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Mechanical Failure – Zombie Novel (in Progress)



It’s hard to believe that just a couple months ago my biggest worry was the starter on my truck. The pickup was only a few years old and it was in great condition, but it had begun to stall on me every now and then. I finally had to have it towed one morning when I couldn’t get it to start. I should have gotten it fixed right then but the mechanic was able to get it running and I really needed to get to work for a meeting. I made an appointment to bring it back, but it never happened. It’s been running pretty well since then so I’ve decided not to ditch it for something else, though I could have my choice of any vehicle in town. I think I’m the only one left alive.

I always figured that the world would end with a nuclear blast but I was wrong. I had some friends that I used to talk to about the steps we’d take to stay alive through various doomsday scenarios. Most of these weren’t very interesting to discuss because there’s really nothing you can do but pray if the planet gets sucked into a black hole or if a supervolcano erupts. A zombie apocalypse, on the other hand, was always fun to talk about because it was something you could possibly survive and because it wasn’t real. Imagine our surprise when it actually happened.

I think one of the reasons that so many died in the beginning was that they just couldn’t comprehend that it was real. Part of the reason I’m still alive is because I’d played the scenarios out in my mind so many times that I was able to set my disbelief aside. As soon as the first stories hit the internet, I jumped into action, just to be safe. I filled the house with food and drinking water while most people were still nervously laughing about the odd news reports coming from Lansing, Michigan and Salt Lake City, Utah. I was able to get some good survival items online before those sites were flooded with orders. Some of what I bought even got to me before the mail stopped coming.

After hearing the first reports, I waited almost a week before I had bars installed on our front windows and door. At the time, my husband thought that I had lost my mind, since the reports were still only rumors back then. He was upset that I’d spent such a big chunk of our savings and he told me that I was going to be sorry when we couldn’t afford to go on vacation next summer. I said that I hoped he was right and then I asked him to go to Lowes with me to pick up some cinder block, rebar and mortar. He did it but he wasn’t happy about it. I remember him asking the cashier if we could return the supplies if we didn’t need them. I used them all.

In was late August when it finally became obvious to everyone that the plague was real and that it was spreading. Outbreaks were occurring all over the country, and rescue centers were set up in schools and churches. People rushed to them in droves, thinking they’d be safe. They were so wrong. Anybody that knows anything about a zombie apocalypse knows that you don’t want to be in a big crowd when the stuff hits the fan.

My husband tried to talk me into going when the plague first hit our little town, but I refused. We had a pretty big argument about it and he finally left, slamming the door behind him. He’s back now. I almost wish that I had gone to the school with him that day, because it’s torture seeing him out there with the rest of the dead.


I live in southern Nevada, in a small planned community called Whispering Springs. I never did find out who came up with such a misleading name for a town that’s planted in the middle of the desert. As much as I dislike the climate in the southwest, I was lucky to be here when the end happened. Whispering Springs is small, less than five thousand in population and it’s a good five miles from the neighboring town of Boulder City, which isn’t all that big, either. To get to Vegas from here, you have to either take the lake road, which is the long way, or you have to go through Railroad Pass, which is completely blocked with cars and trucks. I’m not complaining. That wall of vehicles is keeping a whole lot of dead people from coming my way.

Another good thing about southern Nevada is that most of the houses have cinder block walls around the back yards. In Whispering Springs, they all do. My back yard was completely enclosed except for a double gate that was big enough to drive a vehicle through. Unfortunately, the gate was pretty flimsy and I knew it wouldn’t stand up to much. I had already done some research on masonry before we bought the supplies at Lowes but I held off on building anything until the rumors were substantiated. Once that happened, I tore out the gate and replaced it with the ugliest block wall ever built. This was just a few days before the dead started showing up on my street, which was when my husband finally went to the shelter. I guess I was lucky that I got it done in time, but maybe lucky isn’t really the word I want. Sure, I’m alive, but I’m alone in a world full of the living dead and it’s pretty depressing.


Getting in and out of the house isn’t easy. When I need to do it, I go through the garage, but I never know just how big of a welcoming party will be outside. They always follow the truck when I leave, which is kind of handy. I used to keep the garage door closed when I was away from the house but the crowd outside managed to damage the door so it doesn’t close right anymore. For some reason, I can still open it with the remote but to close it I have to get out and pull the rope to lower the door manually. Sometimes it takes me two or three tries to finally get it to stay down. Each time I return home, I have to do a sweep first and draw the zombies away or I’d never be able to get the door closed.

I don’t go out at night, ever.

I’m thankful that things didn’t get bad here until mid-September. Lansing, Michigan was hit in early August, so we were fortunate. The first reports of outbreaks in Vegas were heard in early September and by then it was being taken very seriously. There was only one road in and out of Whispering Springs and roadblocks were set up on both ends of the town. Nobody was supposed to get back in without going through a twelve-hour quarantine. That might have done the trick except some idiots used their four-wheel-drive truck and came in through the desert one night, bringing the plague with them.

Still, even after that initial outbreak, our little town hung on longer than most other places did. There were new occurrences every few days after that first one and someone finally figured out that there had been a bunch of infected people in town all along, locked in their houses. Some of them eventually managed to get out by breaking windows. Others were accidentally released by well-meaning friends and relatives who usually ended up being bitten.


I’ll never know what started the big outbreak. I just know that there was chaos at the shelter that day. When the dead broke through the chain link fence, there was no stopping them. I’d been listening to local reports on my radio up until that point and I remember feeling like I’d been punched when someone said that the school was overrun. I kept hoping that my husband had somehow managed to get away, but when he showed up at the house, he had a huge chunk of flesh missing from his neck. I don’t remember much more about it because I got pretty drunk and stayed that way for a couple days, up in the attic. Twice I climbed down the ladder with the intention of going outside and letting the dead bite me. Both times I talked myself out of it while my hand was on the doorknob.

After that, I never heard from anybody else in my town or saw another survivor. It seemed like the whole town was wiped out in a single day and maybe it was. I hope that there are other people still alive in town – I just haven’t seen any and it’s been a couple months now.

I keep waiting for the power to go out, but so far it’s still on. I’m guessing that since our electricity comes from Hoover Dam and the water is still moving, the dam may keep running for a while by itself. Or maybe there are people keeping it going. I just know that I don’t want to be here in the summer if the grid does finally fail. A few years ago, it got up to 117 degrees a couple times. That kind of heat can kill you. Even with my air conditioning still running, I’m going to need to move because it’s just too much work to keep a garden alive here, though I’m managing so far. Once winter is over and it starts to get warm again, I’m going to Oregon. I guess I can do whatever I want and live wherever I want as long as the dead cooperate.

My back yard is all garden now, except for the pool. My plants are struggling but I’m finally learning how to keep them alive. I tried planting a few things in September but it was just too hot for them and they quickly wilted and died. After that, I got some books and started reading up on gardening, as well as other survival matters. I started growing some lettuce and squash seeds inside and once it cooled down I moved them to the yard. They’re actually still alive and it’s November now. As long as we don’t get any bad frosts this winter, they should do well.

I store water in the pool. The water was still running for a while but it stopped after a couple weeks and I really don’t know why. I was still getting a trickle of it from the faucet for a while, but I quit using it because I started thinking that if there’s nobody at the treatment plant to run things then the water probably isn’t getting treated. Then I started thinking about things like infected bodies floating in the water and maybe blocking the pipes. I get water from my pool now and treat it before drinking it. It hasn’t rained since the first outbreak and I noticed today that the level in the pool is dropping faster than I had hoped it would. That worries me. Maybe we’ll have a wet winter. If not, I may be moving sooner than I had planned.


The noise bothered me a lot at first. I thought I was going to go crazy with all the moaning. I used to get annoyed by the neighborhood dogs when they barked too much and the cars that would drive down the street with their radios blasting. What I wouldn’t give to hear those sounds again. Now I wear earplugs when the noise gets to me, though only when I’m in the attic where I know I’m safe. I wouldn’t dare do it anywhere else.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about clearing out my neighborhood. I drove around it the other day to see just how many walls I would have to build to close it off. If there were other survivors, it might be worth blocking off the whole neighborhood. For just me, I only need a big enough area so I don’t have to see, hear or smell the dead all the time. Four walls would take care of the problem; one at the top and bottom of my street and the street behind me. That would give me some breathing space. I figure if I could bring over a semi or two with a long trailer, I could block off the streets long enough to build the wall, though the dead might be able to crawl under the trailer. I’ll have to think about the best way to do this, especially since I’ve never driven a semi and have no idea if I could do it. I don’t think I’ll add a gate, since I couldn’t guarantee that it would be secure enough. I’ll just build good solid walls and keep my truck outside them. I can climb over to get to it when I need it.

Once the walls are done, I’ll have to do some zombie hunting. I have a whole lot of ammo and I haven’t even started to raid houses yet so I’m sure I’ll find more. I don’t like killing the infected. I don’t like being anywhere near them but I want them gone and I’m the only one that’s around to do it. I really hate hauling the bodies to the desert to burn them because it requires actually touching them. I’m also always afraid I’ll look in my rearview mirror and find one looking back at me from the bed of the truck, though I’m pretty careful to make sure they’re completely dead before loading them up. I keep thinking there has to be a better way to dispose of the bodies. Some of these guys are heavy and I’m pretty small. I’m strong for a woman, but a 250 pound rotting corpse can get pretty heavy, not to mention just plain gross. I don’t use my truck to haul the bodies since there’s no easy way to clean it out. I found a junker with keys in it and it runs pretty well, so I use a rope and a ramp to pull them into the back of it, but it’s a little tricky. I park the junker behind my truck and then set up the ramp so that that I can drag the bodies into the bed of the old truck. I have to run a rope from my bumper all the way to where the body is lying at the base of the ramp. The tricky part is when I pull my truck forward, I have to go perfectly straight so the rope runs over the other truck and doesn’t move off to the side. When that happens, the body usually falls off the ramp, but I’ve gotten this down to a science.

