Authors: Lei Xu
|Cavern of the Blood Zombies (2011)|
|Graver Robbers' Chronicles |
Uncle Three loves good food, good booze, good card games, and bad women–and he’s never found a grave he wouldn’t rob. He can’t help it–it’s in his blood–grave robbing has been the family business for centuries.
So when his bookseller nephew comes to him with a map to an ancient tomb, Uncle Three sets off to find it, in the company of some grave-robbing colleagues, his nerdy nephew, and a strange poker-faced guy that nobody can quite figure out.
Uncle Three knows that the grave he seeks will lead him and his companions to "another kind of world," but not even he could ever imagine what they are about to find. Lost in a labyrinthine cavern that is full of dead bodies, Uncle Three and his comrades fight for their lives as they come up against vampires, corpse-eating bugs, and blood zombies.
THE FIRST VOLUME OF The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles, which will soon be followed by Angry Sea, Hidden Sand, Cavern of the Blood Zombies is as impossible to put down as a bag of good potato chips. A story with more twists and turns than a burial cavern and the funniest grave robbers the world has ever known, it’s kept Chinese readers awake far into the night. Now it’s your turn...
Xu Lei was born in 1982 and graduated from Renmin University of China in 2004. He has held numerous jobs, working as a graphic designer, a computer programmer, and a supplier to the U.S. gaming industry. He is now the owner of an international trading company and lives in Hangzhou, China with his wife and son. Writing isn’t his day job, but it is where his heart lies.
The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles:
Cavern of the Blood Zombies
By Xu Lei
Translated by Kathy Mok
Copyright©2011 ThingsAsian Press
Edited by Janet Brown and Michelle Wong
Illustrated by Neo Lok Sze Wong
All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher.
ThingsAsian Press, 3230 Scott Street, San Francisco, California 94123 USA
ISBN 10: 1-934159-31-X
ISBN 13: 978-1-934159-31-6
At the edge of an open grave squatted three men and a boy, all of them silent as they gaped at a shovel. This was a special sort of tool, known as a Luoyang shovel, used by men who loot burial sites. The long, tubular spade they had just pulled up from the grave was covered in dirt that oozed with a thick red liquid, as if the shovel had been dipped in blood.
The oldest man in the group stamped out his cigarette as he released an impatient cloud of smoke. “We’re in big trouble. There’s a zombie in that grave and if we aren’t careful, we’re all going to end up buried in there with it forever.”
“What’s wrong with you, Lao Yantou? You’re always bitching about your old legs bothering you—are you too decrepit to go down into that grave?” said a one-eyed youth in his late teens. “We don’t want to hear your bullshit—just give us a one-word answer, yes or no. If you won’t go, my little brother and I are more than willing. Come on!”
Lao Yantou looked at the young man calmly and then turned to a big, bearded fellow standing nearby. “This son of yours has a bad attitude and a big mouth, grandson—you really need to teach him that in our trade loud words aren’t enough to keep him from slipping and falling flat on his ass.”
“You little bastard,” the bearded man scowled at his son. “How dare you be so rude to your great-grandfather? He was robbing graves when you were still safe in your mother’s belly.”
“I was out of line,” the one-eyed teenager apologized. “I spoke without thinking. But you know, if there’s a zombie in that grave, it must be guarding treasure, and a lot of it. That’s a good sign. We’d be stupid to leave without going down there. This is our chance to make ourselves rich and we can’t ignore it.”
“And now you dare to talk back to me?” The father raised his fist but Lao Yantou blocked his blow before it fell.
“Don’t hit him—he’s just the same as you were when you were young. If the upper beam of a house isn’t straight, then the lower one is sure to be crooked too.”
The teenager began to laugh as his father was reprimanded but Lou Yantou cuffed him on the side of his head. “What’s so funny? Believe me, a zombie is no laughing matter. When we were working in Luoyang, one of your uncles dug up this same kind of bloody dirt and he’s been a lunatic ever since, mumbling to himself all day, all night, with nobody understanding a word he says. Yes, we’re going down into that grave and I’m going first.” He nodded at his bearded grandson, “You follow me. One-eye, you go only as far as the first excavation level and your little brother had better stay out of the grave altogether. If all four of us are down there at one time, there isn’t going to be enough room for us to get out fast if we need to. You, boy—One-eye here is going to hand you the rope after he ties it to this bucket—pull it up when you hear us yell.”
