Chapter 22-8: Almost Dead

Posted: January 31, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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Unknown30

~~~

The yellow-eyed dead invaded the quiet night. Fast moving footfalls echoed like rain on asphalt surrounding the apartment building. They did not understand that their prey remained hidden within the three-story structure, only that they were close and that they would tear through anything that obstructed their path to the flesh which fed the fire within them. The monsters began to push against old brick walls, becoming further enraged by this new obstacle which stood between them and the blood. They soon found the front and rear doors and violently began to bang against them. With their numbers, they would push through both doors in a manner of minutes.

From the gymnasium balcony, Tommy tried to shut out the maddening moans of the dead; their guttural language easily translating into: Let us in, so that we may feast upon your eyes!

“Try not to think about them,” Frank whispered to Tommy’s right. “You’ll make them more terrifying in your mind before they’ve even breached the building. They have the numbers but we have the high ground. Just focus on the gymnasium door and don’t fucking give them another advantage.”

Tommy turned to the big man and nodded.

Frank and Greg positioned themselves among the five teenagers as seven rifles aimed downward toward the gym floor.

Greg silently prayed that the collapsed ceiling on the first floor would be enough to stop the monsters, and perhaps, like other predators, they would simply turn away and seek out easier prey. But as he listened to their frustrated howls outside, he was quickly becoming convinced that they all were way in over their heads. These yellow-eyed monsters were unlike the reanimated dead they’d faced at the marina and in Painesville. Those zombies, although dangerous in a mob, were still much slower and far less cunning than these vicious things which hunted them now. Just the fact that the horde had been tracking them ever since the power plant was enough to make Greg wonder just how intelligent this brand of zombie truly was.

“I hope a few of them make it in this far,” Brian said. “I’m dying to shoot at something with a little more fight left in them than the dead leftovers which wander our town.”

“Son,” Greg said, “if you’d seen what we saw in Percy, you’d be shittin’ yourself right now. These creatures aren’t anythin’ to be toying with if it can be helped.”

“I’m not afraid of them,” Brian lied. “We saw them when the town first went crazy. People we knew had turned and started attacking each other. If they hadn’t been in such a hurry to leave town when they did, we would’ve cleared them out of the downtown area eventually and thrown their carcasses in the fire like all the others.”

Greg shook his head. “I hope you still feel that way when you see how fast they can move. They’re bad enough to deal with by themselves, but together in a horde, they’re relentless. The National Guard at the power plant could do nothing to stop them. They were overrun within an hour. Just think about that and let it sink in. You underestimate these sons-a-bitches for a moment and you’ll regret it.”

Brian looked to the older man with the grave face, armed with an automatic weapon, and began to have doubts. “It would probably be better if they all get caught in the razor ribbon. All the gunfire would just wake the rest of the ones in town,” Brian added, trying to save face.

From below, they heard what sounded like the front door crashing open.

“Shit!” Brian said, aiming his shaking rifle toward the gym door. “This is really happening.”

Greg felt bad for the young man, for all of them.

They could hear the creatures trying to maneuver through the razor ribbon barrier. Screams of frustration reverberated down the hall as it sounded like several of them were being ripped to pieces trying to push their way through.

One of the teens closest to the second floor doorway took three nervous steps in that direction.

“Cole!” Tommy hissed. “Don’t you dare!”

Cole looked back, took a deep breath, and then reestablished his position covering the gymnasium door.

Frank smiled and said, “However this turns out, Tommy, I give you and your boys some credit. I know bigger, tougher guys than me who would have run out of here screaming by now. I’m starting to understand why the old man puts his faith in all of you to protect this place.”

Tommy frowned. “This is all we have now. We lost family when the town turned to shit. I saw my dad… I saw my dad turn into one of those things downstairs. I had to put him down myself after he killed my sister.”

For once, Frank had nothing witty to say.

