Man Eaters (Book 2): The Horde, page 1
They just keep coming.
Dragging their lifeless limbs and gnashing their broken teeth, the horde of man eaters presses forward. For every man eater Dallas and Roper put down, twelve more are created.
After spending nearly a year in the bayou, the survivors once again, set out in search of a safe haven where they might do more than survive, but thrive.
Thrive among the hordes bearing down on them. Thrive amid government attacks on the new compound they call home.
As Dallas and Roper build a new life, the ever present military launches surprise attacks, the bloody horde keeps on clawing at the walls, and the rest of mankind devolves into something barbaric and unrecognizable.
Can Dallas and Roper lead their people through the maze of thinking and brain dead killers? Can they find a place to once and for all go on the offensive?
Or it is, as some survivors believe, too late?
LINDA KAY SILVA
Copyright © 2013 by Linda Kay Silva All rights reserved.
ISBN EPUB -978-1-939062-23-9
This is a work of fiction - names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without written permission of the publisher.
Cover Concept - Billie Tzar
Cover Design - Christine Svendsen
Editor - Kaycee Hawn - www.renaissancewordsmith.com
Salinas, CA 93912
Printed in the United States of America
First edition – August 2013
I want to acknowledge the women who are such consummate professionals at their jobs that they make my writing life so much easier.
My mother-in-law, Sandi Morris, who tirelessly reads my horrible handwriting in order to type up my work.
Lorrie Harper, my concept artist, who has managed, time and time again, to create covers exactly as I saw them in my head.
Isabella, my publisher and pal, whose devotion, discipline, and dedication to her authors is second to none.
Schileen, the den mother on this island of misfit toys, whose patience and wisdom keeps us all together.
Kaycee Hawn, my editor, who is often too kind to me, but is quickly whipping my work into shape.
Beth Burnett, my second stalker and first mate aboard the Love Boat. Could we have any more fun doing what we’re doing?
This one is dedicated to all of you who so kindly read my work, spread the word, and remain loyal readers to any number of crazy characters popping out of my head. I write for you-to entertain, to amuse, to educate, to encourage, and to help you escape. Without you, my words would fall on deaf ears. Thank you for enjoying my work and pushing me to be better.
And most especially to my BETA readers who read this before it was polished and loved it anyway.
Always remember…two words.
Dallas and Roper could hear the breathless sounds of the undead as they labored to chase their quarry through the soggy muck and mire of the brackish swamp. The bayou had a way of protecting itself from the invasion of humans who had scurried like mice from a sinking ship, but it was no less successful in keeping the man eaters away as well as the humans. Thanks to the presence of the bayou dinosaurs called ‘gators, which had no issues feeding on the rotten carcasses of once living humans, the zombies were few and far between.
The four zombies chasing a family of three through the muck had managed to make it this far, but it did not look good for them. The sticky mud sucked at their legs, slowing them down and keeping them off balance, but still, the family was losing steam as they struggled through the mud and ferns scratching at their ankles and biting at their legs. The struggling humans were unfamiliar with the terrain, with the dangers of such a foreign arena. They were too close to the river’s edge where the alligators hung out, waiting for their next meal to arrive.
That meal was less than fifty yards away.
“What do you want to do?” Roper asked, peering through binoculars at the four undead slogging through the underbrush. It was hard enough for the undead to lift their stiff legs on a paved road, but to make it through this twiggy swamp and mud was a losing proposition, which was why the Louisiana bayou had been a good choice for Roper and Dallas to set up a base camp.
“They’re headed right for Big Boy,” Dallas said, not needing the binoculars to see the tragedy unfold before her. “He’ll eat the little one for sure.”
“I am not shooting that alligator, love. He kills more eaters for us than all the others put together.”
Dallas started down the ladder and off the blind, the soggy mud making a sucking sound when she pulled her boot out. “We have to do something, baby. They’re toast if we don’t.”
Roper followed her down the ladder, avoiding the boot hole left by her lover. “Not so sure we need stupid survivors, love. They’re carrying suitcases for Christ’s sake. Who carries suitcases when a bunch of zombies are chasing you?”
Dallas nodded as she pulled her rifle around to the front. “I won’t kill Big Boy, but we do need to take out the zombies—if for anything else, to keep our people safe.”
Roper unsheathed her machete, rust-colored blood staining its fine edge. “Then don’t waste the ammo. Let’s take them out quietly.”
Dallas thought for a moment and then nodded, pulling her machete as well. She wore a machete strapped to her right thigh and a large buck knife Roper had given her strapped to her left. “Over here!” she called out, waving her hands. “This way!”
The man, presumably the father, though she had learned long ago not to make assumptions about people traveling together, picked up his pace toward them, leaving the woman and child behind.
