Published: May 2017
During an ill-fated girls’ night out, still reeling from the loss of her husband, Liv Bestte meets a mysterious, old woman who promises to return her husband to her – for a price.
It isn’t until the reanimated corpse of her late husband has begun terrorizing the hills and hollows around Julian, West Virginia, tearing flesh from bone, that Liv learns the price is her soul.
Now Liv is racing against time to find a way to satisfy this debt without sacrificing herself. And she soon learns that the only way she might escape her grisly fate is by offering up her daughter, Tegan, in her place.
But is it already too late for Liv? Is Liv’s fate sealed by family history? When Liv is about to make an ill-fated decision, it is Liv’s younger sister, Abby, who stands in her way, despite the fact that Abby was the first victim of the resurrected thing that was once Conner Bestte.
February 24, 2017
He woke. Suddenly, as if escaping a nightmare. He groaned as he forced his dry, matted eyelids open. Despite his effort, only more darkness pressed in around him. His tongue was thick and swollen in a mouth that felt stuffed with sawdust. The air seemed heavy and smelled of strong chemicals and synthetic materials.
His legs were stiff, and his back ached. Shifting his weight, Conner discovered that his body was confined. Confused, he felt around him and discovered a space only a little larger than his own size, preventing him from moving.
Even after that detection, the panic didn’t immediately set in. His thoughts were drifting in a thick fog, memories hazy, and his immediate circumstances failed to register. He couldn’t remember where he was or how he got here, and the lack of any illumination prevented him from doing a proper survey of his surroundings.
But it was more than that. Conner couldn’t remember exactly what had happened to him before he woke, not the immediate events that placed him there, or those preceding them. He couldn’t recall a single name to cry out, not even his own. All he knew was that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. He knew it deep in his gut.
This was wrong.
He struggled with the snippets he could recall – faint images and impressions of faces and people and places. But none helped him recall anything more. He waited for his mind to clear, for the miasma to lift.
Conner pressed his hands against his confinement and wondered at the cool, smooth texture of the fabric he was tearing at. When the crushing realization that he was imprisoned registered, a cold chill crept over him. He was entombed and alone.
His mind suddenly racing, Conner fumbled to find some latch, some bolt or lever that would open a door or a window or a hatch to release him from his stifling cell. But there was none. No exit. No escape. And when he opened his mouth to scream for help all that burbled up from his throat was an unintelligible, garbled howl.
Thrashing, Conner threw himself against the low ceiling and walls of his personal vault. He clawed desperately at the soft, silky material inches from his nose until his cold fingers touched hard, smooth wood – then he paused. He ran his fingernails over the polished wood. It was much too hard. Clawing wouldn’t see him through it. If nothing else could cut through the fog in his mind that fact had. It was horribly apparent.
Conner searched himself, his hands pausing as they found his belt buckle. Loosening his belt, he slipped it from his waist. Then, gripping the metal buckle tightly in his hands, he proceeded to hack at the wood until it splintered. He continued to chip away, for endless seconds, minutes, hours, the buckle cutting into his fingers and his fleshy palms with each thudagainst the roof of his cramped tomb, until a small break in the wood finally opened and Conner could smell the dank, rich odor of earth and well-watered sod.
He continued on, pressing his muscles to action, summoning an incredible strength he never knew he had.
Conner’s fingers tore into the soil, shoveling mud and muck into his cramped confines until he could finally begin to pull himself into the small chasm he’d dug. Then, with his legs beneath him, he continued to dig and push and work his way up through the loose earth until his right arm jutted up and out of the ground into the open air. He could feel a cold, soft rain striking his skin.
He used his legs to push his upper body up out of the earth, a dark sky above him, the gentle rain splattering against his cheeks, his fingers raw from tunneling through rock and dirt. Then, with one final burst of strength, Conner hauled himself up out of the ground, collapsing in the mud beside the tombstone.
It didn’t sink in. Not at first. Not for a long while. He’d read the name on the tombstone four times before he could finally place it – Conner Bestte. And, when it did register, he let loose another garbled howl.
He knew the name was his, but he couldn’t conceive of why it appeared on a tombstone. What was he doing here? Who had done this to him?
Shambling down the hill, weaving through a forest of gravestones and monuments, Conner made for the gates of the graveyard and the mist-shrouded road beyond. He struggled onward, his joints aching, his mind reeling, his memories still only discordant, drifting remnants of images and ideas, disembodied emotions and vague recollections.
But, as he hobbled along, one image came to him. One image stood out among all the others as he pressed ahead – her image. The image of that young, beautiful woman, the woman he knew he’d once loved, the woman he knew he’d once desired, longed for, yearned for, the one woman he’d risked everything for – was the woman he now wanted to kill more than anything, to rend her limbs from her body and listen to her scream in agony as he ripped the flesh from her bones. He wanted to place her under his heel and stamp out the last gasp of her life.
But, struggle as he might, he couldn’t remember why. Although, in that moment, as he stumbled out onto the street, thewhy didn’t matter.
Only the urge mattered – the urge to do her harm, the urge to see her dead, the urge to rip skin and muscle away from her body with his teeth.
That is all that mattered.
The rest would come to him later, when he’d finished with her.
About the author:
Jerome Sparks is a native of West Virginia. He majored in the highly unprofitable and nonspecific field of Creative Productions while attending the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia. Hoping to become a college professor, Sparks went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Humanities, with a concentration in literary theory from the West Virginia Graduate College located in Institute, West Virginia. But, after an unsuccessful attempt to teach English at the college level (for which he offers his most sincere apologies to his former students), Sparks took the easy out and pursued a J.D. from Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sparks called New Orleans home for several years, haunting the bars and bistros of the French Quarter, before finally following a girl back to West Virginia where he is currently practicing law. (Yes, he married the girl.) Sparks and his family now live happily in the West Virginia hills.
Thanks for the plug! It's much appreciated!
You're very welcome!
We are always in the mood for a good "zombie'-ish" story. Be careful what you wish for, right?
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