Book Showcase: Hyper by John Autero
John Autero's title "Hyper" came in at number 19 in the Best Indie Books Title of 2018
“Evil doesn’t have a problem finding the middle of nowhere.”
Earth is ravaged by a Vermiculira epidemic which threatens every human life on the planet. The only way to save humanity and propagate the species is to restart civilization someplace else. That someplace else is Mars. The plan is to relocate humans that have not been contaminated by the disease to the red planet and leave the crazies back on Earth. To ensure that no infected are allowed to reach Mars, a network of decontamination depots has been placed in space, half way between the two planets. Passengers and cargo are sniffed for traces of the disease before they are allowed to proceed on their journey.
Charlie and Linda Kennedy live a quiet life on Decontamination Depot, D.D. 315. Charlie operates the spacecraft refueling station, and the hydrogen fuel condenser facility, while Linda’s role is to lovingly provide her guests with a friendly smile, a couple good meals and then get them on their way.
But, their peaceful existence is terminated when people onboard are savagely murdered. Charlie needs to stop the carnage and vows to protect Linda, his loving wife. To make matters worse, the killer has programmed the depot to self-destruct unless Charlie can figure out some way to stop it.
“Honorable intentions can lead to horrifying consequences.”
Excerpt Chapter 1 – The Sound of Police Sirens Grew Louder [Location: The home of Jeanne and Rob Noting, Lockwood, Montana, U.S.A. Earth Year 2055] “Happy birthday to you… Happy birthday dear Bobby… Happy birthday to youuuuu.” The crowd of friends and family members wearing pointed birthday hats gathered closely around the kitchen table and provided gentle directions to the sandy haired young boy sitting in front of the large white birthday cake. Ten multicolored glowing candles stood erect with small tear drop shaped flames flickering on their wicks. A festive white plastic cover with impressions of clowns and circus animals decorated the table top and a stack of paper plates and napkins of the same design rested next to the cake. Bobby’s teenaged baby sitter Jackie from down the street looked lovingly at the young boy and said in a bubbly tone, “Now make a wish.” Twelve-year-old cousin Steve cupped his hand around the boy’s ear and whispered, “You gotta blow them all out to have it come true.” He snuck a bit of frosting from the edge of the cake with his finger tip. “Don’t tell anybody your wish either. It’s bad luck,” Uncle Frank mentioned in a gruff voice and took a sip from his beer. “And there’s enough of that going around.” A small belch followed by a hiccup slipped past his lips. Young Bobby’s eyes sparkled and his mouth beamed with an enormous smile as he looked around the brightly lit kitchen, filled with red, white, and blue balloons. He looked down at the cake in front of him that had Happy 10th Birthday Bobby written in red script letters. He eagerly glanced at his mother and father for approval as he prepared to blow out the candles. His father smiled back, giving him a wink followed by a slight nod. Bobby took a deep breath and exhaled over the small flames of the candles. A roar of cheers, whistling, and clapping came from the group as Bobby successfully completed the job. Bobby’s mother Jeanne leaned in close and gave him a big hug. “Great job, little man. Now get the ice cream outta the freezer while I cut the cake.” Bobby wiggled out of the chair and squeezed between his little cousins as he followed his mother’s request. The murmur of friendly conversation was interrupted only by bursts of laughter as the party attendees patiently waited for the cake and ice cream to be served. Jeanne and Rob had been married for ten years and had one son: Robert Bobby Andrew Noting. During her pregnancy, Jeanne was conscientious and had followed a healthy diet. She also took extra vitamin shots to ensure her son was born healthy and whole. They had converted the spare bedroom into a nursery and one week before her due date, Rob had child-proofed the house by installing quick locks on all of the cabinet doors and mounted a safety gate in front of the basement stairs. The two always provided Bobby with the most nutritious foods and took him to the doctor anytime he had the least bit of a sniffle. They were determined that Bobby would earn a good education and each year on the first day of school, his parents would personally meet with his teacher. They knew if they consistently fostered a happy and positive family atmosphere, their son would grow into a good kid and then a respectable young man. Rob and Jeanne had built a wonderful life for the three of them surrounded by family members and good friends. They hosted a birthday party every year since Bobby was born. They lived a quiet life and normally didn’t have large gatherings at their home, but Bobby’s party was the exception. Uncles and aunts, nieces, nephews, as well as neighbors and co-workers were all invited to the celebration. The event was always held on a Saturday close to Bobby’s birth date. It started about noon and went until the last guest left the driveway. Both Rob and Jeanne had been born in Lockwood. Rob’s father had moved from Iowa to Montana during the country’s big push for self-sufficient energy. He found a job in the Sunoco oil field as a rough-neck, running