Authors: Patrick Freivald
© 2013 by Patrick Freivald
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means
graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping,
or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission
of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles and reviews.
is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations,
and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously.
books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:
views expressed in this work are solely those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby
disclaims any responsibility for them.
ISBN: 978-1-936564-93-4 (ebook)
of Congress Control Number: 2013936307
in the United States of America
rev. date: July 12, 2013
Design: Denise Daniel
Art: Philip Renne
by: Dr. Michael R. Collings
To The Redhead™, who told me
there was a sequel,
and what it's about.
Thank you so much to Christopher Payne, Joel
Kirkpatrick, Dr. Michael Collings, and all the other folks at JournalStone for
their support, flexibility, and hard work.
Thank you to my beta readers: The Redhead™, the
real Mrs. Weller, Erika Rowley, Dina Strasser, Allison Plante, Keegan
Leslie-Taylor, my brothers Mark and Jon, Mom and Dad, and the formidable Kevin
Bartell, whom I missed last time. Honest critique is the most valuable
commodity a writer can have.
Thank you to the students on FIRST Robotics Team
1551, who remind me every day just how awesome and funny high school kids can
be—sometimes on purpose, and even if they aren't zombies.
And to you, the reader, who makes this crazy
venture just plain awesome.
follows up his successful debut,
(2012), with an equally enjoyable sequel. As in the first
book, dark humor balances deftly with out-and-out horror, the mundane realities
of undeath providing ample opportunity for both. Another fire-and-brimstone end
sets up a third outing; fans will be slavering for it.”
(Horror. 14 & up)
is back, and high school's never been worse - or funnier. Think your high
school sucked? Try manacles, guards armed with flamethrowers, and zombie
classmates. I LOL'ed and gasped throughout
, Bram Stoker
Award®-winning author of
The Castle of Los Angeles
returns in this highly anticipated sequel to
. Patrick takes us
back into her world, a world mostly confined to a school that’s being used to
hoard all of the undead. However, things are not as they seem and as the
reader progresses further into the story, the real truth behind this school of
zombies is revealed. A powerful and engaging sequel that will have you fall in
love with Ani all over again. I truly enjoyed this." –
Bram Stoker Award
The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief
The Hunt for the
Ani Romero blinked in the sun’s harsh
glare and worked her teeth against the bite guard. The leather-wrapped steel
tasted like nothing against her tongue. Her shackles clinked against her ankles
as she shambled into the cool September air.
“Keep walking, please,” Mr. Benson
said, shouldering his assault rifle and nodding toward the front of the line. Ani
bumped into Devon Holcomb’s back, their bright orange helmets clacking together—Devon
had stopped, fists on her hips. The chrome ring on the back of her helmet
gleamed in the sunlight.
“Oh, you have to be goddamned
kidding me,” Devon said, her voice mushy around the bite guard. Ani followed
her gaze to the eight-seater, yellow-orange bus emblazoned in black with
Falls Central School District
. “A short bus.”
Ani patted her on the shoulder
to get her moving. “At least they’re letting us come back. I wouldn’t.”
Images flashed in her mind—prom,
fourteen months previous.
Blood. Screams. The soft warmth of human blood
gushing hot and red. The taste of brains.
She swallowed and closed her eyes
against the memory, then opened them and looked at Mike.
Mike Brown looked as he always
did; tall, athletic, missing the index finger on his right hand, and a bit
sallow and slack-jawed since the Prompocalypse. His helmet covered most of the
“Devon?” Mr. Benson tipped the
end of his rifle toward the bus door.
Without turning around, Ani
grabbed the rail and dragged herself up the stairs, then helped Mike to his
seat. She smiled at the bus driver, a burly black stranger in full body armor, then
sat in the empty front seat.
Teah Burnell bounced into the
seat across from her. “Hey, Ani, can you freaking believe this?” She rubbed her
hands together and wrapped herself in a hug. “It’s been a long time.”
“Court proceedings are real slow,
Teah,” Ani said. “Mom says the district had to spend a lot of money to make ‘reasonable
accommodations.’ She says that—”
Mr. Benson vaulted onto the top
step and slammed the butt of his rifle onto the floor. “Okay, listen up!”
Eight orange-helmeted heads
turned his way as he dropped into his drill-sergeant cadence. “You WILL be on
your BEST behavior as we enter AND exit the school. You will have NO physical
contact with anyone NOT already on this bus, except for Doctor Romero, Doctor
Banerjee, OR one of the orderlies. ANY funny business WILL result in
“Can I get an ‘amen’?” Teah
Mr. Benson glared at her and
lowered his voice to a growl. “A lot of people in this town want you in graves.
