~~~

Gina grabbed her hand axe and rose to her feet. The flashlight rolled off her lap and landed on its side, illuminating the space between them. “You better explain that to me!” She was raising her voice. “You better have a good fucking reason for being involved with those animals!”

John looked confused. “Please… just calm down! I… I had no idea you were aware of them. How could you possibly-”

“I know your fucking group!” Gina spat, pointing her axe at him. She started to pace. “I’ve dealt with these Mother assholes ever since the beginning! I’ve lost people because of them—good fucking people! And now you tell me they’ve been out here this whole fucking time!”

John didn’t know what to say without making matters worse. “Janet… please… you obvious understand these people. You know how dangerous they are. We need to get out of here before-”

“My fucking friends have died because of you and your fucking kind!”

John looked nervously up toward the top of the valley. He could hear the anxious moans of the dead stumbling through the forest. They sounded close. “Janet…. you need to calm down. Can’t you hear them up there?”

“Doug… Ashley… Greg… Amanda… Frank… all dead because of your people.” Gina’s entire body shook. She turned her back on him and closed her eyes. She no longer cared about the dead at the top of the valley. All she could hear were the names of the dead echoing in her thoughts. They’re responsible for all of it! For every horrible thing that’s happened to us! And no matter where I go… even out here… that fucking name follows me like some damn eternal curse!

“Janet… I’m… I’m sorry for what’s happened to your friends. I didn’t have any part of that… surely you must see that. I’m no spy. I’m just like you, trying to get away from these horrible people.”

“Don’t talk to me about my friends,” she hissed. “Don’t you ever speak about them again.”

“Fair enough. Can we just please talk about this? I don’t want the dead to hear-”

“Why is Mother in these damn woods?” Gina refused to turn and look at him.

John shook his head at her back. “It’s… it’s hard to explain. I know a little bit, but even that’s not much.”

“Is she… this Lady Clementine… is she the leader of Mother?”

John didn’t answer.

Gina turned. “Answer my question! And don’t give me any shit about being loyal to them or about running away from them! That’s all bullshit and you know it!”

“I’m not a spy!” John cried.

“You’re a fucking liar… all of you are!”

“Fine!” John laughed nervously. “I’m the damn bad guy! Believe what you want! Sure… Mother sent me out here to spy on you because you’re just so damn important!”

“Shut up.”

“No… seriously… since you refuse to believe anything I have to say, and we’re probably going to bring the whole damn zombie forest horde down on us any way… then let’s do this. Yep. Mother… the all-knowing, global fucking organization that’s been around longer than you or I have been alive, sent me all the way out here to spy on your insignificant ass! Come on… are you fucking hearing yourself? I’m just a man who had a chance, one chance, to get away from there… wait! Stop! STOP!”

Gina brought the axe down releasing a primal groan.

John shifted to the left, avoiding being struck in the skull. The axe went into his shoulder instead. John stared at the wound and then back at Gina as the shock set it.

For a second, the savage woman was captured by that dying man’s condemning eyes.

Click… click… click… snap.

As the pain registered, John opened his mouth and let out a horrific scream which reverberated through the valley.

Gina ripped the axe from John’s shoulder and brought it down into his head.

She did this three more times to silence him, not realizing that it was she who continued to scream, long after John went silent. Gina let go of the axe that was still sticking in the dead man’s face and stumbled back.

For a moment, John’s dead eyes remained fixed on her, then he fell over on his side.

Gina raised two bloody and trembling hands into the flashlight beam.

She felt nothing. She thought nothing.

Something… no… several somethings started descending into the valley directly over her head. To Gina, it sounded like an avalanche as the sounds of moaning dead men struck trees and brush, rolling out of control toward the stream.

Fuck!

A heavy, half-naked rotting-flesh boulder came crashing down right behind Gina. The sluggish former man reached out for her ankle, letting lose a bone-chilling cry.

Gina got a good look at it in the flashlight beam as she sidestepped it.

The brute of a man with half its scalp missing, exposing part of its black, mushy brains, got to its knees and started crawling toward her. The man had a scraggly beard that ran over his pale exposed chest.

Gina kicked the thing hard under the chin. It barely flinched. She felt like she’d just kicked a rock as the once muscular man reached for her leg, grabbed it, and pulled Gina off-balance. She fell inches from John’s corpse. Gina reached back as the big dead thing started to pull her toward its large mouth.

She managed to reach the axe handle in time as she pulled while the dead brute aided her in freeing the blade. Just as it was about to put all its weight on top of her, Gina leaned forward with a loud cry and split the thing’s face in half with the axe. The brute let go of her leg and Gina rolled to the side. The large monster lay still.

