Today, the Zombie Survival Crew welcomes Pembroke Sinclair and a peek at her book, Life After the Undead. It’s a pleasure to have someone stop by who knows her zombies and isn’t afraid to express her views. Take it away Pembroke.
I was on a panel at a convention recently with Life After the Undead on display, and one of the guests from the audience asked about the book. He said, “Is that vampires?”
“No,” I responded. “Zombies.”
“Oh.” The man raised his eyebrows. “Are they sparkly zombies?”
I was taken aback and slightly shocked. I was the only female on the panel with five males, but why would he assume I would make my zombies sparkly? Was he trying to be funny? If so, I wasn’t amused. Just because I’m female and the book is YA doesn’t mean I can’t write blood and gore.
I snorted and said, “Absolutely not. They are regular, evil zombies.”
Later, the encounter got me thinking about how traditional “bad” guys have been redefined and altered for modern audiences. Obviously, the most apparent example here is the Twilight series. It changed our view of vampires. Other stories and movies have altered how we look at werewolves. But nothing has come out yet that redefined the zombie. Granted, shows like 28 Days Later and the sequels introduced a fast zombie, but I know many people who would argue that they aren’t actually zombies. Many people still believe that the Romero Zombie, or shambler, are the only true zombies.
I’m a purist. I believe that zombies are slow moving and rotting. They are dead humans that have returned to life to feed upon the living. They are absolutely not shiny, and they have no thoughts in their vacant minds except to eat. But having the same old story over and over can get a little boring, the convention can get stale, so I made a few changes to the traditional zombie. For one, I made them aware that if they stay in a humid environment for too long, they will deteriorate faster. Therefore, the zombies in Life After the Undead have migrated to more dry climates to survive. They still crave human flesh and can change the living into the undead through a bite, but they are just a little more aware of how quickly they are falling apart.
For me, it was important to stick to the accepted definitions of what constitutes a zombie. I remember watching Night of the Living Dead when I was 15 and not being scared but utterly creeped out by what I saw. I wanted to recreate that feeling for a new audience, but I didn’t want it to feel stale or like I was rewriting the same story, hence the small change. It’s good every now and then to change a traditional monster to make it appeal to a new audience. It perpetuates the myths and introduces them to a new generation. However, I’m pretty sure sparkly zombies will be a sign of the apocalypse.
The world has come to an end. It doesn’t go out with a bang, or even a whimper. It goes out in an orgy of blood and the dead rising from their graves to feast on living flesh. As democracy crumples and the world melts into anarchy, five families in the U.S. rise to protect the survivors.
The undead hate a humid environment, so they are migrating westward to escape its deteriorating effects. The survivors are constructing a wall in North Platte to keep the zombie threat to the west, while tyranny rules among the humans to the east.
Capable but naïve Krista is 15 when the first attacks occur, and she loses her family and barely escapes with her life. She makes her way to the wall and begins a new life. But, as the undead threat grows and dictators brainwash those she cares about, Krista must fight not only to survive but also to defend everything she holds dear—her country, her freedom, and ultimately those she loves.
About the Author:
Pembroke Sinclair has had several short stories published. Her story, “Sohei,” was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine. She has novellas and a short story collection available from Musa Publishing and eTreasures Publishing. Her two novels, Coming from Nowhere (adult, sci fi) and Life After the Undead (YA, horror), are available from eTreasures Publishing, as well as Death to the Undead (YA, sequel to Life After the Undead), which is forthcoming. Life After the Undead was a Top Ten Finisher in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll in the YA category and the cover art category.
As Jessica Robinson, from March 2008 to January 2011, she wrote scientific articles for Western Farmer-Stockman. Her nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films, is available from Scarecrow Publishing (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield).
Jessica/Pembroke received her Master’s in English, and she is a freelance content editor for Musa Publishing, as well as a former content and line editor for eTreasures Publishing.
I will never understand peoples’ fascination with the apocalypse. Why would you waste so much time and energy worrying about something you can’t change? Besides, most of the time, it never comes to fruition anyway. Remember Y2K? What a hullabaloo that was. People were so afraid computers were going to fail and throw society back into the Dark Ages that they were stockpiling supplies and moving into the wilderness so they could get away from technology. Why would they move to the wilderness? If technology was going to fail, wouldn’t they be just as safe in a city? I guess they were afraid when technology failed, everyone would go crazy and start killing each other. Either way, it didn’t happen. I wonder how those people felt afterward. Then, there was the whole 2012 scare. This one was supposedly based on ancient prediction, so you know it was reliable. Are you kidding? Even the Mayans didn’t believe their own ancestors‟ “vision.” What happened was there had been a tablet that had the Mayan calendar carved into it. The end was broken and faded, so no one knew what it said. Our culture, being the pessimistic lot that we are, automatically assumed it was an end-of-the-world warning. But, again, nothing happened on December 21, 2012. Christmas came and went, and I think everyone, everywhere, even the skeptics, had a little something more to be thankful for. Life went on as usual, and all those doomsayers faded into obscurity. The day the world did end was pretty nondescript. By that I mean there was no nuclear explosion or asteroid or monumental natural disaster. There weren’t even any horseman or plagues to announce the end was coming. The world ended fairly quietly. I couldn’t even give you a date because it happened at different times depending on where you were. It was never predicted, and I’m sure a scenario that no one even considered. Who really thinks the dead are going to rise from the grave and destroy the majority of the population? No one but Hollywood, and we all know those are just movies. But that is exactly what happened. Those of us that survived were left wide-eyed, mouth agape, trying to figure out what to do next. There were a few who were able to pull their heads out and organize those left behind. They made sure the populace had food, shelter, and protection. They were saviors, the United States’ heroes. Life wouldn’t have gone on without them, and it was pretty difficult those first few years after the zompocalypse. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what life was like before the rise of the undead. I was a teenager, though I hesitate to say normal. I wasn’t deformed or anything, but my classmates thought I was strange. I had a fascination with the dark, the macabre, but I wasn’t a Goth or Emo. I read books and magazines about serial killers. I didn’t idolize them or want to be like them—hell no—but I was fascinated with how evil and black a human’s soul could get. I wanted to be a psychologist and work with the criminally insane, maybe figure out why they did what they did. Apparently, when you’re 15, your friends think you’re weird if you have desires to help someone other than yourself. While they were worried about becoming popular and getting the right boyfriend, I was trying to figure out how to make society better. Of course, those dreams will never come true. Society doesn’t exist. Everything I once held dear is gone. I lost my parents to the horde, like a lot of kids. Unlike some of the others, mine weren’t taken by surprise or in some freak accident; they were taken because of their own stupidity. Some days I miss them a lot, but others I believe they got what they deserved. I might sound callous and uncaring, but what about them? Why would they abandon their 15 year old daughter? It used to keep me up at night, trying to find the answer to that question, but I’ve given up asking it. No reason wasting time on things that could’ve or should’ve been.
As I stare out the passenger side window of the semi, I’m reminded how bleak the future has become. The truck rolls down a once heavily traveled highway that has been reduced to a cracked trail. Gas stations and towns dotting the landscape have been abandoned and are crumpling into the weeds that are taking them over. There are a few areas that still resemble pre-zombie destruction, and these are the military outposts set up along the road, used for protection and refueling. I use the term “military” loosely because there is no formal military anymore. It’s a rag-tag group of men and women who were lucky enough to get guns. I chuckle to myself. It’s been two years since I was last out in the world, and a lot has changed since then. I still remember the day the zombies attacked. It’s as clear as if it happened yesterday.
The year is 2017, and the Black Plague infection has swept across most of the United States, leaving death and chaos in its wake. Martial law is the rule rather than the exception, with outbreaks cropping up when they’re least expected. Alyssa and her friends must not only battle outbreaks of the disease, but also find themselves pursued by government agents – men and women determined to track them down at any cost.
Fleeing north to the fabled Sanctuary, Alyssa, Jacob, DeAndre, Caitlyn, Risa and Luke face disturbing ordeals and terrible tragedy as they encounter unbelievable situations in their struggle to reach safety. Using their skills and wits in their fight to survive against ever worsening odds, they weather hardship, betrayal, and the ever-present specter of death as they flee north, all the while vowing to protect one another – and most of all their precious 5-year-old Luke, from a world gone mad.
Sanctuary, the second installment in the Mad World series, is a heart-rending adventure of astonishing revelations, tragic discoveries, agonizing separations and devastating losses that test these friends to their limits. With heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat suspense at every turn, this is a story you will not be able to put down.
