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~~~

THEN…

The middle-aged viper with long brown hair had a body that was more lethal than any hunting knife Russell had ever owned. Women like this, who had been mastering the minds of the weak since the beginning of time, could slit the throat of man’s entire domestic illusion–the blood of fidelity and integrity oozing out from the fatal wound–until only a dead dog remained. Yes, Russell had once frequented the dens of these destroyers of marriages and self-respect, had once hunted them down in their local watering holes and nightclubs believing he was answering the call. But he had discovered that they, like himself, were agents by Death’s design used to weed out the tarnished souls who could not help but fall victim to a depraved world in need of salvation… his salvation.

The woman danced, flirted, and manipulated until she received whatever she desired, offering a temporal fantasy in return; each man giving in to sexual gratification, trading in all they once claimed valuable for a few minutes of pleasure.

In light of recent events, Russell admired this woman’s ability to remain oblivious to Death’s march across Northeast Ohio, which had forced all these useless sheep to pen themselves in behind a cage called ‘Safety’. The National Guard had made promises they could not keep behind the fences of the Percy Power Plant. Death was coming for all these fools… and she always kept her promises.

Russell sat toward the back of the large community camp fire, observing the seductress work her magic on several men who offered up bottles of spirits and camping supplies in exchange for the further degradation of their souls.

You wanna tap that fine piece, don’t cha’, boss? the other one chimed in. Rip her up the middle while she’s got those fine ass legs wrapped around ya’? They never see it comin’… never see their own death stormin’ in when they think they be the ones doin’ the killin’.

“Be silent, dog,” Russell whispered. “We don’t deal with their kind any more. You know this.”

You used ta’ enjoy it, boss. You used ta’ love stealin’ all that power back and watchin’ them realize it when the fear glazed over their eyes.

Russell refused to gratify that with a response. Most times, when ignored long enough, the other one would return to that primitive cave buried deep within the savage part of his dark mind.

But not tonight.

You ‘ain’t seein’ the big picture yet, boss. You still tryin’ to play by the old rules that had us workin’ in the shadows of a civilized world. Take a good look around. Civilized just got devoured by the shadows… and all these piggies are fair game now. There’s nothin’ stopping ya’ from indulging in the blood bath anymore. It’s open season on anyone, anywhere, any damn time!

“Be still.”

It’s time to come the fuck out of the shadows, boss. This brand new world’s ripe for the takin’. Anything is possible now.

Russell could not argue against the point. Since the dead had come, no one cared any longer about tracking down his kind in order to maintain the lie that the day remained safe. There were other monsters to contend with now.

Just look at her, boss. She’s hidin’ from the same damn thing they’re all hidin’ from. She may be wrappin’ those fine legs around the masses, laughin’ and drinkin’ and fuckin’ like she’s still got control, but inside she’s afraid… afraid of the night that’s come to rip all the power she ever had away. There is no more control! There’s only Death…

“Yes… there’s only Death.” Russell found that thought exhilarating… liberating.

Fuckin’ intoxicating, boss! Can’t ya’ feel it yet?

The seductress with long brown pulled herself away from the advances of the latest dog with a teasing laugh. She stumbled toward the community fire and emptied the remains of a bottle of bourbon down her throat. She stared at the empty bottle as if it had spoken the worst news imaginable and then she looked up. Her eyes met Russell’s stare.

Ya’ see it, boss? Do ya’ see it now?

Russell did. The woman was terrified… but she continued to fight back. Perhaps this one was different? Perhaps she could still be saved?

The woman flashed him an inviting smile.

Russell smiled back and waved her over.

That’s the way, boss. You have yourself some fun with that hot little fuck-machine and then… we get really nasty! And you won’t even have to clean up the mess when you’re done ‘cause the maid’s on a permanent vacation and no one’s gonna be around to check out the bloodwork, anyhow.

The woman sat down next to Russell, deliberately moving in close. “Hey stranger,” she said. “You keep staring at me like we know each other from somewhere.”

“Was I?” Russell smiled.

The woman laughed. “It’s kind of hard not to notice with those intense eyes of yours. You should work on being less obvious.”

“My apologies. I guess I was being obvious. You’ll have to forgive me, but since the shit hit the fan, you are by far the best thing I’ve seen since arriving here.”

“I see subtle isn’t your thing,” she teased. “I’ll take that as a compliment… a bit creepy… but I’m not picky these days.”

Russell laughed. “All I meant was that it’s refreshing to find someone who isn’t letting everything steal their spirit away. You seem to be having a good time in a place where so many people look like they’re just waiting to die. I find your attitude… encouraging.”

“I know… right?” the woman said. “I’ve been saying the same thing since I got here. I mean, yeah, it’s terrible what’s going on, but we’re here now, safe and sound. Everything will eventually work out. In the meantime, what’s the harm in having some fun. Know what I mean?”

Russell nodded. “I know exactly what you mean. My name’s… Marcus Dempsey.” He held out his hand.

The woman looked at the outstretched hand, amused by his strange gesture. She took it, laughed, and said, “Amanda… Amanda Howard.”

“It’s wonderful to meet you, Amanda Howard.”

She looked into his eyes, trying to read the strange man’s intent, and was surprised that she couldn’t. She shifted gears. “Well… Marcus…” She lifted up the empty bottle. “It seems like the party around here is getting stale. I’d love to stick around and talk to you, but I should get back to my people.” She sighed heavily. “And they’re about as much fun as surgery.”

Russell laughed and then mocked disappointment. “That’s really too bad.”

Amanda gave him an amused look. “How so?”

“Well… I have this tent just around the corner and-”

She feigned surprise and lightly elbowed him. “Wow! Again, subtle is not your thing is it?”

Russell lifted his hands. “All I meant was that I happen to have a bottle of vodka… and I’m not a fan of drinking alone. We could continue ‘talking’ over a shot or two… unless you wanted to get back to that surgery?”

Amanda laughed. “Hell… no!” She studied the strange man again. “Well, as long as we’re just talking, I guess I could join you. Would be a shame to drink that bottle all by yourself.”

“Yes it would.”

“Just to let you know,” she cautioned. “I’m not that kind of girl, so don’t get any ideas, alright?”

Russell shook his head. “Just your company is all I require. No funny stuff… I promise.”

She gave the man one last cautious look and then stood up. “Alright, Marcus, let’s move this party to your place.”

“Sounds like a great idea.” Russell led the way back to his tent.

Here… piggy… piggy… piggy… the other one mocked.

~~~

The sex had been… overwhelming. Russell had never been with a woman who tried as hard as Amanda to suppress the darkness which raged within. Once the damaged woman began sucking down the vodka, she gave in to her primitive side, releasing her raw and unmanageable emotions into every thrust, every moan, forging the pain of memories, which tormented her like a thousand demons, until her flesh became a pliable weapon of pleasure to combat those memories. Amanda had attacked him with her insatiable need to forget, forcing Russell to oblige by penetrating her in various positions until the manic woman finally climaxed and collapsed from exhaustion; the sexual presence which possessed her–now exorcized.

It took all Russell had not to give in to the savage who demanded blood as he fought against the urge to reach into his pack and retrieve his hunting knife. Amanda had reduced him to an animal the moment she had wrapped her legs around him, demanding Russell to commit to her bestiality. Her idea of pleasure sickened him… but aroused the other one.

After she was done using him, Amanda had retrieved the bottle and spewed her horrible past all over him: Her dead daughter, dead marriage, dead self-respect… dead soul.

Russell had lost the desire to carry out the act of salvation. The other one had coerced him into believing that Amanda was ready, but the truth was evident: Amanda was beyond saving.

When the woman finally passed out, Russell dressed and stormed out into the night, leaving the nylon tomb behind, but needing to vent his frustration on something… living.

He walked away from the tent community, being mindful to avoid the notice of the patrols, until finding a vacant space dominated by late-night shadows. He could smell them now, all of them. The camp refugees all reeked of fear like carcasses left out for days in the hot sun, filling the void left behind by the vultures which now circled this world and… like himself… were looking for something fresh to kill…

…to save.

Russell felt nauseated and uncertain.

“Where do I belong in this disease-inflicted world where fear has already destroyed my purpose?” he asked the night.

The night had no response.

Should’ve gutted the slut, boss.

Of course. He always had something to add.

You ain’t Mr. Scary anymore, boss. These pathetic piggies can’t stop wettin’ themselves thinkin’ ‘bout those nasty fuckers with a hunger for flesh. They’ve put you and your brand of terror out of business.

“Shut up.”

Just sayin’ what you already know, boss. There’s nothin’ left to save. They’re all fucked now.

“There was Janet Schuler. She could still see me… she could still understand-”

She didn’t see you, boss, the other one said. She was already dead to fear when ya’ brought her out of those woods. Should’ve bled her in the van.

“Bullshit. She could still see me! Janet tasted salvation-”

The other one laughed.

“You’re no different from the Dead! You’re a mindless dog that only knows slaughter! Who are you to tell me anything?”

I’m you’re last fucking chance, boss. Let me loose on this world and I’ll show them what ‘terrifying’ looks like. I’ll make ‘em all remember what real fear is when they’re wearin’ their insides to stay warm at night. I’ll make ‘em scream and scream just like those three you met on the way in…

BE SILENT!

The other one was still.

Russell dropped to his knees and stared into the night. “My Lady… what would you have me do now? I see that you have moved your hand across this pathetic world and removed the blindfold of lies from their eyes. They now know that nothing they believed in was real… was safe. They now know they are hunted by fear… and yet… they succumb to it. They lie down and wait for it! What would you have me do? How can I save them… how can I prepare them for your embrace when they worship the fear and wait for it to claim them?”

Still no answer.

He closed his eyes. Since the deliverance of Janet Schuler, he had killed three more people. Their deaths felt bland and meaningless… savage. Was that all there was now? Was he supposed to join the ranks of the oblivious dead which fed upon the living indiscriminately and with no other reason to exist? Was he destined to become a beast driven by the same base calling of blood as his sole purpose?

“No,” he whispered. “There must be more.”

Russell stared down at his right hand and noticed the hunting knife for the first time. He’d acquired it from Sarah’s stolen supplies and kept it as a reminder of the woman’s struggle to get away from him, to survive. He regretted not reaching the woman in time to capture that look of freedom in her eyes before rescuing her from this life. But was he just fooling himself into believing he was anything other than a mundane killer now? Sarah’s untimely fall off the cliff seemed to leave the question hanging unanswered forever. If only he could’ve seen her eyes… and then he’d tried to find it in Amanda’s eyes… and found nothing.

Russell was gripping the knife so tightly that his hand shook. He opened his hand and let the knife fall to the ground. Russell stared at it. He could feel it taunting him to turn its single sharp tooth to crimson…

…and feed.

The other one laughed inside his head.

~~~

In the morning, Russell had made a decision to leave the Percy Power Plant in the hope of finding clarity out in the ‘free’ world where Death made her presence felt among those who still valued their lives… wherever they were. He wanted… no… he absolutely needed to feel his heart race, preferring to stay just out of the Lady’s reach, where one could truly ‘feel’ alive inches away from being devoured, as opposed to rotting away in this cesspool of fear. He had decided to take Amanda with him, believing that his judgment of her as a lost cause might have been premature since the stench of fear dominated everyone in the camp. Maybe out there, he could help her find something genuine.

You’re being foolish, boss. Nothin’ can bring these piggies back. They’re all fodder now. Just another food source, like chickens with their fuckin’ heads removed that still hop around not realizing they’re dead yet.

“We’ll see,” Russell had said, feeling much lighter knowing that he was evacuating this death camp.

The bitch won’t wake up, boss. Fear’s got her all spread-eagle on the buffet table of this new world, while she just waits there for the hordes to gang-rape her ass before finishin’ the feast. She won’t come with you… but that doesn’t mean we can’t slice and dice her up before we head out.

Russell had wasted no more time addressing the animal.

~~~

They dressed in the morning-after-silence as Russell listened to the camp’s activity just on the other side of his tent flap. He stole occasional glances at Amanda as she continued to eyeball the remains of his vodka.

The whore’s got it bad, boss. I bet she’d let you cut out her tongue for another bottle. We could always hope anyway.

Russell ignored him. He rushed to get his clothes on before Amanda wanted more sex.

“Rushing back to your wife on the other side of camp?” she teased.

“You got it. She doesn’t mind me seeing other women as long as I check in on occasion. Sometimes she wants to… how do I put this… participate? She has a thing for big-breasted woman.” Russell continued to play off of Amanda’s adventurous sexual practices. He’d hoped the joke would lighten the mood.

Amanda looked at the vodka again. She forced a laugh, then got up and punched him in the shoulder. “It’s a good thing you’re full of shit. If you had a wife, I’d have your nuts in my hand right now and I’d take them to her myself!”

“My, you’re a feisty one. No hidden wives in my pocket.”

No… but we would love to stick our hidden machete right in your-

“You know, this is going to sound crazy, and I know we’ve only just met, but this apocalypse is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.” Russell went fishing.

“That is crazy.” She reached for the bottle and took a sip.

“I don’t mean to sound selfish and horrible, considering everyone who’s died, but if none of this had happened I would never have met you.”

“Well, isn’t that some romantic shit.” She rolled her eyes and finished off the bottle.

Try somethin’ else, boss. This crazy bitch ain’t the Valentine’s Day type. Just give her somethin’ to suck on and she’ll eat razor blades out of your hand.

Russell began to pack his gear. “In any case, I’m not trying to get all lovey-dovey on you. I just wanted to say I had a great time last night and I like you, Amanda. I hope we’ll get a chance to know each other better when all this blows over.”

“Finally, someone who isn’t looking all gloom and doom right now! You should talk to the losers I came in with. You would think the world was ending and that we should be searching for razor blades after listening to them.”

Now that’s funny, boss. She must have heard me talking about razor blades. Maybe I possess the power of suggestion. Let’s try it: Hey, crazy bitch… lay down and slit your own throat!

“They fear the worst. That’s natural,” Russell said. “Fear keeps us in cages. I try not to focus on it and look for the positive slant instead.”

“Which is?” Amanda asked.

He kissed her.

“Good answer.”

Smooth, boss.

Russell pulled away and stood by the tent exit. “It’s beautiful out there today. People are using the good weather to help them forget.”

“Well sure they are. Anything’s better than dwelling on… what’s been lost.”

Russell smiled. “They’re trying to forget how afraid they are. You can almost smell their fear. I bet those predators out there can smell it, too.”

“Let’s not bring them up.”

Russell paused to gain her complete attention. He finally said, “Once you lose everything and survive it, there’s really nothing left to fear.”

Amanda said nothing. She nodded politely instead.

“I lost my family, my loved ones, long before this outbreak,” he continued. “I had to face that in order to survive. Once you face the emptiness, Amanda, as I was forced to do at an early age, fear loses its power. And from there, a whole new world rises up from the broken one. Everything becomes fresh again; new choices, opportunities… freedom. Know what I mean?”

“No, I don’t know what you mean,” she said. “When you lose a child it’s like the whole world just becomes a lie and nothing feels the same again. You talk about emptiness, well, that’s the place where my soul used to be and it fucking died with my daughter. There’s no way to face that kind of loss.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry, Amanda. I know your life has been hard. First, losing your husband and then your reputation… and now your daughter-”

“You don’t know shit about me!”

Careful, boss. Watch where you’re cutting… and how deep, the other one teased.

Russell looked confused. “You told me quite a bit last night. In fact, after we had sex, I didn’t think you would ever stop talking. You even broke down into tears.”

“That was just the alcohol talking,” she defended. “It tends to get me into trouble in more ways than one. Whatever I told you last night about my life… well, you just forget you heard it!”

“Fair enough. I thought sharing a little in return would put you at ease. Either way, we both now have a tremendous opportunity to break free of our prisons of fear. That’s why I’m leaving tomorrow… and I want you to come with me.”

“To go where? Out there among your fucking predators!? Why on earth would we leave now? It’s unsafe.”

I told ‘ya she wouldn’t come, boss. The only comin’ she’s interested in-

“But I thought you didn’t subscribe to the doom and gloom theories?” he said.

“I don’t… I mean… I believe law and order will eventually be restored—it’s just a matter of time. But we’re safe here until it is. There’s nothing out there but death!”

“And there’s nothing within these fences but fear—fear kept under control by a few flimsy barricades and the presence of some guards with guns. Out there is providence. Out there is a new beginning. Out there anyone can wipe the slate clean and start again; be anything they want, have anything—sky’s the limit, Amanda.”

Now we’re talkin’, boss. Let’s leave this skank and get out there and kill something!

“Why are you trying to sell me on the idea of suicide? You make it sound like it’s a choice between fear and death, and you would say choose death.”

Russell looked excited. Could there be hope for this one? If Amanda could already see the choices, might he be able to help her choose correctly, to choose Death and fight the fear? There was a chance he could save her out there. He could help her rise to her true potential and find herself, and then, at the moment she mastered her fears… when she was ready to look the Lady in the eye with confidence… he would introduce her to Death. “Now you’re starting to see it! Out there, Death is nipping at your heels on a daily basis, reminding you that you’re still alive. But in here, Fear is slowly eating away your one true chance to be free. It’s too much like the old days in here.”

Safety… the oldest illusion and an ancient poison still infecting so many in this new world, he thought.

Amanda was getting livid. “You sound like you don’t want things back to normal. That’s fucked-up. You know what, enough with all this philosophical tree-hugging crap. We were having a good time here, and now you’re about to ruin it with all your deep-thinking bullshit! If you just wanted to get rid of me you didn’t have to go to all this trouble. You know damn well I can’t go with you ‘out there’ so you’re trying to scare me off—make me think you’re nuts so I’ll just leave!”

Oh, what a shame, boss. Even I was gettin’ excited for a minute. All that glorious blood at the moment of departure… there’s nothing like it when you’ve prepped them for the journey.

Indeed, Russell thought. He tried hard not to let his disappointment show.

“Please come with me, Amanda,” he said. “We both need to do this.”

“You don’t know what I need!”

The shadow of a man appeared at the tent entrance. “Amanda, it’s Stephen. May I please talk to you? It’s urgent.”

She rolled her eyes at Russell and threw her hands in the air. “Now what?”

“Amanda, are you decent? May I come in?”

“Sure. Come on in,” she called out.

Stephen entered dripping with sweat. He noticed Russell in a corner collecting some things and simply nodded in his direction.

Russell ignored him.

Not this annoying fucker again. Can we kill this one, boss?

Stephen spoke with labored breaths. “Doug wants us all back at the camp site. We’re trying to get everything packed up as quickly and as quietly as possible.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Stephen? Start making some sense!” Amanda was alarmed.

“We have to go. Right now! There’s no time for me to explain.”

“Well, you better make some fucking time! Besides, I’m with Marcus now.”

Russell raised his eyes in surprise and she quickly shot him a dirty look.

“Just go back and tell that stupid steroid-pumping freak that I’m off the damn team!” she said.

“You never fucking listen, you self-important bitch!” Stephen broke in. “Stop trying to be the queen-shit bound and determined to ruin my life and listen to me for once!”

Woah, boss. What just happened?

Russell was just as surprised. For a moment he considered stepping in on Amanda’s behalf to play the role of overprotective boyfriend, but chose to watch this scene play out instead.

Amanda was shocked into silence.

Stephen looked confused, and then calmed down and finished, “Sorry… Amanda. I don’t know what came over me.”

Amanda raised her eyebrows, still stunned by the outburst. “Just say what you came to say.”

“It’s Meredith. She lost it… had some sort of episode. She’s convinced they’re coming. Hell, we all believe her. Besides, the camp’s turning on us. They tried to kill her a little while ago.”

“Kill Meredith? Why would they do that? Who’s coming?”

Stephen was shaking his head. “Them… those things… Meredith said they’re coming! Doug said we’re leaving now. He doesn’t care if you come or not. I had to almost beg him to wait long enough for me to get you.”

Russell was listening intently.

“Did they breach the fence? What do you mean, ‘leaving’?” Amanda was beside herself.

“Something about abandoned railroad tracks… doesn’t matter… we have to get back.”

You hear that, boss? They know about the tracks.

Russell tried real hard to hide his amusement as well as his excitement, sensing that the Lady had just presented him with an incredible opportunity.

Amanda looked to Russell. She swore she saw the hint of a smile crack the surface of his concerned face.

Stephen was already half-way outside the tent. “Are you coming or not? I can’t wait.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to hear what they have to say,” Russell offered.

“Fuck me,” she said, putting her shoes on. She addressed Russell without looking at him, “Are you coming or should I expect your tent to be moved by the time I get back?”

Stephen gave the stranger a puzzled look, neither seconding nor protesting the invite.

“I’ll grab my things,” was all he said.

Finally, boss! We’re gettin’ the hell out of here! Maybe we can kill a few of these piggies on the way.

Russell could sense that the Lady was coming. He didn’t know how or when, but death was about to invade this prison of fear. And for that, he was excited. Nothing gave him more pleasure than knowing that the dead would slaughter every living thing in this camp, giving these fear-infested souls a fitting end. None of them were worthy to taste his salvation. And only darkness waited for those who served their own fears.

I hope you all choke on your poison of Safety, Russell thought, right before the dead rip your throats out with their teeth…

