angel-218202_641

~~~

Donovan lifted his bow toward the hideous creature and stopped. He could clearly see the remains of a rope shift down over the swell of the woman’s right breast. There was also a curious wound that ran clear across the woman’s throat.

It started to shamble toward Lucas and Megan on twisted legs, one ankle appeared broken.

I got it all wrong, Donovan thought, remembering the snapped rope hanging off the loft. Turns out this thing is the survivor. He lowered the crossbow with a smile.

“Donovan!” Jonathan said. “What are you doing? Shoot the fucking thing… it’s going for my brother!”

He looked at him and said, “You brought him out here and now look what he’s caused. This is on you. Handle it.”

Lucas and Megan were backing up through the trees.

The woman was getting faster, pushing her broken limbs out in front as the blood compelled her to ignore the frail contraption that carried her to the new food source. She snapped her teeth and hissed at the couple, closing the gap between them.

The others, shaking their paralysis, drew their firearms.

“No!” Donovan shouted. “You’ll wake the whole fucking forest up with those! Have you all forgotten your training already?”

Jonathan pulled out the machete he had selected from their cache of weapons. He was already on the move, shouting, “Recruits! With me!”

Violet, Simon and Dwayne followed Jonathan around the creature until they formed a semi-circle behind it.

“Violet!” he called. “You get it to chase you… we’ll take it from behind… just like we drilled.”

Violet looked reluctant but complied. “Hey! Hey you bitch! Over here!”

The woman stopped and turned toward the new sound. This one was much closer… she could smell the blood through tattooed skin. The woman scrambled toward Violet, moving even faster in the frenzied state of knowing it was about to sink teeth in flesh.

“Fuck me!” Violet shouted, swinging her hunting knife out in front of her to avoid being hit by its bloody arms.

And then the creature was falling forward as Dwayne and Simon grabbed its legs from behind.

The woman fell on her face, shattering two of her front teeth on a sharp rock. It did not faze her as she started to crawl toward the blood bag made of flesh.

Violet would not dare try to reach in for the head shot, not with those arms swinging out at her. One fucking cut and I’m just like her, she thought with a chill.

“Jonathan!” Dwayne called out, barely holding on to its cold foot. “It’s stronger than it looks!”

Simon had already lost his grip on the woman’s cold, clammy leg.

Jonathan jumped on its back and pushed the woman’s head into the dirt. “Hurry up! Grab its fucking arms!”

Dwayne and Simone were there. They held the woman’s arms down.

“Violet! Finish the fucking thing!” Jonathan yelled, turning its head to the side but struggling to keep it down.

Violet hesitated. She was looking at the female version of the Boogeyman. Finally she stepped forward and put the knife blade at an angle behind its ear. She was about to slam the hilt home with her free hand.

“That’s enough!” Donovan shouted, grabbing Violet’s hand. “Don’t kill it. We need it… alive.”

Jonathan gave him a crazy look.

Donovan grabbed his machete and told Dwayne and Simon, “Keep its arms down tight. Don’t fucking move.”

The recruits complied as best they could.

Donovan gave the pitiful creature an admiring glance and said, “Fucking thing’s probably got more broken bones then it knows… and it’s still strong as hell.”

He knelt down beside the woman, lifted the blade and then hacked both her hands clean off.

Dwayne vomited again.

Megan gasped in horror, covering her mouth. She buried her face in Lucas’s shoulder as the brutal image was scarred into her memory.

Lucas spared her what he saw in the garden. That nightmare was his alone. Where the woman had sat undisturbed until he had opened his big, damn mouth, was the other half of the man from the vehicle, reduced to bloody mush and exposed bones, like road kill among the flowers. Lying beside the sickening remains was the head of the angel statue, staring out at him.

~~~

Somewhere in the dark, unspeakable places, where the primal thoughts of the dead remain active like wild animals in mental cages, there are shards of memory like splinters that are embedded too deep into flesh, that simply remain with the body, even after death and re-animation have occurred, even after The Change. Shards that linger in borrowed shells, speaking in behalf of the previous owners, long since departed. These shards are a mystery, but perhaps they are the lingering imprint on flesh to remind the desecraters that they do not belong here and that there will one day be a reckoning for those that are occupying vacant abodes for perverse purposes the Creator never intended. Again, it is a mystery. And sometimes, these mysterious memories surface when the dead go dormant or inactive… when the blood is not compelling them to feed… when the blood is not paying attention… and that is when the dead have dreams.

There is no one left alive that remembers her. No one mourns the nameless. She does not dream of the woman she was, or the husband she despised. Both she and he are irrelevant. She does not remember running through the woods with the man who murdered her as the dead reached out, grabbed at her hair, her shoulders… scratched her leg.

