It’s my pleasure to host another guest blog as part of the Winter of Zombie Tour. Here is a excerpt from Jay Wilbur’s collection. Enjoy
Sample from the collection with Hazardous Press Zombies Believe In You by Jay Wilburn – The sample includes the opening of the novella “White Pebbles” —
The Woodcutter’s Son
Hansel’s face was in the wet sand under the overturned fishing boat. He stared at the white pebble he had placed on the block under the bow of the boat where he hid beside the shore of the lake. The wood above his head had been cut by his father and then fashioned by richer men near the docks. The boat had brought wealth to families that were depending on Hansel now. The wood was rotting as it sat abandoned for too long.
The monster’s blue feet marched through the sand past the boat within Hansel’s view. If it discovered him, Hansel was going to be eaten alive. He breathed quietly as he watched the footprints behind the dead creature. They filled with water below the sand which soaked slowly back below the surface just like the footprints of any living person would. These footprints were missing some of the toes.
Hansel pulled the lines up over his shoulder on the ground in the shadow of the fishing boat. His catch for the day hung on the ends of each line. He did not have enough for everyone. Many of the animals in the forest had fled from the Twice Dead Plague. Both common beasts and enchanted creatures had abandoned the forests as the villages became the haunts of hungry death.
Hansel crawled forward to look under the rim at the docks and the catch houses. The rats on his lines dragged through the sand under him.
There were at least two of the moving dead under the dock. They were consuming something. It could have been an animal. It might be a human they were eating, but every survivor in town was waiting in the church now. There were other creatures that might have fallen prey to the cursed corpses as well.
On the boardwalk around the fishery house, others wandered as they searched mindlessly. They were driven by hunger and not thought. If they spotted Hansel, they would follow him until he was caught and they would eat until his bones were clean.
His father’s ax or an archer’s arrow could stir their brains and drop them permanently, but Hansel had neither of those weapons on this foraging trip.
He could see the red letters on the side of the long building facing the lake read, Bountiful Fish Market. It was past due for this season’s repainting.
He furrowed forward through the sand until he was exposed and rose up to kneeling beside the boat. He peered over the keel at the blue-footed cadaver as it advanced on its partners feeding under the docks.
He recognized the body now that he was out from under the boat.
The jacket had been fine silk, but now it was mired with filth and torn with bits of twigs and brambles. The linen pants were shredded and frayed around the cuffs. In addition to missing toes, the man had been bitten around his calves in a vicious manner.
His hair was uncharacteristically out of place. Tufts of it were missing around the back of his scalp for reasons that were not immediately apparent to Hansel.
Mr. Haber, who had run the fine articles haberdashery near the docks, had given up on caring for his clothes in death and had spent time in the woods and in the rain.
“Continue on to the docks,” Hansel whispered. “Continue your business there just as you did in life, Haber.”
He heard branches snapping in the trees that bled down the slope to his left up to the edge of the shore.
Hansel moved up off the sand and over the thick grasses to the dark gravel of the waterfront road. He did not look back, but continued up between the first buildings facing the water across the red cobbles.
He cut his eyes from side to side as he slunk along with the strung bodies of the rats bouncing against his chest and back. Most of the windows were broken out or shattered inward. Shingles were torn away and plaster was broken through where storms had inflicted damage that was no longer being repaired.
They began crossing the next street in front of him across the mouth of the alley. Hansel stepped back into the stoop of one of the taverns as he waited for the bodies of his dead neighbors to shamble along the street deeper into the village.
A bony hand reached through the lattice flicking out broken shards from the missing panes. The fingers closed over Hansel’s cords and tried to fish the rats into the tavern with the reanimated barkeep.
Hansel grabbed the cold wrist and pulled the arm out to the knob of elbow that caught in the square of wood. The barkeep growled and pushed his lips and tongue against one of the slats.
Hansel looked out from the corner of the doorway. The mass of bodies crossing the opening of the alley were still thick.
