The Zombie Generation by Drake Vaughn by Drake Vaughn - Read Online

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Summary

Warner is the sole survivor of a deathscape dominated by hordes of the undead. Years of isolation and lack of any human contact has driven him to the brink of insanity. Plagued with vivid hallucinations and shocking nightmares, he scours the deadlands for any signs of life.

While discovering a temporary cure for his creeping mental illness, he is attacked and infected with the deadly disease. Switching between man and beast, he must decide on risking a desperate cure or attempting a suicidal quest to rescue a group of stranded survivors. Worse, these survivors may only be a figment of his crumbling sanity.

The Zombie Generation is a terrifying tale, perfect for fans of horror and the flesh guzzling undead.

Published: Drake Vaughn on
ISBN: 9781476107622
List price: $2.99
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The Zombie Generation - Drake Vaughn

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immeasurable.

Chapter 1

It had to be a fake, a ruse, a trap. Warner’s first thought was to distrust everything, especially now that the figs had grown so vivid. That’s what he called them, figs. Short for figments. Sounded more pleasant that way. Reminded him of those dried sugary fruits. Not that he’d tasted fruit in some time. And his figs were anything but sweet chewy concoctions. More like old soggy fries—appearing delicious until the rancid taste sliced across the tongue. This hallucination was no different.

He snapped his eyes shut. Sometimes that did the trick. Just one long pause from reality, giving his head time to reboot. He found it worked best if he concentrated on something else, like standing on a beach at sunset or the sensation of eating a hot slice of pizza.

But thinking about that stuff only made it worse. There were no more pizzas, beaches were situated in the heart of the deadlands, and forget about standing outside while the sun still crackled its rays. Perhaps that was why he didn’t mind the figs. At least they added some color to the bleakness. And this one was brilliant. Evil in its hopeful charm, but brilliant nonetheless.

He doubted the bugger he’d spotted downstairs would feel the same. Thank goodness the beast was sound asleep. A single glimpse of this would whirl it into a frenzy. Of course, the point would be moot if what he saw spread before him was only a fig. But considering its rarity and value, Warner had to assume otherwise.

He opened his eyes. It remained. Damn. He peered left. Nothing. Then right. Again nothing. Nothing except it, shining radiantly from the center of the table. Right out in the open. His cure. It defied all logic. Yet there it was, clear as day. Well, clear as anything could be inside this unlit panic room.

Warner flipped his night-vision goggles. He had to witness this with his own eyes. Reaching into his left-side holster, he yanked out a Maglite flashlight. Its bulky mass weighed deep into his hand. He felt oddly unbalanced with the Glock 9mm still tucked away on the other side. He used that much more often than the cumbersome black flashlight.

Warner froze. There was movement in the shadows to his left. Peering into the darkness, he saw it again—a brief whoosh as something fluttered across the wall. Why hadn’t he spotted it with the goggles? Certainly the panic room wasn’t large enough to hide one of the buggers. Yet right before him, he spotted a pair of gleaming orange eyes.

He shot the flashlight toward them. The light splashed across the wall. Nothing. Just the glossy surface of an electrical panel. Two red buttons poked from its side. Hardly eyes by any extent of the imagination. Only a fig, he told himself, waving the light across the room. Just another one of his crazy hallucinations. He wanted to feel relieved, instead he felt quite the opposite.

Turning around, he slammed the panic room door with a sharp clank. It was louder than he’d hoped, especially with a bugger sleeping downstairs. He cursed himself for taking such a chance. Although, Warner didn’t consider it a full day until he’d chided himself at least a half-dozen times.

Listening for any sounds coming from below, he gripped the Glock, but didn’t remove it from its holster bed. It was a rarity for him to use it. Usually, he just waved the gun around like some sort of magic wand, pretending to ward off evil spirits. There were numerous other and far less drastic ways to deal with the buggers. They were like any other animal, easily distracted and only dangerous when cornered.

At least, when they were alone. Swarming was something else altogether. And nothing got those suckers to swarm faster than a gunshot. Or any loud noise, for that matter. From experience, he knew firing only peeved them. And when they were peeved, they were dangerous.

Likewise, a single bullet hardly ever stopped a beast. Once, Warner had witnessed a bugger lunge onto a soldier after taking a head shot. Just kept tearing into the poor fellow even as the soldier blasted another two rounds right into the beast’s skull. Not that buggers had much use for their own brains. Probably the reason they adored chewing on those of others.