~~~

Gina and Marcus could hear movement resonating from the first floor stairwell. It was hard to determine whether the dead were already inside or still trying to breach an exterior door or window. Long shadows dominated the near dark hallway. Only the lanterns in front of the first floor apartment doors kept their imaginations from seeing monsters which were not there.

“I don’t know what’s worse,” Gina whispered, “knowing that they’re down there or all this waiting around for the inevitable.”

“Perhaps there’s still a chance they won’t get any farther than Rusty’s traps. They may sense Meredith but they still don’t know we’re here for sure,” Marcus offered.

“Oh, they know,” Gina said. “Those things have been on our trail for too long not to know.”

Marcus considered the nerve-wrecked woman with the fiery red hair. She had done well to get them this far. “I’m sorry I didn’t speak up.”

“What?”

“Stephen and Amanda… I’m sorry I didn’t inform you. I made a bad error in judgment and thought that they could… resolve their own problems without raining on your good mood. I saw how much you were at ease at dinner… so full of hope. I guess I thought you needed a break and I was trying to handle this situation for you.”

Gina turned to him and said, “Okay, you fucked up. I’ve been there. You’ve saved my life on more than one occasion so I guess you’re entitled to get on my bad side every once in a while. Just don’t let it happen again, alright? I never had a reason not to trust you until now.”

Marcus frowned in the darkness. “I won’t betray your trust again,” he finished.

“That’s good to hear.”

Marcus looked down the hallway and asked, “Are you frightened, Gina?”

“I’m terrified, Marcus… fucking terrified. Aren’t you?”

He considered the question and said, “I find this moment we’re all forced to face very… exhilarating.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m all about the moments, Gina. Although this one is most unfortunate, it is still a moment which will outlive most moments we ever had or perhaps ever will have. We are going to discover more about ourselves in the next few minutes than we ever have before… and I find that both terrifying and exhilarating.”

“You are one strange man, Marcus.”

He smiled and said, “We all face the possibility of death differently, I suppose. I choose to be introspective and let the fear teach me something.”

“And that is?”

“I choose to let it teach me what it means to be truly alive… in the vital sense… and that is what I believe this moment will bring out no matter the outcome.”

Before she could respond, Rusty called over from the bottom of the third floor stairwell. “Gina, it’s happening. My lookouts just reported that they just breached the front door.”

She nearly fainted at the news. Get it together right now, you weak bitch! “I… I understand, Rusty. Where are the others?”

“I’m moving them to the roof as we speak. Your girl, Meredith, is with them.”

She nodded. “Right. We’re ready to do what we can here.”

Rusty nodded and then reluctantly said, “Gina, if they make it to the third floor…”

She saw the pitiful look in Rusty’s eyes. “Go on.”

“If they make it up here… well… then we have to do what we can to keep them here.”

Gina nodded. “I understand, Rusty. What’s your plan?”

“I told them to close the roof hatch and lock it. After that, they’ll be covering it with whatever they can find to slow those things down.”

“So we’ll be cut off from the roof,” Marcus stated with a nod. “Good for them, bad for us.”

“Exactly,” Rusty said. “Any objections?”

“No,” Gina quickly said before her fear took over. “In fact, you should get your ass up there, too. If they make it this far, chances are not good that we will last long down here.”

Marcus gave her a surprised look.

“No-can-do, little lady,” Rusty said. “I appreciate the gesture, but I’m not going to let your group or my boys deal with this alone. I have a couple of men with me from the families who will be helping me hold the third floor for all of you. That’s not up for debate, by the way.”

Gina smiled, her gratitude clearly showing. Before her tears started to fall she nodded and said, “Alright then. We stand together.”

The old man smiled and said, “Just make sure my boys get back here, alright?”

