Ravenous (Book 1, The Ravening Series), p.1Erica Stevens / Science Fiction / Romance & Love
Copyright 2012 Erica Stevens
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Also from the author
Books written under the penname Erica Stevens
The Captive Series
Captured (Book 1)
Renegade (Book 2)
Refugee (Book 3)
Salvation (Book 4)
Redemption (Book 5)
Broken (The Captive Series Prequel)
Vengeance (Book 6)
Unbound (Book 7)
The Fire & Ice Series
Frost Burn (Book 1)
Arctic Fire (Book 2)
Scorched Ice (Book 3)
The Kindred Series
Kindred (Book 1)
Ashes (Book 2)
Kindled (Book 3)
Inferno (Book 4)
Phoenix Rising (Book 5)
The Ravening Series
Ravenous (Book 1)
Taken Over (Book 2)
Reclamation (Book 3)
The Survivor Chronicles
Book 1: The Upheaval
Book 2: The Divide
Book 3: The Forsaken
Book 4: The Risen
Books written under the penname Brenda K. Davies
The Alliance Series
Eternally Bound (Book 1)
Hell on Earth Series
Hell on Earth (Book 1) Coming August 2017
The Road to Hell Series
Good Intentions (Book 1)
Carved (Book 2)
The Road (Book 3)
Into Hell (Book 4)
The Vampire Awakenings Series
Awakened (Book 1)
Destined (Book 2)
Untamed (Book 3)
Enraptured (Book 4)
Undone (Book 5)
Fractured (Book 6)
A Stolen Heart
Special thanks to my husband and best friend, and
my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews who make life more interesting and fun.
Table of Contents
Dedication and Thanks
Where to Find The Author
About The Author
Completely and utterly freaking frozen.
One second ago the woman was speaking to me. She had been half way through the word nice from the phrase "have a nice day" when she suddenly and completely stopped moving. Her face still held the same expression, her hand was frozen in mid air; she just stood there like some sort of strange mannequin-like statue standing behind the counter.
She stared at me unerringly, but it seemed as if she couldn't see me as I watched her unblinking, vacant brown eyes. I kept waiting for her to come back to life, to finish her sentence, to hand me my change, but as the seconds ticked into minutes, I began to realize she wasn't going to move. That she wasn’t playing some sort of sick, demented trick on me.
She had instantaneously been struck completely immobile.
It was the most unnerving thing I’d ever seen and all I could do was gape at her. I continued to stand there, not because I wanted to, no one in their right mind would want to keep standing there, but simply because I was shocked into immobility. I hadn't suddenly been struck inert like the woman across from me, but I was entirely unable to move as I gazed back at her. I finally managed to close my mouth. Not because I was recovering from the astonishment still gripping me so tightly I couldn't bring myself to move, but because a little bit of drool had started to form at the corners of my mouth, and my jaw actually hurt from gawking at her for so long.
Though I managed to make the small movement of closing my mouth, I couldn't make any others. I couldn't drop the arm extended across the counter. I couldn't close the open hand still waiting in expectation of my change clasped within the woman's hand. I had absolutely no intention of touching the woman in order to retrieve it either.
I didn't care how scarce money was nowadays, I was not going to touch her and if I was going to get my money back I would have to make contact with her frozen hand. I would actually have to pry open her clasped fingers in order to retrieve what was mine, because it was becoming extremely obvious the woman was not going to move again anytime soon if she moved again at all.
I shuddered at the thought as the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I knew no one was there, but I couldn't shake the feeling there was someone standing just behind me, breathing down my neck. I didn't know what the woman's hand would feel like; it was probably still warm because she had only frozen minutes ago. Even though she was still on her feet, even though I didn't know if she really was dead, in my mind her hand would feel as cold and clammy as a corpse's.
A small spasm jerked through my extended arm, causing it to jump a little. It wasn't the aching pain in my rigid arm that finally caused me to pull it back, but the fact the small twitch had almost caused me to touch her. The mere thought made my stomach feel as if it had a hundred worms crawling through it. My arm fell limply back to my side, my mouth parted again.
For the first time in awhile, I blinked. Then, I closed my watering eyes, as I prayed everything would be normal. When I opened them once more, it was not.
Slowly I raised my hand and waved it in front of her unblinking, unseeing eyes. She remained as blank as a slate. I thought perhaps I should hit her, maybe pinch her, but that brought me back to the having to touch her aspect. Throw something at her? I glanced at the gum stacked before the counter. It was a soft projectile but hard enough it would get someone's attention. Maybe it would wake her up, but I didn't think it would work, and I couldn't bring myself to heave something at the defenseless woman. It seemed as bad as stealing candy from a child.
