Chapter 25-10: Reunions and Departures

Posted: April 26, 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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~~~

Gina and Frank cleared the woods and stood on the small two-lane road facing north. They were immediately greeted by the all-too-familiar silence of a dead world.

“I’d almost forgotten how intimidating the absence of people felt,” Gina said, needing to break the silence. “The Andover community really filled that void.”

Frank dropped his pack and sat down in the center of the road. “And here you are, running away from all those fine people. It’s time for you to explain what the fuck we’re doing out here, Gina.”

Gina let out a heavy sigh and then placed her pack next to Frank’s. She sat down next to the big man and laughed. “So what would the ex-felon like to know from the ex-stripper?”

Frank smiled and shook his head. “Oh… I don’t know… how about ‘everything’, for starters.”

Gina told Frank everything that had happened since the showdown outside the diner and finished with how she decided that it was time to do something desperate and good in order to save her deteriorating soul.

Frank absorbed Gina’s words and remained silent as she patiently explained ‘everything’.

“…And that’s about it,” Gina said. “I intend to find a way into this wilderness preserve, find Megan, and get her the hell away from there.”

Frank nodded. “Would you like another opinion on the matter?”

“Not particularly.”

He stood up, looked north and then said, “This is probably the most ridiculous thing you’ve set out to do. What happened to you while I was in jail… did you fall on your fucking head?”

“Yep… and now I’m suffering from a rare condition called, ‘trying to give a damn about someone or something other than myself’. You don’t have to like it, Frank, just deal with it.”

He shook his head, and started pacing, trying not to lose his temper. “So let me get this straight. We’ve gone through all this bullshit to get this close to the fucking mountains, you find your man—who we all thought was dead, by the way—and now you want to throw it all to the wind and risk your life for the naïve pregnant girl who’s gotten herself mixed up with the worst fucking crowd?”

Gina looked at him. “It sounds more and more ridiculous every time someone new wants to sum it up. But, yes, that’s the short of it.” Gina started to get up to retrieve her pack.

“Sit down! We’re not finished with this discussion yet!”

“O… kay… then.” She sat back down and waited with an amused expression on her face.

“Stop looking at me like that, girl… it’s starting to really piss me off!”

“You care about me,” she said.

“What?” Frank was blindsided.

Gina raised her hands and said, “When you get angry, you let your guard down and I see the mother hen come out in you.”

“Mother-fucking-hen?” Frank was getting flustered. “Just stop trying to change the damn subject! You need to turn back around and head back to that camp… you know… the one with the people in it who need you and care about you?”

“Not going to happen,” she said. “I need to do this or I’m finished.”

“Yeah… yeah… you’ve been corrupted by the dark side of the force… I get it, Lord Vader, but you need to face it in a way that doesn’t involve you getting killed!”

Gina cupped a smile.

“What now?”

“You just called me Darth Vader.” She could not keep from chuckling.

Frank shook his head and threw his hands into the air. He sat down and tried to regain his composure. “You are one stubborn bitch, Gina.” He looked at her and asked, “I should know better than to try to reason with you when you’re like this.”

“Like what, Frank? Decided?”

“Yeah… that.” He looked defeated.

Gina got up and put her pack on. “Don’t worry. I didn’t get you out of jail to twist your arm to come along.”

He gave her a puzzled look.

She smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You’re my friend. I wasn’t going to let you rot in that woman’s custody. I don’t care what you did before and I find the thought of you on trial offensive. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve earned your freedom… and then some.” She took a few steps north and said, “This is my fight, Frank, and Megan’s my problem… not yours.”

Frank frowned. “You conned her. Sam thinks you’re too terrified to go alone so you laid it on thick to convince her that you needed me.”

“Yep.”

“She’s going to put you in a cell when you get back.”

Gina turned. “Well, if everyone’s right, and this is a suicide mission, then telling a few lies and setting you free will be my final good deed… and I can live or die with that, too.”

Frank said nothing.

Gina spoke to the big man’s back. “Goodbye, Frank. I’m sorry I was such a bitch and gave you a hard time. Greg was right about you… you are a good man. Sorry it took me so damn long to see it.”

Frank got up, grabbed his pack, and then shouted in her face, “Stop insulting me and let’s go already!”

