They Outnumber The Living…
25 to 1. Those are the odds of being struck down—and resurrected—by the savage plague that’s sweeping the country, forcing survivors to band together against the dead.
They’re Growing Stronger…
Even among the living, there is dissention. A new leader known as the Red Man has risen up and taken charge—and he’s nearly as dangerous as the hungry dead. Some, like Bob Richardson and his friends, strike out on their own. Because if the men with guns don’t get them, the zombies will.
They’re Getting Smarter…
Fleeing the cities, Richardson and his crew find sanctuary in an abandoned farm. But their stronghold may not be strong enough. Something strange and terrifying is happening to the undead. They’re banding together. Working as a group. Hungering for a common goal: human flesh. And lots of it.
Praise for Joe McKinney and His Novels
“A merciless, fast-paced and genuinely scary read that will leave you absolutely breathless.” —Bram Stoker Award-winning author Brian Keene on Dead City
“A fantastic tale of survival horror that starts with a bang and never lets up.”
“A rising star on the horror scene.”—Fearnet.com
Ben Richardson jammed himself all the way to the back
of the oven and watched the zombies staggering around in
the rubble that had once been the lobby of a Pizza Hut. He
wanted to kick himself for being so careless. His head had
been elsewhere, and they’d caught him completely off guard.
If he hadn’t turned around when he did and spied them
through the busted-out windows at the front of the restaurant,
they’d have made a meal of him. But chain restaurants
like this usually had canned food in their prep areas, and the
promise of something other than pork and beans had been
too much to resist. Stupid, he told himself, risking his life for
a gallon of tomato puree.
But he made the mistake and now he had to own it. All
that was left was to wait. Be quiet, and wait. He silently let
out a breath and relaxed his muscles, trying to get comfortable.
No telling how long this would take.
There were three of them out there, two older men and a
young girl who looked like she might have been about fourteen.
It was hard to tell for sure, though. The disease and the malnutrition disfigured them so, and, truth be told, he wasn’t
such a good judge of how old children were anymore. He
saw so few of them these days.
The zombies bumped into overturned tables and stopped
as though confused when faced with padded booths and the
overturned skeleton of the salad bar. The only sound came
from the glass and fallen ceiling tiles crunching beneath
their feet. But that could change at any minute. Richardson
knew that from long experience. They always hunted in silence
until they flushed something from the debris. Here, in
the ruins of downtown St. Louis, that something would
probably be a rat or, if they were lucky, a dog or a cat. Once
they cornered it, the moaning would start. It would begin as
a soft groaning sigh, but that would quickly swell to the
breathy, almost desperate sobbing sound that Richardson
had come to think of as their feeding call. It would carry for
blocks, attracting more of their kind. Within moments the infected
would swarm the streets.
Richardson had seen it happen too many times before.
And so he waited with a revolver in his left hand and a
machete in his right, hoping these three would pass him by.
Zombies were the ultimate opportunists, always on the lookout
for an easy meal. But they lacked any sort of higher consciousness,
and they certainly couldn’t anticipate their prey’s
movements. As long as he stayed quiet, and stayed in the
dark, he’d be okay.
You’re a roving camera, he told himself. Just watch. Soak
it all up.
One of the zombies stepped in front of the oven, stopped,
and slowly swiveled its head in Richardson’s direction. For a
moment, the zombie was framed by a faint golden nimbus of
morning light. But then Richardson’s eyes adjusted to the
glare and he saw the zombie clearly. The man had obviously
fed recently. His shoulder-length hair was matted with deep arterial blood that had partially dried and looked like tar.
Flies swarmed about his mouth and eyes, resting on his
shaggy beard and on the soiled clothes that hung like strips
of rags from his body. The smell of rotten meat brought bile
to Richardson’s throat.
He studied the man’s eyes. They were a milky white and
threaded with cloudy pink lines. The eyes told him everything
he needed to know. This was a Stage I zombie, probably
only infected within the last eight months or so with the
necrosis filovirus, which caused the disease that had turned
him into a zombie. He was slow and stupid, his brain charred
to cinders by fever and his body crippled by malnutrition. If
he survived long enough for the disease to enter its second
stage—and that was highly unlikely from all that Richardson
had seen—he would evolve into something far more dangerous,
faster, even capable of rudimentary teamwork with other
zombies. But for now, the man posed little threat.
As long as Richardson stayed quiet.
Just wait it out, he thought. Be a roving camera. He’ll go
A sudden noise out in the street caught Richardson’s attention.
The sound of somebody running, breathing hard. A
woman’s voice, the words indistinct.
