Authors: J.F. Gonzalez,Brian Keene
205 NE BRYANT
PORTLAND, OR 97211
AN ERASERHEAD PRESS COMPANY
Copyright 2012 by J. F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene
Cover art copyright © 2012 Dave Kendall
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
Printed in the USA.
Both authors would like to thank:
Jeff Burk, Rose O’Keefe, Carlton Mellick III, Larry Roberts, Mark Sylva, Tod Clark, Bob Ford, the real Dave Thomas, Michele Mixel, Nikki Graybeal, Geoff Cooper, Mike Hawthorne, and Mike Lombardo.
Special thanks to Mark Williams, who contributed two paragraphs to this novel from beyond the grave.
J. F. Gonzalez would like to thank:
Cathy and Hannah, my parents, my corporate clients, Guy N. Smith for
Night of the Crabs,
Joe R. Lansdale for
Dead in the West
, Shane Ryan Staley, Paul Goblirsch, Chet Williamson, Bill Furtado, Richard Christian Matheson, Kelli Owen, Mike Lansu, John & Paul Burkholts, Tom Monteleone, James A. Moore, Tim Lebbon, Ray Garton, Deborah Daughetee for her patience when I cease work on the screenplay treatment to work on this, Wrath James White for his patience when I cease work on the novel collaboration to work on this, and the real life Clark Arroyo.
Brian Keene would like to thank:
my sons, Mary SanGiovanni, Cassandra Burnham, Betty Anne Crawford, Susan Scofield, Nurse Stephanie, Melanie Candra, Michelle Burdette, Kasey Lansdale, Joe Lansdale, Damian Maffei, F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, Dallas Mayr, Lee Seymour, William Miller, Andrew van den Houten, Greg Wilson, and the Playhouse Posse.
Although this novel takes place on a global scale, much of the action occurs on the coast of California. We have taken certain fictional liberties with that geography, so if you live there, don’t go visiting your favorite pier or beach. If you do, you might end up Clicker food. Or zombie food. Or zombie Clicker food…
It should also be noted that although this novel features characters and situations from both the Clickers series and The Rising series, it does not take place in either of those series’ “worlds.” As the reader shall see, it takes place in an alternate reality, where characters and situations from those previous novels may have turned out quite differently. This novel also features cameo appearances of characters from a number of J.F. Gonzalez’s and Brian Keene’s other novels, however, knowledge of those characters or novels is not needed to enjoy this book. Consider the cameos ‘Easter eggs’ for the hardcore fans who spot them.
For Kelli Owen,
without whom this book wouldn’t have been possible…
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and Death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and all were judged...
—Book of Revelation 20:13
Huntington Beach, California
It had been warm earlier that day, but it was as cold as a witch’s tit by the time Brad Kincaid and Troy Johnson showed up at Steve Baker’s Fourth of July party in Huntington Beach that evening.
Steve told Brad that the party was to be held between Lifeguard stations 51 and 52, between Talbert Avenue and Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach. Brad and Troy surfed this stretch of beach anyway and knew the area well. Troy pulled into the parking slot while Brad reached into the back of the jeep for the beer.
“Let’s go!” Troy said.
They trudged through the sand toward the party that was well underway around the bonfire that had been set up about fifty yards from the lot. There was a curfew that was strictly enforced between ten p.m. and five a.m. The Huntington Beach pier, which jutted into the ocean about two thousand feet was about a quarter of a mile north. Across the street from the pier was downtown Huntington Beach, a tourist Mecca filled with surf shops, restaurants, bars, clothing and gift shops, and nightclubs. Between the activity on Main Street and the pier—which boasted a 1950’s style hamburger joint called Ruby’s—the place was bustling.
The police only allowed gatherings on the beach within a quarter mile radius of the pier after nightfall. Lifeguard presence stopped after six p.m. Alcohol was strictly prohibited. But that never stopped people from bringing it. What were the police going to do? The Huntington Beach Police Department only had two paddy wagons. Troy should know. He’d been hauled off to jail six months ago during a wild party that had gotten a little out of control—in cases like that, the police simply hauled everybody to jail and released them later on their own recognizance. His father, Anthony, had gone through something similar back in the 80’s when he was a kid.
As they drew closer to the party and the sound of the music playing on Jim’s boom box, Troy’s grin faltered. He wasn’t into today’s music at all. Sure, it was supposed to be his generation’s music, but as far as he was concerned the only thing enjoyable his generation had produced was Muse and Lamb of God. Everything else—Black Eyed Peas, Ke$ha, Rhianna, Lady Gaga—they all sucked. Katy Perry was okay. So was that chick Pink. Troy preferred the music from his father’s generation, which dad played constantly—The Clash, TSOL, the Adolescents, Circle Jerks, the Buzzcocks. His Dad had been into alternative music when it really
been alternative music, and as a result, Troy also had a wide range of other musical interests: David Bowie, T-Rex, Iggy Pop, goth pioneers like the Cure, Bauhaus, new wave synth bands like Duran Duran and Talk Talk, ska bands like Madness and The Specials. Dad even liked classic metal like Metallica.
