~~~

We are finishing this, boss. Ya’ can’t hold me back for much longer… and you fuckin’ know it!

“No!” Russell ducked down, avoiding the arms of the monster, and swung the machete just below the knees of the dead man wearing blood-stained jeans. The tall zombie with long black hair fell forward to the ground like a rotting tree after the maniac severed its lower legs.

The former man, resembling a lead singer in some ‘80’s rock band, continued to crawl toward him, screeching in frustration toward his elusive prey.

Russell rolled to his feet and walked past the corpse as two more maneuvered through the trees to get to him.

Ya’ think this is good enough, boss? This is pathetic! It’s like poking sticks at week-old road kill… this is fuckin’ unacceptable!

“You want to kill something! Well… here’s you damn chance, savage! Get your fill because we’re not going after Gina!” Russell dismembered the right arm of a mangled woman wearing the torn remains of a filthy red dress. He then kicked it in the stomach, knocking it back into a shirtless teenage boy with half its rotting rib cage sticking out. They both fell to the ground and Russell quickly removed their heads with two deadly swings with the machete.

Several more dead things were approaching through the maze of dense trees.

Russell took advantage of the lull to catch his breath and try to calm down. His insides were burning with the blood lust as he continued to take out his need for brutality on the worthless woodland creatures.

THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH! The savage yelled within his head. LET ME KILL THE FUCKIN’ BITCH… NOW!

“I… said… NO!” Russell hacked at a small tree repeatedly, sending fresh shards of wood into the air. He could smell the pine bark from the young tree. It reminded him of Pine-Sol, which made him imagine the smell of bleach—both he’d used in his former life to clean up the other one’s messes. Russell regained control… barely.

For two days he’d followed Gina south, deeper into the forest. She’d chosen to travel at the base of a small valley along a river while he traveled along the top, staying as far back as he could without losing her and avoiding cutting Gina to pieces. As a result, he’d wandered into a heavily populated portion of the forest and the dead were hungry. Instead of trying to avoid them and stay hidden, Russell had chosen to take out his need to spill blood on the re-animated corpses, hoping the savage would stop pushing.

But like the dead, the savage was relentless. After Russell had failed to deliver the golden goddess, the other one had become extremely difficult to manage.

Russell rammed the end of the machete into the mushy face of a slender naked girl. Slender was not the right word as Russell was immediately reminded of a rotting tomato. The girl’s dark skin was wrinkled and barely covering her skeletal frame. The tomato girl collapsed to the ground in a pile of sickening flesh. He could hear her bones rip through skin as it fell.

More were coming.

This is pointless, boss. They won’t stop. Neither will I. You’re gonna get tired and feed these bitches if ya’ keep fighting back! Even if you get away, you’ll have to rest eventually… then I’ll take control.

“Shut the fuck up!” Russell, in a fit of rage, hacked at a short bald man with a large bite mark in his left cheek. The bald man’s grimy t-shirt was ripped open at the chest as Russell hacked into it, sending pieces of rotting innards spilling to the forest floor.

Russell’s intensity finally quieted the other one, as the savage went back into hiding with a mocking laugh. You win this round, boss. But I’m gonna gut that bitch after sundown. So, keep on biting at the dead if it makes you feel better… but I’m gonna take care of business very, very soon. Try not to dull the blade on the dead meat.

And just like that, Russell was back in full control. He immediately ran off away from the dead, losing most of them in the thick foliage. His lungs hurt. His arms felt heavy. His body ached from overexertion. He circled back toward the valley and found a large tree leaning along the edge with half its root system exposed, sticking out beneath the edge. He crawled down over the edge and beneath the tangle of roots and laid still. His eye lids felt like skyscrapers, but he refused to close them. Russell concentrated on breathing and clearing his thoughts. He started calculating the time it would take to catch up to Gina and if he could keep his distance until the next morning. But the answer was obvious.

No.

Deep down he knew the other one was correct. He could fight him off all damn day, but after the sun went down, the savage would return and take charge. Russell would be too exhausted to resist.

And Gina would be dead long before dawn.

He thought about the other night before Gina’s campfire. Had he really heard the Lady speaking through the corpse of the young zombie girl who resembled Ashley? “Not yet”, she’d said. Or, like the insanity that spawned the savage voice within him long ago, was he just hearing what he wanted to hear… what he needed to hear… to keep from slaughtering his-

Friend?

Russell’s conflicted emotions were the new enemy. He needed to know what was happening within. Was the Lady really guiding his actions now, or was he betraying her because of… Marcus?

One way or the other, he had until nightfall to learn the truth.

After losing the dead, Russell forced his heavy eyelids open, crawled out from beneath the tree roots, and then climbed down into the small valley to follow Gina. He decided to close the gap between them, convincing himself that he did not want to risk losing her in the vast forest before dusk. But deep down, from the dark primal place, images of the red-headed woman lying in a crimson pool, her vibrant green eyes staring back at him before becoming vacant—her blood dripping from the tip of his hunting knife—all of this compelled him forward.

Russell’s hands shook with anticipation which made him feel nauseous.

Closer… closer… closer…

~~~

What the fuck have you gotten us into, boss? I leave for a spell, and now, we’re surrounded by ghouls while the golden bitch is havin’ a tea party with her new boy-toy down by the river. I still can’t believe she dragged his ass all the way here.