I took a small step back, swallowing heavily as I looked around the store. Though it hadn't been crowded, it was easy to pick out every person amongst the racks of souvenir clothes (clothes that didn't sell much anymore, at least not to tourists, as we had few of them now) and candy counters. Mainly because they were all as still as stone too. I doubted throwing something at them would work either.
It was eerily quiet within the store. I didn't hear any movement on the street outside either. Driving had been banned a month ago (I now realized why), but I didn't even hear the hum of bicycle tires or the thumping footsteps of the passing crowd. The muted murmur of conversations had vanished. The street sounded just as dead as the store now appeared. The hum of the store's air conditioner made my hair stand up even more as it seemed unnaturally loud in the unnerving hush.
I turned toward the door but the blinds had been drawn over the window to block out the summer sunlight. It was impossible to see if the rest of the world had been as affected as the store. I tried to believe it hadn't, that this store was an isolated incident, but I knew it wasn't. A cold chill, that had nothing to do with the A/C unit, raced down my spine. The room swam and blurred before me as fear threatened to choke me.
The store was cool, but I was sweating profusely. I could barely breathe as I tried to gasp in air, but my lungs didn't want to cooperate. Nausea coiled through me, it burned its way up my throat. My mouth was flooded with saliva and I felt like I'd been sucking on copper pennies, but I was somehow able to keep it down. This was the creepiest, most terrifying thing I’d experienced in years, but I could not throw up in this store. The act of doing so somehow seemed even more wrong and degrading than the situation surrounding me now.
I was hyperventilating though. I knew that. I couldn't breathe and yet the more I panted for air, the less I was able to get into my lungs. I needed fresh air; I needed out of this store. My bag was still on the counter, but I was reluctant to grasp hold of it. I was sure my mom would forgive me for not bringing the milk home.
My heart was beating with the force of a jackhammer as my chest constricted. Nausea rose swiftly through me again. I managed to take a stumbling, awkward step back. Was my mom like these people? Was she one of them now, or was she like me? Was there anyone else like me? Was I the only one? And why was I still able to move while they couldn't? What had happened to them, would it happen to me?
That thought caused my adrenaline to kick so fiercely I was shaking from the effects of it. I glanced over the people again. They remained frozen. Not a one of them had moved in the past five minutes. I hadn't even seen them take a breath, but they had to be breathing, didn't they? Were they dead? Would they ever move again?
The questions rolled through my mind rapidly; my head began to spin. The questions kept hitting me, but I didn't have answers to any of them. I couldn't even begin to fathom the answers to any of them. Though I didn't feel like going anywhere near the woman again, I knew I had to grab the bag. If my mom wasn't like this, then I suddenly had to deliver that milk to her. And if she was...
I shut the thought down; it was too much to handle right now. This situation was awful enough without adding to it. Darting forward, I snagged hold of the bag and ripped it off the counter. The rustle of the plastic set my teeth on edge. I ground my jaw, fighting back a scream as I took an abrupt step back. The woman remained unmoving, her hand still extended with my change. Her warm brown eyes didn't even flicker as I waved a hand in front of her face. I was tempted to see if she was still breathing, if she had a pulse, but try as I might I could not bring myself to touch her. I was ashamed of my cowardice but the thought was completely revolting.
Keeping my eyes on the human statues, I cautiously edged toward the door. I didn't know what they would be like if they came to life again. Images of every zombie movie I'd ever seen flooded my mind. I pictured them coming back to life to tear me to shreds as they tried to get at my brains and organs. A shudder tore through me.
Reaching the door, I pulled down on the blinds in order to peek out at the seemingly peaceful day. People were frozen in mid-stride or leaning against storefronts. Some were stopped in mid conversation with their hands in the air or with their heads tilted back to peer at the sky. A man and woman had been riding their bikes down the road when the strange freezing had occurred. They were now sprawled out on the street, their feet tangled awkwardly in the toppled bikes. The wheels still spinning slowly were the only movement in the otherwise still day. Neither of them had attempted to break their fall, they had simply face planted into the asphalt. Blood had trickled from the man's nose and formed a small puddle beneath him. The woman's face was obscured by the brown hair tumbling around her shoulders.
Swallowing heavily, I tried to gather my courage to step onto the deserted, desolate street. Was there no one else who could still move? I couldn't be the only one. That thought was almost as terrifying as becoming one of the frozen people.
If I was frozen at least I wouldn't be alone, and perhaps I wouldn't even know what had happened to me. Or perhaps, chillingly, I would.
I removed my trembling hand from the blind. I couldn't stay here; I had to move. I had to get to my family, to see if they were safe. Gradually, I eased the door open. The small bell above it was a mellow sound that was piercingly shrill in the hushed day. I winced at the noise, scrunching up like a turtle as I waited for something to attack me. Everything remained still.
