Novel Spotlight: Wicked Awake
The new novel by Merrill David is a fun romp of infestation-based zombie-like monsters! Here, a synopsis of the terror tale for all to enjoy! "Dallas Police Sergeant JAKE HATHAWAY is on duty one February afternoon when he parks his patrol vehicle in front of his brother’s middle-classed house. He leaves his K9 partner ROSCOE in the marked police sport utility vehicle and walks inside to wish his one-year old nephew a happy birthday.
What should be a joyous occasion quickly sours as Hathaway is attacked by two creatures that were once his brother and sister-in-law. No longer recognizable, their faces do not appear human. Their eyes are large and swollen, with dilated tiny pupils. These THINGS are not dead, nor fully alive, but somewhere in-between.
For Hathaway, this will ultimately be the beginning of the end of life as he once knew it. Jake is not only forced to take the lives of his former loved ones but is then arrested for and convicted of their murders. Sentenced to die, the former Marine awaits his fate inside prison as an epidemic is brewing on the outside; numbers of people turn into zombie-like monstrosities on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, Jake’s former trainee, Officer KELVIN “MACK” MC ELROY, Hathaway’s girlfriend AMANDA MC NIGHT, and his attorney friend DUY “DEWEY” TRAN, are rallying behind him. But, lurking in the shadows, is Jake’s arch-enemy, DANIEL CAMACHO.
Camacho had served in the Marine Corp under the command of Captain Jake Hathaway. There, Camacho and two others named LEVI FIEDLER and BARRETT BLACKHOOF, had ‘volunteered’ to participate in Hathaway’s highly experimental project. They were testing a formula, nicknamed ‘Zeus Juice,’ designed by government sponsored scientists to turn even the weakest, laziest Marines into ‘Invincible Warriors.’
But somewhere during the process of creating this compound substance, some protein-aceous infectious microscopic particles, or prions, found their way into the synthesis process. These pesky pathogens are responsible for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Mad Cow Disease and Scrapie. But they also attack brain tissue, often leaving mini craters in the membrane. The “Zeus Juice” began to influence the subjected humans in a similar manner as Mad Cow affected cattle and Scrapie affected sheep.
So, unbeknownst to Hathaway, this “Zeus Juice” that he was pushing on his soldiers was actually slowly turning them into beings that are not clinically dead or living. Their hearts will be defunct, with blood no longer flowing. They should be deceased, but they won’t feel the pain or know
that they are dead. So they will continue to sludge around, existing merely to eat and devour animal and human flesh. Now fully infected, Camacho is using his hold over Jake’s trusted friend, a Dallas County Medical Examiner named MICHELLE VALENCIA, to plot revenge against Jake.
As Hathaway is being transported to the Huntsville Texas Department of Corrections for execution, an older model pickup truck and a dark blue panel van emerge. They cause the Dallas County Jail’s aged Bluebird prisoner transport bus to overturn. Three individuals dressed head to toe in SWAT gear and carrying assault rifles walk toward the bus and execute a running gun battle with the prison transport guards.
The armed henchmen eventually take custody of Hathaway, knocking him into unconsciousness with a blunt force strike to the back of his head. Jake awakens hours later. His face is pressed against the cold, damp earth just east of the Texas/Louisiana border and south of Old Highway 90. He was directly on the edge of the Blue Elbow Swamp.
Jake’s friends Mack, Dewey, and Roscoe head out in search of Jake; dead or alive. They head up north to New England, Jake’s old stomping ground. They battle many mutations along the way, including a run in with a pack of hungry zombie animals. They also develop some new friendships in the process. ANTHONY, a twenty-two-year-old, heavily tattooed white male dwarf is one new acquaintance, along with a young couple of ‘Infection Armageddon’ You-Tubers named GRAHAM and NUNU, who have made an abandoned Fenway Park their makeshift home.
Meanwhile, Jake is encountering some adventures of his own now that he is freed and traveling up the east coast. In West Virginia, he comes across a moonshine shack where a backwoods hillbilly has shamelessly shackled a she-zombie for his pleasure. And in Pennsylvania, Jake spends the night in a deer stand in the Loyalsock State Forest on the one year anniversary of the ‘Birthday Incident.’ Jake begins the night alone with only a mason jar full of peach moonshine by his side. But before long, visions of a reincarnated President John F Kennedy visit him, along with a real herd of human-munchers and a couple of under paid Park Police Officers.
