(The first book in the White Rabbit Chronicles series)
A novel by Gena Showalter
First and foremost, I have to thank God. I became very sick after writing the first draft of this book. I couldn’t work for several months; I was simply in too much pain. I began to seek the Lord, and He healed me. During this time, a whole new world for Alice opened up and I saw the places I’d missed it. Creating this “wonderland” was challenging but one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Next I want to thank the students of Marlow High School in Oklahoma for having me over, and Leigh Heldermon, Kye, Joyce and Emmet Harrison, Sony Harrison, Vicki Tolbert, Mike Tolbert and Cathy Hazel for setting everything up. I also want to thank Jayson Brown, Justyn Brown, Autumn Jackson, Cassandra Howard, Allison Collins and Austin Tinney for staying after and chatting with me. I had a blast!
I have to give a huge shout-out to Lauren Floyd for reading the rough draft and giving me honest feedback. She helped me shape some of the character voices, and I will be forever grateful.
I have to give another huge shout-out to Jill Monroe, Roxanne St. Claire, Louisa Edwards, Kristen Painter and Candace Havens, five amazingly talented and beautifully gorgeous ladies. (Yes, I said beautifully gorgeous.) I attended a writer’s conference with these jewels and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I’ll never forget the food, the conversations and the love.
I must thank the people in my life who have to deal with me on a daily basis. Max, Roy Showtime, Torrence Vee Merryweather, Haden Tolbert, Seth Tolbert, Chloe Tolbert, Nate and Meg Hurt, Parks and Finn Quine, Shane and Kemmie Tolbert, Christy James, Auston and Casey Dowling, David and Paula Dowling, Shonna and Kyle Hurt, Michelle and Cody Quine, Matt and Jennifer Showalter, Michael Showalter, Pennye and Terry Edwards, Mark and Cindy Watley, Mom and Dad, and Kresley and Swede Cole. (They are all beautifully gorgeous, too!)
And this dedication would not be complete without mentioning the awesome, the incredible, the truly spectacular Natashya Wilson. Her keen insight never fails to amaze me. She went over this book as many times as I did, and went above and beyond the call of duty. You are heaven-sent!
A Note from Alice
Had anyone told me that my entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, I would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please.
But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything I knew and loved was gone.
My name is Alice Bell, and on the night of my sixteenth birthday I lost the mother I loved, the sister I adored and the father I never understood until it was too late. Until that heartbeat when my entire world collapsed and a new one took shape around me.
My father was right. Monsters walk among us.
At night, these living dead, these…zombies…rise from their graves, and they crave what they lost. Life. They will feed on you. They will infect you. And then they will kill you. If that happens, you will rise from your grave. It’s an endless cycle, like a mouse running inside a barbed wheel, bleeding and dying as those sharp tips dig ever deeper, with no way to stop the lethal momentum.
These zombies feel no fear, know no pain, but they hunger. Oh, do they hunger. There’s only one way to stop them—but I can’t tell you how. You’ll have to be shown. What I can tell you is that we must fight the zombies to disable them. To fight them, we must get close to them. To get close to them, we must be a little brave and a whole lot crazy.
But you know what? I’d rather the world considered me crazy while I go down fighting than spend the rest of my life hiding from the truth. Zombies are real. They’re out there.
If you aren’t vigilant, they’ll get you, too.
So. Yeah. I should have listened to my father. He warned me over and over again never to go out at night, never to venture into a cemetery and never, under any circumstances, to trust someone who wants you to do either. He should have taken his own advice, because he trusted me—and I convinced him to do both.
I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently. I’d tell my sister no. I’d never beg my mother to talk to my dad. I’d stop my tears from falling. I’d zip my lips and swallow those hateful words. Or, barring all of that, I’d hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time. I’d tell them I love them.
I wish…yeah, I wish.
Down the Zombie Hole
Eight-year-old Emma danced around me. She wore a glittery pink ballerina costume, her pigtails bouncing with her every movement. She was a miniature version of our mother and the complete opposite of me.
Both possessed a slick fall of dark hair and beautifully uptilted golden eyes. Mom was short, barely over five-three, and I wasn’t sure Em would even make it to five-one. Me? I had wavy white-blond hair, big blue eyes and legs that stretched for miles. At five-ten, I was taller than most of the boys at my school and always stood out—I couldn’t go anywhere without getting a few what-are-you-a-giraffe? stares.
Boys had never shown an interest in me, but I couldn’t count the number of times I had caught one drooling over my mom as she walked by or—gag—heard one whistle as she bent over to pick something up.
“Sweetie, we’ve gone over this, like, a thousand times. Your recital might start while it’s sunny out, but it’ll end at dark. You know Dad will never let us leave the house. And Mom agreed to sign you up for the program as long as you swore never to throw a tantrum when you couldn’t make a practice or a, what? Recital.”
She stepped over me and planted those dainty pink slippers at my shoulders, her slight body throwing a large enough shadow to shield my face from the overhead glare. She became all that I could see, shimmering gold pleading down at me. “Today’s your birthday, and I know, I know, I forgot this morning…and this afternoon…but last week I remembered that it was coming up—
This year, Mom had hidden notes in drawers to remind herself (I’d found them), and as Em had claimed, my baby sis had even hinted before flat out saying, “Hey, Alice’s birthday is coming up and I think she deserves a party!” but I’d woken up this morning to the same old same old. Nothing had changed.
Whatever. I was a year older, finally sweet sixteen, but my life was still the same. Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal. I’d stopped caring a long time ago.