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Guest Post: Promised Land Abandoned

Guest Post: Promised Land Abandoned

Hey everyone!

I’m excited to have a guest post today from author Jeff Goff, whose sci-fi novel Hope 239 has just been released by WiDō Publishing. (More on that at the bottom of the post.)

Jeff and I came into contact via Twitter, and we discovered that we had something in common: We were both inspired in our apocalyptic writings through dreams. Literal dreams. I guess zombie-filled nightmares are more common than I thought. 😉

Jeff has channeled his dream into a work called Promised Land Abandoned, and he was kind enough to write a prequel of the story for us in this post. He’s been releasing chapters of Promised Land Abandoned on his own blog as he writes them, which you can visit by clicking here.

I’ve been enjoying his take on zombie literature, so I’m pleased to present  –

 On the First Day

 Four years ago:

This is one of those nights when I know the patience for bartending has passed me by. Every customer who pops his or her head in the door seems to be in preeminent jackass mode. Regulars, occasionals, one-timers, doesn’t matter, everyone is acting Sean Pennish. Even me.

It could be the summer heat and the muggy thunderstorm which has been dumping rain all afternoon, through the evening, and now well past midnight. Lightning forks, thunder booms, rattling the walls and sifting dust from the rafters. It’s been a day straight from the Bible, or straight from Al Gore. Hard to say. I don’t dwell. Except I’m irritated as hell-in-a-greenhouse.

A couple guides from over at Hoover Dam told me they’d been dealing with idiots all day. People wandering off from the tours, peeking into corridors which were supposed to be locked but had been left wide open, arguing and debating about stuff they knew nothing about. Said they’d spent more time rounding up the strays than reciting their historical spiels. Of course, they told all this between curses and arguments with each other about what had actually happened, or whose groups had been worse. Eventually I got fed up with them too. And everyone else. That’s why I’m standing on the empty back patio looking at the empty alley. Solitude is a comforting companion to the hanging cloud of cigarette smoke. I should head back in, but I much prefer to smoke a second or third in a little peace and non-argumentative quiet.

The patio isn’t used much during the summer. Boulder City in August is too damn hot. At least I enjoy its serenity as the deluge pounds onto the roof. The rain mists and swirls around me. The chairs and tables are stacked in a corner. Though covered by an angled roof, the wood floor is wet. The water feels good, warm but at least cooler than the 105 degrees of the heavy, sticky air.

The door behind me is open. The jukebox is playing. All evening I’ve heard nothing but angry songs, rain songs, doom songs, lost-love songs. Something is in the air. I’ve heard “Riders on the Storm” so many times, I’ve started skipping it, much to the vocal dismay of the jackasses who keep playing it. Damn thing is seven minutes long; after the fourth or fifth time enough is e-goddamn-nough. Right now I can here “Rhythm of the Rain.” Fogelberg’s version from the 70’s. Damn weird things going on tonight.

I should just close up early. Call it a night. Go home. Go sit on the patio of my residence-by-default-doublewide. Drink a cold beer. Listen to the rhythmic rain. Ponder what my ex is up to. Nothing like adding to the irritation.

Shouting from inside confirms and denies this wish. It’s the busiest Thursday night I can recall and I’ve been toiling at the Dam-It Saloon for well over a decade.

During a lull on the jukebox, Big Swede, the bouncer, shouts his Nordic warnings at one of the belligerent idiots. Vi, the server I had to call in, lets out a high-pierced tirade laced with her always-creative vocabulary. Their voices, and a cacophony of slurred and defiant retorts, drift through the open door. I should go back in. But screw-it. I’m not done with my cigarette. Damn drunks need to be cut off en-masse before it turns into a wild-west saloon free-for-all.

If for no other reason than my own piece of mind, this night needs to end. Right now.

On cue, as if I taunted fate one too many times, a blinding flash sears my eyeballs and a massive, deafening boom throws me backward into the stacked chairs and tables.

I don’t know how long I lay amidst the patio furniture. It could have been five seconds, five minutes, or several hours. Time stopped. A total blackness fell over everything. No light, no movement, the only sound the pounding of the rain. The jukebox is silent, as are the myriad drunks. Big Swede should be shouting at someone.

I try to clear my head, hoping this vacuum is of my own creation. I disentangle myself from the chairs and tables. I lost my cigarette.

