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Sven the zombie slayer (.., p.1
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       Sven the Zombie Slayer (Book 1), p.1

           Guy James
 
Sven the Zombie Slayer (Book 1)


  Sven the Zombie Slayer

  Guy James

  Copyright 2011 by Guy James

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  Also by Guy James:

  Rats on Strings

  Blood Spatter

  The Shareholder

  Please visit https://guyjamesfiction.blogspot.com/ to learn more about the Sven the Zombie Slayer series, and other existing and upcoming titles from Guy James.

  Chapter 1

  Matt Sarelson stared into the thing’s eyes, and he knew, with the most terrible of certainties, that he was about to die.

  ***

  Nine minutes and fourteen seconds earlier, Matt Sarelson had parked his Toyota Highlander behind Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. It was still dark.

  His head began to nod, and he took another sip of his tepid coffee.

  As part of his weekday routine, Matt made himself coffee every morning before he left for work. That morning, Matt had made himself a cup of strong Kona, but departing from his meticulous coffee-making practice, he had committed what he deemed a coffee preparation atrocity.

  Matt’s coffeemaker had self-destructed a week earlier, and while he waited for its replacement to arrive, Matt used his trusty French press in the broken coffeemaker’s stead.

  On that unfortunate morning, Matt was especially groggy when he forced himself out of bed at ten minutes past four. The grogginess led to an exceptional bout of clumsiness in the kitchen: the French press slipped out of his fumbling hands as he carried it from the sink, and though he juggled the press for a few turns, his circus skills did not save it from shattering on the kitchen floor.

  Broken French press or no, Matt had to have his coffee, so he got out a small saucepan, in which he boiled some water. To the boiling water he added ground Kona, and he let the mixture simmer for a few minutes while he stirred it, distastefully, with a wooden spoon. Then he poured off the top layer of the mixture, striving to keep the grounds out of his cup.

  But grounds had come, and now, as he sat in the parking lot in his Highlander, he felt the demonic grounds poking around his mouth, mocking him. He wondered how people had done it back in the day before coffeemakers. The thought made him shudder.

  Matt swallowed the tinged mouthful and sighed a coffee breath sigh. Imperfectly prepared coffee was just another in the series of sacrifices he made for his job. Letting grounds run rampant in his coffee was bad, it was true, as was the broken French press, but today—getting in early today—was worth all of that.

  He opened the car door, got out, and ducked back in over the driver’s seat. He retrieved his coffee mug and tucked his stack of marked-up deal documents under his arm. Matt kicked the door shut with a loafer-clad foot, took a deep breath, and crossed the empty lot.

  At the entrance of the dark alley that connected the parking lot and mall commons, Matt paused. It was a creepy shortcut during the day—lined on either side with dim, cavernous recesses—and was even more troubling at night, especially with one of the two overhead lights having burned out. Matt wondered if someone was going to replace that light any time soon. Didn’t anyone work anymore?

  Matt took long, tired strides through the alley, and then abruptly stopped in the middle. He had heard something…something that sounded too much like a scream. He couldn’t tell where the sound had come from, so he looked behind him, and, seeing nothing, turned back around and started for the mall again, quickening his pace.

  By the time Matt stepped out onto the mall commons, he had put the sound out of his mind. He was too tired to concentrate both on that and on what he had to accomplish at work that day.

  The mall commons were empty, save for a smattering of the sleeping homeless, and they were still dead to the world. The place was still.

  As Matt walked past the familiar shops, he felt a sting of resentment. All of the shops’ owners and employees were in bed, and he should have been too—not with them but in his own bed—if it wasn’t for that lazy, no good—

  He heard a cry, and spun around to face the direction from which the noise had come.

  He peered into the distance.

  Nothing.

  No one.

  The mall was empty.

  Matt decided it had been a particularly disharmonious bird, or, even if it had been a person, it didn’t concern him. He had extremely important things to do that day.