Jake survives this encounter with only a hangover to speak of and he continues his trek to the north. He eventually contacts an old high school friend named VINNY DE ANGELO, in “Southie”, or South Boston. Vinny is a crime family patriarch who is happy to oblige Jake with a place to hide out, as well as a well paying job; being Vinny’s driver/bodyguard.
Vinny provides Jake with fake forms of identification to support his alias identity of ‘Sal Armano’. Jake is very grateful for this opportunity, and things go smoothly for several months.
But just as Sal is beginning to feel comfortable in his new role, a new wise guy rolls into town. His name is FREDERICK SZHARKO. He is a short and petite runt of a cocky fuck with a blonde buzz cut. Szharko has what some people call the little man syndrome, always trying to talk and act big to make up for his other size shortcomings. Perhaps this is the reason Frederick demands that everyone call him ‘the Shark.’ A big, tough name for a little sawed-off jerk.
One evening, Shark takes Jake for a boat ride on the Charles River to talk business. Suddenly, ‘business’ turns into something very different. Szharko draws first blood, but Jake is the only man to leave the boat with a pulse. Jake knows that the discovery of the dead Shark carcass means more heat and attention will be arriving soon. It is undoubtedly time to move on.
Jake walks southbound into Connecticut and stops in at a convenience store, where he is attacked by a large CREATURE which had been slumbering behind the Slurpee machine. Jake destroys IT by thrusting a splintered mop handle upwards through IT’’s mouth, nasal passages and brain.
Jake then uses a snub nosed.380 from behind the counter to put a horribly mutilated store clerk woman out of her misery before taking her Soul. That is, her Kia Soul automobile. A scared and alone teenager named Denise begs Jake to take her along with him.
Jake begins to drive to Newport News, Virginia where a retired Dallas PD buddy of his had relocated. Believing it to be safe to make a call on Denise’s cell phone without it being traced back to him, Jake calls Mack’s cellphone. In a very short message, Jake said “meet me at the Glazier.”
Mack got the message. The shock of hearing Jake’s voice again is unreal. He IS alive!! Mack, Dewey, Anthony, and Roscoe reunite with Jake at the Glazier residence.
Michelle calls Mack on his cell phone. She gives him information about a possible underground laboratory where the ‘Zeus Juice’ was now supposedly being tested on civilians in Mexico, just south of Hidalgo Texas. Jake and his crew all head for the Texas/ Mexico border.
There, the team locates an abandoned grocery store turned experimental laboratory. They begin to investigate when an explosion rocks their worlds.
It is Saturday, February 3rd. Jake, the leviathan former law enforcer, awakes. He is unable to see anything other than the burlap sack tied over his head. He can hear another’s heavy breathing close by, and in a snap, the bag is removed from his face.
Hathaway looks about to assess his situation and learns that he has been hog-tied, with his hands and feet bound together behind him with rope and duct tape. He is in the center of a cage fighting arena, surrounded by the DEAD. And the evil one. Daniel Camacho.
More specifically, Jake is now in Las Vegas. At the far, less traveled end of the main strip, stands the Venetian- a twelve story, two hundred room hotel /casino which originally opened in 1970 as the Royal inn. It doesn’t have the lights of the Bellagio or the allure and glam that some of the other high-end places had, but it possesses a feature that can be found at no other place in the world.
For, far below the hotel’s main structure, is a secret underground five thousand seat arena. The atmosphere is dark and there is a distinct animal-like scent hovering about. The seats within are not very lush or even comfortable. Alcohol and water are served here but nothing more.
This theater is not meant for musical performances or wild cat acts. It is equipped for and only offers one means of entertainment; cage fighting.
Sitting in the front row is none other than Jake’s last lady love, Amanda. Amanda was under the belief that Jake had died in the prison bus escape, and she had since married a rich Texas oil tycoon.
Jake is unable to see her through the bright lights or hear her through the crowd. Yet he begins to fight the fight of his life. One final right bare-fisted battering ram from Jake pulverizes Camacho’s left cheek, sending Camacho’s brainpan in a downward tailspin, on a collision course- crashing straight into the cold canvas.
Jake had knocked Camacho down and nearly unconscious. The frenzied crowd is as
pleased as punch. Camacho manages to get on his knees and pulls a large Ka-Bar carbon steel-bladed Marine Corp knife from his pants leg. He then walks over to the back of the cage and severs one rope which has held eight more cannibalistic mutants secured in place.
Now freed, the zombies begin to walk about the cage as Jake is attempting to open the steel pen’s door. A couple of THEM approach Camacho and sniff at him but then quickly lose interest. They continue to drag onward, seemingly now more interested in Jake.
Jake walks over to the nearest zombie and puts his neck right in front of its mouth. The zombie inhales a face full of Hathaway scent and then turns its head away in disgust and limps away.
Camacho is stunned. “WHAT THE FUCK?! Wait- no way! You- you took it too! You drank the Zeus juice all along? You’re just like me, Fiedler and Blackhoof!?”
“Not quite” says Jake. “Because the truth of the matter is, I started to take those supplements weeks before you guys were even selected to participate. But I did it for completely different reasons
than you guys did. I went first to see what I was getting my troops into. That’s what leaders do, they don’t ask their men to do something that they wouldn’t or haven’t done themselves.”
Anthony sneaks past the arena militia undetected, opens the doors to the long runway leading up to the stage area, and runs as quickly as his short legs will allow. He jumps up onto the stage and dashes up to the cage door, then begins to use his cordless Makita drill to bore into the steel lock just above the door handle.
Camacho, who now realizes that Jake is more powerful than him, makes his way closer to the door in preparation of an escape. Seeing Anthony working on the door lock, Camacho kicks the door open from the inside. The solid chain link gate smacks the wee warrior hard, sending him airborne. Anthony’s body flies back about ten feet and he lands flat on his back, still on the stage.
Camacho runs over to Anthony, picks him up, and pulls the drill from Anthony’s tiny hands.
The over-sized long-haired villain then puts the small man under his arm and walks back into the cage. Camacho begins to squeeze the life out of his victim.
“Anthony!!” Jake roars as he races to his friend’s aid. Hathaway draws his fist back to punch the nasty piece of work, when Camacho begins to use the hi-jacked power tool to penetrate Jakes’s forehead. The drill bit slightly tears the law man’s skin, causing blood to trickle down into our hero’s eyes.
Camacho continues to bore onward, the high speed and torque of the drill bit continues to penetrate Jake’s flesh. The odor of parched body pulp is wafting through the air.
The penetration concludes abruptly as the drill bit strikes the original ‘Invulnerable Warrior’s’ skull. The drill bit fractures. The drill blade snaps into two, and the momentum of the break sends the borer backwards. The high-speed drill bumps into Camacho’s long flowing mane, tangles up and swirls around in his fleece. The evil incarnate does not realize what is happening and never lets up on applying pressure to the power tool’s trigger.
Camacho is unable to see what was happening, as he now has hair down over his eyes. The drill bit continues spinning, twisting the hair taught, until the Makita apparatus itself flies from Camacho’s grasp.
Jake grabs hold of the blue power drill and with an incredible feat of strength, he jerks the drill so hard that the momentum begins to pull Camacho’s scalp clean off his head. Jake continues to tug, causing more flesh to peel off. The UNLIVING ones, all in their hungry daze, dive in and devour the screaming Camacho in a horrific cannibal carnage.
Jake, Dewey, Mack and Roscoe commandeer a catering van. A solemn vibe fills the air as Anthony points the vehicle southbound in the early stretches of a roughly eighteen-hour trek back to Dallas.
A couple hours into the trip, the Dew-man raises his head up from his seat and bellows “STOP THE VAN!!!! NOW!!!!!!” Anthony pulls the white Ram ProMaster 2500 van over to the side of the road.
Dewey tries to walk toward front of minibus but is unable to stand. Jake carries Dewey out to the side of the desert road, where Dewey explains he had contracted the virus and is now about to change. He begs Jake to finish him off, and asks Jake to tell his family in Minnesota goodbye.
“I love you brother” Jake whispers as he gives his close friend the merciful death he asked for.
Jake begins to walk away from the body and in the opposite direction of the van, trekking with a steady pace towards the vast punishing desert. Mack jumps out of the van and runs toward Jake, who never slows down or misses a beat.
“Jake! Dude! Where are you going? The van’s in the other direction!”
“I gotta go Mack. I’m not like you and everyone else on that bus anymore. I’ve changed. I’m no longer Jake. No longer human. I don’t feel, I don’t need. I don’t sleep... I’m better off alone. I am gonna stop this virus from spreading before the whole world is infected.”
Jake, the wicked awake, colossal Caucasian, clad in his black BDU style pants, combat boots, and not -so - meticulously altered Whalers jersey, walks away.
As daylight turns to dusk, the absence of light is something that Hathaway relishes. The obscurity, and the concealment makes it that much easier for him to blend in with THEM, the evil ones that he has vowed to destroy.
Or rather, was it THEM, the wicked- who would be merging with him?" It's a fun read that I've just cracked into, be sure to check it out on Amazon for your Kindle!