Chapter 26-5: Further Actions Pending…

Posted: May 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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~~~

MIDNIGHT: THIRTY HOURS EARLIER

Gina and Frank spotted the ruins of an old burned down house just a few hundred feet inside the wood line. What little remained of the foundation provided shelter from the wind and a good view of the road, while hiding them from view. They decided to rest there for the night and risk building a small fire when the sun went down.

They both sat staring into the flames, each lost in their own troubled thoughts. They were about five miles away from the southern end of the wilderness preserve which was labeled on Orosco’s map.

Frank had a deep look of concentration on his face and Gina wondered if he was having second thoughts.

“So what’s your plan?” he finally asked. “Do you even have one or are we just going to make this up as we go?”

Gina reached into the back pocket of her jeans and handed Frank a folded up flyer. She had stared at the flyer, the one she’d confiscated from Megan’s notebook, numerous times before announcing her intentions to Sam the day before.

Frank unfolded the paper and started reading the message with the all-too-familiar symbol, translated Mother, which screamed loudly off the top of the page.

She spoke while he read. “I’d thought about how Tony and Sam got out of that place… how they barely made it out… and then I remembered that invitation the girl had in her notebook.”

Frank looked up at her and said, “Invitation. That’s exactly what this is, isn’t it?”

“That’s what it looks like to me. Of course, it might as well be an invitation to hell… but I imagine no one who followed those flyers originally had any idea what they were getting into.”

“Much like your pregnant girl,” Frank added.

“Exactly. So I figured, trying to sneak into that place was probably going to be nearly impossible… and if caught… we’re screwed. So that started me thinking, why not just knock on the front door and ask to join the club?”

Frank nodded. “You mean to get caught on purpose, and act like the fly foolishly landing on the web, is that it?”

“Why not?” Gina said. “We come up with a sob story, say we found their damn flyer, and felt all our troubles slip away if only we could get to the safety of this place. We get inside, start kissing their asses and thanking them for saving our wretched lives, and then hopefully spot Megan standing out in the open somewhere.”

Frank rubbed his chin. The wheels were spinning. “You do realize that they could just shoot us on sight and be done with it?”

“It’s no more risky than getting caught in the woods trying to sneak into the place. This makes it look like we have nothing to hide. Besides, we’ll be in their fucking backyard where they have the advantage of knowing the woods while we stumble around trying to decipher this crummy map.”

“Agreed,” Frank said. “There’s equal risk either way. But there’s another problem with the walk-in plan.”

Gina waited.

He looked up and stared at Gina’s long mane of hair. “Giving your girl, Megan, the benefit of the doubt, we still let three of them go. How do we know they didn’t tell their boss what we looked like? They may not remember me, but you stand out like a sore thumb with that hair of yours. They may already have our faces on wanted posters, for all we know.”

Gina nodded, playing with a strand of her hair. “Do you still have that big, scary knife? The sharp one?”

“Of course. Why?”