~~~

Next Episode 37-4

Previous Episode 37-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 37-3: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

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~~~

THEN…

Russell sat close to the campfire trying to stay warm. The night was ominous and alive, like a stalking predator waiting to pounce on anything with a heartbeat. He immediately thought of the monsters which had haunted the woods just outside of the Schuler residence. Russell was prepared to strike back at the night like a viper should anything step out of the shadows. He stole quick glances at the three idiots who looked like doctors or scientists, judging by the amount of gadgets they lugged around. They had foolishly made camp in the middle of nowhere and Russell did not understand why they didn’t fathom that their campfire was a beacon for anything lurking in the dark. He was surprised they had lasted this long.

To the others, Russell appeared despondent and afraid as they tried to imagine the unspoken horrors he’d faced to make it this far. None of them knew what to say to console the desperate man as they were still battling their own disbelief and terror at the nightmares which recently came to life and fed upon the living.

“Thank you for sharing your fire,” Russell said, attempting to break the tension. “I was starting to think that I was the only one left out here.”

A robust man wearing a parka, readjusted the frames above his nose for the third time as he struggled to speak.

Russell had quickly deduced that he was the acting spokesman for this small band of fools who had no clue what to do outside of the Emergency Room or whatever lab they crawled out of.

“Like I was telling my colleagues earlier… John… right?”

Russell nodded.

“Well, John,” Mr. Robust continued, “like I was telling them, it’s good to have any help we can get right now because it’s imperative that we reach the power plant. We were part of a military convoy that got attacked on a back road near here. The soldiers fought off the attackers and directed us into woods. They told us to follow the tracks into Percy. Fortunately we still had our gear and equipment in order to set up a modified lab on arrival.”

Eggheads, boss. I fuckin’ knew it.

“Anyway, long story short, John, our survival is critical. We have information vital to understanding the virus that has affected the population. Not that I can discuss the details with you in any way that you can understand… I mean no offense… but what this is, is just not something we can put into layman’s terms. Also, the particulars of this outbreak are of a sensitive nature and considered classified. We would be remiss in our responsibilities if we discussed what we know with the general public. In fact, we could be prosecuted for discussing anything in relation to the outbreak-”

“Give it a rest, Dempsey!” the female of the group interrupted. “Can’t you see that this man’s not interested in what you have to say right now? He’s scared to death. We all are.”

Dempsey readjusted his frames again, feeling flustered. “Sarah, I was only trying to explain to the man why we’re out here, and why it’s imperative that we reach the power plant.”

“And this gentleman, I’m sure, could give a shit right now, Doctor Dempsey,” the third member of the group chimed in. “With all due respect, just leave the man be. You’re just lying to him anyway.”

“I most certainly am not!” Dempsey was indignant. “We do possess the means to cure this thing… and we will!”

The third man turned to Russell. “Please excuse my colleague. Doctor Dempsey is the very winded but unfailing optimist of our little group. Truth is, we’re shooting in the dark. No one knows what this is yet… maybe we never will.”

Russell simply nodded. “It’s alright. I’m just glad to be here and still in one piece.”

Sarah took over. “Thank you once again, Doctor Conner, for reminding us all of your endless supply of sarcasm and pessimism.”

Conner dismissed her with a wave.

Sarah turned to Russell. “Are you warm enough, John? Hungry?”

“Yes… and yes. Thank you.” Russell shifted gears. “So, it sounds like you three know something about what’s happening. I heard a cure mentioned. Do you think that’s possible?”

“Absolutely,” Dempsey quickly chimed in.

“You and your wild theories will probably just make it worse,” Conner added. “We’ve let a bug loose this time that’s bigger than we can contain. And that’s what we’re going to discover in the end.”

“Humbug!” Dempsey said.

“Boys… please… just settle down.” Sarah returned to Russell. “What my colleagues and I are attempting to do is assess the nature of this strain and stop it, if we can. Cure it? Well… we’re going to try.”

“Do you really believe that?” Russell asked.

“We’ve had some promising initial findings,” Sarah said. “That’s why we were being rushed over to the power plant. They wanted us somewhere safe so we could continue our research. Our facility was breached.”

“And now we’re stuck out here with all this equipment, no tech support, no soldiers, and no God damn idea what we’re really doing!” Conner was clearly frustrated. “We’ll probably be dead by dawn when this thing goes airborne.”

“Shut your mouth!” Dempsey was furious. “No one said anything about that! Your fearmongering will get us nowhere!”

Sarah rolled her eyes at Russell as the two men continued arguing. “Excuse me, John. I need to calm them down before they wake the whole forest. We are usually a lot more… professional… than this.”

Russell smiled and leaned in. “You seem to be the true brains of this outfit. I’ll trust your judgment.” He finished with a wink.

Sarah let out a weak smile. “Just stay warm, John. We’ll all get to the plant in the morning. I promise.”

Russell watched the woman scientist attempt to break up the dispute.

And there you have it, boss. Even the brainiacs are one short rung away from killen’ each other. It’s gonna be one glorious blood-fest when they all snap and join the cause.

And what cause are you referring to? Russell thought back.

The other one laughed. You really haven’t been payin’ attention, have you, boss? While you’re missin’ out on the endless opportunities to finally indulge… and out in the open… you’re still lookin’ for someone to save.

Nothing’s changed, savage. I answer to the Lady… not to your blood lust. Russell shifted uncomfortably. And I certainly won’t reduce myself to the meaningless brutality of these dead things walking about. Even you, with your base motivations, should understand that every kill should still mean… something.

And they do, boss… they do! To you and me every death is beautiful… and savage. And now the world has revealed its savage side, but you still won’t LET ME LOOSE!!! It’s not fair that you continue to suppress us!

And now you’re acting as childish as these scientists. Speaking about fairness as if that were an actual thing. Russell shook his head. Go to your room and pout, if you must, but I am an instrument of grace… not destruction.

You are a damn fool, boss! Just look around you. The animals are all comin’ out of the cages… and I’m not just talkin’ ‘bout your dead friends. Pretty soon, every dark thought and inclination that these piggies have ever had when they were strokin’ themselves in the dark, all safe and sound in their beds, are gonna come out into the open. When they were pretendin’ to be all civilized by day, but coveted their monstrous thoughts when no one was lookin’, when no one could see them hidin’ in the darkness… that’s what’s comin’ out now, boss.

Russell did not like where this was heading. He had to admit, since the monsters showed up, which hunted the day as well as the night, indiscriminately, there seemed to be no limits and no rules in place to govern Death’s hand any longer. In light of this, Russell did not know his place. Once, he operated under the guise of daylight, pretending to be like everyone else, while he searched out his next mission, planned, and made himself ready to purge another lost soul from this false world. Then, he would come out from the shadows to deliver them. But now, the shadows had engulfed the day… and they were occupied by these self-serving perverse creatures that only hunted to… feed.

You feel it, don’t you, boss? You know I’m right. If nothin’ else, you have ta’ admit, this new world we’ve found ourselves in… is fuckin’ liberating!

Indeed, Russell could not argue against that point. As uncertain as he was about his place in the new world, he was still equally certain that this world was destined to be… and it was glorious! Gone were all the lies and pretention of the previous ways Mankind lived… which was no life at all. Now, they would have to choose between truly living for the first time, or, succumbing to the fear in which they previously served.

Russell stared at the squabbling scientists. Even now, they were oblivious to the dark, only concerned about preserving such obsolete notions as primitive as ‘I am right, you are wrong’. There was no place for foolish pride now.

Perhaps you could remind them of a thing or two, boss. Or at least, test the waters. Let your hair down a little and take a taste. If I’m wrong, you can still go back to your noble quest.

Russell shook his head. You are single-minded and predictable. You think you can tempt me with this line of thinking?

The other one laughed. Can’t fool you, boss. Can’t blame me for tryin’. How about another angle? They spoke of curing this thing. Well… what if they can? I don’t know about those other two fools, but the woman… well, hell… she’s strong. Do you really want them to succeed?

No. He certainly did not.

Just a taste, boss. Besides, their blood would further the cause of this new world. And you and I know that we don’t want to get in the way of that!

No. Russell did not.

Looky over there, boss. Do you see what I see?

Russell turned toward a pile of camping gear. A machete, their only weapon, lay propped up against the gear.

He started calculating.

“…And furthermore, I don’t appreciate your negative commentary when all I’m trying to do is solve this crises, Conner!” Dempsey was red in the face. “Does it bring you some perverse joy to scare people with your doom-and-gloom outlook?”

Conner was equally upset. “Nothing changes with you, does it? Even now, you’ve managed to twist a global epidemic so that it somehow revolves around you, the center of the damn universe! Frankly, it’s that kind of arrogance that probably let the superbug out to begin with!”

“How dare you!”

“Gentlemen, please!” Sarah pleaded. “This is getting us nowhere. What we need right now is to calm down. Lack of sleep is clearly affecting our judgment. Let’s just get to the power plant in one piece before we do the work of this outbreak for it by killing each other.”

Both men huffed at their female colleague, neither one appreciating being scolded like children. But in the end, reason finally won and they settled down.

“Now, let’s keep it together and work out a watch rotation for the evening. God only knows what’s out there in the dark and we need to stay vigilant.” Sarah let out a deep breath and smiled at them. “Okay?”

Both men, now feeling foolish for their outburst, simply nodded and started looking for anything to occupy themselves for a few minutes.

Sarah turned toward Russell. He was still sitting by the fire, pretending not to overhear their foolishness. She walked over and knelt down beside him. “Sorry about that. Emotions are running high right now.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Russell said.

Sarah was exhausted. “Can I get you anything? We’re going to set a watch tonight and-”

“Sarah,” Russell interrupted. “Do you really believe there’s a cure?”

The woman hesitated before answering and then her weary face lit up with sincere optimism. “Yes, John, I believe if given enough time, we can beat this thing. It may not look it right now, but we are probably the best qualified people in Northeast Ohio to understand this… virus. Once we get it up under a microscope and study it further, we’ll figure out how to stop it. You can count on it.”

Russell bowed his head, closed his eyes, and let out a deep sigh.

“Are you alright, John?”

“I need you to do something for me.”

“Sure. If I can. What is it?”

Russell looked into her eyes. “I need you to run, Sarah.”

“Excuse me?”

He retrieved the machete from behind his back and placed her reflection within the blade.

Sarah looked at the weapon with concern. “John, what… what are you doing with that?”

He stood up suddenly, causing Sarah to fall backwards into the dirt. He quickly assessed the other two, who were presently distracted by their own futile thoughts. Russell looked down at the shocked woman. “If you really believe that you can save your obsolete world, Sarah, then fight for it.”

She looked back. “Dempsey! Conner! We have a little problem here!”

Both men stopped and stared at the strange man holding the machete. Russell no longer resembled the broken soul who shared their fire a few moments before. Both men looked at each other, unsure of how to proceed next.

Russell said to Sarah, “Because I believe you may have some steel left in you, Sarah, I will come for you last. I offer you one last chance, on this side of life, to do something you’ve never had to do before.”

Sarah was terrified. She lifted her hands defensively. “Whatever you say, John. Just please calm down and put that away… please!”

Russell lifted the blade. “One more chance, Sarah. Will you take it?”

“One more chance for what?”

Russell smiled. “To learn what it means to be alive.”

“But-”

“Run.”

“John, wait a minute-”

“RUN!!!”

Sarah screamed as the maniac with the machete stormed past her.

Conner stepped forward to confront the man. He raised his arm. “Hold on! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Russell was quick. The man’s outstretched arm fell to the ground.

Conner simply stared at it, unable to process what just happened. He looked at the blood flowing from where his arm used to be and started to scream.

Russell pushed the man to the ground and started stabbing him in the chest… five… seven… eleven times… The maniac’s face was covered in the sarcastic scientist’s blood.

“Dear God! What have you… what have you done?” Dempsey’s face went pale. He turned to run and stumbled over gear.

Sarah somehow managed to get up and force her lethargic legs to move. The killer’s attention was focused on Dempsey now.

Sarah, I will come for you last.

She turned and fled into the night, unable to scream because she struggled to breathe. She could hear her heart race in her ears, the dead leaves crunching beneath her panic-driven feet, the unseen low branches snapping across her face as she sprinted blindly through the dark. Something snagged a piece of her hair and ripped it out. Something else tried to trip her as she stumbled, just managing to stay on her feet as her momentum pushed her forward.

Dempsey’s tortured screams chased behind her as he tried to plead for his life… and then begged for a merciful death. After the maniac was done indulging in the kill, she knew he would be coming after her.

Sarah pushed harder than she’d ever pushed in her life. She felt like her lungs were about to burst as blood dripped down her face and into her eyes from several gashes on her forehead… and still… she ran…

Suddenly, the sky opened up. She’d cleared the trees and started slipping on what felt like a low hill of rocks as she was propelled upward. She reached the top and her left foot struck steel. Sarah lost control and fell forward on the train tracks, lacerating both her hands trying to brace for the impact. She cried out when she felt her right wrist snap.

Get up! Get Up! GET UP!!!

She somehow wobbled to her feet. Her knees were shredded by the rocks in between the ties. Sarah foolishly looked back and saw her death approaching, illuminated by the moonlight which betrayed her position.

Russell, covered in blood, cleared the trees and looked up at her with a smile.

She could see that he was holding the bloody machete in one hand… and Dempsey’s head in the other.

Sarah turned and fell down the other side of the tracks. Her head struck the ground… hard. She started to lose consciousness. She could hear him ascending the rock pile. Sarah got up again and ran. She was moving upward… upward… and then the ground gave way beneath her feet as she fell down the steep cliff… tumbling… tumbling… her left leg broke as she collided with a tree… and kept tumbling… until she reached the bottom of the valley, landing on a jagged piece of a dead tree that went clear through her left thigh. She cried out once and then passed out from the pain.

Russell stood at the edge of the cliff, looking down into the dark abyss. He waited, listening for the woman to cry out. She never did.

Convinced the woman had perished from the fall, he went back to their camp. Russell retrieved a towel from Dempsey’s personal items and discovered the man’s wallet. He sat down next to the fire, wiped the blood from his face with the towel and then examined the contents of the wallet. Other than the man’s driver’s license and a couple hundred dollars, the arrogant scientist’s wallet contained a single photo of himself embracing another man in a very intimate way.

