Chapter 23-7: Recruits

Posted: March 16, 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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~~~

“What are we doing out here, Jon?” Lucas was an emotional wreck. From the attack on their camp that first night and almost losing Megan, to finding out that she was pregnant, and now… what he had done to that woman… and the look Megan gave him… he felt like dirt.

They continued to walk just inside the fence line of the McKinnley property. Jonathan had told him they were looking for evidence that Donovan might have run into trouble. But Lucas knew better. He’d seen this face on his older brother time and time again: Jonathan wanted to run.

“Have you considered that maybe Donovan beat you to the punch?” Lucas asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jonathan seemed distracted.

“What I mean is, he’s a man who can handle himself. He doesn’t need us to slow him down. Maybe he just fed you a line of bullshit and took off.”

“He wouldn’t do that to us. He trained us… he trained me… guys like Donovan have been ready for the apocalypse for a long time. He’s one of the elite. Guys like him come straight out of H.Q. and that’s a big deal, little brother.”

“Headquarters… yeah… I heard you. Since you’ve never been there yourself, how do you know that anything you were told is true? What if guys like Donovan are just master cons who travel around scooping up young, impressionable minds to fill with exactly what they want to hear? What if there is no ‘Headquarters’?”

Jonathan stopped and looked at him. “Little brother, I love you, but you really need to can that shit right now! When Donovan gets back, he’s going to need to see a lot more than doubt out of you if you’re ever going to get accepted into the group. I got you the invite, but the rest is on you.”

“Who says I want in on your damn group? Did you know Megan’s pregnant? I just found out. It’s really fucking with my head right now and I have to figure out real fast how to protect her… and my future baby. The last thing on my mind is passing some initiation-”

“Don’t be stupid, Lucas! Headquarters is the best place you and Megan could go right now. They’ll be able to tend to her needs. Hell, they’ve probably got more doctors at their disposal than the hospitals do now… the ones not infested with zombies. So you best start getting in the game and following the program.”

“Fuck your program! What are you really doing out here, Jon? I think you’re afraid. You’re afraid that I’m right and Donovan’s not coming back. It’s been four days. How much longer are we supposed to wait? How much longer before the dead return to this area and eat us in our sleep? You should be back there with your ‘group’ making plans to get us out of here and stop waiting around for that guy to bail you out.”

“Fuck you, little brother! You don’t know me… you think you do, but you don’t. I’ve changed! You’ve let that girl poison your mind against me.”

“Don’t talk about her like that. That girl has picked me up more times than I can count. Every time you came back and left me… again… she was there to put me back together. So excuse me if I’m not convinced that you’ve changed when it looks to me like you’re about to run again. What did you bring me out here for? Did you think I would just go with you and leave Megan behind?”

Jonathan didn’t know what to say.

“Stop running, Jon, because we really fucking need you right now… all of us.”

Jonathan stopped and took a deep breath. “Okay, little brother, I’ll admit it, I am afraid. This was never supposed to happen… I mean… not for real.” He reached out and roughed up Lucas’s hair with a laugh. “I guess I really brought you along to talk me out of doing something stupid.”

“Did it work?”

“Yeah, I’m not going anywhere. I just needed some space and some time to figure this all out.”

“You promise?”

“Promise what?”

“That you won’t leave me this time? First Dad left and then Mom died… you’re the only family I have left. Hell, after yesterday, who knows if anybody will be around for much longer.”

They shared a loaded moment. Jonathan turned away before he lost his composure. “You have my word, little brother, that I’ll do anything… and I mean, anything… to keep you safe.”

Lucas was wiping tears from his eyes. “It’s good to see you again, Jon… I mean, it doesn’t get any shittier than this, but having you here is what matters to me.”

Jonathan closed his eyes. “What about Megan?”

Lucas gave him a strange look. “What about her?”

“I mean, are you two… for real? Or is finding out that you knocked her up making you feel more than what’s really there?”

“First of all, that’s a pretty shitty thing to ask. But I’ll tell you: What Megan and I have together is the one thing I have no doubts about, Jon. That girl will walk through hell and back with me. We love each other… and that’s as real as it gets.”

Jonathan smiled half-heartedly. “That’s awesome, little brother. I just had to be sure. You understand, don’t you? I’ve got to know that she’ll have our backs if things get bad… regardless of what she thinks of me.”

“She’ll come around. Once she sees that you have changed she’ll stop busting your balls.”

Jonathan turned and laughed. “I hope you’re right because that woman shows me no mercy-” He stopped as he saw movement in the tall grass behind them.

The field was coming to life as the moans of the dead could be heard passing close to their position.

Jonathan grabbed his brother and dragged him to the ground. “Shh! Not a sound,” he whispered as things unseen shuffled through the grass and continued deeper into the field.

The moans began to sound farther away.

“The barn!” Lucas whispered frantically. “We have to get back to the barn before they’re cut off!”

