EXCERPT from Dying Days 2 by Armand Rosamilia:
The undead came on, wave after wave, almost in time with the pounding of the surf to their right. For six hours, they filled the dunes and the strip of A1A with their rotting, shambling carcasses.
There were still hundreds of them below, wandering in and out of the ocean, stumbling over the dunes, under the stilt houses and clogging up the street.
At some point, they’d figured out how to climb the stairs to two stilt houses, killing the occupants of one and being slaughtered, in turn, by the survivors in the other until a barrier could be erected. None of the survivors in the other stilt houses said anything, but everyone knew that once this attack was over, the occupants would all need thorough checking for bite wounds.
Murph spit tobacco over the side of his home, the brown glob splattering on the head of an undead woman twenty feet below. “Looks like rain.”
Darlene Bobich, looking tired and older than her twenty-eight years, could only laugh. “If rain were the worst of our worries, it’d be a great fucking day, old man.”
“True.” Murph turned his crinkled face toward her and grinned. “But no matter what happens, at some point you gotta figure it’s gonna rain, even here in Florida.”
“True indeed. I’m going to crack open a cold one. You in?”
Murph spit the last of his chew over the side and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Yeah, but none of that foreign crap. I think I hid some Buds in the back so John-John wouldn’t see them.”
The two walked back inside and laughed at the sight of John, Murph’s son, passed out on the couch with three Budweiser beer cans on the coffee table.
Murph went to wake him up but Darlene stopped him. “Let him sleep. We’ve been through Hell the last couple days, especially him. He covered our retreat the entire march back.”
They’d sent a group to meet, greet and protect a large horde of survivors coming from Daytona Beach. Orlando had been overrun and thousands of refugees had fought their way east on I-4, toward the ocean, before turning north for the safety of St. Augustine.
Something had gone terribly wrong. Instead of weary, tired and hungry people, they encountered thousands and thousands of deadly, unwavering, hungry zombies. The way back had been relatively clear, with a few stray undead in their path, but the horde had unnerved some of them, especially fourteen-year old Bri, who was in such shock that Eric had to carry her all the way back.
Darlene grabbed a couple of cold ones and tried to shake the thoughts from her head. She couldn’t. “It was the smell.”
“Pardon?” Murph said and took an offered beer.
“Right before we knew something was wrong, a second before Bri turned back to us with that confused fear in her eyes, I smelled them. Not consciously, but the faint scent was there.”
“Nothing worse than being downwind from a corpse, honey.”
Darlene shook her head. “I didn’t simply smell them, I sensed them. It’s hard to explain.” She took a gulp of beer and closed her eyes. “I don’t know. I just knew what they were in my head before my eyes could really see them, before even Bri saw them, and she was standing only five feet from them.”
“Crazy world we live in,” Murph said and winked. “That’s why God made beer. The great equalizer.”
Darlene raised her can in salute. “A wise man once said, ‘Beer… now, there’s a temporary solution.'”
“Who?” Murph asked.
Darlene laughed. “Never mind.”
Murph went into the kitchen. “D’oh,” he said, loud enough for Darlene to hear.
She laughed. “I think the weird part right now is the relief that we know exactly where they are.”
“Want pretzels?” Murph asked.
“Sure. I mean, there are swarms of them down there but at least we’re not under the false pretense that they’ve all rotted away or wandered off.”
Murph pointed at his son. “I haven’t seen him that comfortable in way too long. I know what you mean. I’m too old for this shit. My knees are popping like crazy and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever make it down those stairs. For all intents and purposes, this is my coffin.” Murph sat down in his chair and sighed. “But you can’t ask for a bigger coffin than this, right?”
“Exactly, and especially one with a working fridge full of beer.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
John rolled off the couch and stretched, looking worn-out. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and trudged silently to the bathroom.
“And they say the ones outside are the rude ones. At least they have an excuse,” Murph said loudly. He stopped when he heard the thump and jumped out of his seat at the same time Darlene did.
“Was that the wood?” Murph whispered, frozen in place.
“I’m not rude, but don’t fuck with me before I take a piss,” John said as he entered the living room.
Before anyone could shush him, they heard the tell-tale sound of wood being pried from the stairs.
They went into action, with John getting one of his bows and Darlene her trusty Desert Eagle and her machete. Murph grabbed a baseball bat and opened the door for them.
Since they’d been out here on the deck last, the rain had begun, a thin sheet of wetness. It looked like it would spit for a bit before sputtering out, but you never knew what the Florida weather would do.
“Breach,” Darlene said, although her companions already saw.
The zombies had pulled the wooden barrier from the stairs below and were now moving two abreast up the steps, slowly scrambling up.
John looked around. “I told you we should have brought heavy things up here to toss down.”
“There was no time for that,” Murph said and waved over to the next stilt house, where Eric White was standing on his deck with a hunting rifle in hand. Murph waved him off.
Darlene nodded. No use shooting and drawing even more of them. They had no idea how far the main horde had gotten, and if they were still close they might turn back, drawn to the noise.
John took one of the lead zombies out with an arrow through the forehead but it pitched over the side. His next shot dropped one on the steps but it didn’t hinder the others’ movements.
“Did you just see that?” Darlene asked.
“See what?” John said between shots.
“The zombies below pulled the killed one down and away.”
“They used to keep tripping over them, but now they are actually moving the fallen. And why did they suddenly decide to pull the barrier down instead of clubbing into it?”
“We’re fucked if they decided to start thinking,” Murph chimed in.
John put his compound bow down on the floor. “This is ridiculous. There’s too many of them coming at once. Dad, give me your bat.”
“Let’s do this,” Darlene said with a grin, hefting her machete.
“And have you cut my head off? I don’t think so. Go grab a baseball bat from my room, but not the Chipper Jones model.”
Murph smiled. “John-John’s been a Chipper fan since he broke into the majors with Atlanta. He finally got himself a nice Chipper Jones model baseball bat, and it only took a zombie apocalypse for that to happen.”
Darlene shook her head. “Don’t start without me.”
By the time Darlene found a suitable bat,—someone named Mike Lowell—John was already down the steps and swinging for the fences.
“Lying bastard,” Darlene called out and joined him.
There were at least four zombies either unmoving or being trampled two steps below their position, but it didn’t look like John had gained any ground.
“What bat is that?” John said without looking.
“Some Chipper guy,” she said.
Darlene connected with the head of a bloody woman, striking from overhead so she didn’t accidentally hit John.
Still they kept coming, and they were being pushed from behind by their comrades, eager to taste Darlene and John. A quick glance and Darlene wished she hadn’t looked: there were at least a hundred zombies now pressed around the base of the stilt house, and more were being attracted by the sounds.
John took a step back as he connected with another swing, but he was tiring. So was Darlene. They began moving back up the steps, one at a time, as they swung. Each strike of the baseball bats was becoming weaker.
As they got to the landing on the deck, they separated enough to get a wider swing in. The stairs were packed with zombies and Darlene decided that once they got pushed inside she’d use her Desert Eagle until she ran out of bullets. At this point, the noise couldn’t possibly attract any more of them.
As if in answer, Eric began shooting at them, picking off the ones a few steps down. He was a great shot, punching holes through the backs of heads and necks.
The mist of rain became a steady stream from the sky.
John slipped on gore and almost went down. As he stumbled, Murph shot the zombie reaching for John point-blank in the face.
“Hold them, I got an idea,” Murph shouted.
Darlene swung at a zombie but the blow bounced off its shoulder and she lost her grip on the bat. The rain grew stronger and a wind pushed it into her face. She fell heavily to the deck, her hands searching for the baseball bat, pushing at the legs and feet of the undead that tried to trample her.
“Fuck,” John shouted in defeat, connecting with his bat and pushing a zombie into two more coming up the steps.
Darlene found her bat and stood, surveying the chaos before her. Three zombies had made the deck, two in front of her and one going at John. There were two more pushing to get over the last step, with bobbing heads behind them. John looked exhausted, barely holding the bat in his hands.
Eric shot a zombie coming up the stairs but another took its place.
Is this it? Is this the way it ends, after everything I’ve been through? Never going home, never surviving to fight another day, never seeing if this mad world dies or rights itself? To die here, to die now…
Darlene’s thoughts were interrupted with a whoosh sound over her shoulder. Instinctively she ducked but the flaming bottle was already past her, exploding on the two zombies coming up the steps.
“Watch out!” Murph yelled way too late, the flames already shooting up and burning bodies.
John laughed and started swinging again.
Darlene, with a rush of adrenalin after almost being set on fire, attacked with purpose, dropping zombies before her with renewed vigor. A flaming zombie shambled to her and she clubbed it, the fire licking up to her hands on the bat.
The zombie pitched back and, for a moment, the stairs were clear.
Eric stopped shooting and waved.
The lip of the deck nearest the stairs was on fire and Murph ran past the two and started stomping around, putting it out. Darlene ran to his side to help and to protect him from the horrors ascending the stairs, but she didn’t need to worry.
Murph put out the last of the fire and laughed, looking down to the swarming undead twenty feet below and to the demolished staircase on the ground.
“Who’s ready for another beer?” Murph asked, waved thanks to Eric, and went back inside. “Told you it was going to rain.”
* * * * *
Darlene, bored, went back onto the deck and sat facing the ocean. The rain had stopped several hours ago but the undead were still in force. They surrounded the houses, making it impossible for anyone else to rescue them. Eric was game, Darlene knew, to begin doing what he did best: construction. She watched him pacing on his own deck with a pad and pencil in his hand, and she knew he was itching to begin the project of rebuilding the stairs.
