Authors: Daryl Banner
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #New Adult & College, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban
The Beautiful Dead Series:
Book 1 -
The Beautiful Dead
Book 2 -
Dead Of Winter
Book 3 -
The Whispers: A Beautiful Dead adventure
The OUTLIER Series:
Book 1 -
Book 2 -
Book 3 -
Outlier: Reign Of Madness
Book 4 -
Outlier: Beyond Oblivion
Book 5 -
Outlier: Five Kings
The Brazen Boys:
A series of standalone M/M romance novellas.
Other Books by Daryl Banner:
Love And Other Bad Ideas
(a collection of seven short plays)
Copyright © 2016 by Daryl Banner
Published by Frozenfyre Publishing
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the author. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, groups, businesses, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual places or persons, Living, dead, or Undead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover & Interior Design by Daryl Banner
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I want to give a deep and heartfelt thanks to all the readers, family, and friends who have followed me on this Beautiful Dead journey from the start, and those of you who joined us along the way. And to you kings and queens of the
, I’d be
Yes, I know I sort of gave a pained goodbye speech at the conclusion of
, but I’ve been hounded, I’ve been harassed, I’ve been downright
for more … and the more I tried to let it all go, the more I realized that there really
so much left in this dead-fabulous world that needed to be explored.
Where do the Dead come from? What happened to Winter and her friends? What the heck’s up with those green glowing eyeball-things?
Regardless of which questions I answer (or totally annoyingly don’t answer) in this book, the point is: none of it would exist without
. You’ve given me your love and support and cheer, and it’s the only reason I keep telling these stories.
Stick with me and let’s go on a hundred adventures together. Sexy and romantic ones. Post-apocalyptic dead-loving ones. Dystopian Legacy-hunting Outliery ones. I’m with you every step of the way.
~ ♥ ~ Daryl
I lift my head quickly. Bones snap in my neck that oughtn’t. I grunt questioningly instead of using words; I stopped using words long ago.
“Blood,” she repeats, pointing. “Smell.”
Facing the dark and misty woods with my fingers and toes dug into the dry, cracked earth, I inhale deeply. It’s not for need of oxygen; I’m welcoming in the scent of anything alive within about a billion mile radius. That’s a deliberately gross exaggeration, of course, as time and distance mean nothing to the Dead.
I smell nothing. I hiss at her, annoyed.
She glares at me, her one eye glowing white through the mist and returning all my due annoyance. My sister’s made of nothing but bones, loose skin, and attitude. A decrepit shred of colorless fabric that used to be a dress gives her approximately two helpings of modesty. She has no hair left on her head. I’ve forgotten if she’s brunette like mom and I, or took after our redheaded dad. The colors blur in my memory. At a glance, it’s tricky to tell which of us is the sister and which the brother, so similar in our near-skeletal figures we are.
“Blood,” she insists stubbornly, then tears into the mist, swirls of grey coiling in her swift departure.
My knees snap loudly in protest as I chase her into the endless dark. Dead trees and white smoke whip past my face. That’s all that fills my eyes: dead black trees, swirling white smoke. Colorlessness. There is no color in the world, none at all, except …
I find her at the foot of a fallen tree, its upturned roots tangled and thorny. Within its grasp there remains the bones of an animal. Deer, perhaps. Maybe a large dog. A horse. Elephant. Pigeon. What’s the difference? Animals are all the same now. Just bones and teeth. Loose, decayed flesh, if lucky. And if really lucky, there’s a speck of life left.
But not in this … carcass. I snort in frustration, my own little way of telling my sister she was wrong. So many false alarms. She looks up at me, her one white eye flashing with a storm of anger and sadness.
I’m disappointed too.
For a minute there, I believed her.
I wanted to believe her.
We move through the woods in silence, neither of us looking at the other. We could go for years without saying a word. It’s so rare to find blood anymore. Even a bird in the sky is a miracle, a fleeting and distant one. I’d plant my feet and twist my cracking neck to the sky just to watch as the free, Living little creature fluttered over the world. I’d give anything to be a bird …
If I wasn’t so sure I’d eat myself.
“Blood,” she whispers.
