America the Dead Podcast, Episode 16

Episode sixteen of the popular America the Dead series: He lay for a few minutes thinking about how much he loved Candace, wondering how funny it was that he had lost so much yet gained so much, something he had never had and had been in no hurry to go out and find. He wondered how he had ever managed to live his life without her in it. He wondered over how deep his love was in such a short period. It seemed like it was just yesterday when he had first met her. He had remembered how he had never really found tattoos attractive on a woman, but she had this tribal thing that started on her left hand, wrapped around that wrist and then sleeved her arm, disappearing under her shirt sleeve. It was one of the first things he had noticed, and when she had been reaching for something he had seen another piece of the same work that came down across her flat stomach and slipped below the waist band of her jeans. While he had been wondering if it was a second piece or part of the same piece, she had caught him looking. Her eyes had settled on his own and the next thing he knew he was thinking about her in an entirely different way. Thinking about making love to her, about being with her. Thinking that could never happen, Tom was obviously interested. And then she had walked over and changed his entire life. He couldn’t be without her now. The man he was becoming had a lot to do with her, probably would have never existed without her, and he had never even known she existed, never even known that love could be like that. The entire world was destroyed, but he had found himself. And she loved him too. He could feel it, see it. It was every bit as strong as what he felt for her. Not clingy, just real. Total. “Hey,” Candace said. His eyes had slipped closed; he opened them to see her standing over him, a cup of coffee in one hand. “Coffee,” He said. “Good,” she said. “It’s alive. Were you going to sleep the day away?” She handed him the coffee carefully as he sat up. “Something wore me out,” He grinned. “You okay?” “More than okay,” She answered. She leaned over and kissed him.


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Earth’s Survivors America The Dead: Manhattan Apple Books

EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: MANHATTAN

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Manhattan is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons’ places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

NOTICE: This material has not been edited for content


PROLOGUE

New York

12:30 am

Carl Evans watched from the mouth of a dark alley. It was one of the things he loved about this place. You could hang out in an alley, smoke cigarettes all day and night long if you wanted to, and nobody said a word to you. Where else, but New York could that be true, he asked himself.

He leaned back against the wall, one sneakered foot propped on the brick behind him to hold him, the other flat on the cobbled stones of the alley. Another thing about New York, he thought as he inhaled deeply of his cigarette, and then let the smoke roll slowly out of his mouth. Old things everywhere you looked. These cobblestones for instance. He wondered how old they truly were.

“Young man.” The deep voice startled him from his thoughts. He lifted his head to see an old, gray haired gentleman standing at the mouth of the alley a few feet away. His face was creased and seamed. His skin so dark it was nearly blue. A cane in one hand supported his weight.

“What’s up, Pops?” Carl asked politely.

The man placed his second hand on his cane and leaned forward. “That cigarette will kill you.“

“Pops…”

He held up one hand as Carl began to speak. “Just telling you. Don’t need an argument. It will kill you. The big tobaccos, they knew about it back in the day when I was a boy chasing that habit. And they knew about it when it was in commercials in magazines, and T.V. and what not. That cowboy died from it you know, they knew it and they still know it. It will kill you. In case you didn’t know it I wanted you to know it.” He straightened his back, lifted the second hand, nodded once, and moved across the mouth of the alley disappearing as though from some sort of magic.

Carl chuckled, lifted the cigarette to his mouth, took a deep drag and then found himself blowing the smoke out, dropping the cigarette, and crushing it. The old man had ruined it for him. He hadn’t smoked in ten years, but it tasted as good now as it had then. And he had figured with the way things were nobody had much time. Certainly not enough time to die from cancer or some other nasty surprise from cigarettes, but just the same the old man had ruined it for him.

He looked down at the blackened mess he had made as he ground the cigarette into the cobbles. Just as well, he told himself, it was time. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small silver canister. He inhaled a sharp breath involuntarily. He knew what it was. Knew what he was doing, but he still couldn’t believe he was actually going to do it.

He fingered the small red button on the top of the silver canister, hesitated, and then pushed it down. Something inside clicked. There was no other sound in the stillness. He tossed it down the alley, turned, and walked out to the sidewalk.

ONE

Bear

August 4th

We were down along the river checking over some old buildings that are perched on the cliffs there, high above the water. Fall was not far away, and we knew we had to get moving, get out of this dead city. We had half the country to cross and find a place before winter came back around again.

We had struck out looking for food earlier that morning. With the park and its crowds so near to us, the shops and small stores for blocks around us were stripped clean. Another reason to get out of the city. It was time. I remember thinking that as I walked along.

I was thinking back to March as I walked. Not really paying attention to the walk, where I was going… March… Just a few months ago, but the world was still the world then. And for the next little while there, we didn’t even know about the dead. Dead was still dead. When you closed your eyes for the long eternal sleep you didn’t wake up a short minute later as something else. No. We were ignorant up until they decided to come after us. Ignorant. Stupid. Didn’t know a thing. Didn’t have a clue.

I had been in Central Park a few days after the first earthquakes hit. I had left Donita alone and went down on my own to see what the deal was. I found out nothing. No one knew any more than anyone else. There was a lot of speculation, but that was it. There had been earthquakes. It had rained hard for nearly twenty-four hours straight. The really freaky stuff hadn’t happened yet. We were just starting down our new path, but what was clear was that thousands of people had died in the city, maybe more than thousands, maybe a million or more. And certainly millions if the damage here was the same across the country… or worldwide.

And my initial estimate turned out to be a kind. In the city alone: collapsed buildings, fires, exposure to the elements because there was no shelter. There were millions of bodies. It was not so bad in those first few days, but a few days later, when the smell of the dead rotting under the rubble began, it was horrible. The diseases started then too. And the diseases took thousands more, and we thought that was the end of it, but it was not. The dead came next. The same dead, newly risen to some other sort of life. But that day in Central Park I did not know about the dead yet. I had no idea what was ahead; what was before me was bad enough.

At six foot three and nearly two hundred ninety pounds I don’t usually fear much. But that day I did. I realized there are some things you had better fear if you have half a brain in your head. It didn’t matter that I could walk through Central Park unmolested. Something was on the wind, something that didn’t care who it touched, did not respect physical size.

I walked through the park. There were hundreds there already. In the coming days those same people began to make the park home. But that day they wandered aimlessly, in shock. The subway was shut down, the buses. You could not find a cab. The same with the cops. Everything that was the same about the city, the things you could depend on to be the same day after day, were gone. A few short days, and they were gone. No more. And it had a feeling of permanence to it, a feeling of doom.

I sat down on a bench and watched the people shuffle by. No noisy kids. No babies bawling. No Joggers. No dog walkers. Hopeless people shuffling by. The occasional panicked whack job running around crazily. I saw no one shot that day, but in the coming days, they, the hopeless ones, began to shoot the crazies, chase them down and kill them. But that was later. That day I sat on the bench and wondered what had happened, and that was when the planes had overflown.

We all heard them from a long way off, military cargo planes. Slow, sometimes seeming to hang in the sky. That droning sound as they overflew, blocking the sun from the sky. This was no fly over to see how New York was, that much was evident immediately.

I was torn between running and needing to know what this was. Once you start down that path of just reacting to fear, it gets bad fast, so I sat there, as calm as I could be. ‘They will not drop bombs,’ was my thought. I remember it. And they didn’t. What they did was spray the entire city. Trails of blue-tinged vapor drifting down out of the sky. That was the first time.

