Archive for the ‘contests’ Category

blog-hop-2016-zombie

~~~

I’m excited to announce that I will be participating for my second year in the October Frights Blog Hop, hosted by Clarissa Johal. It starts October 10th and finishes on the 15th. Please click the link above to find out more about this event.

This year I will be posting five creepy short stories (sorry, no zombies) to celebrate the Halloween season. You can read them starting on the 10th over at my DFTD Blogger site: http://dontfeedthedark.blogspot.com/

Here’s the line up:

ATM:
Find out what happens when a man making a late-night run to the cash machine gets an unexpected guest.

Boogeyman:
My spin on the classic closet monster tale.

Animals:
Sometimes the monsters within are much more terrifying than the imagined… especially when you’re trapped with them.

Previous Owner:
Ever fall asleep at the wheel for a few seconds and wake up wondering how you didn’t crash? This story looks at one possibility for those unaccounted seconds.

Moore’s Mountain:
Halloween and Christmas merge in this terrifying tale.

Bonus Story: Mr. Thompson’s Obsession:
Sometimes the latest horror is right next door…

I hope to see you all on October 10th. And don’t forget to visit all the other authors to find out what horrific offerings they have in store.

-Scott

~~~

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Chapter 32-1: Wasteland

Posted: September 14, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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wasteland4

~~~

April 25, 2011
10:05pm

Winston Churchill once said, “History is written by victors”. Konrad Adenauer – “History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided”. Then, of course, there’s “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” by George Santayana. I won’t leave out the good man, Martin Luther King, who said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history”. And lastly, my all-time favorite… “The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice” by Mark Twain. I could go on… but what’s the point.

So where does that leave us now? Who will look back at these dark days and provide the inspirational proverbs, catchy idioms, and amusing anecdotes, teaching us about our flawed past as we once dove head first into the future with all the recklessness of a species who once behaved as though immortal?

I fear there may be little left of Man’s arrogance, and that the only words which may still be relevant now, and in the short future, might have been best prophesied by Jim Morrison – “This is the end, my only friend, the end…”

The great words of the dead… the words which held meaning… substance… have always echoed across the void until reaching those with ears to hear them and act. Then, once made manifest within the hearts and minds of a new generation, the dead became alive again… within us.

But what if the living have become ghosts roaming a dead world? What good are the great words then? Can the dead inspire the dead?

I can only offer this pointless idiom: Time will tell.

Speaking of history, I suppose that I’m obligated to keep at this written record. If, by chance, there is still such a thing as ‘the future of Mankind’, then it will be important to provide them with as much accurate information as possible about what happened when the old world came to an end and Man was dethroned.

Somehow, I have become our dysfunctional group’s historian. My, doesn’t that sound regal? Historian. I can appreciate the irony if nothing else: I used to teach from history books, and now, I am the sole person in charge of writing them. I could add a slant or two, make us look bigger in the eyes of our adversaries. Prepare a nice little propaganda package for future generations desiring to seek inspiration from our noble and courageous cause.

However, I think there’s already been enough falsehood written. So let me just kill a few fictions right now: There are no more heroes. There are no saints. There are no good people left in the world. Black and white are obsolete notions. There is only Us and Them… and we are not the victors.

It has been over six months since The Change occurred. Sometimes called The Madness, The Sickness… hell… pick any synonym you wish, it’s all bad. I still remember the exact day: October 2nd, 2010. And that’s about it for your history lesson on dates of relevance. Every day between then and now has been the same and is summed up by one exhausting and loathsome word: Survival.

Will we be here tomorrow? That question is no longer spoken out loud. It is the forbidden question which unravels the threads of faith, hope, love. It is the question that has long been the source of too many nightmares and too much grief.

We, the survivors of the new world, do not trouble ourselves any longer with questions about the future. “There is enough evil in one day to contend with”. (Yes, I’m quoting or paraphrasing again, but I believe that’s from The Bible.) Either way, it’s sound advice that we, as a community, adhere to… especially down here in the compound, which has protected us from the yellow-eyed devils and the devastating beast of winter that followed.

But this large grave beneath the ground also harms us in ways that neither the dead nor the cold could do. Down here, we are forced to deal with each other’s anger and despair, much like being forced to look into a mirror and finding nowhere to run from the grief which is reflected back at you. It has become… suffocating… insufferable at times.

I sometimes long for a quick and violent death from the monsters above. Down here, the monsters work much slower, stabbing you in the heart with memories of deceased loved ones and lives no longer salvageable. It is an emotional poison which has had all winter to fester and infect so many… so very many…

Some have chosen a third option. Too afraid to face the hungry beasts above, too afraid to face the pain which hungers below… they have taken their own lives.

Surviving our first winter together beneath the Wasteland has been extremely difficult…

~~~

…Stephen Eddington stopped writing, tossed his pen on top of the large book, and then leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh. He rubbed his tired eyes and looked around the control room.

The large broken monitors above the old console continued to broadcast their eternal silence above the many lifeless buttons which promised nothing but obsolete functionality. Stephen always imagined that this place was once alive and buzzing with activity as the minions of the mysteries group known as Mother sat back in these same chairs and… what… conducted surveillance on everyone and everything in the world?

Stephen suspected he would never know the answer because the ones who used to operate this place were either destroyed in the explosion above, that turned the sinister wilderness preserve into a mostly dead forest, or, they had simply moved on to some other remote location to observe the woes of Mankind.

He listened to the faint hum of unseen machinery that continued to operate faithfully behind the walls and beneath the floor, providing them with electricity, heat, air-conditioning, running potable water, and apparently some sort of air-recirculation system, all promoting the illusion of the old way of life with its creature comforts.

But all anyone had to do was remember what was topside and out beyond the Wasteland, as the preserve was now referred to as, and all thoughts of a normal life quickly disappeared. In its place, the common fear of death either by the hands of the elements or the unnatural beasts which hunted the blood of man… forever.

“Why the long face, my love?”

Stephen smiled and turned toward the familiar voice.

Nicole Howard, former dead girl returned to life only in Stephen’s mind, sat in one of the empty leather chairs behind him at the center of the dimly lit room.

She looked lovelier than ever with her long brown hair tied back into an elaborate braid, wearing a loose-fitting white blouse and comfortable jeans. She sat back with her hands behind her head, legs fully extended, her feet crossed as she waved one sandaled foot at him.

Stephen laughed. “You always look so damn relaxed. I envy you for that.”

“I’m with the man I love in a place of safety… why wouldn’t I be relaxed?” she teased.

He shook his head. Stephen had given up questioning the dead girl’s existence months ago when he’d burned Nicole’s diary and finally accepted her presence as real… or, in this case, as real as the rules of the known physical universe would allow. He no longer cared if Nicole was a product of his decaying mental faculties, a ghost, or the manifestation of his own guilt for murdering her. Once he’d accepted her completely all the rest became irrelevant. They loved each other as completely as their love allowed. And no one could restrain the boundaries of that love. Stephen believed he had become whole once he’d given in to whatever this was, and they were now a part of one another… period.

“I haven’t seen you all day,” Stephen said. “Where have you been hiding?”

Nicole laughed. It was their inside joke. “I’ve been around.” She stood up and walked over to the chair beside him and sat down. She looked at the big book and frowned. “You should take longer breaks away from that thing. You always end up reliving the pain from the past and it makes you… distant.”

“I know,” he admitted. “I wish I could approach this assignment with some kind of professional detachment, but it’s damn difficult for me.”

“And there’s no talking you out of doing it, is there?”

Stephen sighed. “Maybe one day… but not now. It’s important that everything gets documented. Just in case-”

“Just in case we all die tomorrow, right?”

Stephen rolled his eyes. “Well… I wouldn’t get that dramatic about it. But you never know. I just don’t want us all to be forgotten, and the hell we went through to get us here, when the world rights itself again.”

She smiled. “You said ‘when’ this time. Are you starting to believe we might survive after all?”

Stephen laughed. “It think it’s knowing that the winter is finally over and that we can start going topside again that’s starting to make me more optimistic.” He frowned. “This place… and I am grateful for it because it’s saved our lives… but this place is starting to feel more and more like a tomb.”

“Relax, my love. We won’t be down here much longer. Maybe then we could just leave, go our own way, find a nice quiet cabin somewhere and live out our days together.”

Stephen smiled. “That does sound… refreshing.”

Nicole gave him a hard look. “You look tired. Put that monstrous book away and get some sleep.”

“Soon,” he promised. “Just need to finish up.”

She gave him a questioning look.

Stephen laughed. “I mean it this time. Just another page or two and I’ll call it a night. It is night, right? Hard to tell down here.” He looked at his watch. 11:05pm.

When he looked back up, Nicole was gone.

“Always coming and going in dramatic fashion,” he told the empty control room. He laughed at himself and whispered, “Goodnight… my love.”

Stephen yawned and thought, Seems like no matter how much sleep I get, I’m always tired. Think I’m just getting used to being exhausted all the time.

Before resuming, Stephen looked at the only portion of the control console that Marcus had managed to partially fix. He turned the volume up on the complicated communication system long enough to hear the continual crunch of meaningless white noise.

They still couldn’t transmit over any of the channels on this large glorified CB radio system, but they could now listen outward toward the emptiness.

That’s the new voice of our dead world… static.

Stephen turned it back down. He cursed the day Marcus got it working just in time to hear the haunting words he’d first heard on the way to Fairport Harbor so long ago. The message from the so-called Ashtabula Survivors Group had all been a farce just for some sadistic madman to capture people, like what happened to Tony, and do unspeakable things to them. He received a chill just thinking about how close they came to falling prey to that very same message on their way toward the mountains. He wondered how many more deceptive broadcasts they might pick up, producing false hope of rescue while hiding the promise of death beneath. And now, Gina, Tony, Marcus… most of the few surviving members of his original group… were out there, trying to put an end to one lie, leaving him in charge of this volatile community. He silently prayed they would all make it back safely… and soon.

He picked up his pen, turned to a fresh page in the book, and started writing again…

~~~

…Nicole came by to see me this evening. She looked so lovely… no… radiant! She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in this new terrifying life… or since my old terrifying life ended. She is my one ray of light in this gloomy dungeon and she always reminds me to not give up. She is the embodiment of everything I hope for after this long, long night is over. And one day… we will escape together and it doesn’t matter where we go as long as we have each other…

~~~

…Stephen stopped and let out a heavy sigh as he read the words. “It’s a damn shame that History will never remember us, Nicole. But it’s better off this way. No one would ever understand.”

He read the words once more and then ripped the page out of the book. He folded up the page and placed it in his pocket.

Stephen picked up the pen and stared at the exhausting blank page before him.

“Now what do I write about?” he wondered. “That was the best part.”

Stephen thought back to the beginning, as he often did when the words wouldn’t come or when present day events were either too depressing or monotonous. He believed the more he wrote about the same events, some overlooked detail would emerge and make it to the pages offering some merit in repeating the account.

