By Darren Shan
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Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Zom-B Angels
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A man with owl-like eyes visited Becky Smith one evening and told her there were dark times ahead. A few days later zombies attacked her school and one of them ripped B's heart from her chest. But because the zombies didn't eat her brain, she came back to life soon after her death, as a monster.
Most zombies were unthinking killing machines, but some regained their senses and became revitalizeds, undead creatures who could reason as they had before they died. But to stay that way, they needed to eat human brains. Otherwise they regressed and became savage reviveds again.
Months after her transformation, B recovered her mind. She was being held prisoner in an underground complex, guarded by a team of scientists and soldiers. She was part of a group of revitalized teenagers. They called themselves zom heads. When B refused to cooperate with her captors, all of the zom heads were denied brains as a punishment.
Shortly before the teenagers lost control of their senses, a nightmarish clown and a pack of mutants invaded the complex. The clown's name was Mr. Dowling. B had never seen him before, but she had crossed paths with a few of the mutants.
Mr. Dowling's followers uncaged the zombies and slaughtered any humans they could lay their hands on. The zom heads made a break for freedom. When one of them was found to be a living boy who had been disguised as a zombie, the others ripped his brain from its skull and tucked in. Only B resisted.
As B mourned the loss of her friend, a soldier called Josh Massoglia tracked down the zom heads and instructed his team to burn them to the bone. But for some reason he spared B and let her go. Weary and close to her conscious end, she staggered through a tunnel, out of the darkness of the underground complex, into daylight and a city of the living dead.
The sunlight is blinding to my undead, sensitive eyes. I try to shut my eyelids, forgetting for a moment that they stopped working when I was killed. Grimacing, I turn my head to the side and cover my eyes with an arm. I stumble away from the open door and the nightmare of the underground complex, no idea where I am or where I'm going, just wanting to escape from the madness, the killing and the flames.
After several steps, my knee strikes something hard and I fall over. Groaning, I push myself up and lower my arm slightly, forcing my eyes to focus. For a while the world is a ball of lightning-sharp whiteness. Then, as my pupils slowly adjust, objects materialize through the haze. I ignore the pain and turn slowly to assess my surroundings.
I'm in a scrapyard. Old cars are piled on top of one another, three high in some places. Ancient washing machines, fridges, TVs and microwave ovens are strewn around. Many of the appliances have been gutted for spare parts.
A few concrete buildings dot the landscape, each the size of a small shed. I came out through one of them. I guess that the others also house secret entrances to the underground complex.
I pick my way through the mess of the scrapyard, steering clear of the concrete sheds, ready to run if any soldiers appear. I still don't know why I was allowed to leave when the others were killed. Maybe Josh felt sorry for me. Or maybe this is part of a game and I'm going to be hauled back in just when I think that freedom is mine for the taking.
A stabbing pain lances my stomach. I wheeze and bend over, waiting for it to pass. The ground swims in front of my eyes. I think that I'm about to lose consciousness and become a full-on zombie, a brain-dead revived. Then my vision clears and the pain passes. But I know it's only a short respite. If I don't eat some brains soon, I'm finished.
I search for an exit but this place is a maze. I can't walk in a straight line because it's full of twisting alleys and dead ends. It feels like I'm circling aimlessly, trapped in a web of broken-down appliances.
I lose patience and climb a tower of cars. On the roof of the uppermost car I steady myself then take a look around, shielding my eyes with a hand. Exposed to the sunlight, my flesh starts itching wherever it isn't covered, my arms, my neck, my face, my scalp, my bare feet. I grit my teeth against the irritation and keep looking.
The scrapyard feels like a cemetery, as if no one has been through it in years. I came out of one of the secondary exits. The main entrance must be housed elsewhere, maybe in a completely different yard or building. I'm glad of that. I don't want to run into Mr. Dowling or any of his mutants as they're trotting back to wherever it is they came from.
The yard is ringed by a tall wire fence. I spot a gate off to my left, not too far away, maybe fifty feet as the crow flies. I start to climb down, to try to find a path, then pause. One of the concrete sheds is close by and there are a few piles of cars between that and the fence. If I leap across, I can get to the gate in less than a minute.