“Just give it to me before I change my mind.”

~~~

Frank held a hand over his mouth to hide his amusement as Gina’s frustration showed.

She tried to touch-up the mess, which was formerly her hair, by using his knife and a shard from a broken mirror over their low fire. She’d cut it very short.

She tossed the knife and the mirror to the ground and said, “I can’t look at it anymore. I look like the younger brother I never had.” She turned to Frank who quickly turned his eyes elsewhere, pretending not to care. “Well… will this work?”

His smile betrayed him as he let out a short laugh.

“Yeah… yeah… I know I’m not a fucking hair-stylist,” she said running her hands through her chopped hair. “Everyone always says, ‘Hey, we need a doctor in the group’, but no one ever says, ‘If only a barber had survived, we’d look so much better for the apocalypse’.”

Frank laughed a little louder and said, “Sorry… I’m not laughing at the hair, just your reactions to it. You should’ve seen yourself with the shard and the knife… all cavewoman like.”

She was stunned at how cool the back of her neck felt. “Next time I pack scissors. You can still kill dead-heads with scissors.” She let out a heavy sigh and asked again, “So will this suffice, or did I just waste my time going for the boyish look?”

Frank folded his hands and studied her disguise. “Hmmm… I don’t think you can get away with it.”

“What? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“I think it makes your neck look longer and your boobs are out of proportion with-”

“Frank! Seriously, do I look… ordinary enough?”

He shook his head. “Yeah… your long red hair was your strongest feature. Without it, you blend in more.”

She picked up the shard of glass and frowned at her reflection. You hear that, girl? You ‘blend in’. No more turning the guys’ heads. You’re just a Plain Jane with a lot of mileage. She tried to laugh it off. “With the cheek scar and the massacre on top of my head… I’m probably never going to be asked to Prom again.”

“I’d ask,” Frank said.

She smiled and said, “That’s sweet of you, but you don’t have to lie for my benefit. There’s no room in my bag for vanity anymore.”

“Well… in that case, you look like you stuck your head in a blender…. and lost.”

“Asshole,” she muttered.

“You’re welcome,” Frank said with an amused smile. He picked up a stick and started poking at the fire.

Gina stopped and really looked at the man she’d grown to respect. A month ago, she never would’ve imagined being out here in the woods with this man on their way to face the possibility of death together. Now, she was comforted by the fact that he was here.

“Just because I told you I’d ask you to the Prom, doesn’t mean you’re going to ‘get some’ afterwards, so stop eye-balling the goods,” he said, noticing her lingering stare.

“I was thinking,” she said. “Thinking back to when we all first came together, and how certain I was that we’d all kill each other eventually.”

“Well, the night’s not over yet.”

She wouldn’t let him dodge the moment. “You were the biggest shocker to me. I mean, we had our problems, sure, but now… now it’s like I can’t imagine being here… facing what we’re about to face… with anyone else. I guess what I’m trying to say is that… well… thank you, for being my friend and for putting up with all my bullshit. Thank you for not letting me do this alone.” She turned away, embarrassed.

Frank softened up and said, “I wasn’t a good man… you know… before. I did bad things, worked for bad people. Got so good at being bad that I didn’t know there was anything else. After a while, all the bad stuff becomes who you are, like a filthy coat that covers your vulnerabilities until you start thinking you’re invincible as long as you shut everybody else out… make them nothing to you. I got real good at not caring, or pretending not to care.”

Gina waited.

Frank laughed. “I guess it’s okay to let my guard down, just this once.”

She smiled. “Sure, just this once.”

He gave Gina a look she’d never seen before. It was a sad, faraway look. “When the world went to shit, I tried to keep that old coat on for as long as I could, that way, I could keep pretending that none of you mattered. After a while, I realized the coat didn’t fit anymore. I tried to keep denying I was afraid and that I wasn’t just like everyone else. But when the fear caught up with me, that’s when I understood that going it alone wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Not in this madhouse fucking world. That’s when I knew that Frank Carman did not have what it took to survive any longer. The rules had changed. Before, you could get lost in all those fucking people out there and pretend to be anyone you needed to be. But now… people are an endangered species, and without all that old noise people used to make, it’s too damn hard to hide from the truth of who you really are.”

“And now that the world is freakishly quiet, who is Frank Carman?”

Frank laughed. “I’ll let you know when I have it all figured out.”

“Fair enough,” she said. “For what it’s worth, I have some figuring out to do as well. I think that’s why I’m out here trying to save some girl I probably can’t save.”

“You looking to be a hero or something?” Frank asked.

“No,” she said with a sigh. “I just needed to remember what it was like to have that old compassionate fire… know what I mean? I lost something vital along the way, something I can’t get back.”

“Tony?”

“No, it’s more than that. I scare myself, Frank. I feel like I’ve adapted to the harshness all around us and I never stopped to question it. I just… did. And now, I don’t know how else to be.”

“So saving one pregnant girl will help you find what you lost?”

Gina wiped a tear from her eye and said, “I don’t know, Frank. I hope so. I’m willing to risk everything on a chance… and that’s why I’m here.”

He nodded.

“And if my vote counts at all,” she said. “I don’t believe you’re a bad man… not anymore.”

Frank smiled and said, “Maybe… but don’t you dare call me a good man. If you do, I’ll shave you bald.”

