Archive for the ‘living dead’ Category

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Exiled – Day 24

Sunset. The forest half a mile to the north of Gina and Russell’s camp came to life as eighteen phantoms of former humanity gathered—pushing, stumbling and tearing through the brush. They did not care about their mangled and filthy appearances. They did not miss their loved ones previously slaughtered. They did not register each other’s presence in horror as one served to mirror the next. They were The Dead. Their previous lives held no meaning. Their present survival—inconsequential. Individually, they were the nameless echoes of lives no one remembered. Collectively, they were a relentless nightmare that had long since violated the daylight boundary, where sanity and reason once ruled in the light, and could lie to the waking mind that there were no terrors in the darkness. But their blood-stained clothing declared the truth as the monsters continued to march across their new world.

A tall shirtless man in soiled khakis, dark skin stretched tight over every bone in his upper body, his rotting face with a missing nose adding a slight whistling sound to his moans, was once a banker on his way home from work. He had never made it off the congested freeway.

A little girl shambling beside him, wearing a blood-soaked nightgown, her back from the shoulders down to her waist clawed open as if a pack of wolves had started a meal, and then gave up, had been attacked in her bed, screaming for her parents who were already in the room.

A woman with short blond hair, streaked with dried up blood and mud, wearing a shredded sweater, walking unnaturally on a broken hip, her right arm ripped off long ago, limped from four feet to the little girl’s left. Her dark sunken eyes staring ahead, oblivious to the others—she was once a mother who had never found her children.

A teenage boy, still wearing his soiled letterman jacket, his once handsome face with blue eyes now dark and rotted out, his neck snapped as his head sat 180 degrees on his twisted neck, was once a high school senior who had abandoned his girlfriend to a horde to save his own skin. Karma’s a bitch. The teenager pushed forward to the right and ten feet back from the banker.

The list of the nameless, lifeless, relentless dead continued. All of them pushed in the direction of the sounds that had drawn them out of the dark. Somewhere up ahead, Russell Bower continued to knock on the trees with Gina’s hand axe… luring the woodland herd straight toward her position.

She waited for the banker to pass. Then the little girl. She could hear them both rustling dead leaves with their feet.

Five feet, maybe. Not close enough. Gina tried not to tense up as the dead slowly shambled past her concealed position at the base of the small tree. She sat with her back to the tree, eyes closed, slowly breathing. Her clothing, skin and hair were covered in mud and weeds, partly to disguise her scent and partly to blend into her surroundings. Her legs lay flat with her hands resting on her thighs. In each hand, she held a hunting knife.

I am not here, she thought, to calm her nerves. I am the forest.

The mother with the broken hip passed to her left.

Ten feet, she calculated.

Another was moving around the tree to the right. This one sounded close.

Five feet… and closing.

The high school senior suddenly bumped her tree and continued past her. Gina watched its left foot step less than an arm’s length from her legs.

This one, she thought, as the dead thing stepped away from her tree. She was about to move into position behind the teen for cover and attempt to mimic his footsteps to mask her movements, but she froze.

What was left of the teen’s face was staring directly at her, causing Gina’s heart to skip when she couldn’t tell if it was moving away or toward her. Then she spotted the back of the letterman jacket and understood. The sight of the twisted-head teen made her shudder slightly. She quickly regained herself. There was nothing she could do now but wait to see if the teenager saw her and turned. If he did, she would have to move fast and take it out before the surrounding herd turned and closed in on her.

The high school teen continued to march off into the pending darkness.

That was almost a real bad day, she thought.

Another dead-head moved in on the left. This one would also be close, but not as close.

A wide, rotting naked woman, her old flesh falling off her bones like rubber, passed Gina’s tree on the left.

Perfect! Gina waited for the big woman to shamble ahead three steps while timing her strides. She then stepped away from the tree, hunching down in the shadow of the large woman. She immediately spotted another zombie off to the right. At any moment it would turn its rotted head toward Gina and spot her.

Gina calculated quickly, then reached up behind the large woman and stabbed it in the back of the head. Before the woman collapsed, Gina rolled to the right, using the noise generated by the woman’s fall to mask her own moves. She was now directly behind the zombie to the right who stopped to watch the large woman fall over face first to the ground.

Gina quickly stepped up behind the distracted zombie and stabbed it in the temple. As it fell, Gina was already moving toward another tree.

Several more zombies up ahead had stopped and turned, hearing the dead fall behind them. Others from behind were closing in, attracted by the new sounds.

Gina used the commotion to move in behind another tree, directly to the left of a shorter zombie. It was hunched over with a few strands of white hair sticking out of its head, its saggy muddy tits ripping through a soiled t-shirt. Gina stepped around the tree and stabbed the knife up under the old zombie’s chin and into its brain. She quickly rolled away as it fell into some tall weeds.

By now, several of the dead had spotted her and were closing in.

Gina stepped in between two of them, their backs facing each other with their heads spinning around like radars, and she quickly stabbed them both in the back of the head.

The dead began to scream and moan toward her as they scrambled to reach the elusive blood bag.

Gina continued to move quickly, using their own noise to slip in and out of their line of sight, while turning them around in different directions to aide in the confusion. She stabbed three more in the head while zig-zagging within tackle distance of several frantic beasts.

One struck a tree when Gina sidestepped two outstretched arms. The beast rammed head first into it and fell to its knees. Gina quickly moved around behind it and put the creature down. She was already moving again by the time three more zombies charged out of the brush, nearly colliding with each other.

Gina dashed up toward the front of the herd, timing her movements with the excited herd’s actions, using the trees for split-seconds of concealment.

She stepped in front of the broken hip woman, catching her by surprise, and stabbed it in the forehead. The woman fell to the ground.

Gina heard the banker storming at her from behind. She quickly turned and dropped on all fours, letting the rushing zombie trip right over her. Gina crawled on top of it and thrust the hunting knife down where its nose used to be.

Another dead thing was about to clear the foliage and discover her. Gina wrapped her arms around the motionless banker and rolled him on top of her. A younger rotting woman with long red hair and wearing a bloody gown tore through the brush with its fingers out like claws.

Gina remained still beneath the banker zombie.

I am not here.

The young woman howled in frustration and stepped right on top of the banker. Gina felt the weight of the sickly banker zombie press down on top of her, its black blood seeping into her own clothes. Blood dripped down from the stab wound in its face and leaked over Gina’s turned cheek like thick syrup. Then the weight was lifted as the young woman stepped down and stormed off, screaming into the forest.

Gina pushed the dead thing off her and wiped the syrupy blood from her face before it reached the corner of her mouth.

That there just ruined dinner, she thought. Gina rose to her feet and started to move again.

What remained of the herd was more scattered now and farther apart, allowing Gina to pick off most of them one by one.

By the time one saw her and charged, Gina was already moving into another position to intercept it, using the terrain to her advantage while each beast attacked blindly, under compulsion of the blood lust. She was beginning to understand what Marcus meant by leaving emotions out of it. These beasts, though emotionless, still displayed similar emotional disadvantages, acting like addicts running off a cliff to get to the next fix.

The young red-headed woman found her and charged. Gina held up her hunting knives and braced for the attack. The dead thing swung its arms toward her face. Gina backed up and to the side of the creature. She lunged forward and stuck it in the neck, losing her grip on the knife. The beast screamed and spun toward her. Gina ducked beneath it and swept at its legs with her right leg. The creature lost balance and fell forward, striking the ground hard.

Holy shit, that really works! Gina thought excitedly. She quickly got on the creature’s back and grabbed the monster’s nasty hair which felt like seaweed running though her fingers. Gina pulled the woman’s head back for a clear shot and plunged the other knife through its forehead.

Gina let go of the monster’s hair and rolled off its back. She retrieved her other hunting knife from the ground and held both weapons up from a crouching position, resembling a scorpion with its tail held high, the other knife drawn in close for defense. She scanned the twilight colored forest. Whatever remained of the dead were either lying still on the ground or gone. She finally allowed herself a moment to feel her exhausted body as she let loose a heavy sigh. “Fuck me,” she whispered. “That took it all out of me.”

Something started moving toward her rear from out of the tall weeds. Gina spun around on one foot as the little girl in the blood-soaked nightgown charged on all fours like a rabid dog. Gina had just enough time to bring both hands up as the little savage jumped on top of her and started snapping her teeth at Gina’s face, trying to claw her way over the extended knives. Gina crossed the blades into an ‘X’ shape, catching the ferocious child’s neck between the blades. Gina closed her eyes, let loose a guttural cry, and then completely removed the girl’s head with an outward thrust of the blades. Black blood splattered across Gina’s face as the head spiraled off into the air, landing in the tall grass. The girl’s body fell sideways.

Gina crawled away from the decapitated corpse in disgust and rose to her feet. She felt faint. Gina saw movement in the tall grass. She walked over and found the child’s head still snapping away at the weeds, its eyes glaring at Gina as if it could devour her with them. Gina covered her mouth, took a deep breath, and then bent down and stabbed the head with her knife. She then walked out of the grass and vomited.

