Chapter 33-1: Detour

Posted: October 3, 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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~~~

They neared the edge of the skeletal looking forest as the first of many dark tombs began to appear in a line, revealing the backyards of a once thriving neighborhood. Tall, suburban homes sat quiet as if frozen forever in that original moment the world of the living came to an end six months ago, when the dead took over like a swarm.

Gina signaled her team. They all squatted down, forming a small circle, and becoming as small as possible while scanning their sectors for movement. But there was nothing… always more nothing.

“Marcus, do your ninja thing,” Gina said. “But get your ass back here the moment you get a bad feeling about anything. Understood?”

Marcus nodded with a smile. “No worries. In and out.” He put his handgun away, retrieved his machete, and quietly approached the first of the backyards. He had become their designated ‘eyes’ on missions like this which required someone to scout ahead with stealth and cunning.

She made a twirling gesture with her hand. Hagar and Diane moved fifty feet to the right. Tony and Gina went left. By spreading out, they could cover more area and become less noticeable.

Gina watched Marcus disappear between two homes. She silently prayed that this wasn’t the end of their good fortune, since they had now discovered the yellow-eyed monsters, or at least some of them, had survived the winter. Aside from that, the only other deadheads they’d encountered so far were what was left of the reanimated perishing in the bad man’s fields.

Since returning to the world above ground, after the last of the winter storms had passed, Gina had led several small groups into the Wasteland. What was formerly the wilderness preserve once controlled by monsters and madmen until Micolad, the bomb, had destroyed much of the area leaving only charred trees and ash, was now their home. Once convinced that the dead had not migrated into their backyard, Gina had started increasing the range of the patrols, cautiously moving into once populated towns to see what remained after the winter thaw. They had found nothing.

It was as if Old Man Winter had simply come and buried all memory of both the living and the dead beneath several feet of snow, overlooking Gina’s community of cave dwellers who did their best not to kill each other while hiding for months down in the high-tech compound/emergency shelter, created by the mysterious organization known only as Mother.

So much for nothing, Gina thought. It was just a matter of time before we found them again… or they found us. In light of the new monster of Silence which had seemed to take over everything, Gina was actually relieved to discover the dead again. Better the enemy you can see, than the enemy slowly creeping up behind you.

“I can hear them,” Tony whispered, pressed in tight next to Gina. He was staring into the empty yards.

“What? You mean deadheads?” Gina asked.

“No. I mean… if you listen real close, you can hear their voices, like echoes… just lingering behind in places like this.” Tony let out a deep sigh. “I can hear Saturday afternoon children running around the backyards; fathers mowing lawns or washing cars or starting barbecues before the big game. The longer I listen the more of them I hear. Like phantoms etched into everything, stained into our own haunted memories whether we want them there or not.”

Gina looked into the tired man’s face. “You can’t keep doing this, Tony. You have to start letting them go… your phantoms… all of them. Hell, and I thought Stephen was the nostalgic one, but even he’s stopped looking through those broken lenses. We’re on our own now and nothing’s ever going to come back… none of it. I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. That world is dead. Leave them. Stop searching for the ghosts from yesterday and eventually you won’t see them anymore.”

“I can’t, Gina. I don’t want to forget. But I will try not to talk about them so much… for your sake.”

She shot him a look.

Tony raised a pair of binoculars to his eyes and changed the subject. “Looks clear. We won’t know for sure until we move in closer. How do you want to handle this?”

“We stick to the back-up plan,” she said. “If trouble came calling and we got separated or couldn’t return the way we entered, we agreed to come here, find the tallest structure, and mark it for anyone who got separated. We’ll just wait for Nine to show up and then follow this neighborhood back around to our highway and get the hell home before dark.”

“And if they caught him… what then?” Hagar asked, stepping over to join the conversation. “What I mean is… how much time are we going to risk waiting around for someone who might already be dead?”

Gina gave him a stern look and then looked over at Diane. The young hunter tried to put on a brave face and pretend she wasn’t worried about Nine, but her own heavy thoughts betrayed her. Gina turned back to Hagar and said, “Two hours. If he’s not here by then, we’ll just have to hope he can make it back to the compound.”

Hagar rolled his eyes. “And after… you simply add another slash mark on your robe of leadership while the rest of us deal with two more who died today.”

“Contain that shit,” Tony warned.

Hagar threw his hands into the air and returned to his spot next to Diane.

