Unknown159

~~~

The ancient boxcar dominated the tracks. Over the years, nature had tried repeatedly to take back the space it occupied as weeds sprouted beneath its decrepit wheels and from any other hole or crevice available. Long sickly vines climbed up its rusted metal sides and small shrubs flourished upon the roof. Whatever railroad logos used to be stenciled along the sides were long faded and covered over by years of colorful graffiti. Generations of youth had left their marks after completing their party pilgrimages through the old forest. Along with other signs of frequent visits, such as old burnt out fire pits and numerous beer cans and bottles scattered about, were the carvings of names and dates inside the boxcar, etched into the plywood walls.

Greg and Frank had cleared out whatever debris remained inside the boxcar, startling a raccoon and several chipmunks in the process, to make it as habitable as possible before nightfall. They were relieved to discover that one of the two sliding doors was still functional, although it took some effort to open and close. The other door’s sliding mechanism was beyond repair, but fortunately it was already in the closed position.

Doug checked out the dusty interior. He immediately caught a faint scent of sawdust mixed with old urine. Damn kids will piss anywhere. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it seemed intact and secure. He exited the boxcar and walked over to Frank and Greg.

“We considered gatherin’ some wood to store and dry off in the boxcar,” Greg began. “Maybe even using one of these old fire rings to get a good blaze going, but we decided it might not be worth the risk of being exposed out in the open… and attractin’ attention.”

“The things we came across at the orchard didn’t seem to favor light,” Frank clarified. “Fire might keep them at a distance…”

“But it might also draw them right to us,” Doug finished.

Frank nodded. They had been quick to fill Doug in on the orchard while the others had been distracted by the boxcar. Doug had instructed them to remain quiet about they’re horrific adventure for the time being. He wanted the others to get some rest and not give them anything else to worry about.

Frank and Greg had agreed, especially in regards to sharing the details about the dismembered family they’d found.

Gina walked up and said, “At first light I want to go back and find the girl.”

“Gina,” Doug started, “I understand your concern… hell, we all do. But- ”

“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear,” she said, looking around at all three of them. “We are going back in the morning to help her. I’ll go alone if I have to and then you all can split the fare on who’s to blame for having two injured women trapped down in that fucking valley. There’s nothing else to discuss on the matter… we’re going at first light.” Gina turned and headed for the boxcar.

“Well, I know I didn’t piss her off this time… must be you,” Frank said, pointing to Doug.

Greg started to laugh until he saw Doug’s face.

Doug motioned them closer and whispered, “Not a word to her about those… things. She’ll have us roaming around in the dark looking for that girl if she suspects something else might be out here with us tonight.”

“Maybe she’s right,” Greg said. “Seems… Un-Christian to leave someone all alone out there, especially after what we’ve seen.”

“Look,” Doug said firmly, “I don’t like it any more than you or Gina, but I’m not getting anyone killed out there tonight looking for a girl we won’t find. Besides, what are we supposed to do if she’s infected or has a broken leg? Do you want to shoot her in the head, Greg? Or how about carrying her all the way to the marina if she’s unable to travel? Are you going to watch a cripple and your daughter at the same time?”

Greg frowned and nodded. “I hear you. I just don’t like it.”

“I know, and I wish we could do more for her,” Doug said. “Every day we’re out here is another day we risk being caught by another herd… or even worse… what if the yellow-eyed haters find us?”

“We’d be dead,” Frank said. “That would sure solve all our problems,” he added with a smirk.

Greg rubbed his beard and said, “I’m too darn tired to think straight. Maybe another solution will present itself in the morning.”

Doug nodded, grateful for a shift in the conversation. “You two look like hell. I want you both to get some sleep as soon as were settled in. I’ll need you both fresh with your wits about you after full dark sets in. Now I have to break the news to the others that the five-star accommodations they were hoping you’d found is off the table this evening.”

Frank laughed and said, “I don’t think anyone cares at the moment. Looks like they’re moving in.”

Doug turned and watched as the others moved their gear up into the boxcar and silently began picking out spots.

Meredith approached them. “You wouldn’t believe how much finding this piece of junk has immediately improved morale. Just give them four walls, a roof over their heads, and a big, secure door, and these folks are ready for nighty-night.”

Doug was beside himself. “Just look at them. I guess we’re finally getting used to a whole lot less now. I wonder how long it will be before we’re calling caves home.”

“Well, I sure hope you’re right about the getting-used-to-less thing,” Meredith added. “We’re down to a few cans of beets and Spam for dinner and I hear they’re both excellent served cold.”

“Sarcasm noted,” Doug said with a smile.

Frank sighed, grabbing his gear. “Screw that shit. I’m still holding out for a McDonalds drive-thru. Some
of us have to maintain higher standards.”

Doug and Meredith watched him step up into the boxcar with Greg.

“Well, look at that, I do believe Mr. Frank just cracked a joke,” Meredith said with a smile.

“I sure hope not,” Doug said. “I’d trade the whole lot of you in for a large fry and a Coke right now.”

“You know, Douglas, that junk food will kill you, right?” The older woman tried to keep a straight face and failed when Doug keeled over with laughter.

