Chapter 30-3: Aftermath

Posted: June 17, 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 finally returned to the control room to find the others packing bags full of supplies. They all seemed eager to get back to the others and put this place behind them.

“I’ve reached a decision,” she announced.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and gave her their undivided attention.

Gina started to pace the room. “I know we’ve all been struggling like hell to stay alive since this shit storm started over a month ago. We’ve been running from place to place and sleeping with one eye open every night because we know that wherever we end up, no matter how safe it seems, eventually the dead come or some other fucking threat, and that safety is stolen from us… and then we lose people… again and again.”

No one could disagree. Gina struck the heart of it.

“Now, Tony’s got the right idea. We need to get back to the others and let them know we’re alright. We need to get everyone back together and help each other stay alive. That’s what we do… that’s all we can do. But I have to tell you, I’m sick and tired of the uncertainty of the open road. I’m tired of finding temporary havens that feel like heaven compared to wandering around out there… just to watch those places turn to shit while we managed to take a breath or two before running… again.”

She then stopped and lingered as she stared into their tired faces. “You all came for me and Frank, and we came for a girl that’s probably gone. People died to get us to where we are now. And so I’m left with one empty question that’s driving me insane: What did we gain through all this suffering when all we’re doing is going back out there into all that uncertainty? Yes, we could try to hold out in Andover. But winter’s coming, and that will present many challenges we haven’t faced yet. The same goes for the mountains, if we ever get there.”

“What are you suggesting, Gina?” Diane asked.

She smiled at the hunter and said, “I’m tired of running from the unknown just to face more unknowns up the road. It’s clear to me that the people who ran this death camp have some sort of agenda, or perhaps they are directly involved with the epidemic that has killed everyone we love. The hell if I know. Either way, we have an opportunity to stop running and take control of our lives. We have everything we need right here in this place to survive the long winter without going back out there. I say we bring everyone back here and make this our new home for as long as we can.”

“But what if the Shadow Dead come back… or something worse?” Stephen asked.

“Then we’ll be waiting for them,” Gina said fiercely. “Besides, for the first time, not only do we have a place that we can make secure… we’ll also be in a position to finally get some fucking answers when and if those fuckers decide to come back and take this place. I say we make a stand… right here. Call it the spoils of victory, if that puts a better spin on it. But I say we stay here and finally stop running and start living. That’s all I have to say. I’m open to anything you all want to do. I just wanted to get my two cents out there. But I believe we can make this work… right here.”

After a half-hour of discussion, everyone was an agreement.

They chose to stay.

~~~

Frank, Diane and Marcus volunteered to head back in the morning and lead the Andover survivors back to their new underground home in the scorched wilderness.

In the meantime, Gina wanted everyone to get some well-deserved rest as she set up a watch-rotation and everyone disbanded throughout the large facility for a little alone time.

She asked Tony to show her the exit door, which was located in a small room behind the lab that housed a long metal ladder, ascending upward and through a steel hatch. Once topside, Gina realized that they were at the top of a tall plateau which afforded one hell of a view down across the valley to the west as a narrow trail wound its way around three large rocks that hid them from view from the north, south, and east sides, and then spiraled down toward the ground level.

“This makes a good look-out point,” Gina said, scanning the surrounding plateau.

Tony sat down in the dirt, facing west, and said, “Screw all that… it’s all about the view.” He pointed toward the descending sun that started to disappear behind the tree line.

Gina sat down next to him and laughed. “You always were a hopeless romantic,” she said. “Even now, you still make time for sunsets.”

“And don’t forget kissing pretty ladies when I can get them alone long enough on secluded cliffs to watch the sunsets with me,” he said with a wink.

She elbowed him playfully in the ribs when he moved in to kiss her cheek. “No tongue action for you after that ‘ladies’ comment. You probably take all the girls up here, don’t you?”

“When they let me,” he smiled. “How are you feeling now? You seemed pretty intense earlier.”

Gina sighed. “My discussion with Meredith didn’t go over very well. I’ll have to figure out what to do with her… but that can wait until tomorrow.”

“And Megan?”

“I decided to leave her be for the moment. Besides, I wanted one damn day without hearing the sound of a fucking gun.”

Tony laughed. “I really missed you, Gina. I missed being able to just chill with you again, you know, like the good old days.”

Gina frowned. “I assume that you received my letter. You weren’t supposed to read it until after I was dead.”

“Yeah… I figured.” He pulled out the note and handed it to her. “That’s why I never read it.”

She gave him a surprised look.

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I never gave up believing we’d find you. It just seemed wrong to read it… like I was throwing in the towel if I did. Besides, now you don’t have to get all weird about it.”

“But I bet you’re still dying to know what I wrote, aren’t you?”

Tony smiled. “Guilty as charged. But hey, you take your time and get your head on straight. I’ve waited this long, I can wait a bit longer. Just tell me what you can, when you can, alright?”

She leaned over and kissed the big man on the lips.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“We’ve already waited long enough,” she said teasingly. “Thank you for coming after me.”

“Next time you bail on me like that… I’m going to chain you to my side.”

“Fair enough,” she laughed.

“So what now?” Tony asked. “Do we crawl into our new hole, wait out the winter, and hope the world’s been fixed by the time we surface again?”

“I don’t think the world’s going to be fixed any time soon.”

Tony frowned. “Neither do I. I’m just not ready to accept it yet, I suppose.”

Gina let the comment go. She watched the sun disappear behind the trees as the sky turned to gold behind it, “I’m ready for a fucking change… anything… just as long as it doesn’t involve running anymore. I’m done with that.”

“I hear you, Gina. I think something has to give eventually. There’s only so much grief this world can take. Who knows, maybe after the winter, the dead will be gone and then we can start putting the pieces back together again.”

“Maybe,” Gina said. “For now, I’ll just take sitting next to you and watching this sunset with the feel of your lips still fresh on mine, and count my blessings.”

“I bet you say that to all the guys you drag up here.”

“Only the ones that will let me,” she responded with a smile.

They held each other in comfortable silence and stayed until the twilight sky began to fade. For once, Gina allowed a moment of vulnerability to settle in as she felt herself slip back into the woman Tony remembered… for his sake. She knew that eventually the darkness would reclaim her… as it always did. She also knew that in order to lead again, she’d need to be tougher than she’d ever been before… for their sake.

But for now, she allowed one more beautiful moment to claim her as she pulled Tony in close and felt his heart beat pressed up against her.

Soon, there would be no more time for beautiful moments and romantic interludes. After losing Megan and Meredith—her hope and her anchor—she believed that it was just a matter of time before she lost Tony, too. And when that happened, she would have nothing left but the darkness.

And when that day finally came, Gina silently prayed that Death would claim her quickly.

