Just the other day we announced that Mainak Dhar’s suspense-filled ALICE IN DEADLAND was our new Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt, and we’re happy to share the news that this terrific read at 99 cents and FREE for Amazon Prime Members via Kindle Lending Library for Kindle Nation readers during its TOTW reign!
by Mainak Dhar
The sensational Amazon.com bestseller. #1 Science Fiction and Horror bestseller. More than 50,000 copies sold in less than three months.
Civilization as we know it ended more than fifteen years ago, leaving as it’s legacy barren wastelands called the Deadland and a new terror for the humans who survived- hordes of undead Biters.
Fifteen year-old Alice has spent her entire life in the Deadland, her education consisting of how best to use guns and knives in the ongoing war for survival against the Biters. One day, Alice spots a Biter disappearing into a hole in the ground and follows it, in search of fabled underground Biter bases.
What Alice discovers there propels her into an action-packed adventure that changes her life and that of all humans in the Deadland forever. An adventure where she learns the terrible conspiracy behind the ruin of humanity, the truth behind the origin of the Biters, and the prophecy the mysterious Biter Queen believes Alice is destined to fulfill.
A prophecy based on the charred remains of the last book in the Deadland- a book called Alice in Wonderland.
If you enjoy Alice in Deadland, also check out Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar for another action packed thriller with a unique twist on the zombie genre and Vimana the Amazon.com sci-fi bestseller by Mainak Dhar.
Learn more about the world of Alice in Deadland and engage with the author and other readers at the new Alice in Deadland Facebook Group. Go to facebook.com/groups/345795412099089.
This story has a great premise, and the delivery flows from one chapter to the next without any missing chunks or awkward pacing. A tale well told, and I look forward to anything written by this fertile author.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the hill, and of having no Biters to shoot. Once or twice she peeped through her sniper rifle’s scope, but could see no targets. ‘What is the use of an ambush’, thought Alice, ‘without any Biters to shoot in the head?’
Alice was fifteen, and had been born just three months after The Rising. Her older sister and parents sometimes talked of how the world had been before. They talked of going to the movies, of watching TV, of taking long drives in the countryside, of school. Alice could relate to none of that. The only life she had known was one of hiding from the Biters. The only education that she knew to be useful consisted of three simple lessons – if a Biter bites you, you will become one of them; if a Biter bites someone you know, it doesn’t matter whether that person was your best friend, they were now a Biter and would rip your throat out in a heartbeat; and if you could take only one shot, aim for the head. Only the head. Nothing else would put a Biter down for good.
So here she was, lying on a small hillock, her rifle at her shoulder, waiting to pick off any stragglers who escaped the main force. The first few years of her life had been one of hiding, and of surviving from one day to another. But then the humans had begun to regroup and fight back, and the world had been engulfed in a never-ending war between the living and the undead. Alice’s parents were part of the main assault force that was now sweeping through a group of Biters that had been spotted near their settlement. She could hear the occasional pop of guns firing, but so far no Biters had come their way. Her sister was lying quietly, as always obedient and somber. Alice could not imagine just lying here, getting bored when the action was elsewhere, so she crawled away to the edge of the small hill they were on and peered through her scope, trying to get a glimpse of the action.
That’s when she saw him. The Biter was wearing pink bunny ears of all things. That in itself did not strike Alice as strange. When someone was bitten and joined the undead, they just continued to wear what they had been wearing when they were turned. Perhaps this one had been at a party when he had been bitten. The first Biter she had shot had been wearing a tattered Santa Claus suit. Unlike kids before The Rising, she had not needed her parents to gently break the news that Santa Claus was not real. What was truly peculiar about this Biter was that he was not meandering about mindlessly but seemed to be looking for something. The Biters were supposed to be mindless creatures, possessed of no intelligence other than an overpowering hunger to bite the living. She braced herself, centering the crosshairs of her scope on the Biter’s head. He was a good two hundred meters away and moving fast, so it was hardly going to be an easy shot.
That’s when the Biter with the bunny ears dropped straight into the ground.
Alice looked on, transfixed, and then without thinking of what she was getting into, ran towards the point where the Biter had seemingly been swallowed up by the ground. Her heart was pounding as she came closer. For months there had been rumors that the Biters had created huge, underground bases where they hid and from which they emerged to wreak havoc. There were stories of entire human armies being destroyed by Biters who suddenly materialized out from the ground and then disappeared. However, nobody had yet found such a base and these stories were largely dismissed as being little more than fanciful fairy tales. Had Alice managed to find such a base?