The biggest problem is that it takes time to do this and the dead don’t give me a lot of breathing room. I’m lucky to load one body before I have to lead the dead away again. It takes hours to take a whole truckload of bodies to the desert. Sometimes I give up and just drag them behind the truck, one at a time, though that uses a lot of gas.

One good thing about my new life is that I’m not ever bored. I never realized just how good I had it before, with a washer and dryer and grocery store. I wash my clothes by hand now and hang them in the back yard over the garden. I try to cook from scratch as much as possible because I want to become self-sufficient. I even converted my neighbor’s yard into a garden and planted some cool weather crops over there. Getting over the walls to water the plants used to be a real pain, but I finally got smart and built some stiles, using ladders on each side of the wall and a platform on top to connect them. When the zombies see me go over the wall, they go nuts, so I try to do it fast. Eventually they forget about me again. I’m sure that keeping a garden will be much easier when I get to Oregon.


Besides the garden, the zombie killing, and all the research I do, I also make shopping trips, as I like to call them. I guess it adds a semblance of normalcy to my life to say that I’m going shopping. It’s really a little more complicated than that. I risk my life every time I leave the house and I’ve had some very close calls on these expeditions. And I used to think that the grocery shopping trips to the local mega stores were bad. At least nobody ever tried to bite me back in those days. Well, only once and that was a really intense Black Friday sale.

I wonder how things will be in Oregon. It’s hard to say because I haven’t been able to reach my family up there for a while. For that matter, I haven’t been able to contact anybody on the internet lately so I don’t know what’s happening in the rest of the world. In the beginning I had a whole list of people with whom I kept in touch. One by one, they quit replying until there was nobody left to talk to. I told myself that it was just because they lost their electricity. Not everybody has hydroelectric power and I’m guessing that the grid has failed in most places. I think a lot about the nuclear plants all over the world. Since most of us had some warning about the plague before it spread, I hope that people had time to shut these plants down or that there is some kind of safeguard in place. I found a map and I know there are a couple of nuclear plants in southern California and southwest Arizona and there’s one in Washington. Other than that, the west doesn’t have too many. I worry about people on the east coast. They have nuclear power all over the place.

The long drive to Oregon will be risky, but I have some of it worked out. I’ve gotten pretty good at siphoning gas, for one thing. The first time was terrible because I swallowed some of it and was burping up gasoline the rest of the day. The second time, I was gun shy and almost couldn’t do it. I’m good at it now and I’ve been collecting it in cans to take with me so I don’t have to stop along the way. I thought about finding an RV and putting a cow catcher on the front and bars on the windows, but honestly, I wouldn’t have a clue how to do all that stuff so I gave up on the idea. I’ll just be careful with my route when I go. I want to avoid cities at all costs and that’ll mean taking the long way around Las Vegas, too.

Today was shopping day, so I’m pretty tired. I did well at the grocery store and completely filled the back of my truck. The store smells terrible because of all the rotting food, but I wear a mask when I shop now and it helps somewhat. I can’t imagine how bad it will be once the refrigeration goes out. Even with the coolers still running, the produce section is filled with rotting vegetables and fruit. I usually take some of the rotten stuff and add it to my compost pile. It looks disgusting but I shovel it into garbage bags so it’s easy to transport.

I picked up enough frozen food to fill my freezer again, but I noticed today that the freezer shelves are starting to look pretty bare. Once the fresh produce and meat was gone, I started in on the frozen stuff. I’m saving the canned goods for once the freezers quit working.

My routine is to back the truck into what I call my car corral. Over the last couple months, I’ve moved a few cars into place to form a little square around the doors of the store. I left an opening just big enough for my truck and if I park it just right, nothing can slip past easily. I can still get in and out of the driver’s door and I can usually load up the truck when I’m done shopping without being bothered by the dead. The only problem is that once I leave, they move right in. Since the glass in the front door to the store is broken, a few always manage to make their way inside, so I always have to kill a few every time I go shopping. I wish I could lock the doors when I leave but I haven’t figured out a good way to do that yet without having to move a whole lot more cars.

I had to kill about ten zombies inside today, which was more than usual. I had a moment where I was almost surrounded but I was able to just shut off my mind and do what I had to do. That’s the only way I can keep from panicking when things get bad, though my heart is always pounding the whole time I’m there. I always use a crowbar so I don’t make noise and draw others. I’ve gotten pretty good with it after lots of practice. I know just how hard I have to hit them and what part of the head to aim for. So far I’ve been lucky and I haven’t been swarmed by a big group. I carry a pistol but I try not to use it when I’m someplace where I could be easily trapped. Even when I use it outside, it seems that every zombie in town hears it and comes running . . . well, they don’t really run. It’s more of a shamble.

After I finished shopping this morning, I went to the library. I filled up the whole back of the truck with books and even got a bunch of fiction just in case I ever get time to read for pleasure again. I found a book on solar power and I’m trying to figure out what I need to install it at my house in case the grid fails. It sounds kind of complicated. I’ve spotted several solar panels around town so I’m sure I can get the parts I need if I can just figure out how to hook it up.

I dropped the books off at my house just a few minutes ago and I’m completely exhausted from loading and unloading the truck twice, not to mention the zombie killing. That’s a workout. Still, even though I’m ready to drop, I think I’m going to go back out. I thought I saw a water truck by one of the municipal buildings. If I could find keys for that and drive it, maybe I could refill the pool. I’m not sure if I could figure out how to get water from the public water tower but Lake Mead isn’t far away. There’s a pond, too, over in Boulder City. It’s a lot closer than the lake but the lake is probably safer since there weren’t many people living down there when the end came. I know I can put this off for another day, but I just want to check it out.


I can see the water truck now. There’s a small group of the undead around it, and they’ve heard my engine. It still creeps me out to see their heads turn slowly my way when they first notice me. Now they’re walking over in that slow, lumbering way they have, but it’ll take them a while to reach me. I wait until they’re almost at my door then I quickly drive across the parking lot to the water truck. I know I only have about a minute so I move quickly, getting out and checking for keys. Nothing. I get back into my truck and drive slowly around the building as I try to figure out where the keys would be kept. Of course, there’s no way to tell from out here. I just don’t want to go inside, but I will have to do so. It’s going to be risky and I need to plan this well, but I’m getting used to that.

I see a back door that is flush with the building and doesn’t have a stoop or anything. If I can get the door open and drive right up next to it, I can leave the passenger window of the truck down and just crawl back through it when I have to leave. The truck will hold the door open. I’ve done this before. The only risk is if one of the infected gets under the truck or on top of it, then they might get in, but I’ll be armed. I am debating on whether I should just do this now while I’m here or if I should put it off for another day when I am not so tired. I think about it for a few more minutes then I decide that I’ll do it now so I don’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about it later. I circle the parking lot again and make sure they’re following me before I pull out onto the street with a little parade of the dead. Others join us along the way and I lead them all out toward the highway that continues to Las Vegas. I wish they would could keep going, maybe walk over the mountains, but I know they’ll stop when they hit the wall of cars at the pass. They always do.

When I decide we’ve gone far enough, I hit the gas and race down the highway, swerving around the cars that have been left on the road. I already moved enough of them to make a decent path. It comes in handy when I need to try to lead the dead away from town and maybe, deep down, I’m hoping that someone else will use that road someday. If that happens, I hope it’s someone good. I saw a lot of evil in people when this whole thing started and that thought always lingers in my mind.

I manage to lose my followers, though I know they’ll be back. I take the first exit off the highway and head away from town before connecting to a power line road. I am able to sneak back into Whispering Springs through a different route so my little parade won’t be able to follow. I pick up a couple of others on the way back in but I drive fast enough to lose them, too.

When I reach the municipal building again, it seems to be clear so I drive around to the back and jump out. I have to use the crowbar to open the door and I can’t help but notice the little chips of blood that flake off. I cleaned it after I left the grocery store, but sometimes I miss a spot or two.

Glancing around again, I see that I am still alone so I knock a few times then wait. After about a minute, I pull the door of the building open and I jump back. When nothing comes out, I know it’s probably safe to go in. I turn on my headlamp and aim it around the room. This wasn’t something I bought while in survival mode. My husband decided to be a miner for a Halloween party one year and it was part of his costume. He doesn’t need it anymore so I use it. It’s come in handy over the years, when camping or working in the attic, but it’s been invaluable since the world ended because it allows me to keep my hands free to wield my crowbar.

When I determine that the room is safe, I go back out and do a little maneuvering with the truck to get it into position. I’m pretty good at this part now. I prop the door open with a rock, then I pull the truck forward and get it as close to the building as I can, before backing up until I reach the door. I can hear the metal scrape as I back up farther, wedging the door tightly against the wall. The passenger window is now lined up with the open doorway and there is no room for anything to squeeze by the truck. Climbing through the window has gotten easy with practice. The first few times it was a little tricky, but I’ve gotten in better shape since then. I’ve lost over twenty pounds and I’m more physically fit than I have ever been. I’m sure I’d be dead by now, otherwise.


