Pulled from the grip of Mark Twain's rotting zombie hands, is Tom Sawyer like you've never seen him before, in a swashbuckling, treasure-seeking adventure, spiked with blood, gore, and zombie madness.
In this expanded and illustrated edition of Mark Twain's beloved tale of boyhood adventures, Tom's usual mishaps are filled with the macabre and take place in a world overrun by a zombie virus that turns people into something folks call "Zum." The United States is infected with a plague of rotting, yet spry, Zum, searching for fresh meat.
In this world, there's no need to whitewash Aunt Polly's fence. Instead, Tom cons his friends into sharpening fence posts to lethal points to repel a Zum attack. To escape the boredom of civilized life, Tom and his pal Huckleberry Finn don't have to fake their deaths, just pretend to be Zum. And instead of playing cowboys and Indians, Tom hones his fighting skills in a bloodthirsty game of "Us and Zum." He always wins . . . until he bumps into the real thing.
When vicious, self-aware zombies evolve and threaten the town . . . what will Tom and Huck do to protect their loved ones, and will they live to tell the tale?
With all the comedy, romance, and adventure that readers expect from Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer now becomes a new breed of hero for a whole new worlda grade-A zombie hunter.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||8.46(w) x 11.04(h) x 0.82(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 14 Years|
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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead
By Mark Twain, Don Borchert
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2010 Don Borchert
All rights reserved.
Aunt Polly on Alert
The old woman gripped the even older hickory axe handle and held her breath for a moment in an attempt to improve her hearing. The axe handle by itself wasn't going to do her much good, but the only gun in the house was behind the door in the drawing room, too far away. The axe handle would have to do, and if an opportunity presented itself, she'd make her way to the gun.
It was just like him to be playing and not mindful of what was going on in the world around him, and usually there was no harm in that — in acting like a boy, in the summer. But the house wasn't in the village proper, and that was worrisome. The Zum didn't have much luck in town — any town — and so a lot of people who were nervous living out by themselves moved back to luxuriate in the warmth and security of having a great many neighbors. The old woman was not like that. She had lived in the house for too long, a lifetime, and it was a home to her. Twenty, even ten years ago, one of the Zum would have been no match for her. Now she wasn't so sure, but she wasn't about to be moved out of her own home by fear in any case.
Still no answer.
The old woman pulled her spectacles down and looked about the room. It was darker in the room than was normal for the middle of the day, but the house had been mostly boarded up for a while now — at least on the first floor. It seemed the Zum had never mastered the skill of clambering up the trellises and drainpipes and so had never gotten in the habit of dropping unannounced into second-floor bedrooms, which was a comfort, if only a small one. They could still rampage through the first floor if you decided to hole up in a second-floor bedroom, and many times they'd start a fire and wait for you to drop out of the sky like ripe fruit. The people in the know said the Zum weren't that smart and that it was an unintentional misfortune when this happened, but no one ever made a proper study of it.
Aunt Polly looked perplexed for a moment, and then she said in a voice loud enough for the furniture to hear:
"Well, if I get my hands on you, I'll —"
She did not finish, for by this time she was on her knees, peering under furniture and punching underneath the bed with the axe handle, and she needed all her strength for this activity. She found nothing but a cat who scrambled out and hid somewhere else.
"I never did see the beat of that boy."
She took off her shoes and walked quietly to the open front door and looked out into what passed for her summer garden. The tomatoes and squash plants were unattended, overgrown with jimpson weed, but untrammeled. This in itself was a good sign that the Zum were not about, as they were oblivious to lanes and walkways, and were easy to spot by the disorder of their wake. She unbuttoned the top button at her throat and lifted her voice as if in church on Christmas Eve:
The floorboards creaked behind her and she whirled, alert, axe handle at the ready, just in time to seize a small boy by the nape of his shirt and arrest his flight.
"Ha! I should'a thought of that closet. What were you doing in there?"
"Nothing! Don't you remember what they said in town about always having an exit in case they came in? Hidin' in a closet. Look at your hands. And your mouth! What in the name of heaven is that truck?"
"I don't know, Aunt."
"Well, I know. It's jam — that's what it is. Jam that's supposed to stay down unmolested in the cellar in case the Zum come callin' in numbers. Forty times I've told you to leave those provisions alone. Hand me that switch."
The switch was a lot easier to wield than an axe handle and she was comfortable with the weight. The peril was desperate —
"Oh my! Look out behind you, Aunt!"
The old lady whirled around, sure she was about to find some green-skinned, horrible-smellin' Zum crawling up the front steps like a snail in the garden with no emotion on its face, and black, soulless eyes that no longer knew compassion. There was nothing. A curtain moved gently in the breeze.
The boy fled on the instant, out the front door, over the high board fence, and disappeared over it.
