5 of 5 stars.
This tale’s fresh take on the zombie genre is particularly horror-worthy and welcome. The fast-moving British-style zombies here also retain a bit of their former personality and use it to lure their intended victims–family and friends–into a false sense of security. The ploy is rather demonic in nature.
Grandpa Joe, early in the apocalypse, thought to create a “danger word” [usually called a “safe word”] with his grandson, Kendrick, that even his parents would not be privy to. He also talked the parents into creating a safe room able to be opened only from the inside. When Joe’s daughter, Cass, calls to say that neighbors have come calling and that he should fetch his grandson, he has to fight through a pack of freaks that includes his daughter and son-in-law to get to his grandson locked in the safe room.
Flash forward many months, and Joe and Kendrick, aged 9, are residing in a remote cabin and living off Joe’s hunting skills. Supposed safe cities dot the Pacific Coast, including Kendrick’s former neighborhood, but Joe prefers to keep well enough alone except for occasional jaunts to Mike’s gas station where he can trade deer jerky for supplies. Mike and his 3 grown sons live behind electric fences and rule this new reality.
Joe and Kendrick, on a trip to Mike’s, notice a hitchhiking freak that almost looks normal but for a hitch in his gait. Then, at Mike’s the gates are wide open without the sons on guard duty. Nervous tension rises until Mike appears at the station door beckoning them inside . . .
Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers, ed. Brandon Massey (Dafina Books / Kensington Corp.).
[Check out my other reviews here.]