Rogues Portal is excited to have a first look at the the new dystopian horror novel, WEAPONIZED, publishing this Halloween from Inkshares. WEAPONIZED is written by Zac Thompson, the writer of the critically acclaimed comic book series The Dregs. His work has also appeared in IGN, The Huffington Post, and VICE.
FROM THE PRESS RELEASE:
WEAPONIZED was the winner of the 2016 CryptTV horror fiction contest. For fans of It Follows, it’s a Kafkaesque eighties throwback horror that subverts the slasher genre with a refreshing take on body horror, and the twisted, violent, burgeoning sexuality that underpins the genre. After losing his virginity to a stranger, a confident but naïve gay teen contracts an STI that causes his flesh to transform into a living gun. WEAPONIZED is Thompson’s debut novel.
ADVANCE BOOK PRAISE:
“A horror genre level-up akin to the twisted classics of Clive Barker with the social relevance of It Follows. Zac Thompson crafts an uncomfortably dystopian world with a sense of dread that mounts with each page. Engaging, twisted and drenched in gore, this is a perfectly crafted nightmare.” —Kate Krantz, CryptTV
“Dystopia done right. Cronenberg meets Orwell in this terrifying vision of the future.” —Mark Alan Miller, writer of Hellraiser, Next Testament, and The Steam Man
“Zac Thompson brings body horror to The River’s Edge where it rightfully belongs. If you’ve ever fathomed Cronenberg updating The Scarlet Letter, or have dreamed of Greg Araki rebooting Street Trash, you still won’t be prepared for Weaponized.” —Clay McLeod Chapman, author of Rest Area
EXCERPT FROM WEAPONIZED:
Trip worked at the Renntown Port Immigration Terminal. It was the only marine terminal facility on Truog Island, welcoming infectious arrivals as well as supply shipments, weapons containers, and barges of agricultural fertilizer. The facility contained a warehouse, a half-dozen shops, a port of arrival, and the biggest group of teenage employees on the island.
As Trip parked in the gray expanse of the parking lot, he saw the concrete ship the Recycler moored at the dock. It only docked on Wednesdays—arrival day—otherwise, it just quickly offloaded exports and onboarded imports. It carried a new batch of people sent into quarantine every arrival day. It was always an intense process, and Trip was supposed to be the one running things today.
Trip jogged to the docks to reach his post before his boss, Mr. Anson, noticed he was late. Anson was an ugly, ordinary man who always made a point of reminding Trip that his “family situation” was regrettable, but fate had joined them together. His gray suits were always slick with sweat, and he dabbed at his fat neck with a pink handkerchief.
Anson took great pride in running the only dock on the island. It was a position of importance that allowed him to sit on the local board of government as a Permit. Trip didn’t know much about Permits—only that there were ten of them, each assigned to a different state of Truog, and each had their role to play in some ongoing political struggle against one another.
Trip’s boss gave him a sad look of appraisal. “You’re late for arrival day, Trip,” Permit Anson said with a forced smile.
“I’ve only got a three-hour shift today,” Trip reminded him.
“Fine,” Anson replied. “I’ve already assigned them careers and issued dwellings based on my assessment. All you have to do is brief ’em and brand ’em. The Lich will take them to their new abodes and clothe ’em.”
“Thank you, sir. Happy to do it,” Trip responded.
That was a lie.
Trip ran down the long dock. He worked in toll booth #8. There were ten toll booths in total. They were designed like the type of toll station you’d see on the highway, except they were meant for incoming people, not vehicles. The oppressive sight set the stage for those arriving. The turnstiles made it clear that they were about to enter a life of quarantine. There was no turning back once they walked into the land of the confined.
Jesse was inside Trip’s booth waiting to leave. When he saw Trip, he grabbed his stuff and stepped out of the musty box. The spiritual guru looked rough. His hair was greasy and unkempt. His clothing was stained with sweat. Trip knew he often showed up for work straight from a long night at Pondside.
“Hey, man. It’s all yours,” Jesse said, gesturing to the booth.
“Thanks,” Trip said.
“Sorry ’bout the mess in there. Night shift sucks. Nothing to do but crank down.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’d do the same if I were stuck in that box watching water all night.”
Jesse looked Trip up and down. “You going to Pondside tonight?”
“Yeah, and I want to get loaded. Totally fucked out of my mind.”
“Like Ree did last night?”
“Her and Chad came back after you left. He’s slipping her the hollow.”
“See for yourself. Tonight, man.”
With that, Jesse walked down the dock dragging his feet.
Trip stepped inside the toll booth, replaying Jesse’s words in his head. What the fuck did he mean? he thought. Fuck, the toll booth reeked of sweat and protein. He looked around at the mess inside. There were a collection of binders, loose papers, tide charts, Recycler arrival times, and a garbage bucket on the ground. The bucket was filled with the mess Jesse had mentioned: a pile of balled-up paper towel. Jesse liked to jerk off during the night shift. It was understandable. Really.
Trip plugged his nose and looked at the booths to either side of him. They were brown with rust and smelled like fish guts. He grabbed the paper towels and pitched them through the window into the water. Littering is better than huffing Jesse’s seed, he thought.
He looked around the booth for the pristine binder of arrival documents. Every booth had one. Inside were meticulous notes on every person who would walk through the turnstiles each arrival day. It had photos, sexual histories, new name documents, and a small vinyl pocket holding a branding pen—a little device that burned the uppercase “A” into the neck of each new arrival.
Branding was part of Renntown Port’s compliance with the Registry’s Port Facility Code. Each booth held a certificate of compliance also issued by the Registry under the Viral Infections Transportation Security Regulations. The whole process was one big corporate circle jerk. Trip was supposed to spout this information off to every new arrival, but he usually didn’t bother.
