The latest novel in the TV smash hit and New York Times bestselling Walking Dead series from Jay Bonansinga.
To risk everything...
She has weathered over four years of the apocalypse. She has done things that she would not have dreamt of doing in her darkest nightmares. But she has survived. And now, she has staked a claim in the plague-ravaged city of Atlanta. It is a safe haven for her people, rising high above the walker-ridden streets, a place of warmth and comfort.
But for Lilly Caul, something is missing...
She still dreams of her former homethe quaint little village known as Woodburya place of heartache as well as hope. For Lilly, Woodbury, Georgia, has become a symbol of the future, of family, of a return to normal life amidst this hell on earth. The call is so powerful that Lilly decides to risk everything in order to go back... to reclaim that little oasis in the wilderness.
Against all odds, against the wishes of her people, Lilly leads a ragtag group of true believers back across the impossible landscape of walker swarms, flooded rivers, psychotic bands of murderers, and dangers the likes of which she has never known. Along the way, she discovers a disturbing truth about herself. She is willing to go to the darkest place in order to survive, in order to save her people, in order to do the one thing she knows she has to do: Return to Woodbury.
About the Author
ROBERT KIRKMAN is the creator of many popular comic books, including Walking Dead, Invincible, and Super Dinosaur. In addition to being a partner at Image Comics, Kirkman is an executive producer and writer on The Walking Dead television show. In 2010, Kirkman opened Skybound, his own imprint at Image, which publishes his titles as well as other original work.
JAY BONANSINGA is a New York Times bestselling novelist whose debut novel, The Black Mariah, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.
Read an Excerpt
At first glance, the figures now wandering through this grid of perfectly decorated interiors might be mistaken for masters of the manor, residents of some gracious old mansion strolling the confines of their burnished mahogany corridors and richly appointed parlors. They bump into each other occasionally, and sometimes they lift their pasty white faces to the ceiling to let out primordial, snarling yawps, but for the most part they look at home in these showrooms and alcoves arranged with such pristine taste. One of the denizens has now accidentally fallen backward onto a Scandinavian-designed divan, his ropy purple intestines spilling out of him in braided glistening strands. The former auto mechanic — still clad in a tattered work shirt with the needlepointed name FRED still visible on its breast pocket — slouches languidly there for a moment as if taking a break from his aimless meandering, his head drooping, his mouth oozing black tarry drool. A stark art deco lamp next to the creature — which is currently running off a generator — illuminates the scene with soft, diffuse, flickering light as delicate as moth wings. Other cadavers mill about a dining room sectioned off in onyx, lacquered dividers with Chinese calligraphy etched into the creamy surfaces. A tall Hepplewhite mirror framed in gleaming teak and cherrywood reflects a cluster of the dead scraping past walnut bookcases filled with artificial facades of book spines. These imitation books are stamped with the gilded titles of tomes nobody reads anymore because the reading of fictional strife has become such a luxury: To Kill a Mockingbird, Treasure Island, War and Peace, and Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Beyond the reflection, stretching in all directions, myriad variations of these high-quality, modestly priced rooms in all manner of styles and arrangements create a maze in which dozens more reanimated corpses now mill about and shuffle like slow-moving laboratory rats ... until the first shot rings out.
It comes from the darkness beneath an emergency exit sign on the far side of the floor. It's a small-caliber blast — the report dampened by a noise suppressor — which makes a sound like a hammer striking metal. The walker on the divan whiplashes, a fountain of blood mist and fluids spraying out the back of its skull, creating an impromptu Jackson Pollock blot across the designer drapes behind it. The creature instantly slides down across the front of the cushions, collapsing onto the lovely handwoven Bjork-series throw rug.
More shots ring out from other directions — mostly .38-caliber and under — blowing tunnels through the heads of at least half a dozen more of the dead. Skulls burst open and bodies plunge to the floor en masse, defacing the sparkling furniture with the vandalism of cranial fluids, bile, and blood.
The commotion gets the attention of the remaining fifteen or so walkers, most of them slowly, drunkenly pivoting toward the noise and confusion of their brethren falling around them. Rancid mouths gape open, the creaky vocalizations like steam emanating from the dead concavities of their throats. Figures press in from the shadows behind the monsters, slipping through the gaps between austere oriental room dividers and glass-fronted knickknack shelves.
