Chapter 33-2: Detour

Posted: October 5, 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, writer's blogs, zombie books, Zombies
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Whaler’s Cove, a newer development, was a once cozy and scenic neighborhood of two-story Colonial style homes built on connecting streets that formed a figure eight around two large ponds, which served a variety of small fishing boats tied off to community docks. Aside from localized fishing, the ponds were ideal for swimming in the summers, as well as other recreation, such as a two small playgrounds and a dog park. What made the properties at Whaler’s Cove so appealing (and expensive) was the fact that it was set back into the woods, which made it perfect for privacy, as the entire neighborhood appeared on the road map as one lonesome cul-de-sac with a quarter-mile long road that connected it to the nearest main road. Gina had selected it for its close proximity to the bad man’s ranch, but also because it was isolated.

They walked the ruins of Whaler’s Cove with a strong sense of foreboding. Every house appeared damaged as if some large storm had swept through the area. There was litter everywhere. One house looked like it had caught fire while others looked looted as doorways stood open with its contents spewed out across neglected front lawns. Mother Nature had not been kind to Whaler’s Cove as returning tall grass began to sprout up in numerous places, even from cracks in poorly maintained streets. Vines began crawling their way back up aluminum siding as winter’s release once more allowed vegetation to flourish. The pond had overflowed, causing flooding in the parks. The water looked murky and long-dead of any fish life.

The worst part was the smell. The scent of something long dead lingered in the air, barely masked by the rancid smell of the two polluted ponds.

Diane couldn’t stop looking at the second floor broken windows of several houses they passed. They all appeared dark with the potential to hide prying eyes. She scanned each house through the scope of her rifle… and discovered nothing. “This place is too quiet,” she observed. “Makes me nervous being out on these streets. It’s like, the living don’t belong in places like this anymore… and you can feel it.”

“Like a presence definitely making you feel unwanted,” Hagar finished. “She’s right, Gina. We shouldn’t be here.”

Gina continued to walk at the front with Marcus, trying not to pay attention to one more horror story played out in the past tense through the visuals before them. Aside from the decrepit conditions of the neighborhood, there were plenty of signs of violence as she couldn’t help noticing dark crimson stains partially concealed by vegetation. Something horrible had happened here… like everywhere else… and she tried not to imagine what sort of hell had occurred after The Change struck this once tranquil community six months ago.

“Don’t let your imaginations fuck with you,” she advised. “This is the same as everywhere else… we should come to expect places like this by now.” She looked over at Tony. He wore a look of pain as he focused on staring at his feet. “More ghosts?”

Tony just shook his head. He obviously didn’t feel like talking.

“I found a community chapel or meeting hall at the back of the subdivision, facing the larger pond,” Marcus explained. “It has a bell tower at the top.” He pointed ahead of them. “You can almost see it from here. Should be good for us to hold up in. We can spray paint something in the tower for our strange little friend to find.”

Gina nodded. She could now see the chapel. “I’d heard of these neighborhood churches before but have never seen one. I guess they were popular for a while, back when people gave a shit about knowing their neighbors. It’s odd to find a recently built one.”

“Perhaps the residents wanted it,” Marcus suggested. “Or maybe they had their own insidious little cult going on in this hidden little paradise.”

Gina stared at him. Sometimes it was hard to tell when Marcus was joking since his stony face often hid his emotions.

He turned to her and winked, offering her a small crack of a smile.

Gina let loose a nervous laugh. “Nothing ever shakes you does it, Marcus?”

“I’m just glad to be alive, Gina. The rest is all irrelevant.”

“All these people who have died, and that’s all you can say?”

He turned and clarified, “I don’t want to appear callous… it’s just that, well, I don’t feel that it’s the livings’ job to continue mourning the dead any longer. What’s happened is done and it’s time to move on.” He made a sweeping motion with his arm. “Desolate places likes this now serve to celebrate the living. They stand as monuments, or reminders for the rest of us who are fortunate to still be alive.”

“Reminders of what?” she asked.

“To embrace life while we still can… like we never have before. That is what’s left now. We could die tomorrow, but even that doesn’t matter. There is just now and we need to be ‘present’ in it.”

She stared at the strange man and then shook her head. “Marcus, even after all this time, I still struggle to understand you.”

He smiled. “One day, Gina, you will understand everything.”

Gina let that comment hang as they approached the chapel. She started motioning with her hands and everyone assumed their tactical positions near the front door.

“I checked it before coming back,” Marcus whispered. “It was clear… and surprisingly clean.”

Gina nodded. She opened the door and they moved as one through the musty smelling space with guns raised. It was still empty.

The interior of the chapel was very small and basic. There was a podium on a slightly raised platform. A large wooden cross hung on the wall behind it. There were two doors on either end of the platform. On both sides of the main aisle were five rows of pews.