Find out what happens next.
About the Author:
Samaire Provost lives in California with her husband and son. Her love of paranormal stories, odd plots, and unique tales as well as the works of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Susan Cooper, Madeleine L’Engle and Stephen King has deeply influenced her writing.
We were about 50 feet from the barn when suddenly the lights inside went out. “Oh, that is so not good,” I said under my breath. Risa stopped completely and stared, trying to see any danger before she got to it. I stopped, too, and we just stood there for the space of a few heartbeats. This night was getting creepier by the hour. After a minute, Risa shrugged and said, “Well, whatever. I can’t just sit here waiting. Let’s go see what scary horrors lie in wait for us in there.” At this I burst out laughing, and hung my arm over her shoulders. She had broken the tension, and I felt immensely better. Laughing together we walked toward the now dark barn. We got to the barn door and peered in. It was pitch dark, so we switched our flashlights on and tried to illuminate the massive interior. “Hmmmm,” I said, trying to see in the darkness beyond the twin beams of light. The barn was too big to see; there was nothing for it, we would have to search the dark expanse cubic yard by cubic yard. We split up and began searching and calling every few minutes. I heard a snuffling in the dark reaches, but it was Risa who said, “Awww, hi there little guy.” And then, “Alyssa, come look at this.” I trotted over to where Risa was standing at a stall door, shining her flashlight on the interior. Peering over the tall wooden door, I looked inside the stall and saw a mare with what appeared to be her newborn foal. The baby teetered over to its mother on long legs and then ducked its head under and began to nurse. “Awww,” I said softly, smiling. We watched the two for a while, marveling at the wonderful sight. It was so adorable. A reminded that life goes on, that the plague hadn’t affected this little family one bit. We didn’t hear what had just entered the barn until it was almost upon us. As we watched the mother and baby, the mare’s head shot up and she snorted nervously. At the same time, we heard the low growls, several of them, coming from the direction of the door we’d just come in not five minutes ago. “Oh, crud,” Risa said as she turned. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as they did every time I heard those growls when I wasn’t expecting them. “Quick, switch off your flashlight,” I whispered. “Maybe it’ll help.” I switched mine off as I said it, and then ducked and ran softly on the hay-covered floor to the far end of the huge barn. Risa followed me, making hardly any sound. We tiptoed along the side of the stalls and tried to make ourselves as small as possible. After we got to the last of the doors, we crouched there in the darkness. I was unwilling to go inside a stall to hide; I didn’t want to be caught in one, with no way out. The growling became intermittent, and I thought I could make out at least three different voices. So, at least three zombies now shared this barn with Risa and me, and the mare and her foal. Somehow, I didn’t think the horses had much to worry about. In the five-plus years since the epidemic began, scientists had been studying the problem and testing different theories. In the process, they had discovered a few interesting facts about the people infected by the plague. The zombies. First of all, they didn’t seem to be attracted to animals. Lucky for us people, they seemed to only want to taste us. Great, huh? Second. They seemed to have very poor vision. Guess that might have had something to do with the way their eyes quickly went milky, as if they had cataracts. Gross. Anyway, they seemed to hunt by smell mostly, and also used their sense of hearing to find their prey. Speaking of prey, we were it. That’s right, our own people, who had been ravished and zombie-fied by this terrible plague, turned back on us and hunted the humans who had yet to be infected. Smell. Sounds. These things were on our minds as we huddled there in the dark in the corner of that strange barn. We knew the zombies acted mostly on instinct; they weren’t too smart. But then again, they weren’t too dumb, either. We’d seem zombies duck shots fired at them, and think things through in their seemingly insatiable quest for human flesh. They would attack strategically, looking for any weakness. If we were barricaded in the van, locking the doors on one side, they’d come around to the other side of a car to try the windows there. Luckily, the barn we were in was full of smells other than ourselves. The big pile of horse manure in the corner, for instance. We had no choice but to try to find a way out of our predicament, while making as little noise as possible. The three zombies we knew of were growling and shuffling around toward the front of the barn again, while we crouched in the back. I began searching for any back door or window we could use as an escape route, and Risa, seeing what I was doing, began looking with me. We must have been about 8 feet apart, at the back wall of the barn, when the zombie we didn’t know was there jumped down from the loft and onto … me. “AHHHHH!!!!!!” I yelled, startled, as I tumbled to the ground. Luckily, the zombie had fallen more than ten feet, so when it landed on me, it rolled off to the side and was momentarily stunned. I quickly scrambled to my feet and unholstered my shotgun, bringing it forward and leveling it at the figure on the ground. Risa reacted quickly as well, bringing her the .33 up and training it on the creature. One thing we had learned fast in the last five years was not to hesitate. So I walked up to the figure that was starting to rise, and I fired at its head, the muzzle of my sawed off not a foot away. It quickly dropped to the ground and was still, but the shot, that had been deafening in the closed area, had alerted the other zombies to our presence. We both looked up toward the barn door and heard the low growling become even more menacing, if that were at all possible. “Oh, to heck with this,” I mumbled, and turning behind me, I shot out the nearest wooden board in the wall of the barn. With Risa covering me, I kicked out a hole large enough so we could get through. I scrambled through the 2-by-3-foot hole I’d made, and Risa emerged after me, with a zombie hot on her heels. The thing actually stuck its head through the hole, and stretched an arm out too, reaching. Big mistake. Huge. Quickly holstering my shotgun, I brought my bowie knife up and then down, slashing the thing trying to eat us. The sharp blade sliced cleanly through its neck, and its head rolled free at Risa’s feet, dripping black blood. Hey, what can I say? I liked to keep my blades razor sharp. “Oh, gross,” Risa said softly. Laughing, I quickly switched back to my shotgun, reloading it in less than 30 seconds. “We need the men here,” I said, pointing my shotgun to the sky. I let off three rounds, at five second intervals. POP!! POP!! POP!! The shots echoed across the farmyard. We heard the growls stop on the other side of the barn wall, and then resume, sounding angrier than ever. Looking around, I saw a small water tower on stilts, about three stories tall. We could climb the ladder and, if the zombies came, we’d be able to pick them off one by one. We’d be safe up there. Indicating it with a tilt of my head, I holstered my shotgun and we both trotted over to the ladder. “Up you go,” I said, boosting her up. The water tower ladder started about 5 feet off the ground so we had to scramble a bit. The growls had faded away, but I was worried the zombies were going to come around the corner any minute. Boosting the skinny teenager up, I prepared to hoist myself up after her. Then I heard the zombies growls, much closer than before. Without stopping to look around at the direction they were coming from, I jumped and grabbed the third rung and hoisted myself up, my foot catching the bottom rung on the first try. There was nothing like being hunted by zombies to hasten your climb up a ladder, I tell ya. Risa and I clambered up to the ledge on the bottom of the large, barreled, wooden structure; it was 10-12 feet up. We stood on it, we didn’t want to sit and then have our legs dangling off the end out into possible grab territory. We waited. We didn’t have long to wait. It was less than a minute after I started up the ladder that the first zombie shambled into view. It was a female, in an old housecoat that had seen better, non-zombie, days. It walked out into the open, not sure where we were, but definitely smelling us. It was followed by two more zombies, both male, one looked to be an old man and the other a middle aged man. It was almost funny to watch, because the old man zombie appeared to have been a bit crippled by old age before being infected, turned and subsequently infused with zombie strength. So what we were watching was a crooked old zombie that look arthritic, but moving pretty fast and not appearing in pain at all. These three zombies began a zigzag pattern, using their noses to find us. They were about twenty feet away when things got really nasty. And by really nasty I mean that a dozen or more young zombies, of varying ages, came to join the adult zombies in their hunt for us humans. Apparently, this had been a pretty large family. It looked like a grandfather, a great grandfather, a mother, and at least a dozen youths ranging in age from around ten all the way up to early twenties. I suspected the father might have been one of the two I’d killed by the barn, but I wasn’t sure. Trying to count these things was useless, plus in the end, we couldn’t know how big the family had been, how many members there were. Heck, we could try to mentally calculate the whole family only to miss the Uncle Bob zombie or the Auntie Tweedie zombie or something. In this situation you just had to assess the threat as best you could and meet the danger head on as it came to you. Deal with the zombies you knew about, and never let down your guard. “Shoot, where’s my extra ammo?” Risa said, fumbling in her side bag. “I put it in the back pocket, there,” I pointed. I fumbled for my own ammo – we were going to need it. I located the box of cartridges in my side pouch and checked my shotgun. I was ready. “Okay, hold my belt,” I said, and after Risa hooked her arm around the wooden structure and grabbed hold of the back of my belt, I leaned over and shot out the ladder. Good. Now they had no way of climbing up to us, I hoped. We watched them come, both of us calm, holding our firearms at the ready. We’d been through over five years of this so we were somewhat used to it. This wasn’t even Risa’s first situation of this type. Three other times, we’d been trapped and either holed up or treed like cats and had to pick off zombies one by one to free ourselves. But this was the first time Risa and I had done it alone. I was really counting on her. Glancing sideways I asked, “You okay?” Risa looked at me and nodded her head, a look of calm determination on her face. “Absolutely,” she said, then looked down on the advancing horde. ___