His aunt Polly stood surprised for a second, then broke into a gentle laugh.
"Hang the boy, can't I never learn a thing? Ain't he done me the same thing a dozen times and more? Can't learn an old dog new tricks, as they say. But for all that, how's a person to know what's comin' next? He knows he can torment me and get me all wound up inside, and he knows what with my constant worryin' about the undead maybe walkin' through the back door at any moment, all he's got to do is put me off or make me laugh, and I can't hit him a lick. I'm not doin' my duty by him, and that's the truth, goodness knows.
"He's full of the devil, but he's my dead sister's boy and I ain't got the heart to lash him, somehow. He was just a baby when one of the very first waves of Zum came through and kilt my sister dead. Scarcely found enough to bury, poor young thing. And with a baby left behind, unnoticed and untouched. Every time I put my mind on it, my old heart most breaks.
"But I'll make him work tomorrow to punish him. It's hard to make him work on a Saturday when all the other boys are having fun, but he hates work more than he hates anything else, and I've got to do my duty to him, or I'll be the ruination of that child."
Tom played hooky the rest of the day, and had a very good time. It was uneventful in such a way that would have relieved his aunt Polly greatly. He got home just in time to help Jim, a small colored child who lived with them, to saw the next day's wood and split kindling before supper — at least he was there in time to watch as Jim split the wood while Tom positioned himself on top of the woodpile to keep an eye out for trouble, of which there was none. Tom's younger brother (or rather, half brother) Sid, was already through with his chores for the day (boarding up the root cellar with long nails, leaving only enough room for some ventilation).
While Tom was eating supper, and stealing sugar as the opportunity afforded itself, Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of guile and very deep — for she wanted to trap him as he had almost trapped himself earlier in the day in the dining room closet. Like almost everyone else on the planet, it was her cherished belief that she was endowed with a talent for mysterious diplomacy, and she believed her most obvious devices were marvels of impossible cunning.
"Tom, it was warm at school today, warn't it?"
"Powerful warm, warn't it?"
"But you still managed to learn a thing or two, right?"
"Well then," she said with delight, "tell us a thing or two you learned."
Sid let out a guffaw, enough to be noticed. He knew where Tom had spent the day, and it was not in school. He would not "out" his brother, but enjoyed the prospect of such a thing nevertheless.
Tom gave Sid a mean look.
"We learned different things all day long, Aunt Polly. Spelling. Adding, subtracting. Reading. Geography. Penmanship. History. About the Zum and what to do if you happen to bump up with them. I can't remember the whole day, Aunt Polly. You pick a topic and I'll tell you a thing I learned."
This was a bit of Tom's neat deflection. If Polly picked history, he could think of a fact or two. If she picked spelling, he could probably spell her a word. And he knew all he needed to know about the Zum, and was confident in that area. You stayed away from them, that was the gist of it. If you saw one in a field, you did not go into the field — and you found an adult with some experience in firearms. If one was skritching and clawing at your front door, you ran out the back. And you never, never let them get their hands on you. That was too horrible to even think about.
But Aunt Polly suddenly felt sorry for the boy. She felt sorry for Sid. She felt sorry for herself. She even felt a brief pang for Jim, the small colored child she had taken to feeding in the kitchen. The fun was all gone, the game over for now.
"Oh bother! I'm sure you played hooky and went swimming, but I forgive you, Tom. It's no time in the history of things for begrudging a boy some small pleasure in life. You're like a singed cat — better'n you look as long as you don't take too deep a whiff. Get out, now."
But Sid saw his small pleasure evaporating before him, and he said: "Will you do nothing at all, Aunt Polly?"
Tom did not wait for the rest. As he went out the door, he said: "I'll lick you for that, Siddy."
Tom was not the model boy in the village. He knew the model boy very well, and had beaten him, one way or another, many times.
Within minutes, Tom had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest drove these problems out of his mind. This new interest was a valued novelty that he had read about in the dime novels, and it consisted of calling out in the forest like a variety of birds. He could do the woodpecker, the mockingbird, the owl, and a variety of other woodland creatures. Or at least he thought he could. In truth, he did an excellent crow, but the majority of the other sounds bore a striking similarity. Tom and some other boys would creep up to a house, down in the weeds, and warble in a plaintive cry, and if the inhabitants didn't come rushing out and tell them to get the hell away from the house or they'd unloose some buckshot over their heads, they considered themselves successful. They would have dearly loved to come upon a lone Zum wandering through the woods and try their impersonations on it, but so far such a thing had not happened. As he strode down the quiet streets, Tom moaned and shrieked like a tropical bird or an egret. He felt much like an astronomer who has discovered a new planet, and as far as a cheap and reasonable pleasure was concerned, the advantage was with the boy making bird noises, not the astronomer.