“You have my word,” Gina said, silently wondering if she could keep such a lofty promise.

~~~

Miss Marple took charge on the roof. Her usual no-zombie-talk rule took a back seat as she surprised Meredith with her sudden transformation into rooftop commander. The old school teacher quickly and calmly gave the remaining adults tasks to keep their minds off worrying about the children. To Meredith’s equal surprise, the families all seemed to understand what was happening more than she did. While the two remaining men quickly but quietly closed and locked the hatch above the stairwell. The wives took up positions near the portals, all armed with what remained of Rusty’s rifles and preparing to open fire down on the horde from above.

“Meredith,” Miss Marple said, “will you help me with the children?”

“Certainly,” she said and followed the old woman into the bungalow.

Miss Marple locked the flimsy door behind her and led them into a living room where she got all the children to sit on the floor in a circle before a large sectional couch.

“Okay, children,” she said, motioning for Meredith to join the circle, “we’re going to play a little game now, one you’re all very familiar with.”

“Are the monsters finally coming, Miss Marple?” a young girl with pigtails asked.

Meredith was shocked by the question. She looked to the school teacher.

Miss Marple smiled and said, “Yes… yes… we knew they might come and visit us one day but that’s why we’ve always practiced our game. Does anyone know what game I’m referring to?”

Several of the kids raised their hands anxiously.

“Go ahead, Michael, tell us what game we’re playing?”

A blond-haired boy smiled and said proudly, “Hide or Kill Monsters!”

“That’s right!” Miss Marple said. “Very good, Michael. Does anyone remember how we play the game?”

This time a dark-haired girl answered, “We stay very, very still and wait for the monsters to pass.”

“That’s right!” Miss Marple, leaned in and whispered, “And if we’re very quiet they might not find us. But what happens if they do find us?”

“If the monsters turn and find us we jump out and get them!” another boy answered.

“Shh!” the teacher said, reminding them to whisper. “And how do we do that, Jonathan? How do we get the monsters?”

A bashful young boy tried to remember the answer. He looked to the other children who were moving their hands up and down, trying to give him a clue. And then his face lit up. “We sneak up real quiet before they see us and stab them in the heads with our knives!” Young Jonathan was also making the stabbing gesture now.

“That’s right,” Miss Marple whispered. “So if the monsters downstairs make it up to the roof, then we’ll have to start our game and that means we have to stay real, real quiet.”

The children looked excited by the prospect.

Meredith was stunned to silence. She stood up, feeling woozy and not from sensing the beasts downstairs. “I… I need a moment,” she said to the teacher and moved toward the kitchen.

Miss Marple gave her an understanding look and then told the children, “Alright, you all be good and stay seated. She reached beneath the couch and pulled out a big box of Legos and a briefcase. She put the box of Legos at the center of the circle and the children went at them like vultures.

The old school teacher got up and took the briefcase into the kitchen.

Meredith turned and offered up a half-hearted smile. “Sorry. It… it was a bit much. I understand that you’re just trying to help the children fight back… but it’s still so darn awful.”

Miss Marple gently placed her hand on Meredith’s shoulder and said, “We’ve always known that it could happen. Rusty wanted the children to be able to fight back if… if all else failed.”

Meredith nodded.

The old teacher placed the briefcase on the kitchen counter and popped the latches open. “When the time comes, we need to make sure they each have one.” She opened the lid and revealed a cache of hunting knives.

“Dear Lord,” Meredith said. “I… I don’t know if I can… I’m sorry.” She suddenly felt ill and quickly exited the bungalow. She focused on the night sky and on breathing, trying to keep her emotions from distracting her. She had to concentrate extremely hard to keep the demons out of her head. She’d already done enough damage without making matters worse for them.

Teaching children to kill… is that what’s required now? She felt angry, full of sorrow, and betrayed by her own so-called ‘gift’. I should’ve known what they were doing. I should’ve figured it out long before now. She placed her hands over her face and let the tears fall. In desperation, she found herself borrowing a page from Greg’s faith and cried out to the mysterious and unseen God she struggled to believe in. “I don’t know if you’re up there, and if you are, I don’t know if you even care about freaks like me. But I beg you, not for my sake, but for all these people who do believe in you, help me… help me fix this. I’ll do anything if you would just… please… help me.”

As expected, the skies did not part, an army of angels did not descend, and she certainly did not hear a booming voice from above commanding her to repent of her ways.

But she did receive an answer. She recalled her dream, specifically, the image of the Percy Power Plant parking lot infested with the dead.

A horrible idea began to form in her mind. It was risky, if it was even possible.

There’s no other way to survive this, she thought, struggling with a desperate plan which would require her to break a vow in the attempt.

Meredith quickly entered the bungalow to find all eyes on her.

“Miss Marple,” she said. “I’m going to need your help.”

“Of course,” she said, getting up and moving out of ear shot of the children. “Meredith, what can I do to help you?”

Meredith sunk her head down and said, “I’m going to need you to tie me up with whatever you can find. I need to be restrained, put under armed guard and kept somewhere away from the others.”

Miss Marple gave her a questioning look. “Why on earth would I want to do that?”

“Because I’m about to try something I’ve always said I’d never do… and if it goes terribly wrong, I’m going to become very dangerous to you and your people.”