I search the office and find nothing but I’m not surprised. It would be too easy to find the keys in the first place I look. I have to go out into the hall and I have no idea what to expect but at least the door has a window in it. I look through it and see nothing on the other side. Crowbar ready in my right hand, I take a deep breath and try to keep from shaking as I unlock the door with my left hand and ease it open. I look both ways and it appears to be clear but you just never know. I’ve had some surprises and I don’t mean the good kind. I mean nasty, smelly, scary surprises. I check to make sure the door is still unlocked then I quietly close it before making my way silently up and down the hallway to see what I’m up against. The whole building appears to be clear but since it’s not very big, I decide to make sure. Once I see that the building is empty, I decide that I may as well do some scavenging while I’m here, rather than risking a second trip later. I go through, office by office, and each time I find something worthwhile, I add it to a growing stack by the back door. Whenever I add something to the pile, I glance out to make sure the parking lot is still empty. So far, so good.

It takes me an hour but I finally find the key to the water truck in one of the last rooms down the hall. It’s in a little locked cabinet which I have to open with the help of my best friend, the crowbar. I’m relieved to see that the key I want is clearly marked since I had visions of trying out a hundred of them to see which one would fit.

My pile of salvaged goods by the door has grown over the last hour and I check again to make certain it’s still clear outside. When I’m sure, I climb through the window to move the truck. I won’t start the engine yet since that would be pushing my luck right now, but I do roll the window up. After putting the truck into neutral and turning the steering wheel, I go out the driver’s door and quietly close it again, moving into position behind the vehicle. I push it forward, constantly checking over my shoulder. I don’t have to move it far before the doorway is free and then I get out and prop the door open with the rock again. I load up as quickly and quietly as I can and then I take my pickup around to park it next to the water truck. The windows don’t line up so I am going with my backup plan. I turn the truck around so that the two driver’s doors are facing each other with barely any room in between to open them, though I manage to do it.

I jump into the driver’s seat of the water truck and put the key into the ignition. It takes me three tries to get it started and now I’ve attracted some unwanted attention. I can’t believe how loud it is. I let it run for a minute but then I have to shut it off as the dead are almost to the trucks. I jump out, leaving the keys where they are. They’ll be right where I need them when I’m ready to collect some water and I kind of doubt that anybody is going to take the truck joyriding in the meantime. After closing the door of the water truck, I get into my pickup and close my door just before a bloody hand slaps against the window. I know I’ve pushed my luck again by letting them get too close and I promise it’ll be the last time. I always tell myself that. More hands begin to slap at the window. I hate it when they do that. The blood is dry so that isn’t the problem but they always seem to leave some green, yucky stuff behind when they pull their hands away. I guess it’s just the rotting flesh, but I’m really not sure.

I have to run over a couple of the semi-dead on my way back home. Too bad the car washes aren’t open any more. I hate to bring the truck into the garage with gore all over it but there isn’t much I can do about that.

I get almost halfway home when I start thinking about the pond in Boulder City again. My husband and I used to go there for walks and to enjoy the sunsets or I’d go for lunch and just sit on a bench and watch the ducks. The more I think about it, the more I want to go. It’s a stupid risk just to see the pond and I’m so tired right now, but then again, there is so little in life to enjoy anymore, I decide it’s worth it. Instead of turning toward my house, I turn to go toward Boulder City.

I pull into the park and I’m thrilled to find it deserted. Even if I only have a couple of minutes to sit here, I will cherish the time as I never have before. I smile, watching the ducks float across the pond as though the world has not ended. I know the dead will eat animals but I guess the ducks have learned to stay away. Most of the faster animals have, because I see them running loose all over town. I lean back in my seat and relax a bit, though I keep checking the rear view mirror.


A loud slap against the window makes me jump and I wake with a start. I don’t know how I managed to fall asleep except that I was really tired after a brutally long day. I’m glad for the thin layer of glass that separates me from the blood-crusted face on the other side. Fully awake now, I look around and am dismayed to realize that my truck is almost completely surrounded. Shaken, I turn the key in the ignition only to hear click click click. I feel the blood drain from my face as I try again with the same results.

The dead outside are getting more violent now, clawing at the windows as more and more of them press against the truck. There is no way out of the vehicle. They’re surrounding me on three sides and while I don’t see any behind me, I know that I’d never be able to get out the back window without being grabbed. My truck isn’t a big one and they’d be able to reach me easily.

I hold my breath for a moment as I reach out to turn the key again. If it won’t start, I know I’ll die here and it will probably happen soon. Again, I get no response from my truck.

Some of the dead have climbed up onto the hood and are hitting the windshield with their fists. A small crack forms and the moans are growing louder. I know that others will come and eventually they’ll get in.

I lean back in my seat and close my eyes. The thought hits me that just a couple months ago my biggest worry was the starter on my truck.

Chapter 1

I tried the engine again, with no better luck than I’d had the first four or five times. I should have been terrified, knowing that this was probably the end, but instead I felt a strange calmness settle over me. I guess it was because I’d already lost my family and friends, everybody really. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of reason to stick around, yet I’d been doing it so far. I was pretty apathetic over the whole live or die thing, though if I had to go, I could think of better ways than having the flesh ripped from my bones by the teeth of the dead.

I glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed again that there were no zombies behind me. I guess the bed of the truck was a deterrent since they wanted to be as close to me as possible. The second thing I noticed was that I was parked on an uphill slope. With a zombie or two pushing on the front of the truck . . . I just wondered. I quickly shifted into neutral and took my foot off the brake. Sure enough, with all the pressure the zombies were exerting on the front of the truck, it started to roll backwards, quickly picking up speed. When I felt like I was going fast enough, I popped the clutch and to my surprise, the truck started. I hit the gas, going backward as fast as I dared before taking a moment to turn the truck around and head home. I rolled down the window and yelled, “Thanks, guys,” though I don’t know why. There was nobody alive nearby to appreciate my warped sense of humor, but maybe it just made me feel more normal to talk to people, even if they were dead.

It wasn’t until I was safely inside the house that I started to shake. Reality hit me hard and I helped myself to a shot of tequila, knowing that wine wouldn’t be enough. I’d had a few close calls before but this one was the worst. I guess that was why I didn’t stop at one shot but just kept going and ended up having at least six or seven. I should have known better but I’d had a bad day and I guess I wasn’t thinking straight. Normally I slept in the attic, because I could pull the ladder up behind me and get a good night’s sleep. No matter how well the house was reinforced, I was always on edge, waiting for a window to break or a rotting hand to settle on my shoulder. Tonight, I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly and after finishing the last shot of tequila, I passed out in my bed, instead.

Huge mistake.


I don’t think that it was a coincidence that tonight was the night that my defenses were breached. There had to be more to it than that. Maybe it was the fact that while I was drinking those shots of tequila, I had cranked up the music on my computer. The speakers were blasting out Led Zeppelin when I finally fell asleep. Maybe the zombies didn’t like my taste in music. Maybe they knew that music equaled humans which of course equaled food. I’m guessing it was the music, though.

I woke abruptly around midnight, thinking I’d heard dead hands slapping on the window in the lull between songs. I lay in bed, not moving, as I waited for the noise to repeat itself. When it didn’t, I assumed I’d just been dreaming.

The room was spinning from the tequila, and I sat up to stop it but it didn’t help. It took me a minute to get to my feet, but I finally managed to stagger across the room, which wasn’t easy in the dark, especially since I was dizzy.  I turned off the music, knowing that having it on so loud was just begging for trouble. I promised myself to be more careful in the future, but at least I’d had the sense to turn the lights off before I’d passed out.

Stumbling to the bathroom, I grabbed my bottle of treated water and drank it greedily, washing away some of the cotton in my mouth. After a moment, I took another drink, but I let it go down a little slower this time. I’d have to refill my water bottle the next day, since it was almost empty, but that was part of my daily routine. I had just screwed the lid back on and set the bottle down when I heard the sound at the window again. This time I couldn’t pass it off as a dream. I felt the blood drain from my face as terror began to grip me. If something had managed to get into the yard, I was in trouble. The whole back of my house was practically all glass. I had two sets of French doors in the family room and patio doors in the bedroom that all led to the back yard. There were also two large windows in the family room and two little ones in my bedroom, though they were too small for a person to easily fit through.

I needed to know what I was up against. I wondered how many of them there were and how they’d gotten in. There was no easy way they could have breached the block wall since they don’t climb and I had a hard time believing they’d made it through the front door, since it had bars on the outside and I’d reinforced the inside of it as well. It didn’t make sense unless they’d climbed over each other to get over the wall or they’d pushed through the front door by sheer force of numbers.

I slowly made my way to the patio doors in the bedroom. They were the sort that had blinds built inside the two layers of glass. Reaching up, I found the small plastic lever at the top and pushed it to the right so that I could look outside. I didn’t see anything out there. I began to wonder if it had just been the pomegranate tree slapping against the side of the house. That happened sometimes when it was windy. It made more sense than a bunch of zombies breaking through my block wall. Confident that this was the case, I made my way through the dark to one of the two narrow windows on either side of my bed. These windows started about three feet off the ground and were about two feet tall by one foot wide, with wooden blinds. I felt around until I found the two strings that turned the angle of the blinds. I pulled the wrong one, accomplishing nothing. With a sigh, I felt for the other one and pulled it, turning the position of the blinds so that they were completely horizontal. There, just a foot away, was half a face looking back at me, with milky white eyes and teeth bared by missing lips. I covered my mouth, stifling a scream as I backed away, hoping that the streetlight outside only allowed me to see him and not the other way around. Apparently, that was not the case, because he began beating on the window, moaning loudly. It was less than a minute later that I heard more of them at the back door. I was in trouble.


