Ursula K. Raphael has reviewed all three of the books in my trilogy for Zombiephiles. When I asked her to check out the kindle version of The Dark Trilogy because of the addition of the fourth book of short stories (aka Dark Stories) she was more than happy to do so, and now she has taken the time to give a review of that book as well over on Zombiephiles. But she didn’t stop there. She also asked me a few questions about the trilogy and my writing experiences in general and posted it over on the site as well. It was fun answering her questions and I can’t thank her enough for taking the time to read not only the trilogy but a book of extra stories about that universe I created for these characters. So give it a looksee here: http://www.zombiephiles.com/zombies-ate-my-brains/beyond-the-dark-end-of-the-dark-trilogy-by-dorazio-interview and once again, think about checking out The Dark Trilogy for the kindle, or if you have a different e-reader, head on over to smashwords to check it out. Of course, all three paperbacks are available as well for you folks that don’t like e-readers, so check those out as well!
Another review has been posted for Beyond The Dark, this one over at Living Dead Media. Their reviews for Comes The Dark and Into The Dark were very positive over there, so it was quite flattering to read that this was their favorite book of the three. I feel that way myself, so I’m pretty thrilled that I’m not the only one who thinks so. You can check out the review here: http://www.livingdeadmedia.com/zombie-books-and-fiction/250-beyonddark.html.
I would like to thank Living Dead Media for taking a chance on a newby author and their willingness to not only read my first book, but all three of my books. Having the opportunity to get the word out to the folks who check out their website for zombie related stuff is priceless.
So if you have been waiting to check out Beyond the Dark, read the review and then pick up the book! That is, of course, if you’ve already read the first two books in the trilogy. 😉
Just a brief while after it hit smashwords, my trilogy is now on the kindle! I am pretty thrilled about this one because it is FINALLY on the kindle, without the errors that the faced the original release of Comes The Dark that led to my publisher and I agreeing not to do any more kindle releases until the entire trilogy was ready to go. And now, it is ready to go!
Here is the description:
Patrick D’Orazio’s Dark Zombie Trilogy (Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark), was originally released on the Kindle in an unedited form under the first book’s title, Comes The Dark. It is being re-released with the entire trilogy as it was meant to be read: edited and expanded, with additional chapters not appearing in the original Kindle version, along with the Dark Stories that have appeared in the author’s blog that provide a full fourth book of additional stories about many of the secondary characters appearing in the trilogy, including Megan, George, Jason, Michael, and Ben. The Dark Trilogy, Revised, Expanded, and with Additional Stories is over 250,000 words of an intense saga of the zombie apocalypse.
The end came with a whimper, not a bang. The mysterious virus came out of nowhere and engulfed the world in a matter of days. Everyone who was infected seemed to die…and rise again. Governments collapsed, armies disappeared, and entire civilizations turned to dust as the human race tore itself to pieces. Jeff Blaine had a good life: a beautiful wife, adorable children, and a nice house in the suburbs. He liked his job, loved his family, and spent his lazy suburban Sundays out on the deck, barbecuing with the neighbors. Things were perfect until everything fell apart. And no matter how hard Jeff tried, he could not spare his family from the horrors scratching at the door. Now, with his family gone, his life in ruins, the only thing left is raw anger and pain. As the world continues to sink into darkness, Jeff does as well. So he ventures out into the desolation with no better plan than to destroy as many of the monsters that stole his life away before they destroy him as well. But soon Jeff will discover other survivors unwilling to give up. They will force him to decide whether or not to give in to the venom that gnaws at his soul. Should he continue to fight to survive, or succumb to the things in the darkness?
Just click on the picture below and it will send you on over to Amazon so you can pick up a copy:
I am happy to announce that the single download of my entire trilogy, plus all the Dark Stories that I wrote which are associated with the trilogy, is now available for download from Smashwords.
Here is the full description:
Together in one massive tome, Patrick D’Orazio’s Dark Zombie Trilogy: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark are all contained in this release, along with a fourth book full of additional stories about many of the secondary characters that appear in the trilogy, including Megan, George, Jason, Michael, and Ben. The Dark Trilogy, Revised, Expanded, and with Additional Stories is well over 250,000 words of an intense saga of the zombie apocalypse.
The end came with a whimper, not a bang. The mysterious virus came out of nowhere and engulfed the world in a matter of days. Everyone who was infected seemed to die…and rise again. Governments collapsed, armies disappeared, and entire civilizations turned to dust as the human race tore itself to pieces. Jeff Blaine had a good life: a beautiful wife, adorable children, and a nice house in the suburbs. He liked his job, loved his family, and spent his lazy summer Sundays out on the deck, barbecuing with the neighbors. Things were perfect until everything fell apart. And no matter how hard Jeff tried, he could not spare his family from the horrors scratching at the door. Now, with his family gone, his life in ruins, the only thing left is raw anger and pain. As the world continues to sink into darkness, Jeff does as well. So he ventures out into the desolation with no better plan than to destroy as many of the monsters that stole his life away before they destroy him as well. But soon Jeff will discover other survivors unwilling to give up. They will force him to decide whether or not to give in to the venom that gnaws at his soul. Should he continue to fight to survive, or succumb to the things in the darkness?
So for those of you who haven’t checked my trilogy as of yet for your e-book reader or just want the story all in one place, this is a great value. I think it would be about the equivalent of 800-850 pages in length in one paperback, and for $4.99, that is a great deal.
Just click on the cover below to be sent on over to the smashwords link!
Mr. Moon interviews Patrick D’Orazio. Yep, the infamous Mr. Jonathan Moon, horror and bizarro writer (and editor) of epic magnitude, took the time out to ask me a few questions. Some of them were pretty normal, but a few…well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. I love the Deathmatch question. What? You don’t know what the Deathmatch question is? Well find out for yourself here: http://mrmoonblogs.blogspot.com/2011/04/mr-moon-interviews-patrick-dorazio.html. We talked about not only my books, but my short stories, my influences, and some other righteous topics.
It was a lot of fun checking in with Mr. Moon and I want to thank him for taking the time to do an interview with me that is coinciding with the release of Beyond the Dark. So please, check it out!
Well folks, the short delay on Beyond The Dark is almost at an end, with the formatting being completed tonight on the book, there is very little else to do but to put the cover and back cover together and wrap it around a proof, make sure it looks like it should, and then get it out there!
In addition to the final book of my trilogy being released very soon, the Kindle and other ebook form of the entire trilogy will also be released. It will be entitled The Dark Trilogy: Revised, Expanded, and with Additional Stories. I know it is a mouthful, but just call it The Dark Trilogy, for short, heh. My publisher and I have discussed price points for this electronic release and agreed upon $4.99, which will be for over 250,000 words, including the three books plus every last story that appears in the Dark Stories page of this blog…and another little one that doesn’t appear here as well. 250,000 words is a hefty sum, so that price should be a pretty decent one for the zombie fans out there who have e-readers.
I would say that Beyond The Dark should be ready for createspace within the next couple of weeks (and I think perhaps sooner), and then amazon maybe a week or so later. The kindle version should also be available very soon.
For any of you good folks reading this who haven’t checked out any of my trilogy, check out the first three chapters of Comes The Dark, which I have moved to its own separate page for easy access. It will give you a taste before you buy. And then, feel free to hit up my bio page and you can click on the links showing both Comes The Dark and Into The Dark, with Beyond The Dark to soon be joining them.
For now, here are copies of the front cover of Beyond The Dark and a rough up of the back cover as well. Stay tuned, more will be coming soon as the release happens!
This past weekend, I took part in HorrorHound Indianapolis. Like the event in Cincinnati, it is three days of organized chaos, with tons of horror fans running around in costumes and makeup checking out vendor booths and getting autographs from some of the more famous (and infamous) stars of the horror genre. This was their tenth anniversary show and it was jam packed all weekend long. I got to sit between Tony Schaab of G.O.R.E. Score fame and Dr. Pus’s (aka The Library of the Living Dead) table, which had Doc, Michelle Linhart, and Rich Dalzotto manning the stations. Also in attendance from the Library of the Living Dead crew were Rob and Laura Best. We got to see plenty of folks we know from the facebook and the industry, which was a blast, including the folks from Night of the Living Podcast, who were kind enough to post a review of Into The Dark on one of their recent episodes after reviewing Comes The Dark after HorrorHound Cincinnati back in November.
I sold a few books, got to talk about the third book of my trilogy, Beyond The Dark, hung out with some great folks, and took a few pictures of the event. This was truly a great con and a lot of fun. I definitely hope I have the opportunity to attend next year as well!
Here are a few of the pics I took at the show. Forgive the blur-they were taken with my cellphone camera.
In this picture is the famous “Kitty Zombie”, who has his back to the camera. He is the one with the goggles, armor, and the bald head. He is a pretty remarkable character, and funny as hell without saying a single intelligible word.
Well, that’s about it for now. The rest of the pictures I took were sort of blurry or didn’t show anything specifically of interest. Again, the convention was a lot of fun, and I only wish I could attend more of them after the fun I’ve had at the one in Indy as well as Cinci.
A little while back, author Shells Walter took the time out to do an interview with me for Walter Rhein’s blog. She asked me questions about my writing and the Dark trilogy. I enjoyed chatting with her and I hope you’ll check it out here: http://walterrhein.blogspot.com/2011/03/shells-chats-with-author-patrick.html. I want to thank Shells for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun!
I am closing in on finishing up with my Dark Stories that I will be posting on the blog. I wish they could go on and on, just because I have enjoyed embellishing on the characters that I created for my trilogy, but I have tapped into most of the characters with these stories, with a few minor exceptions.
One of my favorite characters is Ben, or Big Ben, as he is fondly known as to those who know him. He is sort of an enigma, or at least I tried to make him out to be that for the most part. He doesn’t say much-he is a giant of a man who doesn’t seem interested in much of anything except being left alone to do what he does best, for the most part. At least that is how he starts out, but it becomes more clear where his heart, and intentions lie as Into The Dark moves forward. He plays even a larger, more crucial role in Beyond The Dark, and once again, he is probably one of my favorite characters.
For better or for worse, the little story that appears below pulls the covers back on Ben and makes him less of a mystery. I believe after reading this, you will probably agree that he is the most unique of all the characters in the trilogy. In his own way, he stands out from everyone else more than Michael or even Cindy does.
This story takes place, like many of the others, predominantly in flashback, though it begins and ends after Ben has rescued Jeff and Ray from the deathtrap they were facing in Manchester. As always, there are probably some missed typos, and I ask for your forgiveness for those. I hope they don’t detract from your reading of this brief story about Big Ben.
Ben didn’t bother looking back at Jeff. It was wasted effort and efficiency was the hallmark of everything Ben did out in the open these days. Pausing to make a decision about what to do could be fatal. He knew the path he was running on, so it wasn’t as if he had to make any random choices anyway. The route he had taken was one that would distract and frustrate, then confuse and baffle the simple minded stiffs following him and Jeff. It was a piece of cake.
