Why should you care? Well, December 4th is when my new book, Then a Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, hits the digital shelves for $4.99. But you can preorder it now for just $2.99!
This book collects four novellas into one volume. Three of them I wrote a number of years ago, one of them is new, and I'd like to use this time to talk to you about it. In fact, I'd like to provide you with a bit of a preview.
Going through the book, the four novellas, I wanted to share with you one chapter from each. Not the first chapter from each, as some previews do, but some of my favorites.
Today I have for you a chapter from the second story to appear in this collection: Fanboys of Doom. This is Chapter Five: Escape.
THE WORLD STOPPED SPINNING. It felt like an eternity as I stood there frozen, left hand on the door knob, right hand holding the Glock, the curse of all curses hanging there above me like a fecal encrusted brick. All five shufflers turned to me as one. Bones creaked. Skin stretched. The mood in the room shifted from the idle browsing of a window shopper to the animalistic fervor of a Las Vegas all you can eat buffet.
Oddly enough, the shufflers seemed almost surprised to see me, which must have been why they didn’t come at me right away. I stood there looking at them, and they stood there looking at me. I’m not sure how long the six of us could have continued in such a fashion, but being one who values the life that God gave me, I broke the tension with a quick shot to the zombie nearest me. It was a woman in what would have once been called a power suit, and she went down lickity-split. Before she hit the floor I popped off four more shots. All four connected, but only three were head shots. It took two more to clear the room. Seven shots in under four seconds. Five shufflers lying still on the gray carpet.
I felt pretty good about myself.
Then I noticed the zombies on the other side of the glass.
Out on the sidewalk I could see dozens of them, with hundreds more in the lot behind. And I had their complete and undying attention. Yes, that pun was very much intended.
I holstered the Glock and turned back to the locked door. I threw myself into it only to bounce off with a curse. I looked back toward the entrance to see the shuffling mob bottlenecked at the broken front window where I had come in. That would slow them down for now, but it wasn’t going to last but a few more minutes before the sheer weight of them brought the entire front wall down. At that point I’d be up to my neck in biting teeth.
Panic set in. I kicked and beat at the door, but it just wouldn’t open. Three zombies had made it into the store and were shuffling my way while the others struggled to pull themselves through behind them. I ran toward the three shambling creatures, coming within inches of their outstretched and rotting hands. Then, before they could get a piece of me, I turned and sprinted back to the door and slammed into it. Wood splintered and the door banged open, spilling me into the hallway.
I pulled myself to my feet and ran to the outer door at the end of the short hallway, flicked the locking mechanism on the knob to unlock and threw open the door. A shuffler fell in, knocking me to the ground. It lay atop me, biting and clawing. Bastard must have heard the commotion and had been trying to push its way in.
I’d managed to get my arms between the two of us as we fell and it was all I could do to keep the thing’s biting teeth from my face. The zombie’s stinking breath had its way with me and it was then that I noticed something wrong with its face. It was hard to spot at first through the decayed flesh that hung off the creature’s skull, but I’d quickly realized that its face was red. The moment after that realization hit me I could see that the red was actually face paint. Pushing the thing back with all my might I could then see that the zombie’s face had been at one time painted up to look like Spider-Man. I could only hope that the painting had come before the creature had been turned, otherwise the human race had some kind of deranged face painter on its collective hands.
I pushed against the shuffler and had nearly thrown if off of me when another waddled in through the back door and joined in on the dog pile.
I rolled one way, then the other. The momentum tossed the newer creature off of me, but I still had the original to contend with, and his buddy wouldn’t stay down long. Not to mention the horde squeezing in at the other end of the store.
I took a chance and used my left arm to keep the thing’s teeth from clamping down on my neck and pulled the gun with my right. I brought it up to the creature’s temple and squeezed the trigger. The fight went out of it mighty quick. His friend clawed at me, pulling itself closer. I rolled away, pulled myself to my feet, and put a bullet into the thing’s head.
A third zombie, this one a female in the red uniform of an expendable Star Trek crew member, shuffled in through the open back door and I fired off another shot, dropping in down among its companions. I stepped over her, still thinking that the alley was my best option. That idea was quickly shot down by the hundreds of shufflers that crowded about behind the store, most making a beeline for the closest living human being.
That was me.
I jumped back into the hall and tried to slam shut the door. The red clad crew member lying in the doorway made that chore a bit difficult. I kicked and pushed the creature outside and managed to get the door shut and locked before any others could push their way inside.
That was when I heard the moaning behind me. I’d forgotten about the shufflers at the front of the store.
I spun to find half a dozen ambling their way into the hall. I backed against the door and opened fire.
It was a simple process, I squeezed the trigger and zombies fell. I moved forward as I fired, stepping over the bodies as I left the hall for the store itself. Less than a minute later I was empty, but the store had been cleared. All that remained were the mass that still bottlenecked at the front of the store, letting just one in at a time.
Now I had a choice to make. Zombies ahead of me or zombies behind.
To me the choice was simple. The zombies out back couldn’t get to me as long as the door held. I closed the inner door that led to the hallway just in case. That’s two doors the creatures out back would have to get through. But more importantly, the alley was bordered by a high wooden fence on one side, and the strip mall on the other. I had more room to work in the parking lot.
Out front it would have to be.
I inhaled deeply, then exhaled. In through my nose, out through my mouth. In with the good, out with the bad. Three times I breathed; in and then out. I tried to relax and calm my nerves. I didn’t quite reach Nirvana, but I could deal. I ejected the spent magazine from the Glock and replaced it with a fresh one from my vest, dropping the spent one in a pocket to reload later.
Then I turned to face the uncountable undead at the front of the store.
The decaying horde shuffled toward me. I became a machine. Aim, fire. Aim, fire. I shot and the monsters fell.
I fired the last shot and slammed in a fresh magazine. I’d only two left in the vest. Plus the spare Glock in the small of my back.
I’d managed to clear the front of the shop of shufflers and for the moment, I was alone with the comics and the bodies. That wasn’t going to last though. I could see through the front glass wall that the hundreds of others crowding the parking lot were ambling my way. Many had made it to the entrance and were climbing over their fallen zombie brothers and sisters toward the hole in the window. It looked like Black Friday in slow motion.
It was time for a Hail Mary.
You can preorder the book now for your Kindle, Nook, or any other device by clicking the cover below, or going to penguin.steevenorrelse.com.
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