Unknown21

~~~

She is sitting between Meredith and Marcus in the aft section of the sailboat, mesmerized by the whistling sound created by the ruffling sails that stand defiantly tall, challenging the tumultuous lake. Gusting wind mixed with spray numbs her cheeks, but she doesn’t mind. The sky opens up at last, revealing brilliant gems of white light across the night.

Gina’s exhilaration, aided by the cool night air invading her lungs, helps her forget the steady motion of the small vessel as it rides the waves head on. She looks back toward the shore and sees nothing. Frank tells them from behind the steering console that they are at least a mile out. There is nothing behind… nothing ahead… just darkness—calm, erratic, wonderful darkness. For once, the threat of darkness seems not directed at them. There is no hunger in it, just indifference.

She is there with all of them; her strange new family at the edge of the world. She doesn’t know how, but they’ve done it—they’ve escaped the coast.

Gina wants to laugh like a giddy child, but chooses to smile instead.

Free at last!

“It’s good to see you smile again,” says the voice of her old dreams coming from her left.

Gina turns and finds Tony sitting beside her. “You made it too!”

Tony smiles—oh, how she missed those smiles that turned her insides into butter. He smiles and says, “Of course I made it. You did bring me, after all.”

Gina finds the comment odd, but easily dismisses it. She’s just grateful that everything has turned out alright. She can’t hold back the tears any longer—tear of joy or deep sadness—it no longer matters. She reaches for him and lets those strong arms hold her together.

“Gina,” says the man coming up from below deck. “Gina, listen to me now.”

She turns her head and sees that it’s Doug. She rises to meet him. “Oh, thank God! I thought… I thought you were…”

“Gina,” Doug says, more forcefully, “you can’t stay here any longer. It’s not your time yet. They need you.”

Something in Doug’s voice, in Doug’s urgency, triggers a memory trying to surface from beneath the boat. She tries to ignore it. Gina is right where she wants to be… to hell with everything else.

“Gina, you need to leave right now.” Doug turns as an approaching light penetrates the darkness ahead. Doug is losing patience. “Gina, stop this bullshit. You’re not allowed to quit! Get the fuck out…now!”

“No! Why? I’m tired! I want to sit and… ride this out for a little while. It’s so calm out here.” Gina turns away from Doug to return to Tony’s arms.

Tony is gone.

What?!

“You have to go now, Gina. I’m sorry, but you just have to go.”

She turns to confront Doug. He is also gone.

The light up ahead is much brighter now.

Frank is shouting something back at her that she can’t hear. He’s pointing toward the light.

Gina steps forward to get a better view.

It’s a boat… a big boat… coming directly toward them.

She tries to move but finds herself frozen in place, staring out toward the threatening vessel. She can see lights on the deck above, silhouetting several forms standing at the lifelines.

The big boat doesn’t alter course.

Neither does Frank.

She wants to yell at him to move… but she can’t speak.

She watches Frank pull down on a lever and hold it down while trying to cover his ears.

There’s no sound. She doesn’t understand.

The big boat is within a hundred yards now. Gina can see the forms clearly… and there’s hundreds of them.

No!

The undead begin leaping from the taller boat, falling short and splashing into the water between both vessels. But there’s so many more and both boats are about to collide in seconds.

At last, Gina can hear the sound of the mounted air horn. Frank refuses to let go of the lever as that awful sound pierces the night.

Gina is screaming, but it’s drowned out by the horn.

Both boats collide and Gina is propelled toward the front of the crushed sailboat.

She is sinking… sinking… into the zombie infested darkness as the hull of the other boat keeps her from ever reaching the surface…

~~~

Gina opened her eyes and let out a strangled sound as she desperately drew breath. She tried to move but her head felt like the battleground for a thousand headaches exploding all at once.

“Hold still, honey, you’ll hurt yourself.” Meredith was there, helping her lay back down. “You took a nasty bump on the head—scared me senseless, when you did—but you’ll be alright with some rest.”

