Unknown240

~~~

Amanda was losing it. She could not stay focused on what appeared to be an opportunity to finally stop running and join up with this new group of survivors. If only Stephen had kept his distance a bit longer—but now, he continued to pry and push her closer toward an explosive confrontation that was inevitable. If she couldn’t keep it together, any hope of winning the old man over and letting them stay would be gone, and the others would lose faith in her and think that she had either gone crazy after her trauma with Charlie, or that she had fallen off the wagon again.

After Marcus had dropped the bomb on her two nights ago, giving her Marie’s diary, Amanda had read everything she could from the water-damaged book. From what was still readable, Amanda had been struck hard by the intense hatred her dead daughter spewed toward her between those pages. On top of that, there were many passages confessing her juvenile love for her former teacher, Stephen Eddington, the liar and snake that slithered among them. But the devastating blow that gave birth to her murderous heart, were these words from Marie’s final entry:

…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!…

The implication was all but spelled out and the supporting facts were all there. Why was he even at the school that night? Why did he seem more terrified by me than the zombies that were chasing him? Why has he been following me around like a lost puppy ever since?

It all added up to the obvious: Stephen had slept with her daughter on the night the world went insane.

She balled up her fists beneath the table, closed her eyes, and tried to mentally extinguish the flames of her temper that continued to spark up. What burned at her more than his despicable transgression or Marie’s hate-filled words, was the fact that Stephen was still alive and Marie was dead.

He just… used her, and then when the school was attacked, he left her there to die!

Amanda wanted to grab the fork off the table and stick it in his fucking eye.

He could’ve saved her! He could’ve saved my girl, but he chose to save himself and let the monsters have her! That bastard saw a way to hide what he did by letting them kill my baby!

“Amanda,” Stephen said. “Are you alright? You look pale.”

That’s right. You just keep on talking with your slick devilish tongue, you… you fucking pervert! You filthy child molester!

She turned to look at him for the first time, saw the false concern in those sickening eyes, watched as his concern for her turned into concern for himself as she could not hide her loathing that shot forth from her hate-filled eyes.

You take a good long look you spineless son-of-a-bitch! I hope you feel how much I want you dead right now! I hope you can see that I know… do you hear me? I KNOW WHAT YOU FUCKING DID!!!

Stephen became immediately uncomfortable. “Amanda, have I done something to upset you recently?”

She began to shake. She closed her eyes again. Nothing helped. She could see them now. She could see Stephen using that demon tongue all over Marie’s naked body. She could see the look on her child’s face when he took advantage of her and then as he ran out, leaving her to die alone, naked, confused… vulnerable.

Amanda wrapped her hand around the fork… tightly.

“Excuse me,” Marcus said apologetically, sliding in between them. “Amanda, may I have a word with you?”

Marcus?

“Gina thought it might be a good idea to learn what we can from the boys downstairs. Maybe even help out on watch. I would love your company,” he said with a smile. His tone appeared inviting to everyone else, but to Amanda, his eyes were loaded with insistence.

Of course… Marcus.

~~~

For two long days, it had been Marcus that kept her together when all she wanted to do was self-destruct. When he’d reluctantly handed over the diary, he’d sat at a distance watching as Amanda desperately thumbed through the pages of the condemning book. He’d watched the horror surface on Amanda’s face as each passage came to life and stabbed her in the heart… again and again. And by the time she read the last entry, she’d covered her mouth to keep from screaming.

Marcus had moved in quickly when she went for her pack to retrieve her gun. “No! You can’t do that!” he’d cautioned.

“Why!?” she said through tears. “Do you know what he did? Do you know what that monster did to my little girl!”

“Yes,” he’d said calmly, wrapping his arms around her. “I’m sorry.”

“You let go! I’m going to kill him!” she’d struggled against his chest with surprising strength.

“I’m not going to let you do that. What do you think will happen if you shoot Stephen?”

“I don’t fucking care!”

“They’ll put you down like a rabid dog. They’ll think you went crazy after what Charlie did to you and then you and your daughter will both be dead. How will that make things right?”

“I don’t care,” she’d whispered through tears, giving up struggling and falling limp into Marcus’s arms. “She fucking hates me. It’s all there, Marcus. My God, she absolutely hates me.”

“I know, and I’m sorry. But I’m not going to let you end this way. We’ve already lost too many people.”

