Authors: Ricky Fleet,Christina Hargis Smith
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror
Book 2 in the Hellspawn series
This book is a work of fiction.
Copyright © April 2016 by Ricky Fleet
All rights reserved
Edited by Christina Hargis Smith
Optimus Maximus Publishing, LLC
Cover art: Jeffrey Kosh Graphics
Electronic edition, License notes:
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be resold or given away. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author
To my beautiful wife, who has been my rock through life. Your constant smiles in the face of your illness shows me how lucky I am to have someone that brave behind me.
To my kids who hawk my wares to teachers, friends, and random strangers, I love you with all my heart. I know you will be successful and do great things in this world.
To my friends across the planet, you are the driving force that keeps me going. Every review, every message that says “can’t wait for the next book” motivates me to aim higher and come up with even more twisted ideas to horrify you with.
The journey to indie published author has been a rollercoaster of niggling doubt and dizzying highs. I couldn’t have been more grateful for the support and help I have received from the good folks on social media.
My family, as always, have been totally supportive of my efforts, showing patience where I would sit for hours tapping away on the keyboard.
My publisher and editor, Christina Hargis Smith, from Optimus Maximus Publishing who has been pushing me to write the best story I possibly can.
Jeffrey Kosh who continues to create disturbing covers for my work.
My amazing beta readers who give me advice and tips on the novel before it hits the shelf. Denise Kinsella Keef, Stephanie Lunsford, Jodi Ussery, you are true superstars for giving up your time to help me, it won’t be forgotten.
And to all my new friends who I have been privileged enough to meet on social media, I know we may never meet in person but I value each and every one of you. Thank you for making me what I am, because without your support and reviews I couldn’t achieve my goals in life.
The disparate survivors had borne witness to the final days of man. On television and social media, the beacons of life across the globe had been extinguished, prey for the new apex predator; the undead. Utterly without feeling, remorse or the ability to reason, the walking corpses had swept through the world like a decaying pestilence. Loved ones fell victim to loved ones, strangers to strangers, and the fallen quickly joined the legions of the damned to continue the onslaught.
Within days, over ninety percent of the world’s population was dead, or a blasphemous imitation of the state of being. Slowly decomposing as they wander, always searching for the flesh of the living to devour. The few remaining areas of humanity would face a winter like no other, battling both the elements and the relentless husks who besieged them on all sides. Food would be scarce and the need to scavenge the ruins of their old lives could only increase the danger.
The Taylor family had fought back using whatever was available to them, inflicting casualties in the hundreds, truly dead bodies littering their surroundings in festering heaps. In the scheme of things this is a single grain of sand on a beach, the countless millions that remain await them on the next leg of their journey.
“How are you feeling today, mate?” Kurt asked, leaning over Braiden and filling his water glass.
“Not too bad, I can speak more easily now. The pain is nearly gone when I breathe too,” Braiden answered, his voice still husky from the smoke inhalation following the arson attack five days ago.
“You really had us worried there, damn you.” Sarah sat down and hugged him where he sat on the bed, propped up on pillows. Braiden returned the contact without the previous reluctance, finally feeling like a part of a real family.
Braiden had ‘died’ in the true sense of the word. His heart had stopped and he was gone for nearly two minutes before Paige had inexplicably brought him back, her words of love working where common resuscitation had failed. They still spoke of the event and tried to apply logic, but it always went round in circles until they decided once again, that it was a miracle. Gloria had been quiet during the discussions, her faith had been stretched to breaking point by the inhumanity they had endured, yet the resurrection of the young boy had given her strength. If they had asked her why some had been saved but not others, why they had been given another chance when millions had been ripped apart, she would have been stumped. The old adage ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ was never truer than during this apocalypse. It could, however, just be coincidence and his youth and desire for life had been the catalyst, not a miracle at all. She smiled to herself while sitting in the corner and watched her ‘children’. They were not blood related, yet shared a bond that was stronger by far; they had fought for each other, been prepared to die for one another. They had even killed men; fellow humans only in name, the evil nature of the beasts made them worse than the walking dead. They took sadistic pleasure in the suffering and deaths of a family who had been unlucky enough to fall prey to the group. God’s fiery wrath had been merciless, delivered by Sam and Kurt in response to provocation and attempted murder.
