Authors: Rachel Higginson
Tags: #romance, #love, #horror, #suspense, #zombies, #young adult, #apocalyptic, #end of the world, #actionadventure, #dystopian, #new adult, #rachel higginson, #love and decay
A Novella Series
From the Point of View of Hendrix Parker
By Rachel Higginson
[email protected] Rachel Higginson 2013
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This would not exist without you.
Just like so many other things.
And to Mandy,
Who loves Hendrix,
But might love Zombies more.
647 days after initial infection
One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three,
“You’re obsessing again,” Vaughan, my oldest
brother and resident Confucius, noted dryly.
I grunted. Mostly because I didn’t want to
admit that he was right. I
obsessing- counting my
brothers and sister over and over, as if their numbers would change
from one second to the other.
Only, the thing was…. they could change. In a
heartbeat, another piece of my family could be ripped from me and
I couldn’t- wouldn’t- let that happen ever
And there were just so many of them. How
could I keep them all safe? How could I even begin to fathom how to
keep them all alive? There were too many that needed my protection;
too many important lives that could not fall to the greedy hands
that would take them.
Nelson, the carefree but responsibly low-key
one of the family dropped off a couple bottles of water for Vaughan
and me before scooping up Page and walking her into the kitchen
where they would start throwing something together for our
I watched them with a feral possession that
honestly scared me. I had never known responsibility like this
before. I’d never believed a weight this heavy would be put on my
shoulders or gifts so precious and costly could be given to me to
protect and keep safe. I didn’t have to go at it alone, we all
shared this duty together. But that didn’t lessen the obligation in
any way or take any pressure off my shoulders. I felt pulled in
every direction, strung tight with a task I was ill-prepared for
and pathetically under qualified.
We’d survived almost two years now, getting
by from the survival obsession my father had instilled in us and
sheer luck and determination. For now we were safe, but how long
would this last? We had already experienced more loss than we ever
And I would never go through that again- I
would never give up those I loved to this world and the evil
creatures that haunted it again.
In another corner of the room, my younger
brothers, Harrison and King, were having a free throw competition
using a metal trashcan and crumpled up pieces of paper. They were
laughing, acting like the immature idiots they were and ignoring
the fact that we were trapped on the upper level of some hillbilly
department store with a town of Feeders underneath us.
I watched them for a moment, entertained by
their carefree spirits and jealous of the easy way they approached
this circle of hell we’d been assigned. They adapted to this
purgatory better than I had, or even Vaughan and Nelson. They were
resilient to the upheaval, the abrupt change in our lifestyles and
quality of living. They’d even bounced back from the death of our
parents better than the rest of us. Part of that had to do with
their personalities, I knew that. But the other part stemmed from
their age. We allowed them to be the teenagers they were,
struggling to keep the heaviness of responsibility from them. Sure,
we asked more of them than anybody should, but only because we had
to, we had no other choice. And we only demanded the bare minimum
of what we could survive with.
Then there was Page. Our eight year old
sister, so purely innocent and youthfully naïve, she was like the
lone diamond in a mine full of coal. She was our saving grace, our
pilgrimage to Mecca, she was the reason we fought, killed,
survived. And she brought us light. In this world there seemed to
only be darkness. When I knew I would drown in it, be pulled to the
depths of an endless abyss, she shone bright enough for me to
remember my path, she lit up my life until I could see the way
I opened a bottle of water and took a healthy
pull. It was important to stay hydrated and nourished. We had the
resources now, so we were obligated to use them. And when we needed
to, we would find more. We were mentally and skillfully equipped to
survive the basic elements after the fall of civilization; it was
the other factors- the roaming undead and demoralization of
mankind- that made me fear for our longevity.
“Hendrix,” Vaughan bit out in a low voice
that made me think he had been trying to get my attention for a
I half turned to him, keeping my hawk eyes on
my little sister. She was sitting on the counter, laughing at
Nelson while he tossed crackers in the air and caught them in his
“I’ve been trying to talk to you for the last
five minutes. Where’d you go?”
I turned to him fully, meeting his wise eyes.
I met him steadily, conveying the path of my thoughts without
saying them out loud.
There was a time in my life when we weren’t
this open with each other, when we had thoughts and plans we kept
from each other. We were brothers after all and had always shared a
competiveness that could be dangerous at times. But that was a
luxury left behind in a different life.
As the oldests in our family, the
responsibility of keeping everyone together and alive fell to us.
We had to keep communication open and honest or this family unit
would implode. We were together constantly, without any break from
each other or individual privacy. We had to make it work, we had to
work hard for it to work, or the consequences were unthinkable.
But we also couldn’t speak openly in front of
the younger kids. So we’d learned to do a lot of our talking
silently, almost telepathically.
It worked- although sometimes it made me feel
like a freak of nature.
