It started with a single dead man who’d been aroused by the sound of heated voices and the flickering of flashlight beams from the second floor landing. It had moved toward the motel, as another was drawn by the movement of the first—and then another, and another, and still another…

From all around the parking lot, scattered shadows began to stir and shamble toward the motel.


Tony stood in the doorway for a long time. His knuckles went white around the crowbar, his hand throbbed in pain. He stared at the bloody bodies on the floor, not yet able to comprehend that he was responsible for it. He turned his head toward the small table where he and Heather had shared dinner a short time ago. He looked past the table toward the wall behind it, trying to understand something he’d missed before.

Tony continued to stare at the wall until something finally clicked.

He’d placed the shovel against that wall, the shovel which was no longer there.

“No,” he said. “No… no… no…” Tony dropped the crowbar as though it were a viper and backed out onto the landing. He quickly closed the door. If only he could do the same in his mind.

He turned his attention back to the missing shovel. His eyes went wide as a dire thought began to form. He moved toward the rail, looked over the side and saw the sheet ladder.

Heather, tell me you didn’t go there…

He knew immediately that she was still alive. This brought great relief as well as extreme horror.

Tony had no time to consider this as he watched several dark shapes stagger among the cars. The dead were coming from multiple directions, straight toward the motel.

A larger group would pass very close to the parked vehicle beneath the willow tree.

Tony used the breached stairwell to get to the first floor. He immediately crouched down behind the closest vehicles and slowly made his way toward the willow tree. Fortunately, many of the monsters were still scattered too far apart and moved with much difficulty through the maze of parked cars. He wanted desperately to turn on his flashlight as he heard them pushing their way through debris and bumping into vehicles nearby. It became increasingly difficult in the dark to detect how close they were. Holding the gun made him feel a little better. He would only use it as a last resort.

One creature, dressed in a tore up leather jacket and still wearing a motorcycle helmet, passed extremely close as Tony heard its strangled moans and stopped just in time at the front of a Sedan, letting the dead motorcyclist pass just in front of him. It smelled like it had been rolling around in the sewer. He stifled an involuntary cough which almost betrayed his position.

Tony kept moving until he felt fingers reaching at the back of his neck. He almost cried out as he turned, realizing that he’d almost missed the willow if not for its long, spider-like branches which had reached down in the breeze and touched him.

He turned around and ducked beneath the branches until he found the right side of the mini-van. Heather was sitting near a freshly dug shallow grave near the front of the car. She could’ve easily passed for one of the dead the way the moonlight hid her face in shadow.

“Heather, why are you out here?” he asked from a distance, trying not to startle her. “It’s not safe.”

“Tony?” she asked, as if coming out of a trance. “I tried to be quiet when I left. You looked like you needed to rest.”

Tony moved in beside her, grateful that she wasn’t out in the open. The mini-van and the willow did a good job of concealing their position for the moment. He whispered, “Those… things are all over the place. We can’t stay here.”

Heather appeared distracted, staring at the dark windows of the mini-van. “Not too loud, Tony. I don’t want to wake them up. It will be easier to finish this if they’re still.”

“What? Wake who up?” He was getting anxious. “Didn’t you hear me? We have to go.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Tony. They need me.”

He didn’t want to sound insensitive, but there was just no time for this. “Heather, your family is dead. We’re going to be dead too, if you don’t come with me now. Maybe we can come back… after things have calmed down, but we have-”

Something was moving around in the mini-van causing it to rock slightly.

“What the fuck? Did you see that?”

Heather took a deep breath. “My girls are awake.”

“What the hell do you mean ‘awake’?”

Heather started to cry again. “When we first arrived here, the girls had to get out and pee. I normally wouldn’t let them go outside, especially with all these people around, but things were different and everything was falling apart all around us. Alvin offered to take them out… it was only for a few minutes. I sat in the car and kept my eye on them, even with Alvin out there… I watched them like a hawk. I’d been a nervous wreck ever since we fled our home to get away from the city and Alvin just wanted me to rest. That’s when the monsters came out of the woods and attacked my family.”

