Demon Ember

Resurrection Chronicles, Book 1

**ADULT ROMANCE**

Mya’s world is falling apart. After a series of earthquakes, deadly animals with glowing red eyes begin attacking people and start the spread of a zombie-like plague. Safety is just a memory as she tries to make her way home. When a different creature attacks the people helping her reach Oklahoma City, Mya is sure she’ll never see the light of another day.

Despite his eerie eyes and very sharp teeth, the grey-skinned creature is more intelligent and humanlike than he first appears. He’s determined to keep Mya by his side and protect her from the new world’s dangers. When his path starts taking her further away from home, she must choose between safety and her family.

**Recommended for adult readers
***Book 1 of 3

Intended for mature readers due to violence (zombie deaths), and strong language (it’s the end of the world…you gotta swear at that), and some crude humor.

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Chapter 1

One

I leaned back in my chair and rubbed my eyes.

“What is the point of math?” I asked.  My roommate laughed behind me.

“The point is to separate the wheat from the chaff, Mya.  The weak give up and drop out.”

I spun in my chair to look at her.  Our desks occupied a corner of our dorm room just outside the shared bathroom.  Not the ideal location, but it freed up the space under our loft beds for a couch and TV.

“I think I proved myself by making it through the first year.  I need a break.  Do you mind if I turn on the TV?”

As roommates went, Kristin wasn’t bad.  Our personalities blended well since both of us were fairly mellow.

“Go ahead.  I’ll put in headphones.”

I flopped down on the couch but hesitated to turn on the TV.  I didn’t think I had the brain power it would take to watch a show.  I couldn’t wait for winter break, still weeks away.  Sure, I would need to deal with the stress of finals first, but it would be worth it to get away from campus.  I loved going to OU Tulsa and living in the dorms in Walker.  I just missed home and my family.

I picked up my phone and sent a snap to my younger brother.  He was no doubt in the middle of a class.  But as a senior in high school, he likely wasn’t paying much attention, anyway.

This is my math-sucks face, I captioned the selfie.

A minute later my phone beeped.  I opened an image of him trying to crawl inside a locker.

This is my escape plan, it read.

I grinned.  Ryan was a goof, and I could always count on him to cheer me up.

Feeling a bit better, I stood.

“I’m going to grab something from the cafeteria.  Want to come?”

Kristin pulled out one ear bud.  “Nah, I’m good.  Don’t forget your pants.”

I made a face.  Kristin, like me, usually lounged in a shirt and underwear when in our room.  The rooms were warm, and it was comfortable going pantless.  Too bad the administration didn’t agree.  I put on my shorts so I didn’t have to listen to another lecture about walking around without pants in public corridors, grabbed my ID, and left.

The halls were fairly quiet as I made my way to the exit.  Most students were either in class or still sleeping.  Given the option, I would have preferred to sleep in as well on my late start days.  I wouldn’t call myself a morning person.  I just couldn’t seem to sleep past eight.  It probably had something to do with the fact I had a hard time keeping my eyes open past midnight.  I used the quiet morning time to get assignments done and relax before class.

I shivered slightly when I stepped outside and almost went back in for a hoodie, but I didn’t have far to go.

At the Couch, our cafeteria, I helped myself to some eggs, ham, and country potatoes and sat at a table to eat.  A morning news show played on the huge TV.  They were talking about the protesters at the pipeline.

At the bottom of the screen was a news feed about increasing tremors outside of Rheydt, Germany.

“Crazy, huh?” the guy next to me said.  “I was thinking of putting some money together to send some supplies to the protestors.”

“I wouldn’t.  It’s just perpetuating the need for the oil line.  If the protestors really wanted to stop the pipeline, they would abandon their cars and their consumerism.  If people stopped buying too much and using their cars daily or even weekly, we wouldn’t need so much oil.”

The guy gave me a disbelieving look.  “Do you really think that’s the solution?”

“No.  I think less people is the real solution.”

“What do you suggest?  The Purge becomes a reality?”

“I’m not suggesting anything.  I’m only pointing out that those protests are pointless.  Most of the people traveled from distant places, using more fuel than normal to get there.  The protest just puts more strain on the supply and demand system they are protesting.  Sending them goods, like everyone wants to do, will only add to that demand.”

He shook his head, picked up his empty tray, and walked away.  I was used to that.  I didn’t think like other people did.  My heart didn’t automatically bleed for causes.  I was too busy asking myself why a cause was needed in the first place.

Ignoring the protestors on the screen, I read the newsfeed about the earthquakes.  The tremors began just after ten a.m. in Germany.

“Two hours ago,” I said softly.  The tremors started at a 2.1 magnitude that had increased to 3.9 already.  Officials were saying the tremors occasionally occurred due to the Garzweiler mine, some miles south of the town.  That was something I could relate to.  Residences on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, where I grew up, often felt tremors because of fracking.

“You’d think we’d get smarter,” I said to myself.  I finished breakfast and made my way back to my room.

“Anything decent?” Kristin asked when I entered.

“Same as always,” I said.

I took my laptop from my desk and settled on the couch so I could keep an eye on the news while finishing math.  Kristin put her earbuds in, and we worked in silence for several minutes before she closed herself in our shared bathroom to get ready for class.

“Hold on, we’re getting reports of unusual activity from our source in Germany.”

The words caught my attention, and I looked up at the TV.  The reporter was frowning and calling someone’s name.  A second later, a line crackled and the still image of a dark-haired man filled half the screen.

“Garan,” the newswoman said.  “Tell us what is happening.”