Slowly, the zombie turned toward the noise. The other
two did the same. A moment later the moaning started. A
chill crawled across Richardson’s skin. Even after all these
years and all the time he spent telling himself he was just an
observer here, none of this affected him, the feeding call still
made his bowels clench in fear.
He saw a flash of movement off to his left. The zombies
were already moving to the exit, going after whatever it was,
and so Richardson inched forward to the edge of the oven
and craned his head as much as he dared around the corner.
The restaurant windows had been busted out long ago, so
that only shards of glass and dangling lengths of weather
stripping hung in the frames. Through the window Richardson
had a view of the street outside, weeds growing up
through the cracks, and beyond that, the ruins of North
St. Louis. He wasn’t exactly sure of the name of the street
and he supposed it didn’t matter. All the streets of the world
seemed to look the same now anyway: thick with wrecked
cars and blown trash, bleak canyons between buildings that
had long since been reduced to windowless hulks, their insides
gutted by scavengers and rotting from the weather.
The zombies that had been inside the restaurant with him
were moving off to his left, threading their way through a
maze of cannibalized cars. Richardson could see a few more
zombies emerging from an alley on the far side of the street.
“Hey, over here!”
It was a woman’s voice, coming from his side of the
The three zombies stopped and slowly swiveled around to
face the restaurant.
“Oh, no,” Richardson muttered. What are you doing you
“Hey!” the woman yelled again.
He inched back into the oven. You’re a roving camera, he
told himself. Don’t get involved. Choose the smart option,
the one that lets you live.
But it had been days since he’d seen another person.
And it got lonely out here in the wastelands. God-awful
Well aware he was acting foolishly, he decided to chance it.
He poured himself out of the oven and, keeping low,
moved to his backpack resting against the wall by the building’s
side door. Richardson kept binoculars in there, but he
didn’t need them. The woman had stopped where he could
see her easily enough. She was about his age, late forties, early fifties maybe, slender, with frizzy gray hair pulled back
in a loose ponytail that bounced between her shoulder blades
like a tumbleweed on the wind. She carried a hunting rifle
with a shoulder sling that she waved over her head like she
was trying to flag the zombies down.
Richardson was stunned. I know her. Christ, where do I
know her from? He studied her profile, leafing back through
the Rolodex in his head, trying to place her face. Where had
he seen her before? Montana, maybe? There had been several
thousand people living in a commune there, years ago.
Unbidden, thoughts of the two happy years he spent there
rose up in his memory. Those two years, when Ed Moore
and the others who had escaped Jasper Sewell’s Grasslands
cult were still alive, had been a sort of lull in the apocalypse.
Ed had done everything right, and people had flocked from
all over to enjoy the protection he offered. Straining his
memory, Richardson went through the names of all the people
he had known there in Montana, but he couldn’t place
But he did know her. He was positive of that.
The zombies were getting closer to her now. Their feeding
call was louder. Their sobbing had become urgent. The
lead zombie raised his arms, his fingers clutching at the air,
his addled brain unable to accurately perceive the distance to
his intended prey.
Then the woman put the gun down on the hood of a
wrecked pickup, pulled a wooden baseball bat from a holster
she carried on her shoulder, and charged the zombie.
“What the hell...?” Richardson said.
The woman sidestepped the zombie, ducked underneath
its clutching hands, spun around, and came up behind the man.
Then she dropped him with a practiced swing to the back of
the head, grunting loudly as the bat cracked the man’s skull.
She put the other two zombies down with the same precise movements, and Richardson figured she had to have done
that move before. It was too quick, too precise, too practiced.
Now she was looking around.
Richardson scanned the parts of the street he could see
too. Don’t get involved, he pleaded with himself. Stay out of
sight. Be the roving camera that sees all but doesn’t get involved.
But for once his curiosity overruled his common sense.
This was crazy. What was she looking for? He couldn’t figure
it out. Richardson kept expecting her to run for it. She
wasn’t carrying any sort of gear except the bat and the rifle;
and her clothes, though dirty, were in good repair. That
meant she had to come from one of the compounds somewhere
around here. There were five or six he had heard of.
But she was definitely not a roadie, like him. She had friends
somewhere close by, and maybe even transportation. A bicycle,
The sounds of moaning in the near distance shifted his attention
back to the other side of the street. It was just as he
had feared. The frenzied feeding calls of the first three zombies
had attracted more of their kind.
He reached into his backpack and quickly extracted his
Scanning the rubble, he counted at least eighteen zombies,
but it was hard to be sure through the morning haze and
the dust clouds rising off the vacant lots.
Roving camera, he thought. Time to get the hell out of
He returned the binoculars to his backpack and zipped it
up. He was sliding the straps over his shoulders when the
woman let out an ear-piercing whistle.
“What?” Richardson blurted out, startled. “No.”