Authors: TW Brown
(Book 6 of the
Cover by Shawn Conn
©2013 May December Publications
The Split-tree logo is a registered trademark of May December Publications, LLC.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living, dead, or otherwise, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author or May December Publications.
Printed in the United States of America.
A moment with the author…
As I send this book out to you, I always have those moments of worry and concern. “Will they like it?” I always get that same feeling with any book, but as the
series continues, I find that my worries increase almost exponentially.
Before going much farther, I should say that I am one of those writers who understand that not everything I write will be met with praise. However, if you are reading this…you are hea
ding in to the sixth book of a series. You are not stumbling in blind. (At least I hope not…if for some reason you simply saw this book and it looked interesting, but you have not read any of the others…STOP!) You have been on this ride for a while. You have expectations.
I make no secret that I do this…write these stories for you. I scour the reviews and see what your response is. I wait like a kid at Christmas for those first reviews to pop up on Amazon.com. I check my email more than usual those first few weeks.
Simply put, I love the attention; I eat up the kind words and praise. I wait for those emails that ask for “more” of a certain story so that I can compile my list of areas to attack for the special editions. (I was still surprised that one of the most requested from the first three books in the series was a back story on Garrett.)
When I started this series, I wanted something that was about the people. Sure…there would be plenty of zombie action, but I believe that readers of these stories wanted more than the same old “hole up, defend, be overwhelmed, repeat” formula that appears between far too many book covers with the word “zombie”
in the title. I never envisioned Juan becoming a fan favorite, or how people would absolutely hate Shari.
Along the way, I heard the complaints by some about “too many characters” or “too bleak of an outlook on human nature” by those who did not care for me or the series. They are entitled to their view. Did it change anything? Nope. I kept doing what I set out to do, and by now, many of those people have dried up and gone away. In the meantime, with your help, the last
Dead: Siege & Survival
Amazon Top 100 in Horror
for the first few weeks of its release. It also pushed me into their
Top 100 Horror Writers
In my mind, it validated my belief that readers of the zo
mbie genre were more than ready to handle huge casts of characters and an unflinching look at humanity. One look at history, or better yet, try the Evening News (pick your favorite network), and I think that you will discover that we can be far scarier than any Hollywood creation.
having been said, I also believe that we have an enormous capacity for goodness, for selflessness, and for change. Yes, I unleashed Garrett McCormick on an unsuspecting audience. People like Travis Reynolds and Mister Abernathy would crawl out from under their rocks and take full advantage of the chaos. However, there were also the Ian Lothermans, Dillon Clays, and Juan Hoyas of the world who could reinvent themselves into the person that they always wanted to be, but never could stay within the lines.
For this book,
, I actually wanted to address a few things. Some of your favorite characters are going to face demons from their past…or even their present.
will hold a lot of meanings here…and it is intentional. Each of us has had to confront things in our lives, and I believe that this is a universal theme. I also felt it was a nice way to wrap up the first half of the series.
I can’t wait to see where we go next. Believe it or not…I
only know the final “fate” of one character in this series. Beyond that, I am as much along for the ride as the rest of you.
Time to offer some thanks.
First I must thank my two wonderful beta readers: Vix Kirkpatrick (who is also a very dear friend), and Michele L. Heeder. Beyond that, I think I want to keep it simple. All of the people in my life who I am close to are aware of my feelings for them because I make it a point to tell them often. So I just want to thank you. As you read this (although I really have no idea how many of you bother to suffer through my introductory ramblings since they are mostly just a self-serving monolog that is probably a bit dull to all but me) I want you to know that you continue to inspire me. Your emails and words of support drive me to do my best every minute of the day. Not just as a writer, but as a person. I do read your reviews and emails…and yes, that is actually me replying. Trust me…I am never going to be so big that I would dream of hiring somebody to go through your notes to me. If you took the time to write to me or post a review, then the least I can do is reply personally. So, my thanks to you from the bottom of my heart.
To my son, Cody Ryan Brown
Chapter 1 – Vignettes XXXI
Chapter 1 – The Geek’s First Decision
Chapter 1 – Blood in the Snow
Chapter 1 – Vignettes XXXII
Chapter 1 – A Skeleton in the Geek’s Closet
Chapter 1 – Catastrophic Loss
Chapter 1 – Vignettes XXXIII
Chapter 1 – Geek Reality
Chapter 1 – Billy
Chapter 1 – Vignettes XXXIV
Chapter 1 – The Geek’s Girl
Chapter 1 – The Bigger They Are…
Chapter 1 – Vignettes XXXV
Chapter 1 – Don’t Mess With a Geek (Girl)
Chapter 1 – Scared S**tless
Chapter 1 – Vignettes XXXVI
Chapter 1 – The Geek Crowns a Princess
Chapter 1 – Winter’s End
Over the years, science grew in leaps and bounds, yet the brain continued to baffle. What is certain is that the brains of children were developing exponentially in the first dozen years of life.
When the dead began to walk, another certainty was disco
vered: the only way to kill the undead was to destroy the brain. Nobody could explain why, and there would be no opportunity to explore this phenomenon in a properly outfitted laboratory.
