The Momentum Blog

Excerpt: A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Posted December 11, 2013 by Mark

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Q stalked, pressing down the outside of each foot before rolling onto the ball. She was quiet, but not silent. She hoped the background screech of birds would cover her.

She moved uphill toward the cabin, shivering in the chill shade. The sun had already slid past the peak of the mountain and breakfast seemed long ago.

Q slowed when she neared the cabin, then stopped behind a large trunk. There were sounds inside – the steady murmur of a single voice. Was the man talking to himself? Princess Starla had died horribly in the bush. This freak had been nearby. Every time Q saw him, he had a gun, and the last time she saw him, he’d pointed it at her. What if the only dangerous thing out here was the fat man?

She pictured the cabin’s configuration. There were two windows at the front and one door. Another window lay on the west wall and two on the east. She didn’t know about the rear. There might be another door. She would have to make sure he didn’t escape through an unseen exit and double around to surprise her. Q didn’t know if she was here to talk, raid supplies or fight, but she was ready for all three. She’d find out soon enough.

Left foot, right foot, left foot, pause. Drop below the line of the windows. Creep forward. Pause.

She was below the window at the front of the cabin now. The monologue continued but no longer sounded like a man talking to himself – it was a radio. That was good, because it meant he might not be insane, and she might get to listen to the news. It was also bad. If he wasn’t in there talking to himself, he might not be in there at all. He could be anywhere. Hiding in the trees. Lining her up in his sights right now.

The back of Q’s neck itched.

Ignoring it, she crept over to the door and tested the handle. It turned. She slid it open and slipped inside.

*

Q was so overwhelmed by the smell of stale cigarette smoke that at first she couldn’t pick out the details in the dark interior. When her eyes adjusted, she saw a table, a one-burner gas cooker on the floor, a mattress in one corner. A man sat on the only chair, a lit cigarette between two fingers. He wasn’t listening to his radio any more – all his attention was on Q.

It was the first time she had seen him unarmed. Good timing.

They regarded one another. Q registered more details in the room without breaking eye contact. There was almost nothing on the floor. The walls were covered with guns mounted in brackets, mostly bolt-action rifles, but also pistols and shotguns and three semi-automatics. She recognized a .22 target rifle and a .32 pump action, the kind she used sometimes on the range. His armory was better than the one they had at her club.

Ash fell from the man’s cigarette.

Q spoke. “What are you, some kind of American?” She gestured to the weapons on the walls.

The man laughed.

He’d need to take two steps to get to his nearest gun. Q could get to him faster than that. She relaxed a fraction, then saw something even more reassuring. On the table in front of him, beside the radio, was a book. Apocalypse Z.

Q sauntered over. “Thank God,” she said. “I thought you were some kind of weirdo.” She pointed to the radio. “Outbreak?” she said.

“Class Three,” he said.

“Q,” she said, extending her hand.

He shook it. “Dave.”

He stood and offered her the chair. She giggled at the chivalry, but stopped when she saw his expression. It didn’t look as if he entertained much. She thanked him and sat down.

They listened to the broadcast as the last of day’s light disappeared and the room filled with darkness. The reports said that people were bitten, then they stopped eating everything except raw meat. They slept a lot and were very thirsty, then didn’t drink or eat at all. Then they turned into flesh-eating monsters.

“How far has it spread?” Q said.

Dave grunted. “Dunno. Damn reporters. Useless.”

“Sydney?” Q asked.

He grunted in the affirmative.

“Canberra?” she said.

He grunted again. “The pollies turned. It’s bloody mayhem.”

“Who’d have thought Parliament was run by a bunch of brain-dead monsters?” Q guffawed, then stopped. A Class Three outbreak meant anyone in a built-up area was in trouble, and the situation would get worse. The people who tried to help—doctors, cops, leaders of any kind—would be the first to get bitten and turn. Every hour made friends into enemies. Her eyes prickled. Never mind her crew, they could look after themselves. But what were the chances for her dad? Could a tubby alcoholic who couldn’t waddle uphill escape the hordes? Would the kelpie do any better?

“Sorry about the hippy,” Dave said, misinterpreting her expression.

