The beautiful, haunting introduction penned by my great friend and co-author, Silas Jackson. I love this:
“Forty years ago, after the brown stuff hit the metaphorical, the North American continent looked something like it had in the aftermath of the Civil War. Ghost towns dotted the country, boarded up houses and hotels, acres of farmland with unharvested crops either rotting where they stood or trampled down by hundreds of feet. Ripe wheat wasted like trash. Highways were cracked and dusty. Emaciated animals roamed through muddy streets—pets that had been forgotten and turned feral, or grubby herds of cows that had burst out of their barns after long, lingering days without anyone coming to feed them.
It was an age that bred strange travelers—families who had packed up their belongings and struck off to find something better somewhere, driving in cars as long as the gasoline lasted, then traveling on foot or in rattling horse-carts drawn by bags of bones after the last of the gas was gone. They were always filthy and hungry, and fed their kids God knows how. There were disbanded soldiers in faded army fatigues, singing songs, wandering the empty towns in search of anything edible they could scrounge from the ruins. There were quack chemists like ghosts from another century sleeping in old trailers beside highways, peddling useless elixirs and potions to frightened people, telling them they could cure the plague, and they could bring their loved ones back from undeath. There were orphans who banded together to survive, and there were gangs who formed in the abandoned jails, and left through the unguarded doors when they realized no one was coming back for them. The lost, disavouched tribes; the shadow-nation of vagrants.
Some resettled the land. Farmers in those days dug up weird harvests. The ploughshares always dragged up tons and tons of bullets and spent cartridges. There were bones mixed into the soil—sometimes the ploughshares turned up a femur, sometimes they broke open a grinning white skull the farmer hadn’t seen in the dirt until he felt the crack. The undead, in those days, were just another fact of people’s struggle to survive. The roving bands of shambling carcasses were a danger, but so were the land-mines left behind by the military’s doomed campaigns; so were the unmaintained gas-lines that exploded periodically, reducing already half-ruined buildings or city blocks to fireballs and burnt out husks. Malnutrition was a danger. Bandits were a danger. Wild animals and disease were dangers. Life was brutal, difficult and short. The remaining zombies, like everything else, were something the survivors learned to deal with. And over time, the survivors saw the numbers of the undead dwindling.
It was another new age. Things had changed again. The relentless years always brought change. A man chopping firewood in a field, carrying a rifle on his shoulder, would see a band of zombies walking towards him across the grass. Hands moving mechanically, he would cock his rifle and pick them off with head-shots as they came, and go back to his work as if he had never been interrupted. Day by day, year by year, the undead grew less common. Until finally, years after SHTF, most people agreed that the plague was over. If anyone saw a zombie anymore, it was alone—just one old remnant of the horde. It must have been hidden somewhere, eventually wandering out into daylight to be put down and burned. Forty years after the apocalypse, the world had moved on.
Only in one tribe, one bastion of civilization, did they know the truth: that the virus was not gone, it had evolved. It didn’t kill and reanimate victims anymore. It infected the brains of living hosts. They looked normal on the outside. The plague could spread through new populations without anyone realizing it was happening, until the carriers finally snapped, and could no longer resist the deep, primal drive to kill that had drowned out their personalities.
Only in the emergent city-state of Sacramento, where wise men and women had managed to hold onto the advancements of modern science and medicine, was it understood that the virus had changed and the threat it posed to the scattered remnants of humanity was still very real. Like a curse from God that had cracked and destroyed mankind’s civilization, the virus endured in the new world in a new form, as if it had the especial purpose of purging the human race from the earth—and it knew it hadn’t finished its work, yet.
In Sacramento, knowledge was power. The government understood the threat and took steps to contain it—but outside the city, there was no safety. The virus could trickle into human populations totally undetected, and plunge them into anarchy, hysteria and carnage before anyone realized anything was wrong…”
Bag Men: Vanguard (the 4th volume in the series) is available now on Amazon Kindle! And it’ll be available for *FREE* on that platform from April 22nd through April 27th, 2016.