Unknown9

~~~

A cool October breeze took the edge off the mid-morning sun, which continued to push fall temperatures toward the upper seventies during the day, and then departed, dropping temps into the lower sixties in the evenings. A large grove of pine trees, just outside the western fence line, gently danced in the wind, swaying their needle-laden boughs with simplistic indifference to the horrors which hid beneath them.

When the sounds of the undead crying out from the east woods reached the central camp, everyone looked around anxiously, unsure of what to do or of what they were hearing. The guardsmen walking throughout the camp tried to alleviate concerns as small crowds of survivors stopped them for answers.

“You watch your sister, Jamie,” her mother instructed. “Stay right here until I get back with your father and brother.”

Jamie, Cassie’s teenage sister, looked concerned.

“I’m not going far—just over to where those people are gathered. I’ll be right back, honey.” Jamie’s mother started toward the center of camp, to get a closer look.

Little Cassie, oblivious to the disturbance, played with her favorite doll, Penelope, as they both hopped together over the painted parking lot lines near her family’s tent on the western edge of the central camp. Most of the survivors had gathered to form a large ring around the main pavilion tent, feeling much safer in congested numbers.

“Don’t wander off, brat,” Jamie yelled from a fold-up chair nearby. Jamie liked to boss her around when Mom put her in charge.

Cassie stuck her tongue out at the older sibling and continued her game. Cassie missed her friends back home. She was grateful for Penelope, but she wanted to go back to school and talk to her real friends. This place always smelled bad and she didn’t like the bagged meals that were served all the time. Cassie began her return trip, skipping across the painted lines back toward Jamie’s nagging voice.

She heard branches snapping from behind her. Cassie turned and looked toward the western fence. Her curiosity overcame her parents’ strict warnings to stay away from where the soldiers told them not to go and she began to skip the painted lines back toward the west. Cassie looked back and saw Jamie messing around with her smart phone. Jamie was stupid. Daddy already said there was no phone reception, but she kept trying to get it to work anyway. She continued to skip a great ways from the central camp, hoping to catch a glimpse of what she believed was a family of deer walking through the pine forest.

From behind her, a distant voice inquired, “Hey, whose child is that? She’s too close to the fences!”

Another voice, “Something’s moving around out in those woods. Did you see that?”

Guardsmen were already mobilizing from the center of the camp toward the new disturbance, but they were scattered and spread thin since so many of them had been sent to fortify the south entrance roadway and the northern access point after receiving disturbing reports of possible hostile activity coming from the eastern woods.

Cassie was at the end of the parking lot and strained her eyes to see past the fence line and into the pine forest.

“Cassie!” Jamie yelled, getting up to run after her sister. “Get back here right now! Mom’s gonna be pissed!”

Others along the west side of the camp were turning, staring into the forest as more branches could be heard snapping in the heavily wooded area just beyond the deceptively peaceful pine forest.

Cassie saw movement beneath the pines. No, they weren’t deer. People. Lots and lots of people. They began to emerge from the forest and stopped as if arriving at an unknown world.

When one of them, with the mean and yellow eyes, saw Cassie, it began to run toward the fence, causing the other strange people to follow.

The yellow-eyed people made Cassie afraid. She turned, dropping Penelope, and ran back across the parking lot.

“CASSIE!!!” her mother screamed after returning to see what Jamie was going on about. She quickly caught up to Jamie and said, “Go! Find your father. NOW!”

Jamie looked frightened but did as she was told.

Cassie turned back and watched as the yellow-eyed people began climbing the fence.

The first of them were over quickly, landing in the dirt within the restricted zone. They moved lethargically at first, their reanimated minds slowly processing what was around them. They turned toward the edge of the camp, drawn by the sounds of the living.

The survivors succumbed to panic, running toward the eastern side of camp. In their fear, they became a wall of flesh, blocking the guardsmen from reaching the breach point as they were plowed over in the stampede.
Cassie reached out to her mother just as the first monster entered the parking lot.

A bald man, naked from the waist up, was covered in blood. It saw the fleeing survivors and bared its bloody teeth. The man howled as the insatiable hunger for flesh drove its savage need to tear into them. It spotted the little girl and her mother and started running. Others followed as one stepped on Penelope’s head, crushing the doll beneath its bloody feet.

~~~

The guardsmen were in agreement that standing watch at the southern road entering the plant was by far the most unnerving assignment. Four large flatbed trucks blocked the roadway to act as a temporary barrier while providing an elevated platform for those observing the half-mile stretch of abandoned vehicles which filled Center Road. A silent graveyard of metal and glass ran the entire length of Center in a straight line leading out and into the heart of Percy. Parmly Road ran east to west, intersecting with Center at a dead traffic light just before the entrance. It too, was equally congested with vehicles.