“We’ll cut around the other side and try to beat them there,” Jonathan said. “Let’s move, little brother!”

~~~

Jonathan and Lucas rushed into the barn causing the recruits and Megan to panic and back up toward the stables.

“Arm yourselves!” Jonathan shouted. “We’re about to be overrun!” He ran to the weapons bag and retrieved the only shotgun. “Stealth is off the table right now so remember your training; breathe, aim, and shoot for the head.” He looked at them with more intensity than Lucas thought capable of his brother, and said, “We are not giving them the field and letting them trap us in here. Do you understand me?”

The recruits nodded, feeling more confident now that their leader was back. They grabbed weapons.

“Lucas, you and Megan stay in the loft. Take a rifle and start snipping those fuckers from up there.” He turned toward the others and said, “He may not be a recruit, but my brother’s an excellent shot with the rifle. You’ll be glad he’s here after we take these things down so I expect you all to stop giving him a hard time after this.” He looked specifically at Violet who avoided his gaze. He then winked at his brother.

Lucas was embarrassed by the rare moment of praise from Jonathan. He silently grabbed the rifle, an extra box of shells and a .38 Special. He looked to Megan and said, “I’m sorry, babe… about everything.”

She gave him a weak smile and followed him up to the loft.

After Lucas was topside, Jonathan yelled up, “Can you see them?”

“There about to exit the grass from back here and along the right side!” he called down, immediately lifting the rifle and taking aim. He did all he could to control his shaking. “I’ll give you what cover I can from here.”

“Alright, recruits,” Jonathan started, “it’s time to see what you remember about the conservative use of ammo and the importance of accurate shots.”

He led them out through the barn doors just as a hairy-looking zombie in coveralls charged toward them.

Jonathan lifted the shotgun. These fuckers are not getting my brother. The thought empowered him as he took aim and pulled the trigger.

The top of the zombie’s head exploded as the creature fell backward five feet in front of them. “Let’s go!” he shouted. “Spread out and stay out of each other’s fields of fire!”

The four of them made a line along the right side of the barn as Jonathan watched their rear. Lucas began firing from the loft.

Dwayne, Simon and Violet started shooting into the grass the moment disfigured heads began to appear. After the initial panic faded, the recruits let muscle memory and their training steal over them as they focused in on dead targets.

~~~

Lucas handed Megan the .38 and said, “I know you don’t like guns, babe. Just hold on to it… just in case.”

She reluctantly took the weapon. Just in case of what?

The others exited the barn and Jonathan started firing the shotgun.

This is really happening! Lucas gave her one last look and nodded.

She nodded back.

He started aiming out the loft door.

She held the cold, heavy steel with both hands and aimed it toward the wall, feeling extremely clumsy with it. She watched Lucas collect himself—his shaking was apparent—and she noticed what remained of the rope, swinging idly in the breeze. If this doesn’t go well, I’ll be the one hanging out there next. The thought chilled her to the bone as she looked again at the cold, indifferent weapon in her hand. This thing reminds me of Donovan’s definition of ‘survival’. She thought about her baby and finished, I’ll empty this damn thing at every one of them before they hang me out there!

The sound of Lucas’s rifle going off caused her to jump.

She stared at her lover’s back and wondered, Would he let them… if Jonathan made him choose between me and… survival?

She shook off the dark thought.

~~~

As it turned out, the tall grass gave them the advantage as shifting blades gave away the monsters’ locations before the dead could spot their prey standing in the dirt along the barn. The zombies moved sluggishly, and only the ones which managed to clear the grass long enough to see them began to get frenzied and rush at them.

Fortunately, none of the yellow-eyed demons were present.

Jonathan made quick work of the dead which broke through, either destroying them quickly with head shots or knocking them off-balance with blows to the chest. When the shotgun was empty, he resorted to alternating between two handguns as he walked straight toward the dead and put rounds into their skulls from less than five feet away, allowing the recruits to hold their ground and take accurate shots with their rifles.

In less than ten minutes, it was over. The tall grass fell silent as everyone took advantage of the lull to reload their weapons. Lucas stopped firing from the loft.

They were fortunate that the small herd was moving together from one direction. In the end, they took down nineteen zombies.

“Take that you mother-fuckers!” Violet shouted, shaking her rifle defiantly in the air. “That’s for Andrew and Justin!”

All three recruits began hollering into the field, giving each other high-fives for their first victory over the dead.

Jonathan looked at them and smiled. “Well done, recruits,” he said. “But let’s not get cocky. The sound of all that firing is going to attract more of them. I think it’s time we say goodbye to this fucking barn.”

“What about Donovan?” Violet asked.

Jonathan frowned and shrugged his shoulders. “We can’t wait any longer. This place has been compromised. We’ll pack up the supplies and head back to the four-wheelers.”

The recruits had no objections. Everyone despised the barn.

Jonathan placed Violet just outside the barn doors to watch for surprises while he and the others went inside.

Jonathan looked up toward the loft. “Everything alright up there?”

Lucas appeared with a big shit-eating grin on his face. “I’m a bit rusty but I nailed at least six of them,” he said proudly. “It’s all clear.”

Jonathan nodded with a smile. “Good work, little brother.” That put their kill total up to twenty-five. “Come on down. We’re getting the hell out of here.”

