Chapter 27-1: The Stand

Posted: May 10, 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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~~~

An hour after sunset, the former Andover community arrived safely at the southern portion of Lake Pymatuning. Everyone quickly went about their assigned tasks of making sure the peninsula with the four surrounding vacation homes was as secure as possible.

After the area was verified zombie-free, everyone was split into four groups to fortify each house with whatever they could use within, as they all went indoors to wait out the night. They were given strict instructions to remain as quiet as possible and avoid any unnecessary movements, light, or anything else that might attract attention to their location. Lookouts were posted discreetly near second floor windows which faced every direction. The plan was simple: Become ghosts.

Orosco moved a bedroom reading chair near the window. He placed his rifle against the wall within easy reach, sank exhaustedly into the chair and then turned out his flashlight. After his eyes adjusted, he stared out into the oppressive night, expecting every shadow to come to life and attack the house. He had been more than eager to take up the first watch, desperately needing some time alone to process everything that had happened over the past several hours.

How the hell did we get here so damn fast? he wondered. They had gone from the illusion of safety in a secure little town to running off in the night, in the hope that monsters which once belonged exclusively in nightmares, would not catch them and slaughter all of them on the road. Two of their own had been murdered, including their leader. The killer—still on the loose. And now… everyone looked to him for answers.

There was a light knock on the open bedroom door.

“Come on in,” he said.

“We’re ready downstairs. Nothing’s going to get in without us knowing about it first.” It was Brian, the former accountant.
“That’s good… very good. Thanks, Brian.” Orosco hoped there was nothing else.

But there was. “Some of the guys have been talking,” Brian started. “They want to go back to Andover in the morning to make sure the others are alright.”

Orosco closed his eyes. Yeah, I knew this was coming. “Well of course they do. I want to do the same damn thing… but we’re staying put for now,” he said. “That was Tony’s final word on the matter… and I intend to honor it.”

Brian hesitated and then said, “It’s making a lot of us feel guilty as hell… you know… leaving them behind like that while we tucked tail and ran off.”

“I know how you feel, Brian. But we didn’t abandon them. Tony made the call and whether we like or not, he stayed to give the rest of us a chance to get out.”

“I just wanted to let you know that none of us have a problem with heading back… Tony would do the same for us.”

“Yeah, he would,” Orosco smiled. “But we need to wait here. Those things we always told you about are cunning creatures… not like any zombies you’ve ever seen. Believe me… I was there. All we’d be doing by showing up is adding more problems. Besides, I’m sure Tony has some kind of crazy plan in mind…

~~~

…to slow down the Shadow Dead.”

Tony Marcuchi stood in front of the diner as the dying light slipped behind the silhouettes of Andover’s tallest structures. He was seeing the true town now, as the last of the people who gave it life quietly slipped away, leaving only himself, five of his best hunters, and a strange older woman who used to be a fortune teller of some kind, and one former school teacher. As Andover’s streets began to feed the shadows, Tony thought, This town was never any different from what it is now. We just ignored the obvious, getting lost in projects and whatever else Sam gave us to do to keep us busy and avoid looking at it. Just another large graveyard with buildings for tombstones and that fucking awful silence…

He had picked up a crowbar he’d found lying near a gutter in the street while helping the others gather materials for the piles surrounding the diner. He frowned at the memories it triggered. It felt cold and necessary, like his steel resolve, as he tightened his grip around the blunt instrument. Tony hoped that a day might come when he’d never have to pick up a weapon ever again, in a world where a crowbar was simply that and nothing else.

The night settled, quickly burying the remains of the day.

“Alright!” the big man roared. “Let’s light ‘em up and get our asses to the roof!”

One of their last acts as a community before Tony sent them south with Orosco in charge, was to strip the current perimeter of anything combustible to create four large bonfires fifty feet from each side of the diner.

Tony was pleased at how fast they went up as the large piles were set on fire using make-shift torches on gasoline as an ignition source.

When he’d decided to stay and act as a buffer between the Shadow Dead and the fleeing group, Tony clearly understood that they were overmatched. Fire and an elevated position were all he could think of to slow them down, and effectively draw the monsters’ attention toward the diner and away from the others.

“And now… everybody knows exactly where we are,” he said out loud. Tony scanned the dark windows of the surrounding tombs and finished, “Alright then… let’s get this over with.” He turned to join the others retreating into the diner.

~~~

Meredith and Stephen were already on the roof, taking up the first watch as the others finished lighting the fires.

Stephen sighed staring down into the dark streets, already missing the larger community. After finding out what Gina and Frank were attempting, he and Meredith were quick to volunteer to stay behind and help, knowing full-well that if they survived the night, Tony would have them moving at dawn to try to catch up with them. He looked to the older woman and said, “I’m really starting to think that we’re the problem. Everywhere we go, death is right on our heels.”