Gina looked into the weary woman’s face, then toward the small fire crackling to her left. It was night. The devilish rain had stopped. She could hear the river nearby. They were beneath a shelter of some kind… no… an overpass? “Where… where are we?” Gina asked. She reached up and felt a makeshift bandage wrapped around her head. “What happened?”

“You got knocked on your ass by the storm surge coming in from the lake,” Marcus said from the other side of the fire. “You both got tossed around by some big waves that pushed you and Stephen right under the boardwalk. Fortunately, you struck the first pillar beneath the water—probably kept you from being pushed further in and under—and you surfaced shortly after the surge water receded. We got you out of the way before the next round. It was close.”

Gina tried to focus on him, but it hurt her head to do so. She started to remember. “Where’s Stephen?”

No answer.

“And… everyone else?”

More hesitation.

“Gina, we were running and hiding most of the day,” Meredith said. “They… they were everywhere. Every time we thought we were in the clear, those things found us again and we had to keep moving.” She sighed heavily and finished, “We barely got you out, honey. Marcus was incredible. He carried you on his shoulders the whole way. Unfortunately, we had no time to search for Stephen. If he made it out from under the boardwalk, we might have past him without realizing…”

Marcus bailed the older woman out. “We had to wait near the boardwalk for the horde to thin out. At one point, they started heading back inland toward the residential areas. We believe some of our group may have fled that way after finding their way back blocked and those undead things gave chase.”

“Don’t forget about the horn, Marcus.”

“That’s right,” Marcus added. “Quite a few of them remained, wandering the boardwalk. That’s when we heard what sounded like a large air horn go off from the direction of the marina. We think it was Frank trying to buy us some time. He must have rigged the boat’s horn to blast continuously because it sounded for a good fifteen minutes before ceasing. The leftover zombies headed toward the hangers, drawn by the noise. We took advantage of the distraction and climbed up to the boardwalk and headed east, back toward the boathouse.”

Meredith picked up where Marcus stopped. “We never made it to the boathouse. There were more of those monsters up ahead. It only took one of them to spot us each time, and then the rest would gather and chase us. They were relentless and we were getting tired fast. We were forced to travel further east. Marcus suggested confusing our trail by circling around to the north and through the woods and then back around toward the river. We must have tried that a dozen times, but each time they found us again. Eventually we gave them the slip, continued east down the river and decided to chance stopping before dark beneath this train trestle. We figure we’re about where we started, just before the train tracks branched south when we headed west toward the lake.”

“If anyone made it to the river, we figured this was the best place to intercept them and get some rest,” Marcus added. “We’re sheltered from the elements and fairly well hidden, except from anything traveling the river. There’s not much else we can do until first light.”

“We need… need to go back… help them… ” Gina tried to sit up while the others protested.

