Monday, October 21, 2013

God Deliver Us From People With Something to Prove in the Zombie Apocalypse

It’s been a while since we’ve played with the living dead. I was going through a rocky patch in Grace Among the Dead in which I was wrestling with my villain, getting him and his threat established. It took me away from the actual moneymakers and the book’s very raisons d’être.

That changed today. Although it’s from the as-yet published sequel, I want to share this scene. I love their entrance:

There are maybe 70 or so men spread out along either side of the road down the hill to the next terrace. Mostly men, that is, after a point there are no more women to be seen. I noticed some of the SUVs and minvans loading up and driving away at the top of the ridge. Apparently Sparks isn’t making this demonstration mandatory. Thank God for small favors.

There’s a line of men standing in front of me so I can’t see what it is that spooks the herd, but all at once there’s an “ooooooh!” and everyone seems to be taking three steps back at once.

I’ve got my panga out and I’m running around the last straggler on the sidewalk. I skid to a halt on my heels.

The odor of all these bodies billowing up the hill alone is enough to stop a charging rhino. A large, seething mob of reanimated dead, thick as ants, I can’t even begin to estimate the number—Sparks’ people has brought them up the frontage road, following behind three pickup trucks. They had just rounded the corner as I was coming down.

They’re all of three blocks and two terraces away. It’s been two whole days for me. I wonder how long it’s been since these men along the sides of the street have seen a dead person.

The men in the truck flatbeds below are thumping their chests and waving at the mass of shuffling corpses, who lurch forward, then fall back slowly as the trucks speed up and they realize there’s no catching this prey. Still, it’s right in front of them. They’re obliged to take their meat.

It’s the ones up front at first. They stop to jerk their heads about, causing the others to bump into them from behind. But then those push away and begin jerking their heads around. As if on signal, all three trucks pull away rapidly up the hill towards us.

The crowd of shuffling, ragged dead pause as one. So many heads—100? 200?—look straight at us with white, dusty, sightless eyes. From weathered, haggard faces arrested at one point of decomposition or another, they look to the living, breathing, humans just up the hill. They sense the anxious movement, they smell the fear sweat.

Judging by the roar that comes from their dry, dead throats, we must smell absolutely delicious.

I’ll be spending the rest of this evening trying to get my hero and his people out of there. Wish me luck.