Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Third Series from Zombie Adventure BLEEDING KANSAS: Escape from Dead City, Part III

Here’s a link to the page with the links to the first two series. The series follow a chronological narrative, but it’s not like you absolutely have to read those first. Our tale opens on the morning of the first full day of the New Weird Order, and Derek Grace knows there’s no safety in the city. He’s not even sure of Tanner, the only other living soul in the luxury hotel they were locked up in while the police and National Guard were overwhelmed outside.

Still, you do what you gotta do, and oftentimes it’s with people you’d rather not be doing it with. Especially when SHTF.
  


All of Kansas City is pouring out of the side streets to swarm us.


I turn right, hoping I can round the block. Wherever these things were hiding as the sun came up, they’re out, drawn to the hum of our engine, the roar of Tanner’s gunfire, the cries of their fellow walkers. I see them coming out from around the buildings, stumbling down the streets I’m crossing, ambling towards us down the otherwise empty avenues.


I glance over to see Tanner trying to figure out the GPS over the bouncing and swerving. “Kansas City International Airport!” I say while pulling hard right to avoid a group of three lunging for us. I avoid overcorrecting and hitting the lamp post by jumping the curb at the corner. That was my first right turn. Fortunately this street is clear. I sprint down this block and skid into my next right, knowing full well I won’t be as lucky on this last run.

“Keep straight,” the GPS says. 

All of Kansas City is pouring out of the side streets to swarm us. Three or more will be bold enough to punch through the glass to get at us. I imagine the rest tearing at the sheets of safety glass, heedless of injury (hell, it just pisses them off more), reaching in with lacerated hands and pulling us out by whatever those hands grab first. How many mouths, how many sets of teeth will cover our bodies, from our faces, eyes, ears, arms, legs? How much will we actually suffer, our beings torn away a single mouthful at a time, before death takes mercy on us?

“You strapped in?” I ask Tanner.

“I recommend picking up the pace, if you don’t mind,” he says.

“All right, then. We’re going to hit some people.”

I press hard on the accelerator and I’m good for the first half of the first block. A man in a suit with his bloodied shirttails hanging comically over his slacks steps out to meet the Tank. He thumps off the front quarter panel, shaking the frame of the SUV as it rolls along the sunny, stinking street.

“Keep straight,” the GPS reminds us. “Prepare to turn right.”

I swerve left but hit two more with the right quarter panel. One spins away, the other goes under the tire. The moaning of the massing dead is like one long sustained shout we can hear even in the nearly airtight cabin of the luxury SUV. We’re halfway through the second block but the mob is thick in front of us now. I can’t see where to turn.

“Turn right, one hundred yards,” the GPS says.

“Don’t slow down!” Tanner says.

If I hit these things full force I’ll trigger the airbags. I cut my speed just enough to bring the ones in front under. The automatic all-wheel drive kicks in and we’re grinding and squishing and breaking the bodies beneath (God, they’d better be) run-flat tires. We rise up on one corner, then fall. We roll up, sag down as we pulverize select pockets of flesh and bone, then roll up another, plunging nose down again over the uneven terrain of howling corpses.

The interior of the Luxury Tank is dark for all the diseased once-people slapping and pounding at the glass. I can barely see over the hood for all the angry cadavers clawing at the front of the vehicle. I hear the strain like cracking ice in the driver’s side window in the rear. I press just a little further on the accelerator. We lurch forward. But only a little. Then we’re pushed back again.

The sound of moaning, snarling dead people grows louder in the near-airtight space of the cab, humming in our very teeth. The side windows are bloody from the fists pounding on them. It won’t be long.

I floor it.

They back away at the roar of the engine enough for me to lurch forward again. The nose of the vehicle dips as we clear the latest mound of bodies. One of the tires is spinning but the rest are working. This angles us to the left a little.

“Turn right,” scolds the GPS.

I cut the wheels left and right. The snarling once-people back away from either corner. They seem to have thought they were safe where they were but now they can’t predict how I’m going. The ones directly up front are crazed with hunger, rage, God-knows, and still go under—except one bad boy with a neck tattoo who has thrown himself up on the hood. I brake hard. He slides back but holds on. I throw the shifter into reverse.

“What are you doing?” says Tanner.

