~~~

Tony, Nine and Abraham crouched down in front of the fire, straining their eyes to catch any sudden movements from the base of the path below.

“What the hell are they doing?” Nine whispered nervously.

Tony shook his head.

“They’re trying to lull us to sleep. Make us drop our guard,” Abraham suggested.

It had been five minutes since the woods went silent. The wind brushed against the trees. They could hear or see nothing else. They all knew that these deranged men could blend into the night and the silence was working quickly to unravel them psychologically.

Tony turned to Bear, who was trying to use his height advantage to peer over and down the north side of the cliff and detect the enemy. “Stay low, big guy,” Tony cautioned.

Bear turned and nodded, attempting to make himself smaller.

Tony turned toward the other two sentries who were staring around nervously with their fingers resting on the triggers of their rifles. They looked like they were ready to open fire on their own shadows. “The fire lights us up,” he told them, trying to keep them calm. “We don’t need those fuckers knowing our numbers. Try to stay behind the fire and closer to wall.”

“This is crazy, Tony,” Fred said. “Do you really think we can keep them from getting up here?”

“The pass is all they have, and they know it,” Tony said. “If they charge, we have them where we can see them. The path is narrow enough to serve as a bottleneck straight up to us.”

“We’ll mow ‘em down, like ducks in a fuckin’ row,” John reminded his nervous partner, patting him hard on the back to get his mind off the terror of what they couldn’t see.

“John’s right,” Tony said. “They can’t get up here without exposing themselves. We can hold this position. Trust that, and don’t let these sneaky bastards get inside your head.”

Fred nodded.

“Still clear, Tony,” Nine said.

Tony nodded and called back to Diane who was standing directly in front of the small alcove in the rock where she and Barney guarded the hatch. “Diane, let Stephen know what’s going on.”

She nodded and began transmitting on her hand-held radio. “Stephen… the woods… the woods have gone silent.”

There was a brief pause of static. Stephen’s voice came over, “Are they… attacking?’

After a longer pause, 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,” Stephen transmitted. “I don’t like that you’re all alone out there.”

Tony met Diane’s hopeful gaze. He shook his head. “We won’t give us the pass.”

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

“I copy,” Stephen responded. “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-”

Before she could finish, Barney tackled her hard to the ground, causing Diane to lose her grip on the radio as it slid off the cliff.

“What the fuck, Barn-” she started to cry out as the old veteran covered her with his body from several dark objects that struck rock and fell where they were just standing.

“We’re under attack!” she heard Abraham yell. She turned and watched her people scramble from several more dark objects striking the ground around the fire.

“Arrows, girl,” Barney said, rolling off the winded hunter. “They’ve got fuckin’ archers!” The old soldier started crawling toward the cliff, gun out in front, as he tried to position himself to find a target.

Diane immediately turned to find Nine as another volley of dark shafts descended upon their position. One arrow struck the dirt three feet from her face. Time to move… now!

Someone started firing near the pass.

She could hear Tony yelling at the others to find cover.

Diane got to her feet and started toward the fire, shielding her head with her rifle, fearing what felt like a black rain of death as more arrows fell from the sky all around her.

Everyone was in panic mode as she heard more gunfire from the other side of the fire. Before she could make it to Nine’s position, Diane’s path was blocked as Bear stumbled back in front of her and struck the rock wall. She fell backwards to avoid the big man and then noticed four black shafts sticking out of the dying man’s chest.

“Fuck me!” she yelled out as Bear turned to look at her before sliding down the wall in a massive heap.

“Man down!” Barney yelled out from behind her as he started to drag Diane away from Bear’s position.

More arrows of death struck the wall.

“Tony! Nine!” she cried out. “We can’t get to you! Nine! Are… are you okay?”

More gunfire from the pass. Whoever was left was fighting like hell to keep their advantage… if only just avoiding death until the next volley of arrows.

Diane couldn’t look away from the big man, pierced, and looking like he’d just been pinned into the rock face. She could see Bear’s dead face in the half-light of the fire, blood pouring from his mouth and nose, eyes closed.

Barney stepped in front of her, blocking her view. “Get over it, girl! Death ‘ain’t finished with us yet!”

She shook off her horror and locked eyes with the old man. “Find me a fucking target, Barney.”

He nodded and pointed toward the cliff edge.

She started to crawl with Barney toward the edge. They needed to find the archers and take them out. Diane looked back toward the fire and froze. “Barney! Wait!”

The old man looked back. “What the fuck?”

Bear was standing back up, staring into the fire. Arrows continued to rain down all around him. One struck his left thigh. Another, his right shoulder, causing the big man to cry out… which sounded more like a growl.

The firelight gave away the truth.

Bear’s fierce yellow eyes became large with insatiable hunger. Bulging veins started to appear along the sides of his face.

“Fuck me!” Diane said. “He’s… he’s changed!”

“You mean… The Change… right?” Barney asked in disbelief. “How the hell is that possible?”

Before she could answer, Bear turned toward the shouting voices at the pass. “No,” she said. “They’ll never see him coming. Oh, God! NO!”

As the biggest yellow-eyed monster they’d ever seen started toward their friends, Diane got to her knees, arrows or no fucking arrows, and aimed her rifle at Bear’s back. She opened fire, trying to work her way up toward the back of the monster’s head, which was obscured by its large shoulder muscles.

She almost found her target.

Bear turned instead, taking Diane’s last shot in the neck. The enraged creature howled at them looking like a zombie version of the Incredible Hulk. It started to charge, arms wide, jaw dropped, eyes ablaze.

“Fuck!” Barney shouted, trying to aim with his rifle. His shots went wide, hitting everything but the gigantic monster’s head.

Diane steadied herself for one final shot as Bear lunged toward them. She put his forehead in her sights. Got you! Diane pulled the trigger.

Click

The rifle jammed.

Fuck! Diane rose to her feet, along with Barney, who continued to shoot at the brute, point-blank-range, but missing the vital organ.

They both raised their rifles in front like sticks against the charging brute who pushed them back toward the northern edge of the cliff. The big monster swung its massive arms at them in a final lunge, causing both Barney and Diane to fall over the edge. The charging creature lost its balance and fell forward over the edge with them.

