~~~

The sunrise exploded beneath the overcast grey clouds, appearing to set them on fire from beneath. It was as if the coming day was attempting to break free of the gloom which had settled over the town of Orwell. But like the only living survivors on the ground, who shared an intense desire to break free, the daylight was soon swallowed up by monotonous grey, keeping the light to a minimum, much like the hope of those below.

Nine and Diane sat together and held each other close on the rooftop, watching the light extinguish to the east and savoring the wondrous distraction, before having to return to the reality of their third morning of imprisonment within the library.

Nine closed his eyes and tried to shut out the collective low hum of the dead from the streets. During morning and evening twilight, they seemed… calmer… distracted by something other than their continuous need to rip the living apart, driven by an insatiable hunger that even the dead could not understand.

“What are you thinking about?” Diane asked, pulling the young man in closer.

Nine smiled and opened his eyes. He looked at the beautiful brown-haired woman wrapped in his favorite jean jacket. He marveled at how twilight, much look moonlight, magnified a person’s aura, rather than exposing every harsh blemish and detail normal light often did. Her long hair was cascading over her shoulders as a light breeze blew from behind them. He loved it when she wore her hair down. It made her more vulnerable, and less guarded—honest. He could feel the warmth of her body, her steady heartbeat, her gentle breathing on his neck. “Not a damn thing,” he finally said. “I’m just enjoying… this.”

She cocked her head up toward him and smiled.

“There’s just moments that need to be appreciated without ruining them with inadequate words.”

“Now that coming out of you is surprising,” she teased.

He laughed. “You know what I mean.”

“Of course.”

A comfortable moment of silence passed between them.

“I love you, Diane Conley.”

For a moment, he felt her tense up, and then relax, as if winning some war within herself. He could feel her heartbeat increase rapidly. Nine knew he was taking a risk by saying the words, but he meant them. And if this place was where they would meet their end together, and this moment was the last they might have that was untainted by all the rest, then he wanted to make it count. No more bullshit.

And then she said them. “I love you… Seymour Patterson.”

He winced a little, hearing his real name, the one he despised from a childhood loaded with incessant bullying. But the words that came before it were like gold rain washing away the pain of the past. When the world he sprung from had come to an abrupt end, he had vowed to let that name die, and all those memories, die with it, opting for the nickname his brother had given him, instead. He had told only Diane his real name and she vowed never to reveal it. Now that’s trust, he had told her afterwards.

Diane stared at him sheepishly. Her eyes clearly showing how hard it was to reach the point of saying those words, as hard as it was for him to hear that old name.

But some moments, in order to make them genuine, required all pretense to disappear.

She raised her eyebrows expectantly.

He lightly laughed, and then leaned in and kissed her.

Gold.

They stayed there, completing the end of their evening watch, surrounded by a sea of monsters below and an oppressive dark grey hand pushing down on them from above… and made love to each other.

Among the many incredible things they had all been forced to believe since The Change, a second sunrise in the same morning, though as brief as the first, was one Nine and Diane embraced with a passion—a hunger—that burned with more intensity than the hunger of the dead.

~~~

Tony woke just before dawn and started his third morning the same way he approached the previous two. He let out an exhausted heavy sigh as if dreaming was now better than living. He sluggishly got dressed, walked upstairs, being mindful not to wake the others, and stopped at the same large library window facing south toward the roadway out of Orwell. Unlike the first two mornings, when he still possessed a hint of hopeful expectation that the dead would be gone, Tony simply stared and frowned at the massive horde of dark, disfigured faces and mangled forms, pressed together like zealous fans at a rock concert trying to get to the front of the stage.

Why won’t they just… leave! he thought in frustration. Do they just fucking expect us to open the damn door and invite them in to eat? He slammed his fist on the window sill causing a few tortured faces to stare up at him eagerly, like well-behaved dogs expectantly waiting to be thrown a bone. “Fuck all of you,” he hissed, and then looked up past the mob toward the road south, hoping once again to find some solution that eluded him.

