Chapter 27-3: The Stand

Posted: May 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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~~~

Marcus followed them from a distance, staying well clear of the road and blending into the woods as he crept along silently. He’d already found several traps once entering the forest surrounding the wilderness preserve, but he managed to maneuver around them.

He lay prone beneath a large pine, watching as Frank and Gina followed the narrow road. They made no attempt to remain unseen, as was their risky plan.

Marcus’s well-tuned senses were on high alert by the time he moved within visual range of the dead things fastened to the trees along both sides of the road. He watched as Gina and Frank hesitated, discussing how to proceed.

Marcus relocated behind an overturned dead tree with one end still connected to the trunk. He slithered within a small gap beneath the tree and the trunk and remained motionless in a tall patch of weeds. As the others focused on the zombies in the road, Marcus’s attention was on the quiet woods ahead of them. They were not alone anymore and he wouldn’t dare move any closer. He could not see them or hear them, but the unnatural behavior of the forest itself was what betrayed the stealthy intruders. Marcus was stunned by how well they hid and could move about without being detected. He’d almost missed the signs. If there had been only one or two, Marcus was convinced that he would not have detected them. But there were many and they were close. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do when the intruders decided to reveal themselves.

If these are the Shadow Dead, Marcus mused, then we are in a lot of trouble.

Marcus turned to watch Gina and Frank walk in between the frenzied dead. Frank found a trip wire and crawled beneath it. Gina started to do the same as one of the more rotted dead split itself in half on the tight chain and began to crawl after her. She made it to the other side. Frank killed the pitiful creature…

The woods were suddenly filled with the moans and shrieks of a thousand maniacs as Marcus nearly gave up his position, fearing that he was being attacked from above. He rolled on his back and looked up into the tree tops. There were no monsters. By the time he rolled back on his stomach and looked over at the zombies, the moaning and screaming had ceased as both Frank and Gina’s unconscious bodies were being dragged away into the woods by strange looking brutes with large heads and exposed skulls. He only caught a glimpse of them as they disappeared among the trees. There were at least ten of them.

Damn… they are fast!

He didn’t know how to proceed… and worse… one of them had stayed behind. He couldn’t see it, but Marcus felt its hideous presence watching the rear of their pack.

They know… just as I knew they were there… they can sense me, too!

Marcus quietly retrieved a hunting knife from his belt and waited… five minutes… ten… fifteen…

After twenty agonizing minutes, a large shadow bolted out from behind a large tree and sped off in the direction of his pack… and it never made a sound.

Marcus rolled over on his back with his knife at the ready. He remained there, staring up into the trees tops for another thirty minutes before deciding it was safe to move. He got out from under the tree and crouched down, knife retracted like a viper getting ready to strike. He scanned the woods for movement until he believed he was alone.

This… them… all of it feels so damn familiar. He couldn’t place it yet but that wasn’t the only thing which troubled him. Instead of following after Gina and Frank’s abductors, Marcus crept back over to the fallen tree and looked up. Something is not right… about any of this. Marcus thought about their screams and how it sounded like they were coming down from the trees. But their attack came from the ground. And then he saw something.

Marcus walked up to a tall, slender oak tree with branches dangling half way down from the top. He was able to wrap his arms and legs around the base of the tree and shimmy his way up to the lowest branch. From there, he climbed the branches up toward the object which caught his eye: a large squirrel’s nest. He reached up and shook the nest until it fell to the ground.

Marcus ignored the nest and smiled at the brown-painted speaker attached to the tree. The nest had been concealing it. And what’s this?

He took advantage of his elevated position to scan the surrounding tree tops. He found several more squirrel nests spread out across the whole area… enough of them to make the Shadow Dead sound like they were everywhere at once. Very interesting.

Before climbing back down, Marcus stared out in the direction the Shadow Dead had gone until he saw the tops of several man-made structures surrounded by a chain-link fence.

Once back on the ground, Marcus understood why these monsters felt familiar to him:

They reminded him of the assassin, Donovan.

Very, very interesting… indeed.

Marcus cautiously crept back out of the wilderness preserve to get some rest and plan his next move. He would wait for nightfall—the only disguise he could wear to get by the Shadow Dead unseen and infiltrate the camp of Micom and Micolad… the camp of manufactured monsters and lies.

~~~

As soon as there was enough light to enter into the northern woods safely, Tony grabbed his pack and told the others to follow Diane back to the lake.

“I can’t ask anything else from any of you,” he said. “You all risked your lives last night to save the others, and for this, you are already heroes in my book. As for me, I have to save my girl. If I don’t get to Gina in time, then I’ll have to find a way into that preserve we always warned you to stay the hell away from… and for good reasons. Go back. You’ve all done enough.”

All seven of them respectfully disobeyed.

Diane had summed it up the best: “After calling us heroes, how the hell can you expect us to turn back now and let you do this crazy thing alone? Let’s go get your girlfriend while we have the light on our side for a change.”

Tony had no words. He watched them all gather their things as fast as possible and they were ready to leave fifteen minutes later. “I won’t forget this,” he promised them as he quickly turned away to wipe a speck of dust from his eye.

“None of us are fooled by his size,” Diane whispered to Meredith. “We all know he’s just a big damn teddy bear underneath all that macho-bullshit. Speck of dust… my ass.”

Meredith laughed and stepped up beside Stephen. “Are you ready for this?”

“What? If you mean stepping back into the heart of darkness where all the odds are stacked against us again… well… I wasn’t aware we ever stopped doing that,” he said with a wink.

“I’m starting to like the ‘new you’, Stephen,” she said with a laugh.

They all entered the northern woods feeling a bit lighter as they left the frying pan of Andover behind them, but were not yet close enough to feel the fire which waited in the distance.

Tony marched ahead, setting a steady but deliberate pace through the woods as he hoped that Gina and Frank had lingered just long enough for them to catch up.

