SynopsisI'm going to be a rebel this year and use NaNoWriMo to finish the WIP I've been working on since mid-summer, Dominion of the Damned, about a world taken over by vampires in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. If I finish it before November 30th, then I'll dive right into the sequel, Vengeance of the Damned.
Here's the synopsis for Dominion:
When the unimaginable becomes reality and the dead roam the earth in search of human flesh, Hannah Jordan and her infant brother Noah take refuge in their family’s backyard bomb shelter. Months later, they emerge to find a world still overrun by zombies and ruled by vampires. These new self-styled “protectors” of humanity kept their food supply “safe” inside interment camps all over the world.
Hannah and her brother are quickly rounded up and taken to such a camp, where Noah is taken as a hostage to keep Hannah in line; but in this stark new reality, infants like Noah are a rarity. He draws the attention of vampire Alexandr Konstantin, a doctor, scientist and lone champion of human rights who wants to use Noah’s pure, untainted blood in his vaccine research. Alek pulls strings to take Hannah and Noah back to his own camp at an abandoned Army base, where humans live in safety and co-exist with vampires in peace.
For a little while, life is good. But when the ruling class of vampires decide they like things the way they are, they order Alek to shut down his research, and his commune, and turn those under his protection over to the interment camps. As Alek, Hannah and the commune's other residents prepare to do battle to defend their home, a breach in the base's fence lets the zombie horde into the camp. As all hell breaks loose around them, can Alek and Hannah develop that vaccine in time to give what remains of humanity a fighting chance? And if they do, what will it cost them?
Hannah cradled the newborn in one arm and looked down at the other, at the iron skillet she still gripped in her hand, at the droplet of red dangling from the bottom, about to fall. It broke free, and her eyes followed it to the floor, saw it splash into its kindred that already covered the linoleum tile. That bright spatter brought her back to her senses, and suddenly she became aware of the infant screaming as only brand new babies can, of the sticky substance already drying on her face, neck and hands, and of her mother. Their mother, lying on the floor with her skull caved in.
Hannah gripped the skillet, and waited. "Shhh," she said absently to the baby, who had no idea what was happening. Hannah didn't exactly know, either. So she waited.
Her mother didn't get up again.
Hannah breathed a sigh of relief, then sucked it back in sharply as the grief of what she'd done hit her like a fist to the gut. She dropped the skillet and spun toward the sink. Her breakfast hit the drain as the skillet hit the floor. She stayed bent over the sink for a long time, retching even after her stomach had given up everything it had to give. Finally, she rinsed her mouth out, then grabbed a rag and wet it down before shutting off the water.
She slid to the floor, still hugging the baby to her chest. Dried blood and birth fluid still coated him, and he'd gotten more of their mother's blood on him during the fight. Hannah hummed absently as she wiped him down. Then she tossed the bloody rag in the sink and leaned over to pull a fresh towel from a basket under the sink. She swaddled the baby and held him tight, and for the first time since taking his first breath, he stopped crying.
That′s when she started.
"Noah," she whispered, tears burning her eyes and the back of her throat. "They were going to name you Noah."
She didn't know what to do next. She didn′t know what was happening. And she didn't know how the hell the whole world had gone to utter shit before the day had even begun.
"Hannah, wake up. We have to go."
Hannah opened her eyes and squinted groggily up at her dad, who was still shaking her by the shoulder. "What's going on? Is it mom?"
"It's that, and worse. Get dressed and get downstairs." He left the room and shut the door behind him. Hannah jumped up and hurried to the closet, her heart pounding out any lingering sleepiness with a surge of adrenaline sparked by, "and worse." What did he mean by that? Was Mom okay? Was the baby okay?
Years of fire, tornado and terrorist attack drills had taught Hannah how to dress in under a minute. The minute after that she was downstairs and in the living room, where her mom leaned against the back of the yellow couch, clutching her stomach and panting as she watched Hannah's dad cram weapons and ammo into a large duffel bag. "What's going on? Are we going to the hospital?" She glanced over at her dad. "Are we going to raid the hospital?"
"Look outside," her dad said, "but don't open the door!"
