Archive for the ‘Apocalypse’ Category

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Here’s the next episode of Don’t Feed The Dark, the audio edition, narrated by Jerimiah Vega. Please show your support and encouragement by visiting Jerimiah’s Soundcloud page and letting him know what you think in the comments.

I’ll be adding links to everything Jerimiah’s done so far up on the main page in the tab marked ‘DFTD in Audio’, and also at the end of every written episode.

Chapter 1-4: Demon Night (Narrated by Jerimiah Vega)

~~~

Next Episode 2-1
Previous Episode 1-3

__________________________________________

“Chapter 1-4: Demon Night” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”. Audio edition narrated by Jerimiah Vega Copyright @ 2018.

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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~~~

“Holy fuck!” Mark’s words were highlighted on the astonished faces of Tony’s group as they exited the castle-like lobby, passing through the portal on the left, and into the town of New Cleveland.

After their meeting with Candyman, Briana and her Lunatics had escorted them out of their leader’s courtyard, releasing them on the town with a final deadly look that promised their murders as soon as Candyman let her off his leash. From there on, they were on their own.

The sea of survivors, if you could call them that, engulfed them immediately as they stepped on to the crowded and narrow streets of New Cleveland, surrounded by the steady buzz of activity and the indifferent stares of strangers.

Erected on either side of any street stood a conglomerate of industrial-sized trailers, sheds, mobile homes, large shipping containers, abandoned tractor trailers and box trucks. There were numerous buildings made of wood or sheet metal of all shapes and sizes, which resembled tore-down tree houses or hunter’s blinds, some placed together to form bigger structures, and others with second floors. There were also various sized pavilion tents mixed in with the solid structures, adding erratic colors and patterns to the madness of mobile constructs converted into businesses that lined every street. Lastly, whatever remained of the previous amusement park rides and attractions were fused in with this jungle of pieces and parts brought in from all over to form the skeleton of New Cleveland—its people, giving this visual monstrosity life. And at its center, looming high above the town, were the remains of the previous monster, the old wooden roller coaster, like the bones of some ancient dragon long deceased.

For Tony and the others, it was all too much to absorb at once. The sights, sounds and scents of so much life surrounding them, was overwhelming. None of them had seen this many of the living gathered in one place since before the outbreak and it all felt a bit unreal—and they—like aliens arriving on a strange, new world, or a world so old that none of them understood the language or the culture any longer.

Sergeant Hash was amused by his shocked new friends. “It’s a lot to take in,” he said, having to raise his voice a bit above the crowd. “I felt the same way when we first arrived here. Didn’t even know this many people still existed.”

“It’s like a horde… of the living!” Nine said, as several pushed by him rudely. “Not very friendly, though. Feels just like home.”

Hash led them out of the center of the street and up against the wall of some plywood palace. “They may not be dead, but they can still be just as deadly if you attract the wrong attention,” he advised. “This place is a vulture’s paradise. It may seem promising on the surface, seeing so many people alive and thriving, but underneath, it’s all a big pile of shit, and you can smell it if you pay attention. We’re just a few more flies buzzing around it… that’s all.”

“We must seem like easy targets,” Wendy offered. “Like tourists standing around with our mouths hanging open.”

“Exactly,” Hash said. “It’s only because we’re in a group that these dogs haven’t tried to lure us into trouble yet.”

“Trouble is right.” Tony frowned, staring up one street, straining to read the generic signs hanging above shops. He was immediately appalled. They no longer had catchy names, clever slogans, or brightly painted colors to attract the eye. No, the peddlers in the new world had little use or patience for advertisements. They had things people needed… plain and simple… and in a world where ‘need’ was like the frantic cry of a starving baby bird screaming from an abandoned nest where predators above waited to swoop down and devour it, the suppliers of that need had all the power.

“‘Get High Cheap’ right next to ‘Sex, Any Preference’,” Tony read the signs. “‘Will Help You Find/Bury Your Loved Ones’. He stopped with a chill after reading the next one. “‘Death Assistance- Why Wait?’.” He turned to Hash. “Is this place for real? Have we really devolved that much in such a short time?”

“Yes,” Alysa answered. “Places like this do not surprise me at all. Your world crumbled in a heartbeat when the illusions died. And now, what’s left of that pathetic world is like gold for anyone who can’t live without it.”

Tony gave her a hard look. “When you say things like that, you sound like one of them.”

Alysa caught his veiled meaning. “Just because I don’t belong to the Order any longer doesn’t mean that they had it all wrong.” She nodded toward the sheep. “Look at them. Do you think they’ve all come here to ‘survive’ in this horrible place?”

Tony stared into the crowd. The men and women of New Cleveland shuffled along, huddled together wearing faded-color and soiled clothing, the knees of their pants were ripped, stitched over or patched, and then several times again. Their shoes looked worn down past the point of usefulness. They’d all seen hard times, just as Tony and his group had, but they appeared more like phantoms of their former selves. And their eyes—downcast, bloodshot red, or filled with fear or indifference—spoke volumes. To Tony, many of them had the look of people who had arrived at their final destination, just filling the time they had left until they could be free from this wretched existence.

“You see it,” Alysa said, staring into Tony’s face. “They’re already dead. You can smell it in their neglected hygiene, see it in their broken posture—taste it in the air like a thick fog of hopelessness.

“That’s a bit harsh,” Diane said. “Not everyone here has given up, as you say. Perhaps you could find a shop around here to alter your personality if you looked hard enough. Just look for the sign that probably reads, ‘Attitude Adjustments by Rusty Blade’.”

Alysa raised her eyebrow at the hunter, responding with a crooked smile.

Diane smiled back.

Nine tried real hard not to crack up at their verbal stand-off.

“Perhaps,” Alysa admitted. “But not among this crowd. I’ll ask you this, hunter. If there’s anyone here who hasn’t already decided to die… then why are they still here?”

Diane had no response.

“Well,” Hash interjected, “it’s like I told you before. The worst of the worst thrive in this town… and they know how to prey on the weak for profit. What we’re seeing is the result of folks spending too much time here, believing they’ve found safety in numbers… or ample distractions to keep their minds numb. Compared to living outside where the dead could you eat you in your sleep, they think this is better.” He looked sadly into the crowd. “Candyman knew what he was doing when he set this place up. Every kind of dark indulgence can be found somewhere in this shithole town, which explains his name. Candyman understands our dark nature and how to appeal to it. He offers sugar-coated poison—pleasure—in exchange for whatever they’ve brought… and so much more. The little bit of time that I spend here was enough to see that. I entered a state of depression while I was here last, watching humanity in self-destruct mode. But I didn’t even know it until after I got away from this place. The darkness here crawls all over your skin and then get absorbed into your soul. I swear, you actually feel yourself slowly rotting away to dust in this place.”

“How the hell did Candyman pull this off?” Tony asked.

“From what I’d learned from the locals, Candyman and his Lunatics were former inmates out of some prison south of here. When chaos erupted, the prison was abandoned. The prison’s probably what saved their lives when the outbreak first started. Eventually they got out somehow, headed away from populated areas, and ended up here. Some company had already been leasing parts of the amusement park to store a lot of those large trailers you’ve seen… and the chain-link fence was already here, keeping the dead out. Candyman apparently had some sway with the other inmates prior to escaping and got them all on his page. From there, he saw an opportunity and seized it. When the mass panic was killing off folks, that man was already adding whatever resources he could find to what already existed. It’s my understanding that he moved all those trailers inside first, then started on the larger wall, and all that before the winter. I have to hand it to the man, if he’d been one of the good guys, this place could’ve been something. But now… well… you’ll see for yourself.”

“They also have power,” Wendy said, remembering Candyman’s lit up trailer.

“Yeah,” Hash continued. “Like I said, they wasted no time sucking up whatever resources they could get their hands on, including a massive supply of generators, weapons and fuel.”

Nine noticed an old woman with a cane talking to herself as she barely managed to not get knocked over by the oblivious crowd. The old woman briefly made eye contact with him. Her eyes were wide open, dilated—insane looking. “Granny’s taken one too many hits off the crack pipe.”

“What was that?” Wendy asked.

Another middle-aged woman, in a hurry to get nowhere, pushed the old woman out of her way and off the road. “Die, you old bitch!” the harsh woman said. She never looked back.

The old woman fell on her side. Nine was about to rush over to help but stopped.

The old woman got up, turned toward the fleeing middle-aged woman, and shouted, “Fuck you, ya cunt! I’ll kill ya… come back here… I’ll kill ya!” The old woman then started heading back the other way, presumably in pursuit of the pusher. She was quickly swallowed up by the crowd.

“Never mind,” Nine said, immediately feeling bad for joking at that lost old woman’s expense.

“We should get going,” Hash urged. “If we have any chance at finding your friends, then I know where we need to start.”

“This is your show. Lead the way,” Tony said.

Hash was about to navigate through the crowd. He stopped, turned back, and said, “Thanks, by the way.”

“For what?”

“I was a dead man back there. But you took a serious risk and bought me some time.”

“Well, Sergeant, that’s how my people roll,” Tony said with a smile. “We look after each other.”

“I’m starting to get that. I’m just glad you considered me ‘your people’.”

Tony sighed. “Yeah, now I just have to figure out how to keep you alive past three days.”

“Let’s just see if we survive day number one first,” Hash added with a wink. He turned toward the others. “Watch yourselves… and everyone else. If you have anything you value in your back pockets, put them in your front pockets. Try not to make eye contact with the vendors or they’ll hound your ass. Try to look like they’re all beneath you and that you’re someone important. That will make folks nervous enough to keep their distance… hopefully.”

“Where are we going?” Mark asked.

“To the local watering hole, of course,” Hash said. “That’s are best chance at finding any information on your friends. Besides, drunks are the best talkers, if you keep them happy.”

They started walking back up the street, patiently pushing their way through the crowd.

Various shop owners gave them the stink eye or smiled greedily at the new arrivals, sensing fresh meat, but no one approached them yet.

Several times Nine felt his backside patted as people brushed against him in passing. He smiled and leaned in toward Diane. “Either I have an ass to die for… or I’ve just counted seven pick-pocket attempts.”

“First one touches anything on me, I’m hurting someone,” she promised, staring meanly back at every glance she received from the crowd.

“Not to worry,” Nine laughed. “You’re looking pretty scary right now.”

“Good.”

“Excuse me,” a tall, string-bean of a man said to Mark.

Mark immediately recoiled at the man’s stale beer breath. “Yeah?”

The man smiled at him and looked over at Wendy. “She yours?”

Mark looked over at Wendy, saw her worried face, then turned back, puffed his chest out, and tried to look as intimidating as possible. “Go away. We’re not interested.”

