This is the blog of Samie Sands, author of Lockdown. There will be many great books and projects reviewed here. For more, check out thelockdown.co.uk.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sometimes We Ran 3 by Stephen Drivick

Sometimes We Ran 3: Rescue by [Drivick, Stephen]
Five years have passed since the zombie apocalypse swept across the world. The remnants of humanity struggle to survive against Red-Eye, man-eating monsters that hide among the post-apocalyptic ruins of civilization.

The survivors of Cannon Fields live behind their high iron fences and sturdy gate growing food, raising their children, and try to keep out the horrors of the outside world - living and dead. They hope for a day when fences and gates aren't needed anymore and someone puts the world back together.

During a trade mission, John Linder and his best friend Claire, cross paths with a stranger on a noisy motorcycle. He proposes an exchange - vital medicine for help in getting his friends to safety. The trip will be risky. The stranger's friends are hiding with a zombie-infested city at their backs and groups of desperate survivors all around them.

John, and the leadership of Cannon Fields, must decide to risk the residents lives and resources to help some strangers back to their fenced-in home. They must make a decision quickly. Time is running out, and the Red-Eyes are circling.


Book 3 of the Sometimes We Ran zombie apocalypse series.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Soldiers of ZED by @wrpeden

Cordell Banks finds himself without his family or any memory of recent events. He stands alone in a world gone mad. what has happened to the world? He ventures out into the zombie filled Ozarks of Missouri with survival and locating his family as his only concern now. He meets a quasi-military organization whom claim to be the only hope, and a young kid who has no idea what is going on with no survival skills but becomes one of Cordell's greatest assets. Soon Cordell will meets the quasi-military organization's leader ZED who is a most unusual being with a shaded past. Will he accept their commission to fight the Zombies threatening to destroy the rest of the world or Will he stay a lone wolf on his quest to find his family? This apocalyptic, gory existence cannot be the end. No, this is only the beginning to what is the Tripton-Z Series.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Devil's Cut by J.R.Ward

Devil's Cut (The Bourbon Kings) by [Ward, J. R.]
A dynasty filled with secrets teeters on the edge of collapse as Sunday Times bestselling author J.R. Ward draws us into the elite world of the Bradford family . . .
At first, the death of the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward Baldwine, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind.
Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward's shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer - only to discover a devastating secret.
Now everyone's future is at stake for only one thing is certain: no matter what happens, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again.
'Dallas meets Downton Abbey . . . This is high drama, and it's mesmerizing.' Fresh Fiction
Review: Have you been reading this series? It's amazing! The Bourbon Kings are unlike anything I've ever read before, and this is just another awesome, crazy gripping plot to add to the rest. The murder, the intrigue, the passion...Lane and Lizzie are a super exciting duo. Highly recommended. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

CBY Book Club: Book Blast & Giveaway - Lockdown by Samie Sands

CBY Book Club: Book Blast & Giveaway - Lockdown by Samie Sands:



Book Blast & Giveaway - Lockdown by Samie Sands



Lockdown
Author: Samie Sands
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Pages: 232
Genre: Horror/Scifi

Book Description:
Leah Watton’s practical joke has spiralled way out of control—all to impress a crush…

With a prank online video, Leah hopes to catch the attention of Jake Colton, a cute, blond-haired, blue-eyed co-worker she’s had a crush on for months. But instead of sending it to Jake, she manages to forward the clip to her boss—who buys every gory second.

When mass panic ensues, Leah learns the video is more than a staged act…

The government is calling the virus AM13. As the outbreak spreads, citizens are forced to stay indoors while they assess the gravity of the illness. Most people are quarantined in their homes, but Leah, Jake, and Leah’s best friend Michelle are some of the unlucky few who are stuck at work when the Lockdown occurs.

That’s where she first encounters one of the infected…

Aside from a contaminated woman devouring one of her co-workers, Leah has another problem. Does she do as she’s ordered and stay at work? Or should she disobey government orders and break free to reunite with her family?

She can’t go it alone—after all, Leah has none of the skills needed to survive—but with Michelle and Jake by her side, not even a contagious virus and a sea of the dead can keep her from…

Breaking out of the Lockdown…


Buy Links:
Amazon US ¦ UK


EXCERPT

He’s disgusting. I’ve never seen one this close before, heading towards me with such vigour. I’ve always done my best to avert my eyes from the infected, but now time seems to freeze as I can’t drag my gaze away. What I thought was him shuffling, was actually him dragging his broken, bloodied leg behind him. This wound is so deep I can see bone poking through. I can’t help but retch.

The bite on his shoulder is absolutely huge and rancid—all blackened from the infection. His arm is hanging down by his side, completely useless. He’ll never be able to move that again, no matter what happens. His face is also in a terrible state. His skin is a deep grey, much murkier than the others I’ve seen. He must have been infected for a very long time. The bags under his eyes droop incredibly low, causing his face to look deformed. The blood running down his skin, staining all his clothes, looks really old. Scratch marks cover his torso; he looks as if he’s been brutally beaten in some awful fight. I would never have thought someone could survive these injuries, they’re just so severe. People have died over much less, and yet here he is, still moving towards us, baring his teeth, ready and waiting to eat.

Jake pulls me hard and I stumble backwards, tripping over a box. I hit the ground hard and suddenly find myself unable to move, as if I’m physically paralysed by fear. It’s almost as if I’m having an out of body experience, looking down at myself, screaming run. Something is pulling me upwards, but my body is too sluggish to comply. It just won’t do what I want it to, I’m too panicked. Now I understand how Tim was feeling when he was attacked and unable to scale the fence. Limp and useless. I know an assault is imminent, but I can’t do anything to stop it. I’m utterly screwed, and I’m just sitting here, waiting for it to happen.

I’m shaking, sobs rising up in my chest. I’m going to die if I don’t get up now, so why can’t I? All I need to do is make my way over to the door, but it feels a million miles away. I don’t even know where Jake is. I can hear him hissing at me, encouraging me to move, but I can’t see him anywhere. He might have even made it outside already. If so, he should probably run before he has to witness my death.

Thud. The loud noise shocks me into looking up. Thud. There it is again. This time it’s following by a sloshing sound, like a wet mop hitting the ground. I need to locate the source of the noise. I need to know what’s happening, how long I have left. Can I escape? Can I really survive this? My heart leaps into my dry, panicked mouth and my slick palms slide across the ground.

It’s Jake, I can finally see him. He’s absolutely covered in blood. His axe is discarded on the ground next to him. He’s offering me a hand. I reach up tentatively to grab it, still trying to piece together the scene around me.

“He’s…?”I can’t finish my sentence. I can’t vocalise all the hundreds of questions that are swirling around in my mind.

“Yes, Leah, he’s gone. ”Jake blows out some air, as if all the stress is seeping out of his body.

Relief floods my chest, pushing away some of the numb sensation. I’ve never had a near death experience before, so I’m not sure how you’re supposed to feel. We sit silent for a while, just the sounds of our heavy breathing to keep us company. The shop owner doesn’t move again, so I can feel myself starting to relax in his presence. I wonder what happened to him, how he managed to get into that state, when he got bitten—all of these questions that we’ll never get the answer to now that he’s gone forever.



About the Author
Samie Sands is the author of the AM13 Outbreak series – Lockdown, Forgotten, and Extinct. She’s also had a number of short stories published in very successful short story anthologies. 

