Authors: C.M. Stunich
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Look!” Martin screams and I reluctantly turn around in my seat so that I have a clear view out the back window. Black choppers are spinning through the sky like Frisbees. Attached to them are DeadBorn with rotten, boney wings. They're exploding into lumps of flesh, sliced into pieces by the rotor blades, but it doesn't stop them. They smash through the windows of the helicopters and tear the pilots into pieces. Guns are exploding and bullets are peppering the crowd of undead in random bursts that shake them but don't drop a single one.
Arms and legs come spinning off, and one even cracks the back windshield. Holly swerves a bit but doesn't stop, not even as the arm grasps onto the trunk with writhing fingers. Blood trails out behind the car like a row of bread crumbs, but I don't care. I can't stop watching the carnage in the sky, watching any hope of getting out of this alive go down in flames. Some of the choppers are trying to run, but they aren't getting any further than the ones that have already hit the ground behind us. They're exploding in rushes of heat that knock the DeadBorn down and catch some of them on fire. The necromancer watches this passively, as if she isn't frightened that one of the helicopters could come down on her.
Holey, gray wings flash and the sky turns dark as a horde of them come up from behind the overpass, take over the sun, and turn the day to night.
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Table of Contents
Copyright © C.M. Stunich
All rights reserved. Formatted in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
For information address Sarian Royal Indie Publishing, 1863 Pioneer Pkwy. E Ste. 203, Springfield, OR 97477-3907.
Cover art and design © Amanda Carroll and Sarian Royal
Optimus Princeps font © Manfred Klein
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, businesses, or locales is coincidental and is not intended by the author.
for my brother, Drew,
who'd survive any zombie apocalypse,
DeadBorn or otherwise
Ten Minutes Before …
They say the passage of time heals all wounds.
But not mine. Never mine. My wounds are the type that fester, that ooze, that grow necrotic. I have tried to forget, tried to let time heal me with callous fingers. It hasn't worked. Not one bit. That little part of me, that infected, pulsing, aching wound has now burst, showering my soul with despair and I think I've lost it. I think I've lost my heart.
I press my fingers to the cold earth as rain crashes down around me, like bullets peppering the soil with divots.
I have to get it back,” I say to cold marble, to stone that can't reply. Not like she could if she were here. The absence of her warmth has left this wound inside of me, but I know I can heal it if I try. I brought her heart back before, turned white fingers pink and glassy eyes full. I did it before and I can do it again.
I close my eyes and I search for that wounded part, grab hold of it and wrap it around me. I take my fervor and my love and my desperation and I push that down into the earth until I feel the echo of a response. I take shallow breaths. I have never tried anything quite so big as this. When has there ever been the chance? They locked me away before I could ever try, when I was just a girl, a sad, lonely miserable girl and they took the one thing away from me that meant everything.
Everything,” I whisper as I hear footsteps pounding towards me. My captors have found me, chased me down like a dog with nets and shots full of chemicals that cloud my brain and block my gift. “She means everything.”
Earth explodes, the dead rise, and the living scream.
Ten Hours Before …
I'm lying on my bed with my headphones on, wishing my mother would send her book club friends away. They always pull at my hair, kiss my cheeks, and run their fucking nails over my forearms. They also haven't read a book in years.
Galen!” My mother's voice cuts through my music, and I pull out an earbud. She wants me to come downstairs and visit, eat cupcakes that the women bake to get me to hang around. But their eyes rove too much, cut too deep into me. Their husbands never touch them anymore, so I can understand in a way, but it still disturbs me. I ignore her and pull out my phone to call Holly. Holly. I smile and in my head I can see her swollen lips and the way her mussy hair sticks to them when the wind blows.
I'm watching that video you made for class,” she says by way of answer. Holly's strange like that. “It's so fucking incredible, Galen. I can't stop watching it.” She pauses and I hear an intake of breath.
Galen!” My mother's voice is buzzing closer, like a swarm of bees.
Can I come over?” I ask suddenly, wanting to see her. I can hear her nodding, face brushing against the speaker on her ancient phone. Then she hangs up. I smile wider and sit up, stretching. I fetch my shirt from where I've thrown it over my desk chair, sniff it and decide it's clean enough. I also pack a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, some deodorant. I'll be spending the night, always do. Holly's mom likes me better than wine. I wish I could say that was true for the woman knocking on my door.
Galen!” I ignore her and open my desk drawer. I don't want Holly to think I'm expecting something from her, but I want to be prepared, just in case. I take a handful of condoms and stuff them in my backpack. I grab my baseball bat in case we go to the park and face off against Holly's rivals, the girls who think they'll beat her out for any potential scholarships. Holly wants to go pro and she knows the competition is tough. “Galen!”
