In his long career as a monster hunter in the Old West, Mordecai Slate hunted down monsters of just about every stripe, including zombies. The Living Dead have always been one of the most challenging of prey. As we all know, it ain’t easy killing something that’s already dead. Which is one reason why they brought a pretty fair bounty back in the era that Slate lived in.
But it seems as many as you kill, more of them just keep popping up. There’s been evidence of that during this month-long Summer of Zombie 2014 Blog Tour. Judging from the number of books written about zombies, the supply of walking dead is seemingly endless. And that’s a good thing for fans of Z-lit.
The man behind the blog tour for the third straight year is writer/editor/publisher Armand Rosamilia. This year the tour is bigger than ever, and includes over 30 authors, representing the best in the field (and a bloody field it is), posting info about their works on over 90 host blogs all over the internet. Today it’s my turn to host.
It’s a special occasion because, as if the blog tour isn’t keeping Armand busy enough, he’s also releasing a new book this week. Dying Days 4 is the fourth volume in a series that is bound to become a modern horror classic. And I’m happy to say that it’s my privilege as today’s host to present a preview sample of the new work. Check it out. It’s pure Rosamilia. When you’re finished go buy it. Happy Monster Hunting.
Dying Days 4
There were two of the rotting fuckers, set on either side of abandoned cars with their backs to the dunes, waiting to ambush whoever came down the road. The only weapons they carried were their natural ones: teeth and fingers, but they were in the advanced stages and they wore clean clothes and the bloodstains had been washed away.
And they were whispering back and forth across the stretch of open road between them, joking and laughing like there was nothing wrong in the world. One of them, the larger of the two, was scratching something into the sand with a small stick. They looked bored.
Tosha Shorb noticed the chain running across the road between the cars. She’d been on this stretch of A1A for hours without a car coming by. What were they waiting for?
She heard the engine the same time her two new friends did. They gave a quick thumbs up before squatting behind the cars. Tosha got comfortable in the dunes with her Bushmaster M16 A2 Carbine and was about to take both zombies out when she saw movement in the dunes on the opposite side, closer to the beach. At least four zombies were getting into position and two of them carried rifles.
“Motherfuckers,” she growled quietly. Now they were arming themselves. This was getting worse and worse each day. She’d had to abandon the tour bus when zombies began setting up road blocks like this. And about half of them were banding with others to hunt the living while the other half wanted to destroy both the undead and those still breathing. And there weren’t many left still breathing.
Three vehicles were coming down the road: a custom van with a hole cut out of the roof to allow the two gunmen easy access, a pickup truck with a dozen armed people piled in the back, and a black SUV in the rear.
They were driving right into an ambush but Tosha moved her finger from the trigger. This wasn’t her fight. She wasn’t going to leave just yet, though. There might be food and supplies left over after the massacre. Luckily the zombies didn’t worry about eating (except breathing people) or drinking. They also never seemed to tire and never slept. She’d observed some becoming inactive, just leaning against a wall or even sitting and staring into space. But their eyes didn’t close. Ever.
And they were healing. The gunshot wounds, severed limbs and stilted walk were going away, slowly but surely.
There were a half a dozen zombies creeping down the dunes, from her side, in anticipation of the ambush and she instinctively put her finger back on the trigger. But pulling the trigger would alert every zombie in the area to her presence, and she didn’t feel like dying today. Or any day soon.
The other unnerving thing with these zombies was the fact they could sense people. She remembered being in a McDonald’s storage room and two of them coming in, talking about her smell and trying to find her. They had but she had put a metal bar between both their eyes and crushed their skulls in for good measure. What was most disturbing were the smiles they wore as they attacked. They were showing emotions… except for pain. Tosha remembered the confusion on their faces as they were being killed yet again. As if they believed in their immortality.
There were too many of them in the area and it didn’t matter how armed these people were because they’d be ambushed any second.
“It’s not your fight,” Tosha whispered to herself, but she kept her finger on the trigger and looked through the scope at each zombie as it got into position.
Her red hair was tied back and she’d tossed off her shoes a few miles ago because they were ripped and it hurt worse than bare feet to walk in them. Her jeans were ripped in several places (luckily not in the crotch since she’d stopped wearing undies a few days ago) and so was her shirt. Her pale skin was burnt and she’d give anything for some makeup, a pair of sunglasses and a cold beer right now.
Maybe these people had clothing. A pair of shades. A pair of thongs for her ass, which was getting rubbed raw by the jeans right now. Not your fight, she thought once again. Just fade away and go find a spot to sleep tonight.
The convoy was getting closer to the chain and the car pileup and they were slowing down. She heard someone in the SUV yelling something and the SUV stopped.
