As I mentioned Sunday, my all-new zombie novel Opening Night of the Dead is sittin’ high right now in the Amazon Kindle Store and the Smashwords.com bookstore, for just $2.99 in any e-reader format. The book should soon be available in the Nook store, Sony Reader store, iPad store, and in print as well. (Watch this space for those announcements as soon as they’re available.)
Also as I mentioned, I’m asking those of you who are planning to get the book to wait until Wednesday to buy it. In short, I’m hoping to so a small-scale “rush” of Amazon, getting as many people as possible to get the book in as short a period as possible, helping it gain a more favorable position on the highly-competitive horror charts and increasing its chances to be seen by more people. I’ve even started a Facebook Event for the Amazon Launch, which you are all totally invited to join if you haven’t done so already.
To give you one last little bonus before tomorrow’s big push, I thought I would give you a taste of the novel itself. So here, for the first time, is the prologue to Opening Night of the Dead. Hope you enjoy it!
If he knew the crap he was in for after he died, Josh Cambre would have made a more concerted effort to stay among the living.
He wandered the Halloween Festival of Fear alone, Kelly having abandoned him for a guy in a Conan the Barbarian costume (and not a square of cotton padding necessary to fill out the muscles, either). Josh was dressed as a scarecrow, and like Kelly’s new Conan, he had the physique for his costume. Josh was thin, spindly – even sickly if you looked at him from the wrong angle. To be frank, it was astonishing that a zombie would bother to bite somebody with so little meat on his bones. Then again, it was just his luck to run afoul of the only member of the undead in the world busy counting Weight Watchers points. He hadn’t encountered any real zombies yet, but after his date walked off with the guy in the loincloth, he lost most of his inclination to keep on going. He wasn’t considering suicide or anything – Josh didn’t quite have the steel for that – but if you’d told him there was a flesh-eating ghoul marching around the Climax Studios Amusement Park, he wouldn’t necessarily have made an effort to flee in terror.
Wandering the park alone, not knowing or particularly caring if Kelly would have a ride home with her Cimmerian king, he decided to force himself to have a good time. This would have been a brilliant idea, had it proven even remotely possible. The roller coaster was a bust (literally, it broke down with three people remaining in line ahead of him), and the last time he’d gone on a Tilt-a-Whirl he’d been left with three days of hugging the toilet bowl. Popping into a Haunted House, he decided, would be his safest bet. It was unlikely he’d run into Kelly; if he did he probably wouldn’t recognize her in the dark, and maybe a good scare would wipe the depressed look from his face.
Of course, that was the great thing about the scarecrow costume – the mask covered his entire head. His Coke-bottle glasses fit under there as neatly as his enormous ears, his matted-down haircut was invisible, his acne across the bridge of his too-small nose was as good as clear. No one could even see the small brown blob underneath his chin, the birthmark that his mother always tried telling him looked like a lion, but that people always said looked like he’d been eating chocolate and hadn’t wiped his face well enough.
Chocolate if he was lucky.
Christ, it was amazing that Kelly had even agreed to come here with him in the first place, wasn’t it?
An enormous fiberglass proxy of Frankenstein’s monster was grinning down at him, lightning flashing up into his face and reflecting onto the ground with a strobe effect. Shuffling around outside of the building he saw mummies, werewolves, and slashers aplenty. This was the one he wanted. There were a dozen Haunted Houses on the Climax Studios theme park property, each with its own theme or overlay – Science Gone Bad, Gateway to Hell, Crypt of the Vampires (reportedly the tamest haunt on the property, and oh, how that wounded him). After very little deliberation, Josh decided to soak his sorrows in Silver Screen Screams, a house full of dioramas plucked specifically from classic horror movies – and, no doubt, liberal use of the characters from Climax’s recent horror hit, The Beginner. In fact, he could see one of the bad guys from that movie waiting in the wings – a little bald fella wearing all black and twirling what looked like a surgical scalpel from a leather thong on his left hand. Good job making the little bastard look creepy, if nothing else. He worked with this fright factory. It was good enough for Josh to waste a little time before he dragged himself home.
He was told that actors in a Haunted House are trained to leap at the most terrified-looking person in a group, and in front of him was a giggling mob of teenage girls, each of whom seemed to make for a welcome target when someone was primed to leap out from a casket or reach a mummified arm out from behind a hidden panel in the wall. Since the actors in their monster makeup invariably blew their wads trying to terrify the girls, they were always resetting the scene when Josh walked past on his own a few seconds later. He tried not to focus on the idea that even actors paid to terrify people seemed to have no interest in him at all.