I gauge the distance to the shed. It's leapable, but only just. If I don't make it, the ground is littered with all sorts of sharp, jagged castoffs that could cut me up nastily, even…
I grin weakly. I was going to say, even kill me. But I'm dead already. It's easy to forget when I'm walking around, thinking the way I always did. But I'm a corpse. No heart – that was ripped out of my chest – and no other properly functioning organs except for my brain, which for some reason keeps ticking over. If I misjudge my jump and a pole pierces my stomach and drives through my lungs, what of it? I'll just work myself free and carry on my merry way. It will hurt, sure, but it's nothing to be scared of.
I back up, spread my arms for balance, then race forward and jump. I expect to come up short, or to just make the edge of the roof. But to my shock I overshoot it by ten or twelve feet and come crashing back to earth with a startled shriek. My fall is broken by a stack of dishwashers, which scatter and shatter beneath the weight of my body.
Cursing, I pick myself up and glare at the shed. I didn't do much leaping around when I was captive underground. It seems the muscles in my legs are stronger than they were in life. I think I might have just broken the women's long-jump record. B Smith—Olympic athlete!
I climb onto the roof of the shed and jump to the next set of cars, putting less effort into the leap this time. I still sail over my target, but only by a yard. The next time I judge it right and land on top of an old Datsun, a short hop away from the gate.
I stare around uneasily before getting down. I'm expecting soldiers to spill out of the sheds, guns blazing. But I appear to be all alone in the yard.
At the gate I pause again. It's a simple wire gate and it isn't locked. But maybe it's electrified. I stick out a wary hand and nudge the wire with one of the bones jutting out of my fingertips. The gate swings open a crack. Nothing else happens.
One last glance over my shoulder. Then I shrug.
"Sod it," I mutter, and let myself out, slipping from the scrapyard into the silent, solemn city beyond.
The area outside the scrapyard is deserted. Old boarded-up houses, derelict for years. Faded signs over stores or factories that closed for business long before I was born. The only thing that looks halfway recent is the graffiti, but there's not even much of that, despite the fact that this place boasts all the blank walls a graffiti artist could dream of. It feels like a dead zone, an area that nobody lived in or visited anytime in living memory.
I stagger along a narrow, gloomy street, seeking the shade at the side. The worst of the itching dies away once I get out of the sunlight. My eyes stop stinging too. The irritation's still there but it's bearable now.
Halfway up the street, the stabbing pain in my stomach comes again and I fall to my knees, dry heaving, whining like a dying dog. I bare my unnaturally long, sharp teeth and thump the side of my head with my hand, trying to knock my senses back into place.
The pain increases and I roll over. I bang into a wall and punch it hard, tearing the skin on my knuckles. That would have brought tears to my eyes if all my tear ducts hadn't dried up when I died.
My back arches and my mouth widens. I stare at the sky with horror, thinking I'll never look at it again this way, as a person capable of thought. In another few seconds I'll be a brainless zombie, a shadow of a girl, lost to the world forever.
But to my relief the pain passes and again I'm able to force myself to my feet, mind intact. I chuckle weakly at my lucky escape. But even as I'm chuckling, I know I must have used up all nine of my lives by this stage. I can't survive another dizzying attack like that. I'm nearing the end. Even the dead have their limits.
I stumble forward, reeling like a drunk. My legs don't want to support me and I almost go down, but I manage to keep my balance. Coming to the end of the street, I grab a lamppost and swing out into a road.
Several cars are parked along the pavement and a few have been stranded in the middle of the road. One has overturned. The windows are all smashed in and bones line the asphalt around it.
The sun is blinding again now that I've left the gloom. I hurry to the nearest car in search of shelter. When I get there, I find two people lying on the backseat. Both boast a series of bite marks and scratches, each one of which is lined with a light green moss.
The zombies raise their heads and growl warningly. This is their turf and they don't want to share it with me. Fair enough. I don't really want to bed down with them either.
I lurch to the next car but that's occupied too, this time by a fat zombie who is missing his jaw—it was either ripped off when he was killed, or torn from him later. He looks comical and creepy at the same time.
