Chapter 35-10: Dead Dolls

Posted: February 2, 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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tunnel

~~~

Meredith stared at her shaking hands holding the coffee thermos. She sat alone at the table in the low-lit clinic trying to process all these new and frightening memories that came crashing to the surface.

Why has all of this eluded me for so long? she wondered. The orphanage (which wasn’t really an orphanage), the girls, the symbol, the lions… the experiments?

She closed her eyes, not yet brave enough to let in the rest, and yet, powerless to stop these phantoms from condemning her now that her abilities were unavailable to keep her mental walls firmly in place.

Have I been using my own abilities all these years to shut out these memories? Is that when I first learned how to shut out the voices of the dead? Or, were they deliberately hidden from me? It deeply distressed her to find out that she couldn’t trust her own mind. How far back is my involvement in all of… this?

Meredith shook her head, wondering for the first time if she deserved to be shunned by the community. Perhaps Mother had been manipulating her all these years, leading her exactly to this place… now.

“No!” she said, slamming the coffee thermos hard on the table. “I won’t believe that! My heart is still my own… no matter what else has happened!”

“‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’” The deep voice startled her from down the hall, causing her to rise to her feet.

“Who’s there?” she asked, staring into the shadows at the end of the hall.

A short stocky man in a black tank top, exposing his tattooed muscular arms, slowly approached with his hands in his jeans pockets.

Meredith frowned. “Mr. Logan, this is an unexpected visit. What brings you into my neck of the woods?”

Logan smiled, stroked his bushy beard and finished, “‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve’. That was from the good book of Jeremiah chapter seventeen, praise God. Good evening, Miss Montgomery.”

Meredith nodded, ignoring his quoting of Bible scripture which felt like bait.

“Sorry for startling you,” he said with a hearty laugh. “I’d just come in and saw you there, deep in thought, and hadn’t figured out how to address you without… upsetting you. Seems I failed.”

Meredith shook her head and laughed. “Well… come on in and sit. I promise, I won’t turn you into a toad… if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Logan took a couple of steps down the hall and stopped, looking into the observation room on his right. Megan was sleeping on her mattress. “If it’s all the same to you, Miss Montgomery, I’ll just stand here for a spell… pun not intended.” He flashed her a big old grin.

Meredith rolled her eyes and then straightened up her nightgown, got up and walked toward him. “Don’t worry about her, she won’t bite.” She stopped a few feet away from the preacher, hoping to put him at ease, as she leaned against the observation room glass and took a sip of coffee from her thermos. “What can I do for you, Mr. Logan? And please… just call me Meredith.”

Logan seemed to study her for a moment and then relaxed with a laugh, running his hands through his long black hair that he hadn’t tied back. He turned toward the observation room and crossed his arms. “I’ve been meaning to stop in for quite some time. I don’t visit as often as I should, and that’s my fault.”

“Well… we wouldn’t want the local preacher to get caught conversing with the resident witch, now, would we?” she teased. “You’d have to spend a whole Sunday preaching against the sin of gossiping.”

Logan laughed and shook his head. “Well… I could always tell the congregation that you bewitched me, then pray for the Lord’s forgiveness for letting my curiosity get the better of me.”

Meredith laughed. “Seriously, what brings you out here so late to visit little ole’ me? I hope you’re not here to invite me to service again. Tried that once. Didn’t seem like a good idea.”

“Yes… your presence was a bit distracting… but for what it’s worth, I was still delighted that you tried to attend.”

Meredith waited. She had only spoken with Logan a handful of times since his arrival several months ago, and she wanted to like the man because she’d learned early on that Logan usually said exactly what was on his mind, a quality she respected very highly these days, but he also made her uncomfortable with his sideway glances. It was as if he was always trying to figure out whose side she was on, and to Logan, there was only God’s side, or the devil’s. She’d learned enough about the man to know that he wasn’t always a devoted servant of God. His tattoos clearly pointed to a very different man that she was glad to have never known. But when he spoke with her, she never detected a hint of hate, just that puzzled curiosity he always had about her, which just reminded Meredith of how different she was from everyone else. Her dear friend, Gregory, also a man of God, never looked at her that way… he was just a simple man of faith who followed his heart, and Greg’s heart had accepted her without the need to have her scrutinized by any religious dogma.

Logan finally said, “I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about you… and about what happened to this poor girl.”

“Her name is Megan,” Meredith said.

“Megan… of course.”

“Please don’t refer to her in the past tense. She’s not the monster everyone around here thinks she is. She’s still in there… I’m just… having trouble finding her.”

Logan gave her a curious look. “I was told that you no longer possess your… abilities… since we came down here.”

“That’s correct.”

“Then, forgive me for being so frank, but how do you know?”

“How do I know what?’

“How do you know that Megan… is… well… still Megan?”

Meredith was getting angry. “How do you know that your God is real?”

Logan smiled. “Well… that’s another matter entirely, that I would be happy to discuss with you some time-”

“Just answer the question.”

“Alright,” Logan said. “I know that my God is real because he speaks to my heart, because he’s changed me from the inside out. He’s saved me through his son, Jesus, and redeemed me from my hellish past.”

“So… although you’ve never seen you’re God, you can feel him in your heart?”

Logan pointed at her with a smile. He nodded and said, “I see where you’re going, Meredith. I do. I’m sure you care deeply for this girl and want to believe she’s still with us… but you and I both know that if you were to step inside this cage…”

“Yes… she would rip me to pieces,” Meredith said. “But that doesn’t mean that Megan is gone. She’s… lost… and I’m trying to help her get back. Surely you can understand that?”

Logan raised his eyebrows. He was no longer smiling. “Are you trying to save her or yourself, Meredith?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Logan looked back at the sleeping girl. “Just look at her. She’s been this way ever since we found her. Megan was infected, just like so many others, and if we released her right now, she would hurt so many more people. Do you think if Megan was really in there that she would want to remain this way? What kind of life could she have now?”

“That’s a question we are all striving to answer for ourselves,” Meredith said. “Megan deserves a chance to choose… and not have someone choose for her.”

Logan sighed. “There’s no shame, no guilt, no fault in offering Megan mercy. For all you really know that’s what she wants.”

Meredith had no response to that.

“Yes, I believe in God and a place where we can be together with him forever,” Logan pressed. “If I’m right, then poor Megan could be done with all this madness right now… and go home.”

Meredith wiped a frustrated tear from her eye and stared at Megan. “You speak of heaven with the same enthusiasm as a dear friend of mine once did. He was so convincing at times. Even after all the death we’d experienced, even after he lost his own daughter to this sick world, my friend would not be swayed. He never faltered once in his belief of your God.”

“He’s your God, too, Meredith,” Logan said with a smile. “And he’s that young woman’s God, as well. We’re all his children whether we’re still alive and kicking… or infected.”

Meredith turned. “Do you really believe that?”

“Yes… I do,” Logan said. “I struggle with this new world and all the suffering it brings… but there was always suffering long before the dead came along. I have so many questions that I can’t answer, and I pray every night for those answers. But whether I understand this world or not, God does not change. I don’t understand what’s happened to that poor girl any more than I understand what’s happened to you in your life, but I do know that the darker everything becomes, the brighter the light gets in that darkness… and that’s what keeps me going, even when I fumble around, trying to understand the present nature of things.”

“Is that why you’re really here?” Meredith asked. “Were you hoping that I had answers? That I could explain what this sickness is all about because I’ve been into the heart of that darkness and seen what’s inside the mind of the dead?”

Logan laughed. “I struggle to grasp the mind of the Lord… especially in these dire times. I’ll admit, I’m an impatient man. It’s hard to pray and wait around for answers. I’ll take the answers anyway I can get them.”

Meredith shook her head. “I can respect that… and should your God ever share them with me… I’ll be sure to let you know. Now, let’s stop beating around the bush and why don’t you tell me why you really came down here in the middle of the night to talk? Usually, I don’t have to pry it out of you.”

“You are a very perceptive woman, Meredith. Must be the witchcraft talking.”

“Stop stalling.”

Logan nodded. “Very well. Truth be told, I was working on my sermon for tomorrow and it occurred to me that I hadn’t come to a decision about something that’s been troubling me.”

Meredith waited.

