~~~

…A barrage of bullets rained down upon the horde which pursued Sergeant Hash’s squad once they were in range of the Percy Power Plant’s security force. The sound of assault rifles ripped apart the day as shots rang out from every tower and rooftop position until the dead were brought down. More killers continued to surface from the eastern gully, as Hash and company rounded the northern end of the inner protected area and continued toward the civilian gate.

“I can’t reach anyone, Sarge,” Thompson said. “The big-wigs in the power block aren’t answering up either. I don’t like it.”

“Ditto,” Hash said as he focused on reaching the camp. “Let’s haul ass!” he shouted. “Triple time, move it!”

The north gate was within sight. Percy’s security force continued to lay down suppressive fire toward the east and north, stopping the much smaller groups that managed to get around the north side to pursue fresh meat.

“Where the fuck’s everyone?” Thomson asked. “This isn’t good.”

They entered the civilian gate and abruptly halted in their tracks.

“Oh, dear God… we’re too late,” Hash said as he and his men stood horrified, witnessing the ongoing massacre of the survivor’s central camp.

Five sharp tones chirped across their radios as Thompson turned to Hash and said, “That’s Command. They’re sending instructions.”

From their radios, Hash heard the following broken message: “All units, initiating Delta Foxtrot Five. Repeat, Delta Foxtrot Five. All units return to base camp. Repeat, return to base camp.”

“No fucking way!” Hash yelled. “They can’t be serious.”

“That’s a DF5 direct command,” Thompson said.

“I know what it is, you fucking idiot! I just can’t believe they’re issuing it.”

“Sarge, we have to go… now! You know what’s coming next. We can’t be out here when the purge protocol goes active.

“But what about the survivors? We can’t just abandon them!”

“That’s exactly what we’re doing. DF5, Sarge! Worst case scenario, class fucking five! There’s no room for dispute here.”

“Fuck that. Get the men together, we’re going to help these people.”

Thompson aimed his handgun directly at Hash’s face causing the squad to share confused looks.

“What are you fucking doing, Thompson?”

“Don’t make me relieve you, Sarge. I don’t want to do this, but I’ll shoot you down right now. You know as well as I do that the camp’s lost. Nothing we can do now will change the order. No sense in getting us killed, too.”

Sergeant Hash looked directly at Thompson and said, “You are the worst kind of coward there is, Thompson. Orders or not, this is as wrong as it gets. Do you understand that?”

Thompson simply nodded. “Changes nothing. You know it. I know it. These people are dead already.”

Hash knew he was right.

“Order the withdrawal, Sarge, or I will.”

Hash turned back to view the slaughter, allowing it ample time to burn within his memory forever. Then he turned to the men and said, “Fall back to the power block. Our work’s done here.”

The guardsmen looked apprehensive.

“It’s a fucking Desperation Factor Five event! That’s all you need to know. Move it!” He then said to Thompson without looking into his disgusting face, “Send the order over the radio. Tell them all to fall back.”

“Copy,” Thompson said, lowering his sidearm. He relayed the order for all units to fall back to the inner protected area muster point for emergency ingress into the plant. They were not to bring any survivors with them…

~~~

… The sound of a single round fired from a handgun reverberated down the hallway, entered the small, dark and damp cell with blood-stained concrete walls, rousing the hungover man from disturbing dreams.

The good sergeant struggled to raise his head. He opened his heavy eyelids to focus on the spinning room illuminated by faint light from down the corridor. The cell bars turned sideways and fell out of focus.

“Fuck me,” he blurted, quickly shutting his eyes.

Hash managed not to vomit on himself this time.

He opened his eyes to examine the new mess he’d made. The disgusting pool had formed a nice little moat around the aluminum shit bucket, the only accommodation provided for him in the empty space. He laughed at the absurdity of what he’d been reduced to. Once a respected soldier, an expert marksman at multiple weapons, now, unable to aim accurately at a shit-can three feet in front of him.

He leaned up against the cold concrete wall in the corner of the room to steady himself, his knees pressed up against his naked body for warmth. He’d long since become immune to his own filthy stench but could not stop from scratching at his unkempt blond beard and former flat-top hair that felt like a thousand insects were constantly squirming around his face and the top of his head. He’d sell his soul for a haircut and shave. If provided the razor to do it himself, he’d take care of the rest of his pitiful existence when finished.