He shook his head, took a deep breath, and labored on…

~~~

…It was one of the most tragic and celebratory days when Marcus Dempsey and Diane Conley returned with the rest of the Andover community. It was uplifting to discover that James Orosco had led the others to a safe place and that they were all still accounted for. However, it was heavy blow to our hearts to find out that Frank Carman had not survived the journey back.

The dead claimed our friend and we all cursed the sun for it.

Frank Carman, the man who had survived being a prisoner of the madman, Micom, and his murderous machine, Micolad… the man who had saved our lives countless times on our dark journey… had been caught off-guard by the ravenous dead and dragged away.

Gina Melborn, our leader, took the news the hardest, and blamed herself for allowing Frank to leave while he was still recovering from injuries. But Frank could not be dissuaded and would never allow anyone to count him out of anything, injured or not. Frank always did what he wanted to do, and often had you thinking it was your idea. But even knowing this, Gina couldn’t let it go.

Marcus took full responsibility and said it was his fault for going to retrieve water and leaving Frank alone. But Gina refused to let him take that burden. And she bore it silently.

What added salt to the wound was that we had no body to bury, and like so many others we had lost, we were forced to dig another empty grave for another meaningless death.

Meredith Montgomery, currently our prisoner, took it very hard. Gina refused to let her go topside to attend the funeral, when we still observed funerals, because she feared what Meredith might do with her ‘abilities’. Since moving into the compound, for whatever reason, Meredith’s powers have apparently been blocked. Meredith appeared very understanding, but I could tell she was hurt by Gina’s decision.

After the dust of Frank’s death had settled and the rest of our people became situated, Gina wasted no time as she started a campaign to train as many people as possible to fight, should the Shadow Dead return. She recruited Marcus, Tony and Diane to help her and they began taking small groups topside and training them in firearms familiarization and hand-to-hand combat.

After a couple of weeks, we were as combat ready as we were going to be. The compound armory was well-stocked with various weapons and now we had people marginally trained to use them.

Thankfully, the Shadow Dead never came back.

But that’s when the trouble started.

Our common fear of the impending attack initially united us. We had a goal. We had things to do… a battle to prepare for. But as the weeks wore on, and the enemy never came, complacency took over. And with the illusion of safety falling over the people like a thick fog, no one was prepared for the real war which overtook us.

With nothing left but time to wait, everyone became restless and started dwelling on everything and everyone they’d lost. The tension created by so much pent-up grief and anger, along with the close-quarters we were all confined to, birthed hostility.

And then came The Incident that changed everything.

After only a month beneath the ground, with the first signs of a harsh winter upon our doorstep, fights became common place as people turned on each other, letting loose their aggression on the first available target. Most conflicts were resolved, but one in particular became extremely violent resulting in the accidental stabbing of a young woman who stood in between two raging bulls in an attempt to stop the fight. The young woman’s injuries were beyond our doctor’s ability to heal and she died shortly after.

When Gina had returned to discover what had happened, she looked like she wanted to kill… everyone.

Tony Marcuchi, our second-in-command, quickly pulled her aside until she calmed down.

Afterwards, she arrested the two men, Jim Tyler and David Brannigan, and held them under guard until she could figure out what to do with them. She had called a meeting in the general living area (Cubicle City), the gymnasium-sized room where most of us attempted sleep when it was possible, to talk to everyone. I can’t recall the whole thing, but Gina had generally admonished the whole community for allowing their emotions to undermine the group while she was trying so hard to get everyone ready to fight the ‘real’ enemy.

What I will always remember are her final words of warning, which still give me chills to this day. She had said, ‘We can’t allow this kind of behavior… ever. We don’t need to do the monsters’ work for them by becoming monsters ourselves! Unacceptable! From now on, anyone who attacks another down here will be severely dealt with. I’ve half a mind to put these two beasts up against a tree for target practice after what they did to that poor girl!’

I remember the whole room became quiet after her veiled threat, which felt more like a promise. People began talking after that. Some said Gina had crossed the line with her comments while others praised her for her willingness to administer swift justice.

In the end, while everyone slept, Gina took Tyler and Brannigan topside, in the midst of our first winter storm. I was there to see her off, as requested.

When I asked where she was taking them, Gina only said, ‘They can’t stay here. I won’t harbor murderers.’

It was so cold that night, and darker than most evenings since the wintry sky had swallowed up the moon. I stood guard at the top of the hatch with two other men while we waited for the blizzard to pass.

An hour later, Gina had returned… alone.

When I asked about Tyler and Brannigan, she glared at me, and said, ‘They are no longer your concern. Justice has been served.’ She then told the three of us, ‘I expect all of you to forget what you witnessed tonight… are we clear?’

We all nodded.

Gina looked once more at me with a sad, faraway look in her eyes, and said, “Goodnight, Stephen.” Then she said no more.

By the next afternoon, word had spread throughout the community until everyone knew about Gina’s late night escorting of the two men (I never said anything, but the others on guard duty would not stay silent).

Gina told Tony that she had ‘banished’ them… and offered little more.

It was Orosco who had the hardest time accepting Tony’s brief explanation about the whereabouts of the two men when Gina refused to address questions about it.

Orosco had wanted to know what gave Gina the right to make such an important decision by herself, since those two men had first been with him in Andover. He’d also told Tony that he wasn’t interested in living under a dictatorship, especially with one who refused to be present and actually ‘lead’.

Bless Tony’s heart, he tried to defuse the situation. But Gina’s avoidance of the issue just made things worse.

And then there were whispers. Some had said that Gina never exiled those two men at all, and that she’d followed through with her threat and executed them in the darkness above, out in the Wastelands.

Orosco finally confronted her about it and asked, ‘Did you kill those two men?’

Gina, out of anger, had replied, ‘No… but I should have.’

It wasn’t long after that Orosco, and all who were dissatisfied with Gina’s leadership, which was a third of the community, decided to leave the Wasteland. They took weapons and other provisions with the intent of returning to the peninsula, south of Lake Pymatuning, before the storms made travelling impossible. Orosco told Tony that he intended to wait out the winter there and invited him to come and lead them. He even said that Gina could come too, providing she stepped down. Tony refused, of course, and wished them well. It really hurt us to lose Orosco. He was a very level-headed man who helped keep things together.

Gina had been so upset by the decision (again, she had been absent when Orosco made his move), but she was more upset with Tony who had let them take weapons and stores without consulting her. Gina came close to going after them, but Tony persuaded her to just let them go.

To this day, no one really knows what happened to those two men. But a growing faction of the community who are becoming restless with Gina’s authority, continue to spread falsehoods and assert that Gina murdered them.

Of all the things to survive the old world, rumors continue to cause damage by defaming good people like Gina, who try their best to keep us alive. I have heard many things mentioned, that under normal circumstances would make me laugh, but today… they are a source of constant worry.

Some have said that Gina took those men and hung them on the trees in the western woods. Others have said that she is in league with the Shadow Dead, and that she handed those men over to them to keep them from coming after us. And still others whisper that she simply put a silencer on her handgun and shot them dead in the back of their heads…

~~~

…Stephen stopped, leaned back in his chair with a heavy yawn, and then turned to his left to stare at the steel door, which once led into a long tunnel. At the other end of the tunnel there once was a cave hidden behind a waterfall. Since the explosion that laid waste to most of the wilderness preserve, including collapsing the tunnel on the other side of the door, Stephen had fallen asleep on many nights in the control room with nightmares of yellow-eyed monsters barging in through that door to finish him off. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one frequented by nightmares since most of the community avoided spending time in the control room, believing it to be haunted.

Some said that the relentless dead which were buried in the tunnel beyond the door were still there, slowly clawing their way through rock and rubble, looking for an opportunity to reach the door and finish them off. Others simply hated staring at the lifeless control panels, believing that if they stayed too long, the panels would come to life, and like Micolad, they might hear its insane laughter amplified through a speaker system pretending to lay dormant as the sleeping machines came to life to begin a new countdown clock to their destruction.

Stephen smiled at the absurdity of such thinking, but could not find fault with their fears. They had all learned the hard way that there were indeed, many strange things in this world determined to destroy them.

Other than their leadership council meetings and whoever was unfortunate enough to find it was their turn to keep watch and monitor the radio static, no one but Stephen spent any additional time in the control room. He liked the isolation it afforded him to write, and of course, to have time alone with Nicole.

Stephen turned around and glanced at three more doors, opposite the control panel, which led into three more hallways. The armory, pantry and a decent sized mess hall were behind those doors. The two hallways leading to the pantry and armory were always guarded by one of Logan’s men on rotating shifts.

When the mess hall wasn’t open for serving meals, various members of the community congregated there to read, socialize, conspire… There was an alternate access to the mess hall from another section of the compound, which made it easy for most people to avoid passing through the control room. But the pantry and armory could only be accessed through the control room and down two isolated hallways, which made these locations easy to secure.

Aside from those three doors, and the dreadful scary door into the collapsed tunnel, there was a long hallway to Stephen’s right that led into the hub of the community, which included a medical facility, small library, the main living quarters, and a public shower and restroom among other things.

Stephen was always amazed by size and thought that went into the planning of this underground facility, and he wondered just how many more places like this one that Mother had invested time and money building prior to the end of the known world.

How long? he thought. Just how long has this group known that the end was coming?

There were no answers for him from the ghosts which still resided here, only the steady hum of unknown machinery behind the walls and beneath the floor in an area of the compound that no one had yet been able to access. And there was still one lone door at the end of the main hallway that they were not able to breach, no matter what they tried. Short of attempting to blow it up and risk collapsing the roof over their heads, the large steel mystery door, which was always under guard, seemed impenetrable. There was no access panel on the door, like the one used by Meredith to gain entry into the compound. There was also no door knob or handle of any kind. If there was a way to access the door, the answer lay on the other side only.

Stephen yawned again. A reminder to hurry up and finish.

He picked up his pen and continued…

~~~

…After Orosco and the others left, Gina shifted her focus from training to recruitment, understanding that we did not have enough people any longer to effectively fight against the Shadow Dead.

Gina was obsessed with some Shadow Dead war that never came.

She started leading small groups north, beyond the Wasteland, to find as many survivors as possible and bring them back.

A little bit at a time, she found them hiding in remote houses, camped beneath bridges and on abandoned farms. Gina had found enough people before the winter storms sealed us in, bringing our numbers back up. What I found disheartening were the lack of children. Gina’s scouting parties never found a single child.

One group in particular, led by a self-proclaimed preacher named, Logan (he never told us his last name), caused quite a stir when Gina brought his group of twenty men back with her. They looked like a motorcycle gang.

Gina accepted the preacher and his people with open arms. And in return, Logan offered his men as ‘security’ for the compound.

This only complicated matters within the community as many viewed Gina’s decision to invite Logan’s people down here with us as her means of enforcing her brand of peace. It wasn’t official, but it felt like a form of ‘Martial Law’ had been put into effect. She made them her personal guard dogs, watching the compound with a continual presence, while she continued go topside and personally lead every away mission, as much as possible.

The crazy thing was that many of Logan’s people despised her and were simply waiting for Logan to say the word, and they would gladly take over.

But Logan wasn’t interested in power, and as far as appearances went, his loyalty was to Gina, which made Logan’s people begrudgingly follow her leadership.

~~~

Winter arrived in full force near the end of December. The snow fell on top of us like a caretaker’s shovel piling on the last of the earth to finish our interment. It had become far too cold to keep our watch topside any longer as we repositioned them at the bottom of the ladder leading up to the hatch door located at the other end of the compound. Hopefully, Gina’s Shadow Dead were as susceptible to the bitter cold as we were and would postpone their end of the war until spring. All things considered, no one believed those monsters had survived the blast created by Micolad. That is, no one except Gina who needed a war as much as we needed to grieve for our families.

We celebrated Christmas together in an attempt to promote unity and thankfulness and… what… normality?

Logan preached for the first time and told the story of Baby Jesus. Many appreciated his tender and compassionate words, including myself. Afterwards, he led us all in prayer for our loved ones… wherever they were. He was a tremendous blessing and an immediate boost to our morale.

We had a small Christmas dinner together, provided by the fully stocked pantry, another blessing, and we shared a rare moment of vulnerability as people opened up about their families and shared stories. There wasn’t a dry eye in the compound that night.

