Chapter 34-1: Secrets

Posted: October 30, 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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sky-night-dark-lawn-large

~~~

THEN…

…Something was wrong. No. That needed more clarification. Something was wrong about this evening. As she stared out the small kitchen window into the thick dark night, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something dreadful was coming. If she were a God-fearing woman, she might’ve believed that their Maker had finally decided to look their direction, and he was not pleased with what he’d discovered at this insignificant ranch out in the middle of nowhere country, where evil dressed up like lightning bugs, butterflies, and always smelled like cow manure.

Helen Gorman shook her head at her own foolishness and focused on washing the dishes in the sink. Just stick to the routine and pretend you live a normal life with a normal husband who isn’t hiding secrets from you… horrible, horrible secrets.

She rarely considered how she felt anymore; examining her emotions always brought her too close to the questions that could destroy everything. If she dared to follow those questions to the truth… than what would that make her? An accomplice by omission at the very least?

You don’t know what he’s doing out there, remember? She reminded herself. It’s ‘man’s business’, like he always says. And not any concern of yours.

She stopped washing a dish and let it sink into the soapy water. Helen closed her eyes and focused on breathing. She didn’t need to let her mind drift there tonight.

“Enough,” she announced, disrupting her tired mind’s trespasses.

She left the small kitchen and stepped across the dining room toward the front door.

“Some fresh air will do you some good, Helen,” she imagined her husband saying.

She frowned at Walter’s constant reminders of why ‘country life’ was so much better than living in those over-crowded cities. “‘You never get out enough, Helen’,” she said, mocking Walter’s so-called wisdom in a whiney voice. “‘You’ve never given this place a chance, Helen’. ‘Just embrace the tranquility of God’s Country and you will discover yourself anew out here, Helen’… What a crock of bullshit.” She let out a frustrated growl and reached for the doorknob.

Come on out and let the night finally devour you, Helen.

She stopped and shook at the foreign thought. Then she laughed at herself. “Some tough city girl you turned out to be.” She would give anything to trade Walter’s idea of ‘peace in the country’ for the sounds of obnoxious and impatient people honking cars in traffic, the smell of pollution and hot dog vendors, and the clicking of her high heels on busy sidewalks surrounded by a thousand people who could care less that she was alive. She missed it all. Life in the city was like being swallowed up in whirlwind of busy and excitement while remaining completely unknown… but never alone.

Helen opened the door and stepped outside onto the porch. The silence surrounded her immediately. There were no crickets chirping, or the usual wind caressing the tops of trees. The large field at the front of the house seemed suddenly lifeless. Yes… something felt very wrong tonight. The problem with country living was that it worked the opposite way: You were always alone, but Mother Nature made it seem like a thousand nocturnal eyes were always watching… waiting…

She let out a heavy sigh and turned to the right, where she could see the lone light that lit up the exterior of the stables. Helen tried not to move, tried not to breathe, as she reached out with her ears to pick up the slightest sound coming from over there. But of course, there was nothing to hear. Just more awful silence.

Helen frowned at the stables. It had started three months ago… when Walter had picked up his new hobby. He’d simply come home one day, all giddy, and showed her a large box. He’d called it a ‘do-it-yourself communications system’, which translated into a fancy CB radio that he could put together from scratch.

She’d tried to fake enthusiasm as best she could because she hadn’t seen Walter so excited in such a long time. He certainly never showed as much excitement when she shared things with him, especially when she drove into Cleveland to ‘escape’ the country life for a little while. And then one day, she stopped sharing anything… and Walter was just find with that.

When he’d started spending more and more time out there each night, she’d finally asked, “I know you hate it when I pry, but what’s the big deal? Why do you spend so much time in that shitty horse barn with your… radio?”

Walter had tensed up, giving her a look she’d never seen before. A crazy look. Then his face softened and he reminded her, “Sometimes a man just needs a little alone time… you know… something he can have all to himself. No offence, Helen, but you wouldn’t understand. You have your time away in the city. I have my time out in the stables with my radio. Why don’t we just leave it at that?”

“I used to invite you to come with me,” she’d defended. “But you hate the city so I stopped asking.”

“And you would be absolutely bored with what I do out there,” he’d quickly snapped. “Besides, my work is also out there. Chemicals that could harm you if you get too close or knock something over.”

Helen had nodded. Walter was a chemist. She knew that he worked for an agricultural company that produced various pesticides to be used on crops. But that didn’t explain his unusual fascination with the radio.

“Who the hell could you be talking to on that thing?” she’d asked. “It’s not like we talk about anything… anything real anymore.” She’d almost regretted saying the last bit… almost.

Walter had frowned and said, “Truckers mainly. I’m fascinated by their exchanges on the open road. I listen… that’s all. Boring, I know. But I enjoy it.”

She’d given up pressing the matter, partly because he’d insisted on keeping it to himself, but mostly… she didn’t care. Walter had his little secrets and Helen had one of her own. A rather big one.

When she’d first gone back to Cleveland on the weekends, after Walter stopped going, she had tried to make the most of her brief excursions by hanging out with old friends for cocktails. They were always trying to figure out why she married a man who was so private and possessive. They’d all known that he was the reason Helen had moved away and that he hated her friends as much as he hated the rest of her lifestyle. But Helen always defended him. “He wasn’t always like that,” she’d say. “He used to be… charming… sophisticated.” But then he’d slowly changed after they’d moved to the country, and she began to suspect that the man he’d shown her was a façade.