I stomp the pedal again but the crowd behind me is like a wall. All four tires spin uselessly on the slick, ruined flesh beneath us. I hear a sharp crack over the sound of whirring tires. I look back and the window on the other side is crazed with tiny lines. The only thing keeping the rear window intact is all those hunger-mad dead people pressing in from behind. The sheer force and mass of all their bodies make it harder for the ones closest to us to hammer at it with their fists.

“Just get us out of this!” Tanner says. “We’ll shake him when we’re clear!”

“Yes, sir,” I say. I put the shifter back into drive and floor it again. I see what looks to be a slight break to the right and cut the wheel that way.

We jolt away just in time for another loud crack. A wide, jagged shard of the rear window on the driver’s side bows in. An arm thrusts through the gap, working at the wedge of safety glass, peeling it back.


There's more where this came from in
BLEEDING KANSAS, from SEVERED PRESS.


And THAT story continues in 
GRACE AMONG THE DEAD.

US Kindle and Paperback
UK Kindle and Paperback
Canadian Kindle and Paperback


Coming in 2017 

THE WRONG KIND OF DEAD.

The Third Series from Zombie Adventure BLEEDING KANSAS: Escape from Dead City, Part II

Here’s a link to the page with the links to the first two series. The series follow a chronological narrative, but it’s not like you absolutely have to read those first. Our tale opens on the morning of the first full day of the New Weird Order, and Derek Grace knows there’s no safety in the city. He’s not even sure of Tanner, the only other living soul in the luxury hotel they were locked up in while the police and National Guard were overwhelmed outside.

Still, you do what you gotta do, and oftentimes it’s with people you’d rather not be doing it with. Especially when SHTF.

"Like stepping into the hot beating heart of rotting garbage"


I’ve sealed the bacon and sausage, the chicken tenders, the onion rings and cheese sticks in large freezer bags. I sucked the air out of the bags before sealing them. They’ll keep until I can find a cooler and ice.

I take my vacuum sealed goodies to hide in my luggage. I’ve had my stuff—all of one suitcase and my laptop bag—packed, staged, and ready to go since showering this morning. Tanner is so busy tearing into the French toast and scrambled eggs he doesn’t look up as I bang out of the swinging doors. 

He’s finished when I get back from bringing my luggage down. “We ready?” he asks.

“Soon as you stage your gear.”

It’s already downstairs, bless his heart. All we have to do is bring the Luxury Tank around and load out. Tanner insists on going with me. “Just keep that gun holstered unless we have no choice but to blast our way out,” I tell him. I show him the hammer and blade on the belt I’d liberated from Officer Dalton.

“Where’d you get the gun?” 


“Officer Dalton stopped by while I was cleaning up.”

“He did? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because we have trust issues, Tanner.”

“It—I was mainly curious if he had anything to say.”

“Just, ‘take this, it’s really bad, you’re on your own.’”

“Oh.”

We turn the key in the glass door and push it open. Like stepping into the hot beating heart of rotting garbage, the damp, parboiled stench fouls our skin and clothes on contact. Just when you think you’ve adjusted to the smell of walking corpses and their shit-soiled legs, a fresh wave of humid stink rolls over like a fat ocean swell. Our mouths are tightly shut; it’s all we can do to keep our eyes open as we cross the brick-paved roundabout the valets used to bring the cars around.

Clear, so far. No—in the street. I tap Tanner’s arm with the back of my hand and point. We stop behind the fountain and watch.

He’s a heavyset middle-aged guy, big-shouldered and silver-haired. I’d rather not think about who was there by the bed when he woke up, and whose blood that is down the front of his blue silk pajamas. As for what he’s doing on this street in front of the hotel, I’m guessing he got out of the other major hotel one block over.

The stench is beyond mere shit. Tanner and I both have our hands over our mouths. We don’t even wait for this thing to pass. We take quick breaths behind our hands and run for the garage.

That smell is even worse in the garage. Like it’s been cooking in here. Our watering eyes aren’t yet adjusted to the dim yellow light when a skinny white wannabe gangbanger rises from the shadows in the near corner behind us. It doesn’t cry out until we turn to face it. If it hadn’t been for all the scraping and shuffling as it got to its feet it might have snuck up on us.