  He resumed his walk and stopped in front of the building, looking up at it. Bremmer Title Associates, it said to him—to everyone that passed.

  But not forever, Matt thought, gripping his coffee mug tighter, one day, it’ll say Sarelson Title Company. It shouldn’t say “Associates” anyway. That was stupid—remarkably stupid. It was a company, and it should announce that fact to all of the potential clients that passed by it.

  There were three residential mortgage closings on Matt’s desk that day, and he was coming in early because in his quite correct opinion, he was the only Bremmer Title Associates’ employee that could get anything done. Today was the day, Matt knew, that he would make Mr. Bremmer notice. Today was the day that Mr. Bremmer would finally see how talented Matt was, and how incompetent and worthless that suck-up Jon was. God, how Matt hated the two of them—Bremmer and Jon—always gushing over each other and following each other around while Matt got stuck with all the work. And to add insult to injury, Jon was Matt’s junior! But Jon’s father was a fancy so-and-so and la-di-da and—well, that wasn’t going to matter anymore, not after today.

  Each of the three closings was to take place when Jon was out of the office on one of his usual three-hour workout and golf sessions—Matt had seen to that bit of timing. Jon would be dropping the ball—not the golf ball of course, the work ball—and Matt would rise up to save the day. And he would make damn sure that Bremmer noticed.

  Matt took another sip of his lousy coffee, which was no longer even lukewarm, unlocked the title company’s door, and walked in. He locked the door behind him, flicked on the lights, and walked past the empty receptionist’s desk toward his own office.

  He was beginning to replay one of his favorite fantasies in his head—the one where he beat Jon senseless with the lazy suckup’s own nine iron—when he saw a light coming from the back of the office hallway. He walked closer, and was startled to find that it was coming from Jon’s office.

  Jon’s office was tucked away in the back of the floor, and Jon had had the privilege of picking it out because Mr. Bremmer loved him so much—so very, very, nauseatingly much. The position of Jon’s office let the lazy bum sneak in and out unnoticed, avoiding work and leaving Matt to run the business under Mr. Bremmer’s uninvolved and increasingly ungrateful glare.

  God, how stupid they all are, Matt thought. That idiot Jon can’t even turn his damn light off.

  Sighing in frustration, Matt put his coffee and documents down at his own office’s closed door, then crossed the length of the hall to Jon’s door.

  Just as Matt reached his hand in to flick off the lights, he was overcome by a stench so overpowering that it felt like a punch to the gut. His head began to swim, and the shapes around him got fuzzy. He almost retched, but managed to keep his coffee—grinds and all—in his stomach.

  So now Jon was keeping rotten food in his office?

  That’s exactly something Jon would do, Matt th
ought.

  It wasn’t even five in the morning yet and already Matt felt livid with anger. He clamped his fingers over his nose and resolved to dispose of whatever decaying matter he found within Jon’s office and get right to work. Even if no one else at Bremmer Title Associates did anything, Matt had a responsibility to the clients, and he was going to see it through. The work mattered.

  Matt walked into Jon’s office, facing the divider that Jon had rigged up so that no one could see his desk from the hallway. When Matt came around the divider, he almost gasped. But the caffeine had started to do its trick and he remembered not to breathe in. Stifling his surprise-fueled want of a breath, Matt looked down, and had to revise his theory as to the source of the odor.

  Jon was slumped face down on his desk. Looking at the pale-yellow, viscous fluid that was collecting at the left side of Jon’s head, Matt determined that the smell was vomit.

  Great, he thought, now I have to waste my precious time cleaning up after this idiot.

  Matt’s eyes darted to the corner of Jon’s office, where a letter opener stood, peeking out of a pencil stand. The letter opener seemed to wink at him, and he considered it for a moment. Wouldn’t that be nice? I could just stab him in the back of the head and end his misery.

  Then Matt’s eyes shifted to the golf-bag propped up against the wall. Or, I could grab that nine iron sticking out of the bag, bring it up, and…

  That was the better way to do it, he decided, flavorfully ironic.

