Foamers

Foamers

by Justin Kassab

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Overview

Featured Book Trailer of the Day, Shelf Awareness

"While the novel addresses serious themes of life and death, survival and living, romantic love, and friendship, FOAMERS is an incredibly enjoyable, rousing read."
Loudmouthkid62 (Maura E. Lynch blog)

"Foamers is a worthy addition to the canon of postapocalyptic fiction, and like the best of such books, at its heart it’s a frontier novel, brutal and exciting, celebrating individualism and self-determination. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun."
Tim McLoughlin, author of Heart of the Old Country

"When a screwed-up flu vaccine mutates much of humanity into mindless beasts, 'Trust your intelligence' becomes the leitmotif of a group of survivors. Fast-moving, violent, and vividly imagined, Foamers creates a dangerous world made disquietingly believable."
David Poyer, author of Stepfather Bank and The Cruiser

"It's as if The Stand had a head-on bus collision with Night of the Living Dead. I want to look away, but I can't stop reading."
John Koloski, author of Bloodblind, book #1 of the Empyres trilogy

Part of Akashic's Kaylie Jones Books imprint.

Terminally diagnosed with Huntington's disease as a child, Kade gave up on living a productive existence. He spent most of his time preparing for the Primal Age, even though he knew the end of the world wouldn’t happen in his shortened lifetime.

In Kade's twenties, the United States is being ravaged by the Feline Flu. After the Flu hits pandemic levels, a vaccine is released to the public. Viewed as the last chance to stop the virus, over ninety percent of the population receives the vaccine within a single day.

The vaccine takes on a life of its own and deprives the recipients of their higher functions, leaving them with only their primal urges. These bloodthirsty monsters become known as foamers because of the red foam that forms around their mouths when they hunt.

As the world as he knows it descends into the Primal Age, Kade finds that he is not only useful, but is expected to lead other survivors. His group is constantly assaulted by foamers and a warmongering paramilitary unit. In an unrelenting fight for their lives, his group is forced to redefine humanity in a world without law.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617753091
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 03/25/2014
Series: Primal Age Chronicles Series
Pages: 268
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Justin Kassab graduated in 2009 to the worst job market since the Great Depression: the end of the world didn't look so bad. To pass his time of being unemployed, he took an interest in survivalist skills. The hobby carried over into his writing and led to the crafting of The Primal Age Chronicles, a series of short stories and novels about the end of the world.

Read an Excerpt

FOAMERS


By JUSTIN KASSAB

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2014 Justin Kassab
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61775-309-1


CHAPTER 1

Same Old, Same Old


"I'll never understand why he fights." Kade said, pointing to the alien robot on the TV screen. "He knows he's defeated."

Sitting beside Kade on the couch was Jem. They were watching a movie about alien robots that had been a tradition of theirs for over a decade.

Jem, an acronym for James Eric Masters, was wearing his full military uniform and drinking a beer. Kade had always been amused by the fact that he and his friend were polar opposites. He had shaggy hair and a scruffy beard, while Jem had a clean-shaven face with a close military cut. Jem was a National Guard Chinook helicopter pilot, volunteer firefighter, and owned a dog. Kade was content working at Rite Aid. Somehow they managed to be friends.

"One day I hope you'll understand, Chief," Jem replied, his ice-blue eyes glued to the movie.

"Whatever." Kade knew that if he ever found himself on his knees before a super badass robot, knowing he didn't stand a chance, he'd make his peace and call it a day.

He rattled the last drops in his beer can.

Jem shook his head. "Still got half."

Kade weaved his way through the main room, populated by a handful of Jem's friends. Under normal circumstances there would have been more, but after months of living in fear of the Feline Flu, many people avoided high contact environments. Even the new vaccine release didn't give everyone who was invited the courage to make an appearance. Kade didn't know many of people in his house, but Jem was popular and, after all, this was his deployment party.

Come Back Safe was hanging in big letters over the entrance to the kitchen, each word on its own piece of printer paper. The President had called in Jem's unit to D.C. to help with disaster relief, and crowd control. The Feline Flu had devastated Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. The rate of contamination was much higher in the cities, along with increased societal complications: transportation breakdowns, protesters, riots, looters, and murder.

