When Jim ran out of that farmhouse in Forgotten World, not only did he leave the promise of safety behind, but he was sure he was about to meet a horrible end.
Amira has lived most of her life surrounded by silence, and this new world has dangers lurking around every corner that could mean the end for her.
When two survivors never meant to meet, find each other in the middle of an apocalypse, it will mean the difference between life and death. With silence as their constant companion and the threat of death always hanging over their heads, Jim and Amira will learn not only what it means to trust another person, but how to let go of the past so they can survive this new world of violence.
Release date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Twisted Press, LLC
Print pages: 247
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Listen to a sample
Kate L. Mary
Every breath I let out echoes through my head, and the harder my heart pounds, the louder it seems to thump against my eardrums. The constant pounding isn’t a bad thing, though. Anything that can drown out the noise of the zombies barreling down on me is more than welcome.
Just keep going. Just keep running.
I’ve never really been one for pep talks, but it’s all I can think as I charge through the field, leaving the farmhouse behind for good. Saying goodbye to the promise of safety in Atlanta and the friends I’ve made who are quite possibly the only good people left in this whole Godforsaken world. It’s for a good cause. I know it is. Doesn’t mean I don’t hate that I’m rushing into the dark unknown with little chance of making it out of this alive. Because, let’s face it, carpet and duct tape will only keep you safe for so long when you’re facing a world overtaken by zoms.
When a pang shoots through my side, the grunt I let out would rival even the moans of the dead. I press my leather-gloved hands against the rug wrapped around my stomach, trying to hold myself together while I focus on keeping my legs pumping. Left, right, left, right, left, right. It’s all I can concentrate on right now. Moving forward, one foot after the other. Ignoring the pain in my legs, the pressure in my lungs, and the pounding of the feet at my back.
The moon above me is bright enough it should light the way, but it doesn’t help all that much. Axl and Angus did a good job of wrapping me up, which means I should be safe from the jaws of the dead, but it also means it’s tough to see anything that isn’t right in front of me. The layers of scarves and duct tape have made peripheral vision a thing of the past, and I’m looking at the world with what feels like tunnel vision as I rush toward the trees in front of me. Doesn’t matter. All I have to do is outrun the dead and find a safe place to hide.
Yeah, that’s all I have to do.
I keep moving. Through the field and into the forest, jumping over fallen branches and anything else that might trip me up. The toe of my right foot hits some debris buried by long-dead leaves and I stumble a few steps, but I force my body to stay upright. Keep my legs moving and my feet firmly planted on the ground. If I fall, the carpet and tape should keep me from being ripped apart, but there’s no guarantee the zombies will get tired of me any time soon. Getting back up will be impossible once I’m surrounded by the horde.
After what feels like an hour of running, I finally break through the trees. Light glimmers off the water in front of me, and I skitter to a stop. My hand is still pressed to my side—barely holding me together—and my lungs threaten to burst with every breath I take, but all I can do is focus on the water in front of me as I try to figure out what to do next.
The river doesn’t look that deep, and it can’t be more than twenty feet to the other side. I could make it. It could give me the advantage I’ve been looking for. Of course, if I fall, there’s also a good chance the current will sweep me farther downstream or pull me under. With the layers and layers of fabric taped to my body, I could very easily drown in just a foot of water. Maybe even less.
Leaves rustle behind me, and I turn long enough to see the branches at my back move. That’s all it takes to make up my mind. The river is a risk, but I’d rather face the current than the zombies heading my way.
I move, charging into the water without giving it a second thought. Liquid that’s barely above freezing seeps inside the strips of carpet taped to my legs and fills my shoes. Within seconds my skin is covered in goose bumps. It’s an odd mixture. My body sweating under the layers of fabric while shivering at the same time. Like I’ve been sucked into some kind of alternate universe.
Shit, that’s a dumb thought. Aren’t the zombies trying to rip me to pieces enough to make me think I’ve been sucked into some kind of twisted world where nothing makes sense?
The current is stronger than I anticipated or my legs are weaker. Either way, less than three steps into the water and I’m already wobbling. I hold my arms up like I’m walking on a balance beam, and each time I lift a foot I’m careful to make my steps short and close together. It makes the going slow, but it also keeps me from tumbling into the water and being swept away.
By the time the first zombie splashes into the river at my back, the water is up to my knees. Without thinking, I turn. So fast it causes me to lose my balance. Panic that’s stronger than the current under me clenches my gut as I tumble forward, throwing my hands out. The freezing water engulfs me and my head goes under, but I keep my arms and legs rigid. Even as my mouth and nose are filled with icy liquid, I force my body to stay firm, refusing to allow myself to panic and lose control of the situation.