She does not dream of her own death as her throat is split open, the blood running down the front of her shirt, the world going suddenly dark all around her.

She does not dream of re-animating, dangling from a rope like a prize, and falling to the ground when the rope snaps and her leg breaks. The dead are wandering off when they realize she is no longer appetizing.

She only has one dream now: Janet Schuler dreams of her garden… always the garden…

The hooded bag-of-blood is watching her again. She can smell him from the back of the stall as she pulls against the rope to reach out for him. The intense lust for his blood, for her teeth tearing into his soft flesh, would drive a human insane. But she is not human. She is a monster; a nameless monster that dreams of a garden that was once a source of peace, and now, just an emotionless memory. It just knows to go there, just as it knows it must eat the man.

~~~

Donovan continued to stare into its lifeless dark sockets, searching for recognition, hatred, fear… anything at all that he could exploit. As far as he could tell, the woman was no different from an animal… a predator that fed upon his kind.

“You want to rip me to pieces, don’t you?” he asked it.

The woman growled at the sound of his voice and pulled harder against the rope still tied around her armpits, the other end now secured to a hook along the back wall, giving it about three feet of movement.

He looked at the bloody stumps where it hands used to be. Instead of bleeding out, the monster’s black, thick blood simply stopped flowing. “You can’t bleed to death… can’t feel pain… remorse… loss… damn, I almost envy you,” he said.

The creature did not respond. All it saw when it looked at the man was need.

Donovan laughed. “I see you as a formidable adversary, but you… you see me as, what? Lunch?”

The woman continued to pull against the rope, reaching out its arms, not even realizing it had no hands to grab him.

Donovan found the image comical. “Still… there has to be more to you than this? I clearly have the advantage and could put you down as easily as a rabid dog, and yet, you continue to fight, unable or unwilling to give up on your goal to have me. That is something to take to heart when we next run into your kind, isn’t it? We may be able to outsmart you, but in the long run, who will outlast the other… hmm? I wonder.”

“You wonder what?” Jonathan asked walking up. He looked over into the closed stall at the monster and shuddered as it yanked against the rope even harder, trying to reach out for him. “Damn thing is creepy.”

“Persistent,” Donovan corrected.

“Yeah, there is that,” he said, looking away at staring at the hooded man. “Everyone is still unnerved by it being in here. They’re all still outside waiting for you to come out and tell them it’s over.”

“Over?”

“Yeah… you know… after you’ve finished studying it and put it down.”

Donovan laughed. “Who says it won’t be traveling with us from now on? Seems like a good idea considering how terrified your team is around them.”

Jonathan searched the man’s face to see if he was serious.

Donovan laughed and said, “Jonathan… Jonathan… relax. I wouldn’t dream of burdening you all with the logistics of moving this lovely thing around. Chances are, it would figure out how to kill one of you eventually.”

Jonathan had no response to that. He looked back at the woman and said, “We went through a lot of trouble getting this thing back to the barn… at considerable risk, as well… could you tell me why?”

Know thy Enemy, Jonathan. That is why we brought it back here. We’re about to face a whole world full of creatures like this. It’s not hypothetical anymore. The dead are really here now. Don’t you think it’s worth taking the time, and the risk, to find out what these things are capable of?”

Jonathan nodded. “Sorry. When you put it that way… I guess that’s why you’re in charge. You’re looking at the big picture and I’m only looking at killing it as fast as possible. I’ve got a lot to learn.”

“We all do, Jonathan,” Donovan said. “That’s one of Mother’s primary missions… that’s why this thing is tied up in this stall. We are learning as we go now. All that scenario bullshit from before, goes out the window when facing the real deal… and this is as real as it gets. Truth is, killing these bastards is the easy part. Understanding how they will evolve… well, that’s what’s going to get us killed if we fall behind the curve. Do you understand that?”

“Yes. I think I do.” Jonathan took a deep breath and said, “I’ll tell the others to stop their belly-aching and get used to the idea of having the zombie around… for as long as is required.”

“Better convince yourself of that first,” Donovan chided.

Dwayne barged into the barn and said, “Simon found a broadcast on the emergency AM radio! Sounds like a recording on a loop, but at least it’s something to get us out of the Dark Ages.”

