Book cover of “Dawn of the Dead. Book 1“ by Taylor Brooks

Dawn of the Dead. Book 1

  • Genre: Romance
  • Status: Completed
  • Language: English
  • Author: Taylor Brooks
Dead bodies had started to show up one night, and then others followed. Jared heard that the son of the Mayor had died the week before. Ravaged by a monster of unknown origin. Now, Jared was attacked by the same creature: "Did you see the person who attacked you?" "It wasn't human," he blurted out eventually. "But it was too fast for an animal.... 

Chapter 1

Jared's body shuddered as the clock struck ten. The monotonous chime of the wall clock on the mantelpiece was heavy with foreboding. His hands shook as he dropped the video gamepad onto the game console. 

He didn't even know that the sun was long gone, and he had been absorbed in the endless game, not noticing the day whizz past him. He had only come to borrow his best friend's Advanced Placement Biology assignment to avoid the wrath of Ms. Evelyn the following morning. 

"Are you sure you have to go now? There's a spare bed in the basement," said Curtis, running his hands frantically through his hair. 

Cakes and sweets sat untouched by the fireplace, and the smell of smoke and wood calmed Jared for a minute as he tried to make sense of the situation he was in. His stomach growled at the sight of food, but he knew that he couldn't waste any more time. It was way past curfew, and the police would be swooping through the town, looking for intruders that threatened the peace of its residents. 

Riverrun County had always been quiet and peaceful, and it was well-known for being deeply rooted in art and culture. It was one of the things that drew Jared's parents there. 

While Jared himself had never really appreciated art, he loved the quiescence that came with living in Riverrun County. "A way to get away from the buzz of the city, a chance to calm your mind," Jared's father had told him when they had moved from their old residence. At night, Jared would sit on the balcony and watch the moon and stars, grateful for the life he had built in Riverrun County. 

But recently, there had been a stir, and a curfew had been imposed on the residents. The police were on every street, patrolling and swinging the lights from their luminous torches. 

Dead bodies had started to show up one night, and then others followed. Jared heard that the son of the McConaugheys had died the week before, and his body was found at the County Square, displayed for all to see. Ravaged by a monster of unknown origin. 

Jared felt his stomach fill with fear at the thought of leaving Curtis's house after curfew, but he had no choice. He didn't want to have any trouble with Ms. Evelyn. Jared could have done the assignment himself, but he had been distracted all through the week by the death toll that kept rising with each sunset.

"Are you even listening to me?" Curtis asked, breaking Jared out of his reverie. 

Jared straightened his glasses on his face, propping them properly behind his ear. If he was being honest with himself, he didn't want to leave the residence of his best friend. He could even get a good night's sleep on the couch and try to explain to Ms. Evelyn when he got to school, but he knew that he would have no excuse. 

His hands desperately craved to hold the video gamepad again, but he shoved down the feeling before he lost his nerve to leave. The assignment had been given to them the previous week, and he hadn't even touched it. He had come to collect Curtis's as a guide and planned to stay up all night doing his own. Probably with a cup of coffee at his desk to keep him awake. 

"Of course. But the issue is Ms. Evelyn," Jared replied, biting his fingernails. 

"I know she will understand when she knows the situation you are in. Trust me, I know her much more than you do."

Jared could have just told Curtis to help him write his assignment, but Ms. Evelyn didn't allow cheating even in the slightest. Also, he didn't bring his notes when he was coming, and he definitely hadn't planned on playing video games till late in the night. But he had picked up the videogame pad and sat down on the rug, playing over and over until his fingers went numb.

"I just have to go, Curtis. We'll meet in school tomorrow," Jared said and smiled, knowing that Curtis meant well. He picked up his cellphone from the table and chucked it in his pocket. His heart thudded in his chest as he walked toward the door. 

"Call me if you need anything. My dad's a police officer, Jared. He'll always want to help," Curtis called out as Jared turned his back to him.

"Bye," Curtis whispered and said a small prayer, hoping his friend would get home safe.

Jared just nodded and turned the doorknob, his hand shaking against the cold steel. His heart had started to race in his chest like a beating drum, the sounds reverberating through his bones and filling him with dread. 

"Steer clear of the woods," Curtis said, but Jared had closed the door behind him. 

The full moon hung in the inky black sky, a perfect circle as if cut out by a pair of giant scissors. The wind howled and whistled, and Jared could hear the blood roar in his ears. He had started to weigh his options, wondering if he could spend the night with Curtis and just go home the following morning. 

But his GPA was now less than perfect because of the previous tests he missed. And he couldn't afford to miss a chance to get his GPA back on track. 

Fear swelled in Jared's throat as he thought about his next move. Staying at Curtis's would mean that he wouldn't hand in his assignment the following morning, which would spell doom on his grade points. It would further reduce Jared's chances of going to a good college. Somewhere probably far away from Riverrun County. 

