Authors: Eric A. Shelman
BOOK FIVE OF THE DEAD HUNGER SERIES
Dead Hunger V
The Road To California
By Eric A. Shelman
Dead Hunger V: The Road To California
is a work of fiction by
Eric A. Shelman
All characters contained herein are fictional, and all similarities to actual persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental, except of course, where characters are based on real people, but the personalities and relationships are mostly fiction.
No portion of this text may be copied or duplicated without author or publisher written permission, except for use in professional reviews.
©2013 Dolphin Moon Publishing
Cover Art By Gary McCluskey
FROM THE AUTHOR
When writing a series, an author relies on his readers to want to follow his characters. That makes it extraordinarily risky to do what this book has done.
While Dave Gammon has been with the story since Dead Hunger II: The Gem Cardoza Chronicle, he has not developed into what people might see as a leader. Dave, with his awkward moment jokes, could be seen as reliable and caring – but a hero? Not necessarily.
So to let Dave take the reins in a book series where Flex, Gem, Hemp and Charlie – four very strong personalities – have dominated, is obviously a risk. And while I wasn’t sure when I began, I have decided that Dave is up to the task, in my opinion.
When I first began this book, even I had to fully investigate who Dave Gammon was. I had to know his motivations for leaving his established life with Serena to take a risky journey across the country to find an uncle he could not be sure was even alive. I had to create Serena’s back story, which you will we fully learn in this book,
I had to figure out who his Uncle Bug had become and why Dave would risk so much to seek him out. I also had to come up with some people to join Dave and Serena, the first of whom is an old friend of ours, Nelson Moore. He comes quite a long way in this book, too – which is the longest of the series. That surprised me, because in concept, I wasn’t sure if I could come up with enough “moments” to carry this book over 400 pages.
Well, I think I achieved that. As the reader and the most important piece of this puzzle, I hope you agree. It’s been quite a ride so far, and we have one more to go: Dead Hunger VI: Homecoming. I hope you’re in for the whole ride, and it is also my great hope that I haven’t let you down along the way. A book series is only as good as each entry, and I’ve always wanted to make sure you wanted to grab that next book. If you’re reading this, I succeeded. Thanks.
All that said, I hope you enjoy Dead Hunger V: The Road To California.
It’s that awkward moment when you realize nobody’s listening, so you kind of just drift off and fade out …
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Thanks to my brother Don Shelman and his wife, Marion Shelman. Both brought up some great points, and Don helped tremendously with the wrap-up of the book. I’d also like to thank Sharon Berget, who is a Facebook friend and Dead Hunger fan. She found a ton of typos and some continuity issues. Thank YOU! I always have to thank Megan Sweetness (not sure if that is her REAL name) who is also a Facebook friend, a DH fan and a good beta reader – she came up with an important character inconsistency that needed addressing. Thank YOU, Megan! You guys rock.
My name is Dave Gammon. I’m a relative late-comer to Flex and Gem’s family, but they welcomed me with open arms, and that’s all that’s important. I think I’ve been an asset to them, and I plan to get back to where they are as soon as I can.
That really depends on what happens in California and it also depends on what happens with my Uncle Brett.
Since I’ve never done this before – written a chronicle, that is – I suppose I should remind you that in June of 2012, the world went to crap. I mean
went to crap. According to Hemphill Chatsworth, a super smart scientist who is now a part of my family, a gas emitting from the earth’s core is responsible for transforming most of the people on this planet into the walking dead.
This is where I’d normally say “Seriously.” It’s not necessary. You know very well
happened, but depending on where this all goes from here, I’m not certain you know
Hemp’s theory is that as the planet formed and fireballs and gasses of unimaginable kinds were being injected into the nucleus of the planet and outward, they were trapped there. For as long as this planet has existed, there they were.
What released them is unclear. Hemp figures a very deep earthquake or a secret, deep underground nuclear test caused a fissure in the planet’s core. This, he hypothesizes, allowed one gas, or a combination of them, to escape and seep through the layers of the earth, up through the water and soil, eventually reaching our oxygen-enriched atmosphere.
The stuff we breathe became contaminated with it. It literally emits from every surface in every part of the world. It has changed 90% of the human population into dead things that walk around and try to eat the rest of us.
That’s the long and short of it.
Then there is the problem of the Ratz, but they seem to be dying off, though some still exist.
Getting back to the purpose of our run to California. My uncle’s name is Brett Ulrich Gammon, and he’s always been very cool to me. He’s my dad’s brother. His friends have always called him Bug, and I’ve only known him as Uncle Bug as long as I can remember. I haven’t thrown that out before, because it just sounds weird, and everyone can relate to Uncle Brett.
We’ve always connected, even though I’ve thought he was a total trip since I was old enough to notice that he
different. And while he’s not like anyone else I’ve ever known, the guy’s pretty damned special to have predicted the apocalypse that bitchslapped the world.
Yeah, he did. He really did. I don’t know if it really counts, though. I mean, Uncle Brett’s been predicting it for at least thirty years. It had to come to pass eventually. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then, if a zombie doesn’t eat it first.
Not the nut.
If I’m going to get really specific, I’d say how soon Serena, Nelson and I get back to our family – our other family, that is – depends mostly on who my uncle is these days – or if he
You may have determined that Bug is a survivalist. He’s been stockpiling food and weapons – and I mean not just dabbling at it;
stocking up – for double digit years. The last time I saw Bug was around 1995. Nineteen or so years ago, which blows my mind. We’ve communicated via internet since then, but when I was at his place, I was just blown away at his stashes. An underground poly tank with literally thousands of gallons of potable water, sealed and treated to remain drinkable indefinitely. Guns and ammunition to put together his own small army, and vacuum-packed food stock that filled several rooms. Generators, solar equipment (Nelson will be in Heaven) and even an entire room where he grows insane vegetables and marijuana hydroponically; without soil.
Yeah, you heard me right. Nelson Moore, our resident, misguided environmentalist, is here. I’ll get into that later, but first let me say that he’s not a bad asset. The bastard can throw a Ninja star like no tomorrow, and to be honest, it’s fun to watch. I have no interest in learning how to do it. I’ve gotten comfortable with my traditional weapons, but I did consider and discard the idea of grabbing a crossbow in honor of Charlie. In the end, it would’ve just been too much equipment for the bike, and more of a novelty for me.
So, we’re on the road, but we haven’t gotten very far yet. We thought we were all set, for reasons I’ll explain later, but when Nelson showed up, all that changed.
We now plan to hit another Harley store, and when we get there, Nelson is dumping his damned scooter. We aren’t going to be putt-putting around the country waiting for his ass.
Serena. Wow. After what happened to me in Florida, I guess I didn’t think I’d be able to be with another woman for a long time. But Serena isn’t just another woman. She saw me through one of the hardest times of my life; when my sis Lisa died. I was powerless to stop it, and I honestly could have seen myself taking my own life when I was trapped in that little, cinderblock building with Serena, under attack by a huge horde of abnormals … and a couple of red-eyes besides.
Serena had been my rock then. She’d been the one to tell me to go ahead and grieve, but for God’s sake, don’t throw everything away.
I know now what she meant, I think. She didn’t want me throwing
away. She wasn’t done with me yet. In fact, I now know that she hadn’t really even begun with me yet.
I’m glad I listened to her and let her help me through that time when I was right on the edge. She did it with a gentle touch and the love she offered me at that desperate moment. She’s reminded me in the months since that we never really had the opportunity to say a quiet good bye to Lisa. That time will come. Probably when we get back home to our family – and hopefully with my uncle beside me.
Beauty still exists. You just have to be fully prepared to wipe out any ugly that shows up to muck it all up.