~~~

…EMERGENCY PANDEMIC EVACUATIONS IN EFFECT… TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY… MARTIAL LAW HAS BEEN DECLARED THROUGHOUT THE STATE… A STANDING CURFEW IS IN EFFECT FOR ALL COUNTIES… ALL CITIZENS HAVE BEEN ORDERED TO REMAIN INDOORS FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE AND ARE NOT TO LEAVE THEIR HOMES UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES… THE NATIONAL GUARD HAS BEEN ORDERED TO SHOOT WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE ANYONE ATTEMPTING TO VIOLATE THE CURFEW AND ALL WHO ARE FOUND WANDERING THE STREETS BETWEEN SUNSET AND SUNRISE WILL BE CONSIDERED HOSTILE, REPEAT, ALL WHO ARE FOUND…

“You can go ahead and turn that garbage off,” Donovan advised. “It’s all bullshit intended to scare the public and control the population. They would rather we die in our own homes as our family members turn on us.”

Simon reluctantly turned off the radio. “So, I guess that means this thing’s really gone global.”

Megan began to cry.

“They mentioned something about the Percy Power Plant,” Lucas added. “They said it was a safe zone for anyone that could reach it.”

“More lies,” Donovan said. “Anyone that goes there is dead. You can’t find safety in numbers that size. One infected person gets through, it’s all over.”

“You don’t know every damn thing!” Megan shouted. “You’re just as in the dark as we are. I think you want us to stay away from anyone that could help us because… I don’t know… maybe you’re enjoying all this!”

“Megan,” Jonathan said, “Please, shut up!”

“Don’t talk to her like that!” Lucas said. “Maybe she’s right. Donovan’s just one man. What makes what he says gospel when the News is saying something else?”

The other recruits were getting upset now.

“Why don’t you and your girlfriend just stay out of this! Haven’t you done enough damage already?” Violet shouted. “You have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“Violet… it’s alright,” Donovan said. “Please… everyone just calm down.” He looked at Megan and Lucas and let out a long sigh. “I understand your doubts, I really do. You know nothing about me or my affiliations, other than what Jonathan has told you. But I ask you to consider that we—that is, Mother—has put a lot of time, money and resources in play for just this solitary event. Can you think of anyone else that would be better qualified to provide you with real answers other than an organization that has devoted its entire existence to the preparation of a zombie apocalypse? I mean, just yesterday, did you two not find out that Jonathan and his recruits were already training for this very event? What about the flyers you were putting up? Didn’t they just put out the early warning to anyone that would listen? Even now, you benefit from our organization that has provided you an immediate place of safety, with weapons, communications, food, water… and a group of trained zombie killers to keep you both alive. What has your government done about anything so far except threaten the public under the ruse of a curfews and Martial Law?

Lucas and Megan had nothing to say.

Donovan smiled. “Look, all I ask is that you stay patient with me and trust me when I say that you are in the safest place you could be right now, far from the epidemic of mass panic that has probably killed more people already than the zombies have. The Percy Power Plant, and locations like it, are nothing more than places for people to gather and die. I’m sorry if that upsets you, Megan, but I’m not here to sugar coat what’s coming… and it’s going to be a long hard road for anyone wishing to stay alive.”

Megan nodded. “This has been a really stressful last two days. I’m sorry I took my frustrations out on you.”

“That’s alright,” Donovan smiled. “Now, if we’re done listening to government propaganda… how about we head inside. It’s going to be dark in a few hours. We should eat and rest while we can.” He got up and headed back into the barn.

The others looked to Jonathan.

“I don’t want to sleep anywhere near that thing!” Dwayne said.

Everyone was equally vocal in voicing their displeasure at the idea.

“We’ll post a guard on it and rotate shifts,” he said. “Either way, you all need to get the hell over it… fast. Donovan says we need to learn what we can from it so the creepy zombie stays put for now.”

The recruits reluctantly nodded and followed Jonathan into the barn.

Lucas was about to follow but Megan held him back.

“We’re leaving,” she stated.

“What? Are you crazy?”

“First opportunity I get, I’m headed for that power plant, with or without you. I have to think about the baby, even if you’re not ready to talk about it.”

“Megan… it’ s not like that,” Lucas said. “I… we just haven’t had time to discuss it, since you told me. I was meaning to sit down with you and talk about it, after everything got less insane.”