We later learned that Jacob had heard my three shots and had begun jogging through the trees toward our location. He was almost a mile and a half away, and there was underbrush to deal with, but he made pretty good time. He had slung his shotgun over his shoulder and was trotting steadily, zigzagging through the trees, following the sound of the shots. DeAndre had heard the shots, too, but was a bit farther away – over the low hills and south of the water tower. The shots I’d fired sounded faint, but it was closing in on midnight and the night was very quiet and peaceful. The stars were brilliant, and together with the quarter moon, they stood watch as D hiked up through the foothills toward our location. ___
Risa and I stood there, waiting for the zombies to wander closer. My shotgun needed to be fired at close range to knock one out for good. I’d shot from several dozen feet away, and you just got a wide spread. The result was a zombie with a pitted, icky, gross, dripping-with-goo face. No, I would need to wait until they had closed within about 6 feet or less. But that was okay, we were up high. I figured we could pick them off one at a time. Unless by some miracle they decided to work together. I’d heard of this happening sometimes. I hoped it didn’t happen tonight. “Here comes the first one,” Risa said, taking aim. The zombie shambled up to the water tower and looked up, its eyes all milky and its scalp shredded where it had apparently been bitten when it was a human. It looked like it had once been a teenage girl, maybe 16 or 17. It still wore pedal pushers and a flowery sweater. Growling at us, it stretched its arms upward and jumped, trying to catch the ledge we were on. Risa steadied her .33 and shot off a round: *POP* The bullet caught the zombie right in the temple; it dropped heavily to the ground and was still. “Good shot!” I said. And then, “uh, oh,” as three more zombies began jumping for the ledge. POP! I knocked another zombie down. It was taller than the first and had actually been able to slap its fingers to the edge of the wood when it jumped. Now it was slumped against one of the wooden stilts that supported the water tower. It would never jump again. Risa tried to shoot a third zombie, but it was moving around more erratically and it was harder for her to get a bead on it. It took her four shots, but she finally nailed it in the head, and it fell to the ground. The third of the closest zombies just growled and moaned as it looked up at us. I had no pity for the thing. If we were within reach it would not hesitate to attack us. And I did not hesitate. Lowering my shotgun muzzle and sighting down at it, I pulled the trigger and blasted the thing’s face off. It fell backward onto the ground and lay still. I looked up to get an idea of what to expect next, and my eyes found the old man zombie approaching. It moved pretty fast – it probably hadn’t moved that fast when it was alive, for several decades. But now, in its crooked, arthritic, sideways shamble-hop, it was fast. And shrewd as well. Looking up at us and staying back a ways, it seemed to study us. Its eyes had not gone completely milky yet, and apparently it could see us. It was kind of creepy in a way, almost as if it was actually sentient. “Will you look at that,” I said softly. At the sound of my voice, its gaze focused on me, and it cocked its head. “Whoa!” I said, nearly losing my footing in surprise. The old man zombie seemed to notice this, and then it dropped its eyes down to study the area under our feet. “I really don’t like the looks of that one,” Risa said. “It’s giving me the creeps.” I nodded. I didn’t like the looks of it either. But my attention was drawn to another wave of zombies trying to get at us. I blew three of them away in quick succession and then leaned back to reload. Risa was getting better with her .33, which was good. That gun was not terribly accurate at greater distances, so you had to wait until you had a clear shot at a zombie no more than ten feet away to have a really good chance of hitting it in the head and stopping it. I finished reloading and covered Risa as she also reloaded. Sighting down the muzzle of my shotgun, I picked off two more zombies, then stopped to look up. The grandfather zombie had moved back a bit and was now about a dozen feet away from the base of the water tower. As I watched him, he all of a sudden let out a huge roar that made all the zombies stop all of a sudden. Then it grunted and growled and gestured and OH MY GOD IT WAS COMMUNICATING WITH THE OTHER ZOMBIES. “Oh, this is not good,” I said. “Oh my God. Oh my ever-loving God, what is happening?” Risa said. There were maybe six zombies left, including the old man zombie and, believe it or not, they were in an informal huddle, looking like an amateur football team. Those zombies were concentrating their attention on the old man zombie, and he seemed to somehow be GIVING THEM INSTRUCTIONS. “I don’t believe this,” I said. Looking around us, I saw that we were trapped like treed cats. “Listen, Risa. If this situation starts to go south, I want you to make a break for it, okay?” “I won’t leave you, Alyssa,” Risa said. “I’m not planning on becoming a martyr or anything, but I have a bad feeling about this and I …,” I said. “Alyssa, don’t even think that way. We will come out of this alive and we will find Luke,” Risa said. Looking around again, I once again pointed my shotgun at the sky and let off three rounds about five seconds apart. I nodded to Risa and reloaded again. Risa nudged my arm, and when I looked up she gestured to the zombies. They were breaking apart slowly and something was happening. They seemed to be a bit confused I thought, but then the old man zombie let out another loud roar and then hobble-charged right at us! The other zombies followed him, and all of a sudden we had a small mob of half a dozen zombies rushing at our water tower. Risa and I could only watch as they came. Our guns pointed down, we wondered what was going on. This was not a good scenario at all. When dealing with zombies, I had always preferred to be on the side making the active decisions and controlling the game. Now they were calling the shots, executing some bizarre strategy from their zombie playbook. We fired as they ran toward us. POP! POP!! POPPOPPOP!! Two of the zombies fell to the ground, but four others just kept charging, in fact, they ran right under our ledge. A split-second later we felt the water tower shudder and lean slightly before righting itself again. The zombies had hit the stilts holding us up. I couldn’t believe it. They had launched a coordinated attack and were trying to knock the water tower over to get at us. “How on earth…?” I said. I didn’t have time to finish my sentence. They were still directly under us, pushing at the stilts in an effort to finish the job. We teetered as the zombies below us pushed at the stilts. The water tower swung back and forth several times as we hung on to the wooden planks. Then for a few seconds, it stopped moving to the side and I thought perhaps the zombies had given up. But apparently they had just stepped back to gather their strength for another push, because all of a sudden the movement started again and it was worse than before. We hung on tightly to anything we could grab, but it was no use. “Oh! OH!!” Risa said, as the water tower leaned alarmingly to the side. “We’re going to have to jump! Come on!” I said, as the thing began to topple over.
Is this the end of the world? Is the Rapture upon us? Has a Zombie Apocalypse arrived? That’s a matter of opinion, but it doesn’t hurt to be a licensed Shooter in these uncertain times.
Meet Stan Norton – a middle-aged Shooter with a haunting past. He wants little to do with the living dead and less to do with the living, until that is, a mysterious young woman with an affinity for guns and martial arts enters his life. An adventure begins and the hunt is on for a reclusive enemy, as the clock ticks down toward a full-blown resurgence of the Corpse Days.
The Zombie Survival Crew had a chance to catch up with Jonathon on his tour and ask him a few questions.
ZSC: When did you first begin writing, and what inspired you to write your first book? Jonathon Kane: I began writing in high school. However, Corpse Days was my first book. I was inspired a little by The Walking Dead. I say ‘a little’ because I’ve honestly only watched an episode or two. I liked what I saw, but never had the time to get into it. I have to list the original Night of the Living Dead as an inspiration as well.
ZSC: What books and authors have most influenced your life? Jonathon Kane: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card. I’ve never read a book faster. It got me excited about writing again after taking a long time off.
ZSC: Tell us a little about your main character, Heather Brewer. Is she based on any real-life person, or entirely from your imagination? Jonathon Kane: (Heather Storm) In general, Heather is entirely made up. I’ve known some strong-willed women in my life, but I didn’t pull anything specific from them.