Every day the media had run broadcasts about some Steelers-wearing jackass in a WWI gas mask breaking through a drugstore window, or a crowd of people protesting where the Rocky statue used to be. The protestors showed no indication of dissipating even though the vaccine was available as of twelve hours ago. The news would maintain their scare tactics for months regardless of the Flu's threat level after the vaccine, unless a better story came along.

Since the outbreak of the Feline Flu, Kade had been doing research to make sure he was intelligently informed. The natural resistance of people aged fourteen to thirty made them more resilient to the Flu, which, combined with the sparse population of Central Pennsylvania, made the risk of contagion lower than the national average.

Even with this information in hand he understood the public's fear-based reaction. The death toll had been climbing rapidly, and it was the deadliest flu since the Spanish Influenza. Add that to the news continuously playing the stats of the Feline Flu, the stage was set for panic to play itself out. The Feline Flu vaccine was now circulating, and early reports showed that in the past twelve hours, 90 percent of the American population had been inoculated. The President had declared a national emergency and shut down all schools and nonessential businesses so that everyone could receive the vaccine immediately. This mass vaccination wasn't a silver bullet by any stretch, but it would curtail the fatalities. After more than a year of death and chaos, Kade hoped people would relax and return to living without fear.

Like most of the country, Kade had lost someone to the flu. His father had passed away from pneumonia in the first month. Losing his father had hit him hard, but he clung to being his little sister's only caretaker to fight through the pain. The funeral had been a little over a year ago, which was the last time Kade had seen his fraternal twin brother, Damian.

He snapped back from his thoughts and tried to remember why he was now standing in the kitchen. The empty beer can in his hand reminded him why he'd embarked. Two women blocked his path to the fridge. One was his little sister, Ashton; the other was his longtime friend whom they all called Tiny.

Kade reached over Ashton's shoulder and plucked the beer from her hand.

"Shit, Kade, really?" Ashton said, putting her hands on her hips and scowling at him.

The cold liquid tasted so much better when taken from her.

"It's not like Tiny won't hand you another beer the moment I walk away," he said.

"Look at you, playing big brother," Tiny said. Kade couldn't help but look his friend up and down. Her long, slender legs disappeared under a pair of jean shorts. She wore a black tank top that contrasted against her milky skin, which had stayed smooth even after her tour as a combat medic in the Middle East. Her defined neck, freckled cheeks, and black hair drew him in. Her lips stretched into a tight-lipped smile as she looked at him with her warm brown eyes. Kade knew no look he liked better.

Ashton shooed him with a hand. "Then git."

He scratched his nose with his middle finger and walked out of the kitchen.

"Act your age," she hollered after him.

Tiny opened the fridge and pulled out a beer.

"Don't hate him for it, he's just trying to protect you," Tiny said, leaning against the table. "How'd your senior year go?"

Ashton cracked the can and took a swig. "I tore my Achilles. While my team celebrated a State Championship, I went to the hospital. So it ended splendidly. How'd your tour go?"

"Discharged." Tiny turned to the side to show an ugly scar running the length of her quad to her knee. The jagged scar resembled a cursive M, fishing around the base of her knee to her inner leg.

Ashton traced her fingers along the scar. "Still, had to be pretty cool being a combat medic."

"Till I had to pull shrapnel from my own leg."

"I hate physical therapy."

"It's such a pain in the ass. Are you at First Choice Rehab?" Tiny asked.

"One hour, Monday, Wednesday, Friday," Ash replied.

"They have me on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'll see if I can switch so we can suffer together," Tiny said.

"I just started on the treadmill. It feels so good to run again."

"I'm going insane not being able to run."

"Least you can't chase after my brother, then."

"Shut up."

Ashton perked up. "Is X coming tonight?"

Tiny set the beer can on the table and grabbed Ashton by the shoulders. "Ash, I want you to listen closely. Stay away from Xavier."

Ashton spun, her auburn braid hitting Tiny in the face. "Sure thing, Kade."

She forced her way through the packed living room, heading for the most logical place to find X: the poker table. She frowned when she saw that he wasn't there but Mick, the cop, was.