I finally did give in to the fear and took off through the park, thinking, like nearly everyone else, that it must be some sort of poison. The government’s solution to whatever it was that was going on in the city.

We didn’t know what the blue shit the government planes sprayed us with right after everything went to hell was. And I am still not convinced I know all there is to know, but I suspect things. I have been told things. I met a guy a few weeks back that said he worked at the Army base over in Jersey. He said he knew what it was. He said the planes came from somewhere down south, but stopped there on the way back to re-fuel. What he told me was it was designed to strengthen us, keep us alive a little longer, and make us stronger somehow. Some dip shit scientist’s idea.

I suppose it was meant as a boost for us, a help. The world slowed down, fell apart; everything stopped working. They knew they couldn’t get to us. We would die. So they sprayed the blue shit on us, and I could suppose further that some of us survived the first few months because of it. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it did help us evolve into…

I don’t know. Whatever the hell we are now. I know we’re alive. I know our hearts beat. I still feel human, and I truly think I am still human. If it made changes to the living, they are very small changes… at least so far.

But the dead – oh, the dead. That’s a different story. It did something else to the dead.

I walked along now thinking my thoughts. I was lost in them – I’ll admit it – right back in March for a few seconds. But I came back fast.

We were right in front of a line of cliffs that overhung the river, spread out a little. At least I was. It’s funny how you can forget to be careful so goddamn fast. It was somewhere past midday when they came for us.

“Bear! Bear!”

Cammy from a hundred yards down. The panic and fear in her voice made my heart leap into my throat, and because of her fear, and probably some of my own, I did a really stupid thing right then that cost me time. I was so panicked, that I threw my rifle down and sprinted toward the sound of her voice. I got maybe twenty feet when the realization of what I had done hit me. It would have been comical to see the way I locked my legs up and tried to turn around before I had even come to a stop if it had not been so goddamned serious.

I had the rifle back in my hands, the safety off, just a fraction of a second later when Cammy and Madison opened up on the UN-dead closing in on them from the mouth of the narrow trail that lead up from the river. I added my fire to theirs before I had run another fifty feet, and their leader, a shambling wreck of a corpse, folded up, and then flopped over the side of the trail and down into the river. I continued to run as I fired, and I was shocked to realize that I was screaming at the top of my lungs as I closed in. I am big, but I can move when I have to.

“Goddamn-son-of-a-bitching-goddamn-bastards, dead-fuckers!” All strung together. Fear words. I did not hear them at first so I did not know when they started, and I could not shut them down once I did hear them. The panic and fear were just too hot.

I watched as, unseen by Cammy and Madison, a Zombie crouched on a narrow path above them swiveled his rotting head to me, seemed to take my measure with a wide, yellowed grin, and then dropped from the ledge on to Madison’s back.

“No! Goddamn-son-of-a-bitches-dead-bastards-bastards!” I could not say, ‘Madison Look Out!’ Or speed up my feet or any other damn thing. Time had slowed, become elastic, strange, too clearly seen. The Zombie hit her hard, and she folded like an accordion, driven into the ground, a few hundred pounds of animated corpse riding her down into the dirt, clawed hands clutching, mouth already angling to bite… to taste her.

I was still thirty or more yards away. I could not see how that could even be possible. I should have been closer, but I was not. I saw Cammy turn, panicked, take her eyes off the other UN-dead and start towards Madison. Unchallenged, the other Zombies closed ground far faster than they should have been able to.

I saw the Zombie on Madison take a mouthful of her back, just below the curve of her neck, and rip the flesh away from her spine. Cammy’s rifle came up and barked, and the zombie blew apart, raining down on Madison, a storm of black blood. Somehow, I managed to switch to full auto, get my rifle up, and spray an entire one hundred round clip into the other zombies where they rushed along the path towards Cammy and the fallen Madison.

Madison screamed. Time leapt back into its proper frame, and I found myself five feet away as Madison arched her back, screamed and tried to stand. Blood ran in a perfect river from her gaping wound, across the white of her T-Shirt and down to the waist of her jeans.

“I think… I think…” Madison tried.

“Baby… Baby,” Cammy sobbed. She dropped to her knees and pulled Madison to her. “Oh, Baby… Baby,” Cammy sobbed.

I looked back up at the trail. Empty. At least of moving UN-dead. Three or four, it was hard to tell with the tangle of legs and arms, lay dead on the pathway. Silence descended. I heard a bird in the trees above calling as if nothing was wrong with the world, Cammy sobbing, Madison crying hysterically, the wind moaning through the empty buildings that were set just back from the cliffs and the river on this side of the city.

I was thinking, ‘That wind is colder. Colder even than when we started out this morning. Maybe the weather will turn back to snow and cold. Maybe winter is not done after all… Or coming sooner… It could be. It’s all so screwed up. Maybe, if it does get cold, it will slow those bastards down. Maybe we will be okay… My, God… They bit Madison… They BIT Madison!!!’ I sagged to the ground, my mind full of confusion and numbness.

Cammy was sobbing uncontrollably. Madison had lapsed into shock. I was sitting crossed legged, wondering where in Hell this would all end up, my rifle fallen from my hands and laying on the ground next to me. Time spun out, dragged, seemed elastic once more, sticking in places and jumping ahead from those places to where it should have been had it continued to run properly.

Cammy sobbing, holding Madison up, kissing her forehead, telling her how much she loved her… how she was her world…

Madison, eyes rolled back in her head… face pale… fine beads of sweat standing out on her forehead… her back a bright slick of red running across Cammy’s hands where she held her. Slowing… Slowing… Cammy mouthing words in such slow motion that I could not understand what she said. Madison’s body sagging, eyes rolled up to the whites… bright dots of blood speckled across Cammy’s cheeks. Then time jumped, staggered, came back to normal, and Cammy was screaming and screaming…

“No! … NO! … Not my… My, love, my Madison, my…” Collapsing to the ground with Madison, crying still… softer, but continuous.

“Cammy,” My voice, but I did not know it at first. I actually stopped speaking and looked around, startled, before I realized it was me speaking. I turned my attention back to Cammy. “Cammy… Cammy, it’ll be okay… It’ll be…”

“NO! … NO!” She scrambled backward, pulling Madison’s unconscious body with her. She wiped one hand across her eyes trying to stem the flow of tears… “NO! She’s… She’s okay… Okay… You can’t… You…” She broke down into sobs, pulled Madison to her and began dragging her away from me.

“Cammy… Cammy, it bit her… Bit her… Cammy… Cammy, it’s… It’s just you and me, Cammy… It bit her… It bit her…”

She let go of Madison and lunged for her rifle. I sat, still cross legged, stupidly, as she grabbed it and leveled it at me.

“Get out,” She said very calmly. Much more calmly than I thought she should have been capable of.

“Cammy… What are you doing… Cammy?”

“GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!” She screamed. I reared back as the rifle barrel came up and then slashed down across my face. I jumped back, but not fast enough. The steel barrel smashed into my lower lip, through it, and then hit my teeth. I immediately tasted blood and machine oil. My tongue ran across my teeth unconsciously. I was sure she had smashed them out, but the barrel edge had come up short, or I had moved back far enough. One of those things.

The pain was delayed, but it came never-the-less. Hard, heavy, fast, down into my lower jaw and then ricocheted back up into the top of my head. I scrambled backwards, tripped over my own rifle, got it into my hands, and then time did that funny slowing, elastic thing again.

