Dead Rain



The gripping new zombie thriller from Joe Augustyn
for fans of The Walking Dead and Living Dead 



Excerpted from

Dead Rain – A Tale of the Zombie Apocalypse


© 2014 Joe Augustyn


Ryan turned a corner and paused to catch his breath. The fog was still thick and the narrow suburban street was unlit, too small for the county to waste power for streetlights. Visibility was just a few yards but he could see the lights of Route 9 in the distance, three or four blocks away. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the comforting glow. He’d taken a few wrong turns on his journey through the fog, at one point wandering to the end of a dark cul-de-sac and having to double back.

He studied the houses around him for signs of life. Lamplight shone through some closed curtains, but Ryan knew the lamps were probably on timers, set to dissuade burglars in the largely deserted community. Most of the residents had evacuated to the homes of inland relatives to escape the expected nor’easter, taking such storms more seriously since the deadly destruction of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The night air was chilly and damp. Ryan regretted not grabbing his jacket when he bolted from the house. Too late now. Just get your ass to the hospital. It’ll be warm there. He slinked silently forward, moving cautiously through the fog, clutching the beefy little snubnose with both hands. The cold steel and Bakelite grips felt sturdy and strangely empowering. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he actually tried to fire the gun. It was practically an antique, and hadn’t been fired in decades as far as he knew.

He wished his mother had heeded his pleas to buy a more modern pistol, but she’d insisted the old Colt was solid and trustworthy. Her great-uncle Ed had been a policeman, and it had been his service revolver. Besides, new guns were expensive and she’d never really expected to need one in the sleepy little town.

A dog barked somewhere in the neighborhood, setting off a canine chorus. Like jungle drums they seemed to be sending messages back and forth, their barks echoing near and far. Ryan spotted a shadowy figure moving slowly along the side of the street. He retreated quietly to the other side, not wanting to risk a confrontation if he could avoid it. With his nerves on edge and visibility so poor, he was afraid he might shoot an innocent person by accident.

His heart skipped a beat as another silhouette lurched toward him through the fog. He nearly walked into it before he saw it coming. Just a few feet from making contact he switched on his LED keychain flashlight, brightening the fog with its icy blue light.

The sight that greeted him chilled him to the bone. It was a man, or rather what remained of one. The thing’s face had just a few shriveled strips of skin clinging to its skull. Its facial muscles were hard and brown and curled into knotty lumps, reminding him of the dried out ligaments of leftover Thanksgiving turkeys. Its tightly drawn grimace revealed rows of bloodstained teeth. Its eyes were skewed up and down at crazy angles. The skin around them had rotted away, making them bulge from their sockets. His suit reeked of dankness, covered with musty green mold.

Ryan stumbled backwards. His knees felt like water. In his backpedaling haste he twisted an ankle and fell. The revenant staggered forward, leering hungrily, its gnarled fingers reaching to grab him.

Ryan aimed at its chest and fired. The gunshot was surprisingly loud. A fiery yellow blast lit up the fog. The lifeless walker tumbled backwards, knocked off-balance by the impact. His skinny legs buckled under him at an awkward angle and one of them snapped as he landed on it—but before Ryan regained his feet it was rising again, undeterred.

Ryan almost fainted as he saw the jagged white bones jutting through the man’s pant leg. Choking back a mouthful of peppery vomit he ran past the teetering wretch.

The barking dogs were now in a frenzy. A security light flared on outside one of the nearby houses, casting a circle of light on the street. Ryan stopped in his tracks. A handful of leaden figures were creeping towards him through the fog. He looked over at the newly lit up house, wondering if he should run for it. But he saw figures lurking in the shadows on the sidewalk, and realized it would be a dangerous risk.

A hand touched his shoulder. He turned to see his mother standing there. But it wasn’t his mother. It was a foul reanimated thing, drenched in blood, eyes like cold marbles. And beyond her he saw a familiar silhouette, one he’d seen many times in their home’s dark hallway while he hid behind a corner, waiting to leap out and scare his little brother. As Kevin’s reanimated corpse shambled closer he saw the same dead black fish eyes of what used to be his brother.

Ryan stood frozen for a moment—it seemed like his heart would never start beating again—then he shoved his mother’s corpse away and turned to run—bumping immediately into another lurching corpse. Like his mother, it was a freshly reanimated woman. Her chin and blouse were drenched with blood.

Her eyes were icy stones as she gripped Ryan’s forearm. He tried to shake her off, but she dug her nails into his skin and grabbed his collar with her other hand, determined to feed on his flesh. As she opened her mouth to bite him Ryan raised the revolver and shot her between the eyes. Her head snapped back and she flopped to the ground.

Ryan leaped over her body and ran for his life. Stutter-stepping silhouettes moved toward him from all directions and he wanted to put as much distance as he could between himself and the things that had once been his family. He used the weighty revolver like a club to fend off a man in pajamas and shot another in passing.

Barely able to see through the fog and the tears that were flooding his eyes, he didn’t stop running until he reached Route 9. Just one lane in either direction, the historic old road had once been the main coastal highway, until the new Parkway was built a few miles away, closer to the beach towns. It was still the main road through a string of small towns, but most of its length was dimly lit.

Ryan looked around, searching the nearby buildings for signs of life. Most were businesses, closed for the night. The few homes scattered among them were set far back from the street, hidden down long dark driveways.

The fog suddenly brightened. Ryan turned to see headlights coming his way. He dashed into the street, shouting and waving his arms. The driver sped past him, unaware of the zombie menace and not inclined to stop for a teen with a gun.

“Wait! Stop!” Ryan pleaded, watching in despair as the car faded into the fog.

A second car sped past a second later, nearly clipping him. Then he was alone.

He looked around, hoping to see more headlights approaching, but there were none. It was not yet nine p.m. but traffic was unusually light due to the treacherous fog and the incoming storm. He decided he’d have to stick to his plan and risk the remaining quarter-mile to the hospital on foot. His chances seemed good if he was careful. He saw no zombies on the block ahead, and the revolver held a few more rounds.

Heartened by the sight of the hospital lights just a long city block away, he trotted cautiously down the gloomy street, keeping an eye out for any signs of movement in the fog. The closer he got to safety, the harder it was to fight back the thoughts of his family’s bloody demise. Tears blurred his eyes, as much from clouds of fear and sorrow as from the nipping cold.

A sudden clatter of sound erupted nearby. A ghostly figure appeared in the fog, shuffling awkwardly out of a driveway onto the sidewalk.

Ryan raised the gun and took aim.

A startled man looked up at him, dropped the metal trashcan he was carrying and ran back up the driveway toward his house.

“Wait!” Ryan shouted. “Stop, please! I need help!”

The man disappeared into the darkness. Ryan heard a door slam. The lights of the house went black. He lingered for a brief moment, debating whether to risk approaching the house. The man was no doubt calling the police at that very moment, but who knew how long it would be before they responded? He might be shot by the nervous homeowner, or attacked by those… zombies. And if he survived until the police arrived, what would happen then? Between the disorienting fog and the weird events of the night, they might shoot him first and ask questions later, as the old joke went.

This is no time to ponder old jokes.

He turned and jogged off towards the hospital. Praying he’d survive to see the dawn.


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