Fantastic Fables continues today with a fun zombie/Disney twist. Dana Fredsti’s new novel Plague Nation was released on April 9, 2013. Plague Nation is the second novel in the Ashley Parker series following Plague Town. Please enjoy the story below!
“Sleeping Beauty’s castle?” Gabriel gave me an amused sideways glance as we jogged down Main Street, our pace steady even as we vaulted over and dodged around souvenir carts lying on their sides and body parts scattered around like party favors.
I nodded, not losing pace. “It was my favorite Disney attraction when I was a kid.”
“Funny, I would have figured you for a Mister Toad’s Wild Ride type of girl.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I liked that too.”
A moan sounded to my right and I turned as a Mickey Mouse character actor lurched out the doorway of the Hall of Presidents, oversized gloved hands reaching for me.
“Sorry, Mickey,” I muttered, lopping off his head with my katana. He/she crumpled to the ground, off to Disney character heaven.
Gabriel, in the meantime, dispatched a pair of male pre-pubescent zombies with matching Florida, The Sunshine State T-shirts. I wondered if dying in the Happiest Place on Earth had made their deaths any easier. Somehow I doubted it.
“First time my parents brought me here was when I was three,” I explained, whacking the head off an emaciated female zombie. “The first thing I remember is my mom lifting me up and pointing at the castle. It was at night, lit up, and pure magic.” I smiled at the memory even as I leapt over the fallen corpse wearing a red and white striped shirt and white trousers, a bloodied white straw boater next to its head.
“And the reason we’re heading there now?”
“I haven’t been back since they re-opened the interior,” I confessed. Then I shrugged. “Would you rather go to Small World?”
We resumed our rapid job towards Fantasyland, moans from behind us rising on the brisk Santa Ana wind blowing through the amusement park. We’d gotten separated from the rest of the wild cards when our jeep had broken down in Anaheim, and somehow Gabriel and I had ended up in the Disneyland parking lot with a veritable swarm of zombies on our heels. We needed a place to hole up long enough to change the batteries in Gabriel’s radio and contact the rest of the group and I’d suggested (okay, fixated on) Sleeping Beauty’s castle. And considering the amount of walking dead behind us on Main Street, as well as those trickling out in a small but steady stream from the wood fortress gates of Adventureland, it didn’t seem like a bad idea about now.
We dashed over the bridge leading to Fantasyland, Sleeping Beauty’s castle dead (hah) ahead of us. The blue topped pink and white spires of the castle rising against the relentlessly clear blue sky were somehow less magical than I remembered. Probably something to do with the smell of rotting corpses instead of the fragrance of popcorn, cotton candy and fried food.
We were almost through the arched entranceway into Fantasyland when my lead foot hit something slick (a banana peel, hunk of stray intestines, I don’t know what), my foot sliding out and out from under me in the type of pratfall reserved for Warner Brothers cartoons (and shouldn’t that be illegal in Disneyland?). Before I had time to register just how embarrassed I was gonna, the back of my head slammed against the pavement and the lights went out.
My eyes fluttered open. Pain shot through my head as a bright golden light shone into my pupils. I groaned and quickly shut my eyes again. I wondered just how hard I’d smacked my head in that fall.
“Princess?” A gentle hand stroked my hair back from my forehead. “Princess Aurora?” Gabriel’s voice, but sounding oddly filtered.
I opened my eyes again, shading them with one hand so I could adjust to the unnaturally golden glow shimmering through an arched window above me.
“Are we in the castle?” I asked, struggling to sit up even as a wave of vertigo swept over me.
A strong arm wrapped around my shoulders, cradling me in a warm embrace. “Shhh… you must not tax yourself. You’ve been asleep for a long time. ‘Tis only natural you should feel dizzy. ”
My gaze flickered up to the face of the man holding me.
At first I was relieved to recognize Gabriel’s familiar denim-blue eyes, but then I looked at the whole picture. His nose, which normally looked as though he’d gone a few rounds in the ring, was picture perfect straight, and his short hair was now shoulder length and fell away from his forehead in improbably perfect waves, glinting gold in the equally improbable golden rays streaming in from the window. I looked at the rest of him. His Kevlar vest and long-sleeved black shirt had been replaced by a dark green tunic and brown doublet. I could only guess what was below the waist at this point.
Then I noticed the canopy bed-frame above me. Rich pink and gold velvet fabric hung in decorative swags all around the bed. From the feel of the mattress, there had to be enough feathers to clothe a buttload of geese.
I sat up, trying to shrug off Gabriel’s arm even as he tried to hold me in place. ”What the hell is going on, Gabriel?”
He looked confused. “Who is Gabriel? ” Then his gaze darkened. “Did he come before me? Did someone dare to wake you before I, Prince Phillip, fought my way through the thorns and the revenants guarding your sleeping beauty? Have you been–” he paused dramatically. “—violated?!”
