~~~

…A fire of mourning lit the eastern sky ablaze, penetrating tree tops, somber souls, and finally settling upon the surface of the large river pool. The calm, debris-filled waters reflected the dawn above, casting soft, red light mixed with shadow until the illusion of a funeral pyre was made complete—light and fire upon water—making the numerous corpses floating in the pond seem more like little ships sailing off to Valhalla, rather than the discarded remains of a futile battle.

The woman approached the pool, staring at the crumbled vestiges of a once magnificent waterfall, now, as silent as all the rest. She waited for the others to assemble around her, deliberately letting the moment linger, before finally retrieving the list from her robe.

She glanced at the written names, cleared her throat, and began her eulogy:

“We’ve come here today to pay our respects for those who have perished… for those who have fought against the long night, but did not prevail… may they now rest in peace.” The woman paused for dramatic effect as she glanced down at the list. “To the gods of this world, we commit the following souls into your care. May they find their way across the darkness, beyond all pain, terror, loss and confusion left behind in the wake of the Day of Deliverance. Had these poor souls known what was coming, they might have rejoiced at the eve of enlightenment, and not trembled at the end of the dark.” The woman paused and closed her eyes, appearing to pray for a moment. She opened her eyes, smiled at everyone in attendance, and then continued. “We’re here to remember the dead, to honor their sacrifice, and wish them good tidings on their journey into the Beyond. They are free now. They are one.” She started reading off the names on her long list…

~~~

Remember not to panic. Remember to breathe. Do not fucking miss…

That is what the young hunter heard repeating in her thoughts—over and over. It has become Diane Conley’s desperate momentary mantra, her focal point, as she tried to keep her rifle steady and her heart from giving in to the petrifying fear attempting to make her useless. The surrounding darkness, and the monsters within it, threaten to destroy her own sanity.

Four armed men came up behind her from the hatch. The hunter quickly turned before realizing that she was the one who called them on the hand-held radio for support.

“Whoa, girl!” It’s the old guard, Barney. “It’s just us.”

She barely heard him over the terrifying wails of the Shadow Dead below. She knows the screams are fake and amplified through some mobile sound system for the sole purpose of distraction and hiding their movements, but that does little to diminish how unnerved she is by their artificial death chants. The hunter lowered her rifle slightly and nodded.

With a tightly wrinkled face, as though he just tasted something foul, Barney stared from the frightened girl, to Tony, Bear and that strange young lad, Nine, standing near the bonfire. He tried to get his old eyes to focus but the fire light and smoke are making it hard for him to see. But he felt it. Death was coming. “You see them yet?”

She’s already turned back toward the cliff side, watching for anything climbing up behind them, no matter how unlikely. “Not yet,” she said. “They’re fucking with us… and it’s working.”

Barney signaled the other three men to join Tony. He moved over beside Diane, his own rifle raised. “Breathe easy, girl. Just remember that they’re still men. And we own the higher ground. Those fuckers down there know it, too.”

Diane frowned. “I’ve never been more terrified in all my life. Just don’t tell the others. They need me to be strong.”

“It’s okay to be scared, girl.” Barney stared down into the wilderness abyss. “I’ve seen plenty of shit in my day to be scared about—present shit included—but it all amounts to the same thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Take a moment to let it in… get a feel for all that fear. Then, picture it like the ugliest man you’ve ever seen, all naked with blubbery skin falling all over the place.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Exactly. Disgusting and smooching all up on you… getting inside you, too. Can you feel that nasty fat pig of fear, girl?”

“Yes.”

“Well, he’s a nasty old dog, plain and simple… and he’s always the same. Now that you’ve had a taste of that shit, shut that disgusting fuck down and don’t let him near you again. Fear’s nothing but a nasty bugger trying to put his paws down the front of your pants after you’ve had one too many-”

“I think I got it, Barney… and… thanks. I needed that… minus the visuals.”

Barney laughed. “Well, as long as it gets the job done. You okay now?”

