Authors: T. W. Brown
Written by: TW Brown
* * * * *
May December Publications LLC
©2011 May December Publications LLC
Split-tree logo 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 LLC.
* * * * *
This book is dedicated to
Michael ‘Happy’ DeNoma
(August 10, 1983 to February 22, 2011)
You were wrong.
The world is NOT a better place without you!
When I set out to write the Dead series, I’d spent about the previous five years reading every title in the zombie genre I could get my hands on. I found some absolute gems:
(and its sequel),
(the trilogy), and of course
World War Z
. I also discovered a lot of really bad offerings. (No sense listing them…that would be rude, but fans of the zombie genre know what I’m saying.)
Dead: The Ugly Beginning
released, so much has happened. For the most part, the first book was well received. Sure, there have been those who didn’t care for it. Any writer who doesn’t expect that is delusional. I listen to the good and the bad for anything helpful that readers might have to say. (I’m religious about checking Amazon.com for the most recent review. Yes, I do listen…I do read…I do pay attention.)
The biggest criticism has been/is the format the story is presented in: three rotating chapter storylines. You’ll notice that hasn’t changed, nor is it likely to do so. Believe it or not…it all fits into my overall scheme. I do believe I’ve learned a lot between books one and two. One of the biggest lessons was how to end my chapters or vignette segments better.
As you settle in to
, I hope you will find plenty to
. That, my friends, is my greatest wish in this series. I grew weary of two-dimensional characters and the same predictable stories. What I truly hope is that the people you meet in these pages “come alive.” If the writer can’t create a bond between character and reader, then he isn’t really doing his (or her) job. If the reader goes into each scene “knowing” that certain people are safe…it takes away from some of the tension. In “my” world…there is no such thing as safe. (As many of you learned in Zomblog.)
I hope you will enjoy
. I think I’ve given you a few people to cheer for: Steve, Thalia, and Juan. Along with ones to hate: Garrett…Travis. The good news is that you won’t have to wait a year between installments.
Dead: Fortunes and Failures
, the third installment, will be out in December 2011.
I want to thank everybody. If you are holding this book in your hand (or have me on whatever e-reader you own)…then you get my first thank you. If you’re reading this, you probably liked
Dead: The Ugly Beginning
enough to want to find out what happens next. So with all sincerity…thank you. I hope this lives up to your expectations. You are the reason I write. While you may not like every single thing I write—and that’s okay—I do hope I can entertain you for a while. To everyone else, and you know who you are…I couldn’t do this without you.
Fun, Fun, Fun in the Sun, Sun, Sun.
Chapter 1 – Vignettes VII
Chapter 2 – A Geek With a Plan
Chapter 3 – Francis?
Chapter 4 – Vignettes VIII
Chapter 5 – Geeks, Logic, and Lunch
Chapter 6 – New Attitudes
Chapter 7 – Vignettes IX
Chapter 8 – A Geek’s Bad Luck
Chapter 9 – “I love you…”
Chapter 10 – Vignettes X
Chapter 11 – Geek Goes Boom
Chapter 12 – Digging In
Chapter 13 – Vignettes XI
Chapter 14 – One Geek, One Girl
Chapter 15 – Revelation
Chapter 16 – Vignettes XII
Chapter 17 – Geek Girl
Chapter 18 – Breaking Point
The Old Man sat on a large, flat rock. He could hear the soft murmur of water to his left. It would be such a simple task to walk to that source and drink deeply. But really, there was no point.
His visions had changed several days ago. He’d stopped seeing the sun, the moon, or the Earth. Now, he only saw faces. The faces meant nothing that The Old Man could put into words. There were many faces of all races and nationalities. There were children—though not many—and elderly people and everything in between. Men. Women.
Sometimes one of those faces would appear and then, moments or even days later, it would reappear only to shatter and disappear. Then, once again, the stream of faces would resume.
Early this morning, the faces had stopped. Now, The Old Man saw a lone figure out in the wilderness. He looked down on this lone figure like a bird circling overhead. That also allowed him to see
A swarm thicker than locusts at least a mile wide and hundreds of yards deep was following the lone figure.
The Old Man sniffed the air.
were close. He would be able to hear
in less than the time it would take for the sun to set. By the time the sun’s warmth would caress his skin again…he would be one of
He could stand and walk, but that was only delaying what would be.
, The Old Man thought as he stretched out on the flat rock, he would cherish
day. He would enjoy the sun's warmth one last time. He’d lived a long and pleasant life. The Old Man was at peace.