A stout black woman in a do-rag and dashiki drives a fireplace poker into the temple of the closest walker. An olive-skinned bodybuilder in a wifebeater and love beads closes in from the other side of the floor, swinging a machete in quick succession, shearing open the tops of three dead skulls with the efficiency of a gardener weeding a garden. Behind the bodybuilder, the woman who fired the first shot approaches. Thin, weathered, auburn hair in a tight ponytail, green eyes like a cat, dressed in a Georgia Tech T-shirt, with black cigarette jeans and combat boots, she grips her Ruger .22-caliber pistol in the classic Weaver position — Israeli commando style — her free hand cupped under the grip for stability. She has a full magazine in the firearm, ten rounds, one already gone, and she expertly picks off nine more creatures, one at a time, hardly pausing between blasts.
More humans appear on the periphery — an older, balding man in wire-rimmed eyeglasses, a beefy, bearded, potbellied man in denim, and a teenage boy with sun-freckled skin and an earnest face — each firing on the remaining few walkers with their handguns.
Within seconds, the unexpected infestation of walkers on the ground floor of the huge Atlanta Ikea is foiled in a haze of blue smoke, the ensuing silence as jarring as an earthquake. The store's inhabitants stand around for a moment, stunned by the abrupt absence of sound (other than a faint dripping noise), looking at each other expectantly. Eventually all eyes turn to the woman with the auburn ponytail — the leader — for further direction.
Lilly Caul slowly holsters her pistol. She can hear the faint evidence of intruders lurking nearby, their breathing barely audible above the dripping noises. Lilly puts her right index finger to her lips, shushing everybody and indicating that no one should relax quite yet. One last task remains to be performed. She points at Tommy, then at Boone, then at Stankowski, and then at Norma, gesturing for them to move behind the cover of the room dividers.
Then she motions to the bodybuilder, Musolino, to follow her.
The big olive-skinned man follows Lilly as she creeps around a row of tall armoires filled with faux glassware and fake mementos. Despite the fact that she spends most of her time on the third floor, in the cafeteria, and in the section of the store earmarked for bedroom sets, she knows practically every square inch of the first floor from studying the store map and walking the corridors, making notes, memorizing every nook and cranny, every potential resource to be cannibalized. Ironically, that's the best word for what she and the others have been doing — cannibalizing this massive home furnishings center on Atlanta's north side. Now she has to once again do the dirty work that ensures their safety inside the massive cathedral of consumerism.
In a series of silent hand gestures, she leads Musolino down a narrow service corridor. At the end of the corridor, an unmarked iron door is reinforced with a massive timber across its midsection. Lilly carefully lifts the timber out of its cradle, and then cautiously unbolts the door. She pushes the thing open a few inches.
The rain and wind greet her, the ruins of Atlanta rising in the distance like ancient Mayan temples petrified and blackened by time. The sky hangs low over Ikea's parking lot, which is littered with human remains and glittering particles of broken glass. The rain blows in great billowing sheets across the scabrous pavement. Musolino wants to build a barricade of razor wire around the ground level but Lilly has vetoed the idea, despite the fact that they've had to neutralize several assaults on the place over the last three months. Lilly still believes a barricade would merely draw attention to the treasures inside.
Right then, Lilly sees the broken planking lying around the base of the tall display windows on the south corner of the building. She can see the breach through which the walkers were let in.
She looks at Musolino, gives him a dour nod, and then ejects the spent magazine from the Ruger. She pulls a fresh mag from her belt and shoves it into the receiving port. "Let's go ahead and finish this thing," she says.
The two filthy, emaciated men, each dressed in blood-splattered rags, crouch behind a service door. They each have a .38-caliber revolver, each looking as though it was first used in World War II. They have the shakes and the hundred-yard stares of longtime junkies. The younger one, his eyes rimmed in dark circles from sleepless nights and unrelenting stress, whispers hoarsely, "What now? What the fuck are we supposed to do now?"
"You stupid fucking idiot," the older one hisses. "We were supposed to go in and fucking take them when the walkers had them distracted!"
