Sleep: The treacherous abyss beyond the edge of conscious thought; an exclusive invitation to journey beneath the city of pleasant dreams and into the labyrinth of terrifying possibilities. Only here can madness perceive madness and attempt to make its sum manageable, broken up into digestible pieces for the overloaded but consistently famished mind…

…Gina is floating on her back upon an endless black and silent sea. The waves roll beneath her numb and naked flesh but she is anchored in place by forces beyond her.

An island emerges from the depths and moves toward her. Its appearance is every gift shop postcard she has ever purchased merged into a collage of perfect palm trees, white sand beaches, and a thousand smiling suns over calm Caribbean Seas.

Gina turns her head toward the island. Tony is there. She can see him rising from a beach chair, looking absolutely gorgeous in his trunks (or rather, lack of anything else). He’s holding two mixed drinks with funny little umbrellas in them. He calls out to her from the postcard island, but there is no sound.

She tries to move but the air is like a heavy, dark hand holding her down. She calls out to him, but there is no sound.

From behind the postcard island, an unfamiliar sun with an insane looking smile rises above the perfect palms and white beaches. It has a human face with skin that begins to fall away, revealing a blood-red sphere of tortured looking flesh. Its smile is gone, replaced by savage teeth attached to bloody gums. It is chattering, chattering, chattering.

Tony turns toward the fleshy sun and holds his hands to his face. He appears to be in pain.

From all around the postcard island, palm trees begin to melt; their vibrant colors merging then turning black, spilling across the white sand like tar.

Tony is also melting.

Gina manages to break free from the heavy air. She swims toward the postcard island, but it is too late. Tony is already gone. Everything on the surface has turned to bubbling black liquid, including the white sand.

Gina continues to swim for the melting island as it sinks into the sea.

She screams, but there is no sound.

From all around her, the black sea has turned to bodies, thousands upon thousands of mutilated bodies. She tries her best to stay afloat but the bodies are moving as one like a giant wave, forcing her back out into the darkness and away from the remains of the postcard island.

And then she hears them moaning in the dark—a million corpses crying out at once.

Gina is screaming when the dead reach out their arms and begin to pull her under. She is screaming, but there is no sound escaping her mouth. There is only the dead consuming the living. They are the only sound…


…Gina lifted the bricks above her eyes and found herself sitting with her head resting up against a wall surrounded by darkness. Memory came sluggishly. She refused to move until her heartbeat slowed and her disorientation lifted. The dream lingered in her thoughts and pierced her heart like a permanent knife wound, the blade still embedded and occasionally twisting and pushing deeper by this unmerciful waking nightmare that continued to play out.

As daylight crept in through the bottom of the closet door, her eyes adjusted as the fog around last night cleared.

That little girl!

Gina shook the thoughts away and slowly got up. Every part of her body ached as though she’d been kicked repeatedly in her sleep. She was also famished and thirsty. She couldn’t remember when she’d eaten last.

She weeded her way through the jungle of hanging clothes and out from the back of the closet. Gina opened the door revealing a child’s bedroom, untouched by the chaos outside. No death and destruction, bodies and blood—just teddy bears, rainbows, butterflies and an abundance of pink.

The sunlight hurt her eyes. How long have I been out?

Gina retrieved her cell phone from the front pocket of her overalls and was surprised the battery had not died yet. 1:35 pm.

Shit! I’ve been out for hours.

She tried to call 9-1-1 again. A No Service message continued to scroll across the screen. The internet, phone services and television channels all died yesterday morning. Gina flicked on the bedroom light switch. Nope, still no power… phone will be worthless soon.

Power throughout Geneva, Ohio was sporadic, coming on for a few moments to an hour, and then going back out again. Perhaps it’s out for good now, she thought. Maybe there’s no one left at the power plant to keep it on at all?

She shrugged the thought away and sat down on a pink bed littered with stuffed animals. She stared at the locked bedroom door and sighed.

I’m not ready to go back out there into that fucked-up world where even silence scares the shit out of me. I don’t even know who or what is in this house beyond that door. I was so fucking reckless and exhausted when I came storming in here last night, it’s a wonder I didn’t just run into a nest of those monsters. I’m too stupid to be alive right now! All I know is that it feels good in here… safe… sane.

