Newly minted zombie, Sally Mertill, is kidnapped by a nondescript van in front of her fellow zombie and mentor – Bocnic Drewings or “Bo” as his friends call him. He can only guess why someone would take Sally: she can raise the dead. Bo is forced to seek out assistance from a self-serving witch named Zemra if he is going to save Sally. What he learns scares him. Sally’s surreal trek through a world of unimaginable creatures has brought her face to face against a menacing entity to outdo them all – the church’s secret division, The Cross. Bo must travel to Scotland, his birthplace. What bitter end awaits them once he frees Sally from their clutches?
About the Author
Adam Santo is a SciFi/Fantasy writer who enjoys the quiet moments of everyday life to writing stories. His debut novel, Temperature: Dead and Rising, offering a newly twisted tale about zombies that took the world for a ride they would soon not forget. Santo began plotting out the second paperback novel, Temperature: Bitter Cold, before the ink dried on his first book. Santo continues to write nonstop because he knows there is always a story waiting to get out.
When he is not writing, Santo enjoys quality time with his family and friends, spending the occasional weekend at a movie theater, and reclaiming his youth when his son challenges him to a video game. Santo currently resides in sunny Florida with his beautiful wife and equally beautiful children.
Read an Excerpt
TEMPERATURE: BITTER COLD
By Adam Santo
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Adam Santo
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHell is going to have a rough time finding them when I catch them, Bocnic fumed, fire in his eyes with that thought pounding his skull. The song "Wars" from Hurt still reverberated in his mind. It could have been one of Sally's premonitions speaking to him, or not. But, either way it fit all too well for him to ignore.
Bocnic stood on a dirt road looking down over steep drop-off after the van; watching the dust settle in its wake. He felt frustrated at not being able to do anything. The magic he commanded at his fingertips could not be used or unwanted attention might be drawn from lower on the mountainside where normal people could see an aftermath of his castings and think they were fireworks; prodding inquisitive people to investigate. Spells placed as boundaries around their camp had little chance of keeping curious onlookers from crossing them if they were compelled to find where the source of those flashes came from.
A far worse reaction would come from those remaining councilmembers, left to run the southern camp after Mathyas's untimely removal from power. Uses of magic so close to civilization brought with it punishments he had no time to deal with; besides, Sally was not liked much at the moment in camp and saving her from the Cross would be lowest on their list of things to do. He had to find one of the Neanderthals; Adelwin would be his best bet, if Sally had any chance of being saved.
Bocnic shot back up the mountain with all the strength he could muster. A single thought of Sally's salvation prodding his muscles faster. Their little camp bustled with activity, even from the outskirts of camp he could feel magic coursing from individuals for everyday chores. They worked against their own polices about magic here when menial tasks were done. Such a waste of resources, Bocnic squandered a moment's thought while he surveyed camp for his real purpose.
The one person he sought after was nowhere to be seen; an allusive Bigfoot he called Elder and friend. The landscape was cultivated by undead to hide them from most humans, it did the same thing now to Bo. A smattering of trees obscured any view from above, sending shadows to stretch out in all directions to confuse an observer's eye from a plane. Boundaries cast around supernaturally claimed lands protected the camp from any stray hikers stumbling onto land such as theirs and forcing them, without rising curiosity, to consider alternate paths. The Rocky Mountains was host to many different kinds of beasts and some that hunted back with a keen mind. Not safe for hiking alone anyway. Each claim a sanctuary for what goes bump in the night. His friend might have headed off to his.
Adelwin and those like him were from the Stone Age; a group considered as the missing link. They had a knack for keeping hidden, although some have caught glimpse of them and even got blurry photographs. Today he wished Adelwin was not so skilled at it. Not a single one of his brethren that came to save Sally from her misguided trial could be seen from where Bocnic stood. Panic surged, Bocnic had no other way to contact Adelwin otherwise if he had already left.
He ran through the center of camp where Sally had been on trial last night. A clearing amongst trees and shrubs, set aside for ceremonies or gatherings, was worn down to earthen soil in patches from centuries of foot traffic. They had done her wrong, Bo reflected.
Around him carts floated by without wheels loaded down by someone's belongings. Apparently, this one was moving to a new home. Relationships amid undead were just like living ones—someone was always getting kicked out over not doing the right thing or putting a cup down of a coffee table without a coaster. Life just continues to throw left hooks, and for undead it's eternally messed up. Wayward thoughts almost had Bocnic miss his name being called as he reached the clearing's edge.
"Bocnic!" A cranky old woman dressed in wrinkles called out. She wore clothing to cover her well enough, but the wrinkles tried to outdo her choice of wardrobe. "You're going to trip moving carelessly as you are," a bellowed, not much unlike a fog horn coming from a scratched record.
This was one person he wanted to avoid. Bo turned his attentions her way and sure enough caught a protruding rock he overlooked, falling flat on his face. Irritated from Zemra's distraction, he blurted out as he got up, "Was that a premonition or just good timing on your part?"
"I've told you too many times that I see the future as it will happen. Nothing more," she fired back confidently.