“Good morning.”

Tony closed his eyes and shook his head. It was the archer, again, always catching him off-guard at his finest moments. He turned and saw Alysa standing near the stairwell, close enough to keep an eye on him, but at a respectable distance, until he invited her over.

“Still sleeping through the night, I see,” he joked.

“I slept… some,” she said with a smile. “May I join you?”

Tony half-heartedly waved her over toward a couple of chairs that had become their morning spot to talk about all things pointless.

They sat down across from each other, but away from the window.

Alysa laid her bow across her lap and studied the stressed-out man rubbing sleep from his eyes.

He lurched over in the small chair, which was much too big for his broad frame, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands together. He laughed lightly at Alysa’s calm and cool demeanor. “Nothing ever rattles you, does it?”

She raised an eyebrow at him, uncertain of the question.

“You seem to thrive in these life-or-death situations,” he clarified. “Me, on the other hand, I’m doing all I can not to rush out the front door and strangle the first dead-head I see.”

Alysa nodded with a half-smile. “It’s hard to do nothing,” she said thoughtfully. “Or rather, it’s hard to know what to do when there’s nothing to do.”

“You sound like every shitty fortune cookie I’ve ever received when you talk like that,” he joked.

She tried again. “What I’m trying to say is that you’re taking on too much. This isn’t your fault or your responsibility. Not alone, anyway. It’s keeping you from thinking clearly.”

Tony sighed. “We are completely surrounded by over a thousand dead things that want to consume us, and so far, it looks like they’re here to stay. We’re the best meal in town… apparently.”

“Actually, it’s probably closer to fifteen hundred by now, since we drew in more from the surrounding areas with our gunfire rescuing the children,” she said the last word with disdain. “And I’m sure that number increases daily.”

“Gee, thanks for that.”

“Just keeping it real.”

“And for the record, I wouldn’t change a thing. These children are our family now. You were wrong for not waking me immediately the moment Mark and Wendy left. And why was that again?”

Alysa didn’t appreciate the deflection. “They were… a liability. I told them to let Matthew go, that he was already desiring death, but they went after him anyway. Since they all wanted to die so eagerly, why should I risk the rest of you for their folly?”

“Because it wasn’t your damn call to make!” Tony barked.

Alysa’s temper was staring to rise, but she wisely remained silent, not wanting to incite a bull.

“Look, they’re young, stupid, and inexperienced, I’ll give you that. Matthew… he was troubled… I won’t pretend to understand what he did, letting all those things loose, and then…” Tony stopped himself, trying not to picture that gruesome death described by Wendy and Mark. “None of them have ever faced these kinds of horrors before. They’ve been sheltered for most of it. It’s a lot to digest all at once. But we’ve all been there. They just need more time to adjust… to learn.”

“Meanwhile, two of them are already dead. And Matthew created this mess for the rest of us,” Alysa defended. “I did what I did to protect us. They made their own decision. It wasn’t my place to stop them… but I wasn’t going to let them get the rest of you killed, too.”

“You still don’t get it,” Tony said. “They’re just kids! They need us, even when they make the wrong call. Haven’t you ever had adults in your life that bailed you out of all the stupid shit you did as a teen?”

Alysa said nothing.

“Yes, they shouldn’t have gone after Matthew, not alone, at least. But your hesitation to tell me what they were doing cost us time. Perhaps the outcome would’ve been different-” he stopped himself and averted his eyes.

“So, you’re blaming me for Matthew’s death? Am I also responsible for this siege, as well?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to. Your eyes said enough.”

He looked at her and sternly said, “I’m not blaming you for what went down. But I am pissed at you for making a decision that wasn’t yours to make.”

The archer sighed. “Fair enough. What’s done is done. None of this helps our present-”

“Don’t do it again,” Tony warned.