“As far as churches go,” Hagar began, “this one’s an outhouse compared to most.”

“You don’t strike me as the church-going type,” Diane teased.

Hagar gave her a faraway look, and then said, “When the shit hit, everyone started going to church. It didn’t stop people from getting slaughtered.”

Diane left that alone.

Gina felt uneasy in the small chapel. Compared to the rest of the neighborhood, this place had been spared from the horrors which had once occurred here. “Someone’s been here. Maybe not for a while, but somebody came back and kept this place… inviting.”

“Maybe there was a chaplain who survived,” Tony offered. He looked up at the large cross. “Maybe he waited here for his flock to show up. Or maybe he just didn’t know where else to go afterwards.”

Gina walked up to the podium and found a Bible left open. She blew dust off the pages. There was a passage highlighted in yellow that made the hairs on her arms stand up:

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life,
and you must not eat the life with the meat.

She closed the book a little too loudly, causing them all to stare at her. She tried not to imagine what the last sermon preached here might have been. “Let’s get started. Hopefully we won’t be here long. Marcus, did you find a way up to the bell tower?”

“Yes. The doors behind you lead to a narrow hallway behind the wall with the cross on it. There’s a couple of small rooms back there… an office and a bathroom. A second door inside the bathroom leads to a storage room with a staircase leading up to the tower above us.”

“Diane?” Gina said.

The hunter was already removing a can of red spray paint from her bag. “I’m on it.”

“Take Marcus with you. No one goes anywhere alone. You two stay up there and watch the neighborhood. If something’s moving out there, and I don’t care if it’s a fucking curtain blowing in the wind, I want to know about it immediately.”

“You expecting trouble?” Diane asked.

Gina looked around the chapel and frowned. “I’m always expecting trouble.”

Diane and Marcus departed through the door to Gina’s right.

“Two hours,” Hagar reminded her. “Two hours… and that little shit’s on his own.”

Before Gina could respond, Hagar walked away, positioning himself at the far end of the pew to the left, at the back of the chapel. He sat down and placed his rifle across his lap, but turned so he could keep an eye on the door.

“Everyone feels them, Gina,” Tony said. “Even you this time.”

She scowled at him. “This has nothing to do with ghosts. We’re in hostile territory and we haven’t seen anyone here, living or dead, and that’s always dangerous.”

Tony nodded and stared back at the cross. “How many do you think are left? Survivors like us, I mean.”

Gina considered this. “It was a brutal winter. Anyone who managed to hide from the dead before the first storms hit still needed a secure shelter with food, water, supplies… and that’s not even accounting for the cold. Without electricity for heat, warm clothes, or the ability to safely light a fucking fire without being discovered… I would have to say that our little corner of Ohio has become much quieter.”

Tony considered this. “Seems like we’re either the lucky ones or they are.”

“That’s a very pessimistic statement coming from you,” Gina said. “Has living in that damn bunker all these months changed you that much?”

Tony sighed. “I think the truth of this new world is finally catching up to me.”

Gina waited.

“Before, when I was on the run with Sam and Orosco, we started with nothing and found pockets of people all over. Before we knew it, we had our own community and we fed on each other’s hopes and dreams of finding loved ones or just encouraged each other to keep believing that we would outlive this thing and everything would be restored… eventually. But now… ”

“Now we’re forced to accept the truth that if our families aren’t dead yet, they will be, because no one’s coming to save us. No one’s coming to restore the world to what it once was.” Gina looked away and finished. “Nothing will ever be same again because the world we knew is dead… and we’re still here, watching that corpse rot away before our eyes until it’s our turn to go away.”

Tony gave her a hard look. “Do you really believe that, Gina?”

“When the man I love has begun to lose hope, then it doesn’t really matter what I believe.”

“I… I haven’t given up,” Tony said. “It’s just that, well, it’s been so long since we found anyone else or heard anything… seen anything promising. And then to survive the winter and get back outside only to discover that everything got worse and not better…”

“I know how you feel, Tony. The difference between us is that I never allowed myself to believe things would get better. I can’t afford to. That’s not to say that I’m happy about it. Believe me, I would rather be wrong.”

Tony shook his head. “When Marcus managed to repair that damn communications console, and then he picked up the bad man’s broadcast, I guess I needed to believe that there were still people left to save, especially since I knew exactly what they were going through, locked up in that basement. It gave me purpose again and made me feel like we hadn’t been hiding in that damn shelter for nothing… that we could actually get back outside and find people again… become strong again…”

“Like your first group with Sam at the wheel?” Gina said.

Tony was quick to defend. “I didn’t mean it like that, Gina. I’m grateful for the group we have… it’s just different now.”

Gina sighed. “Would you have left with Orosco and the others if not for me? You can be honest. Our situation at the time we all hid in that hole for the winter was not ideal.”