When I lift my head from the freezing water, I’m face to face with so many zombies it would be impossible to count them all. Like me, the river seems to have frozen most of them in place. The few that have ventured in wobble with each step, and even though I know I should get up and move, I stay on all fours where I am and watch. My breath held as I wait. Praying for the outcome that will mean I made the right decision.
The zombie closest to me stumbles and then falls, dipping under for a few seconds before resurfacing further downstream. His arms flail as he’s carried off, and the moan he lets out sounds oddly human, making the hair on my head prickle. I’m still watching him float away when a second, and then a third, bite the dust.
Watching those bastards get swept away is all it takes to snap me out of it.
I have to get up. Have to get on my feet and keep moving. Once I’m on the other side, I should be home free.
Staying on all fours, I turn until my back is once again to the advancing dead. Then I move forward, keeping my head up and my eyes on the shore in front of me. I’m halfway across when the water gets too deep and I’m forced to push myself up. It takes a lot of effort, and when I make it back to my feet, it feels like I weigh a hundred pounds more than I did before I stepped into the river. Every step takes an insane amount of effort, but every inch is a victory I’ve won over the zombies.
You can make it. You’re almost there.
By the time I’m able to reach out and touch the shore, my legs are almost numb, but it isn’t until I’m lying on my back in the grass and overcome with tremors I realize why. I’m freezing, and my teeth are chattering together hard enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if they shattered.
I stay where I am, shivering and gasping, staring up at the dark sky. It’s so clear every star is visible, and the big, bright moon seems like I could almost reach out and touch it. The world around me is silent other than my pounding heart and the rush of the river at my feet.
When the thumping in my ears has subsided, I finally remember the zombies. I push myself up and blink, but even then it takes me a few seconds to register what I’m seeing. The bank on the other side of the water is empty, and so is the river in front of me. Where they all went, I don’t have a damn clue, but I know I got lucky. There wasn’t a part of me that thought I would make it out of this alive when I volunteered to lead that horde away, but it seems like someone is looking out for me.
Not that I’m out of the woods yet. With the way the water has soaked into this carpet, not to mention how cold it is, I’m liable to die of pneumonia if I don’t get dry fast.
I pull out my knife and get to work on the tape that’s wrapped around my head. There’s a shit ton of it though, and the more I cut the more I risk slicing off a piece of my skull. I let out a deep breath, hoping to calm my pounding heart as I take a few seconds to study my surroundings. Other than the river and the chattering of my teeth, everything is as silent as a graveyard. So quiet, in fact, that it’s kind of creepy. Like I’m the only living person in the whole damn world.
The extra padding covering my ears isn’t going to help me hear if something does decide to sneak up on me. I have to get this shit off my head and then work on the rest of me. Getting warm and dry is one of the most important things I can do at the moment.
I go back to trying to cut the duct tape from my head, but it only takes me a few seconds to give up. My gaze moves to my legs, and I shift so I can get a better look at the situation. The carpet wrapped around my lower half should be easier to get off. For one, I can see what I’m doing, but also because there’s a gap on the inside of my legs where I should be able to slice the tape off.
Hoping to get a better angle, I spread my legs wider, then slip the blade of my knife under the carpet on my right leg and move it down slowly, cutting the tape wrapped around my upper thigh. It slices through the silver strips, and the carpet comes free. I pull it off and toss it aside before moving to my left thigh. This time, I slide my blade faster through the first strip of tape before moving on to the second one. My blade is four inches above my knee and halfway through the last piece of tape on my thigh when a sharp pain pulses through my leg.
I suck in a deep breath and take a quick look around before moving my knife down the rest of the way. Once the tape has been cut, I toss the carpet aside and twist my leg so I can get a good look at my inner thigh. A dark red spot has spread across my jeans, growing bigger by the second, and there’s a slice in the fabric about three inches long. I stick my fingers in the hole and pull, ripping the jeans a little more so I can get a better look. Blood seeps from the cut, but without a flashlight it’s impossible to know how bad it is. Bad enough if these were different times, I’d be on my way to the emergency room. But bad enough to kill me? It’s hard to tell.
Either way, I’m going to have to do something to stop the bleeding.
The scarf wrapped around my head seems like the perfect solution, so I go back to pulling at it for a few seconds before giving up. The leather gloves taped to my hands are too bulky, making it almost impossible to feel what I’m doing.
Have to get the gloves off first.
Whoever taped the gloves on my hands did a helluva job, and it takes me a good ten minutes to get the right one off. Once that’s done, though, I’m able to get a better sense of where the tape ends and the gloves begin, which means I get the second glove cut off in half the time. Every move I make causes the cut on my leg to throb, and even without a flashlight, I can tell it’s bleeding like crazy by how much bigger the spot on my jeans has gotten.
