Chapter 35-4: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 11, 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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heaven-and-hell

~~~

After breakfast, Meredith changed into a sundress provided by Miss Evans and then helped Clem clear the table and wash the dishes as all the girls scattered to go about their assigned duties. Several of them had come up and briefly introduced themselves, making Meredith feel self-conscious, and yet, she started to feel more and more comfortable as the morning moved on.

Clem poked fun at her several times when Meredith stiffened up at each new encounter. “You’re not much of a people person, are you?”

Meredith took the defensive. “It’s not like that. I do like people… usually. It’s just overwhelming. Normally, people are trying to stay clear of me. But here, they all want to know me. I’m not used to that.”

“Is it because you’re a freak?”

“What do you mean by that?”

Clem laughed. “Come on, Meredith. In a house full of unusual girls, you don’t stand out, you’re actually quite normal.”

“That’s because they don’t know what I do… what I’ve done.”

“Because you’re gifted?” Clem asked. “Because you can do things normal people can’t do?”

Meredith looked shocked. “Who told you that?’

“No one. It’s just that you’re not alone, Meredith. All the girls possess ‘special’ talents that are a bit strange. Some of the younger girls are just finding out what they’re capable of… but you and me… we’ve experienced a few things.”

“Like what?”

Clem shook her head. “Nice try, but I can’t tell you that yet.”

“But I thought we were best friends. Best friends don’t keep secrets.”

“My, you are persistent,” Clem said. “I’m not keeping secrets, Meredith. It’s just that you’re not ready to hear the rest yet. Just be patient and I’ll spill the beans, alright?’

Meredith frowned. “Okay. But I’m holding you to it.”

“I’m sure you will. Now let me take you on the five minute tour before class.”

“Class?”

“Did you think by being all the way out here in the country that you’d be free of school? Monday through Friday we go to class for a few hours. Different subjects on different days of the week. It just so happens that the best class of the week is today… and you don’t want to miss this one.”

“But you’re not going to tell me anything about it, right?” Meredith asked.

Clem winked. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Let’s go before someone thinks we’re waiting for something else to do.”

The tour was nothing special: There were five bedrooms on the second floor; four were split up among the girls, and the guest bedroom where Meredith was currently staying… and of course… one master bath that all twelve girls had to share (what a nightmare). What Meredith had originally mistaken as a third floor from outside was actually a large musty attic filled with relics from another time. It had two large windows, one facing out the front of the house and the other toward the rear of the house. Both afforded spectacular views of how vast the property was. Clem told her that occasionally, Miss Evans allowed them to explore the attic and rifle through old clothes, pictures, etc., to find objects to research for their history reports. Most of the items in the attic had been there long before any of them had moved into the home, and since the house was very old, there were tons of items to investigate and look up in the books shelved in the large den on the first floor.

On the main floor was your standard dining room, living room, a large kitchen, and what used to be the large den, which housed a modest library of books. There were also many other additional rooms that had been modified to meet the home’s needs, such as a small clinic and an additional bedroom where Miss Evans slept.

When they neared a lone door at the end of a dark hallway at the farthest end of the house, just past the laundry room, Meredith stopped as a chill ran up her backside. “Do you feel that?” she asked without thinking. “It got really cold all of a sudden.”

Clem stood next to her and stared at the door. “That leads to the basement. The tour ends here, I’m afraid. The basement is strictly off-limits.”

“Why? What’s down there?”

Clem gave her an apologetic look and shrugged her shoulders. “Like I said, you’re not ready to hear everything yet. Especially about what’s down there.”

Meredith couldn’t look away from the door. She was strangely fascinated by it. No. She felt an unusual compulsion to proceed down the hall and open it, as if the house itself were summoning her to the cellar. She finally turned away and gave Clem an annoying look. “All you’ve done so far is show me all the old boring stuff.” Meredith stared at the door and finished, “Down there is probably where all the cool stuff is… and I can feel it, too. Some best friend you’re turning out to be!” She suddenly realized her tone had been harsher than intended as Clem recoiled as if she’d just slapped her. “I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean that.”

Clem shook her head and smiled. “It’s alright. I get it.” She looked toward the cellar door and finished. “You’re not the first person that’s ever felt what you’re feeling now. You really want to go down there, don’t you? And I bet you don’t even know why.”

Meredith felt surprisingly defensive but caught herself in time. “It’s just a natural reaction, is all. Anytime a kid is told he or she can’t do something or go somewhere… they immediately want to do the opposite.”

Clem laughed and put her hand on Meredith’s shoulder. “You keep telling yourself that. Now… let’s stop hovering around this silly door and get to class.”

Meredith frowned again. “No matter what changes in my life, that’s the one thing that never does.”

“Not a fan of school, I take it?” Clem laughed.

Meredith rolled her eyes. “I’d rather wash more dishes.”

Clem gently turned her around and said, “Well… I won’t lie to you. Most of the time school here is as boring as anywhere else… but today… well… today is the exception. Friday’s are the best. You’ll see.”

Meredith gave up her resistance. “Well… at least it’s the last day of the week. I guess I can suffer a couple of hours. But if I have to stand at the front of the class and talk about myself… I’m going to punch you.”

Clem laughed all the way to the classroom.