But this pop shit was just too much. It had to go.
“We ain’t gonna stay here long, are we?” Troy asked Brad.
“Forty minutes tops,” Brad said.
Some annoying pop tune was playing on the boom box. Steve was sitting between two blonds. He raised a bottle of Bud in their direction, grinning. “Dudes! How goes it?”
“We brought beer,” Brad said. Troy set the case down and gave the party a quick survey. No wonder the music was so fucking boring. The half a dozen people that stood around the bonfire nursing beers looked like typical south Orange County yupsters. Steroid-enhanced muscle guys in ratty t-shirts and baggy shorts and buzzed hair standing with their blond perky sperm receptors. Mixed in with them were a dozen or so hipsters. The moment both groups laid eyes on Troy they averted their gaze. Troy got that a lot. Must be the spiked Mohawk and the denim jacket he wore with the various patches adjourned on it.
Steve stood up and addressed his friends. “Hey everybody, this is my friend Brad. We grew up together. And this is his buddy Troy.”
Troy already had a beer and he held it up in friendly salute. He smiled. “Cheers.”
The hipster couple closest to him offered fake smiles that dwindled as quickly as they were plastered on.
Brad engaged in conversation with Steve. Troy stood close by, nursing his beer, trying not to look so bored. Why did he bother coming to this thing? This was going to be fucking boring.
“You and Brad been friends a long time?”
Troy turned and saw that one of the yuppie guys had drifted away from his girlfriend. He was nursing a bottle of Bud. The guy seemed cool—Troy was a pretty good judge of character by way of scoping out the way people carried themselves. This guy was short and he was wearing dark baggy shorts, sandals, and a large Hawaiian shirt. His dark hair was shaved close to the skull. His left ear was pierced with some kind of dangling earring and he had a large tribal tattoo that snaked down to his lower right forearm. Troy guessed that he was either of Asian or South Pacific Islander descent.
“Yeah,” Troy said, grinning good-naturedly. “Brad and I go back to the sixth grade.”
“That’s cool, yo.” The guy held out his right hand. “I’m Keoni.”
“Keoni.” Troy shook Keoni’s hand. “You work with Steve?”
“Oh yeah. We’re in the shipping department.” Brad and Steve worked together at Amerimax Building Products. Most of the people at Steve’s party were from work or were friends of friends.
“And you’ve known Brad since sixth grade, you said?”
“Yeah,” Troy nodded. “Brad and I go way back. He’s my best bud.”
“Can’t go wrong with that, bro,” Keoni said. He took a sip of his beer, his gaze swinging out toward the ocean. “Chilly as shit out here, though.”
Troy took a sip of beer. “Yeah, but that’s typical. It was seventy-five degrees earlier today.”
“You hear about those weird crab things that fisherman found today on the pier?”
“No. What was that about?”
“Guess it happened late in the afternoon. Guy fishing off the pier netted it. It was this hybrid thing. Half scorpion, half lobster or some shit. About this big.” Keoni held his hands out about a yard apart. “Connie was working the afternoon shift at Huntington Memorial.” He gestured toward the woman on his left who was engaged in conversation with two of the other women. “Connie’s my girlfriend. She works at the admission desk in the ER. She was just coming off her shift when they brought the poor sonofabitch in.”
“What happened to him?”
“Thing fucked him up good. Tore his arm off.”
his arm off,” Connie said. She’d heard her boyfriend relating the story and was turned in their direction. She took a drag on the cigarette she was smoking—menthol by the scent of it. She shook her head, her big pouffy hair dazzling in the light of the bonfire. “I saw it as the paramedics wheeled him in. Guy was screaming and they were trying to keep him covered up but you could see it.” She held up her right arm. “His arm was just…falling apart.” She made a face, indicating disgust. “It was gross!”
“No shit?” Troy asked. He took another quick sip of his beer.
“Yeah,” Keoni said. “Crazy shit, huh?”
“They get the thing that did it?”
“Cops shot it,” Keoni said.
“They shot it?”
All conversation around the fire pit suddenly ceased and became one. Steve stepped closer to Troy and Keoni, his features troubled. “Yeah, crazy, isn’t it? Took a lot of bullets, from what I heard. It’s a wonder they haven’t closed the beach yet.”