Eventually, she’d met Brian Starkey, and it had started off innocent enough. The occasional drink followed by some mutual flirting, maybe a dance or two… until they’d slept together. Helen had burned with guilt initially. But when she’d gone home, hoping that Walter would inquire about her visit, and that she intended to tell him the truth when he did, Walter had only said, “I might be out in the stables a little longer tonight. I’ve got some new samples from work that need testing and there’s not enough hours in the day to do them.”

And that was that.

She had continued to see Brian, who was constantly encouraging her to run away with him. But she didn’t love Brian. He simply fulfilled a need. Deep down Helen had still hoped Walter would come back to her… eventually.

She continued to stare at the stables. You could just go see for yourself. End all the suspense. End all the sleepless night wondering why he always comes back from that hellish place so lit up like a kid on Christmas Eve.

Every time her curiosity tried to compel her to visit the stables unannounced, one name always surfaced who she shunned like a curse that was never to be spoken out loud:

Rebecca Miller.

She was twenty-two, blond hair, blue eyes. Height: 5’ 4”. Weight: 98 lbs. Missing since July 14th, 2012, according to the Missing Persons flier she’d discovered hanging on a bulletin board behind the bar of one of her favorite Cleveland night clubs.

That was a month after Walter started hiding in the stables with his precious radio.

That was also the time a mysterious young woman showed up at her door who appeared genuinely surprised when Helen had been home to answer it.

“I’m… sorry…” the young woman, who appeared flustered, had said. “I think I’m lost. Can you tell me how to get back to the freeway, please?”

“How does one get lost and end up all the way out here… on my doorstep?” Helen had given her a suspicious glare, especially when she noticed how very little clothes she wore.

“Hey… never mind…. I think I remember the way. Sorry for troubling you, Ma’am.” The young woman nearly fell off the porch trying to turn around so fast. She hopped into her little green Volkswagen Beetle and sped off.

‘Ma’am’? Please… I’m not that old.

After the young woman departed, Walter had come inside, looking as surprised to find her standing there as the mystery girl had. “You’re home,” he’d remarked.

“Is that alright with you?” she’d responded coldly.

Walter had given her the strangest, unreadable look. “Sure. I’m just surprised, is all. Usually you can’t wait to get out of here for the weekend, and you never come back early.”

She’d dismissed the subtle shot. “Were you expecting someone?”

“No, of course not.”

She could tell he’d been lying. Walter never showed this much interest in anything she had to talk about anymore. But right then, he was listening. “I only ask because a young woman was just here. Said she was lost. Isn’t that odd?”

“If you say so. I’m going to town to get a few things. Need anything?”

“No… but I’ll go with you.”

“That’s alright.”

“No… really.”

“Another time, Helen,” he’d said with surprising shortness, and quickly gone outside.

Since finding the flyer a month later, she still wasn’t positive if it was the same girl, but the resemblance…

She’d considered asking Walter again about the woman who’d shown up and sharing what she’d learned from the Missing Persons flyer, but something stopped her. Somehow, she’d known even then that something was wrong… very wrong… and to ask such questions about strange women showing up at her doorstep and then disappearing just as suddenly… well… she wasn’t certain it was the same girl, anyway.

But now, staring across the field toward the stables, Helen thought of Rebecca Miller once more.

“Oh, enough already!” she scolded herself. “He’s Walter, not some monster who preys on women, for Christ’s sake! You’ve let this creepy ass place put ideas into your head. Just because he keeps you away, doesn’t mean he’s a murderer… it just means…”

It just means your relationship is turning to shit. He’d rather be alone than spend time with you, and you’re out fucking someone else. So who’s the monster now?

Helen let out a heavy sigh. She hated that they’d become… this… whatever this was.

You could end all doubts right now. Just go take a peek. Find out what that husband of yours finds so fascinating about a stupid radio, that he’d rather be out there than share a warm bed with you.

“Fuck it.” She stepped off the porch and marched toward the stables. He can have his private space, all the fucking space he needs, after I know what I’m losing him to!

She reached the stable doors and stopped, her hands resting on the handle.

But what if it’s true? All your suspicions, all this time? What if he’s doing bad things in there? Unspeakable, horrible, nasty things? Or… what if he’s doing exactly what he claimed? Playing with his stupid radio and nothing more? Either way, you open this door and betray his trust… again. Isn’t it enough that you’ve been sleeping around in the city? He’s never once stopped you or treated you with suspicion, because he trusts you.

Helen stared at the door handle. It wasn’t locked.

“One of the perks to country living,” she could hear him saying, “was that you never had to lock your doors… not like in the city.”

She took a deep breath and released the door handle. She placed her ear to the door, instead. There were no sounds of women gagged and moaning for help, no instruments of torture, no indications whatsoever that anything violent was happening behind that door. Hell, she couldn’t even hear his radio. There was only that awful fucking country silence.

He’s probably in there sleeping because he doesn’t know how to compete with the city girl’s expectations… especially since he probably knows you’ve been having an affair this whole time.

The thought had never occurred to her until now.

You’re a damn fool, Helen Gorman. Of course he knows. And you’re just trying to find an excuse, some dark secret he’s keeping from you, to justify your own dark secrets.

She let her shoulders drop, turned around, and headed back inside.

By the time she reached her bed, Helen had decided that she would come clean tomorrow, break off her relationship with Brian, and try to salvage what remained of her marriage. That’s if he still wanted her.

You know he’s doing things out there, the foreboding voice of suspicion reminded her. You’re just trying to make excuses… again. Anything to keep from knowing the awful truth, because you couldn’t live with knowing that you did nothing… and that you could’ve possibly married a… bad man.

She put on her nightgown, shut out the lights, pulled the covers up under her chin, closed her eyes, and tried to hide in the darkness from her guilt and fears until sleep could steal her away to a far better illusion of a life that wasn’t hers.

