Contagious Chaos (Book 3 in the Contagium Trilogy)
Published: September 23, 2014
When the compound starts to fill and food supplies dwindle, Fuller’s soldiers and Marines have no choice but to venture out into the lawless wastelands of America where they discover a new kind of enemy.
What foe could be more frightening than zombies? A fortress for the criminally insane–unhinged survivors who will stop at nothing to take Orissa and her friends down for good,
In order serve and protect their compound, will the gang have to abandon their own moral code and engage in a war against the uninfected?
Cover Designed by Conzpiracy Digital Arts
The Contagium Series
By Emily Goodwin
© 2013 Emily Goodwin
Radiating, heart stopping pain woke me up. I was sprawled out on a clammy cement floor. The air was rancid and something dripped, splashing into a shallow puddle. Little droplets of liquid splashed onto my face. My vision was too fuzzy to tell if it was blood or water.
I took a deep breath and was hit with a dizzying round of pain again. It took all the strength I had to move my hand to my tender torso. I flinched when my hand touched my ribs. I took a shallow breath and slowly sat up.
I couldn’t do it. I collapsed back down, sending red hot hurt across my entire rib cage. I closed my eyes and carefully touched each rib, certain that no less than two on the right side were cracked if not completely broken. I could barely breathe the pain was so intense.
I was shivering uncontrollably, which wasn’t helping the situation at all. With my cheek pressed to the cold, dirty floor, I concentrated on getting enough oxygen. After a minute, I pushed myself up again. Every part of me screamed in protest. What the hell had been done to me? I felt as if I had been hit by a truck, thrown down a flight of stairs…or dragged through a field and then into a mental hospital.
I opened my eyes. Yes, the latter was what had happened. Vomit threatened to come up but was choked down by a sob.
I crawled to the front of the room, which felt more like a cell. I assumed I was in some sort of solitary confinement or holding area for psychotic and violent patients. I heard the distant shuffle of feet and the murmur of hushed voices. A rolling office chair and a stained coffee cup sat a few feet to the right of the door, which was a combination see-through plastic and metal. Candy wrappers littered the space around it.
A hand gun rested on the faded blue cushion of the chair.
I desperately looked around for Rider. Suddenly remembering that I might not be alone, I turned—a bad move on my part. Pain hit me like a fist in the face. I doubled over, feeling like I might really puke.
The shuffling of feet turned into footfalls and the voices grew louder. I scuttled back to my spot on the floor and lay down again.
“…took his weapons. He was still breathing when we brought the bitch inside,” a gruff voice spoke.
“She put up a good fight, ‘eh? Heard she got Pauly pretty good.”
“Hells yeah. Adrian—I mean Dre—will get a kick outta her. What do we do with her until he gets back?”
“Kisha says to leave her be. And don’t mess up her face. You know Dre likes ‘em pretty.”
The two men came to a stop in front of the room, peering in through the door. I didn’t move a muscle. One of them picked up the gun and pulled back the hammer, a sound I was familiar with. He plopped heavily in the chair and the wheels skidded back under his weight.
“Get off your ass, Joe!” the gruffer of the two voices shouted. “You’re such a lazy piece of shit,” he huffed.
“Get off it, Cutter!” Joe shifted his weight, causing the chair to creak. “What’s she gonna do? She’s still knocked out cold.”
Cutter laughed—it was deep and husky and vile. “Yeah, I clocked her good.”
I made a mental note of that. I had no idea how I’d do it, but I was going to crack Cutter’s skull until his brain oozed out.
“Can we play with her?” Joe asked.
“I told you—leave her be! Dre should be back in a few. Then we’ll decide.”
“Yeah,” Joe agreed.
“Don’t. Touch. Her,” Cutter reiterated.
“Fuck you, Cutter,” Joe jeered. “I can handle my own shit.”
“We’ll see about that,” Cutter mumbled and walked away. “Come on, we have to get that ginger prick’s body before it attracts the biters.”
Thinking they had both left, I was just about to look up when I heard the chair creak again. I didn’t want to move until he was gone. But then what? I was locked in a maximum security mental hospital. There was no way I could get myself out of this.
Deciding it was now or never, I took a sharp intake of breath as if I was just waking up. That, of course, hurt like a motherfucker.
“Hey!” Joe dumbly yelled.
I slowly pushed myself up. “Hey! Hey girl!” he shouted. “Are you awake?”
I groaned and pushed myself up and momentarily considered acting like I was waking up dead—as in zombie dead. But that might have gotten me shot. I pulled myself to my knees, the pain in my rib cage blinding. “No, I’m still asleep, dipshit,” I sneered.
“About time you woke up. Lucky you got a nap,” he told me, his voice muffled behind the closed door; the sliding window in the center of the door was open. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be nice.
“Yeah, so lucky.”
I looked into the hall. Joe was no taller than me, incredibly pale, very thin, and had a wispy blonde chin strip of a beard that was grown out and banded together. His gray eyes widened and his nostrils flared. He jumped up from the chair.
“Calm your shit,” I spat, just to piss him off. I had a nagging feeling he didn’t like being told what to do.
“Watch your mouth,” he warned me.
“Or what, you’ll beat me up?” I glared at him, swallowing the lump of fear in my throat.