"Didn't go so well yesterday for you at Sally's trial," he replied back smugly. Bo dusted his clothes off after gathering up himself and his wits off the ground.
She showed a startled look before recovering as if what Bo said meant nothing to her, "I told you her fate was already set. I never told you she would fall to Mathyas," Zemra retorted with arms crossing under her breasts.
"I don't doubt you carry enormous power, because I've seen you use it. Although, lately things have been a bit too coincidental for me to believe some of your fortunetelling," Bo grinned as he spoke. "Besides, Mathyas was just one more pawn for you. His untimely ending only furthered your own end game."
Zemra breathed in deeply, letting it out in a huff. Eyes fixed on Bo with deadly intent, "Your presumptions—right or wrong—aren't doing you any justice to find Adelwin. I would also mind my words if I were you. Plenty of sinkholes in this shallow swamp you're treading in at the moment."
"What gave you that impression I was looking for him?" Bo twisted his words to keep some of the truth back from the witch. He had no idea how she might use it later.
"You're testing my patience," Zemra smirked wildly with a knowing zeal. "You flew into the clearing like an escaped Gorilla on a rampage, a panicked glaze set in your eyes. That leaves me to think something happened to Sally and Adelwin would be your first choice for help." She stared down to where Bo had fallen, contemplating, "Doesn't take a genius to put two and two together. Boy, I'm offering assistance free of charge. I almost never do things without extracting a price first. You'll need my help when this is all done with."
Zemra was playing a game he did not have a rulebook to follow along with. That kept Bo's tongue from flapping. It was never wise to cross a witch of any strength. They had a way of striking out in vengeance for being denied even something as seemingly simple as this olive branch she extended. He had to consider every angle she might be using against him. Bo found that well led to a bottomless pit of mischief.
Any answer he gave would be turned in her favor. Bo opted for a simple nod of acceptance, reaching out a hand to close the deal. Taking hold with a firm grip, Bo had not expected Zemra to be as strong as she was. Looking so frail must hide other traits she wishes no one to know about, Bo contemplated. He stood back from their handshake confounded. Something had crept up his arm after touching her skin. A familiar bonding spell cast between them. Nothing physical—mystical, as if a spell had been cast. Bo regretted taking her hand, playing into her game.
"Why'd you do that? You said your help came without a price, but I doubt that. You touched me with more than your skin," anger raised in his voice by degrees despite knowing it might cause retaliation from Zemra.
A crooked smile began to form as she said in a soft whisper for only him to hear, "Just something to help me find you if I ... for some reason lose you. Nothing to worry yourself over. You have my word."
Her smile did not sit well with him. If this were a Chess game, I might've just been duped to sacrifice my Queen early without realizing it. He felt there was nothing more to do than make the best of the situation now. Roll with the punches until it's over and Sally will be safe again, Bo reluctantly thought in an attempt to convince himself, nothing more could go wrong.
"Bocnic Drewings, we have work to do. A bargain has been struck. Let's stop wasting it on our backs and get going," the witch said with a glint in her eye. "Only the dead lay around."
"Poor pun, but you knew that."
Her only response came in the form of a minute nod and a tightening at each corner of Zemra's mouth. Figured as much, Bo gave over in thought. It's going to be a long trip if she keeps it up.
She led them off to a rise in the west with the sun still at their backs. They wound their way along deer paths among pines and spruce; occasionally rounding bushes obstructing a direct path to where she steered them on. Bo assumed a good starting point to find Adelwin would be from where he and Sally first met the Neanderthal high above Mathyas's camp. He should have known better to search him out there if their Elder had already left, but his mind refused to think clearly.
Zemra kept a remarkably fast, steady pace for such an old woman. Most of the time she was a cantankerous old woman full of herself that moved slower than a green leaf fall in spring. However, when time was of the essence, she moved as if the world would slow for her needs instead of the other way around. Bo tried to recall a time she hurried for anything, Not once has she moved with any velocity—not until now.
Newfound worry formed in the recesses of his mind. Zemra knew something she was not sharing or could she be having a senior moment? Was she having them stroll through a forest like Red Riding Hood and Zemra was playing her part as the Wolf? He chose to break the silence and find out, "We're going at nearly at a run? Sally's in danger from the Cross, but it doesn't explain your odd interest in the situation. What's she to you?"
Zemra walked on without commenting as if he never spoke. Bo notice their pace had picked up speed. Secrets could destroy partnerships and friendships alike. Friendship never existed between them, so if they were going to work together she needed to tell him what she knew.
Tougher done than said.
Bo repeated his question to her, adding, "If it's about Sally I must know."
He knew his words sounded desperate, a part of him could not deny a feeling slowly growing inside him for Sally. Bo was sure it showed on his face as Zemra answered him slightly perplexed by Bo's mannerisms, "Does she mean that much to you? Of course she does. Foolish of me to ask." A smirk across Zemra's lips briefly, "I will share this but ask no more of me. She plays a vital role in our future. What she will do isn't clear enough for me to tell you why. She's important. All I know is if our world has a chance to survive the approaching dark times—she has to live."