"There were more of them than I thought. They had more firepower than I thought."
"Duh ... ya think?"
"But Ollie said there was only —"
"What the fuck does Ollie know about it?! He's a fucking ice head."
"Should we get out of here?"
The older one starts to answer when he hears the telltale click of a hammer being drawn back behind him, in the shadows of the stockroom. "Oh fuck, oh Jesus," he says in a voice suddenly filled with remorse, sadness, and regret. He doesn't even have to turn around.
Lilly Caul stands behind the intruders. She holds the muzzle of the Ruger mere inches away from the back of the older one's head. "I'm gonna need both of you to drop those guns," she says. She speaks in a steady, even, flat tone. "Don't turn around, don't say anything, just do it."
The older one clears his throat. "Okay ... got it. Don't shoot."
"Please don't waste us," the younger one implores in his tattered voice, which is already crumbling into tears. He looks down at the floor in front of him, a child caught with his hand in the till. "We ran out of everything. We have no food, no water ... we just wanted to —"
"Excuse me." Lilly is strictly business. The men do not turn around. They look down, a lot of swallowing and licking of lips going on. Lilly does not raise her voice. "I asked you both to drop the guns, and I will not ask you again. Drop the fucking guns."
They do what she asks. The guns clatter to the tiles. The older one says, "Can I say something?"
Lilly squeezes off a single shot into the back of the older one's head.
The loud report — dampened by the noise suppressor — snaps like a firecracker in the enclosed space. The bullet exits out the man's left eye in a plume of blood mist, the impact sending him folding over and banging his skull on the doorjamb before sinking to the floor in a series of death-rattle twitches.
The younger one is in the process of whirling around when Lilly sends the second round into his temple. He convulses as the blood cloud spits out the other side and strikes the corridor wall in a sticky scarlet rosette three feet wide. The young man keels sideways, collapsing to the floor in a heap of soiled fabric and trembling flesh.
Musolino stands there, two-handing his 9-millimeter Glock, training the muzzle on the still-warm bodies as if they might sit back up or turn at any moment. At length, he relaxes and thumbs the hammer back down and lets out a thin, whispery breath of relief.
Lilly has not said another word. Ears ringing, she shoves the hot pistol down the back of her belt, kneels, and reaches down to the carotid pulse point on each man's neck. The older one has already expired. The younger one still has a feeble, birdlike pulse. Lilly waits until it fades away before murmuring, "Okay, we're good."
Musolino shoves the Glock back in its holster and kneels next to Lilly.
She picks up each of the .38 revolvers, snaps open their cylinders, and dumps the empties on the floor next to the dead bodies. She sorts through the rounds, plucking the useable ones up and stashing them in her back pocket. Then she gives one of the guns to Musolino and shoves the other one down the other side of her belt.
They drag the bodies back down the service corridor and out the exit.
The rain swirls around them as they pull the bodies across the concrete apron. There's a large dumpster on the other side of the loading dock, half-filled with the remains of walkers that have breached the building's weak spots. Lilly and Musolino drag the bodies over to the receptacle, lift the lid back, flinch at the smell, and heave the two corpses inside the enclosure.
The lid drops down with a resounding metallic bang as they head back inside.
Back on the third floor, after securing the damaged barricades and leaky doorways along the porous ground level and removing the walker remains from the maze of model living rooms, Lilly takes a few minutes to gather her bearings in the bathroom. She washes the blood stipple from her cheeks and arms and fingernails. She looks at her hand. She holds it up into the lantern light and notes how rock-steady it is. Not a single tremor of nervous tension. She wipes her wet hair with a towel and changes out of her rain-soaked sweats. She puts on an REM T-shirt and fresh jeans. She pauses.
Her reflection stares back at her from the mirror. The face is unfamiliar to her. This is not the face of a thirty-four-year-old woman. Nor is it the malnourished face of a frightened, cornered animal, which she has resembled in the recent past. Instead, what she sees gazing back at her now through the looking glass is an indigenous native of the apocalypse — cold, gaunt, deeply lined, cobracalm, eyes sunken and fixed in their dark sockets. In fact, it takes a little searching to find the maternal spark behind her soft green irises, but it's there.
