This book has been delayed due to a medical condition.
A Zombie Novel
By William Jones
isbn 13: 9781568822341
Cover art by Steven Gilberts
An Evolutionary War the Microbes Won
Humanity is dying. The dead are rising. After the virus hit, humans became an endangered species. Within months it spread across the planet, infecting nearly everyone, turning them into the living dead.
With civilization in ruins, small pockets of survivors struggle each day, hoping for a way out, waiting for help. But for one group of people trapped in post-apocalyptic New York City, time is running short and the city is filling with the infected and the undead.
Abandoned cars and trucks choked West 14th street, decaying bodies filled most of the remaining spaces. Moving between the slowly down the street, Callum Cooper scanned beneath the vehicles, searching for anyone alive or dead. He swung the Mossberg 590 in quick jerks as he went. Georgina Harris trailed a few yards behind. She watched the empty windows of the flanking buildings, pistol clamped in her hands.
Tall structures stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the New York City street. Shattered display windows smiled jagged glass teeth. In just a few months, the stony facades were dark and stained from the soot and ash of countless fires. Their faces were also pocked with the blasts of light arms fire. Now they stood in memorial only. In memorial to the past. Callum knew this battlefield would never have monuments and markers, or bronze statues paying tribute to the generals who waged this war. A microscopic victor claimed victory to this territory - admiration and recognition were not a part of its world.
"Nothing here," Callum called, staying low, moving toward the next vehicle. He kept the bayonet on the military issue Mossberg, although he hoped never to use it. That was far too close to one of them. He brushed his chin against a shoulder, adjusting the thin fabric of the germ mask. "I hope the wind shifts soon. I'm going to retch if this stink keeps up."
It had been five months since the plague hit. Callum had spent the last six weeks with the only survivors he could find. The only sane survivors. Even then, he wasn't too sure about Gina. In the middle of a rotting city and a dying world, she'd still believed things were going to get better. Her blissful stupidity burned him. And yet, he always ended up scavenging with her.
"Place is dead," Georgina said.
Callum didn't laugh. After a while, there was no joke in the joke. With over eight million dead or dying, and who knew how many still walking, Callum had nothing left in him to laugh with. Like the world, that part of him had rotted away. Living is what he did to pass the time. Laughing was a luxury.
"Over here," he trotted toward a ten-story brownstone building that had once been a trendy center for shops in Chelsea. He glanced over his shoulder at the blockade on 9th Avenue. They'd left the Envoy there, parked behind concrete barricades that once were the sight of a battle between the military and the infected. The riots had started long before anyone knew how bad things would get.
Now dirt and debris covered the streets, with weeds sprouting from the cracks. The scarred pavement was pitted from explosions and bullets - battle scars.
"I always loved this place," Georgina said. "They specialize in imported food."
"Specialized," Callum emphasized. "And as long as it's food, I don't care." He halted before the large window. Glass crunched beneath his boots. He snapped on the flashlight mounted on the assault shotgun. The motion reminded him of when he did it in Afghanistan - going door-to-door. He'd used the bayonet quite a bit in those days.
Georgina approached from the other side. She wore steel toe boots, faded jeans, and a Kevlar vest. He long, chestnut hair, tied behind her head, revealing her slim features with high cheekbones and large eyes. Slung over a shoulder was a green duffle bag, the same type Callum sported. A second Glock 18 was holstered at her waist. She unsnapped a flashlight from her belt, shining it across the dark interior of the store.
Shredded boxes and bags and broken jars carpeted the linoleum floor. Aisles with a scattering of goods filled the place.
Callum leaned forward, sniffing at the air. "Smells the same in there."
Georgina shrugged thin shoulders. "With that breeze, we can smell the dead from Queens."
For most of the morning, the wind had been blowing west - or what seemed to be west. Callum wasn't used to the tall buildings that formed concrete and steel canyons, creating artificial air currents. Sometimes it felt like the wind had changed direction on every street as though following the traffic signs.
"We came to get food," he said. "Let's do it and get out."
