Today, I have the honor of a guest post from author Tayler Wright, talking about her novel, The Outbreak! Take it away Tayler!
Here is an excerpt from OUTBREAK!
The echoing sound of my car door slamming shut and my footsteps on the slick pavement were the only sounds reaching my ears in the nearly-deserted parking lot. I tugged my hood up over my head, trying to find some sort of relief for the unseasonal chill. I stuffed numbing hands into the pocket of my hoodie, hoping to at least bring some life back into them. The wind cut relentlessly through the fabric, wringing me with chills.
My backpack thumped against my back with each step, but the weight of it was comforting to me. It was like it was holding me down to the Earth.
I quickened my pace, wanting to reach my destination before I was frozen into a solid block of ice. Finally, the library loomed into view, but the windows were dark and uninviting. Lampposts were strewn here and there, casting dull light and ghostly shadows over the lawn.
You need to get this done, I thought to myself as my hand reached out and closed over the door handle. A few hours and you’ll be done and then you can go home. And maybe even get some sleep!
The door hinges squealed a little when I tugged the door open. Every other light in the main entry way was lit, dark splotches dominating every few feet. I kept my head down, nodding to the night security guard as I made my way up the steps to the computer lab one floor up.
It didn’t matter how many times I did this; the place always managed to creep me out at night, even though the computer lab was usually teeming with energy and laughter. Hell, some nights it was hard to find an open computer.
When the door swung inward, I was met by more darkness. The only thing lighting the area was the unused desktops. The room was warm, more heat pouring through the vents in the ceiling.
I twisted my way through the sea of empty computers, passing a kid sleeping on one of the couches. A text book was propped open on his lap, another nestled under his cheek, soft snores escaping his open mouth.
Shaking my head, I took a seat at one of the computers in the far back of the room. The chair had wheels on the bottom, so I rolled away from the computer slightly before I grabbed onto the desk and pulled myself back.
I typed in my username and password and waited for the computer to turn on. My fingers tapped a random rhythm and the boy’s snores drifted over to me.
I soon lost myself in my homework; most of the noises in the room faded into the background. It was the usual last-minute scramble to do all of the assignments I was pretending didn’t exist. Around fifteen minutes into working, the snoring stopped, only to be replaced by coughing. After a minute or so, I decided to get up and see if he needed help. The thought ran through my mind that maybe he was choking on his own spit, but then I figured he may just have been sick.
As soon as my butt left the chair, he stopped his incessant hacking. I sat back down and focused my attention back on my monitor.
Digging into my backpack, I unearthed my head phones. I jammed the buds into my ears and turned on some music; the sudden, eerie silence was more distracting than the music. The beat pulsed in my ears and my mind zeroed in again on my homework.
Two hours later, I was completely done and signed out of all of my student accounts. The other person hadn’t made a sound since their coughing fit, but I didn’t see anyone from where the sound came from. Once the screen flickered back to the login window, I pushed my chair back, slung my backpack over my shoulders, and stood up.
Pins and needles ran down my legs in waves. I shook and rubbed them out as best as I could and gave a few tentative steps forward. Once I knew I wasn’t going to fall flat on my face, I maneuvered through a sea of computers and chairs towards the glowing EXIT sign situated above the only door.
I used the light from the unused desktops to see my way across the room. Halfway to the door, I caught faint movement out of the corner of my eye. Looking over, I saw that guy from before struggling to get up off of the couch he was dozing on by the plethora of windows.
Finals week will be the death of all college students, I thought to myself. The textbook fell from his lap and hit the floor with a thud. I would’ve passed out too if I had to read a text book all night. Hell, I drool in class when my professors drone on and on about nothing.
He stumbled forward, tripping over one of the low, shin-high coffee tables.
“Dude, are you okay?” I asked, taking a few steps towards him.
The guy didn’t say anything; he just kept walking towards me, arms slightly outstretched, a faint moan escaping his lips.
He’s got to be drunk. Or just way too tired to care about where he’s walking.
I laughed and turned away, wanting to get out of there and get home to my warm, comfy bed. Just as my hand closed around the bar that opened the door, the drunk’s hand closed around my shoulder, pulling me back.
“What the fuck, dude?” I yelled, spinning around.
Through the dim light, a mixture of the full moon and the computer monitors, I could see that something was seriously wrong with this guy. His hand tightened around my shoulder, trying to pull me closer to him. His mouth opened up wide, almost as if he was going to bite me. He was one of those people I had seen several times in between my classes but had never spoken a word to.
“Whoa, dude,” I said, trying to pry his fingers off of me. “Back the fuck off.”
His grip only tightened on me, so I placed my hands, palm out, in the middle of his chest and shoved him away from me. The backs of his knees hit a table and he tumbled backward; his head hit a table, then the carpet with a thud, and air rushed from his lungs in a whoosh. A lamp toppled over and the bulb shattered, littering the floor and making the floor glitter in the moonlight.
He tried to get back up, moaning with the effort. His hands were grasping at thin air, trying to find some sort of leverage to pull himself up. Honestly, he looked like a turtle trying to get up off of his back.
Yep, definitely drunk.
I shook my head and turned away from him. I just wanted to get out of there, go home, and sleep for at least a few hours.
The drunk found his footing again, a loud moan escaping from his lips. I turned back around, only to see him lumbering over to me with more purpose. I stepped backward until I hit the wall behind me. He stepped into a chink of moonlight falling across the room and I couldn’t help but scream.
His skin was as white as paper, eyes the color of rotten egg yolks and piss. Blood and saliva dribbled over his bottom lip and down his chin in ropes. He gnashed his teeth at me, one of his front teeth falling out, his bottom two chipping away. Bloody hands reached for my throat, fingers tipped with cracked and bloody nails.
I was speechless. Whoever this guy was before was long gone now.
Zombie. It was the only thing to cross my mind that actually made sense to me.
All my life I had an obsession with anything dealing with the end of the world as we know it. Every aspect of my life had some sort of relations with what I, and other people like me, call dystopia. Each and every book I read, every videogame I played, and most movies I watched, all had some sort of apocalypse feel to them. Some even had a zombie or two thrown in the mix somewhere.
But NONE of that could prepare me for ultimately the real thing. I ducked beneath his outstretched arms and left that library as fast as I could, slamming the door behind me. But no amount of miles could truly get me far away enough from that monster.
For the people who actually know me and have read “The Outbreak”, the bulk of the novel’s setting will be extremely familiar. For those of you who don’t know me, then this post is about the places that inspired the novel.
I didn’t have to look very far for inspiration for the setting. Literally, all I had to do was look out my bedroom window.
The tower where Lily lives doesn’t actually exist. The land and her parent’s house, however, do exist. The land and house are precisely where I live now. The place where the tower should sit is adorned with a fire pit that my mother built herself using rock from the creek that is literally twenty yards from my house. It’s the way she built the fire pit that made me think of a tower: she stacked up the river rock and concreted them together. It wound up being around the height of my knees, and that was before she dug out the bottom a good four inches.
I mention walnuts a few times in “The Outbreak,” and that is because there are around thirty walnut trees around our house. And if you step on one of them the wrong way, you could possibly sprain your ankle.
This is the crossroads from the end of the book.
This is the hill they walk up while seeking shelter.
The “finale” house. (I’m not sure who actually lives here, but I took the picture from the road.)
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