Okay, so first off, if you have not read DEAD: Onset (Book One of the New DEAD series) then you may want to close this post now or risk a possible spoiler. And if you are curious, YES, it is available in trade paperback, ebook, and Audio Book! So, whatever format you favor…it is waiting for you.
Today, I want to share a snippet of the upcoming second book in my New DEAD series…DEAD: Alone (Book Two of the New DEAD series). You can expect the paperback to be released around the end of February and the ebook on the first of March (the audio version should be out around that time as well.) So, if you are trying to avoid spoilers, then you have been amply warned.
The clouds above made it darker than normal which meant I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I pulled out the small battery-powered lantern from my bag and switched it on. I didn’t like the fact that I would be a visible target for miles around, but I liked the idea of walking into or stepping on a zombie unawares even less.
I was just swinging my other leg over when a small voice froze me in my place. “Are you going out to do more murder?”
Michael Killian. At nine years old, he was the youngest survivor in our group. He was also autistic. I can’t say that I know much about such things, but what I have noticed is that he almost never makes eye contact with any of us. He seems much more comfortable talking to Chewie, my female Newfoundland. Speaking of Chewie, she was standing right beside the boy on the pathway that I’d followed to the wall. Her tail swished when she and I made eye contact.
“Umm…” I honestly didn’t know what to say to the boy.
“Chewie needs more of her special treats.”
I was about to ask what treats those might be when the boy pulled out a package of beef jerky. I wasn’t sure where he’d found it, but the boy pulled a piece out of the plastic pouch and held up one finger on his left hand. Chewie sat down on her haunches obediently.
“That’s new,” I breathed.
“There is more of it at the dinner place.” With that, Michael turned and started back for the house.
Chewie stayed put for a moment, her head tilted and her tail wagging. I could see her dark eyes glitter and reflect the light from my lantern.
“Take good care of them, girl,” I whispered.
As if she understood me, she gave me a huff and then turned around and plodded after the boy. I watched her vanish into the blackness of the night and felt my eyes begin to sting with tears that desperately wanted to come. I forced them back and swallowed the grief that made my heart ache and my stomach twist into a knot.
Turning back to the task at hand, I dropped to the ground and started down the hill. I would need to stay alert. If I was forced into hand-to-hand combat with a zombie, I would do it because there was no other choice. But with my busted arm wrapped in Ace bandages, I doubted my efficiency.
Betty had said that my healing could take as long as ten weeks or as short as four or five. I would not live that long no matter where I fell in the healing spectrum, so I guess it didn’t matter if I ruined my arm to the point of not being able to use it any more.
By the time I reached the road, I knew that I would not make it up the other side without having to take down at least one zombie. It was probably due to the darkness reducing my vision, but I now found myself sort of trapped between a group of three to my right and two to the left. They were coming down at me from the direction of the gated community.
Sure, I could change my mind and just head someplace else; but no, my mind was made up. Besides, the worst that could happen to me would be to get bitten. Since I was already scratched up, that would only suck in that it would really hurt. It wasn’t like I could be infected twice. And if it looked like I was about to go down, then I would shove the Glock in my mouth and pull the trigger.
I doubted my ability to do it unless it was the final option. I just hoped that I would be able to eventually do it once I reached the point where I was really sick. I remembered Morey and how he became listless and unresponsive. I told myself that he wasn’t quite aware of what was happening to him, and that I knew my eventual fate if I did not go through with it.
I closed on the zombies to my left, effectively putting distance between me and the ones on my right. This would be tricky and I pulled up just about ten feet from the closest of the two. As it stumbled towards me, arms out and hands grasping at the air, I tried to time my move. Just as he was taking another unsteady step towards me, I lunged forward, gripped the thing by the wrist and jerked it towards and then past me. I heaved with all I could and the zombie stumbled and then fell. The second one I simply shoved away and then I broke into a jog for the wall at the top of the hill.
I climbed up and over where I’d entered the place just yesterday when I’d sort of saved Carl. Already, the moans of the undead drifted on the night air. Just as I slid to the ground, I felt the first drops of rain on my face. Since I had no idea what the insides of these houses might have in store for me, and one was pretty much like any other, I took the one right across from me.
Crossing the street, my lantern’s dull glow gave me a good ten or so feet of illumination. The shadows all around had me jumping every few steps as the wind made things shift and move. The rain and breeze did nothing to eliminate the stench of the undead, so even though I couldn’t see them, I knew they were near.