“He’s right, you know,” Gina said. “Dwayne… maybe Nine… those deaths are on me.”

“Bullshit. We all agreed to do this mission and we all knew the risks. Hell… I’ve been pushing you to let me come back here the moment we first heard that fucker transmitting on the radio again. If anyone is at fault, it’s me.”

Gina shook her head and laughed. “Oh, Tony, no matter what I do, and how strongly you disagree with my choices at times, you are the faithful second-in-command to a fault. I understand now why Sam valued you so much.”

“It’s got nothing to do with being loyal, Gina. I’ve covered your ass continuously for the last five months because I know your heart, even if you don’t act on it very much lately.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Now’s not the time to get into this. But, just know, people have been talking.”

“People always talk,” Gina dismissed. “That’s all those fucking whiners back at the compound want to do is gossip and spread their hate and discontent; anything to stay angry… and I get it. It’s better to stay angry than let all that sorrow creep in and poison your will to live. Everyone’s lost too much… and that’s dangerous. So let them talk. They want to make me the target… fine.”

“It’s more than that,” Tony insisted. “We have our share of troublemakers back at the camp who take every opportunity to remind everyone, especially when you’re away, of just how much at fault you are for our present situation.”

“‘Our present situation’? And just what is that exactly? Last time I checked, we were all still alive.”

“You know what I mean, Gina. Some say you’re the reason Orosco left and took a third of our people with him. Others say you’re harboring a fugitive who can speak to the dead and is a member of Mother. And then there’s the matter of Megan. No one likes having that… woman… living so close to where everyone sleeps-”

“No shit!” Gina said. “I wanted that thing destroyed from day one, but Meredith…” she stopped short. Thinking of her old friend always made her vulnerable as conflicting emotions tried to surface. “Again, let them talk. Fact is, we’re all still alive so I must be doing something right.”

“I don’t question that at all, but-”

“But what? Why don’t you just say what’s really bothering you. You can’t stand Logan and you don’t know why I let him, or his flock, join us. That about cover it?”

“He’s a dangerous man, Gina. You let him have too much free reign and influence. I don’t understand why you can’t see it?”

“See what? That he’s good for morale? So what if he has services and talks about God. I find that encouraging and I’m surprised that you don’t.”

Tony shook his head. “You’ve seen the man… his tattoos? He wears his former hate crimes etched in ink across his body like fucking merit badges.”

“He doesn’t hide what he used to be, Tony. In fact, he uses his past to show others how wrong he was. Logan refuses to cover his tattoos because he wants everyone to know that he’s not a damn saint. You’ve heard his sermons. Has he ever once promoted anything other than love, trust, and forgiveness? Unless, of course, you have something against God these days.”

“I’m just fed up with fanatics. I’ve seen too much of that already,” Tony said. “He’s dangerous. The people who follow him, the ones he brought with him, they don’t like you, Gina. Dwayne and Hagar are his people… and look at how Hagar speaks to you. All I’m saying is that if you keep going out on all the dangerous missions, you might come back one day and discover your leadership pulled out from under you.”

Gina laughed. “My so-called leadership… gets people killed. I won’t send anyone out to do dangerous shit unless I’m willing to risk my own life. I couldn’t live with myself any other way.”

“You’re not fooling me, Gina. You go out so you don’t have to look these people in the eye. You don’t want to see their pain. You don’t want to hear their stories of the people they’ve lost, or the hope that they might see them again one day. You don’t want-”

“I don’t want your fucking phantoms, Tony! I don’t have the luxury of looking back. Not now. I can’t let anything make me weak ever again. You’re right, I don’t want to see them that way… I can hardly look at you when you get like that… I… have to be the fucking strong one even when I want to break down and weep so hard and for so long… and that’s the price of leadership. In order to keep us alive, I can’t… I won’t… let those ghosts in.”

“After all these months, you still haven’t mourned Frank’s death,” Tony said. “And you still keep me away, no matter what I do to bring us closer. It would be good for you to actually get to know the people you’re trying so hard to keep alive. They can help you come to terms with your pain. That’s what they do. I don’t understand your resistance-”

“Don’t talk to me about Frank,” she hissed. “He fucking died. Everyone dies. Doesn’t matter. After all that torture at the hands of Micom, and then discovering that Frank made it out of there… that we both did… and then he dies a meaningless death on the way to gather up Orosco’s camp… on my orders… it just makes my blood boil and my emotions teeter on the edge of completely losing it. It was a stupid, pointless fucking death! Marcus said he was attacked filling his canteen full of water, for Christ’s sake. The Damn thing just walked right up on him, and because Frank was not at a hundred percent, he didn’t catch it coming until it was too late. When I think of what happened to Frank, sometimes I want to go to a very, very dark place, Tony, and never come back until all responsible for The Change are lying in front of me with their throats cut and their blood all over my hands!”