“Another tremor just shook the area,” the man said with a heavy accent.  “Some buildings sustained damage.  The results are not confirmed, but we believe this one might be in the sixes.  Local residents are being evacuated as a precautionary measure.”

“What about the mining?” I asked the TV.

“Were there any injuries?” the reporter asked, instead.

“Minor injuries,” Garan said.  “The most unusual part of this last tremor is the animal reaction.”

“What do you mean?” the news lady asked.

“Everything has gone quiet.  I don’t hear or see any birds, and the people I’ve interviewed in the last few moments noted that their pets have run off.  One elderly woman said that behavior had decided her evacuation.  To quote her, ‘The whole place has an ominous feel.’  I can’t say Rheydt feels very welcoming at the moment.”

“Thank you, Garan.”

His line disconnected, and the anchor woman promised to keep the viewers up-to-date as news broke.

Kristin came out of the bathroom and opened her closet.

“Geez, it sounds like Germany is being hit by some wicked quakes,” I said.  “They’re evacuating a town.”

“Really?  It must be a pretty big deal if they’re reporting it here,” Kristin said as she continued to get dressed.

“Yeah, they just had some news guy on from over there.  He made it sound kinda creepy when he mentioned how all the animals have disappeared from the area.”

As I spoke, the slightest vibration tickled the bottom of my feet.

“Did you feel that?” Kristin asked.

“Yep.  Stupid fracking.  You better hurry up,” I said, glancing at our large wall clock.  “And you might want a coat.”

She quickly combed her hair before grabbing her things and rushing out.  It wasn’t long after that one of the girls from the adjoining dorm room closed our shared bathroom door, and I heard the water run again.  We’d really lucked out.  Our class schedules worked so we never had to fight for bathroom time in the morning.

I listened to the TV and worked on homework for another hour before I started to get ready for class.  The talk of quakes and weird animal behavior had spooked me more than I realized because I jumped a little at the sight of my ghostly reflection in the steamed-up mirror.  Shaking my head at myself, I pulled the hair tie from my long brown hair then locked both bathroom doors.  Nothing about the news had been significantly disturbing.  Yet, as I turned on the shower and stripped, I couldn’t shake the disquieting feeling that clung to me.  Probably too much stress and the need for a break.

As I washed, my thoughts drifted from the news to possibilities of going home for the weekend.  Home was just over an hour away.  I didn’t have a car here, but Ryan would pick me up.

I turned off the water, dried, and went back to my room.

My phone beeped.  It was an actual text from Ryan, not a snap.

Are you watching the news?

Just turned it off.  Is it about the tremor that just went through?

I started to get dressed but only managed a bra and fresh underwear when the phone beeped.

No, Germany.  Turn on the TV.

Already saw.  They’ve been having quakes for hours.

I finished dressing and read his next text.

A 9.0 just happened.  They have it on in school.

Garan was back, but this time live, when I turned on the TV.  The scene behind him was a pile of rubble and ruin.  His skin was coated with dust, and the air was still thick with it.

“As you can see, this area was hit the hardest.  There’s still no estimate of how many residents hadn’t evacuated in time.  Rescue personnel are on their way.”  The faint sounds of sirens came through the speakers.

“Are you all right, Garan?”  As the newswoman said that, something dark zipped across the scene behind him.  The camera shifted slightly as if whatever it was had startled the camera man.  A smattering of German broke out, silencing whatever response Garan had opened his mouth to say.  Garan’s gaze shifted from the camera lens to something just off camera.

“Garan?” the newswoman said.

“I’m sorry.  It appears some of the pets are returning.  Perhaps to look for their owners.”  The camera shifted to a pile of distant rubble where three dark shapes moved.  “They appear to be digging,” Garan said.

I stared at the screen, squinting to make out what they were seeing.  With the dust still clouding the air, blocking out the already weak sun, it was hard to see the dark shapes they were talking about.  The sirens grew louder, and the camera swept away from the rubble as Garan ran toward the vehicle to point to the pile of rubble.  Since he switched to German, I wasn’t sure what was being said.  But the gesturing and concern on Garan’s face had me thinking he was trying to get them to go check out where the dogs were searching.

A lone, deep yowl filled the air as the sirens suddenly silenced.

The news woman came back on the screen and again promised to keep the viewers up-to-date on what was happening.

The chilling scene of such devastation stunned me, and I yearned for home even more.

I’m thinking about skipping my next class, I sent to Ryan.

Life of a college kid, he sent back.

I shook my head, knowing I needed to go to class, and grabbed my things.  The newswoman tried to contact Garan again but reported he wasn’t answering.  She speculated that everyone was working together to find survivors as quickly as possible.  After expressing that the station’s thoughts and prayers were with the community of Rheydt, the newswoman signed off.

I shut off the TV and hurried out the door.  Campus was still quiet and chilly on my walk to class.

Arriving early, I took a seat toward the back of the room and set up my laptop, content to stalk social media until the professor arrived.  Around me, the few students in the room were talking about parties that had happened the night before.

My phone beeped, and I hurried to turn off the sound before checking the most recent message from Ryan.

Go to YouTube and look up Nachbar von Hund angegriffen.

Is that German? I sent back before typing in exactly what he’d texted.

Yes.  The video is just a few hours old and already going viral.

I made sure to turn off my speakers then pulled up the video.  It started with a shot of a backyard from an upper window.  After a moment, the back door of the neighboring building opened.  A man stepped out with a gun.  I watched him fire twice prior to something rushing at him and knocking him down.  Before the camera could focus, the thing attacking the man darted away.  I covered my mouth with my hand as the shaking camera stayed on the fallen man.  Spots of crimson grew on his shirt and pants.

