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By Darren Shan
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Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Zom-B Bride
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Becky Smith's father was a bullying racist. For the sake of a quiet life, she never challenged him. But when he made her sacrifice a black boy at her school to a pack of zombies, she finally rebelled and severed the ties between them.
B was turned into a zombie shortly after fleeing from her father. Several months later she recovered her senses in an underground facility, where she was held prisoner with the zom heads, a pack of conscious zombies. A soldier called Josh Massoglia was in command until the complex was invaded by a crazy clown and his army of mutants. The psychotic Mr. Dowling set B free, then went on his merry way.
After another run-in with the clown on the streets of London, in which he again saved her life, B joined the Angels, a group of revitalized teenagers working under the guidance of the century-old Dr. Oystein to defeat Mr. Dowling and restore order to the world. After an uncomfortable period of adjustment, she started to get along with the Angels, except for Rage, a cynical hulk with selfish, murderous tendencies. She could never bring herself to trust Rage, but tolerated him because Dr. Oystein saw promise in the brute.
Dr. Oystein wasn't the only person trying to restore control. The members of the Board–a collection of billionaires and politicians–were trying to establish a new order in which they could rule over the living survivors. B got on the wrong side of one of them, the despicable Dan-Dan, a giggling, child-killing monster. He was in league with the mysterious Owl Man, an ex-associate of Dr. Oystein's, and the pair were backed by a menacing offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan.
B and Rage captured Dan-Dan, but Owl Man was holding B's best friend, Vinyl, hostage, along with a group of prisoners from a town called New Kirkham. They agreed to swap Dan-Dan for Vinyl and, if possible, the other hostages, and Rage set off on Dr. Oystein's orders to Battersea Power Station, where the Klanners were based. Two other Angels went with him, but B was told to remain in County Hall, since Owl Man was able to control her mind and might turn her against her comrades.
B disobeyed that command and trailed the others to the Power Station. There, as the swap was about to be made, Rage slaughtered the unsuspecting pair of Angels and betrayed B. A delighted Dan-Dan told his troops to open fire and finish her off. That should have been the end of B Smith, but then an unexpected figure burst from the ranks of the hood-wearing KKK and demanded mercy. To B's amazement, it was her father, alive and well and as racist as ever, coming to her rescue.
The guy who handcuffs me is wearing gloves so thick that you could safely handle radioactive material with them. Even so, he sweats buckets until the cuffs snap shut and he's able to withdraw. He knows I'm undead and one tiny scratch from me is all it would take to end his life.
Meek as a lamb, I let myself be led inside the converted Power Station. I'm in total shock. I've thought about Dad and Mum often since I recovered my senses, wondered what happened to them, if they got out of London, if they were alive or dead. For Mum's sake, I'd hoped they'd made it to a compound or one of the zombie-free islands. But secretly I thought they were both goners.
Now Dad has popped up out of nowhere, in the middle of my enemies, to save me from what would have otherwise been certain death. I don't know how to react, whether to feel grateful or hateful.
Things were always weird between us. I loved him so much. He was clever and funny, thoughtful and protective, in some ways a perfect father. He provided for me and Mum, fought for us when he had to, gave us all that he could. When he heard about the zombies, his first instinct was to rescue me. He risked his life for mine.
At the same time he was a racist bully. He beat Mum and me regularly, usually for no good reason. He told me to hate anyone of a different color or creed. He tried to turn me into a mirror image of him, a creature of bigotry and loathing.
I didn't want to grow up like my dad, but I never stood up to him. I chuckled at his insulting jokes. I read the hate lit that he stacked our bookshelves with. I pretended to share his twisted beliefs. Over time, the act became reality and, to my shame and horror, I began behaving like him. I think, given a few more years, I might have turned into a daughter he could have been truly proud of.
Vinyl used to warn me about the dangers of putting on an act. He was my best mate, but we had to keep our friendship secret or my dad would have hit the roof. Vinyl often urged me to take a stand. But I couldn't. I was too afraid.
I look around for the first time as I'm hustled through a series of rooms in the massive building. Most are loaded with supplies—food, drink, weapons. No beds. I guess the sleeping quarters are located on the upper levels.
All of the external windows are bricked up. Through the internal windows I can see into a courtyard. Glimpses of cages and hundreds of blacks, Arabs and Asians huddled together miserably, soldiers and hooded Klanners keeping watch over their prisoners.
My dad's marching beside me. He looks at me every so often and smiles. His fingers twitch and I know he wants to reach out and hug me, or at least stroke my hair. But then he clocks the hole in my chest where my heart should be, green moss growing thickly around it, and he reminds himself that he can never touch me again.
Dan-Dan is on my other side. He's beaming like a child at Christmas. He keeps shaking his head and giggling. He wanted to bring me in, torture me, experiment on me and treat me to a long, slow, drawn-out death. Owl Man wouldn't play ball. When I begged him to let me die with dignity rather than be taken into custody, he insisted on a swift execution.