Still, Warner had yet to kill one. Not that he was opposed, if it came right down to it. The choice between his life and a bugger’s would be simple. But unlike other people, he didn’t seek it out. Not to say he lived in peace. He just figured it was best to avoid warring with them. But he was no fool either, and always kept a gun handy.

At first, he had loathed carrying it. He feared the mere act of holding a gun would transform him into one of those cocky, knuckle-dragging, uber-macho jerks who’d bullied him his entire life. That was the excuse he’d given, but it was nonsense. Really, he’d just been afraid of shooting himself. When it came right down to it, Warner was pretty clumsy.

Before the outbreak, he’d known next to nothing about firearms. His father, a card-carrying blue-collar sheet metal worker, had felt it best to shield him. Told Warner that there were already too many battles in life and it was stupid to needlessly bring on more. Just surviving was an accomplishment itself.

But again, this was the same man who constantly bullied Warner and his mother, always under the swift threat of his fists. His father was hardly the one in need of self-protection. And he was always keen on saying that if there ever was a real war, not one of these silly adventures in empire building (that’s what he called them) he’d be the first to arm up. Although, when it did come, Warner failed to spot him anywhere. Not that he would’ve minded the company.

So when he’d realized he needed a gun, he’d settled on a Glock. Mostly since he recognized the name and it sounded cool and powerful. Two things Warner definitely wasn’t. Plus, unlike the others, it lacked the huge recoil that jerked his hand around like a puppet. The Glock was easy to aim, precise, and lightweight. And although he would never admit it, its small size fit snugly into Warner’s stumpy hand.

And for the first month he’d worn it, he’d walked around leaning to his left. That way, if it did unintentionally fire, he’d remain unscathed. This inane waddling soon became tedious and after tripping and almost breaking his ankle, he’d finally given up. Of course, the gun never discharged. Not even the time when he’d lunged off that convenience store roof.

And now, after all these long months, Warner could compete in the Olympics and forget he was wearing it. The gun, like every abominable thing in this world, had become part of him. Digging its roots so deep, he’d forgotten anything else had once grown there.

After hearing nothing emanating from downstairs, his hand dropped from the holster. There would be no way he could miss hearing a beast of that size. Hell, the thing was so obese, Warner doubted it could even stand up, forget climbing to the second floor. Many buggers got bad in that way. The roads were peppered with them. Flopped across the ground, they just lay there, too fat to even roll over. It was sad and pathetic, but there was hardly a single thing about them that wasn’t.

Also, the bugger downstairs could just be a fig. He’d only seen one and beasts were like cockroaches, almost never alone. Spotting a solitary bugger in the wild was as rare as a day without figs. However, when it came to the beasts, Warner didn’t take chances. To assume anything about a creature who could cleave through a skull like a banana peel would be the height of stupidity. Although no Mensa member, Warner was quite attached to his own brains.

And if there was one thing in the world buggers enjoyed more than brains, it was the thing resting on the table in front of him. The bottle’s presence there was confounding. It would be similar to discovering that the radio was playing or that the internet was loading again. Hell, spotting a cow grazing in an open field would’ve given him less of a shock. Some things were just gone and this was supposed to be one of them. Impossible.

Of course, if it wasn’t a fig, it was likely a trap. Warner knew plenty about bugger traps. At one time, the entire front yard of the safe house had been blanketed with them. Most were simple works bombs of Drano and tin-foil inserted into a two-liter bottle. Adoring anything shiny, the buggers couldn’t help yanking them from the ground, especially when they sparkled in the bright daytime sun. And as soon as the contents bubbled together, kapow.

These homemade mines weren’t fatal, but they did provide one helluva punch. Just enough to spook the beasts and drive them away for a moment. But they always returned in greater numbers, which is why he’d eventually abandoned them. Not that he desired a stronger bomb. He’d found killing usually only sparked more killing. Especially when it came to the buggers. In pure numbers alone, that was a fight he couldn’t win. And some—

Bang! Warner spun around. The muted sound was distant, similar to a neighbor slamming a door. It hadn’t come from downstairs, but somewhere outside the house. He waited for it to repeat, but when it didn’t, he dismissed it as a fig. Wasn’t the first time he’d imagined bumps in the night. And if it was a beast, he knew there’d be more knocking. Once they started their pounding, they didn’t stop until they either broke through or collapsed from exhaustion.

