by Armand Rosamilia and Jay Wilburn
Split Between is a serial novel that will appear on both Jay Wilburn’s Patreon page, Patreon.com/JayWilburn , and on Armand Rosamilia’s Patreon page, Patreon.com/ArmandRosamilia . The odd numbered chapters will be on Jay Wilburn’s page on the 1st of every month and the even number chapters will appear on Armand Rosamilia’s page on the 15th of every month. Wilburn’s chapters follow the strange events in Devil’s Fork, South Carolina from the perspective of Jenna Colby. Rosamilia’s chapters follow the same events from Eric Colby’s point of view.
You can enjoy the novel a few different ways. You can become a $1 patron of both pages and read all the chapters. We highly recommend this approach. You can also be a patron of one of the pages and follow the story from one character’s perspective. It works either way, but the fullest experience is reading all the chapters.
As you decide where to spend your dollars, you can enjoy chapters 2 and 4 from Armand Rosamilia in May and June of 2021 for free and you can enjoy chapters 1, 3, 5, and 7 from Jay Wilburn when they drop from May through August.
Check out the master list with links to all the chapters as they drop twice a month.
published (August 1, 2021)
by Jay Wilburn
“Where the hell am I supposed to go?!” Jenna cried against the darkness trying to crawl in from the edges of her vision under the bright sun. It seemed her body was damned and determined to be unconscious even if it meant her death.
God, her head felt like in was cooking. Her throat wanted to close over saliva as thick as glue from her running with her mouth open.
Eric’s voice echoed through her aching skull. If there’s ever any trouble go…
Before she could conjure in answer, another of those barbed spines speared the asphalt not any more than a couple feet to her right and in front of her in the roadway. The thing that was all spines for legs chittered and screeched as it clicked around in a wild circle like it had done the other times it had fired on her.
She told herself to not look back, to just keep running. She looked over her shoulder anyway. A steaming dribble of black mucus drizzled the pavement from the hole in its rail body where it had fired one of its leg-spines at her.
It looked like it must hurt every time it sacrificed a leg to try to bring her down. Is that just how it worked? Was the atmosphere on this side of the portal poison to it? The monsters seemed to be doing too well for that. Maybe less than hospitable, but every abomination she’d encountered seemed to be feasting. Maybe the Earth’s atmosphere was enough to spoil the monster’s aim just enough.
The spiney trillion-pede got over the loss of another leg, centered on her, and charged with eerie speed. It most have decided it had plenty of legs to spare and the atmosphere wasn’t that bad once a monster got used to it.
She turned forward and staggered over a curb without seeing it. She felt the low growth crunch spongy under her sneakers as she ran headlong with no idea where she was going. It felt like patches of clover under her feet. That was going to stain her shoes.
Eric would say…
“… give a … Eric … say.”
Her eyes rolled up in her head as her lips moved with no sound. She saw the dazzle of sunlight through the weaving blackness of shadows like tentacles through her vision. Her brain fought between two imperatives, one dark and one light. One told her to survive at all cost, while the other told her she had no more consciousness left to spend.
Jenna tasted something salty on her tongue. She licked her lips and tasted more of it on the top lip. It was familiar but not refreshing. Her nose was bleeding again and running into her mouth.
She imagined some important pathway through her brain popping from exerting herself beyond her limits like this. If she could die before being eaten, that would be the way to do it.
She knew she should weave from side to side to avoid the next spine, but that sort of thing was beyond her blind run and misfiring brain.
Jenna stepped out into space and pitched over the edge of a slope. She slammed on her belly hard enough to revitalize every pain and injury she had suffered since the crash. Her teeth came together hard enough that she just knew at least a couple had to be cracked. If her tongue had been in the way, she would have bitten the damn thing in two.
As she tumbled head over ass down the mossy, clover-sick embankment, another spine whizzed over her through the air where she would have been had the ground remained level.
Jenna came to rest on her side two-thirds of the way down. Below her, through the blur of emotionless tears, she spied the concrete drainage slough full of litter and unintended marsh grasses. Beyond that, lay four lanes of empty highway. No drivers. Not even an abandoned car to mark the apocalypse.
The spiney trillion-pede still spun in place screaming out of sight just beyond the top of the embankment.
She hunted for road signs and tried to blink her vision into something she could use beyond a few feet. She could see her pulse in the discolored floaters over her sight. No signs, but she saw the overpass spanning this recessed highway from one embankment to the other. She would have run along that bridge had she kept the road. Probably would have been speared and eaten on it, more likely.
No helpful sign hanging from the concrete bridge either. Numbers etched into the chalky hip of the overpass told her it had been completed in 1974, in case she needed that bit of trivia later.
She brought herself up to a crawl and then a slouched jog to get into the shade of the bridge. Her shoes slipped a little under her as she went from dirt to concrete stained smooth and dark from runoff drains under the overpass.