Logan’s face lost all humor. “Many in the community believe that you and Megan being here is extremely dangerous. Some, like your friends, Stephen, Tony, Marcus… and even Gina, have stood up for you since day one.”

Meredith looked at her feet. “I feel a big ‘but’ coming.”

“My point is, I’ve never really come to a decision either way… never needed to until now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?’

Logan looked back at Megan. “Just stay vigilant, Meredith. Circumstances around here are changing rapidly. There are events in motion that can’t be stopped that have caused me to come down here and speak with you one last time.”

“What ‘events’ are you eluding to?”

Logan gave her a grave look. “Events that have motivated me to get off the fence and decide where I stand one way or the other.”

Meredith frowned. “And how are me and Megan’s chances fairing in your eyes?”

Logan smiled. “That’s entirely up to the will of my God.”

Meredith didn’t like the sound of any of this.

After an awkward pause, Logan started to shuffle his feet. “Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time this evening, Meredith. Thanks for speaking with me.”

“Sure.”

“Goodnight,” he said, and started toward the exit.

“Logan,” she said.

He turned.

“You said that he was my God, too… and Megan’s.”

Logan smiled. “Yes… I did. And I meant it.”

Meredith swallowed hard and came at him directly. “Are… Megan and I… are we in danger, Logan?”

He hesitated before answering, refusing to look her in the eyes. “I sure hope not, Meredith. I really do. I suggest we both earnestly pray on it.”

She watched the preacher depart, staring at the door as if this were somehow her last chance to leave this room alive. Something’s terribly wrong. I can feel it in my bones.

Meredith just stood there, lost in thought, as her mind started to wrap itself around a very crazy and desperate plan. If they were in danger, as Logan’s visit seemed to suggest, then she needed to find a way to keep herself and Megan alive until Gina and the others returned. She could talk to Stephen, but that wouldn’t be enough. Bless his heart, he would try to help us… but only put himself in the same predicament. No, she would not do that to her old friend. She had known for a long time that there were people here who wanted her and Megan gone; persuasive people, like that snake of a man, Carl Lannister. And if someone like that ever decided to get the community riled up against them, especially while Gina was absent, who knew what they were capable of doing. Fear motivated decent people to do despicable things. Meredith thought way back to when she’d had an ‘episode’ at the Percy Power Plant, and how quickly people turned and wanted to hurt her. Could that happen again? She could not afford to be dismiss the possibility. She thought of her plan… yes… it might just work. She needed the community to see herself and Megan like them… and not monsters fear represented them as.

Something struck the glass next to Meredith.

She turned, startled, and was looking into the mercury-colored eyes of the pale faced girl. Megan had pressed her face against the glass, her tangled hair pulled back. Meredith sighed sadly, realizing how ‘alien’ this poor girl looked now. Even she shuddered at the sight of Megan. How could she ever convince the others that she was still… human?

“What is it, Megan?” she asked. Meredith didn’t expect a response… well… not in words. In the past, Megan had come up the glass, just like this, revealed her sickly looking teeth, and then started biting at it, attempting to reach warm flesh on the other side. This sort of behavior from the sick girl would certainly not help Meredith’s cause. “You don’t want to bite into me, Megan. I assure you, the taste of failure is all you would find here.”

The sick girl placed her hands up against the glass and pounded hard three times, letting loose what sounded like a frustrated scream.

Meredith was about to turn away and summon Coop to sedate the girl, but then she stopped.

Megan wasn’t trying to bite her way through the glass.

Meredith’s eyes went wide as she discovered something in the girl’s face that she had not seen before, something other than insanity-driven hunger, rage, or the cold, indifferent absence of self-awareness on any level.

The tired woman moved in close to the glass to make sure her eyes were not deceiving her.

Megan appeared surprisingly calm when the woman approached.

“Oh, my!” Meredith whispered, clutching her chest. “Megan? Is… is that you, honey?”

The half-dead girl lowered her arms and stared back through the glass… her two silver orbs reflecting the light from just outside the room in an entirely new way.

Meredith covered her mouth with both hands, a mixture of emotions rising up, putting a lump in her throat as she was unable to speak.

Megan was crying.

~~~

Next Episode 36-1

Previous Episode 35-9

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-10: 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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