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Brian Keene

BOOK: Brian Keene
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2 For David. Daddy loves you more than infinity ...


January 2004

Published by

Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

200 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

Copyright ¬2003 by Brian Keene

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

ISBN 0-8439-5201-6

The name "Leisure Books" and the stylized "L" with design are trademarks of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

Printed in the United States of America.

Visit us on the web at


Special thanks to Cassandra; Geoff; Mike; Mikey; The Keenes; Gina; Don;
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Shane; the members of Life of Agony and Power Plant; Tom Piccirilli and Richard Laymon for their help with the first draft; Alan Beatts and John Urbancik for their help with the final draft; and Gary Conner, Sarah Johnson, and Mary Beth Oswald for their technical assistance. Authors Note: Though many of the locations and highways in this novel are real, I have taken certain fictional liberties with them. So if you live in one of the places we are about to visit, don't look for your house. You won't find it, and probably wouldn't want to know what lives there now ...

4 o


The dead scrabbled for an entrance to his grave. His wife was among them, as ravenous for Jim in death as she'd been in life. Their faint, soulless cries drifted down through ten feet of soil and rock. The kerosene lamp cast flickering shadows on the cinder block walls, and the air in the shelter was stale and earthy. His grip on the Ruger tightened. Above him, Carrie shrieked and clawed at the earth. She'd been dead for a week.

Jim sighed, breathing in the dank air. He lifted the metal coffeepot from where it sat on the heater and poured himself a cup. The warmth felt good, and he lingered there for a moment, before regretfully turning the heater off. To conserve fuel, he only ran it to heat up his meals. The brief comfort only made the damp chill stronger. He sipped instant coffee and gagged. Like everything else, it was bitter. He crossed back to the cot and collapsed upon it.

The noises continued from above.

Jim had built the shelter in the summer of 1999, when Y2K fever was at its highest. Carrie laughed at him, until he'd shown her some of the reports and articles. Even then, she'd been skeptical-until the nightly news' constant barrage had made her a believer. Two months 6

and ten thousand dollars later, the shelter was completed, using most of Carrie's savings and all of his construction knowledge. It was small; a ten by fifteen-foot bunker that could hold four people comfortably. Despite the size, it was safe, and more important, secure. Jim equipped it with a generator and a vacuum powered toilet that drained into the septic tank behind the house. He'd stocked it with
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canned and dry foods, toilet paper, medical supplies, matches, guns, and lots of ammunition. Three pallets of bottled water and a fifty five-gallon drum of kerosene stood in the corner. There was a battery-operated boom box and a wide assortment of their eclectic musical tastes. Another shelf held their favorite books. He'd even brought down the old Magnavox 486SX. It wasn't fast, but it was easy on the generator and still gave them contact with the outside world. They'd started out that New Year's Eve day by keeping a close eye on CNN. When the century passed in Australia and the world failed to end, he knew that all the preparation had been for nothing. Country after country greeted the millennium and the power stayed on. That evening, they attended a party at Mike and Melissa's. When the ball dropped and the drunken revelers counted down, Carrie pulled him close.

"See, crazy-man? Nothing to worry about."

"I love you, crazy-woman," he had whispered.

"I love you, too."

They were lost in their kiss and barely noticed when Mike turned off the breakers and screamed "Y2K!" as a joke.

As the months went by, the shelter gathered dust. By the end of the next year it lay forgotten. After September

11th raised the fears of biological or nuclear attack, Jim re-stocked it. Even then, it was just an afterthought.

Until the change began. Until the rising started.

In the end, the ghosts of Y2K and September 11th had doomed the world. Tired of the unending stream of "endtime


prophecy" and "destruction of Western Civilization as we know it" disasters of the week, the world had ignored the early media reports. It was a new century; one that had no room for those medieval fears and extremist paranoid attitudes. It was time to embrace technology and science, time to further the brotherhood of man. Mankind had perfected cloning, mapped the human genome, and even traveled beyond the moon, when the joint Chinese/U.S. mission had finally set foot on Mars. The world's scientists proclaimed that the cure for cancer was just around the corner. Y2K didn't destroy civilization. Terrorism didn't defeat it. Society had faced both, and conquered them. Civilization was invincible!

Civilization was dead.

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A muffled scrabbling came from overhead as something pulled on the periscope. The portcullis wiggled in its turret, swiveling back and forth. The scratching changed to a frustrated grunt, and the viewpiece shuddered on its axis. It rose, slamming into the ceiling and dropping back down.

Jim closed his eyes.


He'd met her through Mike and Melissa. like him, she was newly divorced.

"She doesn't want anything serious," Mike had cautioned him. "She just needs to have a little fun again."

Jim knew about that. He knew about happiness and contentment. He'd had a beautiful son, Danny, and a wife, Tammy. They'd been the core of his world. Until Rick, a co-worker whom Tammy had never mentioned, stole both away. After the divorce, Jim had his share of fun-drunken one-night stands that blurred together.

He had custody of Danny every other weekend and during those precious times, the beer and bimbos were

8 forgotten. On those weekends, he was Daddy. Those were the only times he was truly happy.