Russell read the man’s name on the license and laughed. “Well… well… Marcus Dempsey, it would seem that we share at least one thing in common. We both have our dark secrets.”

He threw the wallet over his shoulder, along with the bloody towel. Russell picked up Dempsey’s head, tossed it into the flames, and then watched it burn…

~~~

NOW…

“…So I ate with those scientists and we decided to travel together at first light.” Russell was finishing his fabricated story. “We followed the tracks north until arriving at the plant.” Russell paused to collect himself, forcing his eyes to water up.

Alysa leaned in with a strip of gauze and gently wiped the wetness from his face.

“Thank you,” he said. Russell took a deep breath and finished. “If it wasn’t for those three kind souls, especially Sarah, I don’t think I would’ve made it.”

Bravo, boss. Tears were a nice touch. You almost had me convinced.

Alysa’s face was unreadable. She leaned back in her chair. “And your friends… these scientists… where are they now?”

Russell frowned. “You already know the answer to that.”

“They’re dead.” Alysa seemed strangely satisfied by the declaration.

“Not necessarily.” Russell would not let her have it. “I never saw them again when we arrived at the plant. They had a cure to find and I had to discover… myself. They gave me their camping gear and they were escorted into the main facility. I remained outside at the refugee camp. The place was eventually attacked by those… yellow-eyed things… but I managed to escape. It’s possible they did, too.”

Alysa laughed. “You don’t believe that.”

Russell smiled. “No… I don’t. But maybe you needed to hear it.”

Alysa studied the man’s face. “You think I’ve given up hope, don’t you? That I hide away from the world… maybe even ‘the fight’ by choosing to remain here in relative safety?”

Russell let the questions hang. You’re not worth my words on the matter, he thought.

Alysa turned away and shook her head. “And yet, you’re the one lying in this bed, broken. While people like me are still here to clean up the mess. You would be dead, too, if not for me… if I hadn’t made the choices I made that placed me here.”

“And I’m grateful.” Russell spat the words out and looked away.

Alysa got up and started pacing.

Watch it, boss. We still need this sheltered bitch… at least until a weapon becomes available. After that… well… we’ll decorate this cabin with a fresh shade of cowardly red.

Yes. We will.

“My things,” Russell attempted to switch gears, “I assume you have them?”

“I’ve encountered those yellow-eyed demons before arriving here. They’re vicious. How did you escape the plant?” Alysa had put her large cloak back on and moved toward a window. She seemed to be examining the darkness. Whether it was outside or her own haunted memories within, Russell couldn’t tell.

“I refused to be alone. I knew that was a death sentence.”

Alysa turned and glared at him.

The other one was laughing. My… oh… my, boss. You certainly know how to get their attention. I prefer your more brutal approach, of course.

“I met other people at the camp,” Russell explained. “It took people to get me there… and more people to help me escape when the plant was overrun.”

“And what happened to them? Are they dead now, too?”

She’s just a regular fuckin’ fountain of cheer, isn’t she, boss? After you gut this pig, she’ll probably have the nerve to interrupt the final thrust of your blade and say, ‘See, I told you!’

“I was feeling down after I reached the refugee camp. There was so much pain and uncertainty there. Everyone was constantly staring over their shoulders as if the Devil was chasing them. I started to feel like I was better off outside. And then I met her…”

~~~

Next Episode 37-3

Previous Episode

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 37-2: Through the Eyes of a Devil” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. 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 35-7: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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~~~

Summer 1973

Meredith sluggishly sat at the dining room table before a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of orange juice, trying to stay awake. Saturday morning breakfast was not the formal affair her first morning had been. Most of the girls who didn’t have assigned chores that morning were allowed to sleep in and serve themselves from the kitchen after they woke. Afterwards, they scattered to have what Miss Evans called, ‘Free Day’, which consisted of either hanging out in the school room to work on arts and crafts, or just to kick back and read, or go outside and play games with the other girls until lunch. Normally, Meredith would have loved to just kick back and chill outside, but not today. Her head throbbed and she had no appetite. As she stirred her soggy oats with a spoon, she tried to remember how she got back to her room last night. Her memory was foggy. She remembered her excursion to the basement and then finding the strange toy room with the porcelain dolls. But aside from that, she couldn’t remember much else.

That’s not true, and you know it! she thought. Toby was there! Toby spoke to you… through that doll! She didn’t want to think about it. Dolls couldn’t speak to people… and if they could… only crazy people could hear them.

Clementine entered carrying a plate of toast, looking like she hadn’t slept yet as she let out a big yawn and roughly sat down next to Meredith.

Meredith turned and marveled at the black bird’s nest atop Clementine’s head and couldn’t help snickering. “Lost your brush?” she kidded.

Clementine shrugged her shoulders and shoved a piece of toast in her mouth.

“Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” Meredith observed. “That’s okay. I’m not feeling great this morning either.”

Clementine didn’t respond.

Meredith tried again. “Want to go outside after breakfast? The fresh air might-”

“Where were you last night?” Clementine barked.

“Excuse me?”

“I stopped by to visit. You weren’t in your bed.”

Meredith began to panic. She took a sip of her orange juice to stall. “I went downstairs to get a drink. Maybe you just missed me coming back?”

“Stop lying to me. I waited for over an hour. You didn’t come back.” Clementine refused to look at her. She shoved another piece of toast in her mouth.

Meredith was getting irked. “Sorry. I didn’t know I had to clear my every move with you first,” she snapped. “I went… exploring.”

Clementine stared at her and finally smiled. “You went to the basement,” she accused. “Don’t deny it.”

Meredith said nothing. She took another sip from her glass.

The dark-haired girl looked like she was about to explode. “Don’t ignore me when I’m talking to you!”

“Stop ordering me around!” Meredith fired back. “Maybe I did… maybe I didn’t. What’s it matter?”

Clementine eased up. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I just… I was just upset that I waited for you and you never came back.”

Meredith gave her a puzzled look. “Did you think I took off in the middle of the night? That I ran away?”

“It crossed my mind,” she said. “Just forget it and eat your damn… whatever that is.” Clementine got up and stormed out of the dining room before Meredith could say another word.

Meredith shook her head and said, “Wow…. What a mega bitch!”

“Good morning, Meredith.”

Meredith turned around, startled to discover Dr. Forrester standing at the other end of the dining room with her arms crossed and leaning against the entranceway. She wasn’t wearing her white coat and looked a little too casual for a doctor, dressed in jeans and a blouse.

“I… uhh… hello… Dr. Forrester…” She stood up.

“Candice,” she said with an amused smile.

“Uh…yeah… Dr. Candice… I mean… Candice…”

“Relax, Meredith. You’re absolutely right… Clementine can be a bit of a mega bitch sometimes. But you didn’t hear me say that… just like I didn’t hear you say it.” She added a playful wink.

Meredith smiled and nodded. “Would you like a bowl of disgusting oatmeal? It’s about the only thing I can make.” She looked at the soggy mess and finished, “Honestly, I don’t think I can make oatmeal either.”

“No… I’ll pass. But thank you. I came by to see how you were doing.”

“I’m a little tired, but I’m okay.”

“Trouble sleeping?”

“Well… you know… new place and all. I’ll get used to it eventually.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Meredith. Sounds like you’re starting to like it here.”

“It’s okay.”

Candice ran a hand through her shoulder-length brown hair and yawned. “Excuse me. Apparently I could’ve used a little more sleep, too.”

“You’re very pretty for a doctor,” Meredith said.

Candice flashed her a surprised smile. “Well… thank you… I think.”

“Oh… I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve just never seen a doctor in regular clothes before. I mean… forget I said anything.” Meredith stared down at her feet, feeling embarrassed for speaking out of turn.

“I understand. No worries, Meredith. The word you’re looking for is ‘professional’. Usually we doctors look and act the part, with very little time for anything else.” Candice hesitated and gave her a thoughtful look. “I’m about to go off duty for the weekend but I’d love to take a walk first. Why don’t you join me? Unless you’re bound and determined to finish that delightful bowl of… what are you calling it again?”

“Oatmeal?”

“Okay… sure… we can call it that if you want.” Candice gave her a ‘yuk’ face, putting her finger to her mouth.

Meredith laughed and said, “No… I’m good. I’ll take you up on that walk.”

“Great. I’ll take you out back. I think some of the girls are playing volleyball this morning.”

~~~

The view from the back side of the property was breathtaking. Meredith was awed by how vast the fields were, which seemed to go on forever, reminding her of the dream with the emerald lion.

She sat down with Dr. Forrester at a picnic table as six of the older girls, including Clementine and that know-it-all girl, Claudia, from class, were picking teams. Finch was also there, supervising the game. From a distance he almost looked like one of the girls sporting that long red ponytail.

Meredith snickered at the thought.

“Something funny?” Candice asked.

She nodded at Finch. “I didn’t know he was still here.”

“You mean, Michael?”

“Yeah. I didn’t see him at breakfast yesterday. I thought he’d left.”

Candice smiled. “Michael’s here on the weekends. Among other things, he’s our activities director. All the girls love him and he keeps things light.”

“He was nice to me on the drive over. I was so mean to him.”

“Don’t worry about it, Meredith. Michael’s an easy going guy. He won’t hold it against you. If I’m not mistaken, he’ll be running crafts tomorrow afternoon in the classroom. Michael enjoys helping the girls tap into their creative sides. He firmly believes that the best way to understand ourselves is through what we create. I believe you’ll enjoy it.”

Meredith smiled. “Sounds fun. I think I will. As long as I don’t have to create anymore oatmeal.”

Candice laughed.

The girls started playing.

They watched in silence for a few moments, absorbing the sights and sounds of a beautiful summer morning. For Meredith, this almost felt normal and she relished anything that made her feel… normal… and not some freak standing out in a crowd.

“Meredith,” Candice said. “Since I have you here, I wanted to ask you about last night.”

Meredith turned to look at her. “Last night?”

“You know… when you left your room and visited the basement.”

Meredith was caught off guard. She didn’t know what to say.

Candice laughed. “It’s alright. You’re not in trouble. I just wanted to ask you about it, if that’s okay?”

“How… how did you know? Did Clem tell you?”

Candice gave her an ‘are you serious’ look and answered, “Meredith, nothing goes on in this house without someone knowing about it. It’s part of our job to look after all of you. But how I know is not important. What I want to know is why you went down there in the middle of the night?”

“I… I don’t like secrets,” Meredith confessed. “Clem made it such a big deal telling me that the basement was ‘off limits’, but she wouldn’t tell me why. It drove me nuts. So… I had to find out.”

“Of course you did,” Candice said. “I’d probably do the same thing in your shoes. So what was your impression when you visited the dolls? I assume you found them.”

“Yes, I did,” Meredith admitted, but would say nothing else. “I thought the room was strange… all those toys and those crazy dolls in the cases. Why is all that down there?”

Candice nodded. “Originally, when we first moved into the house, we’d planned on having a room for much younger children than the rest of you. But due to unforeseeable expenses, and a lack of staffing, it was decided that toddlers wouldn’t thrive here, so we moved all those toys into the basement. I think the plan was to get rid of that stuff, but then things got busy and everyone forget about the toys. So we just left them alone. The reason the basement is off limits is more for safety concerns since there’s a lot of stuff being stored down there.” Candice quickly looked away and back toward the girls.

Meredith only saw it for a brief moment, but she was certain Candice was lying… or not telling the whole truth. Besides, none of that explained why a girl doll named Toby spoke with her. Maybe it was all in your head, she thought with concern. Maybe you inhaled paint fumes or something and imagined all of it.

“So… there was nothing else?” Candice pressed.

“Excuse me?”

Candice sighed. “The dolls, Meredith. Is there anything else you can tell me about them?”

“I don’t understand the question.” Meredith could clearly sense Candice’s annoyance beneath her friendly exterior. What does she expect me to say?

“You’re a damn liar!” Claudia yelled, causing the volleyball game to come to a halt.

Meredith turned toward the girls just in time to watch the know-it-all cross over to the other side of the net and get in Clem’s face.

“What did you call me?” Clem looked like she was ready to punch the taller girl.

“Ladies… please calm down,” Finch said, taking a cautious step toward the pair. “It’s just a friendly game.” He stopped and gave Dr. Forrester a worried glance.

Meredith turned to Candice. She looked terrified. “Meredith,” she said, getting up from the picnic table. “I want you to stay right here.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Just… stay here.” Candice was frantically reaching into her purse.

Meredith turned back toward the girls.

“You heard me, bitch!” Claudia nearly spat in Clem’s face they were so close. “You’re a liar… and you know it!”

Clem gave the taller girl a frightening smile. “What are you going to do about it, Clau-di-a?” she mocked.

The taller girl shoved Clem in the chest, knocking her to the ground.

The other girls gasped and took a step back. They were all looking at Finch.

Finch appeared unsure how to proceed. “Okay… enough is enough,” he finally said. “Clem… just… just take it easy now. Claudia, stand down.”

Claudia’s angry expression changed the moment she realized what she’d done. “This is a stupid game anyway,” she said to no one, trying to save face. But Meredith could clearly see it: Claudia was terrified. She turned and headed back toward the house.

“Where are you going, Clau-di-a?” Clem taunted with a sinister little laugh. She slowly rose to her feet. “We’re not done talking yet, Clau-di-a.”

Candice retrieved a small black box from her purse. Meredith watched her push some sort of button on it repeatedly as she started moving toward the girls. She turned back when Meredith started to rise and said, “I mean it! Stay right here!”

Meredith quickly sat back down.

Clem started to follow Claudia toward the house. The other girls quickly parted, allowing her to pass. Finch simply stood there, but cautioned, “Clementine… don’t. Let it go and calm down.”

Clem ignored him and yelled at Claudia’s back, “Where are you going? Turn around and come back, you coward!”

Claudia refused to look back. She actually quickened her pace toward the rear of the house reminding Meredith of a swimmer trying to reach the shore before the shark caught up.

Candice stepped in front of Clem with her arms raised. “Clementine… please calm down.”

Clem stopped, looked into Dr. Forrester’s eyes and barked, “MOVE!”

“Candice!” Finch yelled. “What the hell are you doing? Get out of her way!”

Candice took three steps back from the enraged girl.

Meredith stood up. She had no idea what was happening but the fear was contagious. Without thinking, she yelled out to Clem. “Stop it!”

Meredith’s voice distracted Clem. She looked over at her new best friend, saw something familiar in Meredith’s face, and frowned.

Miss Evans came bursting out the back door accompanied by two big men wearing white shirts. She only saw it for a moment, but Meredith swore she saw one of the men trying to conceal what looked like a gun belt beneath his long untucked shirt.

The big woman signaled the men to stand back and then rushed toward the angry girl.

Claudia was almost in tears by the time she made it to the back door.

“Clementine!” Miss Evans voice carried like thunder. “Clementine, you stop this foolishness immediately!” She stopped ten feet from the girl.

Clem turned away from Meredith and gave Miss Evans a threatening glare.

Miss Evan’s face reminded Meredith of an approaching hurricane. “Don’t you dare look at me like that, child! You stand down this instant… before you find yourself in a world of trouble.”

Something clicked in Clem. She stopped, let her shoulders droop with a heavy sigh, and then looked away from the big woman. “She started it,” Clem added weakly.

“And I’m finishing it… right now! Do you understand me, child?” Miss Evans didn’t even flinch. To Meredith, she was like an immovable stone.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Clem responded, staring at her feet.

Miss Evans put her hands to her side and gave Clem a disapproving stare, shaking her head. “We’ve talked about this, child. We’ve talked about your… temper… and the consequences. Have we not?”

Clem simply nodded. All her anger had dissipated.

“Girls… inside!” Miss Evans ordered.

The other girls who had been too scared to move, suddenly dispersed, rushing toward the house.

The big woman gave Finch and Candice a glance and nodded to them.

They nodded back.

Finch followed the girls into the house.

Candice came back to Meredith. “Time to go, Meredith. I’m sorry our talk was cut short.”

“Is everything-”

“Not now,” Candice cut in, grabbing Meredith’s arm. “We need to let Miss Evans and Clementine have some space. Everything is alright now.”

Meredith could hear the fear in Candice’s voice. She looked back once at Clem who looked like she was receiving the scolding of her life as Miss Evans hovered over her. She could not hear what the big woman was saying but Meredith could tell Clem was not enjoying it.

Meredith looked for the two mysterious men. They had disappeared.

The only thing she knew for certain was that everything was definitely not alright.