But first the dunes would need to be emptied of the zombies, and John didn’t have enough arrows to do the job. Even now, she could see another two zombies appear from the surf and stumble up the beach.
John came up next to her. He glanced over the side and shook his head. “I hope we don’t run out of food.”
“I hope, for your dad’s sake, we don’t run out of beer.”
“He has enough Redman hidden in his room that he’ll just have to live off his chew.”
John waved at Eric and then looked over at Darlene’s stilt house. “Miss home?”
“Home?” She followed his gaze and smiled. “That’s not home, that’s my temporary house until I can get back north.”
“Still the plan?” John asked.
Darlene laughed. “Yep, still the plan. I’m not going to push it, and I know it’s probably a suicide mission to think I can travel over a thousand miles through this shit just to see if my home is still in one piece. But it’s something I have to do.”
“You could stay here.”
“For me?” he asked with a smile.
“What does that mean?” she asked. The sexual tension between the two of them had been brewing since day one but they’d both ignored it like the proverbial elephant standing in the corner.
“I like you,” he said and looked away.
She liked him, too. Hell, she would make love to him right here if he wanted to. She was completely into him and sexually attracted. She smiled when she thought of the number of times she’d taken care of herself while thinking of John in the last few weeks.
“I like you, too. You know that.” Darlene stood and leaned on the rail. “But?”
John sheepishly held up his hand and his wedding band. “Look, I know it’s stupid and probably unrealistic.”
Darlene came to him and gave him a hug. “We’ve been through this already, haven’t we? I know you’re still holding out that your wife is alive. I get that. We all need something to believe in, and that’s what keeps you going. I would never force an issue between us. In the short time we’ve known each other, you’ve been a great friend, and probably the first guy in forever who didn’t treat me like shit or hurt me.”
“I would never hurt you,” he said.
She couldn’t stop the horrible thoughts flooding her mind now that she’d gone to that dark place and she hated herself for it right now . “I hope not.”
John must have sensed her dark demeanor because he squeezed her harder. “You’re a true friend and I know you have my back, and I have yours. What more could a person want these days?”
Your cock in me, she thought, more to make herself laugh and get back to positive.
When she did grin, he laughed. “I’m guessing from that look you’re thinking something dirty?”
“What look? I’m always thinking something dirty.”
“True,” John said and was only inches away from her.
I could lean in and kiss him, it would be that simple. I could be that bitch that breaks up a marriage, even though there is a ninety-nine point nine-nine percent chance the other person is dead. I could have him for me, the dream guy I never had.
Eric’s short quick whistle pulled them apart. When they looked his way, he pointed out to the water and scurried into his home.
They both dropped to the deck and John fished in one of the tackle boxes they had out there for just such an emergency. He pulled out two pairs of binoculars.
The side of the deck facing the ocean had a nice sunscreen built in, running six feet across and from the deck to the roof. It was painted in garish Miami-style teals, oranges and bright yellows. It also worked as a great shield for times like this.
John had slit several spots in it so they could press the binoculars to it and see without giving away that someone was actually here.
They’d been raided before, twice by land and once by sea, but the thieves had been unsuccessful.
“They seem to be going past us,” John whispered.
Darlene focused her binoculars at the caravan of boats heading north offshore. “Survivors from Orlando?”
“Could be. Maybe, when they were attacked, they got lucky and got the boats.”
Darlene counted seven crafts. “If they’re the survivors, there aren’t many left. Do we flag them down or let them go?”
“Not sure. I’d better get my dad.”
Darlene concentrated on the lead ship, a larger yacht with at least twenty people on deck. “Wait,” she said and gripped John’s arm.
“Let them pass.” Darlene held the binoculars away from her face and felt the tears begin to roll down her face. “I know them.”
“How?” John asked and put a hand on her shoulder.
“That’s Doug Conrad and his militia.” She turned to John and buried her face in his shoulder. The bastards that held her captive.
Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he’s not sleeping. He’s happily married to a woman who helps his career and is supportive, which is all he ever wanted in life…
He’s written over 150 stories that are currently available, including horror, zombies, contemporary fiction, thrillers and more. His goal is to write a good story and not worry about genre labels.
He runs two very successful podcasts on Project iRadio, too…
Arm Cast: Dead Sexy Horror Podcast – interviewing fellow authors as well as filmmakers, musicians, etc.
Arm N Toof’s Dead Time Podcast – with co-host Mark Tufo, the duo interview authors and filmmakers and anyone else they feel like talking to.
He also loves to talk in third person… because he’s really that cool.
You can find him at http://armandrosamilia.com
©Armand Rosamilia, 2016. All rights reserved.