She laughed.

Frank thought a moment and then finished, “I think I can live with being an honest man. Honest with myself, with you, and with that God fellow Greg was always babbling on about. Yeah… I think I’ll strive for that.”

“Sound good,” she said. “I’ll join you on that ride.”

Frank looked around and said, “It’s getting late. We have a lot to discuss about tomorrow. I want to prepare us as best I can if this Micom is half as smart as I think he might be.”

“Alright,” she said.

“Let’s start by taking a look at the flyer one more time.”

Gina reached into her pocket to pull out the flyer and retrieved the note instead. She stared at the folded piece of paper as a flood of emotion threatened.

“What’s that, another flyer?” Frank asked.

She laughed and shook her head. “It’s my rough draft. I thought I left it in my pack.”

Frank waited.

“I was too chicken shit to say goodbye to him, so I gave Meredith a note to give to Tony… you know… just in case this was a one-way trip.”

Frank watched as she stared at the paper, attempting to tackle those emotions which wanted to burst through to the surface. “We have a little time left. Why don’t you take a few minutes. I’m going to walk the perimeter and make sure everything’s still good out here.” He slowly rose to his feet.

Gina looked up at him gratefully.

“Oh, one more thing,” he said. “You’ll have to burn that when you’re done. We can’t have anything on our person that they can exploit and use against us.”

“I understand.”

Frank walked off.

Gina took a deep breath and opened the letter:

Tony,

I’m sorry for running out on you like I did, but there just wasn’t any time to argue with you on my decision to try to save Megan. I knew you would either try to talk me out of it, or worse, you would come with me and I couldn’t have that.

Truthfully, I was mostly afraid that if I saw you again, I’d change my mind and do the selfish thing and stay. Just know that this is nothing you did, or could’ve fixed… this is all about me and how cold I’ve become.

God, it hurts to have found you alive while I am so dead inside! The bitter irony was that while you were inspired by the hope of finding me safe someday, I did all I could to try to forget you… to move on… since I believed you’d perished in that fire.

I guess we are the punch line for a very cruel joke.

Okay, I have to get this out. You need to know what I did, and then decide for yourself if I’m someone you still want to be with… hell, you may want to turn me over to that police officer… and I would completely understand. Confession time: When we were attacked and Greg was shot… I lost it… I completely snapped. Instead of running away and protecting my group, I nearly destroyed it with my vendetta to avenge Greg. Some of my group followed me to the office building while the rest remained, trying to figure out who the hell I really was. I personally murdered two teenagers in cold blood, and tried to gun down two others who managed to escape my murderous rampage. If not for Frank, I would’ve killed Megan, too. She was pleading with me, telling me she was pregnant and… and I fired at her anyway. Frank deflected the shot. That’s the monster I’ve allowed myself to become, Tony… and I’m sorry.

I have done other things in the last month I’m not proud of, but that was my breaking point. I started to question everything and doubt myself as a leader… and as a decent human being. If I was capable of killing people with such ferocity and cold-hearted detachment, what other horrors was I capable of? And then you all showed up and I didn’t know where I belonged anymore… except in a cage.

Enough of this. All I ask is that while you and your group are safely far away from all of this, and should I happen to make it back, please think about us and don’t try to pretend that you’re not disgusted by me if I can see it clearly in your eyes. If the price of my actions is to lose you and we can’t be together anymore, than I’m prepared to accept that… and I won’t hold it against you. Hey, I’m not the girl I used to be and far from the woman I want to be. But I’m trying. You’re alive, and that’s enough, should you choose to stay away. But maybe someday, after the darkness has been cleansed from my heart, and if it’s still possible… perhaps we could be friends.

I’m so proud of you, Tony. You came back from a lot of bad shit and saved a lot of people. I’ve watched you, and I’ve watched how they react to you. I think you’d make a great leader if it came down to it. Those people love you and are motivated by your strength, good natured humor, and just your overall positive spirit. You feed them hope and help them hold on to the important things from our old lives. I look at you and them, and I’m reminded of those things again… and that not everything perished when the dead took over.

A friend of mine who didn’t make it out of Fairport Harbor with us, told me the most important thing that matters now. He said we needed to love each other and put all those old indifferent ways behind us. He believed we were spared for a reason… a second chance maybe. He told me that surviving isn’t enough if we go back to the ways we used to treat each other. He was a good man who tried to impress some of those beliefs on to me when it became my job to reluctantly take over leadership. Unfortunately, I failed. But now I pass those same beliefs on to you.

Stay true to yourself, Tony, and don’t let the darkness in… ever. You need to be the light for all of them now. In my dreams, the ones from before, I saw us running away together, far from that dead-end life at the club. I didn’t really care where we went as long as we went together. I was saving all my money just to work up the nerve to ask you one day… I know, silly girl dreams.

Whatever happens next, I don’t want my death or my life to cause you to quit. I will not be the reason your light diminishes… do you hear me? If you give up, I will come back and haunt your ass forever!

I love you, Tony Marcuchi. I always will…

