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Darkness and the grave a.., p.1

Darkness and The Grave: A Zombie Novel, page 1


Darkness and The Grave: A Zombie Novel

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Darkness and The Grave: A Zombie Novel


  A Zombie Novel

  John Tolliver

  Copyright 2017 by John Tolliver

  Chapter One

  Katie Barnes

  Day 0

  “Good afternoon Buffalo!” the pant-suited anchor said cheerily into the camera. “Our top headline at this noon hour is that two massive hurricanes are currently bearing down on the United States! Hurricane Teresa is threatening the Gulf Coast and projected to make landfall near Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi tomorrow evening! Let’s turn to Meteorologist Bill Breilly for the latest on Hurricane Teresa. Bill, what can you tell us about Teresa?”

  The camera cut to the rotund weatherman. “Well, the National Weather Service indicates that Hurricane Teresa is going to make landfall as a Category Four hurricane. Mandatory evacuations have been underway for a few days now in and around Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. It is estimated that Teresa will cause storm surges of around fifteen feet where it makes landfall and will cause heavy flooding inland from rain. If you have loved ones in Southern Mississippi or Alabama or Louisiana, now is the time to urge them to evacuate if they haven’t already.”

  “Now Bill, what about Hurricane Victor?” the anchor called from off screen.

  “Well Tanna, we aren’t going to get it quite as bad as folks downstate will,” Bill gestured at a map of Upstate New York. “We expect Victor to drop torrential rains on New York City in addition to all the wind and the storm surge. It’s expected to weaken to a Category One hurricane before it makes landfall. It will weaken further as it makes its way inland, but we can still expect heavy rain here in Buffalo, possibly up to a foot, and tropical storm force winds for the next couple of days starting late tonight. Please be careful out there folks! We are talking about a potential of quite a bit of rain over a period of a few days. Don’t drive through flooded streets, stay away from downed power lines and make sure you have ample food and water. The rain should clear out before Halloween on Saturday, but be aware everything will still be very wet. Be careful out there folks.”

  “Now, we go to correspondent Brent Fulker in Boston, at the home of District Attorney Linda Ferber. Brent, what do we know about the explosion at the District Attorney’s house?”

  Katie turned the television off and walked up to the bathroom to dry her hair. She had come downstairs after her shower to watch the news. She needed to go up to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst in the evening to work on a research paper that was due by the end of the semester. She was going to write on the significance of photography as a communication medium for her Art History class. Since she was a photographer, she was delighted that her teacher had allowed her to choose that topic.

  She frowned at the mirror when she removed the towel from her hair. Her wavy blonde hair would need to be straightened. She heated the straightener up and waited. At last she used it to straighten her shoulder-length hair.

  She arrived at the library around 6:00pm, after dinner. Her fiancé Joel dropped her off and then left to go watch Game Seven of the World Series. It was getting dark as she walked up to the library, but by this time clouds obscured the setting sun. It would soon begin to rain. She paused in the plaza and stared up at the large blocky brick building. She found it quite imposing.

  When she entered, she noticed that most of the students who were normally there studying had gone back to their dorms to wait out the storm. She noticed a tall, lanky man ogling her as she walked past the circulation desk. She recognized him as a lacrosse player.

  “Hey Sweet Cheeks!” he called out.

  Katie glared at him and he quickly looked away. She walked to the back of the room and climbed a set of stairs to the mezzanine level. She laid her bag on a table and pulled her white laptop out. Once the laptop had booted to its home screen, she walked over to the Art section to grab some books. When she returned, she sat a heavy stack of hardcover books down next to her computer, plugged her headphones in and started listening to Broken Bells. Then she started reading, making photocopies and taking notes. Gradually her mind wandered.

  She had been mesmerized by the clarinet opening for The High Road ever since her uncle in Toronto had introduced her to it. He had introduced her to many good bands. Her thoughts drifted to recent events. Joel had returned from a trip to Italy with his parents a week before. He had surprised her with tickets to Game Four of the World Series in Washington D.C. She had been so excited!

