After the incident with the body, Doug got them moving. The break had made them painfully aware of just how exhausted they really were. But no one put up a fight as they helped each other up and continued down the tracks. Aches and pains were a small price to pay in comparison to being torn to pieces by things you couldn’t see in the pending darkness. Besides the need for shelter, watching dead people return to life was a great motivator to keep pushing forward.

The afternoon dragged on, the rain continued, and the sky refused to release the sun from its cloudy prison. Moods plummeted quickly as the promise of evening approached and all they had found was more unrelenting and tedious tracks into nowhere.

There had been no sign of Greg and Frank for hours which just added fuel to the fire of hopelessness which threatened to spread like a wildfire in their exhausted thoughts. Hearing the faint sound of gunfire, only made things worse.

Doug had told them about the boxcar to give them something to aim towards, but even that seemed lost among the endless old railroad ties which mocked their every step.

Gina moved back beside Doug who was watching the rear and keeping an eye on the groups condition since progress along the tracks had slowed considerably.

“I know you’re tired, Gina, but I need you up front for a little longer. Just until we catch up with Frank and Greg,” Doug said.

“Yeah, yeah. Got it,” Gina said impatiently. “Just wanted to say sorry for fucking up so badly back there. I’m not usually so sloppy with firearms. Damn creature just startled me.”

“Just let it go,” Doug said. “We’re all still alive and the corpse gave us an opportunity to learn something about the enemy… as well as Meredith. Apparently there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. And she showed us an effective way to kill those fucking things up close.”

“Yeah,” Gina said with a frown. “That girl is full of surprises as of late.” She changed the subject. “How you holding up?”

“Could use a year of sleep, a long hot shower, and a hot meal… like everyone else. Other than that, I’m just peachy. How about you?”

Gina laughed. “I just keep telling myself that I’m not something’s meal yet and I feel a little better.”

Doug smiled weakly.

Gina waited for him to bring up the obvious since night was closing in. When Doug said nothing, she pushed. “Maybe we need to start thinking about stopping before no one can think straight enough to do anything else. We haven’t seen Frank or Greg yet, and the boxcar’s starting to sound like a myth. Besides, after those gunshots we heard-”

“I’m doing the best I can, Gina, and I don’t have all the damn answers,” Doug said crossly. He then softened. “Sorry. I haven’t been this stressed out since the playoffs of 2005. That was easy compared to this.”

Gina sighed. “Stop trying to take on the impossible all by yourself. People are talking. Some say we should just build a fire and take our chances. That sounds like foolishness to me, inspired by exhaustion. Some want to keep walking. The thought of sleeping out in the dark’s just scaring them shitless.”

“What do you think?”

“Well, I say build a big fucking fire, cook up Amanda and Charlie, and then eat up until we’re fat, dumb and happy.”

Doug laughed so hard, several of the others looked back. “They’re driving you nuts I take it?”

“Where do I begin,” she started. “When one’s not bitching about something, the other takes over! I think they’re conspiring to slay us with endless negativity, or maybe that’s their secret weapon and they intend on depressing any zombies from the onset. Those bastards won’t want to eat us, they’ll be begging us for Prozac by the time those two are through with them.”

Doug shook his head and controlled his laughter. “You just keep doing that, Gina, and we’ll be alright. Hell, I already feel better. Thank you.”

“You’re quite welcome. I must warn you, I’m not this funny normally. It’s not very hard to amuse tired folks. That’s why everything’s always funnier after 4:00 am.”

Doug added, “I think laughter’s the best weapon we have right now to keep us from killing each other. I heard once—I forget where—that laughter is a manifestation of temporary insanity. That’s why there’s always room to laugh, no matter how fucked-up the circumstances get. Insanity doesn’t play by the rules or act in accordance with expected behavior.”

“Well that makes sense to me. I’m real good at breaking rules.”

Just then, a brief but high-pitched, labored scream came from the woods to the right.

“Everyone, down! Now!” Doug barked. “No one move! No one make a sound!”

Gina’s heart was tap dancing outside of her chest. “Is… is it one of them?” she whispered.

Doug simply shook his head and scanned the wood line. He had his bat out.

Gina drew her handgun.

Then they heard it again. This time, there were words: “HELP ME! SOMEBODY… PLEASE… HELP!” It was a woman’s voice. She sounded like she was in great pain.

“Fuck me,” Gina said. “She sounds bad. We have to do something.”

“Hold on,” Doug said.

Gina looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“There’s a valley on that side of the woods. Sounds carry. Whoever that is could be miles away.”

“Or she’s right fucking over there,” Gina said pointing toward where she thought the voice came from.


“Fuck this!” Gina got up and started across the tracks and toward the woods.

“Gina! No!” Doug could do nothing but follow.

“Where the hell is she going?” Charlie asked.

Gina ignored him. She started into the woods and nearly fell down a steep embankment before Doug pulled her back from the edge.

“Damn, girl! Stop being so reckless!” Doug snapped.

She got a good look at the intimidating valley below which seemed to stretch on for miles; it was a vast jungle of autumn colored treetops.

Doug lowered his voice. “Even if she was down there, we would have a hell of a time pinpointing exactly where, let alone getting down without breaking our necks in the process.”

