Chapter 25-8: Reunions and Departures

Posted: April 22, 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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~~~

Tony and Orosco watched horrified from behind a large tractor as the small farmhouse burned; black billowing smoke shot forth from every window on both floors. The remains of some family or group of survivors who had thought they were safe out in the country-side, had managed to get out on the second floor roof awning. There were nine total.

One man was holding on to a woman who was screaming out the names of her children and desperately trying to re-enter the house through one of the blackened windows.

The others tried to keep from sliding off the awning and into the horde of zombies which waited to tear them up below.

“Dear, God,” Orosco whispered. “That’s awful. No one’s safe… anywhere.”

Tony simply stared, a look of impenetrable stone locked on his face.

“They’re fucked,” Sam said. “We need to go. The farms in this area were too damn close to that last town. They chose to chance it… and lost.”

Orosco turned. “Sam… you’re one cold bitch, do you know that?”

Sam refused to look at the house. She quickly took off her boots, shook the pebbles out of them, and quickly put them back on badly blistered feet. “What I know, is that we’re just as bad off as they are. Only difference is, we keep moving. Movement means surviving another day.”

Orosco shook his head, looked to Tony and then back to Sam. His malnourished and sickly-looking traveling partners confirmed Sam’s harsh words. He looked back toward the farmhouse. “We may be just a few steps behind the safe damn cliff as those people, but that doesn’t mean we’re already dead! Those poor folks are going to be dead in the next few minutes if we don’t-”

“Damn it, Orosco!” Sam interrupted. “We’ve talked about this. Stick to the fucking plan! We stay invisible and don’t get involved… that’s how we stay alive! We knew we’d run into others eventually… desperate people at their wit’s end. We can barely feed and take care of ourselves. Anyone else is extra baggage we don’t need if we want to beat this fucking thing!”

Orosco wanted to protest, but glared angrily at her instead.

Sam rolled her eyes and said, “Look… I get it… I really do. You want to help. But just look at your damn self! How are you going to fight that horde? We’ve no weapons, no food, water… no fucking resources of any kind. You get involved with this and you’re just giving those fucking things another meal!”

Tony caught sight of something beneath the tractor. It was a long metal shaft. He picked up the heavy shaft as the others watched his knuckles go white around one end.

Sam shook her head. “No, Tony. Whatever your thinking… rethink it!”

“Shut up,” he said flatly.

“Excuse me?” Sam said, squaring up with the big man.

Tony gave her a warning glance as his face turned red. “I’m going to tell you what we’re going to do… so just shut… your… damn… MOUTH!”

Sam hesitated. She looked at the shaft in his hands and considered the outcome: The big man was volatile at the moment and not beyond the realm of bashing both their skulls in. She raised her hands and said, “Just calm down, Tony… I didn’t mean anything-”

“I’m done doing this your way,” he said. “Those people need us… and we need them! You’ve managed to keep us alive by hiding from the world… but for what? This?” He nodded toward the farmhouse.

Sam finally looked at the burning house. Someone had just fallen from the roof after two others tried to hold on to her. It was the screaming woman. The dead fell on her like a swarm… and she was gone.

“You want to live at the expense of someone dying ahead of you… well that’s bullshit! Because I’ll tell you what, Sam, it will eventually be our turn. We’ll be the ones pushed in a corner praying to God that someone helps us out. So we are not doing ‘this’ anymore. Are we clear?”

Sam was getting hot. Her anger abandoned reason and did not care if Tony struck her down. “Why don’t you fucking wake up, Tony! Those people are already dead! We still have a fucking chance!”

“I’m not going to be a coward… like you,” he hissed.

Sam preferred being struck by the shaft.

Tony was calming down. “We all need each other now. That’s how we survive this fucking mess. If we don’t… try… we’re already dead, too.”

Sam threw her hands up and turned around. “Fucking go then! Both of you! I’d like to know what you think you can do against twenty fucking-”

Tony let out a large shout and started charging toward the dead with the long shaft. He held in in the center and rammed into the backs of eight zombies, pushing them forward on top of several others.

“He’s fucking crazy!” Sam shouted grabbing the sides of her head.

Orosco let out a big smile and laughed. “Yeah… he is that.”

