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~~~

“What?! No!” Stephen shouted, placing his hands on his head.

Nicole looked like she’d been through hell. There were scratches on her face, arms and legs. Her white tank top was ripped and bloody in several places. There was a thick blood stain around what looked like a bite mark on her upper thigh. Her hair looked like entire patches had been torn out. Her face was a mixture of tear-smeared makeup, blood, and total bewilderment as she stared up at Stephen with her remaining eye. She tried to speak, but coughed up blood instead. She fell forward into his arms. Dead.

Stephen turned her around and laid Nicole on the kitchen floor. “I thought you… you were one of them,” he pleaded, staring into a condemning eye.

Murderer!

He couldn’t be there any longer. Stephen got up and exited the kitchen, kicking something across the floor ahead of him. It was a notebook.

Stephen reached down to retrieve it, read the name in the upper left hand corner, then dropped it as if realizing he’d just picked up a snake.

It’s Nicole’s. She must have been carrying it.

He dared another glance at the lifeless girl, forever still, forever silenced.

Stephen reached down and retrieved the notebook. He opened it with hands that wouldn’t stop shaking. He looked at the first page and read the title written there: A Higher Education, Tales from My Fucked-Up Life

He read the first couple of sentences, and then understood.

It’s her diary.

Stephen quickly went to the last journal entry, dated today. His eyes went immediately to the point where neat, academy-benefitted handwriting, became frantic scribbles on a page.

My God, what happened to you?

Stephen was drawn to the entry. Reading the diary somehow gave him a brief reprieve from his state of shock; her words feeding the denial that Nicole was not laying motionless on the floor with a knife sticking in her brain, but was still right there—vibrant beside him:

***

October 2nd, 2010

Can’t sleep. My life is so fucked up. I finally had a real moment alone with him after all this time. Like, it was meant to be. Then I turned into my whorish mother. God, how I hate her for ruining my life!

To make matters worse, Tina and Samantha are sick as shit so now I can’t even sleep in my own bed. They picked a hell of a time to leave me hanging when I needed someone to talk to.

Miss Lions insisted that I stay with that annoying girl, Julie, from across the hall. She said she didn’t want me to get sick too. I think she just wanted to separate us. The bitch calls us the ‘troublesome trio’. What a loser. Fortunately, Julie is sleeping like a rock (and snoring like a fucking chainsaw).

The rest of the girls are having a horror movie marathon. They barely acknowledged me when I got home. I must’ve had REPULSIVE SKANK written across my forehead… I’m so fucking stupid!

I’ve got to get some sleep. He said we’d talk tomorrow—not that I believe it—but just in case, I need to be sharp. It might be my last chance to talk to him before things get out of hand.

I almost lost faith tonight… almost. The way he looked at me… God… he made me feel like I was dead to him. Nothing hurt more than that look.

We’ll work this out. I know that now. When he understands that I wasn’t trying to trap him… that I only meant to express how much he meant to me… great, here comes the waterworks again. How pathetic is that? I’ve got to stop now before I lose it. I can’t think straight. Just need to sleep…

***

…Strangest fucking thing just happened. I woke up after a twenty-minute nap (yay for me!), went to pee, and by the time I was done… Julie was gone. She just woke up, snuck out without a word and left the door wide open, too! Hello! I knew she was odd, but come on! The dumb bitch probably went downstairs for the movies. Think I’ll go down too. Sleep seems like a lost cause tonight…

***

…Okay… ha, ha… the jokes on me. I have to admit, the girls are getting good at this. Their screams coming from downstairs sounded convincing. I should’ve seen it coming when I found the door to my room wide open and Tina and Samantha were missing, too. It’s only a month until Halloween and the girls in my dorm like to scare the crap out of each other on weekends. Apparently, I was the chosen target. Miss Lions is one strict bitch, but her love for Halloween makes her turn a blind eye whenever we play scary pranks on each other. Although I’m a bit surprised she hasn’t stopped it yet… the girls are still screaming. It’s annoying… and a little unnerving. I know they’re just trying to get me to wet myself and come running downstairs like a little bitch. Not going to happen. They picked the wrong night to play games with me so I’m just going to ignore the immature bitches. I wish they’d get over themselves and stop screaming already…

***

…It’s official: I am freaked-the-fuck-out. They took it too far when they went outside and started screaming below my window. I went down the hall to fetch Miss Lions (there’s no way she would approve of this). When I turned the corner at the end of the hall I saw Miss Lions’ door partially open with the lights out in her room. For a second, I swore I saw someone’s legs being dragged into the room. Then she appeared, standing in the crack of the door just staring out into space. Something was wrong with her eyes. I turned around, praying that she hadn’t noticed me, and now I’m pissing my pants, hiding in Julie’s bathroom. Pathetic.

