Picking up whereThe First Days ends, Fighting to Survive features the further zombie-killing, civilization-saving adventures of a pair of sexy, kick butt heroines and the men who love them. A hundred or so survivors of the zombie plague have found tenuous safety in the walled off center of a small Texas town. Now the hard work of survival begins--finding enough food; creating safe, weather-resistant shelter; establishing laws; and fighting off both the undead who want to eat them and the living bandits who want to rob and kill them.Fighting to Survive won the Dead Letter Award for Best Novel from Mail Order Zombie. The first book in the As the World Dies trilogy, The First Days also won the Dead Letter Award and was named one of the Best Zombie Books of the Decade by the Harrisburg Book Examiner. Tor Books began bringing this series to a wider audience with the Spring 2011 publication of The First Days. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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November 08, 2011
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Excerpt from Fighting to Survive by Rhiannon Frater
Fighting to Survive
Somewhere in Texas
Terror in the Darkness
The hallway was barely lit by the blue glow shimmering up the stairs from the TV in the living room. The light flickered along the walls and ceiling, providing just enough brightness to make out her path. Groggily, Jenni walked toward her youngest son's bedroom, near the top of the stairs. She shoved her long dark hair out of her face and glanced down the staircase. Through the railing, she could see her husband, Lloyd, in his usual seat in the living room, staring at the plasma-screen TV. She could clearly discern the black silhouette of his head against the brightly lit screen.
Warily, wanting to avoid alerting him to her presence, she hurried into Benji's room.
The Mickey Mouse night-light illuminated the room, revealing the form of her sleeping three-year-old in his racing car-shaped bed. His little hand was thrown over his dark blond curls, his lips parted as he softly snored. Smiling, Jenni knelt down and tucked his Winnie-the-Pooh blankets closer around his body. He was just recovering from a cold and she wanted to make sure he didn't get chilled. Her fingers gently caressed his soft, full cheek, then smoothed his curls back from his face. He looked like Lloyd, and every day, Jenni prayed that Benji did not have his father's violent temper or cruel streak. She wanted him to grow up to be a good,strong man who would love his family and protect them, not brutalize them and make them fear him.
A noise from downstairs startled her. She tensed, listening intently for the sounds of Lloyd's footsteps on the stairs, but heard only the distant hum of the TV.
Lloyd hated it when she "coddled" the boys. He grew annoyed when she checked on them at night and accused her of using that as an excuse to spy on his late-night habits. Frankly, she preferred it when he stayed downstairs, watching porn, calling his girlfriends, and leaving her to sleep alone in their bed.
"I want you not to be like him," she whispered to Benji as he slept. "Don't be like him."
She kissed Benji's forehead and breathed in his sweet baby smell. She loved him so.
Standing up, she looked at the remains of Benji's bedtime snack on the side table. There was one oatmeal cookie on the plate, but the milk glass was empty. Both the boys enjoyed a nighttime snack before bed. She didn't see the harm in it, even though Lloyd said she was spoiling them. To pacify her health-freak husband, she used all-natural ingredients in the cookies, and they were delicious. Feeling a little hungry, she grabbed up the cookie and started to nibble on it.
Don't grow up to be like him, she wished again.
He won't grow up, a voice echoed in her mind.
She frowned as she chewed. What a horrible thought. Where had it come from?
He doesn't live past tonight. You know that.
"No," Jenni whispered, pressing her hand to her forehead. "No."
Images flashed in her mind: bloody, chaotic, and terrible.
"No," she moaned. She closed her eyes, stuffed the rest of the cookie into her mouth, and chewed vigorously, hoping to banish the thoughts.
"What the hell are you doing?" Lloyd's sharp voice startled her.
Jenni looked at him, trying to swallow before he could see that she was eating outside the strictly regimented diet he had created for her, claiming that it would keep her thin and beautiful.
"What the hell are you eating?" Lloyd's dark form in the doorway terrified her.
"Nothing ... I--"
"What did you do to Benji? Oh, God, Jenni, what the hell is wrong with you?"
Jenni stared at her son. His tender belly was torn, and his intestines were strung across the bed. One of her hands clutched the glistening flesh tightly. Slowly, she raised her other hand to her mouth and felt that her lips were slick with blood.
"Jenni, what did you do?"
She began to scream ... .
She woke and sat up sharply, her heart thundering in her chest. In the dim light leaking in around the edges of the makeshift tent, she could see the sleeping form of Juan, her tall, sexy Mexican-American boyfriend. Laying her forehead against her drawn-up knees, she took deep breaths and tried to calm her wildly beating heart.
Juan's hand gently touched her back, then withdrew. Jenni was glad that he understood she didn't want to be touched or soothed when she woke from a nightmare. It often took her several minutes to gain full control of her senses and convince herself she was truly safe and far away from her dead family.
The blue tarp that made up their tent rippled gently in the night breeze. She held up her hands, inspecting them in the narrow beam of light that came into the tent through a tear in the tarp. Her hands were clean. There was no blood on them. Outside the tent, she could hear people softly talking, snoring, coughing, and sneezing, as they, too, dealt with the night terrors that came with sleeping and dreaming. The familiar noises were an anchor that she used to pull her mind free of her nightmares.
Pushing her damp hair out of her eyes, she took calming breath. She was slowly accepting that this was reality. Why did her mindkeep trying to convince her that she had not escaped the morning the dead took over?
That morning, it was Lloyd who had eaten Benji's tender flesh, Lloyd who had become one of the undead, who had destroyed their family and home forever. She barely escaped the house. Had it not been for Katie, Jenni probably would have joined the ranks of the zombie hordes. Katie had heard her screaming and driven up in that battered white truck to save her. Together they escaped into the Texas Hill Country, rescued Jenni's stepson from a state park, and found safety with a group of survivors holed up in a construction site in the town of Ashley Oaks. To her surprise, she had found love with one of the construction workers, and now, free from her dead husband's reign, she was strong and living her own life.
Taking a last deep breath that did not feel forced or ragged, she slowly relaxed. After letting herself fall back onto the cot, Jenni curled up on her side, facing away from Juan. Sleeping on twin cots that were bound together with bungee cords was uncomfortable, but she liked feeling him near her. In the gloom, he slid his arm around her waist and she smiled.
In silence, they lay side by side and waited for sleep to come again ... sleep that would hopefully be free of the past.