~~~

By mid-morning the following day, Diane, Frank and Marcus stopped in the woods just outside of Andover. It was Diane who suggested that she go on alone and fill Orosco and the others in on what had happened. She reminded them that Frank was still Samantha’s prisoner in their eyes and that it might be prudent that they be briefed by one of their own first.

Both Frank and Marcus agreed.

After Diane departed, both men stopped near a stream to fill their canteens and rest.

As Marcus bent over the stream, he glanced at his reflection as if it had engaged in conversation with him.

Frank stepped up from behind and said, “Now that I’ve finally caught a moment alone with you, maybe you could satisfy my curiosity about a few things.”

Marcus smiled but did not turn around. “And now, after all this time together, you’re finally speaking with me. I’m honored. Ask away.”

Frank became serious. “For the life of me, I can’t figure it out. So I’m just going to throw it out there: Why did you kill the cop?”

Marcus’s face changed. “She was getting in the way, among other things. She was making our group too… comfortable… in that nice, little town. Besides, you should thank me. That pig was planning on pinning the murder of the other one I killed on you and Gina. That cop must really have it in for you.”

“We’ve had some problems in the past,” Frank said, slowly pulling out his handgun. “But nothing Sam and I couldn’t have worked out… eventually.”

“Well… let’s just say that I took care of it… and now you’re a free man,” Marcus suggested.

Frank coughed, feeling the toil on his body. He was finally out of patience with this man. “So how long are you going to keep up this charade of yours?”

“Excuse me?” Marcus said, finally turning around.

Frank had his gun aimed at him. “You wouldn’t know, of course, but I was pretty good at reading people long before the world took a dump. I had you figured out since before we left the power plant.”

Marcus smiled. “And what is Frank Carman’s assessment of me?”

“I knew right away that you were dangerous. I could see it your eyes. I’ve seen the way you look at Gina when you think no one is watching. But I’m always watching. At first, I thought you were planning on harming her, but then you kept coming to her rescue time and time again. That’s when I knew that you were up to something much worse. What is it?”

“You wouldn’t begin to understand,” Marcus said. “She’s very… special… to me.”

Frank saw it then and understood that he was looking at a stone-cold killer. “Out of respect for what you’ve done in keeping us alive, I’m not going to shoot you. But you are going to go away… far, far away… and if I ever see you again, I won’t hesitate to put a bullet in your head.”

“Such hostility from someone claiming to be one thing, and turning out to be another. Were you ever going to tell us that you were an escaped convict? A fugitive running from the law?”

“That just didn’t seem to be relevant anymore after the world ended,” Frank said. “But if asked, I would’ve come clean about it.”

“I see,” Marcus said, standing up.

Frank stepped back. “Don’t try anything. I know just how deadly you are, but I bet you’re still not fast enough to dodge a bullet.”

