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~~~

Amanda, feigning sleep, watched Charlie from the couch. He hadn’t said one word to her—hadn’t so much as looked at her—after what happened. He simply pulled up the rocking chair near the broken window and stared out into the night, choosing to return to the comfort of his own private thoughts. The difference, she noted, was the smug smile of contentment plastered on his face.

She was a nervous wreck. What had she witnessed tonight? God only knew. For the moment, she just wanted to crawl into a hole and die in her sleep. Maybe when the morning came, she’d discover that this had all been some horribly twisted nightmare and that the rest of her group would still be snoring away beside her. Strange. She never thought of the others as ‘her group’ until now. She was learning quickly that being alone makes one appreciate even their enemies.

Two thoughts continued to persistently gnaw at her mind like the raving mad monsters who hunted them: Charlie doesn’t need me. Charlie is fucking dangerous.

She desperately wanted a look into his head to find out what he was thinking. Amanda’s shock kept her from pursuing the matter of the attack. And now, she was too damn afraid of him to ask. She’d never been terrified of a man before. Never. But things were dissolving rather quickly in this fucked-up world and she was discovering all sorts of new things to be afraid of.

Amanda had to find a way to get on Charlie’s good side now. She was dead without his… protection… especially since the others were probably long gone.

Charlie surprised her when he finally spoke. “Looks like neither one of us are going to get much sleep tonight.”

She sat up and asked, “Are… are you alright?”

“You can always tell when someone’s asleep.” He ignored her question. “There’s a natural ease in slumber—a vulnerability, if you will—that can’t be faked. You were too damn still to be asleep.”

She didn’t know how to respond.

“Can’t say that I blame you. I’d be afraid of me, too… shit… this is still freaking me out on a very surreal level.”

“How did you… do that, Charlie?”

“You’re welcome, by the way. I thought maybe the second time saving your skin would produce some genuine gratitude in you. Perhaps that’s just your defense mechanism kicking in… you know, the thing that makes you a bitch no matter what. Don’t worry… I get it. We all need to maintain our fronts more than ever. ‘Only the strong survive’ type of shit, right?”

Amanda needed to turn this around in her favor. “You’re right. I can be a real cold-hearted bitch. If my daughter were still alive, she could testify to it.”

Charlie laughed.

Amanda swallowed her pride and put on her best performance. “Truth is, since Marie died, I’ve been using her death as an excuse to indulge in some old ways I thought dead. The drinking, the sex, the piss-poor attitude I carry around—it’s all a part of it.” She lowered her eyes to the floor.

“Please, go on,” Charlie encouraged.

“Well, all that just to say, I’ve treated you like shit, Charlie. And for that, I’m truly sorry.”

Charlie laughed again and said, “Bravo! That would be one hell of a performance if I didn’t know your sincerity was bullshit. Furthermore, I find your condescending attitude insulting. Not to mention, playing your own dead daughter as a sympathy card. You are a true bitch with absolutely no shame. Did you really expect me to believe that you would suddenly have a change of heart… here… now? Why don’t you stop treating me like someone you’re trying to swindle a bottle of bourbon from and finally show me some real respect. I think I’ve earned it, don’t you?”

Amanda’s bluff was called. She was running out of options. “You got me again, Charlie. I keep underestimated you.”

Charlie sighed, dismissing her with a wave of his hand. He looked back out the window. “I was thinking a little while ago about something good old Mr. Creepy said to me at the power plant. Frank’s always taking little jabs at me and most of the time I shake them off. But he said this one thing to me when we were talking about who could sail the boat. I forget exactly, but he hinted at how expendable I was, and that since he could also navigate a boat, I had nothing left to offer the group. What did he say… oh, yes… he said that I had no leverage, and, in so many words, I was pretty much useless in this savage world without it. That damn comment got under my skin like you wouldn’t believe. But now, I get it… and the big prick’s absolutely right. Without leverage, there’s no real advantage, and nothing to keep you safe when the dogs start tearing at one another.”

Amanda waited.