~~~

She was startled awake from restless sleep by the sound of a single gunshot ripping across the night like thunder.

“Walter!” she cried out, turning, and realizing that his side of the bed was empty. He never did that. Walter always woke up beside her no matter how long he spent in the stables.

She turned back toward her nightstand, turned on the lamp and stared at the clock. 3:27am.

Something was wrong. The night felt all… wrong.

Helen jumped out of bed and raced toward the stairs. “Walter!” she called down.

No answer.

She cautiously crept downstairs, turning on every light, and frantically searched the first floor.

He’s still out there! her mind screamed.

She could hear something coming from outside. Faint… but it sounded like sirens.

What the hell is happening?

Her cell phone started ringing from the charger in the kitchen, causing her to leap out of her skin. She raced for the phone. “He… hello?”

“Helen? Thank God!” It was Brian.

“What are you doing?” she whispered. “You know you can’t call me here… now! What if Walter-”

“Forget all that! I’m coming over to pick you up. The freeway’s getting insane. Barely made it off in time. Route 84 isn’t too bad yet… Christ, though… it’s a fucking mess out here!”

“What are you talking about? You can’t come over! Are you insane!?”

“Don’t you know what’s happening yet?” Brian sounded terrified. “Damn… of course you don’t. You live out in the middle of fucking nowhere.”

