In other news, Jenny Undead is available for a limited time for 99 cents. Get it, read it, review it. I mean, if you want to. Of course you don't have to. But based on all the five star reviews on Amazon, how could you go wrong? (Blatant self-promotion. Wink, wink.) Seriously, though, I really love how this book came out, and I hope you all love it too.
Okay, on to the last thing. Another excerpt. This one shows some of the heart and the horror of Jenny's world, so I hope you like it. And I'll leave you here, as I am moving right now (yay!) and am knee-deep in accumulated junk.
The dreams. Fevered and hurried and frightening. Flashes of color and feelings and places and people Jenny had known shifted before her eyes like a deck of cards being shuffled. Her grandfather back in the day, cutting skin from her back for tests; her mother, sad and angry; Casey as a child, looking up at her with wide brown eyes. Declan. She had an empty feeling of loss, of looking and never finding. She was running, she was being chased, she was crying, she was running again, and then she was in the empty department store. The first place she and Declan had stayed. Jenny hadn't met his crew yet, and they had been alone for an entire week. She walked through the store, the pace of the dream changing.
Walking past upended clothes racks and piles of shoes, her steps echoed. She heard voices ahead and walked toward them. Laughing, happiness. She almost didn't recognize those sounds. There was movement in some piles of dresses. Jenny didn't know what she was seeing at first. But then she was right next to them. Right next to herself, with Declan, naked, making love. They kept stopping because they were laughing about something. Jenny stared at herself, at him. They didn't seem to know Jenny was there. She watched her own face, cheeks glowing as she looked into Declan's eyes.
“Let's stay this way forever,” she heard herself say. She remembered she'd been half joking when she said it all those years ago. But now she could see the intensity of her eyes, looking into his. And the intensity of his looking back. Jenny hadn't seen it before, back then. He reached up and touched the other Jenny's face; the past Jenny. And when he smiled, it was as if he was surrendering to her.
Jenny fell to her knees, staring at them. They froze, like a photograph trapped in time. And then she felt the grief wash over her. She would never see Declan this way again. She would never feel the way she'd felt on this day. She would be gone soon, replaced by a monster. And Jenny understood now that Declan would be gone too, just in a different way. When she left, whether she wanted to or not, Jenny was taking part of him with her. She screamed then, out of frustration and regret and, worst of all, helplessness.
It was the scream that startled her awake, and then she was screaming for real. Her insides were full of raw nerves, her flesh was on fire, and her head felt like someone had buried a hatchet in her skull. She was splitting open from the inside out. Jenny pulled at her skin to try to hold herself together but hands grabbed at her arms, holding her down. There were people in the room.
“Jenny, baby, calm down.”
“It hurts,” she sobbed. “Make it stop hurting.”
“Munro, give her some peace,” she heard another voice say. Lucy.
“You'll take care of him, won't you?” Jenny asked her. The question jarred Lucy and her mouth fell open. She stared at Jenny's face. “Say it,” Jenny said.
“I'll take care of him, Jenny,” she said. There was wetness in her eyes and she rubbed it away roughly and walked out of the room.
“You have to let her go,” said another voice. Beacon. “Come on, Munro. She's dying. You have to say goodbye. She'll just keep holding on if you don't.”
“And what if I don't?” said Declan. He was angry, glaring at Beacon.
“Look at her,” said Beacon, gentle. Soft. Jenny liked it much better when they were soft. Her head didn't split open when they didn't yell. “She's a tough girl, Munro, but no one's this tough. Let her rest.”
“I'm afraid,” said Declan. He was looking at her now. Jenny felt something warm and wet fall on her. Suddenly, she felt calm. Like a cloud had shifted inside. Her body didn't hurt as much, and she could think. Her eyes fell on Declan.
“Don't be afraid,” she said.
He shook his head and crouched down next to her. His hands went from holding her wrist to clasping her hand. “I can't do this, Jen,” he said. “I can't see you that way.”
“Then do it now,” she said. “Or let them do it. I don't want to be a monster. Please.”
Declan looked at the little table next to the bed. With some effort, Jenny followed his gaze. The gun was there.
“Munro...” said Beacon.
“No,” Declan said. “We don't kill the living. Not unless we have to.”
“Then let me do it,” Jenny said. “Put the gun in my hand. I know the spot. I can hit it if I'm careful.”
“She's too weak,” said Beacon. “She'll never be able to pull the trigger.”
Declan looked at Jenny. He rubbed his knuckles over his mouth, his eyes watering again. “I always thought we'd live forever,” he whispered. “I thought there would be more time.”
“There's never enough time,” she said.
There was screaming from the hall and Jenny heard Lucy yelling. Veronica was shouting, her booming voice carrying. “How the hell did they get in?”
Lucy came running in. “Munro, there are rotters in the house. A lot of them. We need you.”
Declan looked at Jenny, shaking his head. Beacon stood up and left without a word.
“Go,” she said. “I'll try to hold on until you get back.”
“Promise me,” he said.
He stood up and backed out of the room, grabbing for the ax propped in the corner as he left. Jenny heard the moans and barks and shrieks of old rotters, and the sickening thuds as her friends hacked them to pieces.
