~~~

“Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of After The Dark. I’m your host, John Ecko, and this is the Don’t Feed The Dark after-show that will attempt to answer your burning questions while we shine a light into some of the darkest corners of this chilling apocalyptic serial to see what we can uncover.

Each episode we will explore a diverse range of topics as we sit down with our featured special guests who have come right out of the pages of this dark serial novel to enlighten us and hopefully give us some additional insights into their characters, as well as what we can expect in the days ahead.

***SPOILER ALERT***

At this time, I must advise you, avid readers, that from here on in, there will be major spoilers discussed. So in the event that you haven’t read the first 47 chapters of Don’t Feed The Dark, as well as the most recent spin-off stories, The Scientist, the Salesman, and the Serpent, and Elsewhere, I strongly suggest that you don’t continue on with us until after you’ve caught up. Consider yourself warned.”

John stands up and addresses the crowd. “Welcome back ladies and gentlemen! It’s been a long while since our last episode and it’s great to be back!”

(The audience stands and applauds enthusiastically.)

“So much has happened in these first five books. I hardly know where to begin,” John says. “Let’s just start by bringing back one of our favorite guests… an original cast member who’s been with us for a very long time. Please, welcome once more, our own apocalyptic psychic-to-the-stars, Meredith Montgomery!”

(Meredith enters wearing a dark green sundress with blue flowers, her long dark hair with a few streaks of grey tied back into a tall bun atop her head. The crowd roars with delight as the older cast member blows them kisses and takes a seat next to John.)

John shakes his head and tries to calm the crowd. He turns to his guest and says, “I see your fans are still happy to see you around, young lady,” John teases. “Welcome back, Meredith.”

“Thank you, John. It’s good to be back.” Meredith crosses her legs and places her hands in her lap.

(The audience sits down and gets quiet.)

“Well, we have a lot of time to make up for, so… let’s get to it,” John says, picking up his note cards.

Meredith takes a sip of water from a glass placed on a low table beside her, and then nods. “Please… ask away. I’ll try to tell you what I can.”

“Let’s start with the obvious question. How are you fairing after the unfortunate departure of Doctor Cooper? And let me be the first to say, I believe many of us were upset that he didn’t make it. You know, we were all rooting for you two.”

(The audience claps to show their agreement.)

Meredith nods to the crowd and smiles. She turns back to John. “Thank you. Thank you all so much for your support. Yes… Coop’s death was a heavy blow, one that I’ll have a difficult time overcoming in the days ahead. He was such… he was such an incredible, wonderful man. When no one else was in my corner, he was always there.”

(The crowd falls silent.)

“Indeed,” John agrees. “I thought he was an excellent character added to the cast and I’m grateful that we had an opportunity to find out more about him after all of you relocated beneath the Wastelands for the long haul. Can you tell us what the good doctor’s death will mean for Meredith now? Will she be able to continue as the same woman we’ve come to love and cherish?”

Meredith lowers her head and stares toward the floor. “Let me just say that Coop’s death will have a permanent effect on me now. In some ways, he will always be with me as a constant source of strength. In other ways, his absence will be felt so deeply that I might question continuing on in this damaged world without him. Time will tell what the long-term effect will be. In the short term… it’s going to be a struggle.”

John nods patiently, then reaches over and places his hand on hers. “Well, we’re all with you, Meredith. It sucks that you two didn’t get to be together. I think your relationship with Cooper was a refreshing relief and a bit of light in a very dark place. Me will miss him.”

(The audience stands and respectfully applauds. Some, openly weep or nod to show their support.)

Meredith, overcome by the crowds’ emotions and support, begins to tear up. She quickly wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and nods appreciatively toward them. She turns to John. “They’re absolutely wonderful, too, aren’t they?” she teases.

(The crowd laughs. They slowly take their seats.)

“So, let’s move away from this subject, for everyone’s sake, before we run out of Kleenex,” John says with a smile.

Meredith laughs lightly and composes herself. “Alright, John. That sounds splendid.”

John leans back, pauses, then says, “Okay, since we last heard from you during the Shadow Dead attack at the beginning of Book Five, there’s been some interesting developments.”

Meredith eyes go wide in mock surprise. She smiles, rests her chin on her hands, leans in, and says, “Really? Do tell.”

(The audience laughs.)

“Apparently,” John says, smiling back, “you’ve been at the center of all this ‘Mother’ business for a good while. You… and that Candice Forrester doctor who took a keen interest in you back during your brief ‘orphanage’ stay.”

