Book #1 in The Contagium Trilogy
In the midst of the Second Great Depression, twenty-five year old Orissa Penwell doesn't think things can get any worse. She couldn't be more wrong. A virus breaks out across the country, leaving the infected crazed, aggressive and very hungry.
Orissa will do anything-no matter if it's right or wrong- to save the ones she loves. But when she discovers that most of the world is infected or dead, she must decide if those lives are worth saving at all.
I grabbed a rifle, sticking my head through the strap. I slung the quiver of arrows and the bow over my shoulder, stuffed an extra clip in my pocket, and stood.
“What the hell are you doing?” Padraic asked, over Argos’ muffled growls.
“I’m going to bring the truck around. Get in the back as soon as you can.”
“No!” Raeya objected. “Rissy, you’ll die! You-you can’t go down there with them!”
“They’re still far enough away I can get to the car.”
“No, they’re not. Stay here and they will pass us,” she pleaded.
“They will find us. Our best chance is getting out of here. Then we can double back for the SUV.”
“Orissa, that is crazy!” Jason shouted. “What if you don’t make it?”
“I have to try.” I moved to the ladder.
“You could die,” Raeya cried, scrambling to her feet.
“You either die trying or you just die,” I told her, feeling like this wasn’t really happening. “I’m not giving up yet. I said I’d keep you alive, and, well, this is the only way.”
My feet hit the cold cement, shock stinging my ankles. I pulled an arrow, ready to shoot. My breath clouded around me as adrenaline coursed my veins. The zombies were closer than I anticipated. They surrounded the cars, passing them without a second look. Hungry, they followed our human scent. I released the arrow. It zipped through the air and passed through a mushy zombie skull, continuing its lethal voyage into another’s eye.
I couldn’t do that again if I tried. I ran around the barn, clambering onto the roof of some sort of out building. I fired the rest of my arrows. Two fast zombies raced in front of the rest, stretching their arms out when they caught sight of my movement. Firing the gun would give me away for sure. I dropped the bow, jumped down and held the rifle like a baseball bat. I whacked one in the head and kicked the other in the chest.
Its skin slimed off, making the bottom of my boot slippery. My foot skidded out from underneath me. The zombie I kicked grabbed my foot, bringing it to his mouth. He couldn’t bite through my boot. The M9 was wedged in my waistband, hurting like hell when I landed on my back. I madly thrashed around, retrieving it. I held it to the zombie’s head and pulled the trigger.
Spoiled bits of brain and thick blood splashed across my face. Thank God I remembered to close my eyes. Wiping zombie blood from my lips, I rolled over, shooting the other in the cheek. Dammit, I thought, cursing wasting a bullet. I fired again, this time hitting him right in between the eyes. Yellow brain matter oozed from the bullet hole. I scrambled back onto the roof of what had to be a chicken coup, based on the feathers. I emptied my clip, burying each round deep into the skull of a zombie.
Though they dropped like flies, it didn’t even dent the horrifying number that lumbered toward us. I switched to the rifle, shooting anything that moved. I needed to get off of the roof before I was completely surrounded. I dropped the rifle, shoved another clip into the M9 and jumped off. I sprinted to a silo. I climbed six feet up the ladder, twisting, and shooting.
A zombie moved through the crowd with sickening speed and grace. I had one bullet left. I aimed carefully, lining the scope up with his eye. I paused, thinking he was the best looking zombie I’d ever seen. His eyes met mine right as I pulled the trigger.
A zombie next to him fell to the ground. He put his finger to his lips and walked, unnoticed, through the flesh eating monsters that clawed at the broken side of the barn. When he was at the bottom of the ladder, he motioned for me to come down. I swallowed, not knowing why in the world I would trust this person or who the hell he was walking amongst the zombies. I shoved the empty M9 in my waistband and climbed down, hands trembling almost uncontrollably.
As soon as my feet hit the ground, he pressed himself up against me, pinning me between his body and the silo. Over a black, long sleeve shirt, he was wearing a hairy, moldy leather vest. It was wrinkled and rotten in parts. I wanted to shove him off me when I realized it was made out of zombie skin. Fingers, tied to strings like freaking decorations, hung from his neck. A hand was tied to his belt. I didn’t know what part of the zombie was stitched onto the baseball cap he was wearing.
It was disgusting, having zombie parts rubbing against me. It smelled revolting. So revolting, that the zombies wouldn’t be able to distinguish his human smell from the rotting flesh of one of their own. I closed my eyes and buried my face against his chest.
As if we didn’t exist, the zombies milled by, grabbing at the weak wood that kept my friends safe. I was grateful for this very odd stranger but I wanted to help my friends. A gun fired. My body tensed, thinking somehow one of my friends had gotten a hold of a weapon and shot the guy who was saving me, thinking he was really a zombie.
He put an arm around me, obviously thinking the echoing shot scared me. My fingers closed around the material of his shirt. A zombie stopped, eyeing us hungrily. I pulled the guy closer to me, holding my breath. He inched closer, every part of him pressing into me. Too scared to breathe, I held my breath until the zombie moved on.