Unknown243

~~~

For the second time tonight, Tommy was regretting ever getting involved with the Amanda woman. He stopped behind an abandoned car at an intersection and motioned for Stephen to get down.

The dark streets seemed much quieter than before, amplifying every sound and making them both jump at shadows.

Stephen squatted down next to the teen and asked, “Is everything alright?”

Tommy shook his head. “Yeah… we’re cool. It’s just that we never make runs twice in one night. Rusty says it’s dangerous because any stragglers that heard us moving around the first time, but missed us, might catch us the second time because they’d all still be in the area and could easily cut us off.”

“I’m sorry about the trouble,” Stephen said. “I’ll explain it to Rusty when we get back if you think it would help.”

Tommy shrugged his shoulders and said, “Doesn’t matter. He’ll have our asses either way. Best thing we can do is get this over with and hopefully he’ll never have to know. Can you make her come back with you?”

Stephen laughed at the question. “I’m kind of on her shit list right now. But I’ll do what I can.”

“I was afraid of that,” the teen said. “We saw her get mad earlier… I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side.”

“Thanks for that.”

Tommy smiled and said, “Okay, it looks clear. Stay right behind me and do exactly what I do. We’ll be there in five minutes.”

They started away from the car and moved from shadow to shadow until they were back behind the vehicle near the department store.

Tommy pointed to their right and said, “You can see it from here, just on the other side of that street.”

Stephen located the bar easily. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves.

“Don’t do this, my love.”

Stephen jumped at the sound of Nicole’s voice.

She was sitting on the hood of a car five feet away. Nicole was dressed in black Spandex with her hair tied back behind her head. She reminded him of a cat burglar as he swore at himself for the ridiculous image he’d summoned her in this time. I’ve seen one too many cheesy spy movies.

Nicole jumped off the hood of the car and folded her arms. “Did you hear me? Turn around right now and stop this before you get yourself killed!”

Stephen tried to ignore her.

Tommy turned to him and whispered, “She’s still there.”

Stephen was astonished. “What? You mean you can see her?” He turned toward Nicole but she was gone.

“Shhh!” Tommy warned. He pointed toward the department store window and said, “The Stick Bitch always comes back here.”

“Pardon?” Stephen looked around the vehicle and saw the tall skeletal looking zombie. Damn. I’m still crazy then. From what he could make out, it appeared to be female. The sight of the sickly looking woman made him shudder. “It… it looks like it’s window shopping.”

Tommy smiled and said, “That’s what we think too. It’s like she remembers… a little bit.”

“She’s freaking me out. Can we get going now?”

Tommy nodded in agreement. They quietly crossed the street, keeping an eye on the stick woman until she was out of view.

When they reached the bar, Nicole was standing before the door. She looked like she was about to explode on someone as she pointed toward Tommy and said, “We have to talk. Tell him to go… now!”

Stephen was afraid that Nicole was on the verge of becoming terrifying again. He turned to Tommy and said, “Thanks for getting me out here. You should really head back now.”

He gave him a strange look. “I can’t leave another one of you out here. Rusty will have- ”

“Look, Tommy, this is about to get dangerous. My friend inside is… unstable… and she’s armed.”

“Yeah we remember that. She’s fucking nuts.”

“That’s right,” Stephen said. “Truth is… this isn’t the first time she’s done this. Last time she wandered off from the group, she shot two people just for looking at her wrong.”

“No fucking way!”

“Yes. You boys were lucky she didn’t shoot you dead before. I can calm her down but it’s going to take a while. You really need to go back and tell Marcus. He’ll know what to do.”

Tommy shook his head. “That guy’s scarier than your friend in the bar. He’s got a mean look about him.”

“It will be alright,” Stephen said. “Just keep someone down by the door to wait for us. I can find the way back from here.”

Tommy was still reluctant, but he finally nodded and said, “Good luck. Watch out for the stragglers. They’re easy to miss because they get real still until you disturb them. If they catch sight of you, they’ll get spun up in a hurry and give chase, usually attracting others in the area.”

“Thanks, Tommy. This isn’t my first encounter with those things. I’ll be okay.”

“Just watch your ass,” he said and then turned around and disappeared into the night.

Stephen turned toward Nicole.

She was still dressed in black but her mood had gone from black to borderline red. “Just what do you think this is going to accomplish? She’s not going to accept anything you have to say. You go in that bar and that psycho bitch is going to shoot you! Are you armed, at least?”

“We always carry our weapons,” Stephen said. He didn’t want to do this. Amanda was going to be hard enough. “Look… Nicole… this has been a long time coming. Your mother has every right to be upset- ”

“That whore has no right! This is between us and is none of her damn business! So what if she read my diary. It changes nothing. I would do it again… and so would you!”

“No… Nicole… I wouldn’t. I regret what I did that night. If we hadn’t… been together, I never would’ve been at your dorm and you might still be alive right now. I’ve been carrying around this guilt for so long I hardly notice the weight anymore. It’s starting to feel like a part of me. I need to do this. Your mother is the only one that can free me from the guilt.”

Nicole was shaking her head. She was fighting back tears. “That’s bullshit! All of it! First of all, I know you don’t mean what you said about our night together. You’re only saying you regret it because our now dead society made it wrong for us to be together because of age. Wake up, my love! We’ve moved beyond that now.”

Stephen looked away. “Amanda won’t see it that way. That’s the only thing that matters. To her, I had sex with her underage daughter and then I kept it quiet all this time while continuing to fantasize about you through your diary. Do you realize how disgusting that makes me in her eyes? And she doesn’t even know I murdered you yet.”

“You can’t tell her that! Are you insane?”

Stephen smiled. “Does that really require an answer?”

Nicole sighed. “Really? Jokes? You’re unbelievable!”

He lifted his hands and said, “Please… Nicole… I don’t want this. It’s going to be hard enough to face her. I don’t want to fight you too.”

“Then please turn around and go back. She’ll sober up and you two can talk when she’s more… manageable. Believe me, if you go inside that bar, you’ll be facing another monster.”

“You’re probably right,” Stephen admitted. “But it changes nothing. This has to happen now. If it means my life…well, then at least we can still be together somewhere else, right?”

Nicole had no response to that.

“Bottom line is, I need to do this. You’ve always known that. I need to be free of all this guilt once and for all. There’s no monster worse than the one that’s slowly eating me away inside. Pretty soon there will be no room for me to breathe and certainly no room left for us… whatever that means now. Please… just let me go.”

Nicole softened. “I’m only trying to help you see how foolish you’re being. My mother will never let this stand. As long as she’s alive she’ll never let us be together. It’s what she’s always done.” The tears were falling freely now. “You’re all I have left, my love. I just don’t want to see her destroy you too.”

Stephen smiled and said, “You’ve always believed in me, Nicole. For that, I will always love you. Your words kept me alive all this time. But now, I need to face this and be free… even if death is required. You can understand that, can’t you?”

Nicole looked like she was about to protest then stopped. She shook her head in frustration and said, “Yes… yes… I know you’re right. But it’s just not fair!”

“Nothing seldom is… my love,” Stephen said with a smile.

Nicole turned away to compose herself. “You can’t do this,” she said.

“Nicole… please…”

“You can’t do this alone.”

Stephen didn’t know what to say.

“If you’re going in there, I’m going in there too.”

Stephen shook his head, looking down at his feet, and laughed. “That would really be something, Nicole. If you only could walk inside that bar with me, there’d be a lot less I’d have to- ”

When he looked up, Nicole was gone.

I guess that’s my cue.

He hesitated for a moment, realizing he was still holding his handgun and then decided to tuck it in his belt behind his back. Just in case Marcus is right, he thought, hoping Amanda wouldn’t draw down on him before he had a chance to speak.

Stephen took a deep breath and then reached for the door handle of The Last Call.