Gina struggled to catch her breath as more zombies reaching the valley floor were now rushing toward her. She rose to her feet just in time to side swipe the axe across the neck of a tall woman in a disintegrating dirt-stained nightgown. The woman’s pale head hung backward off its half-severed neck, temporarily losing sight of its prey. Gina kicked the wretched thing back into another zombie wearing bloody overalls.

A fourth zombie grabbed her by the back of the hair. She could feel its slimy, cold hands on the back of her neck. Gina spun around, ripping her hair loose from a dead teenage boy. She swung the axe into the side of its head, severing its right ear completely off before it fell limp to the ground.

More were already pushing into each other to get to her.

Gina dove for her silenced handgun as another dead hand attempted to grab her hair and missed. She grabbed the gun, flipped over on her back and fired four rounds upward and into the face of the man in overalls. She got back to her feet just as a short woman with curly blond hair with a spiderweb on the top, leaned in to bite her arm. Gina shoved the barrel of the gun with the attached silencer into the spider woman’s mouth and blew its decrepit brains out the back of its head. The woman fell, taking the gun with it.

Gina spun around as another rotting man in a bloody jogging outfit tried to bite her ear off. She swung the axe across its jaw, completely removing it from its face. She then pushed hard against it with her shoulder, knocking the dead jogger to the ground.

More were coming.

Gina spotted her gun bag just outside the limited light range of the flashlight and ran for it, knocking another zombie off its feet with an armbar across its neck. Gina grabbed her bag on the fly, keeping her momentum up, and then dashed across the stream.

More dead things were falling from the top of the valley on the opposite side but had not yet seen her.

Gina dodged and weaved through flailing arms and started ascending the opposite side of the small valley. What little bit of light she had was now gone as she climbed up in the darkness, reaching out for small trees as handholds to stabilize her uphill ascent. She almost slipped back down into the valley but reached out and found an exposed root to stop her from falling.

She pushed her burning legs forward and made it to the top of the valley, expecting the dead to swallow her up once she got there.

All she could see was darkness in every direction.

Gina tried to orient herself as her eyes adjusted to the faint ambient light that allowed her to distinguish between the darker shapes of trees and the slighter lighter spaces between them. She looked for any dark shapes moving toward her.

She could hear several dead things moaning all around her in the darkness. Some were close, others were farther off. One sounded so close, Gina believed if she extended her arm, she’d touch it.

Fuck this!

She pushed forward blindly through the trees, no longer able to distinguish tree from monster, and swung her axe randomly just to make sure she wasn’t running right into her own death.

She dragged the bag of weapons behind her, hoping the dead would charge for it, and not her, while silently wishing she had time to arm herself with the shotgun.

Something swung at her face. A dead hand struck the side of her mouth. Gina stumbled forward and struck a tree. She turned, putting the tree to her back, and pushed out with legs as something tried to put its arms around her. She kicked the thing back into the dark.

Gina rolled around the tree and squatted down. She reached into her bag and grabbed the shotgun.

Something was screaming and charging at her position from the side.

Gina aimed the shotgun toward the sound and fired twice, momentarily lighting up the forest just enough to see them all… and they her. She’d blasted another female zombie in the torso, splitting the creature in half.

Move! MOVE!

The dead closed in.

Gina ran forward, firing the shotgun right in front of her, hoping to clear a path. The monsters closed in. Gina fired to the left blowing the head off a man. She fired to the right, knocking a small man to his ass. She continued firing until the gun ran out.

Something grabbed the shotgun and wrestled it from her hand. Something else fell on the weapon’s bag.

Gina gave them both up. All she had left was the hand axe.

“Come on, you fuckers!” she shouted into the black. “COME ON!”

The dead reached out for her, snapped their teeth at her, groaned into her ears.

Gina fiercely swung the axe, hacking into the night with everything she had left. She kicked and screamed back into the night with equal ferocity.

But the dead kept coming.

Suddenly, her feet stopped as she tripped over the remains of a dead tree. Gina fell forward and downward as she started rolling uncontrollably down a hill. She bounced three times before striking something hard in the side, which stopped her descent. Gina struggled to breathe. She could still hear them coming, but for a moment, she’d eluded them.

She reached around and felt the base of a medium sized tree growing out of the hillside that had stopped her fall. Surprisingly, she still held the axe in her other hand. Gina attempted to free herself from the tree but the pain in her side was excruciating. She placed the handle of the axe in her mouth and bit down, trying not to cry out.

That was when she passed out.