~~~

Next Episode 35-8

Previous Episode 35-6

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-7: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. 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 35-6: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 19, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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megan

~~~

Doctor Arnold Cooper stared into the microscope with a heavy sigh. He looked back up and leaned back in his chair, ran a hand through his messy gray hair and then rubbed his eyes. “No matter how many times I look into that damn thing at those damn dead cells, I always come up with the same damn conclusion.”

Meredith came over with a cup of Cooper’s coffee and handed it to him. “And what ‘damn’ conclusion is that?” she asked with a teasing smile.

“Number one: I need a cigarette. Two: There’s nothing in that girl’s blood that makes a lick of sense. She should be dead… and yet, there she is, moving around in that observation room like a really bad joke.”

“Maybe you just need to take a break, Coop. Come back at it with a fresh set of eyes.” Meredith
sat down in the chair across from him. “I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until we come across something we’ve overlooked.”

Cooper laughed and dramatically waved his hands above his head. “And there you go again spilling that extra-large cup of optimism all over my damn ‘bitch-fest’! Frankly, Meredith, I don’t know how you keep on doing it.”

“Doing what?”

He got up and walked over to glass window of his lab and stared across into the observation room. Megan was sitting on her mattress with her knees up, head buried into her crossed arms while she rocked back and forth. “You keep trying to reach out to her, hoping that she’ll come back from that savage place, while everything I know about medical science says that we’re looking at a dead woman… and I mean… D E A D… as in, the lights are out in that brain of hers and never going to come back on again.”

“I refuse to believe that,” Meredith said. “Besides, I got a good look at this sickness when I was in Harpersfield and I know that this poor girl is still in there… somewhere… behind all that death and violence.”

“You keep telling me that, Meredith. But I find it hard to believe. Hell… I’m still having trouble believing that you can do all the things I keep hearing about.”

She smiled. “You mean my witchcraft?”

“Now don’t go putting words into my mouth,” the doctor defended. “You know I think the world of you and I don’t give two shits what anyone in this bunker says. It’s just that I’ve never seen you use your super powers in here so any hypothesis based on your… abilities… has no bearing now. All we have is one unresponsive girl and a blood sample full of dead cells. What’s left that we haven’t tried?”

“Are you saying we should give up then?” Meredith was getting frustrated. “Just place a bullet in Megan’s head and put her down like a rabid dog?”

“There are more humane ways to put that poor girl out of her misery,” he suggested.

The fierce look she flashed him could melt steel.

He raised his hands. “All I’m saying is that we don’t know what hell that girl is going through… and that it might be time to give her some peace. If it were me in there, I’d hope that someone would end the madness and let me go.”

Meredith turned away. Maybe he’s right. Perhaps we’re just prolonging the inevitable. And even if Megan could come back, what kind of life could she possibly have… like this?

Cooper came back and sat down in front of the tired woman. “From what you’ve told me about this strain of the infection, I’ve heard you describe it as being ‘half dead’. They are not completely gone, but they’re not exactly alive anymore either. So what can we possibly do for this poor girl? And what kind of life could she have if she had to constantly suppress her need to feed… on us?”

Meredith nodded, hearing her own thoughts echoed. “I know what you’re saying. Believe me, I’ve spent many nights thinking about what Megan would do if she ever did come back. Would she hate us for keeping her alive? Would she blame herself for losing the child and curse life? Would she ever be allowed to live freely outside this cage and out among the population? Every perplexing question I come up with leads to fifty more questions… and so on. Bottom line, we just don’t know what Megan would want. And until she can tell us, we need to make every effort to try and bring her back to us. Hope is all there is now.”

Cooper sighed heavily and shook his head. “You are one stubborn and remarkable woman, Miss Montgomery.”

She smiled. “I know.”

“Wait, I said that wrong. I think I meant remarkably stubborn,” he added with a wink.

Meredith lightly punched him in the shoulder. “Thanks for not giving up on me, old man.”

“Well… you’re going to owe me big time for this.”

“I’ll buy you a carton of cigarettes,” she said.

He sat back and folded his arms. “Hmm… sounds good for starters. But I was thinking, you still owe me that damn drink.”

Meredith leaned forward and said, “When Megan comes back, I’ll be your date to the prom.”

“Promises… promises…” he said with a laugh. “Now, let’s go over it again. Like you said, maybe we’re missing something.”

“Alright.”

Cooper stood up and started pacing. “We know this all started with The Change. We know that the dead and the living were affected in different ways.”

“Yes,” Meredith continued. “It struck randomly among the living causing many people to turn into those yellow-eyed haters.”

“And at the same time, the already deceased were re-animated, which accounts for all those dark-eyed sluggish drunkards roaming the countryside. And then throw in the rare red-eyed monsters, which we have concluded came from a small number of animals which turned and infected people before said animals mysteriously died off. Perhaps they’re smaller bodies could not keep up with the ravenous command to feed. So that just leaves the half-deads. As far as we know, those silver-eyed creatures were created through infection by the yellow-eyed haters. Correct?”

Meredith nodded. “The yellow-eyed haters infect the living and create the silver-eyed half-deads. The dark-eyed re-animated infect the living and create more like themselves. And as far as anyone knows, the red-eyed beasts slaughter everything they kill so it’s not known whether they can infect the living. But I think it’s safe to assume that they can create more like themselves, especially since they have a ‘pack’ mentally like wolves.”

“Which means,” Cooper finished, “that we have no idea what would happen if Megan were to bite one of us?”

“That’s true,” Meredith said. “I haven’t heard one story from anyone about half-deads infecting the living. So we have no idea what would happen.”

Cooper paced some more and then said, “Maybe we’re going at this all wrong. Perhaps instead of studying the psychology and behaviors of the dead, we should be looking more at the living. This whole ‘random’ thing is very interesting.”

“How so?”

“Well, was The Change really random or are certain human beings simply immune to it? I think I should start taking blood samples from our group and try to find the common variable in all of us. Perhaps by comparing samples I might find a clue that could help us understand this outbreak better. Maybe even develop an antidote of some kind.” He stopped, noticing Meredith’s million-miles away stare. “What is it?”

Meredith shook her head. “Just ghosts. I’ve been visited by a lot of phantoms from the past as of late. Just listening to you get excited about studying the dead reminded me of someone else I once knew. Even Megan reminds me of the past.”

Cooper sat back down and sighed. “You know I’ve tried not to press. Lord knows, Gina’s done all but torture you to get you to tell her what you’re hiding-”

“I’m not hiding anything!” Meredith snapped. “I’m protecting everyone, Coop! What I know isn’t going to help us bring back Megan or answer any other questions we have. What I know will get people killed. I’ve made my decision, for better or worse, and I’m going to do what I must to keep people alive. If that means keeping my past to myself… well… then just believe me when I say that I’ve got my reasons!”

Cooper raised his hands and laughed. “Calm down, before you set me on fire with those intense eyes. All I was getting at was that maybe there is something in your past that could help us with that girl… something you’re not connecting the dots to yet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… think about it. This group… Mother… didn’t they abduct Megan to begin with? If so, they must have had a real good reason. If we can figure out what that reason was, maybe we can shed some light on how to help her now. That’s all I was trying to say before you shot my damn head off.”

Meredith eased up. “I see. Well, I’m sorry for yelling at you. It’s just… I’ve spent my whole life trying to forget my ties with these people, and that was long before they went by Mother. And then after The Change… I started seeing things out in the open that used to be nowhere but in my nightmares… and I’m not talking about the dead.”

“You’re talking about that strange three-pronged symbol,” Coop stated.

“Yes. When I first started seeing that symbol again, I knew right away that something was dreadfully wrong… something more than just the dead roaming the world. And like a frightened child, I just hid from the truth, hoping that it would just go away… but it’s not going away.”

“And you figure we’re close enough to the Devil without making it worse by knocking right on his damn door, right?”

Meredith smiled. “More or less. Truthfully, if there had been another option at the time, I never would have attempted accessing the security door into this place. I would’ve done everything in my power to steer us miles away from here.”

“It’s that bad?”

Meredith leaned in close and whispered. “This place and all those evil men protecting it before the explosion… I fear they are just the beginning of something far worse… something we won’t be able to control or stop if they figure out what to do with us.”

“So you’re saying that Mother is well aware that we’ve been living in their fancy bomb shelter? Why would they let us do that? Why not take the place away from us?”

Meredith frowned and stared at her shaking hands. She clasped them together to keep them still. “Because Mother likes games. Mother likes to observe… everything.” She let out a deep breath. “It took me years to believe that I’d liberated myself from them. I’d started a new life…” She stopped as the painful memory of losing Hannah threatened. “But when I put my hand in that access port leading into this facility… and that I was granted access… I knew how wrong I’d been in that one devastating moment. It was like Mother had left the door wide open for me to come back anytime, even after all those years running and lying to myself.” She gave Cooper a grave look and finished. “And just like when I thought I was free… that’s where we all are now. No one is ever ‘free’ of Mother. There is only the illusion of freedom.”

Cooper nodded. “So… are you saying Mother let us in here by using you to do it? Was that Mother’s intent all along?”

Meredith shook her head. “I don’t know, Coop. God… I hope not. The implications would be… terrifying. All I do know is that I was never really free… and that Mother has probably had her eyes on me for a very long time.”

Coop shook his head and laughed. “So we’re either the luckiest S.O.B.’s for landing this place before everything went ‘ka-boom’, or… Mother has us exactly where she wants us.”

“Precisely,” Meredith said.

“And that’s why you don’t mess around with that mystery door at the end of the hall?”

Meredith smiled. “I’ve already opened one door I didn’t want to open, and now we’re all here. I’m not about to open Pandora’s Box a second time. I’ll die first before I do that. Besides, opening that door is probably exactly what they want me to do. God only knows what we’ll find beyond that door.”

“Maybe we’ll just find more resources?” Coop offered. “Maybe even some advanced medications and equipment that we could use to help Megan?”

“Maybe,” Meredith said. “Or maybe we’ll find an even smaller prison than the one Mother’s already assigned us to.”

Cooper had no response. Finally he stood up and said, “I’ll go check on Megan on my way out. You get some rest.”

“Where are you going?”

“That’s enough conspiracy theories for one day. I’m gonna go see if I can’t kill someone for a cigarette.”

Meredith smiled. “See you later, Coop.”

After she was alone again, Meredith couldn’t stop thinking about that unlocked door which took her back to the age of thirteen. There was so much she’d forgotten about. Maybe I needed to forget for a reason, she considered. Or maybe Cooper was right. Perhaps if she looked hard enough into the past she might find some way to help Megan… or at least uncover some definitive answers for herself involving her ties to Mother.

She closed her eyes and let the ghosts back in…

~~~

Next Episode 35-7

Previous Episode 35-5

~~~

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 35-6: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. 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 35-5: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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doll1

~~~

After the strangest class she’d ever attended, Meredith was required to visit the house clinic before she could hide away in her temporary bedroom and collapse beneath the blankets. She was emotionally exhausted… and extremely embarrassed by her public breakdown.

The clinic looked like any other clinic. Various posters displaying the human anatomy lined the walls. There was a standard ‘eye’ chart, weight and height scale, and a long uncomfortable bed surrounded by various medical gizmos. The small room gave off a faint latex/bleach aroma.

A small woman wearing a lab coat introduced herself as Dr. Candice Forrester, resident physician and psychologist. She wore glasses, had a tightly braided brown ponytail, and the typical demeanor of a school nurse who was just polite enough to make you feel a little better than a lab rat.

Doctor Forrester had conducted a routine physical, completing Meredith’s uncomfortable day. After getting dressed, Forrester had told her to take a seat in her much larger office while the good doctor cleaned up.

Meredith sat in a chair before a large oak desk, which seemed much too big for the room. There was a file cabinet in one corner and various certificates decorated the walls.

Forrester entered with a clipboard in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. The small woman moved behind the large desk and sat down, completing the absurdness of the goliath desk, making the woman look comical. She took a sip from her cup and set it down, along with the clipboard. Then she started looking through a file on her cluttered desk, appearing to forget that Meredith was there.

“Well, young lady,” she finally said. “Everything checks out. I have nothing to report. You’re a healthy girl.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

Forrester removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes, and then replaced them. She then laughed and said, “All you girls are so well-behaved. None of that ‘Ma’am’ stuff with me, alright? You can call me Candice.”

“Alright… Candice.”

Candice folded her hands and looked her in the eyes. “So, Meredith, let’s get right down to it. How are you adjusting so far? Any concerns? Questions?”

Meredith had a millions questions, but now that she was put on the spot, she struggled to think of just one. Finally she asked, “I’m told this isn’t an orphanage. I don’t know what to call this place. Does it have a name?”

Candice smirked as if her question were an old one. “To answer that, Meredith, I need to ask you a question first. Did your previous foster home have a name… and I’m very sorry for your loss, by the way?”

“Thank you… and… no.”

“So what did you call it?”

Meredith found the question strange. She’d never really thought about it. “I guess… home?”

“Precisely,” Candice said. “Miss Evans took great care in not giving this house a name for the very same reason. She wanted to create a ‘home’ for her girls that was defined by what was inside of it… the people. If you asked any of the girls who have been with us for a while, they’d call this place their home, too.”

Meredith shook her head. “Makes sense. I guess I never thought of it that way. I’ve just never been in a place quite like this one before.”

“Yes… I feel very much the same, Meredith. This… home… is unique. Maybe in time, you’ll come to feel the same way as many of the girls do.”

Meredith nodded, as the questions started flooding her mind. “Are all the girls… well… like me?” She winced at the last part, expecting Forrester to give her that strange ‘you are a freak’ look she’d grown accustomed to when addressing her own abnormalities.

Candice leaned back in her chair, smiled, and nodded. “Now that is a very astute question, Meredith. I’m afraid the answer is much more complicated. But I will tell you that you’re not the only girl here who has ever shared a difficult and unusual story in Miss Evan’s class before.”

“Oh, you know about that?”

Candice kept going. “It’s not by chance that you’re here, Meredith. In time, you’ll discover that for yourself.”

Meredith laughed. “You sound like Clem. She won’t tell me anything either.”

“Let’s just say that some things are best answered through… self-discovery. What else do you have for me?”

Meredith treaded carefully. “What’s with the lions?”

Candice laughed. “Ah… the pictures in your room.”

“That’s not what I-”

“I assure you, Meredith. Everything here has a purpose… like those pictures in the guest room. They’re not hanging on the wall to frighten you… more to stimulate the creative process.”

Meredith considered her words and then raised her eyebrows. “You’re responsible for the pictures! You wanted me to dream about them?”

Candice looked please. “You are a very intelligent young lady,” she said. “Part of what I do here involves what I can retrieve from your… dreams. We process new experiences in different ways. Sometimes dreams unlock doors that we otherwise couldn’t or simply don’t know how to open when awake. That’s why we put new arrivals in the guest room for their first couple of nights. Have you had any dreams, Meredith?”

Meredith shut down. “Nothing I can remember clearly,” she lied, and then wondered what else Forrester knew. Did Clem tell her about my dream? In truth, she didn’t know why she was holding back other than a feeling which made her believe that speaking about Toby might be a bad idea. Besides, if they wanted to keep secrets, she could keep a few, as well.

Candice waited with a look of expectation. When Meredith had nothing else to add, she sighed. “Okay, we’ll talk about that another time… maybe when you feel more comfortable-”

“What’s in the basement?” Meredith blurted out.

Candice pretended not to hear the question. She started shuffling paperwork on her desk. “Well, that’s enough for one day, Meredith. I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that my door is always open. Whenever you wish to talk, please feel free to come speak with me.”

Meredith thought she sensed a little attitude, as if the good doctor was saying, If you won’t talk about what I want to know… then I won’t talk about what you want to know. She decided to let the basement matter go, remembering what Miss Evans said about knowing when to ask a question.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Meredith.” The doctor got up, putting on her professional mask again.

Meredith got up and put her own mask back on. “Thank you, Ma’am… I mean… Candice.”

“I’ll check in on you in a little bit,” Candice concluded. “Get some rest and enjoy your first weekend. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to talk about later.” The doctor winked with a smile and walked her out of the clinic.

What was that wink all about? Meredith thought after Candice left her in the hallway. For a moment she believed the doctor had somehow read her mind, but then dismissed her suspicions as just her own guilt manifesting itself.

