I have a confession to make. When I was doing the production work on this book the first time it was released through a different publisher…I thought the witness was a dead bear.

Given how grossly wrong I was, we’re posting excerpts from this zombie novella series as our lead-up to Halloween.

Dead Bear Witness-6x9The Dead Bear Witness (Corpse Fauna Book 1)

James Chambers



Four guys committed suicide today. One managed to do the job right.

A wiry kid in for possession doused his clothes in turpentine from the shop, then set a match to his shirt. The screws displayed uncharacteristically good sense letting him burn a while so he wouldn’t rise up again after they hit him with fire extinguishers.

Another made a grab for a guard’s gun, forcing a shootout. The hacks fought his corpse into submission long enough to set fire to it.

Number three swallowed most of a box of rat poison, told no one, and died on his feet washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen. He bit through the throat of the inmate next to him before the other cons cleared out, and two guards returned with scatterguns to rip the dead bastards to pieces.

The fourth grabbed a knife during lunch and cut his own throat. Panicked inmates stumbled over each other trying to get away, blocking the screws from reaching the body before it switched on again. He killed two more inmates and wounded a guard before they pinned down all four of them and dragged them to the infirmary for chopping up.

Nightmare fuel that made me homesick for solitary.

I’d spent a month there only to emerge into the devil’s definition of a life-and-death struggle, and I honestly could not say which side I preferred.

My stint in the hole came by way of punishment for breaking the collarbone of some Aryan Brotherhood asshole who wanted to “protect” me. Show no weakness to those white supremacist fucks—they will make you their dog or kill you trying. Warden Lane Grove knew it as well as I did, but I was fresh blood and a media darling, and he wanted to teach me a lesson about getting cocky.

Last thing the warden told me before he slammed shut the cell door was, “You think you’re someone special, son? Someone different and unique? You’re nobody special. You’re only clay like all the rest of us. Sooner you accept that, better off you’ll be, because if you think my punishment is harsh, you’ll find an even ruder surprise waiting for you in the next world if you don’t change your ways.”

Worst thing for me about solitary was that there was nothing to occupy my mind but thinking about how horribly I had screwed up when I was on top of the world. They wouldn’t allow me my books or even a Walkman—nothing but the searing brightness of the cell’s single bare bulb lit twenty-four, seven. That and all the time I needed to pick over the carcass of my memories, like the last time I saw Evelyn or the look on the bank manager’s face when three slugs from my Beretta M9 bored through his gut. Sometimes I got to wondering how it might have gone if I’d been just a few seconds faster.

That’s when I came to understand what Evelyn meant when she used to say the world is a smiling jackal eager for its chance to tear out your throat and lap up your blood. Most people don’t see it coming for the clutter in their lives, like politics or religion or trying to make a decent living with the deck stacked against them. Evelyn and I never had much use for all those things telling people the “right” way to live. Better to take what we needed and be long gone when the man came around to collect his due.

I believe Evelyn held to that right up to the moment I dropped my guard and got her and our baby growing inside her killed.


When my four weeks in isolation ended, Officer Paulson and Officer Gamewood yanked me out of the hole and dragged me down the hall to the infirmary, while I chased dime-sized ghost glares burned onto my retinas by the bulb in my cell. Wasted from hunger and not having slept more than an hour at a time since they tossed me down there, I wasn’t so far gone I didn’t notice Paulson’s sickly tremors or the glistening film of sweat coating his pale face, or how he mumbled into the empty air, not talking to me or anyone else really.

“Whole world’s over. End of everything,” he said.

I figured the whole thing was a sick joke, a head game, more of my continuing education according to Lane Grove. Or maybe Paulson liked to get a little high on the job. Had second thoughts about all that after the horror show at the infirmary.

While I lay on a gurney with an IV of saline solution plugged into my arm to treat me for dehydration, a couple of hacks brought in Sammy Costa, ashen-faced and bleeding like a New York City fire hydrant in July. He was a snub-nosed car-thief on a ten-year chip for his third strike. He was a stupid man with a smart mouth. So, it was no surprise someone had decided to slice him open and make good work of it. The guards hefted him onto the gurney beside mine, but the two-foot wide puddle of blood that Sammy’s wounds spilled onto the floor made it obvious there was no saving him. Doctor Foley took one look, shook his head, and called the time of death. Then he set to work with the nurse and guards ripping Sammy apart like the devil’s pit crew.

