Chapter 1 of Comes The Dark
The edits have been completed and the book is in the publisher’s hands, ready to get rolling. There are a few more things to be worked out, including the cover design, which is the next big part of this process.
Since the edits are complete, I wanted to provide you with a glimpse into my book, Comes The Dark, by letting you take a look at the first chapter. Word of warning, this is a horror novel and a novel made for adults. This is not meant for the squeamish or anyone not of legal age. There…the disclaimer is out of the way.
As we lead up to the release of the book, I will more than likely post a few more chapters.
For now, here is Chapter 1. I hope you enjoy it.
Jeff bit his lip as he tried to maintain a grip on the aluminum baseball bat in his sweaty hands. He splashed through a slick puddle of blood as he continued running down the sidewalk.
The backpack jounced up and down and he slipped his hand around the strap to make sure it stayed in place. The tin cans and boxes of crackers thumped in time to his footsteps. Increasing his speed, he tried to suck in another lungful of air.
The howls of rage had grown distant but slowing down wasn’t an option. Not until he was safely back inside. As he crested the hill a smile tugged at Jeff’s lips—there were only a few more houses to pass and he would be home free.
Pulling tighter on the frayed strap hanging over his shoulder, he moved onto the grass to avoid hearing his own footsteps. Eyes darting back and forth, he spied no movement as his house came into view. It was hard to believe it had only been an hour since he had crept out to go on a hunt for food. He spotted the dark brown side door, which stood in stark contrast to the light beige siding that surrounded it.
Skidding to a halt in front of the door, Jeff’s eyes narrowed. There was a smudge near the knob. A rusty red finger-shaped outline caused his heart to skip a beat.
Feeling a rush of white hot terror flooding his system, Jeff looked around, eyes shifting to the bushes at the back of his neighbor’s house. He could feel his heart racing and pulse accelerate as he tried to keep his breathing normal. Turning quickly, he looked across the street at the other houses, scanning for movement among the shadows. Ignoring the moans and howls off in the distance, he tried to reassure himself no one was watching or waiting to pounce. Taking a deep breath, he tried to tell himself that everything was going to be okay.
The smudge had not been there before. He recalled staring at the door after shutting it earlier and wondering if leaving, even if for a little while, was such a good idea. There had been no scratches and certainly no blood on the door when he left. That was not something the detail oriented man would have missed.
Jeff dug into his pocket and curled his fingers around the house key. Regardless of whoever…or whatever…had left the mark on the door all that mattered now was getting back inside before he was discovered out here.
As the key touched the knob and the door moved slightly, Jeff’s eyes widened and his hand began to quiver. The door was already unlocked. Worse, it wasn’t even shut. He began to shake his head and whisper “no” over and over. It couldn’t be.
Jeff knew he had locked the door when he left. He had hugged Ellen, told Frankie and Mary to behave for mommy, and then…
A cold, stark fear for his family’s safety overrode the slow itch of terror in Jeff’s gut as he slammed his fist into the door and burst into the garage. Staring into the darkened space, he nearly stumbled but somehow his watery legs managed to hold him up.
Mark, his next door neighbor, was bent over Ellen, teeth buried in her neck. A wide pool of bright red fluid gushed from where he gnawed at her torn flesh.
Jeff froze in the doorway as he desperately tried to comprehend what he was seeing. The guy he had shared a few beers with over discussions about politics, baseball, and the Horton’s Rottweiler crapping in their yards was tearing into his wife’s throat. Jeff couldn’t quite see Ellen’s face because Mark’s blood-drenched hand was clasped over her eyes and nose, but it was definitely her. There was a faint scent of jasmine in the air mixed in with the rich coppery scent of blood. It was that perfume she always wore. The tenth anniversary diamond ring he had given her a year before sparkled in a splash of sunlight as her arm flopped to the side. Jeff’s eyes gravitated to the ring but it was hard to catch more than a brief glimpse of it as his wife’s fingers twitched violently in response to the tearing motion of Mark’s teeth.
The door, already forgotten, banged against the wall. Jeff did not hear the sound over the pounding of his heart but Mark did. The grayish figure lifted his head and hissed at Jeff, his teeth caked with bits of Ellen’s flesh. Ragged runners of gruel bubbled from his mouth as the lunatic huddled protectively over his prize.
All Jeff could think was that this was madness. In a few seconds Mark would wink at him and Ellen would sit up and say something like “gotcha.” Then they would all laugh at how gullible Jeff had been to even believe for a second that any of this was real.