She hadn’t told anyone that she planned to sneak a peek into the basement that night.

~~~

Meredith lay in her bed watching the moonlit shadows of a large tree dancing upon the wall opposite her small window. She stared at her watch: 1:15am. She was positive that everyone was asleep by now. She’d made occasional trips down to the large community bathroom at the end of the hall, listening for silence coming from the other bedrooms where the girls slept. One by one, the voices had went away and lights were reduced to provide only what was necessary to keep someone from stumbling in the darkness.

She was still trying to work up the nerve to wander the large house, rehearsing in her mind what she would say if anyone caught her sneaking around, and then started to panic when she considered it. Finally, she ignored the excuses and the fear, took a deep breath, and got out of bed.

Stop acting like such a baby, she thought. You’re just taking a walk to the basement, not robbing a bank. Relax!

She started to feel silly as she opened her door a crack to peek out into the hallway again.

No one said there was a bed curfew, she tried to rationalize, although she suspected there was one but they just hadn’t told the new girl about it yet. They probably think you’re just a frightened little girl in a strange new place, and that you’d never think twice about sneaking around in the dark.

“I’ll show them,” she whispered. “If they didn’t want people to be so darn curious, they should never have made such a big deal about the basement in the first place.”

With that, her resolve was set. Meredith stepped out into the hall, slowly closed her door, and then crept toward the second floor landing. She quickly descended the stairs and tried to ignore the loud pounding of her heart in her chest.

Relax… they’re all asleep. You just came down to get a drink of water if anyone finds you. What’s the harm in that?

The house looked so different at night. She was used to it being filled with activity, but now, the large old home took on a life of its own.

What are you doing down here, little girl? her over-active imagination asked.

Her shoulders tensed up when she reached the dark kitchen. She was close.

You shouldn’t be down here all by yourself, little girl, the house warned. Bad things happen to little girls who sneak out of their beds… very bad things…

By the time she saw the basement door near the laundry room, Meredith had to stop and breathe after successfully giving herself the creeps.

“Meredith Montgomery,” she scolded herself. “You are being ridiculous!”

She pushed the fear out and focused on the basement door. Just a quick look and then we head back to bed. No one will ever know I was down there.

Meredith started toward the door and felt every hair on her body stand up by the time she was half-way to it. She shook involuntarily from a chill that seized her and crossed her arms across her chest.

What is this? She felt that same strange, unidentifiable feeling she’d felt earlier. Whatever it was made her want to crawl out of her own skin.

You’re doing it again, chicken. Stop being so afraid of nothing!

She dismissed her discomfort and slowly reached for the door knob. For a moment she imagined the knob changing into a large monstrous hand, reaching out to grab her extended arm just before she could turn and run.

Meredith quickly tapped the door knob and rolled her eyes when nothing ‘scary’ happened. And then a thought struck her: What if it’s locked?

She’d never even considered that until now. She turned the knob and the door opened inward toward the dark stairs. She retracted her hand quickly and took a step back.

Nothing happened as she stared at the partially opened door, but the strange unknown sensation that crawled over her body intensified. She could only compare the feeling to an electrical charge one might experience just before a bolt of lightning struck nearby.

She almost turned around right then… almost.

Oh not you don’t! You’ve come this far now get this over with! She frowned and stepped back to the door and pushed it all the way open. Again, nothing happened.

The stairs looked like any other set of old wooden basement steps. There were no monsters charging, no alarms going off… nothing.

She shook her head at her own cowardice and saw the light bulb with the chain attached to it. She reached across the basement landing, and pulled the chain until the bulb came to life.

Before she had second thoughts, Meredith forced herself down the creaky steps until her bare feet met the carpeted basement floor. To her immediate left, she could see a large open space full of boxes neatly stacked along the walls. Some larger objects, such as covered furniture, a couple of bicycles, and several long racks of old clothes were scattered about the center of the space. There was an old furnace toward the back… just your typical basement full of junk with a strong aroma of mothballs and what she could only describe as an ‘old’ smell.

Some secret basement this is, she thought with both relief and a hint of disappointment.

She looked to her right and saw another storage room across a hall that ran back behind the stairs. Meredith peeked inside the room, found a light switch, and turned it on revealing shelves full of paint supplies, tools, cleaning supplies, etc.

Meredith turned toward the dark hallway and immediately felt that strange creepy-crawly sensation again. Whatever it was had to be coming from back there. She saw another hanging light bulb further down the hall. Meredith crept toward it and quickly pulled the chain. The light revealed an open door to her right. She looked inside and found a small half bathroom. She looked dead ahead and saw another large open space at the end of the hall. Meredith moved toward the space, found a light switch along the closest wall, and turned it on.

Meredith’s eyes went wide with surprise. Before her was a large room full of discarded toys lying in a large half-circle across a padded floor with letters of the alphabet imprinted on it. There were numerous stuffed animals of various sizes and colors, toy cars, a train set, puzzles, building blocks for toddlers, old board games, and a jack-in-the-box. But what caught Meredith’s attention immediately were four large glass cabinets lined up along a paneled back wall with four porcelain dolls standing inside them. The dolls appeared to be the centerpiece of this strange basement playroom that looked long neglected… abandoned.

She smiled as a funny thought struck her. “I’ve discovered the big secret,” she whispered. “I’ve uncovered the Island of Misfit Toys… or the basement they ended up in.”

Her jovial mood did not last long as she felt that intense feeling again, making her squirm uncomfortably. She felt suddenly anxious for no reason. She rubbed her forearms and took a cautious step forward toward the toys. When she stepped upon the padded mat, she stopped abruptly. The air felt suddenly heavy, making her feel like a giant hand had just come down on top of her head and was trying to crush her. Another thing she noticed was how quiet it became. She could hear her own labored breaths due to the overwhelming silence that surrounded her.

What is this? It’s like all my senses are… confused.

She finally had words to describe the strange sensation wreaking havoc on her emotions. Meredith felt like she was being pulled further into the playroom, but not in the physical sense… something was strongly pulling at her mind. She understood now that it wasn’t her curiosity that drove her to come down here… she was being compelled on a mental level that was completely foreign to her.

She stood before the doll cabinets and knew right away that they were the reason she was drawn here.

Meredith took a closer look at the dolls and shuddered. The one on the far left was of a girl in a blue and white dress. She had long blond curls and penetrating blue eyes. Meredith quickly turned away, intimidated by the intensity captured in its stony expression. The next one was a young boy clown with red straw-like hair beneath a colorful hat and matching coveralls. Its painted clown face captured a pouty frown and deep sad eyes that made the doll look as though it were on the verge of tears. Was the intent to make its owner feel sorry for it or was it simply showing her the expression of a long-time prisoner, locked within that case? Meredith didn’t care much for it either way. The next one was a child dressed up in a cat outfit with brown, black and red face paint, whiskers, and large inquisitive eyes.

Meredith turned to the last doll and stared at it as though it were an old friend. It was the smallest and least intimidating of the group. She had wild long brown hair and a baby’s head that seemed much too small for its body. Its eyes were gentle with black rings around them, giving it a tired expression. The longer Meredith stared at her the more it seemed as if that child’s face had captured the many years it had been in existence, easily the oldest doll of the lot. She immediately felt a connection to the doll, a connection that couldn’t be described in words. In a way, Meredith felt like she was looking into a mirror.

She heard it speak within her mind… not with words… but with images that Meredith was easily able to interpret.

Meredith smiled after a long moment and said, “Well, it’s finally nice to meet you, too.” She laughed at a joke only she could hear. “No… I’m not making fun of you… it’s just… well… for a girl doll, that’s a very funny name… Toby.”

Toby continued to speak to the human girl.

“You want to show me something?” Meredith asked. “Something important?’

Toby did not so much as bat an eye, but continued to stare back at Meredith, somehow inviting her to move closer to the case.

Meredith moved closer…

~~~

Next Episode 35-6

Previous Episode 35-4

~~~

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 35-5: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. 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 35-4: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 11, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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heaven-and-hell

~~~

After breakfast, Meredith changed into a sundress provided by Miss Evans and then helped Clem clear the table and wash the dishes as all the girls scattered to go about their assigned duties. Several of them had come up and briefly introduced themselves, making Meredith feel self-conscious, and yet, she started to feel more and more comfortable as the morning moved on.

Clem poked fun at her several times when Meredith stiffened up at each new encounter. “You’re not much of a people person, are you?”

Meredith took the defensive. “It’s not like that. I do like people… usually. It’s just overwhelming. Normally, people are trying to stay clear of me. But here, they all want to know me. I’m not used to that.”

“Is it because you’re a freak?”

“What do you mean by that?”

Clem laughed. “Come on, Meredith. In a house full of unusual girls, you don’t stand out, you’re actually quite normal.”

“That’s because they don’t know what I do… what I’ve done.”

“Because you’re gifted?” Clem asked. “Because you can do things normal people can’t do?”

Meredith looked shocked. “Who told you that?’

“No one. It’s just that you’re not alone, Meredith. All the girls possess ‘special’ talents that are a bit strange. Some of the younger girls are just finding out what they’re capable of… but you and me… we’ve experienced a few things.”

“Like what?”

Clem shook her head. “Nice try, but I can’t tell you that yet.”

“But I thought we were best friends. Best friends don’t keep secrets.”

“My, you are persistent,” Clem said. “I’m not keeping secrets, Meredith. It’s just that you’re not ready to hear the rest yet. Just be patient and I’ll spill the beans, alright?’

Meredith frowned. “Okay. But I’m holding you to it.”

“I’m sure you will. Now let me take you on the five minute tour before class.”

“Class?”

“Did you think by being all the way out here in the country that you’d be free of school? Monday through Friday we go to class for a few hours. Different subjects on different days of the week. It just so happens that the best class of the week is today… and you don’t want to miss this one.”

“But you’re not going to tell me anything about it, right?” Meredith asked.

Clem winked. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Let’s go before someone thinks we’re waiting for something else to do.”

The tour was nothing special: There were five bedrooms on the second floor; four were split up among the girls, and the guest bedroom where Meredith was currently staying… and of course… one master bath that all twelve girls had to share (what a nightmare). What Meredith had originally mistaken as a third floor from outside was actually a large musty attic filled with relics from another time. It had two large windows, one facing out the front of the house and the other toward the rear of the house. Both afforded spectacular views of how vast the property was. Clem told her that occasionally, Miss Evans allowed them to explore the attic and rifle through old clothes, pictures, etc., to find objects to research for their history reports. Most of the items in the attic had been there long before any of them had moved into the home, and since the house was very old, there were tons of items to investigate and look up in the books shelved in the large den on the first floor.

On the main floor was your standard dining room, living room, a large kitchen, and what used to be the large den, which housed a modest library of books. There were also many other additional rooms that had been modified to meet the home’s needs, such as a small clinic and an additional bedroom where Miss Evans slept.

When they neared a lone door at the end of a dark hallway at the farthest end of the house, just past the laundry room, Meredith stopped as a chill ran up her backside. “Do you feel that?” she asked without thinking. “It got really cold all of a sudden.”

Clem stood next to her and stared at the door. “That leads to the basement. The tour ends here, I’m afraid. The basement is strictly off-limits.”

“Why? What’s down there?”

Clem gave her an apologetic look and shrugged her shoulders. “Like I said, you’re not ready to hear everything yet. Especially about what’s down there.”

Meredith couldn’t look away from the door. She was strangely fascinated by it. No. She felt an unusual compulsion to proceed down the hall and open it, as if the house itself were summoning her to the cellar. She finally turned away and gave Clem an annoying look. “All you’ve done so far is show me all the old boring stuff.” Meredith stared at the door and finished, “Down there is probably where all the cool stuff is… and I can feel it, too. Some best friend you’re turning out to be!” She suddenly realized her tone had been harsher than intended as Clem recoiled as if she’d just slapped her. “I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean that.”

Clem shook her head and smiled. “It’s alright. I get it.” She looked toward the cellar door and finished. “You’re not the first person that’s ever felt what you’re feeling now. You really want to go down there, don’t you? And I bet you don’t even know why.”

Meredith felt surprisingly defensive but caught herself in time. “It’s just a natural reaction, is all. Anytime a kid is told he or she can’t do something or go somewhere… they immediately want to do the opposite.”

Clem laughed and put her hand on Meredith’s shoulder. “You keep telling yourself that. Now… let’s stop hovering around this silly door and get to class.”

Meredith frowned again. “No matter what changes in my life, that’s the one thing that never does.”

“Not a fan of school, I take it?” Clem laughed.

Meredith rolled her eyes. “I’d rather wash more dishes.”

Clem gently turned her around and said, “Well… I won’t lie to you. Most of the time school here is as boring as anywhere else… but today… well… today is the exception. Friday’s are the best. You’ll see.”

Meredith gave up her resistance. “Well… at least it’s the last day of the week. I guess I can suffer a couple of hours. But if I have to stand at the front of the class and talk about myself… I’m going to punch you.”

Clem laughed all the way to the classroom.

~~~

The large den at the back of the house had been converted into an all-purpose school room. Four large round tables were placed at the center of the room where all the girls currently sat facing one wall, which held a large chalk board behind a podium. Miss Evans was writing something on the board, but due to her large girth, no one could see what she was writing.

Meredith sat next to Clem at a table with three other girls, presumably the oldest in the house. She couldn’t stop staring around the room. This was nothing like any classroom she’d ever been in. Due to the large amount of books that lined several tall book shelves, the school resembled more of a library than anything else.

In between the shelves, every inch of wall space was covered in crayon drawings, paintings, poems, and other various arts and crafts projects–all presumably created by the students. Meredith couldn’t help staring at the pictures. What she’d originally dismissed as typical kid drawings, such as rainbows, butterflies, and cute poorly drawn animals, upon closer inspection, she noticed that many of the pictures displayed grim scenes of destruction. There was a crayon-drawn picture of a city skyline on fire, another of what looked like a bomb falling on a house. In a another drawing, several cars were lined up on a road with sad-faced stick figures pressed up against the car windows while other stick figures jumped up and down on the cars with crayon blood falling from their eyes. There were also several pictures of lions–in all of them, they were devouring people. Meredith looked away from the disturbing drawings, reminded of the artwork in her temporary bedroom–especially the painting of the broken stairway between heaven and hell. She was about to lean in and ask Clem about the pictures, but Clem shook her off, nodding toward the chalk board.

Miss Evans turned around and approached the podium. She took a long, deliberate moment to glance at each of the girls, taking an especially long time gazing at Meredith who squirmed in her seat until Miss Evans finally looked elsewhere.

Finch was right, she thought. She doesn’t look like a teacher as much as she looks like she just ate the teacher. She covered her smile with her hand, hoping to escape notice.

“Good morning, girls.” Miss Evan’s words carried in the large space making her voice seem ominous.

“Good morning, Miss Evans,” they all answered together. Meredith simply mouthed the words, trying to oblige with protocol.

“I want to thank you all for that fine, fine breakfast this morning and for cleaning up so efficiently afterwards.” She beamed with pride as she smiled at the girls. “As you know, the weekend is upon us and this is our final class for the week. So, as always, I expect you to continue to be on your best behavior, participate in all discussions, and let’s make this a fitting end to a very good week. Alright?”

Some nodded while several girls, including Clem, replied with, “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Very well,” Miss Evan said, placing her hands together. “As you all know, we won’t be doing any written exercises today… Although I know how much you all love Math and Grammar classwork.” She added a wink.

The girls laughed.

“But since we have a new arrival with us today, I just wanted to make it clear what is expected from this very special class.” Miss Evans pointed to a younger girl from the table to Meredith’s left. “Sonya?”

A red-haired girl, who looked to Meredith to be no older than ten, stood up, straightened her sundress, and said, “When we are not expected to do written work, we are expected to participate in any and all discussions with enthusiasm and honesty.”

“Very good, Sonya. Please be seated.”

Sonya took her seat.

Miss Evans turned to Meredith’s table and pointed to an older girl with curly blond hair. “Claudia, please remind the class what happens if participation is found wanting.”

Claudia got up, looked right at Meredith with a sigh, and said, “If anyone doesn’t participate… we all spend the weekend writing an essay… so please… don’t mess this up, new girl.”

Some of the girls laughed.

Meredith wanted to disappear.

Miss Evans shook her head. “Thank you, Claudia, for your… brutal honestly. But let’s not single anyone out in the future, alright?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Claudia said, sitting down. She refused to look at Meredith again.

Clem elbowed Meredith under the table and gave her a ‘don’t worry about it’ look.

Meredith tried to relax.

“Okay, now that we’ve had a healthy reminder of the ground rules, let’s begin with today’s discussion.” Miss Evans stepped to her right, allowing everyone to see what she wrote on the chalk board.

Written in big bold letters was the question:

WHAT IS AT THE END OF THE ROAD?

Miss Evans folded her arms and appeared to study her own question.

The class had grown quiet. After reading the strange question, Meredith looked around and noticed that all the girls appeared to be staring at the chalk board. She turned back and read the question again. To her, it sounded like a riddle.

Miss Evans mercifully broke the silence. “Would anyone like to share their thoughts on what I’ve written on the board?”

If this had been one of many public schools Meredith had attended, she would’ve expected the class clown to speak up by now and say, “The mall,” or, “Another road,” or the classic, “A question mark”, which would surely elicit a round of laugher and lighten the mood. But like everything else she’d experienced at this strange orphanage, which was not called an orphanage, Meredith did not expect the usual response.

Oh, please, please, please… just don’t call on the new girl, she thought. Meredith dared a glance at Miss Evans. She was looking right at her.

It was Clem who rescued her. She stood up and said, “Miss Evans, I have a thought I’d like to share.”

Miss Evans smiled and turned her uncomfortable gaze away from Meredith. “Clementine, it’s been a while since you’ve started the discussion. Please continue.”

Clem confidently raised her chin and said, “It’s a trick question, Ma’am. Since the road is eternal, there is no end. The only answer has to be… endlessness… eternity.”

“Well, that’s a fascinating thought, Clementine. Thank you for sharing.”

Clem nodded and sat back down. She could feel the eyes of several girls, including Meredith’s, gawking at her.

Meredith smiled and gave her a ‘That was awesome’ look.

Clem nodded as if to say, ‘I know’.

Miss Evans turned toward the others. “Clementine has offered an engaging response, class. Would anyone like to add another perspective into this question? Is she right? Is endlessness the answer?”

The blond, Claudia, stood up and said, “Clementine is right… and wrong.” She looked over at Clem with a wicked grin.

Clem scowled back in return, not appreciating being called out.

“Claudia,” Miss Evans said. “Do you have something to add?”

“Yes. The question is a trick. It’s a trick to lure the impulsive into a quick answer. But without the proper context, I could just as easily say that Maple Street’s at the end of the road, or, a white barn, or, an airport. It’s the answers that are endless… not endlessness.”

Miss Evans laughed. “Well done, Claudia. Another great response. Thank you.”

Claudia sat down with a smug smile on her face.

Meredith turned to her best friend. Clem was staring at the blond girl like she was trying to melt her with her eyes.

She elbowed Clem beneath the table and gave her a ‘stupid know-it-all’ look.

Clem turned those eyes on her and Meredith was suddenly afraid. The tempest barely contained behind her eyes made Meredith very uncomfortable.

Clem’s face suddenly softened. She smiled and rolled her eyes.

Miss Evans continued. “Both Clementine and Claudia have shared two interesting perspectives, girls… and that is the point of this question… perspective. Any good question requires careful consideration. Sometimes, we may think we know the answer, but in truth, an answer is only as good as the situation we find ourselves in, as Claudia pointed out.”

Claudia turned to Clem and mockingly blew her a kiss.

Clem wanted to rip her face off.

“Life is full of questions like this one. For some of you, the answer might be easily obtained, for others… it might take a lifetime to discover.” Miss Evans took a moment to pause and let her words sink in. “For us, the answers to the most difficult questions will not be readily accepted by most. It requires an open mind and a special insight that few possess. And sometimes those answers we know deep down in our bones… can produce disastrous responses if shared with the wrong audience. As perplexing as a question might be… there is nothing worse than a poorly timed answer. Do you understand?”

Most of the girls nodded their heads, including Meredith.

Miss Evans walked toward Clem and Claudia, stared at them both, and repeated, “Do you understand?”

Both girls caught the hint and nodded, choosing to temporarily put their mutual disdain on hold.

“So… there can be a question with multiple right answers, but the wisest answer is the one that waits for the right opportunity.” Miss Evans turned and headed back toward the podium. She smiled at them all and said, “Each of you are an elusive question, much like this one on the board. In a world not ready for the question you would create about yourselves… well… let’s just say that sometimes it’s just as wise not to become that question before an audience which isn’t ready to perceive it. You are all very special, very unique, and because of this, the questions you would create about yourselves might provoke a fearful response… and an answer prompted by fear is always the wrong answer. Do you understand?”

All the girls nodded.

“For the sake of context, let’s pursue Clementine’s answer for a moment. If the ‘road’ is life, and the ‘end’ is death, then does she make a valid point, considering where you are, but more importantly, who you all are?”

Meredith suddenly felt like she was trying to stay afloat in a vast ocean of thought. She had never considered such things in light of her abilities. To most people, what Meredith sensed and said about death frightened them so much that she considered it taboo to even speak of it again after an incident occurred. She could always see the fear in their faces and how uncomfortable they’d become when she spoke of what she’d seen. If she’d learned anything, it was that death terrified people because of how little they truly understood it. That fact did not make her ‘special’ to most people, it made her despised. But now, it seemed like she was free to discuss such a forbidden topic, to openly entertain the possibilities for the first time–but her own fear made her reluctant.

“Meredith?” Miss Evan had finally targeted her. “Any thoughts on what we’ve discussed so far?”

She could feel all eyes on her, making her feel like a ten-foot tall freak that no one could dismiss. Even Clem was staring at her with an encouraging look that still made Meredith feel like a condemned prisoner about to face the gallows. What could she possibly say about death that wouldn’t make her stand out in a world where dying meant funerals and goodbyes with some sort of afterlife thrown in to give the grieving hope in something more, since death would one day claim them, too?

Before the weight of the question crushed her, Meredith managed to stand up, her newly acquired sundress damp with nervous sweat. She didn’t have the strength to meet Miss Evan’s probing gaze, choosing to stare at her feet instead. She opened her mouth, unsure of what damning words would come out. “I… I once met a young boy sitting by himself at school. While all the other kids were playing, he just sat there. He was so very sad.” She paused as the memory came crashing to the surface. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. She tried to quickly wipe them away.

“Please go on, Meredith,” Miss Evans said in a surprisingly gentle tone. “You don’t have to be afraid here.”

Meredith looked into the woman’s eyes and saw that she meant it. In fact, all the girls shared a sympathetic look. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t alone this time. She felt empowered to continue. “At first, I thought… I thought I was just feeling bad for him… you know… because he looked so sad all by himself. But then I… I felt it… I felt his sadness. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn away from him. I suddenly didn’t want to play anymore… I wanted to weep. It was like the pain I felt was making me cry on the inside because it was so… intense.” She was shaking. Meredith tried to steady herself by taking deep breaths. Someone put their hand on her shoulder. She turned. It was Clem. She was crying, too.

Meredith smiled at her and continued. “I couldn’t stand it anymore… all that pain. I… I had to go to him… the boy. I felt like the pain wouldn’t leave until I went to him. So I walked over to the boy and saw that he was holding a toy… a toy soldier… you know, like those ones that come in a pack of a hundred that you try to stand up on the kitchen floor but some always fell over no matter what you did?”

Miss Evans nodded.

“Anyway, I knew right away when he got the soldier… I saw it. I could see him and his father… I could feel that whole day when the boy and his father were setting them up… I could feel the joy, the laughter… the sadness… all rolled into one moment. I could smell his father’s aftershave–he was there, right there with me. It was so… real. It was like, I wasn’t even there anymore. The boy… he looked up at me… and I could hardly stand the pain anymore. It felt like my heart was… dying. When he looked at me, I knew, I just knew what his father wanted to say to him. So I said, ‘Johnathan, don’t be sad, son. Daddy misses you and will always love you.’ And then the pain went away.”

Miss Evans had moved in beside her and knelt down. When did she do that? Meredith thought. Clem was still there. She could feel her trembling hand on her shoulder. In that moment, when she looked into Clem’s compassionate face, Meredith knew that she felt it, she felt it all–everything Meredith was reliving from that memory when her gift first manifested. And in the moment, she loved her for bearing the pain with her.

“Go on, Meredith.” Miss Evan’s was holding her hand. “Get the rest of it out. It’s important that you finish.”

Meredith nodded. “After I told the boy, Johnathan, what his dead father wanted him to know, and it wasn’t that he told me… I just knew from the pictures in my head, and the feelings that I felt… I knew that what I said was true… that’s when the boy’s face changed. He wasn’t sad anymore… he was terrified… of me. He ran from me like I was a… a monster. Then adults came and yelled at me, questioned me… made me feel like the lowest piece of dirt on the planet for making the boy feel bad. But… but I didn’t do anything wrong?”

“Of course you didn’t, dear,” Miss Evans said, patting her hand.

Meredith took a deep breath. “After that, word got around. Kids were afraid of me. They teased me and some hurt me. Eventually, I was taken away and put in another foster home for being a freak.” Meredith couldn’t finish. She was openly weeping. She turned and met Clem’s embrace as her best friend held her tight.

“That’s okay, Meredith. You’ve shared enough. Thank you for your honesty, dear.” Miss Evan’s started walking away.

Meredith released Clem, giving her an appreciative look. She turned and said, “May… may I answer the question, Miss Evans?”

Miss Evans, genuinely surprised, smiled and said, “Of course.”

Meredith wiped tears from her eyes and said, “I know that there’s no such thing as dying… not if you love someone hard enough and if you’re strong enough and if you’re brave enough… so death can’t be the end, and it is certainly not at the end of any road… but love might be. That’s my answer.”

It was Clem’s turn to be astonished.

Even Claudia’s jaw dropped at Meredith’s response.

Many of the girls were talking excitedly among themselves.

Miss Evans stared at Meredith for a very long time with an unreadable look of stone on her face. Finally she said, “Thanks for sharing, Meredith. You may be seated.”

Meredith nodded and gratefully melted into her seat. She looked over at Clem.

Clementine was staring off toward one of the walls. She seemed distracted… distant.

“Alright, everyone, quiet down please,” Miss Evans returned to the podium. “I think that’s enough for today. I believe we’ve had a very enlightening discussion. I want you all to reflect on today’s thoughts and you will all be excited to know that there will be no essay this weekend.”

The girls all applauded and laughed.

“Now, what do we always need to remember?” she asked.

As one, the girls chanted enthusiastically, “THE LIONS ARE SLEEPING, BUT WE ALWAYS STAND GUARD!”

Meredith gave Clem a puzzled look, but Clem was elsewhere.

“That’s right,” Miss Evans said. “Because one day…”

“THE LIONS WILL BE LOOSE, AND THEN LIFE WILL GET HARD!”

“Very good!” Miss Evans said. “And who are the Lions?”

“THE LIONS ARE LIARS THAT ROAM EVERY BREATH!”

“And what will they do?”

“FOR THE UNWORTHY, THE LIONS BRING DEATH!”

