Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Here’s some food for thought for my fellow writers, artists, and creators:

Everyone wants to be an Avenger. To be Iron Man or Captain America, or heck, even just Hawkeye for one day would be the dream for many of us. To us, our Avengers are authors like Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, or filmmakers like Spielberg, Lucas, or Christopher Nolan. Or maybe artists like Warhol, Rembrandt, or even Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. The ones who people think of when the words “author, director, artist” come to mind. We all want to be big shots in our creative fields, not because we crave fame, (although some of us do, I’m looking at you Tony Stark) but because we want to make a difference with our art.

Here’s the thing: you can make a difference.

But be a Defender, not an Avenger.

Yeah, the Avengers get all the limelight, the tent-pole movie blockbusters, and all the sweet Hasbro action figures to go with it. But the Defenders, the Defenders are fighting crime on the street-level. They’re in the trenches, getting the work done that the Avengers don’t have time to deal with, which isn’t a knock on the Avengers. They obviously have bigger issues on hand, such as fighting off alien invasions led by an Asgardian god of mischief or stopping the destruction of the world at the hands of an unruly artificial intelligence program.

Some of us may never see the big time. But what we can do is make a difference in our cities. In our own creative circles. We may never have a big blockbuster or New York Times best seller on our hands, but we’re there in the trenches, getting the work done. We’re hitting those word counts and working a full-time job. We’re uploading quality content to YouTube and interacting with our audience, all while we’re raising two year olds and wiping noses. We’re on the Twitters, doing the tweets, and tweeting the things.

It may not seem like much, but it’s what we got.

And what we got, is sometimes all the world needs.

So get out there and make a difference in your circles, in your city, or even in your neighborhood. Because you never know, sometimes even a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man can become an Avenger.

Josh Vasquez

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Here’s the first part of  A New Death: CJ’s Story, the audiobook version. You can read along with the free ebook available here.

This short story set in the Savannah Zombie Novel universe takes place at the same time as the first entry, A New Death. It focuses in on thirteen year old CJ and his family, who appear in A New Darkness. This story bridges books 1 and 2.

Huh?

What’s this?

A preview of A New Daybreak‘s  prologue?

 

SAY WHAT?!?

Okay, enough joshing around, (See what I did there?) here it is:

 

Prologue

I am walking down a dark road.
It is nighttime and there is blood on my hands.
Not figuratively.
I look down and my hands are slick with blood.
whose blood
I… I cannot remember.
It is fresh, warm. It smells of rot and there is a metallic taste in my mouth.
Like the taste of a copper penny.
Something dribbles from the corner of my mouth, but I do not care.
I am dead.

But I am not at the same time.

I look down again and I see that my legs are moving. My feet shuffle awkwardly, as if asleep.
wake up feet wake up
I giggle at this, but the air escapes my mouth in an arid gasp.
A moan follows it. A groaning I feel escape from deep within my gut.
I am hungry.
so fucking hungry
I remember eating recently. Something tough shifts between my dry gums. I work my jaw in an effort to free whatever is in my mouth. It touches my cracked tongue.
meat
The feeling of the HUNGER surges throughout my body. It fills every ounce of me, my very essence one of desire and bloodlust. I must feed.
Soon.
I beg my feet to pick up their pace. They are resistant at first, but the HUNGER reaches them as well and they soon stumble into a light jog.
I feel every snapping tendon. Every dry grinding joint. For some reason, I think I should be feeling something, but again, I cannot remember. Some kind of bodily warning that I am harming myself, some indicator of distress.
what is the word what is the word what is the word
I hear a snap.
My hip wobbles and I tumble forward, the ground rushing up to stop my face. My left arm flies up to slow my fall, but I hear another crack.
My wrist breaks and my face slams into the concrete. The fall would have broken my nose.
If I had one.
It is missing. It was taken from me by… I cannot remember.
The HUNGER ripples throughout my veins. It rides on the coagulated sludge that once was my blood.
I slowly push my way up using the stump of arm where my hand dangles freely. A strand of rubbery flesh tethers it to my wrist, swinging back and forth, back and forth.
I giggle again and again it comes forth as a moan.
must feed must feed must feed
The HUNGER does not take long to remind me of the emptiness in my stomach. As if I forgot. I look down and notice a gaping hole in my abdomen. Something long and slippery sways from the opening. It reminds me of
meat meat meat
Minutes pass, but the HUNGER makes them feel like hours. Every creaking of bone a ticking of the second hand.
tick tick tick eat eat eat
I black out.
I come to. I am still walking. My hand has fallen off somewhere. I do not care.
While I was out, my body had been busy marching towards the smell of food. A breeze carried the scent of burnt wood and warm flesh.
I am getting close.
I pass through trees and come into a small clearing. The pale orb in the sky lights the grove.
A triangular shape sits in the middle of the grove and smoke rises from a smoldering pile of ash.
The HUNGER aches within me as I make my way towards the tent.
I tremble with joy as I look inside and see a man asleep.
He has not heard me.
He is dressed in orange. Black markings across his back.
I cannot read them. I do not remember how.
I fall forward onto him. He wakes, but his struggle is futile as my jagged teeth tear into his cheek.
I feel pure glee as his hot blood fills my mouth.
He is screaming, but I do not care. My teeth open for another bite, but then stop.
not right not right not right
Something is wrong.
He tastes different.
Not like the others.
oh no oh no oh no
In my hesitation, the man shoves me back and I fall through the opening. I hit the ground hard, laying there for a minute looking up at the twinkling lights above me.
“What have you done?!” The man bellows.
He is now standing over me, his massive frame towering over me.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”
I roll to my side in an attempt to escape, but something hits me hard in the back and I begin to tumble across the ground. As I circle around, I see the bottom of the man’s foot where my back was.
I have attacked other men before this one. Normally they came at me with sharp metal objects, or in some cases, their hands held a tool that made the sound of thunder.
That’s it.
That was why I have the hole in my stomach.
This man held nothing.
His hands were bare just like mine.
just like you just like you
“I’m not like the others you’ve eaten…”
He holds his hand up to the bite wound I left on his face.
He smiles.
“They did something to us. Something… wrong.”
I try to get up and leave again, but quickly he is on top of me. His fists begin to pummel my face. I hear the skull fragmenting inside my head. Bone splinters, my already piss-poor vision becoming blurrier.
He stops and backs off, clutching at his side. He yells in pain and his muscles begin to bulge through his orange jumpsuit. The fabric begins to tear as his flesh contorts. His eyes blaze red.
Something is inside me. I look down to see the man’s hands deep into my belly, pulling the opening wider and allowing for more of my guts to spill onto the ground.
oh well
The man yanks out the remains of my insides and steps back again, this time admiring his handiwork. The muscles in his neck continue to grow, his skin splitting and cracking at the pressure.
“You see deadhead,” the man continues, his voice now deeper and coarser. “I was already dead before you entered the tent.”
And with that, he slammed his fist into my head and my skull finally gave way.
I welcomed the darkness.