Her excitement got the better of her caution, and she ran on alone. She should have alerted her sister, she should have called for reinforcements, she should have done a lot of things. But at that moment, all she remembered was where the Biter had dropped into the ground and of what would happen if she had truly found an underground Biter base. She was an excellent shot, far better than most of the adults in the settlement, and she was fast. If there was one thing she had been told by all her teachers since she started training, it was that she was a born fighter. She could put a man twice her size on the mat in the wink of an eye, and she had shown her mettle in numerous skirmishes against the Biters. Yet, she was not allowed to lead raids far from the settlement. That had always grated, but with her father being one of the leaders of the settlement, she was unable to do anything to change that. He claimed that her excellent shooting and scouting skills were better used in defensive roles close to their settlement, and had promised her that when she was older he would reconsider, but she knew that was a nervous father speaking, not the leader of their settlement.
This could change all that.
Suddenly she felt the ground give way under her and she felt herself falling. She managed to hold onto her rifle, but found herself sliding down a smooth, steep and curving slope. There seemed to be no handholds or footholds for her to slow her descent or to try and climb back up. She looked up to see the hole through which light was streaming in disappear as the tunnel she was falling down curved and twisted.
Alice screamed as she continued falling in utter darkness.
It took Alice a few minutes to get her bearings, as she was totally disoriented in the dark and also winded by her fall. She saw that her fall had been broken by a thick cushioning of branches and leaves. She had heard whispers that the Biters were not the mindless drones that many adults dismissed them to be, but those accounts had been dismissed by most people as fanciful tales. She wondered if there was some truth to those rumors after all. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness she saw a sliver of light to her right and crawled towards it. As she went deeper into the tunnel, while she still could not see much, the smell was unmistakable. The rotten stench that she knew came from only one possible source- the decayed bodies of the undead. Even though she had seen the aftermath of many a skirmish with the Biters, and was no stranger to the stench, she found herself gagging. As she came closer to the light, she saw that the tunnel opened into a small room that was lit by crudely fashioned torches hung on the walls.
She could hear some voices and as she peeped around the corner, she saw that the rabbit-eared Biter she had followed down was in animated conversation with two others. One of them was, or rather had been in life, perhaps a striking young woman. Now her skin was yellowing and decayed and hung in loose patches on her face. Her clothes were tattered and bloodied. The other Biter with her was a plump, short man who seemed to have the better part of his left side torn off, perhaps by a mine or a grenade. Alice had been around weapons for as long as she could remember, and while all humans now needed to be able to defend themselves, Alice had shown a special talent for fighting, perhaps one her mother did not always approve of. Her mother had wanted Alice to do as the other young people did and stand on guard duty close to the settlements, but Alice had always wanted to be in the forefront, to feel the thrill that came with it. Now, Alice thought, she had perhaps got more thrills than she had ever bargained for. She was trapped in an underground Biter base, with no apparent way out.
The Biters were talking in a mixture of growls and moans, but they seemed to be communicating with each other. Now that she got a closer look at the rabbit-eared Biter she had followed in, she realized that he had been in life not much older than her. Perhaps he had been on his way to a costume party when he had been bitten. As he turned his head, Alice saw what may have once been a smile now replaced by a feral grin that revealed bloodied teeth.
Alice’s heart stopped as Bunny Ears looked straight at her. For a second she hoped that he had not seen her, but he bared his teeth and emitted a screeching howl that sent a shiver up her spine. As all three Biters turned to look at her, she exploded into action.
Alice’s grasp of the alphabet may have been tenuous despite her mother’s many failed attempts to teach her the languages of yore. But after The Rising, Alice saw no use for them- there were no books to read, and no time to read them even if they had remained. But what Alice excelled in school at, and could do almost without conscious thought, was how to thumb the safety off her handgun and bring it up to a two handed hold within three seconds. The first shot took the fat Biter squarely in the forehead and he went down with an unceremonious flop. As the two others bore down on her in the slight loping, lumbering gait the Biters were known for, she fired again and again, the shots from her gun echoing in the underground cavern. She hit the female Biter at least twice in the chest and then knocked her flat with a head shot. Bunny Ears was now barely a few feet away when Alice’s handgun clicked empty. She cursed under her breath at her horrible aim, realizing just how much easier it was to shoot at targets in practice or snipe from hundreds of meters away compared to being so close to Biters out for her blood, and with her heart hammering so fast she could barely keep her hands straight, let alone aim.