Diane nodded.

“I’ll just stand here with you until these Halloween freaks either go away or decide to come up and dance.”

(…Diane Carol Conley, dead at age 20, of Ashtabula County, former farmer…)
(…Barney Wilson McGee, dead at age 69, of Cuyahoga County, former US Army veteran…)

~~~

Tony Marcuchi stared down the narrow path, waiting for the attack that doesn’t come. He’s too angry to let the fear in. He’s frustrated in himself for failing at so many things of late that all he wants now is to take it all out on something. Come on, fuckers! Either kill us and be done with it… or go the hell away!

“Why are they doing this?” the trembling young man asked from Tony’s left. “I mean, isn’t there enough bad shit in the world now without going out of the way to make it worse?”

Tony smiled. “I hear you, Nine.” As an afterthought he added, “Look, you don’t have to do this. Go back with Diane and get somewhere safe.”

“And where would that be? I’d rather make my stand here than hide in a hole and hope these things don’t get in.” He looked back at Diane. “She won’t leave the fight no matter how scared she is right now. How could I do any less? I may not be much of a fighter, like the rest of you, but I’ll be damned if I go hide while she fights for us.”

Tony frowned. “When they come… it’s going to get ugly. People are going to die.”

Nine laughed. “Well, then you’ll need all the luck you can get right now. In case you haven’t heard, I’m Mr. Lucky.”

“That you are,” Tony said.

In an unusual move by the biggest man any of them had ever seen, Logan’s man, the one they call Bear, reached around from Tony’s right and rubbed the top of Nine’s head… for luck.

The three men who came up with Barney took up fighting positions near the others.

Tony nodded at them appreciatively.

They nodded back sheepishly, guns raised, obviously disturbed by the animalistic war cries coming from below. They are all Logan’s men, the ones who joined Lannister’s uprising, now desiring to find some way to make up for their mistakes. When they saw the zombified scouting party tied to the trees and Lannister’s bloody head on a pole, they suddenly looked like children who have just seen the boogeyman.

Tony saw the terror on their faces, the hopelessness filling their eyes. He’d seen enough. He stepped forward to the edge of the path, took a deep breath and shouted, “Alright, enough of your bullshit! Do you hear me? Attack and get it over with, or fucking turn around and leave! Either way, stop with the games because we’ve all had our fill! I don’t care what you are… Shadow Dead or just a bunch of cowards hiding in the trees… doesn’t matter to me. I’ve faced your bullshit before and I’ll face it again! So, come on up and we’ll settle this as men… if you still remember how to act like fucking MEN!”

Just then, the monstrous cries ceased. The woods went silent.

(…Tony Joseph Marcuchi, dead at age 32, of Ashtabula County, former nightclub bouncer…)
(…Seymour Simon Patterson, a.k.a. Nine Lives, dead at age 18, of Ashtabula County, former musician…)
(…Bill Walter Stevenson, a.k.a. Bear, dead at age 42, from Cuyahoga County, former fisherman…)
(…Fred Wally Harris, dead at age 45, of Cuyahoga County, former machinist…)
(…Abraham John Spinner, dead at age 38, of Lake County, former construction worker…)
(…John Lee Turner, dead at age 33, of Geauga County, former tattoo artist…)

~~~

“Hurry up, Janice! I’ve got the damn heavy end of this thing, for crying out loud.” Terry Collins, pumped up on adrenaline and the compound’s version of coffee, was out of breath and sweating profusely when his table carrying partner dropped her end of one of the long cafeteria tables just within the back hallway.

Janice Rodney, a small but muscular woman, shot the out-of-shape man a dirty look. “Terry! Slow the hell down! These tables are heavy.”

From all around them, people were rushing up and down the hallway with weapons and ammunition. There were several others also moving tables ahead of them into the halls to help fortify improvised fighting positions. No one dared stop for a second to consider what it would mean if the madmen topside made it into the hatch. Most were still disorientated from being roused out of sleep and rushed into panic mode. All anyone knew was that the Shadow Dead had finally arrived, and that translated, via the community grapevine, into:

We’re all dead if even one of them makes it down here.

