Authors: Belinda Frisch
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic
THE STRANDVILLE SERIES
A Strandville Prequel Short
Strandville Zombie Novel #1
Strandville Zombie Novel #2
: A Strandville Zombie Novel #2
Copyright © 2013 by Belinda Frisch
All rights reserved. This e-book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2013
7290 Investment Dr.
North Charleston, SC 29418
Edited by A.J. Brown
Cover Art © 2013 by Sarah Hansen
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This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead (unless explicitly noted) is merely coincidental.
The sun started to set, casting the room in shadows.
Dr. Michael Waters stared from the bedside at the emaciated remains of his favorite patient, an octogenarian named Roy Hogan. The elderly man’s once plump face had thinned down to flesh covered bone and his hazel eyes stared lifelessly at the ceiling. Michael would’ve had a hard time believing this was the same vibrant farmer he knew almost seven months ago when society’s collapse expanded his scope of practice from OB-GYN to general medicine had he not watched the decline. Holed up in the spare bedroom of Michael’s house, cancer was taking Roy slowly.
Michael adjusted the pillows under Roy’s feet to prevent further bed sores. His skin had broken down in two large circles near his hips where his diminishing weight settled against the mattress. Michael checked the dressing on the bone-deep wounds, and finding them no better, changed his choice in antibiotic. The ulcers had been avoidable up until Roy lost his ability to walk. The sores became another in a long line of complications. There was a race between the things trying to kill this poor man, and so far, the skin infection was winning.
“Everything okay?” Ashley, Michael’s wife, stood in the doorway. Her reddish-blonde hair sparkled in the fading sunlight. Freckles dotted her delicate features. She rubbed vanilla scented lotion into her hands and tugged her sweatshirt sleeves down from over her elbows. A basket of wet laundry lay on the floor at her feet and Adam, their five-year-old son, clung to her hip.
Michael smiled, happy to see them both. He checked Roy’s oxygen tank and shook his head. “The tank’s almost empty and this is the last of them. I sent Earl and Randy to the office for the spare generator.” He unwound a long power cord and pulled an oxygen concentrator to the bedside.
“You really think running a generator is a good idea?” Ashley’s tone indicated she wasn’t entirely on-board.
“You know what Roy did for us, Ash. I won’t let him suffocate.” Michael whispered, though he could’ve shouted and Roy wouldn’t have heard him.
Surviving in the remains of the organized world meant adapting. Clinging to a rigorous daily work routine kept Michael sane. Bartering his services for supplies kept his family comfortable. Roy Hogan had given up an entire cattle farm, which was both a long and short-term solution to their food problems. Michael intended on making every minute of Roy’s care worth the security.
Adam tugged Ashley’s sweatshirt and pouted. “Mommy, I’m hungry. I want peanut butter and jelly.”
Ashley roughed his hair. “Who’d have thought it’d be bread we missed most?” Perishable foods had been the first luxury sacrificed. “I can give you some peanut butter crackers.”
Adam smiled, pleased with the substitution.
“Is that another loose tooth?” Michael covered Roy with the thick, down comforter and squatted down in front of his young son. He looked more like Ashley by the day, except for his almost white-blond hair. That, he got from Michael.
Adam pinched his lips together and grabbed Ashley’s hand. He’d always been a momma’s boy and The Collapse, the survivor’s term for the world going to hell, only made that worse. Michael envied his wife and son’s relationship, but he understood. Ashley had been with Adam twenty-four hours a day, tending to his every need and want since birth. Michael had always been working. Even now, the work came home with him.
“Show daddy your tooth, silly.” Ashley urged him to share.
Adam opened his mouth and wiggled his loose front tooth with his tongue.
Michael smiled. “It doesn’t look like we have to call the tooth fairy just yet.”
Rex, their German Shepherd, barked downstairs.
“Sounds like they’re back.” Ashley looked out the window. “Just in time.”
No one went out after dark.
She lifted the laundry basket and went downstairs with Adam on her heels. Michael followed them and opened the front door for the others. A gust of wind blew through the entranceway and knocked over a frame on the hall table. He ran a hand over his brush-cut, blond hair and stood on the porch until the white Yukon backed up.
“Where do you want it?” Earl Tipton opened the hatch and pulled the gas-powered generator toward him. Six feet two and toned, Earl didn’t look near his age of fifty-years-old. Had it not been for the silver peppering his dark hair and beard, he wouldn’t have looked a day over thirty.
Robert, who stood at average height, looked small by comparison. “Here, let me help.” The newest in the group, Robert struggled to fit in.
Randy, the thinnest and spryest of the three, knew better than to offer. Earl didn’t ever want help. He grabbed one side of the generator and lifted. Earl shot Robert a dirty look and waited for Michael’s direction.
“Put it out back.” Michael looked at Robert. “Why don’t you go up to Mr. Hogan’s room? There’s a rope up there on the floor. Throw it out the window and you can hoist up the extension cord.”
Ashley smiled. “Adam, why don’t you help him? Mommy’s going to hang up the laundry and I’ll be right in.”
Adam shook his head. He didn’t want to go, but Michael insisted. “It’s better if you’re not outside this close to dark, buddy.”
There was less than an hour of light left.
Robert reached for the boy’s hand and chatted about monster trucks to get him up the stairs. Earl and Randy set up the generator around back.
“Don’t forget to lock the gate,” Michael called after them. Fences were a first line of defense. He closed the front door, kissed Ashley, and carried the heavy laundry basket of soaking wet clothes for her.