Marcus held his arms out and laughed. “Frank… is this really necessary? I have nothing but the best intentions toward Gina. I think I’ve proven this time and time again. Don’t you?”

“What I think is fucking irrelevant,” Frank said. “And it’s time for you to go.”

“I’ve always liked you, Frank,” Marcus said. “Even though I could never get you to like me… I still respected your keen eye for things. It’s an underappreciated talent that can easily be misunderstood.”

“I can spot a killer when I see one. Believe me, I know the type, and you fit the bill.”

“You could easily say that we are all ‘killers’ now. It’s the way of the new world. I’ve just been doing it a lot longer than the rest of you.”

“Fair enough. Now start walking. And if you follow me back to Andover, I’ll tell them who killed their leader… and then I’ll tell Gina what kind of man you really are.”

Marcus was growing tired of this. “It’s only fair that I tell you, that I would’ve killed you off eventually. But you were valuable while we were on the run. But now… sharing that facility with you for the winter does not seem very profitable to me anymore. Perhaps it’s for the best that we settle this now.”

Frank raised the gun to his head. “I’ll not tell you again. Leave or die.”

Marcus let out a heavy sigh. “Fine. I’ll go. Just let me grab my pack.”

“No… you don’t need it. And I would rather keep you separated from your weapons.”

“Okay,” Marcus said. “You win.” He turned back toward the river and finished, “I’m going to stay right here. I suggest you grab your things and go.” He put his hands in front of him and retrieved a utility knife from his left sleeve. “Shoot me in the back or walk away. Do what you need to do, Frank, but I’m staying right here.”

Frank hesitated. If he had been his old self, he would’ve shot the man in the back and let the stream carry him away. But Frank was different now. He was not the murderer he once was.

He was not this man before him.

“Suit yourself,” Frank said and started to back away.

The moment he heard the big man move, Marcus spun around and charged. He knew he could get to Frank before he fired, especially since he was still recovering from his injuries.

Frank turned the gun on Marcus and was about to fire.

Marcus was already up under him as he sliced the big man’s gun arm.

Frank cried out and dropped the gun.

Marcus was already moving in for the kill.

Frank managed to get his hands around the smaller man’s throat as he felt the utility blade slice his neck wide open.

Frank fell to his knees, still squeezing Marcus’s neck as he began to bleed out.

Marcus was trying to free himself as he felt his air supply cut off. And then it was over. He felt Frank’s grip loosen and he kicked the big man over on to his back.

He watched Frank bleed out as his eyes went blank.

Marcus was desperately trying to draw air as he bent down next to the dying man and watched his light slip away. When he was finally able to breathe again, he said, “I will miss you, Frank. You were… a friend.”

Marcus turned around and headed back to the river. He knelt down and splashed water on his face. He then stared back at his reflection.

It’s about damn time, boss, the other one said. I was startin’ to think you’d become a decent man and we both know good-and-well that their ain’t a decent bone in ya’.

“You know I told you to stay silent,” Marcus said. “I have a plan… and that plan includes you staying the hell out of my way!”

Yeah… yeah… I know, boss. You got that plan of yours. I just wish it didn’t take so damn long to get to all that blood we’ve been missin’ out on.

“You’ll get your fill soon enough. Now go away!”

Anythin’ you say, boss. Just wake me up when you’re finally ready to spill that red-head’s sweet blood all over ya’. I don’t wanna miss that for the world!

“Gina is not ready yet. She’s special… she’s the one we’ve been waiting our whole lives for.”

Ya’ don’t have to sell me, boss. I’ve been watchin’ you sow them clever fuckin’ seeds all over that bitch’s cunt, makin’ her ripe and ready for the final fuckin’ harvest!

“Then you know that we need to stay patient.”

Yeah… patient.

Russell Bower was puzzled by the reflection staring back at him from the river. He saw a man he hardly recognized. He wondered if Russell was looking down into the water, or if Marcus was looking up at him from beneath.

Time would tell.

