Life for Kansas was perfect until the day the world changed.
She has been hiding out for four years in solitude. It's the only way to survive. The only way not to draw the living dead. Helping a small group of people, she learns the new world might not be what she assumes. Venturing out of her refuge and comfort zone, she meets Rudy, who helps her find a greater purpose. She realizes that the world has moved on without her. Only it's not what she expects. Her knowledge of the living dead grows and only makes her more curious as humanity continues to hang on by a thread. While on her search for answers she finds comfort in new friendships and love, but her past seems as if it will haunt her forever.
Kansas takes it upon herself to help other survivors, which would be easy if the famished were the only obstacles.
In a trilogy plot thick with twists and turns, this adult dark fantasy is emotional as much as it is horrifyingly gripping.
Some people say you can’t change overnight. I’m sure this is true. Most of the time. In my case, I changed within seconds. Never to be the same. Within those seconds, most people in the world changed as well. Just not in the way I did.
I’ll never forget my first zombie. Malachi and I wandered the small carnival as the sun set. The glowing lights of the spinning rides replaced the fading sunlight, the smell of funnel cake in the air. I could still feel Malachi on my skin. It wasn’t surprising since we just had a spontaneous tryst in the parking lot. At twenty, we had our whole lives ahead of us.I remember grabbing his hand, my mind still with him in his car. Radiating affection, he looked down at me, our shared secret reflected in his big, brown eyes, his messy brown hair glinting auburn from the sparkling lights all around. He dressed like he always did, whatever was comfortable ‐ a yellow Nashville Predators T-shirt and denim shorts. All his life, he played hockey, from peewee to amateur. He loved the game and continued to play as an adult.
Thrilling sounds of the carnival carried on the wind. I complained about how much we paid for the all-you-can-ride bracelets. There were only a few rides to enjoy, but the carnival charged too much. Some people did pay an arm and a leg. The carnival was just that, a carnival. Overflowing with people scurrying about the massive Ferris Wheel, and Tilt-O-Whirl. Children laughed and chased each other with innocent, painted faces ‐ dancing, and skipping along with the carnival music.
Malachi made a beeline for a cotton candy booth. After the purchase, he put a big piece of pink fluff in my mouth. I can still taste the sticky sweetness melting on my tongue. Although he did it quite provocatively, it wasn’t until later I grasped his motivation, which was to keep me from complaining. He was subtle that way. Sometime later, we got off the Ferris Wheel, both heated, clinging to each other, and ready for another tryst when we went off the beaten path to use the foul port-a-potties. When I think about it now, I know the outbreak began early in the day. We passed several wrecks, heard many helicopters and sirens, and probably saw a few zombies, but were too wrapped up in ourselves to notice. I blame it on being in love, but I swear to myself now if I saw a person walking down the street covered in blood or eating someone, I would have paid attention. Maybe. We definitely did when we saw a zombie attacking a frizzy, red haired woman next to an old rusted bike rack. Only, we didn’t know it was a zombie. The woman’s shrill screams were like something from a horror flick. My blood curdled when I saw a man biting into the woman’s forearm. Blood leaked down her arm and dress. Her shriek pierced my soul.
Malachi pushed the man off, trying to be a hero. “Kansas, call 911!” he screamed, turning to help the woman. I trembled slightly, pulling out my cell phone and dialing, only to hear a busy signal. When the man regained his stature, I caught sight of him. He was crazed, eyes bloodshot, the front of his thigh gone. Muscle tissue hung from the stark white of bone. Blood covered his face, neck, and clothing ‐ some kind of uniform ‐ USPS which was weird and out of place on a Sunday. His stare drifted to Malachi. A ferocious growl came from his mouth before it clamped onto Malachi’s shoulder. Malachi’s face flashed pain, but he still managed to hit the jaw of the man, loosening the grip of the bite. Malachi’s blood dripped down his arm, dropping from his fingers onto the concrete. I swear I could hear the little splatters. A scream erupted from my throat, freezing me to the spot. My trembles changed to full-on shakes while Malachi grappled with the mailman, who, in my mind, had obviously eaten some bath salts. It was then that the shouts from the carnival no longer sounded like amusement park screams. I saw a kid, no older than eleven or twelve, limping toward me. His dirty blonde hair went straight into his eyes. One of his feet bent awkwardly. Blood covered his face, neck, shirt, and hands.
Something serious was going down. Malachi was still fighting off the hyped up mailman. I was in some kind of shock, but told myself to get a grip.My insides hardened as time slowed down, and narrowed my idealistic world into a vast tunnel. I clenched my fist to keep them from shaking. That’s when I saw the bell. Over the bushes in the next section of the park, the “High Striker” game ‐ the one with the hammer to strike and ring the bell ‐ was brightly lit with the colors of the rainbow, flashing trails up and down the length of the game. I ran straight through the bushes to find the game deserted. Plush bunnies still waited to go home with a lucky ringer. I found what I wanted ‐ the sledge hammer.
The bushes scratched against my legs as I jumped out of them to find more crazy people closing in on Malachi. Ice seemed to spread through me.
“Malachi! We have to go. Now!” I yelled. He looked ghastly pale.
Gripping the sledge hammer like a baseball bat, I hit the mailman in the head. Malachi grunted as he kicked and shoved more people out of his way.
I bashed as many as I could. Most went down still twitching and moaning. The mailman crawled back toward us, his head bent at an odd angle. My stomach turned, but I swallowed the extra saliva as I slung the hammer down to finish the job. His head split wide open, spilling things onto the sidewalk that should never be seen. I glanced at Malachi to find him looking at me oddly, as if he didn’t know me. With my free hand, I grabbed him and we ran. I tripped on my cute wedge sandals, cursing myself for being vain enough to wear them. He just helped me up, and we continued running around game booths. I gripped the sledge hammer like a life line, taking in the horrid sights before us.
A child ripped into water bags in a booth, devouring the little fish inside, all the while the man running the booth feasted on another person. The taste of sweet acidic bile came into my throat. The carnival had become a scene of macabre lights, blood, and screams. People were getting attacked and eaten alive all around us. Kids with face paint eating their parents. The parents screaming for help. Panic filling their brains when they noticed it wasn’t just them, unable to comprehend what was happening, as if they would wake up from their nightmares. Fear dawning in their eyes as they realized they wouldn’t wake, that this was real. I stopped to help a woman and her baby, only to see her tearing into its tiny body. Gore splattered the baby’s stroller. When its little cries ceased, the lady looked up with baby bits stuck to her nose and chin. Malachi grabbed me, spun me away to protect me from the unbelievable scene, but it was too late. The lights blurred with the tears filling my eyes, only to stain my cheeks as we ran. The carnival music seemed to slow to a drone, and skip beats. Malachi never made it back home.
Yes, you can change overnight. In seconds, and no, you never forget your first zombie. Mine wore a USPS uniform. He killed Malachi. No, I killed Malachi.
Four years later...