Amanda finished getting dressed and stopped herself from reaching for the near-empty vodka bottle. She turned instead to watch Marcus put his clothes on. “Rushing back to your wife on the other side of camp?” she teased.

Marcus smiled. “You got it. She doesn’t mind me seeing other women as long as I check in on occasion. Sometimes she wants to… how do I put this… participate? She has a thing for big-breasted woman.”

Amanda almost thought he was serious. Her anxiety level rose immediately. She eyeballed the vodka again. Marcus had a dry humor about him that made it hard to tell when he was joking. She punched him in the shoulder and said, “It’s a good thing you’re full of shit. If you had a wife, I’d have your nuts in my hand right now and I’d take them to her myself!”

“My, you’re a feisty one. No hidden wives in my pocket.” He then turned serious and said, “You know, this is going to sound crazy, and I know we’ve only just met, but this apocalypse is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

“That is crazy.” She reached for the bottle and took a sip.

“I don’t mean to sound selfish and horrible, considering everyone who’s died, but if none of this had happened I would never have met you.”

“Well, isn’t that some romantic shit.” She rolled her eyes and finished off the bottle.

Marcus took the shot in stride. He began to pack his gear. “In any case, I’m not trying to get all lovey-dovey on you. I just wanted to say I had a great time last night and I like you, Amanda. I hope we’ll get a chance to know each other better when all this blows over.”

“Finally, someone who isn’t looking all gloom and doom right now! You should talk to the losers I came in with. You would think the world was ending and that we should be searching for razor blades after listening to them.”

“They fear the worst. That’s natural,” Marcus said. “Fear keeps us in cages. I try not to focus on it and look for the positive slant instead.”

“Which is?”

He kissed her.

“Good answer.”

Marcus pulled away and stood by the tent exit. “It’s beautiful out there today. People are using the good weather to help them forget.”

“Well sure they are. Anything’s better than dwelling on… what’s been lost.”

Marcus smiled. “They’re trying to forget how afraid they are. You can almost smell their fear. I bet those predators out there can smell it, too.”

“Let’s not bring them up.”

Marcus seemed lost in thought. He finally said, “Once you lose everything and survive it, there’s really nothing left to fear.”

Amanda said nothing. She simply nodded, becoming increasingly uncomfortable the more personal Marcus became.

“I lost my family, my loved ones, long before this outbreak,” he continued. “I had to face that in order to survive. Once you face the emptiness, Amanda, as I was forced to do at an early age, fear loses its power. And from there, a whole new world rises up from the broken one. Everything becomes fresh again; new choices, opportunities… freedom. Know what I mean?”

“No, I don’t know what you mean.” She was angry that he’d turned the conversation on her. “When you lose a child it’s like the whole world just becomes a lie and nothing feels the same again. You talk about emptiness, well, that’s the place where my soul used to be and it fucking died with my daughter. There’s no way to face that kind of loss.” She needed a drink.

He nodded. “I’m sorry, Amanda. I know your life has been hard. First, losing your husband and then your reputation… and now your daughter-”

“You don’t know shit about me!”

Marcus looked confused. “You told me quite a bit last night. In fact, after we had sex, I didn’t think you would ever stop talking. You even broke down into tears.”

Amanda could remember none of it. She was wasted last night. “That was just the alcohol talking. It tends to get me into trouble in more ways than one. Whatever I told you last night about my life… well, you just forget you heard it!”

“Fair enough. I thought sharing a little in return would put you at ease. Either way, we both now have a tremendous opportunity to break free of our prisons of fear. That’s why I’m leaving tomorrow… and I want you to come with me.”

“To go where? Out there among your fucking predators!? Why on earth would we leave now? It’s unsafe.”

“But I thought you didn’t subscribe to the doom and gloom theories?”

“I don’t… I mean… I believe law and order will eventually be restored—it’s just a matter of time. But we’re safe here until it is. There’s nothing out there but death!”