Testing his defiant thoughts, Trip watched as two Lich marched down the dock holding the arms of a tall, thin black teenager. He was in a state—stripped, shaved, and dazed. There were no signs of torture, but the Lich efficiently threw the teen into the turnstile of Trip’s booth like a piece of meat.
Trip looked through the wired-glass window of the box and declared, “You are now in the protective custody of Truog Island, out of the reach of prospective hosts for your infection. You are among the lucky. You have survived.” He said all this without a smile or a thought.
Thee black teen looked up. His eyes made Trip catch his breath. He had done this dozens of times before but had never been stopped by a look. The piercing blue eyes of the new arrival seemed to bore into him, drilling through his breastplate and piercing his heart. His pulse quickened. For a moment, all he could do was stare.
Trip shook his head, checking the guy’s paperwork. His name was Cron. He was nineteen going on twenty, an adult, but one who didn’t know anything yet. He was muscular, though, like Trip’s grandfather on his mom’s side. He’d stay this way for years, Trip figured.
“You’re infected,” Trip told him. “You have been sent here for your crimes against nature. In exchange for food and shelter, you must agree to abide by the rules of the Registry. Do you understand?” The teen nodded once. Resigned. “If you try to spread your disease, the Registry will recycle you. If you encourage others to fornicate, the Registry will recycle you. If caught, uh, pleasuring yourself—”
“I get the picture,” the arrival named Cron said. His voice was dark and rich, like coffee grounds. Trip had an impulse to lick his neck. “They send you to check on that last part yourself?” He raised those blue eyes again.
“No. No, the Lich, they do all the . . . policing.”
The arrival gave him another look, up and down. Trip cleared his throat and checked the script in the binder. “This place breeds death, not pleasure. So practice restraint.”
“It’s just a script. Uhh—present your neck please.”
Cron stuck his neck out like a turkey. Trip hated this part.
He grabbed the branding pen and stepped out of the booth.
He was impressed by the fullness of Cron’s naked body. He was smooth and looked agile. Trip wanted to mount him there and then. “Just hold still,” Trip said.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Cron said.
Trip sighed and stuck the branding pen into Cron’s neck. The small device let out a soft whir and—with a barely audible click—ten four-centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings and cut an “A” into Cron’s neck.
Cron winced with pain. His eyes welled with tears.
Trip felt his pain, and it was awful. He wanted to apologize but couldn’t find the right words, so he went with a canned performance. “Don’t mind that. Standard procedure,” Trip assured him. “They like to separate the arrivals from those born here.”
The two Lich who’d carried Cron to the turnstile tromped back down the dock, leading more arrivals to other booths as the Recycler departed. Trip counted thirteen new arrivals for all ten booths. It was the most he’d seen since he started the job. Luckily, arrival day was only one day a week. It would be hectic, but he’d be back in the warehouse the next day, the booths would be closed, and it would be business as usual at the port. The news report was right—things on the mainland must be getting bad, indeed.
Trip wasn’t supposed to be out of his booth. He stepped back inside with a wave to the Lich. The window between him and Cron was shrouded in a smoky haze. “Hold out your hand,” Trip said.
Cron hesitated. He raised his right arm slowly as if unsure it would work properly. He flexed his fingers, then offered his hand to Trip.
“Here’s your new information.” Trip placed a small packet in Cron’s palm. “You belong to the Registry now. We add context and information to everyday acts of humanity. Which means they control all information about social, scientific, and sexual facts of the residents on this island.”
“They do all that?” Cron asked.
“You don’t know Truog, do you?”
Trip leaned over the musty old counter of the booth. “The infection, it’s in your DNA now. The states on this island, and all the people on it, they’ll see you for what you are. The mother superior, Gaia, will find you. At some point she’ll speak to you, tell you what’s what.”
Cron nodded. He opened his eyes wide and asked, “And why can’t I go home?”
“The mainland declared viral existence a crime years ago, so now we have to exist outside the jurisdiction of the law until we all rot. Everyone on Truog has the same infection you do. It sucks, but we make the best of it. Don’t have sex and you’ll be good.”
Trip flipped through the binder. All arrivals were supposed to offload their old names, but Trip liked the sound of “Cron.”
He decided not to give Cron his new name. It was a break in procedure, but it didn’t matter. The dude was cute.
Trip reached for Cron’s hand, took it in his own. Touching him also went against procedure, but there was something about this guy. The touch was an unspoken agreement of protection from teen to new arrival. Cron winced when Trip felt him but then relaxed.
Trip smiled and said, “They’ve given you an apartment in Sherwood Hills State. I’m supposed to screen you for other stuff , but you seem cool. So why don’t you just go through. The Lich will drive you to your new place.”
Trip let in three more arrivals after that, though none of them made such a significant impact on him. Not like Cron. He couldn’t stop flipping back to Cron’s file to stare at his handsome face. His striking blue eyes.
Nevertheless, being seventeen, he could not ignore that night’s party for the new arrivals. The pure clarity of their interaction was alluring, sure, but Trip would deal with it by getting drunk that night. He would get psychotic and loose and shit-faced and forget the feeling of Cron’s hand in his. The way it had pulsed. Like it had a mind of its own.
We hope you enjoyed this first look at Zac Thompson’s forthcoming debut novel. Stock up on candy, light some candles, and be sure to celebrate Halloween the best way: with WEAPONIZED!
Publisher: Crypt TV
Writer: Zac Thompson
On Sale: October 31, 2017