Jenna managed not to spill as she hiked up the slope to where the concrete would meet the base of the road an acute angle. She figured she could pull herself up onto the lip of one of the steel beam supports. Maybe the trillion-pede wouldn’t find her here.
The place smelled like a zoo, so she imaged it would be grimy and gross up there. Too far out in the country for homeless people to be sleeping in here, but …
She stopped on her hands and knees and shook as she stared into dozens of glowing eyes. She heard the harsh breathing and the low rumble of growls.
Jenna backed away, shuffling down the concrete toward the highway below.
Then, she stopped again.
A strange sight but not alien monsters.
Bears, racoons, deer curled among them, rabbits, a red fox with its fluffy tail curled around its feet, and something with feet and scales slithered and scratched its way behind the larger furry bodies. They all huddled together in the spot Jenna had thought to hide. It was like a page from a children’s Bible she had as a kid, showing a lion lying down with a lamb. That picture had looked peaceful. This looked like a mural of terror.
If there is ever any trouble…It was stay, not go. She was supposed to stay, according to the philosophy of Eric. That ship had sailed on a river of blood this morning, hadn’t it?
The spiny thing’s barbed legs clacked and scratched as it raced under the bridge after Jenna. The animals panicked and scattered.
The trillion-pede cried out as it spun in another circle with Earthly animals fleeing all around it. Jenna ducked just in time to avoid losing an eye to antlers. She still got hit and took a backward tumble.
A spine pierced the deer’s neck above her. The wounds sizzled on both sides around the alien barb. The deer stepped on her ankle and it hurt like hell, but nothing snapped.
The spine wrapped twice around the deer’s throat and squeezed of its own power. One eye popped out and the animal sprawled.
A bear took a spine to its hindquarter and roared in pain as the weapon tried to find a way to wrap around the larger victim’s body. Not being able to find its way around, the barbs stung the bear over and over, tearing away fur and flesh as it whipped against the bear’s body.
The beast spun and rolled, crying in an agonized howl that sounded nothing like a bear.
As Jenna scrambled to her feet, one of her pant legs got splashed with urine and scat from the frightened bear.
She barely made it the last few feet to the flat surface of highway under the overpass when the trillion-pede spread its countless legs and pulled its victims together under its impossibly thin body. The deer, the bear, two racoons, wrapped up in spines like being trapped in bedsprings, and a fifth body already too mangled to identify now piled together.
The creature stabbed all its spiney legs into the bodies like a million needles for as many shots. The trillion-pede pumped up and down, bouncing on the shocks of its legs. The bear’s eyes rolled as it continued to huff ragged breaths. It was still trying to breathe even as its body collapsed in on itself like the stuffing had been emptied out of its pelt. Where was all that nourishment going into a monster with no body, no girth?
Jenna staggered out into the punishing sunshine. She had an idea of where she was but not a clear one. Far from everything was the answer that mattered. Far from home if she decided to go back there even without a world filling up with monsters. Far from …
If there is ever any trouble…
“Just say it already,” she croaked.
Then, it came back to her.
If there is ever any trouble, stay where you are until we have more information, he’d say. Well, the information was that the area west of Devil’s Fork was full of monstrosi-kitties and trillion-pedes that might still be hungry when they finished draining the stuffings of the menagerie in the crotch of the overpass. If it’s a forest fire, move southeast away from the state park. If it is anything else, any other threat or disaster that forces you to flee, go west and don’t stop. There were more instructions. There were always more instructions.
Her brain stuck on something. The warehouse? Eric called it the cabin, but it was really a few metal rooms done up like a caretaker’s apartment on the end of a long metal warehouse full of … What? Supposedly supplies for Eric’s work, but Eric drew the plans. Other people did the heavy lifting.
“That’s not fair,” she breathed out the words with a whispered voice that still managed to crack. If anything, he put his hands on everything and got in the way of people trying to do their jobs. “Still not fair.”
He’d said, if it is anything else, any other threat or disaster that forces you to flee, go west and don’t stop. If you have to stop…
“The cabin,” she said. I have stuff there, he’d said. No, supplies. He’d said supplies. She thought he meant stuff for his work.
It was far and he might not know there was an “any other threat” going on. If he did, he’d stay at the house, right? That was the first instruction. If he decided to flee west, he’d have to go through all the monsters pouring out of that portal in the middle of the road. Maybe she needed to go back and warn him. Maybe she needed to keep going west without stopping, like she’d been trying to do when she left this morning.
It never occurred to her there might be more portals. Not in that moment anyway. The notion that this portal was anything but unique was nowhere in her thoughts.
She heard the trillion-pede skittering around like king of the fricking bugs again. She’d waited too long.
Jenna made her choice on the fly, climbed one of the embankments, and set out for a destination she knew was too far to reach.
Her sneakers were stained green around the edges. Her tongue traced over her teeth. They hurt, but seemed to be intact. One hip and knee hurt badly enough to downgrade her pace from running to a hitched limp. If another monster came at her in that moment, Jenna thought she might let it have her.