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All the Pretty Little Horses
A Newsflesh Novella
By Mira Grant
Formats and Prices
- ebook (Digital original) $3.99 $4.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 3, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Stacy and Michael Mason are among the most famous heroes of the zombie apocalypse. Stacy, however, has fallen into a deep depression after having to shoot their infected son. In the aftermath of the pandemic, they start publicly documenting the recovery effort, which Michael hopes will take Stacy's mind off of her trauma and help her recover.
As they film the rescue of an enclave of orphans and report on the orphanages that have sprung up to care for traumatized, parent-less children, they begin to consider the last, greatest step of recovery: adoption.
More from Mira Grant:
Newsflesh Short Fiction
Sand Diego 2014
How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea
The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell
Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus
All the Pretty Little Horses
Coming to You Live
ALL THE PRETTY LITTLE HORSES
Hush-a-by, don't you cry, go to sleep, you little baby.
When you wake you shall have all the pretty little horses
Dapples and grays, pintos and bays,
All the pretty little horses.
Hush-a-by, don't you cry, go to sleep, you little baby.
When you wake you shall have all the pretty little horses.
—traditional pre-Rising lullaby
Chapter 1: What We Lost
It is the finding of this court that Stacy Mason is innocent. She did not murder her son. She acted in self-defense, and for the good of the community, and we are sorry for her loss.
—Judge Vernon, California Supreme Court, January 9, 2018
The cleanup crews provided by the state of California were almost done with the city of Berkeley. They had been hauling away truckloads of bricks and broken boards and makeshift barriers for the past week; before that, they had been devoted to biohazard removal, digging up the bodies of the mercifully dead and cleaning out the basements that had been turned into makeshift morgues when nothing else was available. They were interchangeable in their orange biohazard suits, faceless behind their sheltering faceplates.
"I heard that a crew in Petaluma stumbled on a nest of zombies yesterday," said Michael Mason, twitching the curtain aside as he watched the orange figures move across a neighbor's yard. "They lost four people before the gunners could get to them, and two more from infection. It's not a very well-organized program."
He kept his voice light, conversational, like he was talking about the weather and not a major biohazard cleanup operation. He waited several minutes. There was no response.
With a sigh, Michael turned away from the window. There was a lump in the bed he shared with his wife—a lump of approximately her size, or at least the size she'd been when Judge Vernon had passed judgment on her case. Stacy Mason was not a murderess in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of those who had survived the Rising. Everyone had a story like theirs, it seemed, decorated with the bodies of the loved and lost. Not many were mothers who had shot their only sons. Not many were women who had insisted that they be taken into custody and tried for what they'd done. In those regards, as in so many others, Stacy was special.
She had crawled into bed the day that she was found innocent, and she hadn't emerged since, except to use the bathroom. She ate when he brought her food. She answered direct questions, when she couldn't see a way around them. She was leaving him alone, and try as he might, Michael couldn't find the way to bring her back.
There was no response from the bed. Michael sighed again before he walked over to sit down on the edge of the mattress, on his side of the bed. The space between them was a chasm filled with screaming, and with the wide-eyed face of a little boy who had died twice, once of a terrible virus, and once when his mother put a bullet through his brain. Phillip had deserved better. They had deserved better. Michael only hoped that they still did.
"Stacy, sweetheart, you're going to have to get up soon. I've pulled as many strings as I could, but the cleanup crew is doing our side of the street tomorrow. We can't stay here while they're checking for contamination." They shouldn't have been allowed to stay for as long as they had. Michael had called in favors with the school administration, the mayor, and even the governor, who regarded the Masons as genuine heroes of the Rising.
The Masons had fortified their Berkeley neighborhood, turning it into a safe haven for survivors. The Masons had run complicated rescue operations that fanned out across Berkeley, Albany, and even Oakland, saving literally hundreds of survivors before the infected became too prevalent to allow for further attempts. The Masons had kept the lights on and the stomachs of their people full, thanks to good resource allocation and knowing how to work within their means. Out of all the small survivors' enclaves found when the government was actually able to start stepping in and saving people, theirs had been among the largest, the most functional, and the least chaotic.
Through it all, Michael's voice had been going out to the world every night, first over the Internet, and then over the radio, when the local ISPs went down. He had spoken to the city, and to anyone outside the city with a good enough antenna. He had promised them that they were stronger than this crisis. He had told them what to do. Stacy had been too busy during those dark days to do her own broadcasts, but he had included a segment called "Stacy's Survival Suggestions" in every other show. The number of people who had come up to him since the barricades came down, to tell him that those survival suggestions had genuinely saved their lives…
It was staggering. Thousands of people were still alive because of him, and because of his brilliant wife, who had proven to be a genius where surviving the living dead was concerned. At least until the day the tanks and military convoys had rolled into Berkeley, and they had been ordered to stand down.
He would never forget watching Stacy take the reports from her scouts, who had been following the movement of their rescuers through the city. She had looked so confident then, square shouldered and tan under the cruel midwinter sun. Phillip had been in the ground for three years, buried deep, but never forgotten. Michael had looked at his wife, and then at the soldiers who were fanning out over the street, and thought, "We did it. We survived."
Three months later, he was no longer quite so sure. Stacy's strength had been the strength of a thing under immense pressure, so compacted that it could no longer show the cracks. When the pressure had been removed, she had fallen apart.
"Stacy, sweetheart, I need you to wake up now." He reached over and touched her shoulder. "The car will be here to take us to our hotel in an hour. We're staying at the Claremont. They cleared it out last week. Some of the rooms are off-limits, but the structure is sound. You always wanted to stay there." They had even joked, during the early weeks of the Rising, about abandoning their comfortable encampment to take back the grand old resort hotel. It had been Stacy who eventually rejected the idea, saying "no one wants to wait out the end of the world in the Overlook Hotel." She'd always been a fan of popular literature, and it was hard to get much more popular than Stephen King.