Alysa saw the uncompromising look in Tony’s eyes and nodded. “I apologize… for not telling you sooner. You’re right. Not my call. Can we move on now, or would you like me to leave the group?”

“Stop being so dramatic,” Tony said.

“I’m serious,” she said, standing up. “If you want me out. I’ll leave. In my Order, if one of us overstepped, like I did with you, our death was immediate. I’ll walk out the front door and try to lure the dead away. Maybe I can hold them off long enough for the rest of you-”

“Alysa?”

“Yes.”

“Shut the hell up. You’re not one of them. You’re one of us. You’re family, too. We’ve all made mistakes, and I’m sure we’ll make more. But we do it together. If we can’t learn to forgive each other, then none of this surviving bullshit will matter. We might as well just kill each other off and save a whole hell of a lot of time.”

She sat back down.

“You made a bad call. Just don’t do it again. I already know I can count on you in a fight… but I need to know that you have my back, even when the fight goes south. Do you understand that?”

Alysa thought about it. “Yes. I think I understand.”

“Good. Now, what were you saying? You think I’m taking on too much?”

Alysa smiled. “Yes. And that you can’t do it alone. Apparently, I needed to hear that, too.”

Tony laughed and stood up. He stared out the window and said, “Okay, I’ll share the load with you. I’m stumped for ideas anyway. I’m convinced that we can’t wait these fuckers out. I think they’re here to stay. Would you agree with that?”

Alysa nodded. “I believe you are correct. The one thing the dead have in their favor, and in abundance, is persistence. They’ve caught our scent—our blood—and they won’t leave until they have it.”

Tony nodded. “Yeah. That leaves us with two choices. One, we fight our way out. Perhaps we can catch them by surprise and punch a hole through their ranks enough for some of us to get out, but people are going to die. I’m certain of it.”

“Agreed.”

“Option number 2: We sit tight and wait this out for as long as it takes, or until Jim’s supplies run out. I’ve seen what the Army’s left behind. It’s considerable—meant to sustain the entire town. There’s enough supplies to keep us all alive for months, maybe a couple of years. So, we could roll the dice on time, maybe the dead find something else to chase, maybe the world somehow rights itself by then… who knows. Or, maybe we all just slowly go crazy like Jim and forget that the dead are even real. What do you think?”

Alysa smiled. “I don’t think you or I would last a week like that. Maybe the others, for a time, but not us.”

Tony gave her a hard look. “Yeah, you’re right. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Go on,” she said.

“You and I… I don’t know… we could, break out of here together, but keep the others out of it. That way, if shit goes badly, everyone else gets to live for a while. I was thinking we could start with-”

Alysa laughed lightly.

“What is it?”

“You asked if we were thinking about the same thing… apparently not.”

Tony gave her a puzzled look.

“I originally came up here to talk with you about your stress, and how you didn’t have to deal with it alone. I know it’s tough to lead… and to know what to do when there’s nothing to do.”

“Yes, the fortune cookie crap, I remember. Did I miss something?”

Alysa put down her bow. “While patrolling earlier, I went to check on Diane and Nine on the roof. They had found a… creative… means to deal with the present situation that I thought might help you as well.”

“And what’s that?”

Alysa smiled, stood up, and then started unbuttoning her pants.

“Umm…” Tony was completely caught off guard.

The archer quickly pulled her pants all the way down to her ankles, revealing her long slender dark legs and the fact that she wore no underwear.

“Whoa… what’s this?” Tony took a step back.

She put her hands to her sides, confused. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Well… yeah… but…” Tony was getting flustered. He couldn’t stop staring at her bare, shaved lower regions. Well, there’s no doubting her true hair color now, he thought nervously, and then looked toward the window.

“Do you find me… unattractive?” Alysa asked, stepping out of her pants.

“No… that’s not it,” Tony said. “Please… just… put your clothes back on.”

