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Chapter One

Through the binoculars, a zombie was even uglier than when seen up close and personal. Of course, when they were near, you didn’t generally have time to study them too carefully. There were other things to do—like screaming and running. From a distance, it was safe for Ari to let his gaze wander over the creature’s rotting skin, its flat, vacant eyes and slack-jawed-yokel mouth. Blood stained the lower half of its face, coating cheeks and chin and nearly obliterating the Alpha Kappa Beta logo on the upper half of the thing’s sweatshirt.

An “after,” then. By the clothing, he could usually tell a “before” corpse from one that had been turned after the first wave. Who would bury their beloved Brenda or Beth in a sorority sweatshirt? Most of the first-generation zombies wore suits or dresses, since they’d come to the banquet from mortuary viewings or funeral services. Or they were naked cadavers straight from the slab at a hospital or city morgue.

The people they’d infected rather than completely devoured tended to wear more casual clothes and generally had a bite or two taken out of them. And wasn’t it an amusing sight to see a little girl in shorts and shirt and daisy-decorated sandals munching on an arm held in one hand like a turkey drumstick?

Ari adjusted the binocs, bringing the zombie sorority sister into sharper focus. He immediately wished he hadn’t. Her hair remained in patchy, random clumps on her half-scalped head. Bright pink streaks and little sparkling clips decorated some of the long blonde strands. Adorable. She tossed her hair back from her face with a girlish flip and reached for another length of intestine from the body she was eating. Lucky dead guy wouldn’t be staggering to his feet and perpetuating the cycle any time soon.

The zombie’s milky gray eyes suddenly turned toward Ari, and for a second, it was as if she was looking directly at him. His heart stuttered, and he nearly dropped the glasses.

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