The blood dripped from my chin onto the ground. My rifle was pointed squarely at Cammy, safety off and an empty clip, but Cammy didn’t know that. The blood dripped slowly. Cammy’s eyes swam in and out of focus, but remained on me. Her rifle barrel dipped and then rose again, leveled on me once more.

She seemed to take a deep breath that went on forever, and then, once more, time sped up. “I’ll kill you,” Cammy told me. “If you touch her, I’ll kill you… I will,” She started out strong but ended in a doubtful, whining whisper.

I didn’t drop my rifle barrel, but held one hand out in front of me in a placating gesture. “Not touching anyone… Not,” I managed through my busted lip and aching jaw. The pain was a live, throbbing thing.

“You will… But… I know you will… You think… You think…” She seemed all at once to realize that she no longer held Madison in her arms. She took a deep shuddering breath and then dropped her rifle to the ground. She collapsed back down to the ground and crawled to Madison’s body.

I stood shocked, not knowing what to do. Time side-slipped again. The bird went back to calling out, if it had ever stopped. The wind came back, blowing cold against my face, pushing the flush of heat that the situation had brought with it away, cooling the sweat on my brow. The bird called. Another picked it up, and soon all the birds were talking as though nothing at all had happened. It became a perfect storm of noise after the deepness of the silence. Time slipped away again, clouds moving across the cold, blue of the sky.

Cammy sat, Madison pulled up into her lap, a large smear of maroon on her forehead, stroking Madison’s black hair. The birds called. The coldness of the wind seemed to bite at my bones. Nipping. Tasting. An un-dead thing of its own.

I can’t tell you why I did it, but I am glad I did. I pushed the button on the rifle butt, dropped the empty clip in to my waiting palm, and slid another up into the rifle where it socketed itself home with a solid click. I did it perfectly, like I had been doing it all of my life instead of just the last few months since the UN-dead disease, epidemic, disorder, plague, what-ever-the-fuck it is has happened. She never looked up. The birds didn’t stop singing their birdsong. Just in case, I told myself. Just in case.

I stood, my knees screaming, flexed experimentally and then walked a short distance away, leaning up against the cliff face. I reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out my pouch and rolled a cigarette. I felt at my lips, busted up, but it would heal. I had been in fights in my old life where I had been busted up much worse. I lit the cigarette, held it carefully between my lips, smoking as I watched the clouds slip across the sky. Letting the urgency of the situation float away on the wind like the smoke.

Cammy’s voice had fallen to a barely audible whisper as she stroked Madison’s hair and held her. Madison’s lips, blue tinged, moved, too quiet to hear her words. A private conversation. A private conversation in the wide open, which, thanks to the UN-dead, was a very private place. No one at all around, alive anyway, and the dead couldn’t care less about love, secrets, whispered promises, goodbyes. The UN-dead only cared about the hunger that seemed to drive them. Flesh, and more flesh. The time turned elastic once more and spun out of control for some unknown length. I only know that when I came back to myself the sun had moved across the sky. My thoughts were about darkness, Zombies, staying alive.

When I think back on it now, I realize a noise had brought me back. Had to be, otherwise there was no reason for me to come back at all, just stay gone. Let the sun go down and the UN-dead take the night, me, Cammy, Madison and whatever else they wanted. But it didn’t go that way.

A noise, a sliding foot, a pebble falling from above… I really don’t know. I know that this time I reacted fast. My rifle came up; my mind was clear. I focused; two of them dropping from the cliffs above… like cats… like dead, stinking, feral cats… dragging that stink of death with them. The stench of rotted flesh falling from the sky, enveloping me even as I fired into them.

I had a choice. I couldn’t get them both. One falling at me, one falling at Cammy where she sat with Madison cradled in her arms, oblivious to everything around her. My reaction chose for me. The rifle came straight up and spat short, little barks of noise and flame. The Zombie started to come apart before it hit me. A shower of cold, dead blood rained down on me, splattered against my face. The body hit the barrel of the rifle and took me down to the ground, clutching the rifle hard to keep from losing it as the full weight of the Zombie came down on it.

I kept it, but only by sheer determination. The Zombie had impaled herself onto the barrel. Her flesh so rotted that it had simply punched through her breast and out her back. I shoved her off as quickly as I could, one booted foot kicking against her chest, knocking her apart, pulling the barrel back through the soft flesh and hard bone.

I expected to see Cammy done for. I expected to see her dead or dying, but she had somehow ended up about twenty feet from where the Zombie had fallen. She looked herself, as if she had no real idea how that had happened, but when I raised my eyes and they took in the whole scene before them, I saw exactly how it had happened.

Madison must have still been awake. Laying there badly injured but not gone, taking the comfort from Cammy that she offered. When the Zombie fell, she saw it. She saw it and managed to push Cammy away from her and take the attack on herself.

The Zombie was no match for her, wounded though she was. She straddled the Zombie with a rock easily the size of her own head and brought it down hard: Once. Twice, and then I lost count, and the Zombie quit fighting. The undead, dead again. This time for good.

The silence came back hard. Like a curtain on the last act of a play, just when the audience isn’t expecting it. It crashed down.

Time did its elastic trick and then snapped back before I was ready for it. My senses were shot. At first I could not connect the dots of memory that I needed to connect to make sense of what my eyes were seeing.

Cammy rose to shaky legs and started toward Madison, sobbing once more. Madison’s eyes swiveled to me. A sick look in them, and pain riding there too. She slumped forward, one wrist flapping uselessly, and lunged for the rifle that Cammy had trained on me not so long ago. Time stopped its elastic trickery right around that time. I knew exactly what she intended to do before she did it.

Cammy stopped in mid stride and nearly fell backwards at the effort of stopping so quickly. I think she believed for a second that Madison intended to shoot her. I really believe she thought that. But that was not the plan, and I knew that was not the plan. Because the plan that had resurfaced in her mind was the one we had talked about, half seriously, half jokingly, for as long as we had been traveling together. Before she followed through on that plan, I heard her tell it to me in my mind once again, the way she had a week or so before, when she had been unmolested… whole… not about to join the ranks of the UN-dead herself.

“If I ever fuckin’ have to, I won’t hesitate,” Madison had said, “Once I’m dead, I don’t want to come back.” She shuddered and grimaced at the same time.

We had been in an old house over in Harlem. That was before Harlem got crazy too. We’d had gas lanterns for light. The windows were boarded over. The UN-dead scratched and cried and pleaded, but they could not get in. The four of us – John had still been alive then, in fact he had died just two days later. Fell through a rotted section of floor in that same old house. Impaled himself on a pipe in the basement. Madison had shot him in the head nearly as soon as he had stopped his struggles. Cammy had bent double and vomited. I had held it in, but barely – but that night John had been alive, he had still been with us. With us as we listened to the sounds of the UN-dead that were trying to get to us. To kill us. To eat us. To satisfy their ceaseless hunger. In the flickering light from the gas lanterns, she had said it, and he had nodded his head, agreeing immediately with what she had said. And I had not. It had not been a real thing to me, despite what I had already gone through on my own, until two days later when John had died and she had wasted no time. None.

“He would have expected it,” she had said, and nothing more. But that night… that night she had said it straight out, like a mantra, like looking into the future and seeing this day.