“And there’s nothing within these fences but fear—fear kept under control by a few flimsy barricades and the presence of some guards with guns. Out there is providence. Out there is a new beginning. Out there anyone can wipe the slate clean and start again; be anything they want, have anything—sky’s the limit, Amanda.”

“Why are you trying to sell me on the idea of suicide? You make it sound like it’s a choice between fear and death, and you would say choose death.”

Marcus looked excited. “Now you’re starting to see it! Out there, death is nipping at your heels on a daily basis, reminding you that you’re still alive. But in here, fear is slowly eating away your one true chance to be free. It’s too much like the old days in here.”

Amanda was getting livid. “You sound like you don’t want things back to normal. That’s fucked-up. You know what, enough with all this philosophical tree-hugging crap. We were having a good time here, and now you’re about to ruin it with all your deep-thinking bullshit! If you just wanted to get rid of me you didn’t have to go to all this trouble. You know damn well I can’t go with you ‘out there’ so you’re trying to scare me off—make me think you’re nuts so I’ll just leave!”

Marcus was unshaken. “Please come with me, Amanda. We both need to do this.”

“You don’t know what I need!”

The shadow of a man appeared at the tent entrance. “Amanda, it’s Stephen. May I please talk to you? It’s urgent.”

She rolled her eyes at Marcus and threw her hands in the air. “Now what?”

“Amanda, are you decent? May I come in?”

Looking for a way out of the present conversation, Amanda took advantage of the distraction. “Sure. Come on in,” she called out.

Stephen entered dripping with sweat. He noticed Marcus in a corner collecting some things and simply nodded in his direction.

Marcus ignored him.

He spoke with labored breaths. “Doug wants us all back at the camp site. We’re trying to get everything packed up as quickly and as quietly as possible.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Stephen? Start making some sense!” Amanda was alarmed seeing Stephen this way, but did not appreciate being told what to do. Fuck Doug!

“We have to go. Right now! There’s no time for me to explain.”

“Well, you better make some fucking time! Besides, I’m with Marcus now.”

Marcus raised his eyes in surprise and she quickly shot him a dirty look.

“Just go back and tell that stupid steroid-pumping freak that I’m off the damn team!”

“You never fucking listen, you self-important bitch!” Stephen broke in. “Stop trying to be the queen-shit bound and determined to ruin my life and listen to me for once!”

Amanda was shocked into silence. She was immediately reminded of her dead daughter.

Stephen looked confused, and then calmed down and finished, “Sorry… Amanda. I don’t know what came over me.”

Amanda raised her eyebrows, still stunned by the outburst. “Just say what you came to say.”

“It’s Meredith. She lost it… had some sort of episode. She’s convinced they’re coming. Hell, we all believe her. Besides, the camp’s turning on us. They tried to kill her a little while ago.”

“Kill Meredith? Why would they do that? Who’s coming?” Amanda needed another drink.

Stephen was shaking his head. “Them… those things… Meredith said they’re coming! Doug said we’re leaving now. He doesn’t care if you come or not. I had to almost beg him to wait long enough for me to get you.”

Marcus was listening intently.

“Did they breach the fence? What do you mean, ‘leaving’?” Amanda was beside herself.

“Something about abandoned railroad tracks… doesn’t matter… we have to get back.”

Amanda looked to Marcus. She swore she saw the hint of a smile crack the surface of his concerned face.

Stephen was already half-way outside the tent. “Are you coming or not? I can’t wait.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to hear what they have to say,” Marcus offered.

“Fuck me,” she said, putting her shoes on. She addressed Marcus without looking at him, “Are you coming or should I expect your tent to be moved by the time I get back?”

Stephen gave the stranger a puzzled look, neither seconding nor protesting the invite.

“I’ll grab my things,” was all he said.