"You wouldn't happen to have a beer behind your back, would you?" Mick said, glancing at her from behind his cards. His buzzed hair looked like a torch above his police uniform, which he was still wearing since he had come straight from working a twelve hour shift. Ashton didn't dislike Mick, but she was uncomfortable around a police officer. The allure of the poker table eluded her. In a group of mixed sexes she couldn't figure why a bunch of guys would cluster around a table to take each other's coins. To the best of her memory though Mick had never had a girlfriend, probably because of how seriously he took his job.

"No sir, just a Pepsi."

"Carry on."

She pushed through the crowd to the couch and plopped between Kade and Jem.

Without looking, Kade pulled the beer from her hand and passed it to the guest of honor. "How'd you know Jem needed a beer?"

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Don't you guys ever get sick of watching—"

"Shhhh."

Jem lifted the remote and hit pause. "Kade, while we have a witness, I need to ask you something."

Ashton clapped her hands in sarcastic excitement. "He's going to propose."

"Something far more important. I need someone to watch Argos for me. I'll give you one of my bulletproof vests as payment." Jem's eyes locked on Kade's.

Kade took a few pulls of beer. Dogs weren't his favorite animal. In fact, no animal was his favorite animal. Despite his preferences, he couldn't turn down a request that meant so much to Jem. Especially if it came with a bulletproof vest.


Jack "Alpha" Ritchie sat at the island in his kitchen. He had received his flu vaccine earlier in the day and had since been trying to erase his guilt with alcohol. He poured the last drops of the Knob Creek into his glass. He was sick of the pain. He wanted it to go away. Now he was out of bourbon. Without the bourbon, the pain would come back. He didn't want to hurt anymore. He wanted to feel nothing.

Snatching the tumbler, he drained the last of his liquid relief. He fought hard to keep the tears from leaking while he clenched his jaw. He failed. Hot liquid ran freely down his face. He missed Sarah's gray eyes.

Even though it had been almost two years, it still felt like yesterday that he'd held his daughter in his arms at the veterinarian's office. Skittles, her calico cat, had been sprawled out on the examination table. Red foam bubbled from the corners of the cat's mouth.

"Skittles has an advanced case of pneumonia. There's nothing we can do. I'm sorry, Alpha," the vet had said.

"I left Alpha with my fighting days. Just call me Jack, please."

Jack had been prepared to put Skittles down, what he didn't expect was Skittles being a carrier of the Feline Flu that would lead to the Vet's death a week later. From there the Flu spread like a college case of crabs. Within a month the Flu had traveled coast to coast.

His hand shook as he clutched the glass. With a battle cry, he hurled the glass off a cabinet, showering fragments across the floor. Anger. Rage. Both burned through his veins. Stumbling, Jack gripped the neck of the bottle and hurled it through the kitchen window. Next were the stools. Grabbing them on outlying ends, he flexed his muscles with all his might. The metal buckled and folded in half, after which he threw them, one by one, into the kitchen wall like they were oversized darts.

He roared; all the veins in his neck and face bulged as he screamed at nothing. Nothing. He had nothing. He was alone.

He'd lost his wife and Sarah in the same day to the flu. They had been following his wife's ambulance when Sarah's symptoms started.

There were only two occasions he ever lied to his daughter and they both had happened that day. He squeezed into the chair beside Sarah's hospital bed; his wife had passed away earlier in the evening. Sarah was in and out of consciousness, and he felt as helpless as he had when Skittles was the one on the table.

Watching her fade away, he regretted he hadn't retired sooner from mixed martial arts. But when he was winning the money was good and allowed him to take care of his wife and daughter. After a few reconstructive surgeries and a string of losses, he threw in the towel. At first he had been afraid he would miss the rush of the fight, the cheer of the crowd and, most of all, proving his dominance over his opponents, but found he loved the time with his family more. As he sat there watching his daughter die he would have traded his entire career for a few more days with her.

She became conscious one last time.

"Daddy?"

Jack shot to his feet and took his daughter's small hand. "I'm here, honey."

"Is Mommy all right?" Sarah asked.

"Mommy is all better now."

"Will I be all right?"