Gina attended but was very distant and chose to simply watch from the back of the room. But even she spared a moment for all those we’d lost or who were still missing as she wept and prayed alone until Tony came over and joined her.

Even then, she would not dare show weakness of any kind. In her mind, she wasn’t allowed to lower her guard for a moment, no matter how much we needed her to.

I personally found myself in these people that night. It hit me like no other time: This is my family now. And I’m not ashamed to say that I wept like a damn baby as I prayed for Claudette and said my goodbyes. In my heart I believed she had moved on to a better place… or at least… I hoped so.

Winter dominated above and the months dragged tediously on.

On a positive note: Logan was a big help in keeping the majority of the community’s spirits up as he continued to hold services every Sunday, just like the old days.

But there were a few who found him offensive, speaking so boldly about God while serving as Gina’s hired muscle to keep their antisocial opinions to themselves. And then there was the matter of Logan’s previous life. He was once a Neo-Nazi extremist, as all the hateful tattoos branded across his body confirmed. But Logan never denied any of it, or used his past to try to intimidate anyone. Instead, he used it to show them what an awful man he used to be before Jesus saved him.

Instead of turning on each other, like before, some simply took their frustrations out on the leadership as they whispered their discontent to each other, keeping the flames of hatred alive.

They blamed Gina for bringing the hate-crimes leader into their fold. They blamed her for his God-talk. The blamed her for Logan’s Gestapo police force. They quietly accused her of harboring fugitives who were in allegiance with Mother and who practiced witchcraft in the clinic where Meredith spent most of her time under what could be called ‘house-arrest’. They accused her for unsafe practices by keeping Megan alive and locked up in the clinic, a known zombie which would love nothing more than to get loose and start eating members of the community while they slept.

And of course, they still spoke out against her murder of the two men who had accidentally killed a young woman who no one remembered anymore. All they cared about was their hate.

To make matters worse, by the end of January, four people had taken their own lives. Suicide had become preferable to slowly dying in the tomb beneath the Wasteland.

Gina, although forced to live among us, refrained from public announcements, choosing to let men like Logan and Tony do the speaking for her.

She could find nothing comforting to say about the suicides and believed that people who chose to give up were not worth another moment. These are the types of things she spoke to us in confidence that she could not express to the community… not without fanning the flames of anger further.

It was Tony who shouldered the burden of speaking publicly about their hardships while waiting out the winter, promising that things would get better once the thaw came and they could go topside again. Meanwhile, he did all he could behind the scenes to keep Gina from caving to her anger at the criticism she continually received behind her back…

~~~

…Stephen closed the book and then stood up and stretched, feeling the bulge of his holstered handgun digging into his side. He hated carrying one but Gina insisted that everyone in her small circle of leadership always carry one. To date, he was last in the chain of command, following Gina, Tony, Marcus and Diane, but he wasn’t offended. In fact, Stephen felt humbled to even be included in the chain, believing that there were more qualified people who could fill his position. But Gina had insisted, reminding him time and time again, that it took more than being an able fighter to lead and she felt that Stephen was one of the most level-headed and liked people in the community. She’d told him that he was an easy choice.

Other than the elite five, the only other members of the community allowed to carry weapons were Logan’s men, who were in charge of all security matters. This was one of many decisions Gina had made that was met with criticism and suspicion. Even Tony believed that Gina was far too trusting of Logan and his men, but Gina would not change her mind.

Stephen tucked his history book under his arm and checked on the sentries at the armory and the pantry and then started down the main hall to finish his rounds and wake his relief.

At the end of the long hallway, he found an older man with long grey hair tied back in a ponytail sitting in a fold-up metal chair with his head leaning against the mystery door. His assault rifle was propped up in the corner as the man continued to give away his position with loud snoring.

Stephen shook his head and smiled at the older man. Well… none of us are security experts I suppose. He knew this man. His name was Barney and they had occasional played chess together in their down time.

Most of Logan’s men didn’t care much for anyone outside their group, especially Gina and her people. Although Logan claimed to be one of Gina’s faithful supporters, his men were not. They answered only to Logan.

They only tolerated Stephen’s presence for as long as required, since they failed to understand why Gina would put a history teacher in a command position. But Barney was the exception. He was an equal-opportunity curmudgeon who would bitch and moan to anyone that would listen.

Stephen opened his big book and slammed it back shut causing Barney to nearly fall out of his chair as he reached for his rifle in the opposite corner beside the door.

Stephen grabbed the rifle from the other corner and held it out to him. “Looking for this, Barney?” he said with a laugh.

Barney rubbed sleep out of his eyes and huffed, “I was awake, damn it! No need to be a bugger about it!” He grabbed the rifle and put it back in the corner.

“It’s alright, old man,” Stephen said. “Your secret’s safe with me. Besides, if something had come through that door, it would’ve knocked you right over on your ass first and probably tripped all over you.”

Barney finally cracked a smile. “You got jokes… alright then. It’s not like I’m getting paid for this shit anyway.”

Stephen smiled. “Maybe you should start a union?”

“Maybe you should go fuck yourself before I shove that big book up your ass.”

Stephen raised his hands. “I surrender! I’ll let you get back to… whatever it was you were doing.” He winked.

“Bah!” Barney said and waved him off.

Stephen laughed as he turned right toward the clinic.

“Hey! Almost forgot what day it was,” Barney said. “You coming to the service tomorrow?”

Stephen forgot as well. He turned back and said, “I’ll be there. Was never much for church before, but there are so very few distractions these days. Besides, that man can talk.”

“Amen to that,” Barney said. “He’s a natural-born preacher, he is.”

Stephen smiled. “Goodnight, Barney.”

“Yeah… yeah… night.” Barney was already repositioning his head against the door.

Stephen shook his head. I have to find that man a new job. Maybe he could guard the extra pillows in storage. Of course, sleeping on duty or not, if push came to shove, Stephen had no doubts that the old man could use his rifle. And that’s what matters in Gina’s War against the enemies mounting in our leader’s dread-filled imagination.

“Better safe than sorry,” Stephen reminded himself, feeling bad for silently mocking her.

Again, it had been a long, long winter.

~~~

Next Episode 32-2

Previous Episode 31-5

~~~

Don’t forget, a new episode of After The Dark, my DFTD talk show, will resume on Thursday this week because I will be out of town this weekend. Special Guest Tony Marcuchi will be joining us.

~~~

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 :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 32-1: Wasteland” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. 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.

Chapter 25-9: Reunions and Departures

Posted: April 24, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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meditation-64051_640

~~~

Gina paced the alley bordering the jail. She was fighting everything within her that was screaming to call this crazy plan off. That’s just your fear talking, she reminded herself. You know deep down that going after Megan is the right thing to do… even if it’s still the foolish thing. She tried not to think about the road ahead and the dangers which awaited the moment they were away from Andover. What terrified her the most was knowing that she’d soon be on her own for the first time since walking that long beach from Geneva to Percy and finally arriving at the power plant… God that feels so long ago now.

She kept staring at the side door which exited into the alley. “What the hell is taking him so long?” she muttered impatiently. Gina wanted to get her feet moving before she completely lost her nerve. She refused to think about Tony or how he would react when he found out she was missing. I’m so sorry, Tony, she thought. I hope I make it back so I can explain this to you in some way that makes sense.

Gina thought about the letter she wrote before returning to the diner to meet with Sam. It would have to suffice for now. On the way, she’d caught up with Meredith who was helping the community doctor pack whatever medical supplies they had salvaged from a local drug store. Gina had sheepishly approached the older woman and asked if they could talk privately…

~~~

…Meredith was delighted to see her and they’d walked over to the small park and sat down.

“It’s good to see you, Gina,” Meredith said. “I’m sorry we haven’t had a chance to talk sooner. I wanted to give you and Tony some time together and then I got caught up with my new role as camp nurse.”

Gina smiled. “You seem to be fitting right in here. Must be exciting to have a real job again.”

Meredith laughed. “I don’t know about all that, honey. I think my real job is dodging the flirtations of Dr. Cooper. That man is relentless!”

Gina raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Does he know that… well… you know…”

“That I like women as much as he does? Yes. I broke the news to him when it became clear that he was… into me… and you know what that man said?”

Gina laughed. “This ought to be good.”

“He said, ‘Meredith, I guess I’ll have to try as hard as a woman to win you over’. Can you believe that? I never laughed so hard. That man makes me feel like some giddy school girl all over again.”

Gina was clapping her hands and trying not to fall off the park bench.

Meredith joined her as the two of them cracked up, drawing the attention of a passing patrol which thought they’d lost their minds.

Gina finally regained control and said, “We haven’t had a chance to laugh like that in a long time… I missed it.”

“Me too, Gina. It feels good here. Everything seems to be getting better. Maybe it’s never been all that bad to begin with and I just couldn’t see it because I let the dead live in my head for far too long. But not anymore.”

“You don’t sense them at all?” Gina asked. “Nothing?”

Meredith gave her a serious look. “I don’t want to… so I shut them out for good. After what happened in Jefferson, I figured out how to close that door.”

Gina wanted to ask about Jefferson, and how she was able to make them go dormant, but she didn’t want to spoil their last moments together.

“And what about you, honey?” Meredith asked. “I can’t imagine how good it must feel to find Tony safe and sound… out here… now. It’s like it was meant to be.”

Gina gave her a weak smile and confessed, “Things aren’t always as good as they appear. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he’s back and safe but…”

Meredith eyes went wide as she grabbed Gina’s hand. “Oh my, don’t tell me he was sleeping with that lady cop!”

Gina laughed in surprise. “No. Nothing quite as dramatic as that. We’re just… not the same people anymore. Know what I mean?”

Meredith frowned. She could read her like an open book. “Did you tell him… everything?”

“What I didn’t come right out and say, he read the rest in my eyes. I’m not the woman he expected to find and he’s exactly what I remember. It’s been a difficult transition.”

“Well, don’t you underestimate the healing power of the heart, Gina. Just give it time and you two will find your way back.”

She looked into the older woman’s eyes and knew that she believed it. Now if only I could.

“Thank you, Meredith. You always know what to say to make me feel better.” She then swallowed hard and finished, “I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry for failing you all and involving you in what I did. It’s a good thing Samantha came along when she did to relieve me of command, so to speak. I don’t think—no—I know I wasn’t fit to lead anyone anymore. I just wanted to say that before… I’m sorry for disappointing you.” Gina quickly wiped tears from her eyes.

Meredith smiled, her own eyes beginning to water up. “Don’t you worry, honey. We were there with you through all that madness. You carried us through… but it took a toll on you. If it wasn’t for you, Gina, none of us would be here now. And that’s what we will remember. You just go on and make things right with Tony and get some rest. You’ve earned the break.”

Gina nodded, feeling grateful for Meredith’s forgiving heart. She reached into her pocket and retrieved the folded up letter. “Could you do me a favor?” she asked, handing Meredith the letter.

“What’s this?”

“Just a few words I’m not able to tell Tony in person yet. But I wanted to make sure he got this… just in case something were to happen to me. ”

“What’s going to happen to you, Gina?” Meredith was growing concerned.

“Nothing to worry about,” Gina lied. “I’m just a realist when it comes to our life expectancy these days. Anything could happen to us at any time. I just wanted to make sure there was nothing I left unsaid… in case we’re attacked and my luck ran out.”

Meredith stared hard at Gina. She wasn’t buying it, but she mercifully didn’t press the matter. “Alright, Gina. I’ll make sure Tony gets this.”