“Other than losing you composure just now, you handled yourself well out here.” Russell surprised her from behind, stepping out from behind a nearby tree.

Gina spun toward the voice, before realizing who it was. She almost charged him, knives raised to strike, before registering her friend.

Russell smiled, raising his hands defensively. “Breathe easy, Gina. You got them all.”

Gina finally relaxed, lowering her weapons. Her arms felt like she’d been holding up the world. “Does it always… is it always so exhausting… after?”

“Yes,” he said, stepping closer. “Let’s get you back to camp before you either stab me or pass out and make me have to carry you.”

She attempted a smile, then gave up. Everything hurt, including her face. “I need a long fucking shower,” she said, feeling just how much of the dead she was now wearing. “Just leave the water running for at least a year.”

Russell examined her. “No bites or scratches, I assume?”

Gina shook her head. “No… just a whole lot of that nasty-ass rot blood.” She sheathed her knives. “Seriously… I got them all?”

“You did, Gina. Once you started killing them… your training took over. You did very well.”

Gina leaned up against a tree to keep from falling over. “You going to tell me now why I had to go through all that?” she asked.

Russell patiently answered, “You may find yourself surrounded at the airport if things go… badly. You needed to know what you were capable of if that happened… and that, you could kill every one of them if necessary.”

~~~

Next Episode 47-2

Previous Episode 46-4

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 47-1: The Enemy” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

~~~

When Clementine finished telling her tragic tale, she stared down at her hands with an unreadable expression on her face. She let out a long, exhausted sigh.

Alysa, who was no stranger to hiding her emotions, couldn’t tell whether the old woman was trying to conceal her remorse or her indifference.

Finally, Clementine smiled and said, “That was much harder to tell than I thought.” She looked at the young woman and finished, “I probably shared more than I needed to about that horrible day, but I did it to show you that I trust you, Alysa… and that you can trust me.”

“You killed all those girls,” Alysa stated. She was very careful to leave out all emotion.

“Do you hate me now? Am I… a monster in your eyes?”

“You were just a fifteen-year-old girl. That must have been difficult to overcome at that age.”

The old woman averted her eyes. “It doesn’t matter anymore. The important thing is that you understand what’s at stake. Even then, my old friend was… very special. God only knows what they did to her after our home was shut down.”

“They shut down the orphanage?”

“We never called it that… but, yes, they did.” Clementine shifted uncomfortably. “Dr. Claire Forrester was the woman in charge of the experiments back then. After… after I killed all those children… Mother seized control of all of Forrester’s research and stripped the project from her. Meredith… well… I never saw her again after that, but I’d heard that she was relocated.”

Alysa nodded thoughtfully. “And… what happened to you?”

Clementine laughed. “What do you think?”

“They locked you up… probably sent you somewhere underground where they could safely study your abilities and exploit them.”

Clementine was growing tired of the conversation. She stretched her bony arms and then changed the subject. “Tell me about the group of intruders you rescued? Why did you decide to accompany them?”

Alysa was prepared for that one. “I recognized the name of one of them during my conversations with the man I nursed back to health.”

“You mean the man you slowly poisoned for interrogation purposes,” Clementine corrected.

Alysa let the comment go. “Yes… well… this man in the cabin-”

“He went by the name of Marcus Dempsey, but that was just an alias,” Clementine said. “His real name is Russell Bower and not much is known about his adult life. It’s rather strange, actually.”

Alysa paused. “Yes… that much I learned on my own. Anyway, this man… Russell… was obsessed with a woman from their group-”

“Her name is Gina Melborn,” Clementine injected. “She used to be a stripper. Imagine that. She’s the very same woman in the woods with your friend right now.”

“Do you want me to answer your questions or do you want to keep interrupting me to prove how extensive Mother’s database is?” Alysa added smugly.

Clementine laughed. “Sorry, my daughter. I just couldn’t resist. Please… continue.”

“I found the current leader of their group in the woods. His name is Tony Marcuchi… and I know you know that already.”

Clementine raised her hands up. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”

Alysa continued. “From Russell’s drug-induced ramblings I made the connection that Tony was Gina’s lover. And since Russell was obsessed with Gina, I thought it prudent to learn what I could about her through Tony in order to understand Russell’s fascination with her.”

“You really are intrigued by this Russell Bower, the servant of Death, aren’t you?”

“I have my reasons… but yes… I am curious about his motivations.”

Clementine sighed. “So, did your infiltration of Tony’s group yield anything useful?”

“No. Not really. As far as I could gather, there was nothing extraordinary about this Gina, or her lover.”

“Nothing that could get you inside the head of Russell Bower, you mean… right?”

“Exactly,” Alysa said. “I stayed with them for a lot longer than I intended because it suited my purposes to do so.”

Clementine frowned. “You mean traveling with them got you farther away from me.”

“You said it,” Alysa added with a spiteful smile.

“Was there nothing you learned from this… Tony?” Clementine baited.

“No. Nothing.” Alysa’s face was stone. She refused to give this witch an advantage over her by revealing her strong feelings for Marcuchi, or for her friendships with the others. God-only-knew what this vindictive woman would do with that knowledge.

“Well… enough of that.” Clementine finished with a laugh.

Alysa hid her relief very carefully. She silently wondered just how much Lady Clementine knew about her travels, and if she was just toying with her.

“It’s getting late and I’m not the spring chicken I once was,” she laughed. “Let’s get back to the matter of the two gnats in the forest buzzing around my thoughts.” Clementine gave Alysa a probing look. “Tell me, daughter, and don’t bullshit me any longer, why should I continue to let them live in my forest, especially your fascinating friend with two names?”

Alysa had no cards left to play. “You know why. He’s… he’s important… to me.”

Clementine nodded. “So… I should spare him, spare them both, because of your attachment to the servant of Death?”

Alysa smiled. I got you old woman. You tipped your cards. “Why don’t you tell me why I’m really here?”

“I told you why, daughter. I need your help.”

“You and my ‘friend’ both have something in common,” Alysa said. “You both want the red-headed woman.”

Clementine grinned and chuckled. “My… I don’t give you enough credit, daughter. You are a very clever and astute observer.” The old woman tossed her hands in the air in mock surrender. “You have me. Yes, I want the woman.”

“Why?”

“Leverage,” was all Clementine would offer.

Alysa knew not to press. She nodded and said, “Again, why I am here, then? Surely you could go and snatch this woman from the forest without me. Perhaps you could make the trees obey you and bring her here directly.”

“Don’t mock me, child,” Clementine cautioned.

“I wouldn’t think of it.”

“I don’t need to ‘fetch’ anyone. Your little pet has been busy training Gina in the ways of his master… I suppose.”

“What does that mean?”

Clementine smiled. “Gina has been quite the busy-body, working hard at managing her anger and taking it out on the dead population. They’re planning on coming here to murder me.”

Alysa’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s… insane.”

“Yes,” Clementine said with a chuckle. “It certainly is. Nonetheless, they are committed to this folly.”

“So, you’re waiting for them to strike?”

“Yes.”

“And you want me to help you capture them when they arrive?”

“Bingo,” Clementine said. “Although, Russell is nothing to me. I just need the woman. Should the other one perish in the attempted attack on my life… well… I do hope you understand.”

Alysa was starting to see where this was headed. She frowned. “You want more from me than to help you capture this woman.”

Clementine nodded.

“And in exchange for whatever that is… you’ll spare Russell.”

“I’ll give him to you.”

She was afraid to ask. “What do you want, old woman?”

Clementine folded her hands and rested her chin on them. She continued to gaze at the young woman. “You will help me secure the feral woman and I will spare the devil’s life. However, I can’t have someone as dangerous as this man anywhere near me. So… you will take him personally to the Ama-Eskua.”

Alysa was stunned. “They will kill him immediately… they will kill us both.”

“They will do no such thing, daughter. You are still under my protection… and your pet will be under yours.”

“But… why?”

Clementine gave her a grave look. “The Ama-Eskua have become… difficult… ever since we lost the compound run by that fanatic, Micom. He’d been operating independently for quite some time and had been using the Ama-Eskua to execute his own madness while exceeding his station. They know this now. The Ama-Eskua are starting to lose faith in Mother… as you did in them. This is unacceptable.”

“And how does this concern me?”

“Because you will return to the Order and take your rightful place as leader.”

Alysa laughed. “They will never let me do that. Protected or not… I would have to earn my command… in blood.”

“Then you will, my daughter,” Clementine said. “That’s the price for your friend. If you’d rather run off to another cabin… then I will execute this devil immediately.”

Alysa imagined slicing open the old bitch’s throat. “Why me? You said it yourself, I’ve lost faith in the Order.”

Clementine let out a weary sigh and shook her head. “You’ve a sharp mind… but you’re still a bit dull around the edges. Isn’t it obvious? It will be your Order… and your responsibility to make the Ama-Eskua something honorable again. How could you possibly pass that up?”

“And by placing me there, you ensure the continual loyalty of the Order.”

“Sharp,” Clementine said with a smile.

