Chapter 23-3: Recruits

Posted: March 8, 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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Unknown117

~~~

Andrew woke to the sound of static coming from the radio just outside his tent. He sat up too quickly and immediately regretted it; his head pounded to the rhythm of the hangover which assaulted his skull. “Dude…” he announced to the cool night while rubbing the sides of his head. He looked at his watch: 3:35 am.

Something shifted in the dark to his right. He reacted as if a snake had crawled into bed with him until memory started catching up. He crossed his arms over his bare chest and then looked within his sleeping bag. He was completely naked. “Shit… what did you do now, dumb ass?” he scolded himself.

Andrew reached over to his right and found a second sleeping bag. He slowly pulled back the top until he recognized Violet’s dark hair. “No way!” He cupped a giddy smile and unzipped her bag until Violet’s bare, perky tattooed breasts pointed up toward the top of the tent. “Fuck… me…” he said, immediately becoming aroused. I hit that last night? He remembered dirty dancing with the moody Goth girl who became a lot more fun around the tenth beer. Somehow they’d ended up doing the deed.

He continued to unzip Violet’s bag, never realizing until now just how fucking hot she was.

Violet opened her eyes briefly, said something incoherent, and then rolled over on her side, pulling the sleeping bag back up over her head.

Damn, she’s still fucked-up… so much for seconds.

He had to piss, badly. Andrew threw his clothes on, and then got up slowly and exited the tent. The cool night air struck him immediately. He hurriedly walked by the radio, which continued to buzz with static, and went to the edge of the woods to relieve himself. On his way back, he noticed the fire had burned down to embers as he approached the pit, nearly slipping on one of many discarded beer bottles. He briefly looked up at the full moon, grateful for what ambient light it provided.

Andrew sat down as close to the pit as possible, hoping to catch a little residual heat. He looked around at the quiet tents and nearly jumped out of his skin when he almost failed to notice the tall form of Justin standing in between two tents with his back turned toward him.

“Dude,” he said. “You just scared the shit out of me.”

Justin did not respond.

To Andrew, it appeared as though Justin was out of breath as he watched the tall teen’s shoulders rise and fall rapidly.

“Man, you got it bad,” Andrew laughed. “What, did you forget where your tent was, fool?”

Justin continued to stare off beyond the tents and into the woods.

“Hey, stop acting all Blair Witch and sit your drunk ass down.” Andrew was becoming uncomfortable. “Are you sick or something?”

Justin sluggishly turned around. He was staring at his feet as though it took real effort to get them to cooperate.

Andrew got up and approached him. “Hey, man, maybe you should go lie down.”

Justin’s head snapped up. The moonlight immediately captured his bright yellow eyes and pulsating veins that ran down his cheeks as if they were about to burst.

Andrew stopped and raised his hands. “What the fuck…?”

Justin barred his teeth and snarled at him.

“Holy shit!” he said, backing up quickly. He couldn’t look away from Justin’s fierce eyes.

Justin lunged forward, swinging his arms toward him.

“Help!” Andrew called out and then tripped over a rock, falling backward into the fire pit. The remaining coals scattered in the air. Andrew started screaming as his back and hands began to burn.

Justin jumped into the fire pit, landing on Andrew’s waist, keeping him from getting up.

Andrew tried to kick at the thing as his hair caught fire.

The thing once known as Justin lunged toward his face and tore into his cheek, ripping a large chunk of flesh off with his teeth.

Andrew continued to scream until he passed out from the pain.

“Oh my God… somebody… help!” Violet called out. She had stepped out of her tent with a sleeping bag wrapped around her shoulders just in time to watch Justin attack Andrew over the fire pit.

Justin turned toward her, a piece of Andrew’s face dangling from his lower lip. It stumbled trying to get out of the fire and started crawling on all fours, growling at Violet with blood lust.

Violet turned, dropped her sleeping bag, and ran naked directly into the outside corner of her own tent. She fell on top of the collapsing tent, getting wrapped up in nylon as the tent poles gave way.

Justin was trying to rip through the thin material to reach her as Violet could not stop screaming.

“Hey!” she heard someone yell. “What the fuck’s the matter with you? Get out of there!”

The thing gave up on the tent and was gone. Violet had been desperately trying to claw her way out of the tent folds with shaking hands…but now, she simply remained still, hoping to God that the monster would forget she was there.

She heard others scrambling about. There were more shouts.

“Watch out! He’s… he’s infected!” she heard Jonathan yell.

“Fuck! Andrew’s on fire!” someone else screamed. “Damn-it, somebody help me put him out!”

“Move out of the way! Move out of the way! I can’t… son-of-a-bitch! He’s fucking fast!”

A woman screamed.

“Megan, run… Megan… it’s coming right for you… MEGAN!!!”

Violet covered her ears and crawled into a ball. She couldn’t stop shaking.