“Well, that’s great,” she said, unconvinced. “But that changes nothing. I’m still getting the hell out of here first chance I get. And I hope you won’t leave me and your baby to do it alone, with or without your brother.” She stormed off toward the barn, leaving Lucas alone with his heavy thoughts.

~~~

As the evening sky swallowed up the last of the day, everyone sat huddled around a small battery-powered camping lantern near the front of the barn, trying to eat what their nervous stomachs would allow. Everyone was exhausted and the tension of the last two days could be felt like a tangible presence trying to smother them. What made matters worse was that they could hear the low moans of the woman in the last stall as she shuffled about, trying to get free of her make-shift cell as she could smell them all… and she was very hungry.

Before the others headed up to the loft to get settled in for the night, Jonathan, volunteered to take the first watch and advised them to keep whatever lights they had dim to avoid notice. After that, Jonathan went outside to have a private discussion with Donovan.

Lucas and Megan set up their bedding opposite the three recruits who lined up along the other side. They all moved as far away from the open loft door as possible to avoid the draft and to hide their flashlight beams. Unfortunately, they were directly over the stalls and they could hear the maddening moans of the zombie woman below as she continued to yearn for them.

“Damn! I wish we could just shut that fucker in the head already!” Violet said, losing her patience.

No one was in disagreement as they all tried their best to let exhaustion seize them and prayed their restless sleep would not betray and deliver them into nightmares.

An hour later, Jonathan was pacing the barn interior with his flashlight feeling incredibly alone in the strange darkness of the barn. He couldn’t stop thinking about his conversation with Donovan outside shortly before he left them.

Jonathan pulled the pager out of his pocket, wishing some message would light up on the screen. There was nothing.

The woman continued to moan and struggle against her restraints even though Jonathan was careful not to get too close to the stall and let it see him. Apparently the smell of their blood was all it took to get her riled up.

This is going to be a fucking long night, he thought, putting the pager back in his pocket.

He sat down against the barn doors and ran his hands through his blond hair. He was tired. Tired of the zombie apocalypse already. Tired of being the leader. Tired of trying to watch out for his little brother and his girlfriend who did nothing but upset the balance of their group. But mostly, he was tired of keeping secrets.

Jonathan closed his eyes and thought again about his last discussion with Donovan:

…“I’m leaving tonight,” Donovan had announced. “I might be gone for a few days… and no, you’re not allowed to ask me why or where I’m going.”

Jonathan had the look of a man who was about to face the gallows. “What are we supposed to do… just wait?”

“First off, you get whatever you can learn from that walking corpse in there, I don’t care how you do it, but don’t kill it. I mean it.”

“Alright. Anything else?”

Donovan had handed him the pager. “Just in case I don’t come back, you’ll need that if Headquarters tries to contact the cell groups. They have a private exchange, their own fucking land line, just for this pager system to stay functioning. Must have cost Mother a fortune.”

“And… that’s it, then? We wait for you to come back… if you come back?”

Donovan had frowned and said, “Calm down. You don’t need me to spoon feed you anymore. This is your cell, so start acting like it. Remember your training and wait for H.Q. to contact you. I’ll be back in a few days.”

“One more question.”

“Go ahead.”

“My brother is still safe, right? As per the arrangement?”

Donovan had given him a stern look. “Are you calling Mother a cheat?”

“No, of course not. I just thought since… well, since my mission was before all this went down… that it might not matter anymore and that Lucas… well, Lucas might not matter anymore to Mother.”

“Your mission has not changed. You need to keep Megan alive… something you almost screwed up if I’m recalling correctly. She continues to be your cell’s primary mission. Are we clear?”

“Yes.”

“That means the arrangements surrounding the mission still apply. As long as Megan, and her child, are delivered safely to H.Q. when they’re ready for her, then your brother still has a place there too.”

“Is she that important? I mean, we went to a lot of trouble to relocate the cell back here, as instructed, just to invite my brother out on the off-chance that he would bring her too. Surely Mother could’ve found another baby.”

“Your connection, as well as the timing of Megan’s impregnation, was advantageous. We knew that she would come just as we knew she was pregnant before she found out. Come on, Jonathan… why does all this surprise you? You do realize that Mother has a plan that goes well over both of our heads… right?”

“Right, of course.”

“Don’t lose faith, Jonathan. I know you didn’t expect all this ‘zombie’ shit to be for real when you signed on… but now that you know better… it’s time to get it together and deal with it. You have a huge responsibility to your group and to me… and to Mother.”

Jonathan had swallowed hard and nodded. “I understand. I can handle this.”

Donovan gave him a long hard look and said. “I know you can.” He had turned and walked off into the tall grass without another word…

Jonathan opened his eyes and whispered into the dark. “Sorry, little brother. I did this to give you a chance.”

If Lucas ever found out the price Jonathan paid to secure him sanctuary at H.Q., he would hate him forever. I just never thought it was all… for real, he thought. With a heavy sigh, he got up and paced the barn, consoling himself with the knowledge that turning over Megan to H.Q. would save his brother’s life.

~~~

Next Episode (23-6):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/chapter-23-6-recruits/

Previous Episode (23-4):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/chapter-23-4-recruits/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 23-5: 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.

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    spent the last couple of days catching up, on the last 6 chapters!
    wow. loving the mystery of mother! keep up the excellent work :)

    Like

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