Tony wanted to say something… anything to encourage Gina to step away from this dangerous cliff edge of self-destruction.

“When Marcus gets back, if everything checks out, we move,” Gina said. “I don’t want to be… what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

~~~

Marcus maneuvered through the silence as if it were his only enemy. He was not moved by vacant homes with doors left wide open, or by abandoned cars loaded with personal belongings now owned by no one. Broken windows had become portals into dark, lifeless spaces unfit for his amusement; the sounds of ancient futile struggles swallowed up in violence had merged into the haunted shadows of a thousand improvised ‘kill rooms’. He did not feel the eyes of the dead tracking his movements… and if they were… he viewed them as irrelevant.

He systematically scanned his surroundings, dipping in and out of hollowed out homes ripped apart like the innards torn from turkeys.

Thank you for this bounty we are about to receive, for the fuckin’ pilgrims and Indians we may slaughter along the way, and for our many other blessings… amen, the other one mocked.

Marcus rolled his eyes. He hunkered down in the dark living room of another dead house, centered midway between two ponds, and scanned the deceptive day through a broken front window. He did not acknowledge the family portraits which lined the front hallway, or the children’s toys scattered about his feet. He did not wonder about the large broken television or the phone which had been ripped from the kitchen wall as if it, too, tried to flee before the end.

These were all dead things associated with other dead things… nothing more. He would leave sympathy and reverence for the departed to fools like Stephen and Tony who continued to reminisce in these graveyards of an obsolete world.

Marcus stared out into the decaying street and felt… nothing.

His thoughts drifted to her… always her. Gina continued to surprise him. Her ability to adapt and overcome her own darkness was admirable. She did not succumb to it, but wielded it like a weapon to serve her purposes.

Oh… blah… blah… fuckin’ blah! Gina… Gina… how I’d love to split thee, Gina! Is that all you ever dream about, boss?

Marcus ignored the savage.

Why do you hate me so damn much? Everywhere we turn, another fuckin’ dead-end town full of carcasses not fit for the buzzards! I mean, seriously look at this place! It’s like opening up a refrigerator in the fuckin’ hopes for leftovers, only to find the picked-over bones of someone else’s kill! How long will we continue this stale existence with these losers unfit for a dull, rusty blade? How long, boss?

“For as long as it takes, savage,” Marcus responded. “No one asked for your opinion. You know why we’re here.”

Yes… yes… I know why. We’re here because of your fuckin’ Red-headed Queen of the Dark, The Princess of Our Eternal Pain and Longsuffering, the Cunt of Catastrophe, the…

“Be silent! We’ve discussed all this. You know what’s at stake and you know that what’s required will take time… so stop sulking like a child throwing tantrums and get with the program!”

Winter’s over, boss. You said this would be finished by now. You promised we’d have our hands buried in sacred precious blood by now!

“And you will have it! But only when the time is right… and not before!”

But you PROMISED!

Marcus let out a weary sigh. “She is close… very close. But we will need to hold on a bit longer. We’ve waited our whole lives for her. Why do you wish to screw it up now? Why can’t you just look past your primitive need to slaughter and appreciate The Prize that awaits?”

Winter’s over, boss. It’s been too damn long. You’ve kept me in that underground prison and held me back from all those pathetic little piggies. You promised blood and I will have it! If not her… than find us… SOMEONE… TO… KILL!

He could feel the monster’s blood lust rising up to consume him. Marcus forced the maddening urges back down… again… but barely. He could not control this beast for much longer… not without fulfilling his promise of blood.

I’ll tell you what, boss. When we get back, I’m gonna cut that red-headed bitch up. I’m gonna do it whether you like it or not. But I’ll make sure you can keep the fuckin’ pieces, alright? That way, you can pack her up and take that fuckin’ Prize with you and assemble that pathetic shrine whenever you wish… you know, like fuckin’ Legos. How does that sound?

Something shifted behind him.

Marcus spun around and retracted his machete at the same time.

“Wait! Please… don’t!” came the weak and cracked plea of a small woman who backed away with her arms out in front of her face. The woman was so startled by Marcus’s intensity that she fell backwards over a chair and hit the floor.

Marcus lowered his weapon and started calculating.