~~~

There is nothing left of who they were; no conscience, no compassion, no remorse—nothing. They are motivated by the fire and the flesh. For them, the living has become a broken mirror casting vaguely familiar reflections they no longer comprehend. There is a spark of recognition that quickly fades, leaving only the base and primal emotions. They hate what they see because the vessels they hunt are not like them. It’s the blood that calls out to them, as the drug commands the addict, or the moth to the flame—madness.

They move as one, ravishing the remains of a dying world, seeking out their prey with dreadful ease and indifference. The living try to hide but the yellow-eyed monsters find them and destroy them. There is no distinction between man, woman, child—only the blood matters. Collectively they are an efficient machine that adapt to their surroundings and improve upon their ability to kill. They feed upon flesh until they’ve had their fill, and then they become still and sleep, like machines in the standby mode. In this dormant state, the monsters absorb the living and continue to evolve into a greater killing force.

Meredith walks among the blood-stained parking lot of the Percy Power Plant like a ghost revisiting the place of her death. She can still hear their screams in her mind when her defenses are down. A part of her was slaughtered here, and yet, she also escaped this place when Douglas led them out. She is alive and she is also dead, forever bonded with the souls that have passed in this place.

She cannot look away from the carnage that remains. There is so much senseless death as the eyes of unrecognizable flesh remain open on corpses. Those eyes retain the last moments of loss, fear and confusion as their souls were ripped from this life with no warning… and no peace.

Meredith weeps for them in silence. Her sorrow is overwhelming. She forces herself to look away from the horrors of the slain, their individual stories of terror laid out in blood trails for all to behold. Instead, she focuses on the source. The blood-covered monsters sit quietly among the mangled bodies, balled up and resting on their knees with heads down, their faces buried in flesh pillows. They almost look devout, as if praying to some unseen god that has granted them this feast, and now, they give thanks…

She can almost pity them in this dormant state… almost. She knows that there is nothing left in these bloody shells that once felt compassion. Their bloody forms, although resembling humanity, are now just vacant structures occupied by monsters or demons—or something much worse than either.