And then she understood. She took a step forward. “There’s no need to feel the usual romantic obligations associated with sex during times like this. It is not uncommon, especially during times of prolonged warfare, for soldiers to seek… physical comfort… from one another. Nine and Diane reminded me of this fact.”

Tony stepped back, bumping into a library shelf. “It’s not that… and… I do find you attractive…”

She took another step forward, and reached down to remove her top. “I never had the opportunity or the need, myself… but there were some in my Order who often fucked before battles. And, although it’s not necessary, I also find you physically attractive-”

“Okay… just stop!” Tony held his arms out, keeping the mostly nude Shadow Dead just out of reach.

She stopped removing her shirt, looking confused. “Do you prefer… men?”

“No! God, no!” Tony took a deep breath. “I’m… I’m with someone,” he said. “Or… I was. Doesn’t matter. This can’t happen… okay? It’s not you… it’s me.”

Alysa studied Tony’s pained expression and then nodded. She turned around to retrieve her pants, bending over to reveal her well-rounded buttocks.

Marcuchi, you are one stupid son-of-a-bitch, he scolded himself, forcing himself to look elsewhere again.

“I understand now,” Alysa said, pulling up her pants. “You are in a prison of another kind.” She turned around. “Is she the one who holds you back from your true potential?”

Tony felt backhanded by her words. “You don’t ever stop, do you? You just keep pushing.”

She picked up her bow. “Sorry. You are not the first to reject me in this way. I may be a warrior, but I’m still a woman… who apparently doesn’t know how to please a man.”

Tony sighed. “Again, it’s not you, Alysa. I think you’re… stunning.” You’re an idiot. He tried again. “What I mean is… I would love to… I mean… shit… but I can’t.”

She gave him her half smile and said, “Well… whoever she is, she doesn’t deserve you. I’d wager that she has done nothing but cause you pain and heartache.”

Tony wisely said nothing.

“Does your prison have a name?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve seen me naked. I think you owe me that much.”

“Her name’s Gina.”

“Do you love this… Gina?”

“I don’t know anymore. I loved her once. But she’s different now.”

“So, you love the idea of Gina?”

Tony said nothing.

Alysa shook her head. “We live in a different world today, Tony. Up is down, down is up, and love… well, love… is a ridiculous ‘idea’ that does nothing but get people killed.”

“I don’t believe that.” Tony stepped forward, challengingly. “Love is the only thing worth a damn. You’re a warrior, right?”

“Yes. Without question?”

“Well… what the hell are you fighting for, warrior? If not for love… then what?”

Alysa started to answer, then realized she didn’t have one.

Tony stepped right up to her, causing the archer to step back. “Love is all that matters. It’s what’s going to be here when all this bullshit is finally over. It’s what’s going to sustain us and help us rebuild our world the right way, when the fighting is done. And if it’s just a fucking idea, a dream, or a puff of smoke, then so be it, because that idea is worth fighting for, even if I never know it again!”

Alysa saw an intensity in Tony’s eyes that rivaled anything she ever saw in her opponents’ eyes on the battlefield. She found it intimidating. She had only known blood. But this man believed in something much more powerful. She turned away from his gaze. “Well, all I know is that you, and your ‘idea’, just ruined a perfectly good fuck.” She started downstairs.