Being an accidental mother is what drives Lilly now; it's the hard carapace protecting her heart, the steel girders reinforcing her nerves, the source of her willingness to kill and her instinct to survive and her singular goal of protecting her children through any means necessary. And it's what makes her heart leap when she hears the little fist banging on the ladies' room door.
"Lilly?" The muffled and yet unmistakable voice of Bethany Dupree rings out behind the door. "You in there? They said to come get you."
Lilly finishes up at the sink, gives herself one last look, and then opens the door. "Hey there, Fluffer-Nutter! What are you, the sergeant at arms?"
"Huh?" The twelve-year-old has an old-soul face hardened by stress and contrasted by a profusion of freckles. Her pigtails are meticulously maintained by Lilly, and she wears a dirty cardigan sweater over her pinafore dress. "What's a surgeon in arms anyway?"
"Never mind — c'mere." Lilly pulls the girl into a hug. "Is everybody in the cafeteria?"
Bethany nods and wriggles out of the embrace. "C'mon, they're waiting for you."
Over the last three months, the inhabitants of the Ikea have made their individual territorial claims in different quadrants of the third floor. The adults have meticulously sectioned off portions of the luxury wing with its shag carpet and king-sized beds brimming with oversized pillows and lush thousand-thread-count linens. The young ones have each chosen their own domain in the children's area, making elaborate dividers and forts out of bookcases and fiberglass room organizers.
Norma Sutters has made her bedroom in one of the cafeteria back offices — most likely a former administrative area — from which she can have easy access to the kitchen. Norma has taken it upon herself to be the group's short-order cook, turning the sealed, freeze-dried packages of food stacked to the ceilings in the vast pantry area into improvised concoctions of savory soul food. She has taken great pride in her creations, some of them with names like Mac-Daddy Meatballs and Mama's Down-Home Muesli. The unspoiled Ikea restaurant has proven to be a godsend. Most of the fresh food left over after the great exodus out of the city had rotted into dust, but many items still in storage have been designed and packed for a long shelf life. And with the advent of generated power, Norma can heat, fry, bake, broil, or scramble anything the pantry has to offer.
They're all waiting for Lilly in the restaurant's main seating area.
As big as an airplane hangar, and outfitted with enough polished wooden booths to seat a small army, the dining room is bordered by gleaming stainless steel buffet stations from which weary patrons — their eyes glazed from merchandise overload — would sheepishly line up and order inexpensive dinners. In many ways, the old Ikeas operated in the manner of casinos. Food and drink were provided at either no cost or nominal fees in order to keep the gamblers gambling, and in this case, to keep the shoppers shopping. The convivial scent of coffee and cinnamon hangs in the air.
"Thanks, everybody," Lilly says a moment later, after the group has settled down and gathered around her. Even the kids have all paused from the games on the far side of the room and have taken seats on the floor in front of her as though expecting her to sing a ditty for them or teach them about adjectives and adverbs. "After tonight's little adventures on the first floor, I can't hold back something I've been wanting to say for a while now." She pauses. Swallows. Takes a breath. "We have to leave this place."
For the briefest instant, the room seems to seize up with thunderstruck silence. Around Lilly, on the floor, the faces of the children gawk up at her as though she'd just shat on their birthday cakes. To Lilly's immediate left, Musolino hops off his perch on the pass-through counter and silently begins to pace, hands in his pockets, a pensive look on his face. On the other side of the room, Norma Sutters comes around from behind the serving counter, wiping her plump hands on a dish towel. "You know ... my hearing ain't too good anymore." She looks askance at Lilly as though smelling something bad. "I could have sworn I just heard you say 'leave this place.'"
Excerpted from "Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Return to Woodbury"
Copyright © 2017 Robert Kirkman LLC.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Los Dias Finales,
Part 1: Exodus,
Part 2: Welcome to the Terrordome,
Part 3: The Sky Is Bleeding,
Epilogue: Los Primeros Dias,
Other Books in the Walking Dead Series,
About the Authors,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was ok at best. I really like all the other books In the series. This just felt incomplete.
It was a great sample would love to read more