Once the group had decided that RVs were their best bet for staying alive, it had been Ben’s job to find a place to park them. And once he’d found a home for them at the edge of Manchester, he’d focused on committing the streets, buildings, and neighborhoods of the small town to memory so he would know all the threats and dangers that he would be forced to face in the future.
There would be no accidental dead ends and no second chances needed for his trip back to the RV camp. Even with a hundred and sixty pound kid on his back and a wheezing, out of shape man trudging along behind him, there was nothing in the town of Manchester capable of stopping Big Ben from making his way back to safety.
Before today it had always been quiet in the small town. A few wretched figures tucked away here and there, oblivious to his movements throughout the area. Once they realized one of the living was amongst them, it was always too late for them. Ben didn’t waste arrows or bother pulling his knife out. If he spotted a single ghoul, almost without fail he would move in and drive their head into the pavement before any synapses fired in their messed up brains. One quick, fluid movement. Once you learned how to do it, it was hard to forget. The results of his assaults were generally all the same: they were rarely noticed by the other infected nearby and there was only a limited amount of mess.
Most of the bodies were dry. Blood and other fluids that were a part of the normal human body had often already evaporated or leaked out of the stiffs Ben put out of commission. So when their heads met the pavement, if he did it correctly, there was no splash back, no gory splatter. No muss, no fuss.
Most of the shadow people, as Ben liked calling them, were not restless enough to investigate another decommissioned ghoul after it hit the pavement. They mostly hid in the dark, perhaps to avoid the detrimental effects of the sun on their deteriorating physiques. He had no real idea what the reason was for them hiding, but was appreciative that they didn’t bother investigating the corpses of their own kind after he executed them. Dealing with singles limited his headaches.
If there was more than one, it was best to hide and wait for them to depart. Only a small percentage could sniff the big man out and if Ben did not want to be heard, they simply did not hear him. Of course, when he was discovered, it tended to be over before they knew it.
If it wasn’t so sad, it might be comical in a dark and twisted way: he could swear he saw the surprise on their faces when he crushed their throats. That first little maneuver was so they couldn’t alert their buddies with excited moans that came with their discovery of warm flesh. Sometimes there was enough time to see what might pass for fear on their faces just before he crushed their heads beneath a giant work boot or cracked their skulls with whatever blunt object might be handy. It was almost enough to make him feel sorry for those tormented beings. Almost, but not quite enough to give him pause in his duties. Because if he slipped up he might get bitten, so there was no room in Ben’s heart for sympathy for the already dead.
Spending time out in the wilderness of the world was therapeutic for Ben. A thousand times better than that shrink he had paid to try and unscramble his brain a couple years back. Back then, it had all been about trying to forget; forget the life he had led, in all its lurid glory. It had been hard to do, nearly impossible at times. So it seemed amazing that something as simple as a name change, to Ben, did such wonders for his soul.
None of the people he was with now knew his real name. None of them recognize him, so when he was dubbed “Big Ben” he latched on to the name change like he had been thrown a life preserver. It was not as if anyone would recognize his real name, Shawn Horton, anyway, but Ben just felt right. The world had shifted on its axis once again and so Shawn Horton, who had also been known as Bloodthirsty Rick Roberts, was again changing his name to suit his new existence.
No one in Cincinnati had recognized him when he returned home from Atlanta, outside of his family and friends. Being one of the masked bad guys helped insure that was the case. When he stepped out of the ring and more importantly, out of the spotlight, it was the first step in abolishing all the old and ugly things that permeated his existence for years: the botched marriage to Becky, all the broken bones, and the part where he had sold his soul for a little bit of glory.
The final step, or so it seemed, was becoming Ben: just some big dumb guy who knew how to handle himself in a world where the dead decided to get up and start walking around again.
When Ben thought back on things, he knew it all began and ended with Isaiah. Isaiah Ezekiel Jones, head of IEJ Wrestling Enterprises, promoter extraordinaire and manager of one of the largest stables of professional wrestlers in the United Wrestling Federation. Isaiah was a retired wrestler and was slick and smart enough to have grabbed a share of the profits made with his body back in the sixties and seventies, when he was in his prime. There was not nearly as much money in it back then, but Isaiah was smart enough to invest and stake his claim with a chain of fast food restaurants that had a presence throughout the southeast. Isaiah was the one who discovered Shawn Horton, an ex-marine and wanna-be body builder, and turned him into one of the best paid bad guys in the sport of professional wrestling.
Shawn had been just too damn big for his own good when he had been in the Marine Corps. He had seen some action in Desert Storm and had been dubbed “mountain” by the other jar heads. Not just because of his size, but because he was an immovable rock that was as quiet and immutable as stone. He obeyed orders, was surprisingly light on his feet, but had little interest in showing off his exceptional strength to everyone around him, which left him isolated for most of his tour of duty. So when his four years were up, Shawn was glad to be done with it.
He returned to the states and decided to make a go of things in Atlanta. One of the few guys he had made friends with in the corps told him how great a place it was to live, so he thought he would give it a shot. Not knowing what to really do with himself, he got work in a gym as a personal trainer, bluffing his way into the job mostly. That was where he was discovered by Isaiah.
Shawn cut a pretty impressive figure and despite his shyness, Isaiah saw potential in the big lug. He wasn’t “pretty”, so a mask took care of that. Later would come tattoos, a bald head, and a devilish goatee. Isaiah dazzled Shawn with promises of easy money and a lot of fun along the way. He introduced him to several other wrestlers who did a good job luring him and coaxing him to take a shot at life inside the ring.
Six months later, he was Bloodthirsty Rick Roberts, one of the masked superstars of the UWF. He signed a lifetime contract with Isaiah and was taught the ropes in the business. He dyed his beard pitch black, learned all of the dirty moves he could, and created a few trademark catch phrases for the fans. He was on his way.
Becky was one of Isaiah’s stable of hot girls that were a part of his traveling road show. She got paid to be one of the good guy’s girlfriends and to maybe have the occasional catfight with one of the other girls up in the ring during introductions. It stirred up the crowd and gave the wrestlers ample reason to display what appeared to be real hatred for each other. She was a statuesque platinum blond, and had a surgically enhanced body that could make a Playboy Playmate weep with envy. Ben was a hooked on her before he even realized it, but Becky ignored him for the most part. Being shy, at least outside of the ring, he could barely talk to her unless it was a part of the script, when he was trying to “steal” her away from her onstage boyfriend. It was not until he got to be a popular attraction that she took notice of him. Even then, it took him becoming one of the star attractions facing off against the other big named talent every night before she actually deigned to speak to him.
Perhaps it was how naïve he was, or maybe it was just how opportunistic Becky was that Shawn’s timid efforts to court her turned into a whirlwind affair in no time flat. Three months after their first date they were married. Isaiah, ever the opportunist, turned something he was originally opposed to into something he could promote inside the ring. Becky became a cold deceiver, stabbing her ring good guy boyfriend in the back by becoming Bloodthirsty’s main squeeze.
All Shawn knew was that he was happy and had found the girl he would spend the rest of his life with. Becky was brash and bold, exactly his opposite. The mask gave him enough courage to stand up in front of thousands of fans and growl at them, but Becky gave him confidence to believe in himself outside the ring. Together they grew in popularity on the circuit as one of the elite couples on the wrestling scene. Shawn knew they would be together forever.
Forever lasted exactly one year.
Much later, it was obvious to Ben that the affair had been going on the whole time he and Becky had been together. But at the time he caught her and Isaiah in bed, he it was as if he’d been sucker punched by the deceit. For better or for worse, Shawn had trusted his little lady and her deception had been complete. When he discovered them together, Becky tried to convince him that it was all some sort of big mistake, and when Shawn didn’t buy that, she told him she was sleeping with the boss for the both of them, to help advance their careers.
Shawn, who had become Bloodthirsty Rick but had yet to turn into Big Ben, didn’t listen to a word she said and nearly killed Isaiah that night. The old man had been a pretty good wrestler in his day, and was still in good shape, but he was no match for the massive ex-Marine, who broke five of the promoter’s ribs, three of his fingers, his nose, and his right arm.
When Shawn finally calmed down, the police took him into custody and his face, his real face, was smeared all over the local and regional papers for the next couple of days.
Becky divorced him and Isaiah sued. In the end, Shawn was banned from wrestling for life and lost his three homes and all his other possessions to Becky. Most of his wealth, which Isaiah convinced him to reinvest in the wrestling operation, was gone as well. Shawn paid off his lawyers and washed his hands of it all. He took what little of what remained of his fortune and moved back to his hometown of Cincinnati, where no one had any clue who he had once been.
That had been almost two years ago. There was still a little money left over, and he didn’t have to scrounge for an existence and could even afford a shrink who he went to every week for almost a year, until the doctor told him that he had to do the talking if he wanted to get better.
He bought a small, secluded cabin in Kentucky down on Cave Run Lake, which gave him a chance to learn how to hunt and fish. It was comforting, being down there alone. Bow hunting became Shawn’s favorite new pastime. He split his time between there and Cincinnati, where he took on a job hoisting boxes in a factory. The money was crap, but it kept him busy and physically active. Shawn’s ripped physique was beginning to turn more toward a more pear shape. It was age and the lack of a desire to go to the gym anymore. That was how his father had been, barrel-chested and big armed. Even with his diminished physicality, Shawn still cast an imposing shadow and was still just as light on his feet as ever.
After a while, he got comfortable with this new existence, almost happy.
When Shawn heard the first reports about the contagion sweeping the world that might spell the end of everything, his plan was to make his way down to his cabin, but things got hairy way too quick. So instead he planned on ways of getting away from the city on foot, away from the thick knot of the dead that was growing larger every day.
Military training mixed with his wrestling experience became a pretty useful combination when it was made clear that there were a lot more of the infected than living out on the streets of Cincinnati.
Though Shawn was sure he could do okay on his own, he decided hooking up with some other people might enhanced his chances for long term survival. That was when he met Michael and the small band of people traveling with him. That was when he became Ben, the stoic giant who didn’t ask questions and did just about anything and everything everyone else needed to stay alive.
Ben had no inclination to become a leader, so he and Michael got along just fine. For Michael, it was clear that having this huge ally around was going to come in very handy. For Ben, it was easy to accept his role in this new little society. While he wasn’t sure he wanted to stick around with the group forever, he did like the idea of being needed. The cabin could wait. He would make his way there when he helped the others to find a permanent safe haven and they became self sufficient.
It was rough at first. The factory had been a really bad idea, and not one that Ben had been in favor of, but he let that go because Michael had believed it would work. After they fled from that nightmare, it was easy to see that the volume of infected anywhere near the city was going to overwhelm them no matter where they hid. They needed to migrate further east, toward the countryside.
