From the pages of THE WRONG KIND OF DEAD, soon to be available from Severed Press, as soon as I finish writing the goddamned thing.
THE SETUP: Derek and Agnes Grace, along with their extended, blended family of survivors and their babies, find themselves extracted from their camp amid zombie-infested Colorado Springs and taken to a safe zone where, as first noticed on the ramp off the C-130, the air doesn’t even smell like the dead. They are taken to a luxury hotel that serves as a halfway house for survivors from outside. They are clean and fed and safe, awaiting only the call to the next morning’s orientation tour.
By all appearances, our intrepid heroes see a chance to return to the Way Things Were Before the dead arose to feast on the flesh of the living. But as Derek and Agnes look at the TVs in the hotel bar, things they’ve noticed in passing before start to gel into a horrifying epiphany.
For the post-apocalyptic frivolity we see before our eyes, the choices for television are scaled back. There is only one news channel, and that’s the one Stefani Dunham is holding court in, telling of promising starts to expansion outside the Scotland Redoubt, where the settlements outside of the modern Hadrian’s Wall—this time built to protect the north from the south—are spreading further south into England. Sufficient forces have yet to be mustered to take back the cities, but the countryside is confirmed safe for crops and cattle.
There is one other morning show on another network, this one of the kind seen on regular broadcast networks back in the day, with brief snippets of news and weather bracketing trainloads of insufferable fluff. The ladies gasp at the celebrities they learn are still among the living, “keeping the spirit of New York and Los Angeles glamor alive!” as they are seen enjoying elaborately garnished drinks in sheltered bars along the beaches of Key West, and the fully secured smaller islands of Hawaii.
Much is made of the losses of New York, L.A., London, Paris, and Berlin. We see what we’re told are live-cam shots of these cities tits-up and gray beneath eternally cloud-streaked and hopeless skies, threads of black smoke from never-ending fires disappearing among the circling flocks of scavenger birds looking to steal garbage from beneath the grasping hands of the hungry dead. Meanwhile, our poor suffering celebutantes will have to settle for having empty white beaches all to themselves.
Agnes and I are in the back of the room following this. “Damn it, Derek,” she says, “why didn’t we geniuses figure this out before?”
“Because we’re not geniuses?”
“Because we’ve been busy, honey. I know where we are now.”
“Agnes, our phones have GPS; we’re right here in—”
“These people are bullshit,” says Agnes, waving dismissively at the big flatscreens hanging about the bar. “I’m impressed they saved this much window dressing.”
Agnes takes my arm. “Provisional government, my smartly dressed ass,” she hisses into my ear. “We’re with the assholes who’ve been running things all along.”
I want to point out that that’s the very definition of government, but— “Those fuckers holed up here and in other remote or easily defensible locations while they shared the cure with whomever they wanted to save,” she says. “That’s right, Derek baby, I know why you freaked out at the sound of that bitch’s voice this morning. It burns me alive to think of Dylan or Claire or all the other wives and husbands and children that could have been spared from turning into those goddamned monsters, like the one I had to put down in my own house.”
I hold her to me. “You better not think about it then,” I say. Agnes recoils, as if struck. “Good. Let’s catch our breath. Never forget these people get off on watching us suffer. Don’t let them see they’ve got to you.”
“I want out of this place, Derek. I don’t care about the food or the air conditioning or any of this fine crap if these are the kind of people we’re living with. The kind of people who expect us to serve them, because they’re so fucking fabulous, and slaving and dying for them is all we’re good for.”
The kind of people who would murder an entire world and giggle watching the fright-maddened survivors throw their babies to the monsters. I take Agnes’ hands between mine. All of a sudden I understand so many things. Col. Grinnell’s barely concealed bitterness, for one. Something I recognize in myself. The very same in these blazing green eyes of the woman I love….
“What’s going on here?”
“We’re fine, Elyssa,” says Agnes. “Just my turn to have a spell. Derek’s got me.”
Elyssa regards us sternly. “I realize I’ll never be as smart or as mature as either of you. Which is why I can’t believe how stupid you people are acting. Like you can’t handle full stomachs and gentle breezes that don’t smell like buttholes and spoiled hamburger. Our babies are safe. A.J. can go to school. We can live just like we used to before. If that kind of thing makes you act crazy just thinking about it, maybe you should just….”
“Maybe we should just what?” says Agnes.
Elyssa looks angrily between Agnes and me. “Just don’t mess this up for the rest of us,” she says. “Some of us want to be here.”
“You done?” I say.
It’s Elyssa’s turn to look like I just hit her. “You can live here as long as you like,” I say. “Nobody’s planning on sabotaging that for you. Now lose the attitude, because it looks like your ride’s here.”
Christ almighty, who insisted on her wearing the powder blue dress and pillbox hat ensemble? Even her blonde bob is retro to the point of camp. “Hi, I’m Laurel, and let me say, you are the best-looking group I’ve ever had the pleasure to introduce to the Redoubt. You’d be so surprised what some people think passes as dressing for an interview. You people are going to do so well.”
These are 800+ words of the most intense world-building and pin-setting I’ve ever written. The relationships ring true, and are about to get a lot more complicated. The living dead are not out of the picture—not by a long shot—and anyone silly enough to think so (just about everybody except Derek and Agnes and a couple of others) is in for a flesh-rending reckoning of epic, humanity-in-the-balance proportions.
To see how the Family Grace got together, check out this zombie-slashing/ burning/squashing epic, available in Kindle and paperback, in Canada and the UK.
|Get thrown right into some zombie-fighting action with the first chapter here!|