Tony stood up and turned toward the tractor. “RUN!” he shouted.

“We’re so dead!” Sam said. “Come on!”

The three of them pushed their exhausted limbs to the limit, just barely making it across the field and under a barbed-wire fence before the dead crashed into it, getting tangled up together in the mesh.

They never found out what happened to those people at the burning house, but Tony had managed to get every one of those zombies to chase them across the field… giving whoever they were a chance to get away.

They had… tried…

~~~

…Samantha stared out the large front window of the diner at the big man who was in charge of her ‘hurry-up’ exodus plan from the shit-hole town of Andover.

Everyone needs their damn heroes, she thought, as she watched Tony exercise his cheerleading superpower among the community.
She smiled at that initial memory of the three of them on the run. That morning at the burning farmhouse had been the beginning of everything they had established up to this point… and it had been all Tony’s doing. From that day, they had found more people as well as weapons and supplies. They eventually accumulated enough firepower to fight off small groups of the dead and rescue people one at a time. Sam often wanted to avoid any encounters with the dead, but Tony always insisted. And now they were over thirty strong.

Sam considered recent developments, namely, the miraculous discovery of Tony’s lost love right smack-dab in the center of what felt like the smallest town on the planet. She should’ve felt relieved. Now Tony would shut up about leaving the group to go and find a woman who Sam assumed was long dead. Tony had his girl back, the hearts of the people, and the freedom of not having to bear the weight of being the asshole leader who had to make unpopular decisions for the greater good of the group.

No… Tony always gets to be the good guy, Sam thought.

She didn’t resent him for being the likable, easy-going one, while she wore the badge and became the needed hard-ass of their group. In fact, Tony’s willingness to stand aside and let Sam lead, meant that she was still important… even if she was only a figurehead. And that’s the way they worked it out together. Tony would win them over to the group and Sam would keep them in line with her ‘take-no-bullshit’ stance. They were a good team. As long as there was a Tony… there could still be a Sam in charge of the show. But now, she wondered what having Gina around would do to Tony’s thinking. Not only had she not expected to find Gina, but Gina was nothing like the girl Tony described. This Gina was a strong leader and she and her small group were tough as nails.

Relax… Sam, she thought. The girl’s no threat to you. She was more than willing to stand out of the way and let you have control. Damn woman looked burned-out when we got here. Now all she wants is her man and someone else to run things. Problem solved.

Sam still had doubts. She wondered if Gina would see through her façade and call her out for the bullshit leader she really was. What if she realized that Tony was the one holding it all together and she started encouraging him to take control?
“One damn thing at a time, Sam,” she reminded herself. She had more important matters to deal with presently.

Sam looked toward the Post Office. I can’t keep those two quiet forever. Joe’s a friggin’ gossip queen and Marcus will want to tell Gina what’s going on. When that happens, she’ll tell Tony and then the whole town will know.

They were all moving too slow. Sam wanted to be gone by now, but short of explaining her fears that the Shadow Dead were coming and causing an all-out panic, she chose to keep it quiet.

Could just be an isolated incident. The attacker might be long gone. Why get everyone riled up over nothing.

But deep down, she knew the real reason she kept the murder and her suspicions to herself: Sam feared the community turning against her and seeking Tony to get them out of this mess—the mess that they would certainly blame on her.

She also wanted a way out if the Shadow Dead were coming. Unlike Tony and Orosco, who would both defend the community if they were attacked, Sam was prepared to abandon these people immediately. If their deaths satisfied the Shadow Dead and bought her time to escape… she could live with it.

You may be right, Tony. I’m still the coward. But you are the leader these people deserved, and you’ve had one excuse after another to avoid stepping up. That makes you a coward, too!

Sam brushed her thoughts aside and walked back toward the stack of hand-written reports at her booth. She sat down and pretended to look at them again. But her thoughts continued to wander back to what would happen this evening, and if the Shadow Dead were indeed waiting for nightfall to strike. Could they even get away? Or would they simply follow them to the next town… and the next…