~~~

Evening fell uneventfully as the boxcar drifted into darkness, hiding its passengers from night’s nocturnal eyes. Within, five forms huddled around a candle salvaged from the house; their shadows danced upon the low lit walls behind them. The remaining survivors, spread out at either end, slept like the dead.

“All I’m saying,” Charlie said, “is that we did this to ourselves. I’m not claiming to know the details—my God, the variables alone as to who did what to who is beyond our ability to calculate—but this ‘event’ is definitely Man’s doing.”

“So you think this was some kind of terrorist attack gone awry?” Doug asked.

Charlie shook his head. “No. No, that’s too easy. Too neat. Too convenient. The Powers-To-Be probably want us to believe that—it’s a perfect smoke screen—but there has to be some deeper agenda at play. Something that’s probably been in the planning stages for a very long time. Terrorism has become the politicians’ word to justify all sorts of unconstitutional acts in this country. The latest being all that Big Brother bullshit after 9-11. You can go back and say the same thing throughout history. Was the same bullshit back in the Cold War, except then, the flavor word of the time was ‘Communist’, and they used that to justify the same covert schemes and violations against the public they’re still doing today.”

“That’s a very cynical view,” Gina said. “You’d have to assume that our government is completely corrupt, as well as our allies, and then say that everyone is in on it. You’re talking conspiracies that are too damn big to hide. I’m just not buying it. There might be smaller, secretive groups, but they’d be too small to pull something like this off… especially if this went global.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “Spoken like a true uneducated sheep, believing whatever the media tells you to believe. You underestimate who’s holding all the cards, Gina. Do you really believe that I’m talking about the governments we were taught about in public schools? Those are merely figure heads and puppets controlled by the elite who own just about everything. They—whoever they are—are filthy rich and have all the power. I’m talking about shadow governments that have funded entire wars, providing aid to both sides just to further their own agendas. This zombie epidemic is just another form of warfare, just not in the conventional sense, and this time, there’s no CNN coverage spewing the latest pawn countries pitted at each other’s throats. This time, they’ve pulled out all the stops and now it’s Us and Them—the last war—and they still remain anonymous.”

“So let me get this straight,” Stephen chimed in. “You believe that this… apocalypse… was engineered well in advance by your so-called secret Superpowers? How could you know that for sure? One could just as easily argue that this epidemic is no different from say… the Black Death of the 1300’s. Or would you have us believe that those rats were engineered as well? Now, I’ll grant you, we probably did this to ourselves, but not deliberately. History is full of the consequences of Man’s madness, and Science could say that global epidemics or pandemics are simply nature’s way of correcting the damage we’ve caused to the environment. But to believe that this was some kind of deliberate or premeditated attack is just too unlikely. Let’s not forget how random the ‘Change’ occurred. Someone in your household could have turned, or four out of five members of that same household, or no one. What good is a weapon if it’s not precise and you can’t control who dies and who survives? That’s the definition of chaos, not warfare. Tactically speaking, this would be one hell of a sloppy strike.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows. “At last, an educated discussion. You make some strong points, my friend. Let’s take a little stroll through history then, shall we? I’ll start with- ”

“Fear,” Marcus interrupted. “I’m sorry to cut you off, Charlie, but we’re overlooking the point. Whether it’s deliberate or random, nature or nurtured, the result remains the same: Fear.”

“That’s interesting,” Doug said. “What about fear?”

Marcus sat back against the wall and smiled. “That’s exactly what I’m wondering. More precisely, what is fear?”

“Control,” Gina said.

Marcus lit up. “Not quite what I mean, but close. That’s how fear is manipulated for gain. But what… is… fear? Where does it come from? And why do we wrestle with it?”

Stephen laughed. “You make it sound like it’s alive; as if fear has its own agenda.”

Marcus smiled but offered nothing.