Charlie laughed. “Turns out that I’ve got one hell of a card to play which pretty much trumps the rest of them.” He folded his hands behind his head and leaned back. “Feels good to have the only card that matters.”

“Charlie, what’s the plan now? I mean… it doesn’t look like anyone’s coming. Where do we go from here?”

“I’m leaving in the morning. I’ll continue up river headed east until I get to a real city, then I’m going to find a fucking car and go wherever the hell I please.”

The implied ‘I’ did not escape notice. She took a deep breath. “Charlie, I get it. You have all the power now. I’m sure you’re asking yourself why you need me to drag you down. What can I say to convince you to let me come along… at least until we find others? Then you won’t have to bother with this bitch anymore.”

“You’re not a nice person, Amanda. Hell… I’m no saint, but compared to you I might as well be.”

She had only one card left to play but found it extremely difficult now that she was sober. “I can be… nice,” she teased, letting the left shoulder of her blouse fall. “Take me along and I’ll show you how nice I can be.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “I’m talking about leverage and you’re offering me sex? And by the way, your powers of seduction have diminished significantly since you’ve lost your liquid crutch… not to mention, the whole blood and grime look is a real turnoff. You must really be desperate.”

She was getting angry now.

Charlie saw it. “There it is! The truth, at last. There’s the Amanda I’ve come to know and love.”

“You’re really going to just leave me here? What kind of man are you?”

Charlie stood up. “Now that is a great question which I intend to explore, sweetheart. And ‘yes’, I’ve no qualms about leaving you here to rot in this place.”

Amanda looked crushed.

“But… if you were to change your attitude, and do what I say when I say it, I might take you along.”

“What are we talking about here?”

“It’s not a pleasant feeling losing control, is it? It’s easier when you’re the one doing the manipulating, but it’s a real bitch being manipulated.”

Amanda said nothing.

“Well, that’s exactly what I expect you to give me as payment for my troubles.”

“Control?” Amanda said.

“Yes,” Charlie said with an amused expression on his face. “Think of it as a small sacrifice or a survival necessity, if that spin makes you feel better.”

Amanda fought a battle with the rage within and won. “Alright. We’ll do this your way.”

“You’ll give me control?”

“That’s what I said, didn’t I?”

“Say it.”

Amanda took a deep breath and then spit out the words. “I… give… you… control.”

“Excellent! We’re off to a fair start already.”

“So,” Amanda said, growing tired of this game, “are we still heading up river in the morning?”

“Yes,” Charlie said enthusiastically.

“Then you won’t mind if I get some sleep, do you?”

“Well… there’s one other thing you need to do for me first.” Charlie was gloating.

Great. More games. “Okay, what’s that?”

“I want you to prove it.”

“Prove what?”

“I want you to prove that I have control.” He unzipped his pants.

“You want me to…” she was getting angry again. “Right now?”

“Yep.”

“But you made it clear that you find me repulsive.”

“That’s true. I wouldn’t fuck you with a ten-foot pole right now. You stink. But nothing would satisfy me more than shutting that mouth of yours up.”

She was fuming. “No! I won’t do it!”

“You’ve done it before haven’t you? At the power plant?”

“That was different.”

Charlie nodded. “Yeah… that’s right. You were always in control before. Probably made it easier for your conscience to swallow—pardon the pun—when you were drunk as a skunk.”

“Fuck you!”

“Fine. You’re out of the club,” Charlie said. “Good luck tomorrow. I can’t guarantee the undead will leave you alone once I’m gone. But you’re a big girl. I’m sure you can handle it.” He turned to go.

“Wait.” Amanda never felt so humiliated. He had her right where he wanted and he intended to play dirty. She moved quickly before she could think about it. She knelt before his waist to get the deed done.

“Stop,” he said.

“What?” she asked.

“Ask me nicely, bitch.”

“Excuse me?”

Charlie bent over and whispered, “I want you to ask me nicely for my permission before you… proceed.”

“You’re a monster,” she whispered through tears.

“What was that?”

Amanda closed her eyes, and said the monster’s words.

~~~

Next Episode 15-3

Previous Episode 15-1

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 15-2: Lost” 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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