The 12 Rules of Survival | Episode 38: The Changes in Things


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 or on Twitter @nickbelardes

Artist: Timothy Banks or on Twitter  @teabanks

The Changes In Things

Clayton is already waiting for me. I can see him on the sidewalk dribbling his new basketball, taunting Denise to try and steal it. She hasn’t lunged for it yet but she probably will. She’s always been a little faster than her brother. And like I said earlier, a better shot.

Behind them Mason walks alongside the fence. His head is down as he makes his way past. He doesn’t look up or glance over until Clayton says hi. Mason says something in return that I can’t hear because the window is up. We’re trying at least. If we can’t change Mason, we can at least change ourselves and how we act toward him. He stops nearby, silently waiting for Denise. She elbows her brother, takes the ball and runs off with Mason.

I’m going to invite Mason to my birthday surf sessions. I don’t know what he’ll say. I’ll probably ask Chelsea Ocampo too. Maybe even Mallory Whitehead.

We pull up to the curb. Dad is back to himself. Mostly. He still gets a little tired. Luckily he has lots of time to rest. Each trapped Tamaki employee got at least three months of recovery bonus time. In the meantime he’s donating some of his skills helping students at the university build machines. He assists a professor he grew up with. I keep asking if they’re going build an android named Gabby. Dad laughs at this every time.

He waits for me to get my things together. “Don’t forget your lunch,” he says then takes out his wallet.

Oh man, is he going to give me milk money too?

“Here, I want to show you something” He takes out a piece of paper. Unfolds it. I recognize my handwriting. “Remember the 12 Rules of Survival we made up? We wrote this the day after the fire. I’ve kept it in my wallet ever since. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you before but I read it constantly down in the tunnel. We all used it.”

“You did?”

“Of course we did. You know, I try not to think about those days or the fire. But this is what inspired bravery in me.”

“Me too,” I say.

Dad looks at me and then starts laughing. “All right. Get going.” Then we do our super explosive new handshake-fist bump and hug. Dad kind of messes it up but that’s okay. We both chuckle.

“Your mom is picking you up after school,” he says.

“I know,” I say, adding, “I love you, Pops.” I’ll never forget to tell him that anymore. This really is the Twelfth Rule of Survival: You Never Really Lose Someone. It can be about someone who is gone like Marina, a girl who for some reason has been found again. Mom has been telling me all about her. Or someone like David, who may have been there with Dad while he was trapped in the tunnel even though he disappeared in the fire. I think of how Dad and I were separated. Were we ever really apart as we carried the same twelve rules? In some ways this last rule applies to Mom too. Our reunion was tough—but we never really lost each other. I have so much to still think about what all these rules mean, but for right now, I just want to go play basketball.

Dad looks like he wants to say something else, but I accidentally stumble out of the car, nearly dropping everything. He just shakes his head.

Clayton is already at the door. “Hey Mr. Flint,” he says to Dad, then growls to me, “C’mon, Space Slug. I need you to help me get the ball back from my sister or we’re never going to get in a game before class.”

Rule of Survival No. 1: Realize you have a problem

Rule of Survival No. 2: Be brave

Rule of Survival No. 3: Find a refuge chamber

Rule of Survival No. 4: Accept where you are

Rule of Survival No. 5: Trust someone is trying to rescue you

Rule of Survival No. 6: Breathe

Rule of Survival No. 7: Make sure you can see in the dark

Rule of Survival No. 8: Ration supplies

Rule of Survival No. 9: Communicate with the outside world

Rule of Survival No. 10: Make friends

Rule of Survival No. 11: Stay mentally strong

Rule of Survival No. 12: You never really lose someone

Bonus Rule: Understanding we have power over how we react to the good and bad things beyond our control