Tanner reaches for his gun. I hold up my hand and walk towards the boy, the meat tenderizer in one hand, the butcher’s blade in the other. The boy raises his arms to grab at me.

I swing the blade and one hand falls away mid-forearm. He drops his other arm before I can hit it. His angry bellow echoes throughout the parking garage. He swings his remaining arm around but I’ve switched out the blade for the meat tenderizer. I remember something about how some fighters can kill you instantly by shoving your nose bone into your brain and I angle my next blow to do just that.

That should settle it but Tanner and I are in the not-so-sweet spot of surround-sound growling reverberating throughout the concrete cave of the garage. The Luxury Tank is just ahead in the first slot beyond the handicapped spaces. I click the remote lock and we both run to the vehicle. 


NEXT: Part III: "The undead from the garage are staggering out into the sunlight and headed our way."



          

That’s right, there are THREE different covers for Bleeding Kansas. The story of the first two is at the end of Part 1 of this excerpt series. The cover on the far right is for the German translation by Luzifer Verlag. The apocalypse has gone international. Put your affairs in order. Better yet, put in an order for one of these books. You’ll want something to read in the down time between catastrophes.

The Third Series from Zombie Adventure BLEEDING KANSAS: Escape from Dead City, Part I

Here’s a link to the page with the links to the first two series. The series follow a chronological narrative, but it’s not like you absolutely have to read those first. Our tale opens on the morning of the first full day of the New Weird Order, and Derek Grace knows there’s no safety in the city. He’s not even sure of Tanner, the only other living soul in the luxury hotel they were locked up in while the police and National Guard were overwhelmed outside.

Still, you do what you gotta do, and oftentimes it’s with people you’d rather not be doing it with. Especially when SHTF.
  

 “It doesn’t occur to you that trust might have gone out the window when you let that undead cougar have at me last night?”


Tanner gamely pretends he didn’t get punked this morning. “I thought you’d gone ahead and left,” he says.

“I figured I’d sleep in,” I say, walking past him to the kitchen behind the bar. The look on his face when I came around the corner behind the stairs was priceless. At least he’s not wearing those silly tennis shorts.

“You realize it’s a long way to Colorado from here.” says Tanner, following after. “We’ve got a lot of Kansas to cross. Six hundred miles.”

“I’d allow for some leeway on our ETA. You said it yourself. We don’t know who’s waiting for us on the road. Or what.”

“Okay,” he says. “You’re right about that. That’s why I was hoping we could go scouting on foot. I suggested that last night, too, if you’ll remember.”

“I remember. And since this is the last place we’ll have ready access to food for a while, I suggest eating the biggest, heartiest breakfast we can come up with. Right now.”

I bang through the swinging doors behind the bar into the kitchen. He bangs in after me. “We don’t have the time for that.”

“You don’t have time for that. Me, I figure I’ve got the rest of my life to starve to death.” I take off my suit jacket, hang it up where Angie had put it yesterday. “For however long that is.”

“We can find food on the way.”

“Oh, you’ll let me stop to eat? When?”

“I thought you’d want to see your family tonight.”

I laugh. “You were honestly going to let me see my family first? My apologies, Mr. Tanner. All this time, I’d presumed you were passive-aggressively carjacking me.”

“All I’d asked was whether or not you want to come with me to Highlands Ranch. I’ve got guns and supplies there. I thought I was doing you a favor.”

“That’s what you want the man with the rental vehicle to think while he does all the driving, puts all the gas on his credit card, and takes nothing from you but orders.” I’m turning the dials on the fryer and grill. “By the way, how were you getting around while you were in town? Didn’t you have a rental of your own?”

“I had a driver.”

“Better call him up, then. I’m running my own itinerary here.”

I go into the fridge for eggs. Tanner is still standing by the grill when I come out. “You going to eat all that?” he says, watching me crack eggs on the grill.

“Not right now. I need to find something to carry the rest with me.”

“Look, I understand if you don’t trust me,” Tanner says as I check the fry vats. “I imagine you figure you had a pretty good reason to move from your room.”

“How did you know I’d moved?” I say.

“You weren’t answering. What was I supposed to do? I had the master key. I looked in. Everything was gone. I thought you’d left already.”

I look at this jumped-up salesman before me. Yeah, nothing creepy about that at all, Tanner. I had a feeling he’d do something like that, which is why I changed rooms. Sometimes I really hate being right about people.

