CHICAGO FELL FIRST: aaron smith
Pssst! You know that rustling sound behind you that you think is dead leaves blowing in a ghostly wind? Well, that “dead” part is right. It sorta, kinda sounds like someone’s following you and it is! Only this time, it’s not “someone” it’s “something” so turn around and take a peek and then run like there’s no tomorrow cause it’s Zombie Day here on HALLOWEENPALOOZA! Yup, our Daily Book Giveaway is all about those slow-moving, brain-eating creatures that you love to hate!
These zombies are brought to you courtesy of the fantabulously talented Aaron Smith. He writes like a muther and has the stories to back up that claim! CHICAGO FELL FIRST is one of them. Plenty of zombie butt to kick and just what is that sticky white stuff? You’ll have the chance to find out if you win one of the five ecopies up for grabs! But I warn you, nail those doors and windows shut before you dig into this frightmare … and whatever you do … don’t get bitten! Not unless you want to start walking like a crab!
And Aaron has gotten into the October fright-fest spirit by writing you a little ditty called THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever read so far and will help put you into that Halloween gear! You’ll be out, with broomstick in hand, scaring your neighbors in no time at all and the reading of this just might become a holiday tradition! Read … scare. Read … scare. Read … scare. Repeat! So get ready to have some fun courtesy of aaron smith!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR .
Aaron Smith was born in New Jersey in 1977. After years of trying to figure out what to do with his creative energy and trying everything from acting to visual arts to music, he finally settled on writing and hasn't looked back. He was extremely fortunate to have an opportunity for his first published work to feature his all-time favorite fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. Since then, he's written three more Holmes mysteries and a novel(Season of Madness) starring Holmes' friend Dr. John Watson.
Aaron's other work includes many short stories for the Airship 27 line of pulp anthologies, including stories featuring characters like the Black Bat, Dan Fowler:G-Man, Ki-Gor, and others. His two original pulp characters, Hound-Dog Harker and the Red Veil also debuted in Airship 27 books.
Outside the world of new pulp, Aaron has written stories for comic books, science fiction anthologies, and detective magazines. He recently contributed stories to the young adult paranormal anthologies PROM DATES TO DIE FOR and SOMETHING WICKED.
Smith's vampire novel 100,000 MIDNIGHTS, was released as an e-book by Musa Publishing in 2012. The sequel, ACROSS THE MIDNIGHT SEA, is due out in August of 2013.
In July of 2013, Smith's lifelong dream of writing a spy novel was realized with the release of NOBODY DIES FOR FREE.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Aaron-Smith/e/B0037IL0IS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
CHICAGO FELL FIRST
“You'll love being thrilled and chilled in this zombie novel. Goosebumps and shortness of breath are sure to follow!” – Amazon Reader
After Brandon sees his mother save her water-logged cell phone in a bag of rice, he tries the same when he finds his little brother blue in the bathtub. At first he believes his brother is dead - no breath, bluish skin - but when his mother returns home and he opens his eyes, they rush him to the hospital where he stays overnight for observation.
A night nurse checks on the boy to find him sitting up in bed. Everything seems fine until that first bite...
Follow this harrowing horror tale as a city comes under siege by the Empty Ones. Told from alternating points of view between the main characters who end up converging in Chicago as the outbreak happens, this zombie novel has all the elements of a thrill fest: Pop science, gore, tension and a glimpse into what happens to humanity when humans transform into ravenous walking dead.
One medical student braves the chaos to search for a cure...
One former captain tries to right the wrongs of his past...
One serial killer in the making sees it as a chance to release his dark yearning...
One city battling for survival in CHICAGO FELL FIRST.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
by Aaron smith
The Present Day:
“I don’t get it,” she said. Her reddish-brown hair waved in the brisk autumn breeze as she looked up and down the street. They were standing outside the black sedan they’d driven across three states following the conclusion of a tough case involving a serial killer who liked to dress up as Bigfoot to grab his victims from their tents in the middle of one of America’s biggest national parks. “I was all for it when you suggested a little detour. I agree we needed a break, but I don’t see why you’d choose this place to celebrate Halloween. Care to explain?”