Guardsmen took turns standing on the flatbed trucks, armed with rifles and binoculars, to act as early warning for the mounted M-60 post, surrounded by a wall of sand bags, which stood one-hundred yards farther back. The lookouts had nothing but a quick drop off the other side of the trucks separating their makeshift illusion of safety from the desolate wasteland once known as Percy, Ohio.

The evenings were long and insufferable as every sound was amplified within the unsettling silence and the darkness played havoc on exhausted minds as fears crept in with the cool night air. Days were a little easier but no less unsettling as hours of quiet activity would be suddenly disrupted by the occasional deer or other wildlife crossing the roadway from a distance, causing hearts to race and hands to shake.

“This is bullshit,” Gonzalez declared from the second flatbed. He lowered his binos. “We should’ve been relieved an hour ago!”

“Keep scanning, Private,” Steely barked from the next flatbed. “No one likes being this close to the death zone, but it’s necessary. We’ll be relieved when we’re relieved.”

“I feel so fucking expendable out here,” Gonzalez grumbled.

“Hey, shut the fuck up!” hissed Winters, the senior guardsman in charge. “Don’t you know we’re on alert right now? Strange shit’s happening on the east side—didn’t you just hear that wild animal kingdom bullshit! So stop your bitching and keep alert.”

Gonzalez put his binos to his eyes and sighed heavily. “Still bullshit,” he whispered to Steely who smiled in response.

“I’ve got movement,” the last lookout called out from the right. “Wait… it’s gone. False alarm… I think.”

“Stop getting so excited, Martin,” Winters said. “I know we’re all anxious but just be certain before you report and make us all shit ourselves. Copy?”

“I copy,” Martin said, looking uncomfortable.

“Fucking new guy,” Steely grumbled.

Gonzalez smirked.

“Wait! Yeah… I’m sure of it this time!” Martin almost fell off the truck stepping forward. “Movement!
Four-hundred yards! Red Sedan on Center!”

“Martin, calm down. Are you sure?” Winters began scanning for confirmation.

“Probably a fucking raccoon. Take it easy, kid. You’ll give Steely here a heart attack,” Gonzalez advised.

Martin was visibly shaking. He couldn’t get the words out in time. “I saw… I saw one! Fuck me! It’s one of them! They’re crawling… fucking crawling in between the cars!”

“Stop jumping at ghosts and get your head out of your ass!” Winters barked. “Damn-it, Martin! Back up before you break your fucking neck!”

Martin turned and gave Winters a ‘I just shit myself’ look. “Winters-” He was pointing back toward Center.

The first car alarm went off.

“What the fuck!” Winters raised his weapon. “Can you two see anything?”

Gonzalez and Steely continued to scan.

Second car alarm. Closer.

They all had their rifles up. “I don’t see shit!” Gonzalez shouted.

Third alarm. Much closer.

“There! Right there!” Martin yelled, his voice cracking under the strain.

Fourth alarm. Real close.

Steely suggested, “Maybe we should call this in?”

“Fuck me!” Martin said. “Fuck me, they’re standing up!”

“They’re using the cars for cover.” Gonzalez added. “How the hell-”

“Everyone down now!” Winters yelled. “Fall back to the big gun!” He reached for his radio to sound an alert as something grabbed his foot and pulled him off the truck.

“Winters!” Martin screamed before something out of a nightmare climbed up the flatbed and bit his nose off.

Eight…ten… twenty pairs of bloody arms reached up and grabbed the remaining three lookouts by the legs and feet, knocking them down, and pulling them off the flatbeds.