Hannah hesitated, and turned back to her mom. "Are you okay?"
She nodded, but said through gritted teeth, "The baby's coming."
"It'll be okay, Mom." Hannah went to look out the window next to the front door. Outside, the neighbors were out in the road, just wandering around. That in itself was a little strange, but Hannah didn't see what the big freak-out was about.
Then she saw Melanie Gifford running down her driveway, screaming her head off and covered in something that looked a lot like blood. The strangest thing was that nobody reacted to her. Hannah realized that they weren't just walking around; they were moving with slow, shambling steps, dragging their feet as if it was hard to pick them up. And they were everywhere: in the street, in the yard, surrounding her dad's truck.
The heart-wrenching sound of a dog squealing in pain momentarily drowned out Melanie's screaming, and Hannah saw the McCamish's bird dog, Betsy, in the middle of the street, being pulled in opposite directions by two men Hannah didn't recognize. Hannah's hand went to her mouth as the dog whimpered and tried to get away, and then it went to the doorknob.
"Don't open that door!" her dad shouted.
"You can't help her." He came up beside her to look outside, just as Eric Biddle, a former schoolmate of Hannah's who had also come home for spring break, approached the dog.
Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. Eric would save the dog, and then everybody would come to their senses. Then she gasped as the dog let out one last whimper and went limp, Eric having leaned over to rip its throat out with his teeth. Hot tears stung her eyes. "Daddy, what's happening?"
"I don't know. Some kind of chemical attack or something, maybe. The whole town's gone crazy. I tried to go to work this morning and didn't even make it half way. The highway was blocked by a pileup and people were acting nuts. When I got home I had to shoot Marcy Kincaid in the damn head just to get inside the house!"
Hannah stared at him in horror as his words sunk in, then she turned her attention back outside. Only then did she notice the bare legs, feet covered with fuzzy slippers, sticking out from behind the truck.
Another scream drew her attention back to Melanie, who was running up their driveway. As she stumbled up the the front porch steps, Hannah tried to shove her father out of the way to open the door, but he held her back.
"We have to let her in!"
"We have to get your mother to the shelter before the baby comes!"
"Melanie can come with us! Let me go!"
The whole time they struggled, Melanie pounded on the door, pleading and crying to be let in.
"Daddy, help her!"
"It's too late!" he said. "Can't you see she's been bit?"
Hannah blinked and looked out the window at Melanie. A big chunk had been taken out of her neck, and her left ear was missing. Blood poured from her wounds and soaked into her pink cotton nightgown. "She needs a hospital!" Hannah shouted. "Let me go!"
She shoved her father back and swung the door open. Just then, one of men who'd been torturing the dog grabbed Melanie from behind and sunk blood-stained teeth into her shoulder. Melanie and Hannah both screamed as another man, Mr. Burridge from down the street, came up and tore Melanie's arm out of her socket before biting off her thumb.
Hannah felt an arm wrap around her waist. She screamed as she was yanked back into the house. Her dad slammed the door and locked it. "We have to go now!" he shouted, and went to the duffel bag. He pulled out an automatic shotgun and checked the chamber. "It's fully loaded. I'll go first. You stay close, and stay with your mother." He handed the shotgun to Hannah. "Remember, aim for the head."
"Why the head?" her mom asked.
"'Cause that's what works. I put three rounds in Marcy's chest, and she kept coming at me. But the one I put in her head dropped her." He looked at Hannah and repeated, "Shoot the head."
Hannah nodded as she looped the gun strap over her shoulder.
Her dad pulled an automatic pistol from the gun cabinet and stuffed it in the back of his waistband, then took out a .45 revolver and checked the chamber. He closed it and nodded. "Let's go." He led them through the kitchen to the back door. "Shit," he said as they reached the back window, and Hannah echoed his sentiment. They were all over the back yard, too. Men, women and kids, people Hannah didn't even recognize, all of them shuffling around like they were brain dead.
Hannah's mother cried out and clutched Hannah's arm. Hannah winced and pried her hand off. "Breathe, Mom. It'll be okay."
"No it won't," her mom cried. "We can't do this, Jack. We have to stay here. The baby's coming."
"We can't stay here, Baby. We have to go."