I go back to working on my head, and now that my hands are free, cutting off the scarves and hat isn’t nearly as hard. Once the scarves are off I untangle them, pulling free every little bit of tape that’s stuck to the fabric. Then I wrap one of the scarves around my thigh three times before tying it off, wincing when the scratchy material rubs against the open wound on my leg. It hurts like hell, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it out in the open like this. I need to get up, get moving, and find a place to hold up for the night so I can get some rest.
I start to climb to my feet, but moving isn’t easy with the carpet still strapped to my torso, arms, and lower legs. Getting it off is going to take me a good bit of time—longer than I should risk being this exposed—so instead of staying where I am and working to get free, I haul myself up and start moving. The rest of this shit can wait until I find somewhere to hide out for the night.
“There has to be a house or two around here somewhere. Right? This is America.” Or was, anyway.
I don’t know how long I ran—a couple miles at least—but I do know the farmhouse I left behind is no longer occupied by anything but ghosts. The others were probably gone within seconds of me running out the door. That was the deal, anyway. I lead the dead away and they haul ass to Atlanta. Save the world.
Shit. I hope it works.
Thinking about them is what keeps me moving. Even when my limbs start to tremble and it’s difficult to stay upright. Vivian, Axl, Angus, Joshua, and Parvarti. Then there’s Megan. She’s the real reason I offered to lead the zombies away. Not only did I make a promise to her dad, but seeing that little baby was a reminder of exactly what we’re fighting for. Hope and a future that isn’t full of death.
Every step I take seems to make my limbs heavier. Almost as if I’m dragging the weight of the world with me. I keep at it, though, and before long the horizon has gotten orange. A little more walking and the color has spread, moving across the sky and bleeding into the darkness above me. Drowning out the stars until they’re invisible.
I’m gasping and shivering by the time the sun is all the way over the horizon, and it isn’t until then that I spot a cluster of houses in the distance. I don’t know where I am or how long it’s going to take me to get to Atlanta from here, but I do know my best bet is to get to a town and find a map. Hopefully, those houses mean there’s a gas station or convenience store nearby.
I force my legs to move faster, dragging myself forward until the houses come into view. There are a couple dozen homes, all pretty close together, but that’s about it. No signs to indicate there are any businesses. Great.
I pause and let out a deep breath. It’s early, and even though I’ve been up all night, the idea of stopping now doesn’t feel right. I should take advantage of the daylight and move a little further. We were headed east, and with the sun up, I know which direction it is. It makes sense to keep going.
“You can do this.”
Talking to myself makes me feel dumb as shit, but it also makes me feel better for some reason. The utter silence surrounding me is unsettling. The world should have noise. Cars, planes, or kids. Hell, I’d settle for people screaming at each other. Lord knows it wouldn’t be anything unusual for me. Between the way I grew up and the years spent behind bars, I’m used to hearing people fight. But this? The total silence that has fallen over the world scares the shit out of me.
I pass the grouping of houses and head toward the sun. Dragging my throbbing, heavy limbs across the open field to the road. When my feet hit the blacktop, I feel a little better. A little more normal. Despite the wet carpet clinging to my body and the sweat dripping down my back, there’s something ordinary about the open road. Like I’m just a traveler out looking for a new life instead of a guy running from the dead. Like if I can just walk far enough, I’ll reach a destination worth all this trouble.
A guy can dream, anyway.
I keep moving, but the higher the sun gets, the more I start to sweat. Crazy thing is, I haven’t warmed up completely. The carpet scraps aren’t going to dry out any time soon, and the Georgia sun is hotter than hell against my exposed face. The air I breathe in gets thicker by the minute and beads of sweat drip from my forehead into my eyes every other second, but there are still goose bumps on my arms.
Every step makes my leg throb a little more, but I don’t stop to look at the cut until sometime after what should be lunch. I’m surprised my growling stomach hasn’t drawn every zombie in a ten-mile radius, but there’s also an uneasiness in it that makes me think I’d most likely throw up any food I did try to eat. Not that I have any.
I lower myself down on the side of the road, laying my knife right next to me just in case, and then gently unwrap the scarf. The dried blood has glued the damn thing to my leg, and not only does it hurt like hell when I pull it away, but the cut starts oozing again. I suck in a deep breath and dab at the fresh blood, getting my first good look at the damage since the sun came up. It’s deep and long. Four inches, maybe. What really worries me are the red streaks under my skin, moving from the cut to the other parts of my leg. I know infection when I see one, but it just doesn’t make any sense. I cut myself six hours ago, maybe a bit more. It’s too soon for infection to have set in. At least I think it is.
“Gotta get someplace safe and get this thing cleaned out.”