I stumbled through the dark toward the hall door, slamming my toe into my cedar chest on the way. The last time I did that, the pain had been almost debilitating for a few minutes. This time I barely noticed it. I thought that it must have something to do with the adrenaline that was coursing through my body.

Grabbing the doorknob, I hesitated for a fraction of a second before yanking my hand back as if I’d been burned. I still don’t know why I didn’t turn the handle. Maybe God was watching out for me. Maybe my subconscious realized that if the dead hadn’t breached the wall, the only way they could have gotten into my back yard was through the house. Placing my ear against the crack of the door, I could hear them in the hall. I would have walked right into the arms of the dead, and that moment of hesitation had saved me. My hands were shaking as I reached out to lock the door as quietly as possible, not that it was going to help much. They knew I was in the room and they would be through in no time. I decided that there was no reason to stay in the dark any longer. I flipped on the light and began to look around. I don’t know what I had hoped to see; some other forgotten door leading to another room that wasn’t already infested with zombies, maybe? No such luck. The only other door led to the bathroom and if I locked myself in there, I’d die. There was one window and it was solid glass block. Even if I was able to reinforce the door, the dead would wait me out once I was trapped inside the room.

I glanced at the fireplace but I knew that it wasn’t an option. It was a gas insert and even if I managed to knock it out, it would put me right outside with the dead. My eyes scanned the room, frantic for a solution. I looked at my Lord of the Rings sword and knife above the fireplace and debated their usefulness. The sword was long, heavy and unwieldy, though I thought that the knife might be a decent weapon. It was a replica of Strider’s knife and it had a wicked looking curved blade with a long sharp tip. It would be ideal for impaling the dead through their eyes, if they didn’t overwhelm me first. I was sure the zombies would also be impressed by the Elvish words engraved in the side. I stared at it for a moment, wondering what the words meant, then I snapped out of my musings, realizing I needed to do something fast. I’m pretty sure my blood-alcohol level was still higher than I would have liked it to be, or maybe I was just in shock, but I was going to die if I didn’t get my head together fast.


~Chapter Two~

I was pulled from my sleep when the sky began to lighten outside. I’d been an early riser for most of my adult life, but I always used to wake to an alarm clock. These days my body was more in tune with nature and I always woke automatically when it started to grow light. It was something about Melatonin in the brain, if I remembered correctly. It worked out pretty well, because I made maximum use of sunlight this way, which was especially important now that it was November and the days were short. I had to use the lights after it got dark, but I always kept the blinds closed so I wouldn’t attract the attention of the dead outside. I also was sleeping more than I ever used to do in the old days. I figured that would change when summer came and the days grew long again . . . if I lived that long. Things weren’t looking real great at the moment.

I stayed in bed a while longer, not ready to face the day. I was wide awake, but I was trapped in the attic while a bunch of zombies trashed my house. It kind of reminded me of my college days after my roommates would have a party. I always dreaded leaving my room to check the house the next day. It was never pretty.

I sat up with a sigh and tried to figure out a plan. When I couldn’t come up with anything, I dragged out the camp stove and heated some water in a small metal pot. This was a morning ritual for me. I always made my first cup of coffee in the attic, to make sure I was alert before venturing down to the first floor of the house. I had learned early that I had to watch my back at all times and that meant not climbing down the stairs half-awake because I could find myself stumbling into something very nasty. Today, there was no doubt as to what I’d find down there.

I had my coffee and used my port-a-potty and then decided that I couldn’t stall any longer. I was getting antsy and I needed to get out of the house. The attic had two small windows, both covered with horizontal strips of wood that would have to be removed if I wanted to escape. Climbing out the window on the west side of the house was not an option because there was a two story drop and a yard full of zombies. I went to the other window and it looked a little more hopeful. The window was dead center between the front and back of the house, and so was the cinder block wall that ran from our place to the house next door. I tried to peek into the Thompson’s yard to see if it was zombie-free and I really couldn’t tell. The parts of it that I could see looked fine so I decided to risk it.

I looked around the attic, trying to figure out what I should take with me. Anything I carried could affect my balance while I walked across the narrow wall, so it would have to be something that I just couldn’t live without. I didn’t see anything like that except for the knife . . . and the coffee. I tucked my sweatshirt into my jeans then stuffed the zip-lock bag full of coffee into my shirt. The knife and sheath went into the waistband of my jeans again.

If I hung out of the window and tried to land on the wall, odds were pretty good that I’d fall. I just wasn’t that graceful. I needed to be able to lower myself to the top of the wall then walk across the narrow blocks, while avoiding being pulled into the yard by zombies. Tightrope walking across the wall was going to be a problem, and since it was only six feet tall, most of the dead would probably be able to reach me. Once my feet hit the wall, I would have to move fast. Not liking heights, I wouldn’t have wanted to do this even without zombies in the equation.

I quietly broke away the slats of wood then got a better look toward the front of the house and the street. It appeared to be clear so if I had to fall, I’d try to lean that way and hope for the best. I really didn’t see any other options.

I braided a clothesline into a thicker rope and even gave myself a couple of loops for hand and foot holds. If I changed my mind about this plan, I thought I’d even be able to climb back up. Fastening one end to a beam in the attic, I pulled as hard as I could. It held. Returning to the window again, I tossed the rope out, cursing when I saw that the movement attracted the attention of one of the yard-zombies. I’d have to move fast or forget the whole thing. I got out the window and made my way down the rope as quickly as possible. When I felt the block beneath my bare foot, I turned to face the neighbor’s yard. I was shocked to see that two of the rotting creatures were already there, just a few feet away from me. That wasn’t even the bad news. There was one coming from the front yard now as well, ruining my option of falling that way if I had to. Not that I was looking forward to that anyway, since the yard was full of small, sharp rocks and I was barefoot. I either had to go back up the rope or make a run for the neighbor’s yard. I’m normally not super-impulsive, but I didn’t have a lot of time to think it over. I let go of the rope and prayed as I began to move, one foot after the other, trying not to see the dead hands that were now grabbing for my feet.

After the first step, I was sure that I’d made a huge mistake, but there was no chance of me turning around on the narrow wall. I was committed to the course I’d chosen. The dead things were lined up on both sides of the wall and most of them were easily tall enough to grab my leg. The only good thing was that they were moving toward where I was at the moment, not where I planned to be in the next few seconds. Because of this, I was able to stay one step ahead of them . . . literally. It worked until I made it to the ‘T’ in the wall that divided the two yards. One of them must have been faster than the others because I felt it’s cold, dead hand wrap tightly around my right ankle.


Everything happened in a matter of seconds, but it felt like an hour. I started to fall toward the zombie that had my leg, so I jerked away. I pulled my leg free, but I over-corrected and began to lean the other way, teetering toward my front yard. That wasn’t going to be any better. I ended up taking two long, wobbling steps closer to the neighbor’s house, and then I dove toward their yard when I knew that I had no other choice.  My momentum was carrying me by that time, and all I could do was try to steer. My left ankle hit the top of the wall as the rest of my body went over, back first. I’m still not sure exactly how I got twisted around that way, but I hit hard and I lay where I landed, unable to breathe. My ankle screamed in agony, and I was sure that it was broken. My bigger concern was my back, which felt pretty messed up, too. I could picture myself lying there, paralyzed, while the zombies on the other side of the wall slowly made their way over.

I finally sucked in a huge gulp of air and moved my head, looking around to make sure the yard was empty. After a couple of minutes, I managed to push myself into a sitting position. While my back hurt terribly, it didn’t appear to be broken. My ankle was another story. It was scraped up pretty badly, and it hurt like hell when I touched it.

Glancing up at the wall, I could see hands reaching over, and it sent a wave of anger through me. These stupid, dead things had chased me from my home. I sat there thinking about it, telling myself that I could take it back; that I would not be cast out into the streets by a bunch of dead people who couldn’t even talk any more. But I knew it wasn’t true. I let out a long, slow breath and faced reality. Even if I could clear out my house, they had defiled it. I had gotten a glimpse of at least one zombie in the pool, pushing at the sides as it tried to get back out. They’d been stomping through my garden, too, and I couldn’t eat the contaminated food. I didn’t even want to think about what they’d done to the inside of the house. There was probably soughed off, rotted flesh and gore all over the place. No, this was one battle that I was going to walk away from and live to fight another day . . . assuming I could walk.

I used the wall to push myself into a standing position on my good leg. ‘Good’ was just a relative term in this case, since both legs were pretty banged up. I’d scraped my knee raw somewhere on the way over the wall, though I don’t remember doing it. It throbbed with pain along with the rest of my body. Still, it supported my weight, so I was happy. I carefully tried to put weight on my not-so-good leg, and I was met with numbing pain. I wasn’t sure what to do next. In the attic I would have had my bed, coffee, water and a good book as well as a box of crackers or two. There was no chance of getting back up there, so I’d have to find a new sanctuary.

