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THE CHRISTIAN ZOMBIE KILLER'S HANDBOOKSLAYING THE LIVING DEAD WITHIN
By JEFF KINLEY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Jeffery Bruce Kinley A.K.A. Jeff Kinley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEpisode One
LEGEND OF THE LIVING DEAD
Ben Forman couldn't breathe. Hyperventilating, he struggled to control the shallow gasps entering and exiting his body.
"Just ... breathe ... Don't ... p-p-panic," he muttered to himself.
Just seconds earlier, Ben was nonchalantly reading a text message he'd just received. Strange how life can change in a few ticks of a clock. In the time it takes to read this sentence, your perspective on life can be suddenly inverted, forever altering your perception of reality. That's what happened to Ben. And he would never be the same.
That was last night.
Ben is a twenty-four-year-old graphic artist working in downtown Corazon City, a community located in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Nestled in a picturesque valley, the city is virtually surrounded by scenic mountains.
Ben Forman moved back to his hometown six months ago after accepting a job at Sk8X, a magazine devoted to the sport of extreme skateboarding. Ben is making the transition from starving freelance artist to full-time "professional." So his future was starting to ramp up. Or so it seemed.
Ben is 5 feet, 9 inches tall, 150 pounds, with piercing blue eyes and uncombed black hair. His clothes are mostly thrift-store finds. He's not much for material possessions, climbing the corporate ladder, athletics, or even skateboards, for that matter. Even so, he dove right into his new job, immersing himself into the subculture of extreme skateboarding, learning along the way. And when he isn't working on a project, he's usually hanging out with girlfriend Crystal.
He's a working man, and though he isn't yet making much money by industry standards, it's enough for him, for now.
Now on to what happened last night. It was Wednesday around ten thirty when Ben finally left Sk8X. The company is located in a converted warehouse on the city's south side, near the old railroad depot. Sk8X rents out the top floor. So after staying late at work, Ben was walking toward his car while reading a text from Crystal. But just after shoving the phone back into his jeans pocket, he hit something slippery on the sidewalk, nearly doing a classic skateboard wipeout. Turning to look at what caused his misstep, Ben noticed under the streetlamp's glow a shiny puddle of red gathering at his feet. Tracking with his eyes, he traced the scarlet flow all the way to its source. And that's when he saw the body.
Or what was left of it.
It was clearly a man, though the top part of his head was missing, and the brain was gone. Skin and other body parts were randomly scattered around the motionless corpse. The man's right hand still clutched a set of car keys. A well-worn backpack lay beside him. His shirt ripped and shredded. His jeans slightly scuffed at the knees. But his skull was grossly disfigured, pressed facedown in a glistening, gory pool of still-oozing crimson.
Upon this gruesome discovery, Ben's first instinct was to yell for help, but nothing came out of his mouth. Not a sound. It took him several tries until his fingers stopped shaking long enough to dial 999.
* * *
Authorities investigating the grizzly crime scene estimated the man was in his early-to-mid-thirties. After gathering evidence, they speculated that he was murdered and mutilated by a minimum of five or six attackers. His brain was removed and then eaten. Eaten! Raw. Episodes like this seem to appear with greater regularity these days, though they don't always end up like this. Or at least it's not reported as much. Ever since the national threat level was raised to level 3, such attacks have been on the rise ... even in places like beautiful Corazon City. You expect this kind of crime somewhere like New York, L.A., or Chicago, but this is the foothills of the Smokies. And it was the second attack downtown in as many months. This poor guy was one of the lucky ones, actually. He was still recognizable. Several past attacks have been so brutal that authorities have had to use dental records to determine the victim's identity. And when all that's left of you is bone and teeth ... well ... let's just say you really don't want to die like that.