“If they come for me, if they get me? I’ll put a bullet in my own head. I will. I swear I will. If I ever fuckin’ have to, I won’t hesitate,” Madison had said, “Once I’m dead, I don’t want to come back.”

And Cammy had begun to cry. “Don’t say it, Maddy. Don’t say it.” And she hadn’t said it again, but it didn’t matter. She had already spoke it into truth. I had heard it. I had heard it, and I knew she meant it.

And now, time stopped its trick. She jammed the rifle under her chin and squeezed the trigger. Her head exploded in a spray of red and gray. I swear I could hear the sounds of small bits of bone and drops of blood pattering down to the ground. And then the silence was roaring again.

I took a breath, another… And then Cammy began to scream once more.


Earth’s Survivors America The Dead: Manhattan. A small group tries to make their way out of New York… https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-manhattan/id1085902524?mt=11


Prison 101:16

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


One time the four of us who worked in the carpentry shop were waiting for our C.O. To pick us up. It was after lunch, the mess hall workers were stripping floors so we had to sit on this bench on the other side of the steel gates that lead into the mess hall waiting for him.

So we’re sitting there talking with each other about dumb stuff, we’re in prison, there isn’t a lot to talk about. I don’t remember who stopped talking first, one of us did, so we all looked to see why, and of course that means looking down the long hall to see what there is to see because if there is anything to see, like a fight, or something, it will be coming from that way. I look up and I see this woman walking down the hallway: Built, and putting a lot into her walk. We all stopped talking and stared. One guy even said some dumb shit like, “Wow, she’s hot.” Then we all sort of remember at the same time that we’re in prison and she is wearing greens just like us, therefore she is really he. We all sort of choked at the same time. The guy just smiled and winked, he liked that he was noticed. It was fucked up for real.

Another time I went into the shower. The shower in prison is a no talking zone for men. Sex goes on there, alcohol, drugs get smoked, shot up or whatever. They like the constant steam and the vents that draw it outside. No alcohol fumes, pot smoke smell, etc.. We shower in our underwear, boxer shorts. You wear boxers, if you don’t it means you are putting your shit on display by wearing tighty whities, the name for briefs. Some men have special shower boxers they have made, one pair inside another pair so that even when they are wet they can’t be seen through. If a man is showering naked he is either new and doesn’t know the rules, or he is fishing. Either way he is going to get stepped to and told there is no nude showering. The only time there is a change in that is when you have a significant percentage of men who want to, for whatever reason, shower nude. Then they will set an hour aside for nude showering. They all have to shower in that hour. No one else goes in during that time.

You don’t stare at anything you might see and you don’t talk unless you are in there with someone you know really well, even then it might be misconstrued by someone else. So you go in, ignore everything as best you can, and leave. I was kind of new, I knew the rules, but I hadn’t had a lot happen yet so I was green. Anyway, this guy’s back is to me, that’s cool, but then he turns around and he is surgically altered, he has breasts. I got used to that after a while, but the first few times were hard to handle.

I used to workout with this really big dude who had a saying, ‘Defense Mode On’. The first time he said it we were walking back from the weight shack and he said it out loud. It made me look up, and when I did here come these two asshole gang-bangers that I had seen around the prison and knew were trouble. What it meant was he had beef with them, so it was his way of saying, I’m going to try to hold it together and it might work or it might not, but with him it almost always worked when he just said those words. I adopted it. I thought it had value. To me it means I can do this if I have to, but I don’t have to: Defense Mode On.

Now I see the value in fitting into society. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with a lot of what society is, but I value rules, organization. I spent over 10 years in prison, it was enough. I can and do play by the rules.

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America the Dead Podcast Episode 16

Excerpt:

He lay for a few minutes thinking about how much he loved Candace, wondering how funny it was that he had lost so much yet gained so much, something he had never had and had been in no hurry to go out and find. He wondered how he had ever managed to live his life without her in it. He wondered over how deep his love was in such a short period. It seemed like it was just yesterday when he had first met her. He had remembered how he had never really found tattoos attractive on a woman, but she had this tribal thing that started on her left hand, wrapped around that wrist and then sleeved her arm, disappearing under her shirt sleeve. It was one of the first things he had noticed, and when she had been reaching for something he had seen another piece of the same work that came down across her flat stomach and slipped below the waist band of her jeans. While he had been wondering if it was a second piece or part of the same piece, she had caught him looking. Her eyes had settled on his own and the next thing he knew he was thinking about her in an entirely different way. Thinking about making love to her, about being with her. Thinking that could never happen, Tom was obviously interested. And then she had walked over and changed his entire life.

He couldn’t be without her now. The man he was becoming had a lot to do with her, probably would have never existed without her, and he had never even known she existed, never even known that love could be like that. The entire world was destroyed, but he had found himself. And she loved him too. He could feel it, see it. It was every bit as strong as what he felt for her. Not clingy, just real. Total.

“Hey,” Candace said. His eyes had slipped closed; he opened them to see her standing over him, a cup of coffee in one hand.

“Coffee,” He said.

“Good,” she said. “It’s alive. Were you going to sleep the day away?” She handed him the coffee carefully as he sat up.

“Something wore me out,” He grinned. “You okay?”

“More than okay,” She answered. She leaned over and kissed him…

America the Dead Podcast Episode 18

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hip3iWQnUnc

Episode eighteen of the popular America the Dead series:

His eyes moved across the jumbled and leaning buildings, the vehicles that burned where they had crashed. The square looked like a battleground. Greasy, billowing smoke hung in the air like a black cloud descending on the downtown area. He heard Ronnie coming up through the trees. He turned away from the square and waited for him to top the rise, and then the two of them walked back towards the opposite end of the parking lot where they could watch the entrance to State Street, most of that end of the square and both the edge of Factory Street and Mill Street as it began its run across the damaged bridge to the north side of the river.

“What’s going on? Can you see anything?” Ronnie asked.

“Some. You’ll see in a few minutes. What happened with the car?”

“Dead. Got three more clip rifles though.”

“So they were down with Sin and Death?”

“Looks like it to me. Same rifles, anyway.”

Mike was nodding. “I guess I knew it.”

Tim and Lilly stepped out of the shadows and nodded as Mike and Ronnie walked up.

“Quiet,” Lilly said. Tim nodded.

Mike handed one of the Machine pistols to Ronnie.

“Nice… Illegal, but nice,” he said.

“Takes standard Nine Millimeter ammo.” Ronnie started to hand it back. Mike shook his head. “Hang on to it,” he looked around at the parking lot. “I’m convinced they’ll be back.”

Ronnie nodded. “Four up here?” he asked.

“Five. They killed one of the women trying to escape.” Tim and Lilly had dragged her back into the woods while he’d been gone. He had seen the vague shape off in the thicker woods as he and Ronnie had walked up. “How many in the car?”

“At least five,” Ronnie said.

“Jesus… This is so stupid.” Mike said. Ronnie nodded and then went back to watching the greasy smoke rise up into the air.


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America the Dead Free Podcast: episode 25

A sudden lull in the fighting turns ominous. The opposing fighters are ignoring the survivors, but only briefly. They have other plans for them… #HorrorPodcast #AmiAdams #DellSweet


Publisher Description

Billy paced the hallway, trying to think it out, telling himself they had to leave soon. Telling himself it was the right thing to do. The problem was that he was not used to doing the right thing. So unused to it, in fact, that he wasn’t sure he wanted to try… should try.

The world had been turned upside down for the last few days. There was no official word that anything was wrong at all, but someone had f****d up. Of that he had no doubt at all.

The police? Gone. Fire department? Ditto. Army? Well, wasn’t the National Guard supposed to show up when the shit hit the fan? But so far the army had not raised a finger to do anything for them at all. There was a base right over by the airport near the Los Angeles Freeway, but there had been no sign of them.

He lived on the north side, a high rise that had been new sometime back in the seventies. He had gone up to the roof twice during the day and looked over the city.

It appeared to be dead. There was a precinct only two blocks away, deserted, doors hanging open. Looters were carrying away cheap computer systems and who knew what else, a steady stream in and out of the front doors.

There were fires over past the park. It appeared to be a whole block over by Jordan Downs, but there were other single fires all over the city too. There had been for two days now, and no one had come to put those fires out. And there was more; you could hear gunfire from all over the city all night long. He continued to pace the hall.

This was not normally a bad neighborhood, but it was no picnic either. There had been a few fires here but the people that lived nearby had put them out quickly. Dozens of buildings had come down or were now tilted crazily. The looting had started at some point, and now there were armed men prowling the streets in gangs.

He had acquired a gun from a shop a few blocks over, ransacked, left open to the world. He had loaded it and waited, but the few that had ventured to his door had turned away when they had seen him with the gun.

Winston, the old man that lived in the back basement apartment, had called them all down to listen to the radio just a short time ago. Not your average radio, a Short Band receiver. They had ended up listening to military talk, military talk that was probably supposed to be restricted. The stories that had come from that radio said the rest of the world was no better off. Explosions or earthquakes, there was a great deal of devastation everywhere. Maybe it was time to get out of L.A.

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America the Dead Los Angeles

Billy Jingo.

The night was beautiful, Billy thought as he walked along Beechwood Avenue. He knew pretty much everyone he passed. He had been here for a little over six months having made his way up from Mexico when things had gone bad for him there. Technically he was on the run. Warrants out of New York. Somebody had put two and two together and dug up some prints from a crime Billy had been involved with. He had only found out about it because he had happened to be away from the house when the Feds showed up. His neck of the woods had no municipal police, but even if it had they wouldn’t have come with shotguns and armor.

He had hid out for three days until the word had trickled down to him that it was him they were looking for to hand over to some federal agents from the U.S. It hadn’t taken much to put two and two together. He had managed to get a beat up old Ford pickup truck and then filled-fifty five gallon drums full of gasoline that rode on the back of it. He set off into the desert.

The rest had been easier. Despite the laws and the changes in the U.S. It was pretty easy to disappear here. He had come with a little money, and that had helped. He had worked a series of meaningless jobs as he worked his way up the west coast. Seattle had looked good and so it had held him. That and Beth had come along.

Beth was out of reach and he knew it, but that didn’t stop the fact that he wanted her to be in reach. He had never met a woman like her. So he had stayed. He had watched her arrival from God knew where, some other place in California or Washington probably. He had watched her struggle to survive on the streets: Watched her work those same streets, doing her act in any place she could get into by day, walking the streets by night, and it was then he had seen something else in her. Something hard, some will he himself had that was hard to define, but that hardness in her pulled him to her like a magnet. It was that simple.

He had been working for Harry by then and so he had mentioned Beth to him. He didn’t know how the details had worked out, but a few weeks later when he had noticed she had disappeared from the avenue, he had found her tending bar at Harry’s Palace.

Now, as he walked he became immune to the world around him. He never heard Don until he was on him, had spun him around and dragged him into an alley.

“Hey… Hey! Don… What the fuck, Don… Hey!” But it did no good. The first punch nearly shut him down. The second did. The rest he never knew about.

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America the Dead Podcast:

What I want to be when I grow up…

Posted by Dell. Um, I’m in my sixties, isn’t that young?

It has been a busy week for me, and a week where I accomplished no writing at all. That seemed strange at first, but I got so much else done that I decided it wasn’t strange, just a temporary kind of new.

I worked all week on remodeling, smashed almost every finger and thumb that I have, wore myself out completely a few days in a row, and still felt grateful for it. It made me wish even harder to be living a life that models my books. I think that is why we find tales like that, a struggle to survive, impelling. It is a lifestyle we long for because it is completely different from what we have. No taxes, no $4.00 a gallon gasoline. No boss on your ass, and all the rest of it that would personalize it for each of us. That kind of life has pulled at me since someone bought it up to me at 18, and offered me a chance to live it.

I had an opportunity then to homestead in another country. It was serious. Isolated. Living completely off the land in a very wild place. No neighbors, cars, roads, telephones. Nothing at all. I was young. It sounded so great. My wife was pregnant and said no and that was that. She would not have a baby in the middle of nowhere. And that bought the realization that even if we stalled a few years, eventually she might have to have that baby in the middle of nowhere. It was a dead issue for her after that.

I understood it on two levels. First the reality of living that life or a life in the real world where my wife, child and family were. And just examining that on the surface made the decision for me. Second, even though the decision had been made, I was absolutely convinced that if I had gone I would have succeeded at it and loved it.

Because of that duality in me, I always pressed to learn as much as I could that would make me as self sufficient as possible, and I have. It allows me to write about things in my books with assurance. I can write it because I have done it. Learned it. Not because I read it in a book or Googled it. (Although Googling things is pretty damn impressive too, and I have used that a few times). My point is that for the past three weeks I have left the keyboard alone and turned back to working with my hands. And, as is usually the case with me, working alone too.

It’s been great, despite the broken finger, smashed truck and busted up thumb, blisters and dead tired, nothing-left-at-all, way I have felt most nights. That is my compromise for life. It’s like an uneasy truce I declared back there at 18. I have to have some of that sort of time.

It has seemed to work great most of the time. But I found the same unhappiness, missing something that many of us find in life. Marriage, success, money, it doesn’t matter. There is, and always has been, something missing for me, and it took a great deal of life to finally forge an uneasy truce, compromise, cease war with myself.

It takes real effort to keep it working, moving. But it can be done. Part of it is what I write. I say I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s obvious that it is strongly flavored by my desire to live that life I felt I should have lived.

Some people I know would leave this life to live that life in a heart beat. Others flat out say they would never do it. If given the opportunity I would go in a second, I say. And then I think of all the obligations I have. Things that I have said that I would see through, do, people I would be there for, and I know I could never do it.

What is my point? My point is that when I write about it. Or I take a few weeks off to really work hard with my hands, it’s just as good. It can be, just as good. Or as good as having feet in both worlds can be. I think the writing is the grand escape. A good story should be able to take you away. I hope mine take you away. I hope you enjoy it so that when all the crap you have to deal with in the real world comes along you can deal with that easier because you took a little breather in your head.

I like feedback. People do write to me and tell me their opinions, I enjoy that, whether it is people I know or people I am hearing from for the first time.

It’s a little cooler here in New York. My work on the house is progressing nicely, a little slower than I would have wished, but still progressing. Next week is electrical work, insulation, security system and all the other stuff that has to go in before the Sheetrock goes on the walls. I’m enjoying it, and in a few weeks it will be down to paint and carpet, finish work, and I will be back to being only a writer for the fall and winter. By the time that happens I will be grateful for it I’m sure.

There are just so many smashed fingers and tired limbs left for my future, I guess, and then I will be only writing. But I put a limit on that a few weeks back, kind of my own end of the world. It’s a long way away, but it is nice to be counting down the time to the third part of my life.