Author Links:







***GIVEAWAY***



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Zombie Road: Convoy of Carnage by David A. Simpson

The first book in a thrilling new series.
The people that tried to kill the world were fiendishly clever.
After decades of planning, the contagion was unleashed and overnight hundreds of millions died and came back as rampaging, undead monsters. The living that had been lucky enough to survive the first day of carnage, lucky enough to be in the right place and lucky enough that some of them had the skills they needed, soon found out there was much more to worry about than just zombies.
In the high desert on the outskirts of Reno, there is an old truck stop frequented by a mix of hard caliber truckers, day tourists, musicians and travelers. They have survived the chaotic first hours of contact with the undead and now must make their way across the country to a location they believe is safe. Zombies are only the beginning of their troubles as they try to cover the thousands of miles of open road with their hastily armored 18-wheelers. Gunny, a long haul trucker doing one of the few jobs available to him as a disgraced soldier, is unwillingly saddled with the job of getting these survivors to the safe zone. With a motley crew of truck drivers, college kids, veterans, a drug dealer and a rock star, they are racing the clock to make it before time runs out. The last text he had received from his wife before the cell towers went down told him she was trapped in a high-rise in downtown Atlanta and their son was in detention, stranded in the basement of the school he attended. Gunny just wanted to drop the hammer, steal some guns and blast his way in to rescue them but duty called. He had to get these people to safety first, then he could recruit the best of this crew to help him save his family. If they survived the journey.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Terminal Core by Lynn Steigleder

Aon, a solid core planet made from the priceless and most dense element in the galaxy, caladium, is under silent attack. Plans are made by off-worlders to dissolve the unbreakable core using crude oil obtained from 19th century earth. Once the oil is refined, the byproduct, gasoline, will soften the caladium, allowing it to be collected. It is soon discovered the core is made from living beings created from caladium itself. The off-worlders employ a band of corrupt inhabitants to carry on this work. They find themselves in a constant struggle with a small coalition of Aonians bent on saving their home world. Both factions clash with the indestructible core creatures. With horrendous beasts one step behind and deadly pitfalls ahead, the coalition struggles to finish its journey, hoping to insure their races’ survival.
Review: This novel is fast paced and exciting from page one. The author introduces a lot of characters quickly but I felt like I knew them all well as the plot thickened towards its thrilling conclusion. The planet is awesome, the characters are complex and well written, and the creatures within the pages are horrific. A very enjoyable sci fi read!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Not Dead Yet by @SamieSands

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Life used to be so different, I used to be a whole other person, my existence was something else entirely. I don’t quite know what happened to me, I’m not really sure how I became this.
Actually, that’s not totally true, I do know, I know all too well what happened, the end of the damn world. Before this virus unleashed hell on everyone, before people starting changing into something totally inhuman, something cannibalistic...zombies, for want of a better term, that’s when I was me.
I lived in a nice house with my wonderful husband, John, I was enjoying my retirement, life was warm, comfortable, happy. Okay, maybe every now and again I would wish for some excitement to be injected into my existence, but I never expected this. I did assume that our trip to Italy would help spice things up, but I didn’t know quite how much.
When John suggested it, talking about some possible business opportunity that’d come his way, all I could see in my mind was the wonder of the Venetian canals, gondolas, art museums, I thought it’d be wonderful, I bragged to all my friends about it.
Now I wish we’d never come.
Even if this virus is a worldwide issue, rather than an Italian one, I’d much rather be at home where I know people, than here. If we’d been among friends and family, then we’d have been able to deal with it in a much calmer manner. We never would’ve ended up here.
Then maybe John would still be with me.
When the chaos exploded, we were at the Piazza San Marco, laughing and giggling like a couple of schoolkids as the pigeons landed on our arms. I was high on life, happier than I’d ever been before, maybe that should’ve been my first sign. Maybe I should’ve guessed then that life as I knew it was about to end.
All I can remember after that is blood. Screaming, yelling, fighting, and lots of blood. I don’t even really know what happened, especially not to John. One minute he was with me, holding onto me for dear life, the next he was gone. If he hadn’t vanished, then maybe we could’ve escaped together, but I couldn’t leave without him. I needed to know that he was safe.
I waited, I hid and I waited. During that whole time, I had no clue what was really happening, but I didn’t care. John was out there looking for me somewhere, I just knew it. All I had to do was wait for him.
“Hey, are you okay?” When a warm and comforting voice finally came to my rescue, I was totally gutted to realize that it wasn’t him.
“Oh, thank you, I’m fine, just waiting for my husband.” My initial instinct was to act standoffish, which maybe I should’ve stuck to. “He’ll be here in a minute.”
“Well actually I’m rounding up the rest of the survivors of the attack, we’ve got a little group of people not too far from here. Maybe your husband is there, waiting for you?”
As I glanced at him, drinking in his piercing hazel eyes and dark features, I realized that he was probably right. John was sensible, if there was a smart option available to him he would take it.
If only I’d been smarter.
“Okay, take me to him.”
I followed the man, who I would later learn was called Dave Suscheck—or, at least that’s what he told me—far much further than I should’ve. The warning signs were there for a long time, but I chose to ignore them out of sheer desperation. I was so keen to see my husband that I would’ve gone anywhere.
That’s how I ended up here.
As I glance my eyes around the cold, dirty, small cell that I’ve been stuck in for God knows how long my heart sinks once more. Remembering John has helped me to survive this far, but it never lasts because he’s out there somewhere—hopefully still alive—and I’m in here with no hope of escaping.
As it turns out, this situation has brought the absolute worst in Dave, he’s become an utterly insane person. Maybe he always was, and this just helped him to unleash that, I guess that’s just something that I’ll never know. He’s the sort of person that I can’t fight off either, even if I wanted to escape. He’s tall and muscular, incredibly strong.
And now he has a bunch of sicko helpers on his side, making it even more challenging.
“Time for The Games!” I hear someone yell out in a singsong tone of voice. “You verses the morti che camminano. Who will it be today?”
An icy cold terror splashes over my face and waves through my body, but I don’t allow myself to react visibly. I’ve learned the hard way that nothing works; if I cower into a corner, I get chosen, if I sit proudly with my head held high, I get chosen, if I do nothing, I get chosen, so the latter is preferable. At least that gives me the false sense that I have some dignity left. As the first of many women brought here, I need to at least have that.
