I write every single day. It is what I do for a living. Still, I enjoy being involved with NaNoWriMo because it is such a great program and does so much to promote literacy. This year, I am using the time to try and finish the 8th book in the DEAD series, DEAD: Spring.
I have decided to give you a sneak peek at some raw, unedited footage from chapter one.
“Three more!” Gemma screamed as she swung around and buried the head of the small ax into the crown of the zombie that had been a pig-tailed girl of about seven or eight with dark brown hair.
“Where are they all coming from?” Harold managed through tears that streamed down his face as he brought his sword down with enough force to split the five-year-old from head to pelvis. The body seemed to fall apart as the putrified insides poured out in a stinking pool of chunky, blackish fluid.
Vix said nothing. She just continued on with the grim business of dispatching this small herd of zombified children as quickly as possible.
At long last, it was finally over. The grass all around them was trampled, dark and slick with gore. This idyllic countryside hill was now the scene of nightmarish violence. From its crest, they could see great distances in all directions. A few lone figures were moving in the early morning light, only visible from the waist down due to the fog...
“If I didn’t know better,” Harold was almost back to being able to breathe normally, I would say those buggers were waiting for us, almost as if they were trying to spring a surprise attack on us.”
“Don’t be daft,” Vix said with a dismissive wave. However, she had been thinking those exact same thoughts. She simply did not want to believe them because the possibilities of zombies actually planning were just too horrifying.
“But it was as if they were using the fog to stay hidden…I swear some of them had to be crouching so that we did not see them.” Harold was not going to be dissuaded from his train of thought.
“They wouldn’t do that…right?” Gemma sounded absolutely terrified.
“Standing around here talking about it is not doing us any favors.” Vix wiped off the length of her sword and slid it into the scabbard on her hip. “The cabin is just beyond those trees. If we get going, we can make it there before nightfall.”
The trio started off, but for the longest time, they seemed to forget about their normal method of staying spaced out. None of them were ready just yet to be without the perception of comfort that close proximity to a living human being brought.
They had been on foot for the past two days, forced to leave their bicycles behind when they had come to a bridge that looked to have been washed away in a terrible flood. The river was still a bit high, and there was even talk about abandoning the idea of the farmhouse until Harold weighed in.
“If we get across, we will be putting a natural barrier at our backs at least for a while,” Harold had said.
He had gone first, carrying across a coil of rope that he secured to a tree so that both Vix and Gemma would have an easier go of it. By the time both were across, he had a fire started. They had huddled around it until they had eventually dried off. By then, it had been decided that they would camp the night and push on come morning.
The morning had dawned through as filter of dense fog. By the time they had gotten moving, it was nearing midday. They had crested the first hill, coming out of the fog and enjoying the feel of the sun on their faces despite the chill in the air.
Vix had gotten their bearings and pointed in the direction that they needed to travel. There were two more hills that they would try to use as guide points. It was the second one where the small pack of zombie children had attacked.
Walking in the fog had been creepy all by istself, but as they approached the top of the hill, all of them had started to sense something. There were flashes of shadow flitting about in the fog, but it was usually gone just as quick as they were spotted. Vix had been of the mind that it was probably some dogs running wild. She never once considered the possibility of zombies simply because the shadows kept moving away and zombies never retreated.
When the first attack came, it was five of them at once coming from all sides against Harold. Vix had actually stumbled back when what almost seemed like the world erupted in a writhing nest of mottled arms that emerged from the mist to grab the large young man. Gemma had screamed. And a handful of seconds later, smallish undead bodies came at them en masse.
Vix glanced at her travelling companions and saw them just as deep in thought as she had been, She had no doubt that they were all reliving this most recent and bizarre attack. Child zombies had been a bit of a rarity. Vix had to imagine that it was due to there probably not being enough left to return. To encounter so many travelling together was definitely something that she needed to think upon. There was something odd at work.