“Thank you,” she said, quickly rising to her feet and feeling nauseous. “I’m late for something. Can we talk later?”
“Absolutely, honey.”

“If you see Marcus and Stephen before I do… could you pass on what we talked about.”

Meredith hesitated and then said, “Certainly. Are you sure there isn’t anything else you want to tell me, Gina?”

She couldn’t look her in the eyes. “We’ll talk later. Is that alright?”

Meredith gave her a smile and nodded. The older woman got up and put her arms around her, making Gina get tense as she tried desperately not to crack and break down in the woman’s arms.

Just keep it together for a little longer and walk away, she kept telling herself.

“Gina, can you do something for me?” Meredith whispered in her ear.

“Anything.”

“Do you remember those tears we talked about that first night we met? And how those tears would become as rare as gold when things turned bad?”

Gina remembered. That was the night they spoke of how hard the world would become and that there would be a time when no one would shed tears any longer as compassion ran cold. “Yes, Meredith, I remember that night.”

“I know you’re carrying a lot of pain inside of you, a lot of darkness which is trying to take those tears away.”

Gina was about to crumble.

Meredith continued. “You just hold to those tears, Gina, and when you’ve flooded out all that darkness with them, you’ll rise to the surface and be whole again. I want you to remember that Gina. Always remember that… okay?”

“Ye… yes. I will.” She broke from Meredith’s embrace, gave the kind woman a final glance, and quickly walked away.

Goodbye, Meredith. I love you…

~~~

…That had been hard enough without having to see the others as well. When Gina had parted with Meredith, she was torn between desperately wanting to see Tony one final time, and deathly afraid that she might and wouldn’t be able to lie to him about where she was going.

She’d made it to the diner without incident and Sam had told her everything she knew about the evil wildlife preserve. By the time she’d left to meet Orosco and Frank at the jail, she was terrified to death of the place the cop had described. Sam hadn’t pulled any punches like Tony had when he’d told her about it. She wanted Gina to know exactly what she was getting into in order to see if she would change her mind.

Gina had asked, “So where’s Tony going to be during all of this?”

Sam had smiled and said, “Ironically, I sent him ahead to do the very thing you suggested I tell him you were sent to do. Tony and Orosco are typically sent to scout the roads before we move. They were the first to check out this little town before we got here. His small team will be back in a couple of hours to give me a report. I also asked your man, Stephen, to go in Orosco’s place and accompany him to get his focus off of Frank. That should give you and Frank enough time to leave without attracting notice. Orosco will handle the rest from the jail.”

Gina had one final question. “What will you tell him if Tony asks where I’ve gone?”

“Don’t worry about it, Gina. I’ll figure something out,” Sam had said, losing patience. “Now get going if you’re still bent on doing this. I have a camp to move and we’re wasting daylight.”…

~~~

…The side door to the jail opened suddenly and Orosco stepped outside. He looked anxious. “Are we clear?” he asked her, referring to the two-man patrols. “We need to time this right so no one sees you leave.”

Gina checked both ends of the alley. There was no one around. “We’re good.”

Orosco nodded. He ducked back inside the jail and returned with a surprised Frank in tow.

He saw her and smiled. “Gina, what the hell is this?”

“I told you I’d talk her into it,” she said with a wink. “Did Orosco give you the short version on what we’re doing?”

Frank nodded. “Yeah. I got it. Something about you volunteering me for some scary mission. You failed to mention anything about that, by the way.” He was already putting on one of the two packs which Orosco had brought.

Orosco handed Gina the second. He was a sweaty mess.

“You up to this?” Gina asked the black man.

Orosco smiled and said, “Yeah… I’m still just trying to wrap my head around what you and Carman are about to do… and what’s going to happen when Tony finds out.”

“You’re not supposed to tell him anything. Is that going to be a problem for you?”

“No… no… don’t misunderstand me. I’m trustworthy to a fault and Sam knows it.” Orosco ran a hand through his short black hair. “I’m just not happy about being included in this madness plan… or all this sneaking around. We need to go.”

Gina nodded, putting the pack on. “Lead the way.”

Orosco led them both out the back of the alley and into the nearby woods. When they were safely out of sight and well past the camp’s perimeter, he squatted down and motioned them over.

Frank and Gina sat beside him as Orosco retrieved a hand-drawn map of the wilderness preserve with key reference points highlighted as well as the major roadways entering the preserve from the north and the south. “You’ll want to stay away from the entrances when you get there. That’s the fastest way to get captured… trust me. No one gets in or out of there without Micom knowing about it.”

“You guys managed to pull it off,” Gina said.

Orosco frowned. “We lost a lot of people in the process. We got lucky is all.”

Frank sat back, studying the map. He had a thousand questions to ask, but decided to wait.

“You guys followed the river, right?” Gina asked. “Tony said he came in that way and you all came out using the river as well. Should we focus on that?”

Orosco scratched his head. “Yes and no. Gina, you have to understand, we may have fooled Micom and his people but it was the damn Shadow Dead that tracked us down. When we made it far enough west, toward the freeway, that was when we knew we were alright.”

Gina frowned. “Sam believed that the Shadow Dead and this Micom character were working together somehow. How did he pull that off?”

Orosco shrugged his shoulders.

“Our boy, Charlie, had a means to do the same, Gina,” Frank reminded her. “Maybe Micom can do what he did.”

Orosco gave them a confused look.

“Long story. No time.” Gina looked into the woods and thought, “We’ll have the element of surprise. Micom was aware of your escape. He doesn’t even know we’re coming. That will have to be our edge.”

“Stay out of there at night,” Orosco warned. “River’s probably your best bet. It seemed to hide us for a little while.”

Gina stared at an ‘X’ on the map with the word, ‘waterfall’ written next to it. “Was this the place Tony found? He talked about seeing these things disappear behind a waterfall. He believed there was a cave, possibly their den.”

“We avoided it,” Orosco said. “Everything else Sam or Tony told you about is marked on here—not exact or to scale, of course. But just to give you a layout of the land.” He looked toward the north and pointed. “Head that way for about a mile. You’ll come out on a small two-lane road that we were traveling on before we cut over on to the main road headed into Andover. It was zombie-free at the time. When you get close enough, you’ll have to decide how you want to enter. I recommend coming in from the west.”

Gina nodded. “Thank you, Orosco.”

Orosco laughed. “Don’t thank me for helping you enter hell. You’ll be cursing my name soon enough.” He looked at them both and said, “It’s none of my business, but, it’s not too late to call this off. I can put Frank back in the cell, he’ll get his trial and none of this has to matter.”

Gina stood up before she could be tempted. “You should head back, Orosco. Thanks again. We’ll take it from here.”

Orosco nodded and said, “Well… good luck to you.” He started back.

Frank stepped in close to Gina and said, “We should get to that road as soon as possible. I have a shit-load of questions that need answering.”

She nodded and they turned toward the north, walking deeper into the woods.

~~~

Orosco returned to the diner as instructed.

Sam was wearing out a rut in the linoleum as she paced back and forth impatiently.

When he entered, he said, “It’s done. No one saw us.”

“Good,” Sam said, sitting down at her booth and letting out a long sigh of relief. “I’m glad that’s over with. Now we can focus on getting the hell out of here.”

“Why are we leaving, Sam?” Orosco asked. “I mean… I know you decided on heading for the mountains, but it seems like you’re rushing a bit. Why not stay the night and leave in the morning? It’s going to be dark once we’re about ten miles away from here.”

“That’s why Tony’s out there looking for a secure area to hold up at until dawn.”

Orosco was confused. “But this is a secure area already.”

Sam got up and went to the diner window. “You ask too many questions, Orosco. What is it… don’t you trust me anymore?”

“That’s not why I’m asking, Sam-”

“Then just let the matter rest!” Sam barked. “If I had to explain every damn decision I made, we’d be dead already. Call it instinct, if you need an answer. My gut says we need to leave, and we need to leave this afternoon.”

Orosco held his hands up. “Cease fire, Sam. I was just curious.” He stepped up beside her and asked, “Do you think that crazy woman and Frank will make it back?”

“Hell no,” Sam said. “That’s why I tried real hard to scare her straight away from the foolishness before I sent her over to the jail. She’s as stubborn as… well, as me. Gina’s set on saving some girl who can’t be saved.”

Orosco turned to her and said, “Sometimes you sound just like you did that day Tony attacked the zombies at the burning barn.”

“Your point?”

“Just making an observation,” he laughed. “It seems like after everything we’ve accomplished by now—all these people we’d saved—it seems like you’re still waiting on that other dark shoe to drop.”

Sam gave him a stern look. “Your optimism is fine, until it makes you blind to the fact that we could die any time. Don’t lose sight of that fact or your complacency will get you killed.”

Orosco wisely remained silent.

“Sometimes I think you all let Tony infect you with too much hope. Hope’s fine… it’s good for morale… but when there’s hard decisions I have to make to keep the rest of you ‘hopeful’, I’d appreciate it if you’d cut me some fucking slack!”

He frowned and said, “You’re right, Sam. Sorry for speaking out of turn. You need anything else from me today?”

“No. Go ahead and get your stuff packed and catch a nap. I’ll need you fresh for when we leave.”

Orosco nodded and hesitated before leaving. “Are we still telling Tony that Gina helped Frank escape from the jail?”

“Yes. Now, before you start objecting again, remember that it’s only a temporary lie to get Tony moving. I know it’s not nice to deceive our own, but you know that he will stop everything and tear this town apart trying to find her.”

“Yeah… that’s the part I’m worried about.”

“Anyway, this was what Gina and I decided,” she lied. “She doesn’t want him following her to that damn place any more than we can afford to lose him. Don’t you agree?”

Orosco nodded.

“So that’s what we tell him. We’ll say she feared for Frank’s safety and that she’s headed toward the mountains. That’s what is going to keep us all on the same page.”

“What if he doesn’t believe it?” Orosco pushed.

Sam sighed. “Again… there you go killing me with questions.” She reached into her pocket and retrieved a note. Here’s the letter Gina wrote before she met up with you. It says in a nutshell: ‘I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused’… blah… blah… blah…‘but I need time to show you that Frank’s a swell guy’… blah… blah… blah… ‘that’s why we’re going on ahead to the mountain cabin alone’… blah… blah… blah… ”

Orosco laughed. “I guess you two thought this out already. No more questions… I promise.”

Sam watched him exit the diner.

He’s a loyalist, but I wish he’d spend less time with Mr. Optimism Marcuchi, she thought. After we get out of here, I’m going to have to separate those two for a while.

Samantha walked back to her booth and sat down. She thought about the rest of the plan she’d withheld from Orosco as she tossed the bogus letter on the table:

When Tony gets back, you’ll have to act fast, Sam. She was thinking about Marcus and that idiot, Joe, she’d left in the Post Office. She had decided to make the most of Gina and Frank’s departure and insure that if they did make it back, Frank was a guaranteed dead man.

Orosco will play along with the jail break story. Meanwhile, I’ll go cut Marcus loose from the Post Office and tell Joe that we ‘suspect’ our murderer ‘might be’, Mr. Frank Fucking Carman, who just happened to escape with one of her own people.

That damn idiot will spread the news faster than the internet, and before Orosco or any of Frank’s friends can rush to his defense, I’ll have the whole community hating Carman for slitting poor Phillip’s throat. And after the storm settles and we’re long gone… they’ll all still be wondering if Frank Carman did it or not. That should make the silly trial, if there ever is one, tip back in my favor.

Sam liked it. She couldn’t keep the murder quiet forever and blaming Frank would motivate everyone to move toward the mountains… with the intent of catching up to Frank along the way.

She looked down at the note she wrote in Gina’s name. “Now I just have to plant you someplace Tony will find it and then get my ass over to that Post Office.”

Sam looked toward the stairs which led to Gina’s former sleeping quarters. Tony had slept with Gina last night. Perfect! He’ll come here first.

The former cop started up the stairs to the empty apartment. She found their bedroom, saw the two indentations in the bed sheet, and placed the note on the nightstand next to the bed. She moved a candle holder and placed it on top of the note, making sure it wasn’t too obvious but that it could still be found.

Sam stepped back to the foot of the bed and took in the scene. And that’s that.

She heard footsteps rushing toward her from the other room.

Sam had just enough time to turn and raise her hands in front of her face as the attacker came in low and stabbed her in the abdomen with a hunting knife.

Sam’s eyes went wide as she tried to speak and coughed up blood.

The attacker twisted the knife and began to force it upward, cutting deeper into Sam’s organs, quickly gutting her and spilling Sam’s insides all over the floor.

Sam’s arms went limp as the attacker landed one final slice across her throat and then pushed her back on to the bed.
She convulsed for a few seconds and then stopped moving, her eyes locked open and staring up at a lifeless ceiling fan.

The attacker remained still, watching as the white bed sheet beneath the dying cop turn crimson.

After being certain that Sam was dead, the attacker walked over to the nightstand and removed the note from beneath the candlestick. The attacker unfolded it, read the note, and then rolled it up. The attacker reached over Sam’s body and dipped the end of the note in Sam’s bloody flesh. The attacker took the bloody letter and started writing words on the wall above the bed.

When finished, the attacker stared at the message written in terrifying red:

YOU KILL US. WE KILL YOU. BLOOD FOR BLOOD.

