Hey peeps! Today I have the pleasure of hosting the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour for 2014. BIG YAYYYY!!!
GUESS who I have??? Meh! I will tell you! ERIC FRIKKING SHELMAN. There’s an A. in there somewhere. Let’s try again, he’s partial to that A, Eric A. Shelman!! WOO HOO!! Look, here’s a picture…feel free to swoon at his awesomeness!
The seventh installment in his much-loved “Dead Hunger” series is “Reign of Isis” and we have a juicy excerpt for your reading pleasure. Then, just go buy it. If you haven’t read the series yet…get going! What are you waiting for? I am on book three and cannot stop! Here’s the excerpt then I will put some easy links for you to buy and stalk Eric! Well…you cannot actually BUY Eric, but you can buy his books, and that’s kinda the same thing!
Excerpt from “Dead Hunger 7:Reign of isis” by Eric A. Shelman
The tanker truck looked like any other. Bright, gleaming chrome, polished as brightly as any mirror, so that occupants of trailing cars could marvel at their own fisheye reflection as they rolled down the highway.
While it was meant to appear to be identical to any other tanker truck on the roadways, this one was different.
Inside, a narrow center walkway allowed handlers to access two rows of cages on either side. Each cage was narrow and tall, running from floor to ceiling. There were twenty-four cages in all, each with an upward-sliding hatch to gain entry. The tank side of the cages were covered with thick padding to prevent their captives from banging on the stainless steel walls and drawing outsider attention.
At the lowest possible point, a flat floor had been welded to the stainless steel floor so that the occupants of the cages did not constantly slide toward the center of the truck. The interior was cooled by a narrow cavity that encompassed the entire outer shell of the truck where cooling fluids ran, fed through hoses leading from the Freightliner’s engine compartment.
In fact, the interior of the tank could get as cool as 50 degrees, and there was no valve to control it. Angus did not mind, though. The occupants were rarely encased in the truck for more than two hundred miles once they crossed into the United States.
The exterior of the cab and the tank itself were emblazoned with the Pemex logo, Mexico’s state gasoline company. A dummy corporation, AmeriMex, had been created to certify the frequent trips across both borders by way of a joint partnership of both countries, and Angus had made sure the forged paperwork would verify and pass any inspection.
There had been some failures early on, but they were dry runs. He was now in his fourteenth year of trafficking young women, and he had never even had a close call.
The road leading to the U.S. border was more congested than usual. It was a Sunday, and that could make a difference, for people did like to venture into Laredo to buy food and gifts for family in Mexico.
The current haul was a full load. Each narrow cage held one girl. Angus had long ago developed a relationship with the Fuentes Cartel, with a heavy focus on human trafficking. They made their way through several small towns and villages, snatching girls from their homes and holding them in captivity until Angus’ next run.
Among his current haul were seven pregnant girls, ranging in age from seventeen to twenty-three. They were a two-for-one deal for Angus, and he always demanded a minimum of five pregnant girls per transaction. The farther along the better. Angus did not like to hold his stock for long before moving them, but it was more profitable to wait until the children were born so that they could be sold off separately.
Angus slowed, now just five cars from the border crossing. As he sat there staring at the guards, with whom he was familiar, a car blew through the border gate coming into Mexico, angling directly toward Angus’ tanker.
He saw the driver through the glare of the glass; he looked insane. His hands were not on the steering wheel, rather it appeared he was attacking the woman in his passenger seat.
Angus saw all of this just seconds before the green hatchback careened hard left and smashed into the concrete barrier just a foot to the left of his combo’s wheels, flipping over and spinning on its roof.
Traffic was still stopped in front of Angus, so he watched in amazement as the driver of the vehicle crawled out of the wrecked car and staggered around to the passenger side, reaching in and dragging the woman out. He walked strangely; no coordination. Angus could not see his pupils from his location, but had seen enough people on PCP to know that was likely what was going on.