He heard footsteps approaching from down the hall.

He sighed heavily in the dark space. Time to play the game again, he thought. Same fucking game, different day.

Hash knew the drill by now. They’d give him just enough food and water to stay alive… and then that grinning piece-of-shit would bring the poison to take care of the rest. He shook his head in disgust at his own weakness, silently craving whatever bottle was provided this time.

God, let him come inside this room, just once, and I’ll use whatever strength I have left to slit the fucker’s throat on the broken pieces from whatever bottle it is this time. He stared back at his shit bucket, which mocked him better than any mirror could, as the false steel left his body, leaving only the shame. I hope it’s whiskey this time. Less nightmares with that shit.

Two face-painted lunatics appeared before his cage with looks of disgust. The foul stench assaulted them. They started to unlock his cell.

Here we go, Hash thought, slowly rising to his feet, using the wall for support. Once standing, he turned to face the back of the cell, placing his dirty hands behind his head. After two weeks of this shit, the good sergeant had finally learned that a compliant prisoner resulted in complacent jailers. Hash once believed he could use that to his advantage, but now… it was more about receiving fewer beatings, depending on how generous Candyman’s moods were.

The good sergeant waited while one of the Lunatics replaced his shit bucket. “Fucking disgusting,” he heard one of them swear. The other was standing near the doorway, gun up and aimed at the back of his head. Moments later, he heard a fold-up chair being opened and placed roughly on the floor, causing him to flinch. The last sound was the tray, presumably his meal, being placed near the cell door, followed by the rush of both men exiting the cell and slamming the door shut.

Now the hard part, Hash thought, as he continued to stand facing the wall.

Sometimes, this was a trick to see if he’d disobey, turning around prematurely as the armed men waited just inside the cell to beat him within an inch of his life for moving out of position. Most of the time, it was just Candyman’s way of asserting control over the former soldier as he made him wait there, drawing out the anxiety of the whole affair, studying him from just outside the cell. The leader of New Cleveland had made him wait for an hour once, ending the suspense with two sentences. “You may eat now, Sergeant. See you tomorrow,” he’d said, before abruptly departing.

“Good morning, Sergeant,” the pleasant voice said. “Please, come sit down and eat.”

Hash could hear the man sit down in his chair placed just outside the cell bars. The exhausted man finally relaxed, lowered his hands slowly, then turned.

Candyman sat patiently, wearing slacks and one of his turtleneck sweaters. He seemed preoccupied with one leg crossed over the other, staring over his notebook and wearing his reading glasses while sipping on a glass of wine.

Hash stared at the chair placed on his side of the bars. A neatly folded blanket was placed on top of it, his food tray and a cup of water sitting beside it. With as much dignity as he could muster, he walked over to the fold-up chair, wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and chest, then sat down in the cold chair. He picked up his food tray, not caring what the meaty slop was, and started cramming it into his mouth with both hands.

Candyman ignored him while he ate, waiting for the man to finish.

After devouring the food, Hash sucked down the cup of water, and then wiped his sticky hands on the blanket. “Thank you,” he said, maintaining the appearance of total compliance.

Candyman finally looked up, peering at the man over his glasses and smiled. “You are very welcome,” he said, closing the notebook and leaning back in his chair. “I asked the men to make sure you had the blanket this time. A reward for your good behavior.”

Hash nodded. “Thanks for that, too.”

Candyman never seemed to mind the repulsive smell coming from the cell. In fact, he often treated the good sergeant as if they were sitting across from each other at a table in one of his favorite cafes. If not for the exhaustion and the hangover, Hash would find the man’s demeanor amusing, despite the circumstances.

Candyman removed his glasses and clipped them on to his notebook before setting it down on the floor. He picked up a bottle of wine, refilled his glass, then stopped, staring at his prisoner as if he were the rudest host. “My apologies. Would you like some, Sergeant?”

Hash closed his eyes and sighed heavily. More than the food, water, or blanket… it was the only thing he really wanted. He opened his eyes and said, “Yes… please.”

Candyman smiled. “Of course, you do.” He carefully slid the bottle between the cell bars until Hash could reach it.

The good sergeant, throwing dignity to the wind, greedily tipped the open bottle of wine back and let the warm, sour fluid flow down his throat. He brought the bottle back down, letting the numbing alcohol steal over him.