Tosha used the scope to look at the people in the SUV but she couldn’t get a good look at any of them. There were at least four occupants but they had the windows up.
As she watched, they began to back up, away from the cars in front of them, just as zombies swarmed over the dunes like ants.
Shots were fired on either side and a man pitched off the back of the pickup truck and hit the ground. Everyone else leapt out and tried to take cover on either side, but there was nothing to hide under or behind, and the zombies began firing at them like fish in a barrel, while at least a dozen zombies ran down the sand and jumped onto the pinned down living.
Tosha watched as the van tried to drive through the trap, but the chain was hit at about thirty miles per hour and slowed the van down, pulling the two cars on either side against it. The two original zombies scrambled onto the top of the van as it tried to back up, and both zombies fell into the open pit on the roof.
The SUV kept backing away without anyone stopping to help or fire a shot.
The living, from the pickup, put up a good fight, shooting at zombies and getting many headshots. The driver of the pickup managed to turn it around, doing a U turn on the soft shoulder of the road and running down two zombies.
Just when it looked like they’d escape, a zombie shot the front tires and they both deflated, forcing the driver to overcorrect and end up smashing into a dune on the side of the road.
Zombies shooting guns, Tosha thought. What is this dead world coming to now?
She was once again reminded of ants because so many zombies appeared from over the dunes and she shuddered when she realized at least twenty had been hiding, buried in the sand on either side of the road, and now popped up, swiped sand from their bodies, and joined the attack.
The people in the pickup truck didn’t stand a chance. Another three shots were fired before the zombies dragged everyone out of the truck and rounded up the survivors in the road, ripping them apart and stripping them of their flesh.
Tosha turned away when she saw bloated sexual organs. These motherfuckers were sick. She wished she had a bazooka to blow up the entire lot of them in one fell swoop.
The ocean was rough today despite it being so warm and not many clouds in the sky. She’d been working on her tan for too long and now she was burnt. She wondered if she’d ever just tan without it feeling like she was on fire.
This beats the snow of Pennsylvania, she thought. She had no idea what month it was and Tosha had lost track of time since running from her home. All she knew was it was warmer here but filled with zombies, all seeming to march to the sea for whatever reason.
If she could figure out what time of year it was, she could maybe head back north and arrive during the summer so it wouldn’t be too bad. But she doubted a thousand mile trip back, after all the shit she’d had to endure getting to Florida, was in her future.
A stray zombie appeared in the surf, one of the mindless ones. Tosha didn’t remember the last time she’d seen a ‘newer’ zombie. As they’d matured and became cognizant, the zombies had taken to killing not only the living but the newer zombies as well.
The horde of zombies on A1A was a rarity, and for that she was relieved. If they decided to stop killing one another and march across the country, the living would be killed quickly.
A zombie appeared from the dunes not too far from where she was hiding and jogged down the beach, angling toward the new zombie.
Seeing it run was jarring, as was the fact the zombie wasn’t bloody, with gaping gunshot wounds and stringy hair or a missing jaw. It looked like a normal living and breathing person, jogging happily down the beach. Except… it wasn’t breathing, and the zombies had an odd malevolent look in their gray eyes, another way to see they were really undead.
But, from a distance, with zombies walking and talking like normal people, wearing nice clothes, driving cars and using weapons, opening doors and waving at you like they were friends, the danger was worse than ever. Even with so many older zombies eliminating the newer members of their sick society, it was worse.
The zombie walked right up to the one coming out of the surf. Newer zombies couldn’t sense anything but living, breathing people, and it did what they always do: walked right past the older zombie, who stepped behind and grabbed it by the neck.
Tosha didn’t want to see another massacre and had nowhere to turn her head without seeing death and decay.
She closed her eyes.
“I can smell the three of you up there… wait, is there a fourth? A baby, perhaps?”
Darlene put her hands on her full belly and sighed. She could barely move on the bed and no matter what she did she couldn’t get into a comfortable position. It had been like this for weeks.
Murph, looking so frail sitting in the corner chair, wheezed as he slept fitfully, his head lolling back against the wall. In the weeks since their escape from the stilt houses, they’d found little shelter or food. Circling through the Palm Coast area had been a nightmare as more and more of the zombies began to talk and do things a living person would do. It would be harder and harder to know the difference between the zombies and the living soon enough.
“There’s only one of them,” John Murphy said, glancing out the window. “He’s standing on the porch.”
They were holed up in the upstairs apartment above Kokomo’s Café in Flagler Beach, where (in better times long past) the spectacular view would allow one to see the ocean a block away and the tourists and locals in Veteran’s Park, and enjoy the smell of good coffee from below.