~~~

Megan ran blindly through the woods while the crazed teen pursued her. The only thing slowing him down was the thick brush which snapped back in his face as she barely stayed out of reach.

She had no idea where she was going or what was two feet in front of her as she was propelled forward by the adrenaline which flooded her body.

Megan could hear the others yelling after her but they sounded so far away.

She could hear it panting now.

“Oh God! Oh God! No… No… NO!” She felt its hand brush her shoulder and she bolted in another direction to avoid being caught.

The teen howled in frustration and continued after her, ignoring the brush that scraped his face as it pushed aside branches and everything else which stood between it and the meat.

Megan foolishly looked back and stumbled over an exposed tree root, landing directly in a pricker bush. She screamed out as she felt the tiny thorns tearing across her face, arms and legs when she tried to move.

Justin found her and began tearing through the bush.

She managed to crab-crawl her way clear of the bush except for her long hair which was tangled up in one thorny vine which she dragged out with her.

She looked back at the yellow-eyed demon which was snapping its teeth a foot from her face. Megan forgot the pain and pulled against the vine with a loud scream as she ripped a large chunk of her hair out and continued to run. The creature must have been stuck because she began to gain some distance… until she ran head first right into a tree.

Megan fell to the ground and almost blacked out. She managed to turn in time to see Justin running toward her. She tried to make herself small, hoping he’d run right past. She tried not to move or breathe.

The Justin-thing stopped five feet from the tree and… sniffed at the air?

She could hear the others calling her name and could see faint flashlight beams lighting up the woods. They were close, but not close enough. She so badly wanted to call out to them.

And then it turned right toward her and howled.

Oh, fuck me! Fuck me! She tried to move but the tree blocked her way. “Over here!” she called out to the others, not knowing if they could hear her.

Megan held up her hands to fend off the monster as Justin loomed over his prey.

And then she heard a sound that reminded her of wind blowing forcefully through a straw.

Something struck the back of Justin’s head, forcing him into the tree, directly over Megan’s spot.

The teen’s blood began to trickle down, landing on Megan’s head and running down her cheek. She wiped it away in disgust and crawled around Justin. The crazed teen did not move. When she gained some distance, she saw the bigger picture: Justin had been pinned to the tree by an arrow that was sticking out of the base of his skull.

Megan turned and threw up.

“Megan!” she heard Lucas call. He was close.

“I’m here! Over here!” she shouted. “Please… hurry.”

A couple of flashlight beams were approaching her position.

“Are you bit, child?” she heard a deep and calm voice ask from the dark.

Megan scanned the darkness for the source of the voice. The moonlight helped but there were still too many shadows.

Something shifted in the closest shadow, five feet to Megan’s left.

She jumped back.

“It’s alright,” the voice said. “I’m not here to hurt you… unless you’ve been bit or scratched.”

Megan quickly assessed herself, grabbing her breasts with both hands as if that verified that she was still in one piece. “I… I don’t think so. No, the scratches are from the pricker bush.”

“Lucky you, then,” the voice said.

Megan saw the shadow of a man stand up and step out into the moonlight. He was wearing a hoodie and carrying what looked like a bow strapped across his back.

“Thank… thank you,” she told the stranger.

The stranger looked down at her and then cupped his hands and blew into them. He then placed his hands into the front pocket of the hoodie. “It’s always way too cold this time of year,” he said as he looked toward the approaching lights.