Don’t give them any excuses.” He looked at them all in turn, then marched off
“Bye, Mr. Benson!” Mike
Kyle Lee’s voice mocked him
from the back. “Bye, Mr. Benson.”
“Don’t be a dick,” Devon said.
“Hey, I may be dead, but I’m
not a retard,” Kyle said.
“He has brain damage,” Devon
snapped. “What’s your excuse?”
The driver cleared his throat
and peered at them from under the brim of his helmet. His deep baritone reverberated
through the bus. “Kids, this ride will be hard enough without your bickering. So
keep it down.”
They settled in as the bus
pulled out of the parking lot and through the three inner checkpoints, tailed
by a camouflaged passenger truck. Ani was used to the hostile glares of the
army guards and the implacable, visor-hidden faces of the burn teams, but it
had been ages since she’d been in a vehicle. The sense of novelty was
exhilarating. She smiled at the guards as they drove out each gate. If they
saw, they didn’t respond.
As the bus approached the outer
wall, Ani heard a dull roar, like a waterfall or something.
“What is that?” Samantha
Kickbush asked from the back.
Flickering lights caught Ani’s
eye as they pulled up to the final gate. A line of state troopers and army
soldiers held the crowd at bay, their cars parked, lights flashing, to block
civilian access to the road. A mob screamed and spat, faces twisted in hatred
under signs and banners reading:
‘NO!’ ACCURSED IN OUR SCHOOLS
BURN IN HELL ACTAVIST JUDGES
Learn to spell
, Ani thought,
her eyes skimming the rest of the images.
And the issues.
corpses, the scales of justice in flames, Christ standing over a lake of fire
swimming with zombies. She closed her eyes as they pulled onto the street and
A few minutes later, Kyle
grunted from behind her. She looked up.
A line of forty or so people
stood by the road in front of the Wegmans grocery store. They wore black—clothes,
makeup, hair dye, everything—held white candles in brass holders, and were
chanting. A banner above them read “Teach us the Wisdom of Death” in scarlet. Below
the words shivered a crude painting of people kneeling before a corpse. Their
lips moved in unison, but their voices weren’t loud enough to be heard over the
“Creepy, much?” Teah asked.
“I think I liked the mob
better,” Samantha said.
* * *
As they pulled up to the high
school the crowd was smaller but no less weird. Clusters of black-clad weirdos
stared in open rapture while police held back a throng of screaming, spitting
protesters. An isolated knot of people led by Ani’s former neighbor, Mr. Washington,
carried a banner emblazoned, “Zombies are people, too!”
Joe Simonton laughed. “No way!
It’s totally a prison!” A grin split his patchy, reddish beard, revealing white
teeth and black gums. His right eye sagged from prom-induced trauma, but his
left was green and bright.
Ani’s mouth dropped open when her
eyes shifted to the school. Joe was right—Ohneka Falls Central School looked
every bit like a prison. A double-layer of chain-link fence surrounded the
campus, each post anchored in concrete. Soldiers patrolled the ten-foot gap
between the fences, though of course there were no dogs. Riveted steel guard
towers flanked the entrance, with others at each corner. A cluster of students
stood on the sidewalk, smoking and pointing at the bus.
Mike clapped his hands. “This
looks fun!” Kyle rolled his eyes, and Joe punched him in the shoulder.
A mewling noise from the front
of the bus drew Ani’s attention. Lydia Stuber sobbed in her seat, tearless and
snot-free. Joe sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulder. “Hey, it’s
just school. It’s cool.”
“What if they don’t like us?” Lydia’s
wide eyes quivered in fear.
“They will,” Joe said. “They
blame him. Lydia was too nice to tell the truth to, and she’d figure it out on
her own. Or not.
The door opened, and Mr. Benson
sprang to the top step. “Okay, listen up!” Lydia cringed, and Joe rubbed her
arm. Mr. Benson lowered his voice. “You will line up single file upon exiting
the bus. Once directed, you will walk to your classroom. You will not try to
touch anyone or anything unless given explicit authorization to do so. That
authorization will come from me, Doctor Banerjee, or Doctor Romero. Once inside
the classroom you will comport yourselves to your assigned seats and will stay
in them unless directed otherwise. Questions?”
Lydia’s hand shot up. Mr. Benson
rolled his eyes with more theatrics than was nice. Lydia’s hand dropped halfway
down, her grin anxious.
Mr. Benson sighed. “Yes, Ms. Stuber?”
“Um, do we have the same
lockers as last year?”
Ani suppressed a smile.
last year at the lab, Lydia.
Mr. Benson shook his head. “All
of your school effects will be in your room. Additional questions in that
regard will wait for Doctor Romero.” He gave her a curt nod. “Any other
questions about deployment to the classroom?” No one said anything. “Good. Follow
me.” He got off the bus.