the top drive of an oil rig, and had retired a few years ago. When Rob was old enough to work, his father helped him get a maintenance job at the refinery on the south side of town. The heavy manual labor was hard but the muscles on his six foot two frame and the strength of his character helped him succeed. He made good money when he combined his hourly salary plus his overtime and he was able to buy a nice two-bedroom home in a quiet neighborhood for his family. Jeanne’s parents moved to Lockwood around the same time. They had started a Best-Little-Inn franchise just off of U.S. Highway 94 on the way to Billings. From the sixth grade, she had worked with her parents, cleaning rooms and helping run the front desk. She continued to work after she married, but stopped when she became pregnant so she could devote all of her time and attention to raising her son. Rob snaked his way between the relatives that had encircled the table and moved close to his wife. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “You did a great job with the party. Everything’s perfect. It’s even better than last year.” He nuzzled closer to her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. He could smell the soft fragrance of roses from the perfume she wore on her neck. She smiled and lovingly rolled her eyes at him with the cake knife in her hand. “You say that every year.” She chuckled, then sunk the knife into the double layered cake and began to cut it into pieces. Rob was always complimenting her on things she had done and the way she looked. His kind words were comforting and made her feel loved. Bobby pushed himself between his mom and dad carrying a large plastic tub of Neapolitan ice cream. He placed the tub onto the table with a thud and started to work on removing the top. “Here, let me do that.” Rob began to break the plastic seal that surrounded the cover. “Go get your mother a big spoon so she can start diggin’ some of this out.” Bobby disappeared again as his mother placed the first piece of cake onto a happy birthday plate. She ran her finger along the top edge of the knife to clean off the frosting and a few crumbs of the cake and then stuck it into her mouth to taste it. The soft chocolate cake had two layers with a smooth filling of toffee flavored mousse between them. A smile lit up her face as the delicious flavors came alive in her mouth. As she happily stood in the kitchen with all of her friends and family around her, Jeanne paused for a second. She closed her eyes and began to hear a faint sound from somewhere in the distance. The high-pitched sound grew in volume as it radiated from a hidden location deep inside of her head. After a few seconds the tone increased and her body flinched as a bolt of pain shot through the network of blood vessels that ran across the top of her skull. The vein that ran vertically down her forehead began to swell and then throbbed in unison with her heartbeat. Rob had succeeded in opening the ice cream and was waiting for Bobby to return. He glanced toward Jeanne. “Yah know what? If you cut some pieces and toss them onto the plates, I’ll shovel on the ice cream. How ’bout it?” Jeanne’s face twisted as her neck and shoulders twitched. Her head tilted slightly to the left as a look of agony erupted from her lips. “Hun? You Okay? You don’t look so good.” Rob’s brow wrinkled as he turned to get a better look at his wife. Jeanne stood there silently as pain swirled wildly inside of her head, holding the cake knife in her hand. Her head and shoulders spasmed again. She clumsily brushed a few locks of her blonde hair from her face as it became flushed and then she rubbed her forehead. “Jeanne, honey…what’s wrong?” Rob watched as the pain dug its way into his wife’s once beautiful features. Bobby came back with a large serving spoon and tried to hand it to his father but Rob didn’t take it. Bobby placed the spoon onto the table and then innocently sat down on the edge of his chair and waited for the treats to be served. “Hun, you’re scaring me.” Rob gently put his arm around Jeanne’s shoulders. Her face had become so red and contorted it was hard to recognize her. The only exception was her normal fragrance of rose perfume. Jeanne’s body shook and her eyes popped wide open as if she had just been poked with a cattle prod. The parts of her eyes that normally were a bright white had turned red. The twitching in her head and shoulders intensified as the color of her face turned an even more disturbing shade of crimson. She grasped the foot-long cake knife with two hands, raised it above her head, and slammed it through the cake and into the top of the kitchen table as a horrific scream erupted from her mouth. The vein in her forehead pulsed as she leaned over and rested the knuckles of her clenched fists on the table. A slight growl timed with each breath grunted from her mouth as she sucked large amounts of oxygen in and out of her lungs as if she was a rabid beast. Everyone stood frozen as foaming saliva trickled from the corners of her mouth and ran down her chin. Rob jerked himself away from his wife; all of the party guests stood motionless with their eyes as wide as saucers glued to the scene before them. Bobby sat frozen in his chair. Jeanne leaned her head back, displaying engorged arteries on each side of her neck pumping oxygenated blood into her cranium. Then she let out another guttural scream that was even more