“I wonder though,” Alysa said. “Loyal to Mother… or to you?”

Clementine’s face grew dark. “Daughter or not… if you ever say something like that to me again, I will show you things in your own mind that would make even a former Ama-Eskua warrior weep for mercy. Are we clear?”

She’d gone too far, and she knew it. “Yes, Lady Clementine,” Alysa said, and wisely averted her eyes.

“Are we clear on all the rest?” Clementine pushed.

“Yes.”

“Go clean yourself up, eat, and rest. We’ve much to plan tomorrow.”

Alysa stood up and bowed, as was custom. She made it as far as the door, turned, and waited.

“What is it?” Clementine refused to look at her.

“If you really loved me like a daughter, you would not make me do this.”

Clementine glared at her and smiled maliciously. “As you are so fond of reminding me. You are not my daughter.”

Alysa said nothing.

“Now get the fuck out of my sight before I do something… nasty.”

Alysa bowed once more, then departed with haste.

After she was sure the fiery young woman was clear of the hangar, Clementine let her shoulders droop and let out a heavy sigh. She was physically drained. Between dodging and weaving Alysa’s inquiries after spending too much time observing the two strangers training in the woods through the eyes of the dead, Clementine was ready to sleep a thousand years. She slowly rose to her feet. Her old joints creaked like an ancient door on rusted hinges. She had just enough strength remaining to stumble toward and collapse into her bed, giving up her usual reservations against the nightmares that were waiting to claim her, and then fell immediately to sleep…

~~~

Fall 1973

Clem could hear them preparing upstairs as the floorboards creaked above her head. It sounded like an entire army had invaded the house.

She turned toward the strange little doll with the large head staring at her from the glass cabinet. “They’re coming for me, Toby. I think Miss Evans is really mad at me this time.” She took one bloody hand and wiped her sweaty black hair away from her face. Clem glanced down at Meredith, the girl who would probably never wake up again, and said, “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I’m glad you didn’t see, Meredith. I’m glad you didn’t see all the awful things I did to them.” She started to weep. “Maybe… maybe when you wake up… you won’t remember any of this happening. Maybe you’ll just remember all the good times we had when you first got here… remember that?”

Young Meredith remained still, rolled up in a little ball and lying in her nightgown, oblivious to the horrors without—wrestling with a demon within.

Clem could hear them approaching the basement door. She frantically turned back to the doll. She was breathing so heavily that she thought she might pass out. Clem was terrified. Terrified at what they were going to do… and what she might do in return. “I’m so frightened, Toby. Please… tell me what to do.”

Toby said nothing.

Clem turned toward the stairs. “I’m… I’m going to have to stop them, Toby,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone else… but I’m… I’ll do what I must!”

The assault force, led by Miss Evans, were just outside the basement door.

Clem closed her eyes and reached down deep, into the inferno, preparing to do something very… very… bad.

Stay calm, my child.

Clem turned back. “Toby? Is that really you?”

Though the doll did not move… she could hear it speak within her mind.

Yes, my child. I am here.

Tears started streaming down her bloody face. She smiled. “It’s… it’s wonderful to hear your voice again. It’s been so long.”

Yes… but you must listen to me now, my child. You are almost out of time. You need to stay calm, lie down… and go to sleep. Will you do that for me?

Clem nodded. “Yes. I can do that. Sleep sounds wonderful.”

Very good, Clementine. Now… hurry. Go to sleep before they come down here.

Clem laid down next to Meredith. She didn’t know how exhausted she truly was until her face hit the mat. Her eyes started to get heavy. “Toby… will everything be alright now?”

Yes, my child. Everything will be fine. Just… sleep…

“Will you talk to me again… like before?”

Yes… I will visit you in your dreams… like before. We have so much to discuss… and we will have so much time to dream together again.

Clem smiled and closed her eyes. “That sounds… very nice.”

Sleep… Clementine… sleep. I have not forgotten about you… and I promise… your time will come…

~~~

Lady Clementine opened her eyes. The hangar was completely dark. She’d been asleep for hours. The old woman lifted her groggy head off the pillow and pushed herself up until she was sitting on the edge of the bed. She reached over to a small nightstand where a kerosene lamp and a book of matches sat. She struck a match and then lit the lamp. The large hanger walls took shape in the dim lamp light.

She took a breath to steady herself. “Damn dreams,” she hissed. “One day I will figure out how to rid myself of you, too.”

Her gaze fell upon the large chest near her bed.

Clementine frowned and stood up. She approached the chest and sat down in front of it. Carefully, she opened the old lid until it fell back against the wall. Her eyes went wide with recognition as she gazed into the old chest.

The old woman reached into the chest and retrieved the only object that mattered, half buried between old clothes and other irrelevant memorabilia.

“There you are,” she whispered, as she lifted the strange little old doll with the head far too big for its body. It still had the long brown crazy hair and big eyes with the dark circles around them that always made the doll look tired.

Clementine held the doll at arms-length and stared at it. “My, you’re as old as I am, aren’t you?” she teased.

The doll had no response.

“You still in there, Toby?” she said with a laugh.

The doll said nothing.

“‘My time will come’… isn’t that what you said?”

Again, nothing.

After a long pause, the old woman’s face began to shift in the faint dancing light. She frowned at the despicable thing and whispered, “It’s a good thing you’re not in there any more, Toby. Because if you were, you’d know just how much I hate you.”

Clementine tossed the ancient doll back into the chest and quickly slammed the lid shut.

~~~

Next Episode 47-1

Previous Episode 46-3

