If you don't know who I am, that's fine too.
What follows next is the first chapter of my book, available on Amazon. You can buy it for your Kindle or Nook for the low price of 1.00
That's right, one dollar. This has always been an exercise in getting my name out there. This story was getting lost among the submissions to publishers and agents. Rather than let it collect dust on my hard drive, I've released TR into the wild. I want people to read it and pass it on. No one is going to blow my horn except me. My wife and kids are all the cheering section I need.
That's not totally accurate. I would like my small audience to grow. So please, if you're reading this, give the first chapter a try. If you like what you read, then hop on over to Amazon and type in 'Travelers Road by Will Malone.'
You can also get it for your iPhone or iPad. (There's an app for that.) Some one also told me you can use Adobe and read it as a PDF.
In a perfect world, I could see this developing into a series. But I have to know: would you dear readers want a sequel? Several good friends have said, "Yes, when is it coming out?"
Well... I'm working on the next adventure as of this writing. I'll let you be the judge. So without further ado...
by Will Malone
Six months to plan the mission.
Six days to insert into enemy territory and collect intel.
Six hours to kill my target and steal the files.
Six minutes of car chase.
Less than six seconds to fall off a cliff.
Trust me, it hurts. My pursuers knew exactly when to shoot out my tires, right when I made the turn. As I flipped and hit the guard rail, I catapulted from the vehicle, completely airborne with no parachute. No soft landings for me on this lonely jagged road leading into the Urals. Even hurling through the air, I knew pitch black death awaited me at the bottom of the ravine. Euphoria spread as I experienced free fall for the last time. Never argue with gravity, it'll win ten times out of ten. Excruciating pain burst from every nerve ending. This is it. I thought. Suddenly a flash of blinding light, comparable to lightning seared its way past my eyelids. Extremely close lightning. Waves of nausea wracked my body. It took me a moment to realize I was no longer falling. Suffocating heat burned into every pore on my body. Where was I, a sauna? Somehow or another I was now on my back, a weight pressing down on my chest.
Having been thrown from a... my mind blanked. Four wheels, stick shift, silver Mercedes Benz, steering wheel... yeah, that thing. Was I dead? With all I've done, that would explain the heat and burning light, but what was sitting on my chest? Was I unconscious all night and now I found myself in the heat of the day?
Flexing my hand, I grabbed a handful of sand. Feeling dry granules slip through my fingers, one thought came to mind: shouldn't every bone in my body be broken right now?
I'd memorized the route to the extraction point. This particular hairpin turn leading up the mountain had a sheer drop. Several hundred feet of treacherous wet rocky cliff face. If I was thrown from that thing I couldn't recall the name of, then the most I could have hoped for would've been a quick death. No such luck. Of all the obstacles on my escape route, a huge pile of sand wasn't on the list. Cautiously I lifted my head and cracked open one eye.
A flickering red line danced inches from my face. Half a second later the line reappeared from a triangular gray head, the forked end letting me know at last what was on my chest.
Reflexes took over. Twisting, grabbing, throwing. The coiled length of black and silver scales sailed into a barrel cactus the size of a pumpkin several feet away.
I should have been bitten. Maybe it had been one of those non poisonous snakes. Lucky me. The other part of my mind shuddered in revulsion. “Ugh, Snakes!”
The whip like body smoothly coiled behind the cactus, disappearing from view. Wait a second... did those plants grow in the Soviet Union? My memory appeared to have a few holes in it, but I felt pretty sure cacti like the one in front of me only grew in North America. So this was a dream. My body would be lying in the bottom of a dark ravine, bones broken and bleeding out. This was some kind of hallucination right before I walked toward the light. Maybe that's what the bright flash was right after I went ballistic.
I absently scooped up a handful of sand, watching it slowly sift from my fist. Completely dry, no moisture to hold the reddish brown grains together. The soil surrounding the Soviet base was darker and clay-like, especially where I'd cut the fence. Uncertain as to what I'd find, I inspected my jeans. My right leg held the tell tale signs of grass and mud stains. Wow, some dream!
Putting a finger to my scalp, I winced in pain. Yep, sunburn. If this was a dream, it was the most intense one I ever had. As I thought about how odd that was, movement caught my eye. A dark figure trudging along between a couple of sand dunes nearly twenty feet away. Dressed in rags and carrying about ten planks of wood. Whoever he was, he would be my ticket out of here.
“Hey buddy,” I called out. “Wait up!” The dark figure kept stumbling along in a slow gait. How's he carrying so much wood in this heat? I thought to myself as I reached for his shoulder.
A vision of horror slowly turned toward me. Two black sockets set in a shriveled skull stared vacantly. Whatever it was, it most certainly was dead. White bone protruding from decaying flesh. I must have screamed. The echo bouncing back from the nearby hills told me I did. The thing had no eyes, but I think it saw me. Was the thing about to attack and eat me? It stood there, as if undecided what it should do. Reacting instinctively, I punched it. Something flew off where I connected.
The corpse's head, having been thrown back by the force of my blow, returned to its original position. The jaw now hung by one hinge and a string of putrid flesh. 'This is it, killed in the desert by a wood bearing zombie. I am definitely in a B movie now.'