  Matt quickly walked out of the office, unclamped his nose, and took two deep breaths. Then he put his hand back over his nose and went back inside.

  “Hey!” Matt yelled with his nose still clamped. “Wake up, it stinks in here.”

  Jon moaned, but didn’t move.

  “Come on, I have work to do and your stink is distracting. Jon! Jon, come on wake up you can’t do this in here.”

  Jon moaned again, softer this time, and his head wobbled a little, then settled back into place. The puddle of pale-yellow fluid was spreading outward, making its way to the edge of the desk.

  Then it’ll drip on the floor, Matt thought, and I am not going to be the one to clean it up. I am not.

  Matt looked at the clock in Jon’s office and realized he needed to get started on his work. He couldn’t waste any more time trying to deal with Jon. Matt felt himself growing angrier, and the bit of stench that managed to seep past his fingers and into his nose was making him light-headed. He walked to the corner, picked the nine iron out of the bag, and not-so-gently prodded Jon’s shoulder with it.

  Jon stirred, moaned, and in an apparent attempt to raise his head, fell off his chair, hit his head on the side of the desk, and landed in an awkward position on his back, with his arms folded together and in front of him, like he had fallen backward into a too-small coffin.

  Matt had to stifle a laugh. Maybe Jon was now dead. Maybe his head impacting on the side of the desk had broken his neck. The vomit-laden fiasco may turn out to have a silver lining…no, a golden one.

  After taking a shallow breath through his mouth, Matt poked Jon again, in the sternum this time, and hard.

  That did the trick.

  That did the trick in a way that Matt never expected, and in a way that he never intended.

  Jon’s eyes shot open, and Matt stumbled backward, knocking something over and almost falling before coming to rest against the wall behind him. Jon’s eyes…they were...they were completely black, even where the whites should have been. It was a dull black, and it made Matt’s stomach drop to look into it, like he was looking into pure, unabashed evil.

  Matt’s mind scrambled, trying to think of something to say or do, anything that might make those eyes look away from him, but no thoughts came. He began to feel a muddiness in his brain, and realized that the only thing he wanted to do was to get out of there, close the door behind him, and go back home. He could make some more bad coffee for himself and look for a whole new job—a different one. He decided that he didn’t like title work all that much anyway, the clients were arrogant and insatiable, and—

  Before Matt could complete his thought, Jon’s mouth fell open, and a thick yellowish liquid poured out of it, splattering Jon’s button-down. It was a vile thing to see, and then Jon was trying to sit up, and Matt was trying not to breathe.

  But he had been holding his breath for too long then, and he had to, he had to take a breath—a full one this time. The hand unclamped from his nose.

  Matt inhaled. The smell had gotten so much worse, unspeakably worse.

  The office began to spin around him, and a strange numbness began to nip at Matt’s skin, as if trying to find a way in. He continued to hold the golf club in front of him, pressing it against Jon, trying to keep Jon down.

  “Don’t get up,” Matt said. “Please don’t get up, I’ll get someone, some help.”

  Then Jon grabbed the end of the golf club and pulled, and then—everything was getting fuzzy and that smell—Jon gripped Matt’s elbow, and his grip was so strong, pulling Matt in.

  It wasn’t just a numbness now, it was a debilitating, creeping paralysis. In spite of the relative lack of sensation, Matt felt something in his shoulder give way and pop, sending a terrible shooting pain across his collar bone and down the side of his body.

  Damn you, Matt thought, damn you and your working out and—

  Jon’s straining forearm stuck out of a rolled-up shirt sleeve. The skin of the forearm looked dry as paper, like it was crackling. Lines were forming lengthwise up the forearm, as if the skin was conforming to the muscle strands underneath. Then one of the lines of skin tore inward, and Matt could see muscle fibers ripping over paper-thin skin and—

  Matt’s failing mind tried to think of something, something nasty, about how he hated Jon, but he couldn’t quite form the thought with the cotton ball fuzz that was now proliferating in his brain. And what about the forearm, hadn’t it just—

  He blinked, and his eyes focused on Jon’s—Jon’s stale black eyes. That was when Matt knew, even through the fuzziness in his brain, that death was only another moment away.