~~~

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

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 46-4: Clementine” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

~~~

FALL 1973

The strange and tragic incident over the summer, involving the complete mental breakdown of Claudia, one of the older girls at the orphanage—which wasn’t really an orphanage—followed shortly after by the mysterious disappearance of their newest sister, Meredith, created an air of suspicion and mistrust among the girls. Everyone, including the staff, suspected young Clementine’s involvement in both matters, but since there was no proof, nothing could be done but carry on and try to rebound collectively.

Both Miss Evans, the primary caretaker and educator, and Dr. Candice Forrester, resident physician and counselor, tried their best to motivate the girls to put the past behind them and carry on with their studies. But every time Clem, who had become more withdrawn ever since Meredith’s absence, made her mandatory appearances among the other girls, it was like the scab over the wound of that summer being ripped off all over again, making it difficult to forget what had happened.

All that was said explaining Meredith’s disappearance was that the young girl had been so upset by what had happened to Claudia, she’d decided to run away. And of course, no one was buying it. There had been other girls in the past who had come and gone under similar mysterious circumstances.

Clem had been Meredith’s biggest advocate, refusing to simply accept the bullshit story Miss Evans told them. She had continuously badgered the staff, questioning why they hadn’t made a stronger attempt to locate the runaway girl. But either they’d all been briefed in what, and what not to say, or they were told to keep an extra careful eye on Clem and keep her inquiries at a distance.

Only Michael Finch, the orphanage recruiter and activities director, appeared as concerned as Clem, but he, too, went out of his way to avoid Clem. In fact, the long-haired, red-headed staff member who usually enjoyed spending as much time as he could with the girls, was unusually absent once autumn arrived, making many of the girls wonder if Michael, who was well-liked by everyone, would even return.

One late evening, Clem woke from another restless night in her bedroom. She decided to head out back and take a walk into the vast fields beyond the recreation area to get her mind clear. As of late, she’d been taking many late-night strolls by herself and often considered running away and searching for Meredith. But she’d never been away from the orphanage, and the outside world terrified her too much to brave the attempt.

When she went outside Clem discovered she wasn’t alone. As she crossed the volleyball nets and climbed up to the top of a grassy hill overlooking the fields beyond, she noticed an individual carrying what looked like a child toward the wood line bordering the eastern side of the property. The individual was too far away to identify, but the full moon above had illuminated the stranger’s movements crossing the center of the first large field.

Immediately alarmed, Clem foolishly rushed down into the field, rather than alert the staff first, fearing that some intruder had abducted one of her sisters while she slept. After gaining ground on the intruder, Clem called out. “Hey! Stop right there, whoever you are! This is private property!”

The intruder stopped, appearing out of breath. By now, Clem could tell that it was a man as she dared to get closer. The man turned around to confront her, still holding someone in his arms.

Clem’s eyes went wide with surprise when she got within fifty feet of the stranger. She stopped and said, “Michael?”

Michael Finch stood there, gasping for breath, his hair a disheveled mess. In his arms he held Meredith’s frail and unconscious body. The young missing girl was wearing a white nightgown.

Clem recognized her and then glared at Michael with such intensity that the man feared her eyes would set him on fire.

“Clem,” Michael said. “What are you doing out here? It’s late. Go back inside.”

“That’s Meredith,” Clem said, stepping closer. “Why are you holding her like that? What’s happened? Did you find her out here?”

Michael’s usual jovial expression was absent. In its place was a face mixed with fear and exhaustion. His eyes looked haunted and very far away. “Clem… you need to go back inside now. I’m… I’m taking Meredith away from this awful place.”

“What the hell do you mean?” Clem took another few steps closer as Michael countered by stepping back. “What do you mean you’re ‘taking Meredith away’?”

“It’s not safe for her here, Clem. It’s not safe for any of you. There’s things happening here that you just don’t know.” Michael looked desperate. His attention was split between the young girl in his arms, the wood line behind him, and the unstable failed science experiment who stood before him now. “Does anyone know you’re out here, Clem? Shit… of course they do. I’m an idiot for even trying this.”

“No,” she said. “I’m alone. I come out here a lot.”

“No, Clem,” he said. “You’re not alone. None of you are ever alone.”

The young woman with black hair tied back, her white streak hanging down in front of her eyes, had no idea what to make of Michael’s comments. All she knew was that her friend was still here. “Is… is she hurt? Why are you carrying her like that?”

Michael looked down at the unconscious girl and frowned. “She’s okay,” he said, looking back at Clem. “Or… she will be alright after I get her far away from here. It’s all taken a heavy toll on her body… especially her mind.”

“What are you talking about?”

“There’s no time, Clem. I have to leave now. We both do. If you care for your friend, then you’ll turn around, go back, and tell no one you saw us out here. Okay?”

Clem couldn’t stop staring at the young girl in Michael’s arms. She looked so vulnerable and fragile. “I don’t know what’s going on or what you’re talking about, but you need to bring her back to the house. Meredith looks sick… she needs help.”

“And that’s what I’m doing, Clem. I’m going to get her help. And then I’m going to find a way to get the rest of you help, too.”

“You’re not making any sense, Michael. You make this place sound… bad.”

“It is bad, Clem. You’re a clever girl. Somewhere deep inside, you must know that.”

“Stop it!” she said. “This is my home. I don’t care what you’re doing, just… put Meredith down… and leave. I’ll pretend I never saw you… but you can’t come back… ever.”

Michael’s face turned to stone. “I can’t do that, Clem. Not anymore. I’m done pretending that what we’ve been doing here to all you girls is justified.” As an afterthought, he added, “Why don’t you just come with us. I’ll get both of you out of here… assuming it’s not too late.”

Clem’s face grew hard. She was getting angry. “I’m not going anywhere with you! Put Meredith down… NOW!”

Michael let out a heavy sigh. His frustration was destroying his patience with the dangerous girl. “I can’t do that… and I won’t. Turn around now and go back inside!”

“NO!”

“Do what I say… or Miss Evans will-”

“Miss Evans won’t do anything,” Clem said, stepping closer. “I’m sure she’d love to know what you’re doing though.”

“Clem…” Michael pushed cautiously, stepping back. “Back off, now. Don’t do anything… foolish.”

“You’re not taking her,” she said, shaking her head vigorously. “No. She’s my best friend and you’re not taking her from me… not again.”

Michael gave her a hard look and finished, “We’re leaving, Clem. Goodbye.” Michael turned and started back toward the woods. The activities director’s shoulders tensed up, as if expecting a bullet to the back.

Clem was the loaded gun.

The young girl blew the streak of white hair from her bangs in frustration. As she watched Michael take Meredith toward the woods, she never felt so helpless and alone. From deep within the volatile girl, her emotions began to bubble on the surface of the volcano. Beneath that, from the dark places Miss Evans had warned her to leave alone, Clem knew she could stop them. But once she tapped into that darkness, there was no going back. She took a few steps forward and shouted, “You stop! Stop right now or I’ll… do something very bad!”

Michael stopped but refused to turn back around. After a long pause, the activities director started walking again, appearing to ignore Clem.

This only infuriated the black-haired tempest. She closed her eyes and reached into the forbidden void.

Don’t do it, Clem. The plea from her conscience sounded like Meredith’s voice. You do this… and there’s no turning back. Everything will change.

Clem struggled to focus. This was much more difficult than what she’d done to the bitch, Claudia. That assault on the mouthy girl had only required a fraction of Clem’s abilities on a much weaker and fragile mind, pushing at the boundaries of what she feared and essentially creating a breach in that boundary. But what was needed now would do more than break Michael’s grip on sanity… it could possibly kill him. She’d never attempted to invade the mind of an adult before; someone who had years to erect thick mental walls to separate themselves from their own dark secrets.

Clem entered the vast and dense jungle of Finch’s mind, hacking away at it like a machete, until she found a vulnerable repressed memory.

Michael stopped and turned around. The look of surprise mixed with terror on his face was enough to almost make Clem pull back, like a dared young girl who’d been caught entering a haunted house by the very ghost who haunted it.

“Clem?” Michael’s voice sounded strange. “Whatever you’re doing… please… stop.”

It was too late. The dangers associated with invading the mind of another, especially if such a mind were aware of the intrusion, was that if you showed hesitation, that mind’s mental defenses would immediately retaliate against what was foreign. Clem could easily lose herself in the canyons of Michael’s dark thoughts and never get out. A little push would not suffice now. She would have to plant an explosive in Finch’s mind, sending his brain into a state of anarchy, and hope she could escape the burning building in time.

Michael was about to speak but stopped. His mouth simply hung open as he stared past Clem—his face, contorting into a disfigured mask representing the real Michael Finch… the one that even Michael had long since forgotten.

For Clem, it was a horrifying face, causing her to look back over her shoulder, expecting to see the very monster she’d tapped into from his childhood standing right behind her.

He’d been sexually molested as a child by a neighbor… repeatedly. Clem had been there, felt his confusion, his fear, experienced all of it through the eyes of a much younger Finch who had no idea what was being done to him. Clem had not only brought the repressed memory forward, she’d altered it. What was once an overpowering disgusting older man with stale whisky on his breath had changed into a hideous shadow beast three times the size of the offender with big red eyes and bloody teeth. The image was something Clem had borrowed from one of Dr. Forrester’s disturbing paintings from the house.

For the first time in Finch’s life, he was forced to confront this horrible memory… believing he’d been preyed upon by an actual… monster.

Michael nearly stumbled forward, managing to fall to his knees before dropping Meredith. He absently laid the unconscious girl down and stared down into the grass, immediately lost in the possibility that his whole life had been a lie, founded on the fact that he’d been hunted by a demon his whole childhood—a demon who had finally found him.

Clem continued to alter and elevate the beast in Michael’s thoughts as if she were directly attacking his mind through the monster. The red-eyed shadow beast opened its gigantic jaw, reached down, and dug its fangs into his face.

Michael grabbed at his face. He was screaming.

Clem immediately retreated from Michael’s mind before the horrifying beast she’d created turned on her. Once free from the darkness, Clem fell to the ground, gasping for air as if finally breaching the surface of some cold black sea. She turned toward the screaming man.

Finch was rolling around on the ground, struggling with a demon who was not there. He continued to scream, sending chills all up and down Clem’s body.

What have I done?

Finch managed to look up and make eye contact with her. His eyes were red… and bleeding. The veins in his face had bulged. His fear had grown so intense it became tangible… alive… and was consuming him from the inside out.

Clem put her hands to her face and started to weep.

And then, it was over. Finch collapsed to the ground. His overwhelmed mind had completely shut down as a last and futile defense. Michael Finch was dead.

Clem, exhausted, crawled over to Meredith’s limp body and was relieved to see the slow rise and fall of her chest. She continued to weep as she laid down beside the unconscious girl, looking for physical comfort, as if waking from a horrible nightmare.

“What have you done?”

The accusing voice came from the crest of the hill behind her.

Clem raised her head.

Miss Evans glared at her from a hastily thrown on bathrobe. Beside her were two armed men dressed in white. “You… you… nasty little beast!” Miss Evans hissed, staring at Michael’s body and then back toward Clem.

“I… didn’t mean to…” Clem had reverted into a frightened child who’d just been caught stealing a car after running someone over—unaware of the lethal power she possessed until it was far too late.

“We should have exterminated you long ago, girl,” Miss Evans said. Her voice sounded foreign and menacing in Clem’s ears. This was the real Miss Evans, finally unmasked—the contempt she held for Clem made plain.

Clem rose to her knees, noticing the armed men. “Stay… stay away from me!”

Miss Evans nodded to the men. They raised what looked like automatic rifles toward her direction but aimed low.

She’s going to kill me! Clem started becoming angry again.

“Move away from Meredith,” Miss Evan ordered. “Do it, girl. NOW!”

Clem looked down at the unconscious girl in front of her and understood. The only reason she wasn’t dead yet was because they didn’t want to risk shooting Toby’s chosen one.

Clem’s face grew dark. She glared back at Miss Evans. “You never cared about me!” she shouted. “You only care about her!

Miss Evans and the armed men took a cautious step back.

“Calm down, Clem,” Miss Evans said, replacing her mask. “I didn’t mean what I said. I’m just very… angry with you.” She pointed to Finch. “Look what you’ve done. I thought we were making such great progress with you… until now.”

Clem refused to look at Michael. She couldn’t. “He tried to take her away,” she defended. “I… I had to stop him.”

“Sure. I understand. But you need to move away from her now. Meredith’s in trouble.”

Others were coming up the hill from the house. Miss Evans turned and yelled, “Stay back, girls! Go back inside this instant!”

But it was too late. The others reached the top of the hill, saw Clem, Meredith… and then the body of Michael Finch.

They gasped in disbelief. Some started to cry. Others were speaking in horrified whispers and pointing at Clem.

Clem felt it all. She felt their hate.

“Didn’t you hear a word I said?” Miss Evans was getting livid. “Get back inside! All of you!”

“Clem killed Finch!” one of them accused.

“Just like she hurt Claudia!” another added.

“She’ll kill Meredith, too, if we don’t stop her!” a third proclaimed, causing all the girls to protest angrily.

As one, the girls started to approach Clem, ignoring Miss Evans.

“We have abilities, too!” one of them shouted above the rest. “If we work together, we can finally stop her… before she comes at us next!”

This emboldened the rest, as the mob of angry girls started down the other side of the hill toward Clem, pushing past Miss Evans and the confused armed men.

Finally having the proof for what they long suspected was the cause of all the grief they’d experienced over the summer, the girls were ready to finish this… their way.

“Protect Meredith!” they shouted together.

“Let’s get this crazy bitch out of our house!” one of the older girls yelled.

Miss Evans could do nothing but watch in horror as she quickly retrieved a handheld radio from the pocket of her robe and frantically started speaking to whoever was on the other end.

Clem had seen enough.

As the girls approached with their immature powers in place of pitchforks, the young woman with the peculiar white streak running across her bangs reached down deeper than she’d ever done before, tapping into the darkness within, and then lashed out at the girls’ minds with such uninhibited force. One by one, she assaulted their minds, fueled by intense rage at all their lies, all their bullshit. Clem finally saw the truth at last. She was not one of them. She never was. They all despised her.

And she despised them.

Clem not only ripped apart their fragile minds from within, but she pushed herself to the limit of her abilities, driven by her uncontrollable rage… until their heads started to explode like popping balloons…