I open my window and climb out so that I'm standing on the roof, facing the highway and the flow of traffic. I inch my way over to the balcony that comes off of the guest room and hop over the railing. There's a set of wooden stairs here that leads down to the backyard. I take them two at a time and pull my bike from the mess of blackberry bushes that have taken over the better part of my father's flower beds. When he died, my mother let them have the yard, claiming she'd never set foot in it again. She was telling the truth.
We don't have a shed or a garage, so I spend fifteen minutes cleaning spiders and thorny branches from the spokes. By the time I set off, the sun is dipping into the horizon and I'm already yawning.
The ride to Holly's is a long one. I have to cross three bridges and two highways. It takes me an hour, but when I finally arrive, dinner is on the table and Holly's father has a new comic book to show me. He collects them, whether they're worth something or not.
Look at this,” he says to me as soon as I walk in the front door. I left my bike on the porch and just went in. I never knock. “Batman, number 150. Came out in 1962. The guy at the yard sale wanted a quarter for it.” I'm nodding, but all I can see is Holly coming down the stairs in a purple dress that swishes around her ankles when she moves. Seeing Holly in a dress is like winning the lottery – it could happen, but it isn't likely. I smile and take her in, absorb that image, sure that it's one of the rarest sights I'll ever see.
Dad,” she admonishes in that tone that's both loving and scolding. He either ignores her or doesn't hear her and keeps talking.
So I says to him, so I says,” he pauses and taps at the plastic wrap with his fingers. “I says to him, 'It says right here on the front that it's twelve cents,' and the man looks down, and do you know what he says?” I shake my head and wave at Mrs. Arget who's just emerging from the kitchen. “He says, 'You know, you're right.' And he sells it to me for a dime. A
,” he emphasizes. “And it's worth at least twenty bucks, I'll betcha.” Mr. Arget shakes his head and ruffles my hair. “You're a good boy, Galen,” he says and starts off towards his office.
You're eating at the dinner table with everybody else,” Mrs. Arget calls after him, giving me a raised eyebrow. “Ever since you set that game up on his laptop, he sits in there twenty-four/seven and plays.” I grimace but smile. Holly's already wrapping her arms around my waist and laying her head against my chest. Mrs. Arget doesn't say a word.
Homemade pasta,” Holly says by way of greeting. “Dad made it; Mom made the sauce.” She pulls back and grins up at me. “I made the salad. You – ” She pokes me in the chest. “You wash the dishes.” I'm already laughing, bending down and kissing her on the lips.
This is so much better than Mom and her book club,
I think as Holly takes my hand and sits us down to eat.
Eight Hours and Twenty Minutes Before …
After dinner, we go upstairs and make out for awhile before Holly declares herself “hot” and gets up to open the window. The summer breeze tickles my nostrils with the scent of flowers and even at this late hour, we can hear lawn mowers buzzing.
Your video is fucking incredible,” she tells me and my heart skips a beat. “I think you should enter it into a contest or something.” I sigh and look around for my shirt. Holly took it off of me and threw it, and now it's gone.
I don't want to enter it into a contest,” I say and rest my hands under my chin. The shirt has disappeared into the mess that is Holly's bedroom. It's a sea of candy wrappers and dirty laundry. Her parents don't force her to clean it like mine does. “I made it for you,” I say, trying to lift the irritation in her face by softening my words. I roll to my side and watch her start the movie over again. “I only turned it in for class because I spent all my time working on it and forgot the other one.” This makes Holly smile as she turns to face me.
Then the crack of wood cuts through the room and she is at the window, dirty blonde hair swirling around her pale face. Her lips are dry and cracked, always blistered because she refuses to wear lip balm and spends all day in the sun. She nibbles them fiercely and spins to face me, pale eyes flaming.
The Garcia sisters are outside,” she says and even though it's getting dark, we both spring into action, pulling on socks and shoes, gathering balls, gloves, bats. I have to borrow one of Holly's shirts since I can't find mine. It's black with a bowl of strawberries on it.
Eat Fresh, Live Fresh, Stay Fresh.
It's a shirt she got at the farmer's market, but Holly likes it because she says it sounds like a tampon ad. Holly doesn't change clothes and looks ridiculously beautiful with her dirty white socks and ratty tennis shoes underneath all the satin of that pretty dress.
Let's kick some serious ass,” she says to me, slapping me a high five. We always lose to the Garcia sisters, but it's never Holly's fault; it's mine.
Six Hours and Thirty-Seven Minutes Before …
Holly and I crawl back to the house after the cops show up and tell us the park is closed. Holly is disappointed, but I'm not: we were in the bottom of the fifth inning and the score was 6-2, Garcia Sisters. I didn't score a single run.