Chapter 35-2: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 4, 2017 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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Summer 1973:

Endless rows of corn sped past her passenger window, broken up by intermittent grassy hills owned by oblivious cows or the occasional horse wandering an open field, casting the illusion of roaming free until she saw the wooden fences which imprisoned it.

Meredith Montgomery watched it all pass her by, wondering briefly what it might be like to live out here, in these remote places far from people, and then dismissed it all entirely as each redundant change of scenery replaced the previous. It all reminded her of her own life: everything was always moving–changing–never allowing her to have anything consistent or lasting. Nothing she could call home.

“What do you think of our long drive out into the countryside so far, Meredith?”

The young girl of thirteen, still wearing her funeral dress, turned toward the driver. His name was Michael. She could tell that he meant well and he had a kind face, but aside from this, he was simply another stranger thrown into her life by laws which demanded that children be taken care of, especially after their foster parents died in tragic house fires.

She faked her best smile and then turned back despondently toward the window as she absently pulled on her long black ponytail.

Michael Finch watched his passenger through the rearview mirror. “I take it you aren’t having a good time out here? Understandable. But if it makes you feel any better, the place where we’re headed is nothing like anywhere you’ve ever been before. I think you’ll like it… eventually.”

Meredith had nothing to say. Everything she owned sat beside her in a small suitcase. She’d become really good a packing over the last few years, reducing her necessities to clothes and a hairbrush–no memorabilia. She’d only been with the Montgomery family for a year and a half, but that was the longest she’d been allowed to live anywhere. She knew she would miss her foster parents after she allowed herself to feel the loss, but that would take time. Meredith needed to keep her guard up, especially now, since that cruel master of her life, Change, was meddling once more.

“I’m very sorry for everything that’s happened. Damn shame about your folks. But if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, I would really appreciate it if you’d talk to me every now and then, at least while I’m driving down the most boring road on the surface of the planet.”

Meredith turned back and gave the strange red-haired man with the ponytail an exhausted look. “Do you always talk so much?”

Michael laughed. “There we go! Another human voice at last! Did I tell you my name was Michael?”

“Several times,” she answered curtly.

“Well… I guess I did, didn’t I. My friends call me Finch, that’s my last name.”

“Like the bird?”

“Yes… exactly.”

“That’s a stupid last name.”

Finch laughed again. “Maybe so. But considering the many other birds I could’ve been named after, I think I did alright. I mean, I could’ve been Michael Crow… Michael Sparrow… or even Michael Woodpecker… now that would’ve been silly, don’t you think?”

Meredith snorted at the last and let a brief smile break free.

“I know, right? Now that would’ve been a stupid last name for sure. Not to mention all the Woody jokes I would’ve grown up with. Can you imagine?”

“Can we stop talking now… please?”

“Sure… sure… but don’t yell at me if I fall asleep, okay?”

“You can’t fall asleep. You’re driving.”

“Well… maybe you could drive and I’ll go back there and take a nap. What do you think?”

“I’m just a kid. I can’t drive.”

“Well then you’re just going to have to keep talking to me. You see, we Finches are notorious for sleeping at all the wrong times. Just the other day I was washing dishes and I suddenly fell asleep…” Finch lowered his head.

After a long pause, Meredith leaned in toward the front. The strange man appeared to have his eyes closed. “Finch?”

Finch started snoring.

“That’s not funny… at all.” Meredith looked toward the road. “Finch?”

Finch suddenly lifted his head. “What just happened? Did I just fall asleep?”

“You’re messing with me.”

Finch laughed. “You figured me out, kid. But seriously, could you please keep talking to me? It’s been a very long ride and I could really use your help.”

Meredith sighed. “I don’t have anything to talk about.”

“Let’s talk about your cool name. Meredith Montgomery, right?”

“That was my foster parents’ name. They’re dead now. I’m just… I’m just Meredith.”

Finch paused. “Yeah, again, I’m real sorry about that. Shit happens… and it sucks when it does.”

“You’re not supposed to do that.”

“Do what?”

“Swear in front of kids.”

“You’re absolutely right. Tell you what, if you don’t tell on me, I’ll let you say it… just this one time.”

“Excuse me?”

“Go ahead! Let it out! It will make you feel better… trust me.”

Meredith looked confused. “You want me to… swear?”

“There’s no one else out here but us and the cows. Go for it. Any swear you want. Hell, after everything that’s happened, you deserve it.”

“You’re being serious?”

“Go for it, kid.”

Meredith sat back and thought a moment.

“You got one picked out?” Finch asked.


“Okay… just one time… as loud as you can… let her rip!”