“I’m sorry, Janice.” Terry put his hands on his knees and took a deep breath. “I’m just… you know… pretty freaked out right now.”

She smiled. “I got it. Just don’t have a heart attack, okay? I’m sure Dr. Cooper doesn’t need the extra worry.”

Terry waved his hand in submission and gave her his best ‘everything will be alright’ face… unsuccessfully.

“You okay?” she asked.

“I’m gonna have to be.” He bent over to pick up his end of the table. “Let’s just put one foot in front of the other and try not to think about the rest. Deal?”

“Sounds good to me,” Janice said.

“You ready?”

Janice picked up her end of the table in response. They turned left down the hall, toward the hatch access barricade.

(…Terry Francis Collins, dead at age 52, of Ashtabula County, former truck driver…)
(…Janice Pamela Rodney, dead at age 33, of Lake County, former yoga instructor…)

~~~

Logan McCalister was assigned to oversee defenses near the hatch. While community members hustled to their positions, looking unsure of themselves while holding cold steel, others tried to maneuver around them and set up whatever they could find to reinforce several barricaded positions. The tension was high as people started yelling at each other, acting out their overstressed emotional states.

The preacher stepped in among them, carrying a rifle slung around his shoulder and a hand-held radio in his hand. “Brothers, sisters! Take heart!” he called out. “Please… don’t give these evil men what they want. They are trying to scare us into submission and cause us to cower in the darkness and turn on each other. We are strong! We are a force to be reckoned with, standing as one against those who would try and claim our lives! Have we overcome so much just to lie down and wait for death? I say not!”

Some were encouraged by the preacher’s words. Others still looked confused and terrified.

“We’re not soldiers, preacher,” an older man named Mark Oswald said. “Sure, we’ve had some training on how to shoot these guns… but that doesn’t make us ready for those… assassins… outside! We’ve all heard the stories. The Shadow Dead are deadly. They’re not like fighting the dead… these are trained killers we’re talking about!”

Others nodded in agreement.

“We should commit ourselves to God,” a respected older woman named Cynthia Davis said. She was one of the quietest members of their community, and most listened when she finally had something to say. “Instead of fighting and guns and bloodshed… we should go wait in Cubicle City, talk this out like reasonable human beings, and pray for guidance.”

Cynthia’s words appealed to several who did not want to stand and face the Shadow Dead. Others mocked her words and called it cowardice.

“Fuck all that!” a burly man named Bernard Ferguson shouted. “I say we fight! We have the numbers, the guns, and all we need is a little bit of courage!”

Fewer people voiced their approval while others shouted back, stating that fighting was plain suicide.

Logan’s voice carried over the noise. “God will help us defeat this enemy! He will deliver them into our hands… can you say, ‘Amen’?”

Several voiced their approval.

“We have each other and we have the promises of God, brothers and sisters,” Logan continued. “We are what is left of the world, the world that once believed in love, hope, faith. Neither the dead nor the living will succeed against us if we but hold on to one another, cleave unto God, and believe that we will survive this evil night, like all the ones that came before. What are the Shadow Dead? What are they in comparison to our united heart, forming a tight fist of resistance against the darkness? I say we stand! We stand together! We stand with God! And we show these… shadow things… we show these mother-fuckers that they cannot triumph in our collective light!”

The community members started cheering.

Logan needed their emotions on fire, and as far from afraid as possible. He silently thanked God for the boldness surfacing from his own fear and uncertainty, while continuing to pray, not for victory, but for mercy… and a chance to survive the night against what was certainly an overwhelming and cunning adversary.

(…Mark Louis Oswald, dead at age 48, of Lake County, former business consultant…)
(…Cynthia Donna Davis, dead at age 62, of Geauga County, former secretary…)
(…Bernard Harold Ferguson, dead at age 42, of Ashtabula County, former sales executive…)
(…Logan Peter McCalister, dead at age 42, of Cuyahoga County, former minister…)