Did I mention WTF?
I reached out and grabbed the front of his doublet with one hand, trying to ignore the sheer white silk sleeves billowing around my wrists. I yanked him forward, nose to (uncomfortably and unfamiliar perfect) nose.
“Where are we?”
His oddly—and undeniably– vapid blue eyes widened in confusion. “Why, Princess … we are in the castle of your father, the King.”
“And yondah lies da palace of my faddah,” I shot back, “but that still doesn’t answer my question.”
He took my hands in his, gently disengaging them from his medieval lapels. ”Princess, it is obvious your long sleep has caused more than a little confusion. I fear you may be suffering from a brain fever. Lie back, I pray, until I can summon physicians to examine you.”
The sounds of moans cut me off in mid-eye roll.
Gabriel’s – or Phillip’s – eyes widened in shock. “Princess Aurora!”
“What? You’ve never heard a woman swear before?”
He frowned. “The legends spoke of you as all things gentle and becoming in a woman.”
My eye roll made it all the way around this time.
“Whatever.” The moans sounded again, lots of them, echoing through who knew how many rooms.
“Look, Prince Charming—”
“Prince Phillip. Charming is my cousin.”
I so didn’t have time for this. And neither did Prince Whatever-the-hell. I was obviously dreaming or hallucinating, but either way there were zombies and I wasn’t about to ignore the sounds of the hungry dead headed towards us.
“Fine, Phillip.” I figured agreeing was the fastest way to shut him up. “But we need to get out of here now.”
Shoving the eiderdown cover off of me, I swung my legs out of bed and stood, nearly tripping on the mass of fabric swathed around my torso and lower limbs. Who the hell wore stuff like this to bed?
More moans and the sounds of shuffling steps closing in on the entrance to the room. The large wooden door looked solid, but I had no intention of staying in here until they eventually pounded through it.
“Princess, you really should stay prone until—”
“Is there another exit?” I ignored “Phillip’s” ineffectual efforts to get me to lie back down, smacking his hands away as he fussed at me. Where were my clothes?
I spotted a huge, ornate wardrobe on the opposite wall, gobs of silver and mother-of-pearl plastered all over it. I threw open the door eagerly, only to have my hopes at finding my combat gear waiting for me completely dashed. Velvets, silks, satins, pearl and lace trim up the wazoo … a veritable costumer’s wet dream. I would have happily killed for Kevlar.
I turned to face “Phillip,” nearly tripping on my skirts. “Do you have any weapons?”
The frown on his face brightened into a proud smile as he took a step back and dramatically unsheathed a really shiny sword hanging from a leather and gold scabbard at his side.
“Of course!” He brandished his impressive looking broadsword in a heroic pose. “T’was with this blade I hacked my way through the thorns to reach your bedchamber and claim you as my bride! Speaking of that, I thought a spring wedding would–”
“Yeah, well, we’ll talk about that later,” I said hastily. Fists now pounded dully against the bedchamber door. “First we have to make it out of here alive?”
“Phillip’s” unnaturally handsome face showed genuine confusion. “What are you speaking of, Princess?”
“Are you totally deaf?” I exclaimed. “Aren’t you hearing the moans and the pounding? Don’t you know what that means?”
He shook his head, pity clouding his features. “Ah, my poor Aurora… you have nothing to fear from your family and servants. They are but waking from their long sleep now that the spell has been broken, and no doubt wish to greet you with love and joy.”
“And appetite,” I muttered.
“No doubt,” he agreed. “They have not eaten in over a hundred years.”
Great. Really hungry zombies.
The door started pushing inward from the weight on the other side. I dashed over to it, excess fabric bunched up in one hand so I wouldn’t trip again. A quick examination showed there was no way to lock it from the inside. Kind of creepy when you think about it. I mean, asleep for a hundred years in an unlocked room? No thanks.
I grabbed a nearby chair; a heavy thing made of dark wood, and dragged it over, propping it under the door knob and shoving the door shut again. Phillip watched with a mixture of bewilderment and concern that made me want to hit him upside the head. Even more than I’d kill for Kevlar, I’d commit murder to have Gabriel back as himself instead of this Magic Kingdom substitute.
Even with the chair, the zombies on the other side were pushing it open, inch by inch. “Help me hold this,” I snapped.
Phillip shook his head, the look of condescending pity now ascendant. “Princess Aurora,” he said in the sort of soothing tones reserved for crazy people and children having screaming tantrums, “You are distraught. Look, it is your father himself come to greet his beloved daughter. Won’t you let him in?”
I followed the direction of “Phillip’s” pointing finger and saw a rotting hand, one greenish black finger weighed down by a heavy gold and emerald ring. Definitely a ring fit for a king. A stinking, rotting, hungry king. The hand reached for me, skeletal tips sticking out from sloughing off flesh clutching at the front of my nightgown.
