The 12 Rules of Survival | Episode 9: A Terrifying Morning


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

A Terrifying Morning

I’m lying in the middle of a bed, paralyzed. I think I’m awake but I’m not.

I feel a slight movement, like an aftershock might be coming.

I guess I’m not completely paralyzed. I can turn my head to the side.

Ocean waves lap as far as I can see. I’m floating above them. Far away is an orange glow, like a ship on fire. The fire floats closer. I can almost make out what it is. Has Gabby become a ship? Has she suddenly turned into wood? Her cutter face is flat and spinning—like weirdly turning wooden clock faces with teeth. Her mouth opens. I want to get away. This is a nightmare.

When my eyes suddenly open, I still feel like I’m in the middle of a grey ocean. Only, this isn’t mist hitting my face. It’s Bella’s sloppy wet tongue dripping on my forehead! And worse! Now she’s licking straight up my nose, wagging her wiry pigtail.

I twist and turn.

Finally she jumps back, barks once.

“Hi Bella.” I stroke her silky pug fur.

I’m not home, I realize.

I’ve been in this strange house all night. Last thing I remember was huddling in the closet, my refuge chamber, terrified. I must have fallen asleep and later crawled onto the bed.

At least I’ve made one friend here, I think. Two if I count Grandma Benita. I can still smell her like she’s smothered herself in petals for a week. Everything she touches is engulfed with the same rosy scent.

Bella leaps off the bed, darts out of the room. “Back down to one friend,” I say, catching a glimpse of a face peeking through the cracked door.

It’s Maria, the oldest of the—I mean, oldest of my two sisters. She’s covered in shadows casting an angry eye on me. My eyes roam from her to the posters on the wall and all the pink and lavender. This must be her room. I’m betraying her space, stinking it up with my boy scent. Snapers too.

Bella’s behind her. The dog growls at me again.

“You have to get up,” Maria says. She isn’t nice about it either. “That lady is here to take you to school.”

Patricia. The social worker. Is there good news? Bad news?

I jump out of bed. “School? Where’s Snapers?”

Maria is already gone.


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