Gina’s face grew dark. “No fucking way, Frank! You’re not invited! Just… get the hell out of here. Go find a place far from that crazy cop and start over.”

He gave her a clever smile and said, “I don’t know what you’re babbling on about. I’m a free man, remember? It just so happens that I’ve decided to head north and this road’s the only one available at the moment. Besides, I heard about a group in the wilderness who might appreciate the services of a swell guy like myself.”

She put her hands on her hips. “No!”

Frank started up the road, shaking his head. “Really, Gina, you need to work on killing that god-complex you have going on. Not everything revolves around you and your plans. Unbelievable!”

“Unbelievable!” Gina yelled after him. “You’re impossible!”

“You coming or not?” he asked. “I don’t have all damn day.” He continued to walk.

Gina scowled at his back.

“And stop staring at me with that tone. Keep it up and I won’t let you come with me.”

Gina picked up her pack and shook her head. “You’re such an asshole!” she hissed.

“You kiss that man of yours with that mouth, Vader?”

She couldn’t help but smile. I guess ‘alone’ is off the table now. At least I won’t have to deal with that monster, too. Gina rushed up and walked beside him. “Next time, I let you rot in jail.”

Frank smiled like the Cheshire Cat as he stared straight ahead. “So tell me, Gina. Since we have some time to burn, how does an ex-stripper kiss her man, anyway… or rather… where?”

“If you don’t start kissing my ass real damn quick… you’re going to make a liar out of Greg.”

He laughed. “Well, if nothing else, this should be an entertaining little hike off the fucking cliff.”

After a few moments she let out a humble sigh and said, “Thank you… for helping me do this, even if you think I’m nuts.”

Frank rolled his eyes. “Stop acting so damn surprised. Of course, I’m coming with you! We’re family… remember?”

Gina was floored by the big man’s response. She was about to speak and then felt her heart about to burst as she quickly wiped fresh tears from her eyes and stared straight ahead.

Frank pretended not to notice.