He twisted the emaciated arm, but the owner didn’t register nor react to the pain.
It’s not a fair fight, Hansel thought.
He grabbed the fingers one at a time and peeled them away from the lines. He couldn’t afford to surrender any meat to the monsters that would never satisfy their appetites.
“Let go,” Hansel said. “She’s counting on me.”
He froze at the sound of his own voice. His eyes went wide as the barkeep’s teeth locked on one of the slats cracking the wood as the inhuman creature slowly chewed through the lattice.
Hansel looked around the doorway again. One of the bodies had stopped. She was leaning hard to one side on at least two broken bones. She looked up through her greasy hair at the second floor windows down the alley. Her eyes and head jerked from side to side as she turned toward Hansel.
He pulled his head back before she spotted him.
It’s already too late, he cursed inside his head over and over, now this dead girl is counting on you too, you fool.
The barkeep growled as he wiggled his lifeless fingers out of Hansel’s warm grip and clutched the front of the young man’s shirt. Hansel pulled back stretching the fabric as the lattice began to break away from the edges of the frame in the door. The barkeep’s elbow popped through the hole and the arm extended out to the boney knob of his shoulder. Hansel stumbled off the stoop into the alley in front of the doorway where the dead man held tight to the boy’s shirt. The man’s moldy sleeve was bunched up against the wood as he tried to pull Hansel into his snapping mouth.
Hansel heard her limping up the alley. Her damaged legs produced a swish, crack, clop … swish, crack, clop. She began screeching in long, breathy bursts of animal desire.
Hansel looked as he held the barkeep’s wrist with both hands struggling for his freedom. Others paused at the mouth of the alley and turned when they heard the woman screeching as she hobbled closer to Hansel. They began to follow her. Some were moving more quickly. They began moaning as they reached out for him with what hands and fingers they still possessed. Most were missing pieces. They were going to take pieces from Hansel too.
“I should have just let you take the rats,” he huffed. “Death shouldn’t be this strong … nor this active.”
Hansel pulled his knife from his sheath. He held it up as the bodies filled the space from wall to wall. They jostled each other as they advanced on him.
He looked down at the hand of the barkeep twisting his shirt.
“You can do this,” Hansel said. “You’re not a child any longer and people are counting on you.”
He brought the blade down and began to cut and tear in uneven hacks. Finally, the section of cloth ripped loose from his shirt in the barkeep’s clutches. The dead tavern owner brought the cloth too his mouth and began to chew the piece of material.
Hansel looked at the hole in his shirt as the leaning woman’s fingers brush over his sleeve at the front of the pack. He dashed back down the alley still holding his knife.
As soon as he stepped back out on the red cobbles at the edge of the dark gravel of the waterfront road, he saw the wave of bodies closing in on him. Some were thrashing forth from the forest. Others were climbing out and around the fishery. Mr. Haber shuffled out from under the dock at the sound of the commotion. He was still chewing.
Hansel’s eyes fixed on the shadows in the lake.
“Are the fish returning?” he asked aloud.
The tops of the skulls emerged first very near the shore. The wrinkled flesh bobbed forward on the surface and then the milky eyes rose above the water. The bodies did not heave for air like a living man would. The nostrils and mouths surfaced next. Dark water drained out as they opened their jaws. They were not opening for air. They were hungry. The stout frames and waterlogged beards slowly came into view as the dwarves marched out of their watery grave.
Some of them still had the jagged hunks of white stone chained across their chests. Others still had their wrists bound by leather cord in front of them as if they were praying before they ate.
The rock dwarves from the quarry bury their dead in the lake, Hansel shivered as he watched. They are coming back too.
Over the moans and gurgles all around him, he heard a swish, crack, clop, and screech close behind him.
“God will not forsake us.”
Hansel ran along the dark gravel looking for a path through the closing horde.
* * * * *
The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014
AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list, updated daily: