Hank is mowing his lawn when a horrifying blast rocks his world. He sees a mushroom cloud rise over a distant valley and runs for shelter in his fruit cellar. In a matter of minutes, the only life Hank knows has disappeared. Nine months after the nuclear bomb explodes, resources are stretched thin as greed, fear, and self-preservation trump morals, ethics, and civilized behavior. Led by his animalistic instinct to survive, Hank becomes a nomad as he attempts to escape the hordes of undead rising in his city-as well as his own conscience.
With his life now reduced to eluding the relentless rotting, walking corpses and lurking diseased hiders, Hank spends his few peaceful moments battling guilt for not pursuing his dream of becoming an ordained minister. As he struggles with his fading religious beliefs and the stark reality of not knowing who he can trust, he soon realizes he is not alone in this godless existence. From within the dark shadows, a new enemy emerges that poses an even greater threat than the undead.
As the world sits on the brink of nuclear war in an effort to stop a cataclysmic infection, one man embarks on a perilous journey for survival without any idea that the government may have its own plans for his future.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.71(d)|
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By Daron Malmborg
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Daron Malmborg
All rights reserved.
HANK TRIES TO CONTROL his fast, shallow breathing. The smell in the room is deathly dreadful, and putrid. He hates to take the odor into his lungs but panic and fear overrule his discipline. How close are they? Did they follow me? Come on man, think of a plan! Is this place safe? Scan the room quickly man! He tries to see through the darkness and the pungent, rotting wall of aroma. The smell of death is always where the danger is. His mind gushes. A moan from the darkness snaps his attention to the next room. He knows he isn't alone. He sighs as he listens to the sounds of movement. Never alone, never allowed peace.
The ambient light is diffused through the dirty small basement window. Hank struggles to assess his situation. Peering into the darkest part of the room he feels the barrel of the shotgun slip between his moist hands. He tightens his grip and pulls it closer to his chest.
As he climbs onto the dusty antique desk, it wobbles and squeaks in protest under his weight. Stabilizing his body, he presses his sweat drenched back against the cold concrete wall. The shocking temperature difference causes him to wince and suck in the cool, sickening air. He's learned that breathing through his mouth helps relieve his gag reflex from kicking in and signaling his position. His nose stings and mucus flows as it battles the acidic attack; no doubt, a reaction or an unintended consequence of his desire to avoid the assault on his senses. His will is strong as he wipes continuously to avoid allowing the flowing mucus to slide into his open mouth.
From above, he hears the echoing groans. The stairwell is a natural funnel that collects and amplifies the hungry, persistent sounds of death, delivering them to him as if a precursor to his own gloomy future. Thumps against the walls and clumsy footsteps on the upstairs floor are growing louder. Hank is dead still. Dammit! Don't move! They can't see you! They cannot see you! They don't know where you are! Please God, I hate this place! Get ready, man! Get the blade ready. Make a noise and you're a goner. One at a time, they can only come so fast. You can deal with one at a time! Why does something have to die for something else to live?
He gently slides off the desk and leans the shotgun against it. Slowly, he slips the katana from the sheath tethered around his back. The movements are smooth and rehearsed; he has done it a thousand times before. As the tip of the long blade rotates over Hank's head, he feels it tap against something small and so insignificant to the circular movement, yet so damn important to the silence he treasures. A hanging light bulb, right where it should be has intercepted the blade and the repercussions are about to be revealed. In a fraction of a second Hank hunches down and waits for the inevitable. The bulb shatters into large dropping glass pieces. It sounds like thunder as the fragments strike the concrete floor. He sucks in more thick, dead air and poses ready to swing, like a pitcher about to throw the final pitch of the game.
The crackling sound instantly draws the upstairs occupants to the stairway and within seconds, the bodies start falling down the stairs onto their bellies and backs. The neck of the first body looks broken and the head is facing backwards. The lengthy, matted blond hair is pulled away from around the pale, bloodstained neck. The hands writhe in a contorted manner as if the brain stem had been long dead. They swipe at him, trying to grasp any part of him that is within reach. In the dim light, Hank can see the dead, black blood outlines under and around the cuticles. The contrast against the dull, alabaster nails is frightening, yet beautifully symmetrical; a Goth poser from last year would have been envious of real death's precision.
Hank looks through the swirl of sharp broken nails and aims to swing the blade down hard across the visible but distorted line of vertebras. He swings the blade forcefully. In an instant, the undead woman's right hand falls free and is caught by a fold in the filthy clothing. The blade continues unencumbered and slices through the disjointed neck as it frees the head in a violent spring release. It flips around spraying a pressurized thin line of dark fluids as it rolls away and rests against the wall. The severed head's tongue pushes it away and slightly rotates it toward Hank as the eyes roll in their sockets to view him from a distance. The tongue breaks off and slumps to the floor as the jaw clamps shut in anticipation of the new condition. Moist from the new exposure, the trachea gurgles as the fluids seep from the gaping hole. No longer a threat, the left hand and right stump freeze in their unusual haunting postures.
