Authors: T. W. Brown
Fortune & Failures
Dead: Fortune & Failures
Written by: TW Brown
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May December Publications LLC
Dead: Fortunes & Failures
©2011 May December Publications LLC
Split-tree logo a registered trademark of May December Publications LLC
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living, dead, or otherwise, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author or May December Publications LLC.
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To My Wife
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As I sit here transcribing my handwritten original to the form you now hold in your hands…I am so humbly honored that you are still here. I had lofty dreams and aspirations when I began this series. (What writer doesn’t?) While I haven’t landed on any Best Sellers list, the support I have received from the core fan base (no matter how small it may be) has been beyond my hopes and expectations. And while I may not have a hundred reviews on Amazon.com, the ones I receive are meaningful to me and push me to keep doing what I do
, is now completing its first arc. Book three marks the quarter-way-done mark. I have wrapped up a few loose ends and tried to give a satisfying point for you to set this book down and say, “That was fun!” That said, I have nine more installments in the wings.
For the zombie fan, I hope that I have created a world that feels real. I hope there are people you love…hate…and love to hate in these pages. I never wanted this to simply be “another zombie story” with all the usual hooks and clichés. In fact, I often find myself writing and come to the realization that nary a zombie has been mentioned for a spell. That is by design.
So, strap in…this is the end of the first leg of our journey. One that I hope you will find satisfying. For those who have complained that they would like just Steve’s story…or just the Geeks, stay tuned. I am putting together a special edition that takes all three parts and gives them their own book complete with bonus material. Anybody want to know about Garrett’s mother? Or what happened to the Geeks in Pittsburgh? And what ever happened to the friend who called Steve when the whole thing began?
I have tons of people to thank. However, I usually do so directly. And seriously…how many of you read this looking for the litany of names who helped the writer? Just those he or she thanked most likely. However, there is somebody I truly want to thank. Chances are I have never done so directly. So here it is. Thank you. Yes…you…the person reading this. You are the reason I do this. To make you laugh, cry, or cringe. You, the person reading these words, I thank you with all my heart.
Call me when it’s over!
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Geek’s Bounty
Chapter 2 – Home Sweet Home
Chapter 3 – Vignettes XIII
Chapter 4 – Geeky Soulmate
Chapter 5 – Death Knocks
Chapter 6 – Vignettes XIV
Chapter 7 – Ménage a Geek
Chapter 8 – More Good News
Chapter 9 – Vignettes XV
Chapter 10 – Geek Power
Chapter 11 – Win Some…Lose Some
Chapter 12 – Vignettes XVI
Chapter 13 – Geek Tragedy
Chapter 14 – Problems Solved
Chapter 15 – Vignettes XVII
Chapter 16 – Geek Delivery
Chapter 17 – “We are Gathered…”
Chapter 18 – Vignettes XVIII
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Almost a week had passed. Kevin had stopped being able to smell either Heather or himself a few days ago. Still, there was enough intermittent noise down below and outside to keep him from daring to venture from this dark, stuffy attic that they’d taken refuge in. The only thing he was certain of at this point was that Shaw and his men were gone.
For perhaps the thousandth time, he gave serious consideration to the shotgun sitting within reach. He’d do Heather first, then shove the barrel against the roof of his mouth. He didn’t want to leave the slightest possibility that he might merely cause serious damage. He wanted to make sure that there wasn’t enough to identify him using dental records; not that there were any dentists around anymore.
, Kevin thought,
if it comes to it, I want to be VERY dead.
He shook the bottle leaning against his thigh. They would be out of water by tomorrow, even with the strictest rationing. Yesterday he’d heard it raining. Never was he more thankful for the darkness. It wouldn’t do his ego any good to have Heather see him cry. Now he was starting to hallucinate, because he was almost certain that he’d been drawn from his restless dreams by a female voice.
“Heather,” he whispered. No response. That was actually a relief. He could feel his guts churning and knew that things were about to become…unpleasant.
He could bear-crawl to the far corner that they’d designated as the toilet area. He would be able to take care of his nasty business in semi-private. Then, perhaps he might even risk taking a peek through the hatch that led to the office below.
