Authors: Eloise J Knapp
Tags: #undead, #zombies, #apocalypse
published at Smashwords.
ISBN (trade paperback): 978-1-61868-073-0
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-074-7
The Undead Haze
copyright © 2013
by Eloise J. Knapp.
All Rights Reserved.
Cover art by Eloise J. Knapp.
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.
For Gramawama and Grandpa who have never understood me
but have always encouraged me nonetheless.
The mere thought Blaze could still be alive caused my newly developed—and much disliked—humanity to kick in. It didn’t happen right away. No, weeks passed before that whisper of hesitation turned into full-blown doubt. Logic was gone and guilt, that infuriating, oppressive guilt, came to tell me I should leave the safety and perfection of Frank’s fortress-like cabin and go find her.
Was she dead? It didn’t matter. Blaze could be a shambling, festering zombie, but my need to know outweighed my inclination to keep quiet and safe.
Besides the feeling of remorse plaguing me, I grew increasingly sick of the still, deep forest I was in. Since I arrived, only two undead hikers that managed to wander this far northeast popped up outside my fence. I killed them, but not before tracking and studying them to amuse myself. It was the only excitement I experienced during the months I was there.
I disdained my solitude and craved danger and adventure. Prior to the apocalypse I lived a subdued life, but after spending weeks killing zombies and crazies, before ending up in the cabin, the taste for anarchy lingered in my mouth. It certainly suited me. Why not go charging back into it?
There were at least twenty solid reasons I used to justify loading a hiking pack with food, water, and other supplies. Justification flowed through me.
But why am I justifying it to you?
My name is Cyrus V. Sinclair, and I don’t need a reason.
A quick run to the gas station down the street should have been easy. It should have ended with a bag full of Sour Patch Kids and protein bars, but all I had was an empty stomach, an empty gun, and a massive headache.
I thought about Frank’s cabin. It had been weeks since I left. I was nearly thirty miles away from it, still wondering if I made the right choice to abandon my home to find Blaze Wright. It felt like an eternity since I met her at the prison overrun with crazies in Monroe. I thought I was helping
escape, but by the time we got out of there she’d already saved my life once. The first woman I cared about also turned out to be more callous and sociopathic than I could ever dream of being.
Twenty rotbags shuffled over the pavement below me. Their gnarled hands clawed at the walls. It was too much to hope they’d just wander off. They hadn’t forgotten about me, and I wasn’t sure they ever would.
How many weeks had it been since they’d seen fresh prey?
I wiped a drip from my nose and leaned against the ventilation system on the roof. Twenty undead. I’d counted them twice in the past hour. Their numbers hadn’t increased. Good. And they’d stopped groaning. Instead they walked the perimeter of the gas station, their necks craned upward.
Everett was a big town, but there weren’t many zombies. Hell if I knew where they went, but I wasn’t going to curse good fortune. It seemed safe enough a place to rest, so I had picked a house on the outskirts of town and settled in with Pickle for the night. I’d been feeling off. A couple nights of rest were in order. On the second morning, I locked Pickle in a bathroom and set off to find supplies. A mile down the road I found a gas station.
Then they came stumbling out of the forest like they’d been waiting for me. Only a handful at first, but more were behind them. I hadn’t stepped five feet onto the lot when I had to break into a run. The gas station doors were locked.
And there I was. Cold, hungry, and desperate, wishing that I’d brought Pickle with me. I thought I’d be gone for an hour at most. Now she was alone at that house, trapped inside that room.
“Hey, Ricky! We got a bunch of ‘em over here!”
I twitched. The voice was faint, but it might as well have been a shout. I hadn’t heard another living person in weeks. I crawled to the side of the roof on my belly and peered over.
Three figures walked down the road. They all carried rifles. One of them held a walkie-talkie to his mouth. The slows below me moved en masse towards them.
As soon as the undead near the ladder cleared the area I shot down it, slipping on the bars, and booked it to the forest. People are bad news even if they have good intentions. Avoiding them was the only way I’d been able to survive the past couple months.
The frost-covered grass beneath my boots crunched. The edge of the forest was thirty feet away. Relief flooded through me.
Seconds later, roaring engines startled me. I glanced back just as two trucks pulled up near the gas station. One of them went off road and came straight towards me.
Automatic gunfire joined the sound of the trucks. I cleared the forest line as a bullet burrowed into the evergreen next to me.
What the hell had I done to deserve this? I risked another glance and saw figures trailing me. The truck that dropped them off was already circling back to the gas station.
My heart hammered in my chest. I didn’t have enough bullets to take them out even if I hit each of them in the head. I wasn’t sure where I was going or how long they’d pursue me
My boot hit a slimy, moss-covered log and I went down. My shin hit the log first, sending sharp pain up my leg. I tried to catch myself before the rest of me hit the ground, but it was too late. The side of my head smacked against a rock.
“Over there! Get ‘im!”
Spots clouded my vision. Someone’s boot was on my back and a hand pushed my face into the snow. My gun was snatched from my hands. I took a deep breath before it all went dark.