Something caught my attention off to the right and I turned my head, paling when I caught sight of the stile I’d built to go over the wall. It was moving. Even my pain-filled mind was sharp enough at the moment to realize that something was climbing over from the other side. I hobbled over just as one of the creatures managed to get onto the first step. When I had built the stile, I had taken a tall wooden ladder and cut it in half, connecting the two sections with a small piece of plywood and a few bolts with wing nuts, thinking that in an emergency, I could unscrew them and quickly dissemble the whole thing. I could see the problem with my planning now. There was no way I could reach over and undo the wing nuts on that side of the wall without getting my hand bit off. I quickly undid the wing nuts on my side, having to dodge the zombie’s grasping hands the whole time. Once they were loose, I tossed the ladder away and pushed up on the platform, trying to knock it over, zombie and all. No luck. The zombie kept trying to grab me, leaning forward as he did it, and he was heavy. I was running out of options and the big guy had managed to get up another step. He’d be in the yard with me before long and I’m sure that his friends would follow.


~Chapter 3~

I hopped across the back yard to the house, and peered in through the sliding glass door. Everything looked the same as it always did, and the front window still seemed to be intact. I’ve noticed that zombies don’t usually break in unless they know that someone is inside. That’s a huge plus for the living. Balancing on one foot, I struggled with the heavy door and finally got it open enough for me to slip through. I left it that way and hobbled through the house to do a quick check. The bottom floor was still empty, and I just hoped that the second floor was as well, since I wasn’t going to climb the stairs to find out. I’d been inside many times, scavenging, so I wasn’t too worried since there was no sign of a break-in. Returning to the back door, I closed it but didn’t lock it. I doubted that the dead had the sense to slide the door open. They usually just hit the glass until it broke.The car keys were hanging on the kitchen wall, for all the good they were going to do me. Since the Thompson’s car hadn’t been started since September, the battery was most likely dead. The only thing that really mattered was whether or not the vehicle had a manual transmission. I quietly entered the garage and worked my way over to the Camry to peek inside. One glimpse of the shifter told me that the car was an automatic, so I wasn’t going to be able to roll it down the hill to start it. I considered giving it a try with the key, just in case there was still some life left in the battery, but I was afraid it might make one of those ‘mostly dead’ car noises. That would be like ringing a dinner bell. Even the sound of the doors unlocking and opening might be enough to earn myself some unwanted attention.

Sighing, I stood and looked around the neatly organized garage as I tried to come up with another way to get out of the mess I was in. After a moment, my eyes lit on a bike that was hanging on the wall. Keeping one hand on the hood of the car, I made my way over and tested the tires and found that they were still full. I was pretty sure that pedaling would be out of the question, but my house was at the top of a street that sloped downward. If I could get the bike outside without being seen, I thought that I could make it down the street and find a vehicle that would run. If not, I’d have to figure out a solution at that time. My options were limited.

Lifting the bike down without making any noise was going to be tricky. Besides the fact that it was too high for me, I couldn’t balance well on one foot. Resuming my investigation of the garage, I saw all kinds of tools and some camping supplies as well as several boxes which could contain just about anything. I actually smiled when I saw the folding step stool. Once it was unfolded and turned around, I was able to use it like a walker. It took a while to silently make my way over to the bike, but once there I put the stool in place. I tried to put weight on my bad foot for just a moment so I could step up, but it wasn’t going to happen. The pain was excruciating. Gritting my teeth until the worst of it passed, I tried to figure out how I was going to get onto the step. I knew that I could jump that high, so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to hop up onto the step. Placing one hand on the wall, I put my bad foot down, just for balance. I had no intention of putting weight on it. I took a breath and jumped up, but my foot overshot the center of the step and almost slid off the other side. The stool teetered for a moment, and I held my breath, praying that it wouldn’t go over. Once I was sure it was going to remain in place, I shifted my foot back to the center of the step. My hands were sweating as I contemplated the next step. It would be a lot easier to knock the whole thing over this time. If I screwed up, not only would I make a ton of noise, but if my foot slipped between the step and the rail on the way over, I could easily break a leg. Then I’d really be in trouble.


I stood there for a moment, trying to figure out if there was an alternative. I could reach the middle of the bike from where I stood, but I was afraid that if I grabbed it there, the handlebars would turn and the whole thing would come crashing down on me. After a moment’s thought, I gave up and hopped back down to the floor. Using my makeshift walker again, I made my way to the back wall and pulled down a coil of rope, which I threw over my shoulder. Making one more trip back to the bike, I tied the rope around the bar across the middle. Now came the fun part. The garage door ran along a track that was basically two metal struts that curved up and ran across the ceiling. I had to get the other end of the rope over one of the struts. I tried several times, nervous about the noise that the rope made when it hit the strut and then fell to the ground. I finally decided it wasn’t going to work that way.

Placing the step stool next to the car, I put both hands on the hood and shifted my weight to them so I could get onto the first step. That gave me enough height to slide onto the hood of the car. By keeping a hand on the windshield, I was able to get to my knees then finally into a crouching position on my good foot. My balance was off and when I accidentally stepped back, the hood indented, making a loud noise. Cringing, I leaned down to put a hand on the windshield again until I could get my foot into position on the far edge of the hood, where it felt a little sturdier. I was a nervous wreck by this time, wondering if my undead friends had gotten over the wall yet, and wondering how many had heard me through the garage door. It didn’t take much imagination to see myself stuck on the top of the car with zombies grasping at me from every direction. If they’d broken through my garage door, they could break through this one, too.

Shaking my head, I told myself not to think about it and just get the job done. I got ready and pushed myself up into a standing position on my good foot, flinging the rope through the air at the same time. I wasn’t able to balance on the foot for long so I dropped back down, hand flat on the windshield as I looked up to see if I had been successful. The rope had made it over, but there wasn’t enough of it hanging down for me to grasp it. I lifted and jiggled it until I managed to get a little more over. It took several valuable minutes, but finally I was able to grab the free end. Soon I was back on solid ground, looking up at the bike.

Using the rope, I was able to lift the bike up off of the hooks then lower it while guiding it with my free hand. When it almost reached the floor, I lost my grip and the bike dropped the last couple of feet. I grabbed it to keep it from falling over, wincing at the noise it had made. For several long seconds, I stood still but I didn’t hear anything to cause undue panic. Untying the rope, I coiled it up and tied it so I could take it along with me, knowing that it might come in handy.

I spent a few more minutes going through the camping gear, and I was able to find a backpack. I put the rope in it and added a few more things from the garage then I carefully made my way back into the house. I was glad to see that the patio door was as I’d left it.

After stuffing the backpack with the small amount of food from the cupboards, I hobbled to the back door and peered outside to see that my buddy was now almost to the platform on the wall. He wasn’t moving, though. He seemed to be looking around. I was hoping that since I wasn’t in sight, he might forget about me, but then I noticed that another of the ghouls was behind him on the ladder. I hoped they’d fall before reaching the top of the wall, but I wasn’t going to count on it.

I sat down at the kitchen table to think for a moment. I had to be able to walk if necessary. If I could do something about my leg, maybe I could still move a little faster than the dead. A memory hit me suddenly. Years earlier, I had twisted my ankle in a Taekwondo class and my friend, Jeanette, had loaned me a pair of crutches. She lived downhill from me on Mulberry Way, which intersected my street, Sequoia Drive. The intersection was where I was considering building a wall to block off my neighborhood. If I could get enough speed on the bike to coast to her house after making the sharp turn, I could go inside and look for the crutches . . . if there weren’t zombies around. There were so many things that could go wrong.


 I hadn’t stayed alive this long by making stupid decisions, but the one I had just made was questionable. Still, my options were down to two and I didn’t like either of them. I would have to leave my neighbors’ house, or I would have to go upstairs and try to reinforce one of the rooms well enough to keep the dead out. It was hard to say how long it would take for my ankle to heal, and I really wanted to find a place where I could recuperate without a bunch of zombies banging on the door. That wasn’t going to happen here, so taking the bike and making a run for it seemed to be my only choice.

I was jerked abruptly from my thoughts when a shadow crossed my line of sight. There he was; the big guy. He saw me right away, and he tried to walk through the door to get to me, his bloodied face snarling with rage or hunger as it slammed into the glass. He clawed at the door then began to pound his meaty fists against it, leaving smears of blood and the gray-green goo that I often saw on the flesh of the not-so-dead. The whole door shook as he raged against it, and I knew that my time was about up. Grasping the edge of the table for support, I got back onto my good foot and slipped my arms through the backpack. I started for the garage again, but paused. My neighbor, Ron, had been very athletic, which was fortunate for me or I might not have found the bike and the backpack. The thing was, he’d always pushed himself a bit harder than was wise for a man in his late fifties, and every few months or so he’d end up out-of-commission for a while with a bad back or sprained wrist. His wife had told me that Ron hated to take pain pills, but on occasion he would do it. I just wondered if he might have left some prescription medications behind that might help my ankle. I made a semi-quick detour into the downstairs bathroom but found nothing. It was likely that they kept their medications in the master bathroom upstairs, and there was no way I was going to attempt that trek on one foot with limited time. I grabbed the bike then hesitated once more in the hallway. I’d been planning on going out the garage door, but I had no way of knowing if it was clear. There could be hundreds of the dead outside, just waiting for the door to rise. If they weren’t already out there, the sound of the door opening would surely lure them over.

Changing my plan, I rolled the bike into the living room, leaning on it as I hopped along. I peered through the large picture window and saw nothing in the front yard, but I heard the sliding glass door behind me shake as my buddy slammed into it again. Glancing back, I could see that there were two of the dead there now, and I was certain that the commotion would draw others. Another glimpse out the front window revealed nothing new, thankfully. Taking a deep breath, I eased open the front door and looked around. Though it was very quiet, it still seemed too loud to me, but I think that it was just the blood rushing in my ears.

