Of Royal Descent (The Royal Series) Online - Ember Shane

1

When I was a kid, I always knew I was different. I could feel something burning down deep inside. I always imagined I would grow up to be special, maybe become the President, maybe a rocket scientist. What I did not expect to become was a leader of an uprising zombie army.

And yet, here I was... crouching in the night shadows, waiting to give the signal for the first wave of attacks. I glanced down the road to ensure my best friend Chuck remained hidden among the trees. You wouldn't believe how quickly things can escalate when humans find out they're being overran by the living dead. They tend to panic.

I crawled closer to the edge of lamplight and assessed the situation. A line of guards blocked the entrance to the zombie containment facility. I gave a hushed combat call, sending my first soldier shuffling toward the watchmen. If it was war Bradbury wanted, I was more than happy to oblige.

Four weeks earlier...

It was early September and the trees had already begun to show a splash of color. It was unexpectedly cool for late summer, even for Maine, and I shoved my hands deep into my jacket pockets as Chuck and I wound our way through the parking lot at the community college where we attended. Carpooling was not only beneficial to the environment, but practical when you considered the overcrowded parking lot.

"You wanna come over?" Chuck asked as he opened the passenger door to my Prius.

"Can't. I promised Dad I would help him clean out the garage today," I replied, angling behind the steering wheel. "Don't suppose you're free?" I shot Chuck a knowing smile.

"Don't suppose I am," he smiled back.

Chuck Johnson had been my best friend since grade school. Aside from the summer after sophomore year when we were both employed at Tom’s Video Rental, he has never done any actual labor. That is, if you count watching movies and hitting on customers labor. Chuck has never had to work for anything because his father is the Eliot Johnson aka "Gimpy" from Gimpy's Frozen Seafood and has allowed Chuck a more than generous allowance over the years.

I turned over the engine and pulled out into the line of cars waiting to exit the lot.

"Were you awake for any of lecture today?" I glanced at Chuck who gave a grunt as an initial reply.

"You know I'm not into all that psychology crap, Doyle."

"Aren't you at least into passing the class?” I shrugged. “And besides, it was actually kind of interesting today. He talked about the impact outside forces have on who we turn out to be."

"Oh, so it was part two of the nature versus nurture lecture that riveted you last week?"

"Smart ass."

"I mean, I just don't get it, Doyle. Take serial killers for example. Whether they had crappy moms or ones that gave them butterfly kisses after milk and cookies every night, would it make a difference? Some people are just born with a dark spot on their soul."

"I don't know. It might make a difference. I guess we’ll never know how many would-be serial killers have been stopped in their tracks by a butterfly-kissing mother, now will we?"

Chuck shook his head. “There are some people that are just... monsters. And if you're born a monster than life has already written your fate."

"That's just it. I don't know if I believe you can be born a monster."

We got to the front of the line of cars and I headed south toward Chuck's house.

Chuck hesitated before continuing, "What about baby crocodiles? With all the love and nurturing in the world, a baby crocodile will never grow up to be a koala bear. It is what its DNA says it is."

I couldn't help but smile in response. "But we are not baby crocodiles. People have free will to choose how they live their lives."

"True, but if there's such a thing as a monster gene, there's not enough free will and positive influence in the world that can change the course of nature."

"Ok, Chuck, point taken."

Chuck stared at me in mock amazement. "Doyle Hawthorne, are you conceding that I, Chuck Johnson, may actually have a valid point?"

I rolled my eyes. "You're still a smart ass."

A few minutes later we were pulling into Chuck's driveway. He ambled out of the car and bent to face me through the open door.

"Am I still picking you up at ten tomorrow?"

"Yeah, and try to actually do your homework before class this time."

"Ah, we'll see." Chuck threw