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The ZurViral Series (Paperback)

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The Z-Virus toppled the state in a week, the country in a month, and the world in a year. Now its undead aftermath wants to destroy Brock, but his new weapon may bring them to their knees.

Brock Skeller’s reputation precedes him. Everyone he encounters knows he’s a skilled leader, an expert zombie-herd killer, and a powerful telekinetic. But what they don’t know is he’s also battle weary. His mind and body aren’t what they used to be. All he wants now is to live a solitary life high on the mountaintop where he can avoid interaction with the walking corpses and steer clear of people.

But his safe haven soon becomes a scene of chaos when the cabin is overrun, and his secrets are exposed. He’s forced to seek refuge in Texas, but what he finds is the polar opposite of peaceful.

Now he’s caught between a rock and a dead place. Follow Brock’s harrowing adventure on his desperate race across Texas to save the other survivors by any means necessary.

Are his wit and telekinetic abilities enough to stop the undead in their tracks?

Paperback (4) 210 / 222 / 224
Dimensions 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
ISBN -
Publication date April 13, 2021
Publisher The Nightmare Engine

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Up the Hill

Bloodstained bucket in hand, Brock Skeller walked down a short flight of stairs from the wooden deck attached to the cabin, his heavy winter boots crunching the snow. He took the path to the shed at the edge of the property near the treeline.
Following the stones poking out from a fresh blanket of powder, his empty bucket clinked against the handle with each step. The winter chill bit at his neck and he shouldered his thick, fur-lined hood against it. His olive winter coat protected his body, and the attached hood had turned out to be his least favorite part of it.
"This is what I get for retiring," he grumbled to himself as he shoved the door to the storage shed open with a gloved hand and crossed the threshold to escape the wind.
The shed was small; not much bigger than a one-car garage, but it was sturdy and insulated. In the summertime, it smelled of pine and cut grass, but in the heart of winter, all he inhaled through his nostrils was frigid air. He pulled a leather glove off with his teeth, retrieved a box of matches from his pocket, and lit the oil lamp hanging on a nail near the door. Making sure the door was closed, Brock walked to the other side of the shed and pulled back a blue plastic tarp covering an immense deep freezer.
He placed the bloodstained bucket at his feet and dug around in the freezer, dropping one item absently into the bucket and tucking another beneath his arm, keeping in mind which was which and being mindful to keep them separate. Then he closed the freezer lid and covered it once more. Just before the weather changed and the sun melted the frost, he would empty the contents of the freezer into a wheelbarrow and dump the thawing tainted meat beyond his land at the bottom of the mountain, making sure it was well off the beaten path. For most of the cold months, the freezer was very useful.
Bucket in hand, now significantly heavier, he turned away from the freezer, snuffed out the oil lamp, and closed the shed door behind him. He started on the snow-worn path back to the cabin. He wasn't worried about unwelcome night visitors in the winter. The cold did a number on their joints and slowed their shambling to a laughable pace. The snow also told him when they were near, as their shuffling seemed to echo across the mountain in the silence of the winter nights. Without looking up, Brock trekked sixteen paces to the cabin steps, up two, and forward four to the sliding glass door. He reached for it and pulled it aside, stepping over a two-foot gap in the floorboards. Then he turned and reached awkwardly across the gap to close the door.
A dog whined softly as he entered.
"Quiet, now. I'd just as soon feed you to them," he snarled, tossing a frozen piece of meat from the bucket towards the mangy black and white mutt curled up on a gray rag near the dying embers in the stone fireplace.
The dog sniffed at the meat, stretching out to avoid standing up. It sniffed once before licking its chops and looking up at him.
"What? What do you think you used to eat in the wild?"
Guided by firelight, he brushed by the dog and moved around a small wooden coffee table out to the main hall. He stopped at a door that was barred by an inch thick bar mounted to two braces on either side. He removed the iron bar and leaned it on the wall off to the side, adding yet another scuff mark to the paint. Holding his breath, Brock swung the door open and descended the stairs to the basement, bucket in hand.
With each step down, the air seemed to thicken. It was warm and musky, like a greenhouse after a summer rain. But the air in the basement wasn't sweet with fresh plants and wet potting soil. It was tangy with a hint of iron. Though it was dark, he walked the twelve steps to the bottom not needing the light. He had descended many times before. Once his feet met dirt, he touched the brick wall, ran his hand upward to a small gap near the top center of the doorframe and emptied the bucket through the hole. The contents of the bucket thumped onto the dirt on the other side of the wall. The sound of shuffling approached the door.
Turning on his heels, Brock took the same twelve steps up and out of the basement and sucked in a deep chestful of fresh, mesquite-scented cabin air. With the musk of the basement still in his mouth, he returned to the living room to find the dog had not only finished what it had been given but had licked the floor clean and was nestled on the rag on the tattered loveseat in the corner. Sheepishly it looked up at him.
"Dead or not, dogs have never been allowed on the couch."
The dog curled its short black and white tail around itself and buried its nose under it, brown eyes peeking out of a white furry face. Brock sighed, placed the bucket near the sink in the kitchen, and returned to the living room. He kicked off his boots to the left of the gap in the floorboards and sat down next to the dog, sinking deep into the old couch and resting his head on the wall behind it.
"Tomorrow we'll head west. I think Williams has a well on his property," Brock said to himself and the dog as he allowed exhaustion to overtake him.
