Death Sense Prequel - Doom Raven - Part 001

I'm writing prequels to my books at the moment, as a way to explore more of the worlds they are set in, and as a way to give people a taste of the action and adventure inside, or in the case of Death Sense, the zombie horror. Death Sense is set in the USA, at a time when the zombie apocalypse has half the world in its grip. This prequel, on the other hand, tells the story of the very first ever zombie bite, at least as far as this setting is concerned, and how the contagion spreads from there. It's a little like what was supposed to happen in Fear the Walking Dead, so, without further verbiage...

Doom Raven - Part 1

Travis was working in the kitchen, loading potatoes into the giant chrome barrel of the machine known as the rumbler. It was a brute of a machine, a little like a concrete mixer lined on the inside with blunt metal teeth that, when the thing was switched on, slowly turned and nibbled off the skins of any vegetable. The rumbler was set up on a stand by the kitchen door, a flimsy portal that had been propped open with a big can of cooking oil to let out some of the hot air within. Standing in the doorway, as the rumbler worked on the spuds, Travis had an excellent view of the guards at the front gate of the military base. The front gate was near the kitchen of the officer’s mess, and so Travis was quite familiar with what went on there, but it slowly dawned on him that what he was watching today was unusual. The main gates were being closed, and then padlocked.
"Hey, Chef," he called over his shoulder, "come and take a look at this."
The chef, a short but powerfully built man who was less than affectionately called Taffy, came to stand beside Travis. "What?" he asked.
"Look," Travis said, gesturing with a potato at the guards closing and padlocking the gates to the base. "Have you ever seen them doing that in the middle of the morning before?" 
"No," Taffy said. 
"What do you think is going on?" Travis asked.
"Well, it could be anything," the chef told him. "It’s probably nothing, but it makes you think. I mean, what kind of military base is this? Eh?"
"A research base," Travis said.
"Right," Taffy said. "So, obviously something has gone wrong with some of the research. Maybe a chemical spill, maybe. Why don’t we go take a look."
"Okay," Travis said. In his opinion time spent outside the kitchen was infinitely better than time spent inside.
"Davies," the chef yelled over his shoulder.
"Yes, Chef," came the instant, well drilled response.
"Trav's rumbled the spuds down to the size of marbles again. I'm going with him to pick up a couple of new bags. You're in charge till we get back. Don't burn anything, okay?"
"Yes, Chef," came the reply from within the hot, busy kitchen, but Taffy was already in motion, not bothering to wait for acknowledgment that his instructions had been heard.
"C'mon," he grunted over his shoulder, and Travis hurried to catch up.
Taffy was looking left and right as he crossed the base, walking swiftly from the small kitchen of the officer's mess, to the kitchen of the much larger mess, located across base, where the enlisted men ate, and where most of the food was stored.
"I don't like the look of this, do you?" Taffy asked.
"No, Chef," Travis replied. He had only been on base a couple of months but even he could see that something was going on. There were usually small groups of scientists wandering about, with their distinctive red clearance badges hung round their necks, but they were conspicuous by their absence. Conversely, the military personnel were never as thick on the ground as they were today. There were small groups of soldiers hurrying here, there, and everywhere. They both soon realized that many of the soldiers seemed to be walking in one certain direction, toward a low building at the back of the base.
"Laboratory K," Taffy said. "They're heading for K Lab."
"What happens inside Laboratory K?" Travis asked.
"No idea," Taffy said, following a group of soldiers at a discreet distance. In his white chef's outfit, complete with hat, Taffy wasn't exactly inconspicuous, and even Travis in the blue T-shirt and checked trousers of a kitchen porter stood out against the greens and browns of the base like a sore thumb, but the soldiers were too preoccupied on getting to Laboratory K to notice. The soldiers went directly to the entrance, which was sunk into the ground, and so they had to go down a short flight of steps before going in.
"If something has gone wrong in that lab," Travis said, "should we really be running toward it. It might be safer to stay in our kitchen, after all. I mean, It's on the other side of the base, well away from whatever is happening in there."
"Good point," Taffy said, his eyes gliding over the facade of K Lab, but he made no move in the direction of the officer's mess. They could see the whole structure from the spot they had found to hide, at the bottom of the steps leading to the entrance of a nearby storage building. They were well enough concealed that, once Taffy had taken off his chef's hat, there was a good chance nobody would notice them and they wouldn't get court-martialed, or whatever it was they did to private contractors who did the catering on army bases.
"Maybe we'd better go back," Travis prompted again, after they had been staring at K Lab for ten minutes, and he could see he was getting through to the crazy little chef. Taffy was about to agree, was tearing his gaze off the lab, and turning away.
"Nothing happening," Taffy said, with a shrug. "Maybe it was just a spill, or something."
"Yeah, just a spill, or something," Travis agreed.
"Maybe we should get back, after all," Taffy said, and just as the words were out of his mouth, they both heard it, a sharp crack, then another, and another.
"Sounds like they're banging something with a hammer," Travis said.
"That's gunfire," Taffy said, his eyes now trained back on the lab, all thought of going back to their kitchen and returning to business as usual instantly forgotten.
"Gunfire?" Travis said, "in a lab?"
"Definitely," Taffy said. "That means something very, very bad is happening, and we need to know what. So we’re staying here, okay?"
"Okay, Chef," Travis agreed, hunkering down further out of sight.
They watched, as long minutes ticked by, and were eventually rewarded, almost half an hour later, by the sight of a gurney being brought out of the building. It was lifted up the steps by two soldiers, one man and one woman, and wheeled it toward an ambulance that just then arrived and pulled up a few yards away. On the gurney was a body bag.
“Testing a new gun design, and somebody shot himself?” Taffy suggested. “What a way to go.”
“No, wait, he isn’t dead,” Travis said. “Look.”
“What are you talking about,” Taffy said. “If you’re in a body bag, you’re dead. And that’s that.”
But Taffy was wrong. The body bag wasn't lying still, as you would expect a body bag with a corpse inside to do, it was wriggling, more and more powerfully, until at last the gurney toppled to its side.
"I thought you shot him," the male soldier said.
“I did, I shot him,” the woman said, defensively. “You saw me shoot him.”
A doctor was emerging from the back of the ambulance, accompanied by a paramedic, and he couldn’t help but notice that the body bag was moving. He and the paramedic hurried over to the fallen gurney.
“Open that up,” the doctor yelled. “Can’t you see the person inside isn’t dead?”
“Okay, okay,” the female soldier said, bending at the knees and sinking to the ground beside the body bag. She grabbed the zipper and pulled it half way down.
It was difficult for Travis to see what happened next, because the body bag was now surrounded, with the two soldiers, the doctor, and the paramedic shielding it from his eyes. He couldn’t see what was going on, but he could hear it. He heard a scream, a female scream, so it had to be the doctor or the female soldier, he couldn’t see which.
“The bastard just bit me,” the voice yelled, as soon as the scream had faded away, which made Travis think it had to be the soldier. He couldn’t imagine a doctor using such language.
“What the hell is this?” Travis asked.
“It’s just the start, that’s what,” Taffy replied.

Continue reading with Part 2.

If you are enjoying reading about how the zombie apocalypse broke out, you may well enjoy reading some of the events from a later period, when the contagion has the world firmly in its grip. Read Death Sense:

The cities are first to fall, huge urban centers like San Francisco descending into chaos in just a few days, but this book takes place in the coastal redwood forests of northern California. As each of the last bastions of society crumble, the people of the area must more and more confront the possibility that they – and other small groups in the hinterlands around the globe – are the last humans in the world. Death Sense is a novel about the constant battle against the end of the world brought on a tide of zombies, but there is also space for human relationships. People who would never otherwise meet are forced together, and their feelings are felt intensely, sometimes hate and sometimes love.

The book is also available at Kobo and at Smashwords.