Alice heard footsteps and howls behind her, and realized with a stab of panic that she was now well and truly trapped between Bunny Ears and others who may have come behind her down the hole.
She looked around frantically and saw a small opening in the wall to her right. She ran towards Bunny Ears, diving down at the last minute beneath his outstretched fingers that were crusted over with dried blood. Alice stood only about five feet tall, and was lean, but she had been top of her class in unarmed combat. She swept her legs under the Biter, coming up in one seamless motion as Bunny Ears fell down in a heap. She ran towards the hole in the wall and turned around to see at least four more Biters coming behind her.
Alice fumbled at her belt and took the lone flash bang grenade she had slung there. As she ran into the hole she pulled the pin and rolled it on the ground behind her, and then continued to run at full speed into the darkness of the hole. She heard the thump of the grenade a few seconds later, hoping that the intense flash of light it emitted would slow down her pursuers for a few seconds and buy her some time.
With that hope came a sobering thought. Time to do what? She was stuck deep inside what seemed to be a Biter base, and was running ever deeper into its recesses. She was well and truly trapped.
Alice ran till she was out of breath and stopped, going down on her knees, more tired and scared than she had ever been. The darkness and narrowness of the passage she was in did not help, as it made her feel disoriented and claustrophobic. At least she could no longer hear footsteps behind her. That did not surprise her. While the flash bang would not stop the Biters, she knew they hated very bright light, and it would certainly have slowed them down. Also, she was a very fit young girl who could outrun most of the people in their settlement, whereas the Biters pursuing her, while feared for their feral violence, moved with their characteristic stiff, loping gait, which meant she would be able to outrun them in any flat out race. The problem was that she was trapped in their base, and all they had to do was to tire her out.
When she thought she heard distant footsteps behind her, her fear gave her a second wind and she started running again, clutching her side, which had begun to hurt from the exertion. She ran into a wall, and fell back hard on her back, realizing that the tunnel turned ahead of her. As she looked past the turning, she saw what appeared to be a door framed by light coming from behind it. She ran towards it, and as she came closer, she was stunned to see a familiar figure drawn on the door. It was a seal showing an eagle framed by letters that were barely visible in the light coming from behind it. She started trying to read the letters and got past the U, N and I before she realized she did not need to tax her limited reading skills to understand what it showed. She had seen a similar seal in old papers her father kept locked away in a dusty box. Once he had told her something about him having worked in the United States Embassy in New Delhi before The Rising. She had understood little of what he had meant, though other kids around the settlement had told her that her father had been some sort of important man in the governments of the Old World. They had told her that she and her family had come from another land called America, which was why her blond hair and fair skin looked so different from her brown friends. But none of that mattered much to Alice, or to anyone else anymore. The old governments and countries were long gone. Now all people, irrespective of their old countries, religions or politics were bound together in but one overriding compact- the need to survive in the face of the Biter hordes. She had heard tales of how human nations had waged wars against each other, driven by the Gods they worshipped, or the desire to grab oil. Alice remembered laughing when her teacher at the makeshift school in the settlement had told her class about those days. She had thought her teacher was telling them some tall tales. What was it the old folks called them? The ones who had read the books before the undead rose and the world burned.
Yes, fairy tales.
When Alice heard footsteps behind her, she was snapped back to reality, and she struggled with the door in front of her, trying desperately to open it. She found a handle and pulled it with all her strength, and finally found the door budging. The door was made of heavy metal, and it sapped all her strength to open it enough for her to slip through. She looked back through the open door and heard the roars before she saw shadows appear in the tunnel. She pulled the door shut, hoping that what she had heard about Biters being stupid was right. That old joke about how many Biters it took to open a door.