* * *
I woke up in a pile of people. I wasn’t even at the top of the pile. Flesh pressed against me and I couldn’t see faces. People whimpered all around me. I felt the edge of death surrounding us and wondered how long it would take until someone on the bottom died, came back, and ate their way out of the pile.
It was unpleasant.
My left arm went numb from being bent around my back. I tried to tug it forward, but aside from almost pulling a muscle, I accomplished nothing. I couldn’t move. I was on my back, my head on someone’s stomach, and it gave me an upside down view of foggy roadside.
I tried to take a calming breath, but the stench of fear and sweat and
made me gag. More than one person must’ve pissed themselves. The smell of warm urine was the strongest, and it saturated people’s clothing.
Somewhere near me a man sobbed. The moans from everyone else were almost overshadowed by him. Whoever I was on top of was convulsing.
After another attempt at escaping the pile I had no choice but to give up. My legs were trapped. I had no control over my left arm. Taking calming breaths, even through my mouth, was difficult since my chest was crushed under the person above me.
I wasn’t claustrophobic, but this was too much. I had no idea how many people were around me. How many crazies were guarding us?
“Where did that red haired one go, Bubba?”
“In the truck!”
“He ain’t in the truck, stupid fucker. You put him with the rest of the meat?”
Two hulking redneck beasts moved closer to the pile from out of the mist.
“You know what boss says,” one said. The pressure eased as he pulled a body off the pile. “Save the redheads ‘cause they taste real good, ya know?”
“Well I left him in the truck, so I don’t know who done took him out,” Bubba said. “And no, ain’t never eaten a redhead because they rare and any ones we come across get eaten by the boss.”
Why me? I’m finding a box of hair dye if I make it out of here. Why the hell do people hate redheads so much?
I wanted to make a joke of it. Anything to lighten my mood, but it was proving difficult. I’d been around cannibals before. The prison in Monroe. The crazies in Startup likely ate people, also. Yet I’d never been so close to being eaten myself.
Do they kill you first? Burn you alive? Eat you raw?
They dropped one in front of me. The sobbing man. He got to his knees and started crawling away.
“Whadda we got here, Bubba?”
The rednecks surrounded the man. Watched as he crawled. It was pathetic.
“Looks like he tryin’ to run, Bear. What do you say? We make it so he can’t even crawl no more?”
Two hits later with the butt of his rifle and Bubba broke sobbing man’s legs. The redneck’s laughed at their cruelty.
“You know, I think—hey, look at that. Hey buddy, I think yer the one we’re looking for.”
They stood in front of me. Their upside down faces sneered, showing tobacco stained teeth.
“Boss’ll like this one,” Bubba said as they shoved and pulled bodies away from the pile. The people cowered together as they hit the grass, too afraid or too weak to try and escape. “He looks real healthy.”
They lead me to a line of tents.
There was a silver lining to everything. No more meat pile, no more disgusting smells. I inhaled as much of the cold winter air as I could, glad to be away from the stench.
My thoughts went into overdrive as I looked everywhere for an escape while we walked. We were on the side of a road by a truck rest stop. Five large tents were set up some distance away from the trucks these raiders stored us in. Dense forest flanked either side of the road. A green sign said Everett was five miles away.
I let my body sag, forcing the rednecks to take my arms and carry me. I needed to buy more time to think. They grunted but didn’t say anything. Our pace slowed.
I wouldn’t make it on foot down the road. It was unlikely I’d be able to steal a truck. Couldn’t kill all of them since I didn’t know how many there were and didn’t have a weapon. My best option was to escape into the forest, get as far away as I could, and make my way back to the town. They’d be looking for me there if they were hell bent on catching me, but I had to get Pickle.
We stopped at the biggest tent. It was a pavilion tent, each of the plastic panels closed tight.
“Immortal Son,” Bear said. “We found the redhead.”
A man pulled a panel aside. The moment I saw him I knew he was bad news. The name was a big clue, sure. His appearance even more so.
He wasn’t like any redneck crazy I’d ever seen. He was immaculately groomed. His tan robe touched the ground and was tied at the waist with a rope. Long blond hair was tied at the nape of his neck. Above all his eyes set him apart. Not dull and animalistic like the rednecks. They were calculated. Slow. But no less insane.
He flashed a pearly white smile. “Hello. Welcome. Please, carry this man inside.”
I planted my feet and straightened, yanking my arms from Bear and Bubba. If I was going to get eaten, the least I could do was have some dignity going in. More importantly, if
was the only guy in the tent, my chances of escape looked promising. Going in willingly would benefit me.
“I’ll walk, thanks.”
They closed in on me again, their grip on my arms tighter this time.
He laughed. “You are very humorous, friend. Please escort him inside and tie him to the chair.”
He disappeared in the tent. The rednecks pushed me inside, towards an ornate wooden chair. Parts of it were stained red. The trampled grass it stood on was darkened with what looked like blood.