Title: His Name Was Zach
Author: Peter Martuneac
One day at a time. That is how Zach lives. He and his teenage daughter Abby have been living somewhat comfortably, hidden in the woods, in the two years since ‘The Crisis’, but that all changes when marauders find their home and burn it down. Forced to flee out into the dangerous Wild, father and daughter must now wander in search of a safe place, a new home.But out in the Wild, friends are few, psychotic enemies abound, and Zach and Abby will be forced to confront demons from their pasts. Will their familial bond hold long enough to reach safety? Or will they lose themselves to the surrounding madness?
[EXTRACT From the book]
The man in camouflage utilities walked slowly down the weed-ridden sidewalk. It was deserted for now, but undue noise had the potential to attract unwanted attention. He could walk quietly, even in his military-style boots, which might have been heavy and cumbersome to most, but years spent wearing such footwear had made them feel as light as sandals to him.
A black Jack Daniel’s bandana around his forehead kept the sweat out of his dark, onyx-colored eyes; it was summer, and even in the relatively mild climate of Chicago the temperature could soar above ninety degrees Fahrenheit. He carried a Smith & Wesson rifle that was painted in the same camo pattern as the man’s clothes, a pattern known as A-TACS. A .45 caliber, 1911 pistol was on his thigh in a tactical holster, and a large KA-BAR was sheathed behind him on his right side. He gave his shoulders a shrug, adjusting the green military ruck, filled with canned goods and water, on his back.
Behind the man walked a pretty, young girl. She was fourteen years old, and Abby was her name. Her hazelnut hair, a shade lighter than the man’s short, military style hair, was pulled back into a ponytail which poked out of the back of a raggedy baseball hat. Like the man, she also wore boots, but these were hiking boots and did not have steel toes like the man’s boots did. “Boots last longer, and they protect your ankles better,” was what the man had told Abby when she asked if she could wear her old shoes instead, and she did not argue with him.
The man was not her father, but he had always provided for and protected her like a father would. Abby had actually never known her real father, and her mother had been murdered in the early days of the outbreaks, or The Crisis as it was often called, so she was all alone when the man found her almost two years ago. She had made him a bracelet out of survival cord after living with him for a few weeks to show her appreciation, and he still wore it to this day.
She carried a backpack that was filled with things they had found on this scavenging trip into the abandoned city of Chicago: cans of food, a few bottles of water, ammunition, and some batteries. She also found an old People magazine which the man let her take. She enjoyed reading these old magazines, as they made her feel nostalgic about how things had been in the ‘Before Times’, which is what people generally called the time prior to The Crisis. She thought her pack was heavy, but she knew that the man’s ruck was far heavier, and so did not complain. She did not have a rifle, but she did have a 9mm Glock 17 tucked into the back of her olive-green cargo pants. A Gerber combat knife hung from her belt on her right side, and a slingshot was stuffed in her back pocket. This slingshot was one of her most prized possessions, since the man had made it for her years ago, just days after meeting her.
Abby’s bright grey eyes slowly swept from right to left, looking for any threats or useful items that they could take. The man had trained her to look from right to left when scanning her surroundings. “Years of reading from left to right makes your eyes lazy,” he’d told her, “so you’re likely to miss something unless you look from right to left”.
Suddenly, she stopped walking, reached out, and tapped the man in front of her twice, their signal to stop. He froze in place and cocked his good ear towards her (he was half deaf in his left ear, thanks to his many deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as an infantry Marine).
“Zach, I see one over there,” she whispered, pointing to the right. Zach, for that was the man’s name, looked across the street, and through the broken window of what used to be a souvenir shop, he could see it. It was a man who had probably been in his fifties when he was infected, judging by the large bald spot on the back of its head. It was not walking around, but swaying back and forth in place. Abby always thought that this meant they were asleep, if zombies ever slept.
Zach put a finger to his lips, and Abby nodded. They quickened their pace, but stayed quiet. “Never start a confrontation with those things, or you’ll bring down hordes of them,” Zach had always said. Their scavenging trip had gone without a hitch thus far, and he intended to keep it that way. Cities were always dangerous, not only because of the thousands of undead, but also due to the anarchic war-bands that roamed around their tiny empires, terrorizing innocent survivors.
Zach hated these people more than zombies. The zombies were just animals, and you can’t hate an animal for following its instincts to eat and survive. But people had no excuse for their behavior. And preying on the innocent, raping and murdering just because there is no one to punish you for your actions was despicable.
The pair kept walking for a few blocks until they finally returned to where they had parked their truck, a gunmetal-grey Ford F-150. Zach had found it in the garage of an abandoned house some months back, and though they didn’t drive it often because of the scarcity of fuel, it was nice to have, especially on these long trips. They kept it hidden when they were not using it, out in the farmland areas. They tossed their packs into the truck bed and then climbed into the cab. Zach turned the key and the big engine roared to life. He drove away quickly, knowing that the noise could be heard for miles around.
“So when are you going to let me drive?” Abby asked after a few minutes of silence, her subtle Southern twang lightly accenting that last word.
Zach chuckled and said, “Maybe when you can reach the pedals.”
“But I can! I’ve grown an inch this year, so I’m five foot three now. See?” she replied, stretching her feet to the floor. But Zach just smiled and shook his head, knowing Abby was just teasing him. She smiled back and said, “We did really well today, didn’t we?”
“We sure did. Hopefully we won’t have to resupply for a few weeks.”
“And we didn’t have any close calls like last time,” said Abby as she took her hat off and tossed it into the back seat. Zach just grunted in reply. He didn’t like having their last trip into the city brought up because a zombie had almost bit Abby. Just thinking about it now made him uncomfortable and so he started to whistle a tune to lighten his mood.
“What’s that song?” Abby asked.
“It’s the theme from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’,” Zach replied.
“Never heard of it,” Abby said.
“What, are you serious?” Zach asked, looking at Abby in disbelief.
“Uh, yeah. Why, was it a big deal or something?”
“A big deal or…” Zach said, shaking his head. “Yeah, it was a big deal! It was one of the first great comedies on TV, kid!”
“Okay, so it came out in like the 60’s then? That was like forty years before I was born, Zach. Well before my time.”
“Well yeah, but I mean they show re-runs on TV and there’s DVD sets and stuff. It came out a long time before I was born too, but I still watched it. It was a timeless classic!”
“Well, it obviously wasn’t that timeless,” Abby said with a smirk as she put her feet up on the dash.
“Oh, that’s terrible,” Zach muttered.
“You’re terrible,” Abby replied.
[About the author]
I’m Peter Martuneac, author of the new dystopian novel “His Name Was Zach”, and I grew up moving around to different places, from Florida to Illinois and even to South Africa. After graduating high school, I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps as a rifleman and deployed to Afghanistan twice. In fact, deep in the Taliban-controlled province of Helmand is where I wrote by hand the first draft of my book.
Fast forward six years later, I’m not a husband, father of two, and a self-published author with two more full length novels in the works! I’m excited to share with you a short excerpt from His Name Was Zach that I think reflects the overall feel of the story. It’s not about the zombies, the marauders, or the groups of survivors. It’s about Zach and Abby, a father and daughter, and their relationship with each other.
Buy His Name Was Zach on Amazon.