“Better?” Candyman asked.

“Yes. Thanks for that.”

The smug leader looked pleased with himself. “What shall we talk about today, Sergeant? And please, feel free to speak plainly. It’s not often I get to chat with anyone, man to man, not like we do down here. I find our exchanges very… refreshing.”

Okay, he’s in a good mood. Works for everyone. This was the easiest role the good sergeant had to play because it only required honesty on his part. Hash let out a light laugh. “You mean, because I don’t kiss your ass and agree with everything you say like some fuckin’ programmed robot?”

Candyman laughed. “Precisely.” He leaned over in his chair, looked down the hallway to make sure his guards were sufficiently out of earshot, and then finished, “Down here, you and I…well… I feel we’ve established a bond of sorts. I’ve always appreciated your candor and that we can talk without titles or ranks getting in the way.”

“I get that,” Hash said. He took another sip from the bottle. “There’s no bullshit between us. I may be your prisoner, but we’ve cleared the air of that, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” Candyman said. “You know as well as I that I’ll eventually end your life, and I’ve made that perfectly clear… no bullshit. And you’ve already expressed how much you’d like to… how do you put it? ‘Shove my head up my ass repeatedly’?”

Hash laughed. “Something like that.”

“Yes. Well, you’ve made it abundantly clear how much you would love to end my life if these convenient bars weren’t here to stop you, and that you don’t give a damn about my threats on your life. So, we’ve made our positions equally clear.”

“Yeah,” Hash said. “We each know where the other stands. No bullshit.” He took another swig off the wine bottle. “Speaking along those lines, when do you plan to kill me? As much as I appreciate the fucking booze, the accommodations suck. I’m not going to tell you anything more about Tony and his friends, I’m sure you know that by now, so why keep me alive? And don’t tell me it’s because you’re some sick fuck who likes watching me suffer. That’s seems petty coming from a man like you.”

Candyman nodded. “Yes, you are correct. I don’t derive any pleasure in watching you like this. Maybe initially I did, but that has become tedious. Truth be told, I keep you here, like this, as an example.”

Hash nodded. “I see. You and I have these civil chats when no one’s looking. But your men see the rest and spread the word about how ruthless you treat anyone who crosses you.”

“Correct. But don’t misunderstand. I also enjoy our conversations. There’s a certain… freedom… I have in discussing things with you, as I hope you have found with me, as well. I know that I’m talking to a dead man who knows it. I don’t have to worry about you betraying my confidence because, well, dead men don’t have to be trusted with secrets.”

“You’re assuming that I don’t find a way to kill you first,” Hash added with a wink.

This made Candyman laugh. “Of course. But either way it works out the same. If you kill me, none of my secrets will matter. I consider this a ‘win, win’.”

“Unless I escape this cell and you escape my vengeance. What then?”

Candyman gave him an amused look, as if listening to the reasoning of a small child. “Do you really believe there is still that possibility?”

Watch it, Hash thought. He laughed. “No. I was just being an asshole. I’m going to die in this cage. I’ve accepted that already.” He took another sip of wine. “I guess I was just hoping it would be from alcohol poisoning by now.”

Candyman laughed. “Yes. You can certainly drink. It’s a good thing I’m well-stocked in that department.”

“Now that is the most encouraging thing you’ve said since I’ve been in here.” He took a longer gulp from the wine bottle.

“Careful,” Candyman teased. “Don’t want you belligerent before we’ve had a chance to talk.”

“Talk away,” Hash said. “I do some of my best contemplating under the influence.”

Candyman nodded, then shifted gears. “Tell me again about the power plant?”

“Again, with that story? That’s old fuckin’ news.”

“Yes, but I gleam something from it each time you revisit that place.”

Hash shook his head. “Maybe you do like to watch me suffer.”

“It’s not that, Sergeant. You just have a certain… flare… for the telling of that particular tale. Especially your take on ‘desperation’. I find that most intriguing.”

The good sergeant gave the evil little man a hard look. “I thought you were interested in the behavior of that fucking horde we fought. You know, for your research? Or whatever it is you’re really doing down here. I assume we’re underground?”

“True, this started off as a bit of research, but I’ve learned so much more from your story than I ever expected. As for the rest, don’t concern yourself with what happens down here.”