~~~

Next Episode 46-4

Previous Episode 46-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 46-3: Clementine” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

~~~

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

Here’s an easy way to do so:

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

Thanks again for all your support and for reading.

-Scott

~~~

~~~

Hello Everyone. Thought I’d check in since It’s been a while.

We are currently in the 46th chapter of the series, titled, “Clementine”. This chapter will run just four episodes, ending next Monday. If you haven’t read the DFTD spin-off story, Hangar Six, now would be a great time to do so since it gives additional insights into the character of Clementine and where her group started shortly after “The Change” occurred.

I unofficially call the current chapter, “Dead Dolls Part 3”, because it concludes the orphanage (which is not really an orphanage) flashback story that was introduced by Meredith back in Chapter 35. Of course, if you’re doing the math, then you’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, what about Part 2?’ Good question, I’m glad you asked… lol. Answer: The middle arc of that particular story will be told in Book Six.

After this brief chapter, we will be finishing Book Five: Remains with Chapter 47: The Enemy, which I expect to run between 7 to 9 episodes. I won’t say much about the finale other than it’s going to be intense, followed by some situations you might not expect, wrapping up Don’t Feed The Dark for the summer.

I can already tell you right now that Book Six: Mother, will begin this fall and that we will finally find out what happened to a certain group of people that I left in a bad way on the other side of a certain underground door.

I’ll have more to talk about later after the conclusion of Book Five. Thanks for sticking with me and continuing to read this long dark tale.

-Scott

~~~

~~~

Alysa Monroe sat down directly in front of Lady Clementine, joining her in the meditative position, which was custom, but wisely leaving about five feet between them to avoid some nauseating display of affection.

“It’s good to see you.” Clementine resisted the urge to reach over and hug her anyway.

Alysa frowned, keeping her shoulders tense, and her hand within reach of her knife. “I can’t say the same,” she said, rubbing the tired from her eyes. She’d pushed hard for four days since departing New Cleveland to get back here. “I got your message… though a bit cryptic… I caught the urgent intent. And where the hell did you dig up that old infected guy? Just being within a few feet of him made my skin crawl.”

Clementine dismissed Alysa’s candor and found it refreshing. Usually, no one addressed her as Alysa did now, but their relationship was a bit unusual. “You mean Taven? That’s not important. He serves many sides and no one’s.”

“Yeah, Taven. He told me a lot,” Alysa said. “Frankly, I was surprised at how much he knew.” She stopped there, not wanting to reveal her own hand. “Bottom line, I sensed that there was trouble coming… and that you needed me.”

Clementine appeared genuinely touched, but deep down, she hated that Alysa hid things from her. There were many methods she had at her disposal to acquire information, both through the organization’s vast resources, but also through some very unnatural means. But it vexed her when Alysa held back. “You were right to come home when you did,” she said. “I know you’ve asked me to respect your privacy and your need to distance yourself from the Ama-Eskua because of what happened to your sister… and I’ve tried my best to honor your wishes. But we need you here for what’s coming.”

“And what might that be?”

Clementine smiled and waved off the question with a laugh. “Bah… so serious! You just got back and we’re already talking business.” She leaned in and grabbed Alysa’s hand, causing the young warrior to flinch at the woman’s cold touch. “So, tell me now, how have you been? I haven’t seen you since you relocated to that horrible little cabin in the middle of nowhere.”

Alysa frowned, slowly pulling her hand away. “You know how I’ve been. I’m sure you’ve tracked my every movement between the cabin, all the way to New Cleveland.”

“Yes… I’ve kept an eye on you… sure. But I’ve kept my distance. Don’t fault my actions because I’m still concerned for you. You may not be my real daughter, but I still love you as my own.”

Alysa shifted uncomfortably. “Fine. But stop pretending you don’t know exactly what I’ve been up to. I deserve better than that.”

Clementine nodded patiently. She shifted gears. “You know, you caused quite a commotion when the Ama-Eskua attacked the intruders over at the underground shelter. I’m told that you killed Malachi, their leader, and helped some of the intruders get away. Is this true?”

“He was acting dishonorably toward his prisoners.”

“The Ama-Eskua take no prisoners,” Clementine reminded her.

“I know that!” Alysa tried to calm down. “They were toying with their prey. That’s not our way. We’re warriors not fucking bullies! The intruders were clearly beaten. Malachi was torturing them because he enjoyed it. That is not our way! He deserved worse than what I did… disgracing himself in front of the others… they all deserved to die.”

Clementine nodded. “Understandable. But, need I remind you… you’re no longer Ama-Eskua. What business was it of yours to intervene?”

Alysa had no response to that.

“And since you insist on insulting my intelligence, trying to convince me that these particular intruders didn’t mean something to you, enough for you to risk your own life on their behalf, then I won’t bother asking why you continued to help them escape afterwards.”

Again, Alysa remained silent.

“No matter,” Clementine said, with a laugh. “I vouched for you, by the way… as I always do. The Ama-Eskua wanted your head, but they won’t dare cross me.”

Alysa averted her eyes and swallowed her pride. “Thank you.”

She smiled. “You’re very welcome, daughter. But tell me, why were you even there during the attack? That was the first time you’d ventured out of those lonely woods since your self-imposed exile from the rest of the world. You must have had a really good reason.”

Alysa stared at the old woman, shaking her head in disbelief. “There you go again, fishing for answers you already have.”

“It was for the man you rescued, right? The one you kept in the cabin for three weeks?”

Alysa said nothing.

“Who is he? A friend? A lover, perhaps?”

Alysa’s eyes burned bright. “That’s none of your damn bus-”

“He’s here… this man. Somewhere in the forest to the north,” Clementine broke in. “That’s part of the reason I sent for you. He’s out there, right now, with another from his group—a red-headed woman, though calling her a woman at this point is a stretch. She’s gone feral, living too long in the wild. First, it was just her, then he came along a few days later. I’ve been monitoring them ever since they entered the forest, trying to decide what to do with them.” She stopped and stared at Alysa, trying to gauge her reaction.

The former Shadow Dead did her best to hide her surprise. “Okay… what’s that to me? And frankly, what does it even matter to you… or Mother? They’re insignificant people who pose no real threat. They’re probably just trying to find somewhere to hide and survive.”

Clementine raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Oh really? Then you won’t care if I go ahead and eliminate them both?”

Alysa stared at her.

“Up until this point, they’ve just been a minor nuisance. Hell, the red-headed one even did me a favor when she recently killed a deserter who had the misfortune of running right into her.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Alysa asked, trying her hardest to downplay the two survivors in the northern woods.

Clementine smiled at her. “Okay, is this how you want to play it? Fine. As much as they’ve been a minor distraction at best, they have been spying on us… and training. Which says to me that they intend to attack us… as ridiculous as that sounds.”

Alysa laughed. “Then let them. If they’re foolish enough to do so, then perhaps they simply want to die.”

“Or…” Clementine countered. “I could just have them destroyed. I could do it with a single thought and end them just like that.” She snapped her fingers for emphasis. “I could easily gather what remained of the dead in the forest, along with several herds still picking at scraps along the Interstate, and ‘compel’ them toward their camp. They would be overwhelmed in moments.”

Alysa said nothing.

“Actually, that sounds… entertaining… to me. Just give me a few minutes, daughter, and I’ll take care of this little problem right now.” Clementine started to close her eyes to summon the dead.

“Wait… please,” Alysa said.

Clementine opened one eye and smiled. “Is there a problem? You don’t actually care what happens to these ants in the woods… do you?”

“You know that I do,” Alysa admitted. “I don’t care about the red-headed bitch… but the other one… he’s… different.”

“Different? How so?”

Alysa knew Clementine was playing games with her. She had no choice but to play along. “He’s not like the others in their group. He’s… tainted by the darkness in a very significant way.”

“So, you’re drawn to him,” Clementine pushed. “Does he remind you of yourself or is it something more?”

“I haven’t seen a soul this dark in a very long time… perhaps I never have. He believes he serves Death directly.”

Clementine was amused. “Really? Wow! I’d like to meet this man who serves Death.”

Alysa sighed. “He doesn’t know how much I know about him. But he told me everything after I drugged him. I believe he’s been killing people for a long time, long before the outbreak.”

“Interesting. A serial killer from the old world.” She chuckled at the thought. “And do you admire him for this?”

“I… relate with him. He’s got so much unrealized potential. If steered in the right direction-”

“If steered in the right direction, you would have a powerful alley, and someone who finally loves you for who you are,” Clementine finished.

Alysa was stunned by her own transparency. “I thought that initially,” she admitted. “But that’s changed now. However, this man would still be an asset, if trained properly, to serve the right cause… and not this delusional one he’s obsessed with.”

“And who would train him, this man who serves Death? You? Surely not. That sounds like something only the Ama-Eskua could handle… if this man’s as dark as you claim.”

Alysa could see where this was headed. “I’m not going back to them. Besides, you already said they want me dead.”

“And as I already told you,” Clementine added crossly, “I took care of it.”

“But-”

“But nothing!” Clementine pushed. She glared at her wayward daughter and continued, “I have tried to be patient with your inability to let go of the past and embrace the future. I’m sorry that your sister died due to the misguided behavior of others in our organization… but she’s dead, as well as those who were involved… and you are not.”

Alysa started to protest.

“Be silent!” Clementine said. “I have listened to your whining and tolerated your insolent behavior long enough! You, who have been given so much, so many opportunities… and yet you squander them all in your childish rebellion against Mother. You should be leading the Ama-Eskua by now, but instead you choose to sulk among the trees and drown in the blood of your poor, dead sister! It’s time to stop acting like a privileged princess, doing whatever she pleases under the umbrella of my protection, and take your rightful place!”

Alysa wanted to rise, retrieve her hunting knife, and remove the old woman’s face. She endured the insults instead, understanding that she’d be dead the moment she reached for the weapon. Among the many things that Lady Clementine was capable of, one of the most terrifying abilities she possessed was being able to invade the deepest thoughts of her enemies and tear them apart from within. Alysa had seen this happen only once and it had been enough. There was a man, whose name Alysa could no longer remember, that had gone completely insane by the time Clementine had turned his mind into mush. All he had done was cross Clementine’s path and look at her while the Lady had been in one of her dark moods.

Alysa wisely let Clementine finish her verbal lashing, rather than risk pushing her toward anger.

Clementine suddenly stopped, staring off into oblivion.

Alysa had seen this before. When the old woman got riled up, it was like a blazing forest fire going off in her mysterious mind that caused her to… drift away… at times.

Alysa waited, hoping the old crone would die of a brain aneurysm.

Clementine started to return. She took a deep breath and smiled at her. “Sorry, daughter. You know how foul I can be sometimes. It takes a lot out of me. What were we talking about?”

“The two intruders in the woods.”

“Yes, of course.” Clementine paused to recollect herself.

Alysa took advantage of the woman’s vulnerable state to misdirect her focus away from Russell and Gina. “What can you tell me about… Meredith?”

Clementine laughed. “It seems I will never get out from under the shadow of that woman.” She turned and gave Alysa a curious glance. “You’ve never asked me about her before. Not once. Why do you ask now?”

“Taven brought her up,” Alysa said. “He told me that she’s important in what’s coming. He seemed very intense about the matter.”

“Well, yes… Meredith Montgomery is very important. You know this already. It is the only reason the Ama-Eskua attacked the underground shelter. We needed to draw her out.”

“Yes,” Alysa gently pushed. “But you’ve never explained the relationship you share with this woman. I have seen you sleep and wrestle with this Meredith in your dreams, as if she were a demon.”

“I suppose you have,” Clementine added with a smile. The old woman stared off into the dark hangar, slipping treacherously back into the time capsule of memories. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to tell you what happened between Meredith and myself. Perhaps by getting it out, I can finally move past it, and maybe then you’ll understand why it is so important that you stay this time and help me finish what needs to be done.”

“I’m listening,” Alysa said.

Clementine smiled at her and nodded. “Meredith Montgomery was my best friend. When our small, private slice of the world tried to take her from me… that’s when I destroyed it…”