“Brian, I have to go. Walter’s missing and-”

“Where are you? Are you in the house? Is… is Walter in the house with you?”

“No… I can’t find him. I… I heard a gunshot and-”

“Helen, listen! You’re not safe. You don’t know… you have no idea what’s happening right now. Cleveland’s on fire, people are killing each other… not strangers… random shit…”

“What? Look, Brian, I can’t talk right now. I’ve got to find him. Please… just go home.”

“Helen… wait! Helen, you need to make sure he hasn’t changed! Helen-”

“Bye, Brian.” She hung up.

Her heart was pounding in her chest by the time she opened the front door. She could hear the sirens clearly now… from all different directions.

“Fuck!” she cried out, spinning around in a panic. She turned toward the stables and started running. “Walter! Where… where are you?”

She reached the stable doors and grabbed the handle, concern overwhelming her need to remain ignorant of the hell which waited on the other side. Helen opened the doors, letting out the light. “Walter?” she whispered, entering the abyss.

What she discovered confirmed her eternal damnation.

The stalls on one side of the stables had been converted into a long bedroom. There was a bed and some sort of IV bag on a pole standing beside it. She saw Walter’s radio off to the right. In between the bed and the radio was a short blond-hair woman in a hospital type gown, or what remained of her. She was leaning up against the wall with half of her lifeless face blown off. There was a red splatter behind her head as if the back of her skull had exploded in that direction. What remained of her thin, pale face was cocked to the side with one yellow eye staring out into oblivion. Blue veins bulged to the surface of her flesh, all along her face, neck, arms and legs. Around her wrists were some sort of belt restraints which were bloody and looked like they’d been gnawed on and torn apart. Her mouth was hanging open, exposing bloody teeth, a crimson pool formed around the syrupy drip coming down from the corner of her mouth. She couldn’t take her eyes off the woman, especially the one alien eye which seemed to make her look monstrous.

“Oh my… oh my God,” she tried to get out through tears. She was having trouble breathing. Helen grabbed the sides of her head and tried to keep from passing out.

Something stirred to the sound of her voice as a man with a hunting rifle moved out from behind the large CB radio, where he’d been lying still.

“Helen?”

It was Walter. The front of his white t-shirt was covered in blood.

She looked into the man’s face, into the stranger’s eyes which replaced them, and wanted to scream forever.

“Helen,” he tried again. “She attacked me, Helen. I… I had no choice. I tried to stop her… but she kept coming for me. She was so fierce and determined to kill me. I had no choice. I had to… I had to shoot her.”

She could not register the words coming from the thing that was once her husband. She only saw an animal who had kept this poor woman tied up and did God only knew what to her. Did he… Did he make her this way? My God… just look at her! Did he experiment on her?

“What… what did you do?” she managed to get out. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?!”

Walter tried to speak but was having difficulty. He appeared to be in shock. He lifted one shaky hand toward her. “Help me… Helen… please.”

She turned back to look at the young woman. Despite what she was now, it was clearly Rebecca Miller. “What did you do to that poor girl?” she asked, refusing to look at him, and drawing strength from her anger at what this monster had done to Rebecca. “You animal! You filthy fucking monster! I can’t… I can’t handle this, not now… not ever. I never wanted to believe it… never wanted to know…” She turned toward him and hissed. “What happened? Did she fight back? I hope you die and I never want to see you again… EVER!” She showed him her back and exited the stables.

“Helen! It’s… it’s not what you think. Don’t… don’t leave me like this! Please! Helen! HELEN!”

She refused to look back. She felt faint, confused, mortified… condemned. She should call someone. The police. But then they’d have to take her away, too.

You’ve always known what he was doing in there, her guilt accused. You’ve always known that he was doing very bad things.

“No!” She tried to deny it.

You knew! You knew Rebecca Miler was all alone in there with your sick-as-fuck husband!

“NO!” she screamed out into the night.

You’ve always known!

“I… I did it all for you. I did it all BECAUSE OF YOU!” he shouted after her.

Helen had no idea where she was going. She started walking into the fields as the shock started setting in.

Her phone rang again. “Hello,” she answered absently.

“Helen… please don’t hang up!” Brian pleaded. “I’m about fifteen minutes away… God… I’ve never seen anything like this. People are dead, Helen. Lots of people.”

