Friday, August 7, 2015

Perhaps just a taste.

As some of you might know, the next DEAD: Snapshot--{insert town here} book is soon to be released. This time, I took a trip across the pond to Leeds, England. This was a challenge in that I know most of what I do about English culture and mannerisms from my love of BBC comedies (IT Crowd, Ideal, Red Dwarf, Only Fools and Horses, Python-DUH!-Fawltey Towers, Gavin& Stacey).

I have been blessed to have some great Beta readers from that side of the world. They are giving me some great pointers on lingo and such. Otherwise it would just read like an American writing a story about something happening someplace else. I thought that now would be a good day to give you something to chew on for the weekend. So, here is another peek at DEAD: Snapshot--Leeds, England.

“I’m scared, Simon,” Miranda said before moaning and curling up into a tight fetal position on her bed.

Simon picked up the towel that she had just used to wipe her mouth after vomiting into the rubbish bin he’d brought to her bedside. He held it in a gloved finger and thumb as he deposited it into that same bin and then shut the lid and pushed it aside.

“I know, sis,” Simon commiserated.

He had just left the living room where he had watched a new update on BBC News that said a person had no more than seventy-two hours after being bitten before he or she would turn. Well, he had an update for them; Miranda had been bitten five days ago. Her eyes had the black tracers, and she was obviously not feeling well, but she had managed to fight off whatever this infection might be for a full two days past their supposed long end of the spectrum.

Maybe she would recover if she could just get whatever it was out of her system. That was why he’d been slipping Ipecac into her food. She said that she could not taste a thing, so he figured that he could help induce enough vomiting and, coupled with how he had her bundled up so heavily to induce sweating, he would make her better.

“Oh, God!” Miranda moaned as she lunged for the edge of the bed. Fortunately, she did not have much left in her system. The bile and broth mixture was more of a frothy trickle at this point as she heaved and made noises that had Simon on the verge of joining her.

“Let it all out, Miranda,” Simon whispered as he sat beside his sister and held her hair back. That was the least he could do.

She heaved again and her body went rigid for a second, and then collapsed. A long, wet, strangled sigh escaped his sister, and then she did something that proved to Simon just how sick his sister really was.

The eye-stinging reek of flatulence assaulted Simon’s nose before he could think to hold his breath. He forced himself to keep quiet. He knew Miranda well enough to know that she would die from embarrassment if he so much as hinted at what she had just done.

She was still for several seconds before she began to move. At first it was slow and sluggish and he continued to rub her back and utter soothing words. Then, she began to struggle as if she wanted to roll over. Simon stood up to allow her room and froze in his tracks at what he saw.

“Miranda,” he cried, taking a step back from the thing that was no longer his sister.

The eyes which had been red and puffy were now filmed with a sickly yellowish coating that made the black tracers stand out all that much more. The skin of her face had sagged, and her open mouth revealed a tongue that appeared gray as it slid out over her bluish lips. A low moan escaped his little sister and Simon was now frozen in place from the combination of grief and horror.

How had he not noticed her dying right beside him? He’d been rubbing her back for mercy sake! Yet, he could not deny the simple fact that his sister was now one of them…the walking dead.

For some reason, he found himself helpless to do anything as she slowly rose from the bed, struggling to get out of it. When she fell hard to the floor after her feet became tangled in the blankets, he’d actually almost stepped forward to help her up and to assist in freeing her from the tangle of linens. Fortunately, the same force that had not allowed him to flee also seemed inclined to keep him from stepping in to help.

It was not until her cold, dead hands gripped his arm that the spell finally broke. Unfortunately for Simon, that was a shade too late. He jerked his arm, but was not prepared for how tight Miranda clutched him.

When she bit into him, all the parts of his brain that had continued to insist that this creature was his sister and not a flesh-eating zombie simply disguised as a poor and much uglier imitation were silenced by the facts. Simon shoved hard and slammed the Miranda-zombie backwards towards the bed. It clipped her right behind the knees and she fell back gracelessly. Her grip on his arm had only loosened slightly, but it was enough for him to finally free himself.

When she started to rise again, he had kicked her in the chest as hard as he could. Without waiting to see if there had been any negligible effects, Simon ran for the door, pulled it shut behind him, and then collapsed against the wall across from his sister’s room. He looked down at his arm and winced as the pain receptors kicked in over the receding adrenaline.

A dull thud sounded and Simon could see the dark shadows at the bottom of the door; she was right on the other side, and it sounded like she was trying to chew her way through. He forced himself up to his feet and hurried to the bathroom.