“Be still,” Russell whispered. He quietly repositioned himself on the tree branch overlooking Gina’s camp below, while the dead slithered in the darkness near the base of the large pine tree he used as an observation post, just at the top of the other side of the valley. He could make out Gina’s silhouette sitting before her tied up prisoner. She was holding a cupped flashlight and using it to monitor the stranger like a hawk. It appeared they were talking. Russell was too far away to overhear them.

This changes nothing, boss. As soon as the two of them let their guards down, I’m gonna go down there and slit their fuckin’ throats. Two little piggies are always better than one—lots more blood that way.

Russell tried to distract the savage. “Why did she take him with her?” he whispered. “She clearly could’ve left him behind after knocking him out.”

She’s fuckin’ lonely, boss. Hell, even a woman like that needs a good stirring between the legs after a while.

Russell ignored him. “She’s made it clear that she values her isolation. The stranger must have said something to her, something that made him valuable.”

Or maybe he just has the biggest cock available, boss. Slim pickings these days.

“There’s something happening. We should’ve spent more time investigating the airport. That’s where the stranger-”

Stop fuckin’ stalling, boss. It’s not gonna work. Doesn’t matter where the other piggy came from. Might as well get your blade ready ‘cause we’re gonna skin the golden goddess tonight. I’m gonna cut her eyes out when I’m finished and feed ‘em to the dead. You and I both know she ‘ain’t shit without those precious fuckin’ eyes.

“We… can’t.”

Oh… but we can, boss… and we will.

“The Lady has forbidden it… for now. Gina’s not ready.”

Don’t start in with that horseshit again, boss. You didn’t hear shit. That bitch is still alive ‘cause you hesitated. You’ve lost your way, boss. Been spendin’ too much time makin’ friends when you should’ve been partin’ ways… if you catch my drift.

“That’s not… true.”

Of course it is, boss. You’ve become as soft as all those little piggies, lettin’ them fill your head with all their piggy ways. Now you think you’re one of them. But don’t worry. I’ll get us back on track. There’s nothin’ broken that a good old slaughter can’t fix.

Russell was surprised to find the hunting knife back in his hand. The sight of it both repulsed and excited him. He closed his eyes, tried to shut out the savage, and whispered into the darkness, “Lady, what would you have me do? Is… is it Gina’s time? I need confirmation… anything… anything at all.”

The savage was laughing inside his head.

You’re a damn fool, boss. You, your golden goddess, and your whore of a Lady can fuck-

From the bottom of the small valley, Gina’s voice was getting louder. She was now on her feet. The dead were getting riled up beneath the tree, responding to Gina’s rage.

Perfect, boss. You’re precious Gina’s picked a hell of a time to have a hissy! Time to relocate before the whole damn forest-

“Wait!” Russell eyes went wide. “Look… what is she doing with the axe?”

Both Russell and the savage watched in wonder as Gina suddenly raised her hand axe and brought it down into the stranger’s shoulder.

Oh… I could feel that, boss.

Russell could not move.

The stranger started screaming.

Gina brought the axe down again… and again… and again.

Holy shit, boss! I didn’t see that coming! Gina just hacked that piggy to pieces!

Russell was smiling. “She’s finally embraced it… all of it,” he whispered excitedly.

Your golden goddess can put on one helluva show, boss! I think I just creamed my pants… well, your pants!

From all around the forest, the dead were moving in toward Gina’s location. The scent of the fresh kill, along with the screams had aroused them into a frenzy as the beasts started falling off the cliff, stumbling down into the valley.

Time to go, boss.

“Do you see now?” Russell asked, his sharp tone demanding attention. “Do you understand now what you almost did, you fucking mindless beast?”

The other one remained silent.

“The reason the Lady stayed my hand was to show us THIS!”

What was that, boss? the other one asked timidly.

Russell laughed out loud, surprising the savage.

“All this time… and I never saw the obvious!”

What, boss? What does it all mean?

Russell shook his head and laughed again. “We’re not here to deliver Gina to the Lady… Gina is here to deliver us!”

But that would mean… the other one was confused.

“Let me put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you, savage. We’re here to finish what the Lady has started, because Gina is like us now. After a little more pushing… and some fine tuning… the real hunt will begin!”

Killer vs. Killer, boss? Shit… that never happens!

“No, it certainly does not,” Russell said. “And we will see to it that it does, savage.”

Okay… boss. The other one retreated into the maniac’s mind.

Russell smiled wickedly and began calculating as he watched Gina ascend the cliff, bloody hand axe still in hand, as she fled into the night.

~~~

Next Episode 45-4

Previous Episode 45-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 45-3: Predators” 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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