I turn to the freezer to get the breaded chicken tenders. I wish I’d thought to put these in the refrigerator last night to defrost, but moving what was left of Angie and all those twisted-faced corpses turned me off all thoughts of food. Last night was no good until I got a fresh, non-corpse-carrying luggage carrier up to my room, and moved everything down to the second floor. Then I could finally work on my growler of high-end draft before passing out.

 “Look,” Tanner says. “Like it or not we need each other. Our best chance for surviving is to have someone on shotgun at all times. Alone, we don’t stand much of a chance. We have to sleep. Those things don’t. That’s one of the few things they know about them. They don’t stop to rest.”

I pull my large oval plate close for the eggs. Something’s missing. Orange juice? I drop the first round of chicken tenders into one fry vat, a bag of onion rings into the other. The crackling and steam causes Tanner to step back.

“There’s probably an optimal number of people who could expect to make it safely through the swarms of dead and the occasional bands of marauders,” Tanner says as the racket dies down. “Right now it’s just you and me. But we need to build on this. We’ve got to trust each other.”

 “It doesn’t occur to you that trust might have gone out the window when you let that undead cougar have at me last night?”

“What? You’re going to hold that against me?”

“Unreasonable as it sounds to an arrogant, sociopathic fuck like you, Tanner, yes.”

“Okay, okay. Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about but I obviously crossed a line somewhere. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Will you accept my apology?”

“No.”

“You’re not accepting my apology, then.”

“I just said I wasn’t. That you don’t know what you’re apologizing for renders it invalid.”

“All I heard was cursing and my name.”

“Fine. We’re done. Look, this might be the last time any of us will see eggs, bread, and fried cheese sticks, and I’d like to say a proper goodbye. So.” I jerk my head in the direction of the door.

Tanner opens his mouth to say something but shuts up. He turns and leaves the kitchen. I hear the TV come on in the lobby. 

I’ll give him credit. He could have pulled his gun. And the more I think about it, he’s right. We both need a wingman. The hell of it is someone like him won’t entirely have my back. And you could fill a fleet of Luxury Tanks with the fucks I don’t give for him.

Which brings home how long it might be until I have eggs again. The monsters were eating the family dogs at the mass burial; will chickens survive this? Cows?

All of a sudden I flash on my wife. My son and daughter. Our cats.

I feel the heaviness upon me. Just as it was when I woke up, writhing within the constricting coils of an anxious pre-dawn hour before I managed to fling my legs over the edge of the mattress. I try telling myself I would have left my wife well cared for before I began furnishing my new house in Kansas City. 

Right. I was still leaving her to grow old and die in that crumbling little starter cottage in that crumbling old neighborhood in crumbling north Colorado Springs.
Which she did anyway.

My wife of 22 years. 

My son. My daughter.

Goddamn, and those poor fucking cats. (Yes, the cats!)

The timer beeps over the fry vat. I pull up the basket, bang it to the side to knock the oil off, and hook it to drain. The snap-clicks as I shut off the fryer and the grill—I wish I had something less trite than “sounds like the slamming of coffin lids” but it’s all I got.

I hear the TV outside in the bar. I look around the kitchen. The bright overhead lights. The fry vats and electric grills. Humming. Buzzing. Functioning. 

Like regular TV programming, this is all going away. 

I doubt there was even an evening shift to relieve at the power plants this a.m. How about the water and sewage treatment plants? How many of those workers were straining against the yellow tape when the dead kicked out of their winding sheets and clambered out of the trenches on each other’s backs? 

I pull up a stool. I could sit outside at the bar but I need to take all this in without the distractions of Tanner, the TV, and whatever might be pawing at the front plate glass in the lobby. 

I’m working the knife and fork when I realize what I’ve been missing. I go to the fridge and bring out all the bacon that will fit on the grills. Breakfast tastes so much better as I take my bites in between laying out the strips and cleaning as I go. I use the time before the first turning of the meat to secure the insulated bags used to carry up room service dinners. Once the bacon is turned it’s less than a minute before they’re draining on the paper towels I’ve laid out for them. 