“Thanks,” said Q. “I thought you might have done it at first. But the bullet holes were clean. You shot her after she died.”

Dave nodded and recited a line as comforting as a nursery rhyme. “Two in the head …”

Q finished it for him. “… make sure it’s dead. You got the thing that attacked her?” she said.

“Yeah.” His face drew tight. “I shot it in the head. It wouldn’t fall. I kept shooting till it did.”

Q filed this disturbing news away for later reference. “Thanks for the firewood,” she said, steering him away from a memory that upset him. Apocalypse Z could only prepare you so much.

Dave shifted. “Might scare them off.”

Q swore and leaped to her feet. “I gotta get back. I left them at the campsite.”

“The hippies?” Dave asked.

“Yeah.”

“Alone?”

They ran.

 

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Excerpt – A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by JT Clay

Posted November 13, 2013 by Mark

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The following is an excerpt from A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by JT Clay, a novel about hippies, zombies, friendship and love.

“What are you making?” Q asked.

“It’s an altar to the spirit of the river,” Rabbit said. They had reached the stream and were dangling their feet into the snow-melt water. Q was throwing in sticks. Rabbit was piling up a cairn of smooth stones.

“Really?” she said, embarrassed on his behalf.

“I’m messing with you. It’s a pile of rocks. But it’s funny that people stack rocks when confronted by natural beauty. It might be a ritualistic act that honors nature, buried deep within the collective subconscious.”

“Uh-huh.”

“We vegans frighten you, don’t we?”

“No! Not at all!” said Q. “Okay, yeah, but you and Angela are cool.”

“Thanks. That’s the least awkward thing you’ve said all morning.”

“Thanks.”

Rabbit sniffed. “What’s that smell?”

“It’s my new fragrant spray,” Q said, glad she had made the effort this morning. “It’s called Ocean Flowers.”

“Like algae?”

“Oh,” said Q. “I guess.”

“Cool. I like algae.”

They dangled and they sat. Q, not used to being in the wilderness without a map icon to click on, tried to orient herself. They were a long way west of Sydney, high up in mountain country. The air was cool and rich and full of earthy scent. The ground poured into gullies and choked on shrubs. There were no power lines, no roads, no straight lines from anything man made. They were in someone else’s land.

The quiet of the morning was interrupted by Q’s regular slap! whack! at mosquitoes and ants. After a while, Rabbit intercepted her hand.

Her face burned and her belly flipped. He was holding her hand!

“They’re part of the bush,” he said. He let go of her hand and turned back to the stream. “Let them be.”

Q sighed. It was nothing after all. “Things are biting me,” she said. “Anything less than extreme self-defense would be weird.”

Rabbit grinned and steered away an inch ant with a stick. “She’s all right,” he said. “You have to be— ow!” He sucked his finger and breathed through his nose. Q giggled.

A movement on the bank downstream caught Q’s eye. She couldn’t make sense of the image at first. Something large and brown lurked in the trees, hunched over the edge of the water. Was it drinking?

No. Not drinking. Another color poured from the creature into the stream. Red. The brown shape was the heart of an expanding pool of red.

Q tapped Rabbit on the shoulder, put a finger to her lips and pointed at the shape. He didn’t see it at first.

“What’s there?” he said. Q waited for the image to make sense, then decided she preferred the abstract version.

“It’s creepy old caretaker guy,” she said. “He’s washing something in the river. Something bloody.”

The man stood up and disappeared into the bush. Q waited until he had gone, then walked downstream to the spot where he had been. There were footprints and blood on the river stones, but the creek itself had washed clean. She didn’t like that man. He reminded her of Chapter Seventeen, The Survivor Type and how to avoid being eaten by one. She returned to Rabbit and scribbled in her little black book.

“Are you writing about our walk in your diary?” Rabbit asked.

“No— yes— sort of.” She put the notebook away.

“What do you write about? Your fears and doubts?” Rabbit asked.

“Sometimes. Like, have you ever noticed that the things that scare us the most aren’t just monsters, but monsters that can turn us into one of them?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Rabbit said.

Q grinned. He understood! “Vampires and werewolves and zombies,” she said.

