After The Dark (#9) – Trauma

Posted: September 23, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, Interviews/Reviews, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, talk show, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombie Talk Show, Zombies
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After the Dark1 (2)


“Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of After The Dark. I’m your host, John Ecko, and this is the weekly DFTD after-show that will attempt to answer your burning questions while we shine a light into some of the darkest corners of this chilling apocalyptic serial to see what we can uncover.

Each week we will explore a diverse range of topics as we sit down with our featured special guests who have come right out of the pages of this dark serial novel to enlighten us and hopefully give us some additional insights into their characters, as well as what we can expect in the days ahead.


At this time, I must advise you, avid readers, that from here on in, there will be major spoilers discussed. So in the event that you haven’t read up to Chapter 32-3, I strongly suggest that you don’t continue on with us until after you’ve caught up. Consider yourself warned.

Now let me introduce are next special guest, he’s another original from the series, and still alive… which is a good thing… please put your hands together for Stephen Eddington!”

(Stephen sheepishly crosses the studio stage and waves to the audience. They stand and give him a big round of applause. Stephen makes it to his seat and sits beside our host.)

“Welcome to the show, Stephen,” John begins. “It’s great to get another living cast member here with us. So many have fallen along the way.”

Stephen fidgets nervously and says, “Wow, this is something else. I’m not much for crowds but it’s great to be made to feel welcome.”

“Nothing but the best for our survivors here on After The Dark. We didn’t get a chance last week to discuss the beginning of the second chapter so let me get right to it.”


“You covered quite a lot of ground in your historical narrative. It seems you all did alright for yourselves taking over the compound. Lot’s of supplies and ‘creature comforts’, as you described. So with what amounts to a survivalist’s ‘wet dream’ as far as a refuge to hold out through the winter and avoid the dead, what the hell went wrong?”

Stephen laughs, adjusts his glasses on his face, and says, “I think we all underestimated the effects of the trauma introduced into our lives when The Change wiped out everything and everyone we knew. None of us, up until relocating into that place, has had any length of time to process all these horrors. We’ve been too busy running. But moving below the wilderness preserve allowed that tidal wave of emotions to finally hit us dead on. And we were certainly not prepared for the outcome.”

“So, essentially, constantly running from the dead and moving from place to place made it easier to avoid the trauma. Is that your assessment?”

“Absolutely. When you’re sleeping with one eye open all the time, and jumping at every sound around you, you’re not thinking about everything you’ve lost. You’re only thinking about how close you are to becoming a ghost yourself. Out in the wild, You’re living moment to moment; the person next to you could be ripped apart right in front of you, and you still have no time to grieve or register the shock of witnessing such brutality. Now imagine getting used to living that way, becoming hardened by it, and then you reach a place of so-called safety where all that suddenly goes away. It’s not an easy adjustment, as we’ve discovered. Then multiply all that violence, all that savagery, by however many people are forced to suddenly live together, and you have one hell of a problem on your hands by the time everyone now has to collectively deal with all that shit finally catching up to them.”

“You make some excellent points, Stephen. It almost sounds preferable to stay out in the wild rather then deal with all that built up trauma.”

“If you said that to Gina, and folks like her, they would quickly agree with you.”

“I imagine so.” John shifts in his seat. “Of all our characters so far, you seem to be handling all that emotional baggage reasonably well. Do you think that has a lot to do with the fact that you, more than most, seemed to be dealing with your issues along the way? Of the original ten, you were constantly struggling with the guilt caused by your actions, or inaction, did that build a sort of tolerance to it by the time everyone else had to catch up and face it, too?”

Stephen raises his eyebrows.  “You bring up some great questions.  In part, I think you’re correct.  Because of all my baggage and all my suffering with it leading up to now, I think I might be better suited to handle this internal storm better than most.”

John nods. “Well, it sure seems like you have a handle on things. Probably doesn’t hurt that you have a bit of ‘help’ as well. Which leads me to the elephant in the room. Stephen, what the hell is going on with you and Nicole? I think many of us have been wondering… is he hallucinating? Is he talking to a ghost? After that last episode, I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

Stephen laughs. “Well, I can only tell you that my character has moved on to a place where he doesn’t question Nicole anymore. He simply accepts whatever she is, and because he does so, this allows Nicole to have a bit more freedom in his life.”

“You mean, like, ‘Invasion of the Fucking Body Snatchers’ type of freedom that we discovered last episode? Are you even aware that she’s taking your body out for midnight strolls when you’re sleeping?”

“No, I most certainly am not. But I think the real question might be, ‘Is it her, or is it really me pretending to still be her?'”