Sergeant Hash arrived at the east perimeter gate and exited his vehicle to a flurry of nervous activity. Guardsmen were rushing about, loading extra magazines, adjusting weapons and gear, or just looking confused and unsure of what they were supposed to be doing, huddled in small groups as if just awoken from a sound sleep to a training exercise. No one had clearly taken charge or seemed to understand what their current orders were other than to reinforce the east side of the outer protected area.

Hash found Corporal Thompson barking at a young man who looked way too small for his uniform. From what he gleamed from Thompson’s ass-chewing, the green guardsman had wandered off by himself to patrol the natural trench, which cut off access from the east. They had standing orders to stay in groups of two or more at all times.

The young guardsman looked terrified as Hash approached.

“Christ, Sarge,” Thompson said. “It’s about damn time. Where have you been?”

“We had a disturbance in the camp. Mob had formed and we needed to sort it out. It was about to get ugly,” Hash said still studying the young man’s face. “Never mind that. What’s going on here?”

Thompson had been in the Guard long enough to mask it from most, but Hash could see it: The man was afraid. “Mother-fuckers are gone, Sarge!”

Hash waited.

“The damn bodies at the dump site—they’re gone.” Thompson elaborated. “We just discovered it thirty minutes ago.”

Hash sighed. “We’ve dumped more than two-hundred bodies on that beach. Many of them are our own men. Made sure every one of them got a bullet square in the head. Now you’re telling me they just got up and walked away? Impossible.”

Thompson couldn’t stop fidgeting. He was losing control, as was more apparent from the disorganized rush of scattered guardsmen filling the area. “I saw the beach myself, Sarge. They didn’t get up and walk—hell, there were far too many body parts left lying about—no, something took them.”

“Start making sense, Thompson.”

Thompson began scanning the dark wood line. “I’m saying that there’s more of those creatures out there somewhere. Nasty fuckers, too. I think they… I think they went down to the beach, ate their own, and now they’re hiding out nearby.”

“I heard a lot of movement down in the gully,” the young guardsman interrupted, “down where the vegetation’s too tall to get a clear look. I swear they were trying to spook me out! But they didn’t want me to see them.”

Thompson continued to stare toward the wood line.

“Get your head on straight, Thompson,” Hash barked, getting his attention. “I need you clear and not letting a bunch of ghost stories turn you into a little girl on Halloween!”

Thompson turned, has face turning immediately hot.

“That’s better. Now, let’s get these men ready for action. We’ll just assume a group made their way west from elsewhere and wandered into our neck of the woods. We have to-” Hash drew his handgun instinctively.

From within the dense woods came a chorus of anguished howls echoing across the gully causing all the guardsmen to skip a breath. To Hash it sounded like a hungry pack of wolves being slaughtered from just out of sight within the woods. The horrific sounds continued for ten seconds and then immediately fell silent.

“They’re toying with us,” the young guardsman whispered. Both older men stared at him as if the boy had just become a prophet.

“This is not like before, Sarge,” Thompson said drawing his own sidearm and aiming it toward the woods. “Damn things just stormed the fences before, as if they didn’t know what to do. Kept trying to push through the fences like a bunch of crazed morons until we shot ‘em down. This is… something else.”

“Time to go. Now!” Hash was already moving toward the main group. “Everyone, into fighting positions! Be ready for anything!”

The guardsmen were up in arms.

Hash wasn’t sure of much at that moment, but he deduced two things with dreadful clarity: Those tortured noises from the woods reminded him of stories he’d heard as a child about how some tribes of Indians attacked settlers, sometimes announcing their arrival with demoralizing war cries. Second, judging from the sounds, he estimated that whatever was about to emerge from those woods was one hell of a large war party.


Next Episode 11-4:

Previous Episode 11-2:


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“Chapter 11-3: Nowhere Safe” 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.

  1. oncegiants says:

    Still hooked!! This would make a great movie :D

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Very cool, Kirk. I’m glad you decided to read a bit more. I thought this story got a lot better once they all found each other. And you’re right about where the shit starts hitting the fan… lol.


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