Don’t I know it, he thought, watching the attractive archer depart. This is going to be a very long apocalypse. He turned back toward the window, waiting for the bulge in his pants to subside. The blemish on his heart refused to go away.

~~~

After Wendy and Mark relieved Nine and Diane from the rooftop, they headed downstairs, attempting to fix their disheveled clothing and hair, but were unable to remove the all-tell grins from their faces whenever they were around each other. After a quick meal, they decided to separate for a time, believing they were being too obvious and acting like giddy school kids, but the forced withdrawal only made them look more obvious.

Fortunately, the others were far too preoccupied to pay their strange behavior any notice.

Nine decided to track down Crazy Jim to learn what he could about the library and the town, hoping to find a solution to their current imprisonment by the dead.

Since taking up permanent residence in the Orwell Public Library before the winter, Jim had been busy, converting the large library basement into his own personal living quarters/emergency shelter. Initially, before slowly losing his marbles, Jim had understood the potential risks in leaving his abundant supply of Army MRE’s and cases of bottled water, and various other emergency supplies, out in the open for anyone to find. The Army had first converted the first floor of the library into a staging area to feed the town, and for treating and testing the sick to catch sudden outbreaks. Since the Army and the town departed, Jim had moved all the supplies into the basement where he’d stacked them up neatly along the walls at the furthest end of the large basement, near the dead furnace, and hidden behind a junk yard of old library shelves, furniture, and a mass of other library relics. He’d also had the foresight to forage for whatever else he might have needed from the abandoned local businesses in town to make sure he had whatever he needed for the long haul. Unfortunately, the local gun shop wasn’t on his list—he hated firearms. Crazy Jim had made his commitment to stay, and whether by sheer luck, force of will, or the mercy of God, he’d managed to remain hidden from that hostile world just outside his doors… and he had no intention of returning to that world any time soon.

Nine approached the closed basement door and knocked loudly five times. Crazy Jim had instructed them to do this if they needed anything. He’d said that he often slept through the evening hours to conserve his candles and lamp batteries (unless he was reading a good book that he couldn’t put down, of course), and that he preferred to sleep in late most mornings, which had turned him into a very deep sleeper.

“Come on down, it’s open!” Jim’s muffled voice responded from the other side of the door.

Nine reached for the doorknob to the basement door, hesitated with a smile, remembering the first time he’d visited Jim’s basement two days ago, and then opened the door. He could already see the familiar faint flickering lights coming up the staircase. Nine laughed and thought, Yeah, I tell the others I’m keeping an eye on Crazy Jim and keeping a running inventory on his supplies… but I’m really just addicted to his apocalyptic ‘man cave’. Nine started down the steps.

‘Man Cave’ was a poor description of what Jim had done with the remaining two-thirds of the large basement in the half a year he’d been hiding out in the library. As Nine descended the steps, he shook his head at the two long strands of red, yellow and blue Christmas lights that spiraled the hand rails, providing enough light to safely navigate the stairs.

At the bottom of the steps, he could hear the faint hum of the portable generator placed discreetly in a small sound-proofed store room somewhere off to his left. Aside from his minimal use in the evenings before bed, or when he stayed up all night reading books, Jim used his generator sparingly, and only to power his basement oasis. Jim had told them that the generator had saved his life over the long winter, using it to power up several space heaters stored in his basement when it got exceptionally cold.

Nine followed a series of long power cords running from beneath the generator room door to the left, then duct taped up along the wall, running off to the right of the stairs, where Nine found Jim sitting in his usual expensive-looking adjustable chair, which served as his reading chair/bed, centered in an open space surrounded by an isolated man’s creative ways to forget he was alone.