  She supposed that her older brother Robby was to blame for her intense love of baseball, but really Major League Baseball had been quite unusual over the summer and fall. In the National League the San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Senators and the Saint Louis Cardinals had all made it to the Division Series of playoffs. Over in the American League the New York Yankees, the Oakland Athletics, the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals had all made it to the Division Series.

  The Cubs beat the Giants in five games and Washington beat Saint Louis in five games to advance to the National League Championship Series. In that series, Washington beat Chicago in five games to advance to the World Series for the first time ever! Over in the American League, Seattle beat Oakland in five games and the Royals beat the Yankees in five games to advance to the American League Championship Series. That series had been decided by a single run in Game Seven when Seattle Mariners Third Baseman Mikel Roznov hit a walk-off home run in the Thirteenth Inning to send the Mariners to their first ever World Series.

  The Senators had won the first three games of the Series and were one win away from their first ever World Series trophy. Katie had grown up in Baltimore, so she had rooted for the Senators in the Orioles’ terrible years. She was really hoping that Washington would win Game Four. Plus, both teams were going to be starting their best pitchers. Washington was going to be sending Chaz Macon to the mound. The right-hander was in his second year of pitching at the Major League level and had pitched freakishly well through the entire season. He finished with a 30-4 record and a ridiculous 1.12 earned run average. He was practically guaranteed the Cy Young Award!

  Seattle was sending Chris Nuñez to the mound. Nuñez, who was nicknamed the Cuban Missile Crisis for his blindingly fast four-seam fastball was Seattle’s last hope. He had finished the regular season with a 33-5 record and a respectable 3.43 earned run average. If anyone was going to get Seattle past Game Four, it would have to be Nuñez.

  Katie and Joel had arrived in D.C. early in the afternoon the day before the game. As they sat relaxing at the Jefferson Hotel, Joel smiled at her.

  “What are you smiling at?” she asked.

  “You,” he said. “Want to go eat dinner somewhere fancy tonight?”

  “Sure,” she had replied.

  “Ever been to the Presidential Steakhouse?”

  “I haven’t, where’s it at?”

  “Down by the Tidal Basin. They have really good food. Steak and potatoes, that kind of stuff.”

  “Sure, let’s go.”

  They had gotten ready and then taken a taxi down to the Tidal Basin right before sundown. She had worn a simple turquoise dress with large white polka dots. He wore a light blue button up shirt with a plaid bowtie and black suspenders and a pair of gray dress pants. As they walked into the restaurant she looked back toward the Basin and saw the cherry blossom trees painted resplendent shades of gold by the sunset’s golden light. She turned toward the restaurant and looked up the Ionian columns surrounding the building. She thought they made it look quite presidential.

  They were seated near a window facing south at a small table. She watched the sky fade from a rich magenta to a deep purple and then to indigo as the cit
y lights outside lit up. The inside of the restaurant was quiet; a violinist and cellist sat in the corner playing Beethoven. The air smelled strongly of grilled beef and potatoes. She ate an eight-ounce sirloin steak with a baked potato. Joel had a large side of prime rib with mashed potatoes.

  “Joel, this has been great!” she exclaimed as she placed her handkerchief on the plate; she had barely been able to eat half of the steak. “Should I share a photo of dessert with the internets?”

  “No, I want you to enjoy dessert with your mouth Kate, not some dumb piece of technology.”

  A server brought out dessert. Joel said he had arranged for something special. Katie’s curiosity had been piqued, but he had told her not to look at the cake until he said she could. Her anticipation grew. Finally, he told her to look down.

  She gasped, covering her mouth with both of her hands.

  A silver ring with a single marquis-cut diamond was mounted on a sugar rose in the middle of the cake. Joel was on one knee; he had slid from his seat without her even noticing!