Dad's unexpected appearance changed all that. I surrendered instead of fighting to the death. I think Owl Man saw that as a chance to save me. For some bizarre reason, he doesn't want me dead. But Dan-Dan does and, as far as that filthy child-killer is concerned, he has me where he wants me, under his wing, at his mercy, ripe for the plucking.
I can't see Owl Man, but I can hear the clatter of his dog's paws on the floor behind me, so I'm guessing he's back there with Sakarias, his mutant hound. I'm betting Rage is with him, but I don't want to think about that backstabbing bastard, so I deliberately tune him out of my thoughts.
We enter the courtyard and I squint against the sunlight—if there was a roof over this place before, it's been removed, leaving the yard open to the elements. I left my hat and glasses outside. I didn't think I'd need them anymore when I took them off. Now I wish I'd paused to pick them up. The light is blinding for a zombie like me.
"Are you uncomfortable, poor little dead girl?" Dan-Dan simpers. "Would you like me to fetch a hat for you, or call Coley and borrow a pair of his oh-so-trendy shades?"
"All I want you to do, fat man," I growl, "is stick your head up your arse and eat yourself from the inside out."
"What a delightfully horrible thing to say," Dan-Dan cries, clapping his hands in admiration. "You raised a real beast, Tom."
"Todd," Dad corrects him quietly. He winces at having to speak back. He was always subdued around powerful people.
I was expecting a stench from the cages, but the air is thick with the smell of disinfectant. I spot teams of cleaners scrubbing down the ground around the prisoners. Then I remember that humans can't afford to leave a mess. Waste attracts flies and other insects, which can spread the zombie gene.
The people in the cages don't pay much attention to me, but the soldiers and Klanners are fascinated. They follow my every footstep. Some call out insults, but most just watch warily.
I'm led across the courtyard and into the structure on the opposite side. I glance up at the famous chimneys before I pass into the gloom. They're an impressive sight. I wonder if this is the last time I'll ever see them.
Then we're marching through another series of rooms. The walls here have been reinforced with metal sheets bolted into place. The doors are thick steel. We stop at one that is locked and a soldier hurries to open it. He steps out of the way and nods for me to enter.
"Wait a minute," somebody calls out before I step in, and a figure from my past comes strolling towards me.
"Josh Massoglia," I sneer. "Why am I not surprised?"
Josh is smiling. The soldier looks as handsome and well-groomed as he did back in the underground complex, where he was the boss along with a scientist called Dr. Cerveris. His charms were always lost on me–I never had much time for pretty boys–but Cathy, a fellow zom head, used to go weak at the knees whenever he walked into a room, and I think most girls would be the same.
"It's been a long time, Becky," he greets me.
"Not long enough," I grunt.
"As charming as ever," he grins, coming to a stop a meter from me. He's dressed in his army uniform and is clean-shaven, reeking of what was no doubt an expensive cologne back when money meant something. He looks over my head and his face darkens. I guess he's spotted Rage.
"No need to say anything," Rage says brightly. "I can tell you're overwhelmed to see me again."
"That was a strange scene outside," Josh murmurs distastefully. "It takes a special breed of person to turn on his own without even a flicker of guilt."
"What can I say?" Rage laughs. "I was born blessed."
Josh's eyes are hard, but he leaves it there and returns his attention to me. He studies my wrists, cuffed behind my back. "I can have those removed if you promise to behave."
"Like hell you will," Dan-Dan barks. "She'd go for us in the blink of an eye."
"Not me," I say sweetly. "I'm a good girl, I am." Then I gnash my teeth at Josh and make a growling noise.
Josh shrugs. "Have it your way. I just wanted to help."
"You don't have to do anything for me," I tell him, stepping into the room and facing the door, waiting for it to slam shut. "I don't need creature comforts. Just a coffin when Dan-Dan's done with me."
"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary," Dan-Dan purrs as the door starts to swing closed. "There won't be enough left to warrant a coffin by the time I'm finished." He blows me a kiss. "Sweet dreams, my darling."
Dan-Dan's parting shot is ironic. He knows I can't sleep. The undead are denied that simple pleasure.
The room is small, no more than three meters by three. There's a metal bench bolted firmly to one wall, but that's it as far as luxuries go. Steel plates cover the walls and ceiling, fixed tightly into place. Dim, artificial light seeps through a series of cracks in the plates overhead.
I stand by the door for ages, thinking about what has happened, marveling at the fact that Dad is alive, wondering if Mum is with him. I also ask myself if it's pure coincidence that he was here in Battersea, waiting for me. Owl Man knew who he was before he removed his hood. Has the creep with the large eyes been pulling strings, or did he just recognize my father's voice?
When no one comes to interrogate me, I sit on the bench and stare off into space. I can't see any CCTV cameras, but I'm sure I'm being filmed. I'd flick the voyeurs the finger if I could, but my hands are bound securely behind my back.
A cold ball of fire burns in my stomach as I remember what Rage did to Pearse and Conall. I warned everyone not to trust him. He's a sly, savage, self-serving creep. He almost had me fooled. I'd started to doubt my instincts, to accept him as a well-meaning Angel.