Meredith laughed but continued to stare out into the night. She was searching desperately for a good reason not to open hell’s door again and reestablish her connection with the dead. Hiding was not the plan now and this small group of terrified but brave souls who stayed behind to give the others a chance to make it out, needed to know if Samantha’s fears were warranted. They needed to know if these so-called Shadow Dead were surrounding the town… and she possessed the only means to confirm it.

“It’s not going to matter one way or the other,” she mused out loud.

“What’s that?” Stephen asked, stepping beside her.

She clarified, “If they’re out there, getting ready to finish us off… and if they’re the boogeymen that Tony says they are… then there is nothing I can say that will change anything. Either they’re out there or they’re not. I may not even be able to recognize them since I’ve never encountered the Shadow Dead before. Remember the grey-eyed ones in Harpersfield? That was the first time I’d encountered them and I didn’t spot them for what they were until it was too late.”

Stephen understood. “I get it, Meredith. You’re afraid to open yourself up to them again. You don’t have to justify your actions. No one expects you to do anything you don’t want to. I’ve seen you out in town enjoying your new role as a normal human being. You’ve earned the chance to be one, you know.”

Meredith turned with tears in her eyes. “I’ve been selfish, Stephen. When we arrived here everything changed. I had a chance to run from ‘me’ at last… and I took it, embraced it, told myself I would never be that woman again, the one branded as ‘freak’.”

“Then let it go… all of it,” Stephen said. “Just leave the ‘gift’ or ‘curse’ or whatever it is that’s been haunting you… just leave it down there in the dark… and just walk away.” He hesitated and then continued, “I know how you feel. I don’t possess your ability to sense them like you do, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been haunted by them.”

Meredith smiled. “Yes… you’re right, Stephen. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own abilities that I never saw the obvious. I never realized that all of you, in your own ways, have been dealing with the dead, dealing with your own doors that needed to be closed within and dealt with. I guess we all share in carrying that load.”

“Some more than others,” Stephen said, without wanting to elaborate.

“Something’s different about you, Stephen. Ever since I met you, you’ve been carrying around so much grief. But now, you seem… lighter. What’s changed?”

Stephen smiled and said, “Being here with these people has been good for me, too,” was all he would volunteer. “Ask me again some time when the world isn’t trying to eat us and maybe by then I will have found a way to put into words.”

“Fair enough,” she said. Meredith looked back down into the night. “It feels good to be free of them, even knowing that they might be down there waiting for the fires to go out. Right now, at this moment, I’m just grateful they’re not crawling around in my mind. But still… we need every advantage we can get. If I can help Tony get us through the night… I should try, shouldn’t I?”

Stephen didn’t know what to say. “I can’t answer that, Meredith. I can’t even imagine what it’s like sharing a space in your mind with all that death out there.” He stared into the ominous night and finished, “I just keep telling myself how grateful I am to not be alone, even if this is the end, and it helps me not to freak out. Besides, Gina and Frank are out there somewhere… and they don’t have the rest of us to keep them out of trouble. I feel bad for distancing myself from her. When Gina and Tony found each other, I told myself they had each other now and backed away.” He looked down at his feet. “I shouldn’t have done that to her. We’re like family… and family doesn’t turn their backs on each other, no matter what difficulties arise.”

Meredith nodded. “You’re not the only one, Stephen. I turned my back on her, too. If I hadn’t, I might’ve pushed harder to find out what she was hiding when she came to see me. But I didn’t want to. After what she did… well… I just wanted to forget everything.”