~~~

While the others rushed to pack up whatever they could carry, Megan sat back against the wall, feeling like she was in some strange dream she couldn’t wake up from. She watched and listened as Dwayne, Simon, Jonathan, and even Lucas, started joking and bragging about their ‘kills,’ as if they’d just pulled off some elaborate prank they were all a party to, rather than slaughtering former human beings who would simply lie rotting in that field. They would leave and there would be no one to remember them, no one to mourn them or bury them. Apparently, those things were no longer people, forfeiting their right to be remembered as such… forever. What appalled her the most was not the necessity of putting down the monsters, but that the monster slayers acted with as much sensitivity as four boys who had just gotten finished playing a video game, tallying up who made the most ‘kills’.

I am hating this new world… and the people it’s creating. This made her think of the monster, Violet, who did not get to share in the sickening revelry as she stood outside, probably hoping she’d get a chance to kill more zombies.

Megan stared down toward the stalls. The last door stood open. She hadn’t heard a sound coming from down there and everyone but her seemed to forget about the woman. Again, nothing there worth remembering… not even the torture that took place. None of that will matter because the woman is a zombie—not a poor defenseless animal or human being—so anything and everything is permissible. Every sick and twisted fantasy is excusable because the woman is…nothing… and you can’t do anything wrong to nothing.

Megan shook her head and walked toward the stall unnoticed. It took all she had to brave another glance at the naked, emasculated woman who laid in a pile of its own black blood, unable to bleed out—dead but cursed to remain as ‘nothing’.

She knew that she shouldn’t feel sorry for the creature. It, or something like it, had already killed two of them. But looking at the pitiful thing now made her stomach turn. “Do you even care what they did to you?” she whispered into the nasty smelling dark stall.

The woman once named Janet Schuler, lifted its face toward the sound. Its long blond hair had been ripped out in several places. What was left of it was covered in so much dirt and blood. The creature began to get excited by the sight of the blood bag standing at the end of the stall. It tried to reach her, met the rope’s resistance, and then snapped its weak jaw toward her instead.

Megan frowned. “All you want to do is tear me to pieces. There’s that much life I can still see in your eyes. But is there anything else in there? Anything at all?”

The woman continued to snap at the air. It was actually drooling in frustration, the meal remaining just out of its grasp.

“Well… you still have my pity, you poor woman… whoever you were. Someone has to remember that you were like one of us. So I guess that’s me.”

The woman continued to show no recognition of the words, no response to Megan’s appeal on her behalf. It just wanted to feed… feed… feed…

Megan had a horrible thought. “I’m worried about what they’re going to do with you now that they’ve tasted more blood… now that they’ve experienced how easy it is to simply pull the trigger and erase you from existence. Some of them will want to keep you around to do God-knows-what to you. They’ll justify it any way they choose but it’s still inhumane… ”

The woman continued to hunger for the blood while Megan wasted her words.

“They don’t understand,” Megan continued. “What they did to you isn’t about whether you even know what’s happening to you or not… it’s about the monsters which your presence draws out of them.”

Megan realized that she was still holding the revolver.

The woman did not care when Megan held it up to toward her face. There was no change. It just wanted to eat her.

“You can’t exist… even as nothing. You bring out the evil in people… even in my Lucas. Goodbye.”

Megan closed her eyes and pulled the trigger repeatedly until the gun was empty.

The woman was finally still and free from the need to satisfy the blood which drove it. Perhaps even a zombie can know peace, she reasoned.

The others rushed toward her with guns drawn.

Megan walked up to Jonathan, handed him the .38, and said, “You can make that number twenty-six. Your interrogation is officially finished.”

He looked into the stall and frowned. He wasn’t angry about the bullets in the thing’s head. He was angry that Violet had disobeyed him and had mutilated the dead woman.

He looked over toward the barn door. Violet was standing there, gun drawn, and realizing that her handiwork had just been discovered.

Jonathan gave her a disapproving glare.

She looked away and wisely went back outside.

She’s going to be a real problem at some point. He sighed heavily while Simon and Dwayne wanted to disappear. Fuck it. It’s over now, he hoped. In a way, Megan did him a favor and took the decision to keep the wretched woman with them out of his hands. But Donovan would not be pleased. He could be dead for all I know, he reasoned.

Jonathan closed the door to the stall and walked away in silence.

Nothing happened here… nothing at all.

~~~

Next Episode 23-8

Previous Episode 23-6

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 23-7: 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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Comments
  1. Zaca says:

    I actually partially like how the recruits deal with the situation. They don’t emotionally wear themselves out by not brooding on it. Of course, Megan’s way of dealing with it is also important. She may be the one help keep the group human. I’m liking the dynamics of the conflict within the group and hope that they find a good balance. Of course, remembering how this story usually goes, that probably won’t happen. I’m actually anticipating Violet to start a mutiny or compromise Megan.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      A very insightful observation. Of course, by now you know what happened. This was one of those chapters that was a real joy to write and surprised the hell out of me with how it came out.

      Like

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