The most frustrating part is that Rage was honest with me. He told me he was looking for action and adventure. He stuck with us as long as he did because he had nothing better to do with his time. When Dan-Dan came along with offers of power and life on a paradise island… Well, leopards don't change their spots.
I should have known. I feel responsible for what happened to Conall and Pearse. I could have rammed an ice pick through Rage's head long ago. I let Dr. Oystein talk me out of tackling him. I should have listened to my gut, taken my punishment if the doc had condemned me. Too bloody nice, that's my problem!
Time drags. I'm used to that–life's a bitch when you can't sleep–but it's harder when I can't see the sun or moon. No way to judge if it's day or night, or how long I've been here. The last time I was this removed from the daily routines of the outside world was in the underground complex.
Later, as I'm still brooding about Rage, the door opens and Dad enters. I spot soldiers in the corridor, armed with rifles and flamethrowers. Josh is behind my father. "You're sure you want to do this?" he asks. Dad nods. "She's my daughter. She won't hurt me."
"You've more faith in her than I have," Josh grunts, but steps aside and lets a guard bring a chair into the room. The soldiers exit and close the door. Dad sits down across from me.
"How are you doing?"
"Better than you," I mutter. He looks about thirty years older than when I last saw him. Hair streaked with gray. Face lined with wrinkles. There's a tremor in his hands that he can't control.
"I guess I'm a sight," he says wearily. "It hasn't been easy. The undead are better off in lots of ways. There have been plenty of times when I wished I hadn't made it out alive."
"Me too," I grin viciously.
Dad cocks his head, not sure if I'm joking or serious.
"Mum?" I whisper.
Dad pretends he hasn't heard. Instead he pulls out a hand grenade from a pocket and plays with it. "I carry this with me wherever I go," he says, staring transfixed at the grenade as if it's a holy relic. "I took it from a corpse a long time ago, the day London fell. Or maybe it was a few days later. I'm not sure. My brain goes a bit wonky whenever I think back that far.
"This is how I want to go when my time comes," he continues, tugging gently at the pin, enough to disturb it slightly but not pull it out. "When those brain-munching bastards finally catch up, I'll set this off and take a few of them to Hell with me. Quick and messy, that's the way to sign off. I don't want to become a walking abomination like…" He pauses.
"… me?" I finish.
"Yeah." Dad smiles sadly and puts the grenade away. "You hurt me, Becky. You shouldn't have run away. I loved you and risked everything for you. When you turned your back on me, it was like you'd stabbed me through the heart."
"You made me kill Tyler," I retort stiffly.
"He didn't matter," Dad says.
"Because he was black?" I sneer.
"Yeah." Dad's eyes never leave mine. "Life's a battle. It's what I tried to teach you since you were born. We all belong to a side. You have to stick with your own and make sure your enemies never gain enough power to drive you under. You think your black friend wouldn't have thrown you to the monsters if the shoe had been on the other foot?"
"You're sick," I snarl. "With all that's happened, you're lost in the past, a relic of a time that doesn't exist anymore."
"Oh, it exists," Dad says. "Nothing has changed fundamentally. It's still us against them."
"What about the zombies?" I challenge him.
"They're irrelevant," he says, and I gape at him with astonishment.
"How the hell can you say that?" I cry.
"Because it's true," he replies. "They're dangerous, yeah, a threat that we have to eliminate. But they're not a thinking, scheming menace. We'll get rid of them eventually, wipe the planet clean of their stain. But the blacks will still be here. The Muslims and their Taliban pit bulls. The Chinese and Russians and Indians, empire-builders with their dreams of ruling the roost and crushing the rest of us under their heels.
"The zombies are an opportunity," Dad says. "Society has been reset. The first nation out of the blocks will have an advantage over the others. This is a time to cull, to establish control and make this country great again. We'll deal with our problems, come through the war with the undead pure and united, then take on the rest of the world and turn it into a place we can be proud of."
"You're crazy," I jeer. "Mankind has been reduced to its bare bones. The living are an endangered species. Race and religion should mean less now than they ever did. You all need to band together if you're going to recover."
He shakes his head. "We don't see it that way. We see this as a blessing, a time for the strong and pure to stand up and be counted. This is our chance to rid ourselves of those who've been dragging us down, who hate us just as much as we hate them, who would wipe us out if they ever got the chance."
I stare at him helplessly. "But you need them. When I was trying to get out of my school, I needed the help of other kids, black, Asian, whatever."
"That's where you're wrong," he says. "If you'd thrown those kids to the zombies, you would have had a better chance of getting out. The zombies would have lost interest in you if you'd given them others to rip apart and eat."
"So, what, you plan to sacrifice everyone who isn't white? Let the zombies eat them all?"
"Yeah," he says calmly.
"You're crazy," I tell him again. "There won't be enough of you left to win the war with the undead. You'll be destroyed."
- On Sale
- Oct 7, 2014
- Page Count
- 208 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers