Chapter 35-9: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 30, 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, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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doll10

~~~

Meredith decided against hiding in her room for the day, fearing a return visit by Clementine. Between that and waking up in the basement with the creepy dolls, she was more than relieved to discover that Finch’s class on creative expression was still being conducted in the school room. She needed to get her mind off of last night. She suspected Clem had something to do with her waking in the basement with the doll out of the case… but she just didn’t want to think about it right now. The implications frightened her too much.

She slipped into the school room and took a seat with six other girls who were already engrossed in various crafts. She was immediately relieved to discover that Clem was not present.

Finch noticed her and gave her a wink.

Meredith smiled back. She noticed several different colors of construction paper in front of her, as well as a community box of crayons, scissors, glue, markers, and pencils.

She grabbed a yellow piece of paper and a handful of crayons, hoping to look busy while she simply stared at the blank paper. Now what? she thought. If I had any artistic ability at all I would make an escape door and get out of this ‘special’ orphanage that isn’t an orphanage. But in truth, she had no idea where she would go. She had no family, friends, and she didn’t fit in to the world out there. She wanted to believe that she could belong here, among the misfit girls with abilities considered normal, but nothing about this place made her comfortable. There were just too many secrets.

“Are we stuck?” Finch said, startling her from behind.

Meredith turned. “Sorry. I guess I’ve never been very… artsy… if that’s a word.”

Finch smiled. “Well… you don’t have to paint a masterpiece or pen the perfect prose in here. This is more about expressing yourself, Meredith. Sometimes all you have to do is start with whatever you’re feeling, and then just let that lead you. Understand?”

“I think so.”

“Why don’t you just pick a crayon and give it a try. You may surprise yourself. I’ll come back in a bit. Just… have fun.”

Meredith smiled. “Okay.”

Finch stopped and added, “Oh… just please don’t draw any boring birds. That stuff drives me nuts.” He gave her another wink to remind her of the inside joke they’d shared about his name on the drive over.

Meredith watched Finch walk over to another table and peek over top of a younger girl to see what she was drawing. He said something encouraging and then walked on.

He almost acts like a real teacher in here… well… minus the long girlish hair, she thought with a smile. Meredith turned back toward her yellow blank paper and sighed. You heard the man… you have to feel it first… whatever ‘it’ is. She closed her eyes and tried to relax. When she opened them, she stared at the yellow paper again and thought of the sun. She picked up a black crayon and decided to draw the field out back with a large summer sun hovering above it. Sure… that was kiddie stuff… but it gave her something more pleasant to think about. If nothing else, it encouraged the idea to spend some time outdoors this afternoon and try to forget about… everything.

Meredith put the black crayon to the paper, intending to draw a large circle. What she drew instead resembled an oval… actually… it looked like an eye. She stopped and stared at it. That’s not a sun. What was I thinking about? And suddenly, she knew exactly what she wanted to draw. She put a black dot at the center of the oval. Then she added a long vertical line down from the eye followed by two short horizontal lines–one just beneath the eye and one at the bottom for a base. Then she added two curved lines midway down the vertical line until she’d drawn what looked like a fancy letter ‘U’. She stopped and stared at her creation. Rather than a sun, she’d drawn what looked like some kind of three-pronged symbol, or a strange flower–she couldn’t decide.

Before she had time to consider it further, Finch reached over and snatched the picture off the table.

“Hey!” she said, turning around. “I’m not finished yet.”

Finch ignored her and stared at her drawing. She’d never seen him look so intense. Finally, he looked over the picture at Meredith. “Who showed you this?”

Meredith noticed an alarming urgency in his voice. It made her very uncomfortable. “No one. I just… I just thought it up. Actually… I have no idea what it is yet. If you’d let me finish-”

“You are finished,” Finch said abruptly, folding the paper up and putting it into his pocket.

“What? I… I don’t understand. Did I do something wrong?”

Finch, realizing that they were attracting the attention of the other girls, smiled at Meredith and answered, “No… no, of course not. I just meant that you should try creating something else.”

“Something else?”

“Yes… yes… uh… come with me out into the hall for a moment and I’ll explain what I mean.” He was looking around nervously, reminding Meredith of a shoplifter before bolting from a store.

Finch started toward the exit, motioning for her to follow.

She got up and followed him into the hallway, feeling like she’d crossed some forbidden line with her amateurish use of crayons.

Once in the hall, Finch looked around again and then squatted down in front of her. “Listen to me, Meredith. Listen very carefully.”

She tensed up.

“It’s about your drawing. You have to promise me that you’ll never draw that symbol again… ever. Do you understand?”

“But… I don’t know why you’re so upset with me, Finch. It’s just a silly drawing. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Are you positive that no one showed you that symbol before?”

“I… no one showed me anything… I just… I just saw it in my head… and then I drew it. I don’t even know what it is.”

Finch gave her a scrutinizing look and then nodded. “Okay… that’s fine. Just don’t tell anyone about what you drew… promise me you won’t draw that again, Meredith.”

“But-”

“Damn it! Just promise me!”

He was beginning to frighten her. She took a step back. “I… I promise,” she said.

Finch shook his head, trying to calm down. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to scare you. You just have to trust me right now, okay? I’m looking out for your safety and I know none of this makes any sense… but… you must never speak to anyone about this picture again.”

Meredith nodded. She didn’t know what else to do. Finally she dared, “Is it… is it bad?”

Finch’s face looked very pale. He gave her a sad look and nodded. “Yes, Meredith. It’s very bad.” He looked around to make sure they were still alone, and then lowered his voice. “There used to be more girls here, Meredith. Really cool girls, like yourself, who were here one day… and then gone the next.”

“I don’t understand.”

Finch frowned. “These girls… well, they knew about this symbol, too.”

Just then, a series of erratic agonizing screams reverberated down the hallway, causing them both to jump.

It was coming from upstairs.

“What in the holy hell?” Finch said.

The girls in the school room exited into the hallway looking terrified and confused.

One of them said, “That sounds like Claudia!”

~~~

The landing at the top of the second floor steps was crowded as Meredith managed to squeeze her way through the frightened girls standing just outside of the bathroom. She stopped and put her hands over her mouth when she saw a lot of blood streaked across the linoleum floor, walls, and countertop. It looked like a crime scene straight out of a horror movie.

Miss Evans, and the two mysterious men she had seen outside during the volleyball game yesterday, were busy trying to hold Claudia down. The bloody young woman was still screaming as she tried to break free of the grip both men had on her arms.

“Let go, Claudia!” Miss Evans shouted while trying to pry Claudia’s bloody hands open. Claudia clenched them so tightly that her hands bled.

“Get them off me! I can feel them… GET THEM OFF ME!” Claudia yelled, kicking her bare legs out at the two men.

That’s when Meredith noticed the multiple wounds bleeding from Claudia’s half-naked flesh. She was only wearing a bloody bra and panties and it looked like someone had sliced her up. Her legs, arms, stomach… her face… all displayed deeps cuts.

Finally, Claudia opened her hands and two razor blades fell to the floor.

Miss Evans quickly snatched them up just before Claudia managed to kick the large woman square in the chest, causing her to fall back against the counter.

The two men pinned Claudia down more forcibly as Miss Evans tried to catch her breath. She looked terrified. One of the men managed to turn Claudia over on her back and sit on her legs while the other appeared to be tying her hands together with a plastic band.

Claudia continued to scream as if she were on fire.

Miss Evans got to her feet and turned toward the girls standing in the hallway. She just stared for a moment, her hair disheveled and her face white with shock. Finally she said, “Girls, get to your rooms… now!” She then slammed the bathroom door shut.

Everyone stared at each other. Some of the girls were crying while others seemed so confused and frightened that they were having a hard time remembering where their rooms were.

“What… what happened?” Meredith asked anyone.

Abagail, a younger girl, managed to speak. “She said that they were crawling all over her… that they were eating their way out.”

“What do you mean… who did that to Claudia?” Meredith asked.

“She did it to herself,” another girl responded. “We saw it. She just started jumping around like something was chasing her. She ran to the bathroom screaming. She started scratching herself until she bled… then she started cutting herself up with razor blades.” The girl stopped, looking like she was about to vomit or pass out.

“What was chasing her?” Meredith asked. “Did… did someone try to hurt her?”

“No,” Abagail said, starting to cry. “It was the spiders… the spiders were attacking her.”

“Spiders?” Meredith was shocked. “I didn’t see any spiders.”

“Claudia’s deathly afraid of spiders,” another girl said. “But we didn’t see any. She had us so freaked out that we all jumped into our own beds looking for them, too.”

“Out of the way, girls!” Finch barked as he stormed past them and entered the bathroom with a first-aid kit. He immediately closed the door behind him.

Meredith made herself take a deep breath. Spiders? There aren’t any spiders.

The girls continued to speak to one another in hushed voices as Claudia finally stopped screaming. The older girls started consoling the younger ones and they all slowly retreated toward their bedrooms.

Meredith looked up through the thinning crowd and saw Clem standing just within a doorway farther down the hall. She wore a wicked smile on her face as she looked up and caught Meredith staring at her. Her face immediately changed as she frowned at Meredith, retreated into her room, and gently closed her door.

Meredith felt the blood leave her face as the truth slowly dawned on her.

There were no spiders, she thought. But Claudia believed there were… she believed they were crawling all over her body and it made her hurt herself… because someone made her believe it!

Meredith could hear sirens approaching the house.

She remembered what Clem said about Claudia… and how she invaded her mind and exposed her secrets.

“She knew!” Meredith whispered. “She knew exactly how to do it!”

Some of the girls looked back at her and gave her a fearful look.

Meredith turned away and headed back down the stairs. By the time she reached the kitchen, her heart was racing, putting her into a full scale panic. She forced herself to take deep breathes and calm down.

Finch came back down, opened the front door, and two paramedics carrying a stretcher entered the house.

Meredith watched from a distance as Finch led them up the stairs.

Clem did this! I don’t know how… but I think she… she turned Claudia’s own fears against her!

She looked around the empty kitchen, expecting Clem to show up and make her see monsters, too.

She’ll come for me next! her mind screamed. She’ll come for me because I won’t be her friend anymore! Because I made her angry last night!

Meredith wanted to be anywhere but in this madhouse. She considered bolting out the back and running across the field until she could find somewhere to hide… somewhere Clem would never find her.

She meant to run toward the back door but went the opposite direction instead, toward the other end of the house. She got confused and started to panic again. Her own fear almost overpowered her as she thought about Clem coming down the stairs and finding her all alone.

She focused on a familiar door… the forbidden door.

She won’t go down there! Meredith thought. Clem’s never told me what’s in the basement because she’s never been down there… or she’s afraid of what’s down there! She had no proof, but this felt right. She couldn’t explain it. Meredith no longer believed that Clem was capable of bringing her down to the basement last night and moving the doll to terrify her. That also felt right.

A familiar compulsion stole over her, compelling her to go to the basement… quickly. If Clem did follow her, she’d be trapped with that evil girl, down in the dark place… with the creepy dolls.

Meredith no longer cared. Something far more important was pushing her forward.

I want to show you something… something important.

Where had she heard that?

Toby?

She started toward the basement door, convinced that there was no safer place to hide.

~~~

Her head began to throb again the moment she entered the toy room.

Someone had replaced the little brown-haired doll with the gentle eyes.

Meredith walked over to her cabinet and said, “Show me, Toby. Show me what was so important.”

Toby spoke with her again through images. You already know, Meredith. You’ve already seen it… remember?

Meredith stepped back, confused. What had she seen? Why couldn’t she remember? She started pacing around the toy room, frustrated by her own anxiousness at being so close to the truth… and yet, it still eluded her. She stopped abruptly and muttered, “The truth…” Then she remembered something… something the young man named Toby had told her twice in her dreams:

Pay special attention to the man behind the curtain. That’s where the truth is.

Meredith walked back over to the doll cabinets. She ignored the dolls and stared at the paneled wall they all shared. This feels… familiar, she thought, but didn’t know why.

She carefully examined the wall space between each doll cabinet, looking for something that should be there… but not knowing what that ‘something’ was.

When she reached the paneling just to the left of the first doll case, the one which held the intense looking doll with the blond curls, she found something etched into the wall. It was very small and faint, and if she hadn’t been looking, Meredith never would’ve found it: A three-pronged symbol with an eye at the top.

“I recognize this!” she said excitedly.

She lightly ran her fingers across the carved symbol… and then remembered what she’d been shown.

Meredith pushed against the strange symbol, moving it inward until a small square indentation appeared. She heard a loud clicking sound and then nearly fell forward as a narrow door opened inward.

Meredith stepped back and gasped as a rush of cool air exited the secret doorway.

I’ve… I think I’ve done this before!

She cautiously approached the doorway, now able to distinguish a faint light coming from within. Meredith stepped through the door and stopped. The room was large and smelled like the clinic. There were four hospital beds lined up in a row, surrounded by numerous monitors and gadgets performing mysterious functions. The monitors provided the only illumination in the room. There were multiple electrical wires running above the beds and along the floor. She dared a few steps closer. All four beds were occupied by people hooked up to large machines. They all wore some sort of mask that covered their nose and mouth.

As she moved closer, Meredith made out what looked like another room along the back wall. There was a brighter light, the amount produced by a desk lamp, pouring out from a door that was partially open.

Meredith looked back at the people in the beds. She was drawn immediately to the one furthest to the right. She stepped over wires and tried not to make a sound as she moved in next to what appeared to be a man… a very sick man… breathing through one of the complicated-looking masks. His eyes were closed. Other than the steady rise and fall of the man’s chest, everything else about the man made him look… cold and lifeless.

“Hello, Toby,” she whispered. Yes. She had been in here before. The man was much older now than he looked in the dream, and he certainly did not resemble the little brown-haired doll with the gentle eyes from just outside this strange room… but this definitely was the real Toby.

Toby did not respond to her voice. Aside from the machines, which appeared to aid in the man’s breathing, Toby looked dead.

“I know you’re still in there,” Meredith said. “I know you’ve been trying to find me, too. Well… I’m here now.”

Toby did not respond.

“How long have you known about this room?” a woman’s voice inquired from Meredith’s right.

She jumped back, nearly knocking over one of the machines. Meredith turned and saw Dr. Forrester standing just outside the second room. She was wearing her doctor clothes again and she did not look pleased.

“Answer me, girl!” she barked. “And get away from that respirator!”

Meredith started to move until a cold hand grabbed her wrist.

She looked back at the pale arm covered in veins that looked like they were about to burst through his skin. She tried to pull free and looked into Toby’s face. His mask had fallen off. His face was that of a ghost with more veins like trails on a map coursing up his neck and cheeks.

“What are you doing? I said get away from there! GET AWAY FROM HIM!” Dr. Forrester pressed with urgency. She started to rush toward her.

Meredith was using her free hand, trying to pry open the cold fingers tightening around her flesh.

Toby suddenly opened his eyes.

In her mind, she heard him clearly. Thank you, Meredith. I can see it now… the way out.

Meredith wanted to scream but the pounding in her skull had intensified. She felt like her head was about to implode.

Toby’s eyes were filled with yellow madness… and that’s when Meredith knew that she was staring into the eyes of the emerald lion.

Two hands grabbed her roughly from behind and whirled her around.

“Meredith?” It was Dr. Forrester. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Meredith quickly looked over her shoulder at Toby.

He was still, the mask back on his face, his eyes… closed.

What is happening to me? She turned back to Dr. Forrester, her eyes wide with terror and confusion. Before she could ask a single question, she felt a sharp pain in her right arm.

Dr. Forrester removed the syringe. “I’m sorry, Meredith. You were not supposed to find out about this room.” was all she said.

Meredith felt her eyes go blurry and then the world faded to black…

~~~

Next Episode 35-10

Previous Episode 35-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-9: 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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