by Linda G Mooney
||Music and Press
Linda G Mooney
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Four years ago Byron Shales was a manager for a department store. Now he hunts down and captures the newly zombie-fied dead, and resells them at auction to the highest bidder. What his buyers do with them after the sale is finalized is none of his business, and frankly he couldn’t care less.
His beliefs and apathy come to a sickening halt when he elects to keep one young woman for himself, and discovers that all his pre-conceived notions about these non-living creatures have been a lie. In fact, the truth about Rothsburg’s Disease may be more horrifying than the flesh-eating creatures it infects.
Taking the snare pole in both hands, he took several steps into the room. Habit made him double-check the corners for signs of another one of those things. A good trapper had to keep an extra pair of eyes in the back of his head if he wanted to live long enough to spend his money.
Glancing back at the girl, Byron saw she had gotten to her feet, but she remained where she was. If he didn’t know any better, he would swear she wasn’t in any hurry to attack him.
"What’s the matter? Why won’t you come over here and take a bite? Huh?" He held out an arm in invitation. "Come on. Here it is. All nice and warm and juicy. Bet you’d love to take a chunk out of it, wouldn’t you? Well, come on!" He gave his arm a little wiggle. "Come one and try."
The creature looked at his arm, then back at him. She took a tentative step toward him. Byron took an identical step backwards.
"That’s right. Come and get it. It’s full of warm blood, and I bet you’re hungry, aren’t you?"
She took a second step, which he echoed in reverse, but her gaze wasn’t on the tempting arm he was baiting her with. She was watching him. As ridiculous as it appeared, it was like she was wary or something. Byron shook his head. No way, man. No fucking way.
He grabbed the snare pole with both hands and played out more of the wire. The creature stopped. One of her hands reached for her throat, and he nearly dropped his jaw.
It was starting to be too goddamn freaky.
"What’s with you, for Christ’s sake? What’s with the hesitation? You’re acting like you have intelligence, and we both know that can’t be true. You’ve been dead now for, what? A few days at the most. Not more than a week. You’re fresh. I gotta hand you that, but your brain’s been rotting inside your skull all that time. There’s no way you could be thinking, much less anticipating me."
He took another step, and this time the girl took a step backwards.
Enough of this bullshit, Shales! Get her!
Determined to end this imaginary stalemate, Byron strode over and slipped the noose over the thing’s head, pulling it tight as he gripped the end of the pole.
She didn’t struggle.
She didn’t howl.
She didn’t fight him or the noose.
Byron stared in shock at the creature. He had been hunting zombies for nearly four years, and nothing had prepared him for this. No other undead had acted this way, and those dead things were as predictable as night and day.
He tugged on the pole. The creature didn’t react one way or another. Byron frowned. Maybe her attack button was missing. That, or she never had one. Or it had rotted away.
Something flashed at the corner of his eye. The setting sun reflected off something like a window in the distance. The distraction reminded him he was wasting time. Plus it was a good three miles to the compound if he wanted to get there before the gates were closed for the night.
Pulling on the pole, he watched as the girl reluctantly took a step forward. Then another. Gradually, she followed him outside and to the truck. The entire time her hands remained dangling by her sides.
Once they reached the pickup, he debated whether to slam her up against the board of nails so he could cuff her. To his shock, he saw the creature’s eyes look over at the thirteen-by-seventeen piece of wood attached to the side of the vehicle before she glanced up at him. Warning bells were going off in his head, but at that moment he was totally dumbfounded.
"Shit. Don’t tell me you don’t want to be pinned. Is that it?"
Christ, why was he even asking her? She was dead! She had no brain function anymore. Therefore she couldn’t think, and she damn sure couldn’t be dreading what was about to happen to her! She was already dead, for fuck’s sake! What could be worse?
"Fuck this," he muttered, dragging her to the tailgate. He grabbed a pair of cuffs out of the toolbox and jammed the end of the snare pole underneath the ramp. "All right, girlie. Let’s see if you fight me now."
Byron Shales is a hunter, but he doesn’t hunt animals. He hunts the undead who roam the Earth, capturing them and taking them back to be auctioned off. This is life in the new world of the undead. But this trip is different. One of his catches seems really strange. She seems completely docile, unlike the other creatures tied up in the back of his truck. And he knows it sounds insane, but…is that fear he sees in her eyes? There’s something really different about her. He decides to keep her, taking her home and locking her in his holding cage, where she even manages to communicate her name to him, Isabellla. But can she really be as docile as she seems? Or is there a secret hiding in her decaying form?
The best word I can find to describe Isabellla is weird. It’s kind of like a snapshot of life in the Resident Evil world away from all the action of the video games and movies. Same premise even—a virus escapes from a scientific facility and spreads, and those who are unaffected try to go on living while avoiding the undead roaming the planet. But the similarities end there. Isabellla is low on action and, while the characters try to be deep and insightful, the straight-up weirdness of their little community and what they do with the undead overshadows that sense of meaning. Not to mention Byron, who prides himself on his pragmatism, goes all soft at the first sign Isabellla might be different. It just doesn’t make sense that, considering his total apathy toward the undead, he sees what he thinks might be fear and docility and decides that he simply must find out why she’s like that, no matter the cost. For a fan of the Resident Evil series, it’s an interesting, if not entirely exciting, variant on that world, but for the average reader, it’s just bloody and weird.
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