ZSC: Faced with a world infested with flesh-eating biters, what would be your go-to method of defense and why? Jonathon Kane: I’d probably go with a Samurai sword. You could keep a good, safe distance with a gun, but you’d constantly have to worry about running out of ammo.
ZSC: In this ever-changing world, it behooves us to be prepared for disaster to happen at any moment. The Zombie Survival Crew members have a “go-bag” filled with items essential for their survival should disaster strike and they must flee to survive. What are the most essential items for your go-bag and why? Jonathon Kane: Water, multi-tool, hunting knife, warm clothes for when the temperature drops at night, and a bag of Apple Jacks to munch on.
ZSC: What are the major differences between Heather and Stan’s survival tactics? Which do you feel are the most successful and why? Jonathon Kane: Stan is kind of a loner. Part of his survival strategy is to not be brought down by other people’s mistakes. Heather, on the other hand, is a people person. She finds use in those around her and tries to bring out the best in people. I feel like Heather has an advantage. When faced with a horde of hungry brain-eaters, you don’t want to find yourself alone.
ZSC: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing for a horror audience? Jonathon Kane: I love the horror genre and I think it can be fun. The challenge was writing something that was fun in that weird, sick, messed up kind of way. I hope I’ve achieved that.
ZSC: Since Corpse Days is your debut novel, and men writing female main characters is not as common as females writing male main characters, we’d be interested to hear how it was developing a female main character. What were the biggest challenges for you? Jonathon Kane: If Heather had been a girly-girl, I couldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have done it. The fact that she’s a tough chick is what made it workable for me. Of course, she has feelings and emotions, but so do male characters.
ZSC: What are you working on now? Can you tell us your latest news? Jonathon Kane: Right now, I’m working on a collaboration project with another person. It’s going to fall in the horror genre, but it’s not about zombies. Don’t worry, it’s not about werewolves or vampires either. Hopefully, it will be completed in six to eight months.
ZSC: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers? Jonathon Kane: Thank you for taking the time to read this. Keep the horde at bay.
About the Author:
Corpse Days is Jonathon Kane’s debut novel. A zombie story was a natural fit for him, as he loves all things Halloween. He felt he could bring human emotions other than just fear into this corner of the horror genre. In high school, he began writing short stories. However, only when Heather Storm came along—the main character of Corpse Days —did he realize a novel was possible. Jonathon has recently finished the sequel to Corpse Days, titled The Calm Before.
Who knew kissing a corpse would change everything?
Death always hits Xylia Morana too close to home, but she likes it that way. She hangs out with the terminally ill, attends random funerals, and every so often, when the weather is right, she sleeps in open graves.
But after Landon Phoenix, the high school hottie, dies in Xylia’s arms, she sneaks into the morgue to say goodbye. How could she know stealing a kiss from his corpse would wake him up?
With Landon returned to the living and suddenly interested in Xylia, life has new meaning. But what Xylia doesn’t realize is that by kissing Landon back to life, she’s thrown Life and Death off balance. The underworld demands a body, and it might just have to be Xylia’s this time.
Avery is conducting a giveaway through Rafflecopter, so check out the Rafflecopter sign up widget at the bottom of this post. and now for a snippet about publishing from Avery.
Publishing Right and Wrong?
This is strictly my opinion and some of you might not agree with me. And that’s okay.
I’ve learned over the years that there is no right or wrong way to get a book published.
Honestly, there isn’t. It’s all up to you as an aspiring Author on how you want to get your book into the hands of readers.
There is a bad misconception, I think, that has developed, and I think it’s best to say that sometimes this is a case of agree to disagree.
Not all books need agents and a Big six publisher. That might not be what you want, and it might not be what works for you and that’s okay.
Let’s face it, there are millions of writers and even less agents and even less publishers. So getting your novel in front of an agent, to which they will love it, become a die-hard fan and sell your novel in a bidding war to one of the big guys is like winning the lottery. Your chances aren’t always in your favour.
But still, there are gamblers. I was/am a gambler. I wrote novels, polished them to the point that I was blue in the face, and then because I still wasn’t sure if it was good enough I sent it to other people for even more polishing help. And then I sent it out to agents.
Then I realized the entire writing/publishing/reading industry is subjective. There will be people that love your novel and people that hate it, and people that just won’t bother reading it. So, if you catch an agent on a good day, you might get a full request or partial and, well, you might even find yourself receiving a rejection.
However what people don’t tell you is that there are other routes you can take. A rejection from an agent isn’t the end of the line for your novel if you don’t want it to be.
If you’ve weighed the options, you’ve decided that you do want to see your book in print, and have accepted the fact that it may not be with a big six publisher, what do you do next?
Decide how you want to achieve your goal of becoming a published Author, plain and simple.
You can find another way to traditionally publish your novel. There are many—with a little digging—publishers that accept un-agented submission. Sure they may be smaller, but they can still get your novel out into the world. You’ve still got a chance.
Since E-book readers have become so popular, and have taken over the internet, this is another way. You’re novel may not land itself a print version, however you can still have the backing of a publisher, you can still get your novel out into the world and you can still reach readers, millions of them.
But wait! There are also publishers that are a combination of the above. They are smaller presses that do e-book and print versions. The best of both worlds, sometimes they are known as POD (Print on Demand) there is still nothing wrong with that. So, your novel only gets printed when someone wants it. You may not find your book on every shelf in the country, but with sites like Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, the Book Depository and many others, your book for a small amount of shipping (or not) can travel across the globe and into the mailboxes of readers—which, of course is your ultimate goal.
Now, say you want your book published, and getting it done, in print and/or e-book is your only concern. There are presses that will do it, for a price. They say you should never have to pay for anything in this industry, or you are doing something wrong. Not always the case, and not always true. If you have a novel that you think will sell, you want it out into the world, but you need help with some of the aspects, like editing, cover design, promoting, and the like you can use what’s called a Vanity Press. I know the name suggests a certain tone. But hey, if you want your novel out there, and you don’t mind paying a little up front for a la carte services then this may be an option to consider. There’s nothing wrong with it in my opinion.
What happens if you are a go it alone type person? And you want complete control over every aspect of your novel. You want to be able to put out as little or as much funds into making your dream a reality, you want to design the cover, you want to write the back cover blurb and you have what it takes to promote and sell your novel. Perhaps self-publishing is for you. For some, this is an option that outweighs them all because it’s you and your novel against the world. There are many great Authors who have hit it big because their self-published novel made waves and grabbed attention.
Also, like playing the lottery, or finding an agent, or getting a novel published you can still be lucky enough to draw the winning numbers. Any of these forms of publication can still get you and your novel the attention it needs to snag a big guy or an agent. It happens. Maybe not all the time and maybe you won’t be that Author, but there’s still a chance.
When it comes to you and your novel, you know what’s best. Publishing isn’t easy, but you can make the ride smoother if you know what you want and you know how you want to get there.
Short Excerpt from A Stiff Kiss:
No way should I be in the morgue. If I’m caught, I’ll lose my job. My dad will probably get fired, too. He’s been warned to keep me out of here.
The walls are lined with thick, square doors, clearly marked with numbers. I stop in front of the one I want. In the middle of that wall, at waist height, is number twelve. Beyond the door, lying on a sliding metal table, is the body of Landon Phoenix.
I’ve always had a crush on Landon, ever since freshman year when his family moved to Silver Springs. I’ve watched him grow into his looks, no longer a gangly boy with braces. And I’ve longed to hear my name roll off his tongue in that deep voice of his. To press my lips against his as he holds me in a tight embrace. To share the same air as him.
Though now, all those things are impossible. Except one. I can pull open the door, slide the table out, and at least for a moment I can share the same air, even though his lungs can no longer pull in that air.
I hesitate, my hand on the handle. Besides my mother, this will be the only other person who’s died that I’ve really known. The others have just been people, random ones at that. The guy from the grocery store who jumped off Whibley Bridge into the icy waters below, the occasional patient of mine who’d succumbed to old age, and many, many others. But this is personal. This is someone I’d known. Or at least, someone I’d held secretly in my heart.
But I need to say goodbye.
About the Author:
Avery Olive is proudly Canadian. She is married, and when she’s not helping raise her very energetic and inquisitive son, she can be found working on her latest novel-where she devilishly adds U’s into every word she can.
When she is looking for a break Avery enjoys cake decorating, losing herself in a good book, or heading out to the lake to go camping.