Gina lied down on the bed and closed her eyes. She could sleep forever. Oh, God, please just let me.

Her defeated thoughts continued to pull her down into the quicksand of depression.

What’s the fucking point? Tony’s dead. No one’s looking for me. My dreams are gone. My dignity…

Gina placed her hands over her face and wept. She didn’t care about surviving, didn’t care if a fucking monster stormed in right now and ate her face off, didn’t care about the crazy man outside with his sailboat. Where would we go to escape this anyway? Fucking Canada?

For a moment, she pictured herself retrieving the gun, placing it in her mouth, and pulling the trigger…

Gina forced her eyes open and immediately found the small framed portrait on the nightstand. It was a little girl celebrating her fifth birthday with her mommy and daddy standing behind her. The girl stood before a pink frosted cake with the light of life and wonder spilling forth from her eyes and a genuine smile that defined happiness.

It was Megan, the dead girl locked in the sailboat cabin. The girl who had gone out sailing for the day with Mommy and Daddy before the world went insane and randomly chose Megan and her mommy to become monsters. The girl now imprisoned on a boat because of her father’s torturous love and inability to let her go.

“This used to be her home… a happy home,” she whispered.

Sleep or fight, Gina. That’s what it came down to now. It wasn’t going to be enough to merely survive in this terrifying new world, to simply run and hide and hope to find a hole to crawl into. Mankind had a predator now and even little girls were not exempt as prey.

Gina got up and retrieved the revolver.

Megan had a desk and vanity mirror, like most little girls, and Gina walked over to it. She sat down in the small chair and smiled, remembering her younger years of combing her long red hair as well as her favorite doll’s hair while they discussed future plans of becoming princesses and meeting a charming young knight one day. Since Father always said that she was the most beautiful girl in the land, a suitable champion would arrive and win her heart. Ah, the glorious dreams of little girls sitting before their mirrors and learning how to maintain their beauty until such a day arrived.

Gina removed the ball cap and dared a glance into the mirror. Somewhere beneath her tangled red mane was once a beautiful face now buried beneath dirt, sweat and sand. Her strong green eyes, once a dominate feature, now competed with the frown that scarred her face, a frown she believed would remain forever. She looked haunted and far away, the absent piece of her soul made evident on that sad face. And yet, with all the make-up wiped away there was a certain beauty in the truth that remained. That had to count for something.

“I was beautiful once,” she reminded the reflection. “Long before this shit ever happened.” She’d lost her beauty when she’d made her skin a weapon and let it become her confidence. When she sought the power sexuality granted, she was corrupted by it, deceived by it, until finally destroyed by it as men had their way with her flesh and pierced her soul. Gina Melborn, stripper turned whore, reduced from beautiful to meat in men’s eyes, had lost her beauty, her power… and now her self-respect. The irony didn’t escape her as she realized with a chill that she still remained a piece of meat in this new world.

I guess some things never change.

She looked away from the mirror and held up the gun. Would this dead princess choose to rise from the ashes or lie back down and spread her legs wide for whatever came next to have its way with her?

Sleep or fight. Time to choose.

Gina walked over to the portrait of Megan and picked it up. She considered what that little girl had lost in the span of one long and hellish evening, weighed it against her own loss, and discovered that her own misfortunes paled in comparison. Gina was alive. That might eventually mean something. Others had been devoured and were gone. But Megan was neither alive nor afforded the peace that came with death. She wondered if some small trace of Megan remained imprisoned within that monstrous shell on the sailboat.

Gina reached her decision. She chose to fight. It wasn’t much of a victory, but it was a battle she absolutely had to win in order to do what was now required.

She exited the bedroom, gun drawn, as she slowly crept down the stairs. No monsters in the house. As she approached the front door she did something she hadn’t done in a long time: She shot a silent prayer to God. Lord, I can’t do this without your help. It’s going to take everything I have to put that little girl down. Please help me.

Gina opened the front door, letting in the afternoon light. Again, no monsters.

She looked out toward the dock.

The sailboat was gone.


Next Episode 9-3

Previous Episode 9-1


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“Chapter 9-2: Desolate Shores” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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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