The man jerked, and I watched as he continued to spasm then stilled.  The video had several seconds left to it.  I was half tempted to turn on the volume to see if I was missing anything when the man slowly got to his feet.  As soon as he did, he looked straight at the camera.  The video stopped there, leaving me staring into his eyes.  Something about them sent a shiver of fear through me.

~*~

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Release date: June 20th, 2017

Chapter 2

Two

A door slammed shut, startling me.  The professor continued to the front of the classroom, unaware of my near heart attack.  I minimized my browser but kept my laptop out with every intention of taking notes.  However, my mind returned to the video as the professor began her lecture.

I gave in to the urge to check social media after another text from Ryan.  My feed was exploding with “prayers for Germany” and thoughts going out to them.

When class ended at noon, I started to pack up my bag.  The ground trembled beneath my feet again.  Not many of the students even paused on their way out of the room.  Tremors in Oklahoma weren’t a rare occurrence.  I shouldered my bag and joined the flow out of the room.

My phone beeped almost immediately after the tremble stopped.

Did you feel that? Ryan sent.

Yeah.  Stupid fracking, I sent back.

Tremors were near Irving, Texas.  And we’re feeling them here, he replied.

My stomach dipped as I continued my walk outside.  We shouldn’t have been feeling tremors all the way from Texas.  The ones we felt here were usually from fracking to the north of us.  Ryan had to be mistaken.

I hurried to my dorm building, eager to turn on the news to learn more when my phone chimed with another text from Ryan.  I didn’t look at it until I made it to the fourth floor landing.

Are you watching the news?  This is insane!

I didn’t stop to answer.  I was in my room and had clicked the TV on a minute later.  The channel was still on the news station from before.  Streaming on the bottom bar was an urgent update: “There have been reports of tremors and earthquakes in Irving, Texas.”

The door opened and Kristin came in with her bag strapped over her shoulder.

“Did you feel that?” she asked.  “I was walking past Gould when I felt the tremor.  My professor let us out early.”

“Yeah, I was just leaving class when I felt it.  The news is saying that it originated from Irving, Texas.”

“Texas?”

“Oh, shit.  Kristin, I’m sorry.  I forgot.”

“It’s okay.  Wichita Falls is about two hours outside of Irving.  My parents should be fine.”  She sent a quick text off before she came to sit next to me on the couch.  Only a minute later, her phone chirped.  She looked at the screen.

“They’re fine,” she said.  “No damage so it couldn’t have been too bad.”

We continued to watch the news for updates, but there wasn’t much to report.  Just a tremor that didn’t destroy anything.  Yet, I couldn’t stop feeling a sliver of unease.  First, Germany’s tremors, and now, here in the States?

A very quiet rumble started in my stomach, a reminder that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.

“You ready to get something from Shades of Brown and some lunch?” I asked.  It was a typical Tuesday run for us.  She liked the Bolivian cocoa from Shades of Brown, and I loved the artisan sandwiches from Zoe’s Kitchen.

She nodded and grabbed her keys.  I took my wallet from my backpack and followed her out the door.  We took the stairs to the ground floor level, passing other students coming and going.

“How about I drop you off at Shades of Brown and run to get the food? I need to keep working on my paper,” she said.

I agreed, wanting to get back to keep my eye on the news.  Little vibrations still rumbled under our feet.

It didn’t take too long to get to Shades of Brown.  Kristin pulled over to drop me off then left to go a few blocks down for our sandwiches.  I walked under the black awning protecting the entrance and into the quaint shop.  I inhaled the rich scent of fresh ground coffee and stepped up to the counter.

The tall barista with dark hair brushing over bright blue eyes smiled at me, starting a flutter in my stomach.  I was a marshmallow for a gorgeous set of eyes.

“Hey, what can I get ya?” he asked.

“Two Bolivian cocoas please.”

“Sure thing,” he said with a wink and pushed off the counter to start my order.

I glanced around.  I enjoyed coming here when I needed to get away from campus.  The distressed wooden counters and small reading nooks made the place feel cozy and homey.  There were always open tables, like now, to sit and take in the atmosphere.

“All right, two Bolivian cocoas to go,” the Barista said, jarring me from my study.

I smiled and paid.

A tremor rolled under my feet, causing the hot chocolates to ripple.  I held my breath as I waited for it to finish.  I glanced up, and the Barista’s brows were pinched and his lips were tight.

“It’s getting really Jurassic Park out there.”

He turned to me, his lips parting in a silent question.  I forced a smile on my face and walked out.  Not everyone got me.  Fine, very few people got me.

My phone beeped, and I set the cups on the outdoor seating to check my messages.

Tell me you’re seeing the pattern, too. #freaksbyblood

I grinned.  Ryan was one of the few who got me.

Creepy coincidence?  Anything on the news?

Kristin pulled up.  I quickly got in, ready to head back to our dorm building.

Local no.  Searching for anything new from Germany.

Once we got back to our room, Kristin and I immediately turned on the TV.  We watched the local report, waiting to see if something would come up about the earthquakes in Texas.

Sent you a link, Ryan texted.

“Ryan tagged me in a new video from Germany,” I said, moving to get my laptop before sitting back down next to Kristin.

I logged in and tapped the link for the video that had been live-streamed from Germany.  Kristin muted the TV and watched with me as a man’s face appeared on screen.  He was breathing heavily and his eyes were wide.  The image was dimly illuminated and bounced around as if the man was running.  The angle of the recording changed as he lifted his phone high.  I couldn’t understand what he was saying and focused on the black he was recording.