The smelly man appeared startled by the response, and then started reaching into his pocket, causing Mark to tense up. “Relax,” the man said. “I’m no trouble. I’ve got one of these here tokens.” The man pulled out a silver token that looked similar to the gold one Candyman gave Hash before they left. He held it up proudly. “I’m V.I.P., just like you… right?”

“Sure,” Mark said. “Anything you say. Just… move along.”

The man looked confused. “But… I have silver. That means I can get women… and I want that one.” The man pointed at Wendy.

Wendy crossed her arms across her chest and stepped away from the creepy man.

“Not this one, pal,” Mark said. “Put that finger away before I shove it up your ass!”

The man’s face was getting red. He pushed Mark back. “Naw… this means I get the women, any woman I want!”

By now the commotion attracted the attention of the others, as well as several people who quickly averted their eyes and gave them a wide berth.

Mark squared up with the man, then stopped as he looked over his shoulder and noticed two armed Lunatics standing next to a shop. They were looking right at him. He stared back at the creepy man. “Look… let’s not cause a scene here. The authorities are watching-”

“Fuck you!” the man shouted in his face. “I’ve got silver! I’m special today! Give me the girl… I’m entitled!”

Mark looked over the man’s shoulder again. The Lunatics were still watching. They seemed amused, whispering, laughing and pointing toward them.

To hell with it, Mark thought. He attempted to punch the creep, but the tall man slapped his fist away and then pulled his long wiry arm back to punch Mark in the face.

Tony stepped between them, the tall man’s punch striking the stone of Tony’s chest. The big man didn’t even flinch.

Tony grabbed the smelly man by the neck and pulled him close. “Look. My friends are trying not to cause trouble, you foul-fucking creature. But if you lift your hand again to strike my friend, I’ll break your fucking neck!”

The tall man raised his arms submissively. “Okay! Okay! But… I only wanted ten minutes with the girl! She looks like she could suck the-”

The man had no time to finish his sentence. Tony struck him hard in the gut, then followed it with an uppercut to the chin. The man wobbled back, then fell limp to the ground.

The crowd simply walked around or over the unconscious man.

Tony briefly looked up at the Lunatics. They were no longer laughing as they stared threateningly back, their fresh entertainment no longer available.

Tony nodded to them with a wave, then turned toward Mark.

“Sorry, Tony. The creep just-”

“Not your fault,” He quickly said. “Just keep walking. Both of you. Too many eyes on us right now.”

Mark and Wendy both nodded.

Tony walked on ahead.

Wendy reached over and grabbed Mark’s arm.

He turned.

“Thank you,” she said.

He nodded. “Yeah. No problem. Even the fucking V.I.P.’s, whatever that means, don’t get to go at my friends.”

She smiled at him, patting him on the forearm. “I suppose I should’ve felt flattered… I mean… he did have silver and all.”

He shook his head at her. “Nah. You’re worth every bit of that gold token Hash is carrying around, and then some.” He added a wink that made her laugh. They both pulled in closer behind the others, not wanting anymore V.I.P. propositions.

Alysa was doing all she could not to lash out at the people pressing in on her, invading her private space. She wasn’t used to anyone getting this close without it being a combat situation. She tried to take in her surroundings, examining every shoddy structure for an advantage, but the abundance of activity and overlapping conversations were assaulting all her senses. She studied every face she saw, trying to get a read on their intentions, but there were just too many faces to process. “How much farther?” she asked the good sergeant, who was walking just ahead with Tony.

He turned and called back. “Just a few more minutes. The place is at the other end of the park.”

She turned as a red hooded figure bumped her from the left. “Sorry,” a soft voice said in passing. Alysa watched the hooded individual disappear into the crowd behind her. She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath to calm down.

“Take it easy,” Nine said, catching up to her. “He probably just tried to pick your pocket. It’s happened to me ten times now.”

Alysa gave him a crooked smile and nodded as Nine, Diane, Wendy and Mark passed her, all looking equally overwhelmed by New Cleveland.

She suddenly had an urge to check her pockets.

Tony observed one long line in front of a makeshift storefront off to the left. The store was larger than a lot of the others with no sign above the door.

“That’s one of the murder shops,” Hash said with a frown, beating the big man to the question.

“What the fuck is that?”

“When their time runs out and they have to turn in their tokens and finally leave, lots of folks can’t bear the thought of going back outside,” Hash said. “So, they offer themselves as payment to stay.”

“Slaves?” Tony asked.

“Yeah… something like that. Candyman has an auction once a week for those who can’t afford to stay. Thinks he’s being charitable by giving them another way to live here, as long as there’s profit in it. So, people put themselves up for auction and take their chances on who buys them out.”

Tony shook his head. “This place is fucking crazy.” He looked back at the long line in front of the unmarked shop. “And how does that tie in with… murder shops?”

Hash sighed. “Once you’re bought at auction, you’re the property of the buyer. Sometimes it’s just for manual labor, other times for prostitution. Some are bought out for the fight pits on the opposite side of the park. And then, of course, Candyman himself might buy you out for any number of base purposes, like those experiments he mentioned. Regardless of what it is and who does the buying, whatever someone chooses to do with you after purchase is legal in New Cleveland, as long as it results in profits.” He nodded toward the murder shops. “I’ve never been in one of those places, never want to, but I’ve heard stories about them. If you’re bought by an owner of a murder shop, they can legally offer your flesh to any sadistic sonofabitch looking to torture or even kill someone. I’ve heard the slogans associated with those places and it makes my skin crawl thinking about it. ‘Pay to slay’.

“That’s horrendous,” Tony said. “And Candyman allows this?”

“That’s the beauty of the auctions, Tony. It’s all voluntary. If you don’t want to be a slave, then stay the hell away from the auctions and leave. Either way, Candyman isn’t responsible for you after you’ve been purchased. That’s entirely on you. Works out great for him because New Cleveland gets a major cut of everything and everyone coming in to town, and in return, the local businesses get a minor cut of everything that’s left… as long as they provide services in exchange for their cut.”

“You mean as long as they keep providing the ‘candy’?”

“Exactly.”

Tony couldn’t help staring back at the long line in front of the murder shop. “So, all those people over there are lining up to… kill people?”

“The only thing more popular here than the sex, drugs and alcohol suppliers are the murder shops.”

“That’s fucking insane.”

“Yeah, but it also helps keep the crime rate in New Cleveland at a minimum. The murder shops and the fight pits offer death as entertainment. The Lunatics take care of the rest.”

Tony had noticed plenty of Lunatics patrolling the streets and watching from the Big Dipper above. There were enough of them to remind everyone who was in charge, but they stood back, letting people do as they pleased.

Until they fucking screw up the profits, Tony thought bitterly.

“We’re here,” Hash said, nodding toward a long, two-story wooden structure.

Tony immediately looked for a sign above the door, expecting it to say, ‘Get Drunk Here’. He was surprised to discover that the bar had a name: Ollie’s Oasis.”

Hash nodded with a smile. “Now, here’s the one place in New Cleveland that is exactly what you expect it to be.”

“Sounds like you’ve been drunk a time or two in there,” Tony teased.

Hash laughed. “I’d be a damn liar if I said I didn’t.”

“Tony?” Alysa stepped up.

“What is it?”

“I’m going to check out the town and see what I can find out,” she said, staring disapprovingly at the bar. “I’d probably get into trouble in there.”

“Okay, then I’ll go with you,” Tony said. “None of us should be out here by ourselves.”

She smiled at him. “Don’t forget who I am. I can take care of myself.”

“But-”

“I’m not asking,” she said with a look of stone. “Besides, the rest of you would just slow me down.”

Tony frowned. “Be careful. We’ll wait for you here.”

The warrior nodded and quickly vanished into the crowd.

“What’s her hurry?” Hash said.

Tony shook his head, staring off in the direction Alysa went. “I’ve learned not to question that woman. She has her ways, and that’s that.”

“Well, if you’re done gawking after your sweetheart, I’d like to go get a drink,” Hash said with a wink.

“She’s not my… forget it.”

They all entered Ollie’s Oasis.

“Wow,” Nine said. “Looks like your typical hole-in-the-wall bar.”

Ollie’s Oasis was about the size of any small tavern. It had one long bar off to the right, a few mismatched tables to the left, and in the back, what looked like a small dancefloor.

“What’s the point of having a dancefloor?” Wendy asked. “There’s no jukebox. No music at all.”

The bar itself was crowded, but a few tables were still available. They all took one against the wall where they could keep a clear view of the Oasis’s patrons and sat down.

Tony tried to catch a glimpse of the bartender working busily behind the bar, but the customers obscured his view.

“Now what?” Diane said. “Do we talk to people, get wasted, or ask when karaoke starts?”

Nine laughed. “I could see you singing anything by Alanis Morissette, Pat Benatar, or Joan Jett.

“Shut up, Nine,” Diane cautioned.

“I understand… you need a few drinks to get warmed up first. But after, you and I are doing a duo to Paradise by the Dashboard Lights!

“You’re such an idiot sometimes,” she said, smacking him lightly on the cheek. “But you’re my idiot.”

“Keep it up and I won’t sing any Garth Brooks for you.”

“Let’s wait for the crowd to thin out around the bar,” Hash advised. “I’ve talked to the owner before. Ollie can be difficult to deal with, but I shared some funny stories one night and made him laugh his damn head off. A few shots and a few more off-colored jokes, and I can get him talking. If he doesn’t know what we need to know, he can point us to someone else who might.”

“Well, since Candyman gave you the gold token, which I understand makes us like super V.I.P.’s, then all our drinks are on your dime,” Mark said.

“My man!” Nine said, raising his hand up to Mark for the high-five.

Mark enthusiastically reciprocated.

Tony heard obnoxious laughter coming from the bar. He turned as the Red Sea of patrons parted, allowing him a glimpse of the bartender. An overweight bald man with several chins was wiping sweat off his forehead with a rag. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“Is there a problem?” Hash said.

Tony closed his eyes and balled his fists.

“Tony, you okay?” Nine said.

Tony opened his eyes and stared out at the small vacant dance floor. “That’s for his strippers, isn’t it?”

Hash raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, but… how did you know that?” He quickly turned to Diane and Wendy and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll be out of here long before his girls start… dancing… if that’s the word for it.”

“Excuse me,” Tony said, getting up from his seat.

“Where are you going?” Hash said.

“Going to get a drink. Be right back.”

“But you’ll need the coin!” Hash started to rise then sat back down. “Shit. Is he always this impulsive?”

“No,” Diane said, staring after Tony with concern. “Only when he’s… upset.”

Tony stepped into the gap at the bar and addressed the short fat man who looked out of breath and far too old to be bartending. “I never expected to see you again… Ollie.”

Ollie briefly glanced up at the patron while stacking shot glasses on the bar. “What the hell do you want?” he said. “Beer’s already gone flat so deal with it.”

Tony just stared at the man.

Ollie was losing patience. He stopped, put his arms out wide, and said, “What are you fucking stupid? Do you want a beer or not?”

“You don’t recognize me, do you?”

“Look, pal, it’s been a long damn day. Why don’t you stop with the chit-chat bullshit and tell me what you want to drink, already.”

“I’ll take a shot of whiskey. Hopefully that numbs the pain in my fist right before I put you through that fucking wall… Herbie.”