As the frequency of attacks has increased nationally in the past two decades, security has stepped up on every level. Several years back, then governor Johnston earmarked more than $40 million to beef up law enforcement and hire more police officers. He also partnered with neighboring states to help launch the establishment of a permanent training facility in the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. With North Carolina leading the way, other states were inspired to create their own state-run special forces groups, designed specifically to hunt down and kill any confirmed flesh-eater. The strategy caught on nationwide, and ultimately in 2002 the federal government took over, forming what we now know as the "ZTF" (Zombie Task Force). This mandate from the White House came at the right time, especially in light of the steadily increasing number of murders and mutilations. It became clear that what was needed was an elite, core group of highly trained soldiers, snipers, and intelligence officers to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control to battle these monsters. The CDC was brought in to contain the symptoms associated with what is now known as the Z-38 virus and attacks related to it. If a victim didn't get his head smashed in and brains eaten, he or she could still get bitten or mauled, and thus infected. And getting infected means fever, swelling, tremors, vomiting, disorientation, dementia, insanity, and eventually, death. So far, the CDC has only been able to quarantine infected citizens, observing and treating the symptoms, and has achieved moderate success. Past studies have indicated that some patients initially showed positive signs of recovery; however, leading researchers now believe this so-called success is nothing more than false hope, dismissing it as the effects of heavy sedation. Now experts are saying the virus can go "underground," lying dormant in the body for months, even years, before randomly resurfacing and producing symptoms and behavior associated with full-fledged flesh-eaters. The victim, going about normal daily life, can in just hours undergo a transformation and violently attack and devour a family member, neighbor, coworker, in-law, or friend, for no apparent reason. In extreme cases, the infected will even engage in a bizarre form of "self-mutilation," eating his or her own flesh and brains, until death occurs. Bizarre indeed.
Despite the long history of this phenomenon, it's still hotly debated where it actually came from. Theories of the virus's origin and how it spread are too many to list here. But a simple web search will yield a huge camp of conspiracy theorists. One of these even claims our own government developed and released the virus into our drinking supply.
But most people subscribe to one of three leading theories. The first involves the notion that about six thousand years ago there was some sort of weird, spontaneous chromosomal mutation. This mutation spawned a peculiar race of humans whose DNA genetically predisposed them to an acute appetite for human flesh. There are grandiose mythological tales of human sacrifice in ancient Sumeria (present-day Iraq), where these mutant humans were treated like—even feared as—gods. Local tribes, afraid of being eaten, staged weekly sacrificial ceremonies. In these quasi-religious rites (so the legend goes), six human sacrifices, within six months of their twenty-first birthdays, were bound by horsehair ropes and ceremoniously led to a series of altars. There, each was given a cocktail of wine mixed with poppy plant extract to produce a chemically induced trance. Disoriented, the sacrifices' senses were dulled and their bodies numb. Then they were laid on their backs, and the high priests of this carnivorous cult took a sharpened stone and literally sawed off the top of each victim's skull while he or she was still conscious! The brains were then eaten by the "gods."
These brain-hungry mutants eventually intermarried, ultimately producing a superior race of humanlike creatures whose main diet consisted of flesh and cranial tissue. Expanding in concentric circles out of ancient Sumeria, they continued breeding and infecting humanity—from Egypt to Africa, Palestine to Rome, Rome to Europe, and eastward toward what eventually became China.
As crazy as this theory sounds, archaeological digs around the Tigris-Euphrates river system uncovered what appears to be a temple-like structure with "thrones," accompanied by a series of crude altars, each the length of a human body. Coincidence? There are also stone reliefs in the walls of this temple, depicting scenes in which kings or rulers are eating out of the heads of slaves. While adherents of this theory claim this is solid evidence of the flesh-eaters' true beginnings, skeptics contend that this was nothing more than an ancient cult, confined to the region and with no historical significance.
Another equally peculiar hypothesis suggests that the genesis of last night's murderous rampage can be traced back millions of years to when our planet was actually a substation for a humanlike alien race. The purpose of this pilgrim settlement wasn't to colonize a new world or expand some extraterrestrial kingdom. It wasn't established as a place to escape persecution or engage in intergalactic exploration. In this scenario of origins, those loaded onto spaceships and sent to our world were the absolute undesirables of their native planet. Hardcore criminals. Death-row inmates. "Scum-of-the-earth" types (or whatever their world was called). Though meant as a punishment, being deposited on our pristine, green globe was a merciful sentence, all things considered. Our planet was like a welcoming bus stop where the aliens were dropped off and expected to make it on their own. Which they did without much difficulty. At first.