The release of Avery’s first novel proves to her it won’t be the last. As long as her family continues to be supportive, she can find the time, and people want to read, Avery will keep on writing.
Here at the Zombie Survival Crew, we’re not ALL about zombies. Sure, we make sure we are sufficiently prepared for the zombie apocalypse, but we’re also open to preparing against all types of potential horror scenarios. I have nightmares about furry creatures rising up and overrunning the command center. And then when I awake, I realize it is partially true, Commander Murphy’s obsession with those freakin’ bunnies makes me wonder whether we’ll ever be a fur-free environment again. But today we have invited Sadie Hart to talk about bad guys and villains (and we certainly know a few of those *cough* UGA *cough*). And Sadie knows what she’s talking about—she works with a serial killer on a regular basis…and one that shape-shifts as well.
Sadie has also been gracious enough to offer an ebook and swag pack to the winner at this stop of her tour.
I know we have a few wolf fans in the crew, starting with our very own Yellow Brigade Commander, Jinxie G, so for the contest, answer this question in the comments: If you had a werewolf stalking you on one side and a horde of zombies shambling your way on the other, how would you escape? The winner will be selected based on the creativity of the answer. Show your commanders you are ready to rock ‘n’ roll come the Z-poc. And now Sadie, take it away:
On bad guys/villains…
The bad guy in a story can be one of the most complicated characters in a book, and in my opinion, they should be. Then again, I’m not a big fan of the ‘purely evil’ bad guy. I like motive. Sure, a killer went on a rampage and killed fourteen people…but why? Why did he or she kill them in that way, what about the victims drove the murderer to pick them, what in their past made them who they are? Of course, I might have watched one too many Criminal Minds episodes to drive this obsession of mine, but I find those types of characters the most believable.
But more than that…I find them to be the most relatable. Understandable. And that’s always really difficult for me as a writer, trying to understand why someone could kill or harm another person. Ever heard the saying, “A villain should be the hero of his own story”? In Hounded, the bad guy thought he was saving the world in a sense. He was saving everyone from the ‘monsters’ that had done him wrong. In the end, the killer’s defeat was almost a sad scene. He had loved ones and motives behind his actions.
Even if a villain’s reasons behind his or her actions aren’t the most understandable, there are things that can make them seem more human. The killer in Cry Sanctuary has a dog. He was a very weird character for me to write. The Hunter is a serial killer, he hunts his victims down, and yet, he then goes home and cuddles up to his golden retriever. There were times as I was writing him that I was truly reminded that the Hunter was human. Oh sure, he was a werewolf too, but he was also a person. Which added a chilling element…he’s a guy who could be very normal in day to day society, and yet he’s got quite the body count behind him. Those are the scariest bad guys in my opinion. They’re the ones you never see coming.
After being held captive at the hands of a serial killer, Holly Lawrence is the only one who’s ever managed to escape the werewolf known as the Hunter. As a Hound for Shifter Town Enforcement, it was her job to track and find the killer; instead another girl died the night that she escaped. Now, the Hunter is changing his game and he has Holly in his crosshairs, all he needs is a good chase.
But when he targets the pack of Sanctuary Falls, alpha werewolf Caine Morgan is determined to protect them–and he’s not the only one. The Hunter is using Sanctuary Falls in a terrifying cat-and-mouse-game as he zeroes in on the one prey that ever got away: Holly. As Holly struggles to stay one step ahead of the Hunter, it’s up to her and Caine to work together to save herself and his pack…
But with the body count rising with every full moon, this killer won’t stop until Holly cries sanctuary….and runs.
About the Author:
During the day, Sadie Hart works as a secretary in a library. At night, she writes steamy, paranormal romances revolving around the things that go bump in the night–both the spooky and the naughty kind. She lives in Michigan with two large dogs, both rescues. She writes the Shifter Town Enforcement series, combining her love of all things animals, the paranormal, and an action packed plot, but she doesn’t plan to stop there.
Thanks to Sadie for stopping by. Be sure to check out her links, and don’t forget to comment.
Being a zombie is no picnic and it’s one hell of a handicap in the romance department when you fall in love with a ‘breather’:
Aleta is a breather with short blonde hair and brown eyes – two of them! – and the whitest smile Fred has ever seen. Every day at a certain time she sits at her window, and every day he stands in the rubble across the street among a crowd of zombies waiting to break through the fence and eat her.
‘You are beautiful, like an angel’, he thinks, but all he can moan is, “Braaaiiinss.”
Still, as zombies go, Fred’s quite a catch. Underneath all the gangrene and rot, Fred is different. This girl will probably turn out to be yet another dead end, an infatuation, someone whose image he cannot get out of his mind and whose taste he cannot get out of his mouth, but the heart wants what the heart wants.
For breathers, it is always only a matter of time, however beautiful they are and whatever the government is assuring people.
Which makes Fred sad because he has a beautiful 11 year old son called Timmy, and Timmy may still be alive.
Excerpt Chapter I
Fred’s ruined face stared back at him from a fractured, mold spotted mirror. The remains of breakfast pooled around his feet and a pair of lace panties clung to his shoe, glued there by God knew what.
Bits of flesh were stuck between his yellow teeth, along with the sodden remains of a hand-wash-only label. There was no denying that he’d seen better days.
Being a zombie is no picnic.
Compelled to pause and take stock of himself, he wiped his gore stained hands on a filthy shirt, unsure if he was cleaning the hands or the shirt. His right eye looked like a crushed egg yolk and his left leg was broken in two places. A large splinter of bone poked through the nskin above his thigh, fine dark lines etched across the surface like a bad piece of scrimshaw. The open wound on his neck had started leaking again, but at least the fluid was mostly clear now.
No use dwelling on negatives. Time to get to work. He turned away from his reflection, and limped out of the men’s room of the Vince Lombardi rest area.
An overly bright morning sun assaulted him as he stepped outside.
Fred gave a mental wince, wishing yet again that he could blink.
Sunlight had no adverse effect on the undead, but he had never been a morning person. Rain or shine, today he had to shamble over to Terminal C of Newark Airport, where eight breathers were making their last stand. Zombies were lone hunters and rarely worked together.
Every so often, however, a kind of collective broadcast signal went out over the undead grapevine, announcing the newest brain buffet – in a shopping mall, a church, or an airport – with predictable and satisfying results.
Dozens were already making their way down the New Jersey turnpike. By their mindless, movie-slow pace, he knew they hadn’t fed.
Zombies weren’t Jesse Owens on the best of days, but they tended to move a lot faster with a little brain in the old furnace.
If Fred could breathe, he would have sighed. There’d be hundreds of zombies, all ready to fight over eight brains and assorted bits. The breathers would probably take out ten to twenty percent of the attacking hoard before being overwhelmed. That left about ten zombies per breather. With luck, by the time he got there he would still be the brainiac of the pack.
Having his wits about him gave a zombie an edge in the hunt. The effects of the virus or whatever it was that put the mojo in their mortified flesh varied from corpse to corpse. Most became textbook droolie ghoulies, but some could reason and even remember who they were as breathers. So far Fred hadn’t come across any other thinkers, but he doubted he was the only one.
By mid-afternoon he found himself enjoying his walk down the turnpike. Most of the fires had burned themselves out and although the air still reeked of burning gasoline, the skies were more or less smoke-free. He might be a walking corpse, but he appreciated a warm spring day like this one. He pulled his lips up in what should have been a grin.
Death, ruin and destruction improved the New Jersey Turnpike.
Not that there wasn’t a black lining to be found around Fred’s own little rainbow of a life. Most of the zombies were a few hundred yardsdown the road, but two lesser undead doggedly tagged alongside of him, putting a bit of a damper on things. The virus left them as nothing more than … well, nothing more than zombies. They were about as interesting as slugs and moaned so much that, were Fred alive, he’d be sporting a hell of a migraine.
All in all, however, the day was turning out quite well. He almost convinced himself being undead wasn’t so bad. Sure, it was bad luck that he was forty-five years old with a rather large potbelly when he had been bitten by that damned clerk. Being cursed to wander the earth in search of brains was bad enough, but why couldn’t it have happened when he was twenty years younger and thirty pounds lighter?
He was imagining wandering the earth in search of fresh brains as a slimmer, sleeker and younger Fred, when the head of the zombie on his left exploded.
About the Author:
Lawyer, Writer, Zombie Man
I have no real interest in anything and therefore write about everything. Think of the funniest person you know. I’m just a little bit funnier. Same goes for humble and good looking. Stick around. We’ll have some fun.
