They could feel the tension immediately. Stephen and Amanda had not seen such paranoia, fear and suspicion since the first night at the plant when everyone distrusted everyone. People moved aside as the trio cut through, many throwing daggers with their eyes as they stared after them and engaged in hushed sidebar conversations with one another.

This unexpected hostility coming from members of the laid-back tent community baffled Amanda, who up until now, was almost treated as one of their own. Each time she greeted someone familiar, they were quick to cast their eyes away or return her greetings with rude remarks uttered under their breaths or with contemptuous stares.

Stephen resembled a child wearing a backpack on the first day of school on the verge of missing the bus. He refused to slow down, fearing a conflict would catch up to them.

“Why do they make me feel like we just ate everyone’s favorite fucking dog for breakfast?” Amanda asked.

Stephen shrugged his shoulders and chose to remain silent. All he wanted was to get back to his group and avoid any altercations.

Marcus took up the rear. He was more interested in the National Guard activity, noticing that there were more men patrolling the fence line than usual. Many of them seemed on edge.

As they approached their own camp site, Stephen began to understand that there was more to blame for the new tension, which took up residence among the Percy survivors. Something foul was in the air and its source had to be more than just rumors of Meredith’s episode. Everyone they passed had been keeping to themselves; they were watching the perimeter and each other. Distrust and suspicion had replaced what little bit of communal spirit that had been established.

The lines over at the pavilion tent were longer than usual, as if people were lining up for their last meals. The playground was deserted. Survivors were moving their camps farther from the fence and packing in tighter toward the center. The number of guardsmen on foot patrol had doubled. Something was definitely out of sorts.

“Stephen, Amanda, over here!” Charlie was headed toward them. He was almost running by the time he reached the trio. He wiped his sweaty head with his forearm. “Thank God. Some sensible people have arrived.” He noticed Marcus. “Who’s the new guy?”

“Marcus Dempsey,” he said, reaching out his hand. “I’m… a friend of Amanda’s.”

Charlie gave the extended hand a distrustful glance and said, “Yeah, whatever. Just stay out of the way, alright? Lots of shit going on right now.”

Marcus smiled back, nodded, and then lowered his hand. He turned to Amanda and whispered, “Nice friends.”

“Charlie, stop being a dick!” Amanda said. “What’s got you all spun up?”

“Amanda, they’re getting ready to leave,” Charlie stammered. “Fucking goody-two-shoes goes bonkers and starts screaming about zombies coming and suddenly everyone wants to split!”

“Zombies?” Amanda looked at Stephen who simply shrugged his shoulders. She rolled her eyes and said, “Why the fuck would they want to go out there? Did everyone lose their fucking minds since I was here last?”

“Exactly!” Charlie said. “That’s why you and Stephen need to come back and talk them out of it. There’s nothing coming. That fucking woman is losing it, screaming about how they’re coming and we have to leave now. The rest of them are buying her bullshit!”

“We really need to get back,” Stephen reminded them. He started toward the camp.

“Not you, too,” Charlie called after him. “I thought you were an educated man!”

“I believe Meredith,” was all he said.

“Fucking moron.” Charlie turned to Amanda and Marcus. “Please come and talk to that big fucking idiot. They’re talking about using some abandoned train tracks near the south end of the plant—something stupid like that.”

“Train tracks?” Marcus asked. “That’s smart. Fewer people near the tracks.”

Charlie dismissed him with a wave. “Let’s go. They might already be headed there.” Charlie impatiently prodded them along with hand gestures like a pudgy out-of-breath kid trying to catch the ice cream truck.

Amanda sighed and said to Marcus, “See what I have to deal with here? Is it any wonder I left these losers.”

When they reached the camp, Doug and the others were finishing up stuffing their small packs and distributing their collective of camping gear, water bottles and MRE’s. Doug was in the process of hammering something. Without looking up, he directed his inquiry toward Stephen. “It’s about time. Was about to give up on you two. Did you have to sober her up first?”

“Fuck you, Mr. Charming-As-Ever,” Amanda said.

This awarded her the finger. “I’d hurry up and pack. We’re leaving shortly.” Douglas continued hammering.

Amanda assessed the situation. Greg and his daughter were finishing packing. Meredith was napping and being looked after by a new girl she assumed was a nurse. Frank sat in his spot, watching nearby survivors with a hawk-like intensity—just being his usual anti-social self. Charlie continued to make his annoying presence known.

“And there he goes again,” Charlie said, dramatically throwing his arms in the air. “There’s no reasoning with this rock… and would you please stop hammering!”

Doug smiled and continued to hammer a little harder.

“Just where are we going exactly after we abandon this place we fought so hard to get to?” Amanda asked the rock. “Do you think we’ll just move back to our homes and wait this out?”

Doug continued hammering.

“Hey! Fuck Face! I’m talking to you. Build your bullshit later and answer my questions.” Amanda didn’t like being ignored.

Doug was finished. He lifted the baseball bat lined with long nails like a strange talisman. “That will do it. Pretty savage, I’ll admit, but better than bashing up my last good bat on those things’ skulls. I’ll need less force this way.”