“I’m always waking up to gunfire,” Hash pushed. “Is this that lab you mentioned? You know, where you conduct tests on infection rates? Sometimes I even hear screams before those gunshots… and they don’t sound human.”

“Again, Sergeant… that’s none of your concern.”

Hash raised his hands defensively, sensing the sadistic leader’s good mood starting to shift. “Alright, don’t get your panties all bunched up. I was just curious to know if I had that ending to look forward to.”

“I assure you, Sergeant, your death, and what happens down here, are two separate matters. Unless you continue to test my patience on the matter.”

“Got it,” he said with a laugh.

“The power plant,” Candyman pushed. “Tell me again what happened after your superiors issued the… what was it again?”

Hash frowned and closed his eyes. “It was called a ‘DF5’ event. ‘Desperation Factor Five’.”

“Yes,” Candyman said. “That was it. If I remember correctly, you were firmly against the order, but relayed the message to your squad, anyway.”

“Don’t forget the part where I was threatened at gunpoint by one of my own men,” Hash added bitterly.

Candyman laughed. “Yes, yes. You’re fond of bringing that up to justify your actions. But let’s be honest… hmm? We both know you had to issue the order.”

Hash closed his eyes and drank more wine. “It was a fucking massacre order,” he said. “A coward’s order. We should have fought harder for those poor people, but the powers-to-be started to panic. That fucking order was just a desperate move to save their own asses.”

“Yes,” Candyman said. “A desperate move, indeed. One might argue that your superiors had no intention of letting anyone inside the power block… and that the attack gave them an excuse to issue the order.”

“That’s crazy,” Hash said. “I won’t believe my government, as shady as it was, would be on board with pre-meditated mass murder!”

Candyman raised his hands defensively. “Fine. I was just speculating. I’m not trying to upset you, Sergeant.”

Hash nodded. “Well… alright then. Let’s move on from this conversation. It’s a tragic story you’ve already heard, and one not fit for wasting wine over.”

“But answer me this, Sergeant,” Candyman pushed.

Hash shook his head. “Man, you just don’t quit.”

“If you had refused the order, provided you had avoided getting shot in the face, what would you have done differently?”

“What the hell kind of question is that?”

“I mean, would you have led the remains of your squad out in the center of that camp just to watch them get slaughtered, too?”

“Damn straight!” Hash said, defensively. “That’s what we were there to do. We were charged with protecting the people… that was why they all came to that goddamn power plant to begin with! They thought they’d be safe… protected… and we failed!”

Candyman leaned in and smiled. “Okay. What if you and your soldiers had saved a few, led them safely inside, and then found out that even one had been infected?”

“We would’ve been careful before we let anyone like that in,” Hash said. “Point is, we didn’t do a damn thing. We didn’t even try! We just followed orders and ran inside like cowards. Then they opened fire on everyone!”

“But you followed orders, Sergeant, and probably saved everyone inside by doing so. Isn’t saving some better than losing everything? What you were forced to do may not have been heroic, but the end results still saved lives.”

“Whatever you say,” Hash said, waving a hand at the man. “Those cowards weren’t worth saving. After the deed was done, everyone inside just turned on each other eventually anyway. Once the winter came and the dead were still surrounding the place, it was just a matter of time before the supplies ran out. We were stuck in there, cut off, and-”

“Desperate?” Candyman finished.

“Yes. Desperation’s like a slow working poison,” Hash said. “One you can’t see or smell or shoot down with another fucking order. Once it gets inside of you, it strips away the bullshit you believed about yourself. And then the real you shows up… and it’s downright ugly.”

Candyman nodded. “Winter came, supplies were running out, and orders were given for the soldiers to go out and find supplies.”

“They were suicide missions,” Hash corrected. “Everyone who went out there died. If those hungry savages didn’t get them, then the cold finished them off. We were screwed.” Hash raised the wine bottle up in a mock toast, and finished, “Here’s to fucking karma, assholes. You deserved everything that happened, fuckers!”

Candyman laughed. “Who started the uprising?”

“The hell if I know,” Hash said. “I spent most of the time locked up in the power plant’s version of the brig. I punched a few higher-ranking officials and told them all exactly what kind of spineless men they were for gunning down innocents. I threatened to report their murderous asses if I ever got out of there, and they were quick to shut me up and put me away.”

“And then your old unit broke you out of the brig during the revolt?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Why didn’t you stay at the plant? I was under the impression that the top brass responsible for the massacre had been thrown outside, correct?”