~~~

Next Episode 25-10

Previous Episode 25-8

~~~

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 :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 25-9: Reunions and Departures” Copyright © 2014, 2016 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Three: Recruits”.

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.

Please Vote for Don’t Feed The Dark

Posted: February 27, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, writer's blogs, zombie books, Zombies
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untitled

~~~

Hello Everyone,

If you’ve been reading Don’t Feed The Dark online, or if you’ve already purchased and read the books, the best thing you could do to show your appreciation and let me know you’ve been enjoying the series is to help me spread the word so that more readers find out about this long, dark zombie series.

Here’s a couple easy ways you could do so:

Please consider voting for DFTD over at topwebfiction  No registration is required. just click and vote. You can vote for it every seven days to keep it on the list. This is a great place to be listed and I’ve received quite a few visitors due to this great listing site for serials.

Also, you could vote for DFTD over at Top Site List. I’m currently ranked #46 and gradually climbing.

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 your support,
-Scott

~~~

Special: Beyond Survival

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Giveaways, Horror, horror fiction, Interviews/Reviews, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, writer's blogs, zombie books, Zombies
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dark man

~~~

What I find most appealing about writing apocalyptic horror fiction is discovering what my cast of characters will do when faced with extreme circumstances, and finding out how survivors deal with one another in a world no longer fit for the living. I find myself struggling vicariously through them as these characters come to life on the pages and drag me along on a life-or-death rollercoaster of decisions, loaded with consequences.

In my book series, Don’t Feed The Dark, a virus known only as The Change, strikes randomly, turning roughly one in every five people into flesh-craving maniacs. Survivors do not understand how they were spared while so many were not, including loved ones, neighbors… the person sitting next to you. Over time, strangers forced to fight together for survival must face more than the living dead, they must face the monsters within themselves and find out what kind of people they truly are. Which brings about all sorts of interesting questions to explore:

Is it enough to simply survive… and at what cost is that survival worth? How much of our humanity must we give up in order to preserve our fragile claim on the human race? When the hard choices are presented, what can we live with at the end of the day to ward off the phantoms of guilt which rise up in the night to devour our sleep-deprived souls?

I suspect that we may never really know the answers to these questions until we are forced to face a real zombie epidemic. At best, we can speculate, based on our present beliefs and perceptions of ourselves. I am sure we would all love to say we would do the noble or decent thing in all circumstances. However, when we are forced into survival mode, what would we really do to save our own skins and the people we care about?

Bottom line: What decisions can we live with long after the dead have moved on to easier prey, leaving us alone to face the implications of those decisions?

The following scenarios are intended to explore difficult circumstances we might face in a zombie apocalypse and find out what we would do. Survival is a brutal affair, especially after the rules of normal living have been slaughtered in the streets on Day One. There are no longer right or wrong answers, only survival and the loads we must bear to continue to stay alive. In the end, the dead cannot judge the living… or can they?

Scenario #1:

You have had one hell of an exhausting work week. When Friday finally arrives, all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a hundred years. Fortunately, your oldest son, Michael, is home from college for the weekend and has offered to entertain his younger siblings: Jessica, age nine, and Marcus, age five. After making plans for the following morning, you slither into bed early and refuse to set the alarm clock. By 11:30 pm your spouse has crawled into bed next to you. He or she mentions something about a strange News report talking about increased violence around town which you acknowledge with a sluggish grunt and then quickly fall back to sleep.

Four hours later, you wake abruptly to Jessica’s high-pitched screams coming from somewhere in the house. You hear what sounds like a bar-room brawl in progress in your living room as furniture is overturned and glass breaks. You look over and discover that your spouse is missing. Something terrible is happening. You immediately believe someone has broken into your home as you quickly retrieve your handgun from your gun safe in the closet. You exit the bedroom and rush toward the living room. The only light is coming from the snow displayed on your television. You discover a tall intruder hovering over your spouse who is scrambling to get into the closest corner while trying to shield your daughter from a maniac.

You yell at the intruder and point the gun at him. Something monstrous turns toward you and howls as you get a good look into its fierce yellow eyes boring into your flesh. Your blood turns to ice as recognition sets in.

It’s your oldest boy, Michael!

And then your spouse yells something strange:

“Shoot him! It’s not Michael… not after what he did!”

You then become aware of two things with dreadful clarity: You have no idea where your youngest boy is… and this thing resembling your oldest, has blood dripping from its mouth.

What would you do?

~~~

Scenario #2:

You are on the run for your life in a busy metropolitan area. The dead are everywhere. You somehow manage to escape notice long enough to reach a five-story apartment complex. You are exhausted and it is getting dark fast. You decide to hide out in the top floor of the complex for the night, hoping you can getter a better view of your situation from up above. You find an unlocked and unoccupied apartment with an emergency fire escape down into an adjacent alley. Good enough.

While foraging for supplies, you hear movement from behind a closed bedroom door. You swear at yourself for forgetting to check the room. You approach the door and slowly open it. Inside is an elderly woman lying in what looks like a hospital bed. She is hooked up to a complex machine with tubes running into various places on her body.

The woman turns to you and pleads in a weak voice, “Thank God. My nurse left me all alone and I can’t get a hold of anyone to help me.”

Before you can respond, you hear screams coming from just outside the apartment and down the hall. The dead have made their way into the building and are heading in your direction.

“Please… please… don’t leave me like this!” the old woman begs.

You have five minutes before the dead discover you… maybe less. You still have time to make it down the fire escape if you leave right now.

What would you do?

~~~

Scenario #3:

After a grueling escape from the initial panic that has swept through your town, you and a small group of survivors manage to make it to a rural area and away from the hordes of the undead which have hunted you. It has been four days since the initial outbreak when your group discovers a small out-of-the-way grocery store with a large apartment above it. The place seems secure and loaded with essential food stores your group needs. Since you are responsible for making some critical decisions that have resulted in your escape, everyone looks to you for decisions. You make the grocery store your group’s temporary haven while figuring out the next move.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man, who has been nothing but confrontational and has put the group at risk on several occasions, has been caught hording supplies from the group. He is detained, and brought to your attention. This man has rubbed everyone the wrong way several times and has often threatened the group in fits of rage, promising to leave and return to kill everyone in their sleep. The man curses the day you were born, believing that you had no right becoming this group’s leader and that he should be calling the shots.

The rest of the group has had enough. Some believe he is dangerous and that he will follow through with his threats if he is simply kicked out of the group. Others think that he is just taking out his emotional grief on the group and that he will calm down now that they are safe. Regardless, they want something done about this crazy person and they all look to you for a solution.

What would you do?

~~~

Scenario #4:

You and your spouse are pursued relentlessly by a horde of the undead. You both manage to make it into a house, lock the doors, and hunker down while the monsters move through the neighborhood. You both believe you are safe as it seems that the horde is moving on and that you have escaped notice.

Suddenly, a baby begins to cry out from another room.

By the time you both reach the child, who is left helpless and alone in a crib, the dead have also heard the child and are now approaching the house.

You both hear the sound of shattered glass from another room. When you reach the location you discover a bedroom. The dead are beginning to breach a broken window. You both struggle to move furniture in an attempt to block the window.

Just then, you both hear the sound of another broken window coming from the baby’s room.

“I’ve got this. Save the baby!” your spouse screams.

You frantically race back toward the baby’s room in time to see the first monster breaching the window.

Before you can react, your spouse screams, “Help me! They’re inside! I can’t get out!”

You have time to save the baby. You have time to help your spouse. But you don’t have time to do both.

What would you do?

~~~

Yes… these circumstances suck. Each decision we make has many possible outcomes and their own set of consequences, short or long term. In all of these scenarios, no one gets to be the hero. The apocalypse is not suited for heroes. Heroes die… and then come back.

So whether you choose to tackle all these scenarios or pass on a couple (I don’t blame you) tell me what you think you might do and share your reasoning behind it. I would love to have an open discussion about the tough choices we may be forced to make during a zombie apocalypse.

~~~

Note: This discussion was originally posted as part of zOctober 2015 hosted by Tony Lesatz over at My Book Addiction. There was such an active discussion going on there that I thought it would be cool to continue it here, and find out what more of you thought on these tough scenarios.

~~~

Haven’t read Don’t Feed The Dark yet? You can start reading the serialized version for free by clicking HERE.

You can also read the first three books of the series in paperback. Click HERE to find out more.

~~~

Chapter 21-6: Goodbye Charlie

Posted: January 8, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Giveaways, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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crescent

~~~

The crescent moon smiled down upon the vineyard like a lunatic, scaring off the nearby stars and dominating the black void above. On the ground beneath, Charlie’s smug smile was equally terrifying.

“Don’t you dare try anything,” he commanded her. He put his gun to her temple. “Put your hands together and place them on the fucking tractor wheel, or I swear I’ll let it loose on you. I speak, you obey. Do you understand the rules?”

Amanda nodded through tears, too terrified to open her mouth as she kept looking over at the old shed nearby. The dead thing inside continued to pound against the other side of the frail wooden door with such dreadful force. She thought it would break out at any moment. Its bone-chilling screams told of its maddening hunger and intense aggravation at being held back from reaching its meal, just a few short feet away.

She was forced to sit in the kneeling position and rested her hands, as instructed, on the lower part of the wheel.

Charlie tucked the gun in his armpit and quickly tied the old broken lamp cord he’d found in the shed around Amanda’s hands while using the rest of the cord to secure them to the rim of the large tire.

The back of her head felt wet and throbbed in pain. He’d come at her on the porch without warning, without a word, grabbed her by the hair and pulled her off the porch. Before she could call out, he’d hit her in the head with something hard. Then everything had gone dark.

“Ch… Charlie,” she finally managed. “You don’t have to do this. I’m sorry I didn’t-”

“Who owns you?” he asked.

She looked confused.

Charlie rolled his eyes as if dealing with a child. “As per our arrangement at the boathouse, who has control?”

“You do,” she said.

