Last call for KND free Thriller excerpt:
by Mainak Dhar
A thriller from the author of the Amazon.com bestselling Alice in Deadland trilogy.When there were still people around to talk to, I would introduce myself as a drinker with a writing problem. It sounded witty at the time, and certainly got a smile once in a while from the ladies. None of that matters now. There are no people left to read my books, and nobody left to listen to my attempts at wit.
Now it’s just me, sitting in my house on the hill, watching the undead rampage through what we humans once called our world. I sometimes wonder why I still live when those much younger, stronger, smarter and fitter than me perished. Maybe it’s just dumb luck. But maybe I am being left alive for a purpose. Nobody may have cared much for my novel, but maybe this is what I was meant to write. Maybe this is what I was meant to be.
The chronicler of the undead.
This is my story.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
When there were still people around to talk to, I would introduce myself as a drinker with a writing problem. It sounded witty at the time, and certainly got a smile once in a while from the ladies. While I’d never have admitted it back then, it put a thin cover of wit over two problems that haunted me – the fact that I couldn’t seem to sleep without a drink and that for all my efforts, nobody seemed to want to read what I wrote. None of that matters now. There are no people left to read my books, and nobody left to listen to my attempts at wit. And yes, I think I will have to learn to sleep without alcohol.
Now it’s just me and this notebook, sitting in my house on the hill, watching Them rampage through what we humans once called our world with me as the only witness. Actually, there may be others out there, but after three months of not seeing another human being, I am beginning to wonder if anyone else survived, at least as a human. I’m certainly not going out to check. I may have been lucky so far, but am not about to tempt fate by venturing out among Them.
I sometimes wonder why I still live when those much younger, stronger, smarter and fitter than me perished. Maybe it’s just dumb luck. Maybe after laying our world to waste to fulfill whatever whim He wanted to satisfy, God showed a perverse sense of humor by leaving a good-for-nothing like me as the last remnant of the human race. But sometimes when I see Them at the foot of the hill while I scribble away, I wonder if I am being left alive for a purpose. Nobody may have cared much for my novel, but maybe this is what I was meant to write. Maybe this is what I was meant to be.
The chronicler of the undead.
Day 94. The day I was forced to go cold turkey.
I am beginning my journal ninety-four days after everything got seriously fucked up. Why now? Not that there are any shrinks out there to analyze my motivations, but perhaps one of them would have taken a shitload of my money to tell me that this is when I got over the initial shock of what I have seen unfold. The more prosaic truth is that this is the day when the bungalow where I’ve been shacked up for the last three months finally ran out of alcohol. Now that I’m not wasted half of the time, I need to find something to occupy myself with, and why not get back to what I once thought I was meant to do? Write.
Of course, there’s no laptop, so I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, and my hands are shaking as I write on this old notebook. Maybe it’s just the cold. It is bitterly cold here in Sikkim, given winter is almost upon us, and I’m thankful this bungalow still has a functioning generator. I have no idea how long it will last, and if it stops working before peak winter hits, then I am in seriously deep shit. But for now, it’s warm enough, and I can still afford the luxury of sipping hot soup from one of the several cans stockpiled in the attic.
They’re all over the valley down below, and I saw several hundred roam through the city, or what remains of it. It’s hard to understand what they’re trying to do, but they shuffle about, tearing down roofs and walls seemingly at random, and occasionally turning on each other. Those fights are never pretty affairs, and inevitably end with the loser being literally torn apart. I saw a fight this morning through my binoculars and it took some serious effort to keep my breakfast down.
All day, I watched Them and afterward, as I have done for the last three months, turned on my mobile phone for five minutes. Still no signal, and no hope of contacting anyone outside. I checked the radio yet again, and there was as usual no music other than the greatest hits of the Static Brothers. I left the TV on for some time as I always do, in the hope that someone will broadcast something and I’ll learn a bit more about what’s going on in the world, or if the world as I once knew it even exists. But partly, I leave it on because the hiss of the static at least provides some background noise, and makes things less lonely.
My hands are shaking even more as I end the entry for the day. Man, I could do with a drink. I just hope I can sleep tonight. They insist on coming out in even greater numbers at night, and I can hear their screeches and moans all around me. The alcohol at least helped shut some of that out. Oh yes, and it helped me ignore the stench they carry with them. Forget all the crap you read and see in zombie movies and books. What you most need to survive a zombie apocalypse is not a shotgun, but a bloody can of air freshener.
Day 96. Love in the time of zombies.
I was in too foul a mood to write yesterday, and for a while it looked as if my journal would not make it beyond its first entry. I barely slept the night before. Not having had my nightcap didn’t help my mood and They were out in larger numbers that I had ever seen them, screeching away as if it were some frigging zombie rock concert. In the middle of the night, I was so mad that I grabbed the rifle and was about to go out and take a few potshots, but then sanity prevailed. They’ve left me alone till now, why mess with them? Besides, if I ever feel suicidal, putting a bullet in my brain would probably be a better way to go than being eaten alive by Them.
However, last night I slept surprisingly well. Perhaps it was the backlog of sleep catching up on me or perhaps my body is adapting to the lack of drink better than my mind is.
So here I am, back at the desk overlooking the valley. There are only a couple of Them visible now. A few minutes ago, out of curiosity, I took a look through my binoculars. One of them had been a young girl, and she was still wearing the brightly colored clothes that you see so often among the mountain folk here. The other was a man who was wearing tattered jeans and a bloodied vest. The writer in me started thinking that perhaps they had been a couple who had been turned and were still together. Did They feel any such emotions even after turning into the blood-soaked ghouls that they now were?