~~~

Chapter 43 will continue on Monday…

Previous Episode 43-3

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 43-4: Feed The Dead” 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.

~~~

If you’ve been reading Don’t Feed The Dark online and want to help support the cause, the best thing you could do to show your appreciation and let me know you’ve been enjoying this series is to help spread the word so that more readers find out about this long, dark apocalyptic series.

Here’s an easy way to do so:

Please consider voting for DFTD over at topwebfiction No registration is required. just click and vote. You can vote for DFTD every seven days to help keep it listed.

Anything you can do to help me get Don’t Feed The Dark to the readers is appreciated. Be sure to spread the word on all your social media sites as well.

Thanks again for all your support and for reading.

-Scott

~~~

~~~

Here’s the next episode of Don’t Feed The Dark, the audio edition, narrated by Jerimiah Vega. Please show your support and encouragement by visiting Jerimiah’s Soundcloud page and letting him know what you think in the comments.

I’ll be adding links to everything Jerimiah’s done so far up on the main page in the tab marked ‘DFTD in Audio’, and also at the end of every written episode.

Chapter 1-3: Demon Night (Narrated by Jerimiah Vega)

~~~

Next Episode 1-4
Previous Episode 1-2

__________________________________________

“Chapter 1-3: Demon Night” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”. Audio edition narrated by Jerimiah Vega Copyright @ 2018.

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.

~~~

Here’s the next episode of Don’t Feed The Dark, the audio edition, narrated by Jerimiah Vega. Please show your support and encouragement by visiting Jerimiah’s Soundcloud page and letting him know what you think in the comments.

I’ll be adding links to everything Jerimiah’s done so far up on the main page in the tab marked ‘DFTD in Audio’, and also at the end of every written episode.

Chapter 1-2: Demon Night (Narrated by Jerimiah Vega)

~~~

Next Episode 1-3
Previous Episode 1-1

__________________________________________

“Chapter 1-2: Demon Night” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”. Audio edition narrated by Jerimiah Vega Copyright @ 2018.

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.

~~~

Here’s the first episode of Don’t Feed The Dark, the audio edition, narrated by Jerimiah Vega. Please show your support and encouragement by visiting Jerimiah’s Soundcloud page and letting him know what you think in the comments. Note: this episode will sound different than the rest because he did it with a live audience.

I’ll be adding links to everything Jerimiah’s done so far up on the main page in the tab marked ‘DFTD in Audio’, and also at the end of every written episode.

Chapter 1-1: Demon Night (Narrated by Jerimiah Vega)

~~~

Next Episode 1-2

__________________________________________

“Chapter 1-1: Demon Night” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”. Audio edition narrated by Jerimiah Vega Copyright @ 2017.

