Wicked Dead

Wicked Dead
Howard Odentz

October 2016 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-712-0

The zombie apocalypse just got real.
 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt


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The zombie apocalypse just got real.

Zombies rule. Almost everybody in the world has turned into one, thanks to a nifty little disease called Necropoxy. Sixteen year old twins, Tripp and Trina Light, however, are among the rare humans who are not only immune to Necropoxy—they're super immune. Even a bite from a zombie won't infect them.

Great, right? Yeah, but . . . researchers are capturing every immune human they can find—and experimenting on them like lab rats. Just yesterday, the twins and their friends narrowly escaped.

The researchers will do anything to get them back.

That means Tripp, Trina, and their small band of survivors are on the run from zombies, mad scientists, and who knows what else. What's worse, some people in their group are starting to act funny, which isn't funny at all.

This is so not how they planned to spend the beginning of their junior year of high school in Massachusetts.

Everyone is dead.

Everyone is wicked dead.

Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.

In addition to The Dead (A Lot) Series, he has written the horror novel Bloody Bloody Apple, the short story collection Little Killers A to Z, and a couple of horror-themed, musical comedies produced for the stage.


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Excerpt


Prologue

I NEVER THOUGHT about evil before. Evil was an abstract concept like what bad guys do in movies or in countries far, far away. A week ago, the whole idea of real evil never even entered my mind.

Then again, a lot changed since last week.

Someone, somewhere, with serious butter fingers, dropped a test tube filled with genuine man-made evil. Exactly sixteen hours and thirty-seven minutes later, the entire world was infected with a nifty little disease called Necropoxy.

Necropoxy, as it turns out, is a fancy word for ‘surprise, you’re now a zombie’.

A lot of people died since then. Some I knew—well, almost everyone I knew. Then there were the immune ones like me and my family. We didn’t die. We just got left behind to pick up the pieces and put them back together. Just like when all the king’s horses and all the king’s men tried to fix Humpty Dumpty, but couldn’t.

The pieces of our world will never fit perfectly together again. Whatever picture they’ll make will be all Salvador Dalí at best—a weird, drippy, nonsensical version of what life used to be like.

That’s evil for you. It sends everything to hell in a handbasket.

Frankly, I think we did go to hell and this is what hell looks like: a world filled with poxers—the ones infected with Necropoxy. They aren’t true zombies like in the movies. From what we know, once the Necropoxy parasite finds a human host, it goes right to the brain then rapidly multiplies. Within a very short amount of time, the host body fills up with the little buggers. What’s worse, the poxers don’t even have the decency to decompose and fall apart like normal zombies. They’re actually human bags filled with living organisms. They don’t rot away as long as the host bodies keep feeding the parasites what they want.

Meat.

Guess who’s no longer at the top of the food chain?

To make matters worse, the mad scientists who thought up Necropoxy to begin with had a contingency plan if they were stupid enough to ever let the virus get out.

Oops!

So now there are sites all over the country, maybe all over the world, manned by specially chosen immune people who are charged with getting the disease under control. And—just so we’re clear—by ‘specially chosen’, I mean nut-house crazy. We don’t know where these sites are, or how many, or when we might step right in the middle of one. All we know is that the people running these sites are gathering survivors and experimenting on them to find a cure.

I’m positive the government is somehow involved, unless it’s just a big, fat coincidence that we ran into Army soldiers a couple days ago. Cal and Luke weren’t the brightest bulbs on the porch. That’s why we had an easy time finding out from them that my parents were being held captive at one of these places called Site 37. My friends and I, along with a last minute rescue by my twin sister Trina and my Aunt Ella, saved Mom and Dad from the eggheads there, especially a wrinkled old raisin of a woman named Diana Radcliffe and her greasy sidekick, Dr. Marks.

Unfortunately, rescuing my parents came with a price. Diana had assumed that Trina and I hadn’t survived the poxer hordes after everyone turned, but she was wrong and we did, so now she wants us real bad.

