Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Exclusive Preview from Book 3 of the SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER: Oyster Crackers, Part I

A Winter’s Tale, with Zombies, in Five Parts
This story, a flashback within a flashback, occupied most of October and November for me, as I had to establish Elyssa’s and Agnes’ backstory. I might not even use most, if any of this material, especially if it gets in the way of the narrative. Still, as Hemingway said in his parable of the iceberg, it’s good for the author to know much more than is stated explicitly to the reader.

It’s a hell of a story, though, and a shame to waste it, so onto the blog it goes. A tale of Bad Friday, the Dark Resurrection, as told over bowls of hot clam chowder on a dark and snowy afternoon. Pull up a chair and hang onto your lunch. Derek Grace’s post-apocalypse marriage to Dark Agnes isn’t the only thing getting messy here.


I’ve accepted the situation as fluid since October when, pregnant and crazy with hormones and nerves, Agnes first banished me from our bedchamber. “Look, this is nothing personal,” Agnes would say, time and again, “I need to do this on my own.”

Never mind what I thought about being on my own, but what the hell. A.J. was established in the middle room, and I wasn’t about to make her suffer for my misfortune. Besides, I already had my eye on the mother-in-law house. I already used it sometimes during the day when I needed a siesta, or a quiet place to read. It took me all of half an hour to move in, and no time at all to adapt to my surroundings.


*****

We still had plenty of everything then. Agnes, Elyssa, Brother Christopher, Ethan, the whole merry band still gathered around the fire pit in the evenings. The mood was bright, everyone happy to be alive and together. Agnes even made a point of kissing me good night at each evening’s end. There were no hard feelings as I retired to the cottage, except maybe from A.J., who got called out of her room anyway to keep Agnes company in my absence. 

I felt for poor A.J. Having my own space away, but not too far away from everyone, was exactly what I needed. I liked being by myself, reading by the lantern light, standing outside and staring up at the stars at night. Even the howls of the dead from the city below seemed easier to take, without having someone else’s terror to feel responsible for. In a sense, I understood what Agnes was on about, even if she didn’t seem to understand it herself. Whatever it was, I didn’t hold it against her.


*****

On Saturday, it snowed. I looked out the window to see Elyssa kicking through the blue-white snowfield towards my place, an iron Dutch oven held up in her hands. She wore a dark green hoodie zipped up over her granny gown nightdress, with the hoodie’s sleeves pulled over her hands so she could hold the handles of the hot ironware. With the hood shadowing her face, she looked like a Druid priestess turned bag lady.

I opened the door to behold her face glowing like a child’s at Christmas from beneath her snow-flecked hood. “Agnes sent me with this,” she said, like she had the most precious gift.

Which she did. Elyssa had brought me the canned clam chowder I’d scored during our raid on the big box shoppers club on Nevada Avenue. Unless I got lucky, this was, for all intents and purposes, the last of the clam chowder on earth.

It seemed sad, even wasteful that I should have this all to myself, and on such a perfect day for it. I suggested running back to the main house myself to bring Agnes over.

“She says she doesn’t want any,” said Elyssa. “This is for you and me.”

“Right.” I had my doubts, but the early season snow was heavy and wet, and I really didn’t want to go out unless it was a matter of life or death. Elyssa’s granny dress was soaked from walking through this mess, so I had her change into my bathrobe back in my bedroom while I took the bowls down from the cupboard.

Elyssa called me out for making a sad face when I thought about how nice oyster crackers would be with this. I was opening my mouth to tell her that I had every right to be depressed over the passing of oyster crackers from the world when she began telling me her story. How she was living at home with her parents, taking care of her invalid mother while her father worked and her younger brother went to school. They had no extended family, and friends were few and far between as her father went from one job to another according to the ebb and flow of the economy.


*****

“Go ahead, eat before it gets cold,” Elyssa admonished me somewhere among these details.

“You, too,” I said.

“No, I need to tell you this,” she said. “I’ve wanted to tell you my story since that very first day I saw you at Sisters Keep. All this time, you’ve never asked.”

“This is the first time in all that time we’ve ever spoken without a bunch of other people around.”

Elyssa’s eyes flashed, as if she just realized something. The corners of her mouth turned up, and it was the ever smiling, sunshine-and-lollipops Elyssa who leaned in and said, “Agnes always kept you close, didn’t she?”

“It’s always been something.”

“Mm-hmm,” she said, bringing the spoon to her lips. She smiled over her bowl at me as if we shared some secret. I took this as my cue to eat, too. This was the last clam chowder on earth for all we knew, and it was damned good.

After a while, Elyssa took our empty bowls to the sink while I tended the wood-burning stove. I resumed my seat to find a fresh mug of coffee waiting for me, and the rest of Elyssa’s story.


NEXT: Part II: “Elyssa knew something was wrong when she opened the door.”


I’m still working on Book 3, but Books 1 and 2 of THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER are available NOW from Severed Press!

Check out Book 1, Bleeding Kansas, in Kindle and paperback. When you’re done with that, go straight to Grace Among the Dead, also in Kindle and paperback. These are brutal tales, brutally written, and both picked up by Luzifer-Verlag for German translation. Check out what the Germans like so much better than your fellow Americans!

Book 1 has ONE exploding head
on its cover.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?


















They’re also available in Canada and the UK.


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