The Games are the worst thing about this place because they can literally be anything. I’ve suffered one-on-one fights with the infected, with pitiful weapons to help get me through, degrading, embarrassing act designed purely for our humiliation and their amusement, and fights to the death. Okay, so I was only involved in one of those and I somehow managed to get away without doing any fighting, but I still had to witness it.
The girl who killed the other person has died since...suicide, or so I heard from the whispers of one of the guards. I don’t blame her, I know she had to do it, I know that it could’ve so easily been me, but I guess she just couldn’t live with herself afterwards. I’ve considered opting out myself a few times in all honesty, only I’m just too much of a wimp. I just can’t seem to actually go through with it. I guess that’s also because a small part of me still holds on to the silly, naïve dream that I’ll be able to find my way out of here and back to John again.  Maybe he isn’t alive anymore, maybe even if he is neither of us will be the same and it’ll be a bittersweet reunion, but I have to dream about something.  It’s the only way that I stand a chance in hell of surviving.
“You,” I hear, and my heart thunders in my chest. I clasp my hands together and fiddle anxiously with my fingers. Maybe today will be different, maybe they’ll give me a break, maybe I’ll get a bit of luck for once. “You and you.”
I don’t even have to spin my head to know that I’ve been included, his voice is too near to me to be pointing at anyone else. It’s me again, I’m being dragged up, my life thrown into danger, and all to keep these vile animals smiling. How the hell is that fair?
Why, oh why did I have to follow that horrible man into this nightmare? Why didn’t I just stay where I was the whole time? I might not have survived but it’d be better than this.
I take in a deep, ragged breath and force myself up onto my unsteady feet. I want to flip out, to finally lose it, to take some damn action, but I won’t. I’m too afraid to do anything other than I’m told. I’m the perfect little prisoner.
“Well, come on, hurry up.” The man grabs my arm and yanks me violently from my cell, throwing me against two bodies who look just as frail and scared as me. “Dave won’t wait around forever.”
Dave, the man who stole me away and brought me here, the man who created this sick, twisted place, the one who haunts every single one of my nightmares. He’s the one I want to kill the most. I want to take a knife and drive it right into his heart. Then I want to laugh at him as he dies, just so he knows what it feels like. I didn’t used to be such a sick, twisted person, but the constant humiliation has made me feel that way.
We follow behind, as we walk I keep shooting anxious glances at the other girls, but clearly, they aren’t feeling as rebellious as me because their eyes are fixed on their shoes, right where they’re supposed to be. People have been killed for much less than glancing at someone else. I probably should be behaving too, but for some reason, I don’t want to anymore. I want to rebel...I just wish I didn’t have to do it alone.
This is a nightmare! I want to scream and yell as the idiots, to make them see some serious sense. We should all be working together, trying to rid the world of infection, not wasting time doing this, this is madness!
“Well, in you go.” The man shoves us all forwards, and we find ourselves in the room smack bang in the middle of the prison, that they’ve specifically designed for this exact, sick and twisted purpose. “Let The Games begin.”
I can’t take this anymore, I just can’t do it. The fear, the sickness, the horror of it all. It’s absolute hell. My eyes flick from side-to-side, my heart pumps hot, violent blood around my body, I shake so hard I fear my bones might snap. I just cannot keep on going through with this, I need it to end before it absolutely kills me.
The first zombie staggers through the door, snarling, snapping, clawing the air. It wants us, it wants to bite us badly, and if we don’t find something to take it down soon, at least one of us will be claimed. I wish I could yell out, to get some help from the others, but we can’t talk to each other. The last thing they want is for us to make friends, that could lead to a rebellion or an escape. This whole thing is very carefully crafted so that can never happen. If I was caught even trying it, I dread to think what’d happen to me.
A fate a whole lot worse than death.
I stagger backwards instantly, my survival instinct kicking in. I’m not sure that feature of me is useful really, it won’t let sacrifice myself even when I think it’s the best idea. It keeps me going, even though I would be better off dead.
I need to find something to defend myself quickly, especially as I can hear the door clicking open and another dead one falling through it. These guys must have a cage full of them somewhere, like pets, ready to be unleashed upon us whenever they’re bored.
As I spot the second one it makes me feel sick to my stomach, it’s in a terrible state. Black blood dripping noisily to the ground, chunks of flesh falling as it moves, so my bodily damage that I’m not even sure if it’s male or female...what the hell happened to this zombie?
I hate to remember that these creatures used to be human, that they once had lives, loves, joys, anguish, families themselves, because it makes it that much harder to kill them when the time comes. It makes me want to weep for what they’ve lost, and also out of sheer jealousy because they don’t have to endure this hell. Their brains are switched off whereas mine is still way too active.
My back hits the cage wall and in an instant, someone shoves me back in. I spin around, ready to send a pointless glare, but before I get the chance to something connects with my skin and everything jolts with shock inside of me.
“Help me,” I hear a hiss. “Save me.” It’s a girl, another one of the ones who was shoved in here with me, and she’d giving me an intense panic-stricken look. I’m so shocked to have someone speaking to me that it takes me a while to answer. “I’m bleeding.”
I glance down at her arm to see blood pumping rapidly from her, cascading down her body. Instantly I’m transported back to a time when none of this was real, when I was in my surgery fixing the bleeding limbs of animals. I can almost hear the new wave music playing lightly in the background to calm me down.
“Tie it up,” I whisper quietly back, almost forgetting that I might get caught. “Tie it above the wound to stop the bleeding.”
“With what?” There’s a sheer terror in her eyes, one that’s making her act way out of character.
“Material...your tee shirt, or maybe you can find something in here.” I flick my eyes from side-to-side, rapidly spotting danger coming at me from every angle. All I want to do is help, but if I do I risk myself. Again, I want to do the right thing, I’d love to be able to sacrifice myself to help someone else, but the icy cold fear was telling me to run. “Maybe you should hide for a while until all of this is over.”
“But what if they kill me...”
I run, needing to find something to look after myself with. Her too, since she can’t fight. I hope she takes my advice because from the looks of that gash if she doesn’t, the blood loss will slow her down and she’ll be killed for sure.
Oh God, there are infected everywhere now, coming at me from every single angle. Everywhere I look my eyes are bombarded with the image of death, which causes an unbridled panic to overwhelm and consume me. I can’t do this, not this time, this is the time that I’m going to die...