Negotiating the stairs was
awkward in the leg irons, their already-jerky movements exaggerated by the
inability to take more than baby steps. Shackling them together added insult to
injury, but that’s what Mr. Benson did before leading them inside. Students
gawked as they shuffled past, as did more than a few teachers.
The halls looked the same—same
crappy, too-small lockers, same faded tile reminiscent of a 1950s hospital,
same age-stained drop-ceiling tiles. Ani’s heart caught in her throat. Mr. Bariteau
stood outside the band room, crying as they walked by, his face a mask of pity.
Ani smiled and said, “Hi,” but he turned away before she could say more. His
door slammed in her face.
Frowning, she followed Mr. Benson
to the far end of the hall, to the Resource Room. He stepped out of the way and
pointed inside. “I’ll see you at fourteen thirty hours.”
“Hey, my old room!” Kyle said,
grinning as he lurched inside. They followed and stood still while Mr. Benson
removed the chain that connected them together and left the room without
another word. The metal door shut, and Ani heard the external crossbar slam
Eight desks were arranged in a
circle between the back wall and the smart board. Naked ductwork snaked across
the ceiling between two banks of fluorescent lights. A bookshelf leaned against
the far wall next to a man holding a flamethrower, his face hidden by the
mirrored visor on his helmet.
The old-school wrought-iron
desks were bolted to the floor. They had name cards on them, in alphabetical
order: Mike Brown, Teah Burnell, Devon Holcomb, Sam Kickbush, Kyle Lee, Ani
Romero, Joe Simonton, and Lydia Stuber. They took their seats as the dial clock
on the wall hit 8:00 am.
, and the high
school secretary’s voice rang through the wall speaker. “Good morning and
welcome back! Today is day one. Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.” Miss
Pulver, a plump, motherly aide Ani remembered from life before, stepped up in
front of the class and put her hand on her breast. The students echoed her
movements. Ani mumbled her way through the Pledge and spent the rest of the
announcements sizing up the young man at the teacher’s desk.
Skinny, average height, with a
conservative crop of sandy-brown hair and a suit that was a little too big, his
OFCSD nametag read “Mr. Foster.” Drenched in sweat, he tapped his pencil on the
desk in a constant staccato that reminded Ani of some of Stravinsky’s more
frenetic pieces. He looked at the desk, the wall, the clock, the speakers, the
flamethrower-toting soldier, his shoes, anything but them.
As the announcements ended with
a perky, “Have a great year!” a nervous giggle erupted from his throat.
Miss Pulver gave him an
He shot to his feet. “Hi!” He
ran his hand through his hair, waking a dormant cowlick. “I—I’m Mr. Foster. I’ll
be your teacher for the year.”
“What happened to Miss Johnson?”
Kyle asked. Joe shushed him, and Kyle flipped him the bird.
“Ah, she was, uh, transferred
to another room. I’ll be your teacher this...this year.” Another giggle
punctuated the thought. His face took on a greenish tinge.
Oh, this does
not bode well.
“Hi, Mr. Foster!” Mike said, a
little too loud. For the first time Mr. Foster looked at them.
“Hello, Mike. Nice to meet you.”
His hand, jittering at his side, dove into his pocket, still shaking. “Do you,
are you, happy to be, um...back?” His eyes darted to the clock and then back to
Mike nodded, grinning. “I like
“I like school!” Kyle aped.
Ani tried to bite her lip but
couldn’t manage it with the mouth guard. She raised her hand.
“Yes, um, Ani?” Mr. Foster’s
eyes were bloodshot and terrified, but they held her gaze.
“Can I have a pencil and some
paper, please?” She hated the thick, mushy sound of her voice through the
Mr. Foster giggled. “No.” Ani
sat back, frowning. “I mean no sharp implements,” he continued. “Rules and stuff.
You can have a white board and marker or paper and crayons.”
Devon snarled. “Oh, this is
fucking ridiculous! We can’t have a goddamned pencil?”
Miss Pulver put a hand on Devon's
shoulder, managing to smile and look serious at the same time. “It’s okay,
Devon. The rules for you are going to be quite strict. Nobody’s happy about the
court’s decision to allow this—”
The door opened with a clang.
“Some of us are,” Sarah Romero said,
pinning Miss Pulver with a stare. “Happy, that is.” She smiled at Ani. “Hi, sweetie.”
Her face was hard, too lean from her battle with cancer; and her eyes were baggy
from not enough sleep. She had a new wig for the New Year, and fake blonde hair
fell to her shoulders in a river of curls.
“Hi, Mom,” Ani said.
“Hi, Mom,” Kyle muttered. Ani