~~~

The large den at the back of the house had been converted into an all-purpose school room. Four large round tables were placed at the center of the room where all the girls currently sat facing one wall, which held a large chalk board behind a podium. Miss Evans was writing something on the board, but due to her large girth, no one could see what she was writing.

Meredith sat next to Clem at a table with three other girls, presumably the oldest in the house. She couldn’t stop staring around the room. This was nothing like any classroom she’d ever been in. Due to the large amount of books that lined several tall book shelves, the school resembled more of a library than anything else.

In between the shelves, every inch of wall space was covered in crayon drawings, paintings, poems, and other various arts and crafts projects–all presumably created by the students. Meredith couldn’t help staring at the pictures. What she’d originally dismissed as typical kid drawings, such as rainbows, butterflies, and cute poorly drawn animals, upon closer inspection, she noticed that many of the pictures displayed grim scenes of destruction. There was a crayon-drawn picture of a city skyline on fire, another of what looked like a bomb falling on a house. In a another drawing, several cars were lined up on a road with sad-faced stick figures pressed up against the car windows while other stick figures jumped up and down on the cars with crayon blood falling from their eyes. There were also several pictures of lions–in all of them, they were devouring people. Meredith looked away from the disturbing drawings, reminded of the artwork in her temporary bedroom–especially the painting of the broken stairway between heaven and hell. She was about to lean in and ask Clem about the pictures, but Clem shook her off, nodding toward the chalk board.

Miss Evans turned around and approached the podium. She took a long, deliberate moment to glance at each of the girls, taking an especially long time gazing at Meredith who squirmed in her seat until Miss Evans finally looked elsewhere.

Finch was right, she thought. She doesn’t look like a teacher as much as she looks like she just ate the teacher. She covered her smile with her hand, hoping to escape notice.

“Good morning, girls.” Miss Evan’s words carried in the large space making her voice seem ominous.

“Good morning, Miss Evans,” they all answered together. Meredith simply mouthed the words, trying to oblige with protocol.

“I want to thank you all for that fine, fine breakfast this morning and for cleaning up so efficiently afterwards.” She beamed with pride as she smiled at the girls. “As you know, the weekend is upon us and this is our final class for the week. So, as always, I expect you to continue to be on your best behavior, participate in all discussions, and let’s make this a fitting end to a very good week. Alright?”

Some nodded while several girls, including Clem, replied with, “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Very well,” Miss Evan said, placing her hands together. “As you all know, we won’t be doing any written exercises today… Although I know how much you all love Math and Grammar classwork.” She added a wink.

The girls laughed.

“But since we have a new arrival with us today, I just wanted to make it clear what is expected from this very special class.” Miss Evans pointed to a younger girl from the table to Meredith’s left. “Sonya?”

A red-haired girl, who looked to Meredith to be no older than ten, stood up, straightened her sundress, and said, “When we are not expected to do written work, we are expected to participate in any and all discussions with enthusiasm and honesty.”

“Very good, Sonya. Please be seated.”

Sonya took her seat.

Miss Evans turned to Meredith’s table and pointed to an older girl with curly blond hair. “Claudia, please remind the class what happens if participation is found wanting.”

Claudia got up, looked right at Meredith with a sigh, and said, “If anyone doesn’t participate… we all spend the weekend writing an essay… so please… don’t mess this up, new girl.”

Some of the girls laughed.

Meredith wanted to disappear.

Miss Evans shook her head. “Thank you, Claudia, for your… brutal honestly. But let’s not single anyone out in the future, alright?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Claudia said, sitting down. She refused to look at Meredith again.

Clem elbowed Meredith under the table and gave her a ‘don’t worry about it’ look.

Meredith tried to relax.

“Okay, now that we’ve had a healthy reminder of the ground rules, let’s begin with today’s discussion.” Miss Evans stepped to her right, allowing everyone to see what she wrote on the chalk board.

Written in big bold letters was the question:

WHAT IS AT THE END OF THE ROAD?

Miss Evans folded her arms and appeared to study her own question.

The class had grown quiet. After reading the strange question, Meredith looked around and noticed that all the girls appeared to be staring at the chalk board. She turned back and read the question again. To her, it sounded like a riddle.

Miss Evans mercifully broke the silence. “Would anyone like to share their thoughts on what I’ve written on the board?”

If this had been one of many public schools Meredith had attended, she would’ve expected the class clown to speak up by now and say, “The mall,” or, “Another road,” or the classic, “A question mark”, which would surely elicit a round of laugher and lighten the mood. But like everything else she’d experienced at this strange orphanage, which was not called an orphanage, Meredith did not expect the usual response.

Oh, please, please, please… just don’t call on the new girl, she thought. Meredith dared a glance at Miss Evans. She was looking right at her.

It was Clem who rescued her. She stood up and said, “Miss Evans, I have a thought I’d like to share.”

Miss Evans smiled and turned her uncomfortable gaze away from Meredith. “Clementine, it’s been a while since you’ve started the discussion. Please continue.”

Clem confidently raised her chin and said, “It’s a trick question, Ma’am. Since the road is eternal, there is no end. The only answer has to be… endlessness… eternity.”

“Well, that’s a fascinating thought, Clementine. Thank you for sharing.”

Clem nodded and sat back down. She could feel the eyes of several girls, including Meredith’s, gawking at her.

Meredith smiled and gave her a ‘That was awesome’ look.

Clem nodded as if to say, ‘I know’.

Miss Evans turned toward the others. “Clementine has offered an engaging response, class. Would anyone like to add another perspective into this question? Is she right? Is endlessness the answer?”

The blond, Claudia, stood up and said, “Clementine is right… and wrong.” She looked over at Clem with a wicked grin.

Clem scowled back in return, not appreciating being called out.

“Claudia,” Miss Evans said. “Do you have something to add?”

“Yes. The question is a trick. It’s a trick to lure the impulsive into a quick answer. But without the proper context, I could just as easily say that Maple Street’s at the end of the road, or, a white barn, or, an airport. It’s the answers that are endless… not endlessness.”

Miss Evans laughed. “Well done, Claudia. Another great response. Thank you.”

Claudia sat down with a smug smile on her face.

Meredith turned to her best friend. Clem was staring at the blond girl like she was trying to melt her with her eyes.

She elbowed Clem beneath the table and gave her a ‘stupid know-it-all’ look.

Clem turned those eyes on her and Meredith was suddenly afraid. The tempest barely contained behind her eyes made Meredith very uncomfortable.

Clem’s face suddenly softened. She smiled and rolled her eyes.

Miss Evans continued. “Both Clementine and Claudia have shared two interesting perspectives, girls… and that is the point of this question… perspective. Any good question requires careful consideration. Sometimes, we may think we know the answer, but in truth, an answer is only as good as the situation we find ourselves in, as Claudia pointed out.”