"Leave me here," Stacy said. Her voice was thin from disuse. It still sent a wave of relief washing over Michael. She was listening. She might be doing a poor job of responding, but at least she was listening. "I can help them find the bodies."
"Stacy…" Michael left his hand resting on his wife's shoulder. He needed the contact more than she did, he suspected. "Stacy, the bodies aren't here anymore. He's not here. His body was removed weeks ago, remember? They took him away while your trial was going on. They wanted to see if your accounting of what had happened had been accurate."
It hadn't been, of course. As soon as the apocalypse was…not over, exactly, but no longer occupying the entire world, Stacy had fallen apart and started calling herself a murderer. She had killed her son, according to her; she had been startled by him playing a game, and had pulled the trigger without thinking about it. She needed to be punished.
Michael would never stop thinking about the day they'd buried Phillip. It had been so early in the crisis. They hadn't known yet that they needed to be careful with the animals. They had wrapped his little body in some of their precious plastic sheeting and buried him deep, where nothing could dig him up again. Three years in the ground without embalming wasn't kind to anyone, but Phillip had been so lovingly prepared for his burial that the technicians who examined him had been able to take the samples that they needed. They had been able to find the marks of Marigold's teeth, and the Kellis-Amberlee virus still slumbering in his flesh.
Stacy Mason had been found innocent in every court except the court of her own mind. That was where she was being found guilty every hour of every day, and might be for the rest of her life.
"He's not here anymore, Stacy," Michael whispered, leaning a little closer. "I'm so sorry. I miss him so much. But he's not here, and it's time for us to go."
"Go where?" Stacy rolled over. Any elation he might have felt died when he saw the blankness in her eyes. It was like looking into the eyes of a corpse. "We have nowhere to go. This is where we fought. This is where we failed him. We should stay here."
"They'll arrest us if we're not off the property by tomorrow morning," said Michael. "This is vital work. They need us not to be standing in the way." Anything that lit up under their scanners would be removed, and destroyed. Michael didn't like to think about how many of their possessions—how many of Phillip's possessions—were going to be gone when they came back, assuming the whole house wasn't burned down as a possible infection hazard.
In some perverse way, he hoped it would all be destroyed. Maybe then they could start over clean. They had hazard money from the state, rewards for staying and fighting and not clogging up the overtaxed, overpopulated "safe zones." Considering how low property values had become in any urban area, Michael had faith that he could find them a new house, one that wasn't filled with ghosts, without much effort. It might be good for Stacy. Maybe if she wasn't living in a haunting, she'd be able to remember who she was.
"I don't want to go."
It was a small, straightforward admission, and it broke Michael's heart. He touched the back of his fingers to his wife's cheek, and said, "I know. But we have to. It's time to start moving on. I've already packed our things, and I'm sure I missed something. Do you want to check and see if there's anything you want to take?" Anything they removed from the house would be scanned, of course, but the scans would be less broad, and more targeted. They'd overlook things like sweat and semen—things that could easily wind up on a favorite blanket, for example—and allow them to be kept. The government was trying to protect their people, not punish them for surviving.
"No," said Stacy, sitting up and swinging her feet around to the floor. "I'll do it, though. You were always terrible about remembering to pack enough underwear."
Michael watched as she crossed to the dresser, and wished with all his heart that he could believe this was the beginning of her recovery.
"All right, Stacy and Michael…Mason." The desk clerk looked up from her screen in surprise. She was young, barely out of her teens, with two-tone hair and gauges in her ears. She would never have been able to get a job at the Claremont before the Rising. Maybe that was a good thing about the zombie apocalypse: Old, unnecessary societal standards were falling, replaced by a new normal that seemed far more reasonable. "Um. I'm sorry, this may be inappropriate of me, but are you the Michael and Stacy Mason? From the radio?"
"Yes, we are," said Michael. Stacy didn't say anything. She was leaning listlessly against the counter, looking around the refurbished lobby with vague disinterest.
- "Astonishing ... a fascinating exploration of the future."—New York Times
- "While there's plenty of zombie mayhem, political snark, and pointedly funny observations here, the heart of this book is about human relationships, which are still the most important thing in the world...even in a world where you might have to shoot the person you love most in the head, just to stop them from biting off your face."—Locus on Feed
- "Feed is a proper thriller with zombies. Grant doesn't get carried away with describing her world or the virus. She's clearly thought both out brilliantly, but she doesn't let it get in the way of a taut, well-written story."—SFX on Feed
- "The story starts with a bang as corruption, mystery, danger and excitement abound."—RT Book Reviews (4.5 stars) on Feed
- "Gripping, thrilling, and brutal... Shunning misogynistic horror tropes in favor of genuine drama and pure creepiness, McGuire has crafted a masterpiece of suspense with engaging, appealing characters who conduct a soul-shredding examination of what's true and what's reported."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on Feed
- "Intelligent and intense, a thinking-person's post-apocalyptic zombie thriller set in a fully-realized future that is both fascinating and horrifying to behold."—John Joseph Adams on Feed
- "I can't wait for the next book."—N.K. Jemisin on Feed
- "It's a novel with as much brains as heart, and both are filling and delicious."—The A. V. Club on Feed
- "OK, all of you readers who want something weighty and yet light, campy and yet smart, horror with heart, a summer beach read that will stay in your head and whisper to you "what if," Deadline is just what you are looking for."—RT Book Reviews on Deadline
- "Deft cultural touches, intriguing science, and amped-up action will delight Grant's numerous fans."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Deadline
- On Sale
- Oct 3, 2017
- Page Count
- 84 pages