She had stopped listening, wallowing in the fresh hell of guilt that now rose to the surface like a suffocating blanket of darkness over her heart and mind. “She hates me… and there’s no way I can make it right now. Everything’s lost… everything.”

“You need to listen to me now, Amanda,” Marcus had said calmly. “Stephen will have to make this right… if that’s even possible. You two will need to deal with this. But not now. Nothing good will come out of you killing him. You may or may not succeed but you will certainly be dead. What does your death do for Marie?”

“I’m dead already… I’ve been dead for a long, long time. I’ve been dead to her for much longer than that.” Amanda’s thoughts had turned to the bottle she had intended to throw in the lake. She was immediately repulsed by the thought. But the demons of addiction had also been quick to wrap their arms around her, keeping her locked in place.

Marcus had sighed heavily and said, “Please don’t make me regret giving you that diary. I held it this long for fear that you would respond this way. There’s a right time and place for you and Stephen to have this out… but not now… not after everything else that’s happened. This group is too fragile right now and would never recover from it. We need each other and that means keeping this matter between us for now. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she’d answered weakly.

That’s when Marcus had done something that surprised her. He’d unzipped her bag, retrieved the bottle of whiskey, and said, “If you let me hold this, I’ll let you have a little at a time, just to get you through this dark period. After you and Stephen have dealt with this, then the bottle goes away forever. Deal?”