More Christmas lights ran along the top border of two connecting walls, the staircase, and along the short hallway wall to the left, that continued further back to where Jim’s supplies were kept in a second room, creating the illusion of an enclosed bedroom off to the immediate right. On all the walls and the entire ceiling, Jim had painted a continuous mural of a night time sky full of stars. The details were amazing. He’d captured various constellations, all the planets, comets, nebulas, and even parts of the milky way—all this from studying various star charts and pictures from library books. He’d made the moon large, and at the center of the ceiling, with craters and everything! And all these celestial objects were not just random splotches of white paint on a black background. He’d used several types of glow-in-the-dark paint for most of it, making these night time objects stand out as they gave off a faint luminescent glow, charged by the Christmas light. Along the bottom portion of the mural, Jim had painted an ocean—the colors mixed just right to give the waters a moonlit feel. Adding to this illusion, Jim had placed a couple of oscillating fans in two corners of the room to provide a breeze, and a small CD player in another corner played ocean sound effects in the background. But best of all… his entire bedroom floor was covered in sand!

For a moment Nine almost believed he was standing on a beach peninsula surrounded by the sea.

Crazy Jim was wrapped in a comfortable bath robe, lost in some fictional world, holding a paperback novel with a small book light attached to it. He was lying back in his recliner, bare feet kicked up, and looking like a man who was there, but not there at the same time.

Nine smiled. He’s not just a book worm… he’s the Ultimate Book Worm! Left behind only to show the rest of us amateurs how to truly appreciate a good book in style… now that we have all the time in the world to do so… at least, until that world kills us. Nine envied the man’s ability to remove himself from the apocalypse. Jim had found a way to completely immerse his entire being into the fictional realm, and forget the horrors the rest of them faced daily. Damn, maybe we’re the crazy ones trying to live in all this shit while Jimbo’s found an ‘out’.

Jim, just realizing that Nine was standing there, looked at the young man in surprise and smiled. He turned off his book lamp, placed a bookmark in his book, and then set it on a small table sitting beside his chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I was just getting to the good part. I forgot you were coming down.” He laughed at himself and pushed down the foot rest of his recliner, placing his feet in the sand and stretching his arms wide.

“All-nighter?” Nine laughed.

“Yes,” he said. “Can I tell you the secret to reading?”

Nine nodded.

Jim leaned over in his chair, looking like one of the Three Wise Men, and said, “Never read anything that puts you to sleep… especially for the sake of sleeping… there’s enough ‘boring’ in the real world to take care of that. Reading’s an adventure, a journey… not a time-killer. In fact… it’s the closest we may actually get to time-travel… at least, up here.” He tapped his noggin and added a wink that made Nine laugh.

“If you’d said that six months ago, I would have thought you’d discovered the meaning of life… but I wouldn’t describe the world today as ‘boring’. Dangerous… but definitely not boring.”

Jim gave him a puzzled look, and then shook his head. “Ah… yes… I forget what it’s like out there now. Sometimes I think that if I go outside again, I’ll still find the same old nine-to-five rat race full of mundane schedule keeping and people with busy lives spinning in circles.” He then raised his eyebrows. “What is the world out there like now?”

Nine paused. Yep, never mind, Jim’s nuts. “Oh… let’s see… the dead rule the world, they’ve turned it into one long buffet table, and the rest of us are menu items… any of this ring a bell?”

Jim laughed. “Sorry… I almost forgot.” His eyes suddenly went wide as if realizing something else he’d forgotten. “And… you and your friends… are still here?”

“Yes.”

“And… you’re still real… right?”

“Yes, again.”

Jim got up and started pacing in the sand. He tugged at his beard nervously, and said, “Nine, my young friend, I am afraid this is happening more and more.”

“What’s that?”

“Every time I sit down to read… I get lost… in there… and it’s getting harder to find my way back out again. I forget a lot of things ‘out here’ now.”

Nine had no response.

Jim turned and asked, “Tell me the truth, am I… crazy? Have I lost all… perspective?”

“I think you’ve found a way to survive that is… unique,” Nine finally said. “If I’ve learned anything about survival, it’s that we’ve all evolved into something entirely different than who we used to be. You can’t survive in this world and remain the same. It’s an insane world out there… and we’ve all had to give up a bit of sanity in order to deal with it. That’s the best answer I can give you.”

Jim laughed. “So, we’re all crazy then?”