Now the only smell was death and smoke. The view was burnt buildings and Rorschach blood spatters on every surface.
“Maybe he’ll go away,” Darlene said unconvincingly. It was only a matter of time before they were rooted out of another hiding place. It kept happening over and over, the baby like a beacon to these monsters.
John looked back and gave her a faint smile. “We can’t keep doing this.” He glanced at his father on the chair and back to Darlene. “Neither of you can be moved. It was a bitch getting you up the stairs.”
“Little pigs, little pigs, let me in,” the zombie called from below. He started laughing at his own joke. “Toss down the baby and let me play with it. Is it a boy or a girl? Does it look like its mommy or daddy? Does it have my eyes?”
John went to the bed and kissed Darlene on the cheek. “Do we have anything I can kill it with?”
She shook her head. “I’m out of ammo for the Desert Eagle and for the shotgun.”
“I’m out of arrows and bolts and haven’t found anything to fashion new ones with. I need something… damn,” John said and pointed at his sleeping dad. “A leg of the chair would do just fine.”
“Don’t wake Murph. You know how pissed he gets,” Darlene said. “And I don’t want you going down there.”
“I have to. All this yelling will only bring more of them. And they aren’t mindless anymore. This one will be expecting us. Remember the attack at Matanzas High School? They let me waste all my arrows and bolts and I only hit half the time. They aren’t so easy to kill.”
“Seriously, are you coming down to let me in or not? This is just plain rude. Are you Yankees? Huh? Whatever happened to Southern hospitality? I demand some respect as well as a sweet tea and a slice of key lime pie,” the zombie said and laughed loudly at his jokes.
“I’m going to kill him,” John said and shook his dad, sleeping on the chair.
The old man, despite his advanced age, came up swinging and John had to hold him down and tell him he wasn’t being attacked.
When Murph finally relaxed, he winked at Darlene and tipped his dirty baseball cap. “I still got some fight in these fists yet. That’ll be the last warning you get, John John. Next time I break your dang nose.”
“I need the chair,” John said.
“You can’t have it.”
“I need it.”
“For what?” Murph asked.
“I’m going to break a leg off and kill a zombie with it.”
Murph stood slowly and stretched. “I guess it’s as good an excuse as any. But now you owe me a seat. And I’ll bother you until I get one. Understood?”
“Yes, Dad,” John said and winked at Darlene. He picked up the chair and smashed it against the floor, pulling a jagged chair leg off of it. “I wonder if they still need to be killed by smashing in or jabbing into their heads.”
“I wouldn’t take the chance,” Darlene said. “They’re regenerating. Even the ones we thought had obvious head trauma were healing. If we had the time and resources, I’d say we burn all of them. But we don’t have the option.”
John hefted the wood in his hand. “I know what the option is right now. I’ll be back.” He started to walk to the door but stopped and broke another two legs off the chair, handing one to Murph and one to Darlene without a word.
He opened the door a crack, expecting the zombie to attempt to push through, but the stairs down were empty. The door on the bottom was still intact, as well.
“Good luck and be safe,” Darlene whispered.
He couldn’t look back at her. He needed to focus. John put a foot down on the first step and heard it creak like a gunshot. He tried to balance his weight as he put his left foot down but the next step did the same. These wooden steps had taken a beating in this Florida weather over the years, and without air conditioning or a heater to regulate the temperature, the wood was warping at an alarming rate.
Even without the threat of zombies, the building would eventually collapse in on itself and be too dangerous for them to stay. John wondered what he was going to do with Murph and Darlene if they had to flee again. He didn’t think they could at this point.
He creaked down to the door, knowing the zombie knew he was coming. He decided to get this over with, unlocking the door and kicking it open. John led with the jagged piece of wood, shielding his eyes from the sun.
The zombie wasn’t standing on the deck anymore and the door to Kokomo’s Café was wide open. John knew it hadn’t been more than a few minutes ago when he looked out the window.
John looked around to make sure the zombie wasn’t faking him out and hiding around the corner or crouching next to the deck.
“I’m in here,” he heard the zombie say from inside the former café.
John could do nothing but walk to the door and look inside. The zombie was sitting on a chair next to the counter, right hand playing with shards of glass from the broken pastry cooler.
“When’s the last time you had a good meal, buddy?”
John stiffened when the zombie turned to him and smiled, his steely eyes locked on John’s. He lifted the chair leg in front of his chest.
The zombie laughed. “What’s your name?”
The zombie plucked a large shard of glass from the cooler. “My name is Earl.”
“Uh, I’m John.”