In the meantime I will publish everything I have written in all the series and then some. When I spent time last week going over the books and the outlines for the series, it amounts to 40 books for the Earth’s Survivors series. That probably seems very ambitious, maybe even unattainable But if you stop to consider that I have already written 20 of the main books and another 9 of the side books that fit the puzzle, it doesn’t seem so unattainable. Only 9 or so to go.

I hope you had a great week, where ever you are. Hello to my friends in the UK. I am glad I have friends there. My Mother’s parents were English and Irish. I have always felt that connection. My father on the other hand was African American and Native American, so I have always felt that pull too, and I am grateful to my friends here in the States and the UK that share that sort of heritage too.

I will leave you with a short story, the first short story from Rapid City. I’ll be back next week…

Rapid City #1

By

Wendell Sweet

BLOG EDITION

* * * * *

PUBLISHED BY:

Wendell Sweet & independantwriters All rights reserved

Rapid City

Copyright © 2013 by Wendell Sweet

If you would like to share this book with another person, please direct them to this blog entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This short story is Copyright © 2013 Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print..

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

DEDICATION

For Shell. Nothing else to say

Rapid City is Copyright © 2013 Wendell Sweet

All rights reserved


RAPID CITY

The Town At Twilight

It was late when I came into Rapid city. Though the buildings had been thrown up as temporary shelters some twenty years past, they still held sway over the main street. But they seemed empty, abandoned in the twilight.

A faded, crudely lettered, wooden sign nailed to one side of the bat wings of Blood and Breakfast made the street official. Or as official as anything ever got in Rapid city.

My horse didn’t seem especial nervous as she made her way along. If you ride a horse, and everyone did now, gasoline was long gone unless you were a part of the Nation, you got used to their moods… Perceptions, and you paid attention or you might wind up dead. Horses were still free and Zombies couldn’t chase them down and eat them. Not that they didn’t get one occasional, they did. But it was rare.

My own horse watched the shadows slide from alleyway to alleyway between the old buildings. Her large, liquid brown eyes watching careful like. She was no fool, but she also didn’t appear to be alarmed to me.

The zombies weren’t out. They rarely came near the city in my own experience. At least not before full dark came on. So I didn’t concern myself with them. But I didn’t slide either. My eyes automatically slid from shadow to shadow in the buildings alleyways as I tied my reins to the rail out front, made the steps and headed up to the bat wings. I Heard a pigs squeal suddenly cut off and hoped there’d be some meat to be had with the usual eggs and biscuits.

Rapid city had been thrown together by some survivors who had come out of the North looking for a warmer place to live. You might as well say driven out and not just by the cold, but the zombies. Zombies didn’t mind cold. You could come across one naked as a jaybird, seeming frozen at the side of the road in the middle of the winter and think it would be no trouble. But the minute you turned your back they’d be up and on you. Once bitten there was no turning back. Oh in the early years there had been talk of some kind of cure, but it had never come to anything. After a while all those Government mouthpieces that kept talking cure got bit themselves and you just didn’t hear from them anymore. Not too long after that the whole government structure fell apart and for all intents and purposes, excepting those of us who could fight, the world belonged to the Zombies.

I had taken to gun-fighting. First: you had to be good with a gun so you could get them bastardly Zombies before they got you. Second: For some reason those that were left alive seemed to be hell bent on killing one another. A man couldn’t hardly turn his back on no one lest a bullet find him between the shoulder blades. And women? Well, short of whores of one kind or another, I had no truck with them. A woman, a real woman, was in short supply and worth killing over: Even if she was an ugly woman. I’d seen a four way gun battle over a one legged Whore down by Texas a few years back. And I’d heard about a thirty two man shoot out over a woman out on Alabama Island. And she was a slatty slip of a woman, but they said she could breed and that was that. I’d come across that one when it was over and they was counting the bodies. But these were things that were in the past. Years ago.

Back then things of that like seemed a waste to me. Here these Goddamned Zombies were killing us by the thousands, millions and these dumb son-of-a-bitches were killing each other. No sir. I’d rather take me a whore in some town when I need one. You can keep those so called proper women. And I will tell you; in my experience a whore can be a perfectly good woman. Love just the same as one of those sulky, pale things I seen out on Alabama Island a few times.

They say the plains is free of Zombies. That’s what they say. They say the Zombies is smarter, they stay around the cities where they can find food. And from what I’ve seen I’d have to agree. They seem to be evolving. But, didn’t we kind of know that was gonna happen? And do you know what the bitch is? There ain’t no goddamn way to win. You got to die, and when you do they got you. Pisses me off just to think about it.

The Blood And Breakfast

I made my way careful up the balance of the splintery steps, through the bat wings and into the Blood and Breakfast. The Blood and Breakfast only served two things. Whiskey and Breakfast. You could order just about anything you had a mind to at any time of day. And they might even listen to you, let you ramble on ’til you was done, but in the end they would tell you. You could order eggs and biscuits, meat if it was to be had. And you could have your whiskey in a bottle or a glass if you considered yourself fancy. But that was what there was and no more to be had. I put my head back to thinking as I looked around the interior.

I’d heard a lot of things about the plains. There was land. There was food to eat. And they say there’s men that has run off with whores and made them proper women out there. I heard it enough that I got to go. This will be my last stop in Rapid City and then I’m going. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder waiting for a damn Zombie to get me. Or another gunfighter. There’s a broken up BlackWay, what we used to call a road. Ain’t many seen it, but probably ain’t many been looking for it. Not only have I seen it I know where it goes. Like I said, a short stop here. Load up on supplies and I’m on my way.

The original settlement had not been laid out to serve other travelers but as a refuge for those escapees from the North. Even so within a few months all the original settlers had been run off or killed by the Zombies. The ones that came later settled the city. After that Rapid city had become the main gateway to the southern states.

The name had come from the rapids in the nearby river. Well, the river had been near town. Things changed pretty quick back then. Dams a thousand miles away burst with no maintenance, rivers sprang up, died out. Nature did what nature wanted to do. Before the first coat of paint was drying on the church building, the river had spread out nearly a quarter mile wide and was no longer the fast moving body of water that it had once been.

These days it was more like an evil smelling swamp, with the actual river nearly a mile away. It was Hell in spring when the Mosquitoes hatched but the good side of that was the other residents of rapid city, the Zombies, didn’t like the Mosquitoes Something in their bite made them zombies drop like flies. Didn’t kill them outright but it knocked ’em down, gave them some kind of sickness, and a knocked down Zombie is one you can kill real easy. Most of the Zombies that found their way to Rapid City became residents of the swamp in just that way. Their bodies tossed unceremoniously to the alligators that had found the swamp a few years back. Alligators didn’t turn when they ate Zombie. They didn’t even seem to mind eating it. The residents, few as they were, breathed a little easier, and life went on.

The blood and breakfast was located in the old church building. The building had been gutted except the altar area which had been turned into a small dance floor for the whores and travelers. The ratio of whores to travelers was about 3 to 1, but the ratio of clean, disease free whores was about 1 to 5. You had to be real careful. If old Doc mulberry had rejected it, you should be smart enough not to check it out for yourself. If it could kill you you didn’t want it. But of course if the whores didn’t get you, the Zombies would. And some men liked to gamble.