As the sun was well into its downward journey towards the western horizon, they came to a small ridge. This was the last one. She knew it. Vix had been seeing somewhat familiar landmarks for the past hour of their walk. Up ahead was the tower belonging to a small radio station. That station had provided the soundtrack to many events in her life over the summers she had spent here.
Try as she might, Vix could not keep her pace from speeding up. She knew that there would probably be a lot of work ahead if the place even proved worth staying at, but weren’t they due for something good?
She practically sprinted up the last stretch of the hill. It was careless and a good way to run smack dab into a zombie, but she simply could not help herself. She reached the top and came to a halt, her breathing now reduced to harsh gasps. Hands on knees, she looked out over the rolling land below. The lush, green grass was even more beautiful than she remembered. The fact that it was almost waist high only made it look all that much more beautiful as the breeze caused it to ripple like verdant water.
The small house was resting like a gem almost smack dab in the middle of the great, bowl-shaped valley. There was only one problem…
“There has to be a thousand of them,” Harold whispered, causing Vix to jump.
She wanted to cry, but the tears refused to come. Instead, she simply stared at the house and the thirty foot or more foot thick ring of undead that surrounded what looked like a reinforced fence she had never seen before that circled the property.
“…but I still believe that it is time we create some sort of governing body,” the man said.
There were some nods of agreement in the crowd, but there were an equal amount of skeptical expressions. There were even a few cases of booing and other rude comments. Juan felt the throbbing in his skull ratchet up another notch.
“I’m full aware that the idea of government has some nasty connotations,” the man continued after the room quieted down to the point where he could be heard. “However, we now have over five hundred people living here…something needs to be done.”
Five hundred? Juan thought. When the hell did that happen?
“And what are we going to do about those signal flares?” another voice called.
This sent the entire room into a tizzy. Juan stood up; at last they had hit on something that he was ready to deal with. He could care less about creating a government, and even less about the previous suggestion that had passed by a show of hands. If they wanted to create some form of law enforcement or police, that was up to them. He didn’t want any part of it despite what Mackenzie said. He would get to the uncomfortable business in a moment, but at least now he had an opening where he felt comfortable taking the floor.
“Everybody sit down and hush!” Juan bellowed. His voice was one that carried well, and in a room this small, it was like a cannon. He glanced back at Mackenzie who gave him a smile and a nod. He had used the word ‘hush’ instead of saying ‘shut up’ like he had at the last meeting.
The assembled crowd acted like a classroom that had been taking advantage of a substitute only to have the principal walk in; in other words, there was a scurry as people sought their seats. All eyes looked up at him and you could almost hear a pin drop.
“A team is being sent first thing tomorrow,” Juan announced. “Since the flares have come from the same location each night, we have a good idea where they are originating. That means we will need people to be on stand by. If we bring in a group like the last one, I don’t want to have a person turn into a damned deader while they are waiting in line to be checked in to quarantine.”
“Is it true that you are not going?” a female voice asked.
“Absolutely true,” Juan said with a nod. “I am taking myself off the list for a while.”
Juan was surprised when there was a smattering of applause. He was even more stunned when people turned it into a standing ovation. He turned back to Mackenzie who was sporting her “I told you so” face. She had insisted that the people wanted him here for a while, that he did not have to lead every single mission. Like it or not, they saw him as the leader.
He scowled when Mackenzie gave him the raised eyebrows. She had told him that it was time he made his announcement. She said that she already knew how it was going to be received, but the words needed to come from his mouth. All of a sudden, his mouth was really dry.
“And that brings me to my next point. I know that a lot of you think things are running just fine and don’t see the need to mess with the statue quo.” A few chuckles rippled through the crowd. Juan felt his face get warm…he knew he’d screwed something up just then. Oh well, Mackenzie would tell him on the walk home. “But the facts are clear…we need to make some changes around here. After that situation the other day, even those of you not too thrilled with the idea of government have to see that we can never let that happen again.”
Two days ago, a young couple had gotten into a bit of an argument. It had happened at the bazaar where folks bartered goods and services, so just about everybody had actually seen the incident take place.
