Archer Garrett is back with another compelling tale to ensnare the minds of horror fanatics worldwide. The Blighted, is a vicious novella that sees all Hell break loose when a deadly virus begins spreading across the globe, wreaking immeasurable havoc.
The book is available now (you can get your hands on a copy right here), but if you’d like to sample this before hand, fret not. You ca read the first six chapters now, for free!
Get a look at the Prologue below, before heading over to Archer’s site to catch the initial six chapters.
Before you jump in, check out a quick synopsis of the book: “A horrific virus has spread across the globe, transforming the infected into ravenous, flesh-eating creatures. Humanity hangs by a thread as those who remain struggle to survive in the new world.
the Blighted follows several story lines, including:
A research team in Suva, Fiji, forced to flee the island after their research facility is overrun. With them, they may hold the key to saving what is left of civilization.
A husband and wife in coastal Mississippi is forced to flee their enclave and search for a missing loved one. Along the way, they discover there are things much more evil in the world, than the hordes of infected.“
World Health Organization (WHO), South Pacific Region
The exhausted soldiers leaned against the parapet walls of the flat roof and scanned the surrounding city with their binoculars. An occasional walker was noted below as it randomly shuffled about, but so far, there were no signs of a real threat. Hopefully it would be a quiet day; they certainly needed the rest.
In the lobby of the building, five floors below, a group of nearly a dozen men with spears and machetes waited for an update from the watchmen high above. They had abandoned the use of firearms in all but the most dire of circumstances. The rifles’ loud reports only served to attract more of the undead, and their supply of ammunition was running precariously low.
In the center of the roof was a sprawling array of solar panels. A confusion of wires led from the panels to a battery bank on the fifth floor, just below. The rain over the past several days had been both a blessing and a curse; it had refilled their cistern, but nearly drained their power reserves. Hopefully the next few days would be sunny; a day without power was a day without research, and therefore, another day without hope.
Liam, The commanding officer on the roof, sighed deeply as he surveyed the city below. The view inspired a sense of utter despair. The nearby streets of Suva Old Town were once filled with tourists as they explored the numerous shops and dined in the sidewalk cafes. The colonial architecture was a mocking reminder of times that were no more. Now, they were hauntingly barren, except for the occasional, shuffling corpse, and the endless parade of wind-blown trash. The officer turned and scanned the jagged, northwest horizon wrought by the island’s mountainous interior. There had been no word from the survivors on the opposite side in Nadi or Lautoka for nearly two weeks; he wondered if he and his companions were the last of the living on Viti Levu.
He cursed aloud as the cries echoed through the surrounding area. Apparently not.
He watched as two distraught men fled along Renwick Road, in their direction.
“Sir! Should we take them out?”
“No!” Liam replied, “Last time a shot was fired, we were nearly overrun. Radio the lobby; have the men go out to them and shut them up, before they get us all killed.”
Noah retrieved his radio and radioed the men below.
“Come in Ratu.”
“Send some of your men out to get those two, before they wake the entire city.”
* * *
Ratu and the others dashed out of the building’s main entrance towards the pair of terrified men. The machetes and spears bobbed rhythmically with the men’s strides as they gripped the weapons tightly. Ratu was filled with dread at the thought of what the men were fleeing. If they had managed to survive this long, the pair was obviously capable of defending themselves.
As Ratu and the others reached the men, the dread that was within him turned to rage. Ratu’s machete clattered on the pavement as he put his full weight into the swing. The man’s knees buckled as Ratu’s massive fist violently connected with his jaw. The second man lost the last remaining vestiges of his composure as he watched his companion collapse on the filthy street.
Ratu leaned in so that he was inches from the face of the refugee that was still standing. His hot, rancid breath swirled about the man’s nostrils as he growled menacingly, “Are you insane? You’ll wake the dead!”
The refugee closed his eyes and dropped to one knee as he began to shake and weep uncontrollably. The wounded man cradled his jaw as he sat up and draped an arm over his friend’s shoulder.
“How many are after you?”
The men ignored Ratu as they curled around the soldier’s feet like scolded dogs. They were broken men, exhausted from endless terror and sleepless nights.
“How many are after you?”
The wounded man looked up with bloodshot eyes and tears streaming down his face as he continued to rub his jaw.