"Yeah, honey, you're going to be just fine."

The end of his world had come.

Jack slammed his fist on the kitchen table, splitting his knuckles against the wood. Bringing both hands together into a unified mass, Jack smashed the table. The crack separated, and half the table splintered to the kitchen floor. With his size fourteen foot, Jack booted the side of the half-standing table, which slid and crashed into the drywall.

Storming across the kitchen, he grabbed the top of the refrigerator and tipped it into the island, spilling condiments, milk, and yesterday's lunch all over the floor.

He wanted the pain to go away. He wanted to see his wife. He wanted to hold his daughter. He wanted to look into their gray eyes again. He wanted to die.

The room spun like a tilt-awhirl. Cold gripped him to the bone even though sweat ran down his forehead. Jack grabbed his old jacket from the coat rack and slid it on. The back of the jacket had a capital A that stretched from shoulder to hip. He stumbled through his delirium into the living room where he fell onto the couch.

Jack clutched his jacket as he fought against the spinning room. By the time his body settled into the couch, he was unconscious.

Hours passed as Jack's body fought the vaccine's virus.

The weakened virus was reviving and waging war against Jack's immune system, which was losing the fight. The Feline Flu had a strong survival instinct, and found a new area to call home. This new home was Jack's neocortex.

Just before dawn, the battle ceased. Jack had been defeated by the virulent flu strand.

One of his fingers twitched. His eyes shot open, and Jack rolled off of the couch and onto all fours. He quickly scanned the room, his eyes settling on the TV, which was replaying a late-night infomercial.

He still heard the sounds coming from the TV, but his mind was so damaged that he no longer grasped language, one of the many higher functions he no longer could access. He spun in circles, trying to find a way to escape the cage that had once been his living room. The dark sky beckoned him. Jack charged over the couch and hurled himself through the window, rolling onto the front lawn. He got back onto all fours and screamed in rage. He felt the burn of his ruptured skin, and the warm blood running from his wounds, but he no longer understood them as the concepts of pain and blood, only the rage they instilled.

Alpha charged off into the night, no longer thinking, no longer human, following the instinct that was now his master.


When Kade awakened on his bathroom floor the morning following the party, he wanted to puke, but his stomach felt too empty to purge. One look into the toilet bowl and he understood why. He flushed the toilet, changed into his work pants and the undershirt he must have hung on the door before he passed out, and stumbled into his room where Tiny and Ashton were sleeping on opposite sides of his bed.

All of his years working as Ashton's soccer coach had paid off in a full ride for her to UNC Chapel Hill, a Division I school, where she had a solid chance of starting as a freshman. He worried about Ashton a great deal more than he used to before she tore her Achilles. Her drive for soccer had gotten her into a good college, and he knew from there she'd find her way into a great career, even if he wasn't around to see it. She decided to take a semester before going to college to rehab her injury, but he worried she would get comfortable with life and not attend UNC. Since she'd gotten a job at the local sporting goods store she seemed to be settling in too well. He would just have to stay on her about it and make sure she didn't fall into a life of nothingness that too closely resembled his own.

He walked under the katana that hung above his door. His dad had brought the sword back from a business trip to Japan. Kade's family had aided his apocalyptic prepping tendencies in an effort to rejuvenate his desire to live. This covered anything from supplying him with weapons to buying him memberships to shooting ranges. He stepped silently downstairs in case others were sleeping.

Rounding the corner, he found Mick asleep on the couch, still wearing his police uniform. It was rare that Kade saw him out of uniform; especially now with three quarters of the local PD sick with the flu. With the reduced numbers, Mick practically worked around the clock. Kade knew him to be one of the cops that actually believed in what he was doing. For as long as Kade had known Mick he had wanted to help people and being an officer was his way of doing the most good. Mick took the code to heart.

Kade continued toward the kitchen, but stopped as he came around the wall and found a German shepherd sitting in his foyer with a bulletproof vest beside him. As he took a step closer, he noticed a note folded into the dog's body pack. The animal watched his every move, but didn't stir an inch as Kade retrieved the paper.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from FOAMERS by JUSTIN KASSAB. Copyright © 2014 Justin Kassab. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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