“Probably,” Nine laughed. “If I were to take myself today—what I think, what I’ve seen, my actions and what I now believe—and then place me in the old world… they would have to lock me up.”

Jim pointed at Nine and laughed hard. “I love the way you think, my friend. Thanks. I feel a little less concerned about it.”

“Glad I could help. I’m sure you’ll forget all about it in a few minutes anyway.”

“So, what brings you down here? Do you need some more food? Water? Just name it.”

“Actually, I just wanted to get my mind off the neck-deep shit we’re in right now… and check out your cool beach,” Nine admitted with a laugh. “You really made quite the place here.”

Jim looked around with a fond smile. “Yes. It was a lot of work. But well worth it. I don’t even think I knew what I was doing when I first foraged through town. I just saw things and thought, ‘I may need that’ and grabbed as much of everything as I could. Maybe, on some subconscious level, it was all those books I read that helped me prepare for this extended stay. I wasn’t a very imaginative man before my love of reading accelerated. I believe every idea I’ve had since moving into the library has been the result of ‘too much time’ plus a lot of inspiration from the tons of books I’ve read. They saved me… and continue sustain me.”

Nine nodded. “I get that.”

“So, what is this trouble you speak of?” Jim asked.

Nine laughed again. This guy is the ‘ignorance’ before ‘bliss’. “Remember those stadium zombies you told us about?”

“Oh… yes… of course,” Jim said. “The ones you can hear from outside. What about them?”

“You do know that they’ve surrounded the library… right?”

Jim looked confused and then shook his head, frustrated with himself. “I wasn’t sure that really happened. Sorry.”

“That’s okay, Jim. It’s not like we can do a damn thing about it right now but wait… and that’s the problem. We’re trapped here. And the dead don’t look like they’re leaving any time soon.”

“So, it’s a solution you seek, then? A way to escape?”

“Bingo.”

Jim laughed, reaching for his book. “Well, why didn’t you say so. It just so happens that this library is full of escapes from our current world… believe me… I can recommend quite a few.” He tapped his current book fondly.

Nine smiled. “I appreciate the thought, Jim, but that’s not the kind of escape we’re looking for. We need a way to distract the horde, scare them off, lure them away—anything that might help us get out of here.”

“Well, my young friend, the answer is still the same,” Jim said. “There are all sorts of resource books here, as well, I’m sure in the pages of one of them-”

“Jim, what’s that book you’re reading?” Nine asked, catching part of the title written on the cover.

Jim smiled with delight. “I must confess… I’ve read this one numerous times. If you haven’t read it, then you are truly missing a classic.” He handed the old book to Nine.

Nine read the title: The Once and Future King.

“I remember this one,” Nine said. “It’s about King Arthur, the knights of the round table, and all that stuff… right?”

“Oh, yes,” Jim said. “Please, feel free to borrow it, if it helps get your mind off your troubles.”

Nine continued to stare at the cover, thinking back to his youth and his fascination with Excalibur, the sword, and of all those knights in suits of armor, and the battles fought…

“Jim,” Nine said, his eyes going wide with the wildest of ideas. “I think you’re right. The answer to our problems are in these books.”

“Oh, you have to tell me now,” Jim said. “The look on your face is speaking volumes… pardon the pun.”

Nine was getting excited. “Do you know of any more books like this… specifically about knights and battles and stuff like that? Anything with pictures would be really helpful.”

Jim walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “Come with me, my young friend, I know this library and every book in it. We’ll find exactly what you need.”

“And is there a… magazine section in the library?”

“Of course.”

“And what about duct tape? Do you have any left?” Nine blurted out.

Jim gave him a curious look. “I have cases of the stuff. The local hardware store was well-stocked… and no self-respecting survivor can do without it.” He laughed. “What are you thinking, my friend?”

Nine smiled like the devil and said, “I’ll tell you on the way. Let’s start with those books.”

“You have the look of many characters I’ve read about,” Jim laughed.

“And what’s that?”

“You have the look of a man about to go on a wild adventure.”

Nine smiled. “You’re absolutely right, Jim. Wild, crazy, dangerous… and probably extremely stupid.”

~~~

Next Episode 41-8

Previous Episode 41-6

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 41-7: Siege” 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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