After about 20 minutes in the house, Josh wandered into an area lined with rows of authentic-looking corn stalks, with yellow lights twinkling at him in pairs – eyes watching him from behind the rows. Interesting effect, one that worked pretty well, he thought. It would be better if they tried to shape the lights a little, they were too round to accept as eyes, but he could give the Climax folks an A for Effort. He even felt appropriately dressed here in the cornfield, even though he didn’t actually feel like he fit in any better than he did anywhere else.
A nasty chill whispered across his back when the gurgling sound began, and the zombie that moved out of the cornrows reached out at him, hissing and snapping his teeth. Josh didn’t scream – didn’t even flinch. He just rolled his eyes and said, “Dude, I really think you wandered into the wrong scene. You’re supposed to be a creepy-ass kid with platinum blonde hair. Good makeup, though.”
He moved to continue after the girls on the path, but the corpse wrapped its claw-like hands around his arm. Josh turned, starting to get angry with the pushy kid in the zombie getup. “Look, man–”
Whatever threat or ultimatum would have followed was lost when the zombie’s thick, yellow teeth chomped through the burlap shirt that was part of his costume and into the admittedly thin flesh of Josh’s arm. He shouted, yanking the limb back out of instinct, but succeeding only in helping the zombie rip out a chunk of stringy flesh. Blood spurted into the air and dripped from the mouth of the hungry ghoul. Josh screamed again, but still had the presence of mind to back away, flailing, and bolt from the scene.
The arm hurt terribly, not only from the wound, but from an intense burning sensation that seemed to consume the whole area. When he placed his good hand over the wound he was stunned to feel how hot it was already, as if his arm alone could somehow contain a fever.
Oh god, he thought, what if that guy had rabies? What if he had something worse? Those videos, those Curtain guys, what if— What did he give to me?
He rushed ahead into the house, shoving aside the teenage girls (who threw some decidedly un-ladylike language at him, not that he was in any condition to get into a snit about it), and began to wander through room after room, shouting for help. In an Egyptian crypt, he nearly trampled an old woman in a walker. In Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, he actually shoved the Monster himself over into the lab table, eliciting some joyous laughter from the kids Frankie had been attempting to frighten. Finally, he stumbled through the exit door and fell right onto the pavement, rolling to the feet of a little man with a big smile.
Josh looked up at him, seeing someone dressed in all black, which wasn’t exactly unusual at this time of year. The small figure had no hair, but a wide, toothy grin spread across his face like a famished man looking down at a perfectly grilled steak. He held something in his left hand – cradled it, if one was going to be honest – but Josh wasn’t even paying attention, which was the last mistake of his life. Josh was happy to see anyone, even someone dressed like the Closer-monster from The Beginner.
“Dude! There’s someone in there… someone biting people! You gotta call the cops, you gotta–”
Josh blinked, surprised to hear his name from the lips of this stranger, startled just enough to arrest his panic. “I… yeah, that’s me, but…”
“Eighty-two years old,” the little man continued. He reached out with his right hand, grabbing the burlap mask that shielded Josh’s unseemly face from the rest of the Halloween crowd. With one fierce yank, he pulled the mask away, exposing Josh’s skin to the warm autumn air of California. Josh looked up, seeing a horrible gleam in the man’s eye, and suddenly he was far more terrified than he was when it was just the walking dead after him.
“You die,” the man said. “You die alone, from a pulmonary embolism in your sleep, after a tragically lonely and pathetically uneventful life.”
“What the hell? Dude, break character! Some asshole bit my arm, you gotta help me!”
The little man raised his hand, and something flashed. Something long and silver.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m about to spare you all that.”
* * *
Aaaaaand, scene! There you have it, friends, the prologue to Opening Night of the Dead, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget, some time tomorrow head on over to Amazon.com if you’ve got a Kindle or Kindle App and pick it up. If you’ve got an iPad or some other reader, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered at Smashwords.com. And don’t forget, as part of the launch celebration, I’m cutting the price of my previous novel The Beginner to just 99 cents until August 1. That, too, is available at Amazon.com, as well as The Barnes & Noble Nook store, Smashwords.com, in print from Amazon.com (print version is still full price, sorry), and in your iPad bookstore.
See you all tomorrow!