***

The breaths spill from my body like desperate pants, my heart pounds heavily against my rib cage, all I want to do is throw up, but it’s as if there’s nothing there inside of me to actually come out. Blood...I’m covered in blood, I can’t even remember where it all came from. All I know is that one moment I was in a pit of chaos, and then I found myself back here, back in my cage.
One more day down, God knows how many more to go. I don’t think I can take this anymore...
“You’re wanted.”
I spin my eyes around slowly, every single horrifying emotion inside of me heightening. This can not be happening, haven’t I been through enough today? I’ve just been called into the ring, there’s no way they can be doing this to me again. I know they’re sadistic here, but this is on another level entirely.
“For what?” My voice is raspy, difficult to hear, but I need more information before I can even think about going anywhere. My butt is on the cold, hard ground now, I don’t want to move it again unless I really have to.
“Dave wants to see you.”
“Dave never wants to see anyone anymore!” In the beginning, he came in here to torment me all the time, but ever since his little project has grown, he’s been around less and less. He lets everyone else do the dirty work for him.
Oh God, a cold fear strikes my heart. What if he’s decided to get back in the whole torture game and he’d picked me as his victim? I really don’t want to go, I would do literally anything to get out of it, but as always I’m not in control of my destiny here. I have to do exactly as I’m told.
“Dave wants to see you, so I suggest you move before I’m forced to move you.”
My knees knock together as I stand, my whole body trembles with an intense all-consuming fear. I was wrong before, this is far worse than getting ready for The Games, at least then I know where I stand. I’m at the bottom of the ladder, the victim in a messed up fantasy concocted by a madman, with this I have no idea. Only that it won’t be good.
As we walk through the hallways of this building, I’m taken past the other cells for the first time since being here. I can’t resist peeking in, just because I know I might not get another chance, and what I see makes me sick to my very core. Sure, I probably look as messy, as screwed up, as twisted as these girls but I haven’t seen myself. Seeing it is way worse than anything I could’ve imagined.
That’s when another idea starts to form in my mind. I’m actually in a lucky position here, I’m going to be in the same room as Dave, without bars separating us. Maybe I should use that, and I should finally put my murder fantasies into action. It’s risky, I might not make it out alive, and maybe someone equally as bad will take over, but if I don’t do this I’ll probably regret it forever more.
It’s worth thinking about anyway.
“Here.” The man pushes me forwards. “He’s right through that door.”
“What, you want me to just go in there?” I point towards the door, as an incredulousness overtakes my tone. “Are you serious?”
He rolls his eyes exaggeratedly at me, and shoves me once more, making his feelings on the subject clear. I don’t mean anything to him, I’m just a pawn in this whole madness, it wouldn’t mean anything to him if I lived or died.
Well, that’s just fantastic!
I push the door quickly before I can totally bottle in and I slide my way in, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible, but of course, that’s totally pointless. Dave is waiting for me, and by the looks of it so is his guest. His very undead guest...
“You might know my little friend,” he smirks and points towards her, seemingly relishing in my discomfort. “You spoke to her earlier today.”
Oh God...oh no...
Yep, it’s her. Everything in me flip flops and churns at the sight of the poor woman I abandoned in the ring earlier on today. Maybe this is my fault, maybe if I hadn’t left her she’d still be alive.
“Oh my goodness, will you wipe that guilty expression from your face? She was already bitten. Where do you think the blood came from?”
What does he expect me to say to that? He’s staring at me expectantly as if he thinks I’m going to respond, but my lips are sealed shut. It’s taking all that I have not to keep staring at the beast-like version of her behind him. Even if her death isn’t my fault, I still feel to blame. She’d been through a horrible time here, she was at death’s door, I could’ve at least seen her off in a comforting way.
What the hell has happened to me? Who have I become?
“What is this?” I eventually spit out, accusation lacing my tone. “What are we doing here? What are you doing here?”
“I’m just enjoying the end of the world,” he extends his arms outwards, indicating towards his new world. “What are you doing?”
“You know that all I want is to find my husband. You tricked me here, now you’ve brought me into this room and I want to know why.” I fold my arms across my chest, trying to show him fury, but really all I’m really doing is covering up my fear.
“Who were you?” he shocks me by asking. “Before all of this, I mean.”
“Huh?” I furrow up my eyebrows, trying to work out exactly what his game plan is right now. It’s never straightforward, there’s always something he’s playing, and not know what that is scares the living hell out of me.
“Well, I mean, I see a tall, slim, terrified woman standing before me, one that could really use a shower...but that wasn’t always you, was it? So, why not tell me more about yourself?”
“So, suddenly you want to know about the people you’re torturing?”
“Oh don’t be so mean, I don’t see it as torturing. I’m just having a little fun.” His head falls back as he lets out a barking laugh as if all of this is totally hilarious. “So, come on tell me all about you, Beverly.”
The only way to work out what this is, is to play along for a while. “Okay, well my name is Beverly Denuse Laude, I live in a small ranching community in New Mexico.” Talking about home sends a bolt of intense pain coursing right through my body. “I used to be a vet, but now I’m a volunteer EMT....”
“EMT, emergency medical technician? Damn, you should’ve told me. I would’ve brought you out onto this side of things much sooner if I knew you were going to be useful.”
I’d never be useful for you, my brain screams, but I keep that thought inside. Some things don’t need to be said just yet, not until I’ve worked out what’s going on. “Right, so is that everything, or do you need to know more?”
“Hmm, I don’t know,” he muses for a couple of minutes, tapping his fingers on his chin.
“What about you?” I might as well blindside him a little, get something back from this nightmare. “Who did you used to be?”
“Does it matter?” He looks uncomfortable for the first time since I’ve seen him, I need to go in for the kill!
“Well, if you need to know everything about me, then surely I get to ask you some questions too?” There it is, that laugh again. “I’m so glad that I amuse you, but I’m not joking.”
“Okay fine, shoot. Ask away.”
I wasn’t expecting that, but now I need to roll with it. “Okay, what’s your full name?”
“Dave Suscheck, I wasn’t lying when I told you that. I might be a lot of things, but never a liar”
“Where are you from?”
“Pennsylvania.”
“Why are you in Venice?”
“Work. I’m an English Professor.”
There’s a heat circling us, a battle brewing. The quicker I fire off questions, the faster he replies.
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.”
“Who are you in Italy with?”
Silence. For the first time, he purses his lips together and says nothing. Have I hit on something here? Maybe there doesn’t need to be any more death, maybe I can get us all freed another way entirely. I stare at him, refusing to break eye contact for even a second. I need to break him...
“I’m alone.”
“No family?” I’m not stopping, not now. All I need to do is remember all the horrible times I’ve been through to keep me strong. There’s a growling monster straining behind him as a constant reminder of that.
“Not in Italy, no.”
“In America then?”
He stands up and pounds his fists on the table, his skin reddening with temper. I’m there now, prickling under his temper, much as it scares me this is where I need to be.
“Will you just shut it?” he commands loudly. “I’ve answered enough of your ridiculous questions...”
“Well no, you know about my marital status, so why can’t I know about yours?”
“I’m a survivor,” he growls while slamming his thumb hard into his chest. “That’s all you need to know. I’ve kept you alive this far, haven’t I?”
“You call this alive?” I’m actually shocked to hear him say this, does he really think he’s doing us a favor. “I think I speak for everyone when I say that we would all rather be dead than suffering your stupid Games.”
He moves closer to me, and it takes everything within me not to freak out and step back. I know that I’ve gotten to him, I can sense him struggling, so he’s reverting back to his default mode: intimidation. “You’re trying to tell me that The Games aren’t the best part of your day? They’re certainly mine.”
“That’s sick, you’re sick.”
As the warmth of his body almost connects with mine, my breath hitches in my throat. I’m trying to keep my brain intact, to keep myself going, but it’s really hard with him here.
Then my eyes spot it, very briefly but enough to know. A gun.
Oh my God if I can just get hold of that gun, it’ll all be fine...
“Oh, you’ve seen that, huh?” he slides it from his pocket, looking pleased as punch with himself. “She’s a beaut, isn’t she?”
I don’t even know how he knew that I was looking, but now I’m really scared. Especially as he’s waving it in front of my face, bringing my closer to the barrel of a gun than I’ve ever been before.
“Want to see me fire her?”
“Erm, no thanks,” I shake my head maybe a little too vigorously. “Look, you’ve obviously called me in here for a reason, so why don’t you just tell me what it is?”
“It hasn’t gone unnoticed that you’re breaking the rules a lot, and I want to know what it is that you want,” he shrugs casually but keeps his hand firmly wrapped around the gun. “I’ve killed people for less.”
“So why not me?”
“I don’t know, maybe because you’re my first. None of this would be real if it wasn’t for you. If I hadn’t found you hiding away like a little beaver that day, maybe I never would’ve been able to...”
“Oh don’t pin this on me, you had this place planned out for something just a sick and twisted as this. You must’ve thought about doing this before the virus, maybe you just got lucky.”
“You think this is mine? God, I wish.”
“So you just happened to find it?” He’s lying to me, I just know it. There’s no way in hell that’s the truth, when he brought me here he knew exactly what he was doing. “Are you serious?”
“Okay, I did know about it before it all hit the fan, but I never had any plans.”
“One more question, what was it before?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe just one more, why did you decide to turn it into what it is now?”
He moves around the room, sliding like a snake, all the while unease settles firmly in the pit of my stomach. Something big is going to happen soon, it has to. Am I going to roll over and let Dave take control, or am I going to do it for once? My heart thunders painfully in my chest as I try my best to find some bravery inside of me somewhere.
“I have nothing left, I’m never getting home, I’m stuck here in a country that I hate with no one, and if no one comes up with an answer to this nightmare anytime soon then I’ll never get back there.”
“I understand that,” I reply slowly and deliberately, trying to edge delicately around this. “But we’ve all lost people, there’s no excuse for going out and treating people this way.” I can’t imagine the rest of the world has reacted in this way to this nightmare if only I can make him see that. “Maybe you need to focus your attentions on trying to find a way back home. Put all of this to bed, let everyone go, and get back to your family.”
He stops dead on the spot and turns his head slowly, freakishly so to look at me. My heart skips, hope rises, I start to think that just maybe I’m getting through to him...
“Don’t you get it, you freak? The world has ended, this is it, this is us now.”
“No way, someone out there will be working on a solution. I bet something’s being concocted as we speak.”
I near him as I speak, slowly reaching out my arms to touch his shoulders. I try to seem like I’m comforting him, but really I’m reaching, trying to grab anything to end this right now.
“I guarantee that you’ll be back home soon, and all of this will be a distant memory.”
My fingers move down.
“What you should do is end it now, before this whole experience changes you forever. You don’t want to end up totally unable to move on.”
This is working, he’s actually getting sucked in by my words. Any minute now, I’ll have that gun and everything will be done.
“I think it might be a little too late for that,” he smirks at me, staring deeply into my eyes.
“What are you...?”
I don’t know why, but something down below catches my attention and my eyes flicker downwards. I don’t know exactly what I’m expecting to see, but it certainly isn’t blood dripping on the ground. Where is that even coming from?
Then a hot pain radiates from my chest, and a horrible realization dawns on me. The blood, it’s coming from me, from my chest. That means...
“Yeah, sorry, I didn’t really want it to come to this, but I can’t have your ridiculous optimism bringing this place down. It doesn’t matter what happened in my past, this is my present, this is your present...or at least it was. Now I guess you’re done for and it’s just me on my own.”
My head fuzzes up, my body feels heavy, I might be falling I’m not totally sure.
“It’s a shame, I don’t want to get rid of my first, but there’s no other way it can be.”
The room whirls, everything blackens,  a pain strikes my back. I’m on the ground now, Dave is above me, I feel like I should be fighting but there’s nothing left.
“Anyway, time to go...”
He spins around and uses the knife covered in my blood to slice the girl zombies head open. Things spilling out of her is the last thing I see before everything goes totally black.

This Dying World: The End Begins by @jamesdeanauthor

This Dying World: The End Begins by [Dean, James D.]
It was always a joke. The “what ifs” and the planning were just conversations to have fun with. Who would be the first to go? Where would people be safe? Who would survive the zombie apocalypse?

No one is laughing anymore.