“What the fuck is he doing?” Roper asked, now moving toward him. After eight months in the swamp, she could negotiate far better than some city slicker.
“Leaving them in the dust, it would seem.” Dallas took off toward the woman and child. “You handle him. I’ll get the kid.”
Nodding, Roper started for the man who stopped near the edge of the bank about ten feet in front of Big Boy. The alligator did not appear to notice.
“Don’t move,” Roper ordered.
“But…they’re coming! They…they’ve been chasing us—”
“Be quiet.” Roper glanced over at Big Boy, who didn’t appear at all interested in the man. “Put the suitcase down and slowly move toward me.”
The man clutched the suitcase to his chest. “I’m not leaving this behind.”
Movement from the water made Roper back away. “Sir, listen to me very carefully. Put it down and step away from the shore before an alligator has you for lunch.”
The man shook his head and took a step forward, his foot sinking in the sludge.
Roper cut her eyes over to the river at the line of moving water coming directly for them. She had seen it enough since they’d been out here to know what it was.
Too late, she swung her rifle around as a smaller alligator leapt out of the water, grabbed the man around the legs, and pulled him back into the swamp, the suitcase flying out of his hands.
Roper took three steps forwa
“God damn it,” Roper cursed, watching the water turn browner as the alligators kicked up silt from the bottom. She knew what they were doing. They were drowning the poor guy and there was nothing she could do about it. He was a goner.
That’s when she heard Dallas’s first shot.
Turning from the alligators, Roper saw Dallas trying to pull the woman away from the child, who now laid face first in the mud, half her head blown off.
“My baby! You killed my baby!”
Dallas struggled to pull the woman away as the four zombies limped and dragged their feeble limbs closer. “Come on, lady, we have to get you out of here!”
Taking off toward her lover, Roper gripped the handle of her machete and prepared to take off the head of the first zombie she came to. With one powerful swing, she chopped the head clean off. Months of practice made her an efficient and effective zombie-killing machine. She could take a head off with a single slice. “Get her out of here!” Roper yelled.
But it was too late.
When Dallas released the woman so she could help Roper and go after the second man eater that had reached them, the third zombie lunged for the woman and took a chunk out of her forearm, tearing meat from the bone as if it was eating a drumstick. The woman screamed, grabbed her arm, and tried fighting the zombie off moments before Roper cut its head off as well.
Dallas took out the fourth zombie, but by then, they both knew it was too late.
Blinking back tears, the woman flung herself on her dead child, ignoring the blood gushing from her wound and sobbed, “Not my baby. Not my baby. What have you done?”
Dallas looked sadly at Roper, who raised the machete over her head and buried it in the woman’s scalp, nearly splitting it in two. She was dead before she could turn into one of those that had been chasing her.
“Damn it,” Dallas uttered dejectedly. “I thought they had a chance.”
“You shot the kid?” Roper asked, turning it over with her steel-toed boot and seeing the reason why. The child wasn’t following her parents. She had been chasing them. “Oh. That’s gotta suck.”
Dallas sighed. “Yeah. What happened over there?”
Roper watched as a small line of blood floated by. “He wouldn’t let go of the damn suitcase. One of the ‘gators got him.”
As they started back to camp, Roper walked over to the side of the river and grabbed the suitcase.
“What are you doing with that?”
Tossing it on the ground, Roper knelt next to it. “Curious what was worth getting eaten alive for.” Opening the suitcase, Roper found thousands of hundred dollar bills. Rising, she shook her head with disgust. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Money? We’re living in a virus induced apocalypse and he was willing to die for money that’s as useless as toilet paper?”
“Now wait one second. Toilet paper is actually more valuable to us than money. Have you ever tried to wipe your ass with a hundred dollar bill? It’s scratchy.”
Roper smiled. “You always see the silver lining in things, don’t you?”
“I try, my love. I try.”
It’s been eight months since the deadly virus wiped out almost three-fourths of the population of the United States. Well…wiped out would imply that seventy-five percent were gone. Or buried. Or both.
Unfortunately, they are very much still here, roaming the countryside on dead legs looking for human flesh to sink their blood-encrusted teeth into. They are here, dragging their broken and fleshless limbs across dead freeways in search of their next meal. They are everywhere, moaning that hideous sound that strikes fear in the hearts of the living.
They are everywhere.
We call them Man Eaters. Unlike zombies in the movies, they do not eat any other flesh or each other—just living human flesh. Sometimes, five or six can devour an average size person in less than twenty minutes. Other times, they settle for a single bite, which will turn the bitten into one of them.