 

 

 

So, what did you think? Let me know in the comments! Now to go finish the rest of the book!

 

Josh

tybeeislandbookfestsub

 

Ok, so I didn’t just submit my book to the Tybee Island Book Festival.

But I did do so in the last week.

Pretty excited about a local book festival that includes both traditionally published and self-published authors. We have the Savannah Book Festival here every year, but as of right now, they only except traditionally published authors.

Which is kinda funny to me, because two years ago, they had Hugh Howey, who is one of the more well-known self-publishers. In fact, his self-publishing career is what led to him getting a traditional type publisher, but I digress.

I don’t have too many details on how I’ll be envolved with the festival, but I will keep everyone posted.

Josh

A New Death Cover 2.0

Right now you can get Book 1 in the Savannah Zombie Novel Series for FREE on your Amazon Kindle!

This promo will last for FIVE days, so now would be a good time to pick it up if you haven’t read it yet! If you have, then now would be a great time to tell your friends!

Here’s what some readers have said about A New Death on Amazon:

“When you read A New Death,I think you will be shocked to learn that it is the authors first novel. The story is well written and has a good quick pace. It is surprisingly upbeat for a zombie apocalypse novel. I enjoyed it and definitely recommend it.” -J. Meister

“I can’t believe this is the authors first book. Very well written and flowed great. You Mr. Vasquez are a gifted story teller. I really enjoyed the character development, I could not put this book down I think this is the fastest I’ve read a book.”- Jesse E.

“Josh Vasquez has done a fine job for his first effort. The characters grab your attention and pull you along with them. This is very much a character driven tale and it works well. Plenty of zombie action and questions to answer. I am looking forward to the next installment.” – Belle Rouge

“Easy to read and entertaining. Fast moving. I Looking forward to the next book! Perhaps the Bible talk may be a turn off for some but so far it was tolerable.” – Amazon Customer

“one of the better zombie books I’ve read in awhile! fast paced, great characters…Loved lexx! really hope there is a sequel!! hoping for more from this author!” – Lisa Cook

“This is a bit different from other zombie books. There are the usual slow ones and some runners. What makes it different is that the bitten change into muscle bound rage monsters. While this not the best book I have ever read it certainly isn’t the worst. It’s a good first book.” – ladyboss230

“Josh Vasquez obviously found his calling in writing a zombie novel, keep up the great work!! A can’t put down read!” – Debra Ryan

That’s just a few people’s opinion. You can make yours by either clicking the picture above or by clicking here.

I hope y’all enjoy!

Josh

Hey everybody, just wanted to give a quick update and let you know what I’m up to.

First, A New Darkness releases on Kindle this Saturday! You can still pre-order it and save 33% on this weekend’s price and 66% on list price. If you haven’t yet, go and get it here.

Maybe you’re like, “I still haven’t read A New Death yet.” Well, good for you, A New Death is on sale until Saturday! Get it for $1.99 here!

