~~~

An unsettling silence fell upon the remains of the abandoned housing development site. The waning crescent moon above cut through the overcast sky like a razor-sharp sickle, providing just enough light to feed restless shadows, which crept into position, clothing everything familiar in nightmare black, until the objects of the day re-shaped themselves into disfigured monoliths surrounding the two lone houses on Not-So-Suburbia Street.

Gina carefully approached the right side of the large house on the left—its face hidden from view but mirrored in its three-story twin across the street. She stopped behind a large pile of lumber and stared intently into that unwelcome face, sensing that it was no longer just a house—its dark second-floor eyes, slanted at an angle, watching her every move, while pretending not to notice her and betraying her position to its neighbor across the street. For a moment, the shadowy front door appeared to grin at her as if saying: Come on, little one. We’ve been waiting oh, so, long, to have new guests. It’s been so long… and we are sooo, very hungry.

She looked away from both houses, foolishly hiding her small form further behind the pile to avoid that artificial gaze. Get it together girl, she reminded herself. That imagination of yours is creating more enemies than you need.

Gina closed her lying eyes and allowed her other senses to take over. She listened to the still night and felt the slight breeze caress the standing hairs on her forearms. She could almost taste the trepidation closing in around her like the humidity before a pending thunderstorm.

She forced herself to focus on the plan, desperately needing a distraction from her worked-up nerves:

“We’ll enter each home through the rear garage doors. They were the least guarded last time I was here, and the terrain already offers several blind spots of approach to both houses that way.” Marcus had said. “When we’ve both secured the garage positions, I’ll wait for your signal along the side of the house—three quick flashes from your pocket flashlight. I’ll do the same… and then… we strike each house at the same time.”

“What if the doors are locked?” Gina had said.

“They won’t be. Their overconfidence in their numbers, guns, and out-of-the-way location have made them sloppy and complacent. They believe the fence has proven sufficient to keep the dead away, and they’ve never dealt with the living… except for those they’ve brought here.” Marcus had smiled and finished, “That’s the problem with so-called survivors who have grown comfortable hiding in the darkness for as long as they have. Their victims scream, and no one comes to rescue them. There are no red and blue flashing lights surrounding their dark dens after they perform their evil deeds. They’ve become accustomed to doing whatever they want… with no consequences and no one left to stop them.”

Gina had frowned at that. “My, God, Marcus. Has the world really gone to shit so much that people like this just get to be the monsters they want to be?”

He’d smiled in response. “Well, that seems to be the case… until now.”

Gina smiled as she prepared to move toward the garage. “Until tonight… you soulless fuckers,” she hissed. She took a deep breath to collect herself, made sure her path was clear, and then sprinted across the night—both there and not there—until she reached the side of the house undetected. She crouched down low within the darker shadows, her hunting knife drawn and ready to strike. Taking advantage of her dark clothing and the mud Marcus had smeared across her face earlier, Gina merged with the aluminum siding and the night, willing herself to stillness, and then thought about the rest:

“And once we’re inside the houses,” Gina had started, “what then? Do we just start… killing everyone?”

“You use everything around you—the furniture, the noise, the darkness, their snores—until you are no longer in the house, but part of it. Do you understand?”

“I believe so,” she’d said. “And then?”

Marcus had smiled in such a way that it made Gina’s skin crawl. “Then you create so much confusion and spill so much blood until they are overwhelmed by death. And as they react to all that fear which will betray them, you will hide within it and strike again, and again, until it is too late for them to understand what’s happened and ever make you a target.”

“And you honestly believe I can do all… that?”

“If you can leave your emotions outside… then yes… you will overcome the enemy, leaving their blood in your wake.”

“That’s sounds… terrifying,”

“Yes, it does,” Marcus had finished. “And you will use every bit of it to succeed. You will not enter that house as Gina Melborn, or the wind, or the trees, or the swirling leaves in the forest. You will enter as Terror, itself.”

Gina took another moment to steady her nerves. All she had was her hunting knife—no shotgun, no handgun, not even the axe. Marcus had assured her that a good blade was all that was required if she’d been paying attention to her training.

I’ll guess we’ll finally find out, she thought. And I can’t even bring my anger in with me this time. Indeed, slicing up the dead in the forest was one thing, but to face human beings, even as evil as these people were, and then look them in the eyes before ending their lives… she didn’t know if she could do it. And that’s just more of those emotions that need to stay out of it, she reminded herself. No anger. No doubt. Just do what’s required and take out a few more monsters in this world.

Gina crept her way toward the rear garage door. No one was there to stop her. Her house, as well as the one across the street, were dark… too dark. She’d figured when she got close enough to peer into a window that she’d see faint light, but there was nothing. Maybe they’ve all moved on and these houses are abandoned. She really wanted to believe that, but her instincts were screaming that danger lurked within these dark hell houses.

She crouched down near the rear door and reached a hand up toward the door knob. It turned easily. Gina gently pulled on the door, letting it open slightly, as she prepared to strike the first thing that exited the garage.

Nothing happened.

Gina waited a whole minute, listening for the ambush that never came. Finally, she grabbed the edge of the open door and pulled it halfway open.

Still nothing.

You caught a break, girl. The garage is empty.

Gina took a deep breath, then quickly charged through the open doorway, immediately spinning to the right and out of sight. She crouched down to strike within the closest shadow, letting her eyes adjust to the ambient light pouring in from outside. The garage resembled any other garage, minus vehicles.

I don’t like this. Not one fucking bit. Gina located the door leading into the house. If Marcus was correct, that door would be unlocked. She moved toward it, quickly cutting across the light coming in from outside, and then crouched down next to the inner garage door. Once more she reached for the door knob. It turned easily.

Unlocked.

Instead of opening this one, Gina crept back toward the rear garage door, exited, and then slipped around the back of the house until she returned to the comforting shadows along the side. She crept against the siding until she was at the front corner of the house. Gina retrieved her flashlight, aimed it toward the other house, near the garage, and then quickly flashed her light three times.

Come on, Marcus! It felt like an eternity waiting at the corner. Finally, Marcus signaled her from across the street. That’s it. You’re on your own now.

Gina returned to the garage and then moved back into position beside the inner garage door. Her hands were a sweaty mess by the time she reached for the knob. Steady… steady…

She turned the knob and pulled it open. Once more she was ready to attack the darkness from the shadows.

There was nothing to attack.

Fuck this. Gina quickly moved into the house from the garage, closed the door behind her, and then stopped within a short hallway, trying not to vomit. Gina placed a hand over her nose and mouth as a strong odor assaulted her senses. My God! That’s fucking awful!

It only took a moment to realize what the odor was. The rotting smell of the dead was unmistakable.

Gina sat within the hallway, her back to the wall, and tried to process what she was getting into.

There’s no damn way anyone could be sleeping, let alone living in here with that horrid stench! What the hell happened?

Gina was instructed not to use her flashlight once she made it inside… but she had to know.

She crept up the small hallway as her eyes started to adjust to the darkness. She entered what appeared to be a den, and then turned her flashlight on and quickly scanned the room. She gasped, then turned off her light, nearly dropping it, and then retreated into the small hall.

She was trembling uncontrollably by the time she got back. Holy fuck! What the hell is this?!

When Gina had turned on her flashlight and scanned the den, she’d seen the red-splattered white walls, blood covering two large sofas, and crimson pools saturating the dull colored carpet.

And there were multiple bodies—men and women—scattered all around the room.