They walked on in comfortable silence for a little while as the late afternoon sun slowly descended over the tree line in a world not entirely dead yet.

~~~

Like the rest of the surrounding areas, Tony’s small scouting party had encountered only a handful of the dead on their way south and out of town, which they easily avoided. He found it unusual that Orosco hadn’t been sent to join him, but after getting a chance to pick Stephen’s brain about how Gina and her small group made it this far, Tony’s discomfort quickly passed.

Stephen had nothing but high praise for the fiery red-head who had reluctantly accepted leading the group after a man named Douglas died getting them to Fairport Harbor. He’d told him how hard it was and how often they were beat down only to have Gina somehow help them back up and keep going. In no uncertain terms, Stephen believed, that without Gina, they would never had made it… period.

Tony was stunned by the woman Stephen described. He’d always known that Gina was tough as nails when push came to shove, and he’d seen first-hand how well she could handle herself working with her at Herbies House of Ladies. Sometimes customers twice her size, who thought they could get a little more than a dance, had tried to manhandle her when she declined their propositions. Gina would get in their faces, forgetting that they could break her in half, and put them in their place. But a leader? That was something Tony had never seen before.

“Making all those hard decisions probably took its toll on her,” Tony pondered aloud.

Stephen gave him a weary look and said, “More than you know.”

Tony waited for him to elaborate.

“She… Gina was pretty spent when we got here… we all were… but after Greg was shot in the street… something happened. I’d never been frightened by her until then.”

“She didn’t talk much about that,” Tony said. “What happened here before we showed up?”

Stephen gave him a pleading look and said, “I’d rather she tell you… if that’s alright. The important thing is that you two found each other again. It’s good that you all came when you did, to take the load off of her. Gina was at a breaking point before you all arrived.”

Tony considered his words and nodded. “Yes, of course. I could see that already.” He then added, “Thank you, Stephen… not just for talking to me but for helping keep her safe. I imagine she needed all of you as much as you needed her. That’s something I learned real quick out here. No one can survive this thing alone.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Stephen said. “I have to tell you, Tony, we had all just about given up on having ‘this’, all of you, a community… it just started to feel like we were being picked off one at a time.”

Tony lightly grabbed his shoulder and smiled, “Well… you’re all a part of us now. And we keep growing in numbers. I bet by the time we reach that mountain town, we’ll need every inch of it to house everyone.”

Stephen laughed. “I sure hope so. I think my faith in humanity’s ability to overcome adversity, even as horrific as this, is starting to be restored.”

“That’s good to hear. We’ll need all the faith we can get.”

Twenty minutes later they reached an intersecting road which headed east towards the mountains. Half an hour after that, they reached the southern portion of Lake Pymatuning where they found a small private drive which led to a peninsula on the lake with four large vacation homes overlooking the waterfront. They all appeared secure and zombie-free.

“These houses look virtually untouched,” a young woman named Diane asked. “How is that possible?”

“Timeshares,” an older, well-groomed man said. His name was Brian. “This time of year, probably more people interested in vacationing in Florida where it’s warmer. If it had been summer, the dead would’ve been all over this area. Fortunately for us, no one was here when the shit hit the fan.”

Tony had introduced the others briefly. Diane was the oldest daughter of a farmer who had raised her like a son, taking her out once a week to go hunting and fishing. She was very skilled with the rifle she carried around.

Brian used to be an accountant and it was his keen attention to details and quick problem solving skills which made his input invaluable on scouting patrols.

After verifying all four houses were clear, Tony made a decision. “This is a good spot for us tonight. We’re surrounded on three sides by the lake and can set up a patrol to watch the drive. Time to head back.”

All four of them were excited about sharing the news about the timeshare homes as they let their guards down a little and laughed about the old days… when they used to have lives.

None of them were prepared for the chaos which greeted them when they returned to Andover.

The entire community was standing in front of the diner, raising their voices and asking questions on top of each other while Orosco tried to calm them down.

“What the hell?” Tony whispered as he led the others forward.

Orosco spotted Tony, looking like he was about to cry with relief. “Okay, everyone, Tony’s back. We’ll figure this out and act promptly. I promise you.”

The crowd turned to Tony and started asking questions he had no idea how to answer. What he did understand was that everyone looked terrified and angry.

“Just give me a moment,” he told them. “I need to talk with Orosco.”

Orosco quickly ushered him into the diner, along with the scouting party and another man who Tony did not know.

“That’s Marcus,” Stephen said, nodding to him.

Marcus nodded back with a grave look on his face.

“Alright, Orosco,” Tony said, staring out at the angry faces in the street. “Where the hell’s Sam?”

“She’s dead,” he quickly said. He put his hands on top of his head. They were shaking. “I found her a half an hour ago. Someone murdered her upstairs… Tony, someone gutted her like a pig!”

Stephen nearly stumbled, collapsing into a booth as he felt his legs give way.

“What? Who?” Tony was about to rush up the stairs.

“Wait, Tony, there’s more… she’s not the only one!”

He immediately thought about Gina.

“Turns out someone killed Phillip earlier this morning… dragged his body into the Post Office and hung it on the wall… left a message which said: Kill us. We kill you. Blood for blood.” Orosco looked not well.

Marcus stepped forward. “Your man, Joe, and I found the body. We told Sam and she wanted to keep it quiet, to avoid a panic.”

“Like the one outside right now,” Tony said shaking his head. “Why the hell didn’t she tell us, Orosco?”

He had no answer.

“I believe she wanted everyone to pack up and get ready, Tony,” Marcus added. “In case there were more… attacks.”

“And that’s why we were leaving this afternoon,” Tony nodded as understanding crept in. “Anything else I need to know?”

Orosco looked pale. “The prisoner, Frank, is gone… and so is Gina.”

“What?” Tony, Marcus and Stephen all asked at once.

“Not my fault, Tony. Sam’s plan. Gina insisted,” Orosco stammered.

“Slow down and start making sense!” Tony barked. “Where the hell are they?”

Orosco let out an exhausted breath and stammered, “They’re heading to the wildlife preserve to rescue some pregnant girl… Megan, I think.”

The silence in the diner was immediate.

Tony stared at the black man in disbelief. He was torn between screaming at the top of his lungs and throwing Orosco into the closest wall. “How long?’ he asked.

“Wh-what?” Orosco asked.

“HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN FUCKING GONE!?” He tried desperately to regain control of himself.

“An hour… no… maybe two hours?”

Tony was already moving toward the door. “I can catch up to them.”

Marcus foolishly stepped in front of the big man and raised his hands.

Tony looked like a bull which was about to charge and rip a hole right through him.

“Tony… please… you need to hear the rest. Believe me, I’m worried about Gina, too… but there’s more.”

“Make it quick!” he said sternly.

“It’s about Sam,” he said. “She told us to secure the Post Office long enough to get everyone packed in order to be gone before nightfall.”

“Why? What happens then?” Tony asked impatiently.

Marcus looked at everyone in the room and finished reluctantly, “Sam said she believed the Shadow Dead were coming at dusk and that if we were still here by then… we were all going to die.”

Tony was torn. He needed to get to Gina and stop her from reaching that horrible place. But he couldn’t just leave these people. Sam was gone. Orosco was a wreck… that left him.

He turned to Orosco. “How long until sunset?”

“Tony, we were supposed to be gone an hour ago,” he said. “Sam wanted to meet up with you on the way… I didn’t know about the Shadow Dead… If I’d known… we… I could’ve got them moving…”

Tony calmed down. “It’s not your fault, Orosco. You didn’t know.” He turned to Marcus and said, “Thank you for telling me. You might’ve just saved all of our lives.”

Marcus nodded humbly and stepped out of the way.

Brian said, “I believe we have less than an hour, Tony.”

Tony turned and nodded. He stood as still as a statue for what felt like an eternity as he wrestled with the hardest decision he ever had to make. Finally, he said, “Everyone outside. We’re leaving right now. No more packing, no more waiting.” He started toward the door with almost everyone on his heels.

“What about Gina?” Stephen asked.

Tony stopped, looking like he was about to implode in front of all of them. He turned to him and said, “We can’t help her right now, Stephen… there’s just no time.”

Stephen could clearly see the anguish in his face.

“If Sam’s right… and we’re still here by sunset… then Gina stands a better chance of surviving the night than we do,” Tony reasoned.

“Unless they have her already,” Marcus added and then immediately regretted it. “Sorry.”

Tony nodded. “We do what we can do… what we can still control.” He added sadly, “It’s time to get the hell out of Andover.”

~~~

Before Orosco discovered Samantha’s body, putting the community into panic mode, a hooded man lifted his binoculars from the third-floor window of the office building and continued his surveillance of the Andover camp. His last count was estimated around twenty-five, maybe thirty sheep… not including the ones he’d come to personally slaughter.

The hooded man lowered the binoculars after taking note of the latest activities within the perimeter of the camp. They’re just about ready to leave, he thought. Very soon now. Maybe this afternoon or tomorrow morning. The man had been gathering information on the camp, using the now vacated office building where Donovan’s recruits had been killed as his temporary observation post. Other than the size of their group, what weapons they carried, and who looked able enough to use them, he had searched the nameless faces most of the day until he located the ones he sought.

He wasn’t concerned that this larger group was moving on. The man only cared about discovering if his prey intended on relocating with the camp, not wanting to miss them slipping away to God-knows-where.

After a few more minutes passed, the man walked down to the main floor and out a rear door. He crept among the alleys he’d been using since last night until he reached the main road at the edge of town.

Being mindful not to be spotted by the camp’s rooftop lookouts, the man crawled in between abandoned cars and debris until he made it across the road and into the woods which bordered Andover’s western edge.

From there, the man walked across the woods for twenty minutes until trees became a large corn field. He cut through the tall rows of corn, following a path toward several large metallic silos which shot up toward the sky.

The field ended abruptly before a large corn processing facility. The silos were bunched in three groups forming an irregular triangle around it, attached to the plant by walkway bridges on three sides.

The factory resembled everything else that continued to stain the new world, as dead pieces of machinery and purpose, once brought to life by, and to serve Man, sat silent and useless as Mother Nature slowly reclaimed the space it occupied.

As the hooded man drew closer, he could hear a new sound climbing its way out of the silence as the future caught the man’s scent and began to stir. By the time he reached the hub of the facility, the sounds, becoming more distinct and originating from the three silos, became louder and more intense due to the proximity of the man.

The man entered the dark factory and climbed a wide set of metal stairs immediately to his left. The stairs went up eight flights and ended at a large door. The man pushed the door open, letting in the outside light as he stepped out onto one of the walkways. He crossed it, admiring the view from so high up, until he reached a sliding metal door which opened by pulling up on a handle near the floor.