~~~

“I hear rifle fire!” a young man named John Calloway called out from the hatch room. He continued to stare up the ladder, sweating profusely, his rifle raised up toward the hatch, half-expecting the Shadow Dead to rain down from above. “It sounds bad up there!”

“Just get ready to haul ass out of there if that damn thing opens!,” Logan yelled back from the hall.

John nodded, trying to put on a brave face.

The preacher moved among his defenders, trying to keep them calm and focused. Some stood behind their lunch-table barricades, trying to remember Gina’s lessons on effective shooting. Others took one look into the eyes of the fighter next to them, saw their own fear mirrored there, and began to silently pray or weep.

Logan could feel their terror, thick in the air, pressing down on all of them, as they waited their turn to be confronted with what sounded like a slaughter above.

He moved down the hall, picked up his radio and transmitted to Stephen, “It’s happening, little brother. We can hear the gunfire… a lot of it.”

After a long pause, Stephen responded, “Copy. We’re ready here. How about your people?”

Logan turned and found the wide-eyed faces of men and women, old and young, staring back at him as if just waiting for the order to run… run anywhere… and hide until this nightmare had passed.

Logan sighed heavily and called out, “I understand that you are all afraid, my brothers and sisters! I feel it, too—all that fear trying to tear us apart from the inside out. But just remember… we are not alone! If God stands for us who will stand against us? Amen?”

Some nodded and echoed back the affirmation.

“We can fight, or we can flee,” he continued. “We can run, hide and wait to be hunted down to death, or we can face the enemy and let them know that we won’t let them have us. Do you hear me? WE WILL NOT LET THEM HAVE US!”

This time, more people, encouraged by Logan’s stand, yelled back, more in defiance against their own fear than the hand of Death striking above.

“Logan?” Stephen came over the radio. “Are they ready?”

The preacher smiled at his defenders, silently praising God for giving them the courage they needed, and then transmitted, “Yes, little brother. We are ready.”

A loud popping sound echoed down the hall from behind them, past the cafeteria, coming from the storage wing of the facility.

No one had time to consider the loud sound as heads turned and the lights went out.

The sounds of shuffling feet and terrified murmurs filled the darkness all around Logan.

What fresh hell is this? he thought, reaching into his pants for a pocket flashlight.

Others were doing the same until a dozen frantic beams of light provided enough light to see.

Jeremy Lang, an older man with a healthy mane of hair that always hung over his eyes, found him and said, “Logan, that sounded like the main breaker being tripped.” Jeremy was considered one of the compound’s handymen.

Logan gave him a confused look. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” Jeremy looked around nervously and then whispered, “I’m saying that it sounds like someone went to the damn breaker box and manually shut the lights off.”

Logan’s eyes went wide. “Then that would mean…”

“…that they’re already inside,” Jeremy finished.

