Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
Last Friday night, the world changed—and not for the better.
Zombies are among us. School's out for the foreseeable future, and with Mom and Dad at the lake house, my twin and I are on our own in this mess. Which is fine as long as we can avoid being on the menu.
Tripp Light's teenage world is suddenly filled with "poxers”—the infected ones, the ones that have the Necropoxy virus. In an entire world gone mad and bad, Tripp's only hope of survival is to clear a path through zombie land with his sister and head for the hills (aka his aunt's farm) to rendezvous with his parents.
Success clearly favors the fittest and the fastest. Survival demands the twins make hard, ruthless decisions, but that all changes when Tripp and his twin hear a distress call via the radio. Prianka Patel, a girl Tripp loves to hate, is trapped and surrounded in a bakery. Soon, the twins have quite a collection of misfits and survivors and miles to go before anyone can sleep safely again.
No matter where Tripp looks, everyone everywhere is dead.
Like really dead . . . a lot.
Howard Odentz is a life-long resident of Western Massachusetts, where he divides his time between writing and tending a small farm. His love of animals, along with the lore of the region, often finds its way into his stories. The supernatural plays a major role in Mr. Odentz's writing. He is endlessly fascinated by the psychological aspects of those who are thrown into otherworldly circumstances.
In addition to Dead (A Lot), he has penned two full length musical comedies, including "Piecemeal,” which tells the backstory of Victor Frankenstein's Hollywood-created protégé, Igor.
"Zombie stories are everywhere. Due in some part to the unbelievable success of shows likThe Walking Dead, books like World War Z, andfilms like 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, everyone’s writing about the dead-but-ambulatory. Nice zombies, evil zombies, teenage zombies, Nazi zombies, zombie dogs, shark zombies, Jane Austen zombies. Zombies sell books. And movies. And television. And video games. It’s all out there…There’s such a glut of zombie stories on the market that perusing the contenders can feel a bit like running a gauntlet manned by the unruly undead. So, as with most growing trends in genre fiction, unless you want to read the same zombie story over and over, it becomes necessary to look for writers who find a way to make it different somehow. Dead (a Lot)is different." -- J.G. Walker of Court Street Literary
"Got Zombies? Dead (A Lot) does. Dead (A Lot) by Howard Odentz is fun book about a zombie apocalypse as experienced by a group of young teenagers. One day they are just doing the regular things that kids do then the next morning the world is forever changed when a strange virus is released into the world that changes most denizens of this Earth into slow moving and very hungry zombies…Dead (A Lot) is aimed at the "Young Adult” market but I feel it is an enjoyable read to anyone of any age who enjoys a good zombie story full of fun characters and entertaining zombies." -- Forris Day Jr. of Scared Stiff Reviews
NO ONE KNOWS what's going to happen. That's the way that life works. We're born, we live, we die, and in between a whole lot of stuff goes down that we can never guess. Not in a million years.
Take me, for example. I never knew my world was going to end. I never really thought about it.
For a while there, life flowed easy. Dad was a doctor. Mom went to Harvard. Me and my twin sister, Trina, lived in a good town—nice house, nice school. We had the prerequisite pedigreed dog, even though she was a poodle and sort of lame. I had friends. I had the Internet.
What else did I need?
Need—now that's an interesting word. For example, just this morning what I really needed was a handgun—something light and easy to use—something that wouldn't kick back and blow my head off because I didn't know what the hell I was doing.
Chuck, my sister's muscle-head of a boyfriend, was on one side of our granite kitchen island, and it was seriously clear that the football king wanted nothing more than to get around that slab so he could eat me.
That's not normal behavior, but the world had very recently exited the normal ramp, and the new normal was like a bazillion light years away from the old normal.
Chuck was dead. That was clear. He had one eyeball hanging out of his head from a stringy-thingy, and he kept gnashing his teeth together and smacking his lips like I was some sort of deep fried yummy treat.
The good news was that death apparently made Chuck slow and stupid, or stupider. The bad news was that I needed his car keys, and I was fairly sure they were in his pocket.
I had to think. So I started walking around the island, keeping a good distance ahead of Chuck and the width of the slab between us. I didn't have to walk too fast. His version of Dead Man Walking wasn't exactly speedy.
I didn't need speed. I needed a gun. In most zombie flicks it seems like they die if you blow them away. Too bad the only gun in the house was attached to my gaming station, so that plan was a bust.
In the comics, zombie deaths are caused by that old standby of chopping off their heads. I had knives, but, well, first—gross, and second—all my mom had were butter knives and some doohickey I think she used to core apples.
I couldn't core Chuck to death, and buttering him up was out of the question, but clearly I had to do something.
After a couple minutes, Chuck burped and farted at the same time. This noxious invisible gas filled up the kitchen.
Still he kept on walking.