"No," she pleaded. "It's safe here. The doors are locked. Nobody's getting in. I can have the baby right here."
From the front of the house came the sound of glass breaking, of groaning and scratching on wood.
Jack Jordan stepped up to his wife and took her face in his hands. "Listen to me, Karen. We can do this. We have to. It's just a few yards to the shelter, and then we'll be safe, and you can have that baby. Okay? But we have to do this, and we have to do it now." He kissed her. "I love you." He reached over and cupped the back of Hannah's head. "I love both of you, and I'm going to get you through this. Okay?"
Hannah's mom cried silently and gritted her teeth against her labor pains, but she nodded. So did Hannah.
"Good. Now let's go."
He kicked the back door open and started shooting. Hannah helped her mom down the steps behind him, shutting the back door in the hope of slowing down the ones coming in through the front. Her dad only shot at the ones between them and the shelter, but the noise seemed to get the attention of all the others, and they started closing in. Hannah focused on taking out the ones that got closer than ten feet, but they were everywhere, like a swarm, and even waiting for them to get close was causing her to spend her ammo fast.
She fired without hesitation. Some of the faces she recognized; hell, some of them she had gone to school with, and one of them had taken her to the prom. But it wasn't them. Somehow, the people they had been were gone. They had to be, because the people they had been could never have done that to poor Betsy. Or Melanie....
Remembering what she'd witnessed just a few moments earlier made her want to shoot them all, but she was careful to count spent shells. Her mom cried out in pain, stopping in her tracks. Hannah cursed the choice of weapons her dad had armed her with. A handgun would have been easier to handle. This thing took both hands to aim and shoot, and she couldn't hold her mother up and fire at the same time.
And they were getting closer.
"Mom, we have to move!"
"I can't!" she cried. "He's coming. Noah's coming!"
Hannah took aim at an elderly woman drawing near them and fired. As her head exploded, Hannah pushed away any question of whether she had just been lost and confused and in need of help. There was no time for questions like that. "Mom, they are coming, and they're going to get us if we don't move. They're going to get Noah."
"Oh, God!" her mom wailed, but she pushed herself forward. They made it a few more yards before she buckled over with another contraction, her nails digging into Hannah's arm as she screamed.
The people... the things around them seemed to sense that her mother was the weaker prey. They all turned toward her, zeroing in on her agony. "Dad!" Hannah shouted. "This isn't working!"
Several yards ahead of them, her dad turned back. He ran to them, shooting as he went. The path he'd cleared ahead already started to fill in. He handed Hannah his pistol and knelt in front of his wife. "Karen, honey, you've got to do this."
"I can't!" she cried, shaking her head. "I can't, Jack."
His face looked grim, but he nodded. "All right. It's gonna be all right." He stood up and traded Hannah the other handgun for the
shotgun, and let her shoulder the duffel he was carrying. "Keep them off of us," he told her.
He scooped his wife up in his arms, struggling under her pregnant weight, and started toward the shelter. Hannah stuck by them, a pistol in each hand, clearing a path to the shelter. Her dad had obviously reloaded them both at some point, but even so, they only had a few more yards to go when the revolver began to click ineffectually, and the automatic ran out soon after. She didn't understand how they kept coming so fast. For every one she took out, two more seemed to take its place.
Hannah chucked the handguns into the duffel and turned to slip the shotgun off her dad's shoulder. "We're almost there," he murmured to her crying mother as he disentangled his arm from the gun's strap. "Hannah, behind you!"
She spun in time to see the half-eaten corpse of her best friend from junior high shambling up and reaching for her. There wasn't enough space to raise the gun and fire, so Hannah swung it like a club instead, connecting with Jenny Miller's once-pretty face and causing her head to flop sickeningly to the side. Hannah hit her again, and again, until she went down and stopped moving. "Two o'clock!" her dad shouted, and Hannah raised the shotgun and fired. She kept squeezing the trigger, ammo be damned, and mowed down everything in their path. The shell cartridge quickly emptied, but not before she made a clear path to the shelter.