“Yes… that’s right.”

“You were a respected soldier and could have had a persuasive position in the restructuring of things. Perhaps you could have had a run for leadership. But you chose to sneak away, with your unit, instead.”

Hash nodded sadly, taking a deep breath. “I was against the DF5 order that those cowards in power issued. They deserved to be tried for their crimes, and I wanted to see justice.” He shook his head and closed his eyes. “But that doesn’t mean that I condoned what the others did during the winter. We’re soldiers, not blood-thirsty mutineers. I watched what I thought were good men do very violent things to those politicians—cruel, malicious things. And then, throwing the rest out in the cold and watching the dead prey on them… that’s not justice… that’s barbaric! There was no honor left in that despicable place. So, I told a few of my old squad that I was going to take my chances outside, and a few of them joined me. Even that dickhead, Thompson, the asshole who was always giving me shit for bending orders, even he saw what the place had turned into… what desperation had turned those men into.”

“Monsters,” Candyman said. “I believe you called them, ‘monsters’.”

Hash smiled. “Yeah… I might’ve said that when I told this before. It’s true. Before I left that place, I couldn’t tell if the monsters inside were worse than the monsters outside. All I knew was that I had to get the hell away from there.”

“Before you, too, were infected by Desperation, yes?”

Hash stared at the man. “Yeah. I didn’t want to stick around and find out what kind of a man I truly was… or what I was capable of.” He shook his head. “As it turned out, my buddy Desperation wasn’t exclusive to the power plant. I had no idea how hard it was out there, or how bleak everything had become during that long winter. I was completely unprepared for how fucking desperate everyone calling themselves ‘survivors’ had already become.”

Candyman leaned back in his chair and shook his head sadly at the good sergeant. “You really need to let the past go, Sergeant. Yes, we have both seen first-hand what became of society once the dead took away the ‘civilized’ parts of it. Mankind was quick to turn on each other once the initial wave of the dead came through and reduced the population—winter made it worse. And now you can understand why New Cleveland has grown into the prosperous stronghold it is today. You can judge what goes on within these walls all you want, but the truth is, very few people who enter these gates choose to leave. Why do you suppose that is?”

Hash frowned. “Because they’re afraid,” he said. “Afraid of everyone and everything… out there. In here, they feel safe… or safer. In here, they can take a break from the stress of making decisions moment by moment that could result in getting them killed, or the ones they’re trying to protect.”

“Oh, not just because of all that, my friend,” Candyman said. “I have given them back the illusion of what made their lives so mundane and pointless in the first place. I’ve given them rules and laws and let everyone know that there’s consequences for breaking them by establishing my very own ‘police’ force. They stay, Sergeant, because New Cleveland is the closest they will ever get to having that old bullshit world back—the one which made them feel like no one was allowed to harm them, because here, the predators are still in check and are forced back into the shadows.”

Hash shook his head. “That’s really fucking sad, when you put it that way.”

Candyman smiled. “New Cleveland, in all it’s dark and horrifying glory, is just another version of the prison most people needed to make them feel… in control. I provide it for them, but it’s not free.”

“Yeah, I think my new friends and I have figured that out.”

Candyman laughed. “You’re only in the predicament you’re in because you gave up the town that I sent you to protect.”

“I explained what happened,” Hash said. “And I brought you everything of value from that town.”

Candyman frowned. “The town of West Farmington had more value than the supplies within it. I’ve set up border towns for a reason… and I expect them to be secure.”

“You mean, you expected me and my men to act as early warning should the deal you’ve made with those freaks up at Mosquito Creek go south.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Come on,” Hash said. “It’s no big secret. All you have to do is wander your own streets long enough and you can hear everyone whispering the same damn thing: You’ve made an arrangement with Mosquito Creek. You send them shipments, and they leave this place alone.”

Candyman stared at Hash, his thoughts drifting elsewhere. “No matter,” he finally said. “Point is, you lost my town… and now you’re here. I don’t need to justify to you why I need the border towns protected, and I don’t have to concern myself with every wild story that circulates around my town.”

“But I’m right, aren’t I?”

Candyman smiled. “Yes, dead man, you are correct. I’ve made a… border agreement… with those things to the west, and that’s all I care to say on the matter.”

