Down Time Blues
By Shawn Chesser
Deep cleansing breaths. Cracking of knuckles. A fist pump or three. All actions taken by me the second I hit ENTER last Wednesday and my MS of ‘Frayed: Surviving the Zomdie Apocalypse’ was off to my editor. Now, five days into my self imposed two-week vacay from the ‘puter, I’d be a liar if I said that leaving the laptop closed and unplugged has been easy. Sure, the time that simple act has freed up has been pretty easy to fill, what with summer break and my kids’ swimming lessons and all of the new movies dropping,—I can’t wait to watch the Minions in their very own vehicle—it’s just that I feel so unproductive not physically clacking away on the next project. Moreover, I’ve been unable to turn my mind off and just relax. So much so that it’s gotten to the point where I can’t stop myself from picturing scenes from the next book in my head.
I’m sure other writers go through this, so forgive me if I’m whining to the choir. So I’ll shut up now and resume counting the days until the two weeks I couldn’t wait to enjoy is over and I can get the Toshiba out and coax the scenes from my head and onto the screen.
Shawn Chesser, author of the best-selling ‘Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse’ series, has been a zombie fanatic for decades. He likes his creatures shambling, trudging and moaning. As for fast, agile, screaming specimens… not so much. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, two kids and three fish.
Unedited and spoiler free excerpt from ‘Frayed: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse’ which will be available late July.
Cade worked the scenario through his head. Judging by the twenty or so Zs ground into the pavement underneath the van, the occupants had probably come upon the herd up the road and then, either acting out of fear or hubris, decided not to turn back toward Huntsville and instead took a chance at bulling their way through. And once the driver had committed and the low clearance minivan became inexorably stuck, he dismounted and shot a few and then tried rocking the vehicle off the writhing pile of death with the lady behind the wheel.
However it went down, the result was crystal clear. Trapped inside, the mother did what any parent facing that many flesh eaters would do. Maybe to make it easier on all parties involved, Cade thought, she had proposed a game that required the boys to wear blindfolds before … at least that was how he hoped it had played out. But he’d never know, because, as the saying went, dead men—and women and their four kids—tell no tales.
The sound of a door opening and closing snapped him out of his funk. He looked towards the other Toyota parked a dozen feet behind the Land Cruiser and saw Taryn on the road and approaching the scene. He watched her step over the partially eaten corpse of the man who he had already pegged as the Dad. There was a bullet entry wound on the right temple and most of the left side of his face was bulged out and misshapen—like a grapefruit squeezed of all its pulpy goodness. Only there was nothing good about what Cade imagined lay under the snow and scattered on the roadway in a radius around the same side of the body the bullet had exited. Suddenly he was reminded of a bumper sticker popular with the pro-Second Amendment crowd before the fall—a group of like minded folk who he had proudly counted himself one of. You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands, was how it went, and that’s exactly what Taryn did. She planted her boot on the cadaver’s wrist and pried the desert-tan semi-auto free from the rigor affected fingers. She patted down the body and came out with one empty magazine, the empties, Cade figured, were somewhere near the body, but covered with snow and brains. Pocketing the mag and what looked like a handful of cereal bars; the lithe brunette picked her way through half a dozen fallen rotters and approached the high side of the mound of unmoving Zs the family’s van was high centered on.
For a second Cade contemplated letting her see what was inside the death ride and then enlisting her help in searching the contents. Instead, as she was craning and skirting the vehicle’s driver’s side, like a cop stopping traffic, Cade held his gloved hand up palm out and turned her away with a slight nod to the 4Runner.
She froze in her tracks and shook her head. Matching his gaze, she blinked first and turned a one-eighty. She made it one pace back toward the vehicles, then paused as if in thought and performed a pirouette, finishing a complete, albeit rather sloppy, three-sixty.
“When do I get to be part of the decision making process?” she asked, standing her ground and glaring back at Cade.
“You just were,” hollered Duncan, who was in the nearby Land Cruiser with his window partway down and warming his hands in the air coming out the heater vents.
“Come on then,” Cade said. “If you can handle Cobain on the road there … I’m sure you can stomach”—he gestured at the van—“what’s inside there.”