Authors: Donna Burgess
Rise of the Dead Collection
by E-Volve Books
Cover by Donna Burgess
Edited by Diana Cox
ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Dedicated to Zombie Fans Everywhere
Rise of the Dead Volume 1
SAVANNAH AND MORGAN HAVE A FLAT
“What the hell was that?” Savannah shouted over the music.
The Mustang listed toward the shoulder and Morgan let it coast to a halt. “The tire, I think.” She switched off the engine and raked her thick auburn hair away from her heart-shaped face.
“You have a spare, right?” Savannah asked. She was ready to get back to school. This hillbilly scene was too much to handle, and after forty-eight hours of it, she was ready to return to the debauchery of campus life.
Morgan wrinkled her nose. “That was the spare.”
“Shit’s right,” Morgan agreed.
They climbed out of the car. The front passenger’s side tire was shredded. The old rubber had probably been going for miles, but the girls had been singing to Savannah’s iPod—loud, please—and they heard nothing but each other’s tone-deaf attempts at pseudo-punk bands.
Morgan tugged her cell phone from the rear pocket of her cutoffs. “Still nothing here,” she said, frowning. “Haven’t had a signal since we got to this hellhole.”
This hellhole was fifty miles south of Morgan’s hometown of Shitkicker, Alabama, and they were still more than two hundred miles from school. An hour ago, Morgan had actually admitted to missing the stench of vomit that perpetually lingered behind the hedges that lined the lane between Shelby’s Bar and Alston Hall.
Savannah knelt down to examine the deceased tire. Faux-scowling at her friend and dorm roommate, she kicked the wheel with the toe of her battered Doc Martens. “Smart,” she muttered. “Sometimes, I believe you want to come back here and stay.”
“Look, Monster. I was driving so hard to get you and your weird, punker-lesbo ass out of here before you got us both killed,” Morgan countered. “Monster” became Morgan’s pet name for Savannah about a week after she moved into Morgan’s dorm room, a year ago. It fit—Savannah’s side of the room was wallpapered with horror movie posters. After a moment of intense, albeit obviously fake, scowling, Morgan burst into a fit of giggles. “You know I love you more than my vibrator.”
“Small-town whore,” Savannah said, laughing. “So, now what do we do?”
Morgan shrugged. “We can walk to the next service station or wait until someone comes along.”
“Two choices and both involve interaction with some inbred bumpkin who’ll probably end up murdering and eating us,” Savannah said.
“You’ve watched too many horror movies,” Morgan teased.
“And you’ve read too many shitty vampire novels. I’m betting an inbred bumpkin shows up before a hot vampire.” Savannah reached back inside the open window of the passenger’s seat and grabbed her cigarettes. She tapped out one and lit it with a lighter that had Iron Maiden’s logo emblazoned on the sides. She watched a ghost of herself reflected in the windshield as she smoked. Her dyed-black hair glistened in the sunshine, as did the little silver rings that threaded through the corner of her lip and the edge of one ultra-thin eyebrow.
A red pickup crested the rise, like a ghost in the waves of heat that danced up from the surface of the pavement. The engine rumbled like a broken tractor. Staticky rockabilly blared from busted radio speakers.
Morgan and Savannah moved to the edge of the road and waited. As the truck drew closer, they began frantically waving.
The pickup skidded to a halt in a cloud of exhaust and gravel, and a cute blond-haired guy stuck his head through the open window. “You ladies need a hand?”
Morgan stepped forward. “Flat tire,” she said. “We really could use some help.” Savannah couldn’t help but notice how Morgan tossed her hair back from her face like she always did when she met a cute guy. Savannah loved the girl, but that little movement irritated her utterly.
Savannah nudged her friend and leaned against the door of the pickup. “Einstein here doesn’t have a spare. We thought we were stuck.” She flashed him her best friendly girl smile, which was tough for a girl whose normal expression was a scowl. “But then you came along. Lucky us.”
“Lucky me, is more like it,” the driver said. His dimples made Savannah’s belly shiver a little. He thrust his hand through the window. “Johnny.”