The man lifted the woman and bit into her face. He tore at her hair as though he wanted to rip it clean away, and he chewed on her face even as she screamed at the top of her lungs and beat at him with her flailing arms and hands.
Four border patrol agents charged toward them with their guns drawn, but the man paid them no attention. He threw the woman down on the concrete, her head slamming hard against the pavement, knocking her into blissful unconsciousness. The insane man fell on top of her, ripping the front of her Sunday dress open and sinking his face into her abdomen, even as his fingers clawed at whatever exposed skin they could sink into.
The border agents reached him and pointed their guns downward, but none of them fired, for the woman was beneath him. One tried to pull him off, but when the man lifted his face, the woman’s entrails hung bloody and dripping from his teeth.
His eyes were mad. Angus watched, fascinated. The traffic in front of him moved, but he was reluctant to drive away. It was mesmerizing, watching this woman being eaten by another human.
My mother should have died the same way. She got off easy, he thought. Jane, too.
One of the border agents was looking straight at him and waving him on, ordering him to go. He did not, temporarily forgetting about his highly-illegal cargo in the face of this strangely fascinating display of cannibalism.
As the man stood up and moved toward the border agents surrounding him on four sides, two of them shot him. The explosions rang out as the rounds blew out his chest and right ribcage.
The man spun to his right as the first shot found its mark, and the chest shot sent him flying backward, slamming into the rear bumper of the overturned Toyota he had been driving.
Angus could not leave. The man got up, a huge hole in his chest, a chunk out of his side. The four then started firing with reckless abandon, and the man’s body danced as it still moved toward them.
Finally one of the officers blew out his knees and he fell to the ground, still growling and looking absolutely mad. Instead of dying, the man clawed at the pavement until he had again reached the dead woman’s body. He sank his teeth in and once more began to feed.
The men unloaded their weapons then. The woman was clearly dead and they were obviously freaked out. The rounds struck him in the head, neck, back, buttocks and legs.
He finally lay still atop the dead woman. Angus let out the breath he’d been unaware he was holding and realized he had an erection.
He reached up to the sun visor and pulled down a pack of Winstons. He lit one and accelerated to the border gate. All the vehicles in front of him had already gone through.
He passed without incident, as usual. It was perhaps even easier that day because of the horrific attack that had just occurred. The agents were more interested in looking into the strange, rabid man who had just killed a woman by eating her alive.
The next 200 miles were far from uneventful. In several places, stopped cars blocked the roadway, and people staggered around, many of them approaching his rig, staring up at him as though he were of great interest to them.
Whatever was going on, it wasn’t just in Mexico. At his first opportunity, Angus turned off the road to take smaller side roads. Every cop car he’d seen had its lights and siren on and were headed toward something very important, so it did not seem he would need to worry about taking his tanker down a road where such vehicles were prohibited.
He knew all the best, least-used shortcuts anyway.
Rock Springs was mostly an industrial town, but he owned an isolated ranch on the southwest side. There were four gravel roads one had to navigate to reach it, and none featured signage. This was where he lived; he had long ago constructed a barn that would accommodate up to eighty girls at a time. Among these women he created trustees, of a sort.
They were not actually trustees because Angus trusted no women; but they were as close as he would get. The small nursery, designed to accommodate up to eight babies, was contained in a 10’ x 10’ cell. The two adult beds in here were more comfortable than the meager mattresses on which his other captives rested. There had to be some reward for the infants caretakers other than being allowed to live.
Perception was everything.
Angus slowed at the gate and pressed the remote control. The large gates swung inward, and he drove into the yard and pulled the tanker alongside the barn. It was time to unload and have a shower and dinner.
From beneath the trailer, he withdrew a four-foot long steel bar with a star socket on the end. He inserted this into a hole on the rear of the tanker truck. From a compartment at the rear of the tank, he removed a two-foot long rod with a center slot. This piece fit on top of the other, creating a T-handle with which he could loosen the bolts holding the tank hatch closed.
Removing a ladder from a narrow but deep slot in the back, he leaned it against the rear of the trailer so that he could reach the rest of the bolts.