She passed out instead.

~~~

Amanda looked out the boathouse window toward the gravel road. The rain had finally stopped an hour ago, allowing her to get a clear view into the deadly night. She only saw them when they moved; they were like shadows haunting shadows, wandering around in the dark. She counted twelve this time. Two more than the last time she checked. “There’s more of them now,” she said, looking back when Charlie didn’t respond.

Charlie sat motionless on one of the couches with his arms resting on his knees. He stared at the candle they’d lit and placed on top of the old television. He was lost in his own world of heavy thoughts, still trying to process the events that led them from the hangers to now.

“I know she said meet at the boathouse… I swear that’s what Gina said.” Amanda was unsettled by the long silences.

Neither of them had said much since they made it back up to the loft and found it empty. They’d been there since late afternoon, waiting for any of the others to arrive. They took turns watching the undead outside and getting whatever unfit sleep they could manage. It was all the waiting that slowly killed them, as each hour passed into oblivion and finally ushered in the evening.

“Why don’t they just leave already,” Amanda let out a heavy sigh. “It’s like they don’t know exactly where we are, but they’re still waiting for us to just come out and surrender ourselves as food! I swear, they can smell us or something.” She looked again at Charlie who ignored her. She desperately needed a drink and some better fucking company. Amanda looked out and counted shadows again. Fifteen this time. She frowned and finally said out loud what they’d both been thinking for hours now, “They’re not coming. Those fuckers made it to the boat and abandoned us. They’re probably sitting on a beach right now laughing at us.”

Charlie continued to ignore the chattering whore. He was replaying what happened in the storage hanger for the tenth time, trying to wrap his mind around it…

They came at us when the door shut… when the lights went out. I shouted at them, lifted my hands to block the first bites and they… stopped? Okay, okay… we moved along the back wall. Amanda was damn near climbing on top of me because she was so scared. They kept coming. They were inches from my face. I couldn’t see them, but I certainly felt them. Their putrid dead breath made the skin on my neck stand up, that rotting smell mixed with mildew and blood-stained ragged clothes made me want to vomit, and the sound of their teeth snapping at me from the dark…

They were so close I could’ve reached out and touched their faces… but they didn’t attack. Why? Did the dark confuse them? Hell no, mother fuckers had us… so why didn’t they finish us off?

Then the fucking air horn went off and they all turned toward the roll up door—started attacking the damn thing like the sound was driving them nuts.

Then it struck him.

Sound… that’s it! Fuck me sideways… that had to be it.

This triggered an additional memory he’d not dared to think about until now: his escape from the hospital.

Yes! It was the same thing then! They came at me in that hospital room. Different bastards, but dead just the same… Those horrid yellow eyes tore through my soul right before they lunged. I told them to stop then, too… I cried like a little bitch and pissed all over myself… but I’d forgotten the rest—didn’t want to remember, maybe. They turned around and… left… after I told them to… leave!

“Are you even listening to me, Charlie?” Amanda asked. “You picked a hell of a time to turn into some fucking mute retard!… You’re fucking worthless!”

“That’s a hell of a way to thank me for saving your life at the hanger,” Charlie said, still staring at the candle.

Amanda turned, immediately wanting a target for her pent-up emotions. “What the fuck are you talking about, you delusional prick?! I was the one that pushed that fucking button and let those crazy things back out… remember? You had me pinned up against that wall so hard, I barely got out from behind your cowardly ass to reach over and hit the fucking button when the air horn went off. It’s a good thing I did, too, or we’d still be fucked in the dark with those things about to eat us!”

What happened next, they both could agree upon: After the door opened, the zombies exited the hanger and joined the rest of the horde shambling toward the marina. Charlie and Amanda quickly gave up on reaching the boat and tried for the boardwalk gate instead.

“They weren’t after me at all!” Charlie interrupted, standing up and excitedly pointing at Amanda. “They were after you! That’s why they didn’t listen to me the second time! They were trying to get around me to get to you!” He laughed nervously and cupped his mouth.

Amanda was stunned to silence. She finally said, “Charlie, you’re starting to sound like a fucking lunatic. Let’s just go back to being quiet for a little while, okay?”

From below, they heard the sound of the boathouse door being slammed open.

“Shit,” Amanda whispered, dropping to a knee. “They heard us in here! Get… get the candle!”

Charlie moved toward the candle to put it out, squeaking an old floorboard in the process. He froze near the television, throwing Amanda an apologetic look.

She stared back helplessly and covered her mouth, trying to stifle her need to vent her rising fear, and tried not to move.

He reluctantly blew out the flame.

Darkness immediately invaded the loft.

They heard creaking planks on the dock below followed by guttural moans.

The undead had entered the boathouse.

