Get a first taste of the beginning of the exciting work THE END by Dane Hatchell and PA Douglas. After you finish, pick up the book!
Systematically taking each step as if it might be her last if she let her guard down, Sergeant Ashley Fox moved forward through the large, abandoned Sears building. Aisle after aisle housed the latest of civilization’s treasures. Ominous shadows grew and stretched out to reach her in the fading light attached to her M-4 rifle.
The moans and endless taunts of the undead lingering outside buzzed slightly above the eerie silence. Despite the seemingly countless numbers surrounding the building, they were the least of her concern. And though she had been trained to face the harshest conditions in a war situation, there was always the element of the unknown that worried her the most. The unknown presenting itself in this moment broke the paradigm of what humanity knew about death. And since death had violated its eons-old rules, she didn’t know if she was capable of succeeding in her mission.
Behind her, Corporal Russell Chadwick limped along, doing his best to keep up. Only minutes after breaching the building, fate gave him the short draw of straws. Two ghouls had leaped out from around a corner, surprising both him and Ashley.
Not following protocol, she had stepped into the attackers’ line of sight before clearing the area. Chadwick instinctively put himself between her and the nearest putrid pus-bag and knocked it to the ground.
Before she was able to get a clear headshot, the other zombie fell on top of Chadwick—biting off a solid chunk on the backside of the soldier’s neck. He quickly turned with pistol in hand, shooting the zombie in the head as it chewed his flesh, lips flapping. He snuffed the other one out with a single shot before Ashley even had a chance to react.
“You’re bleeding! Damn it. I shouldn’t have been so careless. How bad is it?” she asked, a dull pain in her chest tightened around her heart.
He had dismissed her with a wave of his hand, and pointed for her to lead the way.
Chadwick now followed with one hand tightly covering the wound. This only added to the misery he suffered from a sprained ankle the day before, keeping him from taking the lead.
He couldn’t have lost that much blood, but he was beginning to lose some color. Ashley didn’t know what she should do as she played the predicament over in her head that led them to the store in the first place.
A shape barely recognizable against the darkness moved from an aisle a few rows ahead. She instantly froze and strained like hell to make out the figure. Sure, she could have squeezed off a few rounds and asked questions later. But she had already made that mistake two days before. An old woman had reached out in desperation from behind the safety of a dumpster. Ashley rewarded the surprise with a bullet between the old woman’s eyes. Brains and blood splattered against the brick wall as a final memorial to someone not even undead. She had to be sure of her target or risk killing another innocent.
A moaning hiss uttered from the figure, echoing through the rest of the store. The zombie shuffled forward. Its neck bent at a painfully odd position. Dribble poured from its gaping mouth as it reared its head back, wide milky-white eyes glared down on her. Its clothes were torn to bits. Red coagulated blood and mutilated flesh covered the zombie’s midsection.
In one hand, the zombie held a piece of its own entrails. The gore strung from his hand to the floor then back up and into the gaping hole that had once been the creature’s stomach. A string of blood spread across the tile floor traced the zombie’s steps.
The overwhelming odor of rotting flesh and its grotesque appearance acted like invisible ropes holding Ashley down. She grabbed the front neck of her T-shirt and stretched it up over her nose. The makeshift filter did little other than to mix the horrendous stench with her hot, bad breath.
The morbid love-cry of the hungry zombie was followed by rustling and clatter from an area to her right.
It was time to dance, and if she wanted to take the lead, she had to push out the fear and move. She brought the open sites of her rifle on the monster a short distance away. A squeeze of the trigger put a single round between its eyes.
Blood and gray slime sprayed out from the back of the creature’s head as it fell limp to the floor. It lay there, one hand clutching the remains of its mostly devoured intestines. A cavern in the undead victim’s forehead leaked blackish-red gunk.
There was no time to dwell on the latest kill. There were more of the undead heading her way, and for some ungodly reason, they had the need to announce their arrival with horrible moans that laced the air with fear.
“Chadwick, we gotta move faster. I don’t know how many we’re up against. You good?” After a heartbeat longer than what she thought it should take Chadwick to respond, she looked back and found him face first on the cold tile, his hand no longer applying pressure to his neck wound.
“Shit,” she grumbled and backed up and dropped to a knee. With her gaze at full alert in front, she reached down and searched his neck for a pulse. Nothing.
She stood and looked around, trying to decide her next move, when she felt him brush against her leg. “Chadwick?” Ashley lowered her rifle and shined the light in his face. He certainly looked dead. Maybe some involuntary muscle had twitched? She had heard of things like that happening.
Before turning her attention away, Chadwick’s eyes sprang open. Milky-white eyes within blank orbs gazed back. His hand came up and grabbed the barrel of her rifle…
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