Awakening to a nightmare, Dan Foster is forced to flee his suburban Chicago home. Together with his wife Abby and little girl Katie, they begin a dangerous trek across the wintery Midwest in hopes to reconnect with his brother in the heartland of Wisconsin. Dan soon discovers the ravenous hordes of undead are not the only things out there that threaten the lives of his family. Can he stay the man he is, or will he need to become something more dangerous in order to protect the ones he loves?

In the end, how much of Dan’s humanity will survive this dying world?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Not Dead Yet by @SamieSands

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Where should I begin? The start I suppose, where else?
The only problem is, as unrealistic as this story seems, it’s all the truth, which makes it even harder to note down.
We used to call them Mertyvv because they always seemed so dead. It was difficult to kill them, they ate others, they had no human function. Dead, but still moving.
Dead but alive, I guess.
Like nothing any of us had ever seen before.
I suppose we could say all of that in a jovial, smug tone because despite the odds being stacked against us we managed to shut down the majority of Russia quick enough to keep the virus at bay. Everyone acted rapidly to get rid of anyone showing symptoms of the illness too. There was no sentiment, it was kill or be killed. Or give them up to science, I suppose, that was an option as well. Family ties had to be thrown to one side, friendships, lovers, all gone, but it was for the greater good.
Russia wasn’t totally saved, but it wasn’t all gone either. It was a victory. The media portrayed nationwide pride at an all-time high.
Although, the truth was it truly was a dark time, a very difficult time for our country, for all the people left behind, but we did it anyway. As a collective, we held the mindset that it was the only way to survive. We’d seen things go horribly wrong in other countries, and we didn’t want that to become us. The everyday man didn’t really discuss it, it just became the way we survived.
Red Square was the hub, the place where all the exciting things happened, the place where I worked with the Mertyvv since day one. I was put in charge of my own team, trusted to lead others into what we thought was going to save the whole damn world. They needed us, we were better than them. We survived where they hadn’t, and wanted to take that one step further by curing the others too.
It was probably going to help us take over the world as well, to finally be recognized as the leading world power. Maybe that was the main idea behind it all, but for me and the rest of the workers, we just wanted to put an end to everything, to go back to normal.
What a load of rubbish. Especially when we look at how things have turned out now.
We created it too, the antidote that is. Not my team exactly, although I’m proud to say that we had a hand in it, but we got the solution in the end. I don’t even know how long it took, we were locked away completing it without even seeing the light of day, but it was worth it.
There was a very celebratory mood the day things all fell into place.
Some negotiations were taking place, I never knew the details of them, but they were happening. Or, so we were told. Government officials had control of what happened next, and we were more than happy to let that be the case since we didn’t know any better. Having been locked away from reality for so long, we assumed they knew how to deal with it all. Things were moving forwards, progressing, I was under the naïve assumption that the world would be back to some semblance of normal at some point, that the goal had been achieved.
But I could not have been more wrong.
The antidote that we created was nothing, it did nothing. Maybe in a laboratory situation, it worked as it was supposed to, I guess I’ll never know because I didn’t see it getting tested, but in the real world, it clearly didn’t have anything like the same effect. It obviously wasn’t tested extensively enough because we were keen to get it out there, to save the world. Either that, or no one stopped to think about the potential side effects...
As a country, we were still smug, we were still under the assumption that we were better than everyone else. Not only had we survived the outbreak, but also the ones to prevent anyone else from being affected.
Our confidence became our downfall.
The news didn’t filter down to us for a while. None of the workers discovered what was going on until it was too late. We remained locked in our labs for a while, trying to find a way to replicate what we’d created into mass volumes for any other country willing to abide by  Government’s terms, so by the time people started dying it was too late for us to stop what had already begun.
Everyone who wasn’t sick already quickly became ill. Maybe not with the main virus, it wasn’t having the same effect as that, but it was killing people.
We had a pandemic of our own.
Panic was the first side effect of that, people we went wild as they eventually found out they were going to die from the injection they assumed would save them. The streets became barbaric, like something out of a horrific crime movie or something. Absolutely awful. We locked ourselves in here, me and my team, and waited. I hated that, it made me feel like a coward, but it was that or die. I figured once the panic calmed down, we’d be okay and we could start again.
My team might not have agreed with me, but I remained positive. I had to try and see the silver lining, so it was that and the fact that we hadn’t felt the need to inject ourselves right away, because we were locked inside too far away for the virus to ever get us. Those factors were the only possible positives I could focus on during that initial terrible time.
Only now...now everything has changed. Now, it seems the next port of call is not to try again, not to bother saving the world once more, but it’s to drop a nuclear weapon. I don’t even know what exactly, or where, or why, but I’m sure we won’t survive.
How have we come from a place where we were going to help everyone, to killing off the majority of the world? I hate it, I despise it, it makes all the pain and suffering we went through mean nothing. I want to stop it, I want to take control of the situation and prevent it from happening, but I don’t have the power. I’m only Abram Orlov, team leader of some small section of a massive operation. Practically a nobody.
I have to try though.
Do I?
Yes, it would be stupid not to. If we’re all going to die anyway then I need to have a go. I need to stand up to everyone and have an attempt at getting people to see reason. I don’t think my words will mean anything, but I have to try. That’s why I started writing this after all, to let people know that not all of us wanted this to happen. In fact, most of us don’t, but everyone is too freaked out about the world and what it’s become to try, too beaten down by the horror that has become life. People are still putting faith into the Government, even when they’ve proved that they cannot be trusted.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to make a difference in this world. Maybe I’ll be able to stop all of this from getting any worse.
So, I guess here goes nothing...

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Black Door Trilogy: Books 1-3 Kindle Edition by S. Valentine

The Black Door Trilogy: Books 1-3 by [Valentine, S., Publishing, Limitless]
HIS CONFESSION - BOOK #1

When Gabriella Woods finds matches from a gentlemen’s club in her fiancé’s pocket, her suspicions require a search for answers…

At the club, she realizes it’s not her fiancé’s fidelity that can’t be trusted.

It’s her own.

Darion Milano is daring, intriguing, and unpredictable…

Unable to get him out of her head—and against Darion’s explicit warning—
Gabi begins a torrid affair. No longer fighting the urge to enter the depth of his dark and mysterious lifestyle, she indulges in his most intimate desires.

They become the most exciting, wild, infatuated couple everybody knows.

Until his confession changes everything…

Her heart is telling her to stay.

Her instinct is telling her to run.

She can never match his outrageous ex-wife and become the fun, fearless woman he craves…

HER CONFESSION - BOOK #2

Gabriella Woods is adapting to Darion Milano's daring world…

As Gabi tries to break down Darion’s defenses and help him move on from his damaged past, she hopes he can offer her the love and security she desperately requires.

Darion likes that Gabi is pushing her boundaries, but he has his own dilemmas…

With his outrageous ex-wife in the picture, a constant threat, Gabi finds herself agreeing to Darion’s open-minded adventurous fantasies. The bond they share appears stronger than ever.

Until her confession changes everything.

Is Darion pushing Gabi to her limits—and further away from him?

Or is Gabi in too deep to give Darion up, regardless of her identity that he’s slowly stripping away?

THEIR CONFESSION - BOOK #3

Gabriella Woods eventually wants it all—love, passion, marriage, a family. With the sale of the club, she feels closer to Darion Milano, and believes his dark sexual desires are behind him.

A reunion at The Black Door to celebrate the opening awakens the past.

Gabi and Darion remember where and how they fell in love. Gabi is pleased to see Darion in touch with his old friends, in particular Gina.

Until their confession changes everything.

The news shatters Gabi’s world.

Can she and Darion get through it?