~~~

Stephen is floating in a black sea with no sun. It isn’t night. It is too dark to be night.

I’m dead. This is what death is like… no bright light at the end of some tunnel… no flames and demons with pitchforks… just nothingness… alone and floating in nothingness… forever… no heaven, no hell… just damned…

“You’re not alone, my love.” Nicole’s voice echoes across the void.

“What? How can you be here?” he asks. “I don’t want you here! You don’t deserve this. I do!”

“You’re not dead,” she says. “Time to wake up”…

…Stephen’s eyes shot open as Amanda poured whiskey over his head. He nearly screamed as the alcohol struck his open head wound. He reacted to the immense sting but discovered he couldn’t move his arms or legs.

“I don’t want that to get infected before I’ve had a chance to make you suffer first,” Amanda said as she tossed the bottle across the room. She bent over and put her face a foot from his. “Welcome back, Stephen. I’m so glad you didn’t die on me.”

Stephen looked down in horror as he discovered Amanda’s handiwork. While he was unconscious, she’d managed to duct tape him naked to a chair.

After the throbbing pain in his head began to lessen, he said, “Amanda, whatever you have planned, please don’t do this… I came here willingly, even after Marcus told me your intentions to kill me.”

“He told you?” she seemed disappointed. “I don’t know why I’m surprised. You fucking men stick together no matter what despicable things you do to others.”

“Amanda… please… just hear me out.”

“Why the fuck would I do that!?” She began pacing around the chair. “Why would I give you one more second to lie to my fucking face, saying you’re my friend and caring about me after what you did to Marie?”

Stephen opened his mouth to speak but failed to find words.

“How dare you pretend to be anything after what you took from me! I bear my soul to you about my dead daughter and there you were the whole time, pretending to care when all she was to you was a piece of ass! And then you have the audacity to carry around my Marie’s diary! Why would you do that? Is it some fucking sick trophy to you?”

“I… I felt bad for what I did to your daughter… I’ve been carrying around the guilt ever since that night. Your daughter’s words gave me peace. If not for her diary, I never would’ve made it this far.”

“Gave you fucking peace! Are you for real? What… what… after fucking her and leaving her to die at the school… you had to keep your twisted fantasy alive somehow? Did you masturbate all over yourself reading my dead baby’s words every night… you sick, twisted fuck?”

“No! It wasn’t like that! You don’t understand, Amanda.”

“I don’t understand? I understand perfectly, you fucking liar! Let me paint the picture for you: Married man cheats on his wife with a girl young enough to be his daughter… or how about this one… school teacher rapes one of his students and then leaves her to die in a fucking fire to hide his despicable crimes! You pick.”

