Pretty Vicious


By K.S. Merbeth

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ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $0.99 $0.99 CAD

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Pretty Vicious is a short story set in the post-apocalyptic Wastelanders universe, about a young woman on the run in a lawless, post-nuclear America.

In a lawless, post-nuclear wasteland, Dolly lives in relative comfort working as a prostitute. She’s got food and shelter, which is more than most have, but she wants to step out of the frying pan and into the fire, to break free and risk life on her own in the wastes. She escapes with a gun, a knife, and the clothes on her back. She has no knowledge of how to survive in the outside world, but anything will be better than the half-numb life she’s leading. But Dolly soon learns she’ll have to become as vicious as the wastes around her if she is to make her way alone in the darkness.

“Afull throttle, sand-in-your-eyes, no holds barred ride through a Mad Max-style wasteland.” — Delilah S. Dawson on Bite



They take my gun but not my knife. The knife stays tucked away in its makeshift sheath beneath my shirt, pressed tightly against my skin. One knife versus six faces forming a half circle around me and six pairs of hands clutching rusty weapons. The closest man hangs his crowbar on his belt and starts to tie my wrists in front of me, but I don’t look at him or the one who steals my flask and takes a long, greedy gulp.

Instead, I watch the one who discards his iron pipe in favor of my gun. I hate the sight of his grubby fingers touching it. That gun is the most important thing I have. The other girls risked everything to steal it for me. My eyes follow the weapon, my chest tightening, but I don’t let my face betray anything. I know how men are; fear and anger feed them. I learned a long time ago to hide the things I don’t want to share—and with these people, I’ll share nothing.

“What are we gonna do with her?” asks the one woman of the group, looking at me with hard, calculating eyes. At least she doesn’t leer like the men.

“She’s pretty,” says a man with limp, oily hair, doing more than enough leering to make up for his companion. “Gotta be good for somethin’.”

“Could eat her,” a scrawny man says.

“No,” says the woman. “We sell her. Maybe to the Queen?”

My stomach rolls. The Queen doesn’t buy women, I think, but I keep my mouth shut.

“Not gonna bargain, little lady? Beg? Most of ’em do,” says the man tying my wrists. I scrutinize his face, the peeling skin and sunspots, the sunken eyes and narrow nose. He’s a raider, like all of them, the kind who reeks of violence. I could try to negotiate with them—tell them about the valuables I smuggled out in my belongings, promise the Queen’s gratitude if I’m kept safe, even offer up my body if I’m desperate enough—but I know these kinds of people. Raiders don’t negotiate. They take what they want and burn the rest.

Luckily for me, this raider is also a fool. He hasn’t even noticed that I’ve braced my wrists so the binds won’t be tight enough. He’s a fool, and that’s why I’m not afraid.

“Nothing to say?” The man looks at his companions and chuckles. “Think she’s mute or somethin’?” he asks, and looks back at me.

I take a deep breath and imagine what his face will look like when my knife punctures a cheek or an eye. I say nothing as the man gives a final tug to secure the rope, and I don’t fight as he pulls me along. I only turn my eyes skyward, shut them against the sun, and sigh.

It was dangerous to head into the wastes alone. I knew this when I left. Everyone told me, again and again, as if I didn’t realize how insane the idea was. As if I didn’t know that the wastes were full of nothing but sand and heat and violence, so immense and empty that you could travel for days and be lucky to see a single rusty car or bomb-ravaged building. I wanted to tell them that no amount of years spent with a soft bed and a full belly could make me forget what it was like to be starving and sun-blistered and alone out there.

I knew it better than any of them. Most of the other girls came from bomb shelters, towns, walled-off little pockets of humanity. Only I had lived in the open wastelands: sleeping in the dirt, scavenging and stealing, living like an animal. I had watched the people around me fall like flies and hoped I would get to the bodies first so I could scoop up whatever was left. It isn’t something you forget.

But telling that to the other girls would just make it harder for them to understand why I was leaving. So all I said was I have to go, and I can’t be here anymore, over and over again, until they stopped asking why. After that, I started finding gifts under my pillow every night: scraps of food wrapped in napkins, a ragged leather bag, a metal flask, a gun. I marveled at the last one, cradling it in my hands like I was afraid I would break it. We weren’t allowed to have guns in the palace; someone had to have stolen it from the Queen’s armory or one of her guests. Either option was nearly impossible to pull off and a grievous betrayal of the woman who kept us under her roof. Not as dangerous as what I was planning to do, but close enough. And one of the girls had done it for me, to help me, even as she tried to talk me out of going.


  • "Bite is a full throttle, sand-in-your-eyes, no holds barred ride through a Mad Max-style wasteland where the bad guys become family. Finally, an underdog with teeth!"—Delilah S. Dawson
  • "In an environment that turns people into monsters, where the line between good and bad is thinner than a knife-edge, survival is the least of Kid's problems. This post-apocalyptic debut may seem to take its scenery straight from the film Mad Max, but Merbeth has created her own universe filled with destruction and not a small amount of grim, acerbic wit. Fans of Mira Grant's "Newsflesh" series will be pleased by the smart writing."—Library Journal on Bite
  • "Filled with dark humor, wit, and a realistic dystopian setting, Bite plays with the idea of who the good guys are in such a harsh world. Think Carl Hiaasen thriller set in a Mad Max world, and you have an idea of what to expect."—Booklist (starred review)
  • "A high-octane story that sinks its teeth into you and refuses to let go."—K. B. Wagers on Bite
  • "Merbeth's debut novel puts a unique spin on post-apocalyptic horror... Bite flips the script."—B&N
  • "Pure undiluted high octane anarchy ... If you enjoy movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, or games like Fallout 4 and Borderlands, then Bite is the book for you. Gleefully unrestrained and unrelenting, strap yourself in an enjoy the ride. Bite is here, let the mayhem commence!"—The Eloquent Page

On Sale
Dec 12, 2017
Page Count
29 pages

K.S. Merbeth

About the Author

Debut author K.S. Merbeth is obsessed with SFF, food, video games, her cat and resides in northern California.

Learn more about this author