Ben never made any unsolicited suggestions but the others, including Michael, were beginning to rely on him more and more for almost everything. The combination of his military training and the time he spent learning how to hunt and live off the land down at his cabin was invaluable to the group of city and suburban dwellers. He was the only one in the group not afraid to stalk the wilderness, to forge ahead and find the group new and safe places to go. The world at large was a fairly quiet place now, with no loud wrestling promoters or deceitful wives to mess with him. Just the shadow people. They might not like him, but he always knew where he stood with them.
So when Michael brought up the idea of getting an RV to just drive off in, Ben suggested they get several of them, and that they find a place where they could hide them away from the rest of the world. It would be better than hiding out in some building they had to fortify and barricade to the point where they could never leave. They could circle the RVs up to offer a walled in fortress and then flee in them if needed. Michael was skeptical at first; at least until Ben assured him that he could find the perfect place for them to put the RVs that would give them a chance to live unmolested.
And that is exactly what he did.
It felt good to be appreciated. Ben knew he was being used, just like he had been in the marines and as a wrestler, but this was different. Michael was, for all intents and purposes, his boss, but he didn’t push. The others? Well, they just needed him, and they appeared to be grateful that he was willing to do everything they were unwilling or incapable of doing for themselves. They didn’t beg or wheedle, but smiled and were friendly, despite the small amount of talking he was willing to do with them. Mostly, they were good people. Mostly.
Amongst the adults, Lydia was his favorite. The sweet woman treated him with respect and appreciated everything he did. She didn’t have to thank him for everything, but she did—every chance she got.
The little children she watched out for were angels. Especially Sadie, who Ben adored. Making them little wooden dolls and toy soldiers was one of the few pleasures he could provide them, and the fact that they were ecstatic with the results, despite how amateurish his efforts were, made him feel all the more protective over them.
The two teenage boys were good kids and Ben liked them well enough. They left him alone for the most part and even when they moved into his RV, they understood that he needed his space.
The new people were okay too, despite Michael and his two stooges instant dislike of Jeff. Ben was tempted to actually suggest that Jeff just go with the flow and not push Michael’s buttons so much, but why bother? It was clear that both of them were pigheaded, so nothing he said was likely to make much difference. Instead, it was easier to just sit back and watch what happened. Things would likely settle down within a few days between those two.
At least that was what Ben thought before Michael’s screwed up expedition.
Ben wasn’t afraid of the stiffs. Not on a physical level at least. He was careful to wear a thick coverall when he went out on his little forays, and for the most part the undead were weak and incapable of doing much to threaten him. What strength they had lied in their numbers and boundless determination to devour everyone in sight. He could accept that challenge. Even though he was not fearful of them, he was no fool. He never assumed anything with the shadow people. They were dangerous despite how pathetic they were.
Taking them out had always been easy … at least after he got past the queasy feeling that came with his first execution, which had been one of his neighbors. Ben still felt a vague sense of regret as he was eliminating the undead, but his priorities were always clear. He estimated he had “killed” several hundred ghouls, though he did his best not to keep track of the number. It was just a morbid statistic he had come to accept as a fact of this new life he found himself living.
Ben respected Michael. The man had some good ideas, though perhaps he was weak on his execution of some of them and needed a bit of assistance now and then. He kept everyone organized and focused, and was a natural leader. Ben didn’t feel compelled to follow him, but it was clear that almost everyone still alive needed someone to take charge and assure them that it would all work out in the end. Michael was more than willing to do just that.
Unfortunately, there were some annoying side effects that went along with having the young man as a leader. Michael seemed obsessed with testing those around him; testing their loyalty in particular. It was as if he believed he was destined to build some sort of society that would somehow take back the world from the undead, and he needed faithful subjects willing to do whatever he asked of them to insure his victory.
So when Jeff came along, someone who was a bit too independent minded, Michael felt obligated to put him in his crosshairs. That had to be the reason for the screwy food run. Ben knew there was no other reason for sending everyone out; he could more effectively take care of getting food and other supplies for the camp alone than a whole group of clumsy people following in his wake. Sending them all out was a power trip for Michael, pure and simple.
Ben almost said something about it to Michael, questioning him on the wisdom of his decision, but after seeing the confrontations in the camp before they left, he decided not get in the middle of things.
Now he was dealing with the unfortunate results of that hesitancy.
Ben was angry. Angry he had not spoken up and suggested an alternative to this snafu and angry he had not kept a closer watch on the little expedition as it moved into town. Instead, he had gone deeper into Manchester, surveying the various buildings and streets to convince himself things were as quiet as they had been for the past few weeks.
That was when he realized there was going to be trouble.
The ghouls he saw as he slinked from building to building were agitated, aroused like they hadn’t been since they’d first come to the town, rolling the RVs down the road and pulling them off into the woods. They were bouncing off one another, wandering the streets when before, they had been content to bury themselves in the deepest shadows they could find.
Perhaps it had been the minivan when it had driven into the area the day before, and once again, when it had been driven onto the road earlier, when the group going on the supply run had piled out of it and walked down the street toward town.
After seeing how many were stiffs were wandering the streets of Manchester, Ben knew he needed to get the group out of there before the ghouls could pinpoint their position. But by then it was already too late. He signaled to Michael over the walkie-talkie, but by that time the rest of the group had already left the van and were on their idiotic scavenger hunt.
When he heard the first shots, Ben was already running at top speed, trying to get back to the group before it was too late, though he suspected it had been too late the minute the others had driven out of the camp on this fool’s errand.
Finding Ray and Jeff as they were about to be overwhelmed had only reinforced that belief. He managed to save them, but given Ray’s condition and the shit storm that had been stirred up already, things were ugly and were about to get uglier still.
Ben broke free of the last building and took off at a sprint across the road. He had chosen an alternative path back to the camp; a route he had mapped out a couple of weeks earlier just in case something bad like this happened.
Ray’s dead weight in his arms slowed him down only a little bit. He’d dealt with packs that were just as heavy under equally tense situations. No situation quite as perilous as this one, though. Ray’s lolling head and quiet whimpers as he bounced up and down were far worse to cope with for Ben than the challenge of having to carry the boy’s weight on his shoulder.
Ben could hear heavy breathing behind him. He slowed to a fast trot to allow Jeff to catch up, knowing that if the other man fell behind, he might give away their position. The moaning was far too loud, but was still quite a ways behind them. The dead would continue to seek them out, but if they lost sight of them and couldn’t smell them, they wouldn’t know where to go.
Still, it was risky heading directly back to camp. Finding a place to dig in and cover up for the night probably would have been the best thing to do. Ben had done that on a couple of different occasions, even when he only suspected he’d garnered unwanted attention on one of his journey’s into Manchester. On both occasions, the coast was clear by morning and he never knew for sure if his ploy had been necessary. Still, waiting things out guaranteed the camp would remain safe. So it was tempting to pull off into one the buildings he knew for certain was clear and wait things out with Jeff and the teenager.
But if he did that, Ray would die out here.
The kid was dying. Ben was no fool and had no delusions about getting him back to camp being the way to save him. The teen was getting weaker every second and in a few hours, maybe even sooner, he would stop breathing. Soon after that, perhaps within moments, he would turn into one of the shadow people, and Ben would be forced to smash his skull into the pavement, or at the very least, slip his hunting knife into the back of the boy’s skull. But if it was Ray’s destiny to die, he was going to die amongst friends, not in some dusty abandoned storefront.
Ben had heard the van when it had departed without Ray and Jeff. The others, or at least everyone beside Marcus, had made it out of that mess alive. Ben hadn’t seen that bastard Marcus’s corpse, but could put two and two together. Jeff had been wielding the dumb S.O.B.’s shotgun and as the old saying went, the only way something like that happen was if he had pried it from Marcus cold dead hands. As far as Ben was concerned, Marcus’s death was nothing to be sad about. But that wasn’t how Frank or Michael would see things. They would be out for blood once they knew what had happened … even if the dipshit had gone and gotten himself bitten and the others had been forced to brain him to protect themselves.
Nope, things were about to get very messy back at camp, and not just because an entire town filled with undead were all riled up.
I wanted to post a link to an interview I did, along with two other young guns in the zombie genre, with Joe McKinney, author of such books as Dead City and Apocalypse of the Dead. It was a real honor getting the chance to answer a few questions Mr. McKinney posed of me. He and Wayne Simmons, author of Drop Dead Gorgeous and Flu, have swapped blogs for the week, and so this interview appears on Wayne’s blog, which is doubly cool, since I really dig both these authors. So check out the Q & A I had with Joe, along with Lincoln Crisler and Lyle Perez, who he also interviewed. I am flattered to be in their company. Check it out here: http://waynesimmons.org/blog/?p=250
Predators and Editors has a readers poll for Print/Electronic Horror Novel Published in 2010, and Comes The Dark is one of the books on this list. I was thrilled to find that I was a part of the list, and there are some pretty impressive names up there, many of which are friends of mine. So I would ask you if you would be so kind as to vote on this readers poll. If not for Comes The Dark, for one of the many fine offerings listed. The voting for Predators and Editors is kind of unique. You go to this link: http://www.critters.org/predpoll/novelh.shtml, then click on your choice from a very extensive list of books, then scroll to the bottom of the screen. There it asks you for your full name, email address, and then has you fill out a small box to prove you aren’t a robot.
I will ask for you to consider voting for Comes The Dark, but again, please vote for one of the many great books listed there. I know this sounds trite, but it is indeed an honor to be nominated for this award at all, and I am flattered to be in such great company.
Horrornews.net posted their review of Comes The Dark, and my hope is that they will be reviewing Into The Dark fairly soon as well. This one is a fairly detailed review, giving some insight into the storyline without presenting any spoilers, which is terrific. Check it out here: http://horrornews.net/28367/book-revew-comes-the-dark-author-patrick-d%E2%80%99orazio/.
It’s been a while since I posted just some random thoughts, or even some updates on my experiences in writing. Most of my blog posts have been book reviews and updates on stuff being released, Dark Stories, etc. So I thought I would post some comments based on how things are looking these days. It’s been around six months now since Comes The Dark came out, and this whole process of writing, promoting, editing, and all that wonderful stuff has changed for me since the book’s release. It used to be that I was always preparing for something to happen, and it seemed like a distant dream. For several years, when I meandered down the path of writing the manuscript that became my trilogy, it almost seemed theoretical that it would ever be published and that this whole effort was being done for nothing more than a “see, I told you I could do it!” perspective. But then it became real, and the first book was released.
Things went great with that, and have been great, no doubt about it. Sure, there have been a few negative reviews, which are almost like a badge of honor for a writer. Having someone tell you that you suck and please stop writing is sort of a tough one to handle at first blush, but you can either ignore it, or try to extract something from that which motivates you to do better. You can’t respond in kind, by lashing out, because it does no one any good, especially me. Even trying to explain why you did something in your book that someone really didn’t like is pointless, because the inevitable truth that you have to embrace as a writer (especially of genre stuff, and in particular, sub-genre stuff as this zombie stuff has been called) is that there will always be people for who your work does not resonate, and in fact, they do truly hate it, because something you said, did, or didn’t do really rubs them the wrong way. And if you try to absorb all that criticism and validate it in your mind, it will drive you crazy. You will have one person who sights that you poured on the emotions far too heavily in one scene, and then someone else will come along and point out that your characters seemed emotionally withdrawn in that exact same scene. I would never say that you can’t extract something out of the critiques you get, but you have to be true to yourself in the end, and let the chips fall where they may. And trying to get everyone to like your stuff is a tough way to go through life, and there will be a LOT of disappointments along the way. I want people to enjoy my work…otherwise, I wouldn’t have tried to get any of it published. But knowing that you have done your best, no matter what, has to stand for something.
I will be the first one to admit that I have a lot to learn about writing, and a lot to learn about the editing process. I know that there is always room for improvement, but at the same time, sooner or later, you have to step back and tell yourself that all that can be done has been done. I’m not sure when that point is, but I think sooner or later I will find it. It probably has something to do with being a bit OCD now and then, and not having the ability to walk away from a story and just leave it be, knowing that I’ve done all I can with it.
With all that said, I am taking another swipe at having some edits done to my trilogy. The third book, Beyond The Dark, is complete and I am satisfied that it is the best it can be, with no further tampering from me. I have had several edits done to it, and I know well enough to leave it be after that, because better editing minds than mine have worked it over and slapped it on the grill. If it keeps cooking it will be overcooked and no one wants that. But in conjunction with the edits being completed on that book, I have had an editor have another go at Comes The Dark and Into The Dark, and those edits will be implemented with the paperback and electronic versions of the book that are sold after the release of Beyond The Dark. In fact, there will be several releases in March for the grand finale of the trilogy. Here they are, briefly:
Beyond The Dark is being released as a paperback and on Smashwords, naturally. The edits, as I mentioned, are complete, and I am very happy with them. I honestly think that this is the most compelling of the three books, for many reasons I won’t divulge here.
Future versions of the paperback and smashwords versions of Comes The Dark and Into The Dark will be the revised versions, though we won’t be advertising that. The new copies sold will just have some new editing touches that won’t change anything with the stories, but will do a bit to get rid of some of the typos and grammatical errors that were in the original releases.
The Dark Trilogy, Revised, Expanded, and with Additional Stories will be released for both the Kindle and smashwords. As I mention here: https://patrickdorazio.com/2010/11/22/announcement-about-the-kindle-version-of-comes-the-dark/, there was a snafu with the kindle release of Comes The Dark. It was the raw, unedited version of the entire manuscript for the trilogy. We pulled that version off the market, but not before a substantial number had been sold, and as you can guess, many of those kindle readers assumed that Into The Dark would end up being an entirely new story, not one that had appeared already in the version they had (mind you, there were some new chapters added and it was edited, which the raw manuscript was not), so we did not release Into The Dark on the kindle, nor are we releasing Beyond The Dark as a stand alone on the kindle either. Instead, we are releasing, as the title describes it, the entire trilogy, plus all the stories that appear here, on my blog, under the page heading “Dark Stories”. It will be around 250,000 words and include a lot of stuff that didn’t show up in that raw and unedited kindle version that went out.
Maybe that will allow my OCD to relinquish control of me and let this trilogy rest for a bit after all that is said and done in March. And that is the key, I think. I need to focus 100% of my efforts on new stuff, and not on revising, editing, messing with, or otherwise tweaking stuff I have already done. Granted, I have written my fair share of short stories and have outlined and even started writing new novels over the past few months, but the focus has been splintered with a LOT of it devoted to the trilogy. I will continue to promote the Dark trilogy via the net and in other places, but it has been crazy for the past year, with so much effort put into something I had already written, and re-written, several times. But that is what it takes to get a novel out there, and ready to go for public consumption. I will even mention that another publisher came along and chatted about buying the rights to the trilogy and doing a re-release, which was very flattering, but a very daunting prospect. The idea of once again diving into this trilogy of books, which has consumed so much of my time, effort, and energy over the past few years, was terrifying. I just couldn’t do that. I love these books-they will always hold a special place in my heart, and I love talking about them, promoting them, and doing whatever is needed to make them appear more polished and professional, etc. but as far as writing, editing, etc…that all needs to be in the rear view mirror for me. I need to focus on other projects and throw myself into them like I did this one.
With that in mind, I though I might give some vague ideas of what the future holds. Because regardless of the guy on Amazon who pleaded with me to stop writing, I plan on doing some more…and I hope to get better at it-perhaps enough, someday, that he might change his mind, or might be able to brag to his friends that his comments were the ones that motivated me to get better and I actually did! I guess there are crazier dreams out there.
I will finish off the Dark Stories. I still have a handful of these stories to offer up to you, and I intend on finishing them before the release of Beyond The Dark.
There are about 15 submission calls for short stories that I would love to tackle. Realistically, I will probably go after no more than 5-10 of them, but I will give it my best shot. Another stab at keeping my writing diverse and not just tackling zombies, but other horror stories, sci fi, fantasy, and other genres as well.
I have two novels outlined, and I will admit that one is a fourth book in the same universe that the Dark Trilogy takes place in. In all, the plan would be for five books total, with the fifth book being the final chapter in the tale. The other novel is another horror tale that includes both our dear friends, the zombies, as well as their arch nemesis (well, at least I think so), the vampires. And no, neither side are made to look like the good guys. This one will hopefully be a very dark, very grim tale.
I have at least two or three other novels floating around in my head, including an overhaul of a book I wrote back in college. High fantasy, as it was originally written. Granted, the book was bad, really, really, bad. But my new slant would be to do an overhaul with a few winks, a nudge here and there, and not try to take it so seriously. Would it be outright comedy? That remains to be seen, but I think I would like to take a swipe at doing my best to overhaul this sucker. Another would be a YA adventure story, which is one that got into my head over the past few months and I really want to run with it. It would be something very personal because of the elements of the story and the main characters, but unfortunately, I really don’t want to divulge much else because again, I haven’t done much with it yet. But one of my longterm goals is to write YA fiction, and this would be my first step into that arena, perhaps beyond a few short stories I plan on doing before the novel would get done. The final book floating around in my mind, and that I have created a description that would fit nicely on the back cover of the book, would be a futuristic novel. It would actually have noir elements, would be at its heart a mystery, and takes place a decade after the zombie apocalypse has come and went-the humans won, and the zombies were wiped out…but someone out there knows the secret to creating zombies, and wants to bring them back…the main character’s job would be to stop them, and discover why they want to do such a crazy thing.
Again, this is all just ideas floating around in my head. It is always fun to come up with ideas that you believe can be turned into novels, and then doing your best to putting them down on paper and get rolling with them. They don’t always continue to speak to you after you start the writing process, and you realize that a good idea was actually only that-an idea. But the ideas can morph and change into something completely different, which is also part of the fun. You have the opportunity to change a story mid-stride and make it into something you never expected, but really gives you the juice to go the distance with it.
I guess that is it for now. Sorry for the long explanation of things, but a lot on my mind lately, and a lot of things going on. And for better or worse, I wanted to share it all with you. 😉
Heather over at Doubleshot Reviews was kind enough to interview me after reviewing Comes The Dark recently. So give it a looksee here: http://doubleshotreviews.com/2011/01/03/interview-with-patrick-dorazio/
I am happy to announce that my short story, A Soldier’s Lament, has been published as an individual story available for sale for your e-book reader. May December, who originally published the story in their first person zombie anthology, Eyewitness: Zombie, has made it available via Smashwords. You can check out Fangoria’s review of Eyewitness: Zombie, which specifically mentions A Soldier’s Lament in it, here: https://patrickdorazio.com/2010/12/04/great-review-of-eye-witness-zombie-on-fangoria/.
I am quite excited about this, and part of the reason I am is because this particular story takes place in the same world as my Dark Trilogy of novels. Without ruining anything, if you have read Into The Dark, you might recognize a couple of the characters when you check out this short story.
At $2.99, this is a pretty cheap price as well. So check it out!
There is no specific cover art work for this short story, but the publisher did commission this killer drawing that ties into the story quite well for Eyewitness: Zombie. Just click on the image to head over to the link at Smashwords.
Heather over at Doubleshot Reviews was kind enough to take a look at Comes The Dark and after reading it, seems to also be interested in checking out Into The Dark as well, which is great! I guess that means she liked it.
Besides doing a review of my books, I will get the opportunity to be interviewed by Heather on zombies, writing, and the experiences of getting published. Stay tuned as I keep you updated on that. In the meantime, check out Heather’s review of Comes The Dark here: http://doubleshotreviews.com/2010/12/30/comes-the-dark-a-zombie-novel/
Buy Zombie has written a very detailed and in depth review of Comes The Dark, and my understanding is that their review of Into The Dark is soon to follow. Perhaps within the next week or so. I always appreciate a review that gives specific reasons for what the critic liked and disliked and I can appreciate the commentary. It is always fun to see a review that spends a solid amount of time with the book, and I look forward to the follow up for Into The Dark. I hope you do as well.
So check it out here, and I will make sure I post when their review for Into The Dark is online. http://www.buyzombie.com/2010/12/30/reviews-of-zombie-related-things/comes-the-dark-review-2/
I hope everyone out there is having a great holiday season! I wanted to post this little stand alone introduction to Jason that actually takes place before he meets George. I probably could have posted this before the prior string of stories about the two of them together, but I guess this will work since it does relate to only Jason. This is fairly brief, but was my introduction of him as a character and delves a little deeper into his relationship with his mother and what happened to her.
There will be more Dark Stories to come, but this finishes the stories that introduce the initial characters that Jeff meets in the first book. Now that the second book is released, I will probably focus on stories about the characters introduced there from now on. Stay tuned.
Again, as always, forgive me for any editing misses-I try to clean these up, but I know I will end up missing a few bits and pieces here and there.
Without further ado, here you go:
Everything had been screwed up since momma dragged him out of school up in Detroit and moved him down to this white bread hillbilly paradise. They sure as heck hadn’t been rich up in Dearborn, but he’d gotten to see his father every now and then and they had a nice apartment. Jason didn’t want a house, even if momma insisted that they needed a place where they weren’t crammed in next to twenty other families. He didn’t want to leave his school either. It wasn’t like he had lots of friends there, but he was comfortable with his teachers and knew what was expected of him. Here, he stood out like a sore thumb. They had gotten a house like momma had always wanted, but there were even more trailer parks in the town they lived in than he’d ever seen back home. That momma somehow thought moving to Gallatin, Ohio was a step up from Dearborn, Michigan was beyond Jason’s ability to understand.
After living in the small town for a while, things leveled out, though they still sucked. The kids in Gallatin more or less ignored him. There was a good share of white trash, but most of the kids were nice enough. There were only a few black families in town so it was almost like most of the white kids had no idea of how to act around him. He could tell that they’d been taught that racism was bad and yet they were still uncomfortable being around someone who wasn’t the same color as they were. The school was okay. Jason had always been smart and adjusting academically wasn’t too challenging. His mother insisted he was getting a better education here, though he kind of doubted it.
He was getting used to things in Ohio, even though his father hadn’t called or written since the move. He didn’t like the nasty things momma said about dad, but didn’t argue with her about it. With as many times as she called him worthless, it didn’t seem all that surprising that Jason’s father chose to forget about his son once they moved away.
Momma never accepted any blame for anything in regards to Jason’s father, even after deciding to pick up and move almost three hundred miles away from him. She insisted that it was her ex-husband’s fault he couldn’t pick up a phone or try to arrange to have Jason go back up to Detroit for a week during the holidays or in the summer. She didn’t accept any blame, but Jason silently affixed much of it on her. But as with everything else, he suffered quietly and didn’t act out or complain. He was her good son, well behaved and shy. He loved his momma and even if he wished she wouldn’t have made some of the choices she did, he was smart enough to know that she was the one person in the world who would always be there for him, no matter what. He still loved his dad, but he’d known for years that the man was unreliable. That was just the way it was. Momma could always be counted on.
That was, until the world fell apart.
Jason was watching TV that morning, the morning when everything changed. He already knew things had been getting bad over the past few days, but with all the special reports breaking in on every channel, things had boiled over.
Yvonne, his mother, had been concerned about what was going on around the country and around town, but that concern didn’t mean she was interested in skipping out on work.
“They need me down there, especially now. You stay home today-no playing outside. Lock the doors and don’t answer the phone. I’ll be home after my shift.”
She hugged him tight and left. Jason wasn’t concerned for himself. Things had been quiet in their neighborhood, but there were some terrible stories on the news about what was happening in the cities, like where momma worked.
As the day wore on, Jason found himself glued to the TV, watching news reports that were getting harder to believe by the second. Every program he switched to was talking about the same thing. The virus had gone global and there were reports of infection everywhere. Doctors were baffled, despite the government’s reassurance that they were working on coming up with a vaccination or cure.
People were dying everywhere, and the televised attacks by the infected were hard to watch. Still, Jason was mesmerized by the violent images as they rolled by on the screen.
More than once, he was tempted to call the hospital where momma worked, but resisted the urge. He was only supposed to call in case of an emergency. This was a worldwide emergency, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t as if someone was banging on the front door, trying to get inside the house to attack him. So instead, he continued watching the stories about the virus spreading, maps with containment vectors discussed by Army Generals, and the riots breaking out in towns and cities across the country and across the globe.
Jason was still in front of the TV when Yvonne, his mother, came home five hours before her shift was supposed to end. He was thrilled she’d returned early, until he saw the bandage on her arm. She had been scratched by a patient at the hospital.
She had been plain unlucky. That was how she described it. Jason’s mother was a nurse a big downtown Cincinnati medical center and was taking the vital signs of a patient who’d come into the emergency room after claiming to have been bitten. The man was delirious and he freaked out when she put a stethoscope against his chest. He’d been lying on a gurney in one of the hallways off the ER, because people were jammed to the rafters in the place and the nurses and doctors had to deal with patients where they sat or stood. Yvonne had been commandeered from her post on the Cardiac ward to help with the overflow.
The man had reached up to grab her wrist as he babbled unintelligibly at her. When she tried to remove his hand, he raked his fingernails across her forearm as he spit up blood and frothed at the mouth. With the help of a couple of orderlies she got the man under control and sedated, but not before his spittle and blood and gotten all over her, including into her brand new wound.
Yvonne Samuels told her son that she’d had the suspicion that things were going to hell the moment she had walked into the hospital six hours earlier. It’d taken less than an hour before she’d been called into the emergency room. The rumor mill among the nurses had gained a full head of steam, and while much of what she was told sounded ridiculous, it was getting easier to buy into the various stories they were feeding her as the day went on.
A particular one stuck with her. One of the regular ER nurses indicated that she’d heard that the National Guard was planning on shutting down most of the hospitals in the area and not letting any more patients into them. In addition to that measure, rumor also had it that any of the people already in the hospitals, including staff, were to be quarantined.
It had sounded like an unlikely possibility the first time she heard it, but by the time she was scratched a few hours later and the emergency room had turned into an utter madhouse, it was getting hard to deny that something was about to happen. Fear, like the virus, was spreading across the hospital at an exponential rate.
No one really knew for sure how the virus spread. Bites without a doubt, but no one knew if it was also airborne, could be transmitted through drinking water, or if there was some other route to getting sick.
Paranoia and panic were engulfing the hospital. Both the patients and staff were rapidly losing their minds. Yvonne suspected that whatever plan the National Guard had in mind to restore control would be acted on far too late to do any good. The situation had deteriorated far too fast.
There had been several attacks when bitten patients died on operating tables or while waiting to be checked out in the ER. Far too late, someone in a position of authority decided that anyone who came in bitten was to be restrained. Unfortunately, that wasn’t before several nurses, doctors, and other patients were attacked.
Jason’s mom had never been one to pull her punches and she didn’t do so as she relayed her tale to him. She had a pretty good idea how much trouble she was in after bandaging her scratched arm. The wound had felt like it was on fire mere seconds after the attack. Since it wasn’t a bite, no one paid the wound much attention, but there was no doubt in her mind that she would be getting curious glances in no time. She was already running a fever. She had to get the hell out of there before she ended up tied to some bed while she waited to die.
Taking one last look around, Yvonne decided to make a beeline to the garage where her car was parked. There was no way she was going to let them quarantine her or tie her up; not with her boy waiting for her to get back home. She had been prepared to do anything, up to and including blasting through the gate at the edge of the employee lot with her beat up old Buick Skylark. It didn’t matter that there were two police cruisers parked on the street outside the garage-nothing was going to stop her from leaving that place.
Fortune smiled on her. The attendant waved her through without even looking up from the portable TV he had in the booth with him.
On the drive home, Yvonne listened to traffic reports that indicated every highway in and out of the city was either clogged or blockaded by the military. Even many of the major roads were backed up, but Yvonne had been driving in the city long enough to have learned about several lesser known routes that would get her home without all the traffic headaches the main routes tended to provide. It was clear as she headed east out of Cincinnati that the city was shutting down, and soon there wouldn’t be any roads open to traffic anymore. There was unchecked chaos and destruction everywhere she looked. People running in the streets, gunfire, and the sounds of screams she heard through the rolled up windows. She didn’t see any of them, but suspected they were there, nonetheless.
Perhaps it was a miracle, or just dumb luck, but she managed to get back home without incident.
She told Jason her story in a breathless rush. By the time she was done, her skin had gone an ashy color and she was drenched in sweat. When he suggested they find a doctor in Gallatin to check her out, she waved him off.
“What we need to do,” she replied, “is find someone to take you in while I deal with this.”
Jason had learned over the years that there was no use arguing with momma, especially when she gave him the “look”. The woman could be downright scary when she wanted to be. So when she picked up the phone and tried to reach out to some of her friends in the area, he remained silent, even as he felt terrified about what was happening to his mother. She was still in charge, and until she said different, there was nothing her twelve-year-old boy could say about it.
After the final call, when Yvonne was unable to reach a single other person, she sat in a chair in the living room and took a deep breath. A few seconds later, she slapped her hands on her knees, announcing to Jason that she had come to a decision.
“There’s just one thing left we can do.”
Jason would never forget when his mother directed him to tie her arms and feet to her bed. She told him that if she got delirious, like the man at the hospital, she didn’t want him to be in any danger of getting scratched or bit. She also joked that it was ironic that she had been desperate to avoid that fate at the hospital, but now felt it was the only solution she had remaining at home.
“If I turn into one of those monsters, and I doubt I will, I don’t want to be able to hurt you. I don’t want to bite you like all those people you’ve seen on TV.”
Once again, Jason had the urge to argue with his momma, but even with her eyes getting cloudy with infection, she wielded an authority that bucked no debate from her son.
So he helped get her into bed, taking several extension cords and wrapping them around her wrists and ankles and then the bedposts. When he tried to be gentle with the knots he made, Yvonne chastised him, insisting he make sure she couldn’t break free.
“I plan on fighting like crazy against this virus, baby, but I’m not taking any chances with your safety. If I turn, I need to know you’ll be safe.”
After the knots were tied and before the tears could come, Jason’s momma told him to sit down next to her on the bed.
“Jason, you’re a stronger boy than you realize. I’ve always known that about you. I also know you resent me for taking you away from your father, but I think, deep down, you understand why I had to do it. He could never take care of you, even if he thought that what he was doing was good enough.
“I didn’t bring you to Ohio to make your life miserable, I brought you here to make you stronger. You needed to get away from that place and learn to stand on your own. I didn’t realize how quickly you would need to be able to do that, but God gives us challenges we think we aren’t prepared for because he knows better than us how strong we are, and how much we can handle.
“I’ve done the best I could for you. It wasn’t enough, but there isn’t any time left for me to do any more. Now I don’t want you crying for me. Instead, I want you to do exactly as I tell you.”
Jason’s mother tolerated no back talk, even as she grew weaker by the second. So he listened to every word she had to say, and despite his reservations, he did as she asked. He collected what he could into his backpack-clothes, food, a pocket knife, and the spare cash she had hidden in a shoebox at the back of her closet. She told him that money probably wouldn’t mean anything for much longer, but it might help him out of a tight jam with someone he came across.
Yvonne didn’t want her son going to one of those shelters, but knew there were few other options available to a twelve-year-old on their own. The scroll at the bottom of the television screen listed the different shelters in the Cincinnati area, and Gallatin high school, which was just a few miles away, was the closest one. He was to try and go to the neighbors first, and see if any of them would take him in, but if that didn’t work, or if he came across anyone acting suspicious, he was to run to that high school as fast as he could.
She told him the some people might not think twice about taking advantage of a young boy without any guardians, so he would have to stand tall and fend for himself. And once things calmed down and the world got back to normal, he would have to try to reach out to any family they had up north that was still alive. Yvonne hadn’t been able to reach any of them for a couple of days, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t make it through this. And when they did, he needed to find them. They would take care of him.
Jason wondered if his mother actually believed that things would ever go back to normal. A cure sounded next to impossible from what he’d heard, and the military didn’t seem to be having any lucky anywhere as far as containing the spread of the contagion. After watching the news all day, and having heard horror stories coming in from across the globe for the last few days, the chances of the world ever being sane again was about as likely as momma being able to avoid succumbing to the virus.
She was the strongest person Jason had ever known, but no amount of determination to resist the rapid creep of the plague was going to keep her from changing. The doctors on TV had bickered back and forth on just about every minute detail related to the virus, but one thing they all agreed on was its 100% mortality and reanimation rate. If you were infected, you died, and then you came back.
After momma gave Jason her instructions and was certain he would carry them out, her voice became soft as she reminisced with him about their lives together. She told him stories about her youth she’d never revealed before and managed to get a few laughs out of him, even as the tears flowed despite her stern command he not weep for her.
On more than one occasion, Jason hinted that he wanted to remove the cords that bound her, but she would chastise him every time he tried, even when she grew delirious and her words were slurred.
Near the end she told him to leave, to get out of the house and go to the neighbors. He needed to find someone who could take him to the shelter, or away from this place. There was no more pretending. She was going to die and she had accepted that. He refused until she had to yell at him, telling him through her own tears that he needed to go, that she did not want him seeing her like this.
Jason pretended to leave, hiding at the front door after he slammed it shut. He slumped against it, crying silent tears while his mother lay dying down the hall. He wanted to untie her, cut her free and hold her tight one last time. And when he heard her loudly weeping, that desire became almost unbearable.
After the crying stopped about an hour later, Jason strained to hear anything coming from his mother’s bedroom. It didn’t take long for him to hear the wheezing as her struggles to breath became more pronounced. As he did, he laid his head on his knees. At that point, he’d been awake for nearly twenty four hours straight. His mother’s struggles with the virus had lasted through the night. So as he sat and listened to the ragged rhythm of her breathing, his eyelids continued to droop lower no matter how hard he fought against it.
One of Jason’s uncles had died of cancer, and he’d watched him gradually lose weight and hair from chemotherapy. It took several months, and the changes were gradual, but hard not to notice. When the man was brought home to be with his family for the last few days of his life, after the doctors had done everything they could for him, Jason was forced to go into his uncle’s bedroom one last time. The man’s eyes had sunken into their sockets and his skin was gray. The smell of illness in the room terrified the boy almost more than how his uncle’s looks had changed. There was a cloying scent of despair that hung heavy in the room. Even the reassuring grin his uncle gave him scared Jason. It made him look like one of the demonic creatures in a horror comic Jason’s dad had given him. His uncle’s eyes had gone from white to a jaundiced yellow, which added to the devilish effect.
What had happened to his mother was like a time lapse recording of the illness his uncle had suffered through. Several nightmarish months of agony jammed into a few hours of living hell, with the same terrible sights and smells that had given Jason nightmares for a year after his uncle died.
Jason woke with a start. He had been dreaming of his uncle, smiling up at him from his deathbed, telling him that his momma would be with him soon. As he spoke, he reached out with his hand, as if asking the boy to join them.
While he’d slept, the wheezing in the other room had stopped. The house was silent. Jason stood, fearful he’d missed the chance to rush back to his mother’s side to see her face and hold her hand one last time before she died. He couldn’t come to grips with the idea of his mother being taken away from him. How could some minor scratch undo such a larger than life person?
Jason listened for a few minutes, peering at the walls that separated his mother’s bed from where he was stood. Nothing. No sound at all. Had she passed? He had to know even though part of him was screaming that he needed to run away and not look back. He could pretend she was still alive if he wanted to. All he had to do was leave.
His voice sounded timid, almost embarrassed. He half expected her to come bursting through the doorway, yelling at him to do as he’d been told and leave the house.
It didn’t happen. Nothing did.
Fear mingled with a sliver of courage that resided deep within the twelve-year-old; courage that came from realizing he had nothing left to lose.
He waited. Sweat dripped down his face, rolling onto his upper lip. Droplets quivered there before falling to the floor. Jason moved his right foot forward with care, somehow afraid that the noise from a squeaky floorboard might upset momma even more than the fact that he’d yelled her name.
His foot was still hovering above the floor when he heard it.
The bed was making a creaking sound, but there was also another sound. One that was almost human.
The sweat pouring down his face and back turned to ice on his skin. An involuntary shiver wracked Jason’s body as he brought his foot down. Hairs on his arms and legs stood at attention and were almost painfully stiff as goose bumps covered every exposed inch of skin. His foot retreated to its original position and he remained locked in place at the front door.
It sounded like a moan coming from the bedroom, but not like any he’d ever heard before. He doubted that a human being in a normal state of mind could make a sound like that.
It was the terrified little boy inside of him reaching out for her now. Tears mixed with the cold sweat and Jason’s vision became blurred. He thought he saw his mother in her nightgown, the one she had worn when she had gotten into bed. It was her favorite. She was walking out of the room, coming toward him, angry at him for not leaving as he’d been told to do. He slammed his back into the front door and gave a wailing cry of his own that didn’t sound quite as bad as the moaning, but had the effect of making the inhuman sound grow louder. Frantically wiping at his eyes, he blinked and saw there was nothing in front of him. Momma was still in her bedroom, tied down.
She needs you. Go to her.
Jason slid to the floor, hugging himself as he wept. No longer concerned about the amount of noise he made, the sound of his crying echoed through the small house. After a couple of minutes, his sense of loss turned to anger as the moaning increased in volume, as if his mother was mocking him.
“Shut up! You’re not my mother anymore! Just leave me alone!”
It’s your mother in there, how dare you yell at her? Go in there and apologize!
The moaning didn’t stop and his anger gradually changed, morphing into something closer to regret. He begged and pleaded, yet knowing somehow, on a coldly logical level, that the monster his mother had become would never listen to him again. At the same time, the voice inside his head, the one that knew nothing of logic or sanity, kept whispering to him that he should go to his mother, that she needed him.
Jason knew it wouldn’t stop until it drove him mad.
That was about all the twelve-year-old was sure of anymore. That and the fact that there was no way he could face his mother ever again. Not with what she had become.
He turned away from the noises and stared at the front door of the house. This was no longer his home, and even as the strange voice inside tugged at him, he could feel the house pushing him away.
You are no longer welcome here. This is a place for the dead.
Jason leaned his forehead against the cold, unforgiving wood of the door and banged it against the pine gently, but repeatedly.
“I’m sorry momma. I love you, but I’m sorry. I can’t stay here anymore. Goodbye.”
It was a lousy eulogy, but was all he could think to say. The maniacal voice inside his head screamed at him to turn around and go to her, but he blotted it out, screaming and cursing at it.
Momma was gone.
Walking out the door, Jason didn’t look back as it slammed behind him. He stepped out onto the grass, unconcerned with where he was going. The world around him was in panic and upheaval. Several of the neighbors had fled, their front doors flung open while others had already in the process of barricading their homes. He didn’t concern himself with any of them, even as several called out to him, screaming his name. The blare of sirens and the sound of gunfire in the background also didn’t distract him.
He picked up his feet and ran, moving swiftly past his neighborhood. His only plan was to keep on running, perhaps all the way to Detroit, if he could. He would run until his legs gave out, his heart exploded inside his chest, or one of those things caught him and tore him to pieces. That was the only thought he had left in his head. He would run until he died.
By the time the soldiers caught up with him twenty minutes later, all the tears had dried and the stony visage that George knew so well had taken their place.
Ursula K Raphael, who has gotten some big props in the zombie community lately for her letter published in Entertainment Weekly championing the cause of small press zombie writers everywhere, has written a dual review of Comes The Dark and Into The Dark over on Zombiephiles website. So for all of you folks who haven’t gotten either of my books yet, this is a great way to get the full overview of both at the same time. I am pretty thrilled with the review, especially when her biggest gripe is the fact that both my books were over too damn quickly. If that is the worst complaint you ever get about your writing, you are doing pretty well! Seriously though, I am once again humbled by the fact that someone who really loves this genre seems to be really enjoying my books. There is no better feeling.
So give the review a look see over at Zombiephiles here: http://www.zombiephiles.com/zombies-ate-my-brains/library-of-the-living-dead-does-it-again-patrick-dorazio
and then go buy both my books, if you haven’t already. 😉
The folks over at Flames Rising let me take a swipe at talking about Comes The Dark and my writing experiences in general.
For folks not in the know, Flames Rising is an online resource for fans of Horror and Dark Fantasy entertainment. This horror fanzine offers reviews of Games, Fiction, Movies and more ranging from Top-Selling authors to the coolest Small Press and “indie” publishers. The popular Interviews at Flames Rising include Horror authors, artists and other creators of dark entertainment. So you should be checking them out!
And more to the point, check out my article, here: http://www.flamesrising.com/comes-the-dark-essay/
Hey folks, check out this podcast review of Comes The Dark over at Night of the Living Podcast. Check out the link here for episode 209: http://notlp.com/. The review starts around the 42 minute mark, and they have some fun with it. These guys are pretty hilarious in general and it was fun hearing them talk about my book and changing marriage vows to insure that if your spouse gets bitten by a zombie that you are willing to put a bullet in their head so they don’t come back. Now THAT is love!
Give the review a listen and check out NOTLP in general. They love horror and have a lot of fun with their podcast. Great stuff.
I recently had the chance to answer some questions for Erika Gilbert for Permuted Press about my books, my experiences as an author, and on writing in general. It was fun to do and I hope you’ll check it out!
Hit this link to go to my interview: http://permutedpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/interview-author-patrick-dorazio.html
Many thanks to Erika for asking the questions and Jacob over at Permuted Press for hosting the interview!
I promised that once this interview was posted that I would post it here. Ben Rogers and I were interviewed by Greg Amortis over at “The Creepture Feature Horrorshow” podcast about our novels. Check it out, and check out some of the other great podcasts that Greg and the gang have done besides their visit to Horror Hound.
Our interviews start around the 25 minute mark, so check it out!
Sorry it has taken me so long to post another part of George and Jason’s tale, but I should be able to get Part 4, the final part of their story, posted within the next week or so. There are other stories based on other characters, and now that Into The Dark is on the verge of being released, some of the other stories about characters appearing in that book will also be showing up here, on my blog.
As always, you can find all my Dark Stories listed in order on the Dark Stories page of my blog. So if you haven’t read all the ones that came before this, check out that page first. Thanks!
As usually, I apologize for any typos or grammatical errors. I try to do my best to insure that what I post is clean, but I am sure I missed a few things here and there.
So without further ado, here you go. I hope you enjoy this installment.
George and Jason, Part 3
George thumbed through a paper back romance novel he had commandeered from one of the preschool teacher’s desks. Wretched was the only word he could use to describe it. But it passed the time. He would not have been caught dead with such a book previously but now, with only Jason left to pass judgment, he could care less.
He thought about the boy and what was to become of him.
Jason would be a tall teen. He was gawky, scrawny perhaps, but he had the bone structure that indicated that he would easily break six feet as an adult. The boy was the whole reason they were holed up in this church instead of dead out on the road somewhere. George wanted nothing more than to take his chances and leave this place behind for good. He would take any risk that he could to return to his family. They needed him.
But so did Jason.
Jennifer had coaxed some other details out of the shy boy in the few days they were stuck at the high school. It was far more than George had been able to get out of Jason since then. His father lived up near Detroit and was not on speaking terms with his mother. She made the decision a year ago to move to Ohio for a fresh start. She got a job as a nurse and promised Jason a house to live in, so they moved to Gallatin where they could afford a cottage in the little town.
The move was a shock to Jason’s system. He did well in school, but being uprooted and losing all his friends had been tough. His mother was happy here so he didn’t complain for her sake.