Or maybe you like paper. (Who doesn’t? Books smell amazing.) Well, good news for you, I’ve made some updates to the paperback version of A New Death and started work on the A New Darkness paperback this week. So both of those will be live in the next couple of weeks.

And lastly, I don’t normally do too much promotion leading up to book launch (one of my weak points) but this time around, I’m trying something new.

It’s called Thunderclap. Thunderclap works like this: You go and hook up your social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) to my Thunderclap promotion. Then on Saturday at noon, Thunderclap will blast out a message featuring my book and link through all of our social media accounts. Pretty cool, right? The only catch is I have to get full support or else the message won’t go out.

As of right now, I’m at 14 out of 100 supporters. With only 14 people signed on, it already has a reach of 4313 people. Can you imagine if we get all 100?

I’ve done this before and have never received any junk mail from it, or any emails afterwards. It’s an extremely easy way to help support me. All you have to do is give up one tweet or status update on Saturday.

100 people is an easily reached number. We can do this. Sign up here.

Thank you so much for the support and I look forward to hearing what you have to say about A New Darkness!

Josh

savannahzombienovelcom.jpg

Hey everyone!

So, it’s only a handful of days until I turn in the final manuscript for A New Darkness and I’m working on the finishing touches.

One of which is the cover. For the cover of A New Death, Xavier Martinez came up with the design, and I thought he did an awesome job, so I asked him to do it again.

And he came through.

Problem is, he made too many awesome covers and now I can’t decide which one I like more!

So, let’s put it to a vote!

Tell me which is your favorite and whichever cover gets more votes, that will be the cover for A New Darkness!

Here they are:

Cover_Hand.jpgCover_Runner.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to pre-order A New Darkness! You’ll save 33% from weekend launch price and a whoppin’ 66% from regular list price! Click on the banner below!

anewdarknessheader

The wood crackled and shifted in the brick fireplace. Lexx leaned forward and placed another log into the slowly dying fire. It quickly caught flame and the fire grew. Before reclining back into his spot against the couch, he pulled a small sliver from the fire and held the burning tip to his newly found cigar. He puffed patiently, allowing the tobacco to light. A sweet smelling smoke filled the room, but no one seemed to mind. The man grinned his boyish-grin and sat back into his spot next to Tori on the carpet.

Josh lay adjacent to them in the love seat; his feet pointed towards the warmth of the fireplace. His eyes were shut, most likely resting, not sleeping. Every now and again, his toes would wiggle, almost to acknowledge he was still awake.

Jeremy found himself in the well-broken-in recliner. With his feet popped up, (also in the direction of the fire), he was doing his best to fight off the sleep which tried to overtake him, even though he needed it.

They all needed it.

Everyone was exhausted. It could be seen on each one of their faces. The events of the past few days had been physically wearing, and just as emotionally tiresome. After leaving Savannah and the trials that they faced there, the road to Josh’s family did not seem any easier. Three times already they have had to find an alternate route due to road blocks. Once, they actually found themselves on I-16 which should have been clogged with fleeing traffic, but due to a massive pile-up, was mostly empty past Effingham County.

And then there were the dead. Their numbers weren’t swollen like in the city, but the small groups that banded together out in the country could be just as frustrating. They did seem to group together. Josh was convinced that the undead didn’t “communicate” in a normal sense, but when one moaned, the others heard it and moved in that direction. He was afraid of them grouping in large numbers, like at the grocery store and the day he rescued the others.

But despite all this, despite that they were probably still a day’s journey from his family, everyone was in good spirits. The house they were currently in was a God-send. It was tucked out of the way, away from the roads and neighboring homes. And best of all, it was left almost entirely intact. Whoever lived here, left everything and split. There was the possibility that they never came home, but no one ever brought that up.

“This is a good-ass cigar,” Lexx said, breaking the peaceful silence.

Jeremy smiled.

“Ass-cigar? That sounds-”

“Haha, you are so funny,” Lexx interrupted, not amused by Jeremy’s clever word play.

Jeremy’s smile faded.

“Ben would have liked that joke.”

The room was silent again, but not so much in a restful way, but a painful one.

“I would have liked to have met him,” Josh said, eyes still closed. “From the way y’all have talked about him, he seemed like a great guy.”

“He was,” Tori said.

Jeremy tried not to think about Ben, to which he immediately felt somewhat guilty for trying to do. He did want to remember him, but it was still hard. The two men had formed a friendship against the backdrop of the end of the world. Jeremy was just glad that the Lumberjack got what he deserved for killing Ben.

It was ironic that, it was Ben who continued to vouch for LJ, and in the end, was killed by the monster the man turned into. Jeremy was not sure why LJ turned the way he did, and when they asked Josh about it, he did not have any zombie knowledge to enlighten them with.

“So, Josh,” Lexx started. “I still haven’t heard how you ended up being in the right place at the right time. I didn’t have the pleasure of riding in the cab of the truck.”

Josh’s eyes opened, staring up at the ceiling.