Her partner laughed. Small lines danced across his slightly scruffy face, his eyes bright with the kid-in-a-candy store expression he wore whenever he was about to explain some kooky-sounding conspiracy theory or bizarre phenomenon.
“C’mon, you mean you can’t feel it?” he said.
“Feel what?” she asked.
“That awesome energy in the air,” he said with his voice full of excitement. “I bet you can still see the arcane sparkles in the air if you stand here at midnight and open your mind and squint. You know, there’s a very good chance you wouldn’t be alive today, wouldn’t even have been born, if not for what happened in this neighborhood almost fifty years ago!”
She dug her keys from her trench coat pocket, waved them in the air. “You have one minute to tell me what you’re talking about before I get in the car and drive away …with or without you! You make it sound like there should be a historical marker here, as if some great battle was fought on this ground, but all I see is a typical street in a typical suburb. There’s a high school, a barbershop, a bank, a dentist, and a bunch of houses with normal cars, normal trees, and normal everything. Just spit it out!”
“By now,” he said after a sigh, “I thought you’d have realized that history is often edited, especially the parts the average person just wouldn’t be able to wrap their mind around and stay sane. I know you’ve heard me talk about the idea that there are certain places where some say the barrier between worlds is thinner, where outside forces can break through if the timing and conditions are right.”
“Yes, yes, yes, but those are supposed to be places like Stonehenge, not American streets that look like they came from some old sitcom. This place is more like a Rockwell painting than a Roswell rumor. So what exactly are you trying to say took place here almost fifty years ago?” She jingled her keys again. “The clock is ticking.”
The Same Neighborhood, October 1965:
“Honey, will you please stop pacing and come to bed? I have to be up early for a meeting and I just want to get some sleep?”
“What did you say, dear?”
“See? You’re not even listening? What is it? What’s bothering you?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“How do you know I wouldn’t?”
“Because you never do … and I try not to talk about certain things, because I know they make you uncomfortable.”
The man in the bed sighed. He was a tall, thin man in his thirties. He folded down the edge of the page and put his book on the nightstand, shot a glance at his wife. His intent was to look stern, but it came across, as it always did, not matter how hard he tried, as goofy. “Does this have something to do with another of your mother’s ridiculous schemes to get you to give up on a normal life and go back to all that absurd witch business?”
“My mother’s go nothing to do with this,” the woman said, still pacing across the room, her long blonde hair swishing back and forth. “I haven’t told her about it. She’d get too upset. I know you think she’s coldhearted, but this would be too much, even for her.”
“What would be too much? Now you’re starting to worry me.”
“You really wouldn’t understand. When the whole thing’s been dealt with … if it can be dealt with … maybe I’ll try to explain. But right now, I think I have to go out for a little while.”
“Go out? But it’s almost ten!”
He would have kept protesting, but it was too late. He watched her face go into a certain very familiar motion, saw a sudden puff of smoke which dissipated as quickly as it appeared. Her nightgown fell to the floor, empty, and a sleek black cat stood where a second before had been a beautiful woman.
The cat let out a shriek, jumped up to the sill of the open window, and stepped out into the night.
“Have fun,” the husband said. He let his head fall back on the pillow and closed his eyes.
The cat hurried down the street. She knew the neighborhood well, perhaps better than any of its other residents, for she could sense the true nature of its inhabitants. Her form was feline now, agile, quick, and stealthy, but her mind was as it always was, and her thoughts flowed just as they did when she wore human flesh.
I knew there had to be a reason! All of us living here could be no coincidence. It’s just too dense, the concentration of Other Kinds in one small region. Now I understand. Fate can be merciful at times. If what I feel approaching can be avoided, we are the ones who must act. But will they listen to me? Will they understand? Will they help?
Urgency pushing her forward and she sped up, her paws pushing down on pavement to propel her on and on. She leaped over fences, cut through backyards, took shortcut after shortcut, her small feline body slicing through spaces no human form could manage. She would work from the outside in, she decided, hit the furthest house first, and then move back toward the center of the circle, hopefully bringing allies with her.
She reached the outer part of the neighborhood, a place where the yards grew larger before the woods began at the edge of town. Here, residents had bigger gardens, some with pumpkin patches. And one property, the one the woman-turned-cat had in her sights, contained a barn.
