Friday, August 22, 2008

FREE FICTION: "The Finger" by Matt Hults

Undead 2: Skin & Bones

Permuted Press has teamed up with Apex Digest Online to bring you a free apocalyptic story every month! This month's selection is "The Finger" by Matt Hults. "The Finger" first appeared in Permuted's zombie anthology The Undead: Skin and Bones edited by D.L. Snell and Travis Adkins.

Click here to read "The Finger" by Matt Hults!

Buy The Undead: Skin and Bones from the Apex aStore (Amazon).

1 comment:

Daniel W. Powell said...

August 31, 2048
I lost my wife and my daughter in the morning, and in the night, I cut my hair. The flame from the Sterno canister proved just enough light for me to consider my image in the shard of mirror I’d found at the camp on the banks of the Boiling River. I worked methodically, studying my transformation as I hacked at the tangles of graying hair with my buck knife.
Through all of the chaos—all of the disorder and madness and anger and despair—I had let it grow. Almost four years. Almost four full years since the dieback had begun.
I thought of my family as the strands fell to the dirt, the ringlets piled around my blood-spattered boots.
My wife’s name was Lisa—short for Elizabeth. She is my light and my love and the memory of her embrace compels me to try to set things straight.
My daughter’s name was Anna. She is my body and my heart and it’s for her that I will make this trip across the scarred lands.
They might be dead. The rider—Nick—said they most likely were. But there was a chance, just the slimmest ray of hope, that I could cure them and we could go back to what we had before.
My name is Nathan Bankhead, and this is the last night I’ll own that name.
We had been to the market and were on our way home when the sector lights began flashing. Up and down the quad path, vendors began to close up their shops. People—immunos, mostly—began to gather their things and scatter for shelter. Deformed chickens and dogs spooked and rambled underfoot—their distorted squawks and howls a harbinger of the hell that was to come down the lane.
I gathered Anna in my arms and began to hustle for home at a brisk trot. Lisa ran at my side. She peered over her shoulder at regular intervals, checking to see if it was a false alarm.
It wasn’t.
News is sporadic in these altered times. There are no papers—no reputable ones anyway. Even if you had a television that worked (I knew just a few that did) there wasn’t any programming to show on it—at least not here in Lo-Town.
The news arrives in bits and pieces and is carried by vagabonds and wanderers. They come from all over this broken land.
Most of what they say can’t be trusted.
I was changing the belts on an old battle-axe of a truck—a ’28 Jeep Renegade that had been armored and fitted with dual side-winder missile mounts—when the vehicle’s owner first told me about the manglers. I mean, really told me. I’d read the articles in the months before the media had disintegrated, but I’d never known much about them.
“They’re getting faster,” Nick said, his voice like gravel as he sucked on a hand-rolled cigarette. He said he was a rider. He’d stenciled the phrase “Honor and Justice” onto the fenders above the rear axle on either side of the Jeep. “They’re getting faster, and they’re coming this way. They take all that they can. They leave nothing—and nobody—behind.”
I’m not much of a talker, and neither was he. I worked quietly under the hood, and when the feeling hit him, he’d go into it a little deeper.
“They started up in Canada. Toronto. Remember when the Chinese sprayed the Red Fury over Toronto?”
I did. It was one of the first (not the first, we’ll get to that later) dominoes to tip over for us here in North America. When China’s population went over three billion people in 2044, the government began looking for some new land. They kind of liked what the Russians were sitting on, and they’d already taken Mongolia and North Korea. But the Russians were proud and they were stubborn. They knew how to fight and they were willing to go down with the ship.
China put their scientists to work and the result was the Red Fury—a virus that washed over a man’s conscience and reason and rendered him an insatiable killing machine. They synthesized huge batches of the stuff and slipped it into the water supply of their immense network of coal mines and refineries. An army of half a million bloodthirsty Chinese sprang up almost overnight, and they began their assault on Russia.
But the Red Fury was flawed. The soldiers didn’t take orders, and they were hungry. They fought with their teeth and not with their weapons. We’re talking half a million ravenous, mindless killing machines.
The Siberian plains were littered with acres of the dead until, that is, they started to get up. Russians and Chinese alike massed in what became a mechanical horde of death and consumption and Asia as we knew it existed for just a little over a year.
The western media called it like they saw it. Zombies.