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.

~~~

Alysa was about to leap from the couch.

“Stop!” Candyman ordered. “I want to hear this man.”

Briana nearly pulled the trigger. Instead, she slowly retracted the gun and holstered it. She nodded toward Candyman and retreated toward the wall.

The other Lunatics relaxed slightly, taking a few steps back, but keeping their guns out and ready.

Hash and the rest looked pale and ready to crawl out of their skin as everyone knew how close they’d just come to dying in this trailer.

Alysa stared at Briana; her eyes were daggers.

Tony leaned forward on the couch and kept his gaze on Candyman. Now that he had this smug prick’s complete attention, he intended to take advantage of it.

Candyman leaned back in his chair. His smile resurfaced as he studied the big man as if trying to identify his species. “Speak, friend. If what you have to say is of any real value, you may have bought yourself some more time to live.”

Tony was finished playing this game. He was exhausted, pissed off, and near his breaking point. He had come within moments of death in the past day…twice! First by Thompson’s knife, and now, by the crazy woman’s gun aimed at his head. “Look,” he started. “I’m done trying to understand why everyone wants to kill everyone, now that the dead have come and made us all an endangered species. I can tell by what I’ve seen so far here, that you have quite the empire, but that won’t mean shit when those yellow-eyed haters decide to wake up and find all of you here. When that does happen, we all need to come together as a fucking human race to fight them… or we’ll just be food at the end of the day.”

Candyman laughed and said to Hash, “This one has spirit and balls! I can see why he’s on your crew.”

Hash looked to Tony and smiled. “Yes, Tony and his friends have surprised me more than once since I’ve met them.”

“Indeed,” Candyman said, turning back to Tony. “I applaud your boldness but find your idealism naive. It didn’t work in the world before, and it certainly won’t work now. It’s a ‘dog eats dog’ world out there, probably always was beneath the surface of things, and only the strong, the powerful, will survive. That may seem cliché as hell, but no less true. Now, tell me about these five thousand monsters right outside my eastern door.”

Tony sighed heavily. “We found them dormant at the northern end of Mosquito Creek Lake, like some massive army getting ready for the final war. We suspect they’ve been gathering there for most of the winter, and now that the winter is over, it’s just a matter of time before they wake up… hungry as hell… and devour anything in their path. But, I suspect you knew some of this already, and that’s why you’ve hired people like Sergeant Hash to occupy the Border Towns. You wanted an early warning system in place, especially on the east side of the Territories, so you’d have time to prepare your defenses. But I’m telling you, when the dead come, your walls, guns, numbers… none of it will matter against an enemy without fear, or the ability to reason, show mercy, or make a business arrangement with. You, your people, my people, and everyone else, won’t stand a damn chance against a horde that size that desires to see us dead more than we desire to live.”

“Idealistic and dramatic,” Candyman said, picking up his glass and taking a sip. “You’re partially correct. I’ve known about Mosquito Creek for a few months now. Information is part of my trade and I’ve heard enough about that place to keep an eye on it. The difficult thing about information is filtering out the facts buried in rumors. I’ve heard stories of people disappearing near that lake. Stories of entire small towns on the edges swallowed up by monsters coming out of the night. I’ve even sent patrols in there that haven’t reported back yet. But it’s a dangerous world out there. People and places disappear all the time now, and I can’t afford to jump every time I hear another scary story.” He put his drink back down on the table. “However, I’ve heard enough stories about that place to exercise caution. Yes, the Border Towns were established primarily as a buffer zone, but they also serve to keep the Territories from being overrun by hostile forces, whether living or dead, that would desire to take what is mine. Sergeant Hash has failed in that regard, and by association with him, so have you.”

Tony shook his head. “Haven’t you been listening? I just told you that five thousand-”

“You’ve told me another story,” Candyman interrupted. “Albeit, if your information is correct, then it’s the closest I’ve come to understanding just how large a threat Mosquito Creek possesses to my operations. But why should I believe you at all? Should I jump at your story? Close up shop and evacuate New Cleveland before the big bad monsters arrive?”

“Yes,” Tony said plainly. “That’s exactly what you should do… and get as far away from here as you can, while you still can.”

“Perhaps,” Candyman said, considering the seriousness of Tony’s words. “But that’s my business and not yours. The real question at the moment is what to do with all of you. As far as threats go, I am the only threat you and your friends need to consider. And I assure you, I can be reasonable, or I can be… monstrous.”

Tony decided to throw out the script. He was out of patience. “Fine, you can kill us all now, and there’s nothing we can do to stop you. But, from a business perspective, you would be foolish not to take advantage of what we know about an enemy that may or may not be five thousand strong in your damn backyard.”

Candyman smiled. “There’s more? Tell me, friend, what information could you possibly have about that world ‘out there’ that I haven’t already heard? I see people coming through here from all over the damn place… and they all claim that their stories are valuable. Hell, they’ll say anything and everything to get me to let them stay here for one more day, for one more fix, fuck, or fantasy; for more chance at escaping whatever hellish existence they’ve been living since this new world started. What makes anything you have to say any different? What does it profit me to keep you alive, aside from the trailer full of stuff that I already possess?”

Tony laughed. “While I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of bullshit from frightened people looking for anywhere to hide, me and my friends have been ‘out there’, living and dying, while the rest of you have been getting fat in this place. Not only have we fought the dead and survived, we’ve watched them evolve. For example, we’ve learned that the yellow-eyed ones are getting… smarter. Collectively, they are changing their tactics against us. In the beginning, they were just savages driven by their hunger, but now, now they’re showing patience and stealth. We encountered a smaller horde during the winter thaw, although working much more efficiently at killing in a collective, their behavior had changed significantly. And the horde we encountered was led by one.”

Candyman’s face went dark. “You’re talking about The Alpha.”

“‘The Alpha’?”

Candyman’s face relaxed. Tony saw a hint of disappointment. “Never mind. Just more stories. Continue. What else have you seen?”

Tony leaned in closer, lowering his voice. “We’ve seen stranger things then even the dead walking around. A man who can control the dead with his voice. A woman who can make a horde… sleep… with her mind. Warriors dressed in zombie armor. Half-dead people with silver eyes. Beasts with red eyes. A machine that was programmed to be a god. Well-funded facilities built, above and below ground, long before the outbreak started, that point to something much deeper. We’ve seen signs and symbols of a darker conspiracy at the heart of everything…” Tony stopped there for dramatic effect. He leaned back and finished, “But… I’m sure you’ve heard all this before, so I won’t bore you with the details.”

Candyman’s smiled faltered. “Don’t test me, friend. My time is not something to be trifled with.”

“And neither are our lives,” Tony said. “You think I could make up shit like this? Do I look that creative to you?”

Candyman raised an eyebrow. “No. You certainly do not. I have heard some of the things you speak of, but usually by dying men and woman under extreme duress… or by the insane.”

“You say you’re in the information business. Well, it’s in your best interest to keep us around,” Tony pitched. “And when that horde does wake up, you’re going to need us to know how to fight them.”

Candyman shook his head with a laugh. “I’ve heard some crazy shit. But your stories might be some of the craziest. Tell me more.”

“Let’s deal first,” Tony said with a smile. “What’s our crazy stories worth to you?”

Candyman laughed and pointed at him. “Now that’s how you sell it! Tease me, then torture me with ‘we’ll talk more about it… after’. Whether your stories are fabricated or not, no one tries to bargain with such complete nonsense unless there’s a hint of truth in it. I find that compelling.” The Lunatic leader folded his hands and considered Tony’s offer. He finally said, “I’ll let you all live in exchange for the rest of your ‘stories’.”

Tony leaned back and crossed his arms. “No. That’s not good enough.”

“Really?” Candyman said.

Even Hash gave him a disbelieving gaze.

“No,” Tony continued. “We’ve come all this way to be here, gave up all our supplies for a chance at citizenship, and for what? Just to be thrown back outside? Might as well kill us now… but if you do… what we know dies with us.”

Candyman clapped his hands in delight. “My… oh… my… I really must hear these stories now! You, my friend, are either trying to pull off the most dangerous bluff of your life, or-”

“Or,” Tony interrupted, “what we know is ‘gold’ in the world of information. And I know for a fact, that it is.”

Candyman was enjoying this. “Alright. I’ll grant you and your information wielding friends three days in New Cleveland… and that is a generous offer. In return, I will get to hear your stories while you indulge yourselves with all my town has to offer. By the end of the three days, if I’ve decided that your stories are bullshit, I will take the same amount of time out on your flesh… and you and your friends will die slowly and painfully. But if I find truth in your words, I’ll let you live. Do we have a deal?”

Tony tried not to imagine three days of horrendous torture at the hands of the Lunatics. “Deal,” he said, before he could change his mind.

“Perfect!” Candyman rose to his feet. “Now, just one more matter to deal with.” He looked to Briana. “Take Sergeant Hash outside and execute him in the yard.”

“Wait!” Tony said, rising to his feet. “You can’t do that!”

Briana moved in quick, hands on her holstered guns, but she did not draw them. She looked to Candyman.

Candyman gave Tony a patient look, and then spoke as if speaking to a child. “You misunderstand. I’ve decided not to hold you and your friends responsible for the sergeant’s failure at West Farmington Village. Clearly you were not involved in our original deal. However, this man has a debt to pay… and the dead need feeding.”

“But our deal includes Sergeant Hash,” Tony protested. “You said, ‘you and your information wielding friends’. Sergeant Hash is my friend, and we’ve told him things. That makes him part of the deal.”

“That’s a play on words… and you know it,” Candyman said.

“A deal’s a deal,” Tony continued. “I assumed Hash was included. It’s not my fault you weren’t specific.”

Candyman sighed. “This is getting tiresome. I’ve allowed you to push as far as I’ve been entertained. This is no longer entertaining.”

“Then I offer a counter proposal,” Tony threw out.

“Go on.”

“Give the sergeant the three days you gave the rest of us. After that, you can kill him for his debt, unless I find another way to repay it. That way, both arrangements are satisfied.”

Hash gave him the craziest look.

Candyman considered this. “Done. You have him for three days… then he’s mine.”

“Unless I find another way,” Tony remined him.

“Alright,” Candyman said. “But it will be a life for a life. That’s the only way Sergeant Hash’s debt will be paid.”

Tony frowned. “Deal.”

