Unknown167

~~~

They reached the end of the old abandoned tracks two hours before sunset. Moods had been at an all-time low since departing the junkyard. No one trusted words. They were still processing the savage slaying of the yellow-eyed beast and each of them were consumed by their own heavy thoughts. The rain had started up again, as if on cue, further dampening the day.

They reached a tall and rusted sign that read: TRACKS ABANDONED IN PLACE. They stopped and stared out into the vast area which opened up ahead of them. The active tracks, running north and south, seemed to mock them as well as challenge them to come out of the woods and finally face the rest of their former world.

Doug looked like he’d aged ten years in the last few days. He slowly turned toward the others. “We’ll keep with the southbound tracks for about two miles until it bends further inland. From there we head southwest for about another quarter-mile until we hit the Grand River. Then we start heading west along the river until we find somewhere to hold up until the morning. God willing, we’ll find a fucking boat on the way and get out of this hell hole. That’s the plan. We’ll need to stay sharp and become ghosts now. Out of sight, out of mind, and maybe we’ll get to the marina in one piece. That’s all I’ve got. Any questions?”

No one had anything worth asking. They were spent.

“One more thing,” he added. “We’ll need to avoid using the guns unless it’s unavoidable… or we risk bringing the whole damn undead town of Fairport Harbor right to us.”

Again, no one had a response.

Doug frowned at the condition of his group. He prayed they could keep it together just a little longer and make it to the marina in one piece. After they had escaped the coast, they would have to deal with the internal struggles which were tearing at each of them. But for now, surviving the dinner table of Fairport Harbor was paramount. He sighed heavily, turned, and led them out of the woods.

~~~

They made it down the tracks without incident. It turned out that Doug and Greg’s careful scrutinizing over the map to find the best route into town had paid off. By traveling the tracks, they had essentially gone around the south side of the populated sections of town, sticking toward the business district, which primarily consisted of a few factories and numerous large warehouses that were far enough away from the tracks to avoid people—dead or otherwise. They occasionally spotted a few lone zombies who had wandered off course and toward the tracks, but they easily avoided them by waiting them out and giving those grotesque, hobo-looking beasts a wide berth to shamble past them undetected. With much relief, none of the undead they came across possessed yellow eyes.

They departed the tracks and Greg took over, leading them into a sparse forest, which turned into a small park. It became more difficult to hide as the town began to close in on them, bringing more of the wandering dead to their attention. What made matters worse was that they were quickly losing the light, making it harder to see them from a distance. Everyone feared that one would come upon them at any moment since it was becoming increasingly difficult to watch all the blind spots that could hide monsters. They needed to find a safe place fast.

They made it through the park, entered another section of forest which led them along the back of an apartment complex. They crossed a road and entered another stretch of forest. Everyone was moving on autopilot, following Greg’s lead and just being thankful that they were still moving. They could hear movement in the woods all around them but couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. Everything sounded like a threat, and every squirrel, chipmunk and bird became a potential undead lurker, coming for them just out of visual range.

Greg stopped briefly to get his bearings and smiled. “I can smell it. The river’s close.”

They continued on through a larger residential property, finally catching sight of the river.

Greg pointed toward a structure off to the right and they headed toward it.

The boathouse came into view as they exited the forest, stepping on to a gravel path which led down to it. The path ended at a ‘C’ shaped dock, which wrapped around the boathouse on three sides.

It was nothing fancy. The boathouse appeared like an old four-car garage thrown into the river with what looked like a loft above it, judging by the two small windows in the roof.

Before anyone could get excited, Doug tried the side door and found it unlocked. He opened it, quickly scanned the interior, and said, “Empty.”

“There’d be nothin’ but canoes, jet-ski’s and row boats in somethin’ this small anyhow,” Greg said. “Nothin’ we could’ve used to cross the lake.”

Doug took a long look inside the boathouse, which held three small docks and a walkway along the back wall. What caught his eye was the ladder attached to the far wall that led up through a small square opening into what Doug assumed was a storage area. “If no one has any objections, I suggest we stay here tonight. It’s right on the river and there’s a loft in here that we’ll be able to defend from above if there’s trouble. Anything else we find before dusk will probably be on the ground level which presents its own set of problems.”

Everyone agreed, feeling too vulnerable outside this close to dark. They would be fine with moving into the belly of Jonah’s whale if it meant getting out of the open.