You see, we’re the children of two immune individuals, which is something like a one in a bazillion chance. We’re both super immune—neither the airborne version of Necropoxy nor a bite from a poxer will do anything to us.

That makes us freaks—really, really lucky freaks, and special enough to be wanted by Diana or any other psycho scientist who comes along. We’re prime targets to be hunted down, strapped to a lab table, and cut up into teeny tiny pieces to see what makes us tick.

Good times, huh?

So now we’re on the run, from zombies, mad scientists, and who knows what else is out there.

As for me, this is so not how I expected to spend the first month of my junior year in high school.

Not one bit.

On a positive note, it seems I’m now on the baseball diamond with my high school nemesis, Prianka Patel, which would never, ever, ever have happened in a world that wasn’t filled with zombies, unless I’m totally clueless.

The thing is, I could be clueless, but I think I’m learning.


 

 

1

"HEY, TRIPP. WHY are they slowing down?” asked Trina. She was sitting in the back seat of the minivan along with her current boyfriend, Jimmy James. Chuck Peterson, her prior offense, turned into a poxer the first night everything happened. He actually tried to eat me, but Chuck was way too slow and stupid to get the job done.

We saved Jimmy James the second day of the poxer infestation. He was a junior DJ for the local university radio station. He kept broadcasting as long as he could, but was pretty sure he wasn’t going to survive because he was stuck in the sound booth and the sound booth was surrounded by poxers.

I managed to get Jimmy out of the sound booth and safely away from his poxer fans. At first I wasn’t sure how smart it was to save a dude in a wheelchair during an apocalypse, but Trina didn’t seem to mind the wheels. She thought he was a red-headed hunka hunka burning love.

They’ve been hot and heavy ever since.

To be honest, sometimes I can be a major tool. Just to set the record straight, Jimmy James is better on wheels than any of us are on two legs. I took a bit to warm up to him, but now we’re tight.

"I don’t know why,” I said. "Poxers?”

Prianka sat next to me in the front seat while we followed the school bus that carried my parents, Aunt Ella, and the rest of the people we rescued from Site 37. She opened her window and leaned her head out.

"I don’t think so,” she said. "There’s nothing around but trees.”

If you were to tell me a week ago that I would be playing tongue tango with Prianka Patel, I would have probably dry heaved. Don’t get me wrong, Prianka’s a bonafide hottie with light brown skin and silky black hair. I’ve known her since kindergarten. It’s just that she’s always been so freaking perfect, or at least more perfect than me, which is kind of hard to do.

Still, she survived, and I survived, and somehow we hooked up before we even knew what we were doing. It’s funny how things work out like that.

"What’s going on?” asked Ryan "Bullseye” McCormick, a sixth grader with a wicked knack for firearms. He sat next to the window behind Prianka, clutching a handgun he had lifted from a sporting goods store the day after Necropoxy hit.

Bullseye watched his whole family turn into poxers and kill each other. It was only by sheer luck that he found the rest of us. I think we freaked him out at first, but it only took a day or so for us to adopt him as our little brother.

He’s pretty cool for a sixth grader. If it weren’t for him, none of us would know how to shoot a gun—a definite necessity these days.

"Maybe someone needs to take a pee break,” I said.

"Pee break,” echoed Sanjay Patel from the seat in the way back. "Poopy Puppy, Andrew, and Newfie all agree.”

Sanjay is Prianka’s ten-year-old autistic brother. Poopy Puppy is his stuffed dog. Newfie’s my Aunt Ella’s giant Newfoundland, and Andrew—well, Andrew is Jimmy’s pet crow.

Keeping up?

I peered into the rearview mirror. Sanjay looked like he had been holding his pee for quite a while. He clutched Poopy Puppy tightly against his chest. The toy had been torn to shreds during a narrow escape from a group of poxers back in Greenfield. Stella Rathbone, the famous author of Urban Green—yeah, I never heard of it either—had sewn him back together as best she could, and returned him to Sanjay when we stopped to say goodbye to her.

Now, Poopy Puppy looked a little like a science project.

The bus slowed to a crawl and then stopped in front of us. I pulled the minivan close and dropped into park.

"Be right back,” I said, and got out. As I walked along the side of the bus, all these semi-strange faces stared back at me with weary eyes. Dorcas Duke, the old lady that my Aunt Ella had found in her own search for survivors, watched me warily with her bloodshot peepers. She had cracked a window and was puffing deeply on a cigarette.

Yo, lady. Those things will kill you. I guess she didn’t care.

Some of the others I really didn’t get a chance to meet long enough for them to make an impression. Getting out of Site 37 had been absolutely nuts. Making nicey-nice wasn’t on the top of anyone’s priority list.

I knew Tattoo Guy. He punched out Dr. Marks when we were still at The McDuffy Estate where Site 37 was housed. It was a huge mansion hidden down a dirt road, deep in the woods off the Mohawk Trail. The place was seriously creepy—the perfect location for a group of eggheads to conduct freaky experiments on zombies.

I ALSO KNEW THE kid, Krystal No-Name, who was only four years old. Aunt Ella found her, too.

The others, six in all, were just adults, and adults all looked the same to me.

Aunt Ella folded open the school bus door. "We need gas,” she said.

"Eat beans.”

"Great. Now we need a food break, too.”

I smiled. "Just keeping it real,” I told her. Still, I couldn’t deny that my stomach was rumbling a little. We had a big breakfast, but we skipped lunch. Teenagers eat a lot. It’s a scientific fact. "So where are we going to get gas for this monster?”

"There,” she said, and pointed. Another bus had driven off the road, down the embankment, and crashed into the trees. There were maroon stripes painted on its side, and darkened windows. Maybe it was a tour bus, or one of those private coaches that carry famous bands from concert to concert.

Aunt Ella turned off the bus and got out of her seat.

"Break time,” she yelled to everyone before hopping down three steps to the gravel on the side of the road. She rolled her eyes at me.

"What?”

"I’m going to kill that guy with those tattoos if he doesn’t shut up soon.”

"That bad, huh?”

"He’s got enough hot air in him to fly us to the moon.”

"Hey, at least he’s breathing.”

"For now,” she said. "Let’s take a look at that bus.”

I turned around and waved my hand for everyone to get out of the minivan. Newfie squatted as soon as his paws hit the ground. Sanjay looked like his eyes were filled with lemonade, so Prianka led him behind the back bumper. Bullseye joined them. Andrew stretched his wings and flew up into a large fir tree on the side of the road. Jimmy and Trina didn’t get out of the minivan at all.

Get a room—please.

My dad and mom got out of the bus, followed by a few others. My mom was holding four-year-old Krystal’s hand while Krystal sucked on two fingers like they were the best tasting lollypop she ever had.

"New little sister?” I asked. "Aren’t you two a little old for that kind of stuff?”

"Never,” Dad said, and gave my mom a big wet one.

"Hey, stop with the PDA, grandpa. You’ll scar me for life.”

"Then I’ll know we’ve done our job right,” he said, and smiled.

My parents are really cool. Dad’s a doctor and pretty buff. He sort of makes me look like a toothpick with a head. Mom was a realtor until last week’s poxer crash destroyed the housing market. No matter what, I was happy to be with them. For a while, Trina and I thought we were never going to see our parents again. When we finally found them, that old bag, Diana, almost shot them both right in front of me. In fact, she did graze my dad with a bullet.

The bus in the woods lay about twenty feet off the road. Aunt Ella skirted down the embankment, followed by Tattoo Guy. Way up in the fir tree, Andrew cackled and said something, but I was so used to the talking buzzard I didn’t really pay attention.

Sanjay’s high-pitched scream was what really made everyone take notice.

"Dead man walking,” cackled Andrew again. This time I heard every word.

There was a poxer next to the bus in the woods.

"Poxer,” I yelped, but no one did anything. By the time I realized what I had done wrong, it was too late.


 

 

2

LIFE IS MADE UP of an infinite amount of stupid mistakes. This was just another mistake to stack on top of the rest. The word ‘poxer’ is what my friends and I called the infected ones. I think everyone else had decided that ‘zombie’ was the word de jour, so Aunt Ella and Tattoo Guy didn’t know what I was saying when I yelled out ‘poxer’ to them.

"Box her?” said Tattoo Guy. "With what? I don’t got no gloves.”

"No,” I screamed. "Zombie! Zombie!”

"Zombie,” squawked Andrew, but it was too late.

Aunt Ella saw the walking dead at the last second and dove into the brush to the right of the bus. Tattoo Guy wasn’t as lucky. I never did catch his name, but he did a fair amount of damage to Dr. Marks while we were still at Site 37. He was also the one who told everyone to shut up and let me and Trina decide what to do with Diana and her greasy sidekick when we decided to leave them behind.

Tattoo Guy didn’t deserve Necropoxy.

He was still staring at me with this stupid, confused look on his face when some decrepit, old poxer who probably drove the bus for booze money bit him. It was like everything was moving in slow motion. My fashion-challenged aunt in her purple shirt and green pants found safety in the mass of dying foliage while the poxer took a meaty chunk out of Tattoo Guy’s shoulder.

"Get off me,” he screamed, "get off.” He elbowed the old poxer in the face and its arms pinwheeled as it fell backwards and smacked its head against the bus. Tattoo Guy turned to my aunt. "Get outta here,” he screamed. "I can feel it in me.”

This was only the third time I had actually seen anyone turn into a poxer. The first fatality was Mr. Mic from our neighborhood back in Littleham. One of the kids who lived down the street bit him. I swear, that seemed like eons ago, but was really only last Friday night. The second was a woman named Mrs. Bijur. Diana, Dr. Marks, and the rest of the whack-jobs at Site 37 used her as part of an experiment. There were some other close calls, but Tattoo Guy was one of the few people I’ve ever seen poxified while I watched.

Aunt Ella scrambled out of the bushes and trucked up the embankment like mad dogs were at her heels.

Tattoo Guy howled and fell to his knees. By that time, Boozie the Bus Driver clawed himself to his feet and lunged at Tattoo Guy again, but it didn’t matter. Tattoo Guy’s head jerked sideways and spittle flew from his mouth. The next thing I knew, he had grabbed the old poxer by the throat, threw him to the ground, and sunk his teeth into him somewhere above the neck.

I didn’t watch. I looked up in the multicolored trees instead. I needed to see something pretty. What Tattoo Guy was doing wasn’t pretty.

"Get back in the bus,” barked Aunt Ella to everyone. "You kids get back in the van.”

All the adults ran. They didn’t even notice that ‘us kids’ didn’t move. Instead, they piled into the bus like rats escaping a sinking ship—my parents included—and Aunt Ella pulled the door closed.

My mother and father plastered themselves against the window at the back of the bus. My mother was holding Krystal. My father was banging at the lock so he could push the glass down and stick his head out.

"Get back in the van,” I heard him scream, but his words were muffled behind the window, like he was calling out to me in a dream.

The next thing I knew, Trina was by my side. I turned and watched as Jimmy lowered himself out of the minivan and into his wheel chair. He had a paper bag on his lap.

"Sorry,” she said. "Did I miss something?” She popped a tube of lip gloss out of her hip pocket and ran the cherry wax across her lips.

"Nope—can’t think of a thing. Oh yeah. Did you know that Chuck Peterson got turned into a zombie with the rest of the world and some evil government agency kidnapped Mom and Dad but ended up really wanting us because we’re supposed to be all immune and stuff?”

Trina smacked her lips and pushed the tube back into her pocket. "Are you done being jealous yet?”

