anger-794699_640

~~~

They walked the rest of the night, heading northeast on Route 307 out of Harpersfield, wanting as much distance as possible before considering shelter. The dismal two-lane road into the unknown, littered with abandoned cars and the devoured remains of the living, was the first time Gina had diverted them from the relative safety of the Grand River and its woodland cover. Traveling out in the open was risky, especially in the dark, but they stayed quiet, approaching each new obstacle in the road as a potential death sentence should the undead reach out and surprise any of them with a fatal bite. Fortunately, they encountered no one, as they were once again made to feel like the last of the living in a long dead world.

As morning twilight slit the horizon open, spilling out a pink and red dawn, they came across a large vineyard with a ranch home set back off the highway. After ensuring the area was clear of danger and that no one inhabited the house, they settled in and ate what little they had with what they found in the pantry. Meredith discovered a small first-aid kit and tended their injuries before Gina and Meredith took the first watch. Within an hour, everyone else was sleeping like the dead.

Gina felt surprising calm as she stared out the sliding glass door from her kitchen table perch, which overlooked the vineyard out back. The rising sun dominated the early morning as its majestic display reminded her that there was still some beauty left to behold. She opened up her battered area map with Doug’s scribbled path toward the cabin in the mountains. In that moment, after the hell of Harpersfield and everything which had come before, she believed that they just might make it if nothing else happened.

“How are you holding up, honey?” Meredith took a seat across the table from her. She winced at the scar on Gina’s face which ran down just under her right eye and ended at the base of her cheek. “I wish there had been something more I could’ve done for that. Does it hurt?”

“Only when I smile,” she said absently, getting lost in her map. “That shouldn’t pose a problem at the moment.”

Meredith couldn’t tell if she was joking. “You look beat. Why don’t you get some rest. I can stand watch. I’m doing much better now that we’re away from town.”

“In a little bit. I just want to explore our options before we have to face another day out there.”

“How’s the arm?”

“Hurts like a son-of-a-bitch. I’ll live.”

Meredith waited, studying Gina’s blank expression.

Gina felt her probing stare. “Was there anything else, Meredith? Sorry… I don’t mean to be short. I’m just not feeling talkative right now.”

The older woman nodded and then sighed. “Two things. But they can both wait until you’ve had some sleep.”

Gina laughed and looked at her. “Now that just sounds like prep for bad news. You might as well tell me now so I don’t have to go to sleep worrying about one more fucking thing.”

“I feel them again—the yellow-eyed ones. I believe we’re heading right for them. I didn’t start sensing them until we traveled far enough away from Harpersfield… but I’ve been feeling them steadily all night as we continued in our present direction.”

Gina sighed heavily. “How long do we have?”

“They’re still distant, like a low hum in my skull, but it’s getting louder.”

“So basically if we keep heading for the Ashtabula group of survivors, we’re going to run right into them. Is that what you’re telling me?”

Meredith frowned. “I’m sorry, Gina.”

Gina stared at the map and then pushed it off the table. “Shit. Are we ever going to catch a fucking break? Chances are, the Ashtabula group’s been attacked… probably all dead.”

“You’re tired. Go get some rest and things will look better when you’re refreshed.”

“Are you fucking kidding me, Meredith? Better? Nothing’s getting better! Every time we stick our heads out of the sand to catch a breath, something wants a bite out of it! I was just starting to believe… never mind.”

Meredith said nothing.

“Sorry, Meredith… I’m… I don’t mean to take my shit out on you.” Gina sunk in the chair. “You’re right. I’m too tired to think straight right now.”

Meredith stood up and helped her out of the chair. “It’s alright, honey. Just go get a nap in and we’ll talk later.”

Gina let Meredith lead her to a small couch. It looked heavenly. “Wake me if there’s a hint of trouble, okay?”

“Will do.” Meredith picked up Gina’s map and placed it on the table. She then sat down in Gina’s spot and took in the view. “Well… would you look at that. Beautiful.”

Gina lied down and stared at the older woman. “What was the other thing you wanted to tell me?”

“It can wait,” Meredith said.

“Tell me so I can sleep already.”

Meredith hesitated, letting out a deep breath as her shoulders drooped. She turned and said, “The world we live in now is dark and ugly. We both know this on many levels. We can’t control the wind of circumstances, but we can control how we deal with them. Do you believe that, Gina?”

Gina waited, not trusting any answer she could give to that question anymore.

“I’m saying this for your own good, honey. It’s never too late to choose another way.”

“Just spit it out, Meredith.”

“You are becoming cold, Gina. Very cold.”

~~~

He can’t get free of the heavy plastic curtain. Charlie is crying out for help but no one is there. They’re dragging him out the front door of the mock toy store. His knees strike the asphalt hard as they continue to drag him down the street.

He’s suddenly free of the plastic as a grey-eyed man with blond hair kicks him hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him.

Charlie is begging them to spare his life while struggling for air. They pick him up and drag him around a corner, then down an alley and out the other side on to another street.