Involuntarily my gaze went to the sky. A cold trickle crept through me as I spotted the ship hovering over Boston. It was a good sixty miles away but its ominous presence was felt just as strongly as if it had been directly overhead. I shuddered at the reminder of it, shuddered at the realization that though they had spouted peace, they had finally revealed themselves to be anything but peaceful. Something I had suspected since their arrival, though I had never suspected anything like this.
Who could have?
I slipped from the store, closing the door silently behind me. It took me a moment to realize not even the birds were singing. I glanced around, but I didn't see animal bodies littered amongst the people in the streets. They may have been affected also, but I didn't think so. There would be some birds lying amongst the people if that was the case. Apparently the birds had even been scared off by the sudden pall hanging over the world.
My heart was thumping loudly in my chest as I crept through the still streets, trying not to burst into tears as I warily studied the alien ship. It wasn't coming toward our town, it didn't appear to be moving, but I knew it was only a matter of time before they appeared in the streets, before they came to take everyone. Somehow I knew that was exactly what they intended to do.
The thought of what they were going to do with everyone after they came frightened me most.
I slipped down another street, keeping my eye on the hovering spacecraft in the distance. Bret had once told me he thought they had eyes everywhere and knew our every move. I could only pray he'd been wrong. Their technology was far superior to ours, that was an undisputed fact, but I had to cling to the hope they hadn't mastered the ability to know where every person was at all times.
Please let that be true, I pleaded frantically. Please. I was nobody of importance, there was no reason they would monitor my movements.
I turned another corner, slinking through the shadows as I moved toward the center of town. I didn't know if it was possible for the inside of a ribcage to become bruised, but I was almost certain mine was due to the drumbeat of my heart.
People were scattered about the streets in different positions and different situations. One couple was kissing and another was holding hands on a bench. A family getting their picture taken by the old mill, and a group of children were frozen in the middle of a game of tag. I stopped to study the children. Goose pimples broke out on my flesh, even in the hot summer sun I was chilled by the sight of them. They were the creepiest things I had come across so far, so innocent yet spine chilling and unnerving in their frozen state.
I forced myself to turn away from them before I started screaming hysterically and didn't stop until the aliens were drawn by my screams. I slipped into an alley, leaning against the cold wall as I struggled to catch my breath. I closed my eyes, trying not to fall apart as I fought not to completely freak out. I was still over a mile from my house and wasn't sure I was going to make it.
I tilted my head back as I scanned the roofs in search of cameras. I saw none, but that didn't matter. For all I knew they didn't even have to have cameras to spy on us. For all I knew, they were omniscient. The thought didn't seem entirely farfetched, not anymore. They could apparently freeze people in an instant after all, why wouldn't they know where we were at all times? Taking another deep breath, I attempted to gather my waning courage.
I felt like a criminal as I stealthily crept down the alley. I glanced quickly away from the man leaning against the brick building at the end. He'd been in the act of relieving himself, urine stained the bricks and formed a puddle before him, but no urine still came out. Slipping onto another main road, I dashed down the sidewalk quickly, dodging the frozen people with every other step.
Lifting my arm, I used the back of my hand to wipe the sweat from my forehead as it dripped into one of my eyes. I slid into another alley and bent over as I was gripped by the sudden urge to curl into a ball and let my sanity go. I thought the world might be a better place if I did. At least I wouldn't be alone anymore. For a minute I was consumed by the urge to just give up, to wait here until they found me, but I had never quit before and I wasn't about to start now. Not when I didn't know what had become of my family, maybe after, if they were gone...
I let the thought trail off; there was no use in dwelling on it. Not until I knew.
I pushed off the wall, breaking into a brisk jog as I hurried down the alley. Turning a corner, I began to move faster, nearly sprinting as I raced down the sidewalk. I was breathing so rapidly I almost didn't hear the distant rumbling noise until it was too late. As it was, it just barely caught my attention in time.
I pressed flat to the wall, my fingers curled into the wood as the ground beneath my feet began to tremble. My head rapidly bounced back and forth as I searched for the cause of the strange sensation and noise. Creeping forward, I kept my hand pressed against the glass window of a store. The noise grew louder, the quaking increased as the sidewalk beneath my feet began to tremble even more.
I didn't know where to go or what to do. My throat was clogged; my body thrummed with tension. I continued to creep forward, but I had to get off the street. I had to find a place to hide. My hand slipped into nothingness, I nearly fell sideways as someone grabbed hold of my arm. A startled cry started to escape me, but a hand slammed over my mouth as I was yanked against a solid chest.