“You ok, love? You were miles away,” John asked, sitting down beside the old teacher.
“Sorry, I was just thinking about the past few days and how lucky I am to have joined Kurt when he left the school,” Gloria responded.
“It was the least we could do after you saved Sam,” Kurt said from across the room, overhearing the conversation.
“We saved each other, he and Braiden were superheroes,” Gloria complimented the boys and Sam smiled at her and then returned to checking the area outside.
It was still nearly clear, the zombies numbered about twenty and none of those had a clue about the survivors. Earlier lessons had been learned and they kept a very low profile now, staying to the shadows even in daylight. They resisted the temptation to light the fire in the bedroom of their new, temporary home. It was only used for food preparation and then left to die. John had been wise in suggesting they try and acclimatise to the approaching winter while they were still secure. Windows had been opened to lower the temperature further and after a couple of very uncomfortable days, they had gradually become accustomed to it. Their clothing was tried and tested to see which gave the best warmth at the lightest weight to ensure they could stay quick on their feet. Trudging around in heavy clothing would have been lovely if they had been going skiing or on a nice hike, but in this new world it would just be a game of zombie pass the parcel, stripping layer after layer of the garments to reach the tender, juicy prize within. The exception was the several pairs of socks they each used to protect their feet from the biting cold.
“It looks like a day or two and we will be moving out then.” John nodded to Braiden, “Do you think you will be ready?”
“Yeah, I want to get moving too. I know each day I rest means it is more dangerous for us,” Braiden explained.
“Not at all. You being fully healed is more important and safe for us, we need you fighting fit for the journey,” Paige said and Honey wagged her tail from her position next to Braiden.
“Dad, have we decided to try for the Land Rover too? It gives us a backup,” Kurt asked.
“There is not much fuel left; it was lower than a quarter of a tank. I agree that it would be better to have more than one option. The only thing I don’t like is that it has been sat for so long, we aren’t even sure it will start,” John said.
“I hate to be the one to bring this up but what are the chances we will be able to get far in the vehicles anyway? I have seen the movies and you always see the roads blocked with hundreds and thousands of cars. How many roads are there out of Emsworth?” Paige added and they knew she was right.
“Four out, one each north, south, east and west from when it was an old market town, all single lane roads. Also there is only one road onto the Barracks which leads to the bridge and the guardhouse,” Kurt said. Any blockage to the main roads could be ignored and another route taken, but the single track for the army base would be a real problem if there was any traffic at a standstill. They would have to walk the rest of the way and abandon the relative safety of the van and Land Rover, if they decided to take it.
“On the other hand, do we have a choice?” Sarah finished the discussion. They had set their course of action and if they could clear even a mile of the two-mile distance it would be worth it. The potential safety of the soldiers stationed there was too good to pass up; despite not being military they could fulfil other roles to help the group.
“I have an idea that might help us, but don’t laugh at me,” Sam said.
“Let’s have it, Sam,” John replied.
“Well, we have been using the water from the old copper water tank. Dad, do you remember when we used to cut them up for the scrap man?” Sam asked and Kurt nodded. “Why don’t we cut pieces of the thin metal down and secure it around our arms with that duct tape? It will stop them biting us there if we get caught.”
They had found some useful items in the house, but a lot of their best equipment had been lost to the fire. By cutting the tank apart they could probably cover half of the group, to do more they would need to break in next door and get a second cylinder.
“I think that’s a great idea, it’s light and strong. What made you think of that?” Kurt asked, complimenting his son.
“I saw how a lot of the zombies had bite marks on their arms, legs, and face. We can’t wrap it round our legs because it could slow us down, nor our face because we need to see, but I thought if we could take away some of the danger it would be worth it.” Sam shrugged. The group agreed it was well worth the effort and they would all benefit from some bite armour in the event they were on the run.
“I am not so sure about the legs, why can’t we cut short sections for below our knees? It won’t affect movement if we tape it well and keep it away from the joints,” John said, taking the idea further.