“Brian, now’s not a good time,” she said, noticing how badly her hand was shaking while holding the phone.

“Are you alright? Did you find him?”

She then whispered into the phone, “There’s monsters in the stables.” She then laughed uncomfortably. “Bet you’d never expect me to say something as crazy as that?” She laughed again, her nerves were on overload.

There was a long pause. “Helen, where are you right now? You sound… upset. Has something happened? Did that asshole hurt you?”

“No, everything’s alright now, Brian. I was just going to walk out here for a little while, take in some of that fresh country air I keep getting shoved down my throat.”

“Helen, please go back inside. I’ll be there shortly to get you.”

“No… I can’t go back there… ever.”

“Can you get to your car? Please, Helen, it’s not safe outside. They could be anywhere… anyone. Just get to your car, lock the doors and lie down until I get there. Okay?”

“That sounds good,” Helen said. “I can do that, Brian.”

“See you soon… I love you, Helen.”

Her smile, the one she wore plastered on her face every time she went out, felt difficult to maintain now–pointless. “I… I’ll see you soon, Brian.” She hung up the phone and tossed it into the field.

Helen looked up and saw the full moon break free from the clouds. She stared at it as though she were standing on the surface of an alien world trying to understand its meaning.

She then collapsed to her knees, panicked-sounding sirens blaring in the background, and wept long and hard before the Demon Night.

~~~

NOW…

…Tony retrieved the photograph he’d saved of Helen and the bad man. He didn’t know why he’d kept it. Maybe to remind himself of what they were, maybe to remind himself of what he and Gina could’ve been as well, if the world hadn’t changed along with everything in it. All he knew was that he found some small comfort staring into those once vibrant faces so full of love for each other in that captured moment that no fucking apocalypse could ever take away.

Diane was still examining the headless man’s body that they’d found shortly after returning to the river. “There’s nothing else, Tony. Just that one word, ‘detour’, with the arrow pointing east.”

He nodded and turned the photo over. There was something written in cursive scrawled into the lower left corner:

Was an incredible night, Brian.
Miss you already,
-Helen

“You done reminiscing or do you need more time to figure out your fucking scrap book album,” she asked impatiently.

Tony shot her a dirty look and stuffed the photograph back into his pocket. “Just thinking about something.” He stood up and stared upriver. “So that’s it? Gina found the body and then hid it long enough for us to run right passed her?”

Diane nodded, her frustration evident. “Why the fuck would she do that? We need each other more than ever right now. We’re outnumbered and wandering enemy territory.”

“She was trying to protect us,” he said absently. “Gina knows I’m what that prick wants and she also knows how much Nine means to you.”

Diane shifted uncomfortably. “She’s going to kill the bad man on sight. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Tony gave her a hard look and sighed. “Gina believes we’re too vulnerable and will cave to his demands. This way, she gets to deal with the situation her way.”

“And that is?”

“She’ll end this with violence, no matter the consequences.” Tony gently squeezed Diane’s shoulder. “Right or wrong, there’s nothing to do about it now. Let’s move. She’s already got enough of a head start on us.”

“And what if she’s been captured?” Diane pressed. “Did she consider this when she went all ‘lone-dog’ on us? Might as well have handed us to him if that’s happened.”

Tony had no response.

They needed time and answers they weren’t going to get.

They headed east along the river.

~~~

It watched them depart along the river. The former woman known as Helen Gorman continued to keep her distance, not understanding why she did not charge her prey on sight. She no longer possessed the ability to reason as her primary impulse to slaughter was temporarily hindered by something strangely familiar about the big man… something she could not put into words, if words still mattered. Helen wanted to feed upon their flesh. Helen wanted to watch Tony’s every move. These two reactions seemed to be at war within her, causing the yellow-eyed savage to wait. She did not question her actions… she simply reacted. Bound by the overwhelming need to rip into the living and consume their blood prompted her to follow. But something else that no longer belonged inside of her prompted her to hesitate each time she moved in closer.

The dead thing continued to stalk them upriver.

~~~

Next Episode 34-2

Previous Episode 33-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 34-1: Secrets” 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. Gylion says:

    Please Helen.. Just kill the bad Man and save the day would you? XD

    Like

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