~~~

Next Episode 43-4

Previous Episode 43-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 43-3: Feed The Dead” 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.

~~~

After inspecting the contents of the trailer, the leader of the Lunatics seemed satisfied, and a little less irritated, with Sergeant Hash. She provided them an escort to New Cleveland, insisting that they make it to the main gate with Candyman’s supplies safely and without delay.

This made Hash frown the remainder of the drive, understanding that Briana enjoyed continuing his discomfort with her presence.

The four lunatic vehicles surrounded the truck and trailer with Briana’s Caddy leading the way.

“Well… that could have gone a lot worse I suppose,” Tony said.

Hash grumbled something under his breath, gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands, as he stared ahead, considering their next move.

From what Tony could make out it sounded like Hash wanted to tie the Lunatic leader naked to the bumper of the truck and drag her for about ten miles at seventy miles an hour. Tony covered his mouth to hide his amusement. He stared out his window, making eye contact with the clown-faced driver in the vehicle next to him. Tony nodded at the strange looking driver.

The driver smiled, then raised his hand, making the shape of a gun with his fingers, and pretended to shoot him in the face.

“Nice bunch,” Tony said, turning away from the window. “I think this one really likes me.”

“If we’d been any farther away from New Cleveland when that bitch found us,” Hash said, staring up at the looming roller coaster coming into full view, “they would’ve shot us all dead in the street. So, I guess we caught a break.”

“Well… they might have tried,” Tony corrected, causing the good sergeant to laugh.

“Indeed, they might have ‘tried’. I like you, Tony. That was good thinking back there with your mouthy friend. You diffused that situation perfectly.”

Tony looked back through the rear window. Alysa was staring off behind them, her face unreadable. “Yeah, but I’m going to pay for that little love tap later.”

Hash laughed. “Of course, you will.”

Tony gave him a look. “Hey, you hit her, too, remember?”

“Yeah, but that was her idea. Besides, she’s not all googly-eyed over me.”

Tony shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” the good sergeant said. “But it’s plain as day that woman cares for you.”

Tony said nothing else. He looked back once more at the distant warrior, hoping to catch her attention. But Alysa was elsewhere. She’s probably planning out how to kill all these Lunatics the moment we stop, Tony thought. His gaze lingered.

Hash huffed, causing Tony to stare at him. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Hash said, with a shit-eating grin. “Just wondering how many more times you’re going to stare back at that woman is if she’s about to fall out of the truck. I could slow down a little if you want?”

“Just drive,” the big man snapped, turning his attention back toward the road.

“Anything you say, loverboy.”

Alysa had turned and was staring at the back of Tony’s head through the rear window. Her face was a mask hiding all emotion.

~~~

The truck slowed down as the Lunatics led them around a long bend to the left.

Nine and Diane sat low toward the back of the flatbed while Wendy and Mark sat just beneath the rear window. None of them, except Alysa, had any interest in staring back at the Lunatic vehicles. She watched them like a hawk.

Nine stared up at the ancient roller coaster. They were close enough now to make out details, such as several phone-booth sized shacks placed on various portions of the old wooden tracks and within the wooden structure beneath it. There were armed individuals occupying several of the shacks. But most disturbing where the bodies hanging suspended upside down from the highest portions of the coaster, in full display of anyone in the town below it.

“This is not the Geauga Lake that I remember as a kid,” Nine said, staring up at the bodies.

Diane rubbed his shoulder. “We’ll be okay,” she said. “Hash and Tony have a plan.”

“I know,” he said. “I’m just a little freaked out right now. I mean… shit… we’re driving toward a damn roller coaster that looks like it came right out of some Mad Max movie, being escorted by armed clowns to visit the ruler of Candyland—not’s the kid’s version—and packing enough illegal drugs in the back to spend the rest of our lives in prison. What’s not to like about all that, I guess.”

Diane laughed. “It all does seem… surreal.” She stared up at the coaster. “After all we’ve seen, this should be business-as-usual, but it’s so damn strange.”

Nine looked at her and said, “I guess when the day comes that none of this seems strange anymore, that’s when we’ll know we’ve been alive too damn long.”

She smiled at him. “Amen, to that.”

The truck slowed down to a crawl as they approached the entrance into New Cleveland. They abruptly came to a halt as the other three Lunatic vehicles drove ahead of them and through a chain-link fence.

Everyone got up to look toward the front, being mindful to keep their guns close, but not in hand.

“What the fuck?” Mark said.

A large billboard sign stood in front of the fence and to the left of the roadway. It had been painted red with big bold letters written neatly in white that read:

LOITERING IS PROBITED AND PUNISHIBLE BY DEATH.
IF CHARITY IS WHAT YOU SEEK, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG PLACE.
IF YOU HAVE NOT COME WITH GOODS TO SELL, BARTER, OR TRADE,
YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN NEW CLEVELAND.
ADMISSION PRICES VARY.
PAY THE LUNATICS OR FEED THE DEAD.

“Not very inviting is it?” Wendy asked.

Mark shook his head. “I’m starting to get a real bad feeling about this place.”

Alysa was scanning the defenses just past the chain-link fence.

“Something wrong?” Nine asked.

She sighed and said, “Getting in is one thing. Getting out will be another.”

An eight-foot tall chain-link fence with barbed wire running across the top spanned the entire amusement park—presumably the original fence. Beyond the fence were several parking lots on both sides of the road, some nearly full with an assortment of vehicles. And just past that, a twelve-foot tall wall made of sheet metal that obscured the inside of the park.

“That must have taken some time and resources,” Diane remarked. “How many people did Hash say were in this place?”

Nine shrugged his shoulders. He was staring intently toward the large, white painted, stone structure where their Lunatic escorts had parked. The main entrance was the only point not blocked off by the wall. Instead, a small castle-like building stood at the end of the entrance road. On top of the castle, in between two corner towers which clearly served no purpose other than a decorative face, was a second newer structure that had been built on the roof of the older building. It was a solid looking wood structure with two windows that were steel plated. Mounted on each window was an M-60 machine gun. Both guns were manned by Lunatics and aimed at the new arrivals.

At the base of the castle, was a hole in the stone wall, rounded off at the top, where a drawbridge might have once been. A thick metal gate blocked access into it. It was wide enough to fit vehicles, one at a time, and tall enough to accommodate a box truck. On both sides of the drawbridge were several metal turnstiles, five on each side, made of the same sturdy metal as the drawbridge gate.

Once through the chain link fence, the Lunatics waved them over toward the right and into one of the bigger parking lots reserved for larger vehicles and their loads. The parking lots off toward the left of the entrance were loaded with smaller vehicles and trunks, presumably for visitors entering, or regulars living, in New Cleveland.

“This must be their version of ‘Customs’ on this side,” Tony cracked.

“More like, ‘Mine’ and ‘Yours’,” Hash said, parking, and then turning off the vehicle. “Ready for this?”

Tony nodded.

“Out!” Briana yelled. “Leave your weapons in the truck. They’re forbidden in New Cleveland. We’ll hold them for you, as well as your vehicle, until you leave.” The Lunatic leader laughed at the last part.

Tony and the others exited the truck.

Briana put her hands to her hips, shook her head at them, and then turned to Hash. “I hope you have something worth more than the bullshit coming out of your mouth to warrant the boss’s time. Actually, on second thought, I hope you don’t.”

Hash smiled at her. And fuck you, too, you crazy bitch.

As if reading his thoughts, her smile, exaggerated by her face paint, widened. She blew him a kiss. “Let’s go.” She turned, signaling her men, and the armed Lunatics closed in around Tony’s group. The lunatic leader led them toward the castle structure.

Tony looked around and found several more Lunatics standing at various distances in the parking lot and along the top of the sheet metal wall. “Security seems… sufficient.”

“There’s so many damn guns pointed at us right now, I can almost feel those sniper barrels poking at my skull,” Hash said.

Briana led them through the free-spinning turnstiles and into the castle structure. On the other side were three more while brick walls, completing the illusion of the castle interior lobby where three large portals led in different directions entering the park. Their was no ceiling, other than above the much wider entrance wall.

Nine noticed the old gift shops surrounding the lobby that had been converted into armed security stations where several more guns were aimed at them. “So much for the overpriced souvenirs,” he said. “I was really hoping for a Geauga Lake snow globe at the end of the day encouraging me to ‘come back soon’. Hell… I’d even settle for the cheap key chain.”

“Nine?” Diane said.

“I know. Time to zip it. Just my nervousness talking.”

She gave him an understanding nod.

Right away, everyone noticed the large amount of activity and the sounds of people coming from the other sides of the left and right portals. The Lunatics had closed off access while processing the new arrivals, but there was clearly a lot of people in New Cleveland.

Briana quickly led them through the center portal and away from the castle façade.

“Shit,” Matt said, staring into a large courtyard surrounded by commercial trailers, forming a tight circle. Beneath their feet was an old brick walkway in much need of repair. Uneven bricks jutted up creating trip hazards with weeds sprouting up between the bricks. In the center of the courtyard was the remains of an old fountain filled with swampy stagnant water and a stone base stripped of whatever amusement park icon that once stood there.

Centered at the back of the trailer cul-de-sac was a much larger and wider trailer with a second floor build on top of it, constructed out of the same sheet metal used to build the wall outside. A single large window was added, facing directly down toward the courtyard. Two Lunatic sentries stood at the entrance with several more armed painted men vigilantly patrolling the area.