“It’s alright,” he finally said. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

She was a middle-aged woman with brown hair tied back into a messy bun. She had the look of a school teacher or a librarian judging by her modest but filthy clothing. “I… I heard you down here. Thought you might be the monsters… but… I had to know. I’ve been waiting so long for the others to come back… for anyone to come back…” She slowly rose to her feet, using a small table to support herself.

Marcus observed that the woman’s dirty sweater seemed far too big on her. She had been a robust woman, but now the skin around her face and arms sagged from months of malnutrition. “You’ve been hiding here… for months by the looks of it. Are you alone?”

The woman nodded. “Yes… yes… I’ve been waiting. Thought if I waited long enough, everything would be… you know… back the way it was. But that never happened.”

He frowned. “I’m Marcus. You’re alright now.”

“Maggie,” the woman said. “My name’s Maggie Stewart. I… I work at the chapel… or I used to. I’ve been keeping the place like it was until Pastor Green comes back. Have you seen him? Are you with Pastor Green?”

“No… sorry. Is there anyone else here… in the neighborhood?”

“No… no… I don’t think so. I would’ve seen them by now. Excuse me, do you mind if I sit? I’m feeling faint with all the excitement.” Maggie sat down in the chair.

“Does anyone know you’re here, Maggie?” He slowly moved closer.

Maggie shook her head. “Don’t know anymore. I thought so once… but it’s been so long. Thank God you showed up when you did. I don’t think I had much left. Ran out of food, even after I rationed the chapel pantry supplies… I hope Pastor Green understands that I had to eat… do you think he’ll understand… Marcus?”

“Yes… I’m sure he’ll understand.” Closer.

Maggie smiled. “That’s wonderful. So tired. All this excitement. Just need a minute and then we can leave. You’ll take me to the others, right?”

“Absolutely.” Closer.

Boss… I’m telling you right now…

“I know,” Marcus said. He retrieved his hunting knife.

“What was that?” Maggie tried to get up. “Let me get you something to drink. It’s the least I can do.”

“That alright, Maggie,” Marcus said. “Just rest. You look like you need to rest for a good long time.”

Maggie nodded. “Thank you. Yes… you’re right. You know… It’s great to finally talk to someone. It’s been so long since-”

Marcus grabbed the woman by the back of the hair and violently pulled her to the floor.

Maggie tried to scream but lost her voice.

“Keep it clean,” he advised the savage. “We don’t have much time.”

Oh… I’ll make the most of it, boss. Thank you, for this.

Marcus frowned and let the monster take over. He got up and went to the kitchen.

Maggie tried to crawl away but was too weak to move, too terrified to fight.

They always are, Marcus thought as he searched the kitchen until finding a roll of large, black garbage bags. He ripped one off of the roll, shook the bag open, and then cut a hole in the bottom and one in each side. He placed the garbage bag over his head until he was wearing it over his body.

Marcus returned to the horrified woman who had managed to waste her last bit of energy crying out to Pastor Green and his God.

He knelt down beside the praying woman and turned her on her back.

“Finished?” he asked.

Maggie tried to scream again.

Marcus took a moment to search her eyes. He hated what he found there, but the savage could care less.

Stand down, soldier, the other one mocked. I’m taking one for the team!

Marcus lifted the blade and brought it down into Maggie’s chest.

Then he did it again… again… and again…

~~~

Next Episode 33-2

Previous Episode 32-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 33-1: Detour” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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:

    Dark ass chapter. Tony is really starting to bug me. I can see a Mickey and Mallory (Natural Born Killers) type relationship developing with “Marcus” and Gina. Now that would be messed up.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Hey Nash, it feels good to jump back into Marcus’s ‘other’ character and remind everyone how scary dangerous he really is behind that ‘calm’ exterior. As for the rest… yeah… they are not at their best right now. The time elapse between when we last saw everyone to now, has really taken it’s toll. Tony has changed, Gina has become darker… I think the truth of their new world has finally sunk in. More to come ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gylion says:

    I wonder what would happen if Marcus gets bitten and becomes a silver eyed one…. Would the Savage take over for good? I wonder..

    Liked by 1 person

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