"That's it? Maybe some broad foreboding to guide us? I guess I'll accept it. I've followed other with less, so what makes this any different," Bo asked with a final shrugging of his shoulders to imply his acceptance.
"You're giving up quickly," she glared intently at him, then to the sky as a dark gathering of clouds blocked a sun short of noon. "Good. Time is of the essence. We're burning precious daylight with idle chatter. Following me is quite different than when you followed your Ex."
"Leave her out of this," His voice gaining an edge not unlike that of a finely honed blade. Anger began to override his control; currents of magical energy coursed along his body as if called. "Don't bring that woman up again for any reason. You hear me? I'll dump your ass right here and now. Are we clear?"
Zemra stammered out, "Touchy. Of course—not again." She seemed to realize how she sounded and corrected it by blustering out, "Then, you should start walking if we're going to save Sally."
Bo made her stop at his little hut he and Sally stayed in to pick up his things and threw on a jacket to counter a cold blowing in from the north. He watched Zemra take a few strides toward a northern route before falling in behind her. She kept walking that direction, a slightly different course from before. Curious about her change he said, "Why that way? I thought most of the Elders lived in a more westerly route."
"They do, but I need some things from my place before we go too far. I'm not spending countless hours collecting ingredients along the way. There's concoctions requiring days of preparation already mixed if we crossed paths with other undesirables," she looked back suddenly, expression grim, "and that is going to happen."
Chapter TwoDark. So dark.
Stars pinpricked a deep black night like a blanket of velvet, shadows softened by what seemed to be a spot light shining down on her. Sally stood motionless in the middle of a field waiting. The surrounding forest loomed like a predator stalking its prey. Fear rested in her chest—growing faster by the minute. Something out there hunted her to tear flesh from bone. Something menacing sought a taste of her never breached the concealing brush. Standing by an open field made her feel exposed. Whatever stalked these shadows would not wait long before pouncing. She did not want to give it a chance for an easy meal. Sally swiftly looked around for a jutting rock or bush to hide behind. What she found a few feet away was a twistingly disproportionate wooden door standing alone in the middle of the meadow.
It had a doorframe of solid lengths of rustically painted red timber bent at impossible angles that had Sally wondering if the door would open at all. Nothing else supported the door's weight or held it upright. Hiding behind it would still make her feel exposed, but there was little else offering her cover. Running to it would stir what beast hid in those deep shadows. No, I'll walk and bury the fear. It's trying to scare me into a mistake. I won't fall prey to it.
Save for a crunch of brittle grass under foot, the meadow hung with an adrenaline pumping silence. Stepping up to the door, she put a hand on roughly sanded planks of wood to check the other side for anything waiting there. Red chips flaked off from her touch, aged and weather beaten paint cracked in a lace work of spider webbed lines covering the doorframe. Sally stepped around the door once without finding a way to open it. No knob stuck out to turn, pushing on the door itself from either side made it budge.
A rustling from behind her broke the eerie silence, spiking her fear anew. Faint twangs of a guitar emanated out muffled behind this door that went nowhere. More sounds of crunching leaves came from a patch of closer bushes where darkness was complete. Dark red eyes blinked open from those bushes like two beams of light from a flashlight, the glow reflecting off leaves giving them a sickly green color. Sally shoved at the doorframe in panic and rage of it not opening.
Instead of opening, it slid a few strides from her. Twisted wood scraped over hard packed earth from Sally's effort, light seeped in around the frame distracting her. She looked to see where the light came from. A rounded hut made of wet mud sat a short distance away, walls oozing as if the mud had never hardened. A thatch roof in disrepair covered it, large holes in places to let rain fall in freely. In the center of flowing mud stood open a hole that matched her door. An idea struck her like a speeding car, Shoving it back where the door belonged might get it to open. She had to chance it.
Deep growls answered her thoughts. The sound seemed to say, Lunch is escaping.
Sally had to smile at that. It was a small victory against an invisible beast, but one she accepted nonetheless. The melody got a little louder when she pushed it in the direction of the hut. She could make out some of the lyrics as snatches of song escaped in fits. Royal Bliss whispered words between rough planks for "Save Me", words that mimicked her own sentiments at that moment. She wanted to scream out to those play the music to open up and let her in. The faintness of the song somehow told her they would not hear her until the door was in place.
Sally did the next best thing and shoved with all her might. Hard ground refused to give, so she pushed harder. It only moved a few inches with a harsh moaning of wood protesting against the dirt. She rested her shoulder on the frame and pushed hard again. This time it moved more freely, less effort to travel under her waning strength. Furious growling from her lurking creature beyond the tree line's depths of shadows fueled her fear and she drew further strength to keep going forward.
She made a final shove to fit the twisted shape into a waiting hole cut out in the hut. Music blared from within, her hackles raised when a panicked fear had Sally yelling at those inside to help her, to shut off their music to hear her warning of the beast hunting her. With the band's music filling her ears, Sally worried the thing would sneak up on her and devour her. She beat on the worn wood frantically praying someone would listen.
Excerpted from TEMPERATURE: BITTER COLD by Adam Santo Copyright © 2012 by Adam Santo. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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