“You know… it’s not really an orphanage.”

“Got it. Been there. Done that. Let’s move on.” John adds a wink.

(The audience laughs.)

John continues, “So, we’ve discovered a bit more about your old scary friend, Clementine, at the back end of Book Five… and now we’ve got two additional spin-off stories that shed a little more light on the past. Can you connect any of these dots for us?”

Meredith leans back in her chair and lets out a heavy sigh. “Okay, I’ll give you the abridged version of events so far in chronological order: Back in the Spring of 1970, Mother approached Dr. Forrester due to her breakthrough research related to a sleep study she was conducting, or at least, that was what the grant money was for. As it turned out, she was actually trying to bring back her brain-dead brother, Toby, through her research, believing she’d uncovered the key to reaching into the minds of the clinically ‘dead’ and retrieving them through a sort of dream state. She believed that our identity was being stored on a ‘back-up’, somewhere in the part of our minds that house dreams… and that she’d found a way to tap into that place. The rest… well, that’s way over my head. Anyway, Mother, with an entirely different agenda, and a project of their own that dates back a few years prior to meeting with Forrester and Finch, needed Candice’s research to further their own.”

“Fascinating,” John says. He turns to the crowd. “And this we learned in the spin-off story, The Scientist, the Salesman, and the Serpent.”

Meredith nods her head. “So Forrester and Finch took Mother’s offer, relocated to the orphanage, where they had been for three years until little old me showed up in the Summer of ’73.”

“And that’s were the Dead Dolls chapter from Book Four starts, right?”

“Correct. Well, we know how that went down. I was led to Candice’s secret lab in the basement, drugged, and then inserted into the Mother/Forrester collaborative project, which we’ll discover more about in Book Six.”

“And at this point,” John injects, “the girls had no idea what happened to you until Clementine saw Michael Finch attempting to smuggle Meredith away from the orphanage in the Fall of that same year.”

Meredith nods. “And that’s where the rest of Clementine’s story picks up. She challenged Finch, who resisted… and it ended very badly for him, as well as the rest of the orphan girls who decided to intervene.”

“And this results in the capture and imprisonment of Clementine,” John adds, “as well as the end of the orphanage project. Meredith is relocated to the island facility, as well as the four brain-dead patients, and she’s thrown back into the experiments.”

“That’s right,” Meredith says. “And that’s where the final spin-off story, Elsewhere, sits in the timeline. It’s now the Winter of 1974, a year after the orphanage is shut down. Forrester has lost control of the project and had discovered that Mother’s agenda runs contrary to her own. That story picks up at the tail end of everything going very wrong. She decided to help Meredith escape, which is a guaranteed death sentence for Forrester. And the strange events that occur near the end of the story are how I broke free from Mother, or so it seemed at the time.”

John shakes his head in bewilderment. “Now… let’s talk about that.”

Meredith laughs. “I had a feeling you might want to discuss it.”

“Let’s start with the girl, the fifth brain-dead patient, the one you and Finch kept secret. What the hell happened?”

Meredith nods. “Her name was Michelle. Michael was instrumental in the arrangements of keeping this mystery patient quiet from Mother during his recruiting periods at the orphanage. I believe Michelle was initially the ‘back-up’ plan if Mother intended to steal Candice’s research. As it turned out, this dead girl also became my escape from Mother.”

“Yes, let’s talk more about this ‘back-up plan’,” John says.

Meredith closes her eyes and sighs. “My mother used to use this expression, ‘putting the cookies on the bottom shelf’. Are you familiar with that?”

“I believe so,” John says. “It’s what people say right before they’re about to explain something complicated and over-the-head.”

“That’s right, John. She’d put the cookies within reach so I could understand something enough to get the meaning. So, that’s what I’m going to do, now.”

John laughs and turns to the audience. “All I know is that I’m suddenly hungry… and all I want is chocolate-chip cookies.”

(The audience laughs.)

Meredith laughs. “Okay. I’m only going to say this once… and before you ask… I’m not going to elaborate any further. Got it?”

John shakes his head and laughs. “Probably not. But please… proceed.”

“The organization we’ve come to know as Mother discovered something… something very old, and very, very dangerous. They discovered the ‘Where’ and they desperately needed a way to reach ‘it’. Dr. Forrester, discovered the ‘How’. And then there’s little old me… who turned out to be the ‘Who’. Dr. Forrester was attempting to reach her brother. Mother was attempting to reach someone else entirely. So… Forrester established a bridge between myself and-”

John points a finger at her and exclaims excitedly, “Toby!”

