THE WORLD ENDS IN DAYS. First the bombings… cities crumble… infection spreads… Will is alone. His lakeside neighborhood has become a cemetery, the houses now tombstones.
THE DEAD ARE RISING. Out of the shadows, they creep… the streets, the woods, the lake… Will defends his home, his dogs, his sanctuary—but for how long?
THEIR NUMBERS ARE INCREASING. He must choose—complacency or the unknown… making irrevocable decisions that will lead to escape or demise… Will must overcome the odds and break the confines of…
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR is inspired by my favorite novel, I AM LEGEND, by Richard Matheson. Instead of vampires, it's zombies–but the motif is still there… what would an average guy do alone in a world of the dead?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
There is a lot of me in Will. But other factors contribute… like friends, family, fictional characters, etc. The dogs are 100% my dogs.
Will awoke sometime after midnight—groggy, head pounding, and with a thick, sour coating on his tongue. Someone was screaming. The room was blurry and he twisted his palms into his eye sockets, relishing the pressured scratching. He'd fallen asleep with his contact lenses in. He stumbled through the dark kitchen and master bedroom into the bathroom and began the ritual of removing the lenses. The screaming continued, and he saw in the mirror that at some time he must have turned on their bedroom TV. It too was blurry though, until he put on his glasses.
The screaming was coming from the television speaker. Something was odd with the picture though; it was vertical instead of horizontal, as if the camera being used was on the ground, lying on its side. Will stepped closer, letting his head lean a bit left, acclimating to the perspective.
Across the bottom of the screen was the banner: LIVE VIDEO FEED: LIMA, PERU. A woman was crouched in front of an old Pontiac LeMans, hiding. On the sidewalk behind the car, a man was forcing another woman down—a pregnant woman. She was screaming, sometimes shouting, "No, Pedro, no!" Her assailant was facing her and Will could not see his face. The woman was pushing at the man, but he was far stronger. Will glimpsed a definite baby-bump as the man forced her down to the sidewalk. She kicked and beat at the man's shoulders as his head lowered to her bulging stomach.
Will reached out for the television with both hands, as if he could lift and turn it to bring the picture right side up. It looked to him like the man was going down on her. Was this some kind of rape-porno on a satellite feed? Had to be. But they didn't have a satellite. He lowered his hands.
The woman's screams hit crescendo then collapsed into sobs. The man's head lifted, turning a fraction, and Will saw a slight profile. There were red strands hanging from his chin like a beard—slick, and dripping.
That's no beard, that's blood.
The woman's sobs continued—breathy, hyperventilating, mumbling in Spanish. She was using her hands for leverage on the sidewalk and trying to wiggle out from under him. As she shimmied, Will saw the shirt bunched beneath her breasts, the exposed belly, and the bloody hunk of flesh that was now missing from it.
This isn't real. I must be dreaming.
The movement awakened her attacker's focus. Clawing with all fingers, the man forced both of his hands into the wound in her stomach. The woman screamed again, much louder than before, the veins on her throat visible as hoarse cries poured from her crimson, contorted face. But these agonized screams stopped short when the man jerked in opposite directions, ripping a much larger gap in her belly. Her body convulsed and was still.
Will stared at the television.
The man pulled something bloody and unidentifiable from the cavity he had created and ate it. Next, he examined a smaller piece of the woman, stuck it in his mouth and chewed. Then, using both hands, he started rummaging through the contents of the woman's abdomen like a dog, digging. Unsatisfied with this method, he simply buried his face deep into the opening, where it stayed.
There's a baby in there, Will thought. He knows.
Sensing opportunity with the silence, the other woman crept around the car. She was dressed conservatively in a skirt and heels. When she saw the man feeding on the pregnant woman she straightened, gasping audibly. "Santa Maria," she whispered, making the sign of the cross. The man lifted his head at the sound and Will saw his face for the first time, his features masked in blood, only white eyes and teeth visible. He continued masticating as he stood—the flesh of the woman spilling from his overstuffed mouth and slimy viscera peeling from his face with the motion. He took a step toward her and she backed away, removing her shoes. He took another step and she hurled them at him, one sailing past and the other bouncing harmlessly off his shoulder. On his third step, she turned and ran toward Will, past the camera. The man followed, slower, but with a purposeful gait. As he got closer, Will briefly saw the emptiness in those eyes suspended in red. Then the face was gone, as his upper-body left frame and his dragging feet neared the lens. Will saw that he was wearing ECCO loafers with cuffed slacks before he lumbered past and out of view. The camera jolted a bit, vibrated, and was still. All that remained in-frame was the car, the gutted woman on the sidewalk, and a single high-heeled shoe.
His eyes never left the screen, he tilted his head back normal so the picture was vertical again. He scrutinized the screen for telltale signs of film production—movement, sounds, special effects—anything. But there was nothing… just the woman, the car, the shoe, and the silence. Absolute silence.
After a minute of this, he decided that maybe he was dreaming. He'd had such dreams before where he felt like an outside participant, but never this awful—usually, just stress dreams about work. But his head had been fueled all day with media—reports of atrocities, violent uprisings, and countless speculations. And Frank was away, so he was scared, his mind vulnerable. All this, in combination with the alcohol, was fertile ground for nightmares.
He needed rest. He would climb into his king-sized bed and sleep it off. In the morning he would roll over, stretch, and wake to a new day. As if on cue, Rocko yawned a high-pitched sigh, shuddering his eighty-pound frame, and vibrating the open kennel cage he'd retired to. Will got into bed and called the dog to join him. Lola followed. Both dogs were excited for this rare treat—in the big bed, garnering unusual late-night attention.
"Yes," Will said, rubbing them vigorously. "Tonight is a special night. We all get to sleep together."
He lay back, allowing himself to be sandwiched into paralysis, the dogs now on each side of him. His hands rested on their heads, feeling the warm softness of their snouts, and the fluttering of their eyes beneath the lids.
"Daddy will be home tomorrow. Everything will be better. I promise."
His eyes closed and he let his mind seek that place that allowed his brain to shut down. Sometimes it was a field, sometimes the mountains or the sea. But tonight he ignored those places, choosing to remain in bed with the dogs. Tonight, this was the comfort he needed, the peace that would help him pass into oblivion.
And he embraced it.
Minutes later, as Will snored softly with both dogs nestled beside him, there was movement on the television. The woman on the sidewalk sat up. Her face was pale but otherwise normal, her eyes wide as she examined her surroundings. From the chest down she resembled a badly butchered frog in a high-school classroom. Of this, she was completely unaware.
When she stood, gravity removed some internal organs and other loose items from the gaping hole in her midsection. And though her intestines spiraled out like coils of rope, they did not detach. Every third step or so, she tripped on them, as she stumbled off-camera to the left.
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