Peter King crept alongside the tall chain link fence. The waist-high grass was a mixed blessing. It allowed him to drop out of sight any time he spied one of those horrid creatures. By the same circumstance, it allowed any of
that might not be able to remain upright to lie in wait.
The low rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. Another end-of-summer storm was rolling his direction. Well, if things went well, he’d at least be out of the weather. Almost on cue, his stomach snarled like a delayed echo of the thunder, reminding him that shelter was only part of his needs.
He thought back to his last meal and was rewarded with a rush of saliva. He’d been fortunate enough to coax a particularly plump tabby cat into his lap. It had cost him his last morsel of river trout. (Peter wasn’t exactly sure what sort of fish he’d caught that day, but decided it looked sorta like the fish he’d caught when he was a boy and his dad had taken him fishing.) Still, that cat had come up to him, a low purr sounding as it sniffed the proffered piece of fish flesh.
He’d stopped trying to figure out why those walking dead abominations didn’t show any interest in cows, horses, or any other livestock for that matter, but would eat dogs and cats. Fortunately, most of the time there weren’t enough remains to come back, but he’d seen a particularly frightening Newfoundland dragging itself down a residential street once. And he’d seen a cat being torn into by a pair of those things, but they’d thoroughly ripped it apart and left nothing but a tail. He imagined small dogs suffered similar fates.
Peter shivered. He’d gone from the comparatively pleasant memory of a meal consisting of roasted meat to horrible recollections in no time at all. In fact, come to think of it, he couldn’t recall a single pleasant day since all this had begun just as summer was getting started. He’d been two days into his post-grad internship at Cleveland Memorial. He’d forgone a vacation to secure the opportunity to intern under Dr. Theresa Mullen. She was one of the most respected brain specialists in the world. She was known by interns as the “Tumor Terminator” having practically perfected the removal of brain tumors while the patient was conscious.
Peter sighed. The last time he had seen Dr. Mullen, she had been pawing at the glass of the driver’s side window of her white Lexus…the blood still moist around the jagged rip in the flesh of her right shoulder. That had been in the chaotic hell of the Cleveland Memorial Hospital’s parking lot. That had been weeks ago. He really had no idea what day, week, or month it was according to a calendar.
Glancing around, he took off the long Army surplus field jacket and gave the fence a close inspection. It took a couple of tries, but eventually he managed to toss the coat up and over the three rows of razor wire that angled out over his head from the top of the Cyclone fence. The next obstacle was to make it past the overlapping, finer cut fencing that was obviously in place to dissuade anyone from climbing. The mesh was much too small for his fingers to fit in and find purchase. Still, provided nothing came stumbling along, he could overcome this obstacle.
Slowly and deliberately, using the metal support post for stability, Peter eventually reached the top. With some careful tugging, he managed to free his coat and he was inside the National Guard armory. An array of drab-green vehicles were in neat and orderly rows.
Remaining very cautious, he had no idea how many of those things might be wandering around inside the fence. A row of buildings were about a football field of wide open ground away. In the opposite direction from the buildings he spied a traditional gatehouse security checkpoint. The large gate was still secured.
Can I really be this lucky?
Peter thought. He crept towards a large white sign with brown lettering. Staying close to the armored half-track that would provide him cover while allowing him to read the sign, he peeked around the back: Columbus National Guard Armory.
There was a bunch of official warning stuff, but Peter didn’t care. For the first time in a long time, he finally knew where he was. He was a bit impressed with himself for having traveled so far—mostly on foot—across the state of Ohio.
He wanted to check out those buildings for the possibility of food, but first…he was suddenly aware of how exhausted he was. There were no signs of anything moving around inside the fence. Although he saw plenty of those things milling about along the access road that bordered the front of this facility. None of them were pressed up against the fence which would lead to a fairly safe assumption that there were no living beings here.
He knew from experience that once those things were drawn to a living, breathing person, they would cluster. At least until something drew their interest in another direction.
As quietly as possible, Peter climbed into the open rear bay of a half-track a couple of rows in and out of sight. A tarp covered the forward three-quarters of the space. After unfast-ening a couple of hooks, he managed to bring down a flap that would cover the “entrance” of his newly acquired sleeping quarters. Snuggling deep into his long field coat, Peter felt days of stress, anxiety, and fear ooze from his muscles. Within moments, his breathing became the slow, steady rhythm of someone fast asleep.