Tony got up and slowly walked over to the mini-van.

“The girls were bitten up real bad. Those things went at them like a pack of wild dogs. Alvin fought them off and got my babies back in the mini-van. He was bit as well, but they all made it back and I thought we were okay…”

Tony approached the tinted rear passenger window.

“Then they got sick… real sick… there was nothing I could do. My girls died in the first few hours… Alvin went next, but not before he pushed me out of the van and locked the doors. He wouldn’t let me back in… told me to run and hide. I didn’t understand why he’d keep me from my babies… not at first. Then he died.”

Tony looked into the window, cupping his flashlight beam and tapping on the glass.

“I hid beneath the van when things got worse. I didn’t know where to go… I didn’t want to leave. When I finally had a chance to check on them my girls were awake…”

Two hideous looking girls with dark eyes and pale skin stretched thin over bones, pressed their faces against the glass and tried to bite him.

Tony fell to the ground, scurrying back from the van. “My, God, what happened to them?” He felt ill.

“Alvin’s gone for sure… I think they… fed on him before he could… ” Heather could say no more.

Tony couldn’t stop shaking. He’d seen enough—he’d had enough. It was time to leave. He reached for Heather’s arm and said, “Let’s go, before the rest of them hear the children.” He felt chilled to the bone just saying those words.

She pulled her arm back and said, “Now you understand why I waited so long to bury them. I’m still waiting for them to stay asleep. That’s when I’ll know for sure that it’s over… that’s when I’ll know that they’re finally at rest.”

Tony could hear the rest of them approaching the willow tree. They were out of time.

“You’re going to die here if you don’t come with me,” he said.

“You have to go, Tony. I’m staying. I can’t leave them like this… would you?”

There was no way he could answer that. He felt blessed that he didn’t have to.

The dead were pushing though the tree branches.

She smiled at him and said, “Go, Tony. Find your Gina. I’m where I need to be now.”

Tony was already in tears. “I’m so very sorry for all this. I can’t even imagine…”

She patted his hand. “It’s alright. Just go… please.”

Tony handed her the revolver. “Just point and shoot. It might buy you a few seconds.”

Heather looked deeply grateful. “Thank you, Tony… for everything. You’re still my hero, nothing will ever change that.”

“Fuck!” he said, storming out of the willow, just as the first of the dead were moving through the spider branches. He spotted a field of weeds just beyond the grassy area. It was his only chance to escape.

He looked back at Heather who just… stood there.

Run, you foolish woman! Why won’t you run?

“Hey! This way! Over here!” Tony got the attention of the larger group which just started passing the willow. They turned their dark eyes on him and became excited, moving faster after the fresh meal in the grass.

Tony stayed as long as he could, hoping to get as many of them to chase him as possible. That was when he saw something which would haunt his dreams forever:

He watched Heather pick up the shovel and shatter the passenger window. She unlocked the door stepped into the mini-van and closed the door behind her.

“No!” There was nothing left to do. There were at least twenty maniacs headed toward him, wanting only to feed upon his exhausted flesh.

Tony turned and ran toward the field.

His heart dropped when he heard two quick gun shots followed a few moments later by a single shot.

He reached the end of the grassy area and slammed into a chain link fence. The fence knocked the wind out of him, sending him spinning to the ground.

The dead moved in faster, sensing their prey was trapped.

Get up! Get up! GET UP!

Tony pulled himself up using the fence and continued to scale it until he was able to swing his leg over the top of the eight-foot barrier.

The first of the undead slammed into the fence, reaching their savage arms upward just as he fell off the other side and into the weeds.

They howled in frustration, piling up against the fence, smashing their faces into mesh and gnashing their bloody teeth at him.

Tony got to his feet and ran. He refused to look back—he would never look back. Tony was too afraid that he would catch a glimpse of three more corpses at the fence—a mother and her two children—and seeing this would destroy what remained of his hope which claimed that surviving the night still meant anything.


Next Episode 17-5

Previous Episode 17-3


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“Chapter 17-4: Dark Territory” 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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