Excerpt: Blood Bonds
Sean Doberman was traveling alone, on foot, somewhere in northwestern Ohio. As he walked through a suburb, he was amazed at how untouched it seemed by the mad case of zombie raging across the country. True, the lawns were overgrown well past the allowed two-and-a-half inches, and everything was dead quiet. But without abandoned cars lining the streets, corpses rotting, and zombies charging like lions, he could pretend that it was just early morning and even the paperboys weren’t awake yet.
But it wasn’t. It was late afternoon, the time of day when the yards should have been busy with children playing, the sidewalks full of teens heading home from school, the streets filled with adults coming home from work. Instead, it was like an old western ghost town: empty and eerily quiet. He half expected a tumbleweed to roll past.
Sometimes, Sean got nostalgic about the past, about the life he’d been leading two years before, before the virus had taken over the country. He’d been finishing up college, studying architecture and structural design. He’d had wonderful parents and two beautiful older sisters who loved him. He’d had a boyfriend who had been his world.
Two years later, all he had was what he could stuff in his backpack. And with the risk of zombies attacking at any time, he couldn’t really get too attached to any of his few possessions, knowing he might have to leave them at any time to escape with his life. It wasn’t what he’d pictured his life would be like at the age of twenty-four. His innocent youthful vision of the future had included a steady boyfriend, maybe an engagement already, a career in corporate advertising, and a place of his own to call home. He currently had none of those things.
Ghost Town Suburb, as he had decided to call it, was quiet. Too quiet. There were no birds singing, no domestic-turned-rogue dogs barking. Not a living thing was anywhere in seeing or hearing distance.
That could only mean one thing: zombies.
He shrugged off his backpack and set it against the tire of a purple minivan where he’d remember to come back for it. Then he unstrapped his crossbow from his back, loaded a bolt from the pouch at his hip onto the clip, and walked as quietly as possible through the suburb. Not for the first time, he marveled at his luck at finding the crossbow in some Renaissance Faire-type shop more than a year before.
A horrible shriek split the air, sounding more animal than man, and as a thrill of terror ran up his spine, Sean knew it was a zombie—a zombie in terrible pain.
Next came the sounds of the snarls and growls of zombies—and then the war cry of a human. Sean charged forward, crossbow at the ready, prepared to help whoever was being attacked.
The fight took place on a playground, with one sword-wielding man against no less than a dozen zombies. He was clearly in trouble; no one could take on twelve zombies at once.
Sean fired a bolt into the crowd, sending up another shriek. He reloaded as he ran toward the group and fired off a second shot before going more than ten steps.
He found a good position at the top of a slide and began picking off the zombies one by one. The sword-wielding man—who had drawn another sword and looked like some medieval vampire slayer—was good. Anyone who was still alive pretty much had to be a good fighter, but this man was impressive on top of that. He moved like liquid, dodging and ducking blows and bites before twisting and delivering a death swing. The zombies continued coming at him in groups, but he kept his cool, hacking and slicing and chopping. It was a frenzy as they took on a dozen zombies.
The man sliced at the final zombie’s knee, cutting the tendon and dropping him to the ground. He locked his swords around the zombie’s neck and with one solid pull, beheaded him and left him in the dirt.
Sean climbed down from his position, securing his crossbow across his back, and went to retrieve his bolts. He tugged them out of the corpses and cleaned off the blood and bits of torn flesh by scraping the bolts on the bottom of his boot. He slid the last one into its holder as the man finally spoke.
Sean turned, finally getting a face-to-face view of the other man, and froze.
He stared, dumbfounded. It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t. Eighty-five percent of the population had been zombiefied; in the past two years, the majority of the still-humans had been killed. It couldn’t truly be—