This is the first page of my fantasy/zombie apocalypse novel. I haven’t decided on a name yet just yet (I’m a terrible parent, I know).
I also started a Pinterest board for my main character, Aaron, http://pinterest.com/mikereverb/aaron/. I’ll be updating the board with images the reflect his appearance and character.
*Update*: The second page is now available.
Aaron couldn’t decide how sorry he felt for the kid.
It looked like a boy, a bag of bones, naked and crying his eyes out on the doorstep of a rundown house. Cradling his scabby knees, the kid kept his head down, and with each sob his frame rattled. He’d probably been roaming the streets alone for days, trying to find his parents or his lost dog, Oatmeal. That sounded like the name of a kid’s dog.
Behind a rotted wooden fence, Aaron watched the street glow orange under the setting sun; shadows morphed into long, black fingers reaching out over the asphalt, and he checked for any shapes that didn’t belong. Overhead, pregnant clouds crept in from behind the kid.
Whimpering. Filthy. Starving. An imaginary pet. A solid seven on the sympathy scale (tens were reserved for maimed kids with weak, hopeful smiles).
Aaron sighed, walked across the street and up the crumbled cement walkway, and sat next to the kid.
It would’ve been an odd sight to anyone who passed by. From under a cream fedora, Aaron’s hair flowed like a river of gold, and though he tried every day to keep his beard trimmed and clean, it was like fighting against a current without a paddle—or an electric shaver. A maroon trenchcoat wrapped around his body like a second skin; tucked inside were a mint green tie, a dress shirt and slacks, which gave the impression he’d dived straight to the bottom of a donation bin to dress himself. A pair of brown leather shoes, which he was dangerously proud of, rounded out the cobbled package.
Towering over the scrawny kid and covered in an always-present layer of dirt, Aaron could pass for a hermit who’d come off his mountain to rejoin society. Or a dapper homeless man.
“Hey, you alright?” he asked. The kid didn’t acknowledge Aaron’s presence in any way, not a nod or a sniffle. Rude little twerp.
“What’s your name?” Still nothing. “You don’t say. Mine’s Aaron, pleased to meet you.” He looked up at the door behind them. The green paint had flaked almost completely off, but he could still make out the faded outline where the house numbers used to be. “233 Ruby St. The Jacobsons used to live here,” he told the kid. “They had these two giant dogs, Great Danes; ran around and took lots of shi—uh, poops—on everybody’s lawn.”
Those lawns, once covered with emerald grass and flower beds, now kept gardens of melted tires and rotting corpses, the kind that couldn’t get up anymore, but Aaron still steered clear of most bodies he came across; no such thing as being too careful.
“You hungry?” He dug into his faded canvas backpack and whipped out a can of tuna (in oil of course); when Aaron held it out, the kid sunk his head lower and kept on crying. He was probably nine or ten, but most of his hair had fallen out; strands crisscrossed over his scalp like black spider webs.
“It’s ok; it’s free, no strings attached.” He pulled out a rusty can opener from a coat pocket, sawed through the metal, and put it on the ground near the kid’s feet. “People are like that these days, eh? They don’t like to share unless you can give them a lot more as a thank you, like you owe them something special. The Merchants especially; it’s a nightmare dealing with them. Ever met one?”
He thought he saw the kid shake his head, but it might’ve been another sob. “Good. The things they ask for.” He whistled. “It’s robbery. Can’t get anything decent to eat without giving up an arm or a leg. Take The Chinaman, for example.”
The kid went silent.
“He’s the worst ‘cause he can get anything you need . . . medicine, clothes, canned food, even fresh meat. You just gotta ask him. That’s what he says anyway ‘ask, and ye shall receive.’ But the fine print says ‘your ass belongs to me after.’” Aaron laughed and looked over. The kid’s face was still hidden between his knees, but the muscles under his pale skin were tense. He also smelled odd, like boiled eggs. Though Aaron hadn’t noticed it before, the stench was getting stronger.
“Anyway, that last one’s what I need. Meat. I’ve got plenty of other food in here.” He set his bag between his knees and dug inside. “Spam—ugh, like eating a block of salt. Sardines, anchovies, tomato sauce. No noodles though.” He placed the cans down next to the kid; he’d eaten half the Spam, and the sardines and anchovies were leaking oil. “But they’re not enough. So I did what The Chinaman said, I asked, and now I’m trying to receive. See, I made a deal: he’ll give me a few pounds of fresh meat. God, it’s been weeks since I’ve had any.”
Aaron watched the sun dip behind the other abandoned homes; night brought its own kind of trouble, and the coming rain wouldn’t help. He needed a little more time, but he’d have to wrap things up soon.
He leaned towards the kid and asked “Do you know what he wants in exchange for that fleshy ambrosia?”
Ever since the world had gone to hell, few things surprised Aaron anymore; life was a snuff film on repeat: one awful scene after another. But as the kid slowly lifted his head for the first time, Aaron had to fight the urge to flinch.
The “kid” had no eyes. Instead, his eye sockets were black tunnels that ran deep into his skull and ended in pinpricks of white light. Purple lips curled into a wide Cheshire Cat grin of crooked, yellow teeth.
The sympathy scale would need a few adjustments after this one.
“The tongue of a demon,” said the boy-thing. Aaron wasn’t an expert on children, but unless the kid had hit puberty remarkably early, his voice was way too deep.
Aaron cleared his throat. “You’re pretty clever. Close . . . close,” he replied. “See, it’s not an ordinary tongue; It’d make my job a lot easier if it was ‘cause I could just find any old demon and pluck it right out of his mouth. The world’s gone to shit, and your kind’s a swarm of hungry flies.”