As the zombie hordes descend, Chris Collins and Joe Thursday lead a small group in a defiant stand. But will it be enough to save themselves and the city?
Will Chris be able to rescue his wife, who is about to be subjected to a hideous zombie experiment? And will he be able to find his three young children, alone and afraid, on the streets among the dead?
The latest episode of the Zombie D.O.A. series is an unstoppable, action-packed force de force that will leave you breathless.
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Among The Dead
“Control, this is Foxtrot, come in. Over.”
“Foxtrot, this is Control. What’s your status? Over.”
“Control, we have movement out of the south-east quadrant. Over.”
“Foxtrot, please clarify. You say you have movement. What movement? Over.”
“Control, difficult to say right now, lots of dust out there. I see Humvees, four, and something else…Holy crap!”
“Foxtrot, say again. What do you see? Over.”
“Control, Jesus Christ, you’re going to have to get all of those people the hell out of there! You’re going to have to evacuate the city.”
“Foxtrot, I say again, what do you see? Over.”
“Zs, fucking thousands of them, the horizon is black with the fucking things!”
“Foxtrot, please clarify, you’re saying you’ve got some Zs out in your quadrant? Over.”
“Not some Zs! It looks like every Z on the west coast is heading straight towards us! We’re pulling back.”
“Negative, Foxtrot. Hold your position and engage. Over.”
“Foxtrot, are you reading me? Over.”
“Foxtrot, you are to hold your position. Do you read? Over.”
“Foxtrot, goddammit! Stand your ground. That’s a direct order.”
The van carrying Chris Collins and Joe Thursday to the California State Prison at Lancaster hurtled along West Avenue J, while the banshee howl of sirens cut through the dawn twilight in a hellish symphony.
“Hey! Hey, dipshit!” Joe shouted, banging on the inside of the cab with his free hand. “You hear that? You know what that means? That means the Zs have breached Lancaster. That means even your dickwad boss realizes he can’t hold the city. Hey, assholes, stop the van and let us out!”
If the guards heard, they didn’t respond. Joe yanked at the cuffs, trying to work at the bracket they were threaded through. Not that it would do any good. The bracket was reinforced steel, welded to the bracing of the cab, with the cuffs locked in place by a thick metal catch. The short expanse of handcuff chain was threaded through it, one of the cuffs attached to Chris’s right wrist, the other to Joe’s left.
It meant both of them had to stand in an uncomfortable half-crouch. From that position Chris had a view through the barred window of the prison transport, across the early dawn sky, in the general direction of his home. He could see thick smoke out there, backlit with flame, and he prayed that his family was safe, that Kelly had followed his instructions and stayed with the kids in the fortified cellar, even after he’d failed to return from his last sortie to the barricades.
“Hey!” Joe shouted again. “You knuckleheads listening to me?” He lifted his hand to bang on the metal panel of the cab, but Chris stopped him.
“Hey, fellers?” Chris said. “Who we got up front there?”
“You fellers want to at least give us some of your attention back here? What Joe says is true. The town is about to be overrun. You lock us down in the prison and you’re as good as consigning us to a death sentence. Might as well pull the truck over and shoot us right here.”
For a moment Chris thought they weren’t going to respond, but then a small panel in the forward cab slid open. Chris could see through it, through the windshield, to the expanse of tarmac rushing towards them in the headlights.
“Sorry, Mr. Collins,” a voice said.
“Who’s that?” Chris said, “Richie Gleason? That you?”
“Yeah it’s me, sir, but like I said –”
“Come on, Richie. You know me, you took boxing lessons from me, now I got your kid in one of my classes. You’ve got to let us out, Richie. I got my family holed up in the cellar back home. All I want to do is get back to them. You should be getting back to yours, too.”
“Sorry sir, much as I’d like to help –”
“Now you listen to me, you little shit,” Joe cut in, just as Chris saw movement in the road ahead. The truck’s headlights picked out a man standing on the blacktop.
“In the road!” Chris shouted.
“I see him,” the driver said. “Fucking Z. Hold on back there, I’m going straight through the fucker.” He floored the van and it closed the distance in milliseconds, bearing down on the man like an angry beast, striking him in the abdomen, folding him under its wheels like a cardboard cutout.
“Yee ha!” the driver shouted, half-turning in his seat. “Did you see that? Did you see –?”
Chris still had his eyes focused on the road ahead, where a thousand points of light seemed to suddenly materialize from the darkness.
The driver turned back towards the road and spotted them. He yanked the wheel hard right and stood on the brakes, sending the van into a slide. For a brief moment, it tottered on two wheels, then it overcorrected and flipped. Chris felt himself traveling through the air in slow motion, felt the cuffs bite into his wrist, felt Joe smash into him. The van came down hard on its side and slid across the blacktop towards the massed Zs.
Chris had a side-on view through the peephole. The sliding hulk of the van seemed to be traversing a forest of legs, scything through them like a harvester through a field of ripe corn. The Zs made no effort to get out of the way and were swatted aside with meaty blows, augmented by the screech of metal on tarmac and the accompanying cascade of sparks. Presently, the vehicle began to lose momentum. Soon it ground to a halt. Chris tried to move and felt the van rock dangerously to one side, as though it hung on the edge of an abyss. He shifted his position and the cab settled again. A sound reached him now, the whisper of hundreds of shuffling feet heading in their direction, underpinned by that infernal Z hum.
“Joe!” he hissed into the darkness. “Joe, are you alright?”
“I’ve been better, goddamn cuffs near ripped my hand off, and my hip feels like Godzilla stomped on it.”