~~~

Dr. Albert Cooper was trying to steady his shaking hands while stuffing a backpack full of as much medical supplies as he could carry and still function effectively as the community’s only doctor turned medic. He knew how bad circumstances might become if the lunatics outside made it down here and the thought of being thrown into a ‘mass casualties’ situation made his face turn pale. He stopped and stared across the clinic at Meredith. The older woman stood at the clinic door, her newly assigned holstered handgun placed on a small metal table within easy reach. Coop knew she would not hesitate to use the weapon, if it came down to it, but until that time came, Meredith would not touch it. Stephen had stopped by thirty minutes ago to give her the weapon for their own protection, but the secondary unspoken intent was obvious.

Meredith Montgomery turned and stared into the plexiglass room where Megan sat strapped into her wheelchair, partially sedated to keep her calm.

The young half-dead woman with the mercury eyes stared back at her with a deep dark sadness. She was speaking more now as Megan’s understanding and memory began to surface. But the monster within was always there, trying to reclaim her. Megan didn’t care about what was happening outside. She had enough horrors within to deal with and she’d pleaded several times since, ‘coming back’, as Meredith was fond of saying, for the older woman to just put her down like the rabid animal she’d become.

Meredith had refused to let her give up as she’d continued to encourage the poor girl as best she could. But now, Meredith wondered how long she could keep Megan safe with the Shadow Dead approaching. Or worse, she worried about how she could keep the others safe from Megan should she get loose during an attack and what would happen if Megan’s savage side took over again. Meredith looked over at the gun. Yes, Stephen was trusting her to do what needed done if things got bad. Stephen knew that she would give her life for Megan, but he also knew that Megan could not be allowed to get loose, no matter what. Stephen had placed that sole responsibility on her.

“You okay?” Coop asked coming over.

Meredith turned to him and smiled. “Yes… I’m just… my mind is all over the place.”

“Understandable,” the older man said, putting on his backpack and trying to get comfortable. “I’m far too old to be playing wartime medic, running across the frontlines to patch up souls.”

“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” she added.

Coop nodded and turned to look at Megan. “Does she… does she understand what’s happening?”

Meredith frowned with a sigh. “She understands that something bad is coming, but since she hasn’t asked, I didn’t see the point in giving her anything else to worry about. Megan’s got her own battle to deal with.”

Coop looked toward the gun and quickly averted his eyes. “You know… if those monsters get in…”

“I know,” Meredith said crossly. “If they get down here, it’s going to get crazy. You’ll have to go and help people, so I’ll stay here and… keep her safe.”

“You may have to leave her, Meredith. You know that… right?”

Meredith scowled at him. “I will do no such thing!”

Coop shook his head. “Damn, woman, I love you, but you need to stop being so stubborn! You need to consider the bigger picture.”

“And what’s that?”

Coop looked grave. “If those things get down here, there’s going to be a lot of death. They’re going to overwhelm us, rather quickly. You won’t be doing yourself or Megan any good trying to play hero.”

“I’ll move her to Cubicle City before it gets that bad. Isn’t that the plan? Everyone fall back for a last line of defense there?”

“Yes… but…”

“I know, I know, Coop. If we get cut off, I’ll handle it.”

Coop raised his eyebrows skeptically. “Promise me.”

“Promise you what?”

“You promise me that if there’s no time to get Megan out, that you’ll put that poor girl out of her misery and haul your ass to Cubicle City.”

“I can’t. I won’t!”

“You will!” Coop said. “Look, I don’t mean to be insensitive, but Megan’s still dangerous, not to mention, she’s already half-dead-”

“But she’s half-alive, too!”

Coop shook his head. “Promise me you’ll put your emotions in check, and use that gun, if it comes down to protecting yourself… and the rest of us. Last thing we need is another threat to worry about.”

“She’s not a threat!”