“Lawyers,” Rabbit said, shaking his head. “I’m surrounded by them every day. All I want to do is sing folk and make the world a better place and I’m terrified that one day, I’ll forget all that and start overbilling on my time sheet.” He looked so sad.

“Cheer up,” Q said. “I reckon that fear is more common than you think.”

“Kate does not agree,” Rabbit said. “She says I’m wasting my life. She thinks I’m a failure.”

“You? Nah. Anyway, how do you measure success? Your first job? Your first house? Your first stalker?”

“I don’t need to be the best at anything,” Rabbit said. “I just want to be a better person.”

“Me too,” Q said. “I just want to be a person.”

Rabbit’s fingers drifted to a piece of cord at his throat and he pulled out another wooden snake pendant, almost identical to Pious Kate’s, except that this one had glinting green eyes instead of red.

He’d made them matching necklaces.

“That’s pretty,” she said, kicking water and thinking corrosive thoughts.

Rabbit dropped the snake as if it had bitten him. Maybe he was thinking corrosive thoughts, too.

“Kate came up with the design,” he said, glum. “She gets upset if I don’t wear it.”

“What’s the deal with you two?” Q asked in a careful tone, in case she got an answer she didn’t like.

Rabbit watched the moss-covered rocks beneath the surface of the water. “We’ve been best friends since kindergarten,” he said.

“My best friend’s in kindergarten, too,” Q said.

“We were thrown together. The only two vegans at school.”

“Oh!” said Q, with sudden understanding and relief. “You were the little Cantonese kids!”

“What?” Rabbit’s face crinkled into that expression so familiar to Q because it was what people wore when they were trying to interpret her.

“The two kids who didn’t fit in. You smelled weird. You had weird food. Your parents were weird. Everyone picked on you.”

“Thanks for bringing it all back,” Rabbit said.

“But it’s okay now,” Q said. “No one cares any more. We’ve grown up.” Q thought of her online crew. They would never have found each other as children, but as adults they stood together against the darkness, with Jeremiah BownZ off to one side and downwind – acceptance had its limits.

Should she venture a hand onto his shoulder? Or just throw herself on top of him and pin him to the ground for a kiss? It was a flawless plan, unless he knew Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She was about to make her move when he spoke up.

“We should head back,” he said. He put on his sneakers. “You need to soak the lentils.”

“Huh?”

“You’re rostered on to cook tonight.”

Q guffawed. Rabbit did not join her. “No, seriously?” Q said.

“Sure,” said Rabbit. “We take turns.”

What would these hippies expect? Would she have to do it alone? Would Angela help? “Me and my dad don’t do much fancy cooking at home.”

“Make a dish you’ve made before,” Rabbit said. “What do you usually eat?”

“Takeaways. Microwave dinners. Sometimes Dad makes dyslexia stew, where he accidentally replaces every ingredient in the recipe with the wrong one, then adds bacon. It was good once.”

“Ah.”

She could tell by his tone that she had lost face. What had she said? She dropped her head and concentrated on tying her shoelaces, which were much more difficult to fasten than they had been for the past eighteen years. “It’s not like I don’t know how to cook. Sometimes I grill up a couple of ginormous steaks, two huge piles of beef, and we smother them in barbecue sauce on the grill and cook them rare so they’re all gooey and bleeding inside…” She stopped talking. Rabbit was pale. He looked like he was about retch. She took a step back. “I mean—”

There was a brain-shattering scream from the direction of the camp, followed by four clear gunshots. After a pause there were several more shots in quick succession.

“Thank God,” said Q. She ran toward the sounds.

 

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Cover reveal: A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by JT Clay

Posted October 24, 2013 by Mark

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It’s the old story. Girl meets boy. Girl loses boy. Zombies attack.

Q, a trainee kindergarten teacher and martial arts expert, wants to woo beautiful vegan, Rabbit, but doesn’t know how. Her luck turns during the zombie outbreak. She teaches Rabbit and his hippie friends how to make war, not love, and does her best to save him from the living dead.

But can she defeat evil ex-girlfriend, Pious Kate? And can love survive the end of the world?

Zombies. Not just another eating disorder. 

A Single Girl’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the debut novel from JT Clay and won the 2010 Olvar Wood Fellowship Award.

Available November 1 where all good ebooks are sold

 

 

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