This book was originally announced back in 2006, and written shortly thereafter. At the time, the previously released Autumn books—some published independently, others given away for free—were doing well, a low-budget film adaptation of the first novel had been announced, and everything was moving along nicely. Then things went a little crazy … My novel Hater was released, Guillermo del Toro became attached to a movie version, and the Autumn and Hater books were subsequently acquired by Thomas Dunne Books in the United States and Gollancz in the UK.

Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? It was. It still is.

The only downside was that there were a lot of people waiting expectantly to read this book five years ago, only to have it snatched from them before they’d even seen the cover. So I’d like to publicly apologize and thank them all for waiting. Sorry for the unintentional but unavoidable delay. I hope you (finally) enjoy Disintegration.

I also want to thank my family and friends for their continued love and support. Thanks also to Brendan Deneen and all at Thomas Dunne Books, Jo Fletcher and all at Gollancz, John Schoenfelder, and Scott Miller.

Finally, thanks to the close-knit community of zombie authors of which I’m proud to be a part, particularly Wayne Simmons and Iain McKinnon, and also to Richard Grundy, Craig Paton, Antony White, Michael Dick, Jack O’Hare, David Naughton-Shires, David Joseph, Daniel Boucher, and all the other artists and designers who’ve contributed to the ongoing project.



They said I should have burned her with the rest of them. When everyone died I cleared this place out room by room, not stopping till I’d got rid of every last one of them. I worked for hours until every trace of dead flesh had been removed from the building. Except for her. Except for the Swimmer.

I found her a couple of days later when she’d just started to move. Don’t know how I missed her before, lying there dressed in her bathing costume. Poor bitch had been about to take a dip in the pool when it caught her. The doors had swung shut, trapping her inside. When I first found her she was shuffling about in the shadows like those on the other side of the boundary fence, constantly dragging herself from one end of the room to the other, backward and forward, walking into walls and lockers, tripping over upturned benches and other obstructions. She looked pretty comical crashing around, stupid almost, but I wasn’t laughing. I was too scared. I still am.

When the others got here we talked for hours about getting rid of her. Ginnie and Sean were dead set against the idea of keeping her inside the building with us, even though there was no way she could get out into any other part of the hotel. Howard and Amir came around to my way of thinking pretty quickly. It made sense to keep hold of her and watch her. Christ, those bloody bodies dragged themselves up onto their feet after they’d been lying dead for days and none of us knew what they might do next. I knew that the Swimmer would show us. In a perverse way she’s helped us to stay alive. Shut away in the changing room, she’s sheltered from the rest of the dead world outside, and over the weeks we’ve watched her change. We’ve watched her decay. She’s shown us how the dead have evolved. She’s shown us what they’ve become.

The changes have been gradual. Sometimes nothing seems to happen for days, but then she’ll react differently to one of us and we’ll know that the hundreds of thousands of bodies on the other side of the fence will soon be doing the same. None of what’s happened to the world makes any sense, but what’s happening to them makes the least sense of all: as they continue to rot, their control and coordination has somehow returned. It’s like they’re starting to think again and make decisions. Sometime soon, I’m sure, they’ll reach the point where they’ve decayed to such an extent they can no longer keep moving—but when will that be? And what will they be capable of by then?

It was less than a week after the day the world died when I first realized she was watching me. A week of dumb, uncoordinated, and random movements, and then suddenly she could see and hear again. Her dark eyes stared back at me whenever I approached. And when Howard’s dog barked she reacted too. She lurched toward the window and hammered her hands against the glass as if she was trying to escape. As the days passed her reactions slowed down, became more deliberate and less instinctive. I realized she was regaining control.

I’ve spent hours watching her since then. Sometimes I can’t take my eyes off her, even though she disgusts me. I’m sure I saw her here before she died. I remember her once-pretty round face, heart-shaped lips, slightly upturned nose and short, dark brown hair, flecked with highlights. Her subsequent deterioration has been remarkable. Even in here, where she’s isolated and protected from the weather and the worst of the insects, she has been reduced to little more than a grotesque shadow of the person she once was. The color of her flesh has changed from the white-pink of life to a cold blue-gray. Her skin has shrivelled in places and slipped in others. There are bags under her bulging eyes where her mottled flesh has sagged. Her body seems almost to be turning itself inside out. Gravity has dragged her rotting guts down and now they’re dripping out between her unsteady legs. Even from the other side of the door I can smell the stench of her decay.

It’s almost two months since this nightmare began. Recently the Swimmer’s behavior has changed again. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but she seems more aware than ever now—more aware of me and the others, and more self-aware too. I don’t know if she has any memory of who she used to be or if she understands what she has become. Whatever she does or doesn’t know, a couple of days ago I swear I caught her trying to open the door. I found her leaning up against it, banging her right hand down on the handle repeatedly. She eventually noticed me standing at the window and stopped. She looked at me for a few seconds, then stumbled back into the shadows. If she’d run at the glass I’d have been less concerned, but she didn’t. She actually moved away. She saw that I was watching her and tried to hide.

Yesterday afternoon, for a short time, she seemed to forget herself. She stood in the middle of the room looking directly at me through the window. I couldn’t take my eyes off her grotesque face and I found myself wondering again who she might have been before she died. Does she see me and remember what she once was, or does she see me as a threat? Am I her enemy?

I hate her. She’s one corpse alone in a world filled with millions but, because she’s in here with us, I’ve begun to aim all my pain and frustration directly at her. Sometimes I feel like she’s taunting me and it’s all I can do not to destroy her. Yesterday, when she was watching me, I stood on the other side of the door with an ax in my hands for what felt like forever. I wanted so badly to cut her down to nothing and batter her into memory.

I know I can’t harm her. We still need her.


Webb kicked his way through the litter behind the counter of the petrol station kiosk. They’d been here several times before and had cleared the place out, but maybe today he’d find one last packet of cigarettes that he’d missed last time, or a previously overlooked bottle of drink. It was always worth a look. Christ, what he’d give for a can of lager right now.

Wait … he could hear an engine. More than that, he could hear three engines—the bike and both the vans. Bloody hell, they were going without him! The fucking idiots were leaving him behind! No time to think. He scrambled back over the counter, stepped through the mess of twisted metal and broken glass where the entrance door used to be, then ran out into the middle of the forecourt.

“Wait!” he screamed, his voice quickly deteriorating from a strong yell to a strained smoker’s rasp. Bent over double coughing, he glanced up and caught a glimpse of the roof of one of the vans as it raced back toward the flats. It was just a momentary flash of sunlight on metal, gone in a second but visible long enough to leave him in no doubt that he was now completely alone. Alone, that was, apart from a fractious mob of more than two hundred

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