As carefully and as quietly as possible, he made his way to the far corner. His body did things…made sounds and released smells that mortified him to the core. Once he was finished, he tore off a few strips from the shirt they’d chosen to use as toilet paper. The only thing that he felt good about at the moment was that he hadn’t puked this time.
Crawling over to the trap door, Kevin took a breath to steady his nerves and then pulled the square hatch up. He looked down into the debris-strewn cooridor. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the change in light. It didn’t appear that too many zombies had made it up the stairwell that led from the bank’s lobby to the business offices above where they’d fled.
He’d gone down a few times to look around and never managed to venture farther than halfway down the stairs before retreating. He didn’t need to see. The moans and wheezes of the undead told him all he needed to know.
were in the open bank lobby in numbers too great for him and Heather to even consider fighting through. Unfortunately, they were almost out of options. Time had waited out their hand and was ready to collect. The window of opportunity to make a move was now…or never.
Lowering the knotted rope, Kevin climbed down. His arms burned from even that small effort. It was becoming more difficult each time; further proof that they had to act. They needed food and water. The thought of eating another package of Ramen noodles dry and washing it down with a few swallows of lukewarm water had no appeal.
One stair at a time, he crept down to the shattered doorway.
, his mind chanted. For the first time, he’d actually made it past the tenth one; only five to go. His hearing was hyper-sensitive and he could make out even the slightest rustle of a dollar bill partially stuck to ther floor by a congealed puddle of dried blood. Or at least he believed he could.
Was that the wind blowing through a narrow hole, or a zombie’s dry moan?
Was there a cluster of them waiting right behind the door, ready to tear him apart as soon as he stuck his head out?
Finally, he reached the three-by-three sallyport that the door would open in to. He wouldn’t need to push the door open; there was a huge hole from the shotgun blast that had served as his impromptu master key when they’d escaped into this place. Peeking out, he could actually see a good portion of the bank’s lobby: empty.
Well…that wasn’t entirely true. The floor was littered with decaying bodies—all partially obscured by clouds of flies. There were bullet holes and shotgun blast patterns everywhere. Dark, chunky stains decorated the walls and floor in Pollack-like designs. There were two bodies in amidst the carnage that looked “fresher” than the rest, most likely Shaw’s men.
Risking it, Kevin gripped the door by its edge and pushed it open. The enormous tinted windows were gone. There were bodies strewn everywhere, some in actual piles, both inside and outside the gaping holes where the windows had once been. Many of the bodies were burnt to a crisp; the rains long since extinguishing them.
Slowly, he skirted the edge of the lobby and looked out onto the street. The husk of their SUV sat on blackened rims. The street appeared vacant! Did he dare sneak out and take a look around? The last thing he wanted was for something to happen that would leave Heather alone.
He stood in the gaping hole and surveyed the ruins. What had life been like here in Newark, Ohio? Were the people friendly? Did they have an annual cookout…comic book, horror, or sci-fi convention?
The sky was clear, and already it was growing warm. After the rains of the past few days, the humidity was going to be through the roof. He wasn’t too familiar with the weather patterns in these parts, but he’d lived in Columbia, South Carolina for a while and knew full well what to expect. This only increased the need for him to find water.
Stepping cautiously out onto the glass strewn and corpse littered sidewalk, Kevin took a look both ways up what the sign dangling from beside the stoplight identified as “W Church St”. The cross street remained a mystery since the sign had apparently fallen. Not that it mattered. He crouched and tried his best to stay behind cover as he moved through what looked like a horrific battlezone.
He reached a bullet-riddled military vehicle. The door to the driver’s side was gone. There were at least five rotting, bloated corpses in or partially in the cab. Something made Kevin move in for a closer look. A man with a bullet hole in his forehead was visible amidst the jumble. It was obvious that this guy had been savaged by the pack of zombies heaped on top of him. Kevin recognized the face: one of Shaw’s men from that terrible night at the RV campground; he still had nightmares about that night.
From the roof of the combination shower/bathroom, he’d watched helplessly as a pack of goons shot one of his friends, Darrin Goldburn, stole all their stuff, and kidnapped Senator Angela Bergman and her three daughters. The middle daughter, Shari, had been one of those over-processed, no-talent pop stars whose videos were more about her writhing around in next to nothing than about the music. But it was the oldest daughter, Ruth, that snagged Kevin hook, line, and sinker.