Hank absorbs it all as his vision narrows. He feels he's losing control of his immediate position. Everything is in slow motion! It's so quiet! That was easy! Who's next? One at a time! Come on you stinking pieces of ... Hank's internal plea is answered immediately. A large man's body slides to the bottom of the stairs and stops at his feet. It faces downward and as it raises itself up, Hank slams the blade down hard, severing the skull from the neck. The dry, leathery arms instantly collapse and the fat body makes a dull thud as it stops moving. The vibration of the blade suddenly stopping against the hard concrete floor sends electric shockwaves through Hank's arms, the same sensation he felt when he bumps his elbow and the funny bone twangs internally. He drops the katana in surprise to the tingling through his limbs. In an eternity to Hank, the long blade creates a metallic alarm, resembling a clapper striking the inside of the bell. So damn loud!
In the darkness, he struggles to find the weapon. He sweeps his arms in front of him with his eyes wide open, heart pounding like an insane drummer, and his breathing is fast and hard. He can taste the smells in the room and he swallows the aromas like a bitter pill. The katana had fallen away from the stairway and Hank reaches deeper into the darkness and deeper into danger. The adjacent room's occupant is interested in the activity and moans loudly in approval.
The two severed heads bounce slightly, making a clicking sound as their jaws open and close quickly. Hank's mind races with unsorted thoughts. Man that's annoying but they're at least letting me know where they are. His numb and tingling fingers slide across the cold, sharp blade and he pulls back slightly. If I slice my fingers with stinkbug juice, I'll be screwed and might as well stay here and I'm not about to do that!
With a gentle grip, he lifts the handle of the katana and wipes the cold steel on the fat, fallen stinkbug's clothing. He slides the glimmering blade into the sheath as he reflects about his hatred of cold, dark places. Damn, I definitely hate this basement-hiding thing. It's not my preference. At least this one offers some security, but one thing I know is lingering death is always one staircase or doorway away. Be quiet and listen for more dead walkers. Get comfortable, might just be here a while. God, it stinks in here.
A small grunt and larger push-off from his aging legs helps him climb slowly back onto the desk as he cradles his shotgun like a precious baby. He pushes himself into believing this is the best time for him to willfully retreat into his mind, a kind of safe playground where he can't be hurt unless he stays too long and forgets about the harsh, real world.
Slowing his breathing, and feeling an uneasy calmness, he drifts out of reality as he recalls the beginning of this endless nightmare. Going back in time usually offers more peace of mind knowing he lived through it and it can't harm him. He reminisces. Living was nearly impossible so soon after the blast. The confusion, panic, and finally greed forced rational people to perform cruel, inhumane acts. Shocked survivors huddled together in shelters or hiding places while they brainstormed theories, or pieced together clues, of how apparent dead bodies of friends and strangers would pursue and consume anything that moved. Mother would attack daughters. Grandparents chewed through grandbabies. The most shocking sights were common until the easy prey were all eaten up or reanimated themselves. People would freeze in physical and mental shock as if they had been turned off by a flip of the switch. The crazy, mad hoards would descend upon them and the live humans were like cattle in a slaughterhouse with no chance of survival or escape. Some would fight and some would surrender and raise their heads toward heaven while chanting unperceptively muted cries. The end result always produced dead-fed cannibals or new recruits and even more competition for all the participants.
Hank's memory focuses tightly on the moment the night another survivor had succumbed to her wounds in that hellhole. Back then no one knew that bites, scratches or even ingestion of body fluids from the walking dead would cause healthy people to die a horrible agonizing death. He relives the moment in his head: Everyone is asleep. The room is quiet. The woman had drifted off to sleep with the other survivors but succumbed to her injuries during the night. He feels the stern tug on his jacket. He's awakened and surprised to see a freshly reanimated corpse crawling over him. He screams out loud in panic and fear. She looks unreal in her motions. Her eyes are empty and dull while her mouth secretes drool in thick strands of dark-tainted spittle. In retrospect, he realizes she was trying to commit him to her living dead doom and feed upon his lifeblood.
He flinches as he slightly pulls out of the internal hell in his mind. Why do I keep going back to this? Within seconds he's there again. He's fighting for his life. He pulls his shotgun toward her head and the resistance is so great. His arms flinch as he relives the drama. The dead woman is so damn strong. Just about there, get the barrel to her head! Please, just find the strength! So strong! OK, open up, bitch! He fumbles for the trigger and finds it as the kick from the gun throws it backward as he sees her head explode from the blast. In an instant, the corpse's head turns inside out, folds into itself, and is torn into an infinite number of infectious pieces. The moist tissues cling to every surface. They splatter against the walls, ceiling, and sleeping survivors. He stops breathing to avoid inhaling her deadly mist. Hank shudders, pulls his attention away from the horror, and he's out of the memory. He realizes the end of the memory is always the same. Now he quietly starts talking to himself. "I'd do it all over again to save my life against that crazed, dead cannibal. That first bomb shelter looked eerily similar to this basement. By now, they all do." He looks around and notices the construction, layout, steep stairs, and lack of available exits. He knows it all spells danger. He's uneasy and anxious.