~~~

Next Episode 35-5

Previous Episode 35-3

~~~

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 35-4: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. 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.

Don’t Feed The Dark Updates: 1/10/17

Posted: January 10, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, talk show, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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the dead

~~~

Happy New Year Everyone!

I just wanted to keep you updated on what’s going on behind the scenes. I’ve just completed writing the current chapter, Dead Dolls, which is actually the first part of a much larger story that will be continued in Book Five, scheduled to be serialized later this year. This current part ended up being a long one (aren’t they all these days… lol) and will run until the end of the month.

In February, Chapter 36: Uprising will begin and cover what happens when the Wasteland community turns against itself. Also, we’ll get a deeper look into the community preacher, Logan, and find out whose side he’s really on…. and that’s all I’m going to give you.

Chapter 37: Through the Eyes of a Devil, will begin immediately after and it’s the longest chapter I’ve written in the series to date. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, this chapter is the long-awaited Russell Bower story (yes… he survived the fall off the cliff) and we will be making up for lost time with our resident serial killer. You definitely won’t want to miss this one.

Finally, Chapter 38: Healing will finish up Book Four, which I estimate should conclude early May. All I’ve got left to write is Chapters 36 and 38 and then I’ll begin writing Book Five (not currently titled).

I can’t give anything away, but I will say that I’m already looking forward to writing Book Five and I have a tentative outline already slated. What I will say is that it’s going to be HUGE!!! Damn… and we’re not even finished with Phantoms yet! This apocalyptic ride is about to get really wild and crazy… lol.

As far as the present, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the latest spin-off story, titled, Hangar Six because it’s not only a spin-off of Chapter 14, but it’s also a spin-off of the current chapter, Dead Dolls.

The tenth episode of my DFTD talk show, After The Dark, is also out if you missed it. The topic is: Confessions. After the conclusion of Dead Dolls Part One, a brand new episode will be released featuring our special guest, Meredith Montgomery. So if you’ve been dying to ask her a shit-load of questions, that will be your chance.

Well that’s it for now. As always, thanks for reading and for your encouraging comments along the way.

I would ask that you please continue to keep supporting the cause and help me get Don’t Feed The Dark known to more and more readers by spreading the word via social media, and especially by voting for it every seven days at topwebfiction to keep me listed.

More to come,
-Scott

Chapter 35-3: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 8, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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nightmare-605933_640

~~~

Meredith sat up. “Who… Who’s there?” she called out. She attempted to reach for the lamp when she heard someone whisper.

“Why are you here, Meredith?” a creepy voice asked.

It sounded like it was coming from the nightstand, making Meredith retract her hand.

“Please… leave me alone,” Meredith whimpered. “You’re not real!”

“Oh… I am real, Meredith. And I’m coming for you,” the whispering voice continued. This time it sounded like it originated from the other side of the bed. “I have been with you ever since you turned out the lights,” the voice continued. “I live in the darkness.” The last word sounded like a hissing snake.

“What… what do you want?”

The voice did not respond. Meredith felt something crawl over the foot of the bed and onto the mattress. She rolled her feet up toward her chest and tried to crawl through the wall behind her. “Please… leave me alone! You’re not real! I’m… still dreaming!”

Suddenly, a light came on, illuminating a pale face. “Boo!”

Meredith gasped, covered her eyes with her hands, and began to rock. She wanted to scream but was too terrified. She started to sob instead.

“Oh, shit… don’t do that,” a girl’s voice pleaded. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.” The girl sat back and crossed her legs. “Look, it’s just a flashlight, is all. I’m not a ghost.”

Meredith lowered her hands and saw a young woman holding up a light to her face. She had long black hair with an odd streak of white that ran down across her long bangs. The young woman laughed. “See, I’m just like you.”

“You’re not… you’re not dead?” Meredith asked.

The girl gave her a puzzled look. “That’s a strange question… well… I guess that would normally be a strange question anywhere else but here. But, no, I’m not dead. I’m Clementine.”

Meredith’s fear started to fade. In its place came anger and embarrassment. “What kind of girl are you, then? Coming into my room in the dead of night and scaring me like that?”

“I’m really sorry,” Clementine said, shocked by Meredith’s tone. “I only wanted to play a little prank… you know… to break the ice.” Clementine looked embarrassed now. She started to get up. “I’ll leave you alone… again… I’m really sorry. Everyone says I’m kind of weird… I guess they have a point.”

“Wait,” Meredith said. “You don’t have to go. I was just… mad.”

Clementine looked relieved. She sat back down and smiled. “Miss Evans told me to stop by and introduce myself since we were going to be hanging out together in the morning. I just couldn’t wait to meet you already… so I came early.”

“Just to scare the life out of me?” Meredith said.

Clementine smiled. “You mean ‘shit’.”

“Huh?”

“You said ‘life’. What you meant to say was ‘scare the shit out me’.”

Meredith looked around the room as if any adult within a hundred miles would hear them and come running. “You can’t say… well… you can’t swear!” she said.

Clementine laughed. “You can’t, but I can.”

“How so?”

“Well, you’re too young to understand these things, but when you get older, you can say cuss words.”

Meredith suspiciously looked at the young girl again, and said, “How old are you?”

“I’m fifteen,” Clementine said with a note of pride in her voice. “That’s just three years away from being a full adult, you know.”

“You’re just two years older than me!”

“Yeah, well, fifteen is a long way from being thirteen. You’re just going to have to trust me. Fifteen is old enough to swear.” Clementine folded her arms and pouted, ending the matter.

Meredith laughed at the sight.

“What’s so funny?”

“You.”

Clementine cracked a smile. “I think I like you, new girl. Me might be best friends if you play your cards right.”

Meredith’s eyes went wide. “Cool. I’ve never had a best friend before.”

“So… I know your name is Meredith. Is there anything else I should know before tomorrow morning?”

Meredith gave this some thought. “My last name’s Montgomery. When my foster parents died, I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep it, but Finch told me it’s okay to keep their name if I want to.”

Clementine nodded. “That sounds fair.” She jumped tracks. “Finch is a good guy. He’s makes us all laugh. When I get a few years older, I think I might marry him.”

“Gross!” Meredith said.

Clementine rolled her eyes. “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

Meredith started imagining herself kissing Finch like she’d seen her foster parents do to each other. “Double gross!” she said.

Clementine laughed. “So… you’ve never had a best friend before?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well… that’s okay. I’ve never had a last name before.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. I’ve lived here as long as I can remember.”

Meredith didn’t know how to respond to that.

“It’s alright,” she said. “I consider myself a professional orphan. That’s why Miss Evans always turns to me to help the new arrivals. She always says to me, ‘Clem (that’s me), if you want a job done right, then only trust the best’. So that’s why you’re with me tomorrow, Meredith.”

“That sounds awesome… you know… for an adult to say something like that about you. You must be the best orphan in the county.”

“In the state,” Clem corrected with a wink.

“Maybe in the whole country,” Meredith teased.

“Or in the whole wide world,” Clem retorted.

Both girls paused and said at the same time, “In the whole universe!” They both doubled over with laughter.

After they regained control, Clem asked, “So what were you dreaming about? You were tossing and turning all intense-like. Must have been a whopper.”

Meredith raised her shields and frowned. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“How come?’

“Because it was scary.”

Clem nodded and said, “I completely understand.” She started repositioning Meredith’s blanket. “Come with me.”

Meredith raised her eyebrows. “Come with you where?”

“To the Not-So-Scary Place.” Clem pulled the blanket up over her head, leaving the flashlight on beneath.

Meredith giggled and joined her beneath the make-shift blanket tent.

“There,” Clem said. “Isn’t this much better?”

“Yes.”

“Anyone who’s anyone knows that getting up under your blanket is the best defense against scary stuff,” Clem said with an air of authority. “But it only works if you have a flashlight. Luckily, I came prepared.”

Meredith giggled again. “I feel silly.”

“This is no laughing matter,” Clem said, trying not to laugh. “Now then, on to the matter at hand. If we’re going to be best friends, we have to tell each other stuff… even the bad stuff… especially the scary stuff. Best friends can’t have secrets.”

Meredith looked concerned. She had too many secrets.

“Don’t worry, Meredith. You don’t have to tell me everything. We’re not best friends yet. But I have a good feeling that we could be. Don’t you agree?”

“Yes, definitely. But… do I have to tell you all my secrets?”

“Not right away… but eventually. We’ll just start with one secret tonight, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Now… what we’re you dreaming about? And don’t forget, we’re completely safe under here.”

Meredith let out a heavy sigh and told her what she could remember about the strange dream.

Clem laughed when Meredith finished. “You know it was those creepy pictures on the wall that made you dream that, right?”

“I figured,” Meredith said. “But it was the young man who terrified me the most. He said something to me right before I woke.”

“What did he say?”

“I can’t remember all of it, but he told me that this was a bad place… not that I think it is… but that’s what he told me.”

Clem nodded. Her face started to change as if thinking about something far, far away.

“Is everything alright?” Meredith asked. “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. My dreams scare people sometimes. That’s usually when people start looking at me funny.”

“No, it’s alright, Meredith,” Clem said. “You just reminded me of something. It’s not important. Did this mystery man tell you who he was?”

She hadn’t through so when she woke from the dream, but the young man’s name came to her now. “I think his name was… Toby.”

Clem looked at her hard as though Meredith had just slapped her.

Meredith looked away from that uncomfortable gaze. “Did… did I say something wrong?”

Clem turned, her face had become an unreadable stone. Finally, she smiled and said, “I need to get going. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow and I’m not helping either of us by keeping us awake all night.”

“Okay.” Meredith still felt uneasy as Clem removed the blanket and jumped out of the bed.

She held out the flashlight. “Here, you can borrow this to get you through the night.”

“Thank you.” Meredith took the light. “I’ll take good care of it.”

“Alright, then. Goodnight, Meredith.”

“Goodnight.”

Clem started toward the bedroom door, stopped, and turned back. “Let’s make it official.”

“Excuse me?”

“Best friends… assuming you’re still interested.”

Meredith smiled. “Absolutely.”

Clem nodded with a smile. “Then it’s a done deal. See you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow.”

When Clementine departed, Meredith stayed awake for another half an hour with the flashlight on and a stupid grin plastered on her face.

My first real friend, she thought as she drifted back to sleep.

~~~

The next morning was chaos.

Meredith was handed a plate of waffles as she stood in the large kitchen watching the other girls go about their morning rituals. Miss Evans was at the center of it all, orchestrating the buzz of activity surrounding what appeared to Meredith to be some sort of breakfast event.

“What’s the matter?” Clementine said, leaning in beside her. “Haven’t you ever had breakfast before?”

Meredith smiled weakly. “There’s… there’s a lot of people here. Do you all normally have such… exciting breakfasts?”