For a moment, there was nothing but darkness and his harsh, gasping breaths.  Then, I heard it.  The clack and clatter of something moving in the void.  Kristin and I both leaned forward.  A growl started low and grew louder through the speakers.

“Is this live?” Kristin asked softly.

I looked at the time stamp.  “No, but it was live.”

The jerky aim of the camera caught a flash of movement in the darkness behind the running man.  Suddenly, dozens of red dots flashed before the angle changed again.

My phone chimed, but I ignored it.

A blood-curdling scream made Kristin and me jump.  We stared at the black screen and listened as the sound of growls and screaming increased.  Something moved close enough to the camera light and was caught on video.  It looked like a very large dog’s leg.  An instant later, it moved out of frame.  Teeth flashed, and the recording went black.

Kristin and I remained silent.  My sandwich felt like lead in my stomach.  For a moment, I couldn’t process anything beyond the fact that I was certain we’d just watched a man die.  Then I picked up my phone.

Are you watching? Ryan had sent.

Why would you send me that?  I’m going to dream of that shit now.

That’s just one of the reports of animal attacks from Germany since the last tremor.  It’s like the wildlife freaked out and turned on us.  Why aren’t we seeing any of this on the news?

I didn’t know how to answer Ryan so I turned the volume back up on the TV instead, to try to figure out what was going on.

“There have been reports of aftershocks in Irving, Texas.  Viewers are urged to seek shelter.”

Kristin jumped from the couch.

“I’m going to call my parents.”

I nodded as she walked back into our bathroom.  I texted Ryan.

Are you still feeling tremors there?

No.  But are you still watching the news?

Yeah.

Did you see they announced communications are down in western Germany?

I hadn’t heard that.  Earthquakes…bizarre, aggressive animal behavior.  I nibbled my bottom lip.  What the hell was going on over there?  And why was I feeling so creeped out about the tremors we felt here?  I glanced over at our bathroom door and heard Kristin speaking to her mom.  At least they were still safe.

Once Kristin finished talking, she rejoined me to watch the news.  At 5 p.m., I got another text from Ryan.

Just heard from a friend in Wichita Falls.  EAS ran a broadcast in Texas to stay indoors.

Without saying anything to Kristin, I changed the channel to see if we could get more local information.

“Due to reports of strange animal activity, people are encouraged to avoid animals showing any unusual traits or seeming unnaturally agitated.  In other news…” The news anchor went over other safety precautions for Earthquakes.

“How’s your mom holding up?” I asked Kristin.

“Good.  They just had dinner.  That last quake messed up the storage in the basement so they’re cleaning that up.”

If her parents weren’t mentioning anything about the EAS, neither would I.

The station we were watching cut over to a program in progress.  I tried a few other channels, but they similarly were no longer reporting on Europe or the tremors.

Kristin went to her desk and worked on her paper.

What’s happening in Germany?  Local cable sucks, I sent Ryan.

Reports of lost communication spreading.  Friends no longer able to get messages to friends.  Saw a message translated from someone in France reporting dog attacks in their neighborhood.  Keep you posted.

I settled in to watch a movie.  The room was getting warmer, as was usual in the evenings.  Kristin opened the window a crack without me asking, and I kicked off my pants and got comfortable with a blanket.

It was around nine when Kristin climbed into her bunk, and I turned off the volume.  It didn’t do much good.  Laughing and loud music faintly reached us.  Somewhere nearby, someone was having a good time, and I heard Kristin move restlessly in her bed.

Near eleven, the music finally quieted.  Kristin sighed, and I turned off the TV and climbed into my bunk.  Someone called a goodbye in the hallway, and I closed my eyes.

All was quiet in our room when an eerie howl sounded from outside.  Fear formed a cold ball in my stomach as I glanced over at Kristin, who stared at our partially open window.

The howl came again, sounding closer.

I grabbed my phone and scrambled down from the bunk to get to the window.  Outside, the campus lights illuminated the view of the grounds, street, and distant parking lot.

Someone walked into view from the base of our building.  He looked back toward the entrance and yelled goodnight just before another howl rent the air.  The guy stopped and looked toward the south.  Whatever he saw had him turning quickly.

“Get back inside,” he shouted as he ran toward the building.

Behind him, in the distance, several shapes were moving fast.  Dogs.  Really, really big ones.  Their thin, black bodies flew through the shadows, their eyes reflected red in the darkness.

“What the fuck is that?” Kristin asked.

The dogs were gaining on the guy fast.  One sprang forward and knocked him to the ground.  It closed its maw around the man’s calf and shook its head viciously.  I dialed 911 and lifted the phone to my ear.  I listened to an all-circuits-are-busy message as the guy outside screamed and thrashed.  Beside me, Kristin began to sob.  More dogs converged on the man.

~*~

Want the full book?  Just select the retailer link of your choice!

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Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/lunamc9

Release date: June 20th, 2017

Chapter 3

Three

I started to shake and ended the call to try again.  Screams echoed from outside and inside the building.  Kristin and I weren’t the only ones awake and seeing the attack.

Another guy ran from our building, yelling and waving his hands.  The dogs stopped their violent assault, lifting their heads as one.  In that moment, I saw they weren’t really dogs.  They had no ears that I could see, and their eyes glowed red.  It wasn’t a reflection but an actual glow.

“Get out of there.  He’s not moving,” someone yelled from below.

Whoever said that was right.  The man on the ground was a bloody mess.  I couldn’t be sure, but one of his legs looked broken or chewed off.

Behind the dogs, a car beeped and the lights flashed as someone tried using their key fob as a distraction.  The dogs didn’t even flinch.  They remained focused on the new guy who had stopped waving his arms and was slowly backing away.  He disappeared from our line of sight and the dogs howled, leaping forward.