The boy had lost touch with his father long ago. He barely knew the man and hadn’t said much about him unless prodded. Jennifer guessed that even though Jason acted like none of it mattered, he still missed his father a great deal.
Jason lost his mother not too long before he had gotten to the shelter. It did not take much to figure that out since he had come to the place alone. He would not talk about it and all Jennifer could gather was that the National Guard had picked him up, perhaps in his house, or off the street, and dumped him in the shelter.
So Jason had lost his mother and then the one person he had latched onto when things had gone from bad to worse. George guessed that Jason felt that Jennifer had betrayed him when she had chosen to stay with her dying husband rather than escape with him from the parking lot.
It was a harsh assessment and George could not blame Jennifer for giving up when her husband, who was her high school sweetheart, was lying beside her with his lifeblood pouring out onto the asphalt. All she could do for the boy was to tell him to run away with George. That she could not see past her own grief and agony was nothing George could blame her for, but he knew Jason didn’t see it that way.
After George and Jason fled the parking lot of the high school, they kept moving around the building. As they got further away from Al and Jennifer, Jason managed to start walking on his own instead of forcing George to drag the boy along behind him.
Jason’s reaction to Jennifer’s abrupt farewell was worrisome to George, but his concern for the pre-teen’s mental well being had to take a back seat to bigger priorities.
They gradually made their way to a corner of the high school where they could spy what was going on out on the street. It took forever as George kept them sliding along the cold bricks of the building. The wall was not straight and it forced them to spend time creeping around corners, pausing to make sure they were not coming up on anything they couldn’t deal with. They reached several bushes that hugged the corner of the building and dove behind them, hoping they could hide there for a few moments. It was then that George realized how truly screwed they were.
The undead were scattered, spread out after moving in from north of the school onto the street between the high school and the grade schools across the street. They had pushed survivors they came across before them, herding them like cattle to the slaughter. By the time the hoard had reached the schools, its numbers were in the hundreds, if not thousands. Both soldiers and citizens alike had been defeated at every turn and it appeared that this was where the final battle between the undead and what remained of humanity in this region would take place.
The ghouls were in thick clusters surrounding islands of soldiers and the sound of automatic weapons fire were small disruptions to the deafening roars of the creatures. They were in the street, on the grass, everywhere, attacking everything living thing they could get their hands and teeth on.
Before that night, George had seen only bleak hints and whispers of what was happening outside the high school he’d called home for the past few days. It had been nothing worse than an uncomfortable itch at the base of his spine. That itch hinted at the truth of things, but nothing up until now had grabbed him by the throat and throttled him with the revelation that the world had come to an end.
George’s eyes zeroed in on a particular soldier on top of a pickup truck out on the street. It looked like he was dancing on the narrow roof as he dodged the grasping hands of the undead surrounding the truck. For an instant George was reminded of a group of concert goers trying to touch the leg of a lead guitarist as he jammed out on stage. The M16 in the soldier’s arms looked somewhat like a guitar, even as he fired into the crowd erratically, frantically trying to clear a path for a quick escape. Despite his efforts, the crowd wouldn’t part and the clot of ghouls around the truck kept growing thicker by the second. The dead clumsily attempted to climb the truck to get at him, but instead fell underneath the press of other bodies pushing on them from behind. Those that were crushed underneath served as step stools for the other stiffs who were able to get higher and closer to the soldier.
The young private continued to fire his weapon and bellowed resistance as he did. He hit the mark with the occasional shot and a head would disappear below the mass of contorting bodies, but mostly his attacks did little to influence the crowd, except perhaps to make it grow even more excited by his presence.
The ghouls dragged themselves onto the hood and into the bed of the truck behind the soldier, who was able to dodge their hands for a short while. The first few that that snagged his camouflaged leggings were easily shaken off. George was hunched down the bushes at the corner of the high school with Jason held closely in front of him as they watched helplessly as the terrible scene unfolded no more than fifty yards from where the hid. George could feel Jason shaking uncontrollably and tried to squeeze his shoulders tighter just to let the boy know he was safe, but it was useless. The middle-aged man would later recall whispering something like ‘everything will be okay’ in the boy’s ear, but wasn’t sure if it had been more to reassure Jason or himself.
George silently rooted for the soldier, who ran out of bullets and started swinging his M16 around like a bat, not with much hope of connecting with anyone, but more in an effort to deter those closest from reaching out to grab him. The young man’s screams increased in volume as he sidestepped several grasping claws and backed into another group of avaricious hands that latched on to his legs at the ankles. He attempted to turn and face these new attackers, his rifle still held out in front of him, but lost his balance and slammed down hard on the metal truck roof. A hollow clunk was the only sound George heard as the soldier crashed and was pulled over the side of the truck.
George, at ground level, couldn’t see what happened next, but he was cursed with a vivid imagination. He knew the man was being pulled apart, the angry ghouls snapping at one another as they fought over the tastiest morsels. The only consolidation for the soldier was that there were enough of the undead that it was unlikely there would be enough of him left to reanimate.
The ongoing carnage out on the street was almost hypnotic. There were numerous small groups of living humans trying to hold the line, but all of those groups were being infiltrated by the walking dead. So many of the infected were in army fatigues it was hard to tell who was alive and who was undead. George remembered how fast the old man that had bitten Al had changed and knew that those dying right now would be up and helping the other ghouls within minutes. It made the battle all that much quicker: soldiers often had no idea who was alive and who had reanimated, because both the living and the dead were saturated with blood and viscera.
Of all the crowding, surging undead, the largest concentration George could see was moving toward the entrance of the high school. Some of the guardsmen were falling back, around the bushes where George and Jason hid. George retained a firm hold on the boy as he watched the soldier’s run by. He felt like he was clutching a rabbit: he couldn’t squeeze Jason too tight, but if he relinquished his hold the kid would more than likely skitter away. But at that moment, Jason seemed sedate, not squirmy or making any noises that would draw any attention, at least.
One of the entrances to the high school was behind where George and Jason hid, and it was apparently the fall back position for many of the National Guardsmen. They were trying to delay the inevitable onslaught by seeking sanctuary inside the high school with the rest of the soldiers and refugees inside.
George wondered if the riot inside the high school had been quelled and how much innocent blood had been spilled in the process. After seeing the massacre outside, he suspected that anyone who had been killed in the clash between refugees and soldiers was probably better off than anyone still alive.
He scanned the front of the building, but his vision was blocked by part of the high school that jutted out onto the expansive lawn in front of the school. He couldn’t see the opposite end of the building, but did see the advancing horde moving in his direction. The ghouls were methodically following the retreat anyone left alive on the street … and those survivors were leading the dead straight to the high school.
George saw several vehicles moving erratically back and forth on the road and in the parking lot across the street, where even more soldiers were falling back through the doors of the elementary schools. Looking around, he dismissed the idea of trying to find a vehicle. There were far too many bodies already jammed underneath the wheels of several military vehicles and even a semi that had been commandeered by the National Guard. There was no possibility of driving out of the area.
George held his stomach in check as he saw more bodies being crushed under the heavy equipment and pulped beyond recognition. The few vehicles still in motion were barely moving as more ghouls mindlessly crashed against them in an attempt to reach the drivers. Bodies and appendages were dragged under wheels and bogged the machines down. Corpses ruptured and became wedged into wheel wells, forcing the vehicles to a standstill.
George forced himself to continue looking out on the street, which was starting to resemble the ninth circle of hell. There had to be something out there … something that would give them some spark of hope.
There has to be someplace for us to hide.
The screams echoed all around them. More of the dead filed past their hiding space, not sensing the two easy targets as they followed groups of soldiers streaming past. The sound of shattering glass and panicked shouts behind them told George that the people still alive inside the high school were starting to realize what they were up against.
Jason had grown still, only barely shivering. As George looked out on the street, he forgot about the boy for a moment. It appeared as if the dead were all clumping up out there, attacking the established positions of the soldiers while others surrounded the entrances of the two schools across the street. He watched as countless numbers of the wretched creatures crawled through shattered windows of classrooms that looked dark and vacant. Jagged shards of glass sticking out of the window frames were ignored as they sliced into the rotting bodies of the ghouls. Chunks of their flesh fell to the ground, bloodless and inert.
That was when he saw it-the one place in this nightmarish realm that they might make it to alive.
There was nothing surrounding the church. No soldiers and no stiffs. Gallatin United Methodist Church was posted on the sign out front. Flashes of light from weapons fire and spotlights being used lit up the building as George scanned it for damage or indications of someone hiding inside.
It looked like a simple church with a modest steeple that had been built onto. Another structure, attached by an extended hall, stretched north of the main structure. There was a set of double doors at the front of the church, but no other entrances facing the road. No visible shattered glass, no boarded up windows. It was next to the elementary schools, just north of them on the other side of the street. It would be a straight shot across from where they were hidden.
More of the undead had shuffled past where George and Jason were crouched behind the bushes. The battle raged on behind them and on the street in front of them. They had move soon.
George closed his eyes and tried to ignore the tumult of unnatural moans, human screams, and ear shattering explosions. He found it to be nearly impossible as he mumbled a short prayer.
As I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.
He brain locked up, blanking on the rest of the passage. George promised that if he ever saw another bible he would memorize all of it.
He opened his eyes and grabbed Jason by the shoulders. The look on the boy’s face made George pause. Jason was still breathing, still conscious, but there was something in his eyes that sent a chill down the man’s spine. Jason looked dead inside.
George shook the boy, rattling the teeth inside his skull.
“Jason!” he screamed in a stage whisper. “We have to go! We have to go NOW!” He continued shaking the boy, almost as much for his own benefit as for the kid’s. It was activity, it was movement. It would keep him distracted enough that he might not freeze or go mad with fear.
Jason eyes moved, tracking until they focused on George, who stopped shaking him and took a deep breath. The blank stare remained, but it looked like there was a trace of curiosity in Jason’s eyes. It wasn’t much, but George would take it as positive sign that the boy was listening and knew what was going on.
“We have to go … there.”
George pointed across the street, pushing the itchy leaves of the bush out of the way to give Jason a chance to see where he was pointing. The kid stared at the church, but did little else.
George shook him again. “Jason! We have to go now!”
A barely visible nod was all George got in response. It was enough. After a quick survey of the area, he stood, tugging on the back of Jason’s shirt as he did. After a moment, the boy rose of his own volition. George put his hand around Jason’s neck and leaned in.
This time Jason looked at George and nodded with confidence.
They took off running over the unkempt and slick grass that fronted the high school. A brief glance down confirmed that the grass was not slick with dew, but with blood.
The vivid image of hell returned as George imagined that they were slipping on the entrails of the dead, sliding downward into a pit toward Satan himself. The heat of several explosions nearby reinforced his nightmarish thinking as they slogged forward.