“That’s not fair,” the boy grumbled. “Why do I have to stay out of the grave? I’m going to tell Mom you wouldn’t let me go with you.”
“Cheer up,” laughed Lao Yantou. “Stop your fussing and Great-grandfather will find a nice little golden knife for you to play with, baby boy.”
“I don’t need you to find things for me. Let me go down into the grave and I’ll find my own knife.”
Grabbing his little brother by the ears, One-eye shook him as he yelled, “Why are you messing everything up for us and bothering Lau Yantou with your precious little tantrums, Mommy’s boy? Even Mom wouldn’t think you’re so cute if she heard you whine like that. Shut up—if you say one more thing I’m going to kick your little sissy ass all the way back home to Mama where you belong.”
“Cut it out!” Lao Yantou shouted. “We have work to do, stop squabbling—let’s get at it,” and he began to shovel dirt like a human whirlwind.
In half an hour, the grave opening had become a gaping abyss, and when the boy peered into the dark opening he could see nobody. One-eye emerged from time to time to get some fresh air but not a sound came from Lao Yantou or his bearded grandson.
It was dark and cold and lonely, waiting at the edge of the grave, and finally the boy called down into the depths, “Great-grandpa, have you found any treasures yet?” A few seconds passed before his brother’s voice could be heard faintly, funneling up from the blackness, “No—we don’t know. You, stay where you are—be sure to pull hard when we yell—pull that rope tight.”
The boy heard a cough, and then Lao Yantou’s whisper echoed in the dark, “Be quiet—listen! There’s something’s moving!” And then there was nothing but dead silence, leaving the boy terrified, unable to move or make a sound. Suddenly he heard an eerie rattling noise, as if a toad were calling from inside the grave, and then his older brother roared, “Pull, damn you, pull!”
The boy planted his feet as firmly as he could on the slippery ground, grabbed the rope that was tied to the bucket, and pulled with all of his strength, but then he felt resistance, as though something below had suddenly grabbed the other end. There was a giant tug and the rope was jerked back into the grave, with the boy almost going in with it.
Quickly he tied the end of the rope around his waist and leaned backward, almost touching the ground, using his entire weight to pull. This is how he always won at tug-of-war when he played with the other boys in his village and he knew he could exert enough force this way to hold his own even against a mule, if he had to. And sure enough, the boy was able to withstand whatever was trying to pull him into the pit, but the force on the other end was too powerful for him to pull the rope back up to the surface.
The sound of a gunshot came from within the grave and then his father’s voice shouted, “Run, boy, run!” The rope slackened and the bucket shot out of the pit. As the boy grabbed it, he thought he saw something clutching the rim but there was no time for him to look. Holding the bucket tightly in one hand, he ran as rapidly as he could, knowing something terrible was happening to his family in that open grave.
Only after a couple of miles did he stop to draw breath. As he released his grip on the bucket, he looked at it and screamed. Hooked on the rim was a severed hand, dripping blood. As he looked, the boy knew this was the hand of his one-eyed brother, who was now a cripple, if not a corpse.
I have to go back. I have to help my father and brother and Lao Yantou, he thought. He turned and there, sitting and staring at him, was a creature the color of blood.
This boy wasn’t an ignoramus. He had gone on grave-robbing expeditions with his father many times before and in his short life had seen quite a few strange and unearthly things. He knew that anything could happen below the earth’s surface and that the most important thing was never to panic, no matter how bizarre the circumstances might become. He knew that no murderous spirit could be stronger than any living person, and that anything, whether it be a black demon or a white devil, had to somehow comply with the law of physics. Once it was hit with a bullet and destroyed, the most terrifying ghost was nothing to be afraid of.
The boy always carried a pistol, an old box-gun his great-uncle had found in a warlord’s tomb. He had never used it before but he knew what he had to do. Stepping back, he pulled the pistol from his waistband and aimed at the creature before him. If this bloodred thing made a move toward him, he was ready to shoot.
The monster rose to its feet and as the boy looked at it, his scalp turned numb and his stomach churned violently. This creature was a man who had been skinned alive, as bloody and raw as if it had been squeezed out of its skin like a grape from its peel. How is it possible that this thing is still able to move? the boy wondered. Have I finally seen a blood zombie? Is this what they really look like?