~~~

A shadow hidden within shadow patiently sat along the side of the second hell house across the street. Russell glanced up at the sliver of moon piercing through the overcast sky. His mud-smeared face was lit up by two orbs barely containing his excitement as a long-suppressed desire to be with the Lady had finally arrived. The hand tightly gripping the hunting knife shook with anticipation. His heart raced in his chest as the fever for the hunt consumed him. All he’d done, all his preparation from the very beginning, had led to this moment.

Can you feel it, boss? Damn… I’ve never been more exhilarated. I must admit, I doubted you. But now… fuck me… I can almost smell that bitch’s blood lingerin’ in the air like the scent of a fresh, out-of-the-oven apple fuckin’ pie sittin’ out on a windowsill.

Russell smiled at the analogy. Yes, he could almost taste it. The sweet promise of death had never been more tangible. He felt incredibly alive, dancing on the edge of that precipice… and the Lady… waited eagerly down in the darkness, to receive one more glorious offering.

I should’ve seen it coming, boss. I should’ve known when you brought us back here that you’d been up to somethin’ all along. I knew you didn’t care about those fuckers at the airport.

“They are irrelevant,” Russell whispered.

Yeah… yeah… so you’ve been sayin’ about everythin’ since the beginning. You’ve always had your heart and mind set on the prize. Every opportunity you’ve squandered in this free-for-all apocalypse—I get it now. You were aiming for somethin’ pure, somethin’ true… the noble kill. And I’m glad. I’m glad I didn’t push and that I let you bring us to this moment.

Russell closed his eyes and raised his knife toward the moon. “To you, my Lady. We have suffered long. We have done what you’ve asked and protected the sacrifice. May you be satisfied by the vitality of the blood which is to follow. We long to join you in this moment… however it turns out. May your will be done.”

Amen, boss! Hal-la-fuckin’-lujah! Tell me somethin’, boss. When we slaughtered all these little piggies, did you know then that we would be here now? Did the Lady tell ya’ what was comin’?

Russell refused to answer. The savage would never understand. But he would see the truth, just as Gina would… and then… the radiant face of the Lady would shine down upon him at last, for all he’d done—a faithful servant to the end.

Three brief flashes of light struck the corner of the house.

Russell got up, retrieved his flashlight, and signaled back.

Is it… is it time, boss?

Russell shut out his emotions and reached down deep for the cold steel that made him such an effective killer. He allowed a final smile to breach the surface, raised the instrument of his calling up toward his face, and found his dark reflection in the hungry blade.

“Yes,” he whispered. “It is time.”

He started walking across the street, in plain view of both houses. There was no one left alive in either house. He’d seen to that weeks ago after meeting the rest of Albert’s now slaughtered flock.

The stage was set. The moment had finally arrived. The only thing left to resolve was a matter of blood, salvation, and sacrifice between himself… and his red-headed pupil.

~~~

Next Episode 47-4

Previous Episode 47-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 47-3: The Enemy” 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.

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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