(…John Martin Calloway, dead at age 22, of Ashtabula County, former waiter…)
(…Jeremy James Lang, dead at age 48, of Cuyahoga County, former plumber…)

~~~

“Everyone… just stay calm!” Stephen yelled.

When the lights went out, Stephen almost lost control as his door guard unit started stepping over each other, thinking only of retreating to Cubicle City and believing that the Shadow Dead were already surrounding them in the darkness.

“We’re okay! Nothing’s happened!” Stephen retrieved his pocket flashlight and turned it on. “Anyone else with flashlights, get them out and start lighting up the area. You’ll see that we’re still safe.”

Four others with flashlights started lighting up every corner until the others calmed down.

“Josh,” Stephen said. “Are those emergency spotlights still in the armory?”

Josh Wellington, a tall man with blond hair, nodded. “Yeah… I think there’s three or four of them.”

“Go there quick and get them out here. Take Barry with you. No one goes anywhere alone.”

Another man with sweat pouring down his chubby red cheeks was breathing heavily. “Why me?” Barry Batista asked.

Stephen frowned. “It’s okay, Barry. We know the armory’s secure. We’ll be watching your backs from the control room. Just calm down before you pass out.”

Barry nodded, feeling foolish.

“The sooner we have this area lit up again, the better we’re all going to feel,” Stephen added with an encouraging laugh.

Both men, feeling relieved to have something to focus on, shared a flashlight and headed toward the armory.

As the others resumed their positions, Stephen was about to contact Logan. His radio chirped to life as Logan’s frantic voice came over first. “Little brother, you still there?”

“Yes, Logan, we’re fine. A little freaked out because of the lack of lights, but everything’s alright. Do you have-”

“Stephen, we think someone manually turned the power breaker off.”

Stephen couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He stepped away from his team to talk privately. “Logan, are you implying what I think you’re implying?”

“I can’t confirm it… but we can’t rule out the possibility.” Logan paused and finished, “The enemy may already be down here.”

Stephen suddenly felt his dim surroundings closing in on him, like a dark suffocating hand. If the Shadow Dead were already inside the compound, he had no idea what they would or could do to stop them. Stephen transmitted, “We need to know for sure, Logan.”

“Understood. We’re already investigating. I’ll call you back when-”

Just then, Stephen’s radio began to squeal, followed by the terrifying death moans of multiple monsters overlapping each other.

Stephen dropped his radio and gasped when he could still hear them, screaming loudly over the control room base radio console behind him.

Everyone heard the moaning maniacs and began to panic.

Shit! They’re jamming our radio traffic! How the hell- Stephen let the unfinished thought hang as a chilling realization struck him. If they can jam our radios… then they can monitor our traffic! They’ve been listening in this whole damn time! They know exactly where we are and what we’re doing!

Stephen rushed to the radio console and turned it off, stopping the Shadow Dead war cries from demoralizing them any further.

The defenders were talking frantically over each other, falling out of position and starting to scatter.

“Hold your positions!” Stephen commanded. “Get your shit together and calm down! You all hold your positions or so-help-me-God, I’ll kill you myself!”

Stephen’s fire got their attention.

“They’re trying to get into our heads… and it’s working!” Stephen started to pace. “These sick human beings lived here long before we ever took over, so yes… they know how to hack into our communications. But if this psychological bullshit is the best they’ve got… then… then maybe they’re afraid of us! Hell… they already know we have all their guns, right?”

The others started nodding their heads.

“Just… please… I beg you… don’t run off and leave us undefended. I know this is terrifying shit, but we need to hold the line and keep these things out. Agreed?”

Once more, Stephen managed to keep them together. Terrified or not, they began to relocate back into their fighting positions.

Stephen looked down and found his worthless radio. He was worried about Logan. Please, God, let him be wrong. Maybe it was just a power surge that knocked out the lights.

From behind them, down the secondary hallway leading into the cafeteria, they all heard a woman’s scream reverberating in the darkness… and then gunfire.

(…Josh Jacob Wellington, dead at age 34, of Lake County, former swimming instructor…)
(…Barry William Batista, dead at age 48, of Geauga County, former business executive…)

~~~

Next Episode 39-4

Previous Episode 39-3

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 39-3: 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.

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Comments
  1. Gylion says:

    And down they go. Nice cliff :D .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim says:

    This story is going down the toilet. Getting skaughtered by near invincible. All knowing monsters? This is what zombie fiction fans want? Way to wreck it.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Hello Tim, and welcome to The Dark. If I could ask you to hold off judgment until the end of the chapter you may discover that the situation is not entirely what it appears to be. Also, you do know that the Shadow Dead aren’t really monsters… right?

      Like

    • Gylion says:

      First: They are super soldiers in costumes. Second: Yes we want to see everyone die (Atleast after Frank died D:). No seriously killing off most of those filler characters is exactly what should happen in any horror novel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. nashmcgowan says:

    The obit sections are creepy AF Scott. Once again, I have no idea where you’re going but I’m having fun getting there.
    .

    Liked by 1 person

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