Meredith retrieves her knife, intending to kill them while they are still. She looks out at the vast parking lot and realizes the futility of her intentions. They are everywhere—hundreds of them. Her weapon feels much smaller. She doesn’t care that it won’t matter… she must try to end this. Meredith knows that when they wake, they will attack the remaining survivors within the plant that believe they have stopped the monsters.

As she approaches the first one, it lifts its head and begins sniffing at the wind like a rabid dog.

She is too late.

More of them begin to rise all around her, breathing heavily in vain and sampling the air with senses searching for blood.

She reminds herself to stay calm, knowing that they will not see her because this is still partially a dream; a dream that allows her to revisit the past and playback events that once were… as her dreams sometimes allowed her to do.

She stares into the eyes of the rabid dog in front of her. Blood is dripping from his face. His teeth are barred with chunks of flesh in them. His eyes are wide and full of insatiable hunger as he searches for something fresh to kill. He was a young man, perhaps in his early twenties. If Meredith allowed it, she could see into his life from before—his memories, his dreams—but she will not… absolutely cannot do so. To allow the monster to hide behind the echo of the young man would be very, very dangerous. She must not forget what this thing is now…ever.

“Go back where you came from, demon,” she whispers to the oblivious young man.

The yellow-eyed beast does not acknowledge her.

Meredith sighs heavily and throws the knife down in frustration. “What’s the point to all of this?” she asks, closing her eyes. “What good is this, if I can’t do anything to stop it?”

She does not expect an answer. Meredith looks back up at the rabid dog and her heart stops.

He is staring right at her.

“Just relax, you silly woman.” Meredith laughs at herself. “It’s looking through you… that’s all.”

The monster smiles at her, its bloody teeth and yellow eyes making it look like a madman.

“What? That’s not possible!”

She steps back and looks around at the others.

They are all staring at her now.

She looks away from their horrifying stares and shakes her head. “No… no… no! This is not right! It’s just a dream!” Meredith immediately uses her ability to pull herself back deeper into her own mind and into the safe place where she can sense them the least. She has always been able to find them by opening a part of her mind like looking through a peep hole from a secure room. The wider she made the hole, the farther she could reach out and sense them. But could they sense her as well? That would mean…

“No!” She refuses to believe it. But there is only one way she can know for sure. Meredith opens her mind in the dream and goes back to the power plant. She returns to the events of what was, in a way that feels like hitting the fast-forward button on an old recording. She plays back what happened after they all had escaped the plant.

She senses the yellow-eyed monsters as one large entity. Instead of attacking the plant, the monsters depart and head northeast… toward Ashtabula. But there is more, now that she has opened herself up wider. Not all of them headed northeast. A smaller group split from the main group and headed… south?

Where? Where the hell are you going?

Yes, she can sense the smaller group heading south… down the tracks… into Fairport Harbor… then east along the Grand River… to Painesville… Harpersfield… Austinburg… Jefferson…

…Meredith woke abruptly and grabbed the sides of her head. She forced the peephole in her mind closed as fast as she could before the monsters overwhelmed her again.

“Hold it together, you silly woman,” she told herself. “Get control… before they do.” After a few moments she was able to shut them out… barely.

She stared into the dark room, trying to remember where she was and how she got there. When her disorientation lifted, everything became dreadfully clear.

“Oh, God…no!” Meredith quickly got up and exited the room. Her head felt like a thousand tiny sledge hammers were beating against the inside of her skull. She pushed herself down the hall and up the stairwell to the roof.

Gina noticed her approaching the tables. “Meredith? Are you alright? You look ill.”

Meredith grabbed the sides of her head again and nearly stumbled into the table before Frank caught her.

Rusty, Greg and Gina all rose from their seats.

“What is it?” Gina asked.

Meredith began to weep. “Oh, Gina. I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry!”

“What’s the matter with your friend?” Rusty asked.

Gina reached out for the woman. “Calm down, okay. Are we in trouble?”

Meredith’s face was pale and her eyes spoke of doom. She couldn’t stop trembling.

“Gina… they’re here. The yellow-eyed monsters are here!”

“Fuck!” Frank said, looking toward the stairwell.

“They’ve just entered town,” Meredith said. “I’m… I’m shutting them out of my mind… but it’s extremely difficult.”

“How many?” Gina asked.

“There’s at least fifty of them… maybe more… I’m so sorry, Gina. It’s all my fault.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Gina said.

Meredith looked grave. “They’ve been tracking us ever since we left the plant. I was so wrong! They can sense me like I can sense them! I was so focused on the larger group ahead of us that I never sensed the other group at all! They’ve been hiding in my mind, Gina! They’ve been using me all along and now they’ve found us!”

~~~

Next Episode (22-7):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/chapter-22-7-almost-dead/

Previous Episode (22-5):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/chapter-22-5-almost-dead/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 22-6: 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. Artcp says:

    Hey Scott, here are a few typos I found:

    If they catch sight you
    Sight of you.

    But it’s just not fair!” “Nothing seldom is…
    It seems to mean that most things are fair.

    “It’s looking though you… that’s all.”
    Through?

    “Meredith? Are you alright? You look ill?”
    Unintended question mark?

    ;D

    Like

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