Briana stopped them near the fountain. “You’re very fortunate today,” she started. “Very few people ever step foot in this area. Personally, I have no idea why, but Candyman insisted on questioning you himself. Keep quiet unless he addresses you and if I even detect a hint of disrespect from any of you, I will slit your throats.” She said the last staring into Alysa’s eyes.

The Shadow Dead warrior met her gaze with a smile.

Briana chuckled and turned, leading them toward Candyman’s trailer.

~~~

The interior of the trailer was much larger than it appeared from outside. The first floor of the industrial-sized lunchroom trailer had been converted into a large carpeted living room. All the walls were paneled with some sort of brown wood siding, giving the place a 70’s vibe. There were light fixtures along the walls, all lit.

Various pictures lined the walls with elaborate frames. Wendy examined the artwork, most of it displaying busy city scenes with exquisite detail of the people captured in them. She immediately recognized some of artwork from museums she’d visited in downtown Cleveland.

Along one wall was a long leather bar with a gracious looking glass liquor cabinet behind it. A tall attractive woman with short blond hair stood patiently at the bar, giving them a curious look. She wore a silver and silk nightgown which hung loose around her low neckline but hugged her bosom snugly, leaving little to the imagination for what was beneath.

A mock fireplace had been installed, which was an elaborate electric heater, making the room temperature very comfortable.

Three long leather sofas sat centered in the room before a long glass coffee table. At the head of the table, the back of a large rotating swivel chair aimed for maximum comfort faced them.

“Please,” a deep melodic voice said, “come in and sit down.” The swivel chair turned to face them revealing an older man with long silver hair tied back into a ponytail. He wore thin glasses above a long, but well-trimmed silver beard. The man wore a thin blue turtleneck sweater and khakis, completing the image of someone’s grandfather at the beginning of retirement, sipping on a glass of scotch or bourbon before either going golfing or about to tell some long boring tale from his glory days. He even wore what looked like a black golfing glove on his right hand.

The man smiled at their hesitant, stunned faces. “Not what you expected?” He motioned toward the couches. “Sit. Relax.”

Briana shoved Hash from behind. “You heard the man, asshole,” she hissed in his ear. “Do it.”

They all sat down on the sofas while the Lunatics hung back along the walls.

Candyman leaned forward in his chair until his long legs hit the floor. He placed his glass on the table and then rested his arms on his knees, folded his hands together, and studied his guests, never losing the grin from his face.

Tony and the others leaned back against the sofas, trying to hide how tense they felt under Candyman’s gaze.

Hash finally spoke. “It’s a… an honor to finally meet you… Sir. Last time I was here, I didn’t get a chance to-”

“These aren’t your men, Sergeant Hash,” Candyman interrupted, never losing that unnerving grin. “I know who you are… but who are they?”

“Right. Straight to the point,” the good sergeant said. He shifted in his seat and started to introduce the others.

“Young lady,” Candyman said, cutting off Hash again and addressing Diane. “I don’t mean to be harsh, but my time is valuable. So, you’ll have to forgive me for being overly direct.”

Diane looked to Tony and then turned back with a nod. “Of course.”

“Your arm,” he continued. “How did that happen to you, dear?”

“I… uh…”

“Were you bitten?”

“No. Nothing like that,” she said.

Nine grabbed her hand and squeezed lightly, trying to calm her down.

“We were attacked east of your Territories, before Sergeant Hash found us. But not by the dead. I lost my arm as a result.” Diane kept it short and sweet, hoping a lack of details wouldn’t invite more questions.

“Yes, well… shit happens.”

Diane was stunned by his cold response.

Candyman leaned back in his chair with a sigh. “That’s too bad, really. If you’d been bitten, that information would have been valuable to me. I haven’t met anyone who’s actually survived an attack from those dead things. I’ve been trying to compile as much information about infection rates as I can, but the results seem… varied. Volunteers I’ve received for the experiments have either turned immediately or over the course of a few hours. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.”

“Volunteers?” Diane asked, horrified.

Candyman ignored the question. “It’s been a frustrating and fruitless endeavor so far. From a medical standpoint, however, should we ever find a common denominator, or a pattern, that information would be worth a lot… assuming anyone out there is still looking for a cure. Not that I think there is one, but for those who would try… there’s a profit to be made there.”

Diane looked away to hide her disgust.

Candyman took another sip of his drink, appearing less enthusiastic about the rest of his questions. “So, Sergeant, I assume you have a good reason for being here, and not watching over my investment like we agreed upon?”

Hash cleared his throat and lied, “My men… Thompson… he tried to take over. He thought the arrangement was a bad deal. When I confronted him about it, he turned on me, tried to kill me with the intent of taking all our supplies… including your cut… and fleeing town. Fortunately, I found these people out on the eastern border. In exchange for their help taking down Thompson and the others, and helping me get supplies back to New Cleveland, I offered them a chance at citizenship, here in the Territories. I couldn’t hold the town after my men betrayed me. So, I came back with as much as I could transport, to make up for any losses on your end. You’ll see from the trailer we’ve brought that it’s significantly more than our agreed arrangement.”

“But you’ve lost my town,” Candyman said.

“And that’s also why I’m here,” Hash continued. “It’s my hope that you’ll let me recruit some more help and then let me return to reclaim West Farmington Village, and keep our arrangement intact. I just need a day or two in town, to find more people. Then, I’ll go back and-”

“Meanwhile,” Candyman interrupted, staring into his drink glass, “while you’re here trying to kiss my ass with a trailer full of stuff, my eastern border stands unprotected, meaning, New Cleveland stands unprotected from anyone or anything wandering in from there.” He stared at the sergeant, his smile was gone. “If you couldn’t protect it the first time, then why the hell should I trust you the second time?”

Hash didn’t know what to say.

Candyman put his glass down. “More wasted time. I let you in, hoping there would be more to this ‘story’. You’re what I call a ‘bad business investment’. Now I’ll have to decide how to best clean up your mess. It will require additional resources and planning, which translates into time that I don’t have to waste on such trivial matters. And that, sergeant, is completely unacceptable.”

“But… I said I’d-”

“Briana,” Candyman said. “Take these people out into the yard, shoot them, and then hang them from the Dipper. I’ll gladly find the time to watch the executions from my window.”

Briana smiled. “Yes, Sir.”

“There are over five-thousand monsters with yellow eyes lying dormant not far from your precious eastern border… and we’ve seen them,” Tony quickly chimed in before the Lunatics moved in to seize them. “I’m to understand that information is valuable here. Will you make time to hear me out?”

Candyman held up his hand, stopping the Lunatics. He looked right at the big man, all humor gone from his face. “If this is a desperate trick to save your lives… I’ll have you tortured while your friends watch. And then they’ll know what will happen to them next.”

“No tricks,” Tony said. “But if you’re just going to kill us anyway… then fuck you and your damn town! I’ll die with what I know and just hope you choke on that drink when you look up one morning… very soon… and see what those monsters do when they get here.”

Briana drew one of her guns like lightning and placed it to Tony’s head. “I warned you about disrespect,” she hissed, placing her finger on the trigger.

