There were no goodbyes. After finding out that Meredith was awake, no one except Tommy came back out to see them off.

Everyone kept to themselves as they descended to the second floor, carefully trying not to step on the yellow-eyed corpses that dominated the hallways.

After exiting out and down the rope ladder from the children’s playroom, Gina gave the old building one last look.

Meredith stepped up beside her and said, “Don’t hold this against them, honey. They’re only trying to do what they feel is right. For them, I’m something as foreign as the dead, and people, even good people, fear what they can’t understand. I think they’ve been through enough, don’t you?”

Gina frowned sadly and said, “Of course you’re right, Meredith. I get it. It’s just… ”

“What, honey?”

Gina fought back the tears. “I was convinced that we’d found our new home. And now, the road seems so much harder. It would’ve been better if we’d never found these people if all it meant was just one more illusion of hope.”

“Take heart, Gina. We still have each other.”

Gina turned to the shipwreck that was Stephen and then back to Meredith. “How many more people will I get killed before we ever reach the mountains? I can hardly stand this, Meredith. Maybe if I hadn’t lingered in this town and been lulled to sleep by something normal, Amanda might still be alive now. That’s six people we lost last night because of my bad call.”

Meredith sighed and said, “Gina, don’t do this to yourself. We live in a hostile world now where any of us could die in the next few moments. We’ve all accepted this. How do you think I feel? Those beasts were tracking me! And I never even knew… and now several people are dead because I was an arrogant fool that thought…” Meredith stopped herself, wiping tears from her eyes. “Now look what you’ve done.” The older woman smiled.

Gina gave her a big hug and said, “Thank you.”

“For what, honey?”

“For keeping me sane.”

Tommy was pacing impatiently at a distance. He hadn’t spoken a word since the end of the attack, perhaps he’d never speak again.

I can’t imagine what that young man is going through right now, Gina thought. His small fragile crawl space in this insane new world has been destroyed and now he’s just a frightened and confused teen, left wondering what uncertain future awaits him. “We’re ready, Tommy,” Gina said.

Tommy nodded, giving her a grateful look, and then started walking nervously down the block toward the auto shop.

The Suburban was nothing special. There were no steel-plated windows, a mounted machine gun sticking out of a sun roof, and large spikes surrounding the body like something out of a Road Warrior movie. It was just another old, abandoned vehicle salvaged by Rusty’s group that was fit enough to run with a full tank of gas.

Gina and the others tossed their gear in the back and climbed in.

Tommy came around to the driver side and handed Greg a map. “Most of the major roads through here are congested with cars. If you follow the back roads Rusty was talking about, you should get pretty close to Andover without any trouble.”

“Thank you, son,” Greg said. He noticed Tommy’s eyes sink. “I’m truly sorry about your friends. They fought bravely… just like you.”

After a few moments, Tommy said, “I wish I had died in there with the others. They’re the lucky ones.”

Greg didn’t know what to say.

“Good luck to all of you,” Tommy said and then he simply walked away.

Frank watched the young man go. “I wonder how many more ghosts, like that poor kid, we’re going to find along the way. This world’s making them long before the dying is finished.”

Gina glanced at Stephen sitting in between herself and Meredith. He was as still as a corpse. For once, Gina could not counter Frank’s cold assessment. She felt more alone than she’d ever known; alone and struggling to find the strength to push on toward the mountains. Every time they found a moment to breathe and attempted to plant a small crop of hope, the dead would come and flood the fields with blood and despair. Surviving was turning into nothing more than shifts of nightmare infested sleep, where the monsters of regret, fear and pain fed upon the broken. And being awake meant running a marathon called living that just seemed impossible to win.

They all began to feel the effects of the slow-working poison that had been injected into their fragile dreams from the beginning—from the moment The Change had destroyed the world they came from. And that poison had now traveled up the blood stream and was attacking the vital organ of Hope.

Gina looked out her window and watched young Tommy disappear between two car wrecks as he turned a corner and simply faded into the grey of another lifeless town.

“No… we’re not ghosts,” she said out loud. “Almost dead… but definitely not ghosts.”

“What was that?” Greg asked.

She quickly shook off the dark thought before it could sink in and kill her from within. “Greg, get us the hell out of here.”

He got the Suburban moving and drove them out of the ghost town once known as Jefferson.


Rusty’s route down toward Andover took them through farm country as one two-lane road emptied into another without incident. Only once did they encounter the dead as they slowly drove past a stranded station wagon that had veered off the road at some point, and struck a tree dead on. They could see the mangled remains of the driver that had been propelled half-way through the windshield, leaving a bloody mess upon the banged up hood. As they were about to pass the vehicle, they caught sight of a bloody little girl inside who was feeding on the driver’s legs.

The girl with large dark and sunken eyes turned to stare at the strangers through the passenger side window, unconcerned about the piece of flesh that dangled out of the corner of her mouth.

They stared back, unable to process the grim scene but unable to look away from the pitiful girl.

Greg stopped the car. “Should we… put her down?” he asked, feeling horrible for sounding like he was referring to a stray animal.

“No,” Gina said, her voice drained of emotion. She looked away from the girl. “We need every bullet we have left.”

The zombie girl started to move toward the window and then remembered her meal. She turned back, losing interest in her spectators, and stuck her bloody chin deep into the thigh of the dead driver.

Frank sat back and said, “Count me out for lunch… forever.”

Greg drove away.