The man slid open the door, letting out the amplified moans of hunger and death. He looked down into the silo, past the chute used to move and store corn kernels, and smiled at the fifty re-animated corpses crammed into the tight space. He smiled at their conviction and dedication to the single-minded purpose of eating him if they could. They crawled on top of each other, trying to reach up in vain at the man who was far beyond their reach.

He studied them for a moment, staring into each of their blank and mutilated faces, as the man was proud at what he’d accomplished so far.

Almost ready, he thought, considering the size of his new army. There were two other silos filled with the dead bringing his total up to around 150 corpses.

The man stepped away from the silo, closed the sliding door, and walked back toward the factory.

Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, the man retrieved a flashlight, turned it on and entered the gloomy factory, which reeked of old corn. He passed conveyer belts and automated machinery that was designed to replace the average worker by increasing the speed of production. The man smiled at the irony: Machines had been made to eliminate man from the workforce and now monsters had been made to eliminate man altogether.

He reached the center of the factory and looked up toward a small glassed-in office. He suspected a foreman once used this space to oversee the machinery while getting fat on donuts and a salary he certainly didn’t deserve.

The man walked up one more flight of steps to the office and opened the door to find his informant exactly where he had left him.

A zombie with a thick mop of grey hair lifted its head from the desk it was chained to, and snarled at the man, trying to free itself and charge him.

“Good afternoon,” the man said with a smile. “Please, don’t get up on my account.”

The older zombie continued to pull on its restraints and moan at him.

The man sighed and said, “Okay, as much as I appreciate your enthusiasm at killing me, it’s been a long day and I really must insist you stay seated and quiet. So… SIT DOWN! BE STILL!”

The older zombie gave him a confused look and then sat down.

“That’s much better.” The man walked over to a table and turned on a battery powered lantern. He removed the heavy holster from around his waist, which carried his handgun and a large knife, and tossed the belt on the table.

The man sat down in a chair with wheels and spun it around to speak to the zombie.

He removed his hood, revealing a balding head with a receding hairline and a broken nose which was healing but disfigured his face.

“Once again, Rusty, I want to thank you for all your help,” Charlie Ottermeyer said. “They were all exactly where you said they’d be.”

The old zombie simply grunted, unable to comprehend the words coming from the strange food who could command him to obey.

Charlie laughed and said, “Yes, I know, you’re still upset with me for what I did in Jefferson. But you must believe me, Rusty, it’s all for the best. Besides, I did single-handedly rid your town of the so-called ‘zombie problem’ did I not?”

The zombie started to hiss at him and snap its teeth.

“Yes… yes… I know. But it wasn’t personal. Sooner or later you were all going to get there anyway. I just made your little family part of the first wave… you should be honored. Jefferson’s very own will go down in history as the first regiment in my army. ”

The old zombie hissed at him again.

Charlie was getting annoyed. “Oh, just shut up then, you mindless dog! So fucking ungrateful… all of you!” Charlie stood up and started pacing.

What used to be Rusty, former leader of the survivors who occupied the old renovated school turned apartments in Jefferson, started getting excited as Charlie moved in much closer to the desk.

“Truth is, you ungrateful old fool,” Charlie whispered to the corpse, “is that I simply needed the numbers and your people were readily available. And by the looks of things, when I found you all defeated and broken, I probably did you all a favor in the end. Now none of you have to run and hide in fear anymore because I’ve adopted you into my new family.”

The monster behind the desk simply started moaning again, oblivious to all us except the blood.

Charlie shook his head. “Unbelievable. You’re hopeless! I’m half-tempted to leave you here to rot in the dark… alone.”

He sat back down and frowned as he thought about what was coming. He couldn’t wait to be reunited with his old friends who had abandoned him… who had left him all alone.

~~~

Next Episode 26-1

Previous Episode 25-9

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 25-10: 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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Comments
  1. kotawa says:

    Welp , we all knew he was going to come back to bit them in the soft par of their lower anatomies. Such a shame that it’s just when things started to look a little less grim for them D:

    Thanks for the work !

    Like

  2. Zaca says:

    Has Charlie become a part of mother? :<

    Like

  3. Well done Author, well fucking played. I knew you would seperate Tony and Gina somehow again but you managed to make me scream through half the chapter, just how stupid a person could be. Just cmon Gina really? D:

    Like

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