Stephen was shaking his head. He tried to speak but started to weep instead.

“Oh, poor fucking baby! Am I supposed to feel sorry for you now that the zombies have taken over the fucking world? You make me sick! Here’s my favorite scenario: School teacher fucks young girl and leaves her to die. While trying to get away, he’s rescued by girl’s distraught mother… ha… ha… fucking joke’s on me!”

“I’m truly sorry that Nicole is dead,” Stephen said. “I’m sorry about everything.”

Amanda moved in like thunder and slapped him hard across the face. “Don’t you ever call her that! At least have the decency to call the girl you raped by her fucking name! It’s MARIE you piece of shit!”

“Please… Amanda… I’m already a dead man. I understand that now. But you’re entitled to know what really happened. Don’t you want to know how she died?”

Amanda shook her head. “No… enough of your lies! This ends now.” Amanda stood directly in front of him and folded her arms across her chest. She looked down at his penis. “So much pain and heartache caused by such a small thing.”

Stephen felt humiliated. “Please… don’t. If you’re going to kill me then just shoot me and get it over with.”

“Oh, you’re not getting off that easy. Besides, you’ve seen my tits twice now. So suck it up, because I’m going to make you suffer for what you’ve done.” She walked over to the bar and picked up an item. When she returned, she showed Stephen the corkscrew.

Stephen had never felt more terrified. “What are you planning to do, Amanda?”

“Well, since it’s your pecker that’s the root of all this pain in my heart, I figured we’d start there and remove the problem.”

“You wouldn’t. You’re not a monster, Amanda.”

Monster.

She ignored him. “All I have to do is get that thing to rise to attention—and believe you, me—it never takes much for you dogs to get it up. After that, I could just shove this right in and… twist. Then I could just pop it of like a fucking cork. What do you think?”

Stephen closed his eyes. He could not reason with the rage which ruled her heart. Amanda was capable of anything right now.

“Or, I could just go fetch a zombie from outside and let it eat the fucking thing clean off! Hell, there’s a girl out there who might be just right for you. All it does is window shop. I could let her take a real crack at the goods down below and sit back and watch the show.”

God, I’m at your mercy, Stephen prayed. If this is what it takes to pay for my sins, then so be it. All I ask is that you please make it quick. I have nothing left now.

And then he heard her voice in his thoughts. Stephen, my love, I can’t stand this any longer. I’ll not let her continue this. Stay strong for me.

Stephen smiled and uttered, “Nicole.”

“I told you not to say that! Maybe I’ll just stick this in your fucking tongue first!” Amanda rushed forward to follow through with her threat.

“Back the fuck off me, Bitch!” Stephen suddenly shouted. “And my name is NICOLE! The name my father gave me you worthless whore!”

Amanda stopped. For a moment she heard her daughter’s voice and saw her daughter’s eyes burning where Stephen’s eyes used to be. “What kind of sick game are you playing now?”

“Sick game?” Stephen continued. “Just look at yourself! You’re out of fucking control… again! You do this every time that fucking house of anger goes up in flames… you try to put it out with so much whiskey you can’t even remember how the fucking blaze started to begin with! Except this time, the flames are too powerful for even you to put out… no matter how much poison you drown yourself in!”

“How dare you talk to me like you know me!” Amanda dropped the corkscrew and pulled out her handgun. “Just because you read my daughter’s words doesn’t give you the right to hurt me with them! There’s just no end to the damage you wish to cause, is there?” She pointed the gun in his face, intending to pull the trigger, but couldn’t. She continued to see her daughter’s eyes staring back at her.

“Do it, you cowardly bitch!” Stephen said. “That’s just your style, Mother. When someone calls you on your bullshit, you look for someone else to blame… someone else to destroy and take the fall for your fucking messes!”

Amanda couldn’t stop shaking. She could barely hold the gun straight. “What… what is this?”