A couple more minutes and I started breathing through my sleeve because, damn, he smelled nasty. I suppose I could have left, but seriously, I really needed those keys.
Then Sprinkles, our poodle, came in.
Don't blame me for the name. My mom picked it out because she had this thing about ice cream with... wait for it... sprinkles.
Chuck saw her through his one good, dead eye and forgot about me. Sprinkles took one look at Chuck, clicked her little, painted toe nails right over to him and was still wagging her tail when he scooped her up and bit off her face.
Yup, that's what I said. He bit off her face.
I couldn't help thinking about that face-transplant lady in France whose poodles ate her original one. I didn't think Sprinkles was going to be a face transplant candidate, but I did take her transformation into poodle pie as my cue to run around the kitchen island, reach my hand into Chuck's pocket, and pull out his car keys.
With his keyring jangling in my fist, I ran down the hallway and straight out the front door where Trina was waiting for me in Chuck's car.
Life was always easy for me and that goes for my relationship with Trina, too. We've been tight from day one. I still remember in middle school when I still had a face full of peach fuzz, a pre-steroidal Chuck had pushed me into my locker between gym and lunch. Trina knocked him flat and told him she was going to unscrew his balls and keep them in her pocket because he obviously wasn't deserving of a pair.
I think that's when he probably started to like her.
"Where's Chuck?” she screamed when I got into the car.
"I know he's dead, Einstein. Where is he?”
"He's eating Sprinkles.”
I started the car and just sat there for a moment, enjoying a well-deserved mental break. Trina sat there, too. She leaned back in the seat and looked out the window. After a moment she pressed the automatic door lock.
"Like with ice cream?” she finally asked.
"No,” I said. "He's just eating Sprinkles.”
I threw the car into reverse. Somehow I didn't think it mattered that neither of us had finished Driver's Ed yet.
WHO WOULD HAVE thought that when I woke up that morning my life would change forever?
Mom and Dad had gone up to our lake house in Vermont for the weekend. They left a note that said:
Dear Tripp and Trina,
Here's $200 in case you order out for Chinese or pizza. Or in case you want to go to the movies. Or in case you go to the mall. Or in case you have a party. No Drugs. No Drinking. No Sex.
Love Mom and Dad.
P.S. Don't forget to feed Sprinkles.
Chuck came over shortly after Mom and Dad pulled out of the driveway. He and Trina barricaded themselves in Trina's room for a round of rule-breaking.
I stuffed my ears with a pair of mental ear plugs, threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and nested in front of the computer.
Mom and Dad never got the whole idea of parental controls on our PC, so I checked out some websites that I probably shouldn't have looked at before getting bored and watching some previews of upcoming movies.
Everything looked totally lame so I downloaded an indie horror flick and lost myself in mummies for a couple of hours.
Around seven or so I realized Chuck and Trina were never coming out of her room, so I nuked myself something out of the freezer and pocketed a twenty, making a mental note to tell Mom and Dad that I had taken their suggestion and had a pizza delivered.
Around eight the alarm on Chuck's car went off.
"What the hell,” I heard him scream from upstairs. "Yo, Tripp, Dude, you touch my car?”
"Yo, Chuck, Dude. Don't call me Dude.”
I heard him fumbling around upstairs. A minute later, he came down in his t-shirt and jeans, no shoes or socks, and went out the front door.
Trina came down a few minutes later wearing sweat pants and Chuck's shirt. Her blond hair was a little messed up. Even in loser clothes, Trina's pretty. That makes me a guy's version of pretty, right?
"What's for dinner?” she asked.
"Dinner was leftover leftovers. I ate them all.”
"That's totally uncool,” she said
I hopped up on the counter. "Are you and Chuck doing the nasty? I mean, I'm all for biodiversity, but shouldn't you at least be dating in your genus?”
"Shut up, Tripp. At least I've hit puberty. What are you, anyway, XXY?”
"Nah,” I shot back. "I just think shaving's for sissies.”
Outside, Chuck's horn kept bleating away. His mommy and daddy had bought him a Hummer, which was both lame and awesome. It was school bus yellow, which was even more lame and more awesome.
The lamest part, however, was that Chuck Peterson had a car at all. The Light twins were still holding permits instead of licenses, and it didn't matter anyway because Dad said something about Hell freezing over when we asked him about a car for our sixteenth-and-a-half birthday.
Little did any of us know that, far from freezing, Hell was heating up with an Indian summer right here on earth, and Chuck's Hummer was parked out on Lucifer Lane.
"What's the deal?” I muttered after a few minutes of his car horn tearing up the night.
"Like I know,” said Trina. "I'm hungry.” She opened up the fridge and rummaged inside.