John shakes his head. “I can’t wrap my mind around this relationship that you two share. If it is really you, and Nicole is simply a personification of your insanity, than I have to say, Stephen, that you have some serious issues to still work out.”

Stephen laughs and says, “Of course, you can’t work out issues you’re unaware of, right?”

“Shit, like I said, I can’t wrap my mind around this,” John says. “So did you… excuse me… did Nicole talk that poor woman into killing herself?”

“It would appear so,” Stephen says.

“That’s fucked up, Stephen. There was mentioning of other suicides, seven total I believe. Did Nicole have anything to do with those as well?”

Stephen shakes his head and says, “Well… John… I don’t really know. I suppose it’s very possible.”

“Okay… so let’s recap this: While you’re awake, you see visions of Nicole. But when you’re sleeping, she’s moving around inside your body… and having visions of ‘you’. What the hell is that all about?”

“I would say that our relationship is a lot more complex than any of us realized. And that’s all I can really say.”

“Fair enough,” John finishes. “So let me go back to Chapter 25, when you burned Nicole’s diary, and I’ll add that it’s pretty creepy that she’s started a new one that you’re unaware of. What happened after that when Nicole appeared? It seems like that was a real pivotal point for you when things started to change.”

Stephen leans back, considers the question, and says, “I believe Nicole represents a lot of things for me, whether I’ve concocted her or she’s something else entirely, it doesn’t matter. What I’m certain of is that, in part, she was my guilt personified. What I believe is that in order to move on with our relationship, I had to accept her… all of her… which meant the good that she described us as in her journal, the parts I was inspired by, as well as the bad… the fact that I cheated on my wife with a minor and than killed her. Until I was ready to accept all of it… all of her… I would never be able to move out from under that oppressive dark cloud. She helped me get there. And that was what that moment at Amanda’s grave was all about. I think I was finally ready to move past it all and take our relationship to the next level.”

John laughs. “Stephen, my man, you have the strangest damn relationship… you know that, right?”

“I’ve seen the dead come back to life and try to eat me,” Stephen says. “What’s so strange about our relationship after that?”

(The audience laughs.)

“You got me there,” John concedes. “Well, we’re almost out of time. I wanted to ask you more about events that happened in that laundry room, but I’m guessing there’s not much more you can say, is there?”


“I figured as much. Well, it’s great to see your character coming out from under that dark place of guilt. I have to confess, I never thought you’d make it into the final four from the original ten who left the power plant. But here you are.”

“Like you said, I had help. Not only from Nicole, but from the others in the group. I think we all leaned heavily on one another to get this far.”

“Man, there’s so much in these first three episodes that I just want to dig my teeth into,” John says. “Let me touch on your scene with Logan. There was a moment there where it seemed like he was aware of Nicole on some level. Can you elaborate on that?”

Stephen shifts uncomfortably. “Well, I seemed to think so. But Logan could have been addressing something else entirely. It’s far too early to say. But I think that scene if very revealing in where my character is now. Back when I was first struggling with Nicole’s visitations, I would have loved it if someone else had seen her… you know… to validate that I wasn’t crazy. But now, that’s the last thing I want, as you all saw in how protective I became with Logan, and how I ripped that page out of the book after I wrote about her. So I am in a whole new place with all of it.”

“That’s interesting. Last question before you go: Since Marcus is the only one who knows the truth about what happened between yourself and Nicole, and considering how protective you are about her now, does that pose a problem between you two?”

Stephen shakes his head. “Well, obviously none of us know who Marcus truly is, but because he’s no stranger to secrets… or to murder… I imagine that man might be pretty bored with it by now.”

(The audience laughs.)

“However,” Stephen continues, “Marcus is very intelligent. I wouldn’t put it past him to exploit what he knows if it would work to his advantage.”

“Indeed,” John agrees. “Stephen, is there anything else you can tell us looking ahead? What’s in store for our group’s historian in the future?”

“I think by the end of this chapter you might get a sense of that,” Stephen says. “What we’re going to discover in this arc, as far as my character is concerned, is that I finally have a chance to find my role, my place in this new world… whatever that means. And that’s all I can tell you at this time.”

“Alright then. Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, Stephen, and thanks for appearing on the show.” He turns to the audience. “How about a big hand for our special guest.”

(the audience stands up and applauds.)

Stephen waves back and says, “Thanks for having me.”

John concludes, “And that’s a wrap for today. If anyone out there wants to ask Stephen anything about his character, the story itself, or about anything else we’ve covered today, please feel free to ask away, and we will try to answer what we can. If not, then I’ll see you next week for another exciting episode of After The Dark!”


Next Episode:
After The Dark (#10) – Confessions


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