There was no stopping the dead girl which rose up out of Stephen. “You’ve single-handedly destroyed everything and everyone around you, you heartless bitch! Friendships, family, self-respect…You’re like a fucking curse! It’s because of you that I became the way I did! It’s because of you that Dad pushed me away after your fucking messy divorce because all he could see when he looked at me was the whore you turned me into! He couldn’t even love me anymore because I reminded him of YOU!”

“Stop it!” Amanda shouted. “Shut your fucking devil mouth before I-”

“Before you what? Before you fuck another man I love to keep me from ever being happy? To keep me miserable and depressed like you?”

Amanda lowered the gun. “Marie? Are… are you really in there?”

“And you never loved me either!”

“That’s… that’s not true! I’ve always loved you.” Amanda dropped the gun. She turned away before the panic took over. She started toward the bar to find another bottle.

“That’s right! Hide behind your poison, you coward! That’s the only thing you truly love!”

Amanda stopped.

“Fuck! I’m dead and you still abandon me for your precious booze! You left me alone all those years while you went out night after night and slept with strange men and tried to become someone you’re not. You smothered me in your fucking pain and murdered anything good that was trying to grow inside of me. You stole my father from me… my friends… my dignity… everything! All because you couldn’t just love me and be proud of me! No… you had to compete with me instead, because I had the life you wanted so badly!”

Amanda turned. Her rage was replaced with a deep, dark sorrow which came crashing to the surface of her inebriated thoughts. “Marie… I never knew you were hurting… I couldn’t see it behind my own pain-”

“FUCK YOU! I don’t want to hear your excuses anymore! If there’s any shred of decency left in you… if you still love me at all… then you would stop this madness right now and let Stephen go!”

The anger was returning. “No!” she said. “He… he took advantage of you… clouded your mind and made you think you were special. They all do that! They make you think that they love you and then they use you and spit you out when they’re through with you. He deserves to suffer!”

“It’s YOU who deserves to suffer!” Nicole said. “Here you are torturing this poor man for trying to come clean with you… he’s felt nothing but sorrow since my death and all you can do is blame him for all your bullshit! This is the man who I love, Mother! Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Will you continue destroying everything that matters to me?”

She shook her head. “You don’t love him. He’s just a man… and they’re all fucking dogs that-”

“SHUT… UP! Listen to yourself! You hate all of them no matter who it is. You blame men for making you a whore but you made yourself the whore! You drink and drink and become anything they want you to be because you enjoy it! You enjoy being desired by men so you can turn around and shit all over them! That’s the only way you can cope with how fucked-up you truly are.”

Amanda was openly weeping now. “I… I can’t help it! I’ve always been this way! The only way I can function like a normal human being is if I drink! I don’t… I don’t know any other way to live!”

“You’re a monster,” Nicole said. “If you really loved me at all, you’d take the gun and shoot yourself in the fucking head and do us both a favor!”

Amanda looked stricken. She needed the booze desperately before the flood of sorrow overwhelmed her. Every word her daughter spoke was like another bullet ripping through all her facades until she was left completely exposed and vulnerable. She picked up the gun and stared at it. Maybe she’s right. Maybe this is the one thing I can do for her.

“Do it,” Nicole pushed. “Do it before you hurt Stephen again—and you will, because you don’t know how to stop yourself from hurting the people I love. This is the one thing you can do that will make things right between us… it’s the only thing.”

Don’t listen to her, Amanda, the insistent voice of the demon beckoned. There’s nothing you can do now to change the past. Your daughter is dead… your life is dead… your world is dead… there is only ME now.

Amanda raised the gun quickly before the alcohol demon could distract her. She placed it against her temple and closed her eyes.

I couldn’t protect my little girl from the monsters outside, she thought. But just this once, maybe I can kill the one monster who ruined her life a long time ago.

She placed her finger on the trigger.

~~~

Next Episode 22-9

Previous Episode 22-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 22-8: Almost Dead” 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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