I sense a buzzing inside my skull. I don’t hear it; I feel it. It’s like a whole bank of light bulbs are slowing sizzling out. I squint my left eye. The buzz increases in power. I shake my head. It begins to pound. I press my palms to my temple, trying to squeeze out the banging. My eyes are pulsating, throbbing. Underneath the pain is a snake, slithering inside my brain. My knees buckle and I drop to all fours. At this moment I wish for death. But something keeps me fighting. Some primitive need to keep on living tries to resist the slimy crawling sensation burrowing deeper into the gray matter.

I roll off the patio and land on my back in a puddle. Rain falls into my face as I lay in the alley. A swirling mass of mist narrows my vision. The blackness is shrinking to pinpricks. The pounding, banging, crawling is unrelenting.

I’m soaked through. I try to resist, but I don’t know what the hell I’m fighting. I attempt to get up. After rising to one elbow, the pain forces me back into the puddle.

As much as I try to fight, I’m losing this battle. The grayness is almost complete. The snake is nearly down to the core of my brain.

Let it come. Anything to end this.

A faint crashing of wood tickles in my ears. The first noise other than rain. It sounds like boards landing on top of each other. Strange I can even hear it, or care about it. It’s the fence on the other side of the alley falling over. Where Rondell, the dog breeder, lives.

Through the pain I can smile, just thinking about his little puppies. I’d been over to see them a few times. Every night Rondell came in for a solitary beer. Every night he gave me a sales pitch. Except he hadn’t been in tonight. I again think of his pups. Goddamn cute things. It’s a pleasant final thought. Then the banging intensifies, threatening to blow my brain right out of my skull.

I sense a pattering of feet, slapping through the puddles. I feel something small and wet brush past my face.

Through the tunnel of swirling gray a dripping nose appears. Then a pair of eyes. Then little pointed ears.

Something like fine sandpaper begins to scratch my face. Heated air blows onto my cheek. A slight pressure presses on my throat. I squint one eye, hoping to at least see what it is which will send me to the other side. The scratching quickens. It’s a dog tongue. I reopen my eye. The pounding is abating. Or perhaps it’s wishful thinking. But the gray is receding. The blackness is expanding. The snake seems stymied.

The dog’s little paw is on my throat. I can feel the points of tiny claws pushing on my skin. I look into the shimmery eyes of a ten-week-old German shepherd. Its fur is soaked through and it is shaking. But it doesn’t stop licking my face.

As inexplicably as it arrived, the death-agony in my brain fades away.

I grip the paw on my throat and move it my lips. I kiss the rough pads. The puppy stops licking me. His heads jerks to the side. I see another puppy over by where the wood fence has collapsed.

The two dogs start to growl. Not very menacing, but I know what it means. Still feeling a little woozy I slowly rise to my feet. The alley is empty and dark. No lights have returned. I can hear heavy dropping and crashing sounds from inside bar. Bunch of drunk fools stumbling around in the dark. It has a comedic element to it, but it doesn’t feel all that funny.

Something has happened. Something really bad.

The rain has tapered off. But I know, this is only the beginning of a much larger deluge. The bottoms of the low hanging clouds are glowing an orange-red. Big fires are burning somewhere. A lot of them from the direction of Vegas. The unbroken wail of several car horns pierce the quiet.

My senses are quickly returning. From the opening in the fence I see a shadow. A human shadow. The other puppy joins its sibling close to my feet. Their bite-less growls grow in volume.

Rondell emerges from the black. He’s lurching like he’s been injured. But his puppies don’t run to his assistance. They start to bark. Something is definitely wrong with him, though it’s hard to tell exactly what. His teeth are clacking and his arms are extended with grasping claws for hands. He stumbles over the boards like a drunk person. He almost falls, but regains himself before I can move to help. His head is slowly moving from side to side, like he is looking for something. I want to call out to him, ask him what’s wrong. But I can’t. My voice is silent and my brain is telling it to stay that way.

The dogs take several steps toward him, moving between him and me. Their barks are subdued, like they are trying to be simultaneously scary and discrete. Rondell sees them and lunges forward.

The pup which licked my face shoots forward, just under Rondell’s grasping claws. The other one runs to the right. Rondell’s feet get tangled up around the darting dogs. He falls hard onto the asphalt. His head smacks flush with a fleshy plop. A big patch of his cheek rips open. It doesn’t bleed. The skin hangs loose and I can see into his jaw. His dull eyes look into mine. I know they don’t see me. They want to kill me.

I don’t know what this is or what the hell has happened, but the thing in front isn’t Rondell. He resumes his click-clacking and groping. He stands back up and lurches toward me. I’m immobile. Obviously this is a time to run, or at least back up, but I’m frozen in place, mesmerized by the nothingness in his eyes and the impossibility of what I’m seeing.

A piercing shriek from somewhere fills the air, followed by dozens more. They come from all around us. Screams, shouts, wails, fear, death. I hear a gunshot from down the street. A mini-explosion from inside the bar rocks the ground. The world is collapsing around me and all I can do is stare into the face of what used to be Rondell.

Two more shadows emerge behind him. His girlfriend and her son. They look just like he does. More bangs and shouts come from the open bar door. Still I stand, unable to move.

Rondell’s hand-claws are almost at my throat. I try to swat them away. His click-clacking jaws snap gleefully. I’m about two seconds away from being on the other end of those hands and teeth.

The pups’ barks turn more frantic and urgent. As Rondell reaches for me, he suddenly falls to the ground. Both of the dogs are now entangled in his sprawled and twisted legs. Little ears stick out. Green glowing eyes, reflecting light from the growing fires, peer up at me. The girlfriend and her son are crashing over the fallen boards.

I emerge from my lethargy. I grab hold of the nearest pup, dragging it out from underneath Rondell. I’m not sure which one it is. I cradle his little body like a football. Before I can save the other one, a horrific doggy scream fills the air. I watch as those hand-claws tear into the pup, ripping open its side. In the near-darkness the blood is a shiny black. I want to vomit as insides become outsides.

The click-clacking of the other two force my vision over from the mutilation of the dog. I finally take a step back. More click-clacking is behind me. The pup’s death cries end abruptly. But the air is full of other screams and shrieks. Death is around us.

With the pup under my arm, I run down the alley and out into the middle of the street. Several people run past us, going in both directions. Smoke fills my lungs. More things like Rondell are lurching around, click-clacking, groping, chasing, killing.

In the propped open front door of the Dam-It Saloon is a twisted body. It looks just like the pup. Sinew and bone and organs all spilled out in a ghastly, sickening tableau. More shadows appear from the doorway. I back away. I’ve no intention of walking into a bar full of Rondell-like things.

I have no idea where to go or what to do. The only weapon I have is a ten-week old puppy. This little guy just saved my life several times, the least I can do is try to repay the favor. I can’t just stand here, pointlessly waiting to be rescued.

The end has come. Just like that, with a flash and a boom. Somehow I’m still alive. And somehow I have to survive.

For a brief second I look into my savior’s little face. His tongue is out, his ears are cocked, his nose frenetically twitches.

“Just us, little guy,” I say to him.

His tongue flicks in reply.

Shadowy forms are emerging from the bar. Shadowy forms are everywhere. It’s time to go. Right now. The problem is, there isn’t anywhere to go.

***

Thanks, Jeff, for sharing some of Promised Land Abandoned here at Unbound. It was a nail-biting read, and – I have to admit – the death of the puppy almost brought me to tears. What a vivid picture of apocalyptic chaos you’ve painted!

Now, to those of you who love sci fi, you should definitely check out Jeff’s new book, Hope 239. It’s available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and WiDō Publishing’s site.

Synopsis:

Year 239 is the beginning of the final stages of Hope’s one-way voyage. Hope239_CVR_MED

For over two centuries Hope has been traveling through space to reach its destination: the ten habitable planets of the Hope System. Generations have lived and died without ever knowing they were inside of a spaceship.

Captain Sterris, who has occupied her command chair for thirty-eight years, ventures into the taboo realm of questioning. She wonders what they are really doing on Hope and why, along with bigger questions of who are they and where they came from.

As the final phase commences and the questions mount, Captain Sterris confronts the terrifying possibility that someone has planned a devastating end for her ship and its crew. Through an unlikely alliance with Dr. Mahmud, Hope’s Chief Medical Representative, and the inquisitiveness of two youngsters in the Leadership Corps, Sterris discovers her fears are shared by others.

Among the tens of thousands of people on Hope, there are only a very few who suspect things are not the way they’ve been taught to believe. And these few need to figure out how to override the preprogrammed plan of destruction before it is too late.

Feature Image Photo Credit: petertandlund via Compfight cc

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  1. Jeffrey Goff says:

    Thanks for letting me crash your site 🙂

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