In a few short days, 37 year old Emma Rossi’s hard work will finally pay off. She will don her cap and gown and graduate with a degree in nursing, but not before she loses her first patient and is confronted with a new reality. In Cape Coral, Florida, a storm approaches. The dead are coming back to life.
And they’re hungry.
Infection ravages the Eastern Seaboard with alarming speed while attempts to contain the spread of infection fail. Within days, a small pocket of panicked survivors are all that remain of civilization. Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse alongside her husband Jake and their dog Daphne, Emma comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare.
Relying on snarky wit and sheer determination, she is forced to commit atrocious acts to protect her family and avoid joining the ranks of the undead.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-65
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My love for the zombie spawned from necessity. I always felt drawn to scary movies, clearly a glutton for punishment. I had seen all the “of the Dead’s” to date, including the original 1977 Dawn of the Dead. I was a fan of the 2002 Resident Evil movie. Sure it gave me that increased heart rate and I watched it through a small gap in my fingers, but I discovered I could watch scary stuff during daylight hours and not be as terrified. When the sun went down all bets were off.
Then, March 19, 2004 rolled around and I insisted my husband take me to see the new Dawn of the Dead on opening day. I made a critical mistake…It was daytime when the movie began, but when we emerged, shell-shocked, from the theatre the sun had long faded.
Dawn of the Dead affected me like no other movie had done in the past. For three months I would make my husband, then fiancé, move the dresser in front of the door to our bedroom before I could go to sleep. Our doorknob didn’t latch all the way and the door wouldn’t click closed, leaving me with the same slightly open door where we see the first child zombie in the movie.
The bathroom light would illuminate the room, I couldn’t close my eyes in the shower, and I couldn’t go outside alone in the dark. Who would have thought a single movie could cause me such trauma?!
Three months later, I decided to watch the movie over and over again to desensitize myself, a sort of immersion therapy, I guess. And thus began my addiction to the genre. Books, Movies, TV Shows, Videogames. You name it, I found it. And, now nearly 300 zombie books later, I can’t get enough of the undead. I’m slicker now. Instead of covering my eyes with my fingers, I hold my tiny dog up and peek between her ears.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Many of my main characters are inspired by friends and family. My main character, Emma, has been infused with my snarky personality, and some of her follies are based on some real-life experiences. Someone once told me to write what I know. After writing Time of Death: Induction, I can say with confidence that their advice is on the money. Some of the best bits in the book are those written with a personal experience in mind. I seem to attract some interesting people, which makes for some very wonky interactions.
Daphne is probably the character written most true-to-life. One of my beta readers asked me, after finishing the book, how I captured that insane dog-centered trait of a person so well. It was easy, I’m insane about my dog. She has an outrageous personality, and just like my ‘fictional’ Daphne, she loves to hide little brown packages all over the place. Not an exaggeration…one day she sat behind my mother-in-law on the back of our sofa. My mother-in-law went into a possessed frenzy, due to finding a poo-nugget in her hair.
Chapter 05: Buried Treasure
“In the midst of what is surely the worst storm Floridians have seen all year, we are getting reports of extreme violence throughout the community. Law enforcement officials recommend all non-essential personnel remain in their homes until what they are calling ‘civil disobedience’ has been contained. We have received news that St. Vincent’s hospital has been overrun with crazed citizens. Reports state that there has been an outbreak of what medical professionals have determined is a form of the rabies virus. Highly contagious through transmission of saliva and blood, this pathogen has a 100% infection rate and is believed to have originated from a female patient at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The hospital has been placed under quarantine and we have been asked to direct anyone exhibiting symptoms of the infection to St. Mary’s Hospital on Metro Parkway in Fort Myers.
“We have received reports of similar activity from hospitals along the east coast, reaching as far north as Delaware.
“Early warning signs include fever, lethargy, and respiratory distress following contact with an infected individual. Those in the late stages of infection exhibit tonic-clonic seizures, and a catatonic state, followed by severe violent episodes after waking. Folks, I realize this is going to sound crazy, but I have been instructed to tell you that these infected individuals are biting, and subsequently eating, victims. This is not a hoax. Once bitten, victims will become ill, and the infection will consume them within a matter of hours. If you come into contact with someone infected, make all attempts to isolate yourself and contact the authorities.”
We sat in stunned silence for minutes until Jake broke it. “Um…did he just tell us there is a zombie outbreak going on?” He stared at me and I watched his face go through a litany of emotions from shock to disbelief.
“I think so,” I replied, unsure even as I spoke the words. “This is a joke, right?” Daphne had moved to the front door and began sniffing at the bottom corner. She backed away growling as a loud bang on the front door jolted us off the sofa and began barking wildly. “Jake,” I whispered. “I’m scared.”
I snatched Daphne into my arms and continued to back away from the door. My heart was pounding in my chest. The fear gripped me and I suddenly found it difficult to breathe. Over the years, Jake had played tricks on me and joked about my irrational fear of zombies. Was this it? Had my worst nightmare come to fruition? I remember hearing the news last year when a guy in Miami got hopped up on bath salts and ate some other guy’s face. Was this a street drug gone bad?