I’m not sure, but I think Miss Lions started to follow me down the hall. I didn’t look back—didn’t want to. I’m starting to think that this isn’t a prank. Miss Lions looked… crazy.

I should call someone—campus security maybe? I want to believe that everything’s okay and that I’m being an emotional baby about all of this. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble… but they’re still screaming outside—sounds like the whole campus is in on it! Did I miss the memo? I wish Stephen were still here. He doesn’t know it, but I acquired his unlisted home telephone number months ago. I never had the guts to call. Coward.

I think I hear someone outside the door. I can’t stop shaking. Look at me. I just keep on writing to keep my chicken-shit hands from shaking! God, I need some serious therapy (thanks Mom!).

It’s just a fucking prank!

That’s it, no more baby bullshit. After I open this fucking door and light up whoever’s screwing with my head, I’m going to call him. That’s right! I don’t even care if Claudette answers. Fuck her, she doesn’t love him anyway. It’s time to stop being afraid and tell the whole world how I feel. Do you hear me, Stephen Eddington? I said, ‘I LOVE…………………………………

***

Stephen was haunted by Nicole’s final words, trailing off the page. He stuffed the diary inside his shirt. It felt cold on his skin, like the dead girl’s hands that held it moments before.

He immediately thought of Miss Lions. He shuddered at the thought of Nicole standing at her bathroom door, attempting to be brave, and only opening the door to discover a monster waiting for her. Nicole’s injuries clearly showed that the girl had barely survived the horrific encounter when so many of her dorm mates did not.

Until you stabbed her… murderer.

He refused to dwell there. Stephen pushed the immediate past out of his mind—absolutely had to.

If I survive all this, I’ll be charged and imprisoned. If not, then I’ll be dead and none of this will matter—damned either way. How’s that for your ‘higher education’.

More sounds from upstairs. Stephen could picture Miss Lions previously going from dorm room to dorm room, slaughtering teens while they slept and then dragging their bodies down the hall to her room. He glanced once more around the dorm, at the carnage inflicted.

There’s no way one psychotic teacher could do all this… what if there’s more than one?

The only person that could’ve answered that question, probably the last surviving member of Halcum Hall, was now lying dead in the kitchen.

Stephen shut his eyes hard, trying to will this nightmare back into its former existence where such terrors could only follow to the edges of the dream world, and then had to retreat back into the shadows—another soul escaping its clutches through sanctuary into the waking world.

As if mocking his attempt to find asylum, the lights went out in Halcum Hall.

“Shit,” Stephen said, ducking down near the kitchen.

The darkness made the mangled corpses of the girls seem much closer as Stephen tried not to panic. Every little sound seemed amplified: a shifting arm, a turning head, a struggled breath…

There was another loud sound from upstairs, much closer this time.

Stephen tried to pinpoint where he thought the front door was and began to slowly crawl in that direction.

Whoever you are, just please, please stay up there a little longer.

Someone screamed from the second floor landing causing Stephen to bump the corner of a couch with his head. Something fell off the sofa and rolled between his arms.

Shit, shit, shit! He tried not to move.

The screamer descended the stairs and thrashed about in the living room.

For a moment, Stephen thought he heard what sounded like a dog sniffing at the air. He got low to the ground, trying to become invisible, pressing his ear and cheek against a damp, furry bump between his arms.

At first he thought it was a dead cat, but then remembered the girl with the twisted head lying over the arm of the couch.

Oh my God! He fought down the urge to vomit as he carefully grabbed the head by a lock of hair, trying to ignore how sticky it felt, and then slowly pulled it away from his body. In that moment, he had one more reason to be grateful for the darkness.

The thing in the living room stopped sniffing the air. He heard a low moan that made every hair on his flesh stand erect. It sounded like the thing was right next to him, just on the other side of the couch.

Someone else howled from the second floor and ran down the stairs. Before Stephen could react, it leapt over the couch, just missing Stephen as it landed a foot from his head. He felt his hair ruffled as the second creature sprinted into the kitchen. This one sounded much younger and moved much faster than the one in the living room.

Suddenly, a third one passed him, from the other side of the couch, headed for the kitchen. Stephen never even heard that one. The one in the living room continued to moan.

Three of them! I’m dead the moment I move.

He immediately thought of the diary. Tina and Samantha? He wondered if these were Nicole’s sick roommates that had disappeared.

His pondering quickly ceased as he heard the girls growling at each other like two dogs fighting over a bone. Stephen cringed as he realized what was happening. His fears were confirmed when he heard them devouring the fresh corpse in the kitchen.

