Waking Up Dead Online - Emma Shortt

PART ONE

“ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF YOU’VE GOT THE NERVE…BUT

SOMETIMES A MACHETE HELPS TOO.”

JACKSON HART

Chapter One

CHICAGO

Without a doubt the house with the pretty green shutters had food inside of it. Pasta, canned vegetables, tinned meats, hell, it could have a five course, good-to-go, gourmet meal in there for all Jackson Hart knew. Crouched down behind an overturned SUV she could practically hear it all screaming from inside the pantry, and she narrowed her eyes as she assessed the best way to get at it.

Not through the front door. It was probably barred tight with planks of wood, or barricaded with piled-up furniture. Maybe through the back? But the skinny, shadowed alleyway that ran between the house and its fence screamed, horror movie showdown, and for all Jackson knew she’d be risking it only to find a blocked-up back door too. The shutters then. How thick were they? Was the glass behind them intact? Jackson hefted Mandy-the-machete and considered the possibilities.

“You’re looking thoughtful there. For the record it doesn’t suit you.”

Those words came from Tyrone, her friend, her only friend, if you wanted to get right down to it. He joined her behind the SUV, swinging his ax as he did so, and making absolutely no attempt to stay hidden.

“I was being stealthy,” Jackson said with a sigh. “You totally just ruined it.”

“Stealthy for who?” he asked. “The rats? There’s only them and us. We checked the street. It’s all quiet.”

Jackson frowned as she looked away from the house and down said street. A backpack, probably a child’s by the size of it, caught her attention, and she frowned as she noticed what looked like a rusty toy truck sticking out of the zipper. The things people had thought to take when they tried to run…it still baffled her.

“Quiet or not, they’re here somewhere,” she said softly. “It’s been almost a day since we saw any of them.”

“Let’s hope for another day and then maybe another.” He paused. “Better yet, let’s hope for a week.”

Jackson almost laughed. “Might as well wish for a working car.”

“I do, sweetheart. Daily. We’re surrounded by wheels and not one of them worth a damn.”

“Two years and then some pretty much kills everything.”

“Everything but us,” Tye said.

Jackson nodded slowly at the truth of those words, tore her gaze away from the truck, and pointed her machete at the shuttered house. “Enough with the reminiscing. Take a look at that.”

Tye’s gaze followed the line of the blade. A frown spread across his face as he assessed the building from top to bottom. “It looks…”

“Like it probably did two years ago?”

“Yeah.”

“Weird isn’t it?” Jackson said. “I don’t know about your end, but down there,” she tilted her head to the south of the street, “the rest of these million-dollar houses are rocking the post-apocalyptic-makeover vibe. Broken glass, doors hanging off their frames, trash all over the place.”

“And this one stands alone,” Tye said, his frown deepening. “Could be Obama’s. I heard he has a house around here.”

“Had, had a house,” Jackson said. “And I’m pretty sure the dead do not make dining distinctions based on fame, or,” she added when Tye opened his mouth to speak, “government office.”

“Unless he went rogue in the beginning. He could still be hanging around.” Tye paused and shook his head. “That’s a weird thought.”

“Weird but not outside the realms of possibility,” Jackson said. “Hence the stealth you just ruined. Something is off, and we can’t ignore it. If there’s food anywhere, it’s hidden in that house. The rest have been picked clean, and this one looks like it’s been protected.”

Tye shot her an incredulous look. “You’re seriously not suggesting there are actual people inside?”

She snorted. “Yep, I’m betting there’s a whole family just waiting to open their arms to us. They’ll have a meal all laid out, hot baths running—”

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, Jack.”

Jackson shook her head. “You goad me into it. Seriously though, I’m thinking there were people still living in there. Not for a while and not now,” she added, holding up her free hand to halt whatever words Tye had been about to say, “but maybe they lasted out longer than the rest of the street. It’d explain why things look different. Better yet, it might mean food.”

Tye stomach gave a grumble. It was far louder than it should have been and Jackson caught his eye.

“Keep it down. That was loud enough for a pack to hear.”

“Can’t help it,” he said. “You keep talking about food. When was