It was then that we heard it. Above the droning of the wind and rain and the banging on the door, we heard a siren growing louder until it became so loud we were certain that it was nearby. The siren and the banging stopped all at once, and I beat Jake to the peephole in the door. A cruiser had pulled onto the front lawn, its door stood open, and a uniformed officer was standing in front of the car. He was shouting at something I couldn’t see through the tiny hole and raised his gun.
“What is it?” Jake asked me.
“It’s a cop. I think there’s someone out there with him. He’s got his weapon pointed at something or someone and he’s yelling at them. I can’t make out what he’s saying.”
Jake nudged me out of the way to get a glimpse at the events outside. “This is ridiculous, I can’t see anything. I’m going out there.”
I grabbed for him before he could unlock the dead bolt. “Don’t you dare open that door,” I snapped at him. An overpowering feeling of fear and anxiety came over me and I felt myself start to panic. My voice increased to an octave so shrill that I sounded like I’d been sucking helium. “Someone is pointing a gun at us. Why would you give him an easy target? Don’t be an idiot.”
“Because,” Jake said, “I want to know what the hell is going on. This is still my house and I want to know why he’s pointing a gun at it.” Jake yanked open the front door, the wind picking up the momentum and slamming it against the wall as it opened outward. The opening granted us a full view of the lawn, the cop, and the man approaching him. Daphne was squirming under my arm, growling with a ferocity I’d never seen.
“Stop right there, or I’ll shoot!” yelled the officer. For a minute, I thought he was talking to us. We both froze. But the man walking towards him kept moving, and I realized the gun was trained on him. The officer was visibly shaking. I could see the panic in his eyes all the way across the lawn.
I squeezed past Jake to get a better view of the scene. I hadn’t noticed while looking through the peep-hole, but there were chunks of something stuck in the cars radiator. I realized it was hair and flesh. The rain caused blood to trail down the grill and end in a pink puddle on the lawn. I let loose a gasp of horror, my hand flying up to cover my mouth and muffle the sound while my eyes strained to take in the detail.
The man was still walking toward the cop. Not really walking, but sort of shuffled along like he was a baby taking his first steps. His arms outstretched, he shambled closer. His back was to Jake and I and his white polo shirt and jeans were smeared in mud. The gunshot snapped me out of my shock and I screamed. The man stumbled back but regained his balance and kept going. Three more shots rang out in succession and the man’s head snapped back as he went limp and fell onto the muddy lawn.
The officer lowered his gun, hand trembling, and walked closer to the man lying dead in our yard. He stared down at the body, emotion unreadable, as Jake and I crept closer.
The body lay still, creating a barrier between us and the cop. The top of his head was a mess of bone and shredded brain matter. The eyes, forever open, were clouded white, pupils radiating out with red spider-like blood vessels, and the skin surrounding them was nearly black and sunken. His skin was taut and mottled with death. His torso though, that was where I saw the real carnage.
The man’s shirt had been torn nearly the entire length of its flimsy cotton, together only at the neck band, and was saturated with blood. His chest cavity had been ravaged and was empty of what one would consider vital organs. Flesh was flayed from bone and left his ribs exposed.
I backed away, feeling sick to my stomach, and couldn’t hold back the vomit. I threw up until I was kneeling on the grass dry heaving stomach acid, one hand pushed into the wet earth to hold me up and the other clutching the dog.
Jake and the cop stood motionless, staring down in disbelief at what had once been a man. “What is going on?” Jake asked the cop.
Officer Donnelly, according to the name badge located over his left breast pocket, pulled himself together and said, “You need to get somewhere safe. The main parts of town have been overrun with…whatever this is.” He waved his gun hand in the direction of the dead body. “Stay inside, lock your doors and do not open them for anyone. And if you can’t stay hidden, if they get in, get in your car and drive.”
“Where? If town isn’t safe, where can we go?” I was shaking all over as Jake helped me to my feet, and my words came out as a stutter.
The cop looked up at me sullenly. “I don’t know.”
He walked back towards his car and was about to say something when we heard the sound of a blood-curdling scream coming from down the street. We all whipped around to face the noise and scanned the neighborhood. The screams continued for a few seconds, then nothing. I squinted to see in the distance and could make out a group of three people huddled on the ground in front of a house at the end of the street. I wiped the rain from my eyes and squinted as the scene came into focus. They were eating someone. Possibly someone we knew. They ripped at their victim like they were digging for buried treasure.
A scream escaped me as I raised my hands to cover my mouth. One of the huddled group snapped its head in the air, cocked it to one side and listened. It angled its neck back, and lifted its nose in the air. A short scream sounded further down the street and the head snapped to the left like a bird seeking prey. The zombie lumbered awkwardly to its feet, and began moving in the direction of the new noise.
The radio squawked from the police car, pulling us all from our rubbernecking trance, and I turned back to Officer Donnelly.
“Watch out!” I screamed.
