free all the farm animals we came across. Domestic animals would have more luck in the wild than in a stall or a cage. We left the gates of pastures open so that when the grass wore out they could leave on their own.)

Anyhow, Sunday started barking when we came to the last village that evening. She ran off, her tail wagging. I called her back, but she didn't obey, so I ended up unhooking Julia's wagon and pedaling after her before I lost her. I turned down a side street, then followed Sunday into an alley that led straight to a stone house. It was a cute little cottage, with a garden and a rose bush climbing over the gate. But I didn't stop to admire that. I'd heard what Sunday had heard five hundred meters away, a baby crying.

I ran to the house, and there I was stuck. The door was locked. I cursed, which normally I never do, because I had to pay my father money each time I said a bad word. Then I picked up a brick and smashed the windowpane. I managed to get the window open without cutting myself. I'd never done anything like that before, and I was shocked at how jagged the glass was, and how hard it was to clear out a hole big enough to get my arm thorough without slicing it up.

After I opened the window I crawled through it and found the baby's room.

The poor little fellow was all wet and filthy. His fists waved in the air, and his face was nearly purple with screaming. As I watched he gulped for air and then let out another yell. I didn't know how old he was, but he was too little to sit up. I decided he was okay, and I ran to the kitchen to see where the baby bottles were kept. I was in luck; the formula was the same powdered kind that I remembered helping my mother fix for Julia. In no time I'd mixed up a bottle, and I fed the baby right there without changing him or anything. I figured it was more important to get something in his stomach. After his bottle he burped and fell right asleep. He hadn't minded at all that I didn't warm it up. I didn't have anything to heat it with anyway.

I changed him and his sheets. That's when Alan came with Julia and the three brothers. We decided to spend the night in the little cottage, so while I cleaned up the broken glass, Alan went to get my bike.

We fed Sunday and told her she was the best dog in the world. Then we opened our cans of ravioli and ate them cold. We didn't talk much. The three boys we'd picked up in our village were still in sort of a daze. We knew what it was like, so we just put them to bed, all three together, and covered them up nice and warm. Then Alan and I played with Julia for a while, until she started to get sleepy and whine for Mom. That was the hardest part of the day for us. Alan seemed to handle it better than I could though. He hugged Julia and lay down to sleep with her, with Sunday curled up right next to them.

I cleaned up our dinner, put the garbage away and made sure Sunday had fresh water in her dish. Then I lay down on the sofa and tried to think as far ahead as I could. Tomorrow we would get to Paris. There we would collect all the children at the center, and then we'd all head south.

The thought of going into the city scared me, but I knew we had to do it. I didn't know how many other kids had been prepared by their parents for the future. But whenever I got too petrified I tried to remember my dad, and all he told me right at the end.

"Of course you'll be scared," he'd told me. "You'll be terrified, but you have to think of the ones who can't take care of themselves. But son, don't think you have to save everybody. You can't. Maybe you'll be too late for some. Don't let it destroy you. Look forward, always forward. Do what you can do. It will be enough. I have confidence in you. Don't forget that. And I love you."

I always break down and cry when I think of how he said that to me, so please excuse the stains on the paper. They're from my tears. The first day wasn't the hardest by far, but it was hard enough.