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J.A. Konrath

Talon Konrath

Foreword by Joe Konrath

Back in in the year 2000, I used to show off my two-year old son, Talon, by asking him in front of guests how to kill a zombie.

"Shoot the head," he'd say.

I also accepted decapitation as an answer.

A few months ago, I popped into Talon's bedroom to show him the latest Jon Lajoie video on YouTube, and I saw him typing away at his computer.

"School stuff?" I asked.

"Naw. Working on a story."

My wife and I had always told Talon he could be whatever he wanted when he grew up, after he got his medical degree. I knew from experience that being a writer was tough, and I figured this was just a phase he was going through.

But he kept at it, even with zero encouragement from me. And he didn't ask me to read it, either. He has a big shot author as a father, and apparently had no interest in my opinion. So I asked to read it, expecting the worst.

I was surprised how much fun it was. I wasn't surprised that it was a zombie story. We'd been watching zombie movies, and playing zombie videogames, since he could walk.

So I asked him what he wanted to do with the story, and he shrugged.

"With a bit of work, we could self-publish it," I told him. "It needs some rewriting, but I can help."

"Think it could make money?" My fifteen-year-old son makes $40 a week allowance for taking out the trash and cleaning up after our three dogs.

"I dunno. We could sell it for a dollar. Each sale will earn 35 cents."

Talon did the math. "So if I sell 114 a week, I could make as much as I'm making now. How many ebooks do you sell a week?"

"On a good week, five to ten thousand."

He immediately began to search the Internet for exotic sports cars, since he's getting his license in October.

I have more modest expectations than he does. But I think the story turned out well.

So here's Part 1 of GRANDMA? – a young adult serial novel about zombies. I hope you have as much fun with it as we did…

Joe Konrath


Northern Wisconsin


"You think Grandma will be okay, Randall?"

My brother's eyes were wide with worry. Grandma's were fixed on the ceiling, her hand pressing a towel against her bleeding throat. She wore a dark blue dress with yellow flowers, the upper half soaked through with red. Blood also matted her hair.

So much blood.

I stared at Josh—seven years younger than I was and about to start third grade. He was sitting on the floor next to Grandma, holding her hand. A minute ago he'd taken a pillow from the sofa and put it under her head. There was a streak of crimson across the cabin's hardwood floor from when we'd dragged her into the house.

"I don't know."

We continued to watch her breathe.





Her chest stopped moving. Josh squeezed her hand so tight his fist was shaking. I felt my heart count the seconds.

Grandma's eyes stared off into nothing.

"Grandma!" Josh brought her hand close to his face.

I remembered CPR, from swimming class in school, but Grandma had a hole in her neck. If I blew into her mouth, wouldn't the air just come out of the hole? And if I pressed on her ribcage, wouldn't that just cause more of her blood to come out the wound?


It was a small, wheezy gasp, but it proved she was still alive, and it was enough to stop Josh from squeezing her hand to death. I picked up Grandma's cordless phone on the floor next to us and listened to the recording.

All circuits are currently busy, please stay on the line…

I pressed the button to hang up and tried 911 again.

Same thing. What the hell was wrong with emergency services in Northern Wisconsin?

"Randall? What happened to her?" Josh's wide eyes had become wet and glossy.

I didn't know what to say. I couldn't tell him what I saw happen while she was gardening. I still didn't believe it myself.

"She, uh… she fell on her shovel. You know how old she is."

I turned away, unable to look at him while lying. Instead I scratched my head, fighting to not cry.

"When are Mom and Dad coming back?"

I sniffled. "Soon."

Another lie. I had no idea when they'd be back. When they went hiking, they were sometimes gone all day. Sunset was still hours away, and there was no cell phone reception at the cabin. Mom had taken her purse, which had the car keys in it.

When they got back, we could get Grandma to a hospital. We had to wait for them. We had no other choice.

I thought about the garden. What I saw. And I realized something that made my hands shake.

Josh and I weren't safe.

"I'll be right back." I told Josh. "Keep pressure on the towel."

His eyes widened. "Don't go, Randall."

"I need to check something."

"Don't leave me."

"I'm not leaving. I'll be right back."

"Please hurry up."

I didn't want to go, but I had to.

I didn't want what happened to Grandma to happen to me and Josh.

So I left the living room and began to check every door. The backyard, the patio, the front door, the garage door.

All locked. It wasn't that big of a log cabin.

Then I checked the windows.

Upstairs bedrooms, locked.

Bathrooms, locked.

Kitchen, locked.

Living room, locked.

Then I got to the backyard window. The brown curtains fluttered in the cool lake wind.

Wide open.

Large enough for a man to fit through.

I hurried up to the window and shut it hard, clicking the locks in place. Then I ran back to the living room.

"Josh, we…"

Grandma and Josh were gone.

My heart went into overdrive. The towel was on the floor, blood staining the wood where she'd been. But there were no more streaks. She hadn't been dragged away.

Grandma must have gotten up.


No response.

Where the hell were they?

I ran back upstairs.

"Josh?" My voice not as loud as before.

The silence allowed me to hear my heart pounding in my ears. I waited for noise, for any

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