  “Kathryn Marie Barnes,” he said as he grabbed her left hand and pulled it toward him. “Will you marry me?” He slid the ring onto her finger.

  She had been overwhelmed. Of course she said yes!

  The next day she and Joel went to a pep rally before the baseball game and then headed to Senators Park. At 7:15pm Chaz Macon threw the first pitch and the game was on. Both pitchers maintained a shutout through eight innings, with Nuñez actually maintaining a perfect game. Trouble brewed though.

  In the top of the 9th inning, Macon walked the first batter, Kelly Shopach and then gave up a bloop single to Nuñez. Then he hit their leadoff hitter, Jake Greenwood with a pitch, leaving the bases loaded. The Senators management immediately made a pitching change, putting their star closer, Donovan Granger in.

  Granger had led the Major League in closes for the previous three seasons. It seemed like the game would remain scoreless for the time being. Sure enough, he struck out the next two batters. The crowd went nuts, wild with anticipation. Seattle's Third Baseman Mikel Roznov stepped up to bat. Granger had Mikel Roznov down to a 1-2 count when he pitched a fastball high in the strike zone. Roznov connected and the ball arced upward. At first it looked like it would be caught. The Senators outfielder leapt at the ball to catch it, and it sailed over his glove by about four feet to give the Mariners a 4-0 lead as Roznov had just hit his first career grand slam.

  The stunned crowd grew quiet momentarily. They began cheering again when Granger struck out the next batter for the third out. They grew silent again when Nuñez struck out three batters in a row in the bottom of the 9th inning to win the game for Seattle, thus staving off elimination, and completing a perfect game.

  Nuñez's perfect game was only the second perfect game in postseason history and marked the first time more than one no-hitter had been pitched in postseason play. Katie had been amazed!

  A clap of thunder interrupted her thoughts. She looked up and saw one other student packing his things up. She watched as he walked out into the lightly falling rain. She felt a yawn coming on. She stood up and stretched. It was just after 9:30pm. By now Joel would be at their favorite sports bar, The Bouncing Buffalo to watch the baseball game.

  She looked back down at the table at the literary descriptions of daguerreotypes and Kodachrome and Leica. She sat back down and got back to work as she listened to music.

  She was lost in the work of photography and Indie music when suddenly her phone vibrated. She glanced down at the LCD screen as the lyrics echoed in her ears. “We’ll become silhouettes when our bodies finally go,” she mumbled. She realized it was after midnight now. She looked around the library and saw that it was empty. She also saw that it was now pouring down rain outside. She closed her eyes and listened to the rain pelt the exterior of the building. Even here, in the depths of the library, she could hear the roar of the storm.

  Katie looked down at her phone again and saw that she had a text message from Campus Services! What could they want at this hour? she thought. She shook her head; it was probably just something about the storm. Maybe classes for the next day had been canceled. She unlocked her phone and opened the text message.

  “Quarantine initiated. All students to remain indoors where they are. If ill, please contact Campus Health Services ASAP,” she read the text message aloud. Quarantine? What was going on? She called Joel.

  “Kate, where are you?” He sounded worried. He usually only called her Kate when he was nervous.

  “I’m at the library at the North Campus. What’s going on? I just got a text message from Campus Services.”

  “I did too. The bar sent everyone home about an hour ago. They were saying on the news a little while ago that a statewide quarantine with curfew has been initiated. They said anyone caught outside would be arrested. The National Guard and police are enforcing it apparently.”

  “So what, am I just supposed to ride out the hurricane in the library?” she asked.

  “Are you there by yourself?”

  “I think so.”

  “I guess you are. I’m sorry Katie. I’m stuck at a friend’s house near the main campus. I’d come get you, but they sounded pretty serious about arresting people.”

  “Why are we under quarantine?”

  “They said Owasa Disease was to blame. I don’t really understand because I didn’t think Owasa Disease was contagious.”

  “Isn’t that what Austin’s grandma ha?”


  “Wow, I hope she’s okay.”