Claudia turned to Clem and mockingly blew her a kiss.

Clem wanted to rip her face off.

“Life is full of questions like this one. For some of you, the answer might be easily obtained, for others… it might take a lifetime to discover.” Miss Evans took a moment to pause and let her words sink in. “For us, the answers to the most difficult questions will not be readily accepted by most. It requires an open mind and a special insight that few possess. And sometimes those answers we know deep down in our bones… can produce disastrous responses if shared with the wrong audience. As perplexing as a question might be… there is nothing worse than a poorly timed answer. Do you understand?”

Most of the girls nodded their heads, including Meredith.

Miss Evans walked toward Clem and Claudia, stared at them both, and repeated, “Do you understand?”

Both girls caught the hint and nodded, choosing to temporarily put their mutual disdain on hold.

“So… there can be a question with multiple right answers, but the wisest answer is the one that waits for the right opportunity.” Miss Evans turned and headed back toward the podium. She smiled at them all and said, “Each of you are an elusive question, much like this one on the board. In a world not ready for the question you would create about yourselves… well… let’s just say that sometimes it’s just as wise not to become that question before an audience which isn’t ready to perceive it. You are all very special, very unique, and because of this, the questions you would create about yourselves might provoke a fearful response… and an answer prompted by fear is always the wrong answer. Do you understand?”

All the girls nodded.

“For the sake of context, let’s pursue Clementine’s answer for a moment. If the ‘road’ is life, and the ‘end’ is death, then does she make a valid point, considering where you are, but more importantly, who you all are?”

Meredith suddenly felt like she was trying to stay afloat in a vast ocean of thought. She had never considered such things in light of her abilities. To most people, what Meredith sensed and said about death frightened them so much that she considered it taboo to even speak of it again after an incident occurred. She could always see the fear in their faces and how uncomfortable they’d become when she spoke of what she’d seen. If she’d learned anything, it was that death terrified people because of how little they truly understood it. That fact did not make her ‘special’ to most people, it made her despised. But now, it seemed like she was free to discuss such a forbidden topic, to openly entertain the possibilities for the first time–but her own fear made her reluctant.

“Meredith?” Miss Evan had finally targeted her. “Any thoughts on what we’ve discussed so far?”

She could feel all eyes on her, making her feel like a ten-foot tall freak that no one could dismiss. Even Clem was staring at her with an encouraging look that still made Meredith feel like a condemned prisoner about to face the gallows. What could she possibly say about death that wouldn’t make her stand out in a world where dying meant funerals and goodbyes with some sort of afterlife thrown in to give the grieving hope in something more, since death would one day claim them, too?

Before the weight of the question crushed her, Meredith managed to stand up, her newly acquired sundress damp with nervous sweat. She didn’t have the strength to meet Miss Evan’s probing gaze, choosing to stare at her feet instead. She opened her mouth, unsure of what damning words would come out. “I… I once met a young boy sitting by himself at school. While all the other kids were playing, he just sat there. He was so very sad.” She paused as the memory came crashing to the surface. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. She tried to quickly wipe them away.

“Please go on, Meredith,” Miss Evans said in a surprisingly gentle tone. “You don’t have to be afraid here.”

Meredith looked into the woman’s eyes and saw that she meant it. In fact, all the girls shared a sympathetic look. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t alone this time. She felt empowered to continue. “At first, I thought… I thought I was just feeling bad for him… you know… because he looked so sad all by himself. But then I… I felt it… I felt his sadness. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn away from him. I suddenly didn’t want to play anymore… I wanted to weep. It was like the pain I felt was making me cry on the inside because it was so… intense.” She was shaking. Meredith tried to steady herself by taking deep breaths. Someone put their hand on her shoulder. She turned. It was Clem. She was crying, too.

Meredith smiled at her and continued. “I couldn’t stand it anymore… all that pain. I… I had to go to him… the boy. I felt like the pain wouldn’t leave until I went to him. So I walked over to the boy and saw that he was holding a toy… a toy soldier… you know, like those ones that come in a pack of a hundred that you try to stand up on the kitchen floor but some always fell over no matter what you did?”

