Monday, September 11, 2017

Mass Hysteria by Michael Patrick Hicks

Release date: August 10, 2017
Subgenre: Horror

About Mass Hysteria


It came from space...

Something virulent. Something evil. Something new. And it is infecting the town of Falls Breath.

Carried to Earth in a freak meteor shower, an alien virus has infected the animals. Pets and wildlife have turned rabid, attacking without warning. Dogs and cats terrorize their owners, while deer and wolves from the neighboring woods hunt in packs, stalking and killing their human prey without mercy. 

As the town comes under siege, Lauren searches for her boyfriend, while her policeman father fights to restore some semblance of order against a threat unlike anything he has seen before. The Natural Order has been upended completely, and nowhere is safe.

...and it is spreading.

Soon, the city will find itself in the grips of mass hysteria.

To survive, humanity will have to fight tooth and nail.

This edition includes a bonus short story, Consumption!



BUCKLEY scratched at the door, a shrill and nervous whine stuttering from his probing muzzle. His nose was flared as he sniffed at the thin gap between door and doorjamb, his nails scrabbling against the wooden trim.
“Jesus, Buck!” Melisa Delacourt said. “Calm down.”
She had raised the volume on the television three times, but the damn dog just kept getting louder and louder, determined to outmatch the flat screen’s audio. The news was reporting on last night’s meteor shower and she wanted to hear about the rock that splashed down in the lake.
“Sky watchers have been in for a real treat these last three or four nights,” the weatherman was saying. “A rare celestial event has been lighting up the skies in various parts of the world, but if you happened to be up late last night, you might have caught sight of a few shooting stars right in our own backyard. If you were asleep, though, no worries. A few of our night owls sent us these stunning videos, so let’s have a look!”
The weatherman, a stocky fella who barely looked out of his teens, was replaced with shaky cellphone footage. The first couple of seconds were dark and blurry, but after a moment, the nighttime sky lit up with a brilliant streak cutting diagonally across the screen. The meteor was a little bitty one, but still—a meteor strike! Damn near in her own backyard, too!
“Another viewer caught site of this much larger meteor,” the weatherman said, “and we’ve confirmed that it did indeed land out by the old McClellan farm.” He continued to prattle on as another motion-sickness-inducing cellphone video showed a bright speck in the sky, one that rapidly grew bigger and brighter until it exploded in a flash of blindingly white light.
The video was intense, but Melissa paid the broadcaster no mind as he talked over the looped footage. Besides which, the fucking dog was barking so goddamn loudly she could hardly even hear the report. She knew the story wouldn’t be very juicy, though – the farm, if one could even call the small caved-in house and toppled barn a farm, had been abandoned for ages. And since Melisa hardly ever went out onto the peninsula, she could care less what went on there. The lake, though, now that was exciting. Maybe one of the reporters would come by to interview her! She hoped it was that Carmichael fellow. He was tall, with a cast iron jaw and silver hair, handsome as the devil with icy blue eyes that sent a pleasant chill through her every time the camera zoomed in on him during one of his nightly reports. Melissa thought about doing her hair and make-up, just in case. If Carmichael did come out this way, she wanted to look her best.
Buckley though, he had other ideas and sounded to be in one hell of a tizzy.
Goddamnit, dog!
Slamming a rocks glass filled with tequila, she shoved off the couch and walked to the golden Lab. The dog looked at her, to the door, back at her. As she drew nearer, he began barking more urgently.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”
Dog’s really gotta go, she thought. She’d never seen Buckley this agitated before, but brushed it off as an achingly full bladder. Poor thing waited too long, that’s all.
As she drew nearer, Buckley let out a louder bark, the fur along his spine standing on end. A low, tremulous growl shook loose from deep inside his throat, and he took a step forward, baring his teeth.
“What’s gotten into you, boy?”
This was weird behavior, but then again, Buckley was a bit of a weird dog. He’d take himself for walks. Put a leash on him and let him take hold of the loop in his teeth, and he was good to go. He’d wander all over the neighborhood, head held high and tail wagging, happy as can be. He’d also eaten an entire bag of mothballs. Only the once, and years ago at that, but she was convinced the chemicals had messed with his mind, making him even weirder. He was probably getting doggy dementia from it.
She reached the door, forcing Buckley to step back, and the growl grew deeper, louder. He barked once more, and—now growing annoyed with him—she told him to shush. He backed up, blocking the door, a rope of drool leaking from the side of his mouth.
“C’mon, you wanted out,” she said. “Move.”
Christ, he really was getting demented, she thought.
She had to lean across the dog to turn the deadbolt, but as soon as her arm was stretched out he moved fast. His jaw clamped down around her forearm, his guttural growls sending an odd vibration through her skin as he shook his head back and forth.
The teeth tore through her, bone deep, but the attack was so sudden and unexpected that the pain hadn’t even set in. Shock flooded her immediately, and she screamed, “Buckley!”
Delacourt went to take a step back, her heel slipping on the entryway throw rug, and she fell hard on her ass, her arm twisting painfully, still gripped tightly in her dog’s mouth.
Once she was down, he let go. And then, eighty-five pounds of hard muscle and golden fur dropped atop her chest, his face in hers, jaws snapping.
Her pain receptors were firing with maddening frequency as her cheek was torn away, and she smacked at the dog’s flanks, like punching a slab of beef and just as useless.
Her ears were filled with the noises of her own pain, of Buckley’s grunting and growling and snapping. She smacked at his head, hard as a brick and twice as heavy. He nipped at her face again, her nose cutting open against his teeth.
Delacourt went to deliver another smack, but Buckley was fast. His jaws took off three of her fingers before her open palm could land again.
“Get off,” she screamed, losing herself to the panic. Her feet fought for purchase beneath her, trying to push herself backward, but she was stuck under the weight of the dog, trapped between his four legs and snapping mouth.
The second she moved, his face lunged down into the meat of her throat. Teeth drove through flesh, crunching through the thick, rubbery vein and splashing crimson against his golden face. His snout burrowed deeper and when it came up, it was with a mouthful of throaty sinew.
Her fighting legs went limp, one bare foot collapsing to the floor, lifeless.
Buckley stood over her for a moment, watchful, waiting. Finally, a single, unenthusiastic wag of his tail and a small whine broke the stillness. He turned and went back to the door, clawing at the jamb and sticking his gory snout into the gap between the floor, whining again. Fighting with the door, his paws and face smeared his dead owner’s blood across the white metal finish. His nails dug grooves into the trim, peeling away paint and wood.

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About Michael Patrick Hicks:

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novel Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. He is also the author of the short horror story, Consumption, and his work appears in the science fiction anthology, No Way Home. He lives in Michigan and is hard at work on his next story.

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