“We’re all dead; all dead.”
Ratu’s radio crackled to life with the panicked voice of Noah, “All of you get back here, now! Barricade the doors; get the guns!”
As Ratu and the others looked up, an endless wave of undead appeared from around the street corner. As terrifying as the sight of the horde of corpses was, the sound was even worse; an endless drone of groans and gurgles shattered the silence of the cloudless, midsummer’s day. Ratu crouched low to retrieve his machete, before jerking the men to their feet. The faces of the soldiers were pale with horror as they turned and fled to their refuge.
* * *
Dr. Rawlings’ assistant, Emma, finished transcribing the notes from the previous day’s observation and uploaded them to RISA. The information on RISA could be accessed by hundreds of collaborating doctors and researchers from around the globe as they frantically searched for a cure. In another life, his assistant would have never performed such a lowly task, but times were different now; everyone had to pull together.
Communication between the researchers had begun to devolve as they became increasingly isolated. The last conference call had been several days ago, and some of the more reclusive members of the team had begun communicating solely through RISA. Emma could understand the eccentricities that were arising from the despair. Without a cure in sight, the research was becoming increasingly maddening; all the while the world continued to descend into a darkness that had been truly unimaginable just weeks ago.
“Emma, are you finished?”
“Good; ready for today’s observations?”
Emma nodded and followed the doctor up the stairs to the fifth floor lab. As they walked the long hall to the lab entrance, the shrieks and wails of the test subjects filled the air. The pitiful sounds of the subjects filled Emma with sadness, but there was no other way.
The walls of the room were lined with cages of all sizes. A menagerie of indigenous animals populated the enclosures; some were miserable, terrified creatures, while others were milky-eyed, rabid aberrations.
Dr. Rawlings crossed the room with a dispassionate sense of duty. Emma followed closely behind the doctor, careful not to stray too close to any of the subjects.
“Shall we begin?”
Emma retrieved her notepad and nodded in affirmation.
“Let’s see; Suva Eighty Five. Brachylophus fasciata; Banded Iguana. Thirty six hours after inoculation.”
The doctor prodded the limp body with a slender, steel rod for several moments, before finally announcing, “Status, deceased.”
The doctor waited while Emma dutifully recorded his dictations. When she finished, she looked up and he began anew.
“Suva Eighty Six. Notopteris macdonaldi; Long-tailed fruit bat. Forty eight hours after inoculation.” As he identified the test subject, the snarling creature flung itself against the bars of the cage and began to gurgle and snap at the doctor. He continued, “Status, infected.”
Before Emma could finish scratching her shorthand notes, a red light began to blink above the door as an alarm sounded. Her notes became illegible and her hand began to quiver. The sounds of the room seemed to fade away until only the deep tones of the alarm could be heard.
Dr. Rawlings gently placed a hand on her shoulder and spoke reassuringly, “Emma, it’s alright, we’re just going into a heightened alert. It’s happened a several times before, and nothing ever happens, does it?”
“Ratu and the others will keep us safe.”
She exhaled deeply as she struggled to regain her composure, before finally forcing a meager smile.
Dr. Ito brushed several stray hairs out of her eyes and smiled back confidently; he then turned and continued with the observations.
“Suva Eighty Seven. Sus scrofa; Common wild boar. Forty eight hours after inoculation. Status, infected.”
As Emma finished the notes and they moved to the next subject, Dr. Rawlings began as usual, but then paused for several moments as he carefully observed the next creature.
“Is this Suva Eighty Eight?”
Emma checked her notes carefully before replying, “It is.”
“You’re positive this is Eighty Eight?”
“I mean, I could recheck my notes,” she paused as she shuffled several pages. “I’m positive this is Eighty Eight.”
The doctor prodded the animal with the instrument, but it only whimpered and shrunk into the corner of the cage. His voice was jubilant as he continued his dictation at a frantic pace, “Suva Subject Eighty Eight shows no signs of aggression seventy two hours after inoculation. No other subject has exceeded the forty eight hour window! Emma! This could be the one!”
As the two cheered and embraced, a second, more urgent alarm began to sound. The color drained from the doctor’s face as the siren continued.
“What is it? What does that mean?”