Miss Evans nodded.

“Anyway, I knew right away when he got the soldier… I saw it. I could see him and his father… I could feel that whole day when the boy and his father were setting them up… I could feel the joy, the laughter… the sadness… all rolled into one moment. I could smell his father’s aftershave–he was there, right there with me. It was so… real. It was like, I wasn’t even there anymore. The boy… he looked up at me… and I could hardly stand the pain anymore. It felt like my heart was… dying. When he looked at me, I knew, I just knew what his father wanted to say to him. So I said, ‘Johnathan, don’t be sad, son. Daddy misses you and will always love you.’ And then the pain went away.”

Miss Evans had moved in beside her and knelt down. When did she do that? Meredith thought. Clem was still there. She could feel her trembling hand on her shoulder. In that moment, when she looked into Clem’s compassionate face, Meredith knew that she felt it, she felt it all–everything Meredith was reliving from that memory when her gift first manifested. And in the moment, she loved her for bearing the pain with her.

“Go on, Meredith.” Miss Evan’s was holding her hand. “Get the rest of it out. It’s important that you finish.”

Meredith nodded. “After I told the boy, Johnathan, what his dead father wanted him to know, and it wasn’t that he told me… I just knew from the pictures in my head, and the feelings that I felt… I knew that what I said was true… that’s when the boy’s face changed. He wasn’t sad anymore… he was terrified… of me. He ran from me like I was a… a monster. Then adults came and yelled at me, questioned me… made me feel like the lowest piece of dirt on the planet for making the boy feel bad. But… but I didn’t do anything wrong?”

“Of course you didn’t, dear,” Miss Evans said, patting her hand.

Meredith took a deep breath. “After that, word got around. Kids were afraid of me. They teased me and some hurt me. Eventually, I was taken away and put in another foster home for being a freak.” Meredith couldn’t finish. She was openly weeping. She turned and met Clem’s embrace as her best friend held her tight.

“That’s okay, Meredith. You’ve shared enough. Thank you for your honesty, dear.” Miss Evan’s started walking away.

Meredith released Clem, giving her an appreciative look. She turned and said, “May… may I answer the question, Miss Evans?”

Miss Evans, genuinely surprised, smiled and said, “Of course.”

Meredith wiped tears from her eyes and said, “I know that there’s no such thing as dying… not if you love someone hard enough and if you’re strong enough and if you’re brave enough… so death can’t be the end, and it is certainly not at the end of any road… but love might be. That’s my answer.”

It was Clem’s turn to be astonished.

Even Claudia’s jaw dropped at Meredith’s response.

Many of the girls were talking excitedly among themselves.

Miss Evans stared at Meredith for a very long time with an unreadable look of stone on her face. Finally she said, “Thanks for sharing, Meredith. You may be seated.”

Meredith nodded and gratefully melted into her seat. She looked over at Clem.

Clementine was staring off toward one of the walls. She seemed distracted… distant.

“Alright, everyone, quiet down please,” Miss Evans returned to the podium. “I think that’s enough for today. I believe we’ve had a very enlightening discussion. I want you all to reflect on today’s thoughts and you will all be excited to know that there will be no essay this weekend.”

The girls all applauded and laughed.

“Now, what do we always need to remember?” she asked.

As one, the girls chanted enthusiastically, “THE LIONS ARE SLEEPING, BUT WE ALWAYS STAND GUARD!”

Meredith gave Clem a puzzled look, but Clem was elsewhere.

“That’s right,” Miss Evans said. “Because one day…”

“THE LIONS WILL BE LOOSE, AND THEN LIFE WILL GET HARD!”

“Very good!” Miss Evans said. “And who are the Lions?”

“THE LIONS ARE LIARS THAT ROAM EVERY BREATH!”

“And what will they do?”

“FOR THE UNWORTHY, THE LIONS BRING DEATH!”

~~~

Next Episode 35-5

Previous Episode 35-3

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-4: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. 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:

    Is that the beginning of Mother? hmm

    Like

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