“Yes, I would like to know as well,” Tori added.

“I was almost asleep,” he said.

“C’mon man. Tell us and then we’ll turn in,” Lexx insisted.

Josh sat up in his seat and spun his feet around to the ground. He rubbed his face a few times, scratching at the stubble on his chin.

“Okay, but me and Jeremy get the kid’s room.”

“Deal,” Tori answered before even consulting Lexx.

“Yeah, that’s fine, I guess. Not like we’ll be sleeping much anyway,” he said, playfully elbowing Tori in her ribs. She pushed him away, but couldn’t hide the small smile on her face.

“Jeez guys, you’re gonna have to give it a rest. We’d be there already if you two weren’t always sneaking off,” Jeremy said.

“I can’t help that she finds me irresistible.”

“Oh yeah, that’s it,” Tori interjected.

Josh cleared his throat.

“So, I’m going to start telling my story now. I’m sleepy, so let’s get this over with.”

Everyone settled down. Tori and Lexx moved from the floor to the couch; Jeremy brought the seat up, but left the footrest out for optimal foot warming from the fire. Lexx reached over, grabbed the blanket sitting on the arm of the couch and then to proceeded to cover himself and Tori. She snuggled into his side.

“Please begin,” Lexx said to Josh, with his hand held out.

 

***

 

“Work sent me down to Brunswick late in the afternoon last Thursday. We were finishing a job down there, a high school, and had to get a whole bunch of our ladders and tools out of the building. It was this whole last minute “fiasco” (he uses “air-quotes”), and the stuff had to be out of the school by that night. So, I got the pleasure of driving south and picking everything up.

I left our shop- Can I just say something real quick? I think it’s crazy how the warehouse that y’all met in and spent your first night together, is the same place I work. I mean, what are those odds? That you would stay there and then later, when all hope seems lost, who shows up? Just a guy driving a truck from the same exact place! Anyways, just thought I’d say that.

So, I left the shop sometime around two, I think? Yeah, it was around two, because I remember thinking about how Brunswick is an hour away, and that meant two hours of travel time and however long it would take to load everything on the truck. And it was so hot that day. So freaking hot.

I get down to the job site around three. Everything was still normal then. A couple of the guys met me outside the school and informed me that they were still hunting down ladders within the building. Tools have a great way of disappearing on construction sites, but I digress.

It takes us an hour to track down the last five remaining ladders. The school was massive, this two-story deal, with a huge courtyard in the middle of it. Everything there was state of the art. Real top-notch kind of place. Kids would have been lucky to have gone there if they ever got the chance. But now they won’t. At least for now.

As we finished loading the last few ladders onto my truck, Johnny, one of our guys, was telling me how a few of the other workers around the school had been acting strange all day. Word was that some kind of stomach bug was going around.

Great, I thought. That’s all I need is to get sick and bring it home to my wife.

I was fixing to crank up the truck and leave, when we heard the first of the screams. They came from the front side of the building. The three of us ran towards the commotion; I left the keys dangling in the ignition. I quickly passed both of them. Both were chain-smokers and both were having trouble catching their breath. What they were about to see, would not help.

I got there first and knew instantly what was going on. When I saw the four bodies hunched over the kicking and screaming man, I knew exactly what I was looking at. There was no question in my mind.

But, even though I knew what was happening, my body wouldn’t react. I remember standing there, frozen to the ground; my brain racing to process this new information. I screamed within my skull, yelling at myself to move, to act somehow.

Johnny and Larry finally arrived next to me. Johnny was keeled over, trying to catch his breath. I seemed to snap out of my daze when they showed up. Larry’s jaw hung open. He went to move forward, to try and help the attacked man, but I held him back. There was nothing we could do for him now. I’ll spare you the details, because I’m sure you’re aware of the gore these monsters are capable of inflicting. Even if we did get him away from the feeding, there was no way the three of us blue-collar boys would know how to put everything back in him, in the right places.

The four zombies were a mixed bag of characters. One construction worker, complete with reflective vest and hardhat. One college kid from the neighboring local university across the street. A guy in business suit and one soccer mom. Of the four, she looked the most fresh, but I would still have classified them as the ‘slower’ ones.

She noticed us first. Forgetting about the meal in front of her, she slowly stood up, meat hanging from her mouth, and began shambling in our direction. I think my co-workers were still confused at the time as to what was really going on. Larry moved forward again, and for the second time, I held him back.

‘We have to help her,’ Larry said.

‘Help her? She just fuckin’ ate that guy,’ Johnny hissed.

The other zombies were beginning to notice us as well.

‘There’s nothing we can do for her now, Larry,’ I said. ‘We have to go. It’s not safe to stay here.’

He looked at me like I was insane. His shoulder jerked out of my hand as he made his way towards the dead woman. Her arms reached out to him, welcoming his approach. I motioned to Johnny for us to leave. He hesitated a moment, but nodded, and we turned to run.

We heard Larry’s screams as we got back to the truck.