He’s in tears by the time they throw him up against a brick wall and begin kicking him. They raise blunt objects to bash his skull in as Charlie lifts his hands to defend himself.

“Please,” he begs, “please… don’t do this. I’ll do anything you want.”

They are not interested in his words… only his blood splattered across the sidewalk.

As they are about to strike, Charlie screams, “GET AWAY FROM ME!”

They hesitate.

There are guttural sounds coming from nearby store fronts. Pounding. Windows are shattering.

The grey-eyed monsters are distracted now. They look at one another confused. They are afraid.

One of them shouts while pointing at a window, “Unclean!”

The others are backing up into the street.

Charlie can’t see them yet—can’t see the famished undead going bat-shit crazy trying to get out of the quarantined buildings. He doesn’t understand that they are responding to his voice—responding to the maddening command to ‘get away’. Two have already broken out. They spot Charlie’s would-be murderers and attack, seeing only flesh to feed upon. Five more break out into the street.

The grey-eyed men and women are deathly afraid. They can’t understand how this is happening.

Charlie finally sees the source of what saved his life. They are coming for him now. They are coming for his flesh.

“GET BACK!” he yells, just before the bare-bone remains of a woman in a dirty nightgown is about to fall upon him. The sickly woman recoils as if struck, gnashing her large teeth at him. Her skin is stretched so thin across her rotted frame that she resembles a mummy.

That’s when Charlie understands what’s happened.

He looks over at his group of attackers, now fending off the undead. Charlie is laughing now—laughing like a madman.

More of the undead are coming.

“COME TO ME!” he shouts while getting to his feet.

They slowly turn to him, responding to the sound of his voice.

Charlie wonders how much they can comprehend from their former lives—if they can comply with other commands. He points to the grey-eyed devils and shouts, “ATTACK!”

The undead follow his finger toward the flesh with grey eyes. They are more than happy to oblige. They charge Charlie’s attackers viciously.

“KILL THEM ALL!” Charlie shouts between fits of laughter. “EAT THEM PIECE BY PIECE… MAKE THEM SUFFER!”

The grey-eyed men and women turn to look at Charlie. They are the ones pleading now. They cannot hold back the Unclean. There are too many.

Charlie folds his arms and smiles with satisfaction as the first of the undead bite into the throat of the blond-haired man who kicked him in the stomach.

“FEED… FEED… FEED!” Charlie screams, sending the twenty undead monsters into a frenzy as they devour the pale fools.

He stays long enough to watch their blood stain the street, as the dead tear them to pieces.

Charlie closes his eyes, savoring the sound of their screams.

“Die,” he hisses. “Every last one of you fucking…

~~~

…DIE!” Charlie bolted upward from his makeshift bed of sweaty sheets to find Frank sitting in a wooden chair with his arms folded over the back, staring at him.

“Morning, sunshine,” he said. “Sleeping in during the Apocalypse… now, that has to be a first.”

“What the fuck… what time… why are you sitting there?” Charlie was flustered.

“Did you know you talk in your sleep? It’s very cute.”

Charlie wanted to slice the shit-eating grin off the big man’s face. “What do you want? Or do you get off on watching people sleep?”

“Only when they’re having the kind of dreams you’re having. Must have been a doozy. Sounds like you had a hell of a time back in Crazy-ville. Which reminds me, I’d love to know how you got away back at the toy store? You didn’t happen to see the fucker who stole my rifle did you? Greg’s been giving me shit about it. He keeps going on and on with jokes about me trading it for a mannequin arm—long story, don’t ask.”

“Look, Mr. Creepy, save the twenty questions with a side of Chatty Kathy for later. Unless you have something important to say, and I’ll be as polite as I can be, could you please just go and fuck off!”

Frank laughed. “My, I almost missed your charming sarcasm. We’ll have to talk more about those twenty questions later, after you’ve had your morning coffee, breakfast in bed, and a glance at the Sunday paper. In any case, I’m glad you made it out of there. It might have gotten really boring around here without you.”

“Well, aren’t you Mr. Sentimental this morning… It is still morning… right?”

Frank snickered. “The boss has called a meeting. You should get dressed.”

“Stop calling that bitch ‘the boss’.”

“Okay, but only around everybody else.”

“I’m glad to see that someone is still upholding the standards of Asshole around here. We’ve lost too much already.” Charlie pretended to wipe a tear from his eye.

Frank got up and exited, laughing all the way out of the bedroom.

“You know… everyone still likes me a little better than you!” Charlie called after him. “Fucking creepy-crawly son-of-a-bitch!”

When Charlie was alone again, he thought back to last night. I killed all of those people! He knew he should feel horrified by his actions—at the very least, sickened by the ease in which he used his ability to turn the dead against his attackers. But he felt fine… just fine.

Charlie quickly got dressed, unable to hold back the wicked smile of satisfaction which dominated his face.

~~~

Next Episode 21-2

Previous Episode 20-8

~~~

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 21-1: Goodbye Charlie” 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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