That is why nobody could explain the peculiar behavior demonstrated by the zombies of the young ones. There was obv
iously something different at work in the child-zombie. Perhaps it was the fact that the brain was still going through such dynamic change and growth. Whatever the case, it was becoming clear that the ‘children of the dead’ (as some would begin to call them) demonstrated a marked difference between themselves and their brethren.
The world was awash in varying shades of gray. It was only for the first few seconds that images of ‘before’ remained. In those fleeting moments, there were faces that came and went. One in particular seemed to linger the longest. It was the face of a woman with creamy skin and a petite nose with eyes that sparkled despite their dark coloring. The upturned slant of those eyes only made them more beautiful.
A word tied to that face, but it was more of a feeling. Som
ething about that word sent a tremor of what could only be described as peace through the last sparks of electricity that powered the mind of this newly dead person. The word tried to form on dead lips, but the only sound that came was a rasping wheeze. That word?
Then, there was a moment of absolute nothingness. The creature stood in snow that came to its thighs. It turned its head one way and then the other after several moments of complete stillness. Like so many of its kind, the images had faded. Yet, something remained.
It began to move. There had been a single source of heat nearby, but it had already
been forgotten. What it did “remember” was that it needed to move in a certain direction.
. It needed to move away from that source. Yes, it craved the heat, and a desire to feed on that heat was present (if this thing could be given the human trait of desire). Yet, it was alone. And it did not like being alone. Something hummed in a tiny part of the almost completely dead brain. For some reason, an occasional spark would build like a teardrop, and then fire through the wasteland of that mysterious organ: the brain.
The tiny figure bega
n to trudge through the snow. At times, it would stop, forgetting any reason or purpose for moving in the current direction. Eventually, a sound would prompt it to resume. It did not register the difference between a snow-laden limb snapping under the weight of the frozen powder or perhaps a moan from one of its brethren.
Eventually, it reached an opening in the labyrinth of trees and stumbled into the ruts made by a tracked vehicle. Of course it had no comprehension of what the deep furrows in the snow meant, it simply turned and began to follow in the easier-to-traverse trail.
As the shadows grew long and darkness came, the small creature stopped walking. It looked one way and then another as one of those teardrops of electric energy built. A weak signal formed and the zombie let loose with a soft groan. After several seconds of silence, an answer came from the darkness in the form of a mewling gurgle.
tiny figure stopped and cocked its head for a few seconds before finally determining the direction of the source. It passed a few empty houses until it came to one that lacked any intact windows, the front door little more than a splintered memory. A shadow moved, accompanied by the sounds of scraping.
Emily-zombie turned and headed towards the open front door. Another zombie emerged as if to welcome her inside. This one was a woman missing most of her lower torso.
Emily-zombie considered it for a moment and then walked past it as if being invited in. She paused in the middle of the ruins that were once an elegant living room.
through each room, eventually aware that the zombie from the doorway was following. When she looked at it, there was the beginning of a spark that built and fired.
, would be the signal if she could get it to make sense. However, Emily-zombie slowed her pace to allow the other to keep up. There is something comforting (again, a feeling that she does not fully comprehend) about being in the presence of another. Even more so since this one keeps triggering a word that takes as great an importance as the desire to feed.
By the time the sun has risen, Emily-zombie had figured out that if she makes noise, others will come. The dawn broke on a cluster of undead gathered in the front yard of the home. Dark shadows continued to emerge from nearby woods and other ruined homes, zeroing in on the sound of metal on metal.
stood in the driveway with a bent cookie sheet. Occasionally she smacked it against the defunct pick-up truck sitting at an angle beside her. As more and more of her kind gathered, a new sensation grew.
Aaheru ran up the stairs. Something dripped into his eye, blurring his vision and then starting to sting. He wiped it away, oblivious to the crimson smear that he’d created. The door to the bridge was already slightly ajar. He burst through it and was not surprised to discover it empty…mostly.
Half inside the port
bridge wing door, a body was sprawled on the ground. Two figures hunched over it, gorging on whatever had spooled out of the ripped open abdominal cavity. Taking care to shut the door behind him, Aaheru strode the few steps over to where the dead continued feasting as if he were not present and brought his blade down; cleaving first one and then the other. For good measure he drove the tip of his sword into the face of the unidentifiable corpse that had provided such a fine distraction.
“May you never find peace,” he spat.
After making certain that both bridge wings were clear and the doors shut, Aaheru searched around the bridge for a moment until he found what he was seeking. Having only been up here a few times, and not bothering to take much notice of the layout, he was actually embarrassed that he had no idea where the ship’s intercom was located.
Thankfully, all t
he switches and buttons were clearly marked. After taking a few breaths to ensure that he would sound calm—a pharaoh must never sound as if he is not in perfect command of any and all situations—he was prepared to address his people.
“Children of Egypt,” he began, “it is your pharaoh speaking. Somehow, those wishing to sabotage us have managed to release the undead on board our ship. I am not yet certain how extensive this has become, but I am urging you all to find whatever you can use as a weapon and make your way to the bridge where I await your arrival.