Her dad had disguised the entrance to the shelter to look like an old well. Hannah ran to it and reached over the low rock wall to unlock the hatch and pull it open. "Come on!" she shouted to her parents as she stood guard, holding the shotgun like a baseball bat, ready to fight off anyone, or anything, that approached the shelter. But they all seemed to be ignoring her, heading for her parents instead. "Dad, behind you!"
Her mother screamed as one of the things grabbed her hair. Her dad swung around and kicked at it, but he stumbled and they both collapsed to the ground.
Hannah reached into the duffel bag and pulled out a rifle before dropping the bag down the hatch. She took aim, but her dad was already back on his feet wrestling with the thing, and she couldn't get a clear shot. Cursing under her breath, she ran back to her parents and tried to use the rifle to beat the thing off of her father. Just as she got it to stay down, another one came up behind him and sunk its teeth into his shoulder.
"Daddy!" Hannah cried out as her mother screamed—in terror or agony, it was hard to tell.
Jack Jordan grabbed the rifle from his daughter and turned it around to blow the head off of the thing that had latched onto him. Without missing a beat, he aimed at another one that was coming at them. "Get your mother to the shelter," he ordered after taking the shot.
"But what about you?" Hannah asked, her eyes already aching with unshed tears.
"Don't worry about me. I'll hold 'em off. You just get yourselves to safety."
"Jack, no!" her mother cried. "I'm not going without you!"
"You have to!" he yelled. "You just keep that baby safe! If you don't it's all for nothing!"
"Get out of here!" He fired another shot.
"Jack," her mom whimpered as Hannah helped her back to her feet.
"Just a little bit farther," Hannah told her as they stumbled toward the hatch. The creatures that only yesterday had been their friends and neighbors dropped all around them as her father continued to fire. Miraculously, they reached the hatch, and Hannah tried to guide her mother inside. "Come one, we're here. You just have to make it down the steps."
"No!" she cried. "We're not leaving your father. Jack!" she screamed. "Jack! You get over here now!"
"Get her in there, dammit!" he shouted back, continuing to fire. He was too focused on keeping the things away from the shelter to see the ones coming up behind him.
"Daddy, look out!" Hannah screamed, but it was too late. Two of the things reached him at once, and as he struggled with them, more piled on. Then his screams fell silent as they began to tear him apart.
Hannah was so stunned she could barely hear her mother screaming. Then movement in the corner of her eye snapped her out of it, and she dragged her mom down the steps.
"No!" she screamed, fighting Hannah and reaching toward whatever was left of her husband. "No! Let me go!"
They were too busy wrestling each other to notice the one that had been circling the hatch. It lumbered up to them and grabbed her mom's outstretched arm. "Oh, God!" she cried as the thing bit into her.
"Mom!" Hannah ran up the steps and pulled the thing off of her mother. It stumbled, but it didn't fall. Hannah shoved her mom down the steps in front of her, slamming the door to the hatch down on top of them and locking it in place.
The strange feeling came over Hannah of floating outside of herself. She couldn't think or feel; she could only watch from a distance as her body moved on autopilot. Her mother's sobs sounded far away, but she felt herself go to her as she doubled over with another contraction, heard herself say, "Let's get you into bed" as she guided her mother to one of the bunks that lined the wall.
"This baby can't come now," her mother cried. "Not like this. I don't want my son to be born into this world. I don't want to have a baby without your father."
"I don't think he's giving us a choice," said Hannah. The bite on her mother's arm was bleeding heavily. Hannah ran to retrieve the First Aid kit from a nearby shelf and tore open a package of gauze. The distant part of Hannah's mind knew what the bite meant, but that part of her had stopped communicating with the rest of her, the part that moved quickly to wrap the bite and then put water on the stove to boil.
Hannah was only in her second year of a four-year nursing program. She could calculate the dosages of medications and identify all of the organs on a human anatomy chart, but that hadn't exactly equipped her to deliver a baby on her own. So she was mostly going off of things she'd seen on television. She found a knife and stuck it in the pot of water to boil, then gathered up several towels and took them over to her mother, who she helped to remove her underwear and get into position to push.
She pushed back the skirt of her mother's nightgown. "I can see the baby's head. I think it's time to push."