Brock woke with a knot in his neck and stiffness in his elbows. The fire had died during the night, and the meager space blanket and worn comforter he kept on the couch was not nearly enough to keep the cold from biting him. He looked across the room at the hearth and scolded himself for not preparing better, then felt for the dog with his feet. It wasn't there. He sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes, then grumbled as he scratched his eyelids with the thick, hard-knuckled gloves he was still wearing when he'd fallen asleep.
He scanned the room. It was still dark, and the moon crept in through a window above the stove and the small square on the glass door not covered with duct tape. He had yet to figure out if they were attracted more to sound or sight. No one had been able to figure it out since the Rising nearly a year ago. No matter: his way of doing things had kept him relatively safe in the mountains. The cold helped, but what he had learned during his time in the service had helped more.
The digital watch on his wrist beeped twice, signaling it was 2:00 a.m. Another habit that refused to die. He loved the watch. It was old and clunky and with thick rubber and sharp metal edges, it wasn't comfortable to wear. But the watch was reliable, charged in the sunlight, and was the only thing he had left from the service.
The United Militarized Front was always in short supply, and they had kept everything from his hat to his socks. He was, however, allowed to bring the watch with him into retirement, as they deemed it too outdated to keep.
Fuck them.
He looked around in the lowlight as he cuffed his winter pants to make room around his ankles for his high-top hiking boots. The dog wasn't in the living room, the kitchen, or the hall leading to the bedrooms.
"Dog?" he whispered. He hadn't given it a name. Most dogs didn't last very long. He listened for a moment before calling it again, this time a little louder.
A small whimper came from the stairs leading to the basement.
His eyes shot to the metal rod sitting on the floor in the hallway. He hadn't closed the door when he left.
"Fuck."
Brock hurried through the hall, stopping in the kitchen as it grew darker, and noticed something on the ground, barely illuminated. The bucket, now clean of blood, was on its side on the kitchen floor. He turned to the basement steps, pulled a rusty, orange-handled fishing knife from the plastic holder on his belt, and peeked around the doorframe.
"Dog?" he called into the dark. The smell of rusted metal and rotten meat crawled into his nostrils and he gagged.
Again, the dog whimpered.
Brock fiddled around in his pocket for a small battery-powered flashlight and clicked it on. He shined it down the stairs. His light illuminated the dog for a second before he turned to run.
It gave chase.
Its eyes were a deep mustard yellow. Thick snot of the same color dribbled from its nose and was sucked into its mouth as it growled. The dog's once-white fur around its mouth was caked red from licking the bucket, and black pustules were growing in its ears.
He scrambled for the living room door, snatching up his bag from the kitchen counter. He reached out to the glass door through his mind as he crossed the room. Brock Skeller was a powerful telekinetic. A TK; one of the best. Not because of how much or how long he could use it, but because he knew when to do so. This was a when moment.
The door pushed back, and he made the connection in his head. He strained against the weight of the wood and glass, then slid it open as he leapt the gap in the floorboards, cleared the deck, and jumped over the stairs into the yard.
He turned and connected with the door again. Heart pounding, icy air stinging his lungs, he pulled it shut with his consciousness. The door slammed hard. The dog, howling, collided with the door before falling through the gap in the floorboards with a yelp.
Brock dropped his bag in the snow and put his hands on his knees, trying to take in as much air as he could to slow his heart rate. He could feel his heart pounding against the inside of his ribcage and scattered thoughts ran through his head. He squeezed his eyes shut and memories flashed violently behind his eyelids. He needed to get control of his body before his ability tore him apart.
"The core principles a TK must follow revolve around survival itself," he said aloud, repeating his age-old teachings from his pre-retirement days. He often used the words to calm himself and quench the adrenaline coursing through his veins.
"Connect with the object. Understand the weight it carries. Then give it what it needs to move, and it will do so."
His breath came out of his mouth in plumes and he stared into the snow.
"Too much...exert yourself, sending a deadly amount of adrenaline to the Broker gland..."
Blood dripped from his nose into the snow.
"...Killing you instantly. Too little...wasted your energy."
He took in a deep chestful of air.
"You must know what it feels like to move the object with your hands before you can move it with your mind."
Brock's voice reverberated in his head, drowning out the throb of his pulse behind his ear. He had memorized the lectures and used them as a mantra when things got too hectic and normal chest-breathing wouldn’t cut it. In the UMF Kinetic Academy, his students--men and women with the Broker gland--learned his teachings to help control their ability. That way, the UMF could use them and they'd die slower. Discovery of the Broker gland, what they had named the tumor atop the brainstem, was a death sentence one way or another.
He stood up, eyes closed in the darkness, and nurtured a raging headache by massaging his temple. Brock looked down at the drops of bright red blood in the snow and kicked at them with the tip of his boot. Bringing his Vietnam era green rucksack around to the front, he pulled a black semi-automatic pistol from the hidden pocket near the back and shoved it in his waistline. He kept the weapon mainly for comfort. Whatever the situation, it was usually better to face it head-on than to fire a gun. The sound of a shot would surely bring the dead to herd, and a herd was bad for everyone and everything.
Brock shouldered his pack, pulled the straps down tight, and shifted it around until the frame was even across his back. Instead of heading toward the cabin, he turned to the left where the path forked. He entered the shed, lighting a kerosine grill on the floor for warmth. Using the tarp from the freezer as a pillow, he laid on his back on the wooden floor, staring at the beams above. The grill sputtered out. His teeth began to chatter and goosebumps raised on his arms.
"Fuck."


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