"Jealous of Carrot Top on wheels? Shut the front door.”

"Um, I’m right here,” said Jimmy. He wheeled over to us and handed me the paper bag.

"Sorry, man,” I said. "Sib spat.”

"No apologies, dude. I’m cool.”

Prianka put Sanjay and Newfie back in the car. Then she and Bullseye joined us. We watched Tattoo Guy and the old bus driver going at each other like pit bulls.

"He was a nice enough guy,” I said. Prianka squeezed my arm.

Trina blew air out her nose. "We need the gas from that bus,” she said, ever the practical of the two of us. "We can’t torch poxers too close to the gas tank or the whole thing will go kablooey.”

"Well I’m not playing bait,” snapped Prianka.

"I will,” said Trina. "I’m prettier, anyway.”

My eyes grew wide and so did Jimmy’s. Neither of us was going to comment on that one. Not on a bet.

"Fine,” hissed Prinaka. "Just fine, Miss Immunity—you do it.” She folded her arms over her chest and pursed her lips.

Trina looked over the embankment at the grappling poxers. "Whatever. Do you think we could slow them down a little?”

"On it,” said Bullseye. What he really meant was he was going to shoot them in the legs. Shooting them in the head would have been a lot more convenient, if that actually did the trick, but Necropoxy didn’t work that way. I guess the brain isn’t exactly the sweet spot when it comes to poxers.

Bullseye took a step forward and held a handgun in front of him with both hands. Without hesitating he fired twice.

The old poxer fell over to one side. Tattoo Guy got hit in the knee. A fine spray of black blood misted out of the wound like a tiny cloud. His leg buckled underneath him and he went down.

Bullseye was one hell of a shot. His dad had traded Bullseye’s baby bottle in for a gun, so by the time most of us were learning how to ride bikes, Bullseye was shooting soda cans off fence posts at two hundred yards.

It’s weird what parents teach their kids, like how to tie a tie or make the perfect omelet. My dad made sure I knew how to change a tire by the time I was fifteen—Trina, too. Mom taught us both how to make pancakes, even though I think that was just so she could sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I guess Bullseye’s dad thought his son needed to know weapons.

We all exchanged nervous glances as we watched the poxers go down—all except for Bullseye. He was sort of, well, dead to it all. What gave me a little bit of the heebie jeebies was that shooting the poxers didn’t seem to bother him much. Most sixth graders would have ralphed at the thought.

Most would have hesitated—at least for a second.

"They’re going to crawl after me now,” yelled Trina over her shoulder as she slowly made her way down the side of the road. "Once they’re clear of the bus we can torch them.”

I looked inside the paper bag Jimmy gave me. There were matches, lighters, paper, and lighter fluid—your basic, garden-variety poxer killing kit. I felt a little twinge of guilt deep in the pit of my stomach. Who was I to be freaked about Bullseye? Torching poxers or shooting them was really the same thing. The only difference between me and him was that I was burning them instead of using a gun.

Either way, I felt nothing.

I turned to Prianka. "Can you go tell my aunt to pull the bus up a couple hundred feet? I don’t want any poxer goo to hit them.”

She smiled weakly and nodded.

"Bullseye, I take it you know how to back the van up and out of the way?”

"If it’s like backing up a quad, then yeah.”

"Just like,” I said.

Andrew flew down off his perch and landed on Jimmy’s head.

"Poxers,” he chirped.

"I know, buddy,” said Jimmy. "We’re going to make them go bye-bye.”

Yeah, that’s right. We were going to make Tattoo Guy and the other poxer go bye-bye like they never even existed. Like ten minutes ago, the guy whose name I never caught wasn’t sitting in a school bus with a bunch of survivors, dreaming of getting somewhere safe and maybe starting a little farm or something—on an island or a place where poxers couldn’t reach.

I almost got all weepy there for a second, but I didn’t. Maybe I was dead inside.

Dead—just like the poxers.

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