Authors: Chrissy Peebles
Tags: #teen, #Young Adult, #Horror, #zombie, #Adventure, #zombies
The Zombie Chronicles
Book 5 – Undead Nightmare
Apocalypse Infection Unleashed Series
Copyright 2013 by Chrissy Peebles
Cover design by: Patrick Griffith
Edited by: Autumn J. Conley, [email protected]
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
To: My wonderful God and Jesus,
Alex, Faith, and Matthew,
and my fantastic editor, Autumn. Girl, you rock!
I gripped the steering wheel and glanced out the rearview mirror to make sure the long caravan of cars behind us had managed to keep up. The window was all the way down, allowing the morning air to whip my hair into a bed-head frenzy.
Jackie, my girlfriend, didn’t seem to notice my disheveled hair as she sat in the passenger side next to me. “You haven’t said a word since we left,” she finally said, looking at me with pain evident in her eyes. “What ya thinking about, Dean?”
“After everything we just went through, I just…” I blew out a breath and managed to keep my eyes focused on the road. “Well, all kinds of stuff, I guess.”
She glanced out the window. “I get it. It seems like it’s a battle just to live through every single day. I guess we’ve learned the hard way that tomorrow isn’t promised. We just have to keep fighting.”
“Welcome to the zombie apocalypse,” I said, only half-joking.
She squeezed my hand. “At least I’m not alone in all this madness.”
I felt such a magnetic pull to Jackie, this amazing unspoken connection. I shot her a half-smile before she turned her attention back to the book she was reading. Nick, my brother, was all snuggled up next to Jackie’s cousin in the back seat, Claire, both of them exhausted and trying to sleep off the nightmarish memories of the horrible ordeal we’d been through. We’d only left the nursing home an hour earlier, but it felt as if we’d been driving forever, trying to get as far away as possible.
So many thoughts rushed through my head that they almost made me dizzy. I couldn’t stop thinking about the black bag of vials that were finally in our possession. They had saved Val, Jackie, and Claire, but they weren’t 100 percent effective. Those who had taken the serum, the so-called miracle cure for zombie-itis, were easy enough to spot, since they had glowing green eyes and were suddenly equipped with night vision that would have made the average bat jealous, but that was only one side effect. Much to our dismay, the other side effect wasn’t quite so tolerable. Some cured people turned back into zombies but retained control of their reasoning, logical minds, virtually turning them into cannibals capable of thinking, calculating, stalking, and killing their victims. We’d decided to call them hybrids, and I feared that my sister, my girlfriend, and my potential future cousin-in-law were about to morph into just that. I glanced over at Jackie and then in the rearview mirror again.
Is it only a matter of time? Does that happen to everyone who takes the serum, or are some immune to that side effect?
Our only hope for answers was to go to the lab, and I hoped the answers we’d finally get would be honest—and good news.
Larry and Sam from our group saluted and laughed as they suddenly sped in front of us in a red pickup. Two other cars followed with the gang I’d met previously when they accompanied me to the restaurant to stock up on guns and ammo and rescue Carla. I still harbored ill feelings toward Larry and Sam and couldn’t possibly get over the fact that they’d shot Mike in cold blood back in that abandoned, flooded house. As for the rest of the gang, I didn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. There was something eerily unsettling about how they talked about shooting the entire family back at the restaurant just so we could steal all their bullets and weapons; it was as if they were proud of it, and I found that disturbing. I told Nick my thoughts about that, but he just shrugged it off.
Halfway over the bridge, they slowed to a halt, and I had no choice but to stop and see what was wrong. I thought maybe they’d spotted a herd up ahead and thought we should turn back. I glanced once again in the rearview mirror to see if Val and Lucas were getting out of the vehicle to discuss what was going on. They didn’t, so I decided to wait and see what would happen. “Hey, Nick, wake up!” I said. “They’re stopping.”
“Huh?” he asked in a groggy voice.
“Larry, Sam, and the gang up ahead,” I said. “They just stopped, and I’m not sure why.”
He opened his eyes and shot me a questioning look. “What? What for? And how did they get ahead of us in the first place? Why must you drive like a ninety-year-old woman all the time?”
Rolling my eyes at my brother, who seemed to always find occasion to insult me, I opened the door. “Lemme go see what’s going on.”
Just as I started to step out, I heard the squealing and screeching of tires as one of the cars spun around in a hurry and came back our way.