Georgina's almond eyes settled on him. Callum wondered if she knew how much he disliked her. He preferred doing searches with Ellis, Trev, or Rach - or even that scraggly, whiney little Melissa. But somehow, he always drew the short straw.
He motioned for Georgina to enter.
Her gaze hardened.
"What?" he said. "I was first last time."
"Bullshit." She snugged the germ mask close to her nose and mouth, then stepped through the large window, pistol raised.
Callum tightened the strap of his duffle and followed. Even with the sun dimmed by the grimy skies, it took moments for his eyes to adjust. The flashlights cast circles back and forth. They'd done this enough to make it routine. But every time dread settled over him. In the service, he knew someone always had his back.
Slowly, Georgina moved down an aisle, shining her light at the remaining bags and cans - whatever hadn't been looted during the riots.
In a matter of months, the dominant species on the planet had been transformed into scavengers . . .vultures. Decimated by an organism that wasn't even alive.
"I love these noodles," Gina said. "It'd be great to have something other than that canned crap."
"Leave it," Callum snapped. "It's a waste of water."
Gina turned. "You know, I would do that if you were in charge." She waved the flashlight. "Newsflash, jarhead, you're not."
"Listen to me," Callum snarled. He stepped forward, grabbing her vest and yanking her close. She was light. It felt as though he could snap her like a toothpick. "Maybe you're planning on entertaining company. Maybe you're catching the next train out of this hellhole. Or maybe you don't have a fucking clue about what's going on. This is it. Nothing comes next. We're all just waiting for the end. One way or the other, everything will end. All that's left is how many days we have, and who goes first. Either the infected outlast us, or we outlast them. When the last one is gone, it's fucking over. You got that?"
Gina's pulled up her flashlight, revealing her gaunt face. Wide eyes slowly narrowed. Callum jumped when the Glock pushed into his crotch. He heard the snap as she switched it to full auto.
"What I've got is a gun," she whispered. "And if you want to keep yours, let me go."
His fury shriveled. She was crazy enough to do it. Gingerly, Callum released her. She stepped back, keeping the pistol low, pointed at the floor.
"So you don't like noodles," she said. Her visage tightened. "But try that again, and I'll kill you."
A line of grit and dust fell from the ceiling, billowing into a cloud between them. Callum gripped the shotgun, pointing the light upward. Most of the ceiling tiles were missing, revealing pipes, conduit and the slab above. A web of cracks spread throughout the concrete.
The ground fighting had weakened most buildings in the city. Its just settling, Callum told himself. He'd seen it before in the Afghanistan. Memories clawed to the top of his mind. He pushed them back. A soldier's trick.
Wispy lines of concrete spiraled downward from other spots in the ceiling as though a heavy weight were shifting above.
"Something's up there," Gina said.
The air was heavy and rank. Sweat beaded on Callum's face. He squeezed the Mossberg, gripping and releasing the weapon.
"Let's just get the food," he said quietly.
Quickly they grabbed at the shelves, moving along the aisles, filling their duffels. Cans clanked against each other. Plastic rattled as Georgina stuffed bags of noodles into the duffel. Callum bit back the urge to say something.
They'd moved halfway down a row, when a clamoring came from the depth of the store, hidden beyond the thick shadows. The sound bounced, seeming to come from every direction.
One after the other, Callum and Gina shone flashlights in different directions. Long moments passed as they listened and waited.
Callum's pounding heart filled his ears. He gulped a lungful of the rancid air, holding it, waiting for a sound. In the beam of light, he spotted one of the infected. He was fresh - he still had flesh. It was gray and bruised and bloated. The skin had split in places. Yellow-black pus oozed from festering wounds. Dark matted hair jutted in all directions. But he was still alive, able to move quickly.
"Over there," Gina whispered. She hunkered down, hiding behind the racks, resting the pistol on one of the shelves.
Callum turned to see another infected shuffling from the darkness. And beyond it were several others. Too many to count.
A guttural howling echoed throughout the enclosed space. The sound was a rattling, wet noise. That meant most were still borderline. Alive enough to push air through their lungs. Alive enough to be fast. Dead enough to be past reasoning.