Vaughan nodded once he’d seen the gravity in
my expression and let out an exasperated sigh. He looked like our
dad just then, his eyes wrinkled heavily in the corners, his
blondish hair seemed to gray while I watched and his mouth pulled
into a tight frown. He felt this burden stronger than I did. But it
was his own fault. I didn’t give myself the option of failure so my
pressure laid in the realm of only victory. Vaughan thought
everything through- what it would be like to live another day, what
it would be like to die today and what it would be like if each of
the siblings, including me, were taken away. He wore leadership,
responsibility and grief like badges tattooed on his skin.
And that was hard for him. I was naturally an
asshole, I knew that. I was born naturally pissed off. Vaughan had
never taken anything seriously, not even at college. He had it easy
most of his life, just naturally good at everything he touched. He
didn’t have to work hard to succeed and because of that he’d almost
forgotten how to work hard.
Now things were different.
Now, he held us together by his tenacity and
quick-thinking. I knew I was just as essential to our survival as
Vaughan, but the rest of my siblings looked to him as their leader
and saw me as more of the muscle.
And I was Ok with that.
That meant they trusted me with their lives,
and that was all I needed from them to keep them safe.
Vaughan cut into my thoughts again, “I was
asking how long you thought we should stay here? I know we have a
good set up, I just worry about getting too comfortable. We need to
“Vigilant,” I agreed. “But don’t they also
need some kind of stability?”
I snapped my neck so I faced him again. “You
don’t think they do? Page can’t even read, Vaughan. I’m not saying
we set up with a settlement. I’m just saying, some consistency
He fell into thoughtful silence- a sure sign
that I’d won that argument. Although there was no sense of victory
when Vaughan and I argued over this stuff. We were doing what we
had to in order to stay alive. The sense of competition and sick
victory of turning the other into a loser had died probably around
the same time humans started dying from infected, corpse-like
recreations of other humans.
We just existed. We just made sure we kept
existing. But that was it. Life had settled into a monotonous color
of gray and careful routine.
I had turned into nothing but constant worry
and steely determination. If I had any shadow of a sense of humor
before, I’d left it in my old life. If I had cared about anything
but my family, I couldn’t remember what those things were or why
they had ever been important to begin with. My family was my entire
universe now. Everything I needed, wanted and refused to give up.
And that would never change. Even if we exterminated the Feeders, I
would never learn to care for anything else but my family
I just knew that about myself.
“I’ll think about it,” Vaughan finally agreed
in a mumble. “We at least need to do something about Page’s
He ended his sentence abruptly when voices
drifted up from the ground floor of the building we were occupying.
Everyone stilled as we listened to the sounds of people looting
what was left of the store.
“What the hell is that?” Harrison paused
mid-shot to glance around wildly. “Is that a Feeder?”
“They’re being loud as shit!” King agreed.
“Hey!” Nelson called them out. “We instituted
the cuss jar for a reason, morons. Watch your mouths.”
They both had the decency to look ashamed. We
lived in a world without civilized society or even a remnant of any
kind of decency, but that didn’t mean we had to become barbarians
I looked at Vaughan and he nodded his
consent. I shared an equally nonverbal look with Nelson and he
walked Page over to Vaughan who pulled her onto his lap and made
her laugh about something just to take her mind off her other
brothers leaving. The sound was light, carefree and so purely
innocent my chest hurt. She didn’t belong in this world, with all
these ugly things. She was the only thing good left in a world
quickly decaying into a filthy cesspool of death.
I mentally checked my weapons- one against my
back, one at my ankle, a knife in my cargo pocket, another, larger
one at my hip, my favorite handgun now firmly in my palm. I was
comfortable with what I was packing; although clearly, I wasn’t
expecting a fight, since I was hardly packing anything.
Nelson met me at the door to a back stairwell
that was booby-trapped at the bottom. With one last glance back, we
left our family behind to check out the potential threat to our
peace and vital stash of supplies and guns.
Nelson shut the door soundlessly behind us
while I moved down the dark, cement stairwell quickly but quietly.
My gun was raised the entire time and my adrenaline and instincts
pumping at full capacity. The voices still drifted toward us,
obviously human and female. Great.
The last thing I needed was for women to
wander through here. There were Feeders all over this town- but it
was no different than anywhere else.
The problem with girls though, was that they
tended to die. They weren’t fast enough, quick enough or brutal
enough to do what it took to stay alive.
Ok, that was sexist.
But I didn’t have the luxury of being
politically correct. I’d watched too many lives end over the last
two years to believe in equal rights. The truth was, that I was
stronger, quicker to act and uncaring of the consequences of my
actions. That’s why I survived, that’s how I kept my family safe,
and that difference was the exact reason women were becoming a
thing of fiction and fable.