“That’s right! I do! So tell me, Amanda, when did you decide to break our arrangement and betray me? Did you just think you could keep hiding among the others and that I’d forget about you? Did you forget what I was capable of?”

“You… you scared the hell out of me, Charlie. I wasn’t thinking straight. Give me another chance and we can go back to the way it was. I can make you feel good… like before.” She wanted to vomit after saying the words.

Confident the cord would hold, Charlie stepped away, tucked the gun in his belt near his belly, and placed his hands behind his back. He began to pace behind her. “Yeah… I have to admit, you were ‘enthusiastic’ at the beginning. How long did that last again? That’s right, three nights. You were an amazing, if not brief, distraction from dealing with those other idiots… and then you started pulling away, distancing yourself from me. At first, I thought it was your addiction that was fucking you up. I was patient with you, waited for you to get your head on straight, but you only got worse.”

“You were right. I was sick. The withdrawal… I couldn’t stop shaking at night.” She was telling partial truths. “I wanted to get better so I didn’t disappoint you… sexually. You can understand that, can’t you?”

Charlie shook his head and laughed. “You are a talented whore, not very good a lying though. What happened in Painesville?”

Amanda remained silent.

“That’s right,” Charlie continued. “I heard what you did. You tried to talk them into leaving me there. Do you deny it?”

There was only one answer he would accept. “No, Charlie. I don’t deny it.”

He raised his hand. “That’s okay. I let that one slide, too. You were only trying to save your own skin when the Painesville horde was coming. I get it. I would’ve certainly left you there in an instant if the situation had been reversed.”

“I’m glad you understand, Charlie. You’re a great guy-”

“Shut your condescending pie-hole! You’re not fooling anyone, whore!”

The monster was getting more aggressive, responding to the sounds of their voices and screaming louder.

Charlie covered his ears and turned toward the shed. “For the love of God! I can’t think with all that damn noise. SIT AND BE STILL!”

The shed was immediately quiet.

I’m so fucking dead, Amanda thought. She tried to free her hands but the more she struggled, the more it hurt her wrists.

“There, that’s better. Where was I… oh yeah, your fucking disobedient attitude.” He began to pace again. “What the hell am I supposed to do with you now? I gave you every chance to turn it around and come back to your senses. But then you humiliated me in front of the group and left me hanging when I expected your support for my leadership. Now that—Amanda—that I can’t forgive! You punked me out in front of the red-headed bitch and made me look weak!”

“What do you want me to say, Charlie? I fucked-up… I admit it. I’ll do whatever you want. Just tell me what it is that you want.”

He ignored her. “Has it occurred to you why I haven’t come right out and displayed my ‘power’ to the group yet? Does your puny little mind even think about things like that?”

Amanda did not trust answering.

“I’ll tell you why, dear… it’s because of you! If I couldn’t get a frightened whore to obey me, even after you knew what I could do, what chance did I have of getting the others to follow me? That’s when I realized that their fear of me would make them as insolent as you. Fear is a powerful master to usurp, and all of you scare-babies reek of it! You look at me like another monster, not your master, and react accordingly. Therein lies the problem. As long as my power is misunderstood by the sheep, the shepherd can’t maintain control.”

He’s insane. Amanda wanted to drink… and drink… and drink… until she could just forget everything and pass peaceably into the hell that awaited her.

“You were my pilot program, Amanda. My test run. If I could keep you in line, then I could reveal myself to the others and take over… but you screwed that all up!”

“I’m sorry,” she said weakly.

“It’s not your fault… really, it’s not. Fear has been your master for years. It’s hard to break away from that one. I used to be like you, scared shitless all the time. But not now. I was destined for this time, and I now understand what it requires to make you all obedient to me. I should’ve seen it sooner.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let me show you.” Charlie smiled like the devil, got up, and walked toward the shed.

“What are you doing, Charlie? Please… don’t do that.”

Charlie reached for a wooden latch across the shed door and tossed it aside. The door came open with a slow agonizing creak until the pale naked woman, covered in tattoos, was revealed standing in the doorway.

Oh, my God! What sick fucking madness is this? Amanda thought.

The dead woman with blond braided hair and a nose ring, lifted its head and spotted Amanda. It came alarmingly to life as it pushed its way out of the shed and began to move toward her.

“NO!” Charlie commanded. “STILL… BE STILL!”

It cocked its head toward Charlie and barred its teeth at him. The woman hissed in frustration and clawed at the air in front of Charlie’s face. But it moved no farther.

“My goodness,” Charlie laughed. “You are a feisty one. SIT DOWN!”

The woman fell clumsily to the ground as if its bones had just turned to jelly.

Charlie laughed at it and turned toward Amanda. “I’ve been playing ‘Simon Says’ with this thing all day long, working out how to command it better. It seems that shorter words and phrases work the best. It’s almost like training a dog… almost. I’m starting to get the hang of it now.”

“What the fuck, Charlie? Kill it!” Amanda was pulling hard on the cord. She no longer cared if she broke her wrists in the process.

“Now stop that, whore, or I’ll let my new friend have a go at you.”

Amanda stopped. She started weeping as the dead woman turned its dark lifeless gaze on her again and opened its mouth. It was actually snapping its jaws at the air.

“Celine?” Charlie said. “Hello… Celine… are you still in there?”

The creature did not respond.

“She can’t remember a damn thing about her life, as far as I could tell. She’s completely obsessed with feeding. I think that’s all these pitiful things want to do anymore is eat. I let her have the other dead one she’d killed earlier. It was rather difficult to stomach watching… but a bit entertaining, too.”

“Please get it… get it to stop looking at me, Charlie. It’s unnerving.”

“What’s the matter with me,” Charlie said as if coming out of a trance. “Introductions are in order. Celine, this is Amanda. Amanda¸ meet what used to be Celine. I never caught her last name. She’d died rather suddenly.”

“You… you killed her?” Amanda was stunned.

“No… no… of course not. She was already on her way when I found her. She’d been bitten and died about where you’re sitting. I waited until she reanimated and then made her follow me deeper into the vineyard. I thought she was going to bite me a couple of times… apparently the recently reanimated ones are much more stubborn than the rotted ones. I thought Celine was still in there for a while. I conducted some… experiments just to find out. She never showed a hint of self-awareness, not even after I stripped the fucking thing… and then not even after I took it a bit further…”

“You didn’t! Please tell me you didn’t!” Amanda didn’t think Charlie was capable of something so heinous—or anyone. Her mind couldn’t even conceive of something so foul.

Charlie didn’t appreciate the accusation. “Oh, you would think that, you fucking whore! You must think I’m a complete idiot! There’s a big difference between a little foreplay and… you have dirty mind, Amanda. It’s still an infected carcass, for crying out loud!”

She wasn’t convinced.

“Are you done stabbing at me with your devilish tongue and sneering eyes? Or should I feed them to Celine?”

“You wouldn’t dare,” she whispered. Amanda looked into Charlie’s disturbingly vacant eyes, as dead to compassion as Celine’s now were, and then she knew what his end-game was. She looked at the dead thing lying naked on the ground. Celine, the shell of a woman no longer present, save for a name attached to slowly rotting flesh. She almost felt sorry for it—humiliated, violated, desecrated, and now reduced to a pet on a verbal leash.

He wants to turn me into that thing!

Charlie smiled at the recognition painted across her horrified face. “Shall I tell you what I learned about my gift today, Amanda? Shall I share the grand revelation which came to me when I found this worthless girl begging me to stab her in the head and end her life?”

“Charlie… please… don’t do this. If you go through with it, there’s no turning back. Believe me, I know all about major mistakes… you won’t get another chance to come back after you’ve crossed the line.”

Charlie dismissed her with his hand. “Don’t speak to me about boundaries as if you could stand on any moral high ground, you fucking hypocrite! You were a waste of a life before this all happened. Dead marriage. Dead daughter. Dead to your own emotions and thoughts as the fucking bottle controlled you like a puppet. You let your world collapse all around you and then had the audacity to continue sucking on the air and sucking down the booze as if your drunk ass deserved to still be here. Look around you, Amanda. Your world is long… DEAD… and so are you. You’re just too stupid to lie down and accept it. It’s time to move on… don’t you think? I’m going to make your death mean something after you’re gone. I promise you.”

Charlie looked to Celine and said, “COME. FOLLOW.”

The dead thing got up and followed Charlie over to Amanda.

“Wait… Charlie! Don’t fucking touch me!” Amanda yanked hard on the wire. The pain shot up her arms. She frantically started turning her wrists. The wire sawed into them as fresh blood helped lubricate her right wrist. She almost had it free.

“STOP,” Charlie commanded Celine. It stood there like a viper over Amanda’s head.

Amanda refused to look up at it. She could hear it panting with anticipation.

Charlie bent down to her right ear and said, “I can make this quick and painless for you, Amanda. One bite on the arm and it’s over. If you struggle, this is going to get messy. It’s easier to control her if you remain calm. If you get excited, she will get excited, and it might take off your whole damn arm before I regain control.”

“Charlie,” she begged, “please stop this.”

“It’s almost over. Afterwards, I’ll cut you loose and make you comfortable… before the end comes.”

Do something! Anything!

“Hold still now.”

Do something you piece of dirt!

“CELINE… COME CLOSER.”

Dirt… dirty? Yes! Oh, my God… FUCK! Just do it! Do it NOW!

“Charlie wait a minute!” Amanda nearly yelled. “It’s important! Hear me out… and then I’ll go quietly… I promise!”

Charlie sighed heavily. “BACK. I said, GET… BACK!”

Celine growled its unhappiness at the command, so close to tasting flesh. The monster stepped back.

“What is it?” Charlie barked impatiently.

Amanda turned her head toward Charlie, quickly locating the gun still in his waist, and put on the performance of her life. Forsaking any attempt at feigning seductive, she settled for desperate and needy (the desperate part was already there). “Fuck me,” she commanded.

“What?” Charlie was immediately confused.

“Do it right now! Get behind me and fuck the shit out of me!”

“Are you for real?”

“Come on! Last chance for a real piece of ass. I want to feel you inside of me one more time. I want to die remembering something good!”

Charlie felt his blood rise. Feeling self-conscious, he looked over at Celine and felt stupid for doing so.

“Come on, Charlie! What are you waiting for? Let it watch!”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“You’re fucking nuts!”

“No, I’m fucking horny!”

Charlie was shaking. He’d never felt so… aroused. He quickly stepped behind Amanda.

She pushed her ass up into the air and spread her legs.

Charlie looked to Celine and said, “SIT DOWN.”

The dead thing fell to the ground.

And then for no reason other than fueling his twisted new fantasy, he commanded, “WATCH!”

He reached around, unbuttoned her pants and pulled them down to her knees.

She could feel the cold steel of the gun on her bare ass as he leaned forward.

Amanda pulled down with all her might on the cord, trying to free the right hand. Blood dripped down her forearms. She was beyond the pain.

Come on, let me go!

Charlie removed the gun from his waist to get to his belt. He watched Celine, placing the gun on the ground within backwards reach of Amanda, if she could get her arm free.

He unbuckled his belt. Unbuttoned his pants.

“LOOK HERE!” he said to it.

The dead thing looked at him.

Charlie’s heart was pounding a thousand miles per second.

He focused on Amanda’s ass. Began to pull down his pants…

“Charlie! What are you… doing? Get away from her!” came the strained voice from behind him.

He immediately pulled up his pants and turned.

It was Stephen, standing at the end of the row.

“Help me!” Amanda cried out. “Kill him! He’s fucking insane!”

Charlie was furious. “Celine, KILL. KILL. KILL!” he commanded.