The zombie laughed. “I’m just kidding. Don’t you remember the show? I love saying that, right before I kill someone and strip their flesh from their bones while they scream. Such a sweet sound.”
John moved three paces closer. “Get up so I can prove you wrong.”
“Mark is my real name. I was born in Maine.”
John hesitated. “Maine? Where?”
“Swanville. Ever heard of it? Maybe someday I’ll go back, but I am so enjoying the warmer weather.”
John had no idea where Swanville was in Maine and if it was a real place or a nickname for something else, but he’d heard Darlene talk about Dexter and maybe Bangor. “Why are all of you zombies coming south?”
Mark shrugged and continued to play with the glass shard. “I can’t really say. It’s like I was being compelled to come south. I can’t say because I don’t remember anything about walking to Florida. One minute I was driving to the hardware store and then stopped at a red light. A car plowed into my rear end and when I got out I remember a mob surrounding me. The next thing I remember was the sun on my face. And being really, really hungry.”
Despite the danger, John was fascinated. He’d been killing them for so long and this was the first real encounter with a zombie without just a fight. “Can you stop yourself from biting and raping people? Do you know right from wrong?”
Mark smiled. “Your right and wrong is vastly different from mine now. I see it. Once I kill you and you rise, you’ll see it as well. I’ve decided to create as many superior beings as I can. You call us zombies, but a zombie is a mindless creature. I’m obviously so much more.”
“What happened? Are you changing, morphing back to human and alive? Will you start breathing again?” John asked.
Mark shrugged again. “Every day brings me something new and exciting. I can literally sit here and hear the heartbeat of the baby in her womb upstairs. It sounds like magic to me. I’m drawn to him for some reason. I think many of us are.” He grinned. “Mama is a special breed as well, as I’m sure you know. There’s something… different about her. Wait until this kid is born. We can all feel it. If I had a breath to hold I would, because he’ll be the death of us. I’m not joking. The pull is so strong, like the pull for all of us to head to southern States. I think eventually we’ll all be focused on the baby. I’d like to be the one to rip him apart and drink his blood, because then I’ll be the most powerful of us.”
“I’m going to stop you from getting to my son.”
Mark stood and dramatically stretched, cracking his fingers one at a time as he stared at John. “You can’t stop me, and you can’t stop us. We are the New World Order. We are the new Caretakers and the Homo Superior. We are the future.”
“You don’t have much of a future,” John said and gripped the piece of wood. He was wondering if the zombie was going to rush him or if he’d be able to get the jump on the zombie.
“Can we just agree to disagree?”
John was done talking and moved against the zombie, who took a step back and swung the chair he was sitting on in front of him.
“It’s not going to be easy to kill us anymore,” Mark said. “If this were Vegas, I’d think even odds, although you had better really kill me for good this time. Because, if even a part of me is still alive, I will heal and come back to haunt you. And eat your baby.”
“Then I’ll make sure I burn you,” John said and rushed the zombie, stepping onto the chair and swinging the wood at his head. The move caught Mark off-guard and he tried to duck out of the way. The wood jabbed into the side of his face, ripping through his right eye and shoving out behind the ear, catching in the zombie’s head.
The two stumbled back and slammed into the dusty soda case, glass shards flying. They went down onto the wooden floor and John scrambled to stay on top of the zombie and away from his teeth.
“You missed the brain but I have to be honest… this shit hurts,” Mark said and tried to pull the wood out. John gripped the chair leg and twisted it, trying to pierce the brain, but it was too far out of the head to have any effect other than squirting dark blood onto the floor.
Mark the zombie did John a favor by pushing his hand away and yanking the splintered piece of wood halfway out. John stamped his palm onto the wood and turned it with his other hand, jabbing it into the center of the zombie’s head.
John was nose to nose with the zombie and was about to vomit with the sour breath of the undead man when he saw his gray eyes go from anger to confusion and then… nothing.
The zombie stopped struggling underneath John, all un-life snuffed out.
John found the biggest piece of glass he could and began the horrible but needed job of severing the head from the zombie’s neck, vomiting twice as he worked.
He’d never get used to this.
John wiped as much of the blood off the chair leg on the zombie’s shirt as he could. He’d need every weapon he could find and wouldn’t leave it.
As he stepped back out onto the front porch and into the brutal sunshine, he stopped and shielded his eyes from the sun.
There were three zombies standing on the street smiling at him.
John slid to his right without losing eye contact and went back up the stairs, closing the door when he hit the steps.
To get your hands on the rest of “Dying Days 4″ go to: http://dyingdayszombie.com/2014/06/21/dying-days-4-released-dyingdays-zombies/
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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie
AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in June, here’s the complete list, updated daily: