Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chapter 5 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Oyster Crackers” Part 1: “Romantic Banter of the Damned”

From the ALL-NEW, Yet-To-Be Proofed and Published FINAL BOOK of the SAGA of the DEAD SILENCER

PREVIOUS EPISODE: Chapter 4: “Freak Shows”

I look down at my on-again, off-again wife, who smiles wanly back at me. “We’re pleasant people now?” she says.

“Only for as long as we have to be.”

“You did okay right up until the end, when you all but ordered a full-bird colonel to send Brother Christopher up.”

“Says the woman who told that same colonel ‘fuck you,’ and called him a brass ape, while being physically restrained from beating the shit out of him by two full-grown men.”

“Oh, Derek,” sighs Agnes. “We’ve grown so much.”

“Like a fucking cancer.” 

She’s right, though. We’ve grown. Mutated, more like it. I’m impressed either one of us made it through that scene in front of the TV screen, where we were being recorded for our reaction to the overwhelmed apartment building. Dietzen could have led that swarm anywhere other than where humans lived. He could have led them to any one of the many parks in the city before putting them to bed with computer-targeted rounds from a drone-mounted gun, or a few well-placed charges of high-explosive ordnance. No, an audience safely removed from all this had to have their drama. They had to see people terrorized to the point of gibbering madness. They had to see them die.

But, screw them, right? They were Rat People. Ferals. I knew some of those faces; these same people did attack us outside the warehouse store on Thanksgiving weekend. They caught us by complete surprise, but Agnes put the fire on them, giving Brother Christopher and his crew the cover to escape. I had to grab the ladder and swing in the wind as Agnes screeched backwards in the monster truck, turned sharply, and sped away before they could level their shotguns at us again. Oh, they were an unpleasant bunch, all right.

Still, if there’s one thing I learned from my time before the Final Flu, when I went from being a salaried employee in good standing to unemployed, it’s that anyone can become a “feral.” I’ll never forget the day of my exit interview at HR. Seeing the faces of all those people I’d stayed up late nights with on projects, whose children had played with ours at the Christmas parties and picnics—and watching them avert their eyes, if they even looked at me at all. “Dead man walking,” as fellow prisoners would say of the condemned. Except, like the animated corpses of this post-Final Flu world, I was something worse than dead. They couldn’t even look at me, lest they caught what I had. 

Then I think of the chilly tone in Dietzen’s voice as he spoke of Elyssa’s pregnancy and what it meant to our unseen and distant audience, and I realize that a situation in which no one cares what happens to me and my family isn’t the worst thing. 

“Agnes,” I say at last, “I want you to know I’m sorry we’re stuck with this. I’d thought they were going to escort us to where Sybil and Jack were, and we’d just play along until we figured out what to do next. I knew the Wyoming people likely weren’t any good. I never expected them to be this evil.”

Agnes glances to either side and behind us before she stops me. “Husband mine,” she says, closing in and folding her arms behind me, “don’t waste a second kicking yourself over this. This is what’s left of our government. They’ve got their lethal little toys and the people trained to use them. We should count ourselves lucky they haven’t killed us outright.”

“No, but they might well lead us to our deaths, for a nice series finale.”

“I love you, too, Derek.” She puts the side of her face to my chest and turns me a few degrees around, and I know she’s checking out that direction as well.

“Deacon Sparks did say they would come back to ‘claim their own,’ whatever that means.

“Ha! Derek, you heard that fine example of military leadership, didn’t you? They were going to leave us here. They made it sound like it was the worst thing that could happen to us. But we have a ‘sponsor.’”

“They also have Sybil and Jack. I—”

“If you’re about to apologize for wanting to see your kids, shut up. As for me, for a couple of mentally deficient minutes, I thought we had a choice about going with Dietzen. At least they’re offering you a carrot, but I have a feeling there’s a stick waiting for us if you don’t go for it.”

“Yeah,” I say, looking out at the helicopters over the city. 

I kiss Agnes’ forehead and pull her close. I feel her breath hot through my shirt. “Like you say, smile and nod, we’ll get through.” She pulls away and raps my chest with the back of her hand. “Oh, and before we give the viewers back home their ‘awww’ moment—didn’t Deacon Sparks say he and his people were everyone’s last best hope against the Wyoming people?”

“How could I forget?”

“Not that his bro-hunk bunch of mixed-martial arts fighters stood a chance against a small band of teenage bowhunters who know how to sneak around in the woods. I can only imagine how they were going to defend against people who have cameras floating everywhere.”

“Dietzen and his crew had no problem disarming our teenage bowhunters.”

“Only to have them fall back and wait to figure their next move. No casualties. Smart. Like their Daddy.” Agnes tightens her arms about me. “Elyssa wasn’t bullshitting you. Brother Christopher and the boys didn’t hesitate. They all got up to follow when you walked out. They’ll do whatever you ask.”

I turn my head, flush with shame. Agnes puts her hands about my face and forces me back around. “Dammit, Derek, I told you, those 15 minutes never happened. Just because I’m weird and not in a mood to even fake holding you sometimes—which, right now, by the way, I’m not. Faking, that is.” Her big, pale green eyes stare into mine as she says, “Derek Samuel Grace, whatever is going on between us, I swear I will never let you go far from me.”

This is our moment for whatever quadcopter drone camera is watching us. I take it for what it is, a too-short kiss with a woman I share less than one year of history with. I’d thought Claire and I had gone through some long years in our near quarter-century together. This last year, though….

“Let’s get inside,” Agnes says. “I’ve got to get us packed.”

For the price of a happy hour drink you can enjoy many delirious hours slashing and shooting your way through the delightful hellscapes of my first two SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER books, available in Kindle and paperback from Severed Press. We commence the crash of civilization in Bleeding Kansas, wherein our intrepid hero, Derek Grace, must survive a plane crash, combat with the undead at the local Wal-Mart, an exploding fire truck, a female hardbody assassin, and lots of walking dead people-things.

Book 1 has ONE exploding head
on its cover.

I’m told it reads even better in German. This edition from Luzifer Verlag also sports a hellacious one-of-a-kind cover courtesy of ace artist Michael Schubert:
You can buy this German version stateside here.
You know you wanna.

Book 2, Grace Among the Dead, steps up the game with a tale of love and redemption, the living dead, and a flame-throwing monster truck. We’ve got an arc going from decadence to...respectability?...for our hero. As close as it gets, anyway. You should savor this big book o’ hell while it lasts, because things are about to go completely to shit.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?

They’re also available in Canada and the UK.