About the book
Hell is its own place, with a mind of its own. And it is definitely out to get Vivian Dante. Everywhere she goes, a trap awaits. Everybody she meets wants to hurt her or worse. Vivian isn’t even sure she can trust herself – after all, if you’re in hell, don’t you deserve to be? Too bad she can’t remember anything. Maybe then all that’s happening to her would make sense. Who is Vivian Dante? What is hell, really? Only one way to find out – keep hitting till you hit upon what you’re looking for. There’s not much else to do when you’re dead.
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Book Excerpt: Chapter One Limbo
THE WOMAN AWOKE IN A DARK PLACE. She had no memory of who she was or how she had come to be in such darkness. Her confusion might have something to do with the massive headache she had. It was so dark she blinked to make sure her eyes were open. She stretched out her hands tentatively, but felt nothing. She put her hands on the floor. It was smooth and cool. She crept along until her hand came upon a wall. She stood up slowly and ran her hands lightly over the wall, which felt as non-descript as the floor. She began walking to the right, using the wall as a support. Finally she came upon a door. She grasped the knob and turned. The door opened and she stepped through.
She was in a large office. Fluorescent tubes buzzed dully overhead, illuminating the space with a bland, greenish light. Cubicles stretched across her vision. She saw no one, but could hear every now and then a shuffling sound. Every time she turned to look in the direction of the sound, however, nothing was there. She walked for what seemed like a long time along the rows of empty cubicles. Empty of people, but each one had signs of former habitation: photos of people she did not recognize, calendars with dates circled, reference books open on the desks, computers left on. She tried several of the computers but no programs would open. They were all set on the same default desktop background. She caught a glimpse of herself in one of those clip-on rearview mirrors attached to a monitor. She was a brown-eyed woman in her late 30s, with shoulder length dark hair and a crease in the middle of her forehead, whether from worry or anger she did not know. Average size and average looks.
So that’s what I look like, she shrugged. She went to the next cubicle. It was very quiet. The air was neither hot nor cold.
Room temperature, she thought to herself, trying to find humor in the strange situation. Her humor was as bland as the office she found herself in.
She looked for a window but the walls of the room were lined with locked doors labeled meeting room A, B, and so on. Through the frosted glass panels adjoining the doors, she could make out only dark blobs that resembled the shapes of chairs and meeting tables. She thought maybe she should try to go back to where she had started, but she did not want to return to that pitch black room.
A movement out of the corner of her eye startled her. She thought she saw a figure disappearing into a cubicle down the corridor. Just as she wondered if she had imagined it, she heard someone clacking on a keyboard. She walked toward the sound.
A man was sitting with her back to her in the corner of a cubicle, typing monotonously. She could make out pasty skin, balding hair, flakes of dandruff on his dark blue suit. Nothing out of the ordinary for an office, but still she had a bad feeling.
“Hello?” she said, tentatively. The man did not respond and continued to type. She stepped closer, spoke a bit louder. “Um, hello. Do you know where – ” she stopped.
The man had no irises. His eyes were only a blank expanse of white cornea and some reddish veins. He was typing on a screen as blank as his eyes.
She swallowed hard. Stranger and stranger. “You wouldn’t have some aspirin, would you?” she asked, backing away. She didn’t really expect an answer.
Suddenly a whistle blew, like the ones used for miners working in a shaft.
Three heads jerked up from cubicles. The heads snapped in her direction and they started moving towards her, making their way across the aisles. The man who had been typing now stood staring at her with his blank eyes. His jaw fell open and a moan rose out of the depths of him, unearthed from the many miserable years working at this company, no doubt.
She stumbled backward out of the cubicle.
“Aw fuck,” she muttered. She hurried down what seemed an open avenue, but another zombie employee turned the corner and lurched toward her with outstretched arms. The woman looked around, with a rising sense of panic, and could see more approaching her from all sides, shuffling and moaning.
The woman hopped on a desk and jumped cubicles, kicking phones, throwing keyboards and staplers. There were even more of them now, grasping at her.
They were in varying states of rot, she realized. She kicked the jaw off one woman rather easily as she scrambled over the wall of a cubicle into the next.
It was obvious she was in a nightmare. She wondered why her subconscious had chosen corporate zombies. She wondered how she could wake up, and if she got bit or eaten, whether she would wake up. How did zombie logic work in a nightmare?
In the meantime, she needed a weapon badly.
While astride a cubicle wall she glimpsed one of those “Break In Case of Emergency” displays, behind which was a fire axe.
She ran as fast as she could down an open corridor to the case. She broke the glass and grabbed the axe.
“I need a way out of here,” she said aloud, in the hopes that her subconscious was listening.
Her heart sank as zombies appeared in every path open to her. She would have to decide which way to fight through.
She chose to run along the wall to the right, where only one zombie blocked the way as far as she could see. She swung wildly with the axe and caught the zombie under the armpit. The axe got stuck in its chest and they danced awkwardly around each other, the zombie trying to bite and grab her as she tried to pull the axe free. She swung again and the axe landed in the zombie’s shoulder, again getting stuck. The zombie pushed toward her while she held it away – they were separated only by the handle of the axe.
“God,” she panted. “I suck.” She was going to die because she could not swing an axe. Frustrated, she kicked the zombie in the chest while pulling at the axe with both hands, creating enough force to free the weapon and push the zombie back a few steps. This time when she swung, she aimed for the neck and severed the head from the body. The head bounced off the wall and rolled away as the body slumped to the floor. She stared at the motionless corpse.
As far as she remembered, she had never killed someone before. Even if it was a nightmare, even if it was a zombie, it took some getting used to. It had been bloody. It had been squishy. If she had a choice, she would prefer not to do it.
“It’s just a dream,” she said. “It’s not real.” Though it had felt very real. She did not have much time to dwell on it however, because more zombies were heading her way. She continued down the aisle until it opened to the right. She stopped. Down that way, zombies approached. Behind her she could also hear shuffling.
She was shaking from adrenaline and fear. It seemed like she would have a chance to perfect her axe-swinging technique. She took a deep breath and decided upon a direction. Then she stepped forward to meet the horde.
* * *
Numb and tired, the woman knew it was only a matter of time before she would be overrun. She had slaughtered countless zombies and still they kept coming. Her adrenaline had run out a long time ago. She stood on a desk in the midst of a sea of cubicles, the dead in every direction. She had blocked off the cubicle opening to have a brief respite, but the barricade would not hold much longer with the increasing number of zombies pressing upon it.
“Where’s the exit?” she shouted in frustration.
She looked around desperately. She noticed a door that was a different color than the rest across the maze of cubicles on the opposite side of the room. She did not know why she hadn’t noticed it before – its red color stood in stark contrast to the grey doors around it. She would not have been surprised if a moment before it had not existed.
With her last bit of strength, she hacked her way through a slew of bodies to the door. On the door there was a small placard that read “Manager.” She tried the door. It was locked. She pounded on it. There was no answer. She hefted the axe and tried to break down the door. The axe bounced off the door uselessly.
She turned around, back against the door, feeling despair. The zombies approached, inevitable, never-ending. Hands pawed at her even as she swung the axe furiously. There were too many. This was no dream. There was no waking up from this. She screamed.
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