He tried to shake the image of Nicole being dismembered and gutted; he heard them viciously tearing and gnawing upon her flesh…

They’re distracted. Get out of there while you still can!

The thought struck him like a slap to the face. It felt foreign and not his own—no matter, it was enough to break his paralysis.

He was about to move but then remembered the third one—presumably Miss Lions—still roaming the living room. That one had gone quiet.

It was then that he realized he was still holding the head. After moving it to the side, he’d balled his fist tightly around the lock of hair when the creatures surprised him.

And then he knew what to do.

Stephen took a deep breath and slowly got to his knees. He expected something to jump out of the dark and finish him. When nothing happened, he lifted the head by the hair and flung it across the other side of the living room. He heard it hit a wall.

As did Miss Lions, who raced clumsily toward the sound, revealing her location near the front door.

Shit, I would’ve run right into her!

The other girls were still content with Nicole’s remains. Stephen got to his feet, feeling completely exposed, and rushed toward the front door.

All three creatures hissed at him from the dark and stormed after him.

Stephen made it to the front door, turned the knob, and forgot the lock.

They were scrambling around the couch.

He found the lock and turned it. Stephen opened the door, letting in the night, and slid outside.

He could hear them stomping and screaming in the foyer.

Stephen quickly slammed the door behind him and ran. He never once looked back at Halcum Hall.

~~~

Stephen made it to the administration building undetected as he slipped around the west side of the building and hid within the shadows to catch his breath.

Two blood soaked students ran past him in the dark, unaware that they’d just missed an easy kill by three feet as Stephen became a stone, his back pressed firmly up against the old brick wall.

Stephen kept his back to the side of the building, like a man walking a narrow ledge, and slowly made his way toward the front. As he turned the corner, exposing himself to moonlight, he stumbled over the headless corpse of a security guard.

Stephen covered his mouth to stop an involuntary scream.

He jumped to the sound of the dead officer’s radio as loud static was followed by a whispered voice, “Charlie, I’m trapped on the second floor! Admin building’s overrun. Where the hell are you?”

Headless Charlie did not acknowledge.

“I’m cut off from the security post and can’t provide you camera coverage. Charlie, you’re on your own. Repeat, I’m trapped on the second floor. They know I’m up here. Charlie, where the hell are you?”

Stephen recognized the voice; it was Frank Turner, head of campus security. They’d had a beer together on occasion. He reached over the dead officer and removed his radio. Stephen fumbled with it until he believed he’d found the transmit button. “Frank, this is Stephen Eddington,” he whispered into the receiver. Looking at the headless corpse, he added, “Charlie’s dead. The school’s gone crazy… lots of people are dead.” He depressed the transmit button as a moment of static followed.

“Steve? Jesus, what are you still doing here? Where are you now?” Frank whispered.

“Just outside the admin building. What the hell is going on, Frank? Where’s the police?” Stephen’s voice began to crack under the stress of everything. He had to try to keep it together.

There was a long pause of static. Frank finally responded, “No one’s coming, Steve. We called everybody… finally got through over an emergency channel… found a recorded message. Seems this is happening all over the place. We’re on our own. Whole fucking city’s under attack! People are randomly going crazy and killing each other. They’ve no one left to send here, Steve. Do you understand that?”

Stephen nearly broke down. He wiped tears from his eyes and asked, “What should I do? Can you get out of there?”

“Fuck me! Their trying to break in!” The sound of hate filled screams and banging could be heard in the background. “Steve, get the hell away from here! Find help. Fuck me! Fuck… me!”

Stephen dropped the radio as Frank continued to transmit. Somewhere on the second floor, Frank Turner was dying horribly. Stephen would never forget those strangled sounds coming from the radio, along with what sounded like flesh being ripped from bone.

In a panic, Stephen ran straight out into the large turnaround drive at the front of the administration building, nearly colliding with a large flag pole. He continued to run until he reached the long two lane entrance road that spanned the length of a football field before intersecting with Mentor Avenue, just outside the school grounds.

He could smell smoke. Stephen turned and saw flames dancing in the windows on the second floor of the admin building.

He caught the attention of several maniacs drawn to the fire. They began to run toward him, their monstrous screams attracting several more as nearly twenty frenzied children of various ages joined the hunt for blood.

Stephen could hear them panting like wild dogs, but refused to look back. He could feel his body cramping up as the students gained ground. He wasn’t going to make it.

Just as he was about out of breath, a car with a single working headlight appeared, turning in off of Mentor Avenue.

Oh God, let that be the police!

Stephen pushed with all he had left to reach the oncoming car before death devoured him.

~~~

Next Segment (4-0):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/chapter-4-happy-hour/

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https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/chapter-3-2-a-higher-education/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 3-3: A Higher Education” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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