The screaming started up again.  Beneath those sounds, there was yelling.  There were too many voices at once, but it sounded like there were people at the entrance, trying to hold the door closed.

Kristin turned from the window and opened our room door.  She listened in the hall while I kept trying 911 and stared at the fallen man.  What the fuck was going on?  My mind played that panicked question on repeat until my fifth redial.  That’s when I saw I had a message.

It was from Ryan from about forty minutes earlier, thirty minutes before the music had turned off.

It’s the dogs.  Stay inside.  Stay safe.  Stay away from the infected.

I stared at the words, struggling to think and breathe.  The dogs.  Did that mean Mom, Dad, and Ryan had seen the same thing Kristin and I had just seen?

Are you safe?  Did they come by you? I tried to send back.  But the message kept failing.  I tried to call and received the same “circuits are busy” message.  I turned on the TV, and every damn channel had the damn EAS bars with a message warning everyone to stay indoors to avoid infection.

“Infection from what?” I said.

It took three tries to turn off the TV because my hands shook so badly.  When it was off, I still heard the distant screaming and yelling.

“What’s going on?”  Kristin didn’t have any better of an idea than I did, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking.

She turned from the door, her face white.  Shock.  I’d seen it before when Ryan broke his arm.  I walked over to her and tugged her back into our room before I closed and locked the door.

“You need to sit down.”  She vacantly stared straight ahead as I led her to the couch.

“Kristin, you’re in shock.  We both are.  But we need to get past it.”  Sitting beside her, I took one of her hands in mine and rubbed it aggressively.  Doing something helped quell enough of the panic that I could think beyond “what the hell is going on?”

Those things outside were what we’d seen in the video.  What was happening here had happened in Germany.  Germany had lost communications, too.  Why?  What were those creatures?

“I don’t know what to do,” I said.  “Ryan said the dogs are infected.  The TV is saying to stay away from them.”

She exhaled shakily and new tears trailed down her cheeks.  I’d take crying over numb silence any day.

I stood up and went to the window to check on the man.  I watched in horror as he struggled to pull himself in the direction of the building.  Part of his leg dragged behind him, leaving a bloody trail.  Chunks were missing from his side.  My already racing heart kicked up a notch.  He couldn’t be alive.  Not in that condition.

“Mya,” Kristin sobbed.  I didn’t realize I was making noises until she spoke.  I swallowed hard and turned away from the window.

“J-just freaking out.  Did you hear what I said about the dogs?”

“Yeah.  Infected.  Stay away from ‘em.”

I took a deep breath and tried to calm the shaking.  We couldn’t both lose it.

“Right.” I sat beside Kristin for a moment and rubbed her hand again.  “If the dogs are infected and they bite people, then the people they bite might be infected, too.  We should stay away from everyone.  Stay in our room.”

She nodded, and I picked up my phone.

“Just stay here,” I said to her before getting up and going back to the window.  With my back to her, I slid the window open and got ready to take a picture of the man.  He paused in his struggles and looked up, as if searching out the noises coming from our building.  There were many.  A lot of shouts and crying.

I snapped the picture and then zoomed in on the image to see his face.  It was the same creepy, cloudy-eyed look as the man from the German video.

“Are they still out there?” Kristin asked.  “The dogs?”

“Not that I can see.  But there’s a lot of yelling still.”

There was a scuff of movement behind me, and I turned in time to see Kristin walk into our shared bathroom.  She knocked on the adjoining door.

“Amy?  Dawn?  Can you guys open up?”

I hurried toward Kristin.  “I don’t think that’s a good idea…”

The door swung open to reveal a very pale Dawn.

“Where’s Amy?” Kristin said, looking into their room.

“Nate’s dorm,” Dawn answered.  “I thought I was alone.  Did you see outside?  Why is he moving?”

“Who’s moving?” Kristin asked.

“Never mind.  Did you lock your door?” I asked Dawn.

“I don’t know.  I closed it when I heard the yelling.”

I moved into Dawn’s room to make sure her door was locked.  Once I verified it was, I used the peephole to look out into the hallway.  Someone ran past.  A door slammed shut further down the hall.  The screaming and shouting was getting closer.

“Let’s go to our room,” I said.

Kristin nodded and led Dawn through the bathroom.  I took a moment to push a desk in front of Dawn’s door then retreated back the way I’d come.  In the bathroom, I locked the door from the inside.

When I joined Kristin and Dawn, Kristin was looking out the window.

“Will you help me move a desk?” I asked her.

She didn’t say anything about the man still dragging himself across the parking lot as we moved the desk.  In the hallway, the noises grew quiet.  I caught Kristin’s glance at the peephole.

“Don’t look,” I said quietly as we eased the desk into place.

She nodded and moved to sit next to Dawn.  I stayed near the door, staring at it.  None of this seemed real.

A sound at the door made me jump.  I held my breath, listening.  The sound came again.  A rasp of something against the other side of the panel.  Swallowing and struggling to breathe quietly, I leaned forward to check the peephole.

A cloudy, once-blue eye stared back at me.  I jerked backwards and covered my mouth.  I would not scream.  I would not panic.  I would not die.

Our doorknob moved slightly.  Not a turn.  More of a jostle.  None of us made a sound.

I waited, holding still and keeping quiet.  Screams erupted nearby.  The noise outside our door stopped.

I let out a shuttering breath that threatened to turn into hysteric sobs.  No.  They’d hear.  I took a steadying breath and then another, working to control the hysteria.  When I turned, Kristin and Dawn were staring at me with wide eyes.  Their pale faces were a reflection of how I felt.