They ran, slipping in and out of flashes of light that showed ghouls surrounding them on all sides. Soldiers who were still alive kept the ghoul’s interest directed elsewhere. That was what George was counting on. If the infected discovered him and Jason, they might not break off an attack, but it would be best not to tempt them.
Their movements couldn’t be heard over the eruptions of screams or weapons fire, even as the duo weaved between clots of the infected and living that seemed more like a single organism with a thousand tendrils frantically waving about.
The dead grabbed and pawed at the living, smashing fists into armored vehicles that were stalled out, shattering glass or pressing themselves inward on small groups of men firing frantically into the crowd. Other survivors were doing better. They had managed to put down enough of the undead that they had created barriers made of piled corpses that encircled their positions. But even the most composed and calm soldiers were faltering, and as their ammunition ran out they were using their rifles as bludgeons before falling beneath a tide of rotting arms and gnashing teeth.
They kept moving, pausing only briefly to skirt the areas that would draw attention to them. The dead had won this battle and more than likely the war against humanity. They were too busy gorging themselves, swelling their ranks even further, to notice two dark shapes in the night as they ran past. As the duo inched closer to the church, a cold though ran through George’s mind: the human race was about to become extinct.
They hit the other side of the street and avoided a chain link fence that had been smashed flat by vehicles traveling back and forth over the grass between the school parking lot and the church.
They crossed the church lawn with Jason running at
George’s side. George knew the boy was suffering from the loss of Jennifer among other things, but as stunned and traumatized as he was, Jason still seemed willing to fight for his survival. That was something, at least. They reached the edge of the church, sliding across the wall until they were next to the glass doors. A quick tug on the handles confirmed they were locked.
Both the man and the boy were out of breath, wheezing and slumped over as they leaned against the building. After a few seconds, George slapped Jason on the back and led the way to the north side of the building, where the parking lot was. It was furthest from the action. It was also where he hoped to gain entrance to the church without attracting attention.
They crept along, paying close attention to everything behind as well as in front of them. George did his best to scan the area, but it was next to impossible to be sure they hadn’t been spotted. They managed to get to a darkened window and glanced inside at the chapel. It was nearly impossible to see much, but as far as George could tell, the inside of the church looked untouched by the calamity outside.
They kept moving, turning the corner and gliding into the parking lot. There was another set of glass doors and several windows that gave them a view of several vacant class rooms.
Great, it’ll be real tough for these bastards to get at us with all this damn glass, George thought sarcastically.
The side doors were locked as well. George peered inside and saw another set of doors beyond a vestibule that were wooden. The inner doors had small panes of glass in them at eye level, but he couldn’t make out anything beyond them. He turned and scanned the parking lot, trying to find something that might help them break into the building. An open dumpster sat at the back of the lot.
“Stay here,” George commanded Jason as he sprinted toward it.
There didn’t appear to be any movement beyond the lot, though the battle from the street remained thunderous. The side of the building was strangely peaceful and calm, as if it had a bubble of protection over it. George had already blotted out their harrowing experience on the street in his mind. A wrong move out there and he and Jason would have been dragged down in an instant, surrounded and engulfed, but that was in the past. The adrenaline coursing through him had him feeling energized and invulnerable.
He reached the dumpster and leaned over it. The whiff of stale garbage was pleasant compared the stench of corrupted human flesh that wafted on the air and stuck to George’s clothes like cigarette smoke. If he ever made it out of this place alive, the first thing he was going to do was ceremoniously burn the jeans and button down shirt he had put on that morning.
He pushed several garbage bags and loose trash about, leaning deeper into the container in an attempt to reach the back. As he lifted yet another hefty bag, he spied something that might work for what he needed. It was a broken piece of metal framing. He practically slid into the dumpster to avoid losing the spot where it was buried between several sticky plastic cups and what felt like a bag full of grass clippings. He got his forefinger and a thumb around it and grunted as he inched it closer, before managing to wrap his hand around it. George winced as the sharp piece of metal almost cut into his hand. It dug into the skin but didn’t break it.
George heard a whimper behind him and slid out from the dumpster, in the process scraping up his belly to match his scratched hand. He turned to see where it had come from, but already knew. Jason was on the ground squirming backwards in a corner of the entryway as a large figure shambled toward him from the direction of the street. George could see others in the darkness behind the intruder and knew they had been followed. He took off running toward the boy.
The man was hulking. A huge gut protruded outwards and the arms, which had a multitude of bite wounds running up and down their length, wobbled as the he came at the young boy. To say the man was obese was the understatement of the decade. It would be more accurate to say that the man was carnival-freak sized. George estimated he weighed at least four hundred pounds. The waddle of flesh hanging from his chin had been chewed on, but only half devoured. The free floating skin and greasy fat beneath flopped and slapped against the open wounds on the man’s shoulders as he moved closer to Jason. There were stains running down the front of his shirt and onto his pants. Normally George would assume it was the blood, but wondered if the behemoth had been caught mid-meal and it was the remains of his last supper as a human being.
George closed the distance quickly, gripping the shard of metal in his hands. It was rather thin but the broken end was sharp and could spear someone pretty good. Knowing that there were others coming, he didn’t want to lose the sliver on his first attack.
The huge man noticed George and shifted its massive girth in his direction. No sound came from its mouth, but a bubbling hiss emanated from the wound in his throat and green goop spewed forth from it as the man silently growled. George rushed forward, launching his foot at the beast’s chest, sending it backwards. He was surprised at how incredibly heavy the man was, even in death. It toppled into the arms of one of the creatures following it.
Moving past the tangle of arms and legs on the ground, George lashed out with his metal weapon at a teenage girl. The metal bent, but the force of the blow knocked her to the ground. The girl had no lips or eyelids and looked cartoonish with her rictus grin and bulging eyeballs. Two more stiffs were behind her, but George could see no others following them. Those last two were still a few feet back.
The final two ghouls were moving slow enough and were far enough back that George had time to raise his heel and send it down with the full force of his weight onto the head of the girl he’d just smacked with the metal framing. A sickening crunch verified that he had shattered her skull and he avoided looking at what he was sure would be a grisly scene beneath his foot. He could feel the ooze of mushy organic matter clumping to the heel of his shoe.
George turned to glance at the two stiffs he’d knocked over and was happy to see that the smaller one’s legs were still stuck under the stiff he’d dubbed Gigantor. The diminutive one tried to reach out and grab for George, oblivious to the fact that it would have to extricate its legs from underneath the huge beast first to reach him.
Jason was back up and moving toward the fray. George waved him back, sending a well placed kick to the skull of the ghoul trying to grab for him from underneath Gigantor. Its head rocketed to the side and sprayed the asphalt with teeth and what looked to be an eyeball. George looked at his handiwork and realized even with the head trauma he’d just caused it was still moving. He kicked it several more times, until its arms stopped twitching.
Gigantor was desperately trying to get up off of his back, but like a turtle that had been flipped over on its shell he was having a hard time of it. He could wait.
George turned to face the last two monsters that were closing in on him and Jason.
They had been soldiers. The first’s uniform had been ripped off to the waist and he was a few organs short, although his ribcage was still intact. Most of the visible meat on its arms had been ripped clean off, with only bones and ligaments remaining. The other one had one arm and only two fingers remaining on the mauled hand at the end of the appendage.
Dropping the piece of metal, George charged at them. His fist nearly dislocated the first soldier’s jaw as it plowed into it. The blow knocked the creature back and gave George the time he needed to grab the other ghoul by its lone arm and spin it so its gnashing teeth couldn’t reach him. He sent the ghoul skidding across the pavement as he let go, leaving a trail of gristle behind. The one George had punched was already moving back for more, and the stench emanating from its open chest cavity was horrendous. He grabbed both sides of its head quicker that it could react and drove the skull down onto his knee. Pushing the head away, he watched the body tumbled before him. To insure the job was complete, George brought his heel down on the skull and then raced over to finish off the other soldier, who had managed to get back to his knees. A quick kick to its hindquarters dropped it to the ground again. George placed one foot on its back to hold it down while he stomped on its head with the other, until his shoe was soaked with brain matter.
George bent over, exhausted. He was going to have to deal with Gigantor still, but knew the fat man was probably still trying to get off his back. Filling his lungs with corrupted air, he tried to lower his frantic heart rate.
Despite the grim chores he had just completed, George felt exhilarated. How these slow moving, stupid creatures had conquered the human race within a span of just a couple of weeks was incomprehensible. Unless he had to face off against the entire horde on the street, he was certain he could manage just fine against them.
Taking a deep breath, George turned, ready to deal with Gigantor. What he saw sent shockwaves through his body. He had already been stunned several times that night, but nothing compared to what he was seeing now.
The boy that had been nearly catatonic only minutes earlier had managed to regain his senses enough to pick up the piece of metal George had dropped and beat the fat ghoul to death with it.
After it had stopped moving, had stopped grabbing for him, Jason had continued pounding on the head of the corpse, sending sprays of blood and some sort of black, oily discharge squirting out of it as the sharp piece of metal connected with it time and time again.
The look George saw in the boy’s eyes of a stone cold killer. There was no anger, no rage, just focus. He made no sound; there were no screams passing through Jason’s lips. He just kept beating on the dead man, obliterating the flesh and bone of his skull.
George hesitated before moving closer to the boy. At that moment he was afraid to try and separate Jason from the lump of dead flesh in front of him. All the bravado he’d felt at his meager victory against the ghouls slipped away in a heartbeat. It was like a cold splash of water to his face as he watched the twelve year old in his care take out all his frustrations on one of the monsters who wanted to corrupt him like all the others.
The boy was not just splattered with guts, he was drenched with them. Bone chips and a stringy substance that George did not even want to guess at dangled from the boys tightly curled hair as he continued pounding on the corpse with the bent piece of metal.
“Jason!” His voice carried over the muffled sound of battle out on the street. He used the same tone of voice he used when he was mad at his children. He prayed to God it would have the same effect on the orphan as it did his daughters. George got what he wished as the boy stopped the gore-drenched piece of metal from descending into the innards of the ghoul’s head once again.
“Stop that NOW!” George stood with his own clenched fists, trying to display an anger he did not feel, but needed to dredge up if he had any hope of saving Jason from oblivion.
Jason looked at George for a moment and then his eyes dipped back toward the dead man at his feet. After a moment, perhaps to insure that the man was indeed dead, he looked up again. Lifting his hand, he offered the thin strip of metal to George. The look on the twelve year olds face was the same hollow, shell shocked look that had been there earlier, back where they had hid in the bushes next to the high school.
There was something else there too. Through all the dirt and gore that covered Jason’s face, George could see tracks of tears running down it, leaving a trail of purity in a field of blood caked nightmare. The middle aged man felt like crying as well, as he realized that despite all Jason had been through, the boy’s soul was intact. It was pummeled and damaged nearly beyond repair, but it still remained. But for how much longer?
George held back the tears and slapped Jason on the back affectionately, smiling. It was not returned, but he still felt relieved. They were survivors. More importantly, their humanity was still intact.