‘What the fuck is going on?’ Johnny said as we both climbed into the cab of the truck.

I looked around. More corpses were wandering onto the jobsite. How there were that many, so quick, I don’t understand. It was almost like a switch was flipped and they came off an assembly line.

I remember trying to calm Johnny down and trying my best to explain what was going on. I could tell he did not want to believe me at first, but the rotting evidence walking around outside was enough to get him to listen to me.

We made the plan to go to his house first. He lived right outside of Brunswick, so it wasn’t far. I knew I had to get to my family back in Savannah, but between my brother-in-law and father-in-law, I knew they would get out of the city safely. My plan was to get Johnny set at his place and then go north from there. At the time, I didn’t know it would take me several days to get back home.

I spent that first night at Johnny’s place, helping him set up some defenses. His plan was to hunker down and ride this thing out. And for him that was a great plan. He had mountains of those military meal-ready-to-eat’s, guns galore, and a great location. His home was situated deep within the woods and far enough away from the general population. In the whole time I’ve known Johnny, I never would have known he was a doomsday prepper.

I left early that next morning. He offered for me to take some MRE’s for the road, so I took several. Those things are definitely designed for essential nutrition, not taste! (He chuckles to himself.) The military’s take on mashed potatoes was indeed questionable. I thanked him and wished him luck before I drove off.

Interstate 95 was out of the question. From the exit ramp, I could see it was completely clogged with cars and chaos. I knew I would be taking back roads, but which ones I was unsure. Normally, I would carry a map of Georgia with me. Despite my driving all over the state for my company, they seemed to think that directions scribbled down on a yellow piece of paper were far more superior to a GPS system. I got lost one time too many, so I finally broke down and bought a good old-fashioned folding map. Never got lost again.

Highway 17 would have been my next best choice of getting home as quickly as possible. And it would have been, if I didn’t keep running into roadblocks of all freaking kinds. Car wrecks were the worst. Some I was able to get by, thanks to the new brush-guard my company bought for the truck. Others on the other hand required some extensive backtracking and huge losses of time. I eventually had to stop for the night. I didn’t want to risk anything in the dark. Being out in the country, the only light I had was the moon, the stars, and the headlights of the truck.

Long story short, I found an old, abandoned barn to sleep in. I didn’t want to sleep in the truck, running the chance of getting surrounded and trapped. My cell phone didn’t have any reception, and I don’t think it was because I was in the middle of nowhere. I had the sneaky suspicion that no cell phones had reception. Anywhere.

The next morning, I woke up and made my way down to the truck. I was stopped when I saw one lone zombie wandering between the truck and myself. It was a little boy, maybe ten years old. He wore a Buzz Lightyear t-shirt and stained matching pajama pants. His skin was their trademark pale, his eyes sunken and dark. Small bits of blood gathered around his lips.

I wished Johnny would have offered me one of his guns, a pistol at least, but the only thing I had for a weapon was the steel pipe I kept on the truck. It was about a foot and a half long, with a ninety-degree elbow on the end. I kept it on the truck, just in case I ever got into any trouble and needed some physical reinforcement.

The boy saw me and began to shamble in my direction. Zombie children are not really something you see a lot of in zombie video games or movies. And I understand why now.

They’re hard to look at.

His gait was uneven as he hobbled over to me, his little jaw clamping open and shut. He held up his arms, fingers curled, reaching for me. I knew what I had to do; I just didn’t want to.

I swung the pipe, the steel elbow connecting with the boy’s temple. His skull quickly shattered and his body fell limp onto the ground in front of me, thick, red blood oozing from the gaping wound in his head. I stood there in silence for a moment, not sure what to do with myself. The boy was in between the ages of my niece and nephew. My desire to get home grew exponentially.

I would pull into the Savannah area later that night. My wife’s sister and her family lived outside of Savannah in Port Wentworth. It took some time avoiding the city, but I finally made it to their house around ten. The place was a mess when I got there. A pile of bodies in the living room, the front door broken in, everything missing from the cabinets, and a trail of blood leading away from the pantry to outside. At first, I was really worried, but quickly relaxed a little. All the food was missing. It took me a minute to realize that meant they were alive. Scavengers wouldn’t have taken everything. Pots, pans, and all the other cooking utensils were gone too. No, my family made it out alive.

I was still concerned with all the blood though. Obviously, the bodies in the living room were zombies who had broken in the front door. As I pulled them back outside, I took note of the bullet holes in each one’s forehead. No doubt, my brother-in-law’s doing. The last one I went to pull out didn’t have a bullet wound in the head, no, its face was smashed in completely.

I spent some time securing the front and back doors as best as I could, before I walked around and inspected the house. Like I said, the kitchen was empty. I guess they didn’t think I’d want a snack. Luckily, I still had one MRE left. After finishing that off, I went to check the rest of the house. The master bedroom was a mess, but to be honest, that was somewhat normal. I walked into the adjoining bathroom.”

Josh pauses for a second before continuing his story.