~~~

“I’m sorry, Tony,” one of the hunters said, examining the remains of a small fire pit. His name was Paul. “The coals have been out for hours.” Paul stood up and looked around the ruins of the burned down house. “If this was where they stayed the night, I’d say by the looks of it that your friends left early this morning. Maybe three-four hours ago.”

Tony frowned and nodded. “Thank you, Paul.” They’d pushed hard but it was almost noon by the time they’d made it this far. He looked back toward the road as his shoulders fell, speaking volumes. They were too late. The preserve was just a few miles up ahead of them. Gina was either captured by now, or she was wandering within the preserve.

“Do you think they tried to enter through the southern gate?” a hunter named Gorman asked. “Sam spoke ill of that entrance. I remember she told us that a group once tried to escape through the south gate… and that it didn’t turn out so well for them.”

Tony nodded. “You’re right, Gorman. That entrance is patrolled… by the Shadow Dead. Same with the northern road in.” He started pacing, his frustration evident.

“Gina had Orosco’s map,” Stephen offered. “She would’ve known this, too. Maybe they went around and entered from the west… like you did. Maybe we can catch them along the river.”

Tony stopped and shook his head. “No. I think they went in from the south… God only knows why.” He started pacing again. “They wouldn’t have stayed overnight in this spot if they were planning on going around. They stayed near the road so they could keep an eye on it. If they were going to do something else, they could’ve moved much farther into the woods and closer to the western edge of the preserve. I just don’t understand why they would risk it… Damn!” Tony looked like he wanted to punch a tree.

“Frank’s a clever man,” Meredith said. “If they entered the south gate, then I’m betting they had a good reason to do so… probably something Frank concocted.”

“Maybe they wanted to get caught,” Stephen said, drawing all eyes toward him. “That would surely be the fastest way into their camp.”

“That’s crazy!” Tony snapped. “Why the hell would she do that?”

“Regardless of the reason,” Meredith said, “they’re in there now. We only need to worry about how we’re going to proceed from here.”

“No matter what we do, sooner or later we’re going to have to face those fucking things,” Tony said. “The camp itself has never been the issue. Sure, Micom has his own personal militia, but his real power has always been the Shadow Dead. Sam was convinced that they were working together all along. That all this was some elaborate game that was being played out every night at their fucking nightly Gatherings. They had everyone inside so terrified that they actually believed some talking machine was protecting them. Whatever’s going on in there, and if Gina and Frank are already in trouble, then there’s nothing we can do without dealing with the real problem first.”

“If you’re suggesting we fight the Shadow Dead, Tony,” Diane said, “then you’re asking us to die. There’s only eight of us with a few guns. I remember the stories… they gave me nightmares. But what I remember most was that no one even saw these damn things coming before it was too late.”

He turned and snapped, “I’ve seen them, and lived to talk about it! So whatever else they are, I don’t believe they’re the phantoms our fears make them out to be. There has to be a way to outsmart them and get the upper hand. All we need is an advantage that they don’t have. In the end, they’re just fucking zombies, right?”

No one knew what to say. What Tony was asking them to do seemed like a guaranteed death sentence.

Meredith finally broke the silence. “Can you get us back there, Tony? Back to the waterfall?

“Yes, I can.”

“And do you really believe they can be stopped by the eight of us if you had… an advantage?”

“I do.”

Meredith sighed heavily and finished, “Then I may be able to provide you with that advantage. The only problem is, the advantage may be just as dangerous for us.”

Tony stared into the older woman’s eyes and finally said, “I want to hear all about your ‘advantage’. But first, we need to get the hell out of here and over to the western side of the preserve well before dark. It’s going to take a few hours and I have a plan which might just work… if your advantage supports it.”

“What plan?” Diane asked, voicing the same question for everyone.

Tony started moving. “Ask me when we get around to the other side. If I haven’t talked myself out of it on the hike over, then I’ll tell you all about it.”

~~~

Next Episode 27-4

Previous Episode 27-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 27-3: 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. Zaca says:

    Can’t wait for everything to blow up!

    Like

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