That line of thinking ended abruptly when the male grabbed the female and snapped her neck before biting deep into her flesh.
Day 97. How it all began
I spent the morning making sure none of Them had come any closer to the bungalow I now call home. The winding path leading up the hill was still unmarked and there was no sign of any of Them nearby. I remember my heart pounding as I ventured out and I was so relieved to be back inside, and thankful that my former employer had kept such a well-stocked getaway to host his Nepalese mistress. There was lots of bottled water, canned food and as I’ve mentioned, a pair of binoculars and a rifle. It’s an ancient Lee Enfield .303 of the sort cops still favor in India, but it’ll do the job at long range, and if They get too close, I doubt my one good leg will carry me too far before They get me. Once I got back, I started thinking about this journal and decided that my random musings aside, in case anyone ever chances upon it, I may as well serve some useful purpose by recording what has been happening.
Don’t ask me how it all began, because I have no frigging clue. I was at a local watering hole, having been dismissed for the night, drinking Tsing Tao beer brought in from across the Chinese border and getting smashed with a couple of other ex-Army types. The chick on TV was talking about some virus. Different networks had different names for it, but the one that seemed to stick was Wild Dog Virus. You’ve got to hand it to whoever comes up with these names. Mad Cow and now Wild Dog. But unlike all the previous animal monikers, this one did not go away with the media frenzy far exceeding the death toll. This one spread like wildfire. It took just a couple of days for the major cities to be affected, and in little old Gangtok, while we were initially untouched, we watched it unfold on TV screens. That was when the toad I had for a boss bolted and left me here in his holiday retreat.
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I get to my boss and how I happened to be appointed Guardian of his Weekend Fornication (now, is that a cool job title or what? If I ever get such a gig again, and assuming there’s anyone left alive, let alone horny old business tycoons, to offer me such a job, I’ll ensure that’s what they print on my business card), let me tell you a little bit about myself.
Hold on. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, I just heard something on the radio.
False alarm. My mind must be playing games with me, or maybe I’ve started to appreciate the musical genius of the Static Brothers.
Day 98. The one-legged man.
I’m beginning to like this writing routine. It keeps me from just staring at Them down there and gives me something to do. So where was I? Oh yes, my horny boss. But to get to him, I need to go a bit further back. See, once upon a time, there was a soldier in the Indian Army who spent more time than any sane man should sitting in god-forsaken mountain passes looking at similarly miserable Chinese soldiers. This soldier may have been a grunt but had a dream of being a writer, and would spend many evenings working on his book. He had a novel that had accumulated so many rejection slips that if you stapled them together, they would make for a pretty hefty book by themselves, but he hadn’t yet given up.
This was back in 2013, when if you remember your history, there was a fair bit of saber-rattling by politicians on both sides of the India-China border as they tried to distract the unwashed masses from inflation and slowing economies. As often happens, the old politicians give speeches in their air-conditioned offices, and we poor schmucks are left holding the body bags. Or a severed leg in my case.
Two of my men had strayed across the border. Happened all the time. At ten thousand feet up, where you see more goats than people, who knows where the bloody border that some drunk Englishman drew sixty years ago on a map is anyways? Difference was that this time some Chinese officer took the rhetoric seriously and killed both of them. They were good men. Men with families. Killed because some fat fool made some angry speeches and some stupid officer was mad or drunk enough to act on them.
My men wanted to get even, and I was pissed. I was doubly pissed when the powers that be hushed up their deaths, since they did not want ‘escalation’. So I did what I should never have done, but seemed to do all too often. I let body organs other than my brain dictate my course of action.
To cut a long story short, we went after the Chinese platoon responsible and wreaked some nice havoc. We attacked at night, and I had the satisfaction of shooting that son of a bitch officer myself. Callous, you think? Well, I don’t need you judging me. I’m the last man left in this madhouse, and I’m allowed my bouts of insensitivity.
On the way back, after not getting a single scratch in the whole battle, I fell down a crevice after a landslide. I lost a leg, we lost four men, and my military career lost whatever future it may have had. I soon found relief only in the neighborhood pub. The Army at least paid for the prosthetic leg, I suspect in part because they didn’t want me to go to the media. In addition to all the rest, I shortly lost my wife. She walked out after I came home piss-drunk one time too many.
I don’t think I need to make excuses to you, so I won’t try. Would I have done things differently if I could? You bet, but there’s no point thinking about that now. Everyone is a genius with benefit of hindsight, and everyone’s self-image is always a bit rose-tinted in the rear view mirror. I have seen too much shit to harbor any such delusions. I know who and what I am, and now it frankly doesn’t matter if I’m an asshole, because the only ones whom I can piss off or hurt are the undead shufflers below, and I seriously doubt they are the sensitive sort.
Back after a break. They are down in the valley, clawing at some building. I really can’t figure out what they are up to. I am no expert on this, but I’ve watched my share of zombie movies, and at first sight, that’s what They seem like. Nothing more than bloody monsters out to attack anyone, and believe me, I’ve seen them rip people apart. But there’s more to them. I can’t figure out why they roam around, sometimes turning on each other, sometimes attacking buildings. And unlike the zombies you may have seen in movies, they do die. I’ve seen enough of them do that, and I’ve shot my share in the early days to be sure on that count. It makes no sense, but when they’re rampaging, I don’t want to take any chances. A few minutes ago, I got the rifle ready and drew a bead on them. I’m sure I could take out a few from here, but if they wanted to come up the hill in force, I wouldn’t last very long. But They never seem to come up the hill. Again, no idea why, but I’m not complaining. I may be lonely but They aren’t the kind of company I’d exactly invite over for dinner. Especially not knowing that I was the main course.
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