The creature went for Amanda.

“Hey!” Stephen called out, stepping dangerously close to the dead thing. “Come on! Here’s your lunch!”

The dead thing turned and charged after Stephen.

He back peddled and fell.

Charlie turned and noticed a large shadow coming out from around the back of the shed. He went for his gun, forgetting it was on the ground.

Amanda beat Charlie by inches. She managed to get her legs over the gun.

“Give it back, bitch!” he shouted.

“FUCK YOU!” she shouted.

Charlie got to his feet and watched Frank tackle Celine. “No! Leave her be! She’s mine!” he shouted.

Frank ignored him, pulled out a large knife and buried it into the back of her skull.

Celine ceased to move.

“You fucker! You’ve no right…” Charlie shouted.

“Hey!” came the female’s voice from behind him.

Charlie turned around. “You!”

“Yeah… me,” Gina said. She slammed the butt of the shotgun hard into Charlie’s nose and broke it.
He fell to the ground as his sick world went dark.

~~~

Next Episode 21-7

Previous Episode 21-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 21-6: Goodbye Charlie” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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.

Chapter 21-5: Goodbye Charlie

Posted: January 6, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Giveaways, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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Unknown10

~~~

Evening came early as darkness swallowed up the remains of the beautiful day.

After Charlie’s sudden departure, there remained an unspoken restlessness claiming his vacant spot in the group. When Gina and Frank had returned before sunset without him, Gina had called them together and said, “Without getting into a long discussion about it, I just wanted to let you all know that it seems Charlie has decided to leave us. I discovered earlier that he’d packed his things and left quietly. We believe he’s trying for the Ashtabula group like he wanted. We searched for him a good long while but found nothing. He either didn’t want to be found or he’s long gone.”

No one had said anything.

Gina had concluded, “Now, we will be here until the morning, Charlie knows that, so if he wants to come back, he has until then to do so. But for now, we need to keep our heads on straight and get through the night safely.”

She’d worked out a four-hour watch schedule: Two-person groups; one group on the front porch to watch the road and one group patrolling the back to monitor the vineyard.

Stephen sat beside Amanda on the front porch. They each had a flashlight and their handguns out. The moon provided suitable ambient light as they could observe anything approaching from the front, while remaining hidden in the shadowed alcove of the porch.

Stephen watched as Amanda took a drag off of her cigarette. She’d found a stale pack of menthols earlier. The bright cherry lit them both up momentarily as Stephen got a good look at her.

To Stephen, Amanda appeared more relaxed than she’d been in days. She contently reclined in her chair, wrapped in a blanket, and staring off into the sky. She still seemed distant, but no longer tense and watching over her shoulder for something horrible to happen.

“Like what you see?” she kidded, catching his sideway glances.

“Do you have a spare one of those?” he asked.

“I thought I was the only one here with any vices.” She smiled, handing him a cigarette and a lighter. “I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I don’t,” he said. “Thought I might try one tonight since the ‘bad for your health’ lectures against them seem pretty pointless right now.”

Amanda laughed. “Yeah, now might be the perfect time to try just about anything… since tomorrow’s a crap shoot.”

Stephen lit the lighter and looked at her again.

She smiled, winked, and then blew him a kiss.

Stephen shook his head. “You are impossible,” he said with a smile. He let the lighter go out and turned on his flashlight, keeping the bright beam cupped in his hands. “If you don’t mind me saying, you look… better,” he dared. “You’ve seemed very withdrawn since Painesville.”

After a few moments, Amanda looked over and said, “I’ve had a lot of time to think clearly today for the first time in… I don’t know… forever, I guess.”

“What about?”

“I’m just thinking… thinking about a lot of things. Usually I do whatever it takes to avoid any thinking at all… but not today. Today feels really good, really… clear… like I said.”

Stephen considered this. He was just amazed that Amanda was talking to him at all, and not yelling at him for once. He liked this new, sober side to Amanda. It was refreshing. “I get what you’re saying. I’ve had days like that when everything just falls into place.”

“Exactly! That’s a good way to sum it up, Stephen.”

“So… what brought you back? Are you finally coming out from under the withdrawal?”

She laughed. “Oh, no, that never goes away… not entirely. It’s much fainter now though, easier to deal with. I guess in some strange fucked-up way, being on the run without much rest in between to stop and entertain those demons, has become the fastest detox program I know. Been too busy with new monsters to listen to the old ones right now.”

Stephen laughed. “Maybe you can go with that after things get back to normal. You know, hit up all the popular A.A. meetings, stand up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Amanda Howard and I’ve been sober and bite free for fifty days.’”

Amanda laughed hard, and then caught herself. “Shit, Stephen,” she whispered. “You never told me you were funny! I wish I’d seen this side sooner. All you ever did was try to smother me with all that sadness you carry around… no offense.”

“None taken.” Stephen surprised himself. When was the last time I cracked a joke? “Maybe I’m finally relaxing a little, too.”

Amanda smiled. “You know, if this was any other time, I’d suggest we share a bottle of whiskey, talk about high school days, and then run around butt-ass naked and howl at the moon.”

“God, that would be ghastly,” Stephen said.

Amanda raised her eyebrows.

“Oh, no, I’m not talking about you… I mean… I’ve always been as pale as a ghost. My naked ass would probably blind somebody.”

Amanda laughed. “Stephen… Stephen… we would have had a hoot of a time back in my younger days. I’m sure of it. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to fill in the blanks.”

Stephen swallowed hard. “It doesn’t matter anyway, there’s no booze around here. You’d think a bottle of wine at least… but no. Hell, I looked.”

“Laundry room. Lower cupboard. Behind the bleach. Damn whiskey was hiding.” Amanda winked.

Stephen looked surprised.

“Hey… I didn’t drink it,” she defended. “Old habits are hard to break. It always makes me feel a little better knowing where the stuff is… that’s all.”

Stephen smiled. “I believe you. Really, I do. It… it shows.”

“In a good way or a bad way?”

“Very good. I like the new you.”

Amanda smiled and looked out toward the road. “Last time I took a sip was before we hit the tracks… at the house. No one believes it, but it’s true.”

Stephen said nothing.

“I wanted it all the time when we hit those fucking tracks. It made me one mean bitch… and then everything changed at the junkyard.” She turned to Stephen. “Do you remember that shit Frank pulled… what he made us do to that thing?”

“Yeah… I still have nightmares about it.” Stephen closed his eyes as he remembered himself, Amanda and Charlie covered in blood as they savagely plummeted the yellow-eyed monster into a bloody pulp. “It makes me sick to my stomach realizing that I could do something so… primal. I actually started to enjoy it.”

Amanda’s face mirrored his shame. “That was the day I woke up, Stephen. That was the day I knew the party was fucking over. When I looked into that thing’s eyes and saw how much it despised me and wanted to devour me, all I could think about was my Marie and how something like that looked at her before it tore her to pieces… it must have been awful.”

Stephen shifted uncomfortably.

“Anyway,” she said wiping the corners of her eyes, “that’s when I was done with the bottle. When we… lost our fucking minds and destroyed that thing, all I could think about was all that blood everywhere; on my hands, on my clothes, on my face, beneath my feet… everywhere. I started to enjoy it, just like you said. I felt empowered and strangely… satisfied. I told myself later it was payback, but it felt like I’d briefly turned into one of those fucking things. Know what I mean?”

Stephen simply nodded.

“When I was scrubbing that blood off of my hands, I thought… This is what it felt like when they slayed my girl… God, I must have vomited every time I pictured the blood all over my hands. Just knowing Marie died like that… and I felt it… enjoyed it…” She left the thought unfinished. “Like I said, that was when I knew I was done with the bottle, even when I wanted to drown those bloody thoughts out of my brain every night, I still fought off those fucking demons.”

“Good for you, Amanda.” Stephen could say nothing else. He wanted the bottle behind the bleach more than he would ever admit. He desperately needed to change the subject. “What do you think happened to Charlie?”

Amanda’s face immediately turned to stone. “I hope he’s dead,” she said coldly.

Stephen was unprepared for the strong response. He decided to push further. “Did… something happen between you two?”

Amanda turned to him and said, “He’s one of the real monsters, Stephen. Charlie makes those dead things look tame by comparison.”

“That’s harsh. Did you two have a falling out? It was apparent you both were… together… for a little while along the river.”

Amanda was about to speak, then remained still. After a heavy sigh, she said, “Doesn’t matter now… he’s gone. Good riddance. Could we stop talking about it, Stephen… please? Some things are better left alone.”

“Okay. We can let it go,” Stephen said gently.

Amanda wrapped her arms around her shoulders, feeling a sudden chill talking about Charlie. She quickly changed the subject. “Are you going to smoke that thing or just look at it?” she asked, referring to the unlit cigarette in Stephen’s hand.

Stephen smiled and confessed, “I never wanted one… they smell like shit. I just needed an icebreaker.”

Amanda laughed.

“I do, however, need to visit the men’s room for a minute,” he said. “Want to step inside with me for a moment?”

“What for? You need me to hold it for you?” Amanda teased. “Go on and take care of your business. I’ll be alright for a few minutes.”

“But we need to stay together. Gina said-”

“Don’t you dare ruin our night with your ‘Gina said’ bullshit! I’ve just started liking you, and I like that red-headed bitch a whole hell-of-a-lot less. I’m a big girl, and I’m armed. Go pee, for Christ’s sake.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Stephen said with a mock salute.

As he reached for the front door, Amanda said, “Stephen, thanks for believing me.”

Stephen smiled. “No problem. We’re all we have now. I’d like to think that means something.”

“Maybe so,” Amanda said. “Just for the record, I know I took out a lot of my frustrations on you and it wasn’t right. I treated you like shit. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry, and I’m trying to… change.”

“You have changed, Amanda,” Stephen said. “We all have.”

He stepped into the dark house with his flashlight aimed low. He made it to the small bathroom near the garage, stepped inside and closed the door.

Maybe I’ve changed, too, he thought. Maybe there’s still a chance to make things right and I’ll be able to tell her everything. Amanda will understand… eventually. Maybe even… forgive me? For the first time since this nightmare began, Stephen felt a shred of hope.

He turned toward the mirror and froze as his flashlight beam revealed Nicole’s refection staring back at him through the glass. She was a bloody apparition with a knife sticking out of her eye.

“No!” Stephen pleaded, stepping back against the wall and shaking the image from his mind. “You’re not real! This is all me!”

He opened his eyes and watched the murdered girl write words on the glass in thick blood:

DON’T LISTEN TO HER POISON. SHE’S A LIAR!

Stephen turned off the flashlight, believing the darkness would hide him from his own madness.

Please, God, no more! I can’t take this anymore!

He lifted the flashlight in his shaking hand and turned it back on.

The bloody one-eyed girl was standing directly in front of him, arms outstretched, hideous. “Stephen,” it moaned. “Why are you killing me all over again? You know she’s responsible! You know it’s all because of her! It’s always HEEERRR!”

Stephen turned off the flashlight and fell to the floor, covering his ears. “Please… stop… please!” He felt an incredible weight coming down from the ceiling, crushing him in the darkness and destroying his sanity.

“Don’t… let… her… come… between us… my love,” Nicole whispered in the dark. “She wants… to hurt you… she wants… to hurt… US!”

And then it was over.

Stephen felt the heaviness depart. He reached for the doorknob, opened the door, and crawled out of the bathroom. He kept the flashlight off, unwilling to trust the light ever again, as he slowly rose to his feet.

He needed air. He needed to get outside. He needed to see Amanda and have her verify that he was still real, still there, and not in some hellish realm where the dead played games and tormented the living.