We’ve all seen zombies as they shamble after their prey, moaning and groaning all the while. It is scary enough without this thought … what if those moans and groans are a method of communication. We’ve taken the fast track from scary to downright terrifying. Communication is the first step toward coordination and the idea of zombie’s acting together as one is petrifying. If they can communicate, then we are one step closer to being—lunch!
In my novel the Zombies can actually communicate with others in their hoard. They talk to one another with noises, groans, and slow moving hand signals.
The language of the Zombies is a simple yet effective one. They can alert each other that there is fresh uninfected meat nearby. They can warn each other of impending human gun fire or explosives. The fact that they can’t move away very quickly usually means the warning comes too late.
In the beginning of the novel Cassie is attempting to explain to the man she is eating that there shouldn’t be any hard feelings. To him it sounds like she is moaning in pleasure over devouring his leg. She names him Neil because she doesn’t know his name. I think that she forgets that humans can no longer understand her.
When Rose first turns Cassie cannot understand her either. The art of Slopar comes slowly to the infected, and they eventually will understand it when they are completely transformed.
Through the use of their Zombie language they discover that they work better in slow moving hordes than groups of one or two.
Thanks again for allowing me to post on your blog. I hope everyone who reads Zombified enjoys it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Cassie is a typical teenager. She’s crushing on a boy and trying to make it through high school. It’s a typical day of classes when all hell breaks loose. Forced to run and hide the situation just keeps getting worse. She makes a mistake and soon becomes infected. She meets others like her and together they sent out to find a cure. Is their fate already sealed? Can they find a cure before it’s too late? See what happens through the eyes of the infected when Cassie tells you how Zombies are people too.
* * * * * * * * * *
About the Author:
Lyra McKen (aka, Emily Walker) resides in the mountains of North Carolina. She lives on top of a mountain quite literally with her other half of nine years and her fur baby, Rebel. After a couple of jobs ghost writing for other successful authors she embarked on her own journey to write a novel.
MISSION: Rescue one Moira Jones from 6th floor of over run hospital. OBJECTIVE: Search for and rescue Moira Jones and bring to safety. STRATEGY: Rendezvous with fellow members of the ZSC and use skill sets to bring Moira Jones to safety.
Emma’s POV (With Apryl): We moved slowly through the darkened hospital. I tried to steady my frayed nerves and ordered myself to get a grip. Purple Brigade prides itself on the ability to think clearly in any situation, and I needed to be on top of my game for this mission—even if I’d forgotten my go bag in my haste to get to the hotel. Luckily, Jess remembered hers and so I’d been able to receive a bit more information from the Purple Brigade leader, the Oracle. No one knew how many walkers there were, but the situation didn’t look good. Walkers had easy prey in a hospital, and so far there had not been one single report of anyone making it out alive. Still we had two powerful zombie-killing positives on our side: Blue Brigade Leader Norman Reedus and the Leader of Special Forces, Michael Rooker. With them leading us, we had hope. But each moment intensified the danger Moira faced, and there were so many questions swirling through my brain: Where did she end up? How much food did she manage to grab? Were there other survivors with her? Had she been bitten? I shook my head. I needed to make sure we got the first level clear before we could really begin looking for Moira. Out of the whole group, I was probably the newest and greenest. Sure, I’d taken on walkers before, but nothing of this magnitude. Frankly, in terms of combat skills, Luna, Jess’s zombie-killing dog, surpassed me by far. I was glad I’d been paired with Apryl. The woman could wield her Desert Eagles like no one’s business. She made that clear when she took out a walker reaching for Norman by firing an impossible shot right over his shoulder and directly into its head.
I tightened my grip on my full Tang 440, twenty-inch blade. At least I knew how to use the thing. It was light, easy to swing, and razor-sharp. We couldn’t get in and out of the hospital without a fight. Our entrance alone made that quite clear. “All right people,” Michael whispered, loud enough for us to hear but quiet enough to keep any nearby walker from hearing us, “you all know what to do. You still have your walkie-talkies; so don’t forget to keep us informed as to where you are. We can’t help you if you get pinned down by walkers and we don’t know where you are, and we’re not going to go running all over the hospital looking for you when we’re trying to find Moira, got it?” We nodded. He looked each of us in the eye, and I held his gaze, drawing encouragement from his determination. We were usually a light-hearted and cheerful bunch, especially amongst each other, but not now. Finally, Michael gave a satisfied nod. “Let’s go get her. Just remember to watch your partner’s back, and if one of you gets bit…well, you know what to do.” I swallowed and glanced at Apryl, who nodded to Michael. I knew that if Apryl got bitten, I’d have to put her down, but I wasn’t sure if I could bring myself to do it. Cross that bridge if you come to it, I told myself. “Take out any walker you see as quietly as you can, if it’s in your way.” Michael whispered, lowering his weapon again. “And don’t forget, we’re headed for the sixth floor, ward six. If you find her before the rest of us, let us know and we’ll hurry up there.” We all nodded again. Everyone began to split off into their respective groups: Michael and Tiffany, and Apryl and me. But as we started to move apart, spreading out, our phones suddenly crackled to life and we all stopped short, looking at each other, then hurriedly each of us scrambled to answer. There was only one possible explanation for all of the phones going off at once: news from HQ. The ZSC managed to set up a fairly stable system of communication that allowed a single call to be made to up to sixteen people, so no doubt Norman’s crew were receiving the same call. “You have Rooker, Tiffany, Apryl and Emma,” Michael said into his phone. “Go ahead.” “And you have Norman, Eve, Jess and Rebecca. Go ahead.” Norman’s voice came in over the phone. “Rescue team, this is Yellow First Lieutenant Sean Patrick Flanery.” Each of us looked sharply at each other. A sense of foreboding settled itself into the pit of my stomach but I tried not to give in to it. “We’re reading you, Flanery,” Rooker said. “What’s the problem?” “ZSC HQ just received a call from Moira.” Sean responded, and I felt my breath suddenly cut itself off. Moira called? She was alive? “Moira contacted HQ?” Norman asked, sounding as relieved as I felt, “Is she all right?” “I don’t know.” Sean said. I could hear the tenseness in his voice, which made me worry. He wasn’t one to get worried easily. “What happened?” Rooker asked. “Is she in a secure location?” “She said she was, but now I’m not so sure. While I was on the line with her something happened, it sounded like glass breaking and I think something grabbed her. I couldn’t make out much more before the line went dead.” Silence fell. No one said a word. Finally Norman spoke, softly, but determinedly. “We’re going after her, anyway,” he said. “Did she give you a position?” “She said she was still on the sixth floor, and she said the only way up was the stairs.” “Then we’re taking the stairs.” Michael said, “Can you give us any more info? “Sorry, that’s all I got before the line went dead,” he answered. “Stay safe. Flanery out.” He hung up and we slid our phones back into our pockets. We split up and hurried off in different directions while I conjured up in my mind the map of the hospital Jess showed us. The nearest stairwell lay beyond the critical care ward, through another hall. Apryl unsheathed her hunting knife and I readied my blade as we fell into step beside each other. Power was out in the building. Very little light illuminated our path. We peered into darkened offices and patient rooms as we passed, ready to strike if we saw any movement or heard any moaning. Dark smears of blood covered the walls and floor. I could dimly make out what looked like dismembered limbs littered across the cold marble floor and occasionally a shredded corpse. Luckily the corpses in the corridor were just lunch, no coming back. I shuddered at the thought that this was the new normal. What was around us—this eerie quiet, this feeling of apprehension…of being hunted, this was our reality—a dark new world extending towards a grim a future we were hard-pressed to escape. Unless we could stop the outbreaks. That was what the Purple Brigade worked on. If Jess and I made it out alive, we’d have a good field report to make back to The Oracle. We reached the doors to the critical care ward and paused, listening to the hall that lay beyond it. We couldn’t hear anything. Apryl looked at me. “You ready?” I nodded, tightening my grip on the blade. One… She raised one of her silenced Desert Eagles and switched the safety off. Two… I grabbed the door handle and tensed. Three… I jerked the door open and we rushed into the critical ward. I’d never seen such carnage before. Ever. Blood, guts, flesh… all caked on the walls and floor, and strips of something I didn’t care to identify