“There was a note written to me on the mirror. It was written by my wife informing me that they were gone to the cabin. The cabin is an old farmhouse that we restored out past Statesboro. It’s our little vacation spot. I had feeling they would be there, but knew I should check Savannah first before heading out west, just in case they didn’t make it out. But seeing her handwriting on the mirror was just further evidence that they had escaped.

She also left me the combination to the gun safe as well. I was relieved that although they didn’t leave me anything to eat, they had at least thought to leave me a weapon. Upon opening the safe, I found out that wasn’t entirely the case.

Sitting inside the safe was a single six-shot, snub-nosed revolver. And one bullet. One. A note written on a post-it, in my brother-in-law’s handwriting, read, ‘just in case.’

Just in case? It took me a second to understand what it meant. It was a way out. Not that I would use it now, but if I ever got trapped and the only way out was to become a walking corpse, this would give me an alternative. It made me smile, because they knew that I would make it to them alive. They knew there was no way I would let it come to that. And they were right.

I slept like a baby that night.

I woke up the next morning ready to get to my family. As I passed my niece and nephew’s bedrooms upstairs, I stopped and remembered the two of them and how much they meant to me and my wife. We loved those kids like our own. CJ was thirteen now and just growing into this awesome guy. He was huge for his age, as tall as me and his father, maybe even taller. The boy was solid too. He had played football since me and his aunt started dating.

But the kid had character too. He was light years ahead of his friends in maturity. He was respectful and a hard worker. While most kids his age were playing video games, he was restoring a Chevrolet Chevelle with his father so he would have a car when he was sixteen. Crazy, right? You know what I was doing at thirteen? Trying to figure out how to catch all the Pokémon!”

Everyone laughed, except for Lexx, who mouthed to Tori, ‘What’s a Pokémon?’

“Hailey,” Josh continued. “Hailey was just as much fun. She was eight going on nine and talked nonstop. She had grown into that age where everything she thought, was also broadcasted to the world. It could grow old real quick, but I would have given anything then to hear her little voice.

As I took one final look at her room, before passing on, I noticed that all her stuffed animals were still sitting on her bed. I guess Chris didn’t let her take any, to save room in the vehicles for important things. I walked into her room and grabbed the green frog I had seen her with numerous times. I smiled and went downstairs.

After retrieving the revolver from the gun safe, I had left it there the night before; I made my way to the back door. The blood leading out from the pantry began to worry me. Why would there have been a bloody something in the pantry? It was empty now, so whatever it was, was long gone. I shook it off and readied myself for what could be waiting for me outside.

I opened the back door and there were three zombies in between me and the truck. Two of them I didn’t recognize, but one I did. It was Susan Powers, whom the kids lovingly called, “Ms. P.” She was missing chunks of flesh from her right arm and neck. She was wearing a half-open bathrobe and pink house slippers. Her eyes were the same dead black just like all the others, any trace of who the woman was before long gone. The three of them smelled me and fumbled their way up the steep driveway.

I clutched the steel pipe tightly as I ran towards them. I swung the pipe connecting with the first one’s forehead, a mist of red spraying me in the face. I pulled the elbow out of its skull and swung again, bringing the pipe across the second one’s face. It too caved in, leaving me and Ms. P.

She wasn’t the least bit concerned with her fallen friends’ demises, but continued her small uncoordinated steps towards me. No remorse, no concern except to feed. I put her down quickly as well.

More dead were coming into the neighborhood, so I made haste to get into the truck and leave. I pulled out of there quick, as the mass of undead inhabitants poured in. I wasn’t sure if they smelled my fresh meat, or maybe it was the sound of the truck, but they were coming from all over.

I came around a curve on my way out and hit the brakes.”

He pauses again, tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.

“I stopped and… and there she was. She was standing there in the middle of the road, almost as if she was blocking me in. It didn’t take long for me to notice who the short, little, blonde haired, once blue eyed girl was who stood out in front of me. Except her eyes were no longer the vivid blue, but black as starless night. Near her ankle were the remains of dried blood. In the hand of her slack left arm a pink teddy bear was still grasped.

It was my niece.

I remember getting out of the still running truck and walking up to her. She let out a small moan as I neared; my hands trembling. I had left the pipe on the seat of the truck. What was I to do? The fact that she was standing there in front of me, dead, well, all the hope I had of finding my family alive vanished. Her one free arm reached out for her uncle and it took everything in me not to reach out and pull her in and whisper that everything was going to be okay.

I pulled the revolver from the back of my pants, and put my niece to rest.

 

***

 

Josh stopped for a moment; his eyes tightly closed. They finally opened and he stood up and smiled.

“I was sitting in the truck after that when your voice came on the radio. You sounded so scared and like you had no way out. I’m not sure why, but I knew I had to help you.”

“And we are so glad you did,” Tori said.

He nodded.

“We should get some sleep,” he added. “We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. No idea how blocked the roads will be.”