~~~

She woke to someone yelling. It was faint, but definitely a man’s voice, coming from somewhere beneath her.

Early morning light penetrated the gloomy woods. Gina quickly took in her situation. She was lying sideways across the base of the tree, half-way down a steep hill. She could hear the moans of the dead from above her and below.

Caught between the fucking frying pan and the fire, she thought, realizing that the tree had probably saved her life, keeping her just out of reach from the frustrated dead. She dared to move. The pain in her side was considerable, but she could still function.

No time for that.

She’d dropped her hand axe beside her. Gina picked it up and slowly crawled away from the tree, starting a controlled descent down the remainder of the hill on her stomach.

When she reached the bottom, crawling under brush for cover, she rolled on to her back, pulled up her shirt, and examined her side. There was a large dark bruise just below her ribs. A little higher, broken ribs for sure. She pulled down her shirt and focused on breathing and gathering her strength.

She heard more yelling. Much closer this time. Something bad was happening.

Something bad that you brought with you, Gina.

The thought felt foreign… but true.

Gina rolled back over and rose to her knees.

She could hear the dead all around her, pushing through the forest toward the shouts of alarm. She stood on wobbly feet, feeling dizzy, disoriented, and sweating from the effort to move.

I’m more fucked-up than I realize. She abandoned the thought and focused on the direction she’d heard the shouts. Somewhere up ahead, she could see the trees thinning out.

That’s where the dead were heading.

She considered moving the opposite direction, taking advantage of the distraction to get away.

She heard a young girl scream and turned back toward the thinning trees.

Just walk away, Gina. Not your problem. Doesn’t matter. None of it matters… remember?

The dead had clearly found someone knew to pursue, just beyond those trees. Probably another group of foolish survivors, unprepared for the shitstorm coming out of the woods.

Don’t worry, Gina. It’s not the same as what you did to that man last night. It’s not murder if you choose not to help. Whoever they are were probably going to die anyway. Just a matter of time. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter that you led their death right to them with your screams and shotgun blasts from last night.

“Shut up,” she hissed at herself, reaching for a tree to keep from falling over. She closed her eyes tight, wishing she could turn her thoughts off. She gripped the axe tightly, a fresh wave of anger renewing her strength.

They’re dead already. You’ll gain nothing but your own demise by getting involved.

Gina heard the girl’s scream again.

She immediately pictured some unsuspecting family held up in some run-down shack just beyond those trees. Some family that thought they were safe out here, hidden away from the horrors of the world. Hidden away until she came along and ruined it.

“It… doesn’t… matter!” she reminded herself. “Not my problem!”

She pictured the dead feasting on the remains of that dead family, leaving nothing behind but their condemning eyes that would follow her forever… just like John Sterling’s eyes would.

She opened her own eyes. “Fuck me,” she whispered.

Gina pushed forward, following the dead toward the thinning trees. With each new cry of alarm, she quickened her pace, hoping to catch as many of the dead from behind as she could before they turned back and finished her off.

Not a bad way to die, she consoled herself, sneaking up on the first dead-head with her hand axe raised. There are worse ways to live.

~~~

Next Episode 44-8

Previous Episode 44-6

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 44-6: The Nomad” Copyright © 2018 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.

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Comments
  1. thelordlucifer says:

    Great series. I picked up this series on royalroadl about 4 days back and I’ve been binge reading it. I don’t like to comment much, but just know that I do appreciate your work, even if I don’t comment on future chapters. Thanks for the great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sscherr says:

      Hey, thanks for reading and for the encouraging comment, even if this might be the only one… lol. I’m glad you found my series and I hope you enjoy the rest of Book Five ;)

      Like

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