Meredith took a deep breath and shouted, “SHIT! SHIT! SHITTY SHIT SHIT!”

Finch was rolling in laughter. “That’s it! How do you feel?”

Meredith covered her mouth and laughed. “That felt… good. Can I do it again?”

“No, sorry. It wouldn’t mean as much the second time anyway. Trust me.”

“You’re a very strange man.”

“Well, I’ll take that as a compliment. So are you going to keep it?”


“Your last name? Montgomery?”

“I can do that?”

“Why not? It’s a great last name, so much better than any bird-brain last name I’ve ever had. Did you love them?”

Meredith was caught off guard by the question. Her shields went up immediately. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Okay. Okay. But just so you know, we honor the ones we care about by remembering them, even after they’re gone. I can’t think of any better way to honor your folks than by keeping their name alive… with you.”

Meredith remained quiet.

“I’m just saying, you could still keep your last name if you wanted to. That’s all.”

“I… I’ll think about it,” was all she would volunteer. “How far away are we from the orphanage? That is where we’re headed, right?”

“An orphanage? Really?” Michael laughed. “Who told you that?”

“I heard some grown-ups talking about it when they didn’t think I was listening.”

“Well, maybe that’s what they’d call it. But I assure you, Meredith, this place we’re going to is special. There’s nothing like it.”


“Uh-huh. In fact, you’ll be there with other girls like yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” Meredith was getting defensive. “Do you mean other freaks like me?”

“I never said that.”

“Great! An orphanage full of freakish girls! I can hardly wait!” When she thought about what she just said, Meredith started giggling uncontrollably.

Finch laughed with her. “Well… I’ve never heard it described like that before. But again, I wouldn’t call it an orphanage.”

“So what is this place, then?”

“All I can tell you is that it’s a very special place,” he said, winking at her through the rearview mirror.


Meredith could see the old house from a distance as Michael turned right down a long winding dirt road. The large house sat alone on a hillside surrounded by more never-ending fields. “Odd place to find an orphanage,” she said.

“The woman who runs the place, Miss Evans, picked the location several years ago,” Michael said. “Said she saw the house and knew right away that it was the perfect place for the school.”

“School? Who puts a school way out here in the middle of nowhere?”

Michael laughed. “It’s not just a school. Think of it as more like being home schooled. You get a classroom and a bedroom all rolled into one.”

Meredith lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “Does this school… whatever… have a name?”

Michael shrugged his shoulders. “Not one I’ve ever heard.”

The old Georgian-style house came into full view as they neared a large front porch surrounded by elaborately decorated stone pillars. From what Meredith could see, this was the largest house she’d ever been relocated to. It appeared to have three floors, judging by the amount of windows. “How many people live here?” she asked.

“Not counting the staff, I believe there’s twelve of you now. Twelve very special girls.”

“You keep saying that. What’s so special about this place, or a bunch of orphan girls?”

Michael just smiled, pulled the car up to the front, and parked. “Finally! I have never needed to stretch my legs so much in all my life.” Before she could inquire more, Finch was already getting out of the car.

Meredith frowned and then looked out her window once more at the massive house. “Home sweet home… again,” she muttered to herself with a heavy sigh.

Michael opened her door. “Ready?”

She nodded and grabbed her small suitcase. She started going through the routine in her mind: Be polite. Speak when spoken to. Maintain eye contact. ‘Yes Sir or Ma’am’…

The sound of a squeaky screen door interrupted her train of thought. A large woman wearing glasses and with brown hair tied up into a tight bun approached. She was drying her hands on an apron she wore over her sundress. “What have you brought me this time, Michael?” Her voice was as large as her girth, causing Meredith to take an unconscious step backwards. “I hope this one can cook better than the last girl.”

Meredith looked up at Finch and whispered, “Cook?”

Michael gave her a wink.

The big woman towered over her as she stopped three feet in front of Meredith and gave her a scrutinizing look. “Hmm. Hmm, hmm, hmm,” she said. “I don’t think she’s got the aptitude for cooking. Probably better off putting her in the stew. Not much meat on her, though.”

Meredith’s eyes went wide.

Michael couldn’t hold back his laughter.

The woman smiled and said, “Don’t you worry, child. Just playing a little prank on the new girl. It’s always fun watching all your faces change, just like yours did.”

Meredith let out a deep breath.

“Meredith,” Michael began, “I would like to introduce you to Miss Evans. Among her many hats, this charming old gal fancies herself a jokester.”

Meredith forced herself to look up at the big woman, smiled, and said, “Pleasure… pleasure to meet you.”

“My… this one came with manners,” Miss Evans said with a wink. “It’s very nice to meet you, too.”

Meredith looked down at her shoes.