He loved Riverrun County, but he wanted to explore – see the world in a different light and go through new adventures. He wanted to do that with his best friend by his side, of course, to feel the thrill of leaving his home. 

The wooden balcony creaked as he set one foot in front of the other, moving toward his bike that was tied to the wrought-iron fence a few meters away from the house. The wind whistled through the tall trees, rustling their leaves and sending a scratching sound through the air. The sound was eerie, cutting through the silence like a knife. 

Jared savored the feel of the air on his skin, cool and sweet, heavy with the smell of apple blossoms. He jumped at the hoot of an owl, the chirping of insects further agitating his murky mind. In totality, he was terrified of whatever was out there, responsible for the murders that plagued his peaceful town. Once, he had tried to force his way to a murder scene, and he had dragged Curtis along. 

The scene had been so gruesome that bile forced its way up Jared's throat. Even Curtis cringed at sight, closing his eyes to the atrocity that had been committed to an innocent child, barely above twelve. His chest had been torn open, blood leaking from severed arteries and veins. 

The wound was large and gaping – ruined flesh at the site of the damage done to him and caked blood surrounding the boy's blue-tinged skin. Rigor mortis had crept into his tender muscles, his face squeezed in a mask of utter terror. The boy's eyes had rolled up in his head, his mouth in a silent scream. 

Large claw swipes had torn the boy's clothes, leaving them in shreds of fabric that hung in tatters around his frail body. There were claw marks that ran deep on his abdomen, and Jared could see a pair of broken ribs jutting out of the boy's sallow skin. 

Blood splattered on the ground, leaking from the gaping wounds in his neck and stomach, seeping into the earth that was already blackened with blood. The area had been cordoned off, the yellow bands partly blocking their vision. 

"Kids, you're not supposed to be here," Detective Sanchez, Curtis' father, said as he herded them away. His face was a mask of worry, strands of gray already appearing in his thick brown hair. 

Worry lines creased along his weathered face, and he managed to smile at them, even though they had violated the rules. Jared knew that the police had no clues about the murders except that the victims had the same features when they died – broken bones, gaping wounds, shredded pieces of clothing. 

The smell of blood clung to his skin and nostrils, and Jared had retched multiple times after that, emptying his stomach contents into the undergrowth. The boy's mangled body had seared itself into Jared's mind, tearing through his thoughts during the biology practice as he cut the toad in front of him open. 

That day, Curtis had resisted coming along, but Jared couldn't contain his curiosity. When they got to the scene, all curiosity had been replaced by a primal feeling that sank into every bone and nerve in his body.

"It must have been an animal," Jared's father, Zachariah, had said once at the dinner table when Jared had popped the question of the attacks that ravaged the town. But deep down, Jared knew that it couldn't have been an animal. If it had been, it must have been enormous, towering over trees. The smell of blood still hung around Jared, the fear weaving its way through his muscles. 

Jared shut out the image of the dead child in his head, trying to focus on quelling his fears at the moment. He couldn't ride his bicycle if he was shaking like a leaf in the wind. He was quite sure that the police knew of the terror that ravaged the town, but they were trying to avoid mass hysteria. 

Although tourists had been leaving the town in droves, the local people wanted to get to the root of the problem. Many people had died, and they wanted to punish whoever was responsible for their deaths.

Jared winced as the wooden balcony creaked again under his weight, muttering a silent prayer that he would get home safely. The night suddenly came alive as Jared stepped away from the balcony into the compound. Owls hooted in the large birch trees that surrounded the Sanchez residence. 

Cicadas hummed in the undergrowth, and one by one, stars twinkled into existence. He dug his feet into the gravel for a second, wishing for a moment that he had not lost track of time. 

The security lights suddenly came on, making Jared jump. His glasses threatened to fall off his face as he looked up to see Curtis's retreating figure at the window. His friend must probably know that he was scared senseless. Jared was grateful for the light as he made his way to the wrought-iron fence where he had tied his bicycle. 

Jared got to the fence in seconds, sprinting away from the balcony under the light that spilled from the large bulbs around the house. He took his bicycle from the small shrub of gardenias, properly checking the brakes. The light went off almost immediately he undid the chains that held his bicycle to the fence. He muttered a curse, knowing that his mother would scold him till the next day about staying out after curfew. 

But his grade points were at stake, and the chances of getting into a good college were getting slimmer with every assignment and test that he missed. He couldn't afford to let his grade points drop any further. Ms. Evelyn was breathing down his neck, and he couldn't allow his parents to be called to school because he didn't submit an assignment. 

He took one last look at the house before pushing the small gate open and cycled into the night, forcing down the feeling of dread that crept up his spine.

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