She jumped the white picket fence, crossed the wide expanse of grass, and, with a graceful leap, soared through the barn’s window, landing gracefully on the straw-covered floor. She let out a sharp hiss to wake the barn’s occupant.
When the equine eyes had opened, the cat was enveloped in a burst of smoke. Before the fog could clear, she’d grabbed a nearby length of burlap, rough and uncomfortable, but long enough to cover the nakedness of her once again human body.
“Well, hello gorgeous,” said the Speaking Stallion. “Finally get tired of that fumbling klutz you married?”
“There’s no time for your rude comments,” the Witch snapped. “I need help. Everyone needs help.”
“What are you talking about, lady? I don’t need help. I’ve got everything I need: a warm barn, oats to eat, a friend to talk to …”
“All of which will be gone, wiped away as if it had never existed, if we don’t do something about it!”
“I’ll ask again,” the Speaking Stallion said with a loud snort, “what the hay are you talking about?”
“No time to explain it to each of you individually!” the Witch shouted. “Meet me at the house that doesn’t belong here. You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you?”
“The big, dark one with the iron gates and …”
“That’s the one.”
“But I can’t just go galloping around town in the middle of the night. Somebody might call the cops or the dog catcher, since I don’t think we have horse catcher on the city payroll.”
“Here,” the Witch said with another twist of her facial muscles. “I’ve cast a shroud on you. You have fifteen minutes before it wears off. Nobody will notice you until then. Now go!” She shoved the barn doors open and watched the Speaking Stallion trot off into the shadows.
With the horse on his way, and having returned to her smaller, faster form, the cat ran back onto the streets of the neighborhood. Breathing in the cool October air to get the rustic smell of the barn out of her system, she cut down an alley and emerged on an avenue of medium-sized homes, almost went up the wrong driveway, but quickly corrected her course as she remember the right address.
She passed the house, ran up the steps that led up to the apartment above the garage, scratched the window with her claws, causing a shrill nails-on-glass sound. The window slid open on its own. A voice from within the building called out.
“Come in, come in, I’ve been expecting you. And don’t bother to change forms. I’ve got ways of interpreting your words, even if they do come from a cat’s tongue.”
She landed on the apartment floor, looked up at the thin, gray-haired man who sat staring back at her. He had a strange, mechanical device attached to one ear and a gun-shaped gizmo in his hand.
“Automatic window and door releaser,” he said as he waved the handheld machine at her, “which you just saw in action. And this,” he used his empty hand to tap the earpiece,” is what will translate your purrs and hisses. But you don’t have to explain. I know why you’ve come, and of course I’ll help. What you’ve sensed through magical means, I’ve detected with the marvelous technology of my home planet. There’s a storm coming, and you can count on me to stand beside you and the rest of the Other Kinds.”
“Thank you,” the cat said in her feline language.
“Thank me when it’s over,” said the Man from Another World. He winked, and two antennae extended from his head, wiggled back and forth, a gesture that he trusted his visitor with the secret of his true nature, something he’d kept from all but one other since his arrival here.
The three of them stood on the front steps of the big dark house with the iron gates and black curtains. The Witch, now in woman form and wearing, for the first time in years, the traditional clothing of her kind, rang the doorbell as the Man from Another World and the Speaking Stallion stood behind her.
The doorbell clanged in a sound that split the night air in half, a loud gong, followed by a shrill scream, a terrible howling, a thunderous crash, and a rumbling earthquake.
“I should have brought my earplugs,” the Speaking Stallion complained.
The Man from Another World shot him a “shut up” look.
The door opened, slowly, creaking, to reveal a woman. She was pale, her black hair pulled back severely, in a long black gown of strange silk that resembled spider webs.
“I wasn’t expecting company,” she said in a strange European accent, “but do come in.”
“I’m afraid this isn’t a social call, Lilith,” the Witch said.
“Using my true name tonight? This must be serious,” Lilith said, leading her guests inside.
“And that’s the story,” the Witch said. She’d been talking for twenty minutes, relating how it was the flimsiness of the veil between worlds that had, she suspected, led so many of the Other Kinds to choose this neighborhood in which to live, and how that thin veil that separates our reality from the spaces beyond was soon to be at its weakest. Now, she told them, was a critical stage when they, those who lived among mundane humanity but were not part of it, would have to defend their world against the things that would try to break in from outside and remake the world into something else, something that should not exist.