“We took the scenic route here,” Michael said. “Figured our new house guest needed some time to herself. We came straight from the funeral.”

Miss Evans gave Meredith an understanding look. “I see. Well… enough of this chatter.” She then bent down to Meredith’s eye level. “Look here, child.”

Meredith looked up.

“I know you’re feeling sad, confused, and out-of-place right now, but things will get better. I promise you.”

Meredith could only respond with a half-hearted smile.

Miss Evans gave her a long probing look which made Meredith look back down at her feet. “How about we get you up to your room right away, let you have some time to get settled, get some food in you, followed by a good night’s sleep for a fresh start in the morning. How’s that sound right now, child?”

“That would be great,” Meredith said. “Thank… thank you.”

Miss Evans laughed and then reached in and gently lifted Meredith’s head by the chin. “I wish I could take that pain you’re bravely bearing right out of you, child, honestly I do. But our pain is part of who we are… who we’ll be… but you will feel better in time. Do you believe that, child?”

“I want to,” Meredith whispered.

“Good enough for now. That’s a start.” Miss Evans stood back up and turned to Michael. “Young man, please take our new tenant up to her room and then get you both something to eat from the kitchen. It’s already getting late so Meredith can join us tomorrow morning for breakfast.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Michael teased.

“Don’t you ‘Ma’am’ me,” she scolded playfully, causing Michael to laugh. Then Miss Evans abruptly turned, as if forgetting all about them, and entered the house mumbling to herself about the million things she still had left to do before dark.

When she was gone, Finch leaned down and whispered, “Whew! I thought she’d never leave. Before I met that big lady for the first time, they told me she would look like every mean old school teacher I ever had. But after I met her I thought she looked like someone who just ate every mean old school teacher I ever had.”

Meredith let out a loud nervous laugh and then quickly covered her mouth. She looked up and Finch gave her a mischievous wink. She smiled and said, “You are the strangest man, Finch.”

Finch said, “Seriously though, she’s a great old gal once you get to know her… or so they keep telling me.” He then bowed dramatically and offered his arm. “May I escort you to your room, ma’ lady?”

Meredith laughed, took his arm, and mustered up her best regal voice imitation. “You may.”

They entered the house.


The small, unremarkable bedroom was just big enough for a single-sized bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. Before leaving, Michael had explained that this was the spare guest room and that once other arrangements were made in a few days, she would be moved into one of four larger rooms split up among the other girls living in the house.

Meredith was just grateful to have a night of privacy and some alone time to let her guard down and breathe, as she needed time to figure out this strange new place.

When Michael had excused himself to get them something to eat, Meredith sat down on the bed and let out a heavy sigh as she took in the rest of her tight surroundings. Aside from a single window, the boring beige-painted walls and a small desk lamp which barely provided enough light in the room, she noticed four paintings centered on each of the four walls. One was of a large green lion roaming a grassy field beneath overcast clouds; the next one was a picture of floating theater masks displaying different emotions on a blue background; the third one showed a broken staircase hovering over a pit of flames, leading up toward what appeared to be the gates of heaven; the last, and most disturbing picture, was of some kind of creepy monster with sharp teeth and huge yellow eyes. Meredith shook her head when she realized that the monster painting was the one she would be staring directly at after she settled in for bed.

“They seriously need a better decorator,” she announced as she turned away from the disturbing paintings to unpack her few possessions.

Michael returned a few minutes later with a tray holding a ham and cheese sandwich and some potato chips. “I know it’s not much,” he started, “but you’ll be impressed by breakfast in the morning. The girls all pitch in for the new arrivals… first impressions, and all that jazz.”

“Thank you,” Meredith said, accepting the sandwich. “I’m not that hungry. This will work just fine.”

“Well, then, I’ll leave you in peace and let you get a good night’s sleep,” Michael said, starting for the door.

“Have you ever slept in this room?” Meredith asked, looking toward the pictures.

Michael turned toward the walls and laughed. “Yeah… I’ve spent a few nights in here. Not exactly the best scenery, I know. I think this was once an office… or something.”

“Maybe they just don’t want the new girl going AWOL on her first night here by trying to scare me into never leaving my bed,” Meredith said.

Michael gave her a surprising look.

Meredith broke out a smile. “Sorry… I was just trying to be funny.”

“Well… now you know the truth,” he said. “If those creepy pictures don’t do the trick than nothing will. Hell, who can sleep looking at some of these. Talk about nightmare central. Would you like me to take them down before I go?”

“That’s okay,” Meredith said. “They’re not as bad as some of the images I’ve seen in my head when…” she trailed off, realizing her tired mind was making her talk too much.

