As promised, I’m offering another, longer passage for TeaserTuesday today regarding Rhys, the nineteen year old protagonist in my post-apocalyptic novel coming in January from Riptide. You can find the passage I shared for Seven Sentence Sunday here.
Rhys is a survivor of a deadly plague that ravaged the human population over the last decade, killing a vast majority and turning a significant portion of the rest into maddened, animalistic predators called revenants. In the first snippet I shared, I introduced you to Darius via Rhys’ first impression of him. Rhys–who has been sheltering in an abandoned monastery for the last seven years with a handful of other survivors, including his younger sister and most recently, her infant son– is under attack by the revenants when Darius and his second-in-command Xolani rescue him.
This will actually be two segments because I can’t decide between the two passages and they’re both too long for Seven Sentence Sunday. It should also be noted that all these snippets are at present unedited. That’s due to happen next month, after which I very much hope there will be a longer, less segmented excerpt to share.
They snarled like rabid dogs and stunk to high heaven. He hadn’t considered what they might smell like until they bore down on him. Their wild manes of tangled hair reeked of oil and dirt. The ones who had once been men had beards even more ragged than the facial hair that grew indifferently in haphazard patches around Rhys’ jaw. Clearly hygiene wasn’t high on the revenant list of priorities.
Rhys giggled madly. He was losing it, he realized. His senses were aflame, singing; his awareness of everything had sharpened to a keen point. His heart raced and his muscles quivered. In those moments before death, he felt more alive than he had in the past seven years. He could almost thank the revenants for smelling so foul, because it made his last breaths into something that actually had an impact.
For one instant, he considered not fighting. Let them kill him. Let his final moment of this delicious sensitivity be the excruciating pain of their teeth rending his flesh.
In the end, though, the survival instinct was too strong. He swung his useless shotgun-turned-cudgel with what limited momentum he could muster, knocking one of them back. A spray of blood erupted from a cut on its brow and its head snapped back toward him, its eyes narrowing in fury. So human and yet so lacking anything resembling humanity.
The other charged him before he had a chance to draw the blood-smeared shotgun back for another blow. It knocked him to the stone floor, driving the breath from his lungs. The club flew from his hands. He managed a lucky blow with his elbow to its throat, winning himself a moment more of existence as it recoiled. Then it pressed down on him again, yellowed teeth snapping.
And the next one:
Darius had to hand it to the kid. With his shoulder blades visible beneath his skin, ribs jutting out like the bars of a xylophone, and his hazel eyes bulging with shock, he still had fight in him. No sooner had the question left his lips than he pushed past Darius.
“Cady! Cady, are you okay!?”
Darius’ stomach sank and Xolani’s normally stern expression softened with sympathy. Before Darius thought to catch the kid, he’d darted out the door.
“Where is she? Cady!”
“Keep searching the rooms. Find me that last rev Jamie reported and get the kid some damn clothes!” He took off after the survivor. His long strides carried him down the stairs where he caught the naked, dripping kid almost out the door. He might as well have been trying to hold an angry badger. The survivor thrashed and flailed, and Darius finally had to push him away when he even tried scratching and biting. Last fucking thing he needed was for the kid to draw blood.
Not that it mattered.
Suddenly free, the survivor didn’t pause but charged the final few steps to the door, against which Darius slammed him chest-first to eliminate the hazard posed by the kid’s teeth and nails.
“Settle down, son. There’s still a rev on the loose and we gotta find it. My scouts reported four. I’d hate to think you fended off those other ones just to run smack into the last.”
“My sister might run into it!” The kid’s flurry of struggles renewed. “Cady!”
Darius growled to himself and tried to make his tone at least somewhat sympathetic. “There ain’t no one left alive out there.”
The thrashing came to a shuddering halt.
“They got away?” The plaintive hope in the kid’s voice probably made a whole host of angels somewhere burst into tears.
Darius was no angel, but he didn’t want to be an asshole, either.
“I’m sorry, son.”
“But the revs were supposed to come after me. I was gonna distract them.” His voice cracked with desperate confusion. “They were supposed to get me!”
Oh, fuck. This was why he hated dealing with survivors. Especially traumatized ones.
Futilely brave, fucking heroic traumatized ones.
“They probably heard the baby cry and it was all over.” As comfort went, Darius was pretty sure it fell short but he didn’t know what else to say. “Revs are predators and like any predator, they know babies are easy prey. You couldn’t have got their attention no matter what you tried.”
To his credit, the kid didn’t burst into tears. That would have put the perfect cap on Darius’ afternoon. Instead, he drew a few quavering breaths and said almost calmly, “Let me go.”
“You don’t wanna see what’s out there, son.”
Xolani spoke from behind him and Darius almost jumped. Shit. He got so distracted by the kid he wasn’t even watching his six.
“Kaleo and Gina are reporting the rev still at large isn’t in the building or courtyard. Jamie says Titus is out on his bike. He suspects the last rev ran off from pack and Titus gave pursuit. We’re still looking for clothes, but for now here’s a blanket the kid can wrap up in.”
Darius reached behind him to take the scratchy woolen blanket. “If you promise not to bolt, I’ll let up so you can put something on.”
The tips of the kid’s ears turned red and he gave a stiff nod. Darius eased his weight off him and stood back, proffering the blanket. Avoiding Darius’ eyes, the survivor wrapped it around himself, then opened the door and dashed out.