By late afternoon, they were two miles outside of Andover and low on fuel when Gina told Greg to head back toward the main highway into town. They managed to weave through the wreck of abandoned vehicles for another mile before they could go no further with the Suburban.

They silently grabbed their supplies, made ready their weapons, and moved off the highway to avoid any surprises lurking within the vehicles.

They entered the desolate village of Andover thirty minutes later and found that it resembled Jefferson with its old red brick buildings and personalized store-fronts, but on a much smaller scale as they reached the center of town rather suddenly.

Everyone was exhausted—physically and emotionally—and no one noticed movement on the roof of the three-story building they had just passed.

Greg, trailing at the rear of the group, looked beyond the town’s business district and saw the tops of the mountains calling for them in the distance. “Well, we’re closer now than we’ve ever been,” he said from directly behind Gina. “This little town feeds on the tourism that Lake Pymatuning brings its way. We should be able to find all the campin’ supplies that we need for the- ”

The shot from the rifle echoed all around them like thunder as Gina reacted and dropped to the ground. Everyone did likewise as they tried to pinpoint the location of the shooter.

“We’re exposed out here!” Frank yelled.

Gina felt dizzy and faint. She started searching for cover and noticed something warm and sticky running down her neck. In fact, her whole back felt wet. She reached for her neck and then examined her bloody fingers.

I’m… I’m shot? she thought, searching frantically for a wound she couldn’t feel.

“Fuck!” Frank yelled from beside her.

Meredith was screaming.

Gina turned around and stopped breathing. She grabbed the sides of her head as if she was about to implode.

Greg lay dead on the ground in a pool of blood; half his head had been blown clean off.

“No!” she screamed.

More shots rang out from behind them.

“Move!” Frank yelled, as he grabbed Greg’s hunting rifle off the ground and fired toward indistinguishable shapes hunched down on the roof of the building that had just passed.

Gina was in a shock. She couldn’t move. A bullet struck the street near her right foot; another, just missing her left hand.

Marcus was moving… fast.

Frank spotted a narrow alley between two small businesses. He dropped the rifle and bolted toward Meredith and Stephen who had ducked down and were both being fired at. He grabbed them both by the backs of their shirts and began dragging them toward the alley, shouting, “MOTHER FUCKERS!”

A round went straight through his left arm, but it did not slow him down. The pain only further fueled his

Several more rounds struck the street around Gina, but she refused to move. She couldn’t look away from the man lying in the pool of blood. “Greg…” she shouted at the body. “Greg… get up!”

Marcus was targeted as he sped toward Gina. He reached her and began dragging her up by the arm, until she was stumbling blindly backward toward the alley.

Greg? What about… Greg?

Her mind was gone.

The snipers on the roof top stopped as Marcus and Frank got everyone into the alley.

Frank gritted his teeth as he put direct pressure on his arm wound.

Gina lay like a rag doll near the end of the alley, staring at her dead friend still lying in the street and not understanding why he didn’t follow.

“Greg!” she shouted again.

Marcus grabbed her by the shoulders, spun her around, and slapped her hard across the face.

The pain brought her back as she stared into Marcus’s eyes and suddenly hated him. “You… fucking… piece of shit!” she spit in his face while punching him wildly in the chest. “I’ll fucking kill you!”

Marcus grabbed her arms and said, “Gina! Calm down! You’re losing it!”

Gina registered the voice and stopped as recognition came back. She ripped her arms from his grasp, breathing hard and trying to get a handle on her emotions.

Marcus held his hands up to let her know he meant her no harm.

She turned back toward the alley and stared at the last of their hope bleeding out on another dead-end street.

“We… we can’t stay here,” Frank said. “Those fuckers are probably… probably repositioning right now for better shots.”

Meredith and Stephen looked like frightened children waiting to be told what to do.

“Gina,” Meredith said. “Greg’s gone and Stephen’s not well. We need to find somewhere to hide and figure this- ”

“Shut up!” she said coldly, turning toward her. “Just… shut… up.”

Meredith gasped, looking into the eyes of a woman she did not recognize.

Gina turned to Frank. “How much ammo do we have left?”

“Not… not much. Just whatever magazines Rusty could spare for the hand guns. Greg had the rest of our rifle ammo in his pack.”

Gina tossed her pack to the ground and began retrieving whatever 9mm ammo she could find.

“Whatever you’re thinking, Gina,” Marcus started cautiously, “take a moment and regain control first. You’re not in your right mind.”

“Frank,” she said. “Can you still fight?”

He gave her a wicked grin and said, “I’ve never… I’ve never stopped fucking fighting… ever!

“Marcus,” she said, stuffing two magazines into her pant pockets, “I know it’s not fair of me to ask, but I need you to help me. I need you and Frank to help me finish this.”

Marcus frowned. “What you’re thinking, Gina… no good can come from it.”

Gina laughed nervously, holding her handgun, and said, “I’m not a fan of ‘good’ right now. In fact, ‘good’ can just fuck the hell off.”

Frank had drawn his .45 and an additional magazine for it. “Call it, Boss. What… what do you want to do?”

She walked up to Marcus, grabbed his machete from his belt and threw it at his feet. She looked him dead in the eyes, all emotion gone except for the coldness that seized her heart, and said, “We’re going to kill every last one of these animals… right fucking now.”


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Part Four-Sign of the Times

“Chapter 22-13: 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.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, awsome, and totally unexpected great chapter


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