Charlie Ottermeyer woke from another restless sleep and sighed as the strong scent of bleach mixed with other medical cleaning agents reminded him of his incarceration. He hit the call button again. Charlie was almost convinced that if he continued to badger the hospital staff, they just might release him early (if judging by their contemptuous facial reactions to his constant moaning was any indication). They all had the Painesville Municipal Court judge to thank for Charlie’s involuntary visit.

Seventy-two hour psychiatric observation, oh, please give me a break! They’re the crazy ones, not me.

“This is just another example of how our corrupt justice system and those blood-sucking doctors are bleeding honest, hard-working Americans dry,” Charlie declared to the hospital room ceiling. “What they’re charging me a night to stay in this fine establishment would probably cover most of my rent this month.” Yes, and he’d be sure to mention that fact to the next staff member who finally got off their over-paid ass and adjusted the air in his room (for the third time this evening).

Charlie decided that he would write his next online article about his abuses incurred at the hands of a court-mandated imprisonment in the lower level of the Tree-Point Medical Center. Yes, that would do nicely.

“And for what? All I did was confront those devils down at Family Services for giving my hard-earned tax money to those lazy, good-for-nothing takers who cheat the welfare system! Should’ve made me a hero for making a stand, for crying out loud!”

The ceiling had no comment.

“Damn takers… that’s all they do is take, take, take. Well, I made them all scatter like the crows they are. I showed them real good. Made them all think twice about fucking coming back for a free hand-out!”

Charlie had gone down to Family Services in Painesville, walked to the front of the lines and announced that he was about to blow up the building. The panic was instantaneous as was his arrest that soon followed. There were no explosives found on Charlie. He simply wanted the place cleared out, not believing it was right that he had to wait behind all the ‘takers’ just to apply for unemployment. In Charlie’s mind, the takers were always here seeking the easy way out, while he actually deserved to be there.

He had been brought before the judge and his lawyer made a case that poor Charlie Ottermeyer, recently separated from his wife of fifteen years and laid off from his factory job, had simply succumbed to stress, resulting in a mental breakdown. With no prior arrests and a clean record, the judge cut Charlie a break. Of course, Charlie hadn’t seen it that way, but fortunately he’d kept his mouth shut until after the hearing.

Charlie pulled his blanket up over his shoulders. Hospital rooms are all the same, he thought. Either they try to freeze you to death, or roast you alive. His room was an icebox. He reached over to the small nightstand and retrieved his watch: 4:05am. My God, does anyone ever get a good night’s sleep in places like this?
He reached for the remote that adjusted his bed and turned on the television and cursed when neither worked. That’s when he noticed the emergency lighting near his door. He confirmed his suspicions when the overhead lamp would not come on.

“That’s just wonderful. Not only do they charge me thousands of dollars for this lovely room, they can’t even keep the fucking power on! I suppose that’s extra.” He hit the call button again, and then realized the futility of it. “I guess I’ll just call ‘em the old-fashioned way.” Charlie got out of bed, further irritated by the cold linoleum beneath his bare feet. He staggered over to the locked door, stepped up on his tip toes and looked out through the small square glass into the low-lit hallway. Nothing but shadows.

Charlie scratched his bald head and then began to bang on the door. “Hello, anyone still work in this hospital? I need some assistance back here in this dungeon you call a room.”

He was greeted with silence.

Frustrated, Charlie reached for the door handle and gave it a hard jiggle. He was alarmed when the handle turned freely and the door opened.

That’s not supposed to happen.

Charlie stepped out into the dim hallway, expecting to find a dozing security guard in a fold-up metal chair. The hall was empty.

“Something’s wrong,” the late-night internet conspiracy blogger rising up within him said. He half expected to see gunmen storming down the hall after realizing they’d forgotten a hostage. Or perhaps it was terrorists? Maybe it was disgruntled patients refusing their medication followed by an uprising against anyone wearing medical scrubs? Even better, angry ‘takers’ from the welfare office coming to enact revenge?

“Get a grip, Charlie, there’s a rational explanation for this.”

Fortunately, hospitals ran on emergency generators in the event of a power outage or Charlie would be completely in the dark right now. Feeling ridiculous and exposed in his hospital gown, he followed the wall down the long hall and to another door, which he assumed was the end of the wing. He reasoned that they kept the nut jobs like him in a remote section of the hospital and away from the general populace. Perhaps the staff was called away to help with a crises, unconcerned about the welfare of the hospital’s undesirables down in the basement.

“I’m going to put all this in my article, too. Fucking malpractice suit waiting in the wings after I get outta here.”

He remembered his initial escorted walk down a long flight of white stairs toward the secure reception area that was just past this door and to the right. Charlie was certain it would be locked. It was not.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Charlie opened the door and was met by more silence. The reception area was abandoned. He cautiously moved across the room toward the staircase that led up to one final door, which connected the psychiatric wing to the rest of the hospital. He ascended the stairs and was surprised to find this door unlocked as well. He opened the door, inadvertently removing the lid of Pandora’s Box.

He heard women screaming. Men were shouting orders. Children wailing. Patients crying out for help. Gunfire.

“What the fuck?” Charlie nearly fell over, his legs turning elastic.

He heard the sound of running coming toward him from around a corner to his left.

Finally! They’re coming to get the rest of us out.

A hand reached out and touched Charlie’s shoulder from behind.

Charlie nearly jumped out into the hall, turned, and discovered another patient standing behind him. It was a young woman. He’d seen her before at one of the appointed counseling sessions. Her name was Linda… some kind of drug addict, or something. She was on suicide watch.

“What’s going on, Charlie?” she asked.

