Authors: Ben Brown
There were many miles between him and his kin, but he swore to himself that he would make it. He decided he would not try to fight with the creatures; instead, he would hide at their approach. As a black man living in a country filled with slave hunters, he could make himself all but invisible. He only hoped he could apply his skills to the flesh-eating horde behind him.
He looked down into Callum’s vacant eyes and he realized that more than anything, the boy needed him. It had been a long time since anyone had needed him, and the feeling filled him with strength. They would make it; any less was out of the question.
Jo repositioned the boy in his arms, and then slowly, but methodically, placed one foot in front of the other.
Jo knocked on the door, and then looked back at Callum. The boy sat slumped in the
cart with a rivulet of drawl trickling from the corner of his mouth. In the six months the two had spent on the road, the old man had grown to love the boy as his own. At times, things had been hard, but the kindness of others had also surprised him.
Before the calamity of the Lingering, a black man traveling with a catatonic white boy would have caused more than just a few looks. It would have resulted in more than just a few questions; it would have resulted in beatings. However, since the outbreak people seemed more accepting. Maybe this was because there were not many people left, and this meant the few had to stick together.
He looked down the street, and although it was all but empty, at least it was free of the undead. The government was finally taking back the cities, and for the most part, the Lingering were under control.
It had not taken long for people to realize that a vast number of the undead were harmless. It was true that they would change if they caught the scent of fresh blood, but once that valuable piece of information came to light, then their handling became much easier.
Jo looked back at the boy, and Callum returned his gaze with a small smile. Jo smiled back and thought about how much the boy had improved. With luck, he would one day be his old self again.
The old man heard the door behind him open, and he turned in its direction. An overwhelming sense of relief and happiness washed over him as he looked into the face of his son, Seth.
For several long moments, neither man moved or said a word, but then in a flood of tears they embraced. Jo clenched his son tight and kissed his cheek.
“I never thought I’d see you again,” he sobbed.
His son suddenly held him out at arm’s length, and then pulled him close again. “Pa, I can’t believe you made it out of the dead zone.” Seth turned and shouted back into the house. “Eliza, dearest, it’s my father … he’s alive!”
A lovely ebony skin woman ran up the hall behind Seth, but Jo’s eyes fixed on the man behind her.
“Josiah … is that you?”
“He was visiting at the time the outbreak reached the city,” Seth said as he followed his father’s gaze. “This part of the city house’s the staff from Capitol Hill, so as soon as things got bad, the army was called in to protect this area. The President didn’t want the government to stop functioning, so by the grace of God, this area of the city went almost untouched by those monsters. We’ve been held up here ever since.”
Now old Jo had three pairs of loving arms around him, and each of those involved in the embrace wept openly and unashamedly. Another pair of hands, much smaller and whiter than the others, joined the embrace. The boy’s touch reminded Jo of Callum’s presence, and he pulled free of his families hug.
“Everybody, this is a friend of mine, Callum,” the old man said as he guided the boy forward and to the midst of the reunion.
“Pleased to meet you, Callum,” Seth said as he offered out his hand. “This is my wife Eliza, and my brother, Josiah.”
The boy stared blankly at the group, and Seth’s bewildered gaze turned to his father.
“He’s a might muddled,” Jo said as he pulled the boy closer. “Why don’t we go inside and I’ll tell you what I can. I won’t tell you everything … I simply don’t have the strength for that. I don’t think I could take reliving all we’ve been through in the past months, but I’ll tell you what doesn’t hurt too much to tell.”
“And there you have it,” Jo said as he placed his expressive hands in his lap.
“So the boy is an orphan?” Josiah asked.
Jo looked towards Callum. The boy sat cross-legged on the floor, and he held Eliza’s small dog in his lap.
“I’m not sure. His ma and sister were in Boston, and we all know what happened there. The swarms that came out of that city killed more folks than the swarms from any of the other cities combined. I think it’ll be years before anyone sets foot in Boston again.
“We had to leave his pa back in Warrington. Last we saw of him, he was still under the grip of the Lingering. Maybe he slumbered ‘till those things moved through, or maybe he just woke as one of them. Perhaps, in time, we will find out what happened to him. But …” The old man shook his head woefully. “I think we’ve seen the last of them all.”
“Wh-what’s its na-name?”
Jo leaped to his feet and rushed to Callum’s side. He knelt, and his arthritic knees let out an ominous creak.
Jo looked back at his sons, and said, “He hasn’t said a word since we left Warrington, that was six months ago.”
Eliza moved to the boy and knelt. She stroked his matted hair, and whispered, “Her name is Dumpling.”
The boy’s face turned to her, and tears filled his eyes. “I ha-had a dog once. His na-name wa-was Hector.”
Jo embraced the boy and kissed his grimy head. Through tears, and with a voice thick with joyous emotion, he said, “Yes you did, and he was a good dog.”
“Are we ho-home?”
“Yes, we’re home.”
Location: Pontevedra Spain
Date: July 25, 1841
Time: 7: 45 am
The boy strolled down the beach absently kicking at the sand. He looked up and saw what looked like a lifeboat bobbing in the waves. He looked back towards his father, and saw him talking with one of the local fisherman. He ran back to him and pointed towards the boat floundering in the surf. Little did he know that this was one of the boats taken by the mutinous crew of the ill-fated ship, The Capable.
His father and the fisherman ran out into the water and grabbed a rope hanging from the bow of the boat. The two began to pull the boat towards shore, and it was then the boy saw the heads appearing above the edge of the boat. The face of the men, if that was what they were, looked haggard and full of hunger.
The boy started to shout a warning to his father, but the crashing surf drowned out his cries. The men suddenly jumped from the boat and started attacking the two pulling the vessel ashore.
The boy’s eyes went as wide as saucers, and he turned and started to run back towards his village. However, before he could make it more than a few yards, powerful hands pulled at his long dark hair.
Pain filled his neck, and then a strange sensation flowed through his body. All memories and thought left him. Now all the boy felt was hunger, and the need to feed and bite.
And so started the infection of Europe.
Ben Brown w
as born in Reading, England. He struggled through school academically. Diagnosed with dyslexia meant being removed from class to attend ‘remedial” lessons. As a child, Ben did not enjoy reading and writing, and left school early to work with his father as a builder. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties that Ben persisted in teaching himself to read — and finally read his first novel.
Ben emigrated to Perth, Western Australia in 1990, where he now lives with his wife Michelle and two adult children, Chelsea and Zac.
To pass the hours working as a bricklayer, he would think about writing a novel. However, it took many years for him to pluck up the courage to turn his dreams into words.
His dyslexia, and informal knowledge of the English language and grammar, made his first book a real challenge. Luckily, he had plenty of people around him to help him on his journey.
His love of scientific facts, futuristic possibilities, and fast-paced action infects his plots and writing style. He thoroughly enjoys pushing himself creatively, which means venturing into many types of storytelling. As a consequence, his catalogue is a mixture of sci-fi, speculative and horror fiction.
Ben now has a growing number of novels to his name, and he fully intends to expand on that number.
Questions or comments? E-mail me at [email protected] or find me on the following social networks:
When you turn the page, Kindle will give you the opportunity to rate this book and share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. If you believe the book is worth reading, then please would you take a few seconds to let your friends know about it? Also, reviews are the lifeblood of every author, so please try to find some time to post a quick review.
All the best,