*BOOK TWO IN THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD TRILOGY*
*IT IS RECOMMENDED TO READ THIS SERIES IN ORDER*
No one said being an Undead is easy.
Winter’s Second Life became a lot more complicated when the Living moved into her hometown of Trenton. Undead neighbors fight with their Breathing ones. Food is sparse. And, worst of all, the season is taking a change for the colder.
A desperate plea for help to a neighboring city turns deadly and soon Winter finds herself facing an old friend from her past whose plot to annihilate all life on the planet may have everything to do with her.
And what about the man-with-the-heartbeat in her house? Is there even room for love in such a ruined, unforgiving world?
New friends are made. Others are lost forever. In the dead of winter, no one is safe.
About the Author
Interesting tidbits: Daryl is also an obsessive piano player, video game enthusiast, and occasional actor. He's been remixing video game music for over fifteen years, and is a passionate Final Fantasy fan. You can feed your ears with many of his remixes (as well as his original music) on his YouTube page "www.youtube.com/DarylBanner". Also, he personally answers all emails he receives, so if you have some strange desire to write him, he may enjoy it. He currently resides in Texas.
P R O L O G U E
The world is a lot quieter than it used to be.
But there is a sound in the desolate dark tonight; it is the sound of fire burning. The tongue of this great fire stretches up high to lick the silver sky, and its fingers, red with greed, are as long as a lifetime.
The fire is as ugly and as beautiful as an ex-lover.
What it feeds on isn’t the wood of the forest. They’re all dead anyway; the trees. This is a fussy fire that only feeds on things you cannot see. It feeds on happiness. With its little yellow teeth, it eats hope for a midnight snack. It eats dreams and laughter and anything little or pretty.
If you squint, you realize it is not just a fire, but rather an army. Each flame is made of a person, and you realize it is their hope that burns … it is their happiness, their passion and despair and greed, burning, burning, burning.
A man stands at the front of the fire—the leader—and he burns a different color than the rest. He burns green. Furious, jealous, hungry green. He is not a proud creature, so the Green One stands with hunched shoulders and he watches from the top of his head, and though his pale face was once handsome, he can only form a permanent scowl now with his twisted, ruined lips.
With this Third Life of his, he will never smile again.
Kneeling before him, a man begs for his life. A Living man. He’s in tears about a girl he loves and the son or daughter he wants to have someday, and the scowling face we will cautiously refer to as the Green Fire holds him sweetly by the neck, the way one might hold a lover, and he says: “I once loved a woman.”
The Living man begs, imploring, and the Green Flame says: “She set me free, opened my eye to the gift of death.”
The Green Fury whispers: “My green eye.” But the Living man won’t stop crying and begging, waving his hands everywhere, so the Hungry Green shows him what he means by taking those healthy Living hands and pulling them right off. Over the man’s screams, the Green Inferno says: “These hands, they’ve reached and reached, all your long, tiresome life, clinging to meaningless things. These hands that take so much, yet hold nothing in the end. I free you from them.”
The man’s voice breaks, his shrieks echoing off the bodies of dead trees, so the Burning Green takes his throat too and grips gently, the way one might embrace a friend. He brings his mouth close and says: “This Life, your permanent solitude, the torture of being Human … you are so hungry for a meaning to it all. Let me feed you.”
Something dark as a void passes between them. One might say it’s the man’s Life, or soul, or something called his Anima. Whatever it is, it’s so quick it’s already gone.
What remains is no longer alive, yet he is not dead. The man’s worries are forgotten, his girl is forgotten, his future, his past, his dreams, all of it, and his screaming is ceased. Handless, lifeless, deathless … he stares with stony glass eyes into those of the Green Death. The Green Death, who says: “It is the dead of winter, and you will never hurt again.”