Amanda was too close to the hatch. Her fear manifested images of decrepit monsters coming up the ladder and leaping out of that dark square portal almost sent her sprinting across the loft. Panic began to seize her when she couldn’t find Charlie.

He remained immobilized before the relic television; too exhausted to think straight, or do much of anything else. Fortunately, this time, he was also too exhausted to entertain the fear.

The monsters are coming again and here you are just sitting there on the dinner plate like a well-behaved piece of meat.

Charlie was tired… tired of hiding in the dark… tired of all the running… the panic… the adrenaline driven impulses to either lash out or wet himself… tired of fucking zombies!

He could hear Amanda whimpering nearby. He hated Amanda more at that moment than at any other time. Not because of her cowering in the dark, but because she represented what he most despised in himself. God, I’ve been so pathetic since day one! Like a frightened little dog—just barely a dog at all—and easily mistaken as a bigger dog’s meal! Is it any wonder no one took you seriously? All bark and no fucking bite!

“Yeah, but this time the ‘bark’ is all that’s required,” he whispered into the darkness and moved toward his pack on the couch.

Bark… Words… Sound…

It was time to prove his theory once and for all, or lay in the dark trembling and waiting to die.

“Charlie,” Amanda whispered. “What are you doing?”

That’s a good question, he thought, retrieving his flashlight. What am I doing? Is this how it feels to do the opposite of giving in to fear? Boldness… Courage… Bravery… Foolishness?

He’d decided to find out.

Charlie turned on the flashlight, revealing a horrified Amanda, waving her hands and pleading that he turn out the light.

They could hear it again. This time it was moving toward the ladder.

“Turn it off!” Amanda hissed, moving away from the hatch. She ran behind a sofa. “Charlie! You’re going to get us killed!

Charlie aimed his beam down into the boathouse. “No, I’m going to save your ass for the second time today.”

He almost dropped the flashlight when a bald-headed man in a suit and tie appeared at the base of the ladder. The pale, dead skin covering the remains of its skull looked like it had been stretched to the back of its head, revealing slanted and irregular shaped eyes and a large set of choppers. It gnashed its full set of exposed bloody teeth up at Charlie and growled at him.

It was time to test a second theory: Could this brand of zombie climb ladders?

The undead monstrosity looked at the ladder as if struggling to remember something, then placed its rotting hands on the nearest rung and began to ascend the ladder.

“Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! It’s coming up, Charlie!” Amanda screamed.

Charlie could feel the fear threatening as he backed away from the hatch, the flashlight beam dancing erratically in his trembling hands.

The creature’s head surfaced through the hatch. It moved much faster now that its meal was imminent.

Charlie forced himself to wait… hold his ground and… wait…

Amanda was already on the far side of the loft, looking for a place to hide near the stored items stacked in front of the CB radio.

The bald zombie was exceptionally tall, towering over Charlie by a good two feet. Its long lanky frame and distorted movements made it seem much more ominous as its shadow doubled on the wall behind it.

It let out a horrible hissing sound and gnashed its teeth toward Charlie as it rushed him.

Charlie’s heart was about to explode but he held his ground. He closed his eyes, shutting out Amanda’s screams to his right, shutting out the fear that tried to kill him long before the zombie could reach him.

Just before the creature had him, before he was too terrified to utter speech, he opened his mouth, took a deep breath and commanded, “STOP!”

The bald thing halted, hunched over and inches away from taking a bite out of the top of Charlie’s head.

Charlie opened his eyes and immediately saw the confusion in its dead thing’s face.

It sniffed the air around Charlie’s skull as if just discovering his steak had spoiled, and it let out a savage cry, but went no further.

Charlie was a sweaty mess. He shook so violently, he almost dropped the flashlight. Before he completely forgot the English language, he shouted, “GET… BACK!”

More confusion. The beast stepped away from Charlie, shook its head sluggishly and then turned its attention on Amanda.

Amanda started weeping uncontrollably when the boogeyman-looking zombie locked its gaze on her.

Feeling the fear release its hold allowed Charlie to let out the anger. “LOOK… HERE! I’M NOT DONE WITH YOU YET!”

The monster turned back toward Charlie.

Charlie took a bold step forward and shouted, “GET BACK!”

The creature stepped back.

Louder this time. “I SAID… GET BACK!

It howled in frustration but continued to stagger backwards toward the window.

Charlie pushed forward and screamed at the top of his lungs, “I SAID…GET…THE… FUCK… BACK!!!”

It stumbled back against the window, shattering it, and fell backwards and out into the night striking a large rock on the ground with the back of its head. Its skull exploded like a watermelon on impact.

The Boogeyman was no more.

~~~

Next Episode (15-2):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/chapter-15-2-lost/

Previous Episode (14-4):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/chapter-14-4-the-marina/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 15-1: Lost” 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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Comments
  1. FishFinder777 says:

    All hail Charlie, King of the Zombies!

    Like

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