The group all agreed and the four of them stood up, stretched, and went upstairs to the bedrooms after Lexx put out the fire in the fireplace. Josh and Jeremy took the children’s bedroom, each getting their own twin-sized mattress, while Lexx and Tori shared the master bedroom’s queen.

As Jeremy lay in the bed, staring up in the ceiling, his mind wandered in thought. He felt sorry for Josh and the loss of his niece. He knew what it was like to lose someone close. His mother had at least lived a full life. An eight-year-old girl on the other hand, that was a hard thing to accept.

He did his best to push the thoughts from his head and it was not long before he drifted off to sleep.

 

***

 

As the four of them slept, the last whiffs of smoke pirouetted up out of the chimney, out into the now cool night’s air. The scent of the burned wood was carried by the wind to and fro, crossing the path of anything that had the sense of smell, drawing it to the quiet house where Jeremy gave in to exhaustion.

 

So, what did you think?

 

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Prologue

Traffic was at a standstill. It had been thirty minutes since James Brighton and his car had moved forward an inch. In the Georgia heat and humidity, thirty minutes was forever, especially if you do not have air-conditioning. Sitting high above the Savannah River on the Talmadge Bridge, James wiped sweat from his face and fanned himself with an old catalog that never made it inside from the mailbox. His small, four-doored compact was full of his belongings. His trunk was stuffed with suitcases filled with his clothes; his TV and other electronics filled the backseat along with anything else he grabbed in his rush to leave the house.

I should have left sooner, he thought.

He should have. His brother called him before everything even happened. Tried to warn him to get the hell out of the city, but just like always, he ignored his older brother’s sound advice. He had laughed it off at the time. The dead walking and eating the flesh of the living? Strange government orders? Please, James had said, that was movie stuff.

But he was wrong.

The dead were walking, and they were in fact eating the flesh of the living. James had seen it himself. There was a septuagenarian woman living in the apartment next to him. She could not even hear her own TV and blared the volume throughout the night, but she always complained to the super anytime James had a few friends over. She was the first one that James saw turn.

She was in the hall when he came home from work, standing with her face to the wall, swaying back and forth.

How sad, James had thought at the time. Alzheimer’s must be kicking in. Maybe even Dementia.

But it was not Alzheimer’s. Or Dementia. It was something else. Something that made the old woman attack James with an unnatural strength and try to tear the skin from his bones.

He grimaced. He could not forget the sickening crack of skull and the slosh of brain matter from when he was forced to bash her head against his doorknob. He closed his eyes and placed his head in his hands, his forehead slick with perspiration. He should have listened to his big brother.

Damn my pride.

Things had always been rough between him and his brother. Not that his brother did anything wrong, no, that was it entirely; his brother was perfect.

Okay, maybe not perfect, but definitely their father’s idea of perfect. John had been the Boy Scout, the war hero, the family man. Basically, everything that James was not. While John was a respectable fighter pilot for the Marines, James worked at Home Depot. Nothing wrong with working at Home Depot, but when stacked against his brother’s list of accomplishments, James always fell short.

What made it unbearable was that John never gloated in it. He had been the perfect big brother. John never picked on James growing up, always looked out for his younger brother, and even lent him money when James needed it.

I’m the one with the problem, James thought.

Traffic moved forward three inches.

James was on the uphill climb of the bridge, and from where he was sitting, he couldn’t see what the holdup was. This particular stretch of road between Georgia and South Carolina was notorious for horrible back-ups. With the sudden exodus from Savannah, it was much worse.

James sighed and cursed himself again for not leaving sooner.

Looking out to his right, over the Savannah Riverfront, he saw two small dots appear just above the horizon. They increased in size as they drew closer; their shapes began to grow more familiar to James. Soon enough, the sound that followed them arrived, a roar of engines and wind.

They were fighter jets.

Not just any fighter jets, but they looked to be the same ones his brother flew. The F-35’s flew low to the river, much lower than James thought they were allowed to fly.

What are they doing? Surveillance?

That did not seem right. You do not send fighter jets for surveillance, at least, not without extensive bombing afterwards.

James chuckled to himself.

The thought of the military bombing the city was ridiculous. Sure, when he had passed through the city, he saw plenty of the monsters attacking people, but there were still people fighting back and numerous others still alive. The city was not completely overrun yet. It would be complete overkill to level Savannah.

The pair of jets flew over the bridge. They were low enough to where you could see the markings on the side. It could have been his imagination, but James swore he saw his brother’s call sign on one of the jets. They passed over and then shot up into the sky.

What are the odds that is John? He’s probably been on high alert since everything started.

James heard screaming come from the Savannah bound lanes. He looked over to see, about fifty feet away, a monster attacking its family inside a car. It was held back by its seat belt, but was able to grab a hold of the person next to them. Blood pulsed onto the window, covering the carnage behind it.