She took a look around the room she was in and saw that it was lit by a single small kerosene lamp on the ceiling, and was filled with papers and files that crammed the shelves lining the walls. There was a small desk in a corner and when she walked to it, she saw some old newspapers on it. She had never seen a newspaper in her life, and was fascinated by the pictures and words she saw. She didn’t need to read the words to know what they showed. They were relics of the last days during The Rising and its aftermath. There were grainy pictures of the first appearances of the undead, which she imagined for those who had never seen before them must have been quite a sight. Then there were pictures of burnt and charred cities- the remains of the Great Fire that the human governments had unleashed on so many cities when it seemed like all was lost. That was the barren, bleak landscape that Alice had known as home- the wastelands outside New Delhi, where millions had died in the Biter outbreak and then millions more as governments tried to contain the outbreak by using nuclear weapons on the key outbreak centers. Man had proven to be the most jealous of lovers, preferring to destroy the Earth rather than give her up. But it had not been enough, and in the fires of that apocalypse was born a renewed struggle for survival between humans and the undead in the wasteland that was now known simply as the Deadland.
Alice had been so transfixed by what she saw that she had forgotten all about securing the other doors to the room, and she screamed in agony when she realized that there was another door, partially obscured by a chair, which was ajar. She heard footsteps behind it, and realized that what she was taken for escape was in fact nothing more than a death trap.
She took out her handgun from her belt and as she felt for the safety, remembered with dismay that in all the chaos she had forgotten to reload. As she saw shadows enter the door, she realized she had no time for that any more. She unslung the sniper rifle from her shoulders. As such close quarters, there was no hope of her putting it to much use as a long range weapon, but there were other ways to make it count.
As a child, Alice had forever been getting into scrapes, and her parents would never tire of telling her to back down once in a while, instead of wading into every fight. But once after she had shot two Biters during a night-time raid, her father had got quite drunk to celebrate and told her that he loved her spirit and that no matter what the odds, she should never give into fear. To be afraid in the face of the undead was to die, or worse, to become one of them.
As Alice remembered her father’s words, she felt her fear slip away. She knew that the Biters tried to bite and turn every human they found, but also that the humans who fought back the hardest sometimes enraged them so much that they ripped them apart, killing them instead of turning them into the undead.
Better dead than undead.
That had been the motto of the school where they had been taught survival and combat skills. Whereas little girls before The Rising may have been playing with their toys or watching TV, Alice had grown up playing with guns, explosives and learning the best way to destroy the undead. And she had been the best in her class.
She was now swinging the rifle in front of her like a staff, moving it around her fingers so it cut sharp circles through the air. Three Biters came in, and as the first reached for her, she cracked him across the forehead and leaned toward him, sweeping his legs under him as he went down. The next up was a squat woman wearing the tattered, bloody remains of a saree, and incongruously enough, a huge diamond solitaire earring on her left ear. The right ear was missing. Alice delivered a roundhouse kick that sent Ms. Solitaire stumbling back and then reversed the sniper rifle in her hand, firing a single shot that disintegrated the Biter’s head. The third Biter, a tall man with his jaw missing, was almost upon her when she hit him hard in the face with the butt of her rifle. Biters might feel no pain, but it unbalanced him enough for Alice to jump back a few steps and put another round into his chest. Only a head shot would put down a Biter for good, but a high powered sniper rifle bullet did impressive enough damage and slowed one down no matter where it hit. A gaping hole opened in the Biter’s chest as he slumped back. Alice knew he’d be at her throat soon enough so she tried to chamber another round in her rifle.
That was when she felt her right arm caught in a cold, clammy grip that was so strong she screamed and dropped her rifle. Bunny Ears was back and he was bringing his face back to bite her arm. Alice kicked him in the shin, but he did not even wince as he came closer to delivering the bite that would be the last thing Alice felt before she became one of them.
Alice did the last thing he perhaps expected. She head-butted him and as he staggered back and loosened his grip on her arm, she vaulted over the desk and stood with her back to the wall. There were now no less than six Biters gathered in front of her, and Alice suppressed the welling panic within as she unsheathed the curved hunting knife that was always by her side. Bunny Ears snarled and screamed in rage, a hellish concerto that was soon taken up by all the Biters in the room. Alice had heard of this ritual before. It meant the Biters were going to rip some human apart instead of trying to convert them.Alice reversed the knife in her right hand and stood with her legs slightly spread apart, just as she had mastered in countless hours of unarmed combat practice. Her teacher there had been some sort of elite commando in the armies of the old governments, and he had told her she was his best student. She slowed her breathing, focusing on the creatures in front of her, trying to block out her fear, trying to still her mind. As Bunny Ears stepped toward her, she gripped the knife handle tight and readied herself.Better dead than undead.
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by Mainak Dhar