Nicholas Belardes is a dual-ethnic Chicano writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the YA-themed edition of The Latinx Archive: Speculative Fiction for Dreamers (Ohio State University Press), Southwestern American Literature (Texas State University), Carve Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Barrelhouse, and others.
He illustrated map drawings for the New York Times best-selling novel West of Here, and is the author of the first twitterature in novel form, Small Places, which has been studied as part of digimodernism in literature by scholars who seek to discover the fusion of art with digital technologies, in specific, electronic fiction as a new literary current.
Sometimes a ghostwriter of contemporary fiction and YA, he currently lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his wife Jane. The 12 Rules of Survival is his first MG novel. You can find him at nicholasbelardes.com or on Twitter @nickbelardes
Artist: Timothy Banks timothybanks.com or on Twitter @teabanks
Ninth Rule of Survival: Communicate With the Outside World
I remember Dad was with me. We huddled inside the Hobbit hole—the tube-like structure attached to the basement. I sat in a puddle of water in total darkness imagining flames like fiery gas jets leaping in every direction. I imagined trees and other buildings being consumed by the wildfire making its way up the mountainside. Nothing could or would stop the relentless flames though if there ever was a time to pray for a miracle, it was now, though all I could really do was hope that some infinite creature would just turn out all the lights in the world and toss a blanket over the sun.
When I heard a pounding coming from the basement outside, I nearly jumped to my feet. I thought the fire was here, that it must have grown a fist.
Dad told me everything was alright. “It’s just David, son,” he said pulling open the door.
David was holding some electronics. The door was still open. I could see behind him an orange-red glow in the cabin brighter than before. The room wasn’t burning but the wildfire looked closer than ever. “Is there any power down here? Or batteries?” David asked.
“Where did you get that radio? We checked the cabinets,” Dad said, rifling through drawers. “Here,” he said finding a few different sizes of battery packs.
“In the office,” David said, opening one. “I don’t know how we missed it the first time. I looked everywhere.”
David pulled off the back of the radio, shoved in the batteries, then flipped on a switch. The radio came to life hissing with static. This was how we learned our Ninth Rule of Survival: Communicate With the Outside World.
“Emergency, emergency, over,” David called into the mic, adding our address on a road near Rim of the World Drive, cabin coordinates, and that we were trapped. He said this over and over, trying different channels until we finally heard someone on the other end.
“Big Bear Fire Department Unit 283 B . . .” came the voice.
After a brief exchange the fire official said: “We’re sending a drop over your coordinates . . . sit tight . . .”
David barked into the radio. “Hurry. We’re about to catch fire. There’s nowhere for us to go.”
This terrified me. I knew we were trapped but hearing David say there was nowhere for us to go made me want to scramble out of the hole and up the mountain.
“We can get out soon as they drop,” David said.
“Yeah, Dad. Can we?” I pleaded.
Dad wasn’t convinced. “Be quiet, Cameron,” he said before turning to David. “We need to stay here until someone comes and gets us. I keep telling you, we’re trapped. There’s no road out and you can’t expect to escape by hiking through wilderness or crawling through a burning building. The fire would overtake you.”
“The drop will open a path out,” David said.
“But Dad,” I added. “We need to get out.”
Dad ignored me. “David, we need to close this door now.”
While they argued I watched through the open door. The glow got brighter and brighter. Flickering red and orange of flames were inside now. It was like we were already embers. I screamed for them to close the door.