“Whoa! Something’s wrong!” Jackie said. “They’re running from something. Turn around, Nick! Quick! Step on it!”
Claire gripped the seat like a terrified kid on a rollercoaster. “Yeah, something’s not right.”
I tried to swallow the sudden knot in my throat. I didn’t see any zombies, but I wasn’t about to stick around to see if we had any undead, hungry company. The others were panicking and trying to get out of there, and that was good enough reason for me to get the heck out of Dodge or wherever we were. Still, no matter what was happening, I knew we needed to stay calm and focused.
Just as I began to shut the door, their engine revved up, and the red pickup bolted straight for us, then rammed into the side of our vehicle with a jolt. My head snapped back forcibly from the collision, and our SUV spun sideways, crashing through the guardrail with a loud
A second later, when I came back to my senses, I realized our SUV was hanging precariously over the edge, creaking and moaning like it was about to give way. When I glanced out the back window, I noticed the smug, deliberate, sinister grin on Larry’s face, and I knew it was no accident. The hairs on my neck rose.
“Wh-what’s going on?” Jackie screamed, clinging to the seat. “Why’d they do that?”
The words remained frozen in my throat, and I could only shake my head in shared disbelief.
Claire looked out the window and gasped, then stifled a scream with her hand.
Another crash echoed in the air as another pickup, careened into the vehicle next to us, sending Val, Lucas, Asia, and Kate over the edge.
I could only watch in helpless terror as the car toppled off the bridge and crashed into the river. “Val!” I shouted. I tried to open my door, but it was jammed against the guardrail and wouldn’t budge more than three inches. I suppressed a shudder.
When the relentless red pickup truck rammed into us again, my door finally sprung open, and I was thrown from the vehicle. I clung to the open door for dear life as I dangled over the roaring river, our SUV teetering on the edge. My fingers wrapped around the metal, and I hung on with everything I had.
Hissing and moans caught my attention, and when I dared a glance below me, I saw a herd of zombies dotting the riverbank, presumably trying to figure out a way to retrieve their screaming meal from the bridge. We had to get out of there, and fast.
“Dean!” Nick shouted. “Hang on!”
“Larry, you’re such an idiot!” Sam scolded. “I told you not to hit ‘em that hard the first time, and then you go and hit ‘em again. What the heck’s wrong with you? Don’t you dare do that again till we get our hands on that ser—”
“Sorry,” Larry said. “I guess I just got carried away.”
“I don’t want your apologies or your excuses, man! Get your head in the game!” Sam roared.
The car slid a few more inches and creaked. When I gazed down again, I was rendered speechless. My heart thumped against my chest; I knew the truck could fall on top of me any second, and even if I did survive the fall, I’d just become an easy catch for a bunch of starving, undead cannibals. I wasn’t sure whether to be angry, sad, or terrified.
How could Larry and Sam turn on us like this?
I wondered as my fingers began to burn.
I-I can’t hang on much longer!
“Nobody move!” Jackie yelled. “Keep the weight distributed.”
“Let’s trade seats,” Nick suggested. “I’ll get Dean.”
“No! I’m not leaving him!” she shouted.
“He’s my brother, Jackie. Besides, can you pull him up by yourself?”
“I-I don’t think so.”
“Well, if I have to help you, we’re all gonna take a dive into that river.”
Jackie knew he was right and complied, and the two slowly exchanged positions. As soon as Nick was seated near me, he threw out his hand and heaved me up.
I crawled inside, my heart pounding like it might break out of my ribcage.
“You ready to make a deal, oh great leader?” Larry asked.
“What’s gotten into you, Larry?” Nick yelled at him.
“Give us the vials,” the traitor demanded.
Nick fumed, “You tried to kill us for that? For those vials?”
“Don’t do it, Nick! Don’t give them to him,” I said. “If those vials get in the wrong hands again and those hybrids start multiplying, we’ll be facing a far worse epidemic than zombies.”
“Lucas went overboard in the other car,” Larry announced, “but we’re not monsters. We pulled the girls out. Isn’t one of ‘em your sister?”
“Yes!” I shouted. “Don’t you touch her!”
“Touch her? Boy, I’ll do worse than that. I’ll put a bullet in every one of their pretty little heads if you don’t cooperate and give me those vials.”
“How can you do this?” I yelled. “We saved your butt that night on the roof, Larry.”