The blood came anytime after the dinner meal. We’ll, after it had been served , not necessarily eaten and ended. It was kind of fluid so to speak, always had been. There was no violence while the serving was going on, and that was enforced by a shotgun wielding crew of about four employees who would show you some blood quick if you really needed it. In my experience it always turned out better to obey the rules and wait. No matter who you were. Even the gunfighters who visited knew the rules and obeyed them.

As I stood looking around I smelled coffee brewing too, probably thick as molasses and only black, but that was fine with me. I beat my hat against the doorpost, shook off as much dust as I was able to, caught the bartenders eyes, Smoky, was his name, and took the table his eyes had given me.

There was no fresh pork yet despite the screaming pig. But there was still bacon to be had, a better treat to my thinking. It seemed like the only meat I ever ate was venison or horse. And the zombies didn’t have it that way. They didn’t care what kind of meat they ate. But of course they preferred people. It just galled me that they was never having the problems with food that the rest of us had. I’d heard of a few places where the tables had been turned. Where hunting parties went out looking for Zombies. Shot them down. Bought them back to display them. But I also heard how them places went bad too. There was always one that stepped over the line and decided to eat what they shot. Don’t let that shock you. After all, isn’t it the same Goddamn thing the Zombies are doing to us? Sure it is. Except that old saying you are what you eat comes into play pretty damn quick. To me it made no sense. I couldn’t cypher how they had got to think to eat a Zombie. The things were dead. Stunk to high Heaven. And it only made sense that it would turn you. Just about every Goddamned thing you had to do with them frigging Zombies would turn you.

Like them idiots that thought you could mate with them. Breed the UN-dead right out of existence. That never turned out well neither. I guess men just thought strange thoughts sometimes when they set down to ponder this whole situation out and there wasn’t always someone there to talk sense into them. Anyway, I knew I was tired of horse and venison, and nowhere near ready to lunch on Zombie. But a little bacon would be a good treat. It’d been a few years since I had any, a little place down toward Texas where it had once met Mexico was the last time.

I took the bacon. A half dozen biscuits and as many eggs: When there’s fresh food you take it. Jerky and hard biscuits was the normal fare. Horse or Deer jerky. And once Turtle jerky. Jesus, that there was some bad stuff. I suppose you might get to thinking around the campfire late at night, belly rumbling, that a little Zombie might not be so bad after all.

I rolled a smoke and sat watching twilight paint the dirt street golden as the sun sank. I spoke to a boy leaning on the wall watching me and sent him to do for my horse. He was off the wall as soon as I flipped a gold piece at him and out the door. I heard him lead my horse away, feet clomping in the early evening stillness. I sometimes worried about my horse. A zombie will eat a horse if that Horse is tied up and can’t get away from it. I seen a Zombie horse or two in my time too. Yes. A horse could be turned. Jesus. It’s a rough sight to see.

The kid would make sure the horse was inside but not penned. She could go if she needed to. I’d find her later. Wouldn’t be the first time. In this world your horse was everything. I’d known men who loved the company of their horse mor’n other people. There was something I understood, but dinner was coming so I put the horse out of my mind. The evening was nearly here and I was safe inside. And I felt good.

The Gunfighter Profession

I am Robert Evans, a gunfighter. I wear stitched leather gloves with no fingers. There is a man in Alabama City that makes them special for me and a few others that be in the life of gun fighting. They protect my palms. They give a good grip. And they leave my fingers clear so they do not get tripped up when I need them. Those gloves have always made people look twice, and a lot of what I am about is psychological. A painted picture. I want to be feared. Sometimes I think I am no better than the Zombies when it comes to that. If you fear me you stay away from me. But there was the other side of that too. You kill what you fear. Yes you do.

I don’t fight overly much anymore. That sort of occupation is dying out I guess. There was a time when the world was crazy though and we found ourselves in a different kind of life. The cities fell. The cops failed to keep us safe. Governments were all talk, and then they were no more. The dead were everywhere.

That was our time. Gunfighters. Gold on the nail and we could make death happen. I carried two fully automatic 45 caliber pistols with custom extended clips. Made my own ammo. Still do. Knock a Zombie down at 100 yards. Walk into a crowd of Zombies and take them all out before one could touch me. And although I was not special I was no slouch. There were only a few in my league. Jimmy Jenkins… Lila West… A few others. We were sent for from all over to take care of Zombie outbreaks. But the sheer numbers overcame us. And the shock wore off and those that were still alive began to fight back. And we, gunfighters, became outcasts. Social misfits. Hated almost as much as the Zombies we had once been hired to kill. The people felt we had taken advantage of them. Lied to them. And some even suspected that we ourselves had something to do with those Zombies. Some sort of bond. Like maybe we had spawned them so we could profit from them. I never made no Zombie any more than I’d ever be willing to eat one. But back in the beginning? We was feared. I could not tell you how many Zombies I put in the ground for permanent. Thousands. High numbers of thousands.

Now nobody gives a shit about us. There were so few people that lived that it looks like it would probably take about ten thousand years before anybody would need to be fighting over anything. Maybe the Zombies will take over. Maybe the earth is no longer for the living. But there is land everywhere. Gold everywhere. The women live longer than the men. Life is just harder for a man. Die sooner, except when the zombies get you then you don’t even get to die. And even if the women that are left are mostly Whores there are enough for everyone. No need to kill over them anymore, despite those things that still go on. Really, there are just a few of us left and every time I come around somewhere it seems there is a half dozen less faces that I had been used to seeing. The Zombies get a few, and we still kill each other too. Makes no sense to me at all.

There was and is speculation about that. Are we dying out? I think we are. Looks pretty clear to me. How can you kill something that’s dead? You can’t. Is this God’s judgment? Maybe. Government fuck-up? That’s what I think. We will never know for a fact what did happen, but I know this, I believe we’re done. I wouldn’t say it if I was you though unless you’re prepared to meet your God. It’s just that way. We may be dying out. And we may know we’re dying out. And the Zombies may be on the verge of inheriting the earth, but we don’t want to hear it. Saying it will usually get you dead fast.

The Good Old Days – Dinner and Conversation

When I was younger it was cockroaches. People believed that someday a nuclear missile would take all of us out and the earth would be left to the cockroaches. That’s funny because even when we are gone the Zombies will go on and the cockroach population will be kept in check, because, as it turns out, Zombies love cockroaches. Eat those little fuckers just like Popcorn. Like a treat. And, it applies to nearly every goddamn bug there is. If you study Zombies for a while, I killed them for a living for many years so I had to, you will see them do it. Just reach down and snatch a bug from the ground, or the floor, or the air and stuff it in their mouths. And they are fast. Gone are those early days when they were slow. No more. Only the mosquitoes are a different story. If we could have just found out what was in Mosquitoes we might have gotten someplace, but it’s too late for that now, truly it is.

I flicked my cigarette away as the food came. It’s been a good six months since I’ve eaten real meat. That had been on Alabama Island. The Nation. I was looking forward to the Bacon. Just seeing it on my plate made my mouth water.

The Nation is what has bought most of this country back under control. They control the communist whole, not just each and every little area but the whole of the continent. North, South, East and West. They’re there. I do trade with them. I could probably fall in with them and establish my own settlements, be myself again. Beef, Coffee, Sugar, Textiles, Electricity if you were in one of their settlements or one of their larger cities like Alabama Island you would think that nothing had ever happened.