Cooper looked over at the girl in the wheelchair. “Not yet… but you know what might happen if she gets loose. Promise me.”

Meredith folded her arms defiantly. “I’ll… consider it. Now go do something useful before you get me really upset.”

Coop laughed and kissed her on the cheek. “I’m going to make my rounds and come right back.” He wisely departed to let her cool off.

“He’s… he’s right,” came a weak voice from the observation room.

Meredith turned and shook her head, realizing that they’d left the vents open, allowing Megan to hear their conversation. “I’m sorry, honey. You weren’t supposed to hear any of that.”

Megan’s head twitched. She let out a frustrated growl, trying to maintain control. “Not… not for me,” she said.

Meredith moved closer. “What was that?”

Megan stared hard at the older woman. “I’m… I’m dead already. You can’t risk your life for me… or… or anyone else’s. He’s right. If I… If I get loose… I’ll… I’ll hurt someone… I’ll… I’ll… FEED!”

Meredith stepped back. “It won’t come to that.”

“Shoot me.”

“What?”

“You… you will shoot me… in the head. If the monsters get in… shoot me.”

“No!”

Megan howled in frustration, struggling against her restraints and almost toppling the wheelchair.

Meredith raised her hands. “Calm down, honey! I don’t want to sedate you again.”

Megan stopped suddenly, giving Meredith a predator’s glare causing the older woman to shutter. “If… if you don’t shoot me… when the monsters come… I’ll kill you first… then I’ll kill all the rest.”

“No… no you won’t,” Meredith said. “You’ve more control than that. I know you do. We’ve been working so hard on-”

Megan growled again and said, “I… I will choose… choose to let the monster loose… make you… shoot me… before I let you… let you save me!”

Meredith didn’t know what to say. Finally, her shoulders sank. “Okay,” she whispered. “If it gets bad down here… I’ll…”

“SHOOT ME!” Megan screamed.

“Yes,” Meredith relented with a heavy sigh. “I’ll do it. I will… shoot you.”