blood curdling than the first one. Everyone gasped at the rage that came from the sound and the anger on her face. Jeanne’s head snapped forward. She looked down in front of her and saw the knife sticking vertically out of the cake. She used two hands to pull on the handle and after a few tugs, was able to yank it free. A new chorus of screams erupted from the terrified onlookers as they realized the maniacal loved one standing in front of them now had a weapon. They blurted chaotic words of terror as they stampeded out of every doorway of the kitchen. Bobby slowly following them wide-eyed, his mouth hanging open. Jeanne spun toward Rob with the knife in her hand, her face red and her eyes sharp. She slowly walked toward him with white foaming saliva dripping from her chin, slashing the serrated blade back and forth through the air. Rob crossed his arms in front of his body to block the oncoming attack, cringing from the pain erupting in his hands and forearms as the saw-like knife sliced into its target. Jeanne stopped her attack for a few seconds as another scream erupted from her mouth. During the pause, Rob looked down to see that he was covered with a multitude of cuts and jagged slices. Streams of dark red blood leaked from the wounds, ran toward his elbows, and dripped onto the linoleum floor like molasses. As the last few family members cleared the room, Rob stepped back and took a defensive stance, ready for the next attack. Jeanne’s head and shoulders twitched a few more times and then she proceeded to focus on Rob and her second assault. The frail woman’s strength multiplied exponentially as the rage inside pushed her forward. As she got closer to her husband, she wildly slashed the large knife back and forth, wounding his shoulders and chest. Rob retreated as terror contorted his face. He tried to fend off the onslaught the best he could by putting himself in a fetal position near the floor against the refrigerator door. After a few seconds, Jeanne abruptly stopped her attack as she caught something out of the corner of her eye. She stood frozen as she surveyed the room, blood dripping from the blade while Rob remained balled up on the floor. Jeanne slowly turned her head to the right and saw Bobby standing next to the sink, as he had been inching his way toward the living room. It was if the young boy’s feet were glued to the floor as his body trembled and tears leaked from his eyes. Bobby started to move slowly toward the doorway again with his back against the sink, heading for the living room. He used his sleeve to wipe his face. “Mommy, why are you doing this?” A few cries burst out of the boy’s mouth as he tried to control himself. “Today’s a happy day…my birthday. Mommy…why?” Jeanne slowly walked forward like a ferocious animal that had just found its prey, her red eyes focusing intently on her son. A few feet from the boy, she lifted the knife above her head in a stabbing position and let out another scream. Bobby’s eyes opened wide and flushed with terror; his mouth let out a silent scream. He turned and began to run toward the living room with the woman that had given birth to him following right behind, reaching for him with one hand and wielding the knife with the other. Just as Bobby reached the doorway, Jeanne lunged forward and grabbed a handful of the boy’s light brown hair yanking him back. Bobby shrieked and fought to overpower his mother’s grip, but her hold was just too strong. Her left hand pulled the boy’s head against her stomach as she prepared to slash the soft white skin of his throat with the serrated blade. As she began to press the knife against her son’s throat, the attack was interrupted as Rob tackled Jeanne from her blind side and landed on top of her. The force of the impact knocked the knife from Jeanne’s hand and allowed Bobby a chance to wiggle free and escape. As the married couple lay stunned, Rob maneuvered himself on top of his wife to try and hold her down. He smelled the familiar fragrance of her rose perfume as tears filled his eyes. He used the back of his hand to knock the bloody knife farther away and then wrapped his injured arms around her to try and control her. Displaying incredible strength, the small five foot three woman slipped free and climbed on top of her husband. She grabbed the collar of Rob’s t-shirt with her bloody hands and repeatedly slammed the back of his head into the floor. Rob was able to escape Jeanne’s grasp and pushed his heavily muscled frame on top of her again. After employing a few wrestling moves he remembered from high school, Rob was able to bring Jeanne’s arms behind her. Then he pushed his knee into the middle of her back while holding her wrists together with his hands. She let out repeated blasts of short screams and wiggled to try and free herself. Unable to get loose, Jeanne began to pound her once pretty face into the floor and bloody impressions of her features appeared on the linoleum. Rob saw his younger brother Dave moving toward him in an attempt to help. The two brothers had similar features, with Dave being a few inches taller. Besides being brothers, they were also best friends. Their father had always told them, they were twins that had been born two years apart. Jeanne turned her rabid red eyes toward Dave and belched out another scream as she shot a look of anger and hatred toward him. Rob yelled to his brother, “I’ve got her—go—get everybody outside—call 