“You send them people… like food… and they stay away from here, so as long as the food keeps coming,” Hash said with disgust.

“It’s a small price to pay. The majority are protected by the sacrifice of a few.”

“You’re a monster,” Hash said, looking away.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Candyman teased. “I do what I must… and no one has complained. What does that tell you about the good people of New Cleveland?”

“It tells me that you’re all on borrowed time. Those things will eventually shit on your arrangement and take this town… probably when they’ve exhausted all the other ‘food’ sources around that lake.”

“Tell me again, Sergeant, how you could murder twenty-seven people in a hospital in order to secure my town, and then still call me a monster.”

Hash’s shoulders sank. “That was low. You already know that story.”

“Yes, but if you’re going to push my buttons… all I need to do is tap lightly on yours. Tell me again, how you and your men came crawling to my gates, like so many others, and out of desperation, offered to do anything to become part of the same damn illusion?”

Hash had to swallow that bitter pill. “I know what I did. I’m not proud of it.”

“But you did secure the town… after killing… how many children in that hospital? I believe there were also some elderly folks and women, too.”

“Stop.”

“And… they were unarmed, yes?”

“Yes.”

“But they wouldn’t vacate the hospital. So, your men opened fire on them.”

“Yes. But I wasn’t there to stop them.”

“And after the deed was done… where was justice for those innocent people… hmm?”

“You’ve made your point,” Hash growled. “No need to salt the wound.”

“Have I made my point? I don’t think so. You call me a monster for the things I’ve done behind the scenes to secure my town. You have also done some nasty things behind the scenes, to aid in the security of New Cleveland.”

“I never said that,” Hash defended. “I never once excused what my men did… for any reason.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Candyman said. “You acted on my orders to secure that hospital. I’m as much responsible for your actions as you are responsible for your unit’s actions.”

Hash laughed. “That doesn’t work in your favor, telling me that the blood spilled in that hospital is on your hands. Do you think that makes you less a monster for taking the heat off me?”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?” Candyman’s frustration was apparent. “I’m not trying to make you feel better or absolve you of your actions. You have killed people, and so have I. But we do what we must to keep the wheels of society moving smoothly, because without it… we would all be reduced to savages, killing each other off until Mankind was finished.”

Hash laughed. “So, it’s all for the fucking ‘greater good’? Is that the bullshit your selling now?”

“No,” Candyman said. “What we have done to keep society intact, makes us the lesser of two evils. It’s either, ‘Pay the Lunatics…”

“…or feed the dead’,” Hash finished with a bitter laugh. “Never quite understood that shit until now.”

“But you do finally understand, yes?”

Hash stared at the heartless leader of New Cleveland and said, “I understand that you, and all those assholes at the power plant, have all adopted the same compassionless logic. Like them, you justify the murder of innocents as though it were a math problem, and no more.”

“Isn’t it though?” Candyman said. “Isn’t it better to sacrifice a small percentage of what’s left of humanity to save the whole?”

Hash closed his eyes and shook his head. “We’re not going to agree on this one, no matter how hard you try to persuade me. I don’t give a fuck about the math. Better to let the dead wipe us all out then to live with what we’ve done to survive. There’s nothing worth saving if we can kill each other off so… systematically.”

Candyman smiled, considering the good Sergeant’s words. “I appreciate your… noble stance… but it’s that kind of thinking that will kill us all off in today’s desperate world.”

“Then let it happen,” Hash said. “Maybe our time on the planet is done.”

Candyman laughed. “And with an attitude like that, I for one am glad that you are on that side of the bars, and I’m on the other. I’m not ready to give up on humanity yet.”

Hash gave him a disbelieving look. “You already gave up on humanity the moment you justified murdering people.”

Candyman nodded. “And this is where we part ways, I suppose. I completely understand why your superiors issued the DF5 command… and I respect them for making that hard decision. It probably saved them at the time.”

“Then you’re as lost as they were,” Hash said. “Perhaps you, those pricks at the power plant, and all the rest who are like you, are dead already.”

Candyman raised an eyebrow in surprise. “How do you figure, Sergeant?”

Hash smiled. “You’re all rotting away on the inside, like those walking corpses outside. Soon, there won’t be much to distinguish any of you from them.”

~~~

Next Episode 51-2

Previous Episode 50-9

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 51-1: The Desperation Factor” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. 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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