Exclusive: Read an Excerpt of Joe Lansdale’s Story From the Upcoming Nights of the Living Dead Anthology
Coming to bookstores on July 11th is Nights of the Living Dead, an anthology book that features short stories set in the world of George A. Romero’s classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead. Authors such as Romero himself, Brian Keene, Neal Shusterman, John Russo, Isaac Marion, and many more have all contributed stories to the book, which is edited by Jonathan Maberry. These stories have never before been published and each one is set immediately after the events of the film.
Today, we want to give you a taste of what’s to come by presenting an excerpt from “Dead Man’s Curve”, the short story for the anthology written by acclaimed author Joe R. Lansdale (Bubba Ho-Tep, The Bottoms).
To set the proper mood for this read, I recommend hitting ‘Play’ on the below video and letting the music from the 1968 film wash over you.
Nights of the Living Dead comes out July 11th. You can pre-order a copy via Amazon.
Dead Man’s Curve
by Joe R. Lansdale
As I settled in behind the wheel, and Tommy sat beside me, I had a small faint feeling that I might have mouthed myself out of some money. I had enough confidence to loan some of it out, but I was uncertain about those sharp curves. If I had driven them once before, that would be different. But when we agreed to meet Matt and Duane on the road, we didn’t know the route. That was a bit of a mistake, and it was too late now. Matt was revving his engine.
“You sure about this?” Tommy said. I lied a little. “I was born sure.”
“I was there,” Tommy said. “I don’t know how certain you were then.”
“You were at Grandma’s house playing with building blocks or some such shit,” I said.
“That’s true,” he said.
He was the older sibling by three years, but most of the time it seemed the other way around.
Matthew revved his engine some more, then pulled his Pontiac to the right side of the road. I was on the left, of course. We hadn’t seen a car yet, and we’d been there talking and wheedling about who drove against who for half an hour. I think Matt was afraid of me and wanted Tommy to be his opponent. I had a bit of a reputation.
“You know he’s got more under the hood than came with it,” Tommy said.
“So does this one,” I said.
“But I don’t know if he’s got more or less.”
“You wanted me to race him,” I said. “That’s how you find out who’s got more or less, who’s the best driver. Have I ever let you down?”
“Blew a tire once, bad carburetor the time after. Tonight, everything under the hood is as fresh as a baby’s first fart.”
“You know, half that money in your pocket is mine.”
“The die is cast, brother mine. Grab your ass and grit your teeth.”
Matt rolled down his window, and Tommy rolled down his. “What we do,” said Matt, “is I count to three, or you can do it, no matter, but count to three, and on three we go for it.
And watch those curves. Something happens to you, we just go home and have a hot chocolate like it never happened.”
“Quit talking, and start counting,” I said.
“One,” said Matt, and when he got to three you could hear those motors roar, hear those tires scream for mercy. We both blew out of there like rockets to Mars.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing like it. The car leaps, and then it grabs the road, and then it doesn’t feel like there is a road, just you and the machine floating on air.
Glanced to my right, saw that Matt and I were neck and neck. He had his teeth clenched, his window still down. That was a mistake. It gathered up air that way, pushed it to the back insides of the car, lay there like a weight. Tommy knew that, and he had rolled up his window to streamline us.
Let me tell you, that first curve came up fast, and we had to make it together, and the road, just as you made the curve, grew narrow, and then there was another problem.
The road was full of people.
There were at least twenty, men and women, and one of the men wasn’t wearing any drawers. He had it all flapping out. The rest wore hospital gowns. They stretched across the road in a thin line, seemed drunk the way they staggered, and that was all I could tell in that moment when they suddenly appeared, dipped in moonlight as pale as Communion wafers. Even the one black lady seemed pale.
I fought the wheel and tried to avoid them, but they were straight across the road and there really wasn’t anywhere to go. On the left were trees, on the right was Matt’s car. I veered as far left as I could, and fortunately, two of them on the left wandered right, and I missed them, but I’m sure I made enough breeze to blow up their gowns. My car threw up gravel, a bit of forest dirt, and then I spun beyond them like a top, turned the wheel in the direction of the skid and righted myself onto the road again. In my rearview mirror I saw Matt hit a couple of them staggering in front of his car. It was a hard, loud smack. They went flying like Mighty Mouse.
Matt was braking, and it made his car scream like a panther.
It slid sideways, almost up to where we sat in the road, and then it stopped, rocking like it had palsy.
Duane rushed out of the car on his side, started running toward the people lying in the road, the ones wandering about.
“You okay?” he said.
Me and Tommy were out of our car too, wandering back to Matt, who opened his door and jumped out, stumbled a little.
“I didn’t see them,” he said. “They were just there.”
That’s when the two lying in the road tried to get up. One of them, a woman, managed it, but stood with her head dangling to the side, like it was held there by a thin string. Something like that, that kind of injury, you don’t expect people to be walking around. The other, an old man, his legs smashed, pulled himself forward with his hands, his fingernails scratching along on the blacktop. His legs as useless as mop strands.
The others closed around Duane, and then, as if he had been lowered into a pool of piranha, they swarmed him. They could move pretty fast when they wanted to. They grabbed Duane.
I could understand they were angry, and had reason. We were irresponsible jerks driving too fast on a narrow road—
And then they began to eat Duane.
“Joe R. Lansdale is the author of forty-five novels and more than four hundred short works, screenplays, teleplays, comics, and graphic novels. He has received numerous recognitions for his work, including the Edgar, the Spur, ten Bram Stokers (eleven counting the Lifetime Achievement Award), and others. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas, with his wife, Karen, and a pit bull named Nicky.”