911!” ### Dave nodded, jumped to his feet and began to herd the guests from the other rooms of the house. As he hurried down the front steps and into the yard, he pulled his phone from his pocket and hit 911. He pressed it to his ear and heard a female dispatcher with a nasally voice say, “911, what is your emergency?” Dave yelled into the phone, “We need police and an ambulance at 2865 Brookfield Road. My sister-in-law has gone crazy and is trying to kill everybody in the house.” “Please remain calm, sir. Can you tell me if anyone is hurt?” Dave ran his hand through his sweat soaked hair. “Yeah, my brother got cut up pretty good. He was able to tackle her and hold her down.” His eyes shot toward the house and he clutched his chest above his heart as the sound of Jeanne’s screams came through the open windows. “Sir, please hold.” The phone was silent for ten or fifteen seconds. “Hello! Hello?” Dave’s patience was completely gone. “What the fuck is wrong with you people? We need help now!” Jeanne and Rob lived in a nice middle class neighborhood where the most extreme event during the last ten years had been Jim Ricket’s fifteen-year-old son stealing the family car and going for a joy ride. Other than that, Rob and Jeanne lived in the Garden of Eden. But as he looked up and down the neighborhood street, Dave could see pockets of commotion to his left and right. The Garden of Eden was soon replaced by visions of the seven levels of Hades. He saw people running wildly in every direction screaming while others stood silently, frozen in their tracks. Thick black smoke billowed from the front window of a house down the street. A speeding pickup truck veered off course and plowed into a row of parked cars as shouts, screams, and car alarms filled the air. Dave tried to make sense of what was going on around him but was interrupted as the dispatcher came back on the line. “Sir…I’m sorry for the delay but we’re receiving reports similar to yours coming in from all over Lockwood.” There was a pause and Dave could hear the dispatcher talking to someone in the background. “At this moment, all emergency squads have been dispatched to other locations.” “Other locations? What the fuck are we supposed to do in the mean time?” A tremor of fear shot through his body as he watched a middle-aged woman in a pink bath robe run past him screaming at the top of her lungs. “Please make every attempt to keep the subject under control and prevent her from making any other attacks.” Dave ran his hand through his hair in frustration again. “What the fuck do you think we’re doing now?” He balled his hand into a fist. “Please remain calm, sir. If you continue to use aggressive language with me I’ll have to put you on hold.” “Put me on hold!” he whispered. “What the fuck…” Then he yelled as sweat poured from his forehead. “Just get somebody here and get them here fast!” “We’ll do everything we can, sir.” Dave lowered the phone from his ear, cupped it in his left hand, and drew back a fist in his right, ready to punch the electronic contraption to relieve some of his frustration. “We’ll do everything we can. What the fuck kinda answer is that?” He was able to grasp his impulsive temper, bring it under control and lower his fist. In the distance, Dave could hear police sirens—a lot of police sirens. He watched a police helicopter as it streaked fifty feet above him heading east down Brookfield Road. Two large blasts from a fire truck horn caught his attention as it arrived at a burning house a few addresses to the west. Dave looked across the street and saw Rob’s retired neighbor, Mr. Tesatore standing in his front yard. He had been a school bus driver and had driven them to middle school some years back. The elderly man stood red-faced on the sidewalk leading to his house in a pair of striped boxer shorts and a sleeveless under shirt. His two bare feet were frozen to the sidewalk as he bellowed gruesome screams. He used his own hands to repeatedly punch the sides of his head. A moment later, his entire body stilled and he silently looked forward with a blank stare, his mouth hanging slightly open. A screech came from inside the house and Dave turned to see what was happening. Rob had Jeanne’s arms pinned behind her back and was trying to move her from the house to the front yard. Jeanne vomited one bloody, horrifying scream after another and twisted to try and free herself. As the two came closer to the screen door, Jeanne snapped her head backward and smashed her skull into Rob’s face. The blow surprised him as he removed his hands from his wife and covered his broken nose. Blood streamed down the front of his face and dripped from his chin as he stood there woozy from the blow. Jeanne ran through the wood framed screen door, pulling it from its hinges and continuing into the yard. Family members scattered in every direction as Jeanne stood in the front yard next to a patch of geraniums and began to claw into the sides of her own face. Dave’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open as he watched his sister-in-law sink her pink painted nails into the soft skin of her pretty face. Unable to process the gruesome vision in front of him, he pressed his hand to his forehead as if it would somehow help him understand the mayhem surrounding him. He mumbled to himself, “What the hell? Everyone…they’ve…they’ve all gone fuckin’ crazy!” The sound of the police sirens grew louder.