Charlie sighed. “Oh, brother. Here’s comes the philosophy angle. And I was starting to think we were having an intelligent conversation. So is this the ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ theory?”

“Oh stop it,” Gina said. “It’s a valid point worth exploring. You want to believe that Man’s still pulling the strings. Stephen says it’s just nature’s way of reestablishing balance, which makes everything less malevolent, like we’re simply in the way. But why not delve outside the lines a bit.”

Charlie waved his hands in submission. “Go for it. I’m tired of this dribble anyway. All that matters is getting to that fucking boat so believe what you want.” He got up and retreated to his bed roll.

Marcus leaned in and said, “He has a lot of fear.”

“Don’t we all,” Gina said, staring into the candle flame.

“I’m game,” Stephen said. “Let’s explore this a bit. So are you trying to say that the cause of all this may not be an external force, but an internal one?”

“That’s a good question,” Marcus said with a nod. “Let me know if you find an answer.”

“What about demonic forces?” Gina threw in reluctantly. “I mean, these things that used to be… us… seem to fit the bill now.”

Doug shook his head slowly, rubbed his tired eyes, and said, “This is all well and good. But I’m just a simple man. I was good at baseball because it was simple. There were rules and all I had to do was learn them and excel within them. Took time though. What you all are talking about makes my simple brain hurt because there’s no way to learn the rules of this twisted game because the manuals haven’t been written yet.” He turned to Stephen and said, “You brought up that random thing. That’s what I can’t shake.”

“What do you mean?” Stephen asked.

“Well, seems to me that the ‘how’ to all this is not something we can figure out sitting in some boxcar on the edge of the world. But that ‘why’ seems to be a more relevant question.”

“Agreed,” Marcus said.

Doug continued. “I’ve been trying to get my mind around that question for a while now. Why am I still… me… when so many others around me turned into those things? Is it random or do we have some part to play? Now, I may never get that question answered either, but I am still here—don’t understand the ‘how’—but it sure seems like I can do something about that pesky ‘why’.”

“Seconds chances, maybe?” Stephen asked, not realizing he said it out loud.

“Redemption,” Gina whispered.

“Perhaps the face of fear has been revealed at last,” Marcus added. “Before… in the old world we knew… we were enslaved to it, without really knowing it.”

“So what’s changed?” Doug asked.

Marcus smiled and said, “I think Fear’s presented a clear choice now. No more bullshit. We stay prisoners, then we die. But if we look Fear in the eye, we have a chance to really live.”

“You call this living?” Stephen said bitterly. “We’ve lost so much already.”

“True,” Marcus conceded. “But think of what you’ve lost that isn’t worth getting back—all that pretense and self-denial—there’s no place for it anymore. It won’t fit in your backpack, you can’t eat it for nourishment, and you certainly can’t wear it like a mask to get by in a critical society that no longer exists.”

“Death or freedom?” Gina asked. “That’s it? That’s the new world now? Feels like death around every
dark corner to me.”

“But in facing death at every turn, and surviving each encounter, we know what it means to truly be alive. In time, we’ll cherish it like a rare commodity—not like before when we took it for granted—and that fear will serve to make our daily lives vital and precious. Then we’ll have clarity. With clarity comes purpose and the possibilities will be endless.”

“Well, I don’t know if you’re just an idealist and the rest of us are jaded as hell,” Stephen said, “but it sure sounds better. That’s got to count for something.”

“Or to put it simply,” Doug said, “we’re still here, and so many ‘are not’ anymore. So let’s live like there’s no tomorrow because that’s never been more true than right fucking now.”

Marcus laughed. “That’s the spirit!”

Gina picked up her water bottle and raised it in a toast. “Here’s to freedom because death is one scary son-of-a-bitch right now.”

