Thursday, December 04, 2014

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

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. Click here for Part II.

Part III:

I sat upright in my chair. “You’ve been with her that long? I didn’t know that.”

“She didn’t get there early enough. There was no one at the counter. All the medications were gone, along with most of the food. She was crying; she couldn’t stay away long because she’d left her eight-year-old girl to watch her five-year-old son. He was so very sick, she needed something to help break the fever. 

“All I could think of was my father on his knees by my mother’s bedside, so I freaked out and told her she needed to get home right away. She said she had to get him something; she’d just go down the street. I remembered the Tylenol and Motrin I’d had in the pharmacy bag. I ran out and brought it in to show her. She said she’d give me all the cash she had for it and I said, no, I’d follow her back to her place, but we had to leave now.

“Luckily, nothing had happened by the time we got back. Poor Dylan was in his last coma, though. He wasn’t taking anything. I told Agnes what happened to my father, and what he did to my mother. She didn’t want to believe it, but she’d seen some of the same things I saw. The people with their arms up, chasing people out of their houses, taking others down behind the windows.”

Agnes had never told me the precise details of how her son died. Only that he had died the same night they were going to see a monster truck show at the World Arena. And that he did rise, and that she took care of the problem. Nothing more.
I told Elyssa this, and suggested she respect Agnes’ feelings by not going into that part of the story.

“You just don’t want to hear it,” she said. 

“You’re damned right I don’t. And I’ll bet Agnes would rather you didn’t make me, either.”

“This is all part of a larger point. You need to hear this.”

“Right.” I glanced back out the window. Too cold, wet, and dark to excuse myself into the woods. I thought of going back into the main house on the pretext of thanking Agnes for the chowder sitting heavy in my gut. 

A crushing sensation overtook my left hand. “Please don’t be angry with me,” she pleaded in her normal, Sweet Elyssa voice. “There’s a happy ending to this. I promise.”

“Let go of my hand,” I said.

She looked down at her long, slender fingers wrapped about mine, which she’d mashed over one another in a painful squeeze. Elyssa took her hand from mine, and looked up at me, tears pooling in her glacial blue eyes.

I flexed my hand, rubbed down my fingers. The sharp surprise of pain reminded me of that time that dead young thing in the Walgreen’s grabbed my arm and left a mark to last all summer long.  This particular misery had added levels of flavor, though. For one, this was all happening while trapped in a cabin with a bipolar personality insisting on telling me depressing stories about my wife—a woman I wasn’t sure was even my wife anymore, because why else would I be stuck in this cabin with this strange woman I’ve never really gotten to know until (God help me) now?

“All right,” I told her. “I’m listening. Get it over with already.”


Elyssa met Agnes on Thursday evening. Dylan didn’t die and resurrect until the night of Bad Friday itself, so they had all night to listen for stirrings on the other side of the wall, sleeping (or trying to) behind Agnes’ locked master bedroom door. Agnes didn’t want to lock it, but A.J. was scared. The way Agnes glowered at Elyssa, she wondered if she’d be told to leave in the morning. 

It was dark, and very quiet that night—the last quiet night Elyssa or anyone would know for a while. She doesn’t remember falling asleep. She’s not sure anyone did.

As morning light bled into the windows they peeled off their sweat-damp sheets to find Dylan still in his coma, but restless. Attempts to get pills into him resulted in soaked pajama fronts and sheets. Elyssa gasped as the glass hit the floor. It didn’t break, but she realized as she picked it up that they would be in a very bad way if anyone needed stitches. She remembered how they turned away her father at the hospital the night before. By Wednesday all of the hospitals were at capacity.

The sheets had to be changed, so Elyssa did this while Agnes held her boy in her arms, brushing back the strands of hair on his forehead with the tips of her fingers. As if his skin was almost too hot to touch, and Elyssa imagined it was. As she got the bed in order Elyssa kept looking over to make sure Dylan was breathing, however fitfully. 

She grit her teeth as Agnes took her time cleaning him up, changing his underwear, wiping him down with baby wipes. Dylan was very pale; he hardly seemed to breathe. When Agnes asked Elyssa to bring some towels from the linen closet to put on the bed she nearly tripped on the wet sheets she already had in her arms. She had wanted to run from the room and run back. She caught herself on the tall dresser, nearly splitting her own chin open. Elyssa thought of stitches again.

“I’ll know when he’s gone,” Agnes said. “You don’t have to worry. Just get the towels so I can put him back in bed.”

Elyssa gathered the wet sheets back in her arms and eased out the door. She dropped them off in the laundry nook before rushing back into the hall to find the linen closet. It took less than a minute to do, but for Elyssa it might as well have been an hour.

She came back into the bedroom to find Agnes standing by the bed, Dylan still in her arms. At five, he was nearly half the size of his mother, his legs dangling almost comically to one side as Agnes cradled him. Except these were the pale, still legs of a dying child. 

“The look in her eyes as I came in,” said Elyssa. “Like, ‘what took you so long,’ but she was glad I was there. I spread the towels on the bed. Agnes laid him down in his underwear and left the top sheet off of him. Poor Dylan was so hot you could feel it standing over the bed.” Elyssa’s face clouded. “Like Daddy.”

Agnes called A.J. into the room and they all, Elyssa included, kissed him one at a time on the forehead. “It was goodbye. I was going to hug Agnes but she put her arm out and said for me and A.J. to follow her. I closed the bedroom door behind me on the way out. I wanted to lock it, but I didn’t. I was getting scared again. What would we do when he came back?”

Elyssa and A.J. followed Agnes back to her bedroom, where she took a shoebox from the shelf over the clothes rack in the closet. Wrapped inside white gift box paper is a .45 pistol. It was the gun Dylan’s father had shot himself with shortly upon returning from his latest deployment to Afghanistan.  


“Goddamn it, Elyssa,” I said, “you go any further with that and I swear I’ll throw you out that door. Agnes already told me all she wants me to know about her husband’s suicide.”

“I’m just telling you because she told me. All she did was mention it was her ex-husband’s gun before she walked the box and everything in it to the breakfast table off the kitchen. She told to watch her while she cleaned it, to make sure she did everything she said she was doing as she did it. It hadn’t been cleaned since the police gave it back to her. She was talking herself through this because it had to be right. We didn’t have a lot of time.” 

Elyssa made as if to reach out for my hand again and stopped herself. She looked at me as she rubbed her hands nervously together. “Agnes understood,” she said. “I wasn’t sure up until then, but when she said all that, the way she said all that, I knew we were going to live.”

Naturally, there was a large thump on the floor in Dylan’s bedroom, just as Agnes was getting the last piece back on the .45.  “She stopped for maybe a split second, but started back twice as fast. She had it all together. She put her finger to her lips and I nodded my head, and we waited to see if Dylan was coming out.”

Agnes called her son’s name and heard the knob on the door turning. At that moment she slipped the .45 behind her into the waistband of her jeans. “I thought, Oh God, oh God, I thought she was smarter than this,” said Elyssa.

NEXT: Part IV: “The thing that had once been a little boy....”

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.