And we are.
Let me tell you how I see Serena Casteneda. She’s around 5’11” tall. Her eyes are brown, her hair is almost jet black, and I’m not dumb enough to put her weight down in this chronicle. But it’s kind of the point. When I met her, she was living in the Zombie-Free-Zone house in Shelburne, Vermont with Tony Mallette, Nick and Jason DeSante, and others. They didn’t eat well, and the girl was wasting away, but still fiery and determined.
During the brief period of relative peace and beauty in Concord, she began eating well, and I saw Serena settle back into what I assume was her natural weight.
My woman has curves, and I like them. When I put my arms around her waist, it’s like I have a woman in my arms, and she’s as solid as a rock, too.
And gorgeous. Did I mention that? Sometimes when I tell a story, it’s almost like I expect you to just know what I know. Imagine Penelope Cruz, plus twenty or so pounds. Then you’ll have some idea of the beauty of Serena Casteneda.
We were stoked to see little Flexy born before we left our friends. Cute kid, and big! I swear that little guy could already bench press a large can of tomato sauce by the time we hit the road. I wonder if he’ll be walking when we get back.
I wonder more if it will take us that long. I hope not. If my uncle is alive, and you’re probably wondering why I would even give him the benefit of the doubt, there’s no guarantee he’ll want to come back with us. And if he does, it will depend on who he has become since this all happened. A little more than a year in this crazy ass world can really tweak you.
And he was already tweaked, a bit. In a good way.
So here’s why I think he might be okay. I need to let you know I’m not just nuts, because if I didn’t know this, then I really wouldn’t be going at all.
By now, if you’ve read everyone else’s chronicles – and I hope you have – you know that Hemp discovered if you have an immunity to something called urushiol, then you are also immune to the zombie gas that is jetting from every pore of the earth. This oil is the stuff in poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, cashew shells and mango skins. It gives those who aren’t immune to it anything from a severe, red rash, to angry huge blisters – at least that used to be the worst of it. Now, without ever having seen or touched it, the lack of an immunity can give you stuff like no heartbeat, blackish-red blood and a taste for human flesh.
I don’t get any of those things, and neither do Serena or Nelson. I also know from many camping trips with my Uncle Brett that he does not get it, either. The bastard used to show off by eating the stuff.
He never let me touch it, but as it turns out, he could have. I was as immune as he was.
So if Uncle Brett was as ready as he professed to be, and he was on top of this crazy, zombie apocalypse, then it’s my bet that he’s fine.
We shall see what we shall see. He’s near the Oregon border in northern California. A place on the outskirts of Dunsmuir. It’s all I remember from my last trip, but I’m hoping when we get there, more will come back to me. If not, with Uncle Bug’s big personality, I’m fairly certain that some survivors there will know who he is and will be willing and able to direct us to his place.
So that’s where we’re headed. Sure glad it’s spring.
But before I go on with this chronicle, I want to lead you through my beginning and tell you what happened before I found Lisa again and had to kill her dad. There are lots of other things that were no less horrible than that, because before I beat that dead son-of-a-bitch with that chair, he had killed our mother.
And all of this all leads up to how we both got stuck in that little church in Knoxville, Tennessee, surrounded by zombies. That wasn’t too long before Flex, Gem, Charlie, Hemp, Trina and those huge, crazy dogs saved our lives and my sanity.
Before all of that, I was doing what everyone else was; I was hanging out with people I loved. And while this chronicle is about our journey to California to find Uncle Bug, it’s going to seem like
The Road To Knoxville
It’s okay. It allows me to remember the time with Lisa – not the best of times, but a time when we grew closer, even if neither of us knew it then. A time of terror, perhaps, but a time that made me realize how much I loved her. Not that I’d forgotten. Now I never will.
So on with Dave Gammon’s story.
It’s that awkward moment when you realize the chronicle is in your hands now, and you’re trying to fill some big ass shoes.