They all raised their bottles and toasted, feeling closer to free in that moment while death hunted them with an insatiable hunger for their flesh.

~~~

Stephen’s walking up a driveway he doesn’t recognize, and yet, it’s also familiar. He looks around at the neglected property. The grass hasn’t been cut all summer, the aluminum siding on the small box house is dirty and the paint is peeling. The screen door on the front porch has a hole in it as if someone kicked it in. There are empty beer bottles lying like victims across the porch.

He looks back at the red Camaro in the driveway and knows that it belongs to someone named Tommy, parked next to Mom’s piece of shit clunker.

He enters the house. The dark and gloomy family room makes the mess and dust less noticeable. There is a scent of stale cigarettes mixed with a rotting smell coming from the overloaded trashcan in the kitchen. He doesn’t see it from here, but knows that smell immediately. Just as he knows that there is two weeks of laundry that hasn’t been washed yet and the dishes in the sink have been sitting there all weekend surrounded by empty beer bottles and pizza boxes.

Here I am working all weekend while that bitch is throwing another party for her disgusting friends, he thinks. He wonders how long it’s been since he became the only adult in this fucked-up family.

Stephen stops suddenly. He hears laughter coming from the kitchen. It’s Mom’s laughter. She sounds drunk (again).

He’s about to head to his bedroom when he hears a male’s voice coming from the kitchen.

“Tommy?” he calls out weakly in a voice not his own; it’s a female’s voice.

No answer.

They’re being too obnoxious to hear him.

Stephen moves slowly toward the kitchen, peeks in and sees the back of a woman with long brown hair sitting on top of a man lying on the filthy kitchen floor. The woman and the man are naked.

Stephen is immediately repulsed by the sight of the two having intercourse.

“Mother?” he cries out in the female voice.

The woman turns with a horrified look on her face.

It’s Amanda.

The man is scrambling to get out from under her.

He knows immediately that this is Tommy. He knows, because he can feel his heart sink into his stomach.

“How could you!” Stephen shouts at them both.

Before either one of them can defend themselves, Stephen runs out of the kitchen and toward his bedroom.

The whore is trying to follow. “Wait… Marie!” she shouts. “It’s not my fault! I did this for you!”

Stephen turns and stares Amanda down. There is a volcano of emotion rising from within him.

Amanda is wobbling out of the kitchen and down the hallway, naked and with a bottle of the latest demon in her hand. “For you…” she slurs. “I did it for you! See! He was no good for you!”

“I hope you die, you drunk fucking bitch!” Nicole shouts through Stephen.

Amanda stops, the words slapping her hard in the face.

“I hope you choke to death in your own vomit, you worthless whore!” Nicole shouts.

Amanda’s face changes immediately. There’s so much anger there, surfacing from just beneath her inebriated good-time party farce. “You… you can’t talk to me like that! I’m your fucking mother!”

“Fuck you! You’re dead to me, bitch!”

Amanda throws the bottle. Stephen ducks as the bottle explodes against the wall near his head.

“Fuck me? FUCK YOU!” Amanda explodes. “Get out! Get out of my house before I beat the hell out of you… you… ungrateful… little tramp!”

“Fine! I’m gone for good this time!” Nicole promises. “I’m going to live with Dad and I never want to see you again!” Stephen turns to head for Nicole’s bedroom. He is half-sobbing, half-shaking with anger—he wants to be dead forever.

Before he gets down the hall, Amanda grabs his hair and yanks him hard into the wall. “What did you just say to me, tramp?” Amanda shouts into his face. “How dare you! How dare you… leave me for… HIM!”

Stephen/Nicole is crying uncontrollably now. They see so much hatred in Amanda’s/ Mother’s eyes.

“Why… why do you hate me so much?” Nicole manages to get out.

Amanda’s face changes. The demon falters, and for a brief moment, she becomes aware of everything and feels ashamed. Amanda stares into her own shaking hands. “I’m… I’m sorry, Marie… I… don’t hate you. What the fuck have I done?” Amanda starts to weep.

Stephen looks up into the monster’s face.

Amanda stops suddenly and stares down the hallway.

Nicole sees something new on her mother’s face. She sees terror.

Amanda lifts her arm and points down the hall. She turns to Stephen, opens her mouth and lets out a heart-piercing scream…

~~~

Stephen was ripped from sleep by the sound of a woman screaming outside the boxcar.

He turned in the darkness and saw Nicole leaning down beside him. “Stephen, wake up, my love. You’re in grave danger. They’re here.”

He jumped back and turned as something outside forcefully struck the boxcar wall. The sound was amplified throughout the empty chamber making it difficult to pinpoint the location. Dear God! What now?

He turned back toward the ghost of the dead girl. Nicole was gone.

There was another crash against the exterior.

Voices cried out in alarm from the shadows. Some were scrambling to get to their feet.

“UP! EVERYBODY GET UP!” Frank’s voice boomed as he quickly racked his handgun.

Ashley was screaming by the third assault on the boxcar walls.

“Ashley!” Greg raced to her location, rifle in hand.

Stephen tried to stand but was pushed back down as Doug bumped him in passing. “Where? How fucking many?”

“Don’t know! Everywhere!” Greg yelled. “I think they’re toying with us!”