The garage was blocking my view to the left as I mentally prepared myself to move down the walk, and I fully expected one of the ghouls to appear from around the side of the building at any moment. Had my neighbors had a lawn, I would have just ridden the bike across it and started down the hill, but the front yard was made up of decorative rock that would probably puncture or at least stop my tires. I would have to follow the walk to the driveway then out to the street.

My heart was pounding as I pushed the bike forward about a foot, wincing at the whisper of the turning wheel. I knew that if anything rounded the corner now, I had nowhere to go. It was doubtful that I could make it back inside the house, and the walkway was too narrow for me to maneuver around another body. I’d be trapped, and God only knew how many ghouls were just yards away, in front of my house.

I hopped a couple steps to catch up to the bike then rolled it again, doing my best to be silent. I was almost glad that I was barefoot since my shoes would have undoubtedly made noise.

Shaking violently with each step, I somehow managed to make it to the end of the garage without dropping the bike or drawing attention to myself. After taking a deep breath, I risked a quick look around the corner. The blood drained from my face as I saw dozens of the dead swarming into my house, just a few yards away. Some of them saw me, too, and turned in my direction with loud moans that would alert the rest of the crowd that prey was near.


As quickly as possible, I hobbled around to the right side of the bike, wishing I’d done that in the first place. Planning was everything these days and a small mistake like that could get me killed. As I slipped my bad, left leg over the bar, I could see the dead approaching out of the corner of my eyes, but I didn’t dare waste a moment trying to determine how close they were. Throwing myself onto the seat while trying to keep the pressure off my left leg, I let the bike start to roll. It was unsteady and it began to wobble as I fought to get my right foot onto the pedal. For a moment I was certain that I was going to topple over, which would have meant a not-quick-enough death. I was able to shift my balance and straighten the bike, and though I had to dodge several grasping hands as I rolled down the driveway, I managed to avoid being pulled off.

Once I cleared the horde, I risked a backward glance to see that there were at least twenty of the dead things within a few feet of me, and more pouring out of my garage to join them. I built up as much speed as I felt I could handle, but I slowed once I put a little distance between me and my followers. There weren’t any other zombies on my street, fortunately. They were all either standing in yards or trying to get into houses. A glance behind me confirmed my fear that most of the horde from my house was trailing behind me. I needed to lose them. There was a big curve coming up, just before the end of my street, which is where I would have to turn.  I was hoping the curve would allow me to ditch the mob behind me, since they wouldn’t see me take the turn. Hopefully they’d continue on through the intersection and keep going down the long street.

I held my breath and started putting pressure on the brakes before my turn came. I needed as much speed as I could manage to get me as far as possible down the street, but not so much that I would lose control of the bike. Since I’d never done this before, I really had no idea just what that perfect amount of speed was. Using my best judgment, I began to take the turn. Unfortunately, the bike was moving too fast for the curve, and I began to careen toward a parked car. My heart raced as I fought to get the bike under control and back into the middle of the street. For a moment, I was certain that I was going to succeed but my relief was short-lived as I clipped the back of the car. I watched the houses and cars spin upside down as I flew through the air, rolling a few times before coming to a rest against the curb.

For a moment, I lay still, staring up at the clear blue sky. This certainly wasn’t helping my sore back, but it didn’t seem to have caused any new damage, either. With a groan, I managed to get to my good foot by grabbing the trunk of a nearby car. I let out a long breath and looked down the street to where the house was. I only needed to make it a couple hundred more yards, and the street appeared to be zombie-free.

The bike was lying in the middle of the road, one wheel spinning freely. I crawled over and dragged it back to a car so I could steady myself while I righted the bike. The road was flat at this point, so riding the bike wouldn’t be an option. Instead, I rolled it along and hopped on my good foot as quickly as I could, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before the dead reached the intersection. I had to get off the street before that happened.

It seemed like it took forever to make my way to Jeanette’s house, though it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes. I’ll bet I looked over my shoulder fifty times, but after what seemed like an eternity, I wheeled into the driveway and made my way up to the house, planning on bringing the bike inside since it might be needed again for another quick escape. Getting it up the two steps to the front door was tricky, but I managed, though I was very aware that time was slipping by, and the dead were growing ever closer. I could even hear their moans by this time. I didn’t dare look to see if they were in sight yet, but instead I fumbled in my pocket for the credit card that I always carried. For one sickening moment, I thought I had lost it then I realized it was in my other pocket. I got it out and began to pry at the lock until I was finally met with success. I was lucky, since the credit card trick only worked on certain types of locks, and Jeanette’s house happened to have the original door on it with an old lock. I stepped inside and dragged the bike in behind me, locking the door again and letting out a huge sigh of relief.


~Chapter 4~

A bit of the intersection was visible from the far edge of Jeanette’s large picture window, so that’s where I waited. It was only about five minutes before the first of the dead began to appear. At first none of them turned onto Mulberry Street, so I hoped that maybe they’d lost me. I was actually starting to relax when I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. Stepping back quickly, I forgot and put weight on my injured leg. I bit back a scream of agony, grabbing the wall for support until the wave of pain finally passed. When I felt that I could move again, I hopped closer, and carefully looked outside to see what had caught my eye. One of the dead things stood in the street, just past the house. He seemed to be looking around, and I wondered if he was searching for me, or if he had maybe just followed a bird or cat this way. That happened all the time. The dead would trail something for a while then just stop and stand around when they lost sight of it. Some of them eventually returned to a specific place, and others didn’t. I always saw the same teenage girl zombie loitering outside the theater, clutching a red purse. Perhaps a residual memory had her standing there, eternally waiting for a boyfriend that would never arrive. Thoughts like this saddened me and they made it a little harder to kill the undead. I wanted to think of them as mindless husks, possessed by some other force that I needed to drive away.

I often saw some of my deceased neighbors near my house, and my husband, Patrick, tended to spend most of his time there as well. It would have been so much easier if he’d have gone somewhere else where I didn’t have to see him. It was pure torture for me. His thick blond hair was now matted with blood and gore from the gaping wound where his ear used to be. His eyes, which had always been a vibrant blue, were now the same milky white that I saw on all of the dead. Most of his throat had been ripped out, so I knew that even if a cure was ever found, he was beyond help. I couldn’t look at him without wondering about his last moments, certain that he had died in terrible pain. What kind of terror had he felt as his last breath had left his body?

I blinked away tears, not wanting to think about him. When I didn’t dwell on Patrick, my life was tolerable, and I kept busy just trying to survive. The other times, the times that I let my mind linger in the past, I didn’t care so much about staying alive, and I always began to ask myself if I even wanted to exist in this sort of a world. Those dark thoughts were dangerous, and it was best not to let them take hold, but I knew that as long as Patrick was around, the darkness would fester inside me.

Pushing the bad thoughts away, I eased a little closer to the window again and peeked out. It appeared that much of the group that had followed me from my house was loitering in the intersection, and had that “bored and distracted” look about them. This usually meant that something had caught their attention momentarily, which was not good. I’d counted on them continuing down the street until it dead-ended before wandering back up the hill.

Some of them were turning onto Mulberry and moving my way. Others were returning the way they’d come, and a few looked like they were continuing the trek down the hill. I wished that I had a better view of it all, but I wasn’t going to risk getting any closer to the window. If one of them got so much as a glimpse of me through the shutters, or saw a shadow of movement, I’d be found out.

I backed farther away and looked around. The house would not be easily defendable because it had a lot of big windows downstairs, but it did have a second floor that I might be able to block off. If I kept quiet and didn’t let the zombies see me, I just might be able to stay long enough for my ankle to heal.

Making my way to the kitchen, I looked out the back door at the yard. Like my house, this one was also surrounded by a cinder block wall. There was also a pool, but the water in it was green and thick with algae. My purification tablets were back at the house, but hopefully I could find some bleach or chlorine to make the water useable. If not, it would have to be boiled.

I did a quick search of the first floor though I’d already checked it once when things had first gotten bad. Jeanette had told me that she was going to go to the shelter, but I’d had to visit her house to be sure. I’d been both disappointed and relieved to find the place empty, knowing that her absence meant that she was probably dead. At least I wouldn’t have to deal with her walking corpse, which would have been almost as bad as seeing Patrick.

I had appropriated some supplies on my last visit. There had been a lot of pasta and flour, and I’d taken most of it, knowing that the bugs would get into it if it sat around too long. The canned goods had been left behind for later.

Going through the cupboards again, I was thrilled to find a blue 5-gallon bottle of water in the back of the pantry. I hadn’t seen a water dispenser so I wasn’t sure why she had the bottle, but I didn’t care. It would work well for drinking and cooking, leaving the pool water for bathing and other things.

The garage was full of odds and ends, which made searching for the crutches difficult. The slightest noise would give me away, and I had to move at a crawl to keep that from happening. It was almost an hour before I finally accomplished my goal and was able to move back into the house.

I adjusted the crutches to fit me, since Jeanette was a little shorter than I was. Once that was done, I checked the front window again and was pleased to see the street almost empty. I made my way to the downstairs bathroom, and used some first aid supplies to clean my cuts and scrapes. If any of the open wounds had been contaminated with zombie blood or saliva, I was as good as dead, but there was no point in dwelling on that too much, since there was nothing that could be done about it. Cleaning the wounds thoroughly would at least decrease the chances of other infections, since running to the pharmacy for antibiotics was not going to be an option. Saving my ankle for last, I wrapped it with an Ace bandage. It was horribly swollen and turning purple and I still didn’t know if it was broken or sprained, but it didn’t matter. I was out of commission for a while, one way or the other.