Flipping on the light, he examined the bite. The imprint of Miranda’s teeth could be easily made out and blood dripped from a few places where she had broken the skin. He opened the cabinet and pulled out some TCP. Twisting off the cap, he poured a good bit on the wound and winced at the incredible burning that felt like it would eat through to the bone .

He had gone to the living room and sat down. Despite everything that had happened, Simon had drifted off to sleep as the adrenaline left him and his body simply shut down. When he awoke, it was to an eerie silence. He rose slowly and made his way to Miranda’s door. Getting down on his stomach, he looked under the crack and saw the shadows of her feet; she was still standing just on the other side, but she was simply shifting back and forth.

Next, he held his breath and returned to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and was amazed to see that his eyes still looked normal. He leaned closer and pried his eyelids as far apart as he could, peering intently until his eyes began to sting and water.

“Nothing,” he mumbled and returned to the living room.

He stared at the television, but there was nothing on the screen, not even the test pattern. The screen merely flickered and occasionally had a burst of static but nothing more. He moved to the kitchen and tripped over a discarded shoe. Almost immediately, the sounds of Miranda pawing and slapping at her door resumed.

Simon knew what he had to do. It hurt him deep in his soul, but he could not allow his sister to remain one of those things, and if he was going to eventually turn as well, he needed to take care of her sooner rather than later.

He went to the hall closet and fetched his metal baton. He thought it over, and then tucked that into his belt and returned to the kitchen, his eyes scanned all the knives, but everything he looked at made him wince inwardly. He could not just kill Miranda. Yes, he realized that the thing in her bedroom was no longer his little sister, but it still looked way too much like her for him to be able to beat her to death or ram a large knife into her head.

“I’m sorry,” Simon whispered as he turned and left the flat.

He had not even closed the door when one of those things came for him. He thought that it might be one of the Pulaski family. He seemed to recall that they had relatives from Warsaw who had recently moved in. For whatever reason, he had no problems at all pulling out his baton and swinging with all his might.

At some point, Simon began to grow tired. He had not realized that he had taken down a dozen of these abominations. He walked across the hall and tried the first door after knocking and receiving no answer. This was the Smythe family’s flat.

As soon as he entered, he was hit by a tremendously foul stench that made him struggle for just a moment with being sick. Once he regained control, and felt confident that he would not vomit, he made his way into the living room. What he saw made him pause, but it also was perhaps the single thing that pushed him over the edge and into acceptance.

The Smythe family consisted of the father, mother, and three boys between the ages of ten and fifteen that were constantly causing a ruckus and being scolded by their shrill-voiced mother. At the moment, those three boys were all crouched around a single figure that was sprawled on the floor. The body lay just perfectly so that the morning sunlight could trickle through the open curtains and bathe it in a golden glow.

The oldest of the boys held an arm that had been violently ripped away. The other two were both face down in the abdomen, feasting in such a way that reminded Simon of swine at the trough. Entrails were ripped out and scattered about haphazardly.

The sounds of smacking, moaning, and slurping were horrendous to witness, but there was another sound that made Simon’s ears perk up. It was a squeak and a metallic clink that came in erratic intervals.

He briefly considered just trying another flat, but he feared he would find more of the same, or perhaps even worse. Stepping forward, Simon had taken his baton to the closest boy; that had also been the youngest. It only took five swings to crack the skull and send the dark jelly-like matter within splattering in an arc across the nearby wall.

By then, the other two had re-oriented their attention from the corpse on the floor to the living, breathing person who had dared interfere. The oldest was trying to stand, and that was when Simon realized that most of his left leg had been gnawed off from the knee on down. That made Simon’s decision marginally easier as he stepped in and drove the small, blunt tip of his baton into the eye socket of the middle boy before shoving the older one back down and then repeating the move. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that using the “eye socket” method was much quicker and easier than trying to bust open a skull.

Once finished with the third boy, Simon set off down the dim hallway to investigate the noise. He could see a door to the right that was shut, but the light was on and trickling under the door where the mysterious sound emanated. He knelt down, but he did not see any shadows that would indicate something moving around on the other side.

Steeling himself, and then giving a quick yank, he opened the door and let out a little shout of surprise. He had discovered the father. The man had a dozen or more small bites taken from his arms. Apparently, he decided that he would try to end himself by hanging from the shower head. He had looped a belt around his throat and then probably just forced his legs out from underneath his body. Whether it worked or not would be anybody’s guess.