But as waves of horror washed over him, Jeff tried and failed to deny the reality of what he was seeing. Mark’s milky white eyes peered up at him; dark pinpricks that had been his pupils the only color remaining in them. Forcing himself to look away from the crumpled form of his wife, Jeff stared at his neighbor once again. Mark’s shirt was torn open and hung slack on his oddly colored flesh. There were various sores and open wounds displayed on his neck, arms, and chest. Greenish-black ooze stained the infected man’s clothing and as he began to lever his body up, the stench slammed into Jeff like a sledgehammer.
Jeff wanted to run. He wanted to run screaming from this place and never look back. But as he shifted his gaze back to the only woman he had ever loved, a hundred different memories flooded into his mind, blotting out the image of the gore-stained lump of flesh that remained behind: kissing her for the first time at midnight on New Year’s Eve…burning the dinner he had cooked for her on the night he proposed…watching her and Mary drench the kitchen in flour when they tried to bake cookies together. There was an echoing scream rattling inside Jeff’s head but he couldn’t get it past his lips. All those memories, along with his wife, had been obliterated in the blink of an eye.
Jeff tried to take a step back but discovered his shoulder was pressed against the doorjamb, blocking his escape. His legs had moved of their own volition, dragging the stunned survivor backwards until there was nowhere left to go. As Mark finally rose up and moved slowly toward him, Jeff realized he couldn’t breathe anymore.
Mark’s eyes fixed on Jeff and he felt his legs and arms stiffen in terror. The lunatic’s pupils were almost hypnotic as they burrowed into him. There was great pain and rage in those eyes, but more than anything, there was hunger…a profound hunger that could devour the world if given the chance.
As the ghoul dragged its ruined body over Ellen’s corpse it tripped and staggered. Jeff blinked as he watched the bogeyman right himself awkwardly. In that moment, it was as if the world suddenly snapped back into place. Mark had turned into some kind of monster to be feared, that much was true, but he was also the bastard that had murdered his wife. Watching carefully as Mark pulled his back foot over Ellen’s prone form, Jeff gripped the baseball bat tightly as he got into a wobbly batter’s stance.
The swing was not his best but it still connected with Mark’s arm, sending him sideways. There was a muffled thump as the bat connected with the infected man’s spoiled flesh. Jeff’s eyes widened when Mark did not react to the painful blow, his milky-white eyes never losing sight of their target. Adjusting, Mark got his feet back underneath him and kept coming.
The second swing was stronger, aimed at Mark’s face. It connected with the ghoul’s neck instead and there was an audible crack as bones broke. Mark’s head twisted, wrapping around the bat as his skin stretched and tore. His knees buckled but he did not fall over immediately. Instead, one of his arms shot out in an effort to grab a hold of Jeff’s shirt.
Letting go of the bat, Jeff pushed back against the wall even harder, doing his best to burrow through the drywall. The bat clattered to the floor and Mark took a single wavering step forward before collapsing. His head slammed into the concrete with an audible thud.
Jeff stood stiffly next to the slumped over body for what seemed an eternity. He stared into his neighbor’s eyes as a torrent of emotions poured over him. Irrationally, he feared the repercussions of murdering his neighbor though Mark would probably argue that he wasn’t dead if he could still speak. Instead, the ghastly creature stared balefully up at Jeff as small noises burbled from his shattered throat. Unable to move his body, Mark continued to grind his teeth and hiss, unchecked rage carved on his face.
When Jeff’s heart rate settled and he started to breathe normally he unglued his eyes from the man at his feet and looked at his wife, whose appendages were no longer twitching. Crumpled, with legs bunched up underneath her, Jeff could see the rubber burn marks on the floor beneath her beat up sneakers. It was clear she had struggled fiercely, even as Mark sunk his teeth into her throat. She was always a fighter, he thought. Now that Ellen’s face was no longer covered Jeff could see that her eyes weren’t shut, a look of terror still on her face. There was agony in those green eyes…an agony that must have been the last thing she had felt.
Jeff’s knees gave way and he crumpled to the ground. Slamming his eyes shut he willed the horrible images of Ellen’s death that were burned into his retinas to go away. He felt dizzy and nauseous but since he had not eaten in nearly a day there would probably be nothing but dry heaves when the sickness finally overpowered him.
That was when he heard a blood curdling scream from down the street.