Outside, a smattering of distant pops broke out.  Lifting a finger to my lips, I let them know to remain quiet and moved back toward the window.  I couldn’t see anything beyond the street lights.  The roads were empty of traffic.

“I think we’re on our own,” I said softly.

I tried to move past the panic fogging my mind.  What should we do?  Should we stay and wait for help?  It was smart.  It was what people did when lost.  Stay in one spot.

“We can stay here.  We have water,” I whispered, mostly to myself, “but only enough snack food for a day or two.”  It could work.  Yet, I couldn’t get the parallels between what had happened in Germany and here out of my mind.  The video of the man being bitten then getting up.  Seeing the man outside torn up and then dragging himself toward the building.  And the cloudy eye in our peephole.  The EAS used the term infection.  Infections spread.  Did staying in one spot make sense?

“Leaving means…”  I turned to look at the door.  The person who had been staring back at me wasn’t healthy anymore.  If we left our room, we would likely end up the same way.

I glanced at Kristin and Dawn and saw the same hopeless defeat in their eyes.

More pops sounded from outside, pulling my attention back to the window.  Nothing moved but the guy in front of the building.  Even the screams inside had died down.  I hoped it was because people were in their rooms hiding, not dead.

In the silence, I could hear the distant whine of several engines.

“Get dressed,” I said.  I pulled on my pants and yanked the sheets from our beds.

“What are you doing?” Dawn asked quietly, following me.

“There are people out there with guns and vehicles.  We have two options.  Through the door or the window.  There’s no way I’m going in that hallway.”

Before we finished tying the sheets, Dawn pushed out the screen and waved her arms.

“I see them,” she said.

We joined her at the window and exhaled in relief at the sight of several military vehicles followed by a line of cars and trucks.

“If you’re not infected, come to your windows,” a man yelled from below.  His gaze swept up the building and over to the other wings.

He spoke softly to several uniformed men who broke off and moved around the building, out of sight.

“Stay in your rooms.  We’ll knock when it’s clear.”

On the far side of the vehicles, people emerged from the shadows, running in an awkward jerking way toward the sound of his voice.  Before they got too close, the uniformed men standing in the backs of trucks, shot at them.  The runners dropped with a shot to the head.

“It’s real, isn’t it?” Dawn said.  “Zombies.  Hellhounds.  I’m not going to wake up, am I?”

I didn’t say a thing.  What could I say?

Instead, I stepped away from the window and helped Kristin move the desk from the door.  I watched the halls through our peephole.  Gunshots echoed from inside the building.

Several minutes later, a shot rang out on our floor.  It wasn’t long before a uniformed man knocked on our door.

“It’s clear.  You have ten seconds to open the door before—”

I opened the door not waiting to hear the rest.

“Stay close and stay behind me,” he said.

We joined seven other girls.  Behind us, two more military men guarded the hallway from where they’d come.  An unmoving body lay on the floor.  The hysteria I’d shoved down threatened to bubble back up.  I turned away from the sight and followed the lead man.

We made slow progress through the rest of the wing, clearing other healthy people from their rooms, before we reached the stairwell.  Our footsteps echoed as we ran down four flights to the ground floor.

Outside, another uniformed man waved us toward the vehicles where other students were hurrying to get into the back of the trucks.  Through the chaos of evacuation, more infected ran from the dark.  Shots didn’t stop ringing.  Dawn and Kristin pressed close to me as we waited for our turn.

As soon as everyone was in and the buildings cleared, men with guns jumped onto the backs of the trucks, and the engines started again.

Chapter 4

Four

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“The stadium for now.  We’re trying to establish communications to set up an evacuation.”

When we arrived a few minutes later, we left the trucks.  The uniformed men corralled our group from the university toward the stadium.  As we jostled forward with the flow of the crowd, Kristin lifted up on her toes, searching for Dawn.  Behind us, the vehicles pulled away.

“Come on, we’ll find her inside,” I said.

Together, we moved toward Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, our temporary shelter.  We followed the herd of people to Gate 14, and the sound of our footsteps almost drowned out the distant shots and howls.

More military people with guns guarded the doors we entered.  Inside the entrance, it was chaos, stifling hot and humid with the hysteric and shell-shocked people milling about.  Some called out for friends, but most stumbled around looking lost.

Kristin tugged my hand, weaving us through the crush of bodies.  The entry was filled with even more students and residents and so were the ramps and halls leading from it.  People weren’t spreading out or even thinking of the fact that the vehicles had left again, which meant there would be more people coming.

Kristin wedged through two people, pulling me.  My sweaty hand started to slip.

“Hold on,” I called out, but she kept going.  I tugged her hand, stopping her.  She looked back to me, her eyes wide and wild.

“We have to find Dawn,” she said.

“Breathe.  We’re not going to find anyone in this mess.  Look around.”

Kristin took a deep breath and held it before she slowly released it.  I did the same while struggling to think what we needed to do next.  The frantic look in her eyes drained a little, and the stuttering of my heartbeat slowed.

“I’m okay,” she said.

“Let’s see if we can find someone who might be able to tell us what’s going to happen next.”

Kristin and I pushed toward some of the uniformed men inside the building.

“Can you tell us what’s going on?” I asked the first one who made eye contact with me.

“Sorry, ma’am.  At this point, all we know is that a State of Emergency was declared.  Water bottles are being handed out at different concession stands.  Our focus is rounding up civilians until we’re told something else.”  He turned away from us to direct a family with a missing child.