Jeanette’s kitchen clock let me know that it was noon. My growling stomach had already told me as much, but it was good to know that I still had a feel for the time. I tried to light the stove, just to test it, but it didn’t seem to be working. There was no hiss of gas so that explained it. My gas water heater had quit working a while back, and so had my heater, telling me that the gas had finally stopped flowing. My stove was electric so that hadn’t been a problem at my house, but I was going to need another method of cooking here. I found a charcoal grill on the patio, and after a bit of quiet digging, I found a couple bags of charcoal and some lighter fluid. I’d have to use it sparingly, since I didn’t know how long I’d be staying, but it was enough to last me a while.

In the beginning, I’d worried about using the grill at my house, but it had soon become obvious that the zombies weren’t at all interested in cooking odors. They seemed focused on live human flesh, and they weren’t smart enough to make the mental leap between humans and human activity such as cooking. Even grilled meat didn’t seem to attract their attention.

I heated up a pan of chicken broth, and added some white rice and canned tuna. There was no way to refrigerate the leftovers so I ate it all, promising myself that dinner would be something small, if I even bothered with dinner. I just wanted to crawl into bed and rest for a while, so that my battered body could start to heal. First I had to fill a couple of empty chlorine jugs with water to take upstairs for flushing the toilet. I also dragged up some candles and a flashlight that I found in a drawer, though I had to put new batteries in first. As an afterthought, I brought up some things that I could eat without cooking, so I wouldn’t have to go downstairs again for a while. There were some crackers and chips as well as some canned foods that could be eaten cold, and I brought the can opener up with me as well. I couldn’t carry up the 5 gallon bottle of water, so I poured some of it into smaller containers and brought them up. Navigating the stairs on crutches wasn’t easy, but it would have been impossible to get between floors without them. The backpack allowed me to carry what I needed, though it made me feel off-balance and I thought I was going to fall backwards more than once. By the time the last load was carried up, my good leg was shaking, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t have made another trip if my life had depended on it.

I blocked off the top of the stairs with a heavy dresser, which was ridiculously difficult to move. It wouldn’t keep me safe forever, but it would slow the dead down if they made it that far. A few empty cans stacked on top of the dresser would act as an alarm system.

Locking myself into the master bedroom, I slid a dresser in front of that door as well. Jeanette had a full bookcase and I planned on making use of the books. I was set for a while, I thought, as I walked over to look out the bedroom window. There were a couple walking corpses near the house and several still gathered together at the intersection, but I wasn’t worried. If they hadn’t found me yet, I was probably safe here unless I did something stupid. I promised myself not to play any music, and I’d sleep when it was dark so that I wouldn’t need to light the candle unless I had to. The bedroom window was a thick, expensive one, meant to keep out the harsh Nevada sun, yet I could still hear the moans of the dead outside. Someday the noise might just push me over the edge, but not today. I was too tired to care. I grabbed a book and went to lay down on the bed, exhausted.


I slept and read a lot those first few days. Partly it was my body trying to recover from the fall, but it was also a way to escape reality. By the third day, the pain in my back was tolerable, though my ankle was worse. I had never seen human flesh turn that color of purple before, and I hoped that I would never see it again. These days, the smallest of injuries could easily be deadly.

For the next three weeks, I stayed inside the house except to go into the back yard and quietly use the grill or collect water from the pool. I had a couple of close calls. Once I almost dropped the grill lid on the flagstone patio, but I caught it in time. A loud noise like that would have had every zombie for miles around at the door. I did drop a full bucket of water into the pool on another occasion, but it was windy that day, and the sound of the loud splash was muted.

I found several bottles of liquid chlorine in the garage, as well as a large plastic pail full of chlorine tablets, and I put it all to good use. Carrying buckets of water inside while using crutches was not easy, but it had to be done if I wanted to keep the dishes washed and the house clean. Having a few dirty dishes didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it gave me something to do. While I continued to read a lot, I knew that I needed to stay as active as possible, or I’d fall into some bad habits that could hurt me later. The cleaning was part of that routine, and I began to add in some daily exercise as soon as my back allowed it.

At my house, there was a treadmill and a weight machine, and I had used them religiously. Jeanette had nothing like that so I had to improvise. I started with the little bit of yoga I remembered from a class I’d taken years earlier, figuring that I could at least stretch my muscles and give them a bit of a workout. As my back healed, I added some calisthenics and found some creative ways to exercise while not putting weight on my ankle. I even found that I could do squats and lunges using either my crutches or the wall for support. While I was carrying the bucket of water one day, I also realized that I could use items around the house to do weight training. The bucket of water worked well, but the water kept spilling out, usually all over me. After this happened a couple times, I finally got smart and dumped out the water, adding rocks from the yard instead. I had to wrap a towel around the handle so it wouldn’t dig into my hands, but it worked well. There were a few other items that got worked into my weightlifting routine: a heavy iron bar that I found in the garage, a cast iron frying pan, and a bronze statuette that stood on a table in the living room. The only thing I was missing in my workout was aerobics, and doing laps around the yard on my crutches just wasn’t cutting it.

I quickly fell into a routine as the cleaning, exercise and reading filled my days. There were other little things I did, too, like cooking meals and treating drinking water once the five gallon jug was empty. I had to use pool water, but I filtered it with a clean linen tablecloth then boiled it on the grill before adding a couple drops of bleach. I was nervous the first few times I drank it, but I never got sick, so I think that my system worked.

My bathing routine normally just involved a bucket full of treated water, but I allowed myself a real bath every now and then. This was quite an ordeal because not only did I have to treat the water, but I had to heat some of it on the grill before dumping it into the tub, which was upstairs. It took me a good hour to get the tub about halfway full. Needless to say, the water was usually lukewarm by the time I got into it, but I can’t begin to express how good it felt to sink into that half-tub of tepid water and relax for a while.

Even keeping busy with the cleaning and exercise, I had so much time to read during the three weeks I was at Jeanette’s house that I went through most of the books in her collection. While it felt kind of nice to relax, I wasn’t used to being so idle and it began to bother me. Before my injury, my days had been filled by keeping the gardens going and making scavenging trips around town. I missed those activities, and I was anxious to start them again, but every time I almost convinced myself to go outside and do some recon, my ankle reminded me that it was not ready for that yet.

The house was cold since there was no gas for heat, so I wore warm clothes while working or exercising. I stayed wrapped up in a thick comforter while I read. The temperatures only dropped to 30 or 40 degrees at the worst, which was fortunate. I know it got below freezing once or twice because I saw ice on the pool on those days. Still, it was tolerable; more than the heat would be in the summer.

By the time I could walk again and feel comfortable doing it, I’d had a lot of time to think. I couldn’t move back into my house, and I couldn’t stay at Jeanette’s place much longer. I had only remained safe there because the dead hadn’t found me. Once I started making trips away from the house, they’d catch on. Since it was still winter, there was no way I could think about going to Oregon for a few more months, as I’d be traveling through the snow-covered mountains. That meant that I needed a place in town that I could fortify a little better.

For some time now, I had been considering blocking off my whole neighborhood with big trucks, if I could figure out how to drive them. Assuming I could get them into place, I thought they might hold the dead back long enough for me to build a couple of block walls to close off the top and bottom of my street. But now that I couldn’t stay in my own house, I wasn’t sure there was any point of confining myself to that area. I thought that maybe I could find a better setup in a different neighborhood.

I dug through Jeanette’s kitchen junk drawer, and I was lucky enough to find a local phone book with a map in it. I looked it over, trying to find an area of town that would work for my plan. There were a few possibilities, but if I remembered correctly, these areas all had only one-story houses. Since it was time to go shopping anyway, I decided I’d do some exploring while I was out and about, but would need to find a vehicle first. It was likely that my truck was still in running condition, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get it out of the garage without a fight. Even if it wasn’t overrun with the rotting dead, they had managed to crush the door in, and it would have to be removed before I could get the truck out.

I decided to take the bike and do some recon. If nothing else, it would be good exercise. My ankle was still a little sore, and I was nervous about that, but I really had no choice. I’d used up all of the food that was in the house.

I wrapped my ankle, and dressed as I usually did for one of these excursions, putting on thick socks and long, tight-fitting pants and shirt. That made it hard for the zombies to get a grip on me. My hair went into a baseball cap, and I found some gloves and a fairly tight jacket to top it off. It wasn’t ideal, but I was just glad that Jeanette’s clothes fit me. The pants were a little short, but I didn’t think anybody would notice.

I watched the street for a while and it looked clear, but that didn’t mean much. Sometimes the undead wandered around, and sometimes they just stood in one place for hours or even days. They could be anywhere. When I decided that it was as safe as it was going to get, I quietly unlocked the door and eased it open. It sounded so loud to me, but apparently nothing outside heard it. I stepped out and looked around, spotting one of the dead at the far end of the street to my right. It was looking the other way, just standing in a yard. The thing could decide to stay there for a week, so trying to outwait it was pointless. I checked the knife that was attached to the belt loops of my jeans then I quickly made my way down the driveway with my bike, keeping an eye on the dead guy down the street. If he was going to see me, it was better if he couldn’t tell where I was coming from, since I didn’t need him hanging out at the house. Odds were, he’d follow me anyway, but I had no idea what sort of memories their rotting brains could hold and I didn’t want him remembering which house I’d exited. Glancing back, I saw that he was still looking the other way, which was a huge relief.