~~~

DAWN (THIRTY HOURS LATER):

… And if we can’t have this life, or what remains of it, I will wait for you on the other side, with our bags packed, plane tickets to anywhere at the ready, and I will finally ask you to run away with me… and we’ll find a secluded spot in heaven where none of the bad stuff can follow…

Gina smiled as she thought about the last few lines of the letter, again and again. She hid what remained of herself, what her torturers could not touch, in the beautiful promise that she intended to keep… in this life, or the next. She no longer felt the cold on her naked flesh, or the knife wounds and bruises which riddled her body. She was beyond the pain, beyond the fear—she could feel herself slipping away.

The hard slap across her face brought her back. “And just where do you think you’re going, Gina?” Micom asked. He grabbed her by the chin and said, “You don’t get to die until I allow it.”

She was too weak to fight back. She couldn’t even feel her limbs anymore due to being left out on the willow tree for so long in the cold.

I almost… slipped away, Frank. I wasn’t… paying attention… hit me so hard the last time… I thought it was all… it was all over.

Micom noticed her dazed expression and dropped her chin, letting her head droop forward. He was clearly frustrated by the stubborn woman. “This is getting very tiresome,” he said, looking to Copperfield who wisely remained silent. “What could be so damn important that you would rather throw your life away than answer one… simple… question?”

He leaned into her ear and whispered, “Do you know that it is within my power to release you? We’re all alone out here. As far as I’m concerned, no one would be able to tell one scarecrow from another after you’ve… turned. So… answer my question, and I’ll give you my word that I’ll take you down from this tree, tend to your wounds, and then send you on your way.”

Gina forced her head upward, so she could look into the monster’s eyes.

“Just tell me why you both came here… and then you’re free. It’s that simple, Gina.”

Gina desperately tried to stay conscious and keep her eyes open.

Micom sighed. “Consider the alternative, Gina. I’ll paint you a picture: No one will give your re-animated carcass a second thought as you slowly rot your days and nights away on this tree, and anything you were or cared about will simply be gone. You’ll essentially be dead, but unable to depart as your soul will remain trapped in this flesh prison. You’ll feel your humanity slip away, you dignity, your identity… until the only thing that’s left is the flesh and the blood. Your existence will be a tragic joke reduced to one single purpose: To Feed. That’s all there is Gina. Wouldn’t you rather have a chance? I’m offering you a way out. Why don’t you take it?”

Gina remained silent. It took all she had to stay awake.

Micom shook his head. “Unbelievable. Even now, you would rather die with your damn secrets. Very well… I gave you your last chance.” He signaled Copperfield.

Copperfield reached inside his coat and pulled out a packaged syringe and a small vial of what looked like black blood. He handed both to Micom.

Micom carefully handled the syringe, inserted the needle into the vial, and then filled it with blood. He turned back to Gina, who was staring at the syringe. “I suppose we could’ve just grabbed one of those disgusting things and let it take a few chunks out of you… but that always gets messy. We’ve discovered that by injecting the infection directly into the host’s bloodstream, not only is it much more efficient, it quickens the turnover rate.”

He held up the syringe. “Last time, Gina. Why did you come here?”

I’m supposed to… supposed to do something… can’t remember what it is. Doesn’t matter now. So tired of fighting… She couldn’t stay conscious. Gina closed her eyes.

“Very well,” Micom said. He stepped in next to her left arm. “She’s too far gone now. After this is done,” he told the little man, “I want all of them lined up and marched by this tree. I want them to see what happens to those who resist the will of Micolad.”

He lifted Gina’s arm to insert the syringe.

Gina began to drift away. She was searching for the place…

…where none of the bad stuff can follow…

~~~

Next Episode 27-1

Previous Episode 26-4

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 26-5: Further Actions Pending” 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. Good writing as always. I try to limit my chapters to ~1,000 words. Do you find reduced redearship with longer posts? Since I only post once a week, I am considering doubling my post size. I wonder how that would effect my reader count.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Hey Allen, I don’t believe a lengthy word count matters so much if you’re putting out quality episodes. I’m anywhere between 2000 to 3000 on average. Sometimes 4000 to 5000 depending on how fast things are moving. Actions scenes or scenes with a lot of dialogue tend to get rather high in the word counts but they moving along quickly. I suspect readers who are invested in the story, don’t even notice the lengths. Also, I try to never dump too much narrative info on the reader to bog down the pace and that allows me to post higher word counts.

      Another thing to consider is how frequently you’re posting. If you’re only posting once a week then I would definitely make the length worth while if you want the readers to wait a whole week before getting an update. Honestly, I think posting only once a week runs the risk of people losing interest or simply forgetting about serials, since the average reader could read an entire book in the same amount of time. I would post at least twice a week if not more. Also, the more you post, the more attention you bring to your blog anyway. I think shorter episodes work great if you’re going to post several times a week.

      I ran across a serial where the author posted 2-3 times a day, 7 days a week, but with short 200-300 word episodes. I think that’s a clever way to post if you have the time to sit around and do it. I like my three days a week with decent sized episodes to hold the reader over while waiting through the ‘off’ days. I think most readers (or at least the ones I’m hoping for) want more to read, not less. For those with short attention spans, maybe they should be reading flash fiction and not serial novels anyway.

      Just some food for thought.

      Liked by 1 person

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