The shrill ring of a telephone called out from a small table in the far corner. The doctor raced across the lab and snatched the hand piece from the base.
“What’s going on?” the doctor demanded.
Emma watched as Dr. Rawlings began to visibly tremble.
“What floor? Oh God, Oh God! No!”
He let the phone drop from his hand and crash to the floor as he turned to Emma.
“I have to get to RISA; we have to let the others know about Eighty Eight!”
“What’s going on?”
“We’ve been compromised; they’ve made it to the second floor. There’s no time, I have to go!”
The doctor opened the top drawer of the table and retrieved a pistol. Emma followed him out into the hall as he dashed towards the stairwell. Before he disappeared below, he called out to her, “Lock the door behind me! Don’t let anyone in until the alarm is over!”
“No! Please don’t go!”
The doctor ignored her pleas as he rushed down the stairs. Emma walked the long hall to secure the stairwell door behind him. As the deadbolt clicked into place, she covered her face with her hands, slid down the wall to the floor, and began to weep.
* * *
After what seemed like an eternity, the alarm finally ceased its assault on her ears. Emma cradled a heavy pump-action shotgun and waited anxiously for the doctor to emerge safely from below. The sudden silence that settled over the hall was unnerving to her senses after the pandemonium of the past hour. A single, loud rap on the door startled her as it echoed off the narrow walls; she gripped the Mossberg tightly and slowly approached the door.
As she reached the end of the hall, a second knock rang out, and then another, and another – until an endless clamor erupted; a symphony of snarls and moans swelled to a feverish pitch. She stumbled backwards and shouldered the heavy shotgun against her slender frame, struggling to hold it in place. The door soon began to groan and buckle under the stress of the relentless assault.
The door frame slowly began to crack and splinter, until suddenly the deadbolt smashed through the wood. The door swung wide and slammed violently against the wall, revealing the decaying horrors just beyond. The creatures that had been immediately against the door collapsed in a heap on the floor, their bones having been effectively shattered by the others. The parade of undead behind them ignored their groans as they trampled over the fallen and poured into the research wing of the fifth floor.
Emma stumbled backwards from the harsh recoil as she fired the shotgun. The wad of lead tore through tattered flesh and bone, but still they ambled forward.
Fifteen yards away.
She firmly planted her left foot, leaned forward and aimed higher as she squeezed the trigger again, sending several of the walkers on the front line tumbling to the ground. She quickly racked the slide and fired again, constructing an undead rampart with their fallen bodies, but the others simply clambered over the still-writhing heap.
Thirteen yards away.
She fired a quick volley of three shots and watched as a half dozen of the walkers’ heads exploded in a disgusting display of black gore. The sickening stench of rot and decay caused her to turn and retch on the floor beside her.
Eleven yards away.
As the trigger clicked against an empty chamber, Emma panicked momentarily. She fumbled with the shotgun’s side saddle and dropped the first two shells on the floor. Finally, her shaking hand clutched a shell and pushed it into the empty magazine. She racked the slide and sent several more of the walker’s tumbling to the ground, before clutching another shell and repeating the cycle. After three salvos, she hurled the spent weapon at the horde and retrieved the Walther that had been waiting impatiently in the small of her back.
Eight yards away.
As she shoved the pistol toward her targets, she took a moment to survey the scene that was unfolding in front of her. She forced herself out of the adrenaline-induced tunnel vision and noticed that the no more walkers were emerging from the stairwell. She reasoned there were at least forty corpses lumbering down the hall, just yards away. She exhaled deeply before squeezing the trigger. Eighteen rounds.
Round after round from the Walther slammed flawlessly against the rotting foreheads. The disgusting, milky eyes of the undead froze in position as their heads lurched backwards from the sudden impact of the hollow-point bullets. The backs of their skulls sprayed gruesomely on the faces of their companions behind them, as the expanded bullets exploded outwards.
Five yards away.
Emma executed her futile assault with deft precision, downing one line of undead in a single, fluid motion, before beginning anew. Upon emptying the magazine into the swarm, she shrieked as she stumbled backwards and collided painfully against the unyielding floor. She shielded her face as she tearfully accepted her fate.