hung from the ceiling. Blood dripped from the ceiling tiles. The emergency exit light glowed red, making the whole place seem to be nothing but blood. The stench was unbearable. The smell of rotten flesh, of death, wafted through the air and I wrinkled my noise, swallowing to keep my stomach under control. “Oh, man,” Apryl muttered. Bodies of patients and doctors alike littered the floor, most torn apart, their intestines strewn across the cold floor, their muscles and organs exposed. Through it all waded fourteen walkers. The one closest to us—missing an arm and an eye—lifted its head and looked at us. A guttural hiss emitted from its disfigured face. The others turned to look. Their soulless, lifeless eyes bored straight through us. The unnatural glint of an insatiable hunger brightened their gaze as they spotted new prey. Together, we rushed the walkers. She took down the one missing an arm with a clean shot through the head. I swung my sword through the neck of what had been a doctor. His body crumpled, but his head clacked its jaws together as it tried to get a bite of my boot. I stomped down, feeling the sickening crunch of bones snapping, and turned my attention back to the others. Apryl felled two more as they approached. I took down two patients and a nurse. Apryl marched forward, duel wielding her Desert Eagles now, putting a walker down with each shot. She took down four more. I got another two, but as I swept my arm back from a stroke, I lost my footing on the slick, blood-covered floor and stumbled against a walker. It grabbed hold of my arms and growled. I tried to jerk free, but it wasn’t letting go of its food so easily. I pulled against it, harder this time, trying to kick myself free at the same time. It wasn’t working. “Down!” Apryl barked and I obediently lowered my head as the walker snarled. Blood and bone fragments splattered all over my face. The walker suddenly dropped, shot through the head. There was no time to wipe my face or thank Apryl. I quickly drove my blade into the face of another nurse and then pulled it free and spun, sword outstretched, and swiped off the head of another’s head. That’d been a close call. Very close. I turned to Apryl, shaken, but alive. “Thanks,” I said, wiping the gore off. “Are you okay?” She nodded, but looked me over worriedly as she approached. No bites on either of us. I needed to step up my game if I wanted to get through this. I looked down at the walkers, now still, on the ground as Apryl took out her walkie-talkie. “Apryl and Emma,” she said. “In the critical ward. Squirrel.” We grinned at each other and hurried back down the hall. Some of my confidence was restored as we made our way down the corridor and the other teams continued to check in. Not one had given the ‘Oreo’ alert, much to my relief. I kept reassuring myself that we would find Moira. She would be fine. There were more walkers in the next hallway, but not as many as in the previous one. I let Apryl handle it and instead pictured the layout of the hospital once again, placing our teams in the wards and corridors they’d last radioed in from. We were all still on the first floor, but judging from where Jess, Luna, and Rebecca’s reports, they were fast moving up. We were making headway. We paused by the stairwell door, hearing a slow shuffling coming from the other side. I nodded to Apryl and she gave a quick, powerful kick. The door slammed back, straight into two walkers. While they were dazed, she unsheathed her knife and took them out. “Apryl and Emma, entering a stairwell. Squirrel so far, we’re going up.” It looked like some debris was blocking most of the doors. We’d be doing a bit of climbing to get over it, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle. Everyone radioed in that they were heading up. The higher we climbed, the darker it became, and soon we were in almost complete darkness. “We can work around this.” I murmured to Apryl as I heard her stumble over a piece of debris. “We’re to the third floor I think, so we’re half way there.” “I’m all right,” she said. “It’s just annoying. We need to move faster. I’m worried sick about Moira.” “I know,” I answered, trying to see her in the darkness, “I think we could try and go a little—” Something suddenly grabbed my leg. A growl rumbled in the darkness. I yelped and fell back, banging my head against a stair. “What?” Apryl called out. “Where is it?” My head spun. The walker tugged on my leg. I tried to pull free from its grip, and surprisingly, my leg lifted it up, so it was a small walker at least. Apryl rushed over and lashed out with her knife, but missed and slashed my leg. I clenched my teeth to keep from crying out as the skin split apart. Instead, I reached for my own knife. “I got it,” I told her and slammed my leg back down. The walker growled but let go. I spun my knife and drove it into its head. “Are you okay?” Apryl asked, rushing to my side. “Y-Yeah,” I assured her, wincing at the stinging pain in my leg and covering the wound with my hand, “I’m okay. Could you reach into my bag and get out the bandages? I think you cut me.” She quickly handed them over. I wrapped up the wound as best as I could, hoping that the scent wouldn’t alert any walkers or leave a trail for them to follow. I pulled out my flashlight and flipped it on to take a quick look at the walker, to make sure it was dead.
“Oh my…” Apryl breathed. It was a toddler. Or, had been a toddler. Its neck and part of its leg bore huge bite marks—a little girl with pretty, long brunette hair caked with blood. Her little hands were dirty and covered in blood as well. Neither Apryl nor I spoke for several minutes. We resumed our silent ascent up the stairs. We finally made it up to the sixth floor and approached the door, relieved, but wary. We slid our weapons out in preparation. Apryl went first. There was an odd sound as she yanked on the door. She gave a sort of chuckle and whispered, “You have to push it open.” I laughed a little and waited for her to push it open, but something was wrong. She grunted as she shoved against it as hard as she could, but the door didn’t budge. “Give me a hand,” she whispered. I edged in and shoved against it with her. It was no use. The door wouldn’t budge. “Oh you have got to be kidding me,” she growled. I wasn’t much happier about the situation. “I guess they locked it or barricaded it. We’ll have to go back down and try the fifth floor.” “Such a waste of time,” Apryl said as we started back down. I nodded, not that she could see me, but she expressed my sentiments exactly. If this door was barricaded, what about the fifth floor door? We’d probably end up having to double back and find the other stairwell, which would cost us a lot of time. Time we didn’t have. Both Apryl and I rushed back down to the fifth floor door and tried it. It too was barricaded, but gave way a little as Apryl leaned against it, so I helped her and together we shoved against it as hard as we could. After shoving and grunting for several minutes, we managed to push the door open wide enough to squeeze through. For a moment, I thought we were alone and somehow stumbled across an area that didn’t have any walkers. But just as Apryl started to reach for her walkie-talkie, we heard it. A sickly groan came from one of the rooms. A walker in a hospital gown emerged, staring at us. Apryl started to go for it, but I caught her arm and stopped her as more walkers emerged from the other rooms. Their moans grew louder. More and more began to issue forth. “We’ve got this.” Apryl raised her Desert Eagles while I unsheathed my blade. The thought that one of these things might be trying to get to Moira filled me with disgust and anger. We’re coming, I thought. We’re coming, Moira. Just sit tight. “You take the left side, I’ll get the right, okay?” I nodded, then we both rushed forward. Walkers fell with every bullet Apryl fired and with every swing of my blade. We’re not going to let these things stop us. They’ve taken enough from us already: our families, our homes, and our security. We’re not about to let them take Moira, too.
MISSION: Rescue one Moira Jones from 6th floor of over run hospital. OBJECTIVE: Search for and rescue Moira Jones and bring to safety. STRATEGY: Rendezvous with fellow members of the ZSC and use skill sets to bring Moira Jones to safety.
Jessica’s POV (With Rebecca): Rebecca, Luna, and I slowly started making our way toward the hallway directly in front of us. Rebecca was a new recruit in the Red Brigade of the Zombie Survival Crew and incredibly grateful that her machete arrived in time for the rescue mission. She ordered a special-made Billhook Machete and also brandished her desert eagle with silencer. I carried my cast iron skillet, a sword that I’d commissioned, and also a gun with a silencer. Luna had her unmatched keen senses of smell, hearing and sight even in the dark, and of course, her fangs and powerful bite. We halfway down the hall when all of the sudden Luna stopped in her tracks and let out a soft growl. “Jess, I see something down there in the hall,” Rebecca said, tightening her grip on her machete. I squinted made out a dark figure hunched over another dark figure. We inched closer. Slurping and crunching noises filled the hall—definitely a walker enjoying a meal. “I got this,” Rebecca said and moved forward. As she approached the walker, it lifted its head up and sniffed the air. Before it could even turn around, I heard the machete swing through the air, and thud—the walker’s head smacked the wall. I moved closer. Rebecca smiled and said, “Four!” “That would’ve been a hole-in-one, right there,” I joked. Surprisingly there weren’t any other walkers the hallway. We made it to a set of stairs.