Tammy and Rick married. Rick got a better job in Bloomington, New Jersey. "The chance of a lifetime," Tammy said. That had been it. They left West Virginia, taking the one good thing Jim had left. The move destroyed him. In an instant, he went from seeing Danny every other weekend to ten weeks in the summer and one week at Christmas, along with the occasional weekend trip to New Jersey. If he'd had the money, if he'd been a little more together, he could have fought it in court. But by that point, Jim had racked up a driving while intoxicated offense. His credit was shot. He'd known that Tammy's lawyer, paid for with his money, would eat him alive. He was allowed to call once a week, but the distance along the phone lines only deepened his loss. Finally, Danny started referring to Rick as his 'other dad' and that had devastated Jim.

There were more women and one night stands. He played at drinking himself to death, knowing he wouldn't because Danny still needed him. He lost his job, his apartment, his driver's license, and his self-respect. The only thing that kept him going were those once a week phone calls and the small voice on the other end that always said, "I miss you, Daddy."
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Then he'd met Carrie.

Jim sobbed, bitter tears of rage and loss cutting through the stubble on his haggard face.

For five years they'd been happy and content. The only sadness Jim felt was not being a part of Danny's everyday life. Carrie had helped to dull even that pain.

She saved him.

Eight months ago, Carrie announced over dinner that she was pregnant. Ecstatic, Jim lifted her in his arms, kissing and loving her so much it hurt-an actual, physical hurt deep inside his chest.

Then the world died, taking his new wife and their

9 unborn baby along with it. Now, joined by their dead neighbors, Carrie was back, digging with rotted fingers to be reunited with her husband. Mike and Melissa were dead too; ripped apart by a dozen of the creatures. They were among the lucky ones. Their bodies had been so badly damaged that there was no way for them to be reanimated. Shuddering, Jim recalled how the things had swarmed Mike's car, reaching through the shattered windshield and crawling inside. He and Carrie had watched in horror from the living room, ducking into the shelter when the screams stopped and the wet sounds began. The four of them had planned on escaping together. That had been their first attempt to get out of Lewisburg.

Despite the chill, Jim was sweating. He brushed tears from his eyes and went to the mini-fridge. Still holding the pistol in one hand, he opened the door and paused, letting the draft of cold air wash over him. He marveled again that he'd been down here for three months and had yet to start the generator. The power remained on, as did his cell phone. He thought about the deserted nuclear power stations, still automatically pumping out electricity for a deceased world.

How long until they shut down or blew up? How long would the cell phone and radio and television satellites float up there, waiting for communications from the dead?

In the first few days, they had talked to people online, learning that the situation was the same everywhere. The dead were coming back to life, not as mindless eating machines like in an old horror movie, but as malicious creatures bent solely on destruction. Various causes were 10 speculated on and debated. Biological or chemical warfare, government testing, alien invasion, the Second Coming of Christ, a meteor from space; all were discussed with equal fervor.

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The media soon grew silent, especially after a rogue Army unit executed six reporters during a live broadcast. After that, as civilization collapsed, even the most dedicated journalists gave up, preferring to be with their families rather than bearing final witness to the chaos for an audience that could see what was happening just by looking out the window.

Several times, Jim had sent frantic emails to Tammy and Rick, trying to determine if Danny was safe.

He never received a reply.

Each time he called them, he received a message telling him that all circuits were busy. Eventually, even that message stopped. He'd argued with Carrie, insisting that they make an escape attempt. He was determined to get to his son. Eventually, through gentle reasoning, she got him to see the reality of the situation. Danny was surely dead by now.

Deep inside, he'd wondered if she was right. The father in him refused to give up. He found himself clinging to the conviction that somewhere out there, Danny was still alive. He found himself envisioning different escape attempts, if only to break the monotony of living in the shelter. Carrie's health began to crumble. Their medical supplies consisted of the bare minimum. She'd long since run out of pre-natal vitamins. Reluctantly, Jim realized it would be impossible to leave. Danny was dead, he knew. In the weeks that followed, as Carrie's condition worsened, there had been times that Jim blamed her.

He still hated himself for that

One morning, he awoke next to her still form, just as the final, congested breath rattled in her chest. Then she was gone; the pneumonia had finally claimed her. He'd


curled up against her cold, lifeless body and cried, bidding farewell to his second wife.

He'd known it was useless to bury her, grimly understanding what needed to be done. But when the madness of grief seized him, he couldn't believe that it would happen to her. Not Carrie. Not the woman who had saved his life. The woman that had become his life in these last five years. It was inconceivably blasphemous to think that she would turn into one of them.

Alert for the undead, he'd quickly buried her under the pine tree that they had planted together earlier that summer. They'd held hands beneath
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that tree only months before, talking of how it would watch over the house when they were old.

Now, it stood watch over her.

That night, Carrie raged above him. By morning, she'd been joined by what was left of the Thompsons from next door. Soon, a small army had gathered in the yard. Jim had used the periscope only once since then, giving in to hopelessness when he saw more than thirty corpses milling around on his lawn.

It was then that he started to go mad.

Cut off from the outside world and besieged by the undead, Jim contemplated suicide as the only real escape. He had no way of knowing if there was anyone still alive in Lewisburg, or the country for that matter. For him, the world had become a tomb, outlined by four cinder-block walls.

BOOK: Brian Keene
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