So, July is closing fast and the 9th book of the DEAD series is not far away. Some of you may be wanting a little taste of what is to come. To that end, I invite you to peruse a nugget from DEAD: Spring's chapter 1.
Geek Pain and Nightmarish Discoveries
“They don’t look like Guardians,” a woman said as she stepped forward from the group that had Kevin and the others hemmed in with weapons pointed.
Kevin scanned the group and counted fifteen; each was carrying a rifle or pistol which was currently pointed in his general direction. As soon as he heard the word “Guardian”, he had a feeling that he knew what he was dealing with.
“You’re right,” Kevin spoke. He took a step forward, making sure to raise his hands just a bit higher as he did so in hopes that he would not simply be shot out of principle.
“But we did run into some of them as well as a few of their hostages.” Kevin watched faces for any signs that he was about to be shot. He would have no problem shutting his mouth if it came to it.
“Is that right?” a man sneered, stepping forward and raising his gun to his shoulder, the barrel aimed at Kevin’s head. “And where would those hostages be?”
“I believe the area was called Eggers Grove,” Aleah spoke up and stepped beside Kevin, taking his hand in hers. “But they were in no condition to travel. We were simply passing through and sort of got caught in the middle of whatever is going on here. We did invite them to join us, but they refused.”
As Aleah gave these people a rundown of what had happened, Kevin scanned the group. They all looked pretty healthy. He had to assume that they were members of that compound just to the west. Of the fifteen, six were females. One of them had a disfiguring scar on her face. Better yet, what remained of her face was mostly twisted tissue that looked puckered but obviously from a wound that had long since healed. She had an eye patch over her left eye and, judging by what he saw, there was not likely to be an eye remaining in that socket.
“Hey!” the woman who had spoken first said, snapping her fingers in Kevin’s direction. “Let’s see it.”
Kevin blinked and looked around. Everybody was staring at him…including the woman with the disfigured face that he had been eyeballing. If she was self-conscious about his obvious visual examination of her facial scarring, she gave no indication.
“Show them your arm,” Rose whispered with an elbow to his ribs.
Suddenly understanding the situation and reason for the request, Kevin displayed the recent wound from the bite he’d sustained just a couple of days ago. Their captors—Kevin could not think of a better word for them at the moment since they all had weapons drawn and pointed at him and the rest of what remained of his group—moved in and examined the bite.
“Yep…that’s legit,” the woman who Kevin now saw as the leader said out loud before taking a step back. “So at least two of you are immune…and the others?”
“Nobody really wants to test the waters,” Aleah said with a forced laugh.
“You mind if I ask you a question?” Kevin rolled his sleeve down and shrugged his coat back on.
“Sure,” the woman agreed with a nod.
“Can at least of few of your people lower their weapons?”
“Stand down,” the woman ordered. “Now, perhaps some introductions, my name is Latricia Jones…”
The woman went down the line and gave everybody else’s names. There were three Patricks and two Seans (one male, one female); beyond that, Kevin simply did not bother to commit any of the names to memory. If he had his way, this would not be a lengthy encounter. For one—
“Are we going to stand here and wait to see if that ocean of zombies finally notices us?” Rose blurted after Heather had shot Kevin a dirty look and introduced their group in a return of the extended courtesy.
For the first time since the two groups had met, Latricia’s people seemed to actually notice the seemingly endless stream of undead now pouring through the CTA lot. Another section of the train took that moment to topple and allow for a second tributary of zombies to pour in and add to the horde that was pushing everything forward in the lot, creating a tsunami of derelict vehicles and roadwork equipment.
“Jesus Chri—” one of the men started, but Latricia’s bark cut him off.
“Ramirez! What have I told you about taking the Lord’s name in vain?”
“Sorry, Lattie” The man gave a small bow of the head.
Great, Kevin thought, religious freaks. Anything else to make this just a bit worse?
“You say that there were Guardians up in the Eggers Grove neighborhood.”
“Yeah…they blew up a church for no reason and were really making a lot of racket,” Aleah said when, once again, it looked as if Kevin was going to remain silent.
“Oh…there was a reason,” Latricia muttered. “They were trying to draw me out…get a little payback.”
“By blowing up a church?” Rose asked. “That seems a bit much.”
“Long story,” Latricia waved a hand in dismissal.
“We should get back home,” one of the women suggested as she stared in a mix of horror and amazement at the sheer number of zombies now pouring through the CTA lot. “And if possible, we should probably recall the troops. I think this is a storm that we need to batten down for and just sit out until it is gone.”
“Crap!” Latricia spat. She turned to face Kevin and the others. “We don’t really have time to deal with you folks. You don’t seem like the enemy, so we are going to let you go. You are welcome to return with us, but if you do, there will be protocols and some time in isolation while we assess whether or not you are people that we want in our community.”
Nothing that the woman said held any appeal to Kevin. There was something about these folks that gave Kevin the heebie jeebies. They all had what he would classify as a fanatical look about them. In his mind, it was all about extremes: anything in moderation, be it alcohol, food, or even God, was okay. But anything in the extreme was a recipe for disaster.
“No thanks,” Kevin finally answered with a shake of the head. He thought that he saw a look of disappointment cross the faces of all three females; most noticeable was Rose. “But if any of the others want to stay…well, that is their choice.”
With no more ceremony than a curt nod, Kevin started walking. He did not even bother to look over his shoulder to see if the others would follow. It was Aleah who caught up to him first and grabbed him by the arm, spinning him around.
“Whatever this is…” she threw her hands up in his general direction, “…it has to stop. You have been acting strange for a while. Did I do something?”
By now, Heather and Rose had caught up. The overpass was empty as if Latricia and her people had never even been there. A distant low tone carried from the huge swarm of undead, but other than that, there was nothing. Not for the first time, but certainly it had been a while, Kevin marveled at the fact that they were in what had once been a thriving metropolis that was basically devoid of life. No cars, no planes, no people…just a slow reclamation by Mother Nature as multi-lane highways sprouted foot high weeds that were methodically pushing apart the rivers of asphalt that man had thought to be so permanent.
The world was dead.
“I am a carrier,” Kevin whispered. When nobody spoke, Kevin sighed. It was embarrassing, and deep down, he knew that he was being selfish.
“If everything that we have heard is true, then I could infect you,” he glanced up at Aleah, but quickly found that he could not maintain eye contact. “Perhaps something as simple as a kiss, but there is definitely no way that we could ever become intimate again.”
There was a long silence. Then, Aleah placed her hands on Kevin’s shoulders. When he continued to stare at the ground, she nudged his face up to hers and looked into his eyes with so much love that it made Kevin weak in the knees. Never in his life had anybody, much less a woman as beautiful as Aleah, looked at him in that way.
“For somebody so smart, you can be a real idiot,” she said with a slight hitch in her voice. “And as for the possibility of you infecting me, we can figure something out. There are ways.”
“Ever heard of condoms?” Rose muttered. Heather gave her a sharp elbow to the ribs.
“And now is as good of a time as any to make an announcement,” Aleah said, turning to include the others in the conversation. She pulled Kevin beside her and took his hand, squeezing it gently. “I’m pregnant.”
Those two words hung in the air long enough for Aleah to begin to think that perhaps she had made a mistake in sharing her announcement. Kevin’s hand jerked away sharply from her own and she was about to burst into tears until she realized why.
Kevin had fainted.