They used bright scalpels and whirring bone saws. Blood spattered and flesh tore. Muscle snapped like strands of aged chewing gum. Translucent flaps of skin peeled back from bone and sinew. Joints cracked, and foul patches of gas belched from the recesses of Costa’s body. His left arm came loose and a guard dropped it into a thick vinyl bag, sealed the bag shut, and tossed it into a waiting laundry cart. Next went Sammy’s legs, each one amputated below the knee, wrapped in separate containers then tossed on the pile. Every few seconds the nurse called out the time, counting it down. Sweat dripped from Doctor Foley’s face. It mixed with Costa’s blood and ran in milky rivulets along the doctor’s silver tools.

Costa’s right arm vanished into a plastic sack.

Guards yanked on his thighs and spread them until his hip joints surrendered with a loud snap.

“One minute,” the nurse said.

Thirty seconds later they finished. Foley hunched over Costa’s face, sliced a scalpel through what was left of his neck, and then wrenched the car thief’s head free from his body. Two guards slipped a body bag over his torso; another held one open for the head. All that was enough to make me think I’d died in the hole and woken up in some insane hellish version of reality, but then as Sammy’s lifeless, gray face vanished into black plastic, his smartass eyes flicked open and stared right at me. They gleamed like polished ivory in the last beam of light that touched them. They were cool as December, like all was right in Sammy’s world. Soon as that bagged head crowned the pile of body parts, the aluminum cart shimmied and rattled. Slow at first, like when a truck rolls by a house and shakes the pictures on the walls, but then each black bundle wriggled, shifted around, twisted and turned like a caged rat. The canvas liner bulged as the severed limbs squirmed around each other.

The nurse screamed “Incinerator, now!” and sent the guards rushing the cart from the room.

The infirmary air swelled with the foul odor of raw flesh and the pungent stink of sleepless terror. I’m well acquainted with the scent of fear. It’s a mixture of clean, dried sweat and the kind of body odor that comes from an adrenaline rush. Except for being so depleted by my hitch in solitary, I would’ve caught it wafting off my escort. I would’ve gagged on it rising from the medical staff when I entered the room. But it took the icy dread of seeing Sammy Costa ripped apart to make me realize fear’s choking perfume tainted the entire prison. Now that I’d scented it, I couldn’t ditch it.

I grabbed the nurse by the arm. Her nametag read Oberon. My voice came out like a rasp scratching across oak. “What in holy hell was that all about?”

“Shit,” the nurse said. “You been living in a cave for the last month?”

James Chambers2020

James Chambers is an award-winning author of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. He wrote the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas published by Dark Regions Press as “…chillingly evocative…” in a starred review. His story, “A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

He has authored the short story collection Resurrection House and several novellas, including The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood, in the Corpse Fauna novella series. He also wrote the illustrated story collection, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales, created in collaboration with artist Jason Whitley.

His short stories have been published in the anthologies The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the CrucibleBad-Ass Faeries, Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Bad Cop No Donut, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Breach the Hull, By Other Means, Chiral Mad 2, Chiral Mad 4, Dance Like A Monkey,  Dark Hallows II: Tales from the Witching Hour, Deep Cuts, The Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon, Dragon’s Lure, Fantastic Futures 13, Gaslight and Grimm, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Hardboiled Cthulhu, Hear Them Roar In An Iron Cage, Kolchak the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre, Man and MachineMermaids 13 No Longer DreamsQualia Nous, Shadows Over Main Street (1 and 2), The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, So It Begins, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Truth or Dare, TV Gods, Walrus Tales, Weird Trails, and With Great Power; the chapbook Mooncat Jack; and the magazines Bare BoneCthulhu Sex, and Allen K’s Inhuman.

He has also written numerous comic books including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, the critically acclaimed “The Revenant” in Shadow HouseThe Midnight Hour with Jason Whitley, and the award-winning original graphic novel, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe.

He is a member and trustee of the Horror Writers Association, and recipient of the 2012 Richard Laymon Award and the 2016 Silver Hammer Award.

He lives in New York.

Visit his website:


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