I huff furiously, shutting her up. There used to be twelve of us, but the others put themselves to sleep. That’s what we call it, anyway. Maybe they’ll wake back up if the sun ever rises. I doubt it’s risen in a thousand years. Darkness and greyness and nothing is all that fills the hours of our endless days. Even sharing stories of our pasts has grown old. I know everything about my sister. She knows everything about me. There is nothing new to tell. Even words are dead.
My throat quivers, a hiss escaping my nostrils. My sister seems to hear because she sighs and says, “I know. I miss them too.”
The others, maybe. Our parents. Our lives. I have no idea what she thinks I meant.
“Do you remember the one with the white hair?”
I scowl, annoyed somehow. I narrowly miss walking into a tree, distracted by her words. The mists begin to blind me. Everything looks the same. We can walk for hours and we’re still in the same place. We can walk for years and never move and never sleep and never be free from the realm of the Dead.
“Winter white hair,” she mutters at my side. “Funny. I can’t even remember her face. It was so long ago.”
I snort. I’m so tired of her stories. No matter the sun and the hope and the happiness they speak on and on about, it adds no sun to my days. Nothing ever will. The world is dead, and so’s my sister’s nauseating legends of mythic realms full of Livings and plants and water and …
. If such a place exists, I’d drain it of every last drop of blood. I would pin them to a tree just as I did the last clumsy heart-beating fool who dared to breathe the air of the Dead, who dared to walk the blight upon which our Dead feet tread, who dared to exist in our Dead, Dead,
realm. I’d give them one last look in their wet, quivery eyes before sinking my teeth into their delicious veins. I’d forget their face before they hit the ground.
The sound comes so suddenly, I mistake it for my sister’s groaning at first. We look at one another, startled by the rumbling that stirs the mists.
“What’s that?” she whispers.
My blank eyes are her answer.
Then, from above, we pay witness to the parting of the grey skies. Light flashes brightly, stunning us for a brief moment as the clouds are spread apart by a great metal bird. It roars loudly and shakes all the dead trees around us, as if jostling them to life. The metal bird moves fast, cutting through the mists above, roaring, growling, shaking the earth from its eternal rest.
It is not simply passing by; the great ugly beast is falling. It’s so low that the tips of the dead trees crunch, shattering into great black splinters that rain upon the earth below, making way for the beast’s descent. So low it goes that the trees begin to scream, cracking and snapping and breaking, brittle as bones. The metal beast thunders on through the distant mist beyond our view.
The sound is deafening. I haven’t heard a thing that loud, Living or Dead, in a thousand years. That’s yet another of my gross exaggerations.
Quite suddenly, the roaring stops and a ground-trembling boom tickles our bony feet. The great bird has landed. And not gently.
I stare at my sister, and her white eye glows with the same fear and fascination that flashes in mine.
We move through the mist in a hurry. The trees have bent and broken and fallen in the path of the beast. In a nest of shattered deadwood and dust, the metal thing rests in an eerie silence. Steam hisses from holes in its back, its own smoke swirling playfully from its wounds to dance with the mists of our Dead world.
“It opens,” whispers my sister softly as a breath of a Living.
The belly of the capsized bird splits apart like a great metal door. From its bowels, three heads of healthy hair rise, their eyes squinting against the mist and the dark. The one in the middle, a handsome male with a chiseled jaw and brawny figure, lifts his wrist immediately, shining a fierce light upon his surroundings. Just behind him, a woman with more flesh in her cheeks than I’ve ever seen peers about, her large and colorful eyes searching the world in wonder.
But it’s the third one who steals my attention, the one who actually appeared first. She turns her blushed and slender face to the left, then to the right. And she is terrified. Her wetted eyes reflect the fear I’ve come to recognize so well in any Living.
Then, despite the man’s light never gracing the Dead flesh of my sister and I, the woman’s keen eyes find mine in the dark. Her irises are bright and cold as ice, her hair white as winter.
The Living sees me. The Dead stare back.
That’s when I hear the purring in my sister’s throat, the sound of hunger that has been my song of days, our mantra, the Dead’s one and only craving.
“Blood,” I answer for the both of us—my first word in a million years—before we leap.