Will the link to his past sway him from a life he now leads, to a life he once led?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Not Dead Yet by @SamieSands

Not Dead Yet (AM13 Outbreak Series Book 4) by [Sands, Samie]
“Aw hell,” I mutter angrily to myself as another undead pus-bag takes a swing at me. What sort of hellish nightmare is this, and more importantly why hasn’t it come to an end yet? One might assume that an island, such as Australia, might be able to escape a virus such as this, but clearly not. One might also assume that with such a large expanse of the place being scarcely populated, there’d be somewhere to get away.
Clearly, that assumption is an incorrect one. I’ve been everywhere I can think of to get away, and they seem to keep on following me. Or maybe they’re just everywhere, like horse flies, or something equally as annoying. I’ve been in the city, and out of it, and actually, it’s better to be in. At least there’s stuff to eat that I don’t need to kill first!
I smash my lead piping through the dead guy’s head, cold blood splattering all over my face as I do. I hate this part, the cleaning up after a kill, mostly because the lenses on my glasses are starting to have bits of grime, coagulated blood, and very dead flesh caked right into them, and there isn’t anything I can do about that. I can’t exactly head to the nearest opticians for a replacement now, can I? I tried, but my usual place was utterly destroyed, presumably collateral damage in the initial outbreak, so that’s the end of that.
“Idiot,” I shake my head at the dead guy lying at my feet, wondering how he managed to get himself infected. If I’ve been smart enough to keep myself alive, then I didn’t see why everyone else shouldn’t too. There wasn’t anything particularly special about me. Sure I was a ‘jack of all trades’ in life, which made had helped me a little, and I was a massive reader too which means I know a lot, but still. I think common sense is key.
Maybe Australia doesn’t have much of it after all.
I don’t really know where I’m going to go next, I’m getting thoroughly sick of wandering around, trying to find somewhere safe to stay, just for something to happen which forces me to move on. It’s exhausting, and somewhere along the line, everything started to feel a little...pointless. I guess what I really want to do is go to another country, to get away from here. I suppose if I consider it rationally, judging by the fact that no one has come to rescue Australia, this isn’t the only place in the world that’s been affected, but surely there must be somewhere safe? There must be somewhere on the planet that I can go? I can’t keep on doing this forever.
I slump down on a tree stump, blinking my eyes into the intense bright sunshine, wondering what direction I force my weary body in next. The sun rays are sizzling my skin too ferociously to continue worrying about monsters coming at me from every angle, my stomach’s growling too loudly and my parched throat screams are too loud to keep going aimlessly, I feel too weary for all of it now. The whole apocalyptic nightmare is a young man’s game, not for someone like me who just wants to curl up in the evenings with a good book. I would love to find a way to just stop the fighting...
“Help!”
That voice jolts through my system, scaring the living hell out of me, making me jump up quickly like a lunatic. Am I going insane? Have I finally cracked? Has my desperation for human contact sent me around the bend? I move my head rapidly from left-to-right, trying to locate the source of the sound, just in case it is real, but by the time my heart has stopped pounding noisily in my chest I become convinced that I must’ve made it up.
“Help me, please.”
Nope, there it is again!
“Who’s there?”
Oops, I didn’t mean to sound quite so gruff and aggressive then, but it’s been so long since I’ve had to include any politeness in my tone, there haven’t been any humans to require it. That’s suggesting there is one now, of course. I’m not ready to totally rule out insanity just yet.
“Help me, I need help.”
I swing my body around and move my eyes as far as I can see, trying to spot the mirage I’m sure I’ll eventually find. But nothing transpires, there’s no incredible hallucination to keep me amused for a while, just the same trees, buildings, and streets that I look at every day.
“Well, thank you for that!” I scream out to the universe, throwing my hands above my head like a madman. “That was a whole lot of fun.”
“I’m here, please!”
Oh my goodness, there actually is someone. A young girl, trapped in a car, I can see her now. Her face is red and sticky, spots of sweat pour down her cheeks, clearly at some point, she’s gotten herself into something of a pickle, and I’m the only one who can save her.
That makes me feel ridiculously excited, and absolutely petrified all at once.
I don’t like living alone, I don’t think humans are particularly suited to being completely solo, but that’s also the only way I’ve survived this. I haven’t had anyone need me since the end of the world rolled around, and the reality of it is a little strange, to say the least.
Still, I cannot just stand here and stare at her like a fool!
“I’ll smash the back window in,” I declare with gusto. If I can plaster a fake smile on my lips, then maybe she won’t sense the fear that hides behind it. “You duck down so none of the glass hits you.”
Relief crosses her expression for a split second, before she vanishes from view, giving me just one more tiny moment to compose myself. I twirl the lead piping between my hands while I check the perimeter in the way I always do before undertaking a noisy activity, then I crash it into the back window on the left-hand side, causing shards to shatter and cascade everywhere.
“Are you alright?” I call, maybe a little too loudly into the car. “I didn’t get you, did I?”
“No, no, I think I’m okay.” She sits up straighter to glance at me, before pulling a few strands of her straggly blonde hair down over her cheeks. “Is it safe for me to get out of here?”
“Yes, I think so. Do you need a hand?”
She shakes her head and slides towards the window where there’s a space for her to now get out, and it isn’t until she’s clambering through, very ungracefully, that I notice something I didn’t spot before. Something that highlights the terror I’m experiencing and dulls the excitement. Maybe finding someone else to share this experience with isn’t such a good idea after all...
She has a big ball of a belly, a large, hard swollen stomach, which can only contain one thing; the most horrific thing a zombie apocalypse can suffer. A baby; a noisy, screaming, desperate, needy being who will surely get everyone around it killed.
“Yes, I’m pregnant, okay?” she snaps angrily as she spots my wide-eyes staring. “Trust me, it wasn’t exactly in my life plan either. No more than the whole world ending.” As her feet crash to the boiling hot ground beneath her, she folds her arms defensively across her chest. “I suppose you’re gonna run off now, like they all do? See a woman sporting a big ol’ belly and you run away like a cry baby, unable to stand the idea of a baby in this mess? Well, that’s just wonderful, you just worry about yourself, I’ll take care of my baby all by myself.”
“Oh, okay, well I didn’t have any intention of doing that...” I hadn’t even really thought it through, never mind made any real plans. Yes, I’m freaked out, but I’m certainly not cruel. “I was actually thinking that you look very thirsty. Would you like some water?”
I hold out the plastic bottle as a peace offering, and after only a few seconds of staring me down like I’ve been sent to test her, she snatches it from me. From the way she sucks on the bottle like there’s no tomorrow, I can tell it’s been a while.
“So...what happened to you?”
“You mean how did I get pregnant, or during all of this mess?”
“Both, I suppose.”
I can’t help but chuckle at her blunt attitude. She isn’t like anyone I’ve ever met before, all of my friends have always been more like me; my age, my calm temperament, interested in similar things...this young, heavily pregnant girl is my total opposite. There’s no way we ever would’ve communicated if this situation hadn’t arisen.
“Well, I don’t totally know if I got pregnant just before, or just after it all went nuts. There’s no real way to tell, me and Tex were still at it like rabbits in the campsite, living each day like it was our last, and I guess we weren’t really thinking about protection...” She shakes her head, suddenly realizing that this is a little bit too much information. “Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, does it? End result is the same.”
“Where’s Tex now?” And why did I never hear about this camp? I thought I’d explored most of this area. Clearly, my assumption was incorrect.
“Dead.” She shrugs as if she doesn’t feel much about this, but I can see the sting in her eye. “They all are. Whole place caught on fire.”
“How did you escape?” That’s a terrible question to ask, but it fell out of my mouth before I could really think about it.
“I ran, obviously. What the hell was I supposed to do? Stick around and burn? I got out, not because I’m a coward but ‘coz I’ve got someone else to look out for.”
Her hands flutter down to her belly, and as I watch her eyes glaze over, an unexpected protectiveness comes out inside of me. Up until now, this has all been about me. Not intentionally, of course, but because of the situation I’ve been in, that’s just the way I’ve become. I can almost feel my chest expanding as I find room for this young girl and her unborn baby. It’s going to be dangerous, in fact, this is possibly the worst thing I could take on board, but if there’s one thing I’m not going to do it’s turn my back on this situation.
“What’s your name?”
“Why do you care?” The speed her answer flies back at me is full of defensiveness. She has a massive wall surrounding her, which I’m going to have to tear down if I want to look after her. And I do. Up until this point, I’ve been existing. Protecting someone else, preserving the circle of life, that’s the sort of thing I need to be focusing on during the end of the world. At least it proves that there’s some magic left in hell.
“Well, I’m Luke Yates.” I extend my hand to her and she tentatively takes it. “I’m...well, middle-aged. I used to live nearby, but now I exist here, there, and everywhere. Wherever’s safest. When the world turned to hell, I was in my garage, fixing my old bike. I saw one of those monsters staggering towards me so I raced inside to flick on the news, to try and figure out what was going on, but as I’m sure you’re aware from your own experience, in typical Aussie-style, no one seemed to recognise that the end was here until it was too late. The young, blonde female reporter was talking about a forest fire in the outback. I thought I must have imagined it all.”
“Wow.” She nods slowly, her expression turning to one of bemusement as she drinks all of this in. “That’s pretty insane.”
That’s all she offers, no explanation of her own story, so I shake my head and turn to walk. “Are you coming with me then?”
“Why would I?”
“Well, because you’re on you own, because I haven’t seen another living human being for as long as I can remember. And because at some time in the near future, you’re going to be giving birth. I don’t suppose that’s something you want to do by yourself.”
I don’t bother turning back, I keep my feet moving forwards because I know I’ve put my argument forth and that she’ll soon see reason. She doesn’t have much choice, not if she doesn’t want to end up trapped in another damn car.
“Jemma Williams.” I eventually hear her voice shrilly bursting out from behind me. “My name, I mean.”
“Come on then. Jemma. Let’s go and find somewhere safe for you to have your baby.”
She bursts out laughing, a booming sound that comes deep from the pit of her stomach. I turn to glare at her as if she’s gone insane, the sound is the loudest thing I’ve heard in a very long time rear-car-window smashing aside, but then I realize that she’s simply blowing off some steam. Her situation is a crazy one, one that she probably shouldn’t be in, so there really are only two options. Laugh or cry.
I join in, without even really thinking about it, and it actually feels quite good.