Four figures had crested the embankment behind him. They were close enough to him that they would be on him in seconds. The first-a female-looked as if she had lost a battle with a wild animal. Wearing nothing but what once had been a pink negligee; her lower jaw had been torn right from her face. Blood dripped down her neck, staining the negligee, and her tongue, now black, was matted to the side of her neck. She emitted a dry rasping moan as she reached for him. He managed to get one shot off, taking her down, before the other three were on him.
He turned, only to land on the hood of his car and plead for help as he attempted to scratch his way over the hood to safety. His grip on the gun failed. It fell to the hood like a brick and slid off the front of the car into the mud. One of the monsters managed to get hold of his kicking legs and dragged him back. Officer Donnelly let out a howl of pain as its teeth sunk into the meaty skin of his calf. I saw his eyes then, staring straight into mine. Begging with an unspoken appeal to for help. Nails digging into the paint of the hood, he disappeared from view as they yanked him off the hood and began to feast.
I stumbled back and nearly fell over Jake as I backed away from the grisly scene. My head moved side to side like a yo-yo and I heard the splash of feet in a puddle to my right. Coming around the house was another one; it was leaning on the house as it walked towards me. One of its arms had been torn off at the elbow and its face was so mangled that I couldn’t decipher gender.
I grabbed Jake’s arm and ran to the front door. Slamming it hard and locking the dead bolt, I slid down to the ground with my back to the door. I was hyperventilating. My vision was blurry and I saw spots. I realized I was sobbing, and Jake had his arms around me making soft cooing noises to calm me down. He held me close and told me everything would be okay.
I shoved him away, fueled by a panicked rage. “Nothing is okay Jake. A man just got eaten on our front lawn. There are zombies running around eating people. So tell me, how the fuck will this be okay?”
Pushing him aside, I stood up and looked through the peephole. “Oh, God, no,” I whispered. A pack of them were heading straight for the door, trailed by a reanimated Officer Donnelly. The lower half of his leg had been ripped off, and the bone was jutting out from below his knee like someone had picked it clean. Daphne started to bark again, this time focused on the back of the house. I picked her up and turned to see a man standing at the sliding glass door. He didn’t try to open it with the handle. He just kept hitting the glass with his head; leaving smears of blood across the clean glass.
Spider web cracks were appearing in the glass and were spreading with each impact. At the same time, the group at the front door was causing the door frame to bow with the sheer force of their weight. “The doors won’t hold. We need to get to the garage!” As he said it, he grabbed me and looked me in the eyes. “Emma, we need to get out of here.”
We ran toward the garage, and made it to the kitchen before the glass door shattered. The zombie was in the house. Mere feet away, I could smell its decaying flesh as we ran for our lives. Blood oozed from a neck wound and it let out a wet gurgle.
“Jake! The Keys!”
“Go,” Jake said. “Get in the car. I’m right behind you.” He shoved me through the door and closed it behind me.
“JAKE!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. I could hear muffled struggles from the other side of the door as I panicked from the thought of losing him. At once, I knew what I needed to do. I ran to the car and opened the door. Dropping Daphne on the driver’s seat I reached under it and groped around for the crowbar I always kept handy. My father grew up on the outskirts of Boston, and it had been ingrained into me at an early age to always be able to defend myself in a carjacking.
Finding my prize, I yanked it out and hefted the weight in my hands. I closed Daphne in the car and ran back to the garage door. Flinging it open, I saw Jake pinned to the kitchen floor by the zombie. He had his hands up under its throat and was using the leverage to keep it from biting him.
Like a banshee I raced into the kitchen, crowbar held over my head and brought it down on the zombie’s head. Again and again I struck it until it slumped over to one side and lay still. Jake lay on his back, panting. Rivulets of sweat beaded off his forehead, and blood splatter stained the front of his shirt and face. “My legs are pinned. Help me roll him off.”
We got him out from under the dead thing and I helped him to his feet, clutching him in a tight embrace as I cried into his chest. “Don’t ever,” I sucked in a wheezing gasp, stricken with terror. “Leave me again.” I panted.
“I won’t, baby,” he mumbled into my hair. He held up his hand, keys dangling. “Let’s get out of here. The front door is about…” I’m quite certain his next words would have been to give…because that’s exactly what happened. The door splintered inward and through the doorway stumbled in one disgusting vision after another. We hauled ass back to the garage. No way did I need to be told twice.
About the Author:
Shana Festa was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on October 17, 1976 and grew up in Northboro, Massachusetts. She currently lives in Cape Coral, Florida with her husband and two dogs, Daphne & Casey.
Shana is a registered nurse with clinical experience in mental health, geriatrics, HIV and substance abuse. In addition to her clinical background, Shana possesses over 15 years of experience with project management and data analytics.
Under her alter ego, The Bookie Monster, Shana reviews horror and paranormal books, with an emphasis on (but not limited to) zombie fiction. With a background in Psych Nursing, Shay brings her unique perspective to the literary community.
Introducing her own zompoc addition to the genre, Shana’s debut novel, Time of Death: Induction, is the first in a planned series.
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