Ashley hung the laundry on a line that stretched the width of their yard, carefully placing the pins where they wouldn’t crease the fabric.
Michael waited for Robert to throw him the line.
“Hi mommy!” Adam waved out the window.
Robert tossed down the rope.
Michael tied the end of the rope to the extension cord and unscrewed the generator’s gas cap.
Randy made two trips and came back with three large, red gas cans, which he set next to the generator.
Michael filled the tank, careful not to drop the gas can with his sweat-slick hands, and tried to steady his nerves as he fired up the machine. He tied the end of an extension cord to the rope dangling from the second floor bedroom window and tugged to signal he was ready. “Pull it up,” he shouted and when nothing happened, he yelled up again. “Robert, come on. Pull up the cord.”
Ashley picked up the empty basket and headed inside.
“Adam, Robert, hello?” Dread set in just before Michael heard Ashley’s scream.
“I got her, Doc.” Earl was the closest to the back door and the first one inside.
Michael all but trampled him to get to his family. “Ashley, are you okay?”
The front door had been forced open and flapped in the heavy wind. An obese woman with a tattered nightdress and hanging skin blocked the hallway. Her right eyelid had been bitten half-off and her eyes were pure white. Fresh blood stained her broken teeth and Michael feared the worst.
“Ashley, Robert, someone answer me.” His heart raced as he waited for confirmation that his family was all right. “Something’s wrong.” Michael rushed toward the infected woman and only stopped when Earl grabbed him by his jacket collar and pulled him aside.
“Watch out!” Earl drove the pointed end of a fireplace poker into the woman’s open mouth and thrust it upward through her palate. He shouted and put all his weight into forcing the woman backward and pinning her to the drywall. Black blood spilled down her chin and the wrought iron, unable to hold her, let go.
The droning noise of the generator called several more infected from the distance.
Michael hurdled over the woman’s crumpled body, slammed the front door, and locked it. “Ashley!” He took the stairs two at a time, following a set of muddy footprints that warned he was already too late. “Adam!” He grabbed his pistol from the master bedroom nightstand and rushed into the guest room.
A teenage boy wearing slim-fit jeans and a tattered band tee hunched over the queen size bed, clawing and chewing Roy’s brittle flesh.
“Get away from him,” Michael shouted.
A thick lock of blue hair fell over the boy’s white eyes.
Michael fired a single kill shot into the boy’s forehead and called for his family to come out of hiding. “Ashley, Adam, come on. Please, someone answer me. Let me know you’re all right.” He could barely see through his tears.
The generator fell silent and wind blew through the open bedroom window.
“Help me.” Robert lay on the floor beneath the fluttering, floor-length curtain. He’d been bitten and was gasping for breath.
“Come on, we have to get you out of here.” Michael went to lift him up, to quarantine him for his safety as much as for the others, but Robert held him off. It wasn’t the kind of help he was asking for. He grabbed the end of the pistol in Michael’s hand and placed it under his chin.
“Do it,” Robert whispered.
They’d made a pact that no one infected lives.
“I don’t want to.” Michael considered his missing wife and son and couldn’t help wondering if they’d been too extreme. Others in their group had lost loved ones, but he never had, and perspective made all the difference. “I can’t.”
Robert forced Michael’s finger against the trigger. The pistol discharged and the round shattered the dying man’s head, spattering Michael with blood, skull fragments, and teeth.
Earl appeared in the doorway, out of breath and bloody from having dealt with his own action. “Doc, are you all right?”
Michael looked up, his ears ringing, and the blood making it hard to see. He wiped his face on his sleeve and took a sobering breath. “I can’t find Ashley or Adam.”
Earl lowered his head, his expression one of a man who knew something.
“Have you seen them?” Michael staggered through the carnage, a little off-balance. “Earl, do you know where they are?” He followed Earl’s sightline to the bathroom at the end of the hall. A bloody handprint of delicate, long fingers stained the white trim. The door was closed and Michael stared at the void left by a wedding ring. “Ashley!”
“No, Doc.” Earl thrust his thick arm across the hallway in front of Michael, but he wouldn’t be deterred.
Michael shoved him aside and reached for the knob. He pulled the door open and Ashley lunged at him. Her hands contracted into claws and her expressionless face held only the familiar, possessed hunger of someone newly infected.
Earl threw Michael down on the hardwood floor and pulled his gun.
A shooting pain sparked in Michael’s wrist as he caught his fall and scrambled to his knees, desperate to stop Earl.
“No!” he shouted, but it was too late.
Earl fired his pistol and sent Ashley tumbling backward into the antique claw foot tub. The purple flowered curtain cushioned her fall. Curtain rings tore from the bar one at a time and scattered around the room.
“Fuck!” Michael’s primal scream was full of pain, anger, and hatred and he sprang to his feet, worried that Adam might be next.
Earl’s face twisted with pain and sympathy. “I’m sorry, Doc. We agreed...”
“I know what we agreed to.” Michael punched the wall, his hand narrowly missing a stud as it pierced through the wallpaper and sheetrock. He scanned the bathroom for signs of his son without staring too long at Ashley’s body. He prayed he hadn’t been bitten, too. A scratching noise came from the direction of the guest bedroom closet. He had to get rid of Earl before he heard it, too. “Adam’s still missing,” Michael said, unable to look Earl in the eye. “He probably got scared and went looking for Ashley. I’ll check the house. You and Randy take the yard. He’s got to be out there and it’s almost dark.”