“You see?” Phillip said. “He shows his love.”
Never mind the father issues the real life (did I just think that?) Aurora must have had if this was how “Daddy” showed his affections. I was out of patience and just about out of time; the door opened another inch and the former king pushed arm further in.
I seized Phillip’s sword, ignoring his shocked yelp, and hacked down on the king’s wrist. One chop was all it took (Phillip obviously took care of his weapons) and it tumbled to the ground, the ring making a thunking sound as it hit the granite floor.
Phillip yelled again, this time in horror.
Finally, I thought. He realizes what we’re up against.
The door opened another half foot or so and I turned to him. “Now help me close this.” At least that’s what I started to say, but was cut off when he grabbed my wrist, wrenched the sword out of my hand and hissed, “Your long sleep has driven you mad. You have grievously injured your father!” He turned towards the door and the zombie, clad in tattered royal purple velvet garments lurching towards him.
“Sire, let me help you!”
I clutched at Phillip’s shoulder, hoping to stop him before the former King made him a royal banquet. He shrugged me off in one violent motion, causing me to stumble backwards, my heels catching on the over-abundant hem of my nightgown. Once more I fell, once more the back of my head collided with something hard and once more the world went black.
Gabriel’s voice penetrated the painful fog wrapped around my head. A gentle hand stroked the hair back from my forehead.
I opened my eyes slowly, grateful for a lack of bright golden light. My surroundings were dim, but my wild card vision made it easy enough to see. I was even more grateful to see Gabriel’s face above mine; the real Gabriel, with his nose that had once been broken and his normal hair.
I struggled to sit up. With only a cautionary, “Take it slow. You hit your head pretty hard,” Gabriel helped me into a sitting position.
“Sleeping Beauty’s Castle,” he smiled. “Pretty cool. When you’re up for it, we’ll take a tour.”
“Are we safe?”
“For a while at least. The front doors are pretty solid and I checked out the rest of the castle.” He grinned. “Just you, me, and a bunch of fairy tale characters.”
Ugh, I thought.
I reached out and patted his chest, smiling at the reassuring feel of body armor. “You’re wearing Kevlar,” I said.
Even better, I was wearing Kevlar, along with the rest of my combat gear.
He raised an eyebrow. “What else would I be wearing?”
I thought about telling him, but figured it’d wait. For now, I just wanted to enjoy being in the company of the only Prince Charming – or Phillip – I needed. One that wore Kevlar and carried an M-4.
Dana Fredsti is ex B-movie actress with a background in theatrical sword-fighting. Through seven plus years of volunteering at EFBC/FCC (Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center), Dana’s had a full-grown leopard sit on her feet, kissed by tigers, held baby jaguars and had her thumb sucked by an ocelot with nursing issues. She’s addicted to bad movies and any book or film, good or bad, which include zombies. Her other hobbies include surfing (badly), collecting beach glass (obsessively), and wine tasting (happily).
Along with her best friend Maureen, Dana was co-producer/writer/director for a mystery-oriented theatrical troupe based in San Diego. While no actual murders occurred during their performances, there were times when the actors and clients made the idea very tempting. Somewhere in the mists of time she lost a grip on what happened in real life and what she made up for her book.
She’s written numerous published articles, essays and shorts, including stories in Cat Fantastic IV, an anthology series edited by Andre Norton (Daw, 1997), Danger City (Contemporary Press, 2005), and Mondo Zombie (Cemetery Dance, 2006). Her essays can be seen in Morbid Curiosity, Issues 2-7. Additionally she’s written several produced low-budget screenplays and currently has another script under option. Dana was also co-writer/associate producer on Urban Rescuers, a documentary on feral cats and TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), which won Best Documentary at the 2003 Valley Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Dana is currently working on the second book in the Murder for Hire series, The Big Snooze and writing erotic romance under the pen name Inara LaVey for Ravenous Romance.
You can visit Dana around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter
Want to read more from Dana Fredsti?
Available April 9, 2013 from Titan Books
About this Book:
Sequel to the thrilling zombie novel PLAGUE TOWN.
The undead have been defeated in Redwood Grove, CA, but reports of similar outbreaks are coming in. What seemed to be an isolated event is turning into a pandemic. The last thing Ashley Parker wanted when she went to college was to join the military, but she is one of a select few who are immune to the virus. Gifted with enhanced speed, strength, and senses, she’s recruited by a shadowy international organization that’s existed for centuries, its sole purpose to combat the zombie threat.
Dark secrets begin to emerge, and when an unknown enemy strikes, Ashley and the other zombie hunters—known as “wild cards”—embark on a desperate mission to reach San Francisco. If they fail, the plague will sweep the nation unchecked. And the person she cares for most may die. Or worse.
Click HERE to read an excerpt