Another crash against the walls.

“What the fuck?” Amanda this time.

Others were racing past. Gina. Marcus.

“Sounds like four, maybe five of them out there,” Frank said. “Could be just one. Think their trying to draw us outside!”

Something heavy hit the roof and scurried across.

Rat-tat-tat-tat

“What is that awful sound?” Meredith said nearby, her voice cracking in fear.

“Sounds like wild animals up there,” Gina said. “Can they get in here?”

More running around in the boxcar. People getting in the way, trying to hide.

“Watch that candle! We need some flashlights now!” Doug barked.

Stephen couldn’t move.

Another crashing sound against the walls.

Something shook the floorboards beneath him.

“Fuck!” Charlie yelled from the shadows close by. “They’re under us!”

“Everyone get to the back! Get to the back and away from the fucking door!” Doug sounded scared shitless.

The floorboards shook again knocking the candle over. It rolled toward the wall and went out.

Darkness.

Scratching sounds from above.

Another forceful strike against the walls.

“I can’t see!” Amanda screamed.

“Stay calm! Everyone stay where they’re at! Greg… can you get to a flashlight?” Doug asked.

“Tryin’!” He was feeling his way through their supplies.

The floorboards shook again.

“They’re testing for weak spots!” Marcus yelled in the dark.

Meredith held Ashley and tried to calm her.

Get the flashlight in your pack, my love.

Stephen turned toward the sound of the voice that wasn’t there.

Something was pushing up a floorboard near his feet. The old wood creaked in protest, snapping, splintering in the dark.

Stephen! Get the flashlight! Please, hurry!

Stephen moved shaking hands behind him to the pack he used as a pillow. He reached inside and retrieved the small flashlight.

He turned it on and aimed it at the sound.

A long bloody arm pushed its way upward, breaching the boxcar floor. It was hideously deformed with a mutated hand much too large for the arm, hosting five clawed digits.

“Holy shit, it’s inside!” Charlie said. “Get over here… it’s inside!”

More running.

Stephen could do nothing but sit there, holding his light on the nightmare that attempted to get through. From beneath, it growled at the light, getting more agitated and fierce. It wanted in. It wanted to feed.

Something metallic shimmered across the flashlight beam as the arm suddenly disappeared, leaving a bloody stump violently shaking in between the floorboards. The monster beneath screamed in pain. That horrible sound would linger in Stephen’s mind forever.

He wanted to scream but he still couldn’t move. A hand grabbed him by the right shoulder. Marcus was there, pulling him back. He was holding his bloody machete in the other hand.

“Here!” he called out. “There’s a breach.”

“Keep them back, Marcus!” Doug yelled. “Guard the rear!”

There were two more beams of light now, erratically scanning the darkness.

Stephen looked around him, feeling hot, labored breaths on the back of his neck. He was now huddled among familiar shadowed faces: Meredith, Ashley, Amanda, Charlie. He kept his light trained on the breach point.

Marcus crouched near the hole, his machete back behind his shoulders and ready to strike. He was completely still, focused—like some crazy boxcar Samurai in the heat of battle.

Stephen was ready to wake at any time. None of this could possibly be real.

“They’re going for the door!” Frank this time. “They’ve been trying to distract us from the fucking door all along!”

More running.

The door began to slide open. Several monstrous hands were reaching through a crack, trying to get the door to move.

Doug was there. Greg was there. Frank—they were all trying to push it closed.

Gina aimed her gun toward the crack.

“Gina, no!” Doug shouted.

The boxcar lit up five… six times due to the muzzle flash. The sound of the handgun was ear piercing in the enclosed area. Everyone reached to cover their ears too late.

They got the door closed.

Stephen thought it was over. He couldn’t hear them banging on the boxcar anymore.

All he could hear was a loud steady… ringing…

~~~

Next Episode (13-6):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/chapter-13-6-railway-exodus/

Previous Episode (13-4):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/chapter-13-4-railway-exodus/

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction to help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required, just a click next to my listed title. You can vote for it every 7 days. Every lit bit helps. Thanks for your support and for reading :)
http://topwebfiction.com/

________________________________________________
“Chapter 13-5: Railway Exodus” 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.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. FishFinder777 says:

    I think that Nicole’s soul is still with Stephen. I think he dreamed one of her actual memories and that she really did warn him about the zombies. It might also be the same for Meredith. She talked earlier about a girl who died on the way to the power plant. I can’t wait for someone to ask her about it.

    Like

Comments? I love to read them

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s