Morgan pushed Savannah aside and grabbed the big hand. “I’m Morgan. This creature of the night is Savannah, but I call her Monster.”
“We tried to call a tow service, but we can’t get a connection,” Savannah said.
“Phone service sucks out here,” Johnny agreed. “We got a landline at my house. We can call from there. Get out of the sun, too. Nobody wants to hang out on the side of the road all afternoon.”
“I suppose not,” Morgan said, hustling around the front of the pickup. She pulled open the passenger’s side door and raced to jump in ahead of Savannah, squeezing herself against Johnny’s side. She ran her fingers along the curve of his generous bicep and giggled.
“Wow. Nice,” she said, then turned to Savannah and winked.
Savannah climbed in and tugged the door closed.
Johnny leaned forward on the steering wheel and beamed over at Savannah. “Monster, huh? Cool. You like scary things?”
Savannah nodded slowly. Despite Johnny’s perfect smile and friendly demeanor, her chest tightened a little. Maybe a ride with this guy wasn’t a terrific idea, after all.
“She is a scary thing,” Morgan said as they started off.
THE HUNKY GUY IN THE PICKUP
They sped along the deserted country road, passing more of the same—fields, clapboard houses hidden behind canopies of trees, windmills.
Cows and goats.
Johnny switched the radio volume back up, the static like a live wire. Nasally crooning rose, battling with twanging guitars and Savannah wondered how anyone could consciously make the decision to listen to country music. She imagined needing to clean out her ears when she got back home.
“Is your place very far?” Morgan shouted over the music.
“Just a ways ahead,” Johnny answered. Savannah grew more nervous with each passing mile. Maybe they should’ve stayed with the car. A cop might have come along and radioed for a tow truck.
After a few more agonizing moments of Morgan smiling like a sixteen-year-old and tossing her hair, Johnny turned onto a narrow dirt lane. In the passenger’s side mirror, Savannah watched the paved road vanish in a cloud of beige dust. Through the dirty windshield, a hulking old farmhouse emerged. Things were about to get worse. She took a deep breath as Johnny ignored what was supposed to be the driveway, instead cutting through the patchy lawn and pulling all the way up to the front porch.
“This is it,” he said, stopping the pickup too abruptly, sending the girls reeling toward the dash.
“It’s awesome,” Morgan gushed as they climbed from the cab of the pickup. She hooked her arm through Johnny’s as they climbed the steps. The old wood groaned under their weight.
Savannah hung back a bit, taking in the old place. The wood façade was the color of gravestones and tangles of dead ivy wound the broad porch columns like brittle hair. Unease laced itself through her chest and stomach.
“Come on, slow ass,” Morgan called over her shoulder as she vanished into the dark of the front door, the rickety screen door slamming behind her.
Some old country song played from back room, the snap and crackle of an old vinyl album and a woman’s soft, mournful warbling. Savannah began to sweat immediately. Morgan plopped down on an ancient sofa, dust rising around her.
“You girls want some iced tea?” Johnny drawled.
“That would be nice,” Morgan said. Then she patted the space next to her, kicking up more dust. “Sit down, Monster. Don’t be rude.”
Johnny slunk off into adjacent kitchen. Savannah thought she could hear him speaking to someone else.
She shuffled her feet. “I’m not being rude.” Then she called out, “That telephone, Johnny?”
“Hold on,” he called from the kitchen.
In a few moments, he returned, two tall glasses filled with muddy brown liquid in his hands and a bottle of Natural Light tucked under one arm.
“Ladies,” Johnny said, giving Morgan a smile to melt the icecaps. The tea was as thick as molasses, but Morgan sipped hers as if it was actually drinkable. She shot Savannah a heated look—drink up, bitch—and Savannah brought the jar up and took a long whiff. Sure, it smelled like regular old iced tea, but there was also something else there, barely perceptible—some strange odor that just didn’t seem right. Probably just her imagination, but she wasn’t about to take a chance.