We call them that as well. We’d love to be able to hate them, but we can’t. After all, it’s not their fault our government created a virus as a bioweapon that turned its populace into flesh-eating zombies. It’s not their fault the global community set that very weapon against us, against the United States, transforming our once prosperous country into a zombie-infested pool of rotting flesh and blood-stained muck. The undead are unfortunate victims of bad science and a world sick of a fledgling government playing God in their sandbox. As a result, the United Nations created a global army to contain the virus within our borders. We became casualties of a government project gone awry. Before we knew it, survivors turned on each other, the military became our enemy, and we fought every single day to stay safe and free from the virus, from the military, and from a government who now had less than twenty percent of its population intact and no way to stop the growing horde continually in search of their next meal.
Twenty percent isn’t much when you consider we went from 312 million people to 6 million in a nanosecond. Six million of us may still be alive, but the other 306 million are either the walking dead or were consumed by them. It’s been a long eight months, to be sure, and we still have no idea when it will end.
If it will end.
Eight months ago, I met Roper, Butcher, and Einstein. Together, the four of us managed to get out of California’s death pit, where the virus was first launched, and to the relative safety of the Louisiana bayou.
Along the way, we collected other like-minded survivors. I say like-minded because an apocalypse devolves man’s higher-level social and cultural skills into something base and lowbrow. Outlaws roam the streets using bully tactics to take what they want, raping and pillaging along the way like the Corsairs of yesteryear. We’d faced one such group on our way to New Orleans and, in the end, it hadn’t gone well for them. We may have appeared like a group of untrained women and a teenage boy in a Fuchs military vehicle, but looks can be deceiving. They quickly found out that this bitch bites. Take what I have at your own peril. When we finally made it to the bayou, we’d killed so many living and undead along the way, we’d lost count after eighty five hundred.
I have no regrets, either.
At 2:07 on a now memorable Tuesday, we entered a kill-or-be-killed world, and so far, we’d managed to do the former. That doesn’t mean we didn’t lose some along the way. We did. We lost good people—people with heart. People who gave their lives to save the group. We had saved more than we lost, and the core of my new family had made it all the way to the bayou where we’ve been holding out for the last eight months.
I realized after a few weeks went by that we all needed to record our experiences—our successes, our failures, our losses, etcetera. We are the survivors. I think it important for those who come after us to know who we were and why we managed to survive when others didn’t.
It’s a story worth hearing.
Dallas stood outside the meat smoker and watched a ‘gator skim across the top of the murky river water. She’d come to know the familiar ‘gators Roper and Einstein had named all those months ago, and there was something calming about their mundane consistency as they bathed, swam, and hunted like clockwork. This fifteen-footer was named Old Man because the numerous scars on his snout had indicated a long-lived, hard fought life. Old Man was one of the better hunters, and Dallas had once seen him take out a zombie with one snap of his jaws.
That was one of the reasons they’d chosen the swamp.
The few man eaters they’d encountered down here often got stuck in the swampy gook on the outer fringes of the bayou and the alligators living along its banks quickly dispatched them. The alligators were such proficient and effective killing machines, Dallas hadn’t seen a zombie in almost two months…until that family
That didn’t mean they weren’t still out there. She knew better. They were always there, and they’d appear and bite you before you even heard them coming.
Dallas and her entourage had come to the bayou after the outbreak of the virus in order to board a yacht and head to the safety of a Caribbean island. Any island. They figured if they could get out of the infested area, that they would be safe.
That was before they knew the truth—that all around America’s borders and coasts, soldiers from a newly formed global army stood guard, shooting everyone trying to escape the epidemic by leaving the country.
Like vultures, these soldiers waited, blowing boats to bits and shooting people trying to cross into Mexico or Canada. In an attempt to protect the rest of the world from a virus the United States government created as a bioweapon, the United Nations had effectively quarantined the survivors and cut the country off from the rest of the world. The United States had become an island of death and destruction with no help in the foreseeable future. Those who had made it so far were the minority of survivors to escape the bloody clutches of an enemy that knew no fear.
And there was no place to run, no place to hide.
They were trapped.
Dallas, with her group of thirty-two, was one such survivor. For the last eight months she had not only been trying to live as normal a life as possible, but had been quietly training her group in the best ways to dispatch a zombie so when it was time to go on the offensive, they would be ready.
She had done everything she could to protect her people, but she always wondered if this was enough. Were these small shacks above the river the sum of the remainder of their lives? Was this actually living?
Dallas didn’t think so.
“You think too much,” Roper said, walking up behind her and threading her arms around Dallas’s taut waist.
Once a firefighter, Dallas towered a bit over six feet tall with broad shoulders that tapered down to a waist that used to stay slim from working out, but now remained thin because of hard work coupled with a low caloric intake. Once the energy grid went down, food could no longer be refrigerated, and that changed everything about the way they ate.