(Hell in a Handbag, #3)
Publication date: April 13th 2022
Genres: New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Zombies
Even the most solid foundation can be shaken.
No place is safe anymore, and I’m on the run from something new.
The putrid stink of zombies has been replaced by sulfur, feces, and wet dog. The High Point Inn has been abandoned, the landscape plagued by the unimaginable, animal-hybrids. Wolves and bears rise from the grave or maybe they never died. Sure, the hordes of undead humans are diminishing, but whatever lies in wait is faster, smarter, and spurned by the devil himself.
With Caleb, Lilly, and Eric at my side, I search for friends and suFictiorvivors. But the new evil has arrived.
I can’t run quick enough.
The wolves are here, and they’re hungry, not to mention cunning and cruel. Endless rains force my group underground and into a cave system. Lost in the interminable, pitch-black subterranean tunnels, I struggle to keep my sanity and my life. There’s only one place in the world that makes sense anymore, and that’s where my friends are.
If I can survive the dark and the zombie wolves, Hopewell, Maine, here I come.
Her eyes found the offending window, and the Streaker who launched through it. What had once been a squat man in a flannel shirt and jeans had turned into a distended corpse in blood-crusted rags, its bloated stomach exposed for all. The Streaker wore a wrinkled face with the consistency of a peach left too long in the sun. One arm hung limp, fingers gnawed away.
Did something do that to the Streaker, or did it eat away at its own flesh?
The monster staggered to the curb and stopped, pointing its chin to the sky, and taking in a breath through black, decayed nostrils. Its next meal had arrived, served up and ready to be consumed. Patches of skin had been torn away, exposing the rot that lived underneath. With a mewl, it lumbered at Jenna. The Streaker’s stare met her with singular intent. Eyes dead and unblinking, it closed the distance between them. She equaled food, and the risen dead was hungry.
In a practiced motion, Jenna released her bowie knife from the sheath on her belt. The monster stumbled over a garbage can in its path. Moving close, it reached out.
“What’s that smell?” Jenna ducked and swung low and hard. “Step back, foul one. God, you reek. Haven’t bathed in forever I’d guess. Personal hygiene not a priority these days?”
The Streaker growled in response and stretched a mottled, pus-clotted arm to grab her camo jacket.
“They’re slower than they used to be, Jenna, but don’t get too smug. The bite might not kill you, but the infection can.” Lilly tilted her head. “Need help?”
Eric moved closer, a similar knife in his hand. “Don’t worry. I got you covered.”
Jenna kicked at the creature. “Eric and I can handle this.”
The Streaker staggered back, but then surged forward again. “I’ll keep watch.” Lilly surveyed their surroundings. “Where there’s one, more to come.”
“Did you just make that up?” Eric asked.
“I like to rhyme,” Lilly said. “Appears clear.”
“One of your many talents.” Eric sent a smile her way and turned back to face the enemy.
“Come here, big boy.” Jenna took a step back into the center of the road where less debris meant less to trip over.
“Me or the monster?” Eric joked.
The Streaker trailed Jenna, the remains of its ragged flannel shirt fluttering open. Guts leaked out of its sliced chest cavity and slipped out of the tattered remains of clothing.
Jenna gagged. “There’s something no girl ever wants to see. Put it away and be a gentleman.”
“The gentlemanly thing to do would be to find dinner somewhere else.” Eric moved behind the creature. The undead mewled.
“That’s all you got for me?” She stepped back, hoisted the bowie blade, and slashed. The knife embedded itself between the creature’s eyes. She sliced higher. The blade released with a pucker. She stepped back. The zombie closed in. “Guess I missed my mark.” Jenna dodged the lumbering monster.
Eric’s knife slashed the Streaker’s back with a repeated, steady swing. Strips of skin and black goo melted to the ground.
Jenna sliced across the creature’s neck, stabbed, and drew her knife away, hearing the suck of release. She skidded back. “Why won’t it die?” Jenna eyed the creature for a weakness.
“Maybe you have bad aim.” Eric carved out new wounds, but the monster stretched its arm making it impossible to get close.
“Could be that it’s already dead.” Jenna frowned. “I have great aim and practice a lot more than you to make sure I never lose it.”
“I’m younger and more fit.”
“We’ll see about that.” Jenna moved behind the writhing creature. She hoped to catch it unaware, but the monster spun, its lifeless eyes meeting hers. Jenna jumped back and huffed out a breath. “So much for the element of surprise.” She’d better practice those battle skills a few more hours a day.
“What’s the plan?” Eric sidestepped to refocus the Streaker’s attention on him. “More firepower? Bring out the big guns?”
“Don’t want to attract more.”
Eric scooted close and then backed away. “I’ll draw its attention. You finish it from the rear.”
“Sounds like a firm plan.”
“Not in this case.”
Jenna eyed the undead. “True. Very saggy from this view.”
“Get on with it, you two.” Lilly waved a hand at them. “I don’t want to hang around here any longer than I have to.”
Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and adjunct faculty at a local community college. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, two dogs, and horse. When not writing, she mountain bikes, hikes, and fosters dogs.