Currently, the man was actually standing up in the tub. He was in black socks with no shoes, so he kept losing traction and slipping. That was causing the belt to cinch up, and then as he struggled back to standing, he would bump against the tiled walls with his heavy belt buckle or even one of the rings on his hands. Simon recalled the first time he’d seen the man; he had scoffed inwardly at all the jewelry the man wore. He also had several gold chains…or at least he used to. Most of them had snapped at some point and littered the bottom of the tub.

The man spotted Simon and lunged, causing him to jump back out of reflex. Unfortunately for the zombie, the slack in the belt was gone in an instant and the man’s head and neck whiplashed. The feet slipped and shot out from underneath the zombie and the body fell a short distance and jerked to a stop with an audible crack that Simon could not tell whether or not were the bones in the man’s neck, or the fixture he was now almost dangling from by his entire weight.

Simon had ended the man and then returned to the living room just in time to witness as what was left of Mrs. Smythe begin to sit up. That had proved to be too much and Simon had left and returned to his own flat. He could endure the idea of Miranda’s zombie on the other side of a door. And as long as she did not start making too much racket, perhaps he could just pretend.

That had lasted two days. During that time, Simon had watched from his window as the city of Leeds fell to the undead. He had already known better than to try and go to one of the shelters. He had a bird’s eye view of one and had seen it fall the day before Miranda died.

Every night, he’d heard the sounds of screams and even people begging and pleading for their lives. Part of his conscience urged Simon to get out there and try to help…do something. The problem was that a much louder voice in his head warned that his very survival probably hinged on him staying put for the time being.

He had finally dismissed that voice when he’d heard some screams from the flat directly below his own. It was not just the scream, but the cruel sounding laughter that accompanied it. At last, Simon made the choice to resume his calling of being a servant of the public.

He had exited his flat and dashed down the hall. That careless act almost cost him when one of the walking dead lunged from an open doorway and the pair tumbled to the ground in a heap. Luckily, Simon came up on top and was able to kick away from the uncoordinated zombie. He did not even bother ending the thing; he was determined to help somebody. He knew he was likely doomed to the same fate his sister had succumbed to, but that was suddenly strangely liberating.

He reached the landing and briefly registered the fact that the door was actually open already. The hall was much like what he had seen on his own floor. Trash was strewn the length of it and a few bodies were sprawled just about everywhere. Many of the doors to the flats on this floor were open and looked to have been pried or kicked in.

Another shriek came from down the hall and Simon started for it. He gripped his baton and stayed close to the wall, switching sides as he neared a door. His swapping back and forth had him across the hall from where the noises were coming by the time he reached that open door.

“…c’mon, ducky, give us a little smile,” a voice chortled.

“Please…please don’t,” a female voice begged.

Simon tilted his head in confusion. It sounded like an old lady. His hatred for whomever these animals were had just found a new level. He discarded caution and strode to the open doorway.

He had not expected there to be three. Even worse, just as he stepped into the doorway, one of the trio, a pudgy man about Simon’s age was exiting for some reason. He had a big bag in his hands and actually displayed surprising reflexes. Before Simon could bring his baton into play, the man swung the bag and slammed Simon back out and into the corridor. A boot to his ribs quickly followed.

“Hey, fellas, we got a copper out here!” the pudgy one hollered.

Simon scuttled back and recovered just as the other two emerged. He held out the baton in front of him and prepared for the worst.

“Nobody here called for a bacon sandwich did they?” one of the men said with a sneer. This one was blond with blue eyes that had a visible coldness to them.

“Maybe you three should just move on,” Simon said, trying his best not to sound like he was nervous.

“We got all we need here, right boys?” the blond said to the others. “But here is what we are gonna do.” The man stepped closer to Simon, but was smart enough to stay out of range of the baton. “We decided that we want this tower. We are simply serving all the occupants notice that they need to find someplace else to live.”

“You’re what?” Simon gasped.

“Yeah, see, we been living over in Wortley Towers, but too many of them damn flesh eaters skulking about. We decided that we would make Clyde our new home. If you want to stay, well then, you will be paying rent.”

“You are mad if you think any of this—”

And then something crashed into the back of his head. When he woke up, he was still in the hall. He gave his body a cursory inspection, but everything seemed fine. His baton was on the floor up against the wall across from him; they had not taken anything. That puzzled him.

He climbed to his feet and went into the flat he’d encountered these hooligans in and gave it a look. Whoever it was that had been here was gone now. The place was empty and looked like it had been properly sacked.

He turned back to the fire exit and saw a message spray painted on the wall: This is your 24-hour notice. Get out!