Lilith looked at the dusty floor of her parlor. “Serious indeed,” she said.
Her son, a hairy little boy, smiled, delighted as if he’d just been told the plot of a science fiction movie, too young to grasp the reality of the situation.
“No, no, no, no, no,” said the Tall Green Man, Lilith’s husband, as he stood and stomped his enormous foot on the creaking floorboards. Sparks sizzled as they flew from the bolts embedded in his neck, and the scars on his wrists and around his hairline blazed crimson. “It’s not fair! I have a bowling tournament on Saturday, and I want to go fishing on Sunday! The world can’t end now!”
“Sit down, my love!” Lilith snapped. “Of course I’ll assist in any way I can,” she said, turning to the Witch, “and so will my husband, whether he likes it or not.”
“And where is your father?” the Witch asked. “He’s the oldest of us all, has seen things we can scarcely imagine. We need him.”
“You know he doesn’t like company,” Lilith said. “He’s ancient, tired, hates that we’re in America now. He’s always longing for the old country, for the old ways, he spends all his time in that silly laboratory of his in the cellar. He’s become such a recluse.”
“Please,” the Witch said. “We need all the power we can gather.”
“Very well,” Lilith said. “Son, go and fetch your grandfather.”
“Okay, Mom!” The Hairy Little Boy jumped up from his chair, ran down the hall on his hands and feet, let out a little yelp as he went.
Two minutes later, the Hairy Little Boy returned.
“He says he’s busy and you’ll have to go downstairs if you want to talk to him.”
“Then that’s exactly what I’ll do,” the Witch said, and stormed down the hall. The floor hatch was open, a strange fog rising from the square hole.
She climbed down the ladder to find a room filled with bubbling beakers and tubes transporting liquids from one container to another. The stench was almost intolerable. A figure turned to meet her. He was old, very old, with gray hair slicked back, wearing a cape that was black on the outside, red inside. His stare was piercing. As he opened his mouth to speak, he exposed teeth yellowed with age. The Witch could see that they had once been fangs, but one was worn and dull and the other’s tip had long since cracked off.
“Whatever you want, I don’t have time for it now! Can’t you see I’m in the middle of some vitally important experiments?” the Old Vampire said.
“None of us will have time for anything soon if we don’t act,” the Witch replied. “I don’t see important experiments. All I see is a tired old man hiding in a dungeon.”
“You don’t see because you don’t understand! Look at this, for example, and tell me what you think it is!”
“It’s a basin of water with a moss-covered rock sitting in the middle of it.”
“No, no, no,” the Old Vampire insisted. “If you were to examine this rock under a powerful magnifying lens, you would find a social experiment of great interest. Using a mighty method of occult manipulation, I have snatched a small ship from the sea and trapped its crew and passengers there on what you perceive as a mossy stone. From their point of view, it is a land mass covered with exotic vegetation of all sorts. They are marooned, you see, and every day they struggle to retain their sanity in those harsh, wild conditions. They represent a true cross-section of humanity: the captain and his crewman, a business tycoon and his mate, a celebrity, a scholar, and a young woman from as rural an American town as you can imagine. People from all walks of life, thrown together by the random nature of life, and each day I watch them from above, like a god!”
The Witch had heard enough. She put her hands on her hips, shouted, “Count Vlad, be quiet! Look at yourself, cloistered here imagining you’re somehow reliving past glories by playing with these silly toys. You were once the most feared monster in Europe. Your name was spoken in whispers by peasants and royalty alike. I know you don’t like the States and you’re disappointed by the mundane life your daughter has chosen, but I’m giving you a chance to fight one more great battle, the most important of your undead existence! For old time’s sake, for your family, for your grandson, say you’ll help! Or are you going to act like a fangless, cowardly has-been?”
The Old Vampire hissed, growled, hissed again, and opened his mouth wide, his long tongue lashing back and forth between his yellowed fangs. “Bring on the enemy!”
“I’d strongly suggest you two come up here right away!” called a voice from the ground floor.