He figured the fig had been sparked by the memory of those bombs. Sometimes it worked like that. He recalled that dreadful morning when a minor earthquake had set off all the bombs in an orchestral barrage. Christ, how they swarmed afterwards, like a bugger D-Day up the hill. Wave after wave of ravenous beasts galloping to investigate the noise. He still remembered the crunching march of their approaching footsteps.

He’d given up on the works bombs after that, but with the Distracter up and running, the point was pretty much moot. And knowing how crazy they’d gone over those plastic bottles, he feared how the beasts would react catching a single glimpse of this. Whoever had placed this liquor bottle inside the panic room couldn’t have found a more glimmering lure. A fact which made Warner ever more wary.

He couldn’t just leave it, though. Not after everything he’d endured. Trap or otherwise, it was his. He’d earned that much. Finders keepers. In a lawless land, the simplest codes ruled. And to be fair, it was his cure, not theirs.

He bounced the light over the table, noticing there was some liquid inside the liquor bottle. Had to be water, just had to be. Still, even if it was only water, the fact that the glass bottle hadn’t been smashed to pieces was a miracle in itself. He slid up to the table, shining the light above and below it. No visible trip wires or other hidden traps. He swiped his arm above the bottle, only catching air. He likewise checked underneath the table with similar results.

He was afraid to spill a single breath upon it, yet he had to get closer. Slinking across the table, he read the white label attached to the bottle’s side. Laphroaig. A nonsensical word, but a comforting one. The figs were never that elaborate. They’d be Jack Daniels or Jim Beam, not some unpronounceable Gaelic word. Whatever it read, in English it was booze. A ten-year-old single malt scotch to be precise. Obviously, it was much older than that now.

And if there was indeed any scotch inside, the pronunciation would hardly matter to the buggers. They certainly wouldn’t take the time to figure out the label before smashing the thing to smithereens. The green bottle was almost completely full and if real, this could very well be the last alcohol on the planet. That alone made it far more dangerous than a pile of nuclear waste.

Flipping the night-vision goggles back across his face, he extinguished the flashlight. If anything was going down, he preferred it to be in the dark. Even with their enhanced senses, the buggers still couldn’t see well at night. If he had to escape quickly, it could be his only advantage.

Reaching out, he clutched the end of the flashlight, gradually inching it toward the bottle. He figured one tap would be enough to jostle it, thereby triggering anything dangerous. However, the tap had to be light enough to avoid toppling it. Heaven forbid he should spill his cure all over the floor. He’d already endured enough tragedies for one lifetime.

He shoved the bottle and lunged away, scrambling back towards the steel door. Frantically, he ran his hands across it, attempting to find the release. He cursed himself for not locating it before he shoved the bottle.

He suddenly chuckled. It was all too fitting. He could see the headlines now: LAST MAN ON EARTH DIES AFTER ACCIDENTALLY LOCKING HIMSELF INSIDE A PANIC ROOM. An apt metaphor for everything. The absolutely perfect way for humanity to finally end. It was just too bad he’d have to be the poor sucker to endure it. He hoped he’d run out of oxygen, instead of starving or dying of thirst. That seemed peaceful, just fading into nothingness. He had witnessed much worse ways to go. Much, much worse.

Click. Click. Click. The three large deadbolts clasping the door to its frame snapped loose. The latch in the center had done the trick. A rush of stale air fluttered into the room as the door popped open. Thankfully, it had been a mechanical one, rather than electrically driven. It wasn’t uncommon for those electric locks to have one final charge before fizzling out forever. And one thing was certain, the electricity wasn’t coming back anytime soon.

Warner sighed deeply, before his chuckling began anew. He wondered how he could find humor in such morbid things. Hell, they were the only things he found funny nowadays. Perhaps, that alone was the reason he’d survived this long, while everyone else had succumbed. Or maybe, it was due to his rugged strength and determination. Nope, if he had to rely on those, he would’ve croaked a long time ago.

He closed the door and his eyes drifted back to the bottle. Reaching out, he knocked it a few more times with the butt of the flashlight. Then he grasped it. Giving it a single firm shake, he quickly placed it back onto the table.

Nothing. The liquid inside the bottle just rolled gently back and forth against the green-colored glass. Gazing at it, he attempted to spot any residue or impurities hidden inside. None that he could see through the tint. Sniffing the cork top, he could make out the faintest aroma. If it was a fig, it was the most real one he’d ever experienced.