Then something happened. And there's speculation here. Perhaps something about Earth's atmosphere didn't mix well with their immune systems (assuming they had developed them). Could've been something they ingested. Some random chemical malfunction in their biological makeup. No one knows. But instead of working together to build a fresh life in their new world, rival gangs of these extraterrestrials revolted against each other and began slaughtering their alien brothers. But it didn't end with murder. Notwithstanding the abundance of animals and fresh meat in plentiful supply here, these criminals began devouring one another instead. Not as some cannibalistic symbol of tribal domination. But for food. For sustenance. Even for pleasure!
Then they reproduced, making more beings like themselves over the centuries, and, well, here we are. Sounds hard to swallow, sure. But it does remain one of the top three theories. You may be surprised at how many people subscribe to this belief. They claim that proof of more recent "visitations" is soundly documented with eyewitness accounts, geographical land markings, and even photographs (though most believe they're photoshopped). Nonetheless, this theory has never gained traction with the government and the established scientific community. Something about the "lack of sufficient credible evidence."
The last major theory of zombie origins is found in "the Old Way," of which you've surely heard. This one has significant support in virtually every culture, both ancient and modern. The tradition (whose followers are called "Believers") claims that all humanity can be traced back to two common ancestors, created thousands of years ago by a mysterious, invisible deity. This divine being had created a perfect, germ-free, ecologically balanced environment, untouched by darkness or any bad thing. This god designed his creation to be a tribe of worshippers. There was no pain, suffering, or death. No human vices or diseases. And no rotting flesh or the awful, putrid smell that accompanies it. Theirs was a perfect environment.
Not long after this, the created ones sensed there was something better for them. Something more. Something beyond what their creator had provided. And so, without permission, they broke away from the oppressive restrictions placed on them, creating instead their own reality, one in which no supreme being would dictate their lives or presume to know what was best for them. In an instant, they decided that their life-giver would cease to meddle in their affairs and would no longer tell them what to think, feel, or do. No longer would he impede their progress toward self-realization and self-discovery. So they summarily voted their maker off their earth-island paradise in light of a more immediate and pleasurable existence.
"But," the Believers claim, "this move brought devastating consequences to humanity." And this, they say, is the origin of the virus so prevalent in today's flesh-eaters. However, if you think about it, there must have been something already inside them, predisposing them to contracting this virus. Something had to trigger it out of its incubative state, where it slowly spread to the central nervous system and finally to the brain, where it took over.
The virus then manifested itself through things humanity had never experienced before—like shame. Guilt. Sadness. Loneliness. Separation. Disappointment. Bitterness. Depression. Grief. Anger. Hate. Rage. And ultimately ... insatiable flesh-hunger and murder. It didn't take long for earth's tiny population to begin delving into this supreme dark art form. Legend says the first human to kill another did so with a crushing rock-blow to the skull. And it went progressively downhill from there. Through procreation, each successive offspring became more genetically prone to a fleshly passion.
This inherently religio-biological explanation for mankind's beginning has yet to convince everyone of its veracity. What is known, and what seems to harmonize with this particular theory of origins, is that the propensity for zombie-ism crosses every national and international boundary, just as adherents to the Old Way claim. The flesh-eaters are in every culture on the planet. Even in remote tribes. Whatever causes this behavior appears to be no respecter of gender, race, age, nationality, or religious creed. It affects literally every kind of person. Small and great. Rich and poor alike.
An equal-opportunity curse.
It's conceivable that these origin theories could've been formulated by observing mankind's current problem and then simply concocting a theory to accommodate it. A sort of "retroactive genesis of origins." Of course, many reject the Old Way's explanation because, again, there doesn't appear to be hard, reproducible scientific evidence for their ideas. And because it sounds way too religious, of course. In fact, some in the Old Way are ridiculed as "old-fashioned" or dismissed as "nutcases."
Bottom line: no one—religious nutcase or rational scientist—can deny the existence of this murderous, brain-eating behavior. That's something we all agree on. And if you're honest, you'd confess to entertaining the fear that at some point in your life, a fellow human will, without warning, suddenly "go zombie" on you, forcibly escorting you to a violent and painful death. And then gobble up your brain! It's not the type of thing people talk about at dinner parties or in the company break room. Not the conversation you overhear while standing in line at the grocery store or in the school lunchroom.
Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN ZOMBIE KILLER'S HANDBOOK by JEFF KINLEY Copyright © 2011 by Jeffery Bruce Kinley A.K.A. Jeff Kinley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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