I’m laying out the rest of the bacon along and a box of sausage patties when Tanner comes through the door. He’s a smidge paler than when I last saw him. “There’s nothing on the TV but pre-recorded loops,” he says. “Nothing. Not even local stuff.”

“It was like that since before dawn,” I say.

“It’s just—well, this was to be expected.” Tanner pulls himself up a little. He chuckles nervously. “Crazy as it sounds I half-expected someone to pop in with a weather report.”

“Weather’s gonna be what it’s gonna be,” I say, breaking down the boxes the bacon and sausage patties came in. I put them in the lined trash barrel behind me. “Hot, with a chance of afternoon thundershowers. What about it?”

“That’s just it,” Tanner says as if he’d heard something else entirely. “The sky looked good from the roof but these things can blow in anytime. If nothing else, we need to be in the air well before afternoon.”

I stop and look at Tanner.

“What?” says Tanner. “I pretty sure these things didn’t eat the Cessnas and Pipers. If we can find one of those and gas it up we’re out of here.”

“You can fly?”

“Well, it’s something I just thought of, really. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. It’s been so long….”

“Tanner, you are a piece of work. I swear, if you’re making this up—”

“I’ve only flown these things on the computer, all right?” Tanner says. “Are you willing to take that chance? Because whether or not I want to chance it myself is what’s got me in knots right now.”

“How many hours did you put in on the flight simulator game?”

“Enough for my wife to comment on it.”

“Enough that you’re seriously willing to try it?”

“Various stretches of hours over the years. Just haven’t had the time for lessons and licensing. It’s been on my bucket list.”

“Here’s your chance to prove to your wife you weren’t wasting time.”

“Really? Are you trying to talk me into this? You didn’t strike me as that desperate to get back.”

“In the best of conditions, it takes all day to drive across Kansas. And that’s assuming we’re starting at dawn, and that nothing and no one stops us.”

“Even without interruptions we’d never get home in time,” Tanner says, as if speaking to himself.

“No interruptions in the air. We’ll be in Colorado well before dark.”

“I don’t have to take it too high.” 

“We can just follow I-70.”

“That’ll work until Denver.”

“Where you’ll follow I-25 south towards Highlands Ranch. At least until we’re in the open country outside Lone Tree.”

“Where’ll we land?”

“Any open stretch of Interstate should do.”

“Huh. Yes. They were actually designed for that.” Tanner pauses. “Thing is, we have to assume Highlands Ranch and Colorado Springs look a lot like this. If they’re not broadcasting out of New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles, it’s Game Over across the board. Which is why I’d really like it if you came along. Safety in numbers.”

“We’ll need food.”

“Yes, I understand that better now. You think you could spare me a plate of what you’ve got left?”

“Take the leftover eggs and French toast. The bacon and sausage will keep if I cook it thoroughly.”

“Protein and fat. My God, this might be the last we see of it.” 

I hand him an oval plate. “Let’s worry about that when we get to wherever we’re going.”

I expect him to take it outside to the bar but he straddles the stool I was using and eats where I was just minutes before. I’m under the impression that this is all coming home to him, and he’d rather not be left alone with it.

This shit is getting weirder by the minute.


NEXT: “Like stepping into the hot beating heart of rotting garbage.”



First edition. Available
only in paperback.
AFTERWORD: Crazy as it sounds, there are two editions of Bleeding Kansas, and they differ in more than just their covers. The first edition contains more overtly misanthropic observations from Grace about the people and even the undead around him, some of which apparently hit some reviewers where they live. It also contains the death of a special-needs child that really upset some others. The child dies because Tanner is an asshole, but people blamed Grace, then me, for being fucking heartless, or whatever. Because innocents don’t die in zombie apocalypses, only people who have it coming. Or who can defend themselves. Or whatever.


Second edition, in Kindle
and in paperback.
So I rewrote the book. Six pages fell away as I niced it up for sensitive readers. We slapped a new cover on it and figured we could leave the bitchy reviews behind. Although the reaction to the new version hasn’t been all that bad, it seems we got more positive vibes from those discerning readers who expect a properly violent and nasty apocalypse than not. When I finish the third book in the series (yes, the second is already out) I’ll restore the child’s death and some of the misanthropic snark, in the course of making the Ultimate Version. If the death of special-needs children bothers you, if angry people make you feel uncomfortable, this is the version for you. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Let the Right Ghost In

Christmas is so much more haunted than any Halloween


I’m visited by the ghosts of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol throughout the season—excepting Marley, of course, as I never knew him personally. The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come are personal to each of us, however. They appear to us as we live, have lived, and might yet live our lives, judged and measured by the kind of Christmas we keep.