Certainly, he knew the next logical course of action. His brain was shrieking to wrap it tightly and fling it into his pack. He did have a few plastic bags, which he could easily spray with that lemon-scented deodorizer that the buggers loathed. Then he could rocket back to the safe house where he could easily test it without any fear. Sure, he could do that.

He hesitated, clutching the bottle as though it were a newborn baby. If he left now, it would be a good half-hour drive until he could determine whether or not he’d made the discovery of a lifetime. Sure, the Brentwood safe house would be the prudent decision. Inside the triple-reinforced, isolated, and alarmed mansion in the mountains. The one with beaming lights from the generator power. And most importantly, a stockpile of weapons to defend himself.

But it would be a half-hour of pure terror. Worried the entire time that the buggers might swarm over something that could be nothing more than a bottle of warm piss. That sure was a lot of worry for something that could be solved right here, right now. Hell, as his father had constantly reminded him, Warner was part of Generation Instant. And even though he’d spent his entire existence rebelling against being reduced to an advertising tagline, he found himself yanking on the cork.

As it slowly wiggled free, he promised himself it would be the tiniest sniff. Only to be certain. Then he would recork the bottle and return home. Just one brief second. But then the fragrance drifted up.

The pungent odor danced behind his eyes, doing the samba with his brain, assuring him that it was the real deal. Logically, he knew he should jam the cork back, but he stood transfixed, lapping up the nectarous scents like a dog discovering the outdoor world for the very first time.

He didn’t even recall lifting the bottle to his lips. But there it was, the enticing liquid splashing its sizzling tendrils into his mouth. Tasting a strong smoky finish, he allowed it to frolic over his tongue, before leaping joyously down his throat.

It tasted like before. Reminded him of a flawless past. One which he knew never existed, but was right there, flowing through his mouth. It breathed a precious time, a time when he hadn’t been all alone.

Jeeeeeaaaans.

Jeans? That almost sounded human. And why in the world would a bugger yell—

He hadn’t finished the thought when he heard the shuffling. Whoever or whatever had yelled it was right downstairs. Corking the bottle, he dropped it onto the table. A slight buzz radiated across his head as he stumbled towards the door. Had it been spiked? Poisoned? He hoped it was only a low tolerance after these many years.

Another sound radiated from downstairs. Hitting the release, he swung the panic room door open. If there was someone down there, he had to find them before they could go far.

Snap. He latched the door back into place. Was he insane? Any bugger in a five-mile radius would instantly sense the alcohol and swarm like the top of his head was peeled up, brains exposed. It was ludicrous. He kept repeating it was only a fig, only a fig, only a fig. He had to stay, only a fig.

Click, click, click. The deadbolts released again. Lunging out, he pushed open the faux-bookshelf hiding the steel door of the panic room. Entering a library, shelves of books adorned every wall, climbing all the way up to the ceiling. He scoped for any intruders through the green haze of the night-vision goggles, but saw none.

Normally, he never lunged out, guns drawn. Even for this world, it was a tad bit overdramatic. But he’d heard a human voice. Sure, the figs had become stronger, more lifelike with every passing day. He assured himself he could still tell the difference. Couldn’t he? It didn’t matter. If there was someone there, someone real, he wouldn’t need that damn bottle anyway. A true cure. And if that wasn’t worth the risk, well, he didn’t know what was.

Leaning into the hallway, he looked in either direction. It too was clear. He scrambled out, keeping his back pressed to the wall. The noises had stopped. It was eerily still. A stairwell jutted out from the middle of the hall, less than fifteen feet away. He surged towards it.

Hruhpt-paaa-hruhpt-paaa-pa-pa. Flopped on its stomach, a bugger snored at the base of the stairwell.

Warner paused at the top, attempting to recall its previous position. He remembered it further away, less exposed. For some reason, he still expected buggers to be tucked off in some hidden corner. Of course, that was stupid. Most times they plopped down wherever they pleased, almost as if they wished to be found. Sometimes Warner secretly envied their brazenness. This was not one of those times.

A thought struck him. Perhaps this wasn’t the same beast from before. Maybe it’d been joined by another. Indeed, he had difficulties telling them apart. This one was also a whale-sized brute, well over three hundred pounds from all appearances. It had short tangles of curly hair and that typical slightly unshaven look that was common with all the male buggers. Warner suspected it was the longest they could grow their facial hair, since he had yet to spot one with a full beard. And the beasts were hardly known for their personal grooming.