Clem laughed. “No. But whenever we get a new girl, Miss Evans likes to pull out all the stops. This is all for you.”

“For me?”

“Yep. She’s big on first impressions and we don’t mind because whenever someone new comes along, we get to eat like kings for one morning.” Clem looked at the plate Meredith was holding. “You gonna eat all those right here, or can we share them?”

Meredith looked at the plate of waffles and giggled. “Where should I-”

“Come on, newbie,” Clem said, taking the waffles from her. “We’re eating breakfast in the dining room today.”

Meredith followed after Clem, dodging and weaving in between several girls who buzzed by.

Clem led her into a large dining room where a long table was set on display with more food than Meredith had ever seen at one time. The room itself was lit up by a large chandelier. There were several old-looking pictures on the walls displaying various nature paintings. Several smaller antique tables lined the walls with various trinkets on display, all of which looked far too expensive to touch.

“Sit here,” Clem said, leading her to a large wooden chair at one end of the table.

Meredith sat down in the chair and felt like she’d shrunk. Clem sat down in the open seat to her left.

All the girls were taking their seats now.

Miss Evans sat at the other end of the table. To her right was a woman Meredith had not met yet. The remaining ten girls of various ages raced to their seats as if the music had just ceased to a game of musical chairs.

Meredith stared down at her table settings. Before her was a large china plate with ornate designs running around the rim. Her fork, spoon and knife were neatly placed on an intricately folded napkin. A young girl came along and filled her glass with orange juice. “Thank you,” she whispered long after the girl had moved on.

“Overwhelmed yet?” Clem asked with a wicked little smile.

Meredith simply nodded. That was when she noticed that Clem, as well as several of the girls, were all wearing beautiful sundresses. She looked down at her own attire. Meredith was still wearing her nightgown.

“What’s the matter?” Clem asked.

“I feel… a bit underdressed.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re new. That means you get away with everything on day one. Remember that,” she added with a wink.

Meredith smiled back, unsure of what to make of that comment.

Miss Evans stood, tapping the side of her glass with a spoon to get everyone’s attention.

“Well done girls. You all did a fine job with breakfast arrangements this morning. As you all know, we have a new sister living among us.”

Sister? Meredith immediately wanted to slide off her chair and hide beneath the table when all eyes fell on her.

“Young lady,” Miss Evans continued, “would you please introduce yourself to your new sisters.”

Oh no, she means me!

Clem kicked her beneath the table and gave her an encouraging nod.

Meredith stood up, rubbing her hands together nervously and staring at her plate. “My… My name is Meredith. It’s… it’s nice to meet all of you.”

“You can sit down, dear. Thank you for introducing yourself.”

Meredith quickly sank into her chair.

Miss Evans lifted her glass and said, “Let’s give Meredith a warm welcome, girls! To Meredith! May she find rest for her soul… nourishment for her body…”

All the girls lifted their glasses and finished, “… and enlightenment for her mind!” Then they all began to clap and cheer for Meredith.

Meredith smiled like an idiot and looked to Clem.

Clem was trying not to laugh. “You should see your face,” she whispered. “Don’t worry, it will all be over the moment they start eating.”

Meredith discovered that Clem was correct. As soon as the attention was off of her, Miss Evan waved her arms toward the food and the girls feasted.

She felt fortunate when she could fill her plate and sit down in silence. All the girls were preoccupied by the majestic breakfast. There was bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, grits, cereal, biscuits and gravy, French toast, and several variations of eggs. By the time Meredith had wolfed down her second plate of food, she felt like she’d merged with her chair… permanently.

“When you’re finished,” Clem said, spearing a piece of sausage with her fork and drowning it in maple syrup, “I get to take you on the tour. You won’t have to do much today. Just be s sponge and soak in everything.”

“You mean like how I just soaked up all that food?” Meredith said. “You might have to roll me out of this chair first. I’ve never eaten a breakfast like that before.”

Clem laughed. “We want you to want to be here, Meredith. This is just the beginning. You’ll see. This place is… well… this place is special.”

“Finch said that, too,” Meredith said, noticing his absence. “What does that mean?”

“All in good time,” Clem said with a wink. “You’ll feel it better than I could ever explain it.”

Meredith let the strange comment go. She looked around the table at all these strange young girls, presumably orphans like herself. They were laughing and talking and acting like one big happy family. Most of them were a few years younger than her, and a couple of them looked her age or Clem’s age. At the other end of the table, Miss Evans and the other adult were talking adult stuff. For a brief moment, Meredith was tempted to embrace all of this. But then she remember her small suitcase upstairs, as reality came crashing down, causing her to frown.

“What’s the matter?” Clem asked. “Too many pancakes?”

“No, it’s not that,” Meredith said. “It’s… It’s just that all of this… these people… yourself… I’m used to all of it going away so fast… I’ve moved around most of my life.”

Clem nodded. “I get it. I really do. You’re afraid to let this place in because you might be shipped off somewhere new tomorrow, right?”

Meredith’s shoulders sank. “Exactly. Strangers have been moving me around from place to place my whole life. That’s how I ended up here. I can’t afford to like anything or anyone for too long… no offense.”

“That’s cool,” Clem said. She placed her hand on her shoulder. “Well, you’re luck is about to change. Do you want to know why?”

Meredith nodded.

“I don’t just let anyone become my best friend. And since you are, then I won’t allow anyone to take you away… ever again.”

“You promise?”

“Promise,” Clem said with a smile. “Didn’t you hear what Miss Evans said? We’re sisters now… and that means something here. But more than that, you and I are best friends, too. That’s a double bond that I will not allow anyone to take from us.”

Meredith smiled and wiped a tear from her eye. “Sorry. I am overwhelmed.”

“That’s okay. You’re here to stay, Meredith.” She then gave her a serious look and finished, “And if anyone tries to take my best friend away from me… well… they’ll be sorry… very, very sorry.”

~~~

Next Episode 35-4

Previous Episode 35-2

~~~

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“Chapter 35-3: Dead Dolls” Copyright © 2017 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 35-2: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 4, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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lion-picture

~~~

Summer 1973:

Endless rows of corn sped past her passenger window, broken up by intermittent grassy hills owned by oblivious cows or the occasional horse wandering an open field, casting the illusion of roaming free until she saw the wooden fences which imprisoned it.

Meredith Montgomery watched it all pass her by, wondering briefly what it might be like to live out here, in these remote places far from people, and then dismissed it all entirely as each redundant change of scenery replaced the previous. It all reminded her of her own life: everything was always moving–changing–never allowing her to have anything consistent or lasting. Nothing she could call home.

“What do you think of our long drive out into the countryside so far, Meredith?”

The young girl of thirteen, still wearing her funeral dress, turned toward the driver. His name was Michael. She could tell that he meant well and he had a kind face, but aside from this, he was simply another stranger thrown into her life by laws which demanded that children be taken care of, especially after their foster parents died in tragic house fires.

She faked her best smile and then turned back despondently toward the window as she absently pulled on her long black ponytail.

Michael Finch watched his passenger through the rearview mirror. “I take it you aren’t having a good time out here? Understandable. But if it makes you feel any better, the place where we’re headed is nothing like anywhere you’ve ever been before. I think you’ll like it… eventually.”

Meredith had nothing to say. Everything she owned sat beside her in a small suitcase. She’d become really good a packing over the last few years, reducing her necessities to clothes and a hairbrush–no memorabilia. She’d only been with the Montgomery family for a year and a half, but that was the longest she’d been allowed to live anywhere. She knew she would miss her foster parents after she allowed herself to feel the loss, but that would take time. Meredith needed to keep her guard up, especially now, since that cruel master of her life, Change, was meddling once more.

“I’m very sorry for everything that’s happened. Damn shame about your folks. But if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, I would really appreciate it if you’d talk to me every now and then, at least while I’m driving down the most boring road on the surface of the planet.”

Meredith turned back and gave the strange red-haired man with the ponytail an exhausted look. “Do you always talk so much?”

Michael laughed. “There we go! Another human voice at last! Did I tell you my name was Michael?”

“Several times,” she answered curtly.

“Well… I guess I did, didn’t I. My friends call me Finch, that’s my last name.”

“Like the bird?”

“Yes… exactly.”

“That’s a stupid last name.”

Finch laughed again. “Maybe so. But considering the many other birds I could’ve been named after, I think I did alright. I mean, I could’ve been Michael Crow… Michael Sparrow… or even Michael Woodpecker… now that would’ve been silly, don’t you think?”

Meredith snorted at the last and let a brief smile break free.

“I know, right? Now that would’ve been a stupid last name for sure. Not to mention all the Woody jokes I would’ve grown up with. Can you imagine?”

“Can we stop talking now… please?”

“Sure… sure… but don’t yell at me if I fall asleep, okay?”

“You can’t fall asleep. You’re driving.”

“Well… maybe you could drive and I’ll go back there and take a nap. What do you think?”

“I’m just a kid. I can’t drive.”

“Well then you’re just going to have to keep talking to me. You see, we Finches are notorious for sleeping at all the wrong times. Just the other day I was washing dishes and I suddenly fell asleep…” Finch lowered his head.

After a long pause, Meredith leaned in toward the front. The strange man appeared to have his eyes closed. “Finch?”

Finch started snoring.

“That’s not funny… at all.” Meredith looked toward the road. “Finch?”

Finch suddenly lifted his head. “What just happened? Did I just fall asleep?”

“You’re messing with me.”

Finch laughed. “You figured me out, kid. But seriously, could you please keep talking to me? It’s been a very long ride and I could really use your help.”

Meredith sighed. “I don’t have anything to talk about.”

“Let’s talk about your cool name. Meredith Montgomery, right?”

“That was my foster parents’ name. They’re dead now. I’m just… I’m just Meredith.”

Finch paused. “Yeah, again, I’m real sorry about that. Shit happens… and it sucks when it does.”

“You’re not supposed to do that.”

“Do what?”

“Swear in front of kids.”

“You’re absolutely right. Tell you what, if you don’t tell on me, I’ll let you say it… just this one time.”

“Excuse me?”

“Go ahead! Let it out! It will make you feel better… trust me.”

Meredith looked confused. “You want me to… swear?”

“There’s no one else out here but us and the cows. Go for it. Any swear you want. Hell, after everything that’s happened, you deserve it.”

“You’re being serious?”

“Go for it, kid.”

Meredith sat back and thought a moment.

“You got one picked out?” Finch asked.

“Yes.”

“Okay… just one time… as loud as you can… let her rip!”

Meredith took a deep breath and shouted, “SHIT! SHIT! SHITTY SHIT SHIT!”

Finch was rolling in laughter. “That’s it! How do you feel?”

Meredith covered her mouth and laughed. “That felt… good. Can I do it again?”

“No, sorry. It wouldn’t mean as much the second time anyway. Trust me.”

“You’re a very strange man.”

“Well, I’ll take that as a compliment. So are you going to keep it?”

“What?”

“Your last name? Montgomery?”

“I can do that?”

“Why not? It’s a great last name, so much better than any bird-brain last name I’ve ever had. Did you love them?”

Meredith was caught off guard by the question. Her shields went up immediately. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Okay. Okay. But just so you know, we honor the ones we care about by remembering them, even after they’re gone. I can’t think of any better way to honor your folks than by keeping their name alive… with you.”

Meredith remained quiet.

“I’m just saying, you could still keep your last name if you wanted to. That’s all.”

“I… I’ll think about it,” was all she would volunteer. “How far away are we from the orphanage? That is where we’re headed, right?”

“An orphanage? Really?” Michael laughed. “Who told you that?”

“I heard some grown-ups talking about it when they didn’t think I was listening.”

“Well, maybe that’s what they’d call it. But I assure you, Meredith, this place we’re going to is special. There’s nothing like it.”

“Special?”

“Uh-huh. In fact, you’ll be there with other girls like yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” Meredith was getting defensive. “Do you mean other freaks like me?”

“I never said that.”

“Great! An orphanage full of freakish girls! I can hardly wait!” When she thought about what she just said, Meredith started giggling uncontrollably.

Finch laughed with her. “Well… I’ve never heard it described like that before. But again, I wouldn’t call it an orphanage.”

“So what is this place, then?”

“All I can tell you is that it’s a very special place,” he said, winking at her through the rearview mirror.

~~~

Meredith could see the old house from a distance as Michael turned right down a long winding dirt road. The large house sat alone on a hillside surrounded by more never-ending fields. “Odd place to find an orphanage,” she said.

“The woman who runs the place, Miss Evans, picked the location several years ago,” Michael said. “Said she saw the house and knew right away that it was the perfect place for the school.”

“School? Who puts a school way out here in the middle of nowhere?”

Michael laughed. “It’s not just a school. Think of it as more like being home schooled. You get a classroom and a bedroom all rolled into one.”

Meredith lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “Does this school… whatever… have a name?”

Michael shrugged his shoulders. “Not one I’ve ever heard.”

The old Georgian-style house came into full view as they neared a large front porch surrounded by elaborately decorated stone pillars. From what Meredith could see, this was the largest house she’d ever been relocated to. It appeared to have three floors, judging by the amount of windows. “How many people live here?” she asked.

“Not counting the staff, I believe there’s twelve of you now. Twelve very special girls.”

“You keep saying that. What’s so special about this place, or a bunch of orphan girls?”

Michael just smiled, pulled the car up to the front, and parked. “Finally! I have never needed to stretch my legs so much in all my life.” Before she could inquire more, Finch was already getting out of the car.

Meredith frowned and then looked out her window once more at the massive house. “Home sweet home… again,” she muttered to herself with a heavy sigh.

Michael opened her door. “Ready?”

She nodded and grabbed her small suitcase. She started going through the routine in her mind: Be polite. Speak when spoken to. Maintain eye contact. ‘Yes Sir or Ma’am’…

The sound of a squeaky screen door interrupted her train of thought. A large woman wearing glasses and with brown hair tied up into a tight bun approached. She was drying her hands on an apron she wore over her sundress. “What have you brought me this time, Michael?” Her voice was as large as her girth, causing Meredith to take an unconscious step backwards. “I hope this one can cook better than the last girl.”

Meredith looked up at Finch and whispered, “Cook?”

Michael gave her a wink.

The big woman towered over her as she stopped three feet in front of Meredith and gave her a scrutinizing look. “Hmm. Hmm, hmm, hmm,” she said. “I don’t think she’s got the aptitude for cooking. Probably better off putting her in the stew. Not much meat on her, though.”

Meredith’s eyes went wide.

Michael couldn’t hold back his laughter.

The woman smiled and said, “Don’t you worry, child. Just playing a little prank on the new girl. It’s always fun watching all your faces change, just like yours did.”

Meredith let out a deep breath.

“Meredith,” Michael began, “I would like to introduce you to Miss Evans. Among her many hats, this charming old gal fancies herself a jokester.”

Meredith forced herself to look up at the big woman, smiled, and said, “Pleasure… pleasure to meet you.”

“My… this one came with manners,” Miss Evans said with a wink. “It’s very nice to meet you, too.”

Meredith looked down at her shoes.

“We took the scenic route here,” Michael said. “Figured our new house guest needed some time to herself. We came straight from the funeral.”

Miss Evans gave Meredith an understanding look. “I see. Well… enough of this chatter.” She then bent down to Meredith’s eye level. “Look here, child.”

Meredith looked up.

“I know you’re feeling sad, confused, and out-of-place right now, but things will get better. I promise you.”

Meredith could only respond with a half-hearted smile.

Miss Evans gave her a long probing look which made Meredith look back down at her feet. “How about we get you up to your room right away, let you have some time to get settled, get some food in you, followed by a good night’s sleep for a fresh start in the morning. How’s that sound right now, child?”

“That would be great,” Meredith said. “Thank… thank you.”

Miss Evans laughed and then reached in and gently lifted Meredith’s head by the chin. “I wish I could take that pain you’re bravely bearing right out of you, child, honestly I do. But our pain is part of who we are… who we’ll be… but you will feel better in time. Do you believe that, child?”

“I want to,” Meredith whispered.

“Good enough for now. That’s a start.” Miss Evans stood back up and turned to Michael. “Young man, please take our new tenant up to her room and then get you both something to eat from the kitchen. It’s already getting late so Meredith can join us tomorrow morning for breakfast.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Michael teased.

“Don’t you ‘Ma’am’ me,” she scolded playfully, causing Michael to laugh. Then Miss Evans abruptly turned, as if forgetting all about them, and entered the house mumbling to herself about the million things she still had left to do before dark.

When she was gone, Finch leaned down and whispered, “Whew! I thought she’d never leave. Before I met that big lady for the first time, they told me she would look like every mean old school teacher I ever had. But after I met her I thought she looked like someone who just ate every mean old school teacher I ever had.”

Meredith let out a loud nervous laugh and then quickly covered her mouth. She looked up and Finch gave her a mischievous wink. She smiled and said, “You are the strangest man, Finch.”

Finch said, “Seriously though, she’s a great old gal once you get to know her… or so they keep telling me.” He then bowed dramatically and offered his arm. “May I escort you to your room, ma’ lady?”

Meredith laughed, took his arm, and mustered up her best regal voice imitation. “You may.”

