The sound of the screaming tea kettle from the kitchen woke her. She could smell the dirty burlap sack stained with blood, sweat and tears, which remained over her head. She was still in the chair. That wasn’t good. The dark, damp basement was better—farther away. She tried to move her hands but the pain in her lacerated wrists shot up her arms like lightning until she relaxed the pressure on the handcuffs, which secured her arms to the back of the chair. She tried not to cry out as the morphine started to wear off. The new wound on her left hand began to throb intensely.

The bad man didn’t like it when they screamed. It always riled him up—made him mad… made him crazy mad. Then he’d hurt them or worse… sometimes he took them upstairs. No one ever came back from there.

Footsteps now. Heading toward the kitchen. As soon as the kettle stopped she could hear him whistling that God-awful song again, which would haunt her dreams forever. She couldn’t remember the name of the song. She could hardly remember her own name now since he’d increased her dosage.

The bad man never let them use names in this place. Just yesterday he’d caught one of the last new girls speaking to that nice guy downstairs, the big guy who always tried to make them laugh and remind them that they were still human… that there was still hope. The woman also knew his name but wouldn’t dare think it. The girl—she’d been there less than a day—she’d called out to the nice man in the dark. Foolish, foolish girl!

The bad man had come down and heard her speaking the nice man’s name. He came at her like a storm, pulled out the Taser and shocked her again and again until she passed out. Then he’d taken her upstairs to the second floor where the mad woman lived. Everyone knew what it meant to visit the mad woman. No matter where you were in this prison, you could hear the mad woman screaming at least twice a day.

They’d never seen that new girl again.

Afterwards, the bad man had come back down and beat the nice man up again. The nice man refused to break. It was probably the only thing keeping him alive. As for herself, it was her voice that made her valuable.

The woman thought about who remained: the nice guy, the old man who’d stopped eating two days ago, and herself. There were five others at first—late arrivals who the bad man had snatched up when the world went to shit. They were desperate people who thought they’d found shelter, only to exit one nightmare and enter another. She and the nice man had been there the longest. They’d survived the whole week chained to the concrete slab in the dark and being fed just enough to stay healthy, but offer little resistance. And if that wasn’t enough, there was always an abundance of drugs to dull the pain or just to keep them compliant. The bad man was clearly in control.

“I see you’re finally awake,” the bad man said¸ pulling out a chair to sit across the small dining room table where she remained handcuffed.

The woman flinched at the close proximity of his voice. She pretended to pass out.

Too late. He pulled the sack off the woman’s head. The dim overhanging light stung her eyes.

He studied the woman for a moment. The left side of her face had swollen up. He’d had to discipline her again. “Look at me.”

The woman lifted her head to meet his gaze. She could barely keep her eyes open.

He was wearing a thick visor which hid his eyes, the ones old people wore when driving in the rain to cut down the glare. He always wore them. The bad man was also wearing his yellow hard hat with the built-in spotlight. The blood on his leather apron looked fresh. She tried to ignore it.

The bad man looked unhappy. “Wake up!” He snapped his fingers in front of her face. “I have another message for you to read.”

No! Dear, God, I can’t survive another mistake! The woman started crying.

“Don’t start that again. You’ll do fine. Third time’s the charm. Which reminds me, how’s the hand?”

“Hu… hurts,” she said.

“I can’t give you any more painkillers until after I’m finished with you.” He stood up and unlocked her handcuffs. “Put your arms on the table.”

She placed her numb arms on the cool wood surface.

He carefully removed the bloody bandage around her left hand, revealing the stumps where her pinky and ring finger used to be. He went to the kitchen and returned with water, a sponge, and some gauze. He washed the hand and wrapped it back up in a fresh bandage. “There. All better now.” He took a sip of his tea, and stared at his watch.

The woman always found that comical considering the state of the world outside but she was careful never to show her amusement.

“Come to the living room. It’s time.”

The woman slowly got up, catching her reflection in a hallway mirror. She looked hideous. Her stained, pink jogging outfit, the very one she’d wore to bed that first hellish night after a five-mile run, hung loosely on her frail frame. She could still remember waking to the screams when the dead took over her neighborhood—but that seemed so long ago now. She was as pale as a ghost and her short-cropped blond hair looked filthy. She barely recognized herself behind the mask of bruises, blood stains, and dried up tears. What horrified her most was the sight of her defeated brown eyes which stared back at her, boring into her soul. In that moment, the woman wanted to be dead.

“Come on now,” the bad man said impatiently. He helped her to her feet.