Suddenly the house began to shake. Savannah started to say something, but caught herself just in time. The mysterious kitchen dweller appeared. All six hundred pounds of her. She was on the down side of middle age, wearing a lime green housecoat that was more stains than color, a pair of bedroom slippers crushed as thin as tissue paper, and glasses so smudged her beady eyes were only suggestions behind the lenses.
“Baby, you should’ve told Mamma you were
havin’ comp’ny,” she grunted. She huffed and puffed from the short walk from the kitchen to the living room. A sheen of greasy perspiration glistened off her moon pie face, and Savannah assumed she was perpetually sweaty. Judging from Mamma’s smell, she bet she was, anyway. Those “Saturday Night Baths” weren’t just myths.
“These ladies had car trouble. I couldn’t just leave ’
em on the side of the road in this heat,” Johnny told her.
Mamma shook her head. “Oh, no, no, no!” She smiled toward the girls, her lips pulling back, her eyes unchanged. “My Johnny’s a real gentleman,
“He is that,” Morgan agreed, too eagerly. She stood up and stuck out her hand. “I’m Morgan.”
“Well, you’re a pretty little thang, Miss Morgan,” Mamma said, burying Morgan’s slender fingers in the folds of her hand.
Morgan pulled away and Savannah detected the slightest look of disgust on her friend’s face. She sat back down and took another sip of the iced tea, wiping her palm on the hip of her shorts.
“Who’s your friend?” Mamma asked, her voice suddenly not as welcoming. Savannah had heard that tone plenty of times—most folks didn’t like what they didn’t understand.
“Mon—Savannah,” Morgan said.
Savannah loathed chitchat. “The phone, Johnny. Can I call the tow service now?”
“Already did.” Johnny swigged his Natty Light and wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “They’re backed up, but they’ll be out here directly.”
“Any idea how long?”
“You in a hurry?” Mamma snapped suddenly.
Savannah jumped, surprised at the fat woman’s sudden ferociousness. “Well, no, ma’am,” she stammered, hating herself for being somewhat intimidated. Then she raised her chin and met the woman’s icy gaze. “I mean yes. Morgan and I need to be back at school. People will be worried if we’re late.” Then she added, “They’ll come looking for us.”
“They will?” Mamma waddled over to a filthy recliner and eased herself down as best she could. The springs cried out under her weight. “Well, you can’t be worrying your people. If my Johnny said the tow truck is coming, it’s coming. Now, drink your tea and relax.” She took a long, wet-sounding breath. “We don’t get
comp’ny very much. Not since Mikey’s accident.”
Mikey’s accident,” Savannah whispered, not like the sound of that very much.
“You’ll get to meet
Mikey real soon,” Johnny said, giving her a conspiratorial wink.
After an extremely uncomfortable ten minutes, Johnny offered to call the tow service again, and he and Mamma vanished back into the kitchen. Morgan continued sipping her cloudy iced tea.
“See? He’s taking care of it for us.”
Savannah didn’t reply.
“Why aren’t you drinking your tea, Monster?”
“Because I don’t trust it.”
“It’s perfectly fine.” Morgan drained the last drops from her jar to prove her point. “I’m still alive. See?”
“I see,” Savannah said. But she still wasn’t trying it. If the drink wasn’t laced with
roofies, it had to be spiked with something. Probably moonshine, by the looks of these people. Morgan’s eyes were glassy and wide. Her speech was slower than usual and slightly slurred.
“Now, I need to go find a potty,” she said. She placed her jar on the floor and stood up. Then she teetered wildly and dropped back onto the sofa.
“Shit. The heat must’ve gotten to me,” she said, her voice shaking. “I’m dizzy as fuck.”
She mustered the gumption to get to her feet again, Savannah standing to help steady her. “You need help to the john?”
“I can make it, Monster. I’m fine.”
She started toward a dark, narrow hallway at the other end of the living room. “It must be this way.”
“Probably,” Savannah agreed. “Don’t get lost.”
Don’t get killed, she wanted to tell her instead. The place had
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
written all over it.