  Matt’s eyes were closing again as his dulled sense of touch felt the bite. They tried to reopen in shock, in pain, in anything…but they didn’t.

  Chapter 2

  “You ready?” Lars was sniffling and rubbing his nose.

  Sven nodded.

  “How many you going for?”

  “As many as I can get,” Sven said. “Just don’t drip any of your cold on me.”

  Lars nodded, then turned away suddenly and sneezed. “I’m fine, must be allergies or something. Let’s go, you got it.”

  Sven took a deep breath.

  He squeezed his shoulder blades together and dug them into the bench. He fixed his grip on the bar one final time. Then, with a mighty heave, he lifted the 435 pound weight off the pins. Every muscle in his body tensed, his mind filled with a crystal clear focus, and the bar and its plates became a part of him.

  Sven lowered the bar to his chest. He raised it. He repeated the motion, counting in his head. One. Two. Three. Four. Come on Sven. Five. Six. Come on, come on.

  The bar began to slow. Sven strained under the bar, squeezing the hell out of it, squeezing it to death. Four more. Come on. Come on. Seven. There you go Sven, come on just three more. Let’s go. Eight. There it is, you got it, you got it. He felt his face flush with heat and a numbness begin to creep down his forearms. His breathing came in short, ragged gulps between clenched teeth.

  He lowered the bar for the first half of his ninth rep. When he began to lift the bar again, it stalled three inches above his chest. Lars’s hands shot out at once, forming a shadow underhand grip under the bar, in case Sven’s muscles failed and the bar began to descend. It didn’t descend, but continued to hang in place, obstinate. Sven stared at it, willing it up with his mind. Just get it past the sticking point. Come on, let’s go. But the bar just hung there, motionless.

  Sven dug his he
els into the floor, pushed even harder, and found a few more untapped muscle fibers to contract. The bar burst through its sticking point to just short of lockout. Nine. He had conquered nine. That’s it. You got it. One more. Just one more.

  Sven stared at the bar. I got this, this is all mine. Come on, let’s go. He began to lower the bar to his chest for the tenth rep. His arms shook and his chest burned. His head felt like it was about to explode.

  It’s a good thing Lars is here, Sven thought, a great thing. And just as he thought it, he got the sense that Lars was moving backward, around the bench press and away from it. Sven couldn’t look up or around to check for sure, but that couldn’t have been happening, not when Sven was in the middle of what would probably be his final rep, and after having nearly failed on the previous one. Even if Lars had suddenly decided to spot Sven from the front, Lars wouldn’t be switching in the middle of a rep so deep into a set as painful as this one. Lars was too experienced and careful a spotter to do that.

  Then the shaking spread from Sven’s arms and took over his whole body. He was losing control of the bar and he knew it. He was pleading with it now, trying to make his hands grip tighter, trying to recruit more muscle fibers by sheer strength of will.

  Then Sven lost control.

  The bar came down too fast, hit Sven’s chest, and knocked the air out of his lungs with a painful whoosh.

  But that wasn’t supposed to happen, because Sven had a spotter! Lars had been there just a few seconds earlier, standing behind the bench press for situations just like this one. Lars was a veteran spotter, and he had never let anything like this happen before. Where had he gone? Why would he have gone?

  Sven lay there, pinned and bewildered, as the bar began to crush him.

  Chapter 3

  Jane took a sip of her coffee. It didn’t taste good. Maybe it was too much milk, or too much sugar, or maybe it was just too much coffee. She had begun to lose her taste for the stuff in the past few weeks.

  Jane took one last, crunching bite of her sesame bagel, then tossed it in the trash. She emptied her half-empty coffee mug into the kitchen sink, shaking her head as she watched the vile stuff go down the drain.

 
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