Tony looked her in the eye. “If you’re asking me if I regret staying, then the answer is no. I don’t care if everyone decided to leave except you. I would’ve still stayed.”

Gina managed a smile. “And just think of all the alone time we could have had. Can you imagine the possibilities?”

She could still make the big man blush. Tony look at his feet and laughed.

“Now that’s better,” she said. “We’ve come a long way since Herpies, don’t you think?”

Tony had to cover his mouth from laughing too hard.

This caused Gina to giggle.

Hagar turned to look at them, shook his head, and then mumbled something as he turned back toward the door.

When they both managed to regain control, Tony said, “Well, if nothing else, you finally got your wish.”

“And what’s that?” she asked.

“All that money you were saving just to get away, just for us both to get away from that life… and start over. I guess this counts.”

Gina laughed. “You’re kidding right? I’d trade all this living-on-the-edge-of-death crap in for another shitty gig at Herbies House of Ladies in a heartbeat.”

They both considered the finality of Gina’s words and together said, “Fuck that!”

This caused another round of barely contained laughter, awarding them another nasty look from Hagar.

Before Gina could prepare herself, Tony stepped in, put his arms around her waist and pulled her close. As his lips met hers, she felt a flash of her old self take over as she surrendered to his kiss, her legs becoming weak and her heart rate tripling.

In the months they’d been living in the shelter, they had been intimate, but this was the first time in months, since the first few times they’d had sex, that the passion had returned. She never knew how much she needed that passion until finally realizing how hard she’d worked at extinguishing the fire between them.

And then that cold, dark place demanded she come back.

You can’t have this, Gina, the darkness reminded her. When he dies, and he will die, you’ll spiral out of control… forever. And if you die first, he will never recover.

She immediately tensed up and pulled away from Tony’s embrace. She looked at the ground and said, “Let’s do one more sweep of this place just in case Marcus missed something.”

Tony frowned and dropped his arms, his disappointment evident. “Can’t ever lower your force fields for a moment, can you?”

She raised her head and met his frustrated gaze. Oh, Tony, better you hate me now and survive tomorrow, than love me. Nothing good can come from that anymore… except the promise of more pain.

Tony’s face softened as he let out a long sigh. “Well, let’s go check this place out.” He started walking away.

Back when you were that foolish and frightened girl taking off her clothes for money, hiding behind that persona of being someone bold and beautiful, how many times did you let him walk away like that when you dreamed he might one day kiss you the way he just tried? The thought surprised her. And now… now that he loves you, despite you, you’re still that foolish and frightened girl.

Gina closed her eyes and clenched her fists.

If only she could stop hating herself less than she loved him.


The bell tower was a box just wide enough to accommodate the two of them and tall enough for Diane and Marcus to stand on either side of the rustic looking bell that was a little bigger than a football helmet. A thick rope hung down between them, attached to the bell, which they were careful not to touch.

Diane carefully leaned over the front facing four-foot wall and quickly spray-painted her message to Nine in bold bright red.

When she finished, she smiled as the memory of their brief conversation in the compound cafeteria surfaced…

…“So what do you think my odds are of landing a date with one of the few gorgeous girls left in the world?” Nine had teased.

“I don’t know,” she shot back, not appreciating the attention he was drawing from other onlookers. “How close are you to being the last man on earth?”

Nine had laughed. “I’m pretty good with numbers. I’d say that before… my chances had to be like one in a thousand… assuming we lived in the same area and accounting for all your previous choice variables.”

“My ‘choice variables’? Give me a break… and your numbers are far too generous in your favor. I think it was more like one in a hundred thousand… if you’re lucky. Who’s to say I wouldn’t date an out-of-state guy?”

“Okay, I’ll let you have that,” Nine had continued. “But now… I’d have to say my chances have improved to one in fifty at landing that date, assuming you’re looking for someone close to your own age and considering your limited options. In fact, the longer we’re out here, the greater my odds, if you consider our hazardous occupations, shorter life expectancy, the sudden decrease in surrounding populations outside the compound… I’d say I’m looking better and better with each passing day.” He’d sipped from his coffee cup, feeling rather pleased with himself.

“You’re numbers are inaccurate. You’re assuming I don’t prefer women.”

Nine had choked on his coffee. “I… I hadn’t considered that.”

Diane had laughed long and hard at the young man’s surprise…

…Diane looked again at the message and tried not to laugh. If that doesn’t make him come running… She let the thought hang, feeling foolish for entertaining it.

After she climbed back in, Marcus handed back her rifle with an unreadable expression on his face that made her uncomfortable.

“Thanks,” she said. Diane looked around the small space, appreciating the view it afforded on all four sides. “This is a good spot,” she said, realizing that she couldn’t avoid speaking to the strange man in such close quarters. Marcus’s penetrating stares always made her feel like she was under a microscope whenever brief opportunities like this forced them to converse. “We’ll be able to see any deadheads long before they know we’re here.”