Her mom shook her head. She looked deathly pale, and dark circles had already formed beneath her eyes. "I can't."
"Mom, you have to. The baby will die if you don't."
"What kind of life will he have?"
The distant part of Hannah wanted to cry and scream and curl up next to her mother for whatever time she had left. But the part of her that was currently in charge took hold of her mother's hands and said, "Look around, Mama. We're in a safe place. Right now it doesn't matter what's happening out there. All that matters is what Dad sacrificed so we could all be safe. So Noah could be safe."
"Will you keep him safe, Hannah?"
Hannah nodded. "I will. I promise. But first he has to come out. You have to push."
Her mom expelled a soul-wrenching sob. Then she took a deep breath and bore down, screaming out enough grief and pain for the both of them in the process. The baby's head cleared. It was covered in thick, dark hair, slick with blood and fluid. "That's good," said Hannah. "You need to do it again."
Somehow, her mother found the strength to bear down one more time. The baby's shoulders emerged, and Hannah's mother fell silent. "One more time, Mom. Just one more push and he'll be out." She looked up to see that her mother had lost consciousness. "Mama?" She left the baby to check her mother's vitals, but she couldn't find a pulse. "Oh, God. Mom. Mom!" The distant part of her slammed back into her body with full force, and took over, shaking her mother. "Mommy, please! Please wake up!"
She didn't respond. Hannah knew she had to make a choice between saving the baby or trying to resuscitate her mother. She also knew that there was no choice, that her mother was beyond saving. She had to move fast before that became true of her brother, as well.
Gently, she took hold of his tiny shoulders and pulled. He slid out with less effort than she expected. She used the corner of one of the towels to clear his mouth and nose of fluid, and he took his first breath and let out a strong cry. Hannah left him lying on the bed next to their mother and went to retrieve the knife. The water hadn't yet come to a boil, but there was no time to worry about that. She only prayed that it wasn't already too late as she cut the umbilical cord, that the infection hadn't already spread. But as she examined him, everything about him seemed healthy and perfect. As the baby cried, Hannah sat down at their mother's feet and joined him, cradling him close as her grief consumed her.
After what seemed like an eternity, she got her crying under control enough to reach over and pull her mother's skirt down, to grant her a measure of dignity. Hannah gasped as her mother's leg twitched. "Mama?" she asked, hope welling up in her chest. Her mother turned her head and looked at Hannah, and that well of hope drained away, replaced by a surge of fear at the sight of her mother's cold, lifeless gaze. Too transfixed to move, she just sat and stared as her mother sat up slowly, her expression a blank slate. Then she looked down at the baby, bared her teeth like an animal and lunged.
Hannah jumped up from the bed and backed away, holding the baby to her chest. The baby still cried, exhibiting a strong pair of lungs. Her mother's movements were slow and clumsy as she climbed out of bed and lurched toward them. Hannah heard herself crying along with the baby, felt new tears sliding down her cheeks as she backed up against the stove. ″Please don′t, Mommy,″ she heard herself plead in a little girl′s voice, but it didn′t make a difference. Karen Jordan was gone, and her corpse kept coming. Hannah reached behind her and grabbed the handle of the pot she'd placed there earlier. Pain seared through her hand as the handle burned her. Still lumbering toward them, the thing that had been her mother had eyes only for the baby. It gnashed its teeth as it came, biting the air as if in anticipation of biting into flesh.
Hannah grabbed a nearby dishtowel and used it to grasp the pot handle. Shielding the baby, she flung the pot of now-boiling water at her mother. It hit her in the face, scalding her flesh and causing the skin to bubble and peel, but she didn't seem to feel a thing.
She kept coming.
Hannah scanned the small shelter for something she could use as a weapon. She had left the duffel bag full of guns where she'd dropped it on the steps leading up to the hatch--on the other side of her mother. She reached behind her again and fumbled until her hand found another handle, this one cool to the touch. She grasped it and picked it up. The weight of the iron skillet felt reassuring in her hand as she raised it above her head.
Her mother crept closer. Close enough to hit.
"I'm sorry, Mama," Hannah whispered.
Her only response was to lunge.
The skillet met her halfway.