But for now… Russell, or Marcus, had to remain patient.

~~~

Next Episode 31-1

Previous Episode 30-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 30-3: Aftermath” Copyright © 2015, 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. nashmcgowan says:

    FFS, crazy twist. Freaking Russel! And you killed Frank you heartless bastard. Eh, I’m over it now (o:

    Can;t wait for this to pick back up. I know I have said this before but what you have packed into a few weeks in story time is absolutely crazy. I’ve probably read 60+ Z-Genre books in the last couple years and I am starting to get bored with them. When I think back over a book I find that they all kind seem to exist in the same universe. So while good, I mix up parts of books together when I am thinking about them. Your is the only one that stands out from the others. Keep up the great work Scott.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Hey Nash, thanks for sticking around for the long haul and making it this far. I appreciate that you think my story stands out because I don’t believe I could keep writing it if all DFTD was about were zombies. I would have lost my motivation a while ago. I’ve always loved the idea of a good survival story involving diverse characters creating stories within stories. I always hope that I’ll continue to be surprised during the writing as readers are hopefully surprised by the reading. Lots more to come. Sorry about Frank but his time had come. I know he was a fan-favorite. He will get a cameo or two in the next book. Freaking Russell! I’m just glad that cat is officially out of the bag now. No more, “What ever happened to that damn serial killer” questions. More to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another good chapter. Are you pulling a GRRM and killing off your named characters?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. pam farless says:

    Awww, not Frank! RIP Frank. You’ll be missed! As always, I am loving this story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Zaca says:

    Fuck. My favorite character was always there. Now that he killed Frank though (and I secretly expected his death once he finished becoming a new man), I think Frank may be my mew favorite. Great work. It was fun binge readig the series!

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your impressions all along the way. I hope to see you back in August for the premiere of the next story arc titled, Phantoms ;)

      Like

  5. Loco15 says:

    Unholy f*cking flamming shit! I so absolutely did not see that one coming! I mean, yeah, I knew Frank had to go; aside from facing his devils, redeeming himself, becoming a nice person, all the while remaining badass, he was way too good for the world. I just thought it would be sooner in the middle of that shit storm, not by being backstabbed by the most inconspicuous yet capable guy, whom we know nothing about and always seemed kind of off (in retrospective that combination rings alarm bells like no tomorrow, but I somehow managed to forget it all in the course of the story)

    Also, he is Russel!! Double plot twist! The badass psychopath that makes zombies look nice and inoffensive by comparison, whom we all liked and loved since his first appearance and wanted to know the whereabouts off! (ironicaly for a reviewer who didn’t like the chapters were he didn’t appear, heh)

    I feel like I’m trying to sound like a narrator or something. Probably a shitty one, too. Sorry. But man, this plot twist, the last couple of chapters, to hell with it, THIS WHOLE FRIGGING SERIES is so good. Somehow, it just gets better with time, instead of getting old, like so many others. Are you a wizzard or something? Or are my general standards too low? Probably a mix of both.

    Not exactly binge reader (this time) or loyal follower, I’m a guy who stops reading at times for no reason whatsoever and resumes reading just as randomly. And seldom comments too. Gotta fix that.

    10/10 going to buy your book someday. Sorry for the wall of text.

    Liked by 2 people

    • sscherr says:

      Welcome back Loco15. You were just in time for the Book Three finale. I appreciate all your comments here so don’t worry about the long post. In fact, it’s nice to see that this final plot twist worked as intended (I have painstakingly been seeding this for a long, long time). It just feels good to know that I won’t have to dodge the dreaded question anymore, “Whatever happened to that Russell guy?” I will miss Frank… I think we all will. Don’t Forget to read the “Afterwards by the Author” post and “After the Dark” premiere on the main page. Lots of additional info there. I hope to see you back in August for when the series starts again. Thanks for reading and for your encouragement :)

      Like

  6. murkytruths says:

    Few… well that took forever.

    Okay so after a couple of days I read your series up to now and let me say wow! Your writing is amazing, you keep throwing the twists (even though I knew Russel was Marcus ) can wait for your next installment sscherr your doing good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Welcome back, Murkytruths. Wow… you read fast! I’m glad you had a chance to catch up and that my long story still held your attention all the way through. I was editing the first new chapter today and I started to get excited. Feels great to get back into this tale and I look forward to sharing the new arc with you. Yeah, the Marcus/Russell thing. I love the way I got to play that card out. Some people had no idea Russell was Marcus and they were surprised, or, they suspected it was Marcus all along but never knew when and how he would reveal himself. It worked out great either way. I am so glad the secret is out and now I can let Russell Bower out to play. Thanks for reading and for your encouraging comments. It’s readers like yourself that make this worthwhile ;)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. And there goes my favorite character and kills the number 2. Btw I knew it the whole time that he’s Russel… as soon as he spoke about the Change being a Chance and the Freedom of it way back at the plant.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Yes, some people didn’t see it coming, others, like yourself suspected that shady Marcus character all along. But nobody knew when that serial killer would make his move. Unfortunately, Frank should’ve stayed behind. We will all miss you Frank :(

      Thanks for reading, Gylion and for sharing all your comments. I don’t know how you engulfed three books like that, but now you’re caught up in time for what comes next. Hope to you around as the story progresses ;)

      Like

      • I began reading the day before yesterday (My Birthday btw. finding this story was like a gift :P)
        and then marathoned to the end.

        Like

      • sscherr says:

        That’s awesome, and Happy Birthday. I’m always amazed at how fast some people can read what took me three years to write in just a few quick days… lol. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment on this long tale ;)

        Like

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