The sound of my voice in the midst of the quiet makes me jump. I look around, sure something is going to come charging, but the landscape around me is as still and empty as it was when I sat down. If there are zombies nearby, they aren’t close enough to hear me talking to myself.
“Doesn’t mean they aren’t headed this way. I have to keep moving.”
I wrap the scarf back around my thigh and tie it off before getting back to my feet. My body seems to sway under the hot sun, and the world around me tilts at an odd angle. I shake my head. I’m tired. That’s all it is. I need to rest.
I take off down the road once again, ignoring the way my nose and cheeks burn under the rays of the Georgia sun. The pulse of pain shooting through my leg with every step I take isn’t as easy to push aside, though. Every time I lift my left leg, a throb shoots up my thigh, and every time I put my foot on the ground, the same ache moves down to my calf. It’s like a seesaw of pain in my leg, and the more I walk the more intense it gets and the more my head starts to pound.
By the time a house comes into view, the sun has moved so it’s at my back, which is currently drenched with sweat. Despite that, I’ve started to shiver and my body is shaking. The place is way off in the distance, and with as heavy as my legs have gotten, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to make it. It’s like someone is at my side, adding invisible weights every time I lift my legs. I feel like shit, too, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think I had a fever.
The red lines on my leg come to mind, but I push the thought aside. Infection doesn’t happen this fast. It’s impossible. It has to be something else.
The world sways, but I force myself to keep moving as I tug at the carpet taped to my body. It’s pressing into my lungs like it’s trying to crush the life out of me. Or at least that’s what it seems like. It’s hard to tell, though, with the fogginess in my brain.
I shake my head, trying to clear the cobwebs or dust or whatever it is that’s clogging my thoughts. It doesn’t help, so I concentrate on the house in front of me. On lifting one leg and putting it in front of the other. Ignoring the throb that has now gotten constant and blinding in its intensity. If I can just get inside, I’ll be okay. Once I’m in there, I can rest for a few hours. Check out the cut. Maybe even clean it out. Then I’ll figure out how to get this carpet off before it crushes me to death.
I just hope to God there aren’t any zombies inside. With the way I’m feeling right now, I’m not sure I’d be able to fight even a toddler zom off.
By the time I stumble into the front yard, I’m barely able to stay upright. My temples throb right along with the beat of my heart, and it feels like my head is floating a foot above my shoulders. Every inch of me shakes, while under the layers of clothes and carpet taped to my body, my skin is moist with sweat.
“Shit,” I mutter, shoving damp hair out of my face. “I’m sick.”
Is the fever raging through my body from the cut, or was it something that has been hiding in my body for the last few days and has just now decided to rear its destructive head? Either way, I know one thing for sure: I’m screwed. It’s not like there are doctors or pharmacies anywhere. I’m on my own, and in this world, that can mean the difference between life and death.
When I reach the house, I peer in through the window on the front door. Nothing moves, but it looks like there was a struggle here at some point. Legos are spread across the floor, and a couple chairs are knocked over. From where I’m standing, I can see into the kitchen a bit, and what looks like a bag of flour is lying on its side, its contents spilled across the floor.
Still, as far as I can tell, the place is empty. Not that I have much of a choice about where to go. There are no neighboring houses anywhere in sight, and if I don’t get somewhere safe—and soon—I’m liable to fall over. Every second that goes by has me feeling like more cotton has been stuffed into my head, and my wobbly legs are making it hard to walk. I need to find a place to ride this thing out.
I turn the doorknob, but it doesn’t budge. Not that I’m surprised. Breaking in will be a last resort. The last thing I need is for a zombie to wander inside while I’m delirious with fever. I have to find another way.
I move toward the garage, leaning against the side of the house for support, and turn the corner to find a door right in front of me. Even though I’m sure it’s going to be locked, I try the knob. I’m unprepared when it opens, and I almost fall right into the dark garage. Somehow, I manage to catch myself before I face plant on the cement floor.
There’s an SUV parked in the middle of the two-car garage, but other than a couple bikes and a lawnmower, it’s the only vehicle. I leave the door I just came through open and head around the car, but the door that leads into the house is also locked.
I exhale and lean against the wall when the room starts to spin. My head is a mess and my legs are barely keeping me up. The garage won’t be comfortable to rest in, and it’s too dark to check out my injury or see so I can cut these damn strips of carpet off, but with how I’m feeling, it’s going to have to do. At least until I can get some of my energy back.
I go back the way I came, shutting the door and making sure it’s locked so nothing can wander in while I’m passed out. Then, without really thinking it through, I pull open the back door to the SUV and climb inside. The leather seats are soft against my cheek when I lay down, and within seconds I can feel myself drifting off.
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