~~~

Next Episode 46-3

Previous Episode 46-1

~~~

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

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 46-2: Clementine” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

~~~

Fall 1973

The basement felt cold and lifeless, like the rest of the orphanage, which was not really an orphanage. The fifteen-year-old girl with long black hair and an odd streak of white that ran across her bangs sat on her knees in the center of the large play mat with letters of the alphabet imprinted on it, taking deep breaths. Miss Evans had always instructed her to do this when she was on the verge of losing control.

The only problem was… she’d already lost control.

The young girl examined the large room, staring at the half circle of ancient toys scattered before the four large doll cases lined up against the back wall. She’d never been down here before—always knew about it—but had never been… invited.

She scanned the faces of the four strange dolls: One had long blond curls and probing blue eyes; the next was a boy clown with a funny red hat and a sad face; the third resembled an animal—maybe a tiger or a cat? Her gaze rested firmly on the last one. It was the smallest doll with a large head and wild brown hair. Its eyes oddly reminded her of Meredith’s eyes, with black circles surrounding them like it never slept. The face was old and young at the same time, revealing both wisdom and a naïve little girl haunted by some eternal nightmare.

She knew exactly who this was.

“Hello, Toby,” the young girl whispered.

The doll did not respond.

“I… I know I’m not supposed to be down here… but I had to come,” the girl said.

The strange little doll continued to stare back at her.

“Do you still remember me? It’s Clem. Do you remember how you used to talk to me in my dreams… when you told me I was… special?”

Toby did not respond.

Clem let out an exhausted sigh. “You told me that I was the one… that I was going to be important in the days to come… but then… you left me all alone… and I don’t know why you did that. I was patient, just like you told me. Even when the other girls came, and you invited them down here, but not me, I was still patient. But then you stopped speaking to me… and my dreams… my dreams were so terrifying after you left. Why won’t you talk to me, Toby? What did I do wrong?”

The doll remained still.

Clem looked to her left. Meredith was lying on the mat beside her. The thirteen-year-old still hadn’t regained consciousness—perhaps she never would—and no matter how hard Clem tried to invade her thoughts and bring her back, her abilities proved useless. For Clem, getting into Meredith’s mind was like slamming into a thick steel door she could not breach. She had nearly destroyed the girl attempting to do so.

Clem looked back at the doll. “See, I brought her back to you. Even after… I brought her right to you and I thought you’d be pleased. Are you happy with me, Toby? Did I… did I do good?”

Toby said nothing.

Clem’s blood-splattered face grew dark. “How can you still be mad at me… after all I’ve done? Even when you chose her over me… I still didn’t freak out! I tried to help her… just like all the others. Wasn’t I even good then? Will I ever be good? WILL I EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH?!” She forced herself to calm down. Tears started forming in her eyes. Clem started to raise her hands to wipe them away, then stopped. Her hands were covered in blood. Clem held them out and stared at them as if realizing it for the first time. She glanced down at her blood-stained sundress. Clem looked back at the doll, her eyes glaring, her mouth forming a frightening frown. “Do you see what I did? Do you see all the trouble I’ve caused?”

Toby did not.

Clem’s face turned red. She shouted, “DAMN YOU, TOBY! WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER ME?! WHY WON’T YOU TALK TO ME AND TELL ME EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY?”

The young girl could feel it—the fire within her coming alive. It was not a comforting fire, but a blazing inferno needing to destroy something. It took all Clem had not to lash out at the fucking doll.

She let loose a wicked smile and nodded. “Fine. But you will talk to me. I’m the only one left.” She looked down at Meredith. “She can’t talk to anybody now… just like the others.” She looked back at the doll. “You made sure of that, didn’t you?”

For a moment, Clem thought the doll smiled at her.

Clem held her bloody hands out toward the doll case. “This is all your fault! If you’d talked to me… like before… none of this would’ve happened!” She stared back down at her comatose friend and started to weep. “And when you left me all alone… she was all I had left. And now… and now you’re trying to take her away from me, too!” She glared at the doll. “But I won’t let you, Toby. Do you hear me?”