When he had removed all them, Angus repositioned the ladder and pulled open the rear cap, which he swung out to the left, like a massive, pivoting wall mirror. A strange, reddish mist kissed the air as soon as he cracked the hatch.
Angus stepped back and stared. Could it have been some sort of contamination? He sniffed at the air, but did not smell anything. His relationship with the Fuentes Cartel told him never to take chances. To rush could mean to die.
Angus returned to the cab of his truck and unlatched the driver’s seat of the Freightliner cab, flipping it forward. Behind the seat was a 12” x 12” hinged box. He removed it, pushed the seat back into position and placed the box on the seat.
He opened it and withdrew a gas mask and a small tank of oxygen. He kept them because he had seen the cartels in action before, and they had been known to use gas to exact their carnage. He wouldn’t be falling victim to that.
He adjusted the straps. In a situation where the toxicity level was unknown and the particulate size in question, only this type of device would do. He cracked the oxygen cylinder and quickly pulled the mask over his face. He returned to the truck, pulled out the sliding steps and climbed up.
In the darkness of the tank’s interior, pairs of reddish dots floated in the air, running from front to rear. Strange growls and shrieks were coming from all around him.
Angus’ hand went for the light switch.
When the bright light bathed the interior of the transport, Angus nearly staggered backward so far he barely escaped toppling out the back. He steadied himself.
The occupants of almost every cage had thrown themselves forward into the heavy wire, clearly unconcerned with their own well-being. They smashed the front of their cages relentlessly, tearing and clawing at the wire as though believing they could work their way through it. Angus stood back and stared in amazement and horror.
What the hell happened here?
The frenzy was happening further back, though. He looked into the cage just in front of him along the right wall. This cage contained a pregnant girl that his coded paperwork listed as seventeen years old.
There was a distinct lack of aggression on her part. Her face was still, but as she turned her eyes toward him, they blazed a piercing red. She sat inside her small cage, her knees drawn up to her chest in order to allow her to position herself that way in such a small space.
Her hair, which Angus had remembered to be long and wavy, now appeared straight, as though flattened with a hot iron.
Something lay by her feet.
He knelt down and she snarled, causing him to move away slightly. He squinted at the thing on the floor and realized it was a severed hand – or to be more precise, now mostly the bones of a hand. Skin and meat still clung to it, but not very much.
“What the hell did you do?” he asked her, his eyes moving to the cage beside hers.
The moment he did so, the woman in the next cage slammed the steel bars, snarling and biting the air as she pressed her face against the cage’s interior. While the bars on the sides of the adjoining cages were far enough apart that it was possible for small hands to reach into another cage, the front was made of a thick steel mesh, preventing any reaching or clawing into the narrow aisle.
The whores had badly scratched Angus in the past, so he had learned his lesson. It would not happen again.
The snarling girl-thing’s eyes were pinpoints; black dots beneath a wispy reddish mist. Her skin was a roadmap of blue-black veins. Angus noticed that several front upper and lower teeth that had been intact at the trip’s outset were now missing. Blood stained her face, but he was not certain how it had gotten that way.
The caged thing attempted to claw at the mesh with both hands, but now only her right one remained. The left hand was lying, mostly eaten, at the bottom of the first cage, leaving only a tattered stump at the end of her left wrist, nerve endings and shriveled tendons dangling.
Angus’ eyes dropped again to the devoured hand on the floor of the next cage, and to the very calm woman-thing staring at him from within, her red eyes penetrating his as though wishing to command him in some way.
He looked again at the shrieking thing’s stump, from which no blood at all leaked. Angus’ eyes fell to the thing’s feet. The pan at the bottom of her cage was half-full of a dark, thick liquid. He had installed the pans to contain urine and feces in case the women could not hold it for the duration of their transport.
It was not bloody urine, for there was far too much of it. It could only be her blood. No other options remained.
Any ordinary person would be dead.
