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Dying Days (Novella): Family Ties

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Dying Days (Novella): Family Ties

  Dying Days

  Family Ties

  A Zombie YA Novella

  Armand Rosamilia

  Edited by Jenny Adams

  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 or recording or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without expressed written consent of the author and/or artists

  This book is a work of fiction. Names characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living, dead or undead, is entirely coincidental.

  Dying Days: Family Ties copyright 2018 by Armand Rosamilia

  Cover copyright 2018 by Jack Wallen

  Cover photograph by Joanne Marie Photography

  First printing June 2018

  I want to first thank Kevin Baker, who kept asking me when I’d get around to writing a YA story set in my Dying Days world. Here ya go, Kevin!

  Thanks to Mysti, Emalee and Mason, for being so receptive to me writing this book and for also being awesome people!

  And thanks to Shelly for being my Everything

  Forward From Mysti

  Where do I even begin? I think a huge THANK YOU and then a bit about how this book came to fruition.

  The characters Em & Mason are real people and very special, albeit not like they are in the story! You see, they’re brother and sister and both have Down Syndrome.

  While Mason has been blessed with good health, Em has been fighting for her life since birth. Now 16, she’s had six open heart surgeries in addition to facing other heath issues.

  Two years ago she had back to back heart surgeries and that’s where Armand and this story come in. Unknown to me, 34 amazing authors got together to write YA Zombie short stories for a fundraiser anthology, Bite Sized Offerings Tales Of The Zombie Apocalypse to assist us with the medical and travel expenses. Armand was one of the first authors to offer his talents for the anthology and he used the siblings as characters set in his Dying Days universe.

  Fast forward two years and because of the love his short story received he decided to expand on it and Dying Days: Family Ties was born.

  I’m honored to have my children Em & Mason be characters in this amazing tale. Even more so that it’s actually them on the cover- which they’re pretty proud of too!

  But most of all, I am so happy to see differently abled characters in books. It’s about time! And, I’m so honored that my friend Armand was the one to do so. Thank you again Armand. Thank you for your contribution to Bite Sized Offerings, for this new Novella, for using Em & Mason on the cover, for using and highlighting differently abled characters letting the world know that different doesn’t mean less!

  Enjoy the book everyone! I sure did!

  With great admiration,

  Mysti, Emalee & Mason

  Dying Days: Family Ties

  Armand Rosamilia


  There were a couple of small children, a boy and a girl, standing on the side of the road. Acting like they were waiting in line, at the movies, to see the latest Disney flick.

  Tosha Shorb wanted to keep driving and leave the pair in the dust but her sister, Mathyu, was in the backseat of the car again. Staring silently, as usual.

  "Fine. I'll stop," Tosha said angrily. She wasn't exactly a nice person and she fancied herself a tough cookie, but she also had compassion. Leaving kids on the side of the road to die wasn't an option she could live with.

  The children watched her as she slowed, passing them before coming to a stop a few feet away.

  Tosha looked in her rearview mirror, moving her head so she could see the kids standing on the side of the road, around her twin sister, Mathyu.

  Her dead sister who was a ghost.

  The children hadn't signaled to her, put out a thumb to hitchhike or done anything a typical kid would do. Were they zombies?

  Tosha shook her head. She'd face just about anything, and she had. She'd done some really awful things to survive so far and she knew there would be plenty more before all was said and done.

  She wasn't going to face zombie children, though.

  "I guess I'll go to them," Tosha said to her sister, who was staring straight ahead.

  When Tosha got out of the car she'd recently taken from a weak guy in Harrisburg so she could get out of town in a hurry, the children didn't run or approach.

  They were blinking and shuffling their feet. They didn't look like zombies but Tosha kept a weapon at the ready just in case. She didn't know if she could do it if they were trying to trick her, though.

  She stopped a few feet from them and put on a smile.

  "Hey. I'm Tosha. What are you doing out here? You could run into the wrong person, dead or alive," Tosha said.

  The children looked... odd? Was that the right word?

  They were both now smiling. Neither looked older than ten or twelve, and Tosha suddenly knew what she was dealing with.

  Her aunt had been a nurse at a children's hospital when Tosha and Mathyu had been young, and once Tosha had been playing with one of the boys and called him a retard.

  'He has a cognitive disability,' her aunt had told her, the first time the woman had gotten really annoyed at Tosha. It wouldn't be the last time, either. Tosha remembered her aunt explaining a few things about the special children she helped. They were each special in their own way, and her aunt loved each and every one of them. It had given Tosha an appreciation of everyone at a young age; although, circumstances and life had tainted her thoughts on most people.

  "I'm Emalee," the little girl said, bringing Tosha back into the present.

  She had blue hair and a bright smile, wearing an overlong white t-shirt and red cowboy boots.

  "I'm Tosha."

  "You already said that," the boy said. He had a matching smile and t-shirt but wore sensible Van sneakers and a blue baseball cap to shield his eyes.

  "Mason, don't be a jerk," Emalee said.

  "I can't help it sometimes. My mouth opens and dumb things slip out."

  Tosha laughed. The pair, while attempting to be serious with one another, was making her smile. She had no doubt they were harmless and needed a ride to safety.

  "No offense taken, Mason. I tend to repeat myself at times," Tosha said. She pointed at the car. "You two should get off the side of the road. Hop in and we'll find a safe place."

  "I told you she'd stop," Mason said to Emalee.

  "Of course I stopped. I'm not an animal," Tosha said. She turned back to the car and thought about how close she'd come to being one and leaving two defenseless children to wander in this messed up world, alone. A part of her thought it might be a trap and her eyes scanned both sides of the road for an ambush.

  There were zombies in the area, wandering around. None of them were close but more than a few had heard her car and were in slow, shambling pursuit.

  Tosha opened the back door and let the children inside; embarrassed by all the junk she'd collected in the short time she’d had the car.

  "Just push my garbage on the floor. If you can find something edible in the mess, help yourself." Tosha got in the driver's seat and started the car. She'd need gas soon.

  "Mason, get in the other side," Emalee yelled, startling Tosha.

  "Why?" her brother asked.

  "You can't sit on her, silly."

  Tosha turned around and stared at the girl with the blue hair, who was smiling.

  Mathyu, Tosha's dead sister, was sitting in the middle of the backseat and staring at Tosha.

  Mason went around to the other door, opened it a
nd got into the car.

  "Is this enough room for everyone?" he asked.

  Tosha didn't know what was going on and she didn't want to ask.

  Perhaps the girl had an imaginary friend. Maybe they were playing some game Tosha didn't understand. There was no way either of them could see Mathyu.

  Tosha drove away just as a zombie got within five feet of the car.

  Maybe it would be nice to have some company to talk with for awhile. It was still a long road until she got to Florida.

  Tosha glanced at the two children seated on either side of her twin sister and smiled.

  Chapter One

  "I miss my cats," Emalee said to her brother, Mason, who was busy staring at the dead bloody man below them; it was moving but shouldn't be.

  "I miss perogies," Mason mumbled.

  "What did you say? I can never hear you."

  "Because I'm talking to myself," he said, even lower than before.

  "Stop looking at him. Come over here and help me with this," Emalee said. She'd been trying to loosen the screws in the vent shaft for nearly an hour and had only managed to crack two of her fingernails and move the first screw half an inch.

  Mason walked over, careful not to slip and fall through the holes in the crumbling floor.

  Emalee went back to her work. If they didn't get the cover off, they'd have no way to get off this floor. What was left of it, anyway. She glanced at her brother, who she wanted to be really mad at but could never stay mad at for long.

  "This is your fault," she said.

  Mason shook his head and pushed her gently away. "If I hadn't gotten us up this far, we'd be down there with him. You should be thanking me, Em."

  She refused to. She didn't want to tell him she was scared, but, by the look in his eyes, Mason already knew. He always knew.

  They could talk without saying a word, at times. It had driven mom and dad crazy, but after awhile they had ignored it.

  Everyone had ignored it.

  The teachers and other students at school. Give Kids the World Village staff when they went to Florida...

  "I miss The Snoring Tree," Emalee said.

  "I miss my compound bow," Mason said and stopped trying to unscrew the vent. He stood and looked around. "We have no weapons."

  "We don't need any. I'm not going to fight anyone. I'm a kid," Emalee said.

  "We're not kids anymore." Mason stooped and picked up a bent piece of metal. It was round and sharp at the edge. He thrust his arm forward a few times.

  "What are you doing?" his sister asked.

  "Finding us weapons. Duh," he said and continued to experiment with his dagger. It would have to do until he could find a bow and some arrows.

  "I'm going to keep working on our escape since you have gotten distracted, as usual," Emalee said. "No wonder Ms. Tosha left us." She turned to see if her brother was going to be mad at her for mentioning what had happened.

  Mason kicked a rock and watched it sail off into the sky. He seemed to be ignoring the statement. Mason walked in a circle and found the biggest piece of crumbled wall he could and went back to the edge.

  "Be careful," Emalee said. She didn't want Mason to fall off the side and leave her all alone.

  Mason hefted the block of stone and held it above his head. "If I drop it and he dies again, will you still be able to see him?"

  "I don't want to think about it," she said.

  "I want to find out," Mason said.

  Emalee didn't want to look. She didn't want to look over the side and see the zombie because then she'd cry again. She wanted to be done with crying already.

  She heard the thud and her brother whooped in delight. Sometimes he was such a baby.

  Mason clapped. "I hit it right in the head."

  "It's a he. Not an it," Emalee said.

  "When they die, they become It. Oh, wait... was Ms. Tosha's sister still a girl?" Mason asked.

  Emalee turned to look at him because she didn't know if he was trying to get her mad or was genuinely curious. She couldn't tell by the blank look on his face, though.

  "Help me get this loose or we'll starve to death up here," Emalee finally said.

  Emalee didn't think they were Its. They were still people, but they were different now. Mean. They weren't ever going to be nice again but she still didn't think they were no longer people.

  Ms. Tosha's twin sister was good people. Well, she had been before she died. She still followed Ms. Tosha around and Emalee had slipped and started trying to talk to Mathyu. It wasn't her real name but she wouldn't tell Emalee what her real name was before she died.

  So Emalee asked Ms. Tosha, and she got really quiet and really mad.

  "My sister is dead," she said as she drove. She kept looking in the rearview mirror but not at Emalee, at her twin sitting next to her. "Why do you want to know her real name? And how do you know I call her Mathyu?"

  "She told me," Emalee said simply. It wasn't a lie.

  Ms. Tosha had pulled the car over and looked at Emalee. "You talked to my sister? She talked back?"

  Emalee nodded.

  Mason groaned. "Don't start your weird stuff again, Em. You're going to scare another grownup and she'll leave us somewhere."

  Ms. Tosha looked really mad and started driving again.

  That night, after they'd found a good spot to sleep in the building above the quiet street, Ms. Tosha had left two bottles of water, a bag of stale crackers and nothing else. She'd left them and Emalee knew Mason blamed her.

  She kinda blamed herself.

  "I miss watching Battleship," Mason said. "I love that movie."

  "I don't miss it. You watched it too much," Emalee said. "I want to dance to Pink and Katy Perry again."

  "Duh. You can. Just listen to the song in your head," Mason said.

  "Fine. Then watch the movie in your head."

  "I will," Mason said and picked up another block of the building.

  "Be careful. You don't want the rest of the floor to collapse," Emalee said.

  They'd woken to find Ms. Tosha had left them and the half of the building with the door to the hallway had crumbled and fallen in overnight, leaving a big gap and nowhere to go.

  Only a lone zombie below, trying to get up to them.

  Mason dropped another block and laughed. "I hit it, uh, him. But he's not dead."

  "He is dead," Emalee corrected him.

  "I get it. Stop saying it," Mason said. He began searching for another object to drop down.

  "You're so mean. What if he was mom or dad?" Emalee asked. She managed to move the screw out a couple of turns.

  "Duh. He wouldn't be mom," Mason said.

  Emalee shook her head but didn't say anything. When Mason got into his fighting mode, he would never stop, even when he was wrong. He was the most stubborn boy she'd ever met. Actually, one of the few she'd ever talked to.

  People called Emalee and Mason Special behind their backs, as if it was a bad thing. As if they really weren't Special. Mom and dad knew the truth. It sometimes scared them but they knew what they really were capable of. Someday the world would see.

  There is no world anymore. Duh.

  Emalee turned to her brother and scrunched her face. "Get out of my head, Mason. I keep telling you to stop it."

  Mason shrugged. "I can't help it sometimes. I'm bored. I want to go somewhere and not be so hot. I want to find someplace that has electricity so I can watch Battleship. I want to eat perogies."

  "You need to control it," Emalee said.

  "Look who's talking? You can't keep quiet about seeing dead people."

  Emalee felt her cheeks burning and turned away so Mason didn't see her cry.

  Whether he was still reading her thoughts or not, he didn't say another word and went back to looking over the side.

  "There are more of them now," Mason said quietly. "I think I made too much noise dropping rocks."

  "No kidding." Emalee got the screw turned another time, but there were four in the
grate. "Stop letting them see you. They'll go away if you stop teasing them."

  Mason came over and sat down next to Emalee, using his longer nails to turn the screws twice as fast as Em could, but still too slow.

  "Where will we go?" Emalee asked.

  Mason sighed. "Ms. Tosha was going south. The north is a mess now. The zombies have had it all to themselves. She was going to go to Florida and lounge on the beach and drink what other adults drink."

  Emalee clicked her tongue. "You read her mind, didn't you?"

  "Maybe," Mason said and grinned. "She thinks about weird stuff I don't understand. I knew about her sister but you brought her up. That wasn't good. I think Ms. Tosha was embarrassed but also mad at you."

  "Me? Why?"

  "Because you could talk to Mathyu. She couldn't. I think her sister just stared at her all the time and never said a word," Mason said. He grinned. "Maybe I'll get lucky when you die and turn into a ghost and you won't be able to talk to me."

  Emalee punched her brother in the arm and went back to work.

  "I'm really hungry," Mason said after ten minutes of getting his screw loose but far from out.

  "Me, too. I told you not to eat everything."

  "You ate half," Mason said defensively.

  "I did before you ate part of my half."

  They were quiet; the only sounds the scraping of their fingernails against the metal and the moving zombies below.

  "Why don't they moan or make noise?" Emalee asked.

  "Duh. They have no voice because they're dead," Mason said.

  "Then why are they walking and biting people? Sometimes you make no sense."

  Mason didn't have an answer. He got the screw over halfway out and yanked hard on it. The screw came loose and so did the grate from the wall.

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