The Witch and the Old Vampire ascended the ladder. The Man from Another World met them at the top. In his hand was something resembling a Geiger counter.
“The energy from the outside is beginning to break through,” he said. “It seems we’ve assembled just in time.”
They stood in the park as the night sky was torn open from the other side. The Witch sat upon the Speaking Stallion. The Man from Another World, his antennae twitching in anticipation, took a strange, silver weapon from his pocket. The Tall Green Man stood with fists clenched, his wife beside him, and their son on all fours in front of them. Above their heads, a bat hovered, laughing with the same voice with which it spoke when in its form as the Old Vampire.
“Remember,” the Witch said, “the invaders will send scouts first, to test the defenses of this world. If we can repel them, there’s a good chance their masters will change their minds and leave the Earth alone. The longer we let them linger in this dimension, the stronger they’ll grow, so use all your powers and hit them hard and fast!”
The veil between worlds ruptured. Entities obeying other laws of physics burst into sight, their shapes shifting as they adjusted to a new reality. They perceived the defenders and attacked.
The Witch kicked her horse in the sides, urging him to move faster.
“Take it easy, lady!” the Speaking Stallion complained.
They rode in a circle around the edges of the battle, the Witch casting a shroud over the area to keep any passing mortals from seeing the chaos and being driven insane by perceiving what their minds were not capable of processing.
The Man from Another World fired blasts of energy at the invaders, knocking them backward, adjusting the frequency of his weapon each time they adapted.
The Tall Green Man practiced his bowling, lifting a large boulder and rolling it over an assembly of shimmering soldiers from beyond the veil.
Lilith leaped onto the back of one of the extra-dimensional scouts, hoped it had something similar enough to flesh for her to damage, and sunk her fangs in deep, unleashing a fury she rarely had time to practice while maintaining the façade of a suburban housewife.
The Hairy Little Boy, having the time of his young life, relished the chance to dig his claws into something other than the scratching post his parents had installed in his room to keep him from damaging the wallpaper anymore. He ripped and slashed at his prey, sending them scurrying back into the spatial rift.
The Old Vampire darted between invaders, shifting from bat to wolf to undead man and back through the cycle of forms again, confusing and bewildering his foes, drawing them toward the others to be destroyed or sent fleeing in fright.
“Who needs fangs when you can dance like this?” he asked with a sly laugh.
“I think we’ve kicked their …” the Speaking Stallion began.
“Don’t even think about saying it!” the Witch scolded. “There’s a child present!”
Witch and horse stopped trotting. They looked at the hole in space. The beings that had come through were going back in, some dragging shredded and battered comrades. The retreat ended, the rift closed. The night sky was whole again, distant stars shimmering as if nothing unusual had happened in the normally quiet neighborhood where the curtain between the mundane and the otherworldly was just a little thinner than it is in other places.
“I am so glad I didn’t have to call on Mother for help,” the Witch said, smiling. “Good night and thank you. My husband’s probably wondering where I am.”
A puff of smoke appeared. The Speaking Stallion felt the weight disappear from his back. A sleek black cat ran across the park and vanished into the shadows.
The Present Day:
“Are you done?” she asked, pulling her coat closed. “It’s getting chilly out here.”
“What did you think?” her partner asked. They were sitting on the hood of the car, watching the costumed kids who had just begun trick-or-treating after school let out for the day.
“Well, it was a long story and now it’s getting chilly out here. Let’s get some coffee and hit the road. Maybe we can get back to Washington before our next case hits your desk.”
“Fine, but just give me a straight answer, okay?”
“What’s the question?”
“After all you’ve seen since we’ve worked together, and everything I’ve told you, and all the details I just shared about the events that took place right here fifty years ago, I just want to know … do you believe?”
“Yes,” she said as she stood and walked to the passenger side door. “I believe.”
“You do?” her partner said, sounding as excited as he’d been when he’d started his story an hour before.
“Sure. I believe you watched too much TV when you were a kid.”
UPDATE: CONTEST CLOSED -- WINNER'S NAMES POSTED ON FB EVENT PAGE
UPDATE: CONTEST CLOSED -- WINNER'S NAMES POSTED ON FB EVENT PAGE