After Frank checked to make sure the loft was clear of surprises, the exhausted group climbed up into the boathouse loft for their final night of preparation and whatever nightmare-free rest could be found. Tomorrow was an unclear promise: escape by boat or devoured by demons.

~~~

The loft was a much needed boost in morale. Instead of a storage area, they discovered a small recreation room with three large sofas covered with tarps surrounding an old Zenith console television which dominated the center of the room. Farther back were various other items covered with tarps, but it was the antique refrigerator that captured their attention.

“Dear, God,” Gina began, moving straight for the fridge, “if there’s a cheese cake sitting in there with a cold six-pack, I’ll never doubt you again.”

There was nothing as miraculous, but she did find an unopened case of Pepsi and two boxes of donuts.

“Power’s been out a while,” she said with a frown. “Anyone want a warm pop and stale donuts?”

Ashley’s eyes lit up immediately as she rushed over to see if Gina was lying.

Doug only had eyes for the nearest couch as he ripped off the dusty tarp and sat down on a multi-colored striped sofa, which looked like a throwback from the seventies. Some of the others assisted in clearing the remaining couches and sat down, feeling their tired bones cry out in relief. Amanda was asleep almost immediately.

After Gina and Ashley distributed the junk food bounty, they sat down, melting into one of the couches.

Only Frank and Greg appeared to be curious about the rest of the loft as Greg began searching through the covered items toward the back and Frank moved an old rocking chair he’d uncovered over by one of the two windows facing the gravel path behind the boathouse. He wrapped his blanket around his shoulders, opened a can of Pepsi and sat silently watching the rear of the boathouse.

“Gawd!” Gina said to Ashley after sipping the soda. “I never knew something so disgusting could taste so damn good!”

Ashley nodded in agreement, unable to speak with her mouth full of stale pastries.

“Sugar and caffeine for dinner, folks,” Doug said. “Sure beats what we’ve been eating.” He yawned like a giant bear which was immediately infectious.

There wasn’t much left to say as everyone chose to enjoy a moment of peace, falling into their own tired worlds of thought.

“I thought I’d seen an antenna outside,” Greg said. “There’s an old CB radio back here.”

“Yeah, and there’s an old television right in front of us, too,” Gina said. “Problem is there’s no power for either. And even if there was, no one would be broadcasting anything. Everything went black shortly after the shit hit the fan.”

Greg would not be dissuaded. “This thing’s hooked up to a 12-volt battery. It looks grounded. I think I can get her goin’… with a little time.”

“Greg,” Doug said, his voice loaded with exhaustion, “Gina’s right. You’re not going to hear anything but static on that thing.”

Greg didn’t respond. He was already busy tracing a jungle of wires back to their input/output locations to see what he could do.

“I’ll give him a hand,” Marcus offered, headed in Greg’s direction. “I know a little bit about electronics.”

“Frank, how does it look out there?” Doug asked.

“It’s wet, dark and quiet,” Frank said.

Good enough. Doug was ready to pass out for a hundred years.

The silence filled the room as each of them welcomed it, desperately in need of a distraction from the grueling day and from one another, but mostly, they just wanted a moment to process… everything.

Meredith, sitting between Ashley and Gina, silently took them all in with a gaze and smiled, wanting to savor this precious moment with her new friends in this unexpected haven they now shared. For once, she didn’t have to fight the tidal wave of images and voices which assaulted her. For once, she could lower her guard enough to talk freely. “I’d like to take this opportunity to give you all my heart-felt thanks for carrying me all this way. I know I’ve been a burden and not of much use since we fled the power plant. Also, I feel like I owe you all an apology for making things worse with my… odd behavior these last few days.”

She had their attention. Even Frank turned from the window to listen.

Meredith took a deep breath and continued. “Truth is, most of the time I have a handle on it, but lately, since everything went bad… it’s been a struggle, and it’s been handling me instead. I’ve been doing all I can to keep it under control, especially since what happened at the plant.” She turned to Gina and said, “I’m sorry, honey. I’ve not been as forthcoming as I should have been. You called me a grief counselor and… well… that sure sounded much better in part, but that wasn’t the whole of it.”

Meredith looked into their worn-down faces and wanted to cry. She struggled with the words.

Gina placed a hand on her shoulder and said, “Go on, just take your time.”

The older woman smiled and then addressed them all. “I know you’ve either wanted to ask but haven’t figured out how, or you’ve just been too darn scared and looking over your shoulders to worry about that crazy old Meredith. Either way, I appreciate your patience with me, and waiting for me to get my head on straight. I’ll tell you what I can, but you might not believe it. Then again, after everything we’ve seen, maybe believing is not as hard as it used to be.”

~~~

Next Episode 14-2

Previous Episode 13-6

~~~

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 14-1: The Marina” 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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