"The Skull-Faced Boy"
- The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams, Night Shade Books, September 2008
- Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J. M. Lassen, Night Shade Books, October 2011
- Pseudopod, Episode 94, June 2008
- Gothic.net, March 2002

    The man's face was encrusted with dirt, and his eyes were ... oozing. Through his twisted, rotten teeth came a long and wordless moan.
    Jack stared, uncomprehending.
    Suddenly Dustin's voice burst out, "He's dead."
    Jack turned. Dustin stood there, his nose and cheeks torn away. Two giant white eyeballs filled the sockets of his freakishly visible skull. Scraps of flesh hung from his jaw. Jack screamed.
    Dustin stumbled over to the wrecked car, to where one of its side view mirrors hung loosely. He tore off the mirror and stared into it. For a long time, he neither moved nor spoke.
    Finally he called out, "That man has come back from the dead. Look at him, Jack. He's dead, and so am I."
    Jack shuddered and backed away from the man.
    Dustin's eyeballs fixed on Jack's stomach. Apprehensive, Jack looked down. He lifted his blood-drenched shirt to expose the ripped and mangled mess beneath.
    "And so are you," Dustin said.

    College buddies Jack and Dustin find themselves killed, but brains uneaten, on a night when the dead come back to life. Jack tries to find acceptance among the living, while Dustin rallies the mindless hordes of brain-eaten dead for total victory. Some rivalries you keep to the grave, and beyond.
    This story is free to read online.
    The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams, is an anthology of zombie fiction. See the book's official website. Here's the table of contents:

"This Year's Class Picture" by Dan Simmons
"Some Zombie Contingency Plans" by Kelly Link
"Death and Suffrage" by Dale Bailey
"Ghost Dance" by Sherman Alexie
"Blossom" by David J. Schow
"The Third Dead Body" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"The Dead" by Michael Swanwick
"The Dead Kid" by Darrell Schweitzer
"Malthusian's Zombie" by Jeffrey Ford
"Beautiful Stuff" by Susan Palwick
"Sex, Death and Starshine" by Clive Barker
"Stockholm Syndrome" by David Tallerman
"Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead" by Joe Hill
"Those Who Seek Forgiveness" by Laurell K. Hamilton
"In Beauty, Like the Night" by Norman Partridge
"Prairie" by Brian Evenson
"Everything is Better with Zombies" by Hannah Wolf Bowen
"Home Delivery" by Stephen King
"Less than Zombie" by Douglas E. Winter
"Sparks Fly Upward" by Lisa Morton
"Meathouse Man" by George R. R. Martin
"Deadman's Road" by Joe Lansdale
"The Skull-Faced Boy" by David Barr Kirtley
"The Age of Sorrow" by Nancy Kilpatrick
"Bitter Grounds" by Neil Gaiman
"She's Taking Her Tits to the Grave" by Catherine Cheek
"Dead Like Me" by Adam-Troy Castro
"Zora and the Zombie" by Andy Duncan
"Calcutta, Lord of Nerves" by Poppy Z. Brite
"Followed" by Will McIntosh
"The Song the Zombie Sang" by Harlan Ellison & Robert Silverberg
"Passion Play" by Nancy Holder
"Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man" by Scott Edelman
"How the Day Runs Down" by John Langan

    Z: Zombie Stories, edited by J. M. Lassen, is an anthology of YA zombie stories. Here's the table of contents:

"Family Business" by Jonathan Maberry
"The Wrong Grave" by Kelly Link
"The Days of Flaming Motorcycles" by Catherynne M. Valente
"The Barrow Maid" by Christine Morgan
"You'll Never Walk Alone" by Scott Nicholson
"The Dead Kid" by Darrell Schweitzer
"Seven Brains, Ten Minutes" by Marie Atkins
"The Third Dead Body" by Nina Kirki Hoffman
"The Skull-Faced Boy" by David Barr Kirtley
"The Human Race" by Scott Edelman
"Deepwater Miracle" by Thomas S. Roche

    Gothic.net was one of the first web-based fiction magazines to meet the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) strict criteria for a "pro" market. Fiction editor Seth Lindberg bought this story.
    Pseudopod is a weekly podcast of horror short stories in audio format. "The Skull-Faced Boy" was performed by Ralph Walters. Discuss "The Skull-Faced Boy" on the Pseudopod message board.
    See David's concept art for "The Skull-Faced Boy." See the trailer for The Living Dead. Listen to a radio appearance by David and John Joseph Adams. Or read all posts tagged "the skull-faced boy" on David's blog.
    "The Skull-Faced City," a sequel to "The Skull-Faced Boy," will appear in Fall 2010 in the anthology The Living Dead 2, edited by John Joseph Adams.
 

Fan art for The Skull-Faced Boy by David Barr Kirtley.
Fan art by Jandan for "The Skull-Faced Boy." View the high-res version.

 
"Lurches into high gear pretty much from the beginning and then goes in some truly disturbing directions, with what I thought was a killer ending."
- John Langan, author of Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters

"Is there actually an original zombie story left out there? ... YES! And this is it! ... This story would make a perfect episode of The Twilight Zone. This is also probably one of the only zombie ... well, anything! ... that does not have massive amounts of gore flying around ... Is there zombie grossness? Of course. But this guy has finesse!"
- Lisa Marie Andrews

"Well, it's about time someone did a great zombie story. Reading a number of anthologies, I wondered if anyone had it left to write something of this caliber. Great stuff!"
-JCM, Pseudopod message board

"This story is everything Pseudopod! A classic scenario with a twist. An action-driven plot with a hint of meaning. Just right for audio. Well-performed audio at that."
- deflective, Pseudopod message board

"Loved the story and would be interested to hear more set in the world it's created. This is the first Pseudopod offering that I thought could be expanded to novel length without suffering a dilution of its central idea."
- Clinton Trucks, Pseudopod message board

"I LOVED this story. Great zombie read, and I love how it's unconventional. I really loved the characters! 10/10, Pseudopod! Can we get some more from this author?"
-Dom, Pseudopod message board

Read the
story free

The Living Dead
at Amazon.com

Scene 1 Video:

Listen to the
story free:

 
Z: Zombie Stories
at Amazon.com

The story
continues in: "The Skull-Faced City"