~~~

Next Episode 43-3

Previous Episode 43-1

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 43-2: Feed The Dead” 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.

~~~

Hello Everyone, just a quick weekly reminder: If you haven’t yet voted this week for DFTD at Topwebfiction I encourage you to do so and help keep me listed. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have faithfully been voting and keeping me in the rankings. All you need to do is click the highlighted link above and vote.

Well, it’s been a while since my last update. This story’s been keeping me busy.

I’m wrapping up the first long arc of Book Five: Remains, which will conclude with Chapter 43: Feed The Dead. Afterwards, I’ll be starting the second arc of this book, titled, The Nomad, which will take us back to Gina Melborn to discover what’s been happening to her since being exiled at the end of Book Four. I haven’t decided on the duration yet, but I will be taking a little time off before starting the new arc (I’ve been going hard at this story since last June and need a break to recharge). I don’t want to say too much about the new arc due to spoilers, but it should be another wild ride.

After Gina’s arc, I’ll be jumping right into writing Book Six: Mother, which will start with those poor unfortunate souls who barely escaped the massacre down in the compound by making it through the ‘mystery door’. We will find out what happened to Meredith, Logan, Stephen and Megan once they found themselves on the other side of that door… as well as a good many other discoveries.

On to some new and exciting news: I’ve been talking behind the scenes with an aspiring audio book reader, Jerimiah Vega, who found my story and has decided to narrate Don’t Feed The Dark when he can. It’s takes a lot of time and hard work to narrate this monster story, but so far, Jerimiah has knocked out the first eight episodes, adding up to more than two hours of audio so far. I encourage you to check out his audio renditions by visiting the tab at the top of the main page, or just click one of the links below to go directly to the first episode or to Jerimiah’s Soundcloud page. Also, Jerimiah just started a new facebook page specifically for DFTD. If you have the time, please go check that out as well and ‘like’ his page. Please show Jerimiah your support while he endeavors to tackle this project. I’m excited to see DFTD find another platform to reach more people.

Chapter 1-1: Demon Night (AUDIO EDITION) – Narrated by Jerimiah Vega

Jerimiah Vega on Soundcloud

Don’t Feed The Dark – Audio Book on Facebook

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A dull, dreary overcast sky greeted them the next day. A mixture of stratus and cumulus clouds hovered like a horde, devouring the distant sun and making the morning feel ominous and more like late evening.

They continued driving west with their trailer in tow, stopping occasionally to rest, but it felt more like stalling before facing the inevitable. Conversations were brief and strained as trepidation mixed with exhaustion weighted heavily on their hearts, getting increasingly worse as they traveled closer to New Cleveland.

The highway remained surprisingly clear of road debris as they lost count of the lifeless structures they passed—abandoned vehicles pushed off into the shoulder lanes, houses, farmsteads, the occasional shop or restaurant with neglected signs making them almost unreadable. Small towns blurred into oblivion, easily forgotten… forever. The dead they encountered were scattered, spread out along their route like disfigured mile markers.

“We’re getting close,” Hash advised from behind the steering wheel, interrupting Tony’s deep thoughts from the passenger seat. “They’ll know we’re here long before we get to the main gate… if they don’t know already.”

“I didn’t see any Lunatics along the way,” Tony said. “I didn’t see anyone. Your Territories seem as desolate as anywhere we’ve been.”

Hash leaned over the wheel, looking out the top of the windshield and toward the left. “There.” He pointed toward a tall structure above the tree line.

Tony squinted, trying to make out a tall shape against the dull grey background of the sky. As they drove closer, the shape took form, resembling the top curve of a rainbow. “Is that what I think it is?”

“It’s the Big Dipper, the last roller coaster left rotting away after Geauga Lake closed down in 2007. Since then, that old amusement park’s been getting an early start on the apocalypse. After the place was closed and gutted, nature wasted no time reclaiming most of it. Looked like the world we’ve been blessed with today, just a few years sooner. They use it now to watch the town Candyman built up surrounding it, and out around its borders.”

“They put… observation posts up there?” Tony asked.

“Yeah. Though I imagine no one enjoys climbing up that old fucking thing. The Big Dipper’s one of them wooden beasts, the kind you heard creaking every time you rode it. In any case, they’ll see us coming within a mile from the place. Best case scenario, they’ll just keep an eye on us until we get to the gate, especially when they spot the big-ass trailer we’re hauling.”

A chill seized the big man as they drove closer. Tony could now make out more details as three large hills rose above the trees on ancient-looking support beams. The large coaster resembled the back of a colossal serpent. Tony half-expected it to slither beneath the trees, or a large head to appear, setting its hungry gaze upon fresh prey. He laughed at himself. I’ve got to get some real fucking sleep soon. My imagination’s making monsters out of old roller coasters. Like we needed more damn monsters.

“Something funny?” Hash asked.

Tony rubbed his eyes and smiled. “Just tired, Sergeant. My mind starts seeing things—threats in everything—if I don’t laugh at myself regularly.”

“That sounds like something a crazy man might say… if the world was still sane.” Hash shook his head and laughed. “But now, that just sounds reasonable.”

Tony shook his head. “So, after we get there, assuming we get inside… what then?”

“I don’t know,” Hash said. “It’s a big fucking place. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. As long as you and your friends stick to the cover stories we talked about last night, we should be alright. It’s the ‘getting inside’ part that’s tricky.”

“But they will let us in… right?”

“If they see what we brought, and believe we’re profitable, then yes… we will gain admission.” Hash tried to sound confident, but his face said otherwise.

Tony laughed again. “It’s just like a damn amusement park except the admission price is fucking ridiculous.”

“Weren’t they always?” Hash said with a wink.

Tony’s face went pale as he stared up the highway. Just ahead of them, the road was blocked with several vehicles. “Hash?”

“Yeah, I see them.” He started to slow down. “Fuck! I was hoping we’d avoid this part.”

“What part?” Tony grabbed his rifle from down by the floorboard.

Alysa tapped on the back window and pointed past them.

Hash opened a small sliding port in the back window. “Just keep calm everyone. This was expected… sort of.”

The warrior looked at Tony.

“We’re working it out,” he told her. “Just don’t do anything… threatening. Stay low and make sure everyone’s ready… just in case.”

She nodded, needing no explanation what ‘just in case’ meant.

“That’s a Lunatic patrol,” Hash said, and then added with a heavy sigh, “And if I’m not mistaken, that big green Caddy in the middle… that’s Briana’s vehicle.”

Tony’s eyes went wide. “That’s not good, is it?”

“No,” Hash said. “It isn’t. If she’s out here, then it’s to find out what the fuck I’m doing away from West Farmington Village. I was hoping she wasn’t here since they were already due to visit when you and your people showed up.”

“So, what’s the plan?” Tony asked, nervously tightening his grip around his rifle. “Do we run for it?”

“No,” Hash said. “That won’t work, not with this fucking load on the back. Besides, I’d be surprised if she hadn’t already blocked the road behind us. We’ll have to go to ‘Plan B’.”

“There’s a ‘Plan B’?”

“Yeah,” Hash said with a nervous smile. “I’m going to lie my ass off and hope that I’m better at it than she is at smelling bullshit.”

Tony leaned back in his seat at they approached the vehicles. Hash stopped the Ford fifty feet from the patrol and put the truck in park. There were several dark shapes he could make out in the Caddy as well as the three other vehicles—a box truck, an old black van, and an SUV. He looked to Hash. “What are they waiting for?”

“They’re waiting to see what we do first,” he said. “I suspect that if we don’t get out of the truck in the next thirty seconds, they’ll probably start firing at us.”

“Shit,” Tony said.

“Just stick to the cover story,” Hash said. “Leave the lying to me.”

“I hope you’re a damn good liar,” Tony said.

Hash frowned. “She’s going to fuck with us. That’s what she does. Don’t overreact. Don’t do a fucking thing.”

Tony got Alysa’s attention.

She came to the window and said, “We’re ready back here. Say the word and we’ll start shooting.”

“Leave the guns in the truck,” Tony said. “We’re all getting out.”

“The fuck you say?” She did not look pleased.

Tony smiled. “Just… trust me. Hash knows what to do.”

She shook her head. “This is tactically unsound.”

“Don’t I know it,” he agreed. “But, that’s how this is going down. We’re going to play nice… so put away those laser-beam eyes and try to look… submissive?”

“I want to punch you… hard,” she said. “But I will… play nice… for now.”

“Okay, get them ready,” Tony said. “We’re putting our cover stories into effect right now. After we get out, and if they don’t start shooting at us, then follow suit.”

Hash gave him a look. “When you put it that way… this really does sound fucking stupid.”

Tony raised his eyebrows at him.

“Just kidding,” he said. “Don’t worry. I’ve dealt with this bitch before.”

“So, you two get along, then?”

Hash laughed. “She absolutely hates me… but that’s beside the point.”

Tony sighed.

“Let’s do this,” Hash said, opening his door. “And just try to look… relaxed… like we’re supposed to be here or something.”

Tony swore silently at the man and then followed Hash as both men stepped out of the truck.

“Briana… it’s me, Hash,” the good sergeant called out, stepping just in front of the truck. “Though I suppose you already knew that and were wondering what the hell I’m doing out here.”

Tony stepped up beside him, placing his hands in his pockets, trying to look… relaxed.

After a long minute of uncomfortable silence buried by the steady hum of the Lunatic’s vehicles, Tony started to wonder if the gunfire from the open windows came next. He nervously signaled the others to get out.

Alysa, Nine, Diane, Mark and Wendy stepped down from the flatbed on Tony’s side, feeling exposed.