“We’ve got to get out of here.”
“Tell me something I don’t know, compadre.”
From the cab now, came a low groan. Chris looked through the twisted mesh of the sliding panel, through the splintered and blood-spattered windshield, towards the thousands of figures shuffling in their direction. Richie hovered to the right of his vision, seemingly suspended in mid-air, held in place by the seatbelt. To his left, Chris could make out the crumpled body of the driver.
“Richie, are you okay?”
“I…I think so, chest hurts.”
“Listen up, Richie. If you can move, get the hell out of there. Now!”
“I can’t, I’m –”
“Get the fuck out of there, Richie. Do it now!”
Richie was crying. “I can’t, my leg is caught. I can’t move, oh God I’m going to die. I’m going to die.”
“Have you got a gun, Richie?”
“I’m going to die, oh God, I’m going to die.”
“Richie, stay calm and find the gun. Stay calm and –”
“I’m going to die!”
The first of the Zs reached the truck now, engulfing it like a murder of crows descending on a carcass. Richie’s body suddenly jerked as though a jolt of electricity had been passed through it, and he was ripped from the cab. His screams were soon replaced by the sickening sounds of the Zs feeding on his corpse.
Chris wrenched his attention back towards the inside of the cab, more aware than ever of the seriousness of their situation. He ran a hand along the bracket that held them captive. It had twisted in the crash, flattening against the chain, holding it even more securely. He lifted his free hand and pushed at the catch and knew straight away that it wasn’t going to give.
“Not unless you’ve got one of your famous lock-opening hairpins on you.”
“Not the one,” Joe said.
Chris looked around the inside of the van, now visible in pallid light. It had withstood the crash well, which was both a blessing and a curse. The Zs couldn’t get in, but Chris and Joe couldn’t get out either.
“At least we should be safe here for a while,” Chris said, and almost right on cue, the back door creaked open a crack. Chris could make out an eye peering into the narrow gap and then fingers pushing through. Soon other hands were grasping the edge of the door and they started working it, back and fore, in a screech of metal.
“You were saying,” Joe said.
Chris ignored him and leaned in towards the peephole. The mesh covering it had been twisted, and he was sure that a couple of blows with his boot heel would push it out. What then? Well, there had to be a weapon in the cab, most likely more than one. If it was close enough, he might just be able to reach through and snag it. First though, he’d have to loosen the bracket. He needed the extra bit of play that the chain would give him.
From behind he heard the grind of metal and saw that the gap had widened. Filthy, clawed hands snaked through, like maggots invading a corpse.
“Joe, I‘ve got an idea, but I’m going to need you to help me yank this chain free. Think you can do that?”
“I ain’t dead yet, compadre.”
“Okay then. I’m going to yank the chain towards me, then you yank it towards you, till we work her loose, okay?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Chris grasped his cuffed wrist with his free hand and pulled, giving it everything.
“Son of a bitch!” Joe shouted as the chain rattled free and his hand collided with the bracket.
Chris slid as far forward as the cuffs would allow, lifted his boot heel and delivered three well-aimed blows to the mesh covering the peephole. On the third, the mesh popped out. Now he pulled himself forward and peered into the cab. He saw the silver, 9-millimeter pistol right away, and knew right away, that he wasn’t going to reach it. With the truck on its side, the weapon had fallen into the driver’s foot-well. Even without the cuffs holding him in place, there was no way he could reach that far.
There was another problem, too. Stretching his arm through the gap was inviting a bite. There were no Zs in the cab, but hundreds of them lurked just outside, still squabbling over the remains of the two guards. If they spotted movement, they were sure to hone in on it.
“What we got?” Joe said.
“There’s a 9-mil, but it’s too far down, I can’t reach it.”
“Check the stowage above that peephole, bound to be a shotgun there.”
Chris looked into the rearview mirror, adjusting his angle so that he could see the space directly above the peephole. There, held in place by a gun-bracket, was a black, Mossberg 590 combat shotgun.
Before Chris could answer, there was another sound from the rear of the van. He turned in time to see a Zs force its head through. The creature gaped at him through its one eye, set in a face that looked like a melted candle. It thrashed its head violently, trying to find a way in, sending rank spittle flying from a mouth populated with blackened teeth.
Chris turned back towards the front of the truck, took in a deep breath and blew through gritted teeth. If he was going to do this, it had to be now.
The gap wasn’t wide enough to bring the shotgun through side on, so he’d have to lift the gun from its bracket, extend his arm and then pull the weapon through butt first. That, of course, would put him at greater danger of a bite, but there was no other way. He’d have to risk it.
He had one last look in the rearview mirror and swept his gaze around the cab. It was clear. He pushed his hand through the peephole and angled it upward. His fingers brushed the cold steel of the gun barrel and he used the rearview mirror to guide his hand, getting a grip just behind the trigger guard. He pushed upward, lifted the weapon from the bracket and felt the weight of it force his hand down. At that moment, one of the Zs spotted him and came lurching forward. The creature smashed headfirst into the shattered windshield, stepped back and crashed forward again. Others were now alerted to the movement and they shuffled forward intent on their next meal. Chris caught a glimpse of one of them sliding in through the passenger window while the others tore the windshield free of its frame. He moved quickly, twisting the weapon and drawing it towards him. He’d almost pulled it through when he felt a wrench on the barrel and nearly lost his handhold. The zombie’s face appeared in front of him and it flew at him with teeth flashing, its head crashing against the metal. Chris threw himself backward, pulling the shotgun from the Zs grasp. The van tottered to one side again, hovering like a rollercoaster at the edge of a big drop.