The people in the cars nearby began to panic. Multiple drivers began to try and push themselves away from the blood-soaked vehicle. This only caused the cars to become more gridlocked. Finally, a large black man, the size of a football player, got out of his truck. In his hand was a rather large hammer. He went over to the monster’s vehicle, opened the door, and began swinging the hammer into the creature’s head. After several swings, the thing’s body went still. The man looked at the remaining family, nodded, and then returned to his vehicle.

The whole situation was surreal.

How could this all be happening?

Like James had told his brother over the phone, this was all movie stuff. Fictional. Make-believe. However, reality made a hard argument that the events starting yesterday were very, very real. As if to punctuate his thoughts on reality, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.

The two jets had returned and were now racing at the bridge at an incredible speed. James watched as something detached from the jets, and they disappeared into the sky again.

In front of him, the bridge erupted into flame and debris. The suspension cables groaned and snapped as the bridge twisted from the explosion. James shielded his eyes from the heat blast. He could barely see through the thick black smoke and fire, but he heard screaming. It took him a moment to realize it was his own.

Panic ensued.

The car in front of him slammed into him in reverse, pushing him back into another car. He tried stomping down on the brakes, but the car kept pushing. When the cars behind them would move no more, the driver got out and began running away from the blast. Others did the same.

The bridge shuddered.

James got out of his car and ran. Others bumped into him as they all ran for safety. There was a loud crack as one of the suspension cables broke loose and landed on a row of cars, crushing them and their inhabitants. James picked up speed.

He ran several feet until a large weight crashed into him. It sent him flying into a minivan, and he hit the ground with a thud. The weight was quickly on top of him. There was a sharp pain in his stomach as he opened his eyes.

The weight was humanoid, but it wasn’t human. It couldn’t be. Its eyes were as black as tar, bloodshot. Its open mouth revealed rows of broken, jagged teeth. Rich, red blood hemorrhaged from the cracks of its eyes, nostrils, and the corners of its lips. It wasn’t wearing a shirt, but James could not distinguish its gender. Its chest looked to be torn off; the beginnings of rib cage poking through.

It was one of them.

One of the fast ones.

And its fingers were clawing into James’s intestines.

He coughed, blood spurting from his mouth. He felt his body go into shock. He did not feel the pain, only the wiggling of fingers inside him. James watched as the monster pulled out several feet of intestine and shoved them into its mouth. It chewed, bile and fluids dripping down its chin. It could have been his imagination again, or maybe the loss of blood, but James could have sworn it grinned as it ate.

I should have left sooner.

 

BeFunky_bridge bombing.jpg

Artwork by Xavier Martinez

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This next month I will be rushing to finish book two of the A New Death series. I have a lot of work ahead of me this next month, seeing that I’m two-thirds of the way through my first draft.

Don’t worry, I know you’re concerned. You’re probably like, “Joshua, what the heck have you been doing? I’ve been waiting forever for this book!”

I know, I know. I’m a slacker.

But here’s the good news:

I work my best under pressure.

Always have. (Well, except for one area, but don’t worry, that has nothing to do with my writing.)

In school, I always waited to the last minute to start reports or any other kind of projects. And for the most part, I always came through. This might turn some of you off, but I was that kid that just naturally retained information. (Except for math, that junk is hard.) I rarely studied for tests, I just remembered what I was taught.

Prodigy?

Probably not. You see, we all know that, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” uncleben

 

Well, because I retained facts so easily, I didn’t apply myself that much. In fact, I spent a lot of my spare time writing stories that no one will ever read. (We see where that got me.)

So, okay, what does this have to do with Book 2?

I’m going to bust this story out this next month. I know exactly where I’m going with it. I know where it ends. ***SPOILERS*** I’ve already hit the climax and it’s all downhill from here. (Okay, that wasn’t really spoilers, but people are weird about that kind of stuff.)

One last story before we go and I get back to my dayjob. (I’m on lunch break as I’m writing this.)

My senior year in high school: The year was 2006. A year of dreams. A year of aspirations. In my 12th grade Lit class, part of our final grade was a book report. I had a buddy, who shall remain anonymous, who, let’s say, didn’t care for reading. (I know, who doesn’t like reading?) Anyways, he decided to hire me as a ghostwriter. (That’s what I’m calling it.) The deal was, he would pay me $90 and I would do his report. Simple. Plus, the book was 1984. (No! Don’t throw me into that briar patch!) I spent the majority of the time working on and writing his report. This was the first time I was being paid for writing, so I wanted to do the best I could. (Although I did knock off $10 for a sandwich, but I digress.)sandvich

This left me with little time to work on my own crucial report.

I decided to do it on a book I had already read, so I choose Animal Farm. I knocked out my report quickly and didn’t really put that much into it. Well, when we received our papers back, I ended up scoring several points higher than his. Long story short, I work well under pressure..

Speaking of working under pressure, I have set Book 2 up for pre-order on Amazon. I have to have it finished by October 1st and it will go live on October 10th! The cover is temporary, but the name has been revealed! Pre-order A New Darkness now on Amazon!book2promo2.jpg

Okay, enough blabbering, I have a book to finish!

Josh