Kristin and I moved back and roamed through the hallways, making our way to the rear of the stadium where it was a little less crowded.  The gates we passed were either guarded by more military personnel or blockaded with benches and trash cans.  The sight of all the men and women dressed in fatigues made it feel safe.  Were Mom, Dad, and Ryan safe?  I worried my bottom lip and followed Kristin, until the conversation of a group we passed caught my attention.

“Oklahoma City isn’t that far.  I say we drive there,” a guy with a buzz cut said, piquing my interest.  I tugged Kristin’s hand and stopped walking.

“Who the hell knows what’s out there, Josh,” the only girl in their group said.

“Fuck this.  We can’t just sit around and wait,” Josh said.

The two other men nodded, one of them pulling his shirt up to reveal the handle of a gun.

“We’ll be fine,” he said.

“Kevin,” the girl said, yanking his shirt down.  She fisted her hands and glared at each of them.

Kristin tried to pull me away.

“Hang on.”  If they were going to Oklahoma City—

A scream rent the air, breaking the tense silence between the friends.  We all turned toward the source of the sound.  A moment later, shots echoed further down the corridor.  People started pushing our direction in their panic to get away from whatever was happening.

I glanced at the small group near us.  The girl’s eyes were wide.  With grim, determined expressions, the trio of men moved toward the blockaded emergency exit.

I gripped Kristin’s arms and forced her to look at me.

“Let’s leave with those guys.”

Kristin shook her head as the crowd began to swarm toward us.  Shouts rang out behind them.

“Run!”

“The infected broke through!”

“The army will take care of us,” Kristin said.

“The infected have already gotten in.”

“And they are shooting them.  If you go out there, you’ll die.”

Further down the hall, more screams and shots echoed.  The panicking mass of people rushed toward us.  Staying here wasn’t any safer than leaving.

“To the field,” someone yelled.

I hugged Kristin quickly.

“Run, be safe,” I said.

Kristin released me and took off down the hall, away from the mob.  I ran over to the group of four trying to clear the exit.  The third man struggled with moving one of the heavy trashcans.  I helped drag it to the side while Josh and Kevin pulled the last remaining bench from the doorway.  Josh pushed the door and it opened a quarter of the way, partially blocked by something from the outside.

“Stay close,” Josh shouted before he ran out.

The screams grew deafening before Kevin then the girl hurriedly squeezed out.  The third guy pushed me forward as the first wave of the crowd shoved to escape through the open doorway.

I ran after the others.  Cool night air brushed my sweaty skin.  My heart pounded.  I knew what could be out in the dark.  However, the waning moon was high, giving us enough light to navigate through the mostly deserted parking lot.

Josh and Kevin were already over halfway to the closest vehicle.  The girl had fallen well behind.  Panic and running shoes had me gaining on her until something moved to our right.  When I looked, I saw nothing but shadows.

The girl ran hard toward Josh and Kevin, who were now at the closest truck to us.  Out of the corner of my eye, a shadow blurred into something more, and it darted straight for the girl.

I called out a warning too late and skidded to a halt as a hound knocked her down.  Its growls froze the blood in my veins.  The hound’s back arched as it bit down on her shoulder.  My breath caught in my throat at her bloodcurdling scream.

One of the guys grabbed my arm and yanked me toward the truck.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the large, demon dog hunched over the girl.  Her screams stopped by the time we reached the vehicle.  Gasping breaths strangled my lungs.  The guy shoved me into the backseat of the cab.

While Josh struggled to hotwire the truck, I looked out the windshield toward the building as other hounds ran into the mass of panicked people trying to escape.  The hounds weren’t the only thing chasing fleeing survivors.  Infected people, ones who ran with an odd gait, attacked, too.

The engine finally roared to life, causing the hound, who’d killed the girl, to look up.  Its red gaze locked with mine, and its lips peeled back to reveal bloodied teeth.

Military men came around the corner of the building and opened fire on the beasts and infected people.  The first hound pivoted and snarled at its attackers.  Blood flew with the impact of several bullets into its hide.  Instead of fleeing, it charged toward the military men.  They continued to shoot, and it kept running.

The truck reversed then jerked around before moving forward.  We raced out of the warzone.  People ran past.  Some scared.  Some with cloudy eyes.  Then, it all fell behind us.

It’s the dogs, Ryan had texted earlier.  Stay away from the infected.

Was this really the damn zombie apocalypse?  When I’d said we needed less people, I hadn’t meant this.

“Breathe.”  The guy sitting next to me grabbed my hand and held it tightly.

I focused on each in and out breath, willing my shaking to stop.  The driver swore softly as we sped through town.  Once we were on the eerily vacant expressway, he glanced back at me.

“Who are you?”

“Mya.”

“I’m Russ,” the man gave my hand another squeeze. “That’s Josh and Kevin.”

“I’m sorry about your friend.”

“Thanks,” Kevin said.

No one spoke after that.  Instead, we watched the roads.

Cars with shattered windshields were abandoned on the shoulders, and several of the infected staggered along the blacktop.  When we sped past, they would run after us for a bit before they gave up.  The fact that they kept up for even small bursts of time worried me, and I shivered as their dead gazes followed us down the road.

Once, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of shadow running on the side of the road, and I caught a glimpse of glowing eyes.  Blood red.  Like the girl’s blood that had stained the beast’s teeth.  Another shiver ran down my spine.

The men were tense in their seats as we drove around more abandoned cars on the expressway.

“We are going to have to stop for gas,” Josh said from the front.  “It’s almost empty.”

Kevin spotted a gas station near the next exit, not quite halfway to Oklahoma City.  Josh took the ramp and pulled into the empty parking lot.  The lights flickered inside the building, but I saw no other movement.