“Damn creepy bit-” he stopped himself in time. “You almost gave me a heart attack! Go back to your room. There’s trouble in the hospital tonight.” You fucking wack-job!

The sound of running had stopped. Instead, Charlie could hear a struggle from just around the corner; elongated shadows depicted violence across a low lit wall. Something was dreadfully wrong. And then he heard a new sound… an animal sound.

“Charlie, what’s that?” Linda looked stoned out of her mind, even now.

“Come on, let’s go back to our rooms.” Charlie tried to reach out for her arm.

Linda pulled away and said, “Don’t touch me! I want to see. I want to know why all our rooms are unlocked. Maybe we can get out. I need to get out of here, Charlie.”

Charlie was distracted by the commotion in the hall. This time there were brief screams followed by… chewing sounds?

“No fuckin’ way,” Charlie said, realizing where his paranoid brain was taking him. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say… oh, fuck that idea. Come on, Linda, let’s just wait this out back where it’s safe. No one knows we’re down here.”

“Leave me alone, you creep,” Linda lashed out. “I’m getting out of here. I can’t stand this and I need my junk!” She stormed past Charlie and into the hall toward the corner.

Charlie tried to stop her, hissing through the door, “No! Come back, you stupid bitch!”

He watched her start to turn the corner and stop abruptly. Linda’s wide eyes told Charlie all he needed to know as she froze in front of whatever horror show played out in front of her. She put her hands over her mouth, looked frantically toward Charlie, and then began to scream. Something rushed toward her in the dark from just out of view. Something monstrous came at her and bit her throat open. It began to tear Linda apart.

“Holy Christ!” Charlie said a bit too loud.

The creature turned and howled toward him. Two yellow orbs ripped into his soul.

Charlie backed into the psychiatric wing, nearly falling down the staircase, and rushed back toward the reception area. He could hear something descending the stairs giving chase. Charlie barged through the hallway door, kicking it closed behind him. He caught a quick glimpse of monsters dressed in shadow storming the reception area.

Halfway down the low-lit hall toward his room, the first one slammed the hallway door wide open. He could hear it snarling in frustration, temporarily losing Charlie in the near dark. He was almost to his room when they charged.

Another patient chose the wrong moment to step out from his room. The monsters descended upon the new arrival rapidly, allowing Charlie a moment to make it back inside his death trap.

He looked around the sparse room for a weapon and stared hopelessly at an untouched bowl of fruit-filled Jell-O.

I am so fucked!

There was no private bathroom he could hide within, just a curtain that surrounded a small toilet and sink. There was a small window that would not open. No furniture that could be moved to block the door, which wasn’t already fastened to the floor or walls. His only chance was to climb beneath the bed and avoid notice.

Charlie was startled by a sound just outside his door. He turned and could just make out a dark shape peering in through the small glass. He immediately fell to the floor and attempted to crawl toward the bed before it spotted him.

Too late.

A monster pushed the door open, followed by three more as they rushed toward Charlie who had just enough time to turn around and throw his arms up in a feeble attempt to defend himself.

“Go away!” he cried out like a frightened child trying to command the Boogeymen to depart.

And that’s when all four beasts dressed as former patients and hospital staff stopped.

Charlie refused to watch his own death and rolled into a ball, covering his head as best he could. He could hear the monsters breathing rapidly from all around him.

In a flash, Charlie was immediately reminded of a time he was chased after school by a local gang who fed upon geeky looking kids like himself; easy prey—much like now. They’d cornered him in an alley as Charlie had run out of breath, assumed the fetal position and prepared for the ass-kicking that followed. They’d beat him repeatedly as the sounds of their devilish laughter would remain to haunt young Charlie’s dreams for years to come. This would be much worse. This would be the end.

Charlie could feel the warmth of his urine pooling up beneath him on the cold floor. He cried out once more through tears, “Just… GO AWAY!”

Remarkably, one by one, the monsters backed away from the strange sound, turned, and departed the room.

Charlie remained a shaking mess, refusing to move until long after his urine soaked gown dried up, long after the cries of dismembered and devoured patients from the psychiatric ward stopped haunting the halls. He eventually worked up the nerve to crawl the remainder of the distance to his bed, pull a thick blanket off the mattress, and hid himself as best he could beneath the bed, rolling into a ball and covering himself from head to toe with the blanket.

Charlie remained that way until the sun came up. The morning dispelled all shadows and summoned all monsters back to their respective hellish domains. Only then did he allow himself to succumb to exhaustion and fall into a deep, dark sleep, finally escaping the nightmares that now roamed freely about the real world.


Next Episode 6-1

Previous Episode 4-0


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“Chapter 5: Breakdown” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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.

  1. I’m hooked. I love how you have developed the characters so far and look forward to reading the rest of e-book and hope you will continue to write others!

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Hello Jennifer. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book so far. I am certainly planning on an e-book as well as a printed release sometime early next year. I’ll post more about that later. In the meantime, the entire book will be posted online in this serial format. As far as other books, that is definitely going to happen. I’ve already started my outline for the next book. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting :)


  2. oncegiants says:

    Something strange going on here. There is more to these people/zombies than meets the eye.


  3. Jesse says:

    I really like Charlie. He’s an easy character to voice too, knew exactly how I wanted his character to sound!


  4. What a Fine Day! says:

    I like how you van make some pretty bad people, likable


    • sscherr says:

      Hello and Welcome to The Dark. Thanks for giving my story a read and I’m glad you’re enjoying it so far. Yes, my cast of characters, at least the first ones you meet, are not your cookie-cutter ‘good guys’. But they might grow on you if you stick with this tale long enough… lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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