***

“Holy strewth, are you insane? A shopping outlet? Forrest Chase? Doesn’t that, like, spell trouble?” Jemma glances erratically from side-to-side as if she’s looking for an out. “Wouldn’t a campsite be better?”
“Oh right, because that worked out so well for you before.” There’s a wryness to my tone, but it doesn’t land. Jemma genuinely looks freaked out. “Look, it’s perfect. There aren’t any other people hanging about, I honestly haven’t seen anyone for months, and this is well protected. We can keep the doors locked tightly shut, so none of the monsters can get in, we have space here to roam free. Plus, and most importantly, there will be supplies. It may have been pretty ransacked in the beginning, but I bet there’s still some stuff left.”
Jemma’s eyes travel up the building, and I can see a spark of hope arising. This is the sort place I always told myself I’d end up living, but I didn’t get around to it before. There wasn’t ever any reason to, it was easier to keep on moving. But now I have someone else to take care of so the time is upon me.
“Do you know what would be amazing? Electricity and running water.”
“Well, I know how to do a lot of things. Maybe, if there’s some sort of generator I might be able to sort it for you. I’m not making any promises, but we’ll see. I have a lot of knowledge about electrical and chemical stuff.”
“Oh right, was that your job?”
“More just a hobby...but if the equipment is there, I’ll be able to do it.”
“Okay, fair enough. Sold. Let’s go.”
Jemma cowers behind me as we step inside, and it doesn’t escape my notice that she’s got her hands wrapped tightly around her stomach again She might try and act like nothing bothers her, but that life growing inside of her is of utmost importance. And that’s what makes this so essential. I don’t matter, not now, but she does. Jemma is the future.
I swing my bar above my head, and I push on forwards. I don’t even feel afraid of the monsters, not anymore, I’m just determined to make this work.
“Okay, shut the doors,” I hiss behind me.
“But what if...” Jemma starts to argue but thinks better of it at the last moment as I hear the door clunk behind me.
“I’m going to shout now, to draw and lurkers out. It might be a good idea if you hide.”
“Erm, right, okay.”
I feel the heat of her body vanish as she follows my orders. She trusts me, which is a wondrous thing. Now I just need to prove myself worthy.
“Hello?” My voice echoes around the building, bouncing off all the walls, hopefully traveling into each and every nook and cranny. “If anyone’s in here, it’s best if you come out now.”
Nothing.
A resounding silence tears through the place, but I’m not about to drop my weapon, not yet. I’ve been caught out once before by trusting things too quickly. Sometimes the lazier monsters take a few moments to react, and when they do I’ll be ready.
And then it happens.
I twist my body around as I hear a slight wispy sound emanating from behind me. My eyes dart everywhere, trying to locate where it’s coming from. Half the battle is knowing where they are before they descend upon you.
There he is.
He used to be a child, I hate it when that’s the case, it makes it so much sadder. I watch him slide towards me, hungry for my flesh, desperate to consume me, driven by the demon inside of him, and all I feel is sorrow. This child had his whole life ahead of him, he had a future, friends, parents, everything...and now he has nothing. He couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old, and now I’m left to murder him in cold blood. What could be sadder than that?
I can’t let this continue. I can’t this happen to Jemma’s baby. It isn’t right. The country didn’t react quick enough to this virus, things spiraled out of control way too quickly, but maybe I can’t solely blame the people in charge for that. Maybe the rest of the world is in the same boat.
No, there’s no rescue coming, we’re on our own, and children are now more important than ever.
Hoping that Jemma isn’t watching me, I smash the crowbar onto the kid’s head, causing his brains to splatter everywhere. It’s a bloodbath as his broken, destroyed body slumps to the ground. Black clumps of flesh fall down my glasses, I can feel bits of him clinging to my beard, he’s splattered everywhere, all over the ground beneath my feet. It’s disgusting, but just a part of real life these days.
“Can I come out now?” Jemma eventually cries from wherever she is.
I sigh deeply, hating that she’s going to see me in this way when she already has so much on her plate, but I force my head to nod. “Yes, you come out. I’ll get rid of...this. Just be careful where you go.”
As I toss the body carelessly out the door, towards the other end of the street, I recall how busy this area used to be. If I close my eyes for just a second, I can almost hear the constant roar of car engines, the chatter of groups of people out enjoying the wonderful Australian sun, life buzzing past.
I miss that, I miss it more than I ever thought I would. Maybe I wasn’t the most sociable person in normal life, maybe I mostly kept to myself, but I miss watching other people living.
The groan of one of the monsters coming from my left-hand side is a stark reminder that life in that manner isn’t coming back, not soon anyway.
“Are you okay?” I call out as I’m safe back inside. “Jemma?”
When she doesn’t answer, a tight ball of stress knots around my heart, one that strangles my lungs just a little bit. I suck in air, trying to keep myself breathing steadily, but luckily before the panic becomes too much her face comes into view.
“Hey, Luke, I’ve just found a maternity store. I can finally wear comfortable clothing for the first time since I’ve had this damn ankle-biter growing inside of me.”
I let out a laugh, but the sound is much too strained for my liking. The stress is still there, bothering my organs, reminding me that I have responsibilities weighing on my shoulders now. “Well, that’s good news.”
“I’m just going to grab what I can, I’ll be back in a minute.”
While I wait for Jemma to come back to me, I wander around the shopping center, diving in from store-to-store. I tell myself that I’m looking for supplies, that I’m trying to find me and Jemma something to eat, but really I’m checking that there’s nothing else lurking around. I don’t want to be shocked.
Unsurprisingly, I do stumble across just the one, but she’s trapped under a bookshelf. She doesn’t provide any immediate threat to us, but I put her out of her misery anyway because it’s the right thing to do.
“Luke, where are you? I found some tinned food, do you know how to open it? I’m absolutely starving!”
Now that I can do.
“Coming!”