The lead walker’s face was gruesomely distorted; its nose was smashed flat and its ears had been torn from the side of its head. Its teeth clacked loudly as it outstretched its arms. Emma retched again from the evil-dead stench.
An explosion of gunfire filled the narrow hall as the stairwell door leading to the roof burst open. As the horde instinctively turned to the source of the sound, a wall of lead cut them down where they stood. Emma stared in shock as the ventilated corpses fell all around her.
Liam and the others cautiously advanced along the hall towards her, occasionally stopping to fire a single round into a writhing walker. As he reached her, he offered his hand and helped her to her feet.
“Were you bitten?”
He turned to the other men and said, “Noah, you and the others check the next floor for survivors.”
Noah nodded and carefully stepped over the rotting heaps as he and the others made their way down the hall. Emma and Liam watched as they disappeared into the uncertainty that waited below, before he turned to her and said, “Is there anyone else here?”
She tried to speak, but the words refused her; he placed his hand on her shoulder and whispered, “Noah will do what he can; if the doctor is down there, they’ll bring him back.”
Liam nodded and hugged her gently before adding, “If we can’t retake the building, we’ll need to evacuate. You should probably go and gather anything you’d like to take with you.”
“Where will we go?”
“I don’t know; we’ve lost contact with all other survivors on the island. The populated areas of Oceania have been hit particularly fierce – Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia; we have very little contact with anyone even relatively close to us. If it was up to me we’d go east, find an island that hasn’t been plagued by the virus and let the rest of the world fend for itself. Maybe somewhere like the Line Islands.”
“We can’t do that, Liam.”
“We have a test subject that hasn’t turned after three days of being inoculated with the virus; he may hold the key to a vaccine. We need to get him to a facility that can perform further tests.”
Liam stood in shocked silence as he processed her words. Finally he replied, “Where do we go?”
“We have several colleagues in the U.S.; if we could make it there, maybe they could help.”
As the two talked, a flurry of gunfire erupted somewhere below.
“Emma, go! Get your things; we have to leave now!”
Emma raced down the hall and disappeared for several moments, before emerging with a backpack and a small cage. As she reached Liam, Noah and the others appeared from the stairwell. The last soldier turned and tossed a grenade down the stairs from where they had just fled; it bounced down several steps and landed at the feet of a lumbering corpse. It contorted its head curiously as it observed the device.
A deafening explosion rocked the wing as a thick plume of dust and smoke billowed up from the stairway. Emma and Liam raced to the roof as Noah and the others fired indiscriminately into the smoke-filled stairwell leading below.
As the door slammed behind them on the roof, they could hear the drones of the undead intensify as they made their way up the stairs. Arms could be heard flailing against the door as Liam and the others ran to the opposite side of the rooftop.
Emma was struck with vertigo as she stared down at the street below and then at the makeshift, wooden bridge that connected the rooftops. Noah and the other soldiers quickly crossed the short gap as Liam whispered reassuringly, “Emma, you can do this; I’ll be right behind you. Look straight ahead and walk to Noah.”
She exhaled deeply and shakily climbed over the parapet wall and onto the scavenged catwalk. As she stood at the precipice, trying to urge herself forward, the door burst open and a dozen walkers stumbled onto the roof. They searched their surroundings momentarily, before locating the group.
“Get down and crawl if you have to!”
Emma did as he ordered and began to nudge the cage forward and crawl behind it. Noah praised her progress, while Liam turned and began to execute head shots with his half-empty mag. Despite his efforts, the mob only grew larger as the walkers continued to flood the roof. As the winds shifted, the putrid essence of the corpses overwhelmed them.
As she reached the other side, Noah took the cage while the other men pulled her to safety.
“Liam, come on!”
Liam slammed the butt of his rifle against the nearest creature as it snarled menacingly at him, before he turned and leapt up onto the walkway. A mangled hand grabbed his heel as he started to cross the bridge. Liam jerked his leg with such a force that it ripped the walker’s arm from its socket; he was grateful that the corpse was not any fresher as he dragged the still-clenched arm with him to the other side.
As he jumped down onto the opposite roof, the soldiers pushed the bridge to the side and sent it tumbling to the ground far below.
“Where to now?” Noah asked.
“To the port; we’re leaving the island.”
Oh, and yes, we’ll be bringing you a full review soon!