Stephen made it to the front porch and stopped. Something was wrong. “Amanda?”

There was a freshly lit menthol cigarette lying on the ground beside Amanda’s firearm. Her blanket was lying on the steps. Farther out, into the front yard, Amanda’s lit flashlight lay aiming downward, illuminating a large patch of tall grass stained with what looked like fresh blood.

Amanda was gone.

~~~

Next Episode 21-6

Previous Episode 21-4

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 21-5: Goodbye Charlie” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

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.

Winners of the Don’t Feed The Dark Christmas Giveaway

Posted: December 31, 2015 in Apocalypse, books, contests, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Giveaways, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, writer's blogs, zombie books, Zombies
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Giveaway

~~~

I am happy to announce the winners of the Christmas Giveaway:

Traci Loya
Sean Conners
Maria Os

Congratulations! I will be contacting each of you via email shortly. Thanks to everyone who participated and I hope you all have a great New Year.

-Scott

~~~

Unknown158

~~~

After the incident with the body, Doug got them moving. The break had made them more aware of just how exhausted they really were. But no one put up a fight as they helped each other up and continued down the tracks. Aches and pains were a small price to pay in comparison to being torn to pieces by things you couldn’t see in the pending darkness. Besides the need for shelter, watching dead people return to life was a great motivator to keep pushing forward.

The afternoon dragged on, the rain continued, and the sky refused to release the sun from its cloudy prison. Moods plummeted quickly as the promise of evening approached and all they had found was more unrelenting and tedious tracks into nowhere.

There had been no sign of Greg and Frank for hours which just added fuel to the fire of hopelessness that threatened to spread like a wildfire in their exhausted thoughts. Hearing the faint sound of gunfire, only made things worse.

Doug had told them about the boxcar to give them something to aim towards, but even that seemed lost among the endless old railroad ties that mocked their every step.

Gina moved back beside Doug who was watching the rear and keeping an eye on the groups condition since progress along the tracks had slowed considerably.

“I know you’re tired, Gina, but I need you up front for a little longer. Just until we catch up with Frank and Greg,” Doug said.

“Yeah, yeah. Got it,” Gina said impatiently. “Just wanted to say sorry for fucking up so badly back there. I’m not usually so sloppy with firearms. Damn thing just startled me.”

“Just let it go,” Doug said. “We’re all still alive and the corpse gave us an opportunity to learn something about the enemy… as well as Meredith. Apparently there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. And she showed us an effective way to kill those fucking things up close.”

“Yeah,” Gina said with a frown. “That girl is full of surprises as of late.” She changed the subject. “How you holding up?”

“Could use a year of sleep, a long hot shower and a hot meal… like everyone else. Other than that, I’m just peachy. How about you?”

Gina laughed. “I just keep telling myself that I’m not something’s meal yet and I feel a little better.”

Doug smiled weakly.

Gina waited for him to bring up the obvious, since night was closing in. When Doug said nothing, she pushed. “Maybe we need to start thinking about stopping before no one can think straight enough to do anything else. We haven’t seen Frank or Greg yet, and the boxcar’s starting to sound like a myth. Besides, after those gunshots we heard- ”

“I’m doing the best I can, Gina, and I don’t have all the damn answers,” Doug said crossly. He then softened. “Sorry. I haven’t been this stressed out since the playoffs of 2005. That was easy compared to this.”

Gina sighed. “Stop trying to take on the impossible all by yourself. People are talking. Some say we should just build a fire and take our chances. That’s sounds like foolishness to me inspired by exhaustion. Some want to keep walking. The thought of sleeping out in the dark’s just scaring them shitless.”

“What do you think?” Doug asked.

“Well, I say build a big fucking fire, cook up Amanda and Charlie, and then eat up until we’re fat, dumb and happy.”

Doug laughed so hard, several of the others looked back. “They’re driving you nuts I take it?”

“Where do I begin,” she started. “When one’s not bitching about something, the other takes over! I think they’re conspiring to slay us with endless negativity, or maybe that’s their secret weapon and they intend on depressing any zombies from the onset. Those bastards won’t want to eat us, they’ll be begging us for Prozac by the time those two are through with them.”

Doug shook his head and controlled his laughter. “You just keep doing that, Gina, and we’ll be alright. Hell, I already feel better. Thank you.”

“You’re quite welcome. I must warn you, I’m not this funny normally. It’s not very hard to amuse tired folks. That’s why everything’s always funnier after 4:00 am.”

Doug added, “I think laughter’s the best weapon we have right now to keep us from killing each other. I heard once—I forget where—that laughter is a manifestation of temporary insanity. That’s why there’s always room to laugh, no matter how fucked up the circumstances get. Insanity doesn’t play by the rules or act in accordance with expected behavior.”

“Well that makes sense to me. I’m real good at breaking rules.”

Just then, a brief but high-pitched, labored scream came from the woods to the right.

“Everyone, down! Now!” Doug barked. “No one move! No one make a sound!”

Gina’s heart was tap dancing outside her chest. “Is… is it one of them?” she whispered.

Doug simply shook his head and scanned the wood line. He had his bat out.

Gina drew her handgun.

Then they heard it again. This time, there were words: “HELP ME! SOMEBODY… PLEASE… HELP!” It was a woman’s voice. She sounded like she was in great pain.

“Fuck me,” Gina said. “She sounds bad. We have to do something.”

“Hold on,” Doug said.

Gina looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

He explained. “There’s a valley on that side of the woods. Sounds carry. Whoever that is could be miles away.”

“Or she’s right fucking over there,” Gina said pointing toward where she thought the voice came from.

“OH, GOD… IS ANYBODY THERE?… I CAN HEAR YOU UP THERE… PLEASE… I’M HURT!… NEED HELP!”

“Fuck this!” Gina got up and started across the tracks and toward the woods.

“Gina! No!” Doug could do nothing but follow.

“Where the hell is she going?” Charlie asked.

Gina ignored him. She started into the woods and nearly fell down a steep embankment before Doug pulled her back from the edge. “Damn, girl! Stop being so reckless!”

She got a good look at the intimidating valley below that seemed to stretch on for miles; it was a vast jungle of autumn colored treetops.

Doug lowered his voice. “Even if she was down there, we’d have a hell of a time pinpointing exactly where, let alone getting down without breaking out necks in the process.”

“But she needs help,” Gina pleaded. “Didn’t you hear how weak her voice was? She heard us ‘up there’, that’s what she said, and she needs our help!”

“Gina,” Meredith said, moving up beside her, “how would you even get her back up here, honey? I don’t mean to sound cruel, but there’s very little we can do. We don’t know how bad she’s hurt- ”

“What if she’s infected,” Charlie stated. “Did you think about that before you were about to run off all half-cocked?”

“That’s not necessary,” Doug growled.

“Well, whoever it is,” Amanda added, “probably deserves whatever she gets. She might as well be advertising her location to every fucking zombie around! She’s going to get herself killed and us in the process!”

Gina wanted to throw Amanda right off the cliff.

“I don’t hear her anymore,” Stephen chimed in. “Maybe she’s unconscious.”

Everyone, except Marcus who remained near the tracks with Ashley, stood atop the overlook.

Gina closed her eyes and shook her head. She calmly said, “I can’t believe I’m standing here listening to all of you trying to talk me out of helping that poor girl down there. You should all be ashamed of your fucking selves. What the hell are we becoming?”

Silence.

Doug finally said, “Gina, we’ve got hard decisions to make now. It’s not like before. There’s no 9-1-1 readily available and there’s not much we can do. We’ve no medical supplies… To make matters worse, we’re losing light fast. We go down there, we’ll be stuck down there until morning.”

“To hell with that!” Charlie said, dismissing them with a wave. He turned away and walked back to the tracks with Amanda.

Stephen gave Gina an apologetic look and reluctantly followed.

Gina looked to Meredith for support. Meredith couldn’t look her in the eye.

The voice returned. Much weaker this time: “ANYBODY THERE?… PLEASE… HELP… I’M ALL ALONE OUT HERE… ”

Gina cupped her hands over her mouth and shouted into the valley, “You’re not alone! You hearing me girl! Help’s on the way! Just hold on! Help’s coming!”

Doug was about to protest, then stopped short.

She glared at both Doug and Meredith and hissed, “Fine! We can’t do a fucking thing! I get it! But don’t tell me to walk away without giving that girl something to hold on to.” Gina quickly wiped tears from her eyes. “She deserves more than that, but she absolutely needs to know she’s not alone. We can’t let her believe that for one fucking second!”

They said nothing.

Gina turned and headed back to the tracks.

“Amanda! Don’t!” she heard Stephen say.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Amanda was livid. She walked straight up to Gina and pushed her hard in the chest.

“Bitch,” Gina said, trying to maintain her calm, “I’ll let that slide this one time. But don’t you ever lay your hands on me again.”

“If you want to die so fucking badly then go down there and get it over with! You screaming like that is going to get us all killed! You trying to get this little girl killed?”

“Stop hiding behind Ashley, you cowardly piece of shit,” Gina spat back.

“Ladies, please, this isn’t helping- ” Stephen was cut off.

“What did you just say to me?” Amanda stepped forward.

Gina was already moving. She let out an angry yell and jumped right on top of Amanda, knocking her to the ground.

Everyone moved to separate them as the two women rolled atop the tracks, exchanging blows, like two locomotives colliding head on.

“ENOUGH!” Doug’s voice was like thunder.

Both women eased up enough for the others to separate them.

“We have no fucking time for this petty bullshit!” Doug said. “You want to kill each other? Fine! We’ll schedule an arena match as soon as we get a boat and find an island big enough for your temper tantrums! Until then, get your shit together right now, or I’ll tie you both together and leave you here! That’s a promise!”

From just up the tracks the sound of mock applause caught their attention.

“Bravo! Hell of a show! Oscars for everyone!” Frank was amused, standing beside a stunned Greg. “Please continue. I’ll have Greg fetch us some popcorn and will make a night of it… that is, of course, if you’re all no longer interested in coming with us back to the boxcar.”

Doug smiled. His relief was immediate. “Welcome back, Asshole. I’m almost glad to see you.”

Frank bowed dramatically.

Doug looked to Greg and nodded.

Greg nodded back, understanding that the fire was safely extinguished. Ashley was already running to him. They embraced for a long, long time.

“So where’s this boxcar?” Charlie asked.

“About thirty minutes from here,” Frank said. “After we found it, we started following the tracks back. We heard a woman’s voice calling out for help. Greg damn near shit himself trying to rush back here believing something happened to you guys.”

Everyone except Gina, who remained lying on her back on the tracks, approached Frank and Greg and assaulted them with a thousand questions.

“A few things have happened since you guys left,” Doug said grimly.

“Yeah,” Greg said. “We’ve got a few things to tell you as well.”

“We’ll talk later,” Doug said. He turned toward Gina and said, “We’re almost out of time. We need to get to the boxcar, Gina.”

Gina ignored him. She slowly picked herself up and wiped blood off her swollen lip. She walked painfully over to the wood line and closed her eyes. She listened for the voice of the wounded girl and was met with heart wrenching silence.

Gina opened her eyes and looked at the sun quickly descending toward the valley below. It would be dark in less than an hour.

She sighed heavily and whispered into the valley, “I’m sorry I had to lie to you. Truth is, we’re all so very fucking alone.”

They departed in silence. No one heard the woman cry out again.

~~~

Next Episode (13-5):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/chapter-13-5-railway-exodus/

Previous Episode (13-3):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/chapter-13-3-railway-exodus/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 13-4: Railway Exodus” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr.

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.