The room is quiet now. No movement. The floor above is not creaking. No stirring in the next room. No moans. No heavy breaths. No murderous attempts to take his life. He wants to concentrate and relax but he knows there is someone or something in the adjacent room. He feels it and more definitively; he smells it.
Feeling semi-secure, he again begins to talk as if he knows his new roommate behind the Dutch-style door. He hopes, just once, that the other side will talk back. The top half of the door is open; the bottom is closed. If an intelligible response can be heard, it will.
His voice is low and sincere. He persists in his quest for conversation. "I want to talk to you, and I'll understand if you don't respond; just let me vent a little. I don't know ... What can I say? I thought I had a pretty good handle on right from wrong, good from bad, real from surreal, or an obvious bad fake. Looks like I missed the mark on that one." He scratches his face and the rough facial hair stubble. There are no new sounds from the main floor above but he continues to listen anyway.
He hears the feet shuffle behind the Dutch door separating the two rooms. The light is barely enough for him to see the shadow of the figure pass by the door opening. He's lost in a progressive thought. How nice it would be to turn the light on if it would only work. He's almost lost the instinct to reach for a light switch every time he walks into a room. Deep inside he knows he's holding out hope for the past but it is as dead as his new audience.
He starts talking again in a low voice. "The past had so many perks. I miss everything: Electricity, comedy, sex, bathing, red meat, friends, family, and civility." He pauses as he recalls civility. Civilization has collapsed and with it, communication. Survivors don't even attempt to use proper English anymore and we've digressed to basic communication, or 'survivor-speak.' Hank knows the infection has closed the book on hope, progress, and improvement for his kind. "It's just another kick in the testes and a score for death's persistence."
He recognizes he's talking through his daydreams and continues. "Listen Man, I know you can hear me. I'll make sure of it." The foot shuffling is more intense with the increased volume of his voice.
He seems amused at the voice-activated commotion. "Calm down man, we have time. Time. Yep, we have time. You should take the time to understand the situation we're in. This didn't happen overnight. It might have taken years or even decades to orchestrate. I'm going to try to figure it out though. What do you think?"
A fresh batch of stench streams toward him. He complains with a disgusted tone. "Man, that's bad. Hey, you remember where you were that day? Oh man, I do. That will probably be the last thing I remember, God willing ... God ... Oh yeah, God. Where does he come into the equation? Simmer down and we can reason that out shortly. I was about to relate my recollection of that short, beautiful, impossibly busy day."
He twists his back slightly. "I never really cared for mowing the lawn. I bitched about having to do it because that Kentucky bluegrass grew so fast. I don't blame it, knowing how much water I would dump on it every day, just like clockwork. Kind of a pun, get it? My sprinkler timer would come on rain or shine. If it was thirsty, I gave it a drink, even when it wasn't. Not so funny now. I'm so damn thirsty now, I tell you what. How about you? Yep, sometimes I can see it in your dried out ugly eyes. You're thirsty alright, maybe for some fresh squeezed living Hank juices I bet.
Where was I? Oh yeah, mowing that tall cool grass on that sunny Sunday morning. My biggest fear was stepping in dog crap or not having gas for the mower. It was so damn simple back then. No gas? No problem. Big freaking deal! So damn simple back then. Who'd we piss off?"
The sound of a falling object startles him and he lunges forward while raising his shotgun. He struggles to see in the dim light but finds it impossible. Only slight movements can be seen. A deep exhalation and moan with a sound of renewed activity originates just beyond the door.
Again he settles on the desk with his back against the wall and chews a toothpick with thought. When the noise is gone he starts his verbal diatribe again. "Oh man, my mind is a wall. Being alone is so damn hard. Trying to remember the facts ... well, that will always fall casualty to reality. You're good therapy though. Listen up. So, anyway, do you want to hear or not? Settle down or I'm done here!"
Irritated, he continues. "Where was I? Oh yeah, every Sunday that mower would pull me around that yard, row after lush green row. I hated it at the time, but I'll tell you what, I'd give my left earlobe to see it again and roll around on it. Close your eyes. Do you smell it? Oh yeah man, there it is. You don't have to be so difficult you know. You can humor me just a bit and stop trying to ruin my memories!"
Hank begins to be frustrated by the inconsiderate behavior of his new confidant—just a door and a lifetime away—but he still can't stop trying to get his thoughts out. He feels the need to force the issue.
Excerpted from Infection's Revenge by Daron Malmborg. Copyright © 2013 Daron Malmborg. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was recommended to read this book by a friend. I initially wouldn't have thought to read this book since I am not into zombies or Walking Dead. However once I started to read this book, I couldn't put it down. The storyline will keep you turning the pages. All I can say is wait for the ending! You will go though many emotions reading this book. Disappointment will not be one of those emotions. My only complaint would be….Where is the next book?