“Just you wait. Wait till Dre gets back. You’ll wish beat is all he does.”
“Yup. I’ll wait. I’m not going anywhere, dumbass.” Insulting him made me feel less afraid. Really, it should have been packing the fear into me. I had no idea what Joe was capable of or if he was even sane. I wondered if I should reason with him, let him know we are on the same side: living in this dead world.
No. They shot Hayden and now Rider. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes when I thought of them. I knew Hayden heard the shot. He would come for me; I didn’t want him to, but I knew he would. If he was lucky, Ivan held him back until they came up with a plan. I hoped to God that they had gotten to Rider in time.
It was absolutely ridiculous to hold onto that shred of hope. I wanted so desperately to believe that Rider was going to pull through. I wanted to see his big smile, blue eyes, and messy red hair again.
“Listen here,” Joe sneered and bent close to the door. Before he could put the fear of God in me, he straightened up and looked down the hall. “Anything?” he shouted.
“No,” a female voice answered. “Just the red head and the bitch. Fucking stupid, if you ask me. I don’t know what the hell they were trying to accomplish. Doesn’t matter now, I suppose.”
My heart skipped a beat and I had to remind myself not to look up with a doe-eyed look. They hadn’t found Hayden. He was still alive. And if he was still alive, then Rider had a chance.
“This is her?” the woman asked. “I thought she’d be bigger from how Cutter described her.” She leaned close to the door and inspected me as if I was a zoo animal. I wished I was able to run to the window with my teeth bared.
She smacked gum, chewing with her lips apart. As she continued to look me over, I glanced at her as well. She had on dark jeans that were a size too small; they squeezed her narrow waist so much that skin spilled over the waistband. Her tee shirt was cut so that it fell off her shoulder, and the ends were gathered and balled up, held together with a scrunchy. Her hair baffled me; half was in braids that ended in perfect spiral curls. Who the fuck curled their hair when freaking zombies ran amuck?
Rainbow laces were loosely tied in her high-top Converse shoes and gold bangle braclets rattled from each arm. She stood up and flicked her hair back, revealing large hoop earrings as well. She couldn’t be older than twenty-one.
Her brown eyes lingered on me for a few more seconds. Then she waved her hands and spun around. “Leave her be. Once my Dre-Dre gets back, we’ll figure somethin’ out.”
“You’re the boss, Kisha.”
“Uh-huh,” Kisha replied, her words high pitched at the ends like she was just so innocent. Without so much as one look back, she walked down the hall. A moment later, Joe followed.
I was alone as far as I could tell. I could hear voices echoing through the hall, but I couldn’t make out a word of what was being said. They steadily grew louder. I moved to the front of the room and turned my head, only able to see their shadows.
“You fucking retard!” someone yelled.
“It’s not my fault!” Cutter yelled back. “You saw the way that bitch cut up Pauly. What was I supposed to do? She’s the one we wanted, anyway.”
“You left someone behind!” the other guy spat. “Dre’s not gonna be happy about this.”
“Dre won’t fucking know if you keep your goddamn mouth shut!”
The other guy laughed. “You want to lie to Dre?”
“That kid was shot! In the stomach. No way’s he’s gonna recover from that!” I put my hands on the plastic door. My heart sped up. They were talking about Rider. “He’s not a threat!”
“Bullshit!” the other guy screamed. “How do we know he didn’t run off to his buddies, huh? Tell them we took their bitch? They’ll come after her, come after us! You fucked up, Cutter. You and Pauly both. And I’m telling Dre.”
“No, you’re not,” Cutter threatened. I heard the sound of a fist smacking into someone’s flesh. I pressed my face against the window. Cutter leaned back and threw his arm forward again. Whoever he hit fell. “It’s a shame,” he said as he bent over and grabbed the guy by the ankles, “that the bitch shot you before we could stop her.” He laughed and dragged the guy away. A few seconds later, a gun fired, causing me to jump.
I pushed away from the bars. Holy shit. Cutter just killed one of his own to save his ass. He terrified me more than any zombie. My breath came out in ragged huffs. Trembling, I put my hand over my mouth. Rider was alive. He had gotten away. He had a chance!
I moved my hand from my mouth to my chest; my heart was beating so fast it hurt. I forced myself to take a slow, deep breath and winced from the pain. I closed my eyes and took another. I moved away from the front of the room and began to feel the panic of being trapped. I looked around for anything useful. An uncomfortable bed was bolted to the floor. My eyes traced over the four-point leather restraints. I clenched my teeth and whimpered in defeat. There was nothing in here that could help at all.
Emily Goodwin is the international best-selling author of the stand-alone novel STAY, The Guardian Legacies Series: UNBOUND, REAPER, MOONLIGHT (releasing 2014), The Beyond the Sea Series: BEYOND THE SEA, RED SKIES AT NIGHT (releasing 2015) and The Contagium Series: CONTAGIOUS, DEATHLY CONTAGIOUS, CONTAGIOUS CHAOS, THE TRUTH IS CONTAGIOUS (Permuted Press).
Emily lives with her husband, daughter and German Shepherd named Vader. She has degrees in psychology and nursing. Along with writing, Emily enjoys riding her horse, designing and making costumes and Cosplay.