Marcus stepped up to the front wall and leaned up against it. “Yes… I suppose you’re right,” he added in an indifferent tone. He started scanning the quiet street below, sensing the hunter’s unease.

Diane quickly re-slung her rifle, letting it hang loose across her chest. She then retrieved a pair of binoculars from her small pack and handed them to Marcus.

“Thank you,” he said, accepting the binos and putting them up to his eyes. After a long moment of listening to the hunter inspect her spare magazines as she was unable to sit still for very long, he said, “I’m sure he’s okay out there. Our clever friend is always finding ways to stay one step ahead of trouble.”

“I’m not worried,” she quickly defended. “I’ve got more important things to think about other than that man’s foolishness. Never should’ve come in the first place. I don’t know what Gina was thinking bringing him along.”

Marcus pulled the binoculars from his face and turned, raising an eyebrow in her direction.

She caught his gaze and then smirked. “Sorry. That kid gets under my skin. What kind of name is that anyway…‘Nine Lives’? What is he, a fucking cat?”

Marcus smiled, realizing that she was speaking more out of nervousness and frustration than choosing to confide in him. He studied her appearance again. Diane always wore her shoulder-length brown hair in a braid, ponytail or tucked up under a hat. Today it was braided. She always wore loose-fitting clothes, and never anything that would cause a man to give her a second glance. She was a short, slender woman with broad shoulders and muscular arms. Marcus had seen her occasionally wearing tank-tops coming out of her small curtained off space in the compound late at night when nightmares made her restless. Her dull brown eyes matched her dull appearance, aiding in masking a potentially beautiful woman, if Diane cared for such things. She excelled in becoming someone not memorable. He strongly suspected that she didn’t want a man’s attention, or affections, but demanded their respect as an equal.

“He’s only two years younger than you,” he poked. “And although he’s only eighteen, after all he’s experienced in the last half a year, I believe he’s graduated from ‘kid’ status. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“No, I wouldn’t.” Diane stood up and started scanning the neighborhood.

“I see,” Marcus said, choosing to exercise the weapon of patience as he waited for the young woman to volunteer more. He knew when to stab and when not to.

Diane sighed. “He’s got no business being out here. He can’t hunt, fight, and his recklessness will only end badly for someone… eventually.”

“And yet, the young man has a remarkable way of courting Death and departing the ball before she knows he’s gone.”

“Again… reckless.” Diane shifted uncomfortably.

Marcus waited.

“Those flares he set off,” she continued, “might have attracted every dead thing in the area to our location. That was very stupid.”

“Possibly,” Marcus conceded. “But those flares did allow us to escape undetected.”

“We could’ve found another way out of that,” Diane said. “Doesn’t matter. All I know is that we’re waiting around in this dead place for Nine, when we should’ve been home by now.”

Marcus nodded. After a minute of strained silence, he said, “You don’t have to try so hard.”

She turned to look at him. “Excuse me?”

“You’re way too intense for a young woman your age. Perhaps you should let your hair down and… live a little. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. You are still allowed to care for someone.”

She watched Marcus put the binos back to his eyes. He wore a wicked little smile which pissed her off. “When I want your advice… old man… I’ll ask for it,” she snapped. “And stop hinting at things that are further from the truth. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You do know that Nine is quite taken by you, right? Doesn’t take a tracker for the rest of us to see it.”

Diane scowled. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re trying to do. You think that just because that idiot has a crush on me that I’m supposed to… what? Be flattered? Reciprocate because it’s slim pickings on romance these days? Have you looked around lately, Marcus? The world is dead and out to make us just as dead. What makes you think that I would give a shit about some boy wanting to take me to the apocalyptic prom?”

“I was only making an observation. I meant no offense.”

She turned away and countered, “Besides, I don’t see you getting anywhere with those lingering stares on our boss when you think no one’s watching. What’s the point? You can’t have her as much as I can’t have anything like that… not now.”

“Gina and I are friends,” Marcus corrected. “I watch after her because she needs my help. There’s nothing more to it than that.”

Diane snickered. “You said it yourself, I’m a tracker. I pay attention to signs and read them. What I see when you look at her is something a little more than friendship.”

Marcus laughed. “Well… I guess there’s no fooling you, Diane. I will admit, my affections for Gina go beyond the borders of friendship.” He peered over the petition to read the spray-painted message. “Speaking of signs, what’s that one mean?”

Diane was caught off guard by the question. Flustered, she answered, “It’s… it’s an inside joke. Let’s leave it at that.”

“Whatever you say.” He smiled and finished, “I’ve been known to pick up on a sign or two, myself. I think maybe a little recklessness is exactly what you need. You just don’t know it yet.”


Next Episode 33-3

Previous Episode 33-1


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“Chapter 33-2: 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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