“What was that?”

“Never mind. I’m just babbling. You can leave the pictures up. I’m probably going to pass out as soon as I lie down.”

“Okay, then,” Michael said, shaking his head at the yellow-eyed creature with the sharp teeth. “I really have to talk to Miss Evans about her art choices.”

Meredith cracked a smile and said, “Maybe she painted it.”

“Now wouldn’t that be hysterical,” he said with a laugh. “A bit scary, too, if it were true. Do you think it’s a self-portrait? Looks a little like her in the mornings.”

Meredith laughed and covered her mouth. “Goodnight, Finch.”

He gave her a mock salute. “Goodnight, kid.”

After Finch departed, Meredith finished her meal. Then she changed into a nightgown and buried herself in blankets. If nothing else, the bed was very comfortable.

Meredith reached for the nightstand lamp, stopped, and took one more look at the monster on the wall. “Goodnight, Miss Evans,” she said with a laugh, turning out the lamp. The darkness immediately added another layer of comfort as she closed her eyes and tried to forget everything. Please… no more nightmares, she thought as she quickly drifted into the treacherous realm of sleep.


Meredith is standing in a large grassy field. Storm clouds hover overhead making her feel exposed. She is incredibly small compared to her vast surroundings. To her, the field covers the entire earth and she begins to panic, wondering which way she should walk… or if it even matters.

At the edge of visibility, Meredith makes out a small indistinguishable shape. She wonders if it is another human being or just some landmark in the distance. Either way, the shape gives her something to aim towards as thunder begins to rumble directly above, motivating her to move with purpose.

She walks at first. Then, fearing the shape will simply disappear, she begins to run towards it. She is almost out of breath by the time she realizes that the shape is of a person… a young man.

The young man is frantically waving towards her.

She waves back, delighted to find someone else out here in this strange, endless field.

It begins to rain as the thunder is now accompanied by flashes of terrifying light that illuminate the dark clouds, exposing a yellowish sky behind them. To Meredith, the sky looks unnatural… it looks sick.

The young man is calling out to her now. She is so close.

Meredith stops twenty feet from the young man, who is simply standing there with his arms to his side. At first she wonders if he’s real, but then remembers that he called out. He’s wearing a dirty red and white football uniform, minus the pads and helmet. His face is as pale as a ghost beneath a disheveled mess of black hair. His long bangs hide his eyes. If she had to guess, Meredith would say that he was in his late teens.

“Hello,” she says, noticing her own voice sounding heavy, as if the words barely had enough strength to reach the young man before crumbling away to the ground.

The young man smiles, or attempts to. His teeth are black and rotted away.

Meredith takes an uneasy step back.

“Do not be afraid,” the young man says. “I’ve been waiting for you, Meredith. I’ve been waiting to talk to you for such a long, long time.” His voice sounds… wrong. That’s when she realizes that the young man isn’t moving his lips… but she can still hear him.

“You’re not safe, Meredith. None of the girls are. This place is bad… very bad. Pay special attention to the man behind the curtain, Meredith. That’s where the truth is. Come find me and I’ll show you the truth… but then you must leave.”

“Who… who are you?” Meredith asks.

“My name is Toby. Please listen to me, Meredith. There isn’t much time. There is so much you need to know, so much-” Toby stops and stares over Meredith’s head. “Too late. Time to go.”

Before she turns around, a large roar nearly knocks her over. She turns and sees a large emerald lion beginning to circle her and Toby. It does not look pleased that they are here.

Meredith tries to scream but no sound escapes her mouth. She turns back to Toby.

A gust of warm wind blows against Toby’s face, causing his bangs to part and revealing his deep, dark, sunken eyes. He looks more like a skeleton than a man, she thinks, while taking another step back.

The emerald lion roars at her again, causing Meredith to jump.

“Go back, Meredith,” Toby says. “You can’t be here.”

Meredith is about to turn, but the beast charges straight for her.

The lion’s eyes are a blazing yellow color… she can feel such intense hatred coming from those unnatural eyes.

She falls to the grass, placing her hands in front of her face. She can’t hear her own screams as the lion leaps directly towards her…


…Meredith opened her eyes in the darkness. Where am I? Am I dead? Before the panic overwhelmed her, she took deep breaths until the traces of the dream faded away and then she started to remember where she was. I’m at the orphanage that’s not an orphanage… in the small room with the weird pictures on the walls… just another nightmare, that’s all.

Something shifted in the darkness near the foot of the bed.

She immediately thought of the emerald lion with the hate-filled yellow eyes.

It followed me!


Next Episode 35-3

Previous Episode 35-1


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“Chapter 35-2: Dead Dolls” 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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