Megan did not know how to respond to the strange comment.

Jonathan and Lucas appeared, stopping abruptly as their lights found Megan and the stranger who stood beside her.

“Get away from her!” Lucas threatened, when he saw the man. “If you’ve hurt her…”

Jonathan grabbed his brother by the shoulders. “Wait,” he said, pointing him toward the body pinned to the tree.

Lucas saw the arrow and then looked back at the man carrying a bow. He eased up.

The man had lowered his head to keep the light directly out of his eyes. He smiled at Lucas through his facial stubble, but remained still.

Lucas gave him an appreciative nod and then rushed to Megan. “Are you alright?” he asked, kneeling beside her. “My God, you’re a mess,” he said with concern.

She collapsed into his arms and wept.

Jonathan stood staring at the man.

“Hello, Jonathan,” the man finally said.

Jonathan was still in shock after everything that had just happened. “It’s damn good to see you… Donovan.” He looked at Justin pinned to the tree and he wanted to crawl into a hole forever. “It’s… it’s really happening, isn’t it?”

Donovan frowned from his hood and answered, “Yes.”

~~~

Dwayne kept busy feeding the fire while Violet sat nearby, now fully clothed, as she jumped nervously at every sound coming from the woods.

Simon was messing with the radio, trying to find a station—any station at all—to get their minds off of what just happened. So far all he found was static.

Both Simon and Dwayne kept stealing glances at their four-wheelers. They had dragged what was left of Andrew out of the pit, put his charred remains in his sleeping bag, and then placed his body behind the vehicles so they wouldn’t have to keep looking at him. No matter, the smell of burnt flesh lingered in the air, making Violet want to throw up.

When the others returned to camp, the recruits got to their feet, expecting some new horrors emerging from the woods.

To Lucas, the camp looked like it had been struck by a tornado. He led Megan toward the fire to get warm. She refused to let go of his hand as he sat down with her. He left her side long enough to get a First-Aid kit and returned to tend her wounds.

Dwayne looked relieved when he saw their leader. “Jonathan, thank God! We thought… hell… I don’t know what we thought.”

“It’s okay, Dwayne,” he lied. “Just stay cool and give me a minute to figure this all out. Is everyone here?”

“Yes. Violet, Simon and myself… we’re okay.” He looked toward the four-wheelers. “Andrew’s dead. We put him over there.”

Donovan removed his hood, revealing his unkempt thick brown hair.

The other recruits immediately recognized him.

“Has anyone been bitten… scratched… ingested blood not their own?” he asked the recruit.

“No… I… don’t think so,” Dwayne answered, becoming uncomfortable under Donovan’s scrutinizing gaze. “Is that what happened to Justin? Was he… infected?”

Donovan ignored him and started toward the four-wheelers.

“Justin’s dead,” Jonathan said, leaving Dwayne standing there with his mouth open. He knelt down in front of Violet. She couldn’t stop shaking. “Are you alright?”

She couldn’t look him in the eyes. “Sorry… sorry I turned into a pussy,” Violet said. “Just need a minute to get my shit together. I just didn’t… when I saw Justin… fuck… everything happened so fast.” She looked up and finished, “I won’t fuck up again.”

“I know you won’t,” Jonathan said. “Did you see it happen?”

She looked reluctant to relive the memory. “I came out of my tent and… Andrew was in the fire. Justin was on top of him… he was… eating him. He saw me and came after me. I got stuck in the mother-fucking tent so I don’t know what happened after that. I heard the rest of you and it just… let me go.”

“Jonathan,” Simon called over. “I can’t pick up a single radio station on this thing. There’s nothing but static.”

“We have other things to think about right now, recruit,” Jonathan said.

“Yeah… but that’s not all,” Simon continued. “We tried to call 9-1-1 but all we got were recordings saying that all the lines were busy. And then we lost reception entirely. No phone. No internet. Nothing. It all went dead… just like the radio.”

Jonathan retrieved his phone. It was the same. No service. He looked toward Donovan who was just coming out from behind the four-wheelers.

Donovan gave him a look which clearly said: What do you want from me? This is your group. Get yourself together and handle it. Donovan began walking around the perimeter of the camp, staring at the ground.