(…Albert Eugene Cooper, dead at age 60, of Stark County, former physician…)
(…Meredith… Meredith Montgomery, dead at age 50, of Lake County, former fortune teller…)

~~~

Stephen Eddington, leader of the Wasteland Community, stood in the center of the large control room surrounded by frantic activity. Every available man and woman who was competent enough to shoot a firearm was either with him, preparing to defend the back hallway centered around the mysterious door, or they were with Logan, setting up defenses around the hatch entranceway into the compound at the intersecting hallway just beyond the clinic.

His people were instructed to set up fighting positions on both ends of the hall, in front of the Cubicle City entrance and in front of the clinic, and directly within the control room, which provided a clear field of fire toward the only door in the compound without a handle, access panel, or any other means to gain entry. Since Meredith still refused to volunteer any information about the door, Stephen was left to assume that the Shadow Dead might use it to gain entry into the underground facility.

Stephen stared at the mystery door, trying to shut out the fear and a multitude of frightening possibilities, should the enemy make it inside. Instead, he thought of Nicole.

How long have you known? he thought. How long have you known that these monsters were coming… and how much more were you hiding from me? Since waking in a storeroom with no knowledge as to how he got there, and then finding Nicole’s diary, followed by the Shadow Dead arrival, Stephen’s world had lost all semblance of sane. He’d read enough from Nicole’s notebook to discover that the woman he’d once murdered and then fell in love with, was not a woman at all. And when and if they survived the night, he’d have to either confront this thing posing as Nicole and find out the truth… or accept the fact that he was a lunatic, directly involved in several deaths that were made to look like suicides by his or Nicole’s hand. He shook all thoughts of Nicole away, understanding that none of it mattered now. The Shadow Dead were here. Gina was long gone. And it was up to him to save these people… or die trying.

A young woman, carrying several loaded rifle magazines, accidentally bumped into him, dropping most of her ammunition. “Shit!” she cried out, immediately bending over to pick up the magazines. “I’m sorry… Sir. I was distracted.”

Stephen bent down to help the young woman with the long braided blond hair. He recognized her. “Your name is April, right?”

The woman’s faced turned red with embarrassment as she scrambled to pick up her load. “Yes, Sir. I’m sorry for being so damn clumsy.”

April Baxter was one of the youngest members of their community. “Stop calling me, Sir, and I’ll overlook the clumsiness,” he said with a smile.

April laughed. “Deal.” She stood up with an arm full of magazines.

“If I’m correct,” he said, before she could leave. “Gina trained you herself. Said that you were one of her most promising students and that you were a natural with the handgun.”

April looked down. “I’m an okay shot. That’s why I insisted on being out here and not hiding in Cubicle City with those… with the others.” She said the last with disdain.

Stephen shook his head at the young girl. “How old are you? Seventeen? Eighteen?”

“Sixteen,” she corrected, and then quickly added, “But like you said, I’m a good shooter… so please… don’t hold it over my head, okay? I want to fight. You need me.”

Stephen held up his hands. “Relax. I’m not going to send you away. We need every decent shot we can get. I just wish… hell… I shouldn’t be sending young girls to fight monsters. You should be attending proms and going out on dates.”

April didn’t know how to respond.

Stephen, sensing the awkwardness caused by his remarks, nodded, and said, “Sorry, soldier. Carry on.”

“Yes, Sir… I mean… shit… sorry.”

Stephen laughed. “Just do me a favor, April.”

She waited.

“If they get in. Don’t miss. I… just don’t miss.”

April let loose a wicked smile. “I won’t.” She quickly departed.

Stephen watched her rush off with a heavy heart as he finished to himself, “Don’t miss, April. I don’t want to bury a sixteen-year-old in the morning.”

Stephen’s radio chirped to life, causing him to jump.

“Stephen, are you there?”

It was Diane.

Stephen removed the hand-held radio from his belt and transmitted. “Yes, I’m here. Is everything okay up there? Do you need more people?”

“Stephen… the woods… the woods have gone silent.”

He could hear the fear in her voice. “Are they… attacking?’

There was a long pause. Finally, Diane answered, “Nothing, Stephen. They’re doing nothing. We can’t hear a damn thing anymore. The howls were terrifying… but all this silence is ten times worse.”

“Tell Tony to come back down,” he transmitted. “I don’t like that you’re all alone out there.”

“Tony won’t budge,” she said. “He believes we have the advantage as long as we don’t give up the higher ground.”

“I copy. Just keep us informed. We’re getting ready down here.”

Diane finished, “We’ll do what we can to stop them. Maybe they’ve all turned around and-”

Diane’s transmission was cut off.

“Diane, are you still there?” Stephen was gripping the radio so hard his hand shook. “Diane?”

“Stephen, I think we need to assume the worst.” This time it was Logan, who was monitoring the radio traffic on his own radio.

Stephen nodded at the radio and transmitted, “Copy, Logan. Get your people ready.”

It’s beginning… fuck me… this is really happening!

“Stephen, go with God, my friend, and don’t lose heart. We will stand and face this evil together.”

“Thank you, Logan,” Stephen said. “Please pray to your God for our friends topside. I think they’re going to need it.”

“Will do, little brother.”

Stephen put the radio back on his belt and moved in front of his defenders. “Get ready, everyone,” he said, staring into their tired, confused, and frightened faces. “We’ve lost communications with our friends outside. But that doesn’t mean they’re gone. I know that they’ll fight for us with everything they’ve got! We will do the same down here. We will survive this because we fight for each other!”

(…April Josephine Baxter, dead at age 16, of Lake County, former Highschool student…)
(…Stephen William Eddington, dead at age 32, of Lake County, former history teacher…)

~~~

Next Episode 39-2

Previous Episode 38-6

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 39-1: Obituaries” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. 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.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Gylion says:

    And so it begins.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Don’t Feed the Dark by Scott Scherr (RESUMING) […]

    Like

Comments? I love to read them

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s