The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come are three very distinct entities. Over the years I’ve learned that each of these seasonal spirits requires special handling.

Christmas Past looks pretty from a distance, but up close
she’s quite cold and dead. Not someone you want to
spend a lot of time with.
The Ghost of Christmas Past can be tricky. He (or she) can warm your heart with memories of the best times, from childhood, young adulthood, and beyond—before turning around and taunting you with memories of joys never to be seen again. Hey, remember that big goofy dog you grew up with? The cat that always tried to climb the Christmas tree? Dad? Mom? Uncle Clyde, Uncle Joe, Cousin Ben, Aunt Margie? Now you remember they’re gone.

How about that ex-lover of yours? That relationship you thought was the One? Yeah, too bad about that. 

“So I’ll never be happy like that again,” you scream at her. “Thanks for nothing!”

“I only show what went before,” says the Ghost of Christmas Past. “You make up your own mind what it all means.”

Naturally, this only angers you more. That is, until you make that final cognitive leap, and learn to accept things as they are, not as you insist they should be. Relationships, people, pets, jobs...nothing and no one is forever. Everything runs its course. It takes a while (it did for me, anyway) but you do learn to be grateful for whatever good you’ve had in your life, however transient it was. 

Accepting that it all had to go in the first place is the big one, of course.

I’ve more or less made my peace with my past, such as it is. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, on the other hand, I’ve all but had to banish. That Grim Reaper-esque-looking thing is all about the buzzkill. Says nothing, only points. Points to graves. Points to the people moving on as you lie still. Walking and talking, cackling about their future profits and whatever, while you are lost to joy and life—and, soon, memory—altogether.


With respect to Mr. Dickens, he got this one wrong. 
The Ghost of Christmas Present is like the pretty girl who wishes you would just notice her. She’s right there in front of you but doesn’t say anything. She can’t, really. She’s entirely dependent on you. 

The Ghost of Christmas Present is not some feasting, jolly fellow as described in Dickens’ story, but a child who grows and becomes what you make of her throughout the season. 

Don’t let that child down. She will grow old and fade as the 25th of December passes and the season becomes the New Year. But she will become a part of Christmas Past, and her nature will influence that of Yet to Come. Of the three spirits who come a-calling, the Ghost of Christmas Present is the only one who really matters. Keep her close, and keep her well, always.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Belated Christmas Greetings from the Bunker

Who knew that writing my wife’s art history paper was going to take so much out of me? I finished that thing early Sunday night, but I was useless afterward, adrift in a sea of beer and the occasional rum-and-Coke. 

Later, I got some forward momentum going on The Wrong Kind of Dead. I’ve got Derek Grace swinging his panga through a mob that nearly swarms him, Agnes’ monster truck flattening as many as she can while she debates using the flame thrower, which will surely catch the surrounding woods on fire. I don’t know if she’s going to use it yet, either.

He’s not lying. I was out running a simple errand, and
it was nuts out there on Christmas Eve.
Then Christmas happened. It didn’t catch me by surprise. I’d already finished my shopping by Sunday night. The packages arrived on schedule, and the wrapping went according to schedule. 

I’m not big on keeping schedules, so the success of my plan was that much sweeter. But while I was prepared for Christmas, I wasn’t throwing myself wholeheartedly into it. Part of me was in hiding from it all. 

No, I’m not sure what that means, either. I’m still working through the details of what happened Christmas night, but I’m pretty sure it was this psychic dodging, on top of the lack of sleep, on top of a flu and a hangover I hadn’t quite gotten over, on top of the Welbutrin I had foolishly ingested earlier in the day to keep me awake, that knocked me out of alignment on what should be one of the happiest days of the year.

Overall, though, it was a great teaching moment. In spite of everything, I got almost as much out of it as it took from me—I’ve been meaning to write a book on re-learning how to celebrate Christmas for decades, and I’ve got a nice fat Word file out of it, full of ideas for how to flesh out a concept I’ve been kicking around my entire adult life. 

Bottom line, I got my head screwed back on straight enough to write a blog post that essentially informs the reader that there are very good reasons I don’t encourage people to follow me on Facebook. I try to keep all my boring personal stuff there. 

It’s a big year ahead, with many, many changes in store. But I got new underwear, a spiffy new bathrobe, and fresh fleecy jammy bottoms to face them with. All this, and a comfy new leather chair. I’ve mourned my dead. Let’s put this new gear to work.
Anytime you’re ready.

Friday, December 19, 2014

More from BLEEDING KANSAS: “In the Night Kitchen” Part IV

This series of excerpts from Bleeding Kansas begins shortly after the last one ended. The Dark Resurrection is in full effect and nowhere outside this downtown Kansas City hotel is safe. Derek Grace has already lost his wife. His children are 600 miles away in Colorado Springs. He has no weapons, and his one companion is a smug, manipulative corporate hustler who nearly allowed Grace to be overcome by an undead woman, just to watch him struggle. 

Derek Grace has much to think about, and much more to do. First and foremost on the list: a transformation. From desperate middle-aged job seeker into the DEAD SILENCER.


“I turn to face the bodies”


I sidestep. Dalton’s foot catches between the woman’s ankles and he goes down face-first. The muscles in my chest and arms sing as I raise the skillet, dropping the broad black iron on the back of his skull as hard as I can. The shock buzzes clear through my elbows. Between the tile floor and the swift impact of broad, flat, heavy-as-hell iron skillet, his head is…okay, we’re done.


I stand over the stilled bodies, fighting my gag reflex. I’m aware of a terrible shit-and-spoiled-meat odor and it’s not helping my adrenaline hangover. I marvel at how readily I slashed at other humans with sharp blades and swung blunt objects into their skulls.

I barely make it to the sink. The projectile force of my vomit covers the distance for me. I turn on the spigot and work the spray hose to rinse my mouth and clear the sink.

I turn to face the bodies. Of course, they’re not human; this fucked-up instinct to eat living flesh is nasty, fuck them! Still. This came so easy. Not that I’m ungrateful for this opportunity to second guess my own success. Still, rage issues? Was Tanner right?

Tanner. Christ. The only living person I know and he’s running his own game. Lucky me, though, I have a minor gold mine at my feet. Officer Dalton, and his full urban paramilitary battle-rattle, bleeding between my shoes.

The stick? Jesus, that’s hilarious. I think it’s a safe bet everyone who’s surviving this so far—especially the ones who will make it through until morning—has guns. There are plenty of chewed-over National Guardsmen and police to pick over once someone drops their turned carcasses. If I can forget my squeamishness long enough to drop a zombie cop, there’s a good chance someone with no squeamishness to forget is doing it even better.

The Taser? No. The only thing I can really use is the 9mm and the holster. Three rounds in the magazine, but an extra full mag on the belt. Loud, but definitely lethal. I’ve got a flashlight, too. I take the cleaver and hammer to the sink to rinse them off and it occurs to me I might not have access to running water for a while.  Might as well make use of it.

I find the blade sharpener. It’s one of the better ones, as befits a chef who works at a hotel important enough to rate its own police officer. I stuff it in my pocket as I walk around the back of the kitchen, looking for the back door where deliveries are taken. I’m guessing he came in this way, but I can’t be sure, no more than I know what he was doing with that young woman. A rape in progress? Or maybe he really was playing hero to some scared young thing hurt by one of the monsters.

Yeah, right. Seriously, didn’t this Trained Professional see the same things I did on TV, only much worse, and up close and in person? After watching Guardsmen with body armor and M4s go down, what made him think his XXL uniform would shield him?

I’m no detective; I can’t tell if they came through this way. The door is closed, and (should be) locked from the outside. I put my ear against the metal. Cleaver in one hand, hammer in the other, I lift my foot and push the door open at the bar with my leg.

Clear. Even better, the dumpster at the far edge of the loading dock is open. I let the door fall closed. I make sure it’s latched and locked before running back to drag what’s left of Dalton and his lady friend here.

The door braces open with a hinged foot at the bottom, enabling me to half-carry, drag the bodies out and sling them into the dumpster. The dumpster lid leans against the lip of the dock so I don’t have to go down to street level to close it. I find the mop and bucket, fill up the bucket and clean the gore from the tile.

I’d rather not look at the bodies in the lobby, let alone manhandle them outside, but they won’t smell any better come morning and I’m going to want breakfast. I find a luggage dolly and start rolling the bodies two at a time to the dock. Then I find some disinfectant and get the blood and shit up as best I can.

In any event, Tanner doesn’t need to know what I just learned I’m capable of. Not while I’m still trying to make sense of it myself.

God help me, this is actually kind of thrilling.


There's more where this came from in BLEEDING KANSAS, from SEVERED PRESS.


And THAT story continues in GRACE AMONG THE DEAD.

US Kindle and Paperback
UK Kindle and Paperback
Canadian Kindle and Paperback

Coming in 2016: THE WRONG KIND OF DEAD.

More from BLEEDING KANSAS: “In the Night Kitchen” Part III

This series of excerpts from Bleeding Kansas begins shortly after the last one ended. The Dark Resurrection is in full effect and nowhere outside this downtown Kansas City hotel is safe. Derek Grace has already lost his wife. His children are 600 miles away in Colorado Springs. He has no weapons, and his one companion is a smug, manipulative corporate hustler who nearly allowed Grace to be overcome by an undead woman, just to watch him struggle. 

Derek Grace has much to think about, and much more to do. First and foremost on the list: a transformation. From desperate middle-aged job seeker into the DEAD SILENCER.


“Her flesh-clotted teeth bared to their blue-black gums”


I’m casting about the room, looking for the—there. The chef’s station.

A heavy, cleated meat tenderizer. A cleaver.

She has animal sense enough to brace one arm against the hot table to hold herself upright as she takes large strides to close the distance between us, her blue-gray hand gliding along the brushed steel of the grill table. But I have two working legs and a righteous fear for my life.

The cleaver is in my left hand, the meat hammer in my right. She rounds the edge of the table. Her arms stretch to take me, her flesh-clotted teeth bared to her blue-black gums as she moans in anticipation of fresh meat. I bring my left arm across my body and swing out.


One arm falls just below the elbow; the other dangles by a strip of flesh. The woman yelps, more in rage than pain, and lunges at me with her legs. My right arm comes up, around, and brings the hammer square between her eyes.

I can’t tell if she’s truly down or just stunned. Recalling the reporter’s admonition that the lower brain must be destroyed I bury the cleaver in the back of her skull where she lies face-down on the floor. If that doesn’t do the job I don’t know what will.

“Unnnnh?” says Officer Dalton, and I’m so glad he spoke up or I wouldn’t have seen him. I pull at the cleaver.

It’s stuck. I step out of the way and end up tripping over the woman’s body. Officer Dalton reaches down for me and I roll away just in time. He falls across the woman, his hand pushing at the blade in the back of the woman’s skull. With a sklutch-squish it bends to one side, prying up a section of bone. Best of all, it’s loose.

I can’t reach it without being grabbed. Dalton’s hands flail and grasp at me across the remains of the woman who turned him. I think of how that Guardsman’s flesh bulged in the grip of that fat woman, of the lampstand in that girl’s hands. Once those things have a hold on you, that’s it. You’re done.

It’s probably what happened to Dalton. No telling what he was doing with this woman in the first place, but it’s a safe bet he didn’t think someone so small had a chance of taking his fat Trained Professional ass down. All she needed was a couple of handfuls of clothing and flesh and her jaws did the rest.

I scramble to my feet. Knives of varying lengths hang from the wall behind the chef’s station but they’re not long or thick enough to sever hands. Not as fast as I need to do it. The world’s largest iron skillet sits to one side. I swipe at it with one hand and nearly dislocate my shoulder. I grab at it two-handed and swing as hard as I can at Dalton’s hands. I hit one; with luck I broke the bones in it.

Like the woman before him, though, mere injury only enrages him. He lunges for me. 


NEXT: “I turn to face the bodies”


There's more where this came from in BLEEDING KANSAS, from SEVERED PRESS.


And THAT story continues in GRACE AMONG THE DEAD.

US Kindle and Paperback
UK Kindle and Paperback
Canadian Kindle and Paperback

Coming in 2016: THE WRONG KIND OF DEAD.