The woman followed him to the living room. She could hear the dull hum of the generator outside. He used it sparingly in the evenings, mainly during the broadcasts or when he spent time upstairs. The house remained very dark with just enough light to reveal that no one had cared for this place in quite some time. There was trash all over the floor, dirty dishes which were abandoned in place, a smashed television in the living room—blood stains on the hardwood floors in various locations. She glanced at the boarded up windows, wondering if they were originally intended to keep the dead out, or to keep the living in.

This was her fourth trip to the living room in two days and her third time reading for the bad man. He liked the sound of her voice when she read his lies out loud. He’d told her that she sounded harmless and sincere and that she had the kind of voice which made you want to believe the messages… and come.

“Sit,” he commanded, motioning toward the dirty love seat he’d positioned near the fireplace.

The woman sat down and watched the bad man remove the tarp from the radio equipment, which sat on top of a coffee table. An abundance of wires ran to and from the equipment with a large cable which ran from the receiver and into the fireplace where it continued to span the length of the chimney. From there, it connected to a large antennae on the roof. He’d explained how it all worked on her first visit. The bad man was very proud of his radio.

By the end of the second visit, he’d sliced off her first finger with the large hunting knife he always wore on his side.

The bad man sat down in front of his fancy gadgets and began powering up the CB radio and turning various dials to find the appropriate channel. He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved the latest hand-written message. He unfolded it, looked it over, and then handed it to the woman.

She reached out her shaking hand, the good one, and accepted the transcript.

He waited while she read it over, as was the routine.

“Are you ready?”

“Could I please have a glass of water?” The woman needed a moment to calm down. She couldn’t afford to screw up again.

The bad man’s face twisted, and then relaxed. “Wait here.” He headed for the kitchen.

The woman looked around for anything she could eat later. She saw a slice of moldy angel-food cake on an abandoned plate near the edge of a smaller table hugging a sectional couch. Her mouth began to water. All they’d had to eat was dry cat food since day one.

None of them had ever seen a single cat.

She could hear the bad man opening a squeaking cabinet in the kitchen. She started to move.

“Don’t try anything stupid in there,” he said. “Last girl who tried on stupid got a trip upstairs. She’s not been the same since… what’s left of her, anyway.”

The woman immediately gave up on the cake.

The bad man returned with a glass of water and the woman consumed it in seconds.

“Ready now?”

She nodded. “Thank… thank you.”

He ignored her, removing the CB microphone from the cradle. He hit the button twice to verify it was transmitting, and then handed it to the woman. “Read exactly what it says. No more, no less. We’ll be repeating this message three times. Are we clear?”

She nodded.

“If anyone answers you, stop transmitting immediately.”

She nodded again.


The woman pushed the button on the microphone and began reading:

“Hello. Hello. Hello. My name is Sonja Williams, calling in behalf of the Ashtabula County group of survivors, just off Route 11, ten miles north of I-90. We are held up in a small medical building. We are forty strong with a full medical staff and militia to keep the building secure. We’re able to accommodate survivors at this time. We can provide food, water, medical care, and warm beds to sleep in. We will send someone each day, at noon, to pick up survivors at the local Waffle House located at 8177 Terrance Road, just east of Ashtabula, Ohio. Again that’s 8177 Terrance Road just east of Ashtabula, Ohio. Good luck. We hope to see you soon. God bless.”

She stopped transmitting. The woman always wanted to throw up after that last part. She had no idea who Sonja Williams was; it was the name the bad man made her use.

“Very good,” he said. “You’re getting the hang of it now.”

She looked down at her dirty bare feet and silently prayed that no one heard the message.

He played around with a few more dials and handed her back the microphone. “Okay, let’s do it again. I think we have a range of about forty miles now.”

The woman took a deep breath and started again. “Hello. Hello. Hello. My name is Sonja Williams, calling in behalf of the Ashtabula County-”

The mad woman from upstairs started screaming.

She jumped and dropped the microphone.

The bad man stood up and started pacing the room. He looked toward the ceiling and yelled, “It’s not time yet! Damn it! Damn it! DAMN IT!”

The woman cowered in her chair, trying her best to turn invisible.

The mad woman continued to howl, chilling her bones with each horrible, gut-wrenching cry.

He put his hands over his ears and stomped on the floor. “Be quiet! It’s not time!” He turned his attention toward the woman. “And you! Why can’t you just get it right?” He picked up her chair and overturned it, tossing the woman to the floor.

The bad man pulled out his hunting knife.

The woman raised her arms. “Please… please don’t!”

He grabbed her bandaged hand. “Perhaps the thumb will get the point across… hmm?”

The woman screamed until she passed out from the pain.


Next Episode 16-2

Previous Episode 15-5


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“Chapter 16-1: Prisoners” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Two: Almost Dead”.

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. oncegiants says:

    Yay!! Tony’s alive! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

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