The Risingby Brian Keene
In this Bram Stoker Award-winning novel, a father must travel cross-country to find his son after a plague has turned nearly all of Americas population into zombies. See more details below
In this Bram Stoker Award-winning novel, a father must travel cross-country to find his son after a plague has turned nearly all of Americas population into zombies.
- Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.08(w) x 6.72(h) x 0.95(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Brian Keene
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
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 the 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
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 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 importantly, 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 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 "end-time 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.
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 view-piece 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
"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 who Tammy had never mentioned, stole
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 forgotten. On those
weekends, he was Daddy. Those were the only times he was truly
Tammy and Rick married. Rick got a better job in Bloomington,
New Jersey. 'The chance of a lifetime' Tammy had 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
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."
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 son, his new wife, and their
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 with 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 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.
The media soon grew silent, especially after a rogue Army unit
executed six reporters during a live broadcast. After that,
even the most dedicated journalists gave up, preferring to be
with their families as civilization collapsed, rather than
bearing final witness to it 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 the message
He'd argued with Carrie, insistent 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 then.
Deep inside, he 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 that tree only months before,
talking of how it would watch over the house when they were
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.
* * *
Jim shivered in the air pouring from the open refrigerator. He
pulled out his last can of beer and shut the door. The pop of
the tab sounded like a gunshot in the silence. His ears rang,
drowning out the cries from above. His pulse throbbed in his
temples. He placed the cold can against his head, then brought
it to his lips and drained it.
"One for the road." He crunched the can in his fist, tossing
it into the corner, where it rattled on the concrete floor.
He returned to the cot and pulled back the pistol slide. The
first bullet of the clip slid into the chamber. The clip held
thirteen more, but one was all he needed. The pounding in his
ears was louder now, and above it, he could hear Carrie. He
glanced down at the photos spread out before him on the dirty
A shot of them at Virginia Beach. That had been the weekend
she got pregnant. She smiled at him from the photo and he
smiled back. He burst into tears.
The beautiful woman in the photo, the woman who had been so
vibrant and energetic and full of life, was now a shambling,
rotting husk that ate human flesh.
He put the gun to his head, the barrel cool against his
Danny stared up at him from the other photo. In it, they were
in front of the house; Jim crouched on one knee and Danny
standing beside him. Danny held his soapbox derby trophy, the
one that he had received in New Jersey and had brought along
that summer to show his Daddy. Both of them were smiling, and
yes, his son did look just like him.
Their final phone conversation came back to him now. His
finger tightened on the trigger. He hadn't known it would be
their last, but each word was burned into his memory.
Through his tears, Jim glanced down at the smiling boy in the
photograph. He hadn't been there. He hadn't been there when
his son had gone to sleep every night, when he constructed
epic Star Wars vs. X-Men battles with his action figures, when
he played ball in the backyard, or when he learned to ride a
He hadn't been there to save him.
Jim closed his eyes.
Carrie dug at the earth and called to him, hungry.
His finger tightened.
The cell phone rang shrilly.
Jim jumped, dropping the pistol onto the bed. The phone
shrieked again. The green digital readout glowed eerily in the
soft light of the lantern.
Jim didn't move. He couldn't swallow, couldn't breathe. It
felt like someone had hit him in the chest, kicked him in the
groin. Consumed with dread, he tried to move his arms and
found them frozen.
A third ring, then a fourth. He was insane, of course. That
could be the only explanation. The world was dead. Yes, the
power was still on and the satellites still kept a silent and
mournful watch over its remains, but the world was dead. There
was no way someone could be calling him now, here underground,
beneath the remains of Lewisburg.
The fifth ring brought a whimper from his throat. Fighting off
the emotional malaise that held him, Jim sprang to his feet.
The phone buzzed again, insistent. He reached for it with a
Don't pick it up! It's Carrie or one of the others. Or maybe
something worse. Pick up that phone and they'll pour
themselves through it and ...
It stopped. The silence was deafening.
The display blinked at him. Someone had left a message.
He grasped the phone as if he were holding a live rattlesnake.
He brought it to his ear and dialed "0."
"You have one new message," said a mechanical female voice.
The canned inflections were the sweetest sound he had ever
heard. "To hear your message, press one. To replay the
message, press the pound key. If you need assistance, dial
zero and an operator will assist you."
He jabbed the button and there was a distant, mechanical whir.
"Saturday, September first, nine p.m.," the recording told
him. Jim let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been
holding. Then he heard a new voice.
Jim gasped, his pulse jack-hammering. The room was spinning
"Daddy, I'm scared. I'm in the attic. I ..."
A burst of static interrupted. Then Danny's voice drifted
back, sounding very small and afraid.
"I 'membered your phone number but I couldn't make Rick's cell
phone work right. Mommy was asleep for a long time but then
she woke up and made it work for me. Now she's asleep again.
She's been sleeping since ... since they got Rick."
Jim closed his eyes, the strength vanishing from his legs.
Knees buckling, he collapsed to the floor.
"I'm scared, Daddy. I know we shouldn't leave the attic, but
Mommy's sick and I don't know how to make her better. I hear
things outside the house. Sometimes they just go by and other
times I think they're trying to get in. I think Rick is with
Danny was crying and Jim wailed along with him.
"Daddy, you promised to call me! I'm scared and I don't know
what to do...." More static, and Jim reached out to keep
himself from sprawling facedown.
"... and I love you more than Spider Man and more than Pikachu
and more than Michael Jordan and more than 'finity, Daddy. I
love you more than infinity."
The phone went dead in his hand, the battery using its last
spark of life.
Above him, Carrie howled into the night.
Excerpted from The Rising
by Brian Keene
Copyright © 2004 by Brian Keene .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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