It had taken every last bit of his willpower to not curl up in a ball when he heard the noises coming from less than a block away. They had tracked him down. By the time he levered himself up from the floor and moved past Mark to slam and lock the door, he could hear them getting closer. His neighbors were closing in on the house. Jeff didn’t have the strength to look outside and see how many there were. Instead, he leaned against the door, panting and exhausted as the moans grew louder.
Raising his head, his eyes suddenly darted around and his body tensed. He tried to blot out the noises outside so he could capture another sound just hitting his ears. He looked at the door leading into the house.
Adrenaline flooded Jeff’s system again as reality came crashing down. The sound coming through the door was clearer than the muffled roars of anger and hunger bellowing from outside and yet…it sounded very familiar.
He began to hyperventilate, shaking his head in disbelief. How could he have been so stupid? How could he have blanked out and forgotten?
But the blood splatters in the laundry room confirmed what the cold, calculating part of Jeff’s brain already understood but the rest of him refused to believe.
Mark wasn’t the only one that had gotten into the house.
Jeff flew through the door. Everything inside him screamed that he had to move quickly, get inside, and stop these marauders. But as he heard the moans coming from upstairs he feared he was already too late.
Jeff steeled himself as he rushed inside; hoping against hope that he was wrong, and that somehow these monsters that had once been human had not found his children’s hiding place upstairs.
A short time later Jeff returned to the garage, his eyes dull, his arms splattered with blood. The aluminum bat was slung over his shoulder, dripping a thick, tar-like substance.
He ignored the pounding and screams of rage outside the garage door. They had found him, after all this time. The insanity outside had finally broken into his home and annihilated everything he knew.
As he slumped to the wooden steps, the small window on the side door shattered and was quickly followed by the sound of fists thumping on the thick slab of wood nailed behind it. Jeff idly wondered how long his jury-rigged barricade would hold up and if it really mattered anymore. He set the bat down and put his chin in his hands, propping his elbows on his knees.
As he sat listening to the scratching and clawing, interspersed with ragged fists splattering against the wood, he glanced down at the two bodies in the garage. He took a deep breath into his lungs, doing his best to ignore the thick taste of death that came with it. Mark was facing away so at least the man wasn’t staring at him.
His eyes slid from Mark to the pile of gas cans in the corner. Several propane tanks sat next to the smaller canisters, along with some other odds and ends Jeff had picked up a few weeks back when things had started getting dicey. He shook his head in disbelief. Back then their worst concern was potential power outages and being forced to use the barbeque grill for all their cooking.
His eyes left the pile of supplies and moved back toward his wife. Jeff wondered when he was going to cry. His eyes were still dry, even as he looked at the ragged blood filled hole Mark had left where her throat had been. He hadn’t cried inside the house, even as he cradled his dead daughter and whispered her name over and over again.
The pounding outside was getting louder. It sounded like there was an army of them out there. They hadn’t moved to the front yard yet, but it wouldn’t be long. Then it was only a matter of time before they tore through the hastily nailed up boards and plywood covering the windows and found their way inside.
Twisting his neck around to loosen up the stiffness, Jeff stood up. Gazing down on his wife, he recalled how her eyes used to sparkle like a thousand tiny emeralds. That green was gone now, replaced with the telltale cloudiness that warned of infection.
When her hand twitched Jeff backpedaled, slipping on the stairs and falling hard on his ass. Slowly, he felt his body grow cold as it became clear what was happening. Head slumping in defeat, he rubbed his eyes and knew what he had to do.
Her hand twitched again. Ellen was waking up.
Grabbing for his bat, Jeff cradled it to his chest. His hands felt weak and useless, but he held on to the aluminum cylinder like a security blanket.
Suddenly, a sound like someone ramming their head against the side door made him jump. Looking over, he saw that the wood was starting to splinter.
Spying Mark out of the corner of his eye, Jeff saw that despite a broken neck, his neighbor had managed to shift his head enough so he could stare at Jeff again. The hunger in those eyes was undeniable and Jeff knew he couldn’t bare it if he had to see that same look in Ellen’s eyes.
Taking another deep breath, he stood and lifted the baseball bat. The fear was gone, replaced with a depthless despair. His wife’s legs were starting to move. Her eyes were still vacant and empty, but wouldn’t be for long.
“I love you honey,” Jeff choked out as he felt the strength return to his hands. He gripped the bat tighter and raised it above his head.
The first swing took every ounce of courage he had.
The ones after that came a lot easier.