“Rebecca and Jess, squirrel. We’re at the stairs.” I paused. Something didn’t feel right about how quickly we made it to the stairs. Only one walker, and that was it? “We are heading up.” I put the walkie-talkie back in my pocket. Rebecca, Luna and I made it safely to the top of the stairs and headed down the hallway. We came to a door, and we pushed it open, walked through, and froze. “Oh my God,” Rebecca said. My eyes stung with tears and I knew I couldn’t keep them from pouring down my face. Rebecca and I embraced one another, sobbing quietly. Then we heard a very soft snarl. We pulled away from each other. The tears fell even harder as we moved toward the sound. There it was, in an incubator, probably not even a week old when it had been bitten. Its entire left arm and part of its face had been ripped off. It snarled as loudly as it could—barely louder than a whisper. Rebecca and I looked at each other and knew what we needed to do, but my heart broke. I lifted my cast iron skillet over its tiny body and as I brought it down to end it’s suffering, it snarled. I fell to my knees and wept. Rebecca crouched down and we tried to comfort each other, but there was just no comfort to be had. Rebecca pulled me back to my feet. We searched the room now filled with tiny growls and snarls. There were probably twenty infant walkers in incubators. Helplessly, they all reached, hoping for something to satisfy their longing. Rebecca and I looked each other in the eyes and said at the same time, “They are not alive.” I lifted my cast iron skillet above the nearest incubator and I brought it down, before moving to the next one. Rebecca watched with tears flowing and stepped toward a snarling little body. She pulled up her machete and brought it down, ending its suffering. Our tears never ceased as we made our way around the room, and before we knew it the room fell silent. My hands trembled as I looked at the mangled and cut up bodies. “We had to do it, Jess,” Rebecca said, tears still flowing down her cheeks. “I know, but…” my voice trailed off. A noise came from the hallway. We wiped the tears from our eyes and moved slowly toward the hall. We pressed against the doors to listen and heard the shuffling of feet. I pulled the door open. Rebecca, Luna and I slipped out. We stayed against the wall and moved quietly down the hall. Something grabbed my leg and I fell to the floor hard. “Oh, crap!” A sharp pain shot up my side. I’d fallen onto my sword. Blood ran down my side. “Luna, get it!” I said as I tried to kick at what latched onto my leg. Luna snarled and growled as she pounced my attacker. She bit into it. A sickening crunch sounded as her teeth tightened down on its rotting skull. Its hand released my leg.
“Jess! Oh my gosh, are you ok?” Rebecca knelt down beside me. “Yeah, just kinda stabbed myself,” I said, feeling like a fool. Rebecca reached into my backpack and found some first aid items to mend my wound. “You’re going to have to do it.” Rebecca’s eyes widened as she looked at me and she knew what I meant. I needed her to pull the sword out of my side. “Bite down on this,” she said as she handed me a towel from my bag. I closed my eyes tightly as she gripped the handle of the sword. I pictured Moira. Saw her fighting off walkers, trapped in a room with little to no provisions. Anger built up in me and I felt no pain as Rebecca pulled the sword from my side. She quickly bandaged me up and helped me to my feet. We pressed on and came to some more stairs. I pulled the walkie-talkie out of my pocket, “This is Rebecca and Jess. Squirrel, and we are about to head up another set of stairs.” I turned my flashlight on for a second to read the sign posted by the stairs. It said: “Take these stairs to get to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th floors.” I looked at Rebecca and she looked back at me. “You ready for this?” “Hell yeah, I am,” she responded “Are you?”
MISSION: Rescue one Moira Jones from 6th floor of over run hospital. OBJECTIVE: Search for and rescue Moira Jones and bring to safety. STRATEGY: Rendezvous with fellow members of the ZSC and use skill sets to bring Moira Jones to safety.
Tiffany’s POV: “While I was on the line with her something happened, it sounded like glass breaking and I think something grabbed her. I couldn’t make out much more before the line went dead.” Those words from Commander Flanery echoed in my head. Scared for all of us, I questioned if we’d make it in time and even if we did, would we make it back out? I knew I shouldn’t think about stuff like that, we’d made it this far. But what if we were too late? I shook my head. “No,” I said to myself. Moira counted on us and we were going to get her to safety, no questions asked. Michael and I broke away from the group and made our way through the 5th floor. I took lead. My katana was quieter than Michael’s HK417 chambered 7.62 millimeter. We entered the Burn Unit. The mix of burnt and rotting flesh attacked my nose. I choked. The faint gunshots of the others echoed in the ward as mine and Michael’s boots stomped along the dingy floor. Michael yanked me back into a dark corner. I looked over my shoulder. He put a finger to his lips and pointed over my shoulder towards five walkers shambling down a nearby hallway. He motioned for me to take the two on the left. He’d get the three on the right. I nodded. On the count of three, we charged from the hallway, running towards the walkers. I thrust one of my katanas forward. It slid through both walkers, pinning them to the wall. They growled, clawed and snapped at me. Singed flesh hung from their bodies. Without a second thought I ran the blade of my second katana through their skulls. I cringed a bit, but it needed to be done. I let the bodies hit the floor before pulling my blades free. I shook the blood from them as Michael dropped the last walker with a shot to the head. We looked at each other and nodded. I felt safe knowing Michael had my back.
“You ok, Kid?” Michael asked. “Yeah.” “Let’s move out.” I nodded. Michael took lead. That’s when I heard it, growling and shuffling. I lifted my head to see Michael and I surrounded by walkers. Every direction stood a drooling, rotting corpse. We were trapped. I mumbled a few curse words and pressed my back against Michael’s. He looked over his shoulder at me. “Ain’t afraid of these bone heads are ya?” “Of course not.” “Good.” He fired a shot. I swung my katana, sending flesh and blood splattering everywhere. One walker tried to bite; just as he did I rammed my katana blade into its throat. I swung the other, decapitating another walker. It seemed like there were countless walkers. For every one that dropped, two more took its place. I kept telling myself, think of Moira. She needed us. Michael’s gunshots echoed, silencing the skin, heads and blood splattering around us. My clothes were wet with walker blood, but it didn’t matter—I’d swim an ocean full in order to save Moira. Michael and I continued cutting a blood soaked path to the stairway. We were almost at the end. One more floor and we’d meet up with the others. Someone grabbed me. I thought it was Michael, until I felt blood trickle down my arm. Crap. I tried to jerk my hand away. I didn’t feel any pain from a bite, but that could be my body running on adrenaline. Pulling away, the force caused me to drop one of my katanas. Something grabbed my ankle. Before I knew it I was pulled down. My head smacked the floor. Despite being dizzy, I knew I needed to get up. On the floor was the worst position I could be in with a horde of walkers. I rolled over, kicking at the walker who tried to bite my leg. My head throbbed, felt like it may fall off my neck and roll away. I grabbed my other katana and swung, slicing through the abdomen of a walker. Blood and gore spilled onto my jeans and down my arm. Michael yelled, “Kid! Get up!” But I couldn’t. He took a few more shots, then felt him—at least I hoped it was him—grab me by the ankle. Before I knew it, I was being dragged towards the door. I grabbed the pistol from the waist of my pants and fired at a few walkers following us, nailing them in the head. Michael dragged me, leaving carnage behind us. He stopped and yanked me to my feet. We turned, shooting the last four remaining walkers as we backed out the door leading to the stairwell. Michael slammed the door shut and I leaned back against it to catch my breath. If it were a cartoon, my heart would’ve been beating three feet out of my chest. Michael looked at me. Something warm ran down the side of my face. I touched the top of my head and flinch. “Sh*t” Michael shined his flashlight on the wound. He fished in his back pocket, pulling out a black and red bandana and wiped the blood off my face to inspect the cut on the right side of my head right along the hairline. “Damn kid, they got ya good. You didn’t get bit nowhere, did ya?” “No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.” Michael nodded, wrapping the bandana around my head to protect the cut. He asked me how many fingers he was holding up, what’s my name, who he was. Once satisfied, he stepped back. I regrouped, shaking off the dizzy spell and ignoring the pain in my head to get ready to charge up the steps with Michael. I reached for my walkie-talkie first—needed to give a status report. “Team Rooker, just left the burn unit. Squirrel!!” “Good, Eve and I are on our way up. All’s clear on our end.” Commander Reedus responded. “All’s squirrelly over here” Em chimed in. “Squirrel!!” Jessica added. “Alright then, everyone, let’s get our behinds up to that floor and get our girl.” Michael and I charged the steps. I pushed myself onward. I had no choice. Even as the pain in my head increased, Michael kept telling me to move my butt. We reached the top of the stairs, looked at each other and proceeded to kick the doors open.