Authors: Eric S. Brown
Tags: #Horror, #Short Stories, #+AA
Zombies II: Inhuman
Published by Naked Snake Press
Copyright ©2010 Eric S. Brown
Cover illustration and interior layout
copyright © 2010 by Donna Burgess
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A lot of people ask me why I write zombie
stories. The simple truth is that I am a zombie fan. From the
moment I first watched Dawn of the Dead, I was hooked on the zombie
genre of horror. I don't care that many feel zombie tales are
cliché. I have never cared that zombie tales are often more
difficult to sale than straight horror stories. When other authors
ask me if I am worried about being labeled as and known only as a
zombie writer, I just smile.
Writing for me isn't about money or fame.
It's about fun and the walking, flesh-eating dead. Aside from my
family, zombies and comic books are my life. I devour every zombie
film and book I can get my hands on and yet my wife still lets me
live in the same house as her. She's very supportive of my career
and my addiction as long as my zombies never leave my study.
After writing zombie tales for a bit over
five years, I started thinking about combining my two hobbies:
Superheroes and the Undead. Pretty much any zombie tale worthy of
being called one is about the end of the world and the extinction
of the human race. In a world where the dead walk is it therefore
so unlikely that God or nature or merely evolution would grant a
select few the power to survive to carry on the species? That's the
concept behind several of the tales in this collection. "Evolution
like Lightning" attempts to quickly answer the question of how
normal survivors of an undead plague would respond to super-humans
suddenly appearing among them while the tale "Ghost" is actually
the origin story of one of the characters from the title tale
"Inhuman" itself attempts to take a look at
what life could be like for meta-humans who can read thoughts, bend
steel with their bare hands, or channel electricity as a weapon in
a world where every day is a fight to stay alive. And if
super-humans aren't your thing, well, this book contains zombies in
the old west, some very hungry animals, intergalactic zombies used
as weapons of war, and traditional zombie tales too. So dear
reader, I hope you enjoy reading these tales as much I did writing
them and that you remain a fan of the dead. I know I will be a fan
of all things zombie for the rest of my days and nothing will ever
Michael blinked and looked around. They were
gone. The pack of dead creatures which had nearly managed to
surround him intent on making him their next meal was nowhere to be
seen. His heart was thundering in his chest and he reached up to
touch the fresh sweat dripping from his hair as it began to sink
in. The dead weren't the only thing that was missing. Everything
around him had changed.
He'd been standing on his front porch trying
desperately to get back inside his own barricaded house with the
supplies he'd looted from what remained of the local grocery store.
The dead had followed him home and had been closing in. All he
could remember was thinking he'd never get the locks undone in time
and that he needed to just drop everything and run. Now he stood in
the middle of a city street as barren and dead as the ones in his
hometown with skyscrapers looming above him.
A woman's scream ripped him from his
confusion as she rounded the street corner and came running into
view. Her clothes were ragged and it was clear the end of humanity
hadn't been as kind to her as it had to him. Here in the city, or
wherever the hell this was, it must be harder to survive than just
being boarded up in your own house alone. Five of the dead
creatures, two women and three men, came bounding around the corner
after her. Blood and drool flew from their snarling mouths as they
closed in on the woman.
Michael had no weapon. He'd dropped his .38
on his porch along with everything else as he'd fled still he
couldn't just stand by and watch her die. He screamed what he hoped
sounded like a battle cry and charged the dead things, punching the
lead creature in the face.
As his fist made contact, two things seemed
to happen at once. The creature's head exploded in a burst of bone
and brain matter and time seemed to slow down. Michael watched in
awe and horror as the blood appeared to float in the air until it
finally began to feel gravity pulling it to the street. The other
creatures and the woman were barely moving. Michael knew he must be
going mad but stayed focused on the task at hand. By whatever
miracle the lead creature was dead but there were still four more
and only one of him. He spotted a tire rod lying amidst the litter
covering the street and ran for it.
Snatching it up, he returned to the
creatures. None had moved more than a few inches at best. Driven by
an instinct to stay alive and a growing frustration at not
understanding what was going on, he tore into them, pounding each
in turn until the things were barely nothing more than standing
piles of bloody pulp. When he stopped moving all five collapsed to
the ground. The woman didn't look relieved though. She stared at
him as if he were a demon who had appeared out of thin air and
"It's okay I am not going to hurt you," he
said as he tried to calm her down.
"What the hell are you?" she gasped.
"My name is Michael," he whispered moving
closer to her. She stood there sobbing as she continued to stare at
him. He took her in his arms both to comfort her and himself. It'd
been so long since he'd seen another living person. He didn't feel
her knife slide up through his ribs until it was too late. He
looked down at the growing red stain on the front of his
He heard her scream something like "die you
freaking monster!" in slow motion for what felt like an eternity as
she twisted the knife blade deeper and deeper until he fell and the
darkness embraced him.