“I urge those of you who are experienced in the maneuvering of this ship to make haste, and I order any who encounter such a person to do whatever it takes to assist and ensure that they arrive before me unharmed.”
Aaheru set down the mic just as a loud bang sounded to his right. He made a strangled cry and was actually relieved to di
scover it was one of those abominations slapping at the Plexiglas instead of one of his subjects. Showing fear might be a normal reaction for mere mortals, but the pharaoh was supposed to be a god among men. Gods feared nothing.
“Come and meet your end,” he hissed between clenched teeth as Aaheru flung the door open. The zombie tumbled fo
rward, unable to counterbalance for the sudden lack of the door that it had been pawing at.
With another solid stroke, the creature ceased to move. Aaheru looked to see if anybody living might be coming his way. So far, nobody seemed to be answering his call. Certainly he could not be the only one left.
Still, recovering from this loss was going to be difficult. He was already certain that his only trusted advisor, Ahi, was dead. He knew because that was the first head he’d chopped.
It had started with a scratching at the door. Aaheru hadn’t actually heard it, Ahmes had been the one to nudge him and tell him that one of his “subjects” was seeking audience. He had not liked the tone she’d used, and had intended to let her know
after he dealt with whoever was at the door.
When he’d opened it, the
unmistakable stench hit him in the nose and actually caused him to stagger back a few steps. That was enough room for Ahi to stagger in. He was covered with blood, but Aaheru saw no sign of any injury on the man’s naked body as it stepped into the light. Also, most of the blood was dripping from his advisor’s face and hands.
“Ahi?” Aaheru actually felt a touch of sorrow as he reached over to his dresser and opened the top drawer where his cerem
onial sword was kept.
With a single swing, he had separated head from body. Of course the eyes continued to follow him as he leaned in closer to get a better look.
“What has happened, my friend?” Aaheru said with a sigh as he grabbed a handful of Ahi’s dark locks and lifted the head up. That was when the second figure stumbled into his room.
The woman that he had so generously given to his advisor entered.
It was easy to see where all the blood on Ahi had come from. A huge chunk was missing right where the neck met her shoulder. Also, a good bit of damage had been done to the upper left thigh.
Just as Aaheru was about to swing, three more pushed their way in from behind the woman. He stumbled back, his eyes w
atering and his stomach roiling from the putrid stench. One of the undead had been ripped open at the belly and frayed intestine trailed behind adding the stink of human shit to that of the foul death stench that only these creatures seemed to have. He’d been around the dead before, and they had never smelt like this.
In that single moment of weakness, Aaheru was so ove
rcome by the vile odor that he could no longer keep his body under control. He heaved forward and vomited—an unpleasant combination of the evening’s humus and that bottle of red wine that he’d found in a decorative box under the former captain of the ship’s bed.
He had barely finished when he heard Ahmes shriek. Loo
king up, all he saw were several sets of legs at the foot of his bed. Struggling to his feet, he only paused long enough to look into the eyes of the woman who had just given her life so that her pharaoh could live. He gave her what he hoped she took as his look of pride in her final act.
The words that followed him down the corridor led him to believe that perhaps she might not have made that sacrifice wil
lingly. Still, what could he have done? Two of those creatures had already latched on to her and were worrying away pieces of flesh. Her fate was sealed. His only regret was that she had been carrying his child.
Aaheru returned to the bridge and shut the door.
He looked at the controls and then stared out at the open water ahead. He slowly worked his way around the big center console and shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun with one hand. There! Just off to the left was a dark smudge. It had to be land. If nobody else remained, at least he would live! Surely there must be others, and it mattered little
actually made up the citizenry of his kingdom…so long as he ruled.
“Donna!” Frank gasped as he ran across the room—careful to dodge the stacks of boxes scattered about—and swept the girl into his arms.
“Frank, how did you—?” was all that she managed to get out before having the rest of the air squeezed from her lungs.
Juan didn’t listen as the couple continued to yammer at that babbling pace that seemed to be exclusive to hormonal teenagers. He waded through the room and peeked in box after box. There were all sorts of supplies. In fact, this was even better than a store run. It seemed that everything that they would want or need was in these boxes.
ing one, he discovered a variety of first aid supplies. In another were flares, flashlights, and even batteries. Then there was the dry goods and canned food. Water filters, filtered pitchers and little tablets that supposedly made water drinkable. And then there were the guns. He was pretty sure that some of these guns had to be illegal. These were the types of weapons that made the news every time some lunatic shot up a school or a mall. And he didn’t need to open all of the green boxes to know that they were full of ammunition.
The excitement of this newfound treasure slowly gave way to questions. He picked up a stack of blan
kets that had been put in a bag and had all the air sucked out. This was some serious shit. These people were expecting something bad.
“Where is everybody?” Juan asked, interrupting the happy reunion.
The girl looked over at Juan and brushed a lock of hair b
ehind her ear. Her face grew solemn and visibly sad. She opened her mouth a couple of times, but the façade that she’d so hastily thrown up as she tried to speak came down in a crash of tears. She pointed outside with a shaky hand.