  “Yeah, I spoke to Austin earlier today. He said his grandma passed away yesterday.”

  Katie gasped. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

  “Yeah, I gave him our condolences.”

  Austin was Joel’s roommate and best friend. He had gone home a week earlier to be with his parents in Pittsburgh after his grandma had gotten sick.

  “Are you going to be okay?” Joel asked.

  “Yeah, I guess so. I have music to keep me company.”

  “Okay, well look, keep in touch with me. If you need me to, I’ll come get you.”

  “I will, I love you Joel Ryan!”

  “I love you too. You know, you’re missing the game. It’s getting wild. Macon just gave up a bunch of runs. Wait, what?” He sounded startled.

  “What? What’s wrong?” she asked.

  “Washington put their closing pitcher on the mound a few minutes ago and he just collapsed on the mound.”

  “Donovan Granger collapsed?” she gasped.

  Suddenly the power in the library went out.

  “Great, the power just went out,” Katie said. “What happened? Granger just collapsed on the mound? Is he okay?”

  “I don’t know. Do you need me to come get you?”

  “I’m okay. I’m not afraid of the dark you know.”

  “Yeah. Oh my, they’re performing CPR on Granger!”

  “Oh no!”

  “They just said he’s dead! How on Earth did that happen? Wait, they’re saying he was sick before the game. Someone is suggesting Owasa Disease.”

  Something clattered among the bookshelves, somewhere behind Katie. It sounded as though someone had just knocked a bunch of books off a shelf.

  “Joel, I’m going to call you back,” Katie whispered. “I just heard some noise and I’m going to go check it out.”

  “What? Kate, I’m going to come get you!”

  “No Joel,” she whispered. “It’s probably just a mouse or something.”

  “Kate, call me back when you know what it is. I want you to be safe.”

  “I will. I love you Joel.”

  “I love you too. Be careful. And call me back!”

  “I will! Bye,” she whispered as she hung up the phone.

  More books crashed to the floor behind her as they were knocked off the shelves. Katie turned around and strained to see what was making the noise in the darkness. She opened the flashlight app on her phone and looked down
the aisle the noise had come from. The dim white beam faintly illuminated the aisle. Books were scattered on the floor about fifteen feet from her and she noticed a brownish red liquid on the floor. She walked toward it and realized it was blood.

  “Hello? Is anyone there?” she asked nervously. It was possible, she reasoned, an animal had gotten in through a vent on the roof and was maybe injured. Maybe it was an injured possum. She jumped when more books thumped on the floor a few aisles over. “Hello?” she called out. “Is anyone there? If someone’s there, please respond!” She noticed a hint of panic entering her voice.

  A gurgling noise that sounded like a strangled growl came from a few aisles over.

  She cautiously walked back to the table and moved laterally toward where the sound had come from. She shined her light down the aisle and saw someone at the end of the aisle shuffling around the corner. A line of blood trailed behind the person.

  “Hey! Are you okay?” she yelled.

  The person stopped and staggered backward. They paused when Katie was in their line of sight. Another growl, this one more ominous. Katie couldn’t tell in the dim light who they were.

  “Hey, are you okay? You look like you’re hurt,” she said, her voice quaking with fear. Something inside told her this situation was wrong.

  The person made a motion like they were sniffing the air. Suddenly a flash of lightning illuminated the whole library. For a brief instant Katie locked eyes with the person, or rather what was left of the person. In that brief instant, she saw the figure fully revealed.

  His clothes were torn and blood-stained. He was shoeless and his feet were covered with dozens of small cuts. He had large lacerations all over his arms. His mouth was open in an expression that looked like hunger. And his eyes, oh those bloodshot eyes! His eyes were dead and lifeless yet full of rage and hunger. This person was no longer a man but a ravenous monster.

  Katie screamed as the man began to stagger toward her. She stood frozen in fear until he was only a few feet away. She retreated toward her laptop as he continued his approach.

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