Wednesday, December 03, 2014

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

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’s Part I if you missed it.

Elyssa had returned from a round of errands-running that had taken twice as long as it had to, owing to most places being closed. This was late in that last week when people weren’t even bothering to call in sick, because whoever wasn’t sick was staying home to take care of their people. Elyssa’s father, for his part, had been functional up until that last day before Bad Friday, when he was bedridden and running a fever fit to fry an egg. 

The bag from the pharmacy still over her wrist, Elyssa knew something was wrong when she opened the door. There was that smell. That noise, that sound…she stepped into her mother’s bedroom to find her father sucking noisily at her mother’s arm. There was blood on the floor, sheeting down the bedspread. A huge crimson stain pooled across on the floor.

Her father turned around to face her. One look into those blind, dry eyes over his red-dripping mouth, and Elyssa understood immediately, as so many in similar situations did not, that this was not her father. She backed out the door and ran through the house, the thing in her father’s skin close behind her.

“I was fresher,” said Elyssa. With no other information, only the instinct of the born survivor, Elyssa had understood that.

She’s sure it was her habitual turn of the lock as she pulled the front door shut behind her that saved her. Elyssa heard her father yanking furiously at the door, almost breaking the knob as she climbed into her car. He was crashing through the picture window after her as she pulled out of the driveway. She heard the thump of his cold dead hand on the back of the car as she put the shifter into drive and screeched away.

The last Elyssa saw of her father was in the rearview mirror. He stood in the middle of the empty street, waving his arms and yelling, the essence of her dying mother falling in thick, wet chunks down the front of his shirt.

She drove by the school where her younger brother was, only to realize school had already been closed for a couple of days. Elyssa tried his number on her cell but the call went straight to voice mail.

It was still Thursday afternoon, 24 hours away from the mass resurrection, but Elyssa understood. “I saw things,” she said. “Behind windows. In backyards. While I was riding around looking for places that were open. I’d thought I was just imagining things, but after going home, I knew.” 

Elyssa drove the deserted streets to her best friend’s house, but she had an idea even then that wasn’t going to work out.

“Marlene wanted to go run with some boys she knew, because she figured they wouldn’t be scared like us. We might have to…do stuff with them, but at least we’d be safe. She wanted me to drive her over, so I did, but I left her there. I knew some of them from school. Five years after graduation nothing had changed for them. Still hanging out, smoking, drinking, talking trash. They were just boys. I’d be surprised if they made it through that first weekend.”

Although the streets were empty, it occurred to Elyssa that she was going to see a lot more people like her father around. Elyssa’s first instinct was to drive south out of town, into the high desert between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. 

“I had a feeling,” said Elyssa. “If everyone was sick like Daddy was….”

“You left your house, just like that. Do you even know what happened to your brother? Look, I’m not judging. I left my—”

“You left your wife sick at home with your children while you left town to interview for a job. Everyone knows the story.”

“I was just wondering how you did it.”

“I’d known Marlene since pre-school. Don’t forget her.”

“Right, okay—”

“It was over,” Elyssa said, almost as a shout. “I saw it in my father’s face. Mom was gone, and she was coming back just like Dad, I knew it. I didn’t want to see her like that. Her arm....” Elyssa looked out the snow-dark window. “My brother, Lyle, he didn’t care when cancer put Mom down in her bed for the last year of her life, and he didn’t care when Dad got sick. He was out running with his little wolf pack. Like Marlene, he probably didn’t make it past the weekend.”

Elyssa turned to me, her mouth a tight, thin line. “I thought I should feel guilty for being relieved that my family’s part in this was over. That I knew what happened to everybody. That all I had to do was dig in and wait for the worst to pass. Except I didn’t have anywhere to go. All I knew is I couldn’t go back to where I’d been. All this time taking care of other people, and I had no idea how to take care of myself. I needed somebody to do this with, and I was all alone.”

The color left Elyssa’s face as she said this. Still, I remember an intensity building in her eyes even as her lips whitened. “You want to know how I kept on,” she said. “You know, what with my parents dead, my brother, even my best friend gone away with mean and worthless people who didn’t even love them like I did? It was walking into the gas station to pay the man with the last of my cash and finding Agnes looting the store.”

NEXT: Part III: “She didn’t get there early enough.”

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.