Presently, Tom checked his birdcalls. A stranger stood before him — a boy slightly larger than himself. He didn't have the sliding, unnatural lurch of a Zum, so Tom felt no fear, just curiosity. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in their small village. When the Zum first made their appearance, a parade of doctors and wagons of soldiers came through the village, but as the phenomena was happening everywhere, it wasn't necessary to go out of your way to find them, and the parade ended.
The boy was well dressed. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, and his entire ensemble was new and natty. He had shoes on — and it was only Friday. He even wore a bright bit of ribbon around his neck, which Tom found precious and off-putting. He had a citified air that ate into Tom's vitals like a host of hungry Zum. The more he stared at him, the shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. Both boys moved sideways — in a kind of circle, like wrestlers looking for an opening. Finally Tom said:
"I can lick you."
"Yeah, right. I'd like to see you try it."
"Well, I can do it."
"No, you can't either."
"Yes I can."
"No you can't."
"Look, we've pretty much exhausted the subject. You can't."
There was an uncomfortable pause. Tom changed tactics:
"What's your name?"
"Not any of your business, I think."
"Well, I 'low I'll make it my business."
"Well, why don't you?"
"If you say much more, I will."
"I believe we're covering much the same ground here."
Tom couldn't believe that his taunts were being so quickly dismantled.
"Say, what if I take a rock and bounce it off your head?"
"Sure you will."
"Well, I will."
"Well, why don't you then? Why do you keep saying you will for? Why don't you just do it? It's because you're afraid."
There are conservatively forty-seven distinct steps to combat in young boys, and Tom and the stranger were working through them as fast as they could. They were also being careful not to skip a step and move ahead with the combat, as that could spoil everything.
"You're a coward and a pup. I'll tell my big brother on you, and he'll thrash you with his little finger."
"What do I care about your big brother? I've got a brother, too — a bigger one — and what's more, he can throw your brother over that fence." (Both brothers were imaginary.)
"That's a lie."
Tom drew a line in the dust with his big toe and said: "I dare you to step over that, I'll lick you till you can't stand up."
The new boy stepped over promptly and said:
"Now that you said you'd do it, let's see you do it."
"You'd better look out."
"Well, you said you'd do it — why don't you do it?"
"By jingo! For two cents, I will do it."
The new boy recoiled as if slapped with a recently used bath towel. "I don't have any money on me."
Tom smiled. It was a crucial turning point. "Hah! That'll learn you. Better look out who you're foolin' with next time."
The new boy's face fell in confusion and defeat, and he backed off into the darkness, snuffling and muttering to himself, occasionally looking back and threatening what he would do the next time he found him out — and had two cents on him. As soon as Tom's back was turned, the new boy snatched up a stone, threw it, and hit Tom between the shoulders. Then he turned and ran home like an antelope. Tom chased him home, and thus found out where he lived. He held a position at the front gate for some time, daring his enemy to come back outside, but the enemy only made faces at him through the window and declined. At last the enemy's mother appeared and ordered him away, saying that his own poor mother must be worried sick that her stupid son was being disjointed and eaten somewhere by a ravenous Zum.
He got home late that night, climbed onto a shed next to the woodpile, and hoisted himself into one of the second-story windows. There he discovered his aunt, only half asleep, with an axe handle in her arms as if she were rocking a sweet newborn baby. When she woke and saw the state of his clothing, her resolution to turn his Saturday holiday into forced labor became adamantine in its firmness.CHAPTER 2
Tom Revises a Fence
Saturday morning came, and everything was bright and fresh, brimming with life. It was as though things had magically gone back to the way they were and there was nothing more to worry about than overdue library books, homework, and the relentless barking of stray dogs in the night. There was cheer in every face and spring in every step. The locust trees were in bloom and the scent of a million different blossoms filled the air. The landscape was green with new vegetation, ripe with promise, and the entire land was dreamy, content, and inviting. It was, of course, all a lie, but it was a sweet lie, one that could be overlooked and forgiven. The adults could stand watch from their porches and kitchen windows and savor it all like a sugary jawbreaker as long as they were aware it couldn't last. Guns and poles and machetes were close at hand. A cautious person could close his eyes for a few seconds and dream a bit.
Tom appeared on the sidewalk in front of his house with a wooden box filled with a variety of sharpened planes and whetstones. It was his aunt Polly's decision that he spend the day planing and sharpening the individual planks of their fence to make it a more formidable defense against the Zum rather than simply a cheery demarcation of property boundaries. It gave her a certain weary satisfaction to think that a number of invading Zum might somehow slip and impale themselves on the sharpened fence posts in an impetuous attack. Such a thing had never happened, but it seemed there was no reason why it couldn't. He surveyed the fence and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit like a damp shroud. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet tall awaited him.
Excerpted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead by Mark Twain, Don Borchert. Copyright © 2010 Don Borchert. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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