They stood in silence, each wrestling with their own troubled thoughts, as they waited for what was coming for them out of the night.

~~~

Tony was the last to join the others on the roof. He made a brief stop on the second floor of the diner and opened the door which led to where Sam was murdered. Orosco had placed her body neatly on the bed and covered it with a sheet.

He read the message on the wall over the bed:

YOU KILL US. WE KILL YOU. BLOOD FOR BLOOD.

The last fucking thing we need is cryptic messages splattered on the walls in blood. Like surviving in this damn world isn’t hard enough…

He pulled the sheet down just enough to see her face. Sam’s eyes were wide open, staring off into darkness.

“I’m sorry this happened to you, Sam. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things… but you didn’t deserve this,” he said. “We’re going to stand up against those things tonight… and I know we don’t have a chance to stop them. But the others will have a chance to keep going. That’s better than all of us dying in the dark.” He looked up at the bloody words again. “I think this time you would agree with me: I hope you’re wrong about who wrote that on the wall. If we survive tonight, I’m heading out at dawn to find Gina and Frank. They’re headed for that hellish place we barely escaped from. I wish I knew why you didn’t talk her out of it. Maybe you tried. Gina’s as stubborn as you are when her mind is set.” He took a deep breath, then continued. “I don’t know how to lead these people. That was your job. But I guess I have to survive this night first before I have to start worrying about that. Either way, we’ll figure it out together, Sam. I’m going to fuck these monster up, rescue my girl, and then get these people the hell out of here… that’s a promise.” He placed his hands over Sam’s eyes and gently closed them. He placed the sheet back over her face. “Goodbye, Sam. Thanks for getting us this far.” Tony exited the room and climbed the roof access ladder near the stairs.

Once topside, he was greeted by seven pairs of frightened and anxious eyes.

“We’ve done all we can do tonight,” he told them. “If the Shadow Dead are out there… they’ll be coming for us… and we’ll fight as hard as we can to keep them off this roof. That’s all I have, people… and it’s going to have to be enough.” He then gave them a mischievous smile and finished, “If it’s any consolation, I’m pretty pissed off right now… and most of you know how very un-fucking-civilized I can be when I’m pissed off.”

This put a few of them at ease as they laughed at the inside-joke.

“We’ll give ‘em hell, Tony,” Diane said with confidence. She was the farmer’s daughter who knew how to hunt and track. The others were just as good with firearms. Tony was grateful to have five solid fighters from his community with him. He looked over at the older woman and the teacher and said, “Thank you both for fighting with us tonight. You didn’t have to do this… but you did. That makes you a couple of bad-asses in my book.”

Meredith huffed at the comment. “I don’t know about that, Mr. Marcuchi. I’ve never been accused of being a ‘bad-ass’ before.”

“Don’t let her fool you,” Stephen said. “She’s the only reason we made it out of Jefferson. There’s more to being a bad-ass than looking the part, I say.”

“Well put, brother,” Tony said. “I’ve seen first-hand the steel which can come out of the smallest person when their back is put to the wall.” He took them all in and added, “Or when their families and friends are threatened by a bunch of mindless dogs which think we won’t bite the fuck back!”

A couple of “Hell Yeahs!” were thrown out to support his statement.

Tony looked at them confidently, slapping his crowbar into one of his hands, and said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m tired of jumping every fucking time this crazy world shouts, ‘Boo’; tired of running, hiding, weeping in the darkness, and waking from so many nightmares that I’ve lost count.”

Everyone was nodding now.

“I’m tired of watching the people I care about suffer and live with their eyes constantly staring behind them for the next monster to jump out of the shadows. This time… we’re going to be ready for them! This time we’re going to shout fucking ‘BOO’, and make these mother-fuckers jump for once! Can you all feel what I’m saying right now?”

They did. And the fifth and final bonfire was now lit on that rooftop as eight angry souls were ready to face the Shadow Dead with more steel than they knew they possessed.

And it would have to be enough.

~~~

Next Episode 27-2

Previous Episode 26-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 27-1: The Stand” 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. sscherr says:

    Sorry for the mix up yesterday. I posted some drafts for this chapter by mistake and quickly deleted them… oops ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No worries – I noticed that the text was in rather large unformatted blocks rather in the crunchy little bits usually encouraged but those “who know.” I am going to try longer posts myself and see if perhaps my readership improves. Perhaps you are correct, and my readers feel slighted with only a small post which can be read in a few minutes. After waiting all week long it might be a bit of a let down, so the next post this Sunday on my Ruth story blog will be 3x the usual size.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Sounds like a plan, Allen. Hey, if you’re interested, I found an interesting site set up in forum format that caters to serial novels. I don’t believe there are many stories over there like ours, but I’ve been posting episodes there and have been seeing an increase in traffic. You might want to check it out since you have so much posted already. It’s http://royalroadl.com/ To see how I’ve set my serial up there, you can go to http://royalroadl.com/fiction/6245 I just post existing material there encouraging people to come to my site here to read more. I occasionally pick up a binge reader or two (our favorites).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sscherr says:

    Allen, I started reading Ruth’s story. You were closed for comments so I’ll just post here. I wasn’t sure if this was the beginning or not: https://allensrepositoryofstuff.com/2011/11/30/fiction-ruths-tale-partially/ Love the description of the chaos at the airport. You have described my worst nightmare. I would hate being stuck there. Too many things could go wrong very quickly. I was having a bit of trouble finding the beginning of the story. You may want to take the time and create an index link to help people navigate the story better. Unless there was one and I just didn’t see it. I’ll get back to Ruth’s tale when I can. Sounds interesting so far. I’m glad you chose to start shortly after the beginning of the chaos and not months later, looking back.

    Like

  4. Zaca says:

    I didn’t really like Tony much until now.

    Like

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