He couldn’t tell definitively one way or another. The beast did sport a giant tattoo of a yin-yang symbol on its right shoulder, but that was something he could’ve easily overlooked. However, he couldn’t just stand there holding his breath. Taking one final glance to ensure he hadn’t missed any others, Warner rushed down the stairs and leapt.

Thump. It was a good distance, beyond what he’d anticipated. However, as his feet collided with the ground, he couldn’t help from exhaling. He instantly realized his mistake. Swinging his head back around, he looked at the monster.

It was silent. The sputtering of its snores had ceased, but at least it hadn’t moved. The bugger puffed a deep inhale and licked its lips. Warner held his breath, not wanting to release any more of the alcohol stench into the air. The beast shifted onto its side and Warner took a hesitant step in the opposite direction. As he crossed the room his eyes remained locked on the beast like a mouse scurrying past a snoozing cat. Before he knew it, he reached the adjoining room.

It didn’t take long to scramble across the checkered foyer and out through the elaborately carved front door. Shutting it behind him, he gasped a giant breath. The crisp nighttime air filled his lungs. He stared into the darkness, scanning for any signs of life.

He searched for a good while, even risking a ‘hello’ when he was within sprinting distance of the Jeep. Nobody replied. Occasionally, there was a gust of harsh wind and he heard some faint chattering, but there was nothing unusual about that. Incomprehensible voices off in the distance was a common fig. The word Jeans had been clear and precise, unlikely to be anything other than human.

Who was he kidding? It was absurd. Like anyone would go around in this world yelling Jeans. A hello, maybe. Help, more likely. Or perhaps even an occasional yo or what up. And the more he pondered it, the more it became apparent it was only a fig.

And to think, in this stupid rush, he’d left the bottle upstairs. But before returning, he figured it best to make a pit stop at the Jeep. Gulping down a couple bottles of water, he did his best to spit the stench of alcohol from his mouth.

Likewise, he chewed on a rocklike piece of gum. It instantly deteriorated into a mushy goo with the consistency of a wet newspaper. To think his mother had once warned him not to swallow gum, claiming it remained in your stomach for seven years. What nonsense—it hardly lasted that long in the protective plastic of everyday life.

Spitting it out, he returned inside. The goliath of a beast remained asleep at the base of the stairwell. Snoring as though Warner had never lunged past it in the first place. For a brief moment, he considered leaping over it again. And on a different day, he might well have done exactly that. But considering the value of the prize upstairs, he didn’t dare jeopardize anything.

Ascending a staircase on the far side of the mansion, he strode silently on the balls of his feet. It was a walking technique he’d mastered as a child when he didn’t want to be noticed after one of his father’s explosive outbursts. And the creaking of the floor was barely audible underneath the puttering snores of the beast. Even from this distance, it seemed to vibrate the entire house.

Reaching the hallway, he decided to make one final pit stop. After downing all that water, he knew his bladder wouldn’t last the drive home. And just beyond the library, he discovered a bathroom. Of course, in this world of rot and overflowing sewers, any barren corner would suffice. Still, it was a matter of pride, something to separate him from the filthy buggers. On his scavenging missions, he always used a bathroom, mostly because it reminded him what it meant to still be human.

Caaaaaa-lunk.

Warner heard the thump mid-stream. It was only a small lurch. Perhaps, the foundation settling or a door being swung by the nighttime breeze. There were always so many random and innocuous noises, he’d long ago given up being startled by every single one.

Thump-thump.

The second thud was even louder. He did not wait for a third before lunging towards the door. The noise echoed out before he could reach it.

Boowump, boowump, boowump.

He instantly recognized the all-too-familiar pounding of a bugger’s stride. The noise tore through the house, shaking it with every step.

Warner dashed into the hallway and stared towards the stairwell. The beast had yet to arrive. Although, from the noise of its shattering footsteps, it would only be seconds until it did. No problem, he’d just reach into his pack and get—

His pack. He’d left it inside the panic room. All he had in his pockets were the sparklers. He loathed sparklers. Took so damn long to light. But they’d have to do. He removed one of the silver sticks. The thundering noise drew closer as he flicked his cigarette lighter.

Aaaaaaaaalllllll, the bugger roared.

Now just around the corner, it would soon be upon him. For such a large mansion, this hallway was quite narrow. Not a ton of room