Already alerted by the twenty car alarms which drowned out the screams of the lookouts, the guardsmen at the gun mount opened fire as the undead climbed the flatbeds, jumped off the other side, and sprinted toward their positions. The South Entrance barricade was overrun in twenty seconds.

~~~

Two enormous shadows dominated the tall weeds and wood line to the east as the power plant’s stacks stood like imposing giants behind them just within the inner protected area, blocking out the afternoon sun.

“Watch the ravine as well as the woods!” Sergeant Hash shouted as he directed his squad of fifty men to form a line just inside the eastern outer protected area fence. They were spread thinner than the last attack since so many had either gone through the change or had been slaughtered or infected, reducing their numbers significantly. They maintained enough distance from each other to cover the whole east side while still managing to interlock their fields of fire. Hash would not risk weakening the western end where the survivors were camped. They would have to manage and make every shot count. Twenty yards from the outer fence, the ravine stood as an additional barrier and then another fifty yards of tall weeds to the wood line.

Thompson came over. “We’re ready, Sarge. Each man’s loaded up with what we have available. Everyone remembers how they came last time. Straight for the fence where they got locked together and that’s when they’ll open fire.”

Hash nodded. He continued to stare out toward the thick woods, frustrated by the silence that waited in there. “Why don’t they come already? It’s odd. They must know we’re here.”

“Maybe they’re sensitive to daylight due to those nasty yellow eyes. Perhaps that’s why they’ve stayed in the trees,” Thompson offered.

Or maybe they sense what we’re about to do when they hit the fence again, Hash thought but kept it to himself. Hesitation. Now wouldn’t that be something. It would show they still possess some cognitive ability.
Hash shook at the implications.

“Everyone on the west side’s been alerted,” Thompson said. “They’re trying to get into position quietly to not cause an all-out panic. But so far, there’s been no reported activity that way.”

“Good, maybe this is an isolated group.”

“Maybe they’ve turned around and found some easier prey.” Thompson hoped for this with all his heart. “Or maybe they went dormant again after… eating the bodies on the beach.”

“Anything is possible,” Hash said. “Just keep everyone’s nerves at bay. I don’t want premature shots at phantoms. Last thing we need is to attract more of them from elsewhere or cause the survivors to freak out. No one fires a single round until they’re at the fence, understood?”

“Understood, Sar-”

Shots rang out on the southern end of the line.

“Who the fuck is firing?” Hash yelled, noticing nothing emerging from the wood line.

Thompson raised a pair of binoculars to his eyes.

More shots were fired, this time by multiple rifles.

“They’re coming up from the ravine!” Thompson said. Damn, they’re fast! Some have already made it to the fence.”

More men began to engage on the southern end as the fences were assaulted.

From the woods on the northern end of the line, they emerged. One-hundred former human beings dressed in an assortment of ragged, blood-stained clothes, the remaining vestiges of their former identities falling away like the shedding of sanity’s skin to make room for the hideous monsters who now remained in their place. Men, women, children—savages, every one—had all lost their lives in the span of one evening due to an unknown threat which worked randomly on a biological level. They were transformed into instantaneous killers and cannibals.

The rest of the guardsmen began firing as the monsters entered the tall weeds, forsaking strategy just to keep the beasts as far from them as possible. Creatures were struck and fell out of sight amongst the weeds.

“Hold your fire!” Hash was drowned out by multiple reports. “You’re just wasting ammo! We need head shots!”

Still watching the action to the south through his binos, Thompson’s face went pale. “Sarge! They’re not stopping at the fence! They’re fucking climbing it!”

Hesitation along with the ability to change tactics! Hash was deeply concerned. “Pass the word and tell them to fall back and create some fucking distance! They’ll be overrun if those things make it over!”

Thompson ran down the line.

The guardsmen on the north end ceased firing, apparently stopping the threat from the woods. No more advanced and the rest appeared to be down. They began to reload.

Wait! That was too easy. This isn’t right. Hash grabbed his own binoculars and studied the weeds… weeds that were moving.

“They’re crawling!” he shouted. “Mother-fuckers are low-crawling toward the ravine!”

Too late.

From the ravine, directly in front, Hash watched the trap spring as a fresh batch of the undead began to appear on their side of the ravine. They ferociously stormed the fence. He saw the first of their yellowish eyes glare into his flesh as they struck the fence with bloody teeth bared.

“Fall back!”

Thompson was on his way back followed by a dozen men. “Sarge! We’ve been breached! They’re ripping us to pieces faster than we can put them down!”

Hash watched as the guardsmen on the north end began a similar struggle as the monsters began scaling the fence. “FALL BACK TO THE NORTHERN ROAD!” he screamed. He quickly got on his handheld radio. “All units… we have contact! Repeat. We have contact! Outer east fence has been compromised! Again, the outer east perimeter has been compromised! We are falling back to defend the camp from the north side. Hostiles are climbing the fences! Repeat. Hostiles are climbing the fences!”

The sound of a handgun went off near Hash’s left ear as Thompson put five rounds into a blond-haired teen before hitting it in the forehead less than ten feet away. It fell in a contorted pile of blood, hunger and hate. “Time to haul ass, Sarge!”

Sergeant Hash was nearly overcome by the sight of the horde which now sprinted after the remains of his squad who were quickly diminishing in numbers. Down fifteen men, they formed two relay lines where one provided cover for the other to retreat and vice versa. “We need to get within range of the inner protected area fences and let those local Percy power plant yahoos take their shots from the towers! Maybe they’ll slow them down enough for us to get around to the north. Those fuckers can only get around from the north or the south corners, the main power block’s too secure for them to cut directly west.”

Thompson looked grave. “If we lose the civilian checkpoint-”

“I know, don’t remind me. There will be reinforcements waiting. Together we might be able to hold them off long enough to get those people safely inside the inner protected area and into a hardened location in the plant.”

Thompson hesitated and then said, “Sarge, Command won’t let anyone inside. You know that.”

“Fuck their contamination protocols! Situation’s changed now. Outer protected area’s been compromised. They’re not just going to stand by and let those civilians get slaughtered!”

Thompson said nothing.

~~~

Next Episode 11-6:
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/chapter-11-6-nowhere-safe-2/

Previous Episode 11-4:
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/chapter-11-4-nowhere-safe-2/

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 11-5: 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.

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