Something thumped in the darkness of the
warehouse. Thorne awoke with a start his hand grabbing up the .38
that lay near his sleeping bag. Instinctively he closed his eyes
once more and reached out with his mind scanning the building for
the thoughts of others. A cold shudder ran through him and he
grimaced with disgust as he felt the Holes. Thorne had labeled the
Dead "holes" after the first time he'd scanned one of them. Their
minds were just active enough for him to feel but barren of thought
and terrible to touch as the emptiness in them seemed to go on
forever. There were three of them close by and moving in his
direction from where the warehouse's main doors led out onto the
Thorne breathed a sigh of relief. He could
deal with three of them if it came to that but the warehouse was a
huge place with more than one-way out. With luck, he'd be able to
dodge them altogether. He got up and quietly gathered as much of
his gear as he could with the hope of slipping away long before the
dead stumbled onto him.
A burst of wind blew by him so powerful it
nearly threw him from his feet. Thorne stood in the shadows
wondering what had just happened. Wind didn't blow indoors. He
reached out again to discover the mind of someone else very much
alive. It was full of rage at the holes yet there was an underlying
sense of pleasure in its thoughts.
Somehow, the mind had just appeared near the
holes. Wait. . . Now there were only two holes . . . No, all the
holes had vanished. Thorne felt a gust of wind on his face and in
front of him stood a young man dressed in street clothes holding a
machete that dripped blood onto the wooden floor. The man smiled
offering him a hand. "Hi, I'm Nate. Couldn't help but notice you on
my way in. I thought maybe you could use some help."
Thorne looked Nate in the eye and spoke a
single word, "Sleep."
Nate collapsed tumbling over as if struck by
an invisible blow to the head. Yanking some rope out of his
backpack, Thorne knelt by Nate and hurriedly tied the man's hands
and feet. It was a dangerous chance to take. More of the dead would
surely be coming if the ones Nate had slaughtered could find this
place yet Thorne didn't see any other option. If he simply left
Nate behind, the young man could prove far more deadly to him the
shambling flesh-eaters if what Thorne suspected about him were even
partially true. This man had to be dealt with now. There was no way
Nate woke up and Thorne could tell without
even touching his mind that the young man was trying to move.
"Don't bother," he whispered, "I've shut down
selected portions of your brain. You're not going anywhere soon. Oh
and you're also tied up," Thorne added almost as an
"What the hell are you?" Nate asked.
"I was just about to ask you the same thing,"
Thorne laughed. "Are you a speedster?"
Thorne sighed. "That's what they used to call
characters in comic books that had superhuman speed. Are you like
that? Is that how you got in here, killed the three dead, and got
back to me so fast?"
"If I say yes, are you going to let me
Nate's eyes went wide. "What the hell are you
doing man? I can feel you inside my head!"
"Getting ready to let you go," Thorne told
Suddenly Nate could move. He sped up his
atoms and vibrated through the ropes which held his hands and feet,
snatched the blade he'd dropped, and froze in place as he swung it
at Thorne. The blade stopped inches from Thorne's throat. Nate
couldn't make himself finish the swing. He took a step back and
glared at Thorne.
"I wouldn't try to run off just yet either,"
Thorne smiled. "I'd hate to see what happens to someone when they
trip if they move as fast as you do."
"What do you want?" Nate demanded.
"Other than your word that you're honestly
not going to try to kill me again? Let's start with how you found
me. Just what exactly are you doing here?"
"I like to get out and have some fun okay?"
Nate waved the machete through the air finding he could move freely
as long as he wasn't thinking of harming Thorne. "Look dude, I just
want to go home alright? Let me go and I swear I won't chop off
your head or come after you."
"You live around here?" Thorne asked shocked
that anyone could actually still have a home in the city.
"It ain't the Ritz but we get by."
"Yeah, we, man. What did you think you were
the last one left and all that crap?" Nate mocked him. "There are
four of us. We took over one of the local hospitals. We live on the
tops floors, made it where the deaders can't get up. It's about as
safe as anywhere can be these days."
Thorne caught a glimpse of Nate's thoughts.
"The people you're staying with, they're like us?"
"You mean freaks? Sure man, how the hell else
do you think we've survived?"
Thorne felt more holes or deaders as Nate had
called them making their way into the warehouse. "How far is this
"Couple a miles north of here, deeper in the
city. I can take you there if you think you can make it."
"How? The city is overrun with those things.
There's no way we can make it by them all."
"Speak for yourself. I can get by them easy.
As for you, I spotted a national guard APC abandoned just a bit
down the road. I bet it still works."
"Fine," Thorne answered. "Let's move. You
take the lead but don't even think about darting off without me,
Thorne and Nate crept out of the warehouse
through one of its street entrances. They stood in the shadow of
the building with the sun rising behind them as Thorne took in the
scene. The dead milled about. He could see the APC setting in the
middle of the road. There were at least three dozen of the dead
between him and it and he knew there would be a lot more as soon as
they saw Nate and himself.
"Hang tight." Nate told him. With a whoosh
noise and gust of wind, Nate was gone. Thorne heard the APC crank
up. Its engine roared to life and its massive wheels rolled over
one of the dead as it backed its way into a position to get turned
toward the warehouse. Nate must have kicked it into gear because
the vehicle roared its way straight at where Thorne stood