“Kevin’s got a piece, and I have mine.  Mya?  I’m guessing you don’t have anything on you.”  Josh looked at me in the mirror again.

I shook my head.  I hadn’t planned on the apocalypse.

“Stay in the truck, then.  Russ, you guard the back, I’ll pump and watch my side.  Kevin, you watch the front and the other side.  Watch everything, Mya.  Yell if you see anything.”

In the silence after Josh cut the engine, we all waited, watching and listening to see if it was safe for the guys to climb out.  Skeletal trees hugged the back of the building.  Nothing moved but a few dead leaves in the wind.  The whole place felt creepy.

It took a couple of minutes before Josh opened his door and the other two followed, getting out one by one.  I rolled down the back passenger window an inch so I could hear them.  Kevin’s boots crunched on the loose gravel, interrupting the only other sound…the quiet hum of the overhead lights.

I watched Josh open the gas cap and remove the nozzle.  He swore and fumbled for his wallet.  A beep echoed in the air when he prepaid, and the gas began to flow into the tank.

Russ moved to the end of the truck.  I twisted in my seat and stared into the darkness surrounding the gas station.  The shadows from the light of the building and the moon casted an eerie half-light.  As I stared, the light seemed to bend around a certain spot.  I leaned closer to the window and blinked, trying to see better.  However, the spot had vanished.

Another gust of wind made the loose leaves on the ground rustle.  The branches crackled together, and goosebumps prickled over my skin.  I rubbed my arms.  The fine hairs on the back of my neck rose.

The truck bounced ever so slightly, and I glanced out the windshield.  Kevin stood not far away, staring into the dark.  I looked at Josh and rubbed my hands over my jeans, trying to dry the clamminess.

Josh lifted his head.  His expression went from impatient to worried as he focused on the back of the truck.

“Russ?” he called.

I turned in my seat again and stared at the back of the truck.  The bed was empty.

I scooted over on the bench seat, close to where Josh stood.

“Where did he go?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”  Josh’s eyes were wild, and he kept glancing around as he continued to pump gas.

“Something ain’t right,” he said.

A bitter retort rose, but I swallowed it.  Now wasn’t the time to piss off the guy with the gun.

“Guys,” Kevin said.

With his back to us, he stared out into the darkness near the road.  I strained to see what he did, but saw nothing.

From the corner of my eye, something moved.  I looked to the left and caught a dark blur rushing forward.  I cried out.  Kevin spun toward the incoming shadow.

One second he was standing, the next a blur of something lifted him in the air.  I blinked at the sharp cracking sound, and squeaked when Kevin flew at the truck.  He landed on the hood, making the truck rock.  His neck lay twisted at an odd angle.  My hand covered my mouth as I held in the scream lodged in my throat.

Something rattled against the truck.  I glanced right, at Josh, as he frantically jerked the pump from the tank then moved toward the hood.

“Kevin?”  Josh halted when he realized his friend was dead.  He tugged his gun from the waistband of his jeans and held onto it with both hands as he looked around.

“What did that?” he asked.

I had no answer.

The light dimmed as something shattered outside.  Glass hit the cab with soft pings.  Josh looked at me through the window.  A moment later, the remaining light went out.

There was a quiet sound behind the truck, like claws on blacktop.  I jumped and twisted around in my seat thinking of the man outside of my dorm room.  He’d been the first to die, then the guy’s friend.  It was happening again, and I would be next.  My breaths came in heavy pants, and I frantically searched the darkness, struggling to find the thing that would kill me.

Something moved just in front of the truck.  I caught a glimpse of grey skin and thick limbs.

Josh pulled the trigger, and the noise made me flinch.  The shadow kept moving.  Josh shot again.

Bam.

Bam.

Bam.

Click.

The shadow leapt into the air toward the truck, and Josh let out a shocked grunt-scream.

The metal above me bent inward as the creature landed on top of the cab.  I squealed and crouched lower in my seat, unable to take my eyes from Josh.  His eyes rounded as he stared up at whatever had landed on the roof of the truck.  I could barely breathe past the fear squeezing my chest.

I jolted when something jumped from the top and landed in front of Josh.  It rose from a partial crouch to its full height.  A man.  Impossibly huge.  His biceps were as big as my head, but…he wasn’t human.  His grey skin, and pointed ears that poked out from the long black hair he had pulled into a twisted ponytail hanging down his back, made him very not human.

Josh’s face paled further.

“Wh-what…?” he breathed.

The thing reached out, gripped Josh’s neck with one hand, and twisted.  Josh’s face went slack, and the thing released its hold.  Josh fell limply out of sight.

I looked at Kevin, who lay draped over the hood, then frantically scrambled across the seat, getting as far away as I could from the thing that had killed everyone else.

It heard me and slowly turned around.

~*~

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Release date: June 20th, 2017

11 Comments

  1. Beth

    Loved your book so much I read book 1 and 2 in just 2 days and already preordered the 3rd. Now I’m hunting trying to find something similar and coming up empty handed 😢 Can’t wait till December 5th!

    Reply
    • MJHaag

      Aw! Thank you so much for reading, Beth!

      Reply
  2. Fallon

    Wow read this book within a couple days! Absolutely love it. Hope the second book doesn’t take too long to come out 🙂

    Reply
    • MJHaag

      It’s due out Sept 5th, latest. 😀 I’ll have pre-order links for it in my next newsletter. (http://eepurl.com/buLq6P)

      Reply
  3. Audrey

    Can’t wait to read the other 2!

    Reply

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