She reached for the gun.
Jenny's hands were shaking. It took several tries to flick off the safety. She was sweating and shivering and her hands kept slipping. It was an old-fashioned gun, one that needed to be cocked. Her thumb kept sliding off, weak and slippery, and she couldn't hold the pistol still.
There was a sound at the window and then outside exploded in. Jenny's first reaction was vague surprise that it was night. She hadn't realized, but the room was full of lamps and homemade candles. Like a religious shrine. Her second was a slow realization that the window had broken. A big rock rolled across the floor and hit the bed. And something was coming through the window.
She grabbed onto the trigger with her fingers and pulled it back with all her might. It tried to slip, but she held tighter, muscles and bones and nerves seeming to scream with the effort. Finally, she heard it click into place. She put the barrel under her chin and aimed carefully. If she didn't destroy the right part of her brain, there was no point. She hooked both thumbs on the trigger, gripping the handle tight between her hands. She braced it against her chin so it wouldn't shake as much.
“Don't,” someone said. Jenny looked up with her eyes. Casey. He looked better than he had before. He wasn't emaciated and his skin looked less pallid. There was a suppleness to him that confused her. “You don't look like a rotter,” she rasped. She felt as though a clawed hand was gripping her insides.
“I told you, we're not typical.”
Another person was climbing in the window. A pretty Asian girl with short, choppy hair. Her eyes had a transparent white sheen on them – the same sheen as Casey's, only hers was brighter, thicker. They reminded her of fish scales. The girl sneered at Jenny, her small teeth slightly gray.
“I don't want to come back,” Jenny said. “You're just a hallucination.”
Casey reached down and easily plucked the gun from her hands as Jenny let out a sob. “No,” she said. “I need to die. Declan never needs to see me like that.”
“He never will,” said Casey. He looked behind him at a man climbing through the window. A big, brawny man, like an athlete gone to seed. He had a crooked nose. His eyes weren't as white as the girl's, but more than Casey's.
“Jen,” said Casey. “You're going to hate me for this, but you're too important to die.” He looked at the man and nodded. The guy picked up Jenny's feet and Casey reached over and lifted her arms from behind. She screamed in pain. “I'm sorry, Jen. We're saving you.”
Jenny didn't have strength any longer. She felt her eyes flutter. If she fell asleep she could never fight back. But as she felt them handing her out the window, her body limp and growing increasingly numb, it didn't seem to matter. She felt herself being carried and being strapped into the seat of a car. Her car.
Daylight was coming, Jenny could see the light. She blinked. No, not daylight. The light was coming from inside her head. She let her eyes shut and watched the light grow brighter. She could feel everything leaving her. She didn't feel any pain, sadness, or grief. She felt nothing. Peace. And then she went away. Into the light. Jenny felt the life drain away from her body, and she let it happen. She didn't fight it. She didn't want to.
Like drifting away.
Red. For the longest time all Jenny could see was red. The sensations were far off, as though memories of a rage she had once felt. And hunger. Such hunger. She could feel herself moving through the red abyss, yet she seemed to have no control. A passenger. She was watching it all from far away, from a place where she could feel no pain. But in the distance, past this red place, she could hear herself screaming.
Occasionally she would swim almost to the surface. When she did, she felt cold and pain and a rawness that made her sink back down into the red, like a womb. Through the anger, deep under the anger, she felt fear. It wasn't far away like the other emotions, but very close; on top of her, smothering her. Over time, Jenny began to forget to be afraid. And then she forgot what the fear tasted like. She felt just the cold echoes of fury followed by the hunger.
Sometimes she recognized a voice, soothing, but she couldn't make out the words. She listened closely, as if she were underwater. The red was thinner now, easier to break through. She forced her way closer to the voice, out of the red.
A man's voice. Casey? Was that right? She knew him, but didn't know how. He smelled like something dead. She could feel things now. Not from far away, but inside. Her chest hurt, a deep, dull ache. She was dizzy and her eyes wouldn't focus. For a moment she thought she was still stuck in the red abyss, but as she adjusted and her vision returned to normal, Jenny saw that the red was splashed everywhere. Her skin was cold and wet and sticky and as she tried to back away from the red all over the floor, her foot slipped.
Jenny looked down and saw it was all over her. Blood. She could taste the tang of it still in her mouth.
“Oh my God,” she said, barely able to speak the words. Something was wrong with her. She touched her face and her cheeks and chin were slick. There were hairs stuck to the blood on her arms. “Oh my God,” she croaked again. “What is this?” She looked at the dead figure crouched in front of her.
“Try to stay calm,” Casey said. “It's okay.”
“It is not okay. It is far from fucking okay.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper. There was light streaming in through a hole in the ceiling, bright, warm light filling the room. Jenny could see objects glistening red in the sun. Her eyes widened as she realized they were bones. “Fuck,” she said. She looked at Casey and shook her head. “This is a dream. A bad dream.” The words came out as a hiss.
“No, it's real,” he said. “Jenny, look at me.”
She jumped at her name. She'd forgotten it. How could she forget her name? “This was me,” she said after a moment. “I did this.”
Jenny Undead is available for a limited time for only 99 cents on Amazon. Get yours now.