Angus staggered back from the cage again at the realization. His eyes remained fixed on her. Even as she snarled and clawed, her flat eyes had never wavered from his. The look fixed there was as emotionless as that of a reptile.
If the expressionless eyes held any sign of emotion, it was of hunger. Insatiable hunger.
Maybe she is dead, thought Angus. If she was, her body was not, for it still moved as if she would never tire.
Angus stepped back from her and stared down the rows of cages. What growled and clawed within many of them were not what the Mexican handlers had put there. This entire load had been one of the best he had seen; very attractive girls and young women who would have fetched him top dollar. Looking around the interior, Angus had no idea what had happened.
“Goddamnit!” shouted Angus. “What the hell is going on! My whole damned load is fucked!”
“Get us out of here, please,” said a woman’s voice.
Reluctant, but without a choice, Angus turned sideways and side-stepped down to the front end of the tanker, the frenzied creatures slamming the cages each time he passed in front of them.
Acting afraid was a sure way to lose respect, especially in front of a woman. No woman could or ever would scare him. Even a diseased one.
He was wearing a gas mask. Untouchable.
He reached the prisoner who had spoken. She sat, her legs drawn up with her head as low as she could manage. She stared downward so that Angus could not see her eyes.
“Why are you on the floor?” asked Angus. “Stand up.”
“I can’t,” she said. “The one beside me sprayed me, and I got a headache.”
“Sprayed you with what?”
“The red mist from her eyes,” said the girl. “Please,” she whispered. “Let me out of here.” She looked up finally, and Angus saw her eyes were a deep red, almost with their own illumination.
She finally stood, but pressed herself into the side of her cage opposite the next cage over.
“What happened in here?” asked Angus, relieved she spoke English. He spoke broken Spanish – enough to communicate with his cartel connections. Many of them spoke decent English, so he never had the need to learn. He was often surprised at how much English the girls they got him knew. Likely because many of them came from border towns and villages, and it helped to have some English skills.
“I could not see,” she said. “I am pregnant. Please, let me out of here, away from these … these things!”
“Why are your eyes red?” he asked.
“Are they?” she said. “I do not know. I felt dizzy a few hours ago after I was sprayed by her, but I do not know why. Please, I hear things within my head. I must leave this place.”
Beside her, another of the straight-haired creatures stood, clearly not normal, but not as ravaged as the woman in the second cage near the hatch. She appeared almost identical in condition to the woman he had found in the first cage.
“What did you hear?” asked Angus, his voice muffled through his mask.
“They complained of pains in their heads, some of them,” she said. “Terrible pains.”
“Down here!” shouted another woman from the rear of the tanker.
“Por favor!” shouted another voice. “Afuera, por favor! Afuera! Afuera!”
“She wants out,” said the woman in the cage before Angus. “Please, before we all get … changed. Hurry.”
Angus shook his head. “You sure you’re not sick? Like I said, your eyes are red.”
“I was dizzy before, but I’m okay. Please, senor, I am pregnant. Something could be wrong with my baby. I’m bigger than when I was put here.”
Angus looked at her belly. Indeed, she did appear larger. She hardly showed when she was put in the cage, for he inspected each piece of merchandise. Now her swollen stomach appeared at least twice the size.
He removed a key from his pocket and said, “In a few moments. I have to deal with these others before I can get you girls out of here.”
He walked to the rear to inspect the other two women who apparently had not changed like most of the others. These three were the only ones remaining out of his entire haul that could speak. Of these prisoners, two of them were pregnant.
Good. At least he would still have the income from the babies. The rest was a total loss. He would demand his money back from the Fuentes Cartel men who had captured them. Clearly, there had been an epidemic spreading through the villages where they snatched the girls.
The cartel had fucked him with faulty merchandise, and they had likely known what they were selling him in advance. Something this contagious could not just spring up out of nowhere.
* * * * *
The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014
AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list, updated daily:
Eric A. Shelman’s website:http://www.ericshelman.com/
Check him out on youtube! https://www.youtube.com/user/ericandlindashelman