What started as yelling turned ugly quick when the young man had struck the young woman with a backhand. That act was bad enough, but he’d been wearing field gloves. Field gloves are heavy duty with stud on the outside to deal a nasty blow to a deader if you are in closed quarters and a wire mesh insert to protect from being bitten. Some folks closest were actually splattered with blood.
When a few men rushed in, the scene got ugly quick. There was a nasty fight, and at some point, blades were drawn. It set off a chain of events that many were now calling a riot. Juan had seen things like that happen in the joint. A small fight could turn into a big one in a hurry.
With everybody under such constant pressure, folks had built up a lot of steam. Once the lid came off, there was no putting the heat back in the kettle, His grandma had said that phrase a time or two in his life growing up, he’d never really understood it until now.
“That is why I am officially asking for nominations,” Juan continued. Mackenzie had already told him what she expected to hear, and he hated that she was almost always right. He hoped that this would be one of those rare instances. “We don’t have a title yet, but we obviously need somebody or a group of people to start a rules committee or something. We need to get ourselves in order. If not, we risk more like what we got the other day.”
“Juan Hoya for president!” a female voice shouted.
Juan’s eyes snapped over to the source and saw April Cable give him a wink. His scowl re-emerged. A roar of approval from the crowd only made it deepen. Did that woman have to be right about everything?
“Hold on!” Juan threw his hands up in the air. He shot a look over his shoulder. Mackenzie was nodding. He glanced down at April who was doing likewise. He’d told April ahead of time that he was going to confess his complete past to Mackenzie when they had run into each other a few days after returning. Still, they had both agreed that some of what had happened at the house didn’t need to be shared.
Juan did not exactly trust April. He was still having trouble understanding everything that had gone down between them. He actually thought she might be a bit damaged mentally from all she had been through. After hearing her story of what she had endured, he had trouble feeling anything more than pity for April.
That night, he had come home to find April in his home. Before he even had a chance to speak, April had blurted, “Mackenzie, Juan has some things he feels he needs to say. I think you should hear them.”
The three of them had sat down around the table that night. The guilt that had been too much for Juan seemed to act as a verbal lubricant. He found himself talking more than he ever had in his life about his past. Along the way, he came clean with almost everything that had happened during those past few times out. He’d also told her about the real fate of Frank and Donna.
He had fully expected her to be done with him right then and there. As he’d confessed it all, he had not been able to look her in the eyes. He had instead just stared at his hands. When it was over, he braced for the worst. He even had a bag packed and waiting in the closet for when she told him to not just leave her house, but to leave the island.
“Oh, Juan, I’m so sorry.”
Here it comes, he thought.
But when Mackenzie knelt in front of him and took his hands in hers, kissing them, he went from miserable to confused. This was not at all going the way he’d expected.
She told him that he’d done what he thought was right. Even more strange was when she apologized for sending him out after Donna in the first place. She’d had no right. After all, hadn’t she been telling him to cut back on the risks the past several weeks? He had not told her everything about what transpired between him and April, but he did open up all the closets of the skeletons from his own past. He had laid out his entire criminal history to her. To that she had simply said that the Juan Hoya of before was not anybody that she knew personally. She only knew this current version, and that she was in love with him.
April had gotten up and come to the couple, putting her arms around both of them. “I am so happy for you both.”
Mackenzie had thanked her for being there and said something about how much she really must care to show him such support and that he was lucky to have her as a friend. None of that sat well with him.
As she was leaving, several hours after he had given what he thought were obvious and polite hints, he had made eye contact with her. She had smiled, but there was just something off about her that made him edgy. He quickly scolded himself when the thought came that he might have been better off had he let her die out there.
He snapped his attention back to the crowd that were now shouting all manner of crazy things such as “Juan for president!” and “We want Juan!”
April was no longer there in the front row. His eyes scanned the crowd. He saw a flash of red hair just as it disappeared out into the night.