Each blood-soaked step was cold mush beneath his bare feet. Tony tried not to freak out. The steps moaned at his trespass toward the low-lit upper hallway leading into hell.

He reached the top, expecting to find the bad man waiting for him, but found a shadowy hallway filled with more unnerving silence. There were four closed doors; two up ahead on the right, one on the left, and one larger door straight ahead at the end of the hall. It stood there menacingly as if to say, Come, Tony. Come and play with the mad woman who lives in here.

Tony pushed himself forward to the first closed door on his left. He was nearly overwhelmed by a rancid smell coming from within. He reached out for the doorknob and then stopped when he heard a low muffled moan from the end of the hall.

She’s down there. God only knows what he’s doing to her right now. Make it quick, Tony.

He opened the first door quickly and nearly vomited as the stench struck him hard. He fell to a knee as he looked into the fly-infested room and saw the bloody remains of a large intestine lying across an old wooden workbench, next to a meat cleaver. There were various tools scattered around the floor in splatters of blood; a bloody hand axe and a traditional saw, to name a few. There were also… pieces… lots of human pieces…

Tony quickly closed the door and waited for the nausea to pass.

He forced himself to continue down the hall. He opened and looked through the first door on the right and discovered what looked like a mad scientist’s small laboratory. This was the only room he’d seen so far that resembled any sense of order. There were three bloody gurneys surrounding a central area where various surgical tools and syringes were neatly placed on top of a rolling cart.

That sick fuck’s been experimenting on us!

After verifying the room was empty, Tony approached the last door on the right. It was ajar. He peeked through the crack. It was a bathroom. He found the bad man lying face down in a pile of blood with a sharp piece of glass sticking out of his shoulder, near his neck. The bad man remained still.

She got him! Lydia nailed the fucker!

“Good riddance,” he said coldly, walking away from the bad man’s corpse.

But where was Lydia?

Tony already knew. He’d known all along that the end of this madness would place him before the door at the end of the hall… and that’s where the mad woman resided.

Probably some poor woman who’s been here longer than any of us. God only knows what that bastard’s been doing to her up here all this time—we would’ve ended up the same way.

Tony dreaded opening that final door more than confronting the bad man. But there was no way around it now. He had to find Lydia.

There was a sliding latch on the outside of the door. Tony slid it back and opened the door slowly. He was immediately assaulted by a smell more foul than the slaughter room down the hall.

The room was littered with the skeletal remains of his fellow basement tenants. Most of them were beyond recognition except for the old man whose head was still… fresh. There was blood splattered everywhere.

At the center of the room was a large canopy bed where a woman in a blood-soaked white nightgown was bound with a large metallic ring around her neck and two more around her wrists, which were fastened together by several chains connected to the thick bedposts at the head of the bed. The mad woman’s long blond hair was drenched in blood and hung over her face as she leaned over a body in her lap, continuing to devour the face of another victim.

Tony stared in horror as the arm of the body fell limp across the bed revealing a hand with only two fingers.

“Lydia,” he whispered, his blood turning to ice.

The mad woman heard him and turned her head up and gazed at Tony with a fierceness he’d never thought possible in another human being.

Tony was paralyzed by the mad woman’s fiery yellow eyes and bulging veins which ran across her flesh. The creature opened its bloody mouth and howled at him, immediately discarding Lydia’s body and tugging at its chains to get free.

“No fucking way!” Tony backed up into the hallway. “There’s no way I’m really seeing this!”

The yellow-eyed creature jumped up on its feet with incredible speed and started lunging toward Tony until the chains went tight against the bed posts. It howled in frustration, snapping its rotted, bloody teeth at him while it continued to yank against the chains with inhuman strength.

Tony turned away, dropping the kitchen knife, head spinning, his legs giving way beneath him as he fell to one knee.

The move saved his life as the meat cleaver swept the air in a wide side-to-side arc, where the back of his neck had been, and struck the door frame instead. The bad man growled in frustration, placing a heavy boot into Tony’s face and pushing him violently back into the mad woman’s room.

Tony fell backwards, landing on his hands, and started crawling away from the bad man until he struck the foot of the large bed.

The bad man removed the cleaver from the door frame and started descending on him with pure rage. “This is your fault!” he shouted at Tony. “You did this to her! We should have left you for dead on that fucking road! Even after she was attacked, she insisted on helping your worthless hide!”

With horror, Tony understood. The thing on the bed, though barely recognizable, was Helen, the nice woman who had saved his life.

Tony had just enough time to throw his arms up as the bad man raised the cleaver and brought it down toward the top of his skull.

Something stopped his swing.

“Let go!” the bad man shouted over the sound of snapping wood. He was struggling with two decrepit arms which had grabbed his forearm, causing the bad man to drop the cleaver.

That thing’s loose!

Tony watched the monster leap from the foot of the bed and land on the bad man’s chest, knocking him off-balance and forcing him back into a dresser. His thick, tinted glasses fell off his face when Helen went to bite his nose. The bad man turned away just in time and caught sight of Tony for a second. His mercury stare carried a promise of a slow and agonizing death when he got things under control.

His fucking eyes! Tony thought. There’s no white in them at all! They’re… metallic? This made him think the bad man was a demon.

“Stop it!” the bad man yelled as he grabbed Helen’s wrists and turned her around while falling directly on top of her. “Behave yourself!”

Get up you frightened little bitch! Tony rolled on his stomach and was tempted to crawl beneath the bed. Instead, he forced his shaking arms to cooperate and grabbed the bed posts, pulling himself up.

He was woozy from the effort and focused on the bedroom door which seemed miles away.

The bad man screamed nearby. Helen had taken a bite out of his arm.

Tony stumbled toward the door, striking the door frame with his shoulder.

Helen turned, blood dripping from her chin, and hissed at Tony. He’d never forget those insane eyes which fixed on his with such intense hatred—such savage hunger. Nothing remained of the kind woman behind those insane eyes.

Tony made it outside of the room, closed the door, and then latched it, just as Helen began pounding against it repeatedly. She was screaming that God-awful scream they had all heard in their nightmares ever since being locked in the cellar.

Tony pushed himself down the hall, motivated by the persistent attack on the thick door. He nearly fell down the stairs in a panic, convinced that the mad woman would break through and wrap its hideous dead flesh around his neck and devour him.

He made it back to the dining room table and went around it toward the door with the bar across it. He noticed a pair of sneakers beside the door and frantically began to put them on.

They were two sizes too big, but better than being bare foot.

He heard screams from upstairs. It was the bad man.

“Get moving, Marcuchi,” he scolded himself.

Tony pushed the metal bar up and let it fall to the floor. He reached for the knob, turned it, and opened the sturdy door, letting in the cool night air. It was raining outside.

He spotted an old trench coat hanging on a hook near the door and put it on.

He hesitated long enough to hear the haunted words of Lydia freeze his heart:

“I don’t want what’s outside… because there’s nothing outside but more of the same… monsters… monsters waiting to feed on me like that slice of cake… Don’t feed the dark, Tony! Don’t you ever feed the dark!”

For the first time, Tony believed. Lydia had been telling the truth. Was this truly the portal to freedom, or just another entrance into a larger hell that would make the cellar seem a paradise?

“You run, Marcuchi. Run until you can’t run anymore. Don’t look back. Don’t ever look back! You run until the monsters in here and out there are a thousand fucking miles behind you!”

Tony suddenly thought of Gina out there somewhere in a world full of yellow-eyed beasts. This was enough to push out the fear.

He took a deep breath and stepped outside into the dark… and started to run.


Next Episode 16-5

Previous Episode 16-3


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“Chapter 16-4: Prisoners” 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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