I hit the intersection and immediately saw a handful of the horrible creatures down the hill. I guess it was better than uphill, since that’s where I was going, but still, I was hoping not to be followed.  The hill was steep, and I quickly grew out of breath. Three weeks of almost no aerobic exercise had not been good for me, and I was paying the price now. Pushing on, I covered another block then risked a glance over my shoulder. I was relieved to see that they had fallen back, but the steep hill was wearing on me, and I began to wonder if this was going to turn out to be a bad idea.


I took a side street before reaching my house, not ready to face it yet. I was still angry that I’d been driven from by home, but I also had no idea what to expect, and I didn’t want to get trapped inside if I decided to do some exploring. The street I turned onto wasn’t exactly devoid of un-life, and one of the faster creatures lunged at me as I passed. I was able to dodge him, but there were two more ahead of me that were going to be a bigger problem. I could have avoided them easily if I’d been walking, but I was still acquainting myself with the bike, and wasn’t quite confident in my ability to nimbly slip around the two corpses. Since they weren’t too close to each other, I lay the bike down and went after the first one, jabbing the knife into its eye and twisting. It dropped instantly, its body jolting with a few spasms before laying still. The next one was bigger and therefore more of a threat. I needed to take it down before I could kill it, but that was never difficult since they’re not very smart. I moved the bike so it was lying lengthwise across the zombie’s path then I stood in front it, glancing behind me to make sure there was nothing else to worry about. As I had hoped, the dead thing tripped over the bike and I was able to jam my knife into the base of its neck before it could get up again. Getting the heavy body off the bike was the hard part, and one glance behind me told me that others were getting close. There wouldn’t be time to drag the bodies off the road, but I’d come back and get them when I could do it.

I took just a moment to clean my weapon on the dead thing’s filthy clothing. Sheathing the knife, I continued on to the next street, ignoring the vehicles I passed, since this street was flat and I needed a street on a hill. I turned the next corner and rode the bike up the incline, but I didn’t see any vehicles that looked like they might have manual transmissions. I had no more luck on Oleander Avenue, and by the time I reached Ocotillo Way, I had company. Two of the undead were following me and moaning loudly. Great. The dinner bell. I turned down Ocotillo, knowing I’d have to find a vehicle soon, or I’d need a place to hide. I was almost halfway down the street when I saw a nice, new truck that looked like it should have been safely tucked away inside a garage. I held my breath and peered inside, but was disappointed to find that it was an automatic. I continued all the way down the street without finding a single vehicle that would work, which meant I had to ride back up the next street, not seeing another choice. My legs were growing tired, but I pushed on and finally found something toward the top of the street. It was a small car, parked in a driveway, but it had a large shifting knob with a diagram on it that told me it was a manual transmission. It looked like it would be light enough for me to easily push out of the driveway. I hoped so, because now there were zombies at the top and bottom of the street. I was going to have to jump over a wall if the car wouldn’t start.


I spent a couple minutes searching for a key underneath the car, which is a scary thing to do when horrible dead things could be sneaking up behind you. I had no luck finding anything, and the doors were locked. A quick glance at the house had me wondering if it was occupied. Looking back at the street to gauge my time, I knew that my options were limited. I hurried up to the front door and rang the doorbell, glad when nobody answered it. My buddy the crowbar helped me to get the door open quickly, and we went inside. I decided that if I couldn’t find the car keys right away, I’d go through the back of the house and over the wall.

The kitchen was my first stop, and I lucked out. Next to the refrigerator there was a whiteboard in a wooden frame. The bottom of the frame, which held an eraser and a blue marker, also had a build-in key rack hanging beneath it. I quickly scanned the keys, grabbing the set that looked like they belonged to the car. Back outside, I was dismayed to see that the crowd had moved much closer than they’d been two minutes earlier. I unlocked the car and immediately tried to start it with the key. The battery was deader than a doornail, as my grandmother used to say.

From both ends of the street, the dead were shuffling their way closer, but I knew that there was still time to get the car running, or so I hoped. I opened the driver’s door and turned the steering wheel downhill. Bracing my feet on the cement, I pushed the vehicle as hard as I could, rolling it very slowly out to the street. Once I was free of the driveway, I gave the car one more shove to keep it moving, and I jumped in, pulling the door closed. Some of the uphill zombies were within fifteen feet now, which was far too close for comfort. I was also rolling too slowly for my liking, and I knew that if I hit one of the downhill zombies the impact just might bring me to a stop. Fighting with the steering wheel, I weaved between the bodies, barely missing my old paper boy on the left and two men on the right. It was really hard to steer and I was certain that I was going to hit one of them, but before I knew it, I’d passed most of the crowd and was picking up speed. I was almost at the bottom of the hill when I popped the clutch, yelling with joy when the engine sputtered a bit then started. I was getting pretty good at this, but there was never a guarantee that it was going to work.

I had a grin on my face as I turned the corner and went up the next street. There was so little to be happy about these days, but avoiding a horrible, painful death always made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. As I made my way around the neighborhood, I finally got up the nerve to swing by my house. There were a few of the infected milling about, and my truck was obviously trapped behind the crushed garage door. The dead turned to follow me, and I soon collected a small parade of them.

My list of needs included food, a better vehicle, and shelter, and I set out to see what I could do about it. Leaving my neighborhood, I drove across town, ditching the horde of zombies that had been following. My destination was one of the neighborhoods I’d seen on the map, and when I reached it, it was obvious that it wouldn’t work for my plans. Not only were the houses all single story homes, but it was a neighborhood that had wooden fences, many of which had already been knocked down. I needed a good, solid cinder block wall surrounding an entire neighborhood.

Still, that didn’t mean that the homes couldn’t provide food or a better vehicle. I stopped the car and looked around, seeing no movement. Though I was reluctant to turn the engine off, it was necessary since the noise would draw the dead. Stepping out of the vehicle, I eased the door closed and approached the nearest house with my knife ready. After ringing the doorbell, I waited, and when nothing answered I tried the doorknob. I finally used my credit card to gain entrance then stepped aside quickly. Nothing rushed out, and nobody shot at me. The day was getting better all the time.

“Hello?” I called out. “Is anybody here?” Again, no reply. I stepped inside and pulled the door shut before looking around. The smell of death was strong in the house. That might mean death, or it might mean zombies, but I had to find out. Taking a deep breath, I began my search.


It didn’t take long to discover that the back bedroom held something terrible. The thing started banging on the door, and it never stopped the whole time I was there. Fortunately, the rest of the house was zombie-free. Once my preliminary search was over, a trip to the kitchen netted me all kinds of goodies. I found crackers, pasta, canned goods, and several cans of soda. I chewed on some crackers while opening a warm grape soda. It had been so long since I’d had a soft drink that I was really looking forward to it. Maybe my taste buds had changed, but it was a big disappointment.

I filled some cloth grocery bags with food and put them by the front door. Taking a moment to check the garage, I found a beat-up truck that I didn’t quite trust, so I left it alone. There were a few cardboard boxes in a corner, so I brought them in to load up more of the food.

It took a few trips to get everything into the car, but I was pleased to see that the street was still clear by the time I was done. I went to check out a few other homes in the neighborhood, killing five zombies in all. One house had a bunch of tools as well as a pistol and a shotgun, both with ammo. That made my day.

I’d recently learned the basics of shooting from a man named Dan Hixson, though I still knew almost nothing about guns. I could tell a shotgun from a rifle, and I had been introduced to both a revolver and a pistol. I even knew what a magazine was. Training time had been limited, and my instructor had mainly concerned himself with making sure I knew how to plant a hole in the head of a zombie. He’d planned to teach me more, but there hadn’t been time. He and his friend had been forced to leave town suddenly, just before everything had gone to hell here. I haven’t heard from Dan and George since then. They were both really great guys, and I hope they’re still alive. I’m sure I wouldn’t even be here right now if it hadn’t been for them.


  1. Nice! I miss the gang from “Dead, But Not For Long” though. My review of that is here:

    • They’ll be back soon in the sequel, hopefully in the next month or so. Thanks so much for the awesome review!

  2. Scott Sewell permalink

    Man Lesa I love Post Apocolyptic fiction genre and Zombie PA is great in general, I am loving your writing hon! thanks for the great read. do you have any of your PA for sale?

    • Hey, Scott, I’m glad that you’re enjoying Mechanical Failure. My brother and I co-authored a PA novel called Dead, but Not for Long. Mechanical Failure will tie in with it eventually. We are almost done with the sequel, too, and hope to have that out shortly. Here is the Amazon link for the first book. I hope you like it!


      • Scott Sewell permalink

        wow thanks Lesa I am going to order it. I have one book out on amazon too, “The Indians of North Florida”, a legal and social history of several Indian settlements in north Florida during the era of jim crow segregation, its non-fiction. I’m also working on a “plague” novel for enjoyment (i so love PA fiction) but have stalled about 60 pages in so far lol. definitely enjoyed MF so far and will eargerly await the next post, and will work on DNL in the mean time…

      • Great! I hope you like it. Congrats on your book and good luck on the PA book you’re working on. You’re right – PA fiction is great. 🙂

  3. Just finished Dead, and Pestilence, and discovering that you’re working on the story of Miranda was a pleasant surprise! I can’t wait to see what adventures she goes through, and where her journey takes her.

    • I’m glad you liked our books, and I hope you enjoy Miranda’s story. I will get more posted soon, I promise. 🙂

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