In Clem’s mind, the strange little doll stared back defiantly.

The angry young woman balled her hands into bloody fists, about to explode into another tantrum. “No! I will not let you have her! She’s my best friend! My only friend! She’s mine… do you hear? I’ll destroy her, too, before I let you take her from me!”

Toby ignored her.

“I said… she’s mine! I will destroy you, too, Toby… if I have to! Don’t make me have to! She’s my friend… and I want her back! MEREDITH IS…

~~~

…MINE!!!”

The ancient-looking woman opened her eyes in the dark and gloomy airport hangar and wrapped her long red robe around her frail body as if winter had suddenly returned. After a moment, she smiled and whispered, “Damn dreams. One day, I will figure out how to rid myself of you, too.”

She slowly rose from the floor from what was supposed to be her daily period of meditation, until her body had betrayed her and drawn her into the erratic dreamscape instead. Lady Clementine scanned the dusty and vacant hangar, staring at the few particle-infested beams of sunlight that managed to breach the space. She approached one of the covered windows, bracing her eyes for the sunlight. She reached out with one bony hand and pulled the dark curtain back just enough to peer outside.

As usual, there was nothing to see but a portion of the long and narrow landing strip and a couple of armed men that stiffened up slightly when passing her location, wanting to appear… vigilant.

She frowned at the partly cloudy sky. Clementine preferred overcast days right before it rained. To her, it seemed appropriate considering the dark shroud that covered the world now. Sunny days and star-filled evenings were for poets, dreamers, and small children—none of them having any place in this world any longer.

She let the curtain fall back in disgust and turned back toward her small nook in the corner of the hangar which consisted of a cot, some clothing and a large locked chest. This was where she slept when she had to… and her sleep was always infested with nightmares that felt more like portents these days. Honestly, she could care less, if she continued to wake up from these dark periods of rest that her body required.

Clementine sat down on the end of her bed, folding her hands into her lap. She considered the latest dream and shook her head. “Meredith.” She spoke the name as if trying to decide how it tasted in her mouth. Ever since discovering her old friend alive and hiding underground before the winter, Clementine had visited the past frequently. She’d accidentally almost had her once, shortly after the outbreak, when her cell group was still tasked with various meaningless tests on the surviving population. Apparently, Meredith had been with a small group at a marina in Fairport Harbor that her cell had been assigned to, but she’d missed the opportunity to dispose of her then because she’d never sensed her presence there… at all.

The old woman, who was much younger than her appearance displayed, chuckled, and thought, That’s just like you, Meredith. You’ve always been exceptionally skilled at hiding… especially from me. I wonder, is that how you avoided the dead for as long as you did? Surely you sense them, as I do… but you found a way to block them out, didn’t you? And by doing so, you shut me out… again.

Clementine unconsciously balled her hands into fists. She caught herself doing it and then laughed. “Damn! Even now that girl can get me all fired up!” Obviously, Meredith wasn’t a thirteen-year-old girl any longer, but it was hard for Clementine to think of her as old… like herself. “Did you struggle with your ‘gifts’ like I did, Meredith? And did your flesh pay the price?”

She tried to picture her old friend hobbling along through this life, a force to be reckoned with, trapped in a perishing body… but she couldn’t.

“I don’t know how you stayed away for as long as you did… how you didn’t succumb to what you can’t deny about yourself… but whatever happened, I’m sure you did all you could to pretend you were just a normal woman.” Clementine rolled her eyes and waved her hand dismissively into the air. “A foolish woman is all you’ve become with no place in this world.”

But deep down, as much as she wanted this to be the truth, she knew that Meredith was important.

“Yes… yes… you’ve always been so damn important, Meredith,” Clementine mocked. “Because, unlike me, you were picked by the Master, himself, to be his special… special… girl. The girl with all the best talents… destined for greatness… who wanted nothing to do with any of it.” She laughed. “What a fucking joke!”

Someone was knocking on one of the hangar doors.

Relieved by the distraction, Clementine got up and moved to the center of the hangar. She sat down in her meditative, and hopefully, less intimidating position on the floor, straightened out her robes to look all ‘leader-like’, and then called out, “Come!”

A heavily armed man wearing a tactical bulletproof vest and helmet, stood just inside the door, bowed respectfully, and said, “Sorry to disturb you, Lady Clementine.”

“What is it?” she said with annoyance.

“The visitor you’ve been expecting has just arrived,” the soldier said. “As instructed, you wanted us to let you know the moment she arrived.”

Clementine smiled from ear to ear. Finally, she thought. A useful distraction.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” she barked. “Bring her to me immediately.”

The soldier bowed once more and then quickly departed.

Clementine closed her eyes and prepared her mind for what she hoped was a ‘challenging’ discussion with her new guest. Of course, if things went badly, she was equally preparing herself to destroy the next person who entered the hangar.

The hangar door opened as a familiar form filled the entrance.

Clementine smiled, holding her arms out wide. “Welcome back, my wayward daughter!” she said. “It’s been far too long.”

“Don’t call me that,” the woman at the door snapped. “You know I hate that… and you’re not my mother.”

Clementine gave her a pouty face and then laughed. “Calm down, Alysa. Let’s not exchange harsh words. Please… come and sit with me. We’ve much to discuss.”

The former Shadow Dead warrior sighed heavily, placed her black bow and quiver just inside the door to appear less threatening, and then approached the old but very dangerous woman—who also just happened to be the second in command of both the Ama-Eskua… and of course… Mother.

~~~

Next Episode 46-2

Previous Episode 45-7

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 46-1: Clementine” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

~~~

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Thanks again for all your support and for reading.

-Scott

~~~

Exiled – Day 20

Gina quietly advanced through the valley north of the ruins camp following an old dried up river bed. A mist had settled in all around her as the last traces of twilight began to fade before her twentieth morning in exile.

The air felt thick down in the valley as she adjusted her breathing, keeping her bodily sounds at a minimum. She stopped behind a large rock, placing it at her back, and crouched down to listen to the trees, the wind, and the ghost whisperings of the river that once flowed through this area. She laid her sword-length training stick beside her and closed her eyes, using her ears to search the area for her elusive prey and any dead-heads that might have wandered into the area. So far, everything sounded as it should.

“Where are you, fucker?” she whispered to herself, opening her eyes and scanning the area. “Okay… don’t let your frustration get in the way,” she reminded herself. She closed her eyes again and waited, reaching out with all the rest of her senses to locate the anomaly that would give him away.

And then she heard it. It was very brief—a slight break in the collective rhythm that made up Mother Nature’s pulse… but it was there… coming from directly behind her.

She opened her eyes and smiled as she slowly reached down for her weapon. I’ve got you this time. She remained calm, patient… ready.

Russell came up over the top of the rock and swung his stick directly down toward her head.

Gina rolled to the left, barely avoiding the blow. She quickly rose to her feet and swung her wooden weapon at Marcus’s exposed legs. He jumped over the sweeping stick and off the back of the rock as easily as a cat.

He was already charging toward her from around the blind spot side of the rock, lunging his stick toward her chest. She deflected it with her stick and then countered by swinging toward the side of his head. Marcus blocked the attack with his stick and stepped back three feet.

They both stood there for a moment, breathing hard, and holding their wooden weapons up like lightsabers.

Russell nodded with a smile. “Very good. You heard me coming this time.”

She smiled back, wiping sweat from her brow. “You were fucking loud enough,” she teased.

“Again,” he said, and charged straight toward her.

Gina was caught off guard by how fast he moved—faster than before. He ducked right beneath her late swing and brought the blunt ended weapon straight up into her stomach.

Gina felt the wind get knocked out of her as she went down to one knee, using her stick to support herself. “Shit,” she hissed, struggling for breath. “I should’ve seen that coming.”

Russell stood up. “If you’re looking for it, it’s already too late. All you can do is respond and adapt.”

“Yeah… so you keep telling me.” She slowly got to her feet. “But I lasted much longer this time. That has to count for something.”

“Dead is dead,” Russell said coldly. “You are getting better, faster, stronger… smarter. But as long as you keep holding back, I’m always going to have the advantage.”

“I’m not holding back,” she defended. “You’re just way better at this than me.”

Russell stared her down. “You need to stop considering who I am while we’re training. Out here, there is no Marcus, no Gina. There’s only the battle and the blood. Stop worrying about what might happen if you actually land one of your blows to me. You do that down at the airport, someone’s going to kill you.”

Gina sighed, lowering her weapon. “I get it, Marcus. But it’s one thing to fight against a real enemy, and another to attack your-”

Russell cut her off with a sweeping kick to her legs, knocking Gina on her ass. She had just enough time to lift her stick and block his downward swing toward her face. With their sticks still connected, she barked, “What the fuck?!”

Russell backed up, allowing Gina to get to her feet.

“You cheated, asshole!” she said, wisely keeping her weapon up this time. “We were talking just then, not fighting!”

“There is no such thing as cheating in combat,” he said. “It’s not my fault that your ever-flapping jaw provided me an advantage.”

She smiled wickedly as her temper sparked. “Oh, you’re a fucking dead man, dickhead.” She charged toward him swinging repeatedly toward his head with much more intensity as Russell blocked each blow. She backed him up against a tree and she stopped.

“Good,” he said, staring into the blaze within Gina’s eyes. “I’m actually starting to break a sweat now… now that you’re really trying.”

He countered, taking the offensive and pushed Gina back toward the rock, delivering several swings at her face, arms, and lower body. She just managed to block them all.

Russell stepped back, allowing her time to gather herself. “That’s much better.”

Gina was breathing rapidly, trying to catch her breath. “You pissed me off… on purpose.”

“Of course,” he said. “I already know you can fight. I’ve seen your intensity against the dead. They’re no match for you and your fire. But, against a thinking foe, your emotions make you vulnerable.”

“My emotions are what drive me, Marcus. I feel intensely and react accordingly.”

“Yes… you do. But you also have to learn how to feel nothing… and react very violently.”

“I don’t get that,” she said. “If I didn’t feel what I feel… then how could I defend the people I care about?”

Marcus paused and nodded. “That’s the part your failing to understand here, Gina. We’re not on the defensive this time. We are planning on invading an unknown camp to assassinate their leader. We’re the killers, not the defenders. Your emotions won’t be able to help you, they’ll only make you hesitant… and then dead.”

“We’re not ‘killers’,” Gina said. “That’s a bit harsh. They’re the enemy, remember? We’re not just attacking a random group of survivors. This is Mother’s people!”

“Yes. But they’re still human beings,” Russell said. “And they will act just the same as all human beings do when death comes for them. You will see it in their eyes, Gina, and it won’t matter then who they serve or to what evil end. Make no mistake. We are the killers, the predators… and they are the prey.”

“Well… let’s not forget that we’re still the good guys,” Gina protested. “I’m not doing this because I’m a… killer. I want to stop Mother, and ending that woman is a step toward doing so.”

Russell shook his head and stared at her. “Remember that when you appear before the foot of this woman’s bed in the dead of night, a woman you’ve never met. She will be vulnerable. Her eyes—full of fear. She’ll be pleading for her life, weeping to whoever god she serves, right up to the point you slit her throat and watch her bleed out.”

Gina had no response.

He sighed, lowering his intense gaze. “I apologize for putting it so bluntly, but you need to understand exactly what we’re up against down at that airport. We will certainly not be ‘the good guys’ when we set out to do this dark deed. Most of them will defend what they care about with the same emotional intensity you speak about. How could they not? But a few of them will be better than that. That’s why you can’t bring your emotions into this. You will see yourself in their eyes and falter. If you can’t be cold, calculated, calm, clear… then we should call this off now, rather than show hesitation when it’s too late to turn back.”

“No way. Fuck that!” Gina sighed heavily. “This is bad, isn’t it? What we’re about to do?”

“This will be brutal… and bloody,” he said. “Good, bad, right, wrong… all irrelevant. I’m not out here to make you feel better about what we’re preparing for or justify it. I’m trying to help you not feel anything. That slight advantage may save your life when faced with a physically superior, or more skilled foe.”

“How do you do it, Marcus?” Gina said, shaking her head. “How do you just… turn it all off?”

“Death is not the end result of some inexcusable act where conscience and morality are threatened. Death… is beautiful. When you realize this, you’ll understand that it is your emotions that wrestle against this truth because your mind has been taught and hard-wired into believing that Death is something frightening and final… and that could not be any further from the truth.”

Gina considered this. “So… what… in order to turn off my emotions and ‘kill’ without conscience getting in the way… I need to… redefine what I’m doing? Instead of murder… it’s-”

“Salvation,” Russell finished. “You are not taking anything away from those you put down… you are simply delivering them from this life… into a better one.”

“That’s fucked-up, Marcus,” Gina said nervously. “Sounds like you want me to develop a ‘god’ complex. How the hell does killing people save them? That’s crazy!”

“We all serve someone or something greater than ourselves, Gina,” Russell said, losing interest in the conversation. “Whether you want to admit it or not, Death is one of those things. I’m not telling you to ‘play god’… but to serve one… at least, for the time being.”

“What are you saying? Serve… Death?” Gina couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“You don’t understand… yet. Let’s get back to training,” he said, abruptly ending the subject and turning his back.

“No,” Gina pressed. “Explain what you mean?”

Russell started walking off.

“Hey! Don’t walk away when I’m talking to you!” Gina raised her weapon and charged him from behind. She swung her stick at his back.

Russell turned quickly, blocking the blow with his stick. He then struck the hand holding her weapon, causing Gina to cry out and drop it. He then charged in striking Gina several times on the arms, legs, chest, and once to the face, causing her to fall backwards to the ground.

“What the fuck, Marcus?” she said, staring up at him while wiping blood from the corner of her mouth.

“Get up,” he said coldly.

“No.” Gina started rubbing her sore arms. “We’re done for the day, asshole. You win… again. That shit was really starting to hurt!”

Russell bent over and picked up Gina’s stick. He then tossed it at her feet.

She stared at the stick and then back to Russell questionably.

“Pick it up,” he said.

“No.” She glared at him. “I said we’re done today, Marcus. Deal with it.”

He nodded and then walked toward a tree. “Death is not a game. No one ever wins or loses. She is strong and powerful, wise and beautiful.” He slammed his stick hard against the tree until the end snapped off, leaving a jagged tip. “When she calls, you don’t just get to lie there and call ‘time out’.” He turned to her with a face of stone.

Gina saw the dark look in her friend’s face, then looked to the jagged stick. “What are you going to do with that, Marcus?” She reached for her stick.

Russell smiled. “There. I see it now. Death has gained your complete attention, now that She’s right at the door. The question is, what will you do, now that Death has come for you.” Russell immediately charged Gina with the sharp end of his stick.

Gina deflected Russell’s blow before the sharp end pierced her throat. She rolled to the right and got up quickly.

Russell immediately backed up, looking shocked by his own actions.

She wiped blood from her neck and stared at him questionably. “What the fuck, Marcus! Have you completely lost it?” Gina held her weapon up and slowly backed off.

Russell looked at the sharp stick in his hand, as if realizing it for the first time, and then immediately dropped it to the ground. He looked at her. “I’m… sorry, Gina. I think I got a little carried away.”

She pointed at him. “You broke that fucking stick and charged at me! You could’ve killed me just then!”

He quickly regained his composure. “I only wanted to make you feel threatened… as part of our training. I’ll admit… that was a little closer than I intended.”

“Well… we’re fucking done today… alright?”

Russell smiled. “Of course.”

Gina finally lowered her weapon. “I think we’ve both been pushing a little too hard lately. Time for some rest.”

“Agreed.” Russell put his hands in his pockets and let his shoulders drop. “Again, I didn’t mean to be so… aggressive. I never would have harmed you. I knew you’d deflect the blow.”

She gave him a suspicious glance then softened up. “Okay. All’s forgiven. Let’s just get back. It was a good day of training… except for that sharp-ass shit at the end.”

Russell laughed. “Yes. Except for that. I’ll not do that again, Gina.”

She smiled and then turned south toward the ruins camp. “I’m so fucking hungry I could eat a zombie right now… and I’m talking about one of those big, smelly fat ones…”

Russell let her go on ahead a bit as he turned his face down and gritted his teeth. “That was uncalled for!” he hissed towards his feet.

Just wanted to let ‘ya know I’m still here, boss… and that I can step in any damn time I want and end this bullshit. Ya’ better be makin’ my patience worth it with all this silly trainin’ crap—talk about getting the turkey fat before the fuckin’ slaughter.

Russell looked toward Gina. She was still rambling on about food. He hid his face and whispered, “You nearly ruined everything with that move.”

What… like when you nearly spilled the beans to that bitch about what you did to your family? Why the fuck are you talking to her about that?! That’s none of her fuckin’ business!

“She needed something real… something personnel,” he hissed. “Now… we’re even closer than before.”

Fuckin’ wonderful, boss! Really, I’m delighted. But don’t get too close. The golden goddess has an expiration date… real… fuckin’… soon. I won’t let you fuck this up again.

“I won’t. But you need to back off,” Russell nearly pleaded. “We’re so damn close… so close. If you could just… hold off a little longer.” His hands began to shake.

Gina turned back. “You coming?” she called.

“Be right there,” he called back. “Go ahead, I’ll catch up in a minute.”

She turned and continued south down the old riverbed.

I’ll hold off, boss… for a little longer. I can see how important this is to you, and since we go ‘way’ back and all, I’ll give ‘ya a little more time. But… just do me a favor first.

“What do you want?”

Answer me a question, boss.

Russell waited.

Who’s in control?

Russell wanted to reach a hand within himself and rip the little fucker’s head off… figuratively, of course.

I’m waiting…

He frowned and spat out the words. “You are.”

~~~

Next Episode 46-1

Previous Episode 45-6

~~~

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

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 45-7: Predators” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.