A partly-cloudy afternoon sky hovered over the day allowing the early October sun to keep the cooler weather away for a while longer. Megan’s thoughts drifted, like the puffy clouds above, as she imagined herself jumping off the highest one and landing into another that crossed beneath. She found herself wondering what cloud-sleep would be like and decided that it would be awesome. She yawned and thought, Gawd, I really need a nice long nap… half a century ought to cover it.
“Megan… Megan!” Lucas snapped his fingers in front of her face.
She came back to reality and frowned at her boyfriend. “What?” she snapped.
“Stop daydreaming and help me with the sign.”
“‘Stop daydreaming and help me with the sign’,” she mocked. “I’m sick of your stupid signs. That’s all we’ve been doing for the last six hours.” She folded her arms and sat down on the four-wheeler seat to finish her defiance. “You do it. We’re already wasting our weekend on your brother’s stupid camping trip with his weirdo friends and now we’re doing their bitch-work too?”
Lucas Rhodes rolled his eyes and placed the hammer and sign on the ground near the telephone pole. He scanned the half-full Wal-Mart parking lot again, watching as the Friday evening commuters continued to drive past the back of the parking lot on their way home through the downtown Chardon area. The telephone poll seemed like a good, visible spot.
“What, are you ignoring me now?” Megan Bishop asked.
Yes, he knew that Megan wasn’t happy about the way things turned out, but they did talk about making the most of it and not letting Jonathan, his older brother, ruin their time together. He turned and looked at the attractive girl with long blond hair and stunning blue eyes perched on top of his quad runner and said, “You’re sexy as hell when you’re pissed.”
“Stop trying to change the subject.” She refused to let him break her this time.
Lucas ran his hand through his curly brown hair and laughed. “Remember that time we cut class our Junior year and ended up four-wheeling on Old Man Barnett’s property? You were acting all big-and-bad-ass saying that you could ride because that Tonya bitch kept eye-balling me all afternoon and she kept bragging about how she taught her boyfriend, Michael, how to ride.”
A small smile broke the surface of Megan’s resolve. “That was ages ago. You remember the strangest shit at the most inappropriate times.”
“It wasn’t that long. We only graduated a few months ago.”
“Wait… wait…” Lucas was getting animated. “That’s when Tonya turned to you and said, ‘I’m surprised you even know what a quad is’ and then she like rolled her eyes at you… remember? Damn, I never saw you get so red-in-the-face so fast.”
Megan snorted and then regained her composure. “She should’ve kept her pie-hole shut. And as I recall you had no problem undressing that slut with your eyeballs. What the hell was she wearing anyway, her kid sister’s t-shirt?”
“No bra either.” He made two fists, put them on his chest and pointed with both pinkies. “You couldn’t not notice those things staring at you from across the- ”
“Really? That’s what you remember? Just shut up and hang your sign you perv.”
“Just kidding, babe. Anyway… let me finish…”
“Let’s not and say you did.”
“… I remember you jumped on Michael’s quad because it was still running and you tried to run Tonya over…” Lucas couldn’t stop laughing. “… Tonya ran like the devil wanted to get some, and then she fell into the pond… and that’s when you flipped it… oh, God, that was hil-ar-i-ous! Remember? You fell off the back and rolled to your feet trying to act like you did that shit on purpose! And when everyone was staring at you, you fucking bowed!”
Megan laughed and shook her head. “I wasn’t trying to run her over. I just didn’t know how to stop that damn thing once I got it started. I don’t know how I didn’t break my neck that day.”
“They called you Hell-On-Wheels after that… remember? And Tonya was screaming and crying in the pond, ‘Help me, help me… I can’t swim!’… and then she finally put her feet down and the pond was only like three feet deep. Classic!”
Both of them were rolling with laughter now.
He walked over to her, leaned in and surprised her with a kiss.
“What was that for?” she asked.
“I remember that I fell in love with you that day. I never wanted to be with anyone else after that.”
She punched him in the shoulder.
“What the hell was that for?” he asked.
“That’s for making it so damn hard to stay mad at you!”
He charmed her with a smile and said, “Forgive me, babe.” He flashed his puppy-dog eyes. “You complete me.”
“Oh, gawd, don’t start that shit, cornball. Last time you did that, I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they’d never come back down.”
Lucas laughed. “Seriously though, thanks for being a good sport about all this. I know you and Jonathan don’t get along, and I appreciate you suffering through this weekend for me.”
She grabbed him by the chin and said, “It’s not like that. I don’t mind your brother when he leaves you out of his schemes. You need to learn how to say ‘no’ to him. He goes away for months at a time and then comes prancing back into town on his latest horse of charismatic bullshit. And then he goads you into running after him again until he makes you look like some damn groupie. You should stand up to him and stop letting him bully you around.”
Lucas frowned and then nodded. “You’re right… as usual. But I promise you, it’s not like that this time. It’s just that I haven’t seen him in over a year and then he shows up out of the blue and wants me to check out this group that he’s joined. He makes it sound like some kind of survivalist group. He tells me that they changed his life and he wants me to come check it out for myself. You didn’t see him, Megan. He was completely different this time. He’s changed.”
Megan rolled her eyes. “He’s just manipulating you again, Lucas. Can’t you see that?”