Meredith smiles. “At some point, Forrester realized that the bridge she established led to somewhere else entirely, somewhere very frightening… but Mother knew exactly where that bridge led. This is what triggers Doctor Forrester into implementing the secondary bridge, or link, between myself and the brain-dead Michelle, a girl roughly my own age at the time, that we read about at the end of that second spin-off story.”

John slaps his forehead. “Okay, so if I’m understanding this correctly, what you’re telling me is that you essentially became Michelle? That the woman we’re all staring at today is not really Meredith… but Michelle?”

“Physically, I am Michelle, but on the inside, I’m still me. I’ve adapted the appearance of this shell over time to resemble the girl I once was… a change in clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms… but after spending most of my life, in this body, I’ve come to accept that Michelle is what I look like, since I’ve looked like her a lot longer than I looked like me… are you following all this?”

(John is dumbfounded. He looks to the crowd and they are equally stunned.)

“So… you’ve literally been having an out-of-body experience since you were a teen, does that about sum it up?”

Meredith laughs. “That’s a funny way to put it… but in a way… you’re partially correct.

John shakes his head. “That is… well… that’s new.”

(The crowd laughs.)

“We should probably move on. We’re getting to that point where I can’t tell you anything else,” Meredith says with a wink. “Less might be more in this particular instance.”

John laughs. “This is crazy. But… I suppose we’ll find out more about you, or Michelle, or… whoever you are when we jump into Book Six.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Meredith agrees.

“This… place… that Mother has discovered, does it have anything to do with the apocalyptic situation our survivors find themselves in?”

“Yes,” Meredith says.

“And that’s it? That’s all you’re going to say?” John says.

“That’s all I’m going to say,” Meredith adds with a wink.

John shakes his head. “Of course.”

(The audience laughs.)

“What I can add,” Meredith says, “is that Book Six will delve much deeper into all this strangeness, including what happened to me once that bridge between my old self and Toby was established. And I will also add that when my character discovers this for herself, since much of that time period has been hidden from her own memories, it’s going to be quite a shock… for everyone.”

“Now that’s a damn teaser if I ever heard one,” John says.

(The audience laughs and nods in agreement.)

“So, let’s move on before my head explodes,” John says. “Can you tell us what else we can expect from Book Six?”

Meredith considers the question for a moment, then says, “The first arc is aptly titled ‘Revelations’. I think that speaks for itself. Myself, Stephen, Logan and Megan will be discovering all sorts of frightening things as we move forward beyond the mystery door into the heart of some of the disturbing events that have been occurring, both presently and in the past, that have contributed to the state of our deadly new world. I can’t speak for what happens in the next two arcs, but this one will connect a lot of events that we’ve previously read about throughout this series. That’s vague, I know, but that’s all I can say.”

“What about the premiere? Is there anything you can tell us about the first chapter? What can we expect from the first few episodes?”

Meredith laughs. “Well… it is a Halloween premiere. I think this first chapter is perfectly suited for it. We’re going to be dealing with quite a few ghosts right away.”

John’s eyes go wide. “Now… are we speaking literally or figuratively here?”

Meredith takes a sip from her glass and remains silent.

John shakes his head and turns toward the audience. “And I guess that’s our answer, folks.”

(The audience laughs.)

John turns back to Meredith. “Well, that’s it for time. I want to thank you for joining us once again, Meredith. We all look forward to reading what happens next.”

“Thanks for having me,” Meredith says.

John stands. “How about a hand for her, ladies and gentlemen.”

(The crowd stands and applauds.)

“As a final reminder, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother begins in just two short days for the Halloween premiere. I’m looking forward to it as I know all of you are, as well. Again, if anyone has any questions in regards to tonight’s topics or any other DFTD questions, please feel free to ask away and we’ll try to answer what we can. Also, I want to point out once more that after the premiere, DFTD will now be posted once a week on Wednesdays until the end of the year. Until then, I look forward to seeing all of you as we embark on another terrifying journey into The Dark! See you soon!”

~~~

Please show your support for Don’t Feed The Dark by voting for it at topwebfiction Just click and vote. Nothing else required. You can vote every seven days to help me keep this series listed.

Thank you,
-Scott

~~~

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