“We would need at least one more water tank for that to work,” Kurt stated, reaching down and looking at his lower leg, wiggling the ankle that he had sprained after the initial outbreak. “I think it’s a great plan, we just need to get through to the other houses without going outside and with no drills.”
“We could just do what I did,” Sam said sheepishly, thinking back to the devastation he had been part of nearly a week ago. “Take out the tiles and hop over the roofline.”
Sarah glowered at him; she was still furious at his actions, how he had endangered his life to even the score with the vile murderers.
“We will have to wait for nightfall to be sure. I see no reason why we can’t get them tonight and cut them up tomorrow. The day after that we can make our break for it.”
“Do we still try and get to the other home?” Gloria asked, knowing they had been betrayed by their naiveté with the previous attempt at making contact with other survivors.
“I think we should try, we can see who is in there and if we don’t feel right we can just drive off,” Kurt said. They were still hopeful to find the good in the midst of all the horror, if they could save others it would be a vindication of their previous failures. It would also give them more protection, safety in numbers was a very apt phrase in these times.
The night fell and the temperature dropped again. Sam, Kurt, and John retrieved the cylinders without incident, breaking through the roofs, piercing the metal and letting the water flood through the ceiling and then passing the tanks from house to house.
In the morning they cut the water cylinder apart and started to fabricate personal forearm and lower leg guards. Each piece was cut and taped around the edges to prevent the sharp metal from cutting the person it was meant to protect. Sam was first to be fitted but when his arms had been done he noticed a mistake.
“We have to put all our clothes on that we will be wearing when we go, or they won’t fit when we leave.” Sam pointed out the obvious.
“What a stupid thing to do,” John commented, shaking his head. John cut
the tape so that Sam could put his coat on which added more girth to the arm, he was right, it wouldn’t have fitted properly. “There you go.” He resealed it and Sam flexed his arm, moving it around and checking that he still had free movement.
“That’s good, Grandad, its light enough to not matter,” Sam said
“I’m a bit dubious,” Kurt told them, “Four pieces of thin metal is not a lot but on the road it may get heavy very quick, sapping our strength. Perhaps we should only wear it when we are exposed.”
“I have to admit I am also worried. I am no spring chicken and if we are forced to abandon the vehicle I think I may just slow you down,” Gloria added. They could understand the fear, but as long as they were careful they should be able to avoid danger.
“Don’t you even worry about that, I will carry you if I need to,” John replied chivalrously and Gloria laughed.
“I will hold you to that. You shall piggy back me across the country,” Gloria answered and hugged him. John turned and bent at the knees, inviting her to hop on and when she duly leaped up he caught her legs and commenced walking around the room, causing the group to laugh.
! My back!” John dropped her and lay on the floor, clutching his spine and gritting his teeth with the pain.
“John, I am so sorry. Are you ok?” She knelt beside him, trying to offer him some comfort as he lay in agony. He was holding a hand to his face but her concern turned to anger when he sniggered and then burst out laughing.
“I’m sorry love, I had to get you,” John said grinning.
“You beast!” Gloria slapped at his chest, “I thought I had hurt you. Don’t ever do that to me again.”
The rest of the group had been taken in by the ruse. Seeing all was well, they sat back down, relieved that their plans had not been ruined by a slipped disc or torn muscle. Gloria continued to slap his arms as he tried to defend himself against the assault, laughing the whole time. He sat up and cuddled her tight, stopping the attack.
“Sorry, I was just being stupid. I know how serious the next couple of days are. I just wanted to lighten the mood,” John explained, still holding on to Gloria for dear life in case she resumed her slapping.
“Well you nearly lightened my heart right out of my chest,” she answered.
The family carried on with the task of fitting their armour, a cheap imitation of the knights of yore, thin copper in place of majestic suits of the finest steel. They would not be dodging swords or spears, but decaying teeth and their virulent bites. Kurt suggested they wear the plates for the next day until they were ready to make a break for the army base. It would be a good indicator of how much fatigue they would experience out in the big wide world.