Amanda looked at the grotesque bat and needed a drink. “What the fuck’s that for?”

Doug looked at her finally and said, “To answer your questions, we’re going to take the tracks southwest out of Percy and into the neighboring forest, which runs as far away from people as we can get. With any luck we’ll make it to Fairport Harbor in a couple of days, catch a boat, and wait this out on one of the islands north of Port Clinton.”

“But you’ll still need someone to drive the boat,” Charlie reminded him. “Since you haven’t convinced me to go along on your suicide mission, I guess you’re shit out of-”

“Frank has informed me that he also knows how to navigate a boat. So just shut your pie-hole and pack, little man.”

Frank snickered, while continuing to monitor the surrounding survivors’ camps.

Charlie murdered him a thousand times with his eyes.

“Anything else?” Doug was tired of talking. He held the bat across his large arms and remembered, “Oh, and this beauty is to stop any of those fuckers from keeping us from arriving at the marina. Hated to do this to my last stick—my favorite one, too—but I don’t imagine I’ll be playing ball for a while. I recommend you both arm yourselves with something other than words and get packing.”

“Fuck that! I’m not going out there!” Amanda held her ground. “Why don’t you put that bravado shit to rest and realize what you’re asking us to do! You came across a handful of those… zombies on the freeway, but you didn’t see the shit we saw in Willoughby and Mentor… There were hundreds of those fucking things killing people and we barely made it out of there! I lost my fucking daughter out there just a few days ago!”

This brought immediate silence.

Doug didn’t know how to respond. He chose to end the conversation. “Stay if you want, both of you. But if Meredith is right, we’re all going to die here. I’m not doing that. Choice is yours.”

Amanda turned to Marcus. “Let’s get away from these fucking losers.”

“It’s Amanda, right? You should listen to him,” Gina said, stopping Amanda from storming off. “You weren’t here when Meredith… well… let’s just say that she was very convincing.”

Amanda looked up and caught Marcus staring a little too long at the red-headed woman. She turned and glared at the stranger. “Will someone please tell me who this bossy bitch is? She your twin sister, Doug?”

A noise erupted from the woods to the east destroying all conversations. It sounded like a thousand maniacs riding on the wind. Ten seconds later it ceased.

“Holy shit!” Charlie fell on his ass. “What in Christ’s name was that?”

Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Go! We need to go! Quickly!”

Gina began to help her up and was surprised to find Frank on Meredith’s other side. “Keep your gun handy, girl,” he said to Gina. “Things are about to get ugly.”

Gina nodded to the big man and said without thinking, “I damn near wet myself after hearing that.”

“Me too,” Frank said with a wink.

Doug was up, staring toward the east with his insane looking bat drawn back to the swinging position. He looked terrified. After a moment, he took a breath and whispered to the air, “What are these demons?”

Greg and Ashley were huddled close. He had his axe in hand. “I reckon’ we should get while the gettin’s good, folks. Follow me.”

Charlie, Amanda and Marcus watched the others depart.

“Fuck,” was all Charlie could say. “I can’t stop shaking long enough to think. Maybe we should just go.” He didn’t wait for a reply and scurried after the others.

Amanda couldn’t look away from the wood line without fearing something would rip her heart out as soon as she moved. She wanted to hide. She wanted to run. She was incapable of either.

I need a fucking DRINK!

Marcus was there, wrapping his arms around her from behind. He whispered in her ear, “You can do this. Just focus on following the others and move your feet one step at a time. Don’t think. Just act. We’ll figure out what to do when we get away from here.” After a long pause, he added, “Don’t let the fear get you killed today.”

Don’t let the fear get you killed today.

Those words struck a vital place within, ripping away the scab over an old wound which bled out all the years of painful regret. Fear had led her to the bottle and the bottle had become the all-consuming monster who tore apart her soul a piece at a time until finally claiming what was most precious.


Amanda looked back at Marcus, trembling, and said, “I’m so fucking afraid.”

“Can you feel it?” he asked.

“Feel what?”

“Can you feel your heartbeat racing to keep up with all this uncertainty—never knowing what waits just beyond the next corner, or what stalks from the very next shadow? If you can still feel it, you’re still alive. Use it to move away from the fear. Being afraid is to know you’re still alive. Giving in to fear are the last remaining breaths before death. So choose, Amanda, for it sounds like we’re almost out of time.”

Amanda nodded and stepped forward. “Okay, let’s do this fucking crazy thing.”

Marcus smiled. “We’ll have to hurry.”

They ran off together to join the others before fear could devour their souls.


Next Episode 11-5:

Previous Episode 11-3:


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“Chapter 11-4: 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. FishFinder777 says:

    It seems pretty likely that Marcus is actually our favorite serial killer.


  2. sscherr says:

    Welcome, FishFinder, and thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this long tale so far. You make a very interesting observation. Of course, I can neither confirm nor deny your observation for my information is limited and I am just a mere man left to record these events as they transpire. Even now, I feel the infection coursing through my veins. I only hope I can survive The Change long enough to finish this story ;)


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