The zombie stood silently, as if deciding what to do. Then it turned slowly and resumed its slow gait without picking up what it had dropped. I didn't know what to do. Would it come back to kill me once it got dark? Were there more zombies out there? Was it going to get some of its undead buddies?
'Hey fellas, we got a live one over here!'
Whatever it was going to do, wherever it was heading, I wasn't going to let it out of my sight. He didn't move all that fast, so there was no question I could keep up with him. The fact that he was going somewhere was better than being out in the middle of the desert. Where my guide went, so would I. There wasn't a choice really. Succumb to the unforgiving heat of the desert or killed by ol' corpse boy.
Hmm... tough choice.
Curiosity overcame fear, ...barely. I picked up a couple of the fallen planks and followed him toward the mountains. The sun would be setting soon. I had no idea what I'd be doing next or where I was heading. If this was my last dream before I checked out, I might as well make the most of it.
As we trekked down the dirt road, I became aware of more movement around me. Several figures walked close by as we approached.
Zombies. All of them in various states of decay. Some carried tools. A hammer in one hand. Another held a saw. Nearby I noticed a walking corpse holding a screwdriver. More of them encircled what seemed to be a structure of some kind. A building resembling a large single-story ranch style house. To me it only appeared half finished. A wall missing paneling, beams sticking skyward like a ribcage.
My undead guide dropped the wood he carried into this place. At the sound of the wood falling, the other moving corpses nearby turned. Now a couple of dead guys were shuffling my way. One of them even made eye contact with me. Was that the signal? Get close and surround the live guy? No way! Uh-uh! Ain't gonna happen. Backing away from these rotting horrors, I dropped the planks I was carrying. The moment before I would have turned to run, the lead zombie leaned over, picking up the planks I dropped.
They were taking the wood I'd carried here. Truth be told, I felt relieved. Zombie chases never ended well for the guy trying to outrun them. All of this was good for me because I didn't think I could go that far. Head spinning, hands trembling, putting thoughts together became difficult as my energy reserves reminded me they weren't all that much to begin with.
These zombies were working on the house! An undead construction crew. Who came up with that idea? This was insane. The sun must have baked my brain into Hallucination City. Then I saw something very odd. Well... odder. The corpse carrying the hammer stepped into a shadow of another zombie, hammer boy froze in place. The moment the other zombie shuffled by, hammer boy started moving again as if nothing were wrong. The setting sun made the shadows longer and larger. The moment a zombie found itself without the sun touching it, they stopped moving. In short order, more of the zombies stopped moving altogether as dusk approached. Whoever heard of zombies not moving at night?
The notion of zombies building a house struck me as funny. Hey, when you're done, can you put in a fence? Do some landscaping?
I knew all construction sites had an office. Where the foreman ran the site, laid out blueprints, gave directions to the crew. I scanned for something that would fit that description. While I looked for something like that, the wind brought me the smell of bacon... and coffee! My stomach growled in open rebellion. I felt myself becoming intoxicated by the aroma. I followed my nose to a low lying area between a hill and some scrub brush. Then I heard something sizzling on a frying pan.
Two figures stood next to a campfire. Their rumpled clothes suggested being slept in. They were men. Live human beings with skin the right shade of alive. Standing with their backs to me, the pair resembled a couple of trail hands complete with cowboy hats, dusty shirts and jeans. They turned as I came into their camp.
“Water... please?” I begged.
“Get back to work.” one of the cowboys snarled.
“Please... lost in desert...” I uttered with a cracked voice. A gleam of dark blue metal caught my gaze. Both of them were carrying holstered guns. The coffee brewing and sizzling bacon didn't seem so important now. When someone is standing in front of you with a gun, you stop and think.
“H-h-help me.” I stammered. My world lurched to the left in an agonizing way as my eyes rolled into my head. Pain shot up my legs. The next thing I knew I was face down in the dirt.
“Is he all right?” a nearby voice called out. A hand turned my head. A cowboy's face loomed a few feet over me. I felt something cool and wet on my lips. The cowboy blotted a wet rag on my face while cupping my head. He then looked away from me.
“Ed, fetch some water, I think he's alive.”
Something wet pressed against my mouth. I couldn't protest, instead I opened my mouth. The cowboy squeezed a few drops of water past my parched lips. It tasted faintly sweet, but cool. The other cowboy came over to me with a bucket. It took the two of them to get me to sit upright. A ladle then found its way to my mouth.
“Easy boy,” the second cowboy advised. “Sip it slow.” To illustrate the point, he removed the ladle from the vicinity of my mouth. After putting it back in the bucket, he turned to me.
“Can you talk?” he asked.
“Barely.” I croaked.
“What's your name?” said the cowboy with the bucket.
I shook my head. “Daniel... don't remember the rest.”
The first cowboy glanced over his shoulder at the other. “It was bound to happen. Looks like we got one in transition.” His friend nodded in agreement.
The cowboy closest to me cleared his throat. “My name is Pete and this is my brother Eddie. This is our little piece of heaven you came across.”
My eyes drooped a little. Any energy I thought I had was evaporating fast. “Hospital... Town...” was all I could mumble.
“You just rest up, you're in no shape to travel.” Pete said. I couldn't argue, the world got a whole lot darker after that.