But there were rumors about the nation. They were getting shaky, falling apart, and on my last trip to Alabama Island I saw that, that might be true. If they were shaking it might take some time before they shook themselves apart. They were so big that I couldn’t really see it. The only thing that made me really examine it at all was that America was big… The biggest… And it fell apart.

I mulled life over as I began to put away my dinner and listened to the surrounding conversation.

Concerns about the weather. Too much sun. The farming, crops. The Nation. Concerns about the Zombies, was it over? Was it done? Talk about a gunfighter who had been tracked down in a small town down near the Texas border and killed. That one I had heard about. Vigilantes, something like that. Tracked him down. Betsy, one of the whores, had caught something bad. Bad enough that Doc Mulberry didn’t know what to do about it. A zombie that had been acting strange, coming around the Blood and Breakfast and going through the trash. Even in the daylight. If it was like that with zombies now I guess it didn’t really surprise me. They’ve come around like that before. Zombies were adaptable… Changing… We all knew it. And then the conversation moved on and I lost interest as I ate my dinner.

The Challenger

It took me a few seconds to realize that it was quiet. All the conversation had fallen off. The roar of the silence broke through to me. It’s odd like that, ain’t it? How the absence of sound can call you up out of your thinking sometimes, faster than actual noises can. This was bad though. Stupid of me. The old me would not never had been caught like that.

I looked up following the directions of the stares and heard the low clacking of new boot heels as they made the wooden steps that came into the saloon.

He was known to me, but that didn’t mean I was known to him. I had seen him fight more than once. Perhaps four times total if I recalled correctly. Gunfighters were so rare now as to draw attention. I drew my share of sideways glances and small murmurings as I said. And handling my own business was nothing new for me. I did it when I had to. My guns talked for me.

John Baxter, that was the gunfighters name, walked in and straight to the bar. I would have liked to have thought that he had not seen me but I knew he had. He was working way too hard to not look my way. He had used his peripheral vision to check me out same as I would’ve. And I was caught completely off guard. I had not heard him soon enough. Not his horse coming, nor whatever it had been that had tipped off the bar crowd and caused them to fall silent. The only edge that I had if there was trouble, and in my world there always was, was that he did not know I was unprepared. And even as I thought those thoughts I prepared myself. And as far as I was concerned we were back on even ground just that fast.

In those seconds I had freed up my pistols, changed my leg position and looked over the room completely. I ended by moving my body slightly to present a smaller target. Seconds spun out. John ordered a whiskey and kept his back to me. I considered shooting him dead right in the back. I’m not above it. Better dead, no matter whether you were right or wrong in the way you got it done.

The crowd was absolutely silent and drawn back away from us. Making room. They had seen a few gunfights in the Blood and Breakfast. Even so two gunfighters in the Blood and Breakfast at the same time had to be something unheard of in a while. Most likely the whole town had been aware that something might be up, maybe from the second I come into town. Certainly before I knew.

I looked at my plate regretting that I’d saved the bacon for last as it now sat untouched on my plate along with the biscuits sopped in egg yolks. There were at least three flies having a feast. It pissed me off, but it would not keep me from eating it later. I told myself I should have shot him in the back just for the pure fact that he was making me miss my breakfast. And I would have to eat it cold later with fly shit that looked an awful lot like black pepper after we were done with our business. John turned slow from the bar. Dinner in the Blood and Breakfast was done being served.

“Come to kill you, Robert,” he said easy. His eyes were gray, hard and flat. A tight smile played at his small mouth. His lips were pursed. His hat sat upon the bar where he had thrown it.

“So I thought,” I said aloud. I moved not at all. My own blue eyes gave away nothing of my emotions. My hands did not shake.

Silence fell and held. Just the sliding and shuffling of the feet of the townsmen, the whores and the travelers alike sliding backwards from what they considered to be the fighting zone. I was thinking I had waited too long, that I should have shot him in the back, when a twitch of his shoulder told me he was going for his gun.

The noise was deafening. I emptied half a clip into him from under the table top. Half a modified clip was fifteen bullets. And the first four or five took the bottom edge of the table off as they flew at John.

The thing about a gunfight is that it slows down time somehow. You ask any gunfighter and they will tell you that’s true. I watched as my first bullet plucked at his shirt front before his own gun had completely cleared leather. My second bullet blew his collarbone apart just a few inches from where it joined with his neck, but his gun was out and spitting fire. It was about then that two things happened.

The first was, I felt a sudden heaviness in my chest. I didn’t have time to puzzle that before one more bullet found its mark and I saw John become dead. This one midway in his chest. Showing only as a tiny hole but it was like the light went out of his eyes all at once: When those two things were done it finally registered in my thoughts that I had been shot too. Hit, not killed. I was pretty sure not dead or dying. To prove it I forced myself to move and I was able to move just fine.

The smoke hung like a curtain in the air. The smell of hot metal, gunpowder expired, hung in that same air.

Someone said… “They is both hit… Lookit!” Real low… Like a whisper.

In the Alley By The Door

John finally had the sense to fall down. His gun clattered to the floor just before John himself did.

Time slipped by. I wanted to see how bad I was hit. I had no real idea. I finally stood from the table and looked down at myself. A small neat hole just below my shoulder in my upper chest. Red blooming around it like a small, spring flower. I was hurt, but not bad. I had been shot worse.

“Get the Doc,” I said to some skinny, slat-sided whore crouching in the shadows. She looked scared to death or almost. She lit out, seeming glad to, and I walked over to John where he lay sprawled on the floor and put one more bullet right between his eyes. Best to do it soon. I’ve seen a body start turning before the life is really even done leaving it. Those bastard Zombies can’t wait… Or the Dead disease. Whatever it is that turns them. A little dog hiding under a nearby table yelped when I fired and scrambled, nails clicking on the wood floor, trying to secret itself better. I reached down and took John’s guns and personals, gold mostly, set them on the table, grabbed one booted foot and dragged him towards the back door.

I kicked the rear screen door open, dragged him bumping down the steps and rolled him over towards the trash cans. I’d done my part and now my chest was beginning to hurt. I felt like sitting down all at once. There was a little bubbling in the lung on that side. I could both feel and hear it. It was an odd thing. And I could feel the bullet in there, wedged tight, burning. I didn’t relish Doc. Mulberry operating but the alternative was unacceptable. And I had come through much worse. Much worse.

I was turned to go back in when the Zombie got me. He must have been crouched down by the garbage cans in the shadows and I hadn’t seen him. He had me by the wrist growling and snarling before I could shoot him. I got my gun up and put one through his head as fast as I could, hoping the ricochet didn’t take off my hand. He let go and laid down with one leg twitching and his back arched stiff for a second. Then he was dead for good, Amen.

I stood for a few seconds wondering what the hell had just happened. But, I knew what had just happened. I had lived through a goddamned gunfight at the old age of fifty-two just to get bitten by an ever-lovin’ friggin’ Zombie. I stood a few seconds longer thinking of how unfair that was, remembering the conversation from inside while I had been eating. A Zombie had been coming around… Going through the trash… but then the craziness of the situation hit me and I had to laugh. And laughing was how old Doc Mulberry found me.

He looked from the Zombie to my wrist dripping blood on the dirt of the back alley.

“That from the fight or the Zombie,” he asked me.

“Zombie,” I answered . I tapped lightly at the bullet hole in my upper chest. He nodded.

“Ain’t that a bitch,” he said.

I laughed. “Ain’t it… Ain’t it just…”


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