“Jon,” Lucas said. “Megan’s pretty fucked-up. We need to get on the quads and get out of here.”

“We’re not going anywhere!” Jonathan said, more forcefully than he intended. “Not yet anyway. We need to understand what we’re dealing with.” He looked over at Dwayne and said, “Take a spotlight and start scanning the woods for (he couldn’t get himself to say zombies) wild animals or anything or anyone else who’s lurking around out there. We have to assume something found Justin, infected him, and he in turn attacked Andrew.”

Dwayne looked terrified. “You mean there’s something else out in the woods? What do we do?”

“We don’t have any weapons, Jonathan,” Violet said with concern. “All we have are our hunting knives.”

Jonathan shook his head. “I know. We’ll just have to make-”

“I mean it, Jon, we need to get Megan the fuck out of here. You saw what that psycho kid tried to do to her,” Lucas said.

“Hey! Justin’s not psycho!” Dwayne defended. “It wasn’t him, you moron!”

“Alright! Keep it cool,” Jonathan said. “We’ve all had a moment and need to take a few deep breaths before we do anything rash-”

“Maybe the government’s imposing a nation-wide communication blackout,” Simon suggested, still obsessing over the radio. “That would mean they’re trying to control information to keep the public from panicking! Fuck… this is the end!”

They all continued to talk over each other, blurting out one fear-filled comment after another.

Jonathan grabbed the sides of his head. This is too… fucking… much! “Everyone just shut the fuck up for five minutes! LET ME THINK!”

They all looked stunned, infuriated, and needing someone to vent their fears upon.

“Before you all decide to scatter like ants and get yourselves killed wandering the woods, I suggest you all listen to Jonathan and be… fucking… still.” Donovan gave them all a challenging stare.

Everyone got quiet.

“First of all, the next time you dispose of a body, make sure you kill the brain before you stuff it in a God damn sleeping bag and place it out of your sight! Fortunately, recruit Andrew’s burn wounds did a sufficient job in taking care of the problem. Next, there’s no need to search the woods for the source of recruit Justin’s… change. I checked his body… there were no bite marks. Also, there were no signs of anything wandering into your camp while you slept.”

“So what does that mean?” Jonathan asked.

Donovan sat down, let out a heavy sigh, and said, “I had chained myself to a tree and was enjoying a sound sleep when I heard the girl screaming through the woods. Fortunately, I was close enough to put Justin down before he reached her.”

“How long have you’ve been out here?” Violet asked. “Why didn’t you just come to camp?”

Donovan laughed and shook his head. “It never ceases to amaze me how a simple point can be lost when anyone chooses not to listen to what’s being shared with them. I tell you I chained myself to a damn tree, and you’re wondering how long I’ve been out in the woods. Unbelievable. What the fuck does that matter, recruit? That’s my business, not yours.”

“Why did you chain yourself to a tree?” Lucas asked.

Donovan pointed to the younger Rhodes brother. “Bingo! Good question. Why did I chain myself to a tree? Or, looking back in retrospect, perhaps the better question is: Why didn’t the rest of you do the same?”

Megan spoke up. “Are you saying that Justin wasn’t attacked by anything… that he was already infected? That’s… that’s crazy.”

Donovan shoved a stick into the coals of the fire. “Think what you will, I don’t have any clear-cut answers for you. All I can tell you is that I received a text yesterday afternoon and it was a very strange text.”

“From Headquarters?” Jonathan asked. “What did they say?”

Donovan gave him a grave look. “It said: ‘Outbreak imminent. Random results. Self-Quarantine measures in effect. Standby for further instructions’.”

“What does that even mean?” Megan asked.

Donovan laughed. “That’s what I wondered. And then it hit me: if whatever it is, is airborne, then we wouldn’t even know about it, until it was too late.”

“You mean, like what happened to Justin?” Violet asked.

“Yes. Exactly like what happened to Justin,” Donovan said.

“And that’s why you chained yourself to a tree, because you didn’t know if you would turn or not,” Megan said.

Donovan raised his eyebrows and said to Lucas, “Better hold on to that one. She’s smart.”

“This is crazy,” Violet said. “We never trained for this. How do you fight something you can’t see that just… turns you into some yellow-eyed zombie at random?”