“Excuse me,” the red-headed woman said from the front door. “Got a minute?”

Shit! Sam thought. She’s here about Carman again. I don’t have time for this crap right now!

Sam smiled and said, “Speak of the devil… I was just thinking about you.”

Gina stepped over and gave her a funny look. “You were thinking about me? Why?”

“Please, sit down, Gina.”

Gina sat down in the booth across from the cop, suddenly craving a large plate of fries and a strawberry milkshake.

“I was thinking about how willing you were to stand up for your… friend,” she lied. “I can appreciate your loyalty in defending your people, if nothing else. Hell, I have a few people of my own to look after so I get it. Again, I’m sorry about yesterday. When I saw Frank after all this time, it just came back… everything he did to me. I just sort of… lost it for a moment. Not to worry though, I promised a trial, so we will have a trial.”

Gina put on her best poker face and refused to respond to Sam’s notion of a ‘fair trial’. “I came to ask a favor,” she said. “Would you hear me out?”

Sam was intrigued. “Go on.”

Gina took a deep breath. “I would like some of my guns back, extra ammo, and a week of food and water for the road.”

“That’s it?” Sam was surprised.

“There’s more.”

Sam leaned back and shook her head. “Of course… there’s always more. Sounds like you’re planning a road trip. May I ask where?”

Gina hesitated. “I also need whatever information you can give me on getting in and out of the wilderness preserve undetected, the people who run it, and the most likely places they might be holding prisoners.”

Sam was left speechless. What is this woman up to?

“Before you ask me ‘why’ or tell me how fucking dangerous it is to go anywhere near that place, let me explain.”

“I’m all ears, Gina. But I will say this: You are out of your fucking mind if you’re even considering the trip.”

“Fair enough,” Gina said. “Before I knew what that place was about, before you all showed up and enlightened us, I foolishly let a pregnant girl leave to go there. I talked to her before she left and I’m convinced that she had no idea what horrors were waiting there.”

“Yeah, I remember,” Sam said. “She was part of the posse that shot your friend in the street, if I’m remembering correctly. So what? If the girl wants to die with the rest of those fools… I say let her.”

Gina frowned. “You don’t get it. I looked into that girl’s eyes and saw the old world hopes and dreams reflected there. All she’s about is finding a safe place to raise her baby… and I just let her walk away on the road to hell.”

Sam studied Gina for a hard minute and then looked away and started shuffling papers. “No fucking way. Even if I considered letting you go there… and I’m not… what the hell do you think Tony would do to me if he found out?”

Gina was quick to answer. “He would want to go with me after he failed to talk me out of it.”

Sam laughed. “So… you want to save a girl who was part of a group that tried to kill you because… you feel guilty?”

“It’s more complicated than that,” Gina snapped.

“Is it?” Sam snapped back. “Well, Gina, let me sum up the position you’re putting me in: You are asking me to help you get into that death camp to save a stranger who’s probably already dead, and you’re going to force the man you love to go with you… a man who is extremely valuable to me and these people. Not only will my people be upset with me… the people you came in with will also be upset with me.”

“I appreciate what I’m asking of you,” Gina said. “That’s why I’m not telling Tony or anyone else about it. That’s why I came to you.”

Sam paused. She’s fucking serious! Girl has a damn death wish if she thinks she can go there alone and accomplish anything. “Are you looking to die? Is that it?”

Gina shook her head in frustration. “No.”

“Because we’ve seen our share of people who were ready to just lie down and stop breathing,” Sam continued. “They were too afraid to live, or their families were dead, or they were just too damn broken to be fixed. But you don’t seem like any of these people… and yet… going there is fucking suicide!”

Gina looked down at the table and folded her hands. “I’m aware of the risks. I’m aware that my chances of success are minimal at best. But I have to do this. It’s not about the girl or whether she’s dead or alive or if I die in the process.” She looked hard at Sam. “Going there is about making amends for some of the bad choices I’ve made and trying to do something the old me would’ve done, before the light went out inside of my heart.”

“You are one fucked-up woman, do you know that?”

Gina laughed. “And this is where we finally agree on something.”

Sam stood up and started pacing. “In case you haven’t noticed, Gina. I’m trying to get us ready to go to the mountains. We’re leaving this afternoon before it gets dark. What are we supposed to do, wait for you?”

“No,” Gina said. “In fact, I’m counting on you all leaving… it will make things easier. You can tell Tony that I went ahead to scout the way, since it’s my route you’re taking. If I don’t make it back… well, who’s to say I didn’t die in the mountains. You’ll still be off the hook.”

Sam shook her head. “You really are messed up. I don’t get you at all, Gina! Here you are, finally free of the hardships you and your group faced, now part of an actual community, and you got your man back. Why the hell would you spit in the face of such a blessing by wasting your life on a worthless girl?”

“She’s not worthless.”

“You will die there, Gina.”

“I’m already dying!” Gina shouted. “Every fucking day is getting just a little damn darker! I never realized how bad it was until I saw myself through Tony’s eyes…”

Sam didn’t know what to say. Woman needs a damn shrink, talking about being dark inside and losing the fucking light… blah… blah… blah…

And that’s when a light went on in Sam’s head.

Fuck, she wants to die so bad, then let her. That’s one problem you’ll never have to worry about filling Tony’s head with ambitious notions of replacing the current leadership.

And then, a darker thought:

Maybe it really is her the Shadow Dead are after. Maybe that’s why they killed Phillip Hampton… to get to Gina. She was the one who killed their people. Maybe you can kill two birds with one damn stone here.

“So are you going to help me, or not?” Gina asked.

“You’ll go with or without my consent, am I right?” Sam asked.

“I was hoping to not go down that road… ”

Sam let out a deep breath and said, “You’ll have to leave today. I can only keep Tony… preoccupied… for so long.”

“Then I have one more favor to ask,” Gina said.

Sam turned. “This is turning into one mother-fucking package of favors!”

Gina smiled. “I think I’m actually doing you a favor with this last request.”

Sam waited.

“Let me take Frank with me.”

“Hell-fucking-no!”

“I thought you wanted him dead,” Gina pushed. “That’s quite a conundrum since you promised him a fair trial and all. What do you think is going to happen if Frank goes to trial?”

“They’ll see him for the murderer he truly is!’

“Bullshit,” Gina said. “No one will care about what he did in that dead world from before after Stephen’s done telling them what he did for us on the road—how often he put himself on the line to protect the group. That’s what your people will remember because that’s what you did for them… right?”

Sam was shocked. She’s right and you know it! Son-of-a-bitch! Why couldn’t I have run into him in a fucking alley with no one else around? This could’ve been done already!

“I can see it in your face, Sam. You know I’m right. Are you prepared to welcome him to the community if the trial doesn’t go the way you hope? Seriously, you know where I’m going—‘suicide’, remember? So send Frank with me and you’ll know exactly what’s coming for him. What have you got to lose? If by some small miracle we save the girl, then we’re right back where we started and you can still put your faith in that trial.”

“You make a strong point, Gina, only because I’ve already made it time and time again when I’ve shared the stories of that horrific place. Do you understand what the Shadow Dead will do to you?”

“Could you do to Frank anything worse than what the Shadow Dead will do to him?”

Sam laughed and shook her head. “Damn, there’s no argument for that. He’s yours. Although I wouldn’t wish what they’re going to do to you on anyone… including that asshole.”

“Thank you,” Gina said. “Now can I ask another favor?”

Sam’s head turned so fast, Gina thought it would snap off.

She smiled and said, “Just kidding.”

Sam busted out laughing. “Oh… Gina. I think you and I could’ve been good friends.”

“Yeah, the kind you keep close… right?”

Sam smiled. “You got it. Tell you what. Give me an hour to make some arrangements with Orosco and meet me back here. I’ll tell you everything I can about that fucking place and we’ll see you on your way.”

Gina got up and started walking off. She turned and asked, “With Frank… right?”

Sam smiled. “Yes… with Frank. I suppose if you can leave the man you love behind, then I can part with the man I’d love to kill.”

The joke was lost on Gina as she felt ill and extremely sad when she departed the diner.

Sam let a wicked smile breach the surface of her indifferent face as she watched the crazy red-head walk down the street. With any luck, Gina and Frank will run right into whatever is waiting just outside of town… and all my problems will be solved.

~~~

Next Episode 25-9

Previous Episode 25-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 25-8: Reunions and Departures” 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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