Suddenly, the passenger side of the large Caddy opened and a very tall woman, dressed in a black leather trench coat and black suede cowboy boots stepped out. The woman, with long straight black hair, her face painted white with black paint surrounding her eyes and mouth, gave them a brief glance, then closed her door. She then reached into her coat pocket wearing leather cut-off gloves and retrieved a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. The woman lit a cigarette, replacing her pack and lighter, and then crossed her arms across her chest, taking several long drags from her cigarette. She studied Hash and the others in silence, looking neither angry nor concerned. To Tony, the Lunatic leader appeared disinterested in the whole situation, almost bored.

The big man gave Hash a questionable look.

Hash sighed and then whispered, “Just wait. She’ll deal with us when she’s good and ready.”

“She looks like she’s posing for a damn poster on how to look ‘cool’ in the apocalypse,” Nine offered from behind them.

After smoking half her cigarette, the Lunatic leader flicked her butt out into the street and then waved a finger in the air, never looking away from the good sergeant.

All the doors to the remaining vehicles came open as ten heavily armed Lunatics exited the four vehicles, forming a line on either side of the woman. So far, none of their automatic weapons were raised. All their faces were painted white with the same black around their eyes and mouths. Some wore leather vests and jeans, others were dressed in business suits. One was wearing what looked like a hideous green Christmas sweater and khaki pants. Some wore ball caps on their heads. Other than their painted faces, this strange group of people looked as different from one another as Tony and his crew did.

“Give them bats and roller blades and it’s The Warriors all over again,” Nine said, earning him several strange looks. “You know… that movie with the pinstripe Yankee gang?”

Diane hit him in the back of the head.

“Forget it. Obviously not important,” he said.

The woman, who Hash called Briana, broke the silence in a deep gravelly voice. “What’s in the trailer, Sergeant? And if the answer is, ‘the rest of my unit’, I’m going to fill it with lead.”

“No,” he said. “No surprises back there. Just payment in advance, plus a whole lot more. Thought I’d come deliver it personally and save you the time.”

Briana continued to stare at him, leaning against the Caddy. “Why did you abandon your post?”

Time for lies, Hash thought. “We were overrun by the dead a day ago. I would’ve handled it, but my men decided to take advantage of the chaos—one in particular—and they tried to take me out. They didn’t succeed.”

“Pity,” Briana called back. “Was it Thompson?”

“Yes.”

“So, I assume he’s no longer with you?”

“He’s dead,” Hash said. “So, are most of the others.”

“I see,” she said. Briana pushed herself off the Caddy and strolled toward them. The rest of the Lunatics followed behind her, keeping their line intact.

Tony noticed Alysa and the others stepping back, considering reaching into the flatbed for their guns. “Stay calm,” he told them.

Hash said, “I’ll handle this. Stick to the cover story.”

Tony nodded. He turned to watch the tall woman approach. She’d pushed her long trench coat back behind two holsters hung low around her waist, her gloved hands resting on the holsters, looking like some ridiculous circus version of a gunslinger.

When Briana was five feet from them, she stopped, the other Lunatics stopping just behind her.

Up close, Tony noticed something odd about the woman’s eyes. They were red, reminding him of the hybrid man-beasts they’d encountered in the woods near the bad man’s home. What fresh hell is this? Is she… infected?

Briana stared back and forth between Hash and Tony, a small smile formed on her black-painted lips when she saw Tony’s astonishment. “Contacts,” she said. “We’ve got a vender in town who sells them. Do you like?”

It took Tony a moment to realize the strange woman was addressing him. “Ah… yeah… sure. They’re scary as fuck… if that’s the look you’re going for.”

Hash rolled his eyes at him.

Tony’s nervous candor made her laugh. She turned to Hash. “I don’t remember this one. Where did you pick him up?”

“I needed a new crew,” Hash said. “I found all these folks near the eastern border. They helped me with my… situation… and I gave them a job. They’re not registered yet, but I was going to take care of that in New Cleveland. Until then, they’re mine.”

Briana peered around Tony at the others who tried to become invisible, refusing to make eye contact. “I see.” She walked right up to Tony and sized him up. “I like this one. Want to sell him to me?”

Tony’s eyes went wide with surprise, causing Briana’s smile to widen.

“Sorry,” Hash said. “Tony’s loyal. So are the others. That’s like gold to me these days.”

“Name a price,” she said, her gaze lingering intensely on the big man, making him squirm. “and I’ll triple it. I can think of all sorts of nasty things to do with this one.” She reached in and grabbed Tony’s crotch, hard.

Tony’s eyes went wide.

“The man said he’s not for sale,” Alysa said, stepping forward.

Briana’s face turned to stone. She met the fiery gaze of the former Shadow Dead. “Now this one… I don’t like her at all,” she told Hash, stepping up and equaling Alysa’s intense gaze. “Loyalty is one thing. Disrespect is another. A lack of one and too much of the other will get you killed just as fast.”

“She’s… new,” Hash quickly chimed in. “They all are. They’re not familiar with how things work in the Territories yet.”

“Well,” Briana said, still staring challengingly at the warrior, “you better educate them real quick before I take this one’s eyes and wear them around my neck.”

Tony sighed heavily. This is going to suck. He turned stepping in between Alysa and Briana, causing the other Lunatics to raise their weapons. Tony was glaring at Alysa. “I’m sick of your foul-mouth!” he barked, causing Alysa to raise an eyebrow.

Briana raised her hand, stopping the Lunatics from stepping in.

“We’re guests here,” he continued scolding her. “And if you can’t keep your shit together, I’ll do it for you!”

Briana looked amused.

Tony gave Alysa a pleading look, raising the back of his hand toward her face. Yes, this is really going to suck.

Alysa caught on quickly, giving Tony a look that clearly said, After I kill this woman, you and I are going to have a serious discussion later about what happens next.

Tony backhanded Alysa across the cheek.

Alysa took the blow, as expected, and fell to the ground. She tried her best to hide her rage by turning her face toward the truck and covering half of it with her hand.

The others looked confused and terrified, convinced everything was about to go bad.

But Alysa remained still.

Briana seemed satisfied as she walked away with a laugh. “My, oh, my… I really like this one, Sergeant. You must reconsider selling him to me.”

“I’ll… I’ll think about it after we get to New Cleveland,” he said, stalling.

“Yes,” she said, walking back to Hash. “Let’s talk about that. Why did you leave my town undefended and violate our arrangement?”

“I already told you. The dead-”

“I could have you executed right now for breaking the gracious deal Candyman made with you. I told him you were the wrong man for the job to begin with… and here you are… proving me right.”

“That’s why I brought the profits with me,” Hash said. “There’s more than enough in that trailer to make up for losing West Farmington Village.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” she corrected, squaring off with the good sergeant.

Hash wisely averted his eyes, staring down at the ground.

Briana smiled at him. “You’re just a dull, fucking idiot, aren’t you?” she asked, speaking in a tone befitting a child. “Do you really think we put you there just to supply us with the agreed percentage? You were told to guard the border and you fucking failed! There’s no excuse for doing that, I don’t care what happened or who betrayed you! You FAILED! Plain and simple.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Hash said submissively. “I came back to pay-in-full, plus interest, for my… failure… to keep the town, and if Candyman wants me to go back and reclaim West Farmington… I will.”

She laughed in his face. “What? With this pathetic group you have now? Please… don’t insult my intelligence. Candyman would be a fool to send you back there, and he’s no fool. He’s invested valuable time and resources into your unit, believing you could do one… simple… job. And as it turns out, you couldn’t even control your own people, let alone the border town. You’re pathetic, Sergeant Hash, and I want to hear you admit it… right now! If not, I’ll kill all your crew, take the bitch’s eyes anyway, and this big fuck-toy for myself. Then, I’ll just take this trailer back and hand it over, being rid of you in the process.”

Hash looked up defiantly. “Okay, this shit ends now.”

“Excuse me?” she said, her fingers twitching anxiously on the butts of her guns.

“You can stop harassing us. I’ve told you the truth, and my fate will be decided after I’ve talked to Candyman, himself. You will not harm us,” he said. “Not without risking your boss’s reputation. What will the good people of New Cleveland think if the man in charge can send his goons out to attack his business partners out on the open road, in plain view of the city.” He nodded up at the ancient roller coaster. “They’re watching us right now. Do you think this little incident will go unnoticed?”

“Watch your fucking tone, Hash!” Briana advised.

“Bad business breeds bad business,” he continued with a smile. “So, let’s stop dancing around out here. You were sent to find out what happened, and I told you. We offer no resistance. The fucking trailer isn’t a Trojan Horse… go see for yourself.”

“I will… when I’m good and ready, so don’t-”

“No,” he interrupted, surprising Tony. “You will do it now! And let us go about our business. I’m not your man, West Farmington Village isn’t your town, and my arrangement isn’t with you! If Candyman has issues to take up with me, he can do it himself. But what you’re doing is overstepping your authority… and you fucking know it.”

Briana looked like she was about to draw her guns and shoot the good sergeant in the face. After a tense moment, she smiled and hissed, “I never need a reminder why I hate you so fucking much, sergeant. Fortunately for you, you’ve still got a card left to play. He wants to see you… but I suppose you knew that before risking coming back here. But one day, when you try to bluff yourself out of a situation, and that card no longer applies, I’m going to enjoy watching you slowly die… and that’s a promise.”

Hash leaned in and smiled like the devil. “I look forward to it.”

Briana laughed in his face and signaled her men to check the trailer. “I suppose this mean you won’t sell me the big guy?”

“I’ll give you Thompson’s corpse… for free,” he said. “I’m sure, even now, he’ll find a way to kiss your ass from the grave.”

This made the Lunatic leader laugh harder. She shook her head and finished, “Well… you make me laugh. I guess you’re not completely useless.”

~~~

Next Episode 43-2

Previous Episode 42-12

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“Chapter 43-1: Feed The Dead” 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.