The demons had spoken on her behalf, “Deal.”

~~~

Marcus led Amanda away from the dining hall and down the low lit hallway toward the track. After a moment of awkward silence, he asked, “What the hell was that?”

“I wasn’t going to do anything,” she lied. “Everything was fine. I just needed a moment to calm down.”

“Bullshit. You were seconds away from forking the hell out of Stephen… right in front of all those children nearby!”

Amanda looked at him and tried to stifle a laugh.

Marcus cracked a smile and said, “I probably could’ve phrased that differently.”

She giggled uncontrollably, needing the release, and said, “Oh, Marcus. Why didn’t we work out?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the end of the world had something to do with it.”

“Yeah… I guess there’s that,” she said. “If we’d met a year ago, I bet we would have had a hell of a good time.”

Marcus let her words hang, refusing to entertain ‘what ifs’ from a dead yesterday. They continued down the hallway in silence.

“I have to settle this soon,” she finally said. “You saw the same thing I did back there, it’s just a matter of time before Gina’s begging that old man to let us stay… hell, I want that too.”

“Then why are you so set on destroying our chances with your vendetta against Stephen? I told you to wait. There will be time for settling scores.”

“I can’t live under the same roof with that despicable man… not for one more fucking second! When we were still moving, there was survival to think about. I could keep my focus on things jumping out at us at any moment… but here… there’s too much down time. There’s too many opportunities to dwell and be forced into conversations with him. I need to settle this… now.”

“Be patient. We’re almost there. We need this place… for a little while. Everyone needs to heal, not just you.”

“Fuck you! I don’t need healing. And fuck them, too! They’re not being forced to live with a man that raped their daughter and left her behind to die! If we were still in the real world, Stephen would be in prison right now. But there are no laws anymore. After what Charlie did, it’s clear that we have to handle matters swiftly before evil men are allowed to cause more damage. We are our own laws now. Gina wanted to shoot Charlie in the vineyard. You weren’t there, but I saw it in her eyes… and he deserved death. It was Stephen that stopped her!”

“Do you really believe Stephen is evil? I’m not saying what he did was right… but evil? Really? Need I remind you that your daughter was quite fixated on him long before they slept together.”

“She was just a stupid girl who didn’t know any better!” Amanda lowered her voice. “No one at her age understands the difference between a real, healthy relationship and a fucking fantasy branded ‘love’. But that man in there… a married man… knew exactly what he was doing!”

Marcus sighed. “Look, I’m not disagreeing with you. But calling Stephen evil is a bit harsh. Before I gave you Marie’s diary, would you have thought Stephen was evil? Did he do anything to harm anybody in the group?”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “Evil is evil. Sometimes it stares you right in the face like Charlie-fucking-Ottermeyer, and sometimes it follows after.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “That’s an interesting perspective. I suppose by that reasoning, you are just evil waiting in the wings.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh… I don’t know… maybe your pre-meditated future murder comes to mind.”

“Fuck you!”

“What do you think is worse: A man who commits adultery and then sleeps with a girl half his age, or a cold-blooded murderer? If there were still laws, as you say, you would also be behind bars… perhaps even executed.”

Amanda could not counter that. “Well, why don’t we let Gina decide his fate. She’s in charge and should know what Stephen did… they all should know. You’re the one that said there shouldn’t be any more secrets. If nothing else, we’d expose him publicly and brand him with the appropriate title he deserves.”

“This is getting us nowhere. We’ve had this discussion. If you call out Stephen in front of everybody, it’s only going to come back and make you look crazy. Who would believe you? Who has more credibility right now? Stephen is a likable guy and everybody trusts him. Until a couple days ago, so did you. Do you believe they could say the same about you?”

“I don’t care what they think of me. I’ve got Marie’s diary. It’s all there.”

“No, Amanda, it’s not. At best, the diary shows that your daughter had a major crush on her teacher and had an active fantasy life surrounding the both of them.”

“But you know it’s more than that! If you read between the lines- ”

“Yes. I know. You know. But that’s enough. And don’t ask me to back you on this because you’ll only ruin my credibility in the attempt. Remember, I was with you when they first met me and they saw me distance myself from you when you and Charlie became… secretive. And now here we are being just as secretive. As far as the diary is concerned, Stephen could say that he found it, intended to give it to you, but thought you were too unstable to handle it. Then he could say that he was keeping it safe and that you stole it from him and became crazy.”

“Stole it from him! That’s ridiculous! She was my fucking daughter! By rights, he never should have had it to begin with… and that goes the same for you!”

“Yes, but to Marie, Stephen was her lover, fictional or not. That little book is as personal to Stephen as it is to you. And let’s not forget that her words praise him and tear you to pieces. Do you want everything she said about you to go public as well?”

Amanda felt deflated. “You’re right. That would just make them despise me as much as Marie did. This is bullshit.”

“Your time will come, Amanda. Just be patient… please.”

She smiled and said, “You may not want me anymore, but I still need you. Thank you for being there for
me, Marcus. I know I can be an unreasonable bitch most of the time… but I’m not crazy.”

“I know,” he smiled. “And for the record, ‘us’ not working out had nothing to do with Gina. I just wanted to put that out there to give you one less thing to live under this roof with.”

She laughed. “That bitch saved my ass. She’s not on my shit list anymore. I think it was Charlie that poisoned me against her initially, and you dumping me just gave me more fuel for that pathetic fire.”

“That’s good to hear,” he said. “Now there’s nothing in the way of our friendship, agreed?”

“Agreed.”

“Then if I can trust you, and I want to trust you, could you take this watch without me? I’ve got some other matters to attend to.”

“Yes, go on. I’m a big girl. I promise to keep the peace… for now,” she said with a mischievous wink.

“Do you need another night cap to calm your nerves a bit?” he offered.

“No, I’m good. Maybe we can fuck each other’s brains out later… as friends, of course. Just putting it out there.”

Marcus shook his head in with a smile. “You are trouble.”

“Don’t you know it,” she smiled back.

Marcus turned and laughed down the hall.

“Hey,” she called.

He turned.

“On second thought, I’ll take you up on that night cap.”

Marcus came back over and removed the whiskey bottle from his sack.

Amanda greedily snatched the bottle and took a long drink. She handed back the whiskey and said, “Thank you. Oh… I’m all good with the friendship thing, but I want you to know, friend, that I think you’re full of shit about not wanting the redhead. Us women can read you men like an open book when it comes to things like that… just saying.”

Marcus frowned.

“Don’t worry. I don’t consider her competition, because I know Gina doesn’t want you back,” she teased, turning her back and strutting down the hall.

“Well that would be interesting, if I was interested,” he called after her.

“Okay. You keep telling yourself that. Just so you know, that’s one disturbed girl you’re not interested in who likes to talk in her sleep… a lot. And it’s not your name she’s calling out to at night, unless your real name is Tony.” She walked off toward the track without another word.

Marcus turned around and headed back toward the roof.

~~~

Next Episode (22-4):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/chapter-22-4-almost-dead/

Previous Episode (22-2):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/chapter-22-2-almost-dead/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 22-3: Almost Dead” 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. Sam says:

    Great work, I’m really looking forward to unveiling of Marcus’ true intensions!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Artcp says:

    Hey Scott, found a typo:

    How will that makes things right?”
    make instead of makes?

    Thanks for the story. ;D

    Like

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