***

We settle into a nice routine over the next few days, exploring the center, discovering all the building’s secrets, creating an area that almost feels a little bit like home…sort of. It’s easy to make beds and chairs when there are stores selling everything you could possibly want.
“You know, it’d be pretty cool if we could actually turn the television on!” Jemma jokes, which causes my head to snap up from the book I’m buried in.
“You’re the one who wanted it set up like your living room at home,” I smirk. “It’s not my fault that’s a massive waste of the limited power we have. Plus, you know, I doubt anything’s being broadcast right now.”
I’ve actually managed to find access to some electricity, but it isn’t much, it definitely won’t last us, and we have another event looming soon that’ll need all we have.
“What’cha reading there?” She grabs the hardback from me before I can even begin to explain myself. “A pregnancy book?” Her face pales as she stares up at me with utter confusion plastered across her face. “Why are you reading this?”
“Well, I mean, you’re going to be giving birth soon.” My face is actually heating up, like I’m embarrassed about what I’m saying which I know it utterly bizarre. “I figure that since I’m going to be your unwelcome birthing partner, slash midwife, I should know at least a little bit of what I’m doing.”
She stands up and moves behind her chair, where she clutches onto it as if it’s the only thing holding her upright. “Of course, the baby. I guess I’ve been pregnant for so long that I forgot there was going to be a baby at the end of it.” A wooziness crosses her expression that has me leaping up to hold onto her. She grips her fingers tightly into my arm, piercing my skin just a little bit. “What am I going to do with a baby?”
“You must have thought about this stuff...”
“Yes, hypothetically. But now...oh my God, now this is going to be real. How am I going to give birth? In here? There’s nothing here to care of me, no medical equipment, no...oh no this is too much.”
“I’m here, I’m here to take care of you. You don’t have to worry about anything. I will make sure that you’re safe.”
She looks up at me with big blue eyes, panic etched into her face. “Will you? Can you? Oh hell, I feel sick. I thought the puking days were over...”
It takes me a while to calm her down enough to start acting normally again, but as soon as she’s sitting, breathing steadily, with a little bit of color in her cheeks, I start on my next plan of action.
“Right, well I’m going to head to the hospital, get everything you need...”
“What, now?”
“Yes, I think we’ve established that we need to be more prepared, don’t you? There’s only so much I can learn from books, now we need...what’s wrong?”
She clutches onto her stomach, her face turning all the way to purple. “I...I don’t know, but it hurts.”
“Contraction,” I whisper to myself. “That means...” It could be a false one, that does happen according to what I’ve read, but I can’t be totally certain about that, it’s very possible that I’ve already left it far too late. “Okay, I need to go right now.” Maybe if I run, if everything goes smoothly, I’ll be back before things get too real. It can take a long time. Birth isn’t an instant thing…I don’t think.
“No,” Jemma gasps. “No, don’t go. I need you.”
“But you’ll be okay, I have time.”
“No you don’t, you can’t leave me now. The pain is too much.” Her face confirms this as it twists into an ugly, agonized shape. She grabs onto her thighs so tightly that her knuckles turn a terrible shade of white.
Maybe there isn’t enough time.
“Right.” I nod, determination flooding me. There isn’t anyone else around, there’s no point in worrying about what I should’ve done, what I might need, the time is upon me. I just need to make best of what I have. I need to ensure this works. “Right, okay, so what should I do?”
“Water, I need water.” I grab one of the bottles and hand it to her. “Thanks, okay now...now just talk to me. I need to be distracted.”
“Right, okay, sure.” Distraction, that is one of the things that needs to be done during contractions. “So, what do you want to talk to me about?”
“Everything, anything.”
“Tell me about you.” If she needs distraction, then maybe she should be the one who talks.
“Okay, well before the apocalypse I worked in a nursing home. It was okay I guess but...argh God!” I reach my hand out to her and she takes it to squeeze. She causes me pain, but it’s nowhere near what I’m sure she’s going through. “Anyway, it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my education.”
“What did you want to do?”
I’m only half-listening to her story as I run my eyes all over her, checking her, trying to anticipate her needs before she has to vocalize them. Stress balls in my chest, there isn’t any way I’d be able to get through something like this without it bugging me, but there’s a strong sense of calm there too. It’s almost as if my body knows that I need to take charge.
“I wanted to be a lawyer, or something. Stupid, I was probably not clever enough. Maybe this mess saved me from my unfulfilled dreams.” She cackles, but there isn’t any mirth there. “And of course I had Tex.” A pause fills the air, one that I don’t know how to fill. “Damn it, Tex, why did you have to die? You got me in this mess, you should be here to help get me out of it.”
“I’m sure he’s watching over you.”
“Oh, what a crock. He’s monster food, dead, gone.”
“Do you really believe that?” I’ve never been spiritual myself, but if there was ever a time to contemplate stuff like that, it’s now.
“I dunno, it’s just easier I suppose. If I think about him watching over me, I’ll get all sad and there’s no point in that. What can we do these days? There isn’t any time to be heartbroken, we just have to keep on surviving.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right.”
We share a knowing smile, and in that moment I can see she’s glad to have me around. I’m sure she wasn’t at first, her idea of a hero probably wasn’t me, but now having anyone is better than being alone. This might’ve killed her if she had to do it by herself, at least now I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen no matter what.
“So, yeah, me and Tex got swept away in the group of people who set up camp a couple of kilometers away from here.” The group that somehow managed to miss me. “And I figured we’d wait it out until help came. By the time I noticed I’d piled on a ton of weight, it was obvious that help didn’t exist. So, I had to get used to the idea that my baby was going to grow up in,” she indicates wildly around her. “This.”
“You’ll be fine.” I grip her fingers tighter between mine. “I don’t know how we’re going to get through this, but we will.”
“This isn’t your mess,” she shoots back kindly. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me so far, but I don’t expect you to stick around forever.”
“Oh, nonsense. Of course, I’m going to stick around. This world is ugly, it’s a nightmare. None of us knows what’s going to happen, if the human race will even survive. But I do know that a baby is a blessing, and we need to pull together to ensure that your baby has the best life possible.”
Tears unexpectedly cascade down her, usually tough-as-nails, cheeks, so I pull her in for a hug. Jemma is like my family now, like the daughter I never had, and I intend to do everything that I can to protect her and the baby from everything going on out there.
“Oh God, this hurts. So freaking much. And it’s getting worse.”
“So, what was Tex like?” Keep on distracting, that’s all I can do. Without any pain killers, there’s no other option.
“Sweet, tall, handsome. Oh crikey! I met him in school, and I adored him from the very first time I laid eyes on him. I hope...argh! I hope our baby is just like him. He’s the good one. I’m the useless one, you know?”
“Well, I don’t know Tex, I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I do know you, and you’re not useless.”
“Oh God, I can’t be distracted anymore. It’s too much. The baby...I think the baby is coming now.”

***

Blood...no one ever warns you how much blood they’ll be when someone gives birth. Blood, and a whole bunch of other things I don’t want to even look at.
Sweat drips from my forehead, my body is weary and aching, I feel like I’ve been punched all over, like I’ve been in the worst fight of my life and I’ve only just survived...
But it’s all worth it.
“What...what are you going to call him?” Jemma might be exhausted, drained, and in a state, but I can barely breathe either. I’ve been through the ringer as well.
“Tex.” The look in her eyes is pure, boundless love. She’s cradling her little one, holding him close to her chest like he’s precious, made of china, and her baby stares back at her with equal adoration. They know each other, he might be new to me but they’ve been connected for nine months, and that shows. “Like his daddy.”
Is that...can I feel tears now in my eyes too? I never typically cry, but this is something else. This is a new start. It’s in the worst possible place, yet still it’s gorgeous.
“Will you hold him?” Jemma looks up at me and indicates towards little Tex. “Just for a moment, I need to see if I can still stand.”
“You...would trust me?” I haven’t ever held a baby before, but I haven’t ever felt connected to one either. This baby isn’t mine, but he holds a piece of my heart in his tiny little fingers.
“Of course,” she giggles a little too brightly for someone who’s just experienced an inhuman pain only moments before. “You protected me and Tex, you brought us this far. We never would’ve survived this far if it hadn’t been for you. I would’ve remained in that damn car until I died.”
“No, I’m sure...”
“Please, just hold Tex, just for a moment. Remember you said you were going to be there to help me? Well, you’re going to have to start now.”
I lean down and she piles Baby Tex into my arms, which makes my heart swell with utter joy. Life is meaningless without moments like this, this is what makes everything worth it. This is what I need to make existing feel worthwhile once more.
I will do whatever I can, I’m even more determined than before. I will give my life for Jemma and Tex, I will make sure that they live.
Somehow.