“Well… he’s still my brother,” Lucas huffed defensively. “He tells me that he won’t be around long and that he doesn’t know when he’ll be back again. Something to do with the training program he’s involved with. Anyway, after this weekend he’s off again to God-knows-where, so I have to do this.”
Megan’s shoulders dropped. “I know… I know…” She brushed his brown poodle hair and finished, “You’re a good man and that’s why I love you so much. But your heart’s so big that you never see when someone’s using you… and he is using you again.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But this weekend’s all we have.” He paused and said, “It’s not too late. You don’t have to come. I won’t be upset.”
“Yeah… yeah… we know how that works out. I’ll be home worrying about you all weekend while he cons you into whatever trouble he’s brought with him this time. And then you’ll come home all upset when he leaves and take it out on me because I didn’t come. Besides, he knows I won’t stand for his crap and he at least tries to behave when I’m around.”
Lucas smiled. “And that’s why they still call you Hell-On-Wheels to this day!”
“Just shut up and let’s get these last few signs up before I remember what a waste of time this is,” she said.
“So you’re not still mad about this weekend? I know you had something special planned.”
More than you know. She thought about her trip to the doctor’s office earlier this week. “It’s okay. Like you said, your brother’s only here for the weekend. What’s a few more days, right? We’ll just try for next weekend. There’s time.”
“You’re the best… and you’re hot!”
“Don’t forget ‘smart’ too. I want the whole package.” She pulled him in for a kiss.
“The hell with the signs,” he said, becoming aroused. “Let’s just get this last one up and we’ll say we hung the rest.”
She smiled. “Now that sounds like a great idea… I’m surprised you came up with it.”
“Ha…ha…” he said sarcastically. Lucas picked up the flyer, held it against the telephone pole at head level, and asked, “How’s that? Can you see it good from there?”
Megan read the flyer again for the umpteenth time:
YOU ARE NOT SAFE.
THE GOVERNMENT IS DYING
THE DEAD ARE COMING.
PAWNS OF THE APOCALYPSE
HAVE BEEN ACTIVATED.
DO NOT BECOME PREY,
THE LIONS ARE LOOSE.
WHEN YOU WAKE IN HELL
COME FIND US.
WE HAVE ANSWERS.
WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WATCHING.
WE WILL KEEP YOU SAFE.
She looked again at the strange symbol at the top. To her it resembled some three-pronged candle holder with an eye resting on the top. “I give up. What the hell does it mean? It’s got to be some kind of joke, right? And what’s this ‘evacuation center’ stuff at the bottom in fine print?”
“Don’t know,” Lucas said, hammering in a nail. “All Jonathan told me was that it was important and that it was supposed to raise public awareness, or something. He was pretty secret-squirrel about the details.”
She continued to ponder on the meaning of the message. “It’s gibberish. None of it makes a lick of sense. What do you know about these ‘new friends’ your brother’s meeting up with tonight?”
“He wouldn’t say. All he said was that there are a few others putting flyers up this weekend. He said we’ll meet a few of them tonight.” Lucas stopped and gave her a puzzled look. “Jonathan kept calling us all ‘recruits’, whatever that means.”
“Oh, that just reeks of your brother’s bull. He tells you just enough to leave you dangling on his fishing line because Jonathan knows you probably wouldn’t come if you knew what he had planned.”
“Well… I’m just glad he’s back. I was starting to worry about him being gone so long.” Lucas finished posting the flyer and stepped back. “I think we picked a good spot for this one.”
They both stared at the flyer in silence.
“‘The dead are coming’,” Lucas read out loud and smiled. “Sounds like a Halloween thing to me.”
“Of course it is,” Megan said, not entirely convinced. “Your brother loves to set the stage before he turns all dramatic after a few beers. I bet he’s dying for us to ask him about the stupid flyer.”
Lucas turned away and said, “Let’s get the quad gassed up and get it in the truck. Once we get to Miller’s Pond, We’ll have to ride in on the trails another couple of miles to get to the campsite. Maybe we can get there early and see what Jonathan’s got planned. You with me?”
Megan smiled. “What? Are you suggesting we spoil your brother’s big surprise and steal his thunder? Hell yeah, I’m with you.”
They jumped on the four-wheeler and pulled in to the gas station next door.
It was 5:30 pm, on the last normal Friday afternoon before the end. The wind gusted briefly causing the flyer to shift slightly on the telephone pole, one loose corner flapping violently as if pleading for someone to stop, read and take heed of the warning ignored by most.
Two hours later, a day shift Wal-Mart manager on his way home would notice the flyer and remove it with an annoying shake of his head.
By midnight, the manager would be in his bed, tossing and turning, dreading a long day of checking inventory that started early the next morning. Far from his thoughts would be the strange flyer that was crumbled up and discarded, lying on the backseat of his car.
By 4:00 am, Saturday morning, the day shift manager with the fierce yellow eyes, will have forgotten all about his under-paid and under-appreciated job. He won’t know or care how he ends up in his neighbor’s home, the single woman with the gorgeous legs who occasionally flirted with him on the rare Saturdays he was off. He won’t care about anything except the blood as he is in her bed, ripping the woman’s throat out with his teeth.
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“Chapter 23-1: Recruits” 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.