I hopped my butt off the kitchen counter and walked over to the front door. I guess Chuck's horn had stirred up the neighborhood. There were a bunch of people milling around his car, which was all lit up and glowing because, A—it was a school bus yellow Hummer, and B—the street light was right at the end of our driveway.
I opened the door and stepped out into the night. Trina followed behind me, shoving a piece of cold chicken into her mouth.
That's the moment when normal first exited, stage right.
"Chuck?” she said, but what it really sounded like was ‘Cuff,' because she was chowing down.
"What the...” I stopped and stared.
Mrs. Ruddick from next door was standing out on our front lawn in her bra and panties, and Mrs. Ruddick was flannel pajama material at best.
Geez, a kid could go blind seeing something like that.
Old man Levin from across the street was there, too. He was shuffling aimlessly around, bumping into people and growling at them.
Two middle school kids who lived a few doors down were gnawing on what looked like turkey legs from a county fair. I didn't see their little brother anywhere, and since when did turkey legs have fingers?
Dr. Jeffers and his current wife, who mom called Number Three, were both crawling on the ground and grappling for something meaty and wet, like pit bulls fighting over a kitten.
A woman I didn't recognize was teetering around without an arm—just a blood-soaked shirt and a stump. She kept sticking her tongue out and bending her head so she could lap at the blood that was splashing up onto her shoulder.
Chuck was down.
"Um,” I said. "Is this where we change the channel on the remote?”
"Don't move,” whispered Trina.
"Wasn't planning on it. Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?”
"Like Halloween but in September?”
"Why is Chuck sitting down?” I asked.
Trina slowly grabbed my arm. "So how shallow would I be if I said I didn't give a crap about Chuck right now and was just worried about you and me?”
"Shallow's a strong word,” I said. "I'd go for practical.”
"Let's get inside.” Trina carefully pulled me backwards while Chuck's horn kept rifling off the same tune. Her nails sunk into my arm, but I'm not sure I cared. When we were both inside, Trina softly closed the door and turned off the light in the foyer. We both crouched down and glued ourselves to the windows on either side of the doorway and watched.
Sprinkles came up beside Trina and wagged her little pom-pom tail as she peered at the spectacle outside. Thank God for puppy daycare. She wasn't a barker.
"So are we talking air-borne disease or the classic ‘if-you're-bitten- game's-over' scenario?” I whispered.
I couldn't tear my eyes away. My mouth moved on its own. "I mean, I guess I should be more scared, but I've seen way too many zombie movies. What's this one called, Twilight of the Dead?” My words came out faster and faster. "They've already made Night and Dawn and Day. They were kind of campy. The Romero remake of Night was a little more serious. He also did Diary of the Dead and Island of the Dead and that was just...”
"Tripp,” my sister hissed.
I guess I was babbling.
"What do you mean air-borne?”
The whole conversation was totally surreal.
"Well, it looks like the entire neighborhood is infected,” I whispered. "So, did they catch some weirdo disease that the government let loose in a cloud like acid rain?”
"It's not raining, and stop freaking me out any more than I'm already freaked out.” Trina came over and knelt down beside me. "What are you saying? This is like some disease you catch on the wind? Are we breathing it now? Are... are you going to eat me?”
Outside someone started bellowing. It was Mr. Mic, this really tough, bald guy from down the street. He came running toward the lady who was trying to eat what was left of her arm. He had a baseball bat over his head. The entire neighborhood of the dead turned to look at him as he wound up like an all-star at home plate and swung at her melon.
It flopped sideways, and something gooey dripped out of her ear.
One of the middle school kids dropped what he had been gnawing on, staggered over to Mr. Mic, and took a chunk out of him right around waist level, because that was just about mouth level for the kid.
Mr. Mic started hollering and smashed his baseball bat down on the kid's head maybe three or four times. Finally, the kid let go. Mr. Mic dropped the bat and started running back down the street and disappeared into the dark. Trina made this gulping sound but didn't say anything. A minute later Mr. Mic came stumbling back out of the gloom, but this time he was just like all the rest of them.
"I guess that answers that question,” I said.
"Biting,” we both whispered in unison.
A few more minutes passed as we watched transfixed behind the glass windows of our foyer. Sprinkles made a little doggy sneeze and clicked away into the guest bathroom. After a moment I heard her lapping water out of the toilet.
Trina finally broke the silence. "What's Chuck doing?” she asked.
I supposed I should have cared more about Chuck, but I wasn't the one playing tongue tango with him, so I was more focused on the rest of the insanity. He was still down, but he was writhing and squirming a little bit. A few seconds later he leaned his head back against his Hummer, and Trina covered her mouth with both hands to stifle a scream that threatened to spill out between her fingers.
His left eye was halfway down his cheek, and I think he picked up what the middle school kid dropped and was getting ready to slurp up some sloppy seconds.
That's when the lights went out.