The third car is empty and I start to crawl in out of the light, to rest in the shade and wait for my senses to crumble. For all intents and purposes, this car will serve as my tomb, the place where B Smith gave up the ghost and became a true member of the walking dead.
But just as I'm bidding farewell to the world of the conscious, my nostrils twitch. Pausing, I pull back and sniff the air. My taste buds haven't been worth a damn since I returned to life, but my sense of smell is stronger than ever. I've caught a whiff of something familiar, something that I was eating for a long time underground without knowing what it was.
Three cars farther down the road is a Skoda, the source of the tantalizing scent. As weary as I am and as agonizing as it is, I force myself on, focusing on the Skoda and the sweet, sweet smell.
My legs give out before I get to the car, but I don't let that stop me. Digging my finger bones into the asphalt, I drag myself along, crawling on my belly like a worm, baking in the sun, half-blind, itching like mad, brain shutting down. Every part of me wants to give up and die, but the scent lures me on, and soon I'm hauling myself into the Skoda through the front passenger door.
The driver is still held in place by her seat belt, but is lying slumped sideways. Most of her flesh has been torn from her bones, and her head has been split open, her brains scooped out and gobbled up by the zombies who caught her as she was trying to flee. She's not entirely fresh but she's not rotting either. She must have been killed quite recently.
I should feel sympathy for the woman and curiosity about how she survived this long and where she was headed when she was attacked. But right now all I'm concerned about is that those who fed on her didn't scrape her dry. Bits of brain have been left behind. Slivers are stuck to her scalp and meatier chunks rest inside the hollow of her skull.
Like a monstrous baby taking to the teat, I latch on to the shattered bones and suck tendrils of brain from them. I run my tongue the whole way round the rim, not caring about the fact that it's disgusting, that I'm behaving like an animal. In fact I'm ecstatic, getting an unbelievable buzz from the gray scraps, feeling myself strengthen as I suck, knowing I can keep the senseless beast inside me at bay for a while longer.
When I've sucked the bones dry, I pull back a touch, wipe my lips, then steel myself for what I have to do next. "For what I am about to receive…" I mutter, trying to make a sick joke out of the even sicker deed.
Then I stick my fingers into the dead woman's head, scoop out every bit of brain that I can find, and stuff myself like a cannibal at Christmas.
Once I'm done dining, I lean out of the car and force myself to vomit. If I keep food inside my system, it will rot and attract insects. I've no wish to become a sanctuary for London's creepy crawlies.
I pull back inside and shelter from the sunlight as best I can, staring glumly at the ceiling of the car, thinking about the underground complex, Rage killing Dr. Cerveris and leaving us to our own devices, poor Mark being eaten, the zom heads being burned alive. What a horrible, pointless mess, the whole bloody lot of it.
The road outside is deserted. Nobody moves. The zombies are lying low, hiding from the sun like me.
I'm itching all over. I scratch gently, careful not to slice through my skin with the bones sticking out of my fingers. I catch sight of my injured knuckles and peel some of the ruined flesh away from them. The damage isn't bad but I'm probably stuck with the wound for life. (Or whatever passes for life these days.) The hole in my chest where my heart was ripped out hasn't healed fully, so I don't think this will either. I'm dead. Your body doesn't regenerate when you're a zombie.
Still, I won't have to bear the open scars too much longer. Normal zombies can live as long as an ordinary person. Those of us who recover our senses aren't so lucky. Dr. Cerveris told me that the brains of revitalizeds start to decompose once they fire up again. I've got a year, maybe eighteen months, then I'm toast.
The day passes slowly. I think about the past, where Mum and Dad might be now, if they're alive, dead or wandering the streets of London as zombies. I recall the attack on my school. I wonder about the freaky clown and his mutants, why they tore through the compound, slaughtering all in sight, but freeing the zombies.
I wish I could sleep and kill some time that way, but the dead can't snooze. We're denied almost all of the pleasures of the flesh. The only thing we can still enjoy is food—as long as it's brains.
"You had it easy," I tell the corpse on the front seat, moving into the back as the sun swings round. "A couple of minutes of terror and pain, then it was all over. You probably didn't think you were one of the lucky ones as your skull was being clawed open, but trust me, you were."
- On Sale
- Apr 9, 2013
- Page Count
- 160 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers