EverRealm: A LitRPG Novel (Level Dead Book 1), страница 1
A litRPG Novel
Level Dead- Book 1
Copyright 2017 by Jake Bible
The end of the world arrived one night and nobody knew it. They slept, partied, worked overtime, called boyfriends, girlfriends, parents. On the other side of the planet, it was day, yet no one on that hemisphere knew the world was over either.
The human race died due to being completely clueless.
Which is how we all thought we’d go out anyway, right?
But this isn’t a story about the end of the world. Not this world, at least. I could go into detail on how the dead rose and got a little hungry, so they decided they’d hunt down anything living and devour it. And when I say the dead rose, I mean all of the dead. Not just humans.
Dogs, cats, birds, potbelly pigs. All of the animal kingdom decided that death wasn’t their thing, so they’d just get up and start gnawing on anything they could catch.
And they weren’t slow.
Nothing special like super speed, no. They moved at the speed of their species. Hence the world ending in one night. No overweight housewife or fat businessman is going to outrun an undead German Shepherd with a sudden hankering for people meat. And the wino on the corner sure isn’t going to outrun the recently shot gangbanger that has just acquired a taste for flesh that has been marinating for years in fortified wine.
Twenty-four hours and it was over.
You would have thought that the civilization of the 23rd century would have had a better clue on how to handle an undead apocalypse. Centuries of film and television and other media laid everything out there. But people are sheep, and when no one stepped up to take charge, not that there was much time for that, the sheep simply fell over and let the undead wolves rip their bellies open and feast on their hot, steaming guts.
I mean that figuratively and literally.
So, how did I survive? That’s a different story. One I have zero interest in going into too much detail about. There was a lot of blood, a good amount of betrayal, and quite possibly the biggest pile of luck any man could step in.
No, this story is about a whole other world. In a way.
“Holo,” I called in as loud of a whisper as I thought I could get away with. The area should have been clear of the undead, but I never took anything for granted. Not when I’d survived longer than approximately eighteen billion others. “Holo!”
There was a grating noise from the alleyway to my left and I froze. I waited, listening hard to see if I could tell what was moving in the dark shadows only a few yards away. It could have been my Siberian Husky mix, Holo. Or it could have been a wave of undead rats that smelled my living flesh and were getting ready to charge me. I’d watched more than a few survivors go down that way.
I wanted to call for my dog again, but I couldn’t risk it. I’d already made way too much noise. It was supposed to be one last, simple scavenging mission. That was all. No risks, no detours, no trouble. But Holo always had other ideas. He was a smart dog, like really smart, but he had a mind of his own and was fearless in the face of the hordes upon hordes of undead that stalked the city streets.
I could have used tech to handle the hard parts. I had plenty of drones and more automatons than I could count. But no matter how convenient those things were, they attracted the undead. The undead love tech. They feel or hear or just sense the hum of a motor and here they come. They can lock onto a whirring drone from half a mile away and follow that thing all the way home. Which has happened more times than I care to admit. Same with the automatons. The maintenance bots brought all the undead to the yard. I couldn’t let those mechanical wonders leave the high-rise or we were swarmed in seconds.
That meant any excursions had to be done the hard way. On foot.
More grating from the alleyway and I decided that Holo was smart enough to find his own way back to the high-rise. He’d done it before. I’d been out in the open too long as it was. At any second, a flock of undead pigeons was going to swoop down on me and peck me to death. It would be an agonizing, and embarrassing, way to go, but none of us get to choose our deaths anymore.
Except, that’s not true.
It was the reason I’d risked one last scavenging run. I was out of alcohol in the massive penthouse I’d acquired after the world collapsed into undead apocalypse ruin. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I needed something to toast with as I joined my friends in our final journey.
A journey to the Center.
God, I hate that damn name. I really hate it. I wanted Hub. Why? Because the place was an actual hub. A virtual locale where we all met and planned our strategies for eternal survival. A hub. Not a center.
But I didn’t design it, so I didn’t get to name it. One of the other Nine did. Ming. He’s not of Asian descent. He just really likes that old Flash Gordon movie. Guy is obsessed.
I’m getting ahead of myself. First things first. I have to tell you about the state of the world before our meeting in the Center. It puts it all in context.
“Holo,” I whispered once more, still backing away from the increasingly louder grating noise coming from the alleyway.
There was a huff and a scrape of nails behind me.
I whipped around, my fire axe raised, ready to strike down whatever undead abomination was coming for me. But, it was Holo, not an undead schnauzer. The Husky wagged his tail and let his tongue lull from between his sharp teeth, his bright blue eyes locked on mine, ready for the order to head home.
Of course, that meant that Holo was for sure not what was making the noise in the alleyway.
That also meant it was time to give said order to head home and do so at a pace that was faster than whatever was slowly making its way to the mouth of the alleyway.
“Go,” I said and nodded to a street corner up ahead. “Home. Now.”
Holo gave me a puzzled look and turned to regard the street corner to my left. He woofed softly, having learned early that a loud woof was a bad, bad idea. Smart dog. I turned and looked down the street to my left and frowned. That way would add at least ten minutes to our trip because of the collapsed buildings we’d have to scramble over to get to our high-rise. Not to mention what was still trapped in those buildings. Holo was on crack if he thought I wanted to spend an extra ten minutes out in the open as the sun was quickly beginning to set. We didn’t have an extra ten minutes to risk.
He woofed again and nudged my thigh with his nose then grabbed my jeans with his teeth and pulled. The grating noise was louder, but there was something else joining it. I tried to figure out what I was hearing, but between Holo’s insistence we go his way, the constant grating of the mystery in the alleyway, and my own perfectly reasonable fear, I was at a loss.
Then what Holo was worried about came around the corner, the corner I had originally wanted to move towards, and things clicked into place. And by click into place, I mean I nearly shit myself then took off running in the direction Holo was already heading.
You run your ass off when an undead silverback gorilla shows up.
Now, here is one good thing about the variability in species amongst the undead. They hate each other as much as they want to eat the living. If the species were incompatible in life, then they were incompatible in death, too. Fighting like cats and dogs took on a whole new meaning. A meaning that involved a lot of rotten flesh being torn and shredded as Fido and Fluffy went claw to claw and tooth to tooth against each other.
That gave Holo and me a brief advantage when
Crocodile. A goddamn undead crocodile. Saltwater croc. Nasty fella.
It was missing its right back leg, which was causing that grating noise as the splintered bone scraped against the foul pavement. But the thing still had plenty of teeth. I know because I saw those teeth as that huge mouth was pointed at me until the undead croc caught sight of the undead gorilla charging at it. An undead death match made in heaven.
Someone from PETA (I know it was PETA because they spray painted their name everywhere) thought it would be a good use of time to systematically open all the animal enclosures at the zoo. Set the caged free! Except, the damned animals got out, were killed quickly by folks with firearms, reanimated in seconds, and unleashed undead hell on everyone and everything.
I’m all for activism, but sometimes think things through, okay?
Holo was almost a full block ahead of me before he stopped and turned to see if I was coming. I was and running fast. I didn’t want to use the calories, I was skinny enough as it was, but it was better than being included in the Tarzan horror hell that was about to erupt behind me. And it certainly did erupt as I heard the roars, hisses, snarls and the clash of undead bodies.
All that noise was going to bring more of the undead my way. I needed to pick up speed and get back to the high-rise as fast as possible.
Holo turned and gave me a warning bark, telling me, as he had a thousand times before, that I was slow as shit, and if I got taken down by the impending horde of undead, it was my own damn fault. He spun back around and sprinted towards the pile of rubble that used to be one of the fancier hotels in the downtown area. All it was now was a bunch of concrete and steel that blocked my way.
Holo scrambled up the pile of rubble, careful not to stay in one spot for too long. The reason being that grabbing hands began to pop up through the crevices and holes in the pile, their broken fingers and flesh-torn palms slapping uselessly at the concrete they were trapped under.
I had no choice but to follow the damn dog.
I tucked my fire axe into its sling on my back then grabbed onto a hunk of iron that used to be part of an ornate balcony railing. I hauled my ass up onto the pile, climbing hand over hand, while avoiding all the undead hands, and foot over foot, desperate to keep moving and put as much distance between myself and the undead jungle war going on back in the distance. I clambered across the remains of the hotel until I was at the top and saw the street beyond.
It was my lucky day. There were only a dozen undead walking towards me and Holo, who was waiting at the bottom of the rubble and didn’t seem too worried. It could have been a lot worse.
Of course, that’s when I heard the skittering of tiny little claws. The much worse had decided to make itself known.
“Rats,” I said to Holo. “Go!”
Holo didn’t need to be told twice. He took off at full speed, his body low and sleek as he gauged the best route through the small crowd of undead. They were all human, men and women that had succumbed during the first day or so of the end of the world. It was easy to tell when they went down because of what they were wearing. Still dressed, although in tatters, in business suits and that city-casual look that used to say, “Hey, ignore my lack of income because I dress cool and hang out in coffee shops pretending to write when I’m just stalking my ex on Facebook.”
I hated those guys. The business dressed and the city-casual assholes.
Good thing I could take out my frustrations on them.
When I reached the bottom of the rubble, I pulled my fire axe from out of its sling and choked up on the handle, gripping the chipped red-painted wood about halfway up. That gave me more control and a tighter arc. I needed my swings to be hard and efficient. Anything less meant the possibility of losing my balance or the axe blade getting stuck in a split skull.
The first asshole still had a cell phone in his grip. He must have died with it in his hand, and the blood and bodily fluids that leaked around it simply cemented it to his palm. Rotten flesh and congealed blood was the new super glue in my world.
My axe pulverized his skull. One second it was there, the next second it wasn’t. Just gone.
I kept running, taking out undead as needed, and was quickly past the undead dozen.
That’s when the skittering of tiny claws grew even louder. It echoed from below, coming from a storm grate to my left. The sewers were emptying their undead lords.
It was gonna be close.
There was no way I could outrun a swarm of undead rats. Anyone that had ever tried quickly learned their folly. You have maybe ten, fifteen seconds before you get your ass covered in rotten flesh and fur. So, sprinting my ass back home wasn’t an option.
It was for Holo and I caught a last glimpse of his tail as he ducked around a corner and was lost from sight. Good for him. Nothing he could do. We’d trained for this the past few years.
When we were out in the world, his job was to use his senses to help scavenge and act as an early warning system. He was no good in a fight against the undead. They’d rip him apart in seconds. Yeah, sure, he had one powerful jaw, but he didn’t have hands and couldn’t wield a weapon. The moment he chomped down on any of the undead, he was done for. He would be infected and then game over.
So Holo ran his ass off.
But, like I said, we’d trained for this scenario for years.
I ran as hard and fast as I could, leaving the sound of the gorilla versus crocodile undeath match far behind. I couldn’t leave the sound of the rats coming up from below behind, though. They were everywhere, and it was only a matter of which storm grate they came scurrying out of and when. Could be any second, could be never. Sometimes those little undead shits stopped stalking me and remained below.
Not that time.
I could see movement in a grate about half a block ahead. Too many at once wanted out and they’d gotten wedged together. That was good. Gave me a split second to turn right and take an alley I knew like the back of my hand.
Except normally there wasn’t a pride of mini-lions waiting for me. By mini-lions, I mean stray cats. I call them mini-lions because a cat is a cat is a cat. Claws. Teeth. Muscles. Intense desire to kill, kill, kill. Living cats kept their homicidal tendencies towards humans in check. Undead cats didn’t hold back on that impulse.
Four of them eyed me. With the eyes they had left, at least. Two of them had some nasty hangers drooping from their heads, the eyeballs attached only by tenuous nerve clusters.
I swung my axe and impaled one cat with the pike end. A flick of my wrist and the undead feline went flying against the alley’s brick wall, its body exploding on impact. The undead were so full of rot that they tended to burst like bubbles. All that gas building up. That cat went off like a pus- and blood-filled water balloon.
The other three leapt and I ducked low, letting one fly over my shoulder as I sliced another in half with the axe. The last cat landed on my back and its claws became embedded in the leather of the reinforced motorcycle jacket I wore. It could shred that leather all day and all it would find underneath was metal alloy and Kevlar webbing. My skin was safe for the time being.
I straightened and ran backwards, slamming my back, and the undead cat, against a rusted-out dumpster. The cat popped and guts went flying everywhere. I closed my eyes and my mouth, pinching my nostrils together with my fingers, and prayed none of the gunk got in me.
But I couldn’t stand there and pray for long. The cat that had flown over my shoulder came at me fast. I kicked it in the head, but it shook off the blow and attacked again.
Then the wave of undead rats came around the corner of the alley.
Undead rats saw undead cat, undead cat saw undead rats.
Undead brains have no fear. Cat met rats. Rats destroyed cat.
I tossed my axe into its sling and ran like a mofo, leaping at the fire escape ladder
Up the fire escape I went until I was on the roof. Across the roof to the far corner and a waiting cable. Out came the axe again, but not for the chopping. I reached the corner and jumped, resting the axe across the cable so I could hold the handle on either side and slide down the cable.
Before the world ended, I was deathly afraid of heights. You get over that shit fast when the undead rule the planet.
I was easily two hundred feet off the ground and moving fast. If one of my hands slipped, I was dead. But I didn’t have much of a choice. The key to survival is never stay still. Always keep going. Think two moves ahead and have a backup plan. There were dozens of cables like the one I was speeding along set up across the city. My backup plans.
The building across from me grew closer and closer until it was time to let go or smash into a brick wall. I let go of one side of the axe and fell, my momentum taking me directly towards a fire escape landing that I’d outfitted with boards and moldy mattresses. I landed hard, but it was a softer landing than if I’d fallen to the pavement below.
Keep going and never stay still.
I was up off the mattresses and through the open window just as I heard the tight twang of the cable above me ring out. The rats were coming across.
Into the building, through the empty apartment, and out into the hallway. I sprinted for the stairs and headed up to the roof. Out onto the roof, across the roof, and I was sliding down another cable.
I repeated that process twice more and was able to finally ditch the undead rats. I didn’t kid myself that they had given up. No way. Rats never give up. They had my scent and would keep after me until something else grabbed their attention.