They entered the house.

~~~

The small, unremarkable bedroom was just big enough for a single-sized bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. Before leaving, Michael had explained that this was the spare guest room and that once other arrangements were made in a few days, she would be moved into one of four larger rooms split up among the other girls living in the house.

Meredith was just grateful to have a night of privacy and some alone time to let her guard down and breathe, as she needed time to figure out this strange new place.

When Michael had excused himself to get them something to eat, Meredith sat down on the bed and let out a heavy sigh as she took in the rest of her tight surroundings. Aside from a single window, the boring beige-painted walls and a small desk lamp which barely provided enough light in the room, she noticed four paintings centered on each of the four walls. One was of a large green lion roaming a grassy field beneath overcast clouds; the next one was a picture of floating theater masks displaying different emotions on a blue background; the third one showed a broken staircase hovering over a pit of flames, leading up toward what appeared to be the gates of heaven; the last, and most disturbing picture, was of some kind of creepy monster with sharp teeth and huge yellow eyes. Meredith shook her head when she realized that the monster painting was the one she would be staring directly at after she settled in for bed.

“They seriously need a better decorator,” she announced as she turned away from the disturbing paintings to unpack her few possessions.

Michael returned a few minutes later with a tray holding a ham and cheese sandwich and some potato chips. “I know it’s not much,” he started, “but you’ll be impressed by breakfast in the morning. The girls all pitch in for the new arrivals… first impressions, and all that jazz.”

“Thank you,” Meredith said, accepting the sandwich. “I’m not that hungry. This will work just fine.”

“Well, then, I’ll leave you in peace and let you get a good night’s sleep,” Michael said, starting for the door.

“Have you ever slept in this room?” Meredith asked, looking toward the pictures.

Michael turned toward the walls and laughed. “Yeah… I’ve spent a few nights in here. Not exactly the best scenery, I know. I think this was once an office… or something.”

“Maybe they just don’t want the new girl going AWOL on her first night here by trying to scare me into never leaving my bed,” Meredith said.

Michael gave her a surprising look.

Meredith broke out a smile. “Sorry… I was just trying to be funny.”

“Well… now you know the truth,” he said. “If those creepy pictures don’t do the trick than nothing will. Hell, who can sleep looking at some of these. Talk about nightmare central. Would you like me to take them down before I go?”

“That’s okay,” Meredith said. “They’re not as bad as some of the images I’ve seen in my head when…” she trailed off, realizing her tired mind was making her talk too much.

“What was that?”

“Never mind. I’m just babbling. You can leave the pictures up. I’m probably going to pass out as soon as I lie down.”

“Okay, then,” Michael said, shaking his head at the yellow-eyed creature with the sharp teeth. “I really have to talk to Miss Evans about her art choices.”

Meredith cracked a smile and said, “Maybe she painted it.”

“Now wouldn’t that be hysterical,” he said with a laugh. “A bit scary, too, if it were true. Do you think it’s a self-portrait? Looks a little like her in the mornings.”

Meredith laughed and covered her mouth. “Goodnight, Finch.”

He gave her a mock salute. “Goodnight, kid.”

After Finch departed, Meredith finished her meal. Then she changed into a nightgown and buried herself in blankets. If nothing else, the bed was very comfortable.

Meredith reached for the nightstand lamp, stopped, and took one more look at the monster on the wall. “Goodnight, Miss Evans,” she said with a laugh, turning out the lamp. The darkness immediately added another layer of comfort as she closed her eyes and tried to forget everything. Please… no more nightmares, she thought as she quickly drifted into the treacherous realm of sleep.

~~~

Meredith is standing in a large grassy field. Storm clouds hover overhead making her feel exposed. She is incredibly small compared to her vast surroundings. To her, the field covers the entire earth and she begins to panic, wondering which way she should walk… or if it even matters.

At the edge of visibility, Meredith makes out a small indistinguishable shape. She wonders if it is another human being or just some landmark in the distance. Either way, the shape gives her something to aim towards as thunder begins to rumble directly above, motivating her to move with purpose.

She walks at first. Then, fearing the shape will simply disappear, she begins to run towards it. She is almost out of breath by the time she realizes that the shape is of a person… a young man.

The young man is frantically waving towards her.

She waves back, delighted to find someone else out here in this strange, endless field.

It begins to rain as the thunder is now accompanied by flashes of terrifying light that illuminate the dark clouds, exposing a yellowish sky behind them. To Meredith, the sky looks unnatural… it looks sick.

The young man is calling out to her now. She is so close.

Meredith stops twenty feet from the young man, who is simply standing there with his arms to his side. At first she wonders if he’s real, but then remembers that he called out. He’s wearing a dirty red and white football uniform, minus the pads and helmet. His face is as pale as a ghost beneath a disheveled mess of black hair. His long bangs hide his eyes. If she had to guess, Meredith would say that he was in his late teens.

“Hello,” she says, noticing her own voice sounding heavy, as if the words barely had enough strength to reach the young man before crumbling away to the ground.

The young man smiles, or attempts to. His teeth are black and rotted away.

Meredith takes an uneasy step back.

“Do not be afraid,” the young man says. “I’ve been waiting for you, Meredith. I’ve been waiting to talk to you for such a long, long time.” His voice sounds… wrong. That’s when she realizes that the young man isn’t moving his lips… but she can still hear him.

“You’re not safe, Meredith. None of the girls are. This place is bad… very bad. Pay special attention to the man behind the curtain, Meredith. That’s where the truth is. Come find me and I’ll show you the truth… but then you must leave.”

“Who… who are you?” Meredith asks.

“My name is Toby. Please listen to me, Meredith. There isn’t much time. There is so much you need to know, so much-” Toby stops and stares over Meredith’s head. “Too late. Time to go.”

Before she turns around, a large roar nearly knocks her over. She turns and sees a large emerald lion beginning to circle her and Toby. It does not look pleased that they are here.

Meredith tries to scream but no sound escapes her mouth. She turns back to Toby.

A gust of warm wind blows against Toby’s face, causing his bangs to part and revealing his deep, dark, sunken eyes. He looks more like a skeleton than a man, she thinks, while taking another step back.

The emerald lion roars at her again, causing Meredith to jump.

“Go back, Meredith,” Toby says. “You can’t be here.”

Meredith is about to turn, but the beast charges straight for her.

The lion’s eyes are a blazing yellow color… she can feel such intense hatred coming from those unnatural eyes.

She falls to the grass, placing her hands in front of her face. She can’t hear her own screams as the lion leaps directly towards her…

~~~

…Meredith opened her eyes in the darkness. Where am I? Am I dead? Before the panic overwhelmed her, she took deep breaths until the traces of the dream faded away and then she started to remember where she was. I’m at the orphanage that’s not an orphanage… in the small room with the weird pictures on the walls… just another nightmare, that’s all.

Something shifted in the darkness near the foot of the bed.

She immediately thought of the emerald lion with the hate-filled yellow eyes.

It followed me!

~~~

Next Episode 35-3

Previous Episode 35-1

~~~

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 35-2: Dead Dolls” 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 35-1: Dead Dolls

Posted: January 1, 2017 in Apocalypse, books, 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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megan

~~~

Meredith is staring through the glass doorway, into the observation room. There is a fresh trail of blood running from the door to the back of the room.

The sick girl is there, back turned, crouched down… feeding.

Meredith sighs at the mess Megan has made. Her hospital gown is spattered in blood. Her blond hair is wet and sticky with it. Her arms from the elbows down are covered in it.

She doesn’t understand how Megan can be so oblivious to her own savage behavior. Meredith knows that a part of the girl remains… even if no one else believes it.

The older woman tries to view what Megan is eating, but the girl is hovering over it, protectively.

Meredith decides to open the glass door, although she’s been forbidden to do so. She starts walking toward the girl. “Megan,” she calls out gently.

Megan does not respond.

“Megan… it’s Meredith, honey. Are you alright?”

Megan continues to dig her face into the bloody mess in front of her.

She moves in closer. “Megan, what have you gotten into? Has someone been feeding you something they’re not supposed to?”

The girl stops. She turns her head slightly to the right, just enough to watch the older woman invade her space.

Meredith can see that her face is covered in thick blood. Whatever she had, it was fresh… perhaps even alive. Somewhere in the back of her mind Meredith knows that approaching the girl like this is incredibly dangerous. She also knows that Megan should not be eating anything with blood in it. That was also declared forbidden months ago. But against her better judgment, she continues to move closer to the girl.

Megan turns away from the older woman. She starts to surround her kill with her arms, placing more of her frail body over it, fearing that the woman has come to take it away.

“Megan. It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Megan begins to growl like a dog with a raw steak. She is unwilling to give up her meal and wants the woman to clearly understand that her trespass is not appreciated.

Meredith continues to move closer… closer…

“What have you got there, Megan? Has someone given you a rat or a squirrel? No… there’s too much blood for that. Perhaps a raccoon?”

Megan turns her bloody face toward the intruder, revealing her gritted teeth as she snarls threateningly at the woman.

Meredith is overwhelmed by the monstrous looking woman, covered in blood, her eyes–her dark silver eyes–already tearing into her flesh.

“Me… Megan?” Meredith whispers. Finally she realizes that coming into the room and interfering with the young woman’s meal will be the last thing she ever does.

Meredith puts her hands out in front. “Megan… it’s okay. I didn’t mean to get you upset.” She starts to slowly back out of the room. “We can talk later… if you like. Just… just let me leave. Alright?”

Megan turns her whole body toward the woman. She does not recognize the woman’s words, only that the woman is a far more tempting target. She lets out a primal scream and charges toward Meredith.

Meredith turns to run but falls on her stomach. Before she can get up, Megan pounces on her back and starts scratching into her flesh.

Meredith screams but there is no sound escaping her lips.

Megan roughly flips the blood bag over.

Meredith tries to defend her face with her arms, but the surprisingly strong young woman pins both her arms to the floor. There is nothing between them now except Megan’s blood-dripping teeth and those silver alien orbs staring back at her.

Meredith turns her head to the right, unwilling to stare into the bloody face of the lifeless beast any longer.

Her eyes find Megan’s meal and go wide with horror.

It is the remains of Megan’s baby…

~~~

…Her eyes shot open. Meredith let out a strangled cry as she quickly sat up from the cot in the corner of the infirmary. After a dreadful three seconds, her disorientation lifted and understanding arrived like a sunrise over an eternally dark place. She let out a nervous laugh and quickly covered her mouth. You old fool. It was just a dream… just another terrifying dream.

She took in the dimly-lit space that served as her sleeping quarters. She was surrounded by various medical ‘do-dads’ (as the abnormal Doctor Cooper liked to call them). There were boxes of first-aid supplies and equipment, a wheelchair, a few spare cots lined up against the wall, and a small round table with four wooden chairs which seemed oddly out of place in this underground clinic.

She let out a deep sigh. This little corner of the compound had been her home for almost five months. She seldom frequented any other area of the facility, unless it was late at night, choosing to enforce her ‘out of sight, out of mind’ lifestyle.

Most of the community, Gina included, despised her. She was simply ‘the traitor’ to some, as exaggerations had spread of her ancient affiliations with the group known as Mother. Others had heard of her supernatural exploits prior to seeking refuge below, and had dubbed her the Wasteland Witch. And still others whispered to one another late at night about how Meredith communed with the zombie girl, preferring the company of the dead over the living. Meredith still hadn’t decided which fiction story she liked the best, but it was clear that very few people felt comfortable whenever she was around.

It was Gina who had called it ‘house arrest’. Technically, Meredith was their ‘prisoner’, but Gina was not willing to lock her old friend up, no matter how furious she was with her. She had instructed Logan to inform his men to keep an eye on her, but not to restrict her from freely moving about public areas. And of course, she was forbidden to go topside where she would have access to her ‘abilities’ again.

To this day, she had not figured out why her abilities didn’t work in this place, but she was grateful. If she could no longer sense the dead, then they couldn’t sense her either. And she was truly enjoying her liberation from that curse which had tormented her for so long.

She slowly got up and walked over to the small bathroom. Fortunately, the clinic was the only space that had its own bathroom, allowing her less time among the rest of the community. She looked into the mirror mounted above the sink. She frowned at the haunted woman who stared back at her in the unmerciful half-light. It was hard to believe that she was once a younger woman celebrating her fiftieth year just before The Change struck. Her long black hair was streaked with an abundance of gray. Her once sunny face, replaced with sad eyes and dark patches beneath them to forever mark her exhausted state. “You are old,” she declared to the mirror and quickly turned away. Six months ago she had been approaching a healthy fifty. But after the hell which followed, Meredith felt and looked like she’d aged ten years. And this was the price for wielding her damn ‘gift’.

I’d stay down here forever if it meant never feeling ‘them’ rotting in my mind ever again.

And Meredith meant it.

She thought about the community and sighed. Initially, Meredith had tried to atone for her secrets, and help in any way she could. But no one would allow her to move on. So, she committed herself to the infirmary as Cooper’s assistant, while she spent the remainder of her time trying to bring Megan back.

Aside from the good doctor, who still maintained his crush for her, Stephen, Marcus and Tony were the only people who would come to see her, when time allowed.

Gina refused to come see her, no matter how hard Meredith tried to make peace.

It’s all about the damned door. That’s all she cares about. When she looks at me, she knows I’m holding back and won’t tell her things… and she hates me for it. Even when I hold back for her own good… for all their sake.

She splashed water in her face and then tied her long hair back into a ponytail. Meredith considered getting dressed but it was still far too early to get anything accomplished yet, so she decided to sit at the table instead and finish off the rest of Cooper’s coffee from last night that he’d left for her in a small thermos.

After getting comfortable, coffee in hand, Meredith soaked in the late night silence and slowly looked about the rest of the partially lit area. Her table sat directly in front of the lone hallway that exited the clinic. On both sides of the hall were two large observation rooms with walls made of a very thick glass. The room on her left was Megan’s room. On the right was Doctor Cooper’s all-purpose medical room. Meredith lived and worked in the top portion of the ‘T’ shaped wing at the opposite end of the exit.

She closed her eyes and took a sip of the warm beverage as she tuned in to the low hum of the machinery behind the walls. Meredith suspected that whatever was creating those sounds had something to do with why her ability to sense the dead was blocked. But she could only theorize.

Meredith let her mind drift freely, something she still had difficulty getting used to since she’d spent so much time guarding her thoughts from the dead and the living. She thought of Gina. She remembered the first time she’d met that frightened young woman at the power plant and how full of pain her eyes had been. She’d wanted to reach out and embrace her, tell her that everything would be alright… but even then, Meredith had known better than to support such lies. They had bonded and laughed and cried together before the dead came and slaughtered everyone… and there had been so much more pain ever since. Meredith truly missed her friend, almost as much as she missed her beloved Hannah.

Her eyes watered up and her hands shook. She could feel the surge of so much pain creeping up the shoreline of her waning strength and beginning to flood her heart. She thought of Douglas, Ashley, Amanda, Greg, Frank… even Charlie. She thought of all of them, all who had died since the madness consumed the world and it was too much to bear any longer.

She put the coffee cup down, took a deep breath, and tried to hold it all in… all the sorrow which had remained with her long after the haunted voices of the dead were severed from her mind. She lowered her head into her hands and wept.

It’s alright… you go ahead and cry you foolish woman. There’s no one left who will question you afterwards while you sit here in the dark and simply let go… just for a little while.

Her soft weeping turned to sobs as she felt the long awaited breakdown crush her in that vulnerable moment. She didn’t care. She let it happen. She needed to mourn so… very… much.

A shadow shifted into view causing Meredith to look up toward the young woman’s observation room.

Megan was there, standing before the glass door, staring out at her. The young woman’s blond hair hung wildly over her face. She lifted her scrawny arms and placed her hands on the glass.

“Me…Megan?” Meredith called out, wiping tears from her face. She quickly collected herself. This was the first time since they had started drugging the poor girl to keep her from being violent and hurting herself that Megan had shown any response at all, other than the lethargic, despondent motions of an injured wild animal who simply waited to die.

Between her and Cooper, they’d tried everything they could think of to reach out to the woman and bring her back from that dark, hellish place that Meredith had seen in these poor souls when she still had her abilities. Meredith believed that this particular brand of zombie was not beyond reach. They were neither dead nor alive, but trapped in a horrible place where she could only describe it as a place where ‘the soul slowly rots away’. Meredith remembered all too well what being in close proximity to these ‘half-dead’ individuals did to her and how sick she became when she reached out and let them into her mind. Fortunately, Meredith didn’t need to worry about that here, but it did limit what she could do to help the poor girl who suffered with what Meredith called the Silver Sickness.

Meredith got up and slowly approached the door, afraid that she’d scare Megan off long before she got there. “What is it, honey? Are you alright?”

Megan did not respond. She remained standing against the glass, watching the woman approach.

She doesn’t appear agitated, Meredith thought. It’s far too early for the tranquilizers to be wearing off. She’s supposed to sleep through the night. She’s never done this before! Meredith allowed herself this moment of optimism. She had to. She was all Megan had now since even Cooper appeared to give up, but continued to support Meredith in her pointless cause for her sake.

Meredith stopped before the glass door and was delighted that Megan had not withdrawn yet. She could not get a good look at her face due to her hair and the low lighting, but it did appear as if Megan was aware of her this time.

“Hello, Megan,” Meredith said through the door. There were open vents all around the observation room that allowed sound to pass in and out of the room. They could also close the vents when Megan went wild and started screaming, cutting off all sound. Fortunately, they hadn’t had to do that in a good long while.

Megan continued to stare at Meredith as if trying to understand what she was.

“My name’s Meredith, honey. I’ve been here with you for quite some time. Do you remember me?”

No response.

Meredith smiled and shook her head. “That’s okay. We will take this one step at a time. This is a big step right now. It’s so good to see you up and about and… coherent. Maybe in the morning we can-”

Meredith stopped short when Megan put a finger on the glass, pointing toward her.

“What? What are you trying to say, honey?”

Megan started tapping her finger on the glass… hard. She was getting angry again.

Meredith desperately wanted to understand. Think, you foolish woman. She’s pointing at you! What’s she trying to say? Meredith dared to move closer to the glass door, hoping she could narrow down what Megan was pointing at.

When the older woman was almost touching the glass, Megan appeared to get excited as she lowered her arms, took a step back, and started breathing heavily.

Meredith