Donovan said nothing.

Simon joined them. “So… what… are we under attack? Did someone release something into the air? And if so, then why aren’t the rest of us tearing each other’s throats out? Are we somehow immune?”

Donovan had already considered these questions. “The message said ‘random results’. Random could mean anyone at any time. I think it’s too early to rule out that we’re all immune.”

“Shit… so any one of us could go bat-shit crazy in the next five minutes and turn into one of those… things?” Dwayne started pacing nervously.

“Just stay calm,” Jonathan advised. “Short of chaining ourselves to the nearest trees and waiting to see what happens, we’re just going to have to watch each other for sudden changes.”

“Agreed,” Donovan said. “What we really should be thinking about right now is how widespread this outbreak might be. We’re secluded out here. For all we know, this has happened everywhere.”

Everyone sat in silence as Donovan’s words hit home.

“I can’t believe that,” Megan said, shaking her head. “I won’t! This is crazy talk and you’re all just being paranoid. We need to get to the authorities and let them know what’s happened. For Christ’s sake we have two dead kids rotting away in the woods and we’re all alone out here!”

Lucas got up. “She’s right. Staying out here isn’t going to help us. I say we wait until dawn, then head back into town and get some answers.”

“We’re not ‘all alone out here’,” Donovan corrected. “We’re all alone… period. We have to assume the worst.” He looked to Jonathan. “She’s right about one thing, we can’t remain here.”

“What about H.Q.?” Jonathan asked. “They would know what to do?”

Donovan shook his head. “Can’t do that. There are contingencies in place during an outbreak that must be adhered to; contingencies that were established in the event we lost communications… such as now. If they’re still up and running, they’ll find a way to make contact with us and tell us what to do. Until then, we are on our own.”

“Wonderful,” Violet said. “I need a beer.”

“So, where do we go from here if we’re surrounded by zombies?” Dwayne asked.

Jonathan’s head was spinning. Come on, asshole, think! He turned to Donovan for an answer.

Donovan smiled and said, “You know the next move. Think it through. Remember your training.”

Surprisingly, he did. He turned to the others and said, “We need a safe place to lay low and gather our bearings. I know of an old barn we can get to from the ATV trails. It’s a safe house in Kirtland Hills, established by Headquarters. There’s food and water, as well as some guns and other supplies hidden there.”

“You had me at guns,” Violet said. “Sounds promising.”

He looked to Lucas and Megan. “Will that work for now?”

Lucas looked to Megan who shrugged her shoulders. “Alright. We’re good with that for now,” he said.

Jonathan got to his feet and started getting everyone busy packing gear and making the four-wheelers ready.

Megan looked at the mysterious Donovan who had remained by the fire. She wanted to protest everything he’d said, but she kept seeing that maniac with the crazy yellow eyes in her mind, chasing her through the dark woods. My God, what if he’s right? What if we are on our own and what if there’s more monsters?

Lucas touched her shoulder causing her to tense up. “You okay?”

“Do I look okay?”

He did not answer that. “What… did you want to do something else? We could still try for town in the truck and take our chances.”

Megan reached for her belly and blurted out, “I’m pregnant.”

Lucas looked like he just saw another yellow-eyed zombie. He didn’t know what to say.

“Well say something… anything!” she said.

“Megan… I… ”

“Forget it! This was definitely a bad time to bring it up so don’t freak out on me. I… I just wanted to tell you in case there wasn’t another opportunity.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She ignored the question. “I’m having a baby, you jerk! Do you know what that means?”

Lucas gave her a stupid look.

“What it means is that all this zombie apocalypse bullshit is not happening! I refuse to accept it! End of fucking story!”

~~~

Next Episode 23-4

Previous Episode 23-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 23-3: Recruits” Copyright © 2014, 2016 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Three: Recruits”.

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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