When the first one came into view, I stopped in my tracks. She couldn’t be any older than sixteen. Her death had been violent and gruesome. Not that anybody being eaten alive doesn’t suffer such a fate, but this had me wincing in sympathetic pain. I suddenly wished for my lamp to go out. Looking at this girl hurt my soul.
From what I could see, one of the undead had latched onto her face just to the side of her right eye. The flesh was peeled away, enlarging the eye socket to gross proportions. The eyeball was only still in place due to the optic nerve and actually jiggled in an unsettling manner with each labored step. Her belly was torn open wide and a wad of unspooling intestines were bunched up at that hole, just waiting to be knocked loose and spill to the ground. Her nose was nothing more than a gaping wound that appeared pitch black. Her left hand was missing all its fingers and the right hand only had the thumb and index. All of these terrible details were surprisingly visible. Perhaps it was because my eyes could not tear themselves away and allow me to detach myself from any feeling as I prepared to kill this pitiful creature.
I desperately wanted to end this zombie girl. I could not explain why, at first, as I allowed her to approach close enough so that I could sweep her legs out from under her. She landed hard and that proved to be enough to dislodge the wad of entrails that were clogging the rip in her belly. I heard the wet squelch as I stepped in to finish her off with a blow to the head with my axe. Maybe it was the dangling eyeball, or maybe it was my awkwardness with using my left hand, but the blow came in off-center and buried the head of my hand axe in her face right around the center of that empty eye socket. The results were still the same as I ended her pitiful existence for good.
I had to plant a foot on her chest to wrench the axe free. I did this just in time to come up and shoulder a second zombie aside. This one had a mangled arm that did not look right for some reason. It took me a few seconds to realize that this person almost had his arm wrenched off. It had been severely dislocated and turned almost completely backwards.
I ended this one with a surprisingly clean blow considering the circumstances. The downside was that I ended up losing my grip on the trusty hand axe. The sounds of approaching moans caused me to scurry away frantically, leaving my favorite weapon jutting from the forehead of my last kill as I ran for the front door of my target home.
I tried the knob and breathed a sigh of relief when it opened. Slipping inside, I sniffed the air. Other than what I identified as rotting food or garbage, the air was relatively fresh. I ventured down the hallway of what had been a rather stylish residence just a short time ago, pausing to glance at a large family portrait that hung on one wall of the hallway.
The family that smiled back at me seemed strangely familiar. It took me a moment to recognize the man in the photo as one of the members of the professional basketball team in Portland. His smile was what had thrown me. He was known for being a bit ferocious on the court and had a very recognizable sneer that had become a bit of a trademark. His huge hands rested on his wife’s shoulders and she was looking over the head of a young girl with long, wavy black hair.
I moved into the living room and plopped down on a very expensive-looking couch. I almost felt guilty. The snow-white couch would forever bear a dark smear from my blood splattered clothing.
I only intended to simply catch my breath. I started awake when a beam of sunlight stabbed through my eyelids. It was well past sunrise.
Getting to my feet, I made a full tour of the house. The first thing I did was locate the ibuprofen. My head was pounding.
“That must be the first sign,” I muttered to myself as I popped six tablets into my mouth and swallowed them down with some tepid water. The next thing I did was rifle through the cupboards.
Eventually, I was seated at the expansive oak dining room table with a box of dry cereal and a bottle of Gatorade. I could look out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the dining room and see the street with a handful of walking dead staggering past. As I munched, I made up the conversations I imagined would take place. Sort of doing my own riff of the opening fish tank scene of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
“Hey, somebody left an axe in Herbert’s face.”
“Seems like a waste of a perfectly good axe.”
“Morning Missus Bennington, you’re looking particularly pale and ghoulish today.”
“Have you lost weight, Mister Jones?”
“Thank you for noticing, had my insides pulled out a few days ago. Already up and about…almost as good as new.”
“Amazing what they can do these days.”
I wondered briefly if madness was another symptom that I was slowly becoming one of the undead. I had a mouthful of Crunch Berries in my mouth when a realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
Jumping to my feet, I sprinted to the bathroom where I’d located the ibuprofen. Holding up my lantern, I switched it on. I squinted from the initial glare, then leaned forward and stared at my reflection.