“But she needs help,” Gina pleaded. “Didn’t you hear how weak her voice was? She heard us ‘up there’, that’s what she said, and she needs our help!”

“Gina,” Meredith said, moving up beside her, “how would you even get her back up here, honey? I don’t mean to sound cruel, but there’s very little we can do. We don’t know how bad she’s hurt-”

“What if she’s infected,” Charlie interrupted. “Did you think about that before you were about to run off all half-cocked?”

“That’s not necessary,” Doug growled.

“Well, whoever it is,” Amanda added, “she probably deserves whatever she gets. She might as well be advertising her location to every fucking zombie around! She’s going to get herself killed and us in the process!”

Gina wanted to throw Amanda right off the cliff.

“I don’t hear her anymore,” Stephen chimed in. “Maybe she’s unconscious.”

Everyone, except Marcus who remained near the tracks with Ashley, stood atop the overlook.

Gina closed her eyes and shook her head. She calmly said, “I can’t believe I’m standing here listening to all of you trying to talk me out of helping that poor girl down there. You should all be ashamed of your fucking selves. What the hell are we becoming?”


Doug finally said, “Gina, we have hard decisions to make now. It’s not like before. There’s no 9-1-1 readily available and there’s not much we can do. We have no medical supplies… To make matters worse, we’re losing light fast. We go down there, we’ll be stuck down there until morning.”

“To hell with that!” Charlie said, dismissing them with a wave. He turned away and walked back to the tracks with Amanda.

Stephen gave Gina an apologetic look and reluctantly followed.

Gina looked to Meredith for support. Meredith couldn’t look her in the eye.

The voice returned. Much weaker this time. “ANYBODY THERE? PLEASE… HELP… I’M ALL ALONE OUT HERE…”

Gina cupped her hands over her mouth and shouted into the valley, “You’re not alone! You hearing me, girl! Help’s on the way! Just hold on! Help’s coming!”

Doug was about to protest and then stopped short.

Gina glared at Doug and Meredith and hissed, “Fine! We can’t do a fucking thing! I get it! But don’t tell me to walk away without giving that girl something to hold on to.” Gina quickly wiped tears from her eyes. “She deserves more than that, but she absolutely needs to know she’s not alone. We can’t let her believe that for one fucking second!”

They said nothing.

Gina turned and headed back to the tracks.

“Amanda! Don’t!” she heard Stephen say.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Amanda was livid. She walked straight up to Gina and pushed her hard in the chest.

“Bitch,” Gina said, trying to maintain her calm, “I’ll let that slide this one time. But don’t you ever lay your hands on me again.”

“If you want to die so fucking badly then go down there and get it over with! You screaming like that is going to get us all killed! Are you trying to get this little girl killed?”

“Stop hiding behind Ashley, you cowardly piece of shit,” Gina spat back.

“Ladies, please, this isn’t helping-” Stephen was cut off.

“What did you just say to me?” Amanda stepped forward.

Gina was already moving. She let out an angry yell and jumped right on top of Amanda, knocking her to the ground.

Everyone moved to separate them as the two women rolled atop the tracks, exchanging blows, like two locomotives colliding head on.

“ENOUGH!” Doug’s voice was like thunder.

Both women eased up enough for the others to separate them.

“We have no fucking time for this petty bullshit!” Doug said. “You want to kill each other? Fine! We’ll schedule an arena match as soon as we get a boat and find an island big enough for your temper tantrums! Until then, get your shit together right now, or I’ll tie you both together and leave you here! That’s a promise!”

From just up the tracks the sound of mock applause caught their attention.

“Bravo! Hell of a show! Oscars for everyone!” Frank was amused, standing beside a stunned Greg. “Please continue. I’ll have Greg fetch us some popcorn and will make a night of it… that is, of course, if you’re all no longer interested in coming with us back to the boxcar.”

Doug smiled. His relief was immediate. “Welcome back, asshole. I’m almost glad to see you.”

Frank bowed dramatically.

Doug looked to Greg and nodded.

Greg nodded back, understanding that the fire was safely extinguished. Ashley was already running to him. They embraced for a long, long time.

“So where’s this boxcar?” Charlie asked.

“About thirty minutes from here,” Frank said. “After we found it, we started following the tracks back. We heard a woman’s voice calling out for help. Greg damn near shit himself trying to rush back here believing something happened to you guys.”

Everyone except Gina, who remained lying on her back on the tracks, approached Frank and Greg and assaulted them with a thousand questions.

“A few things have happened since you guys left,” Doug said grimly.

“Yeah,” Greg said. “We have a few things to tell you as well.”

“We’ll talk later,” Doug said. He turned toward Gina. “We’re almost out of time. We need to get to the boxcar, Gina.”

Gina ignored him. She slowly picked herself up and wiped blood off her swollen lip. She walked painfully over to the wood line and closed her eyes. She listened for the voice of the wounded girl and was met with heart wrenching silence.

Gina opened her eyes and looked at the sun quickly descending toward the valley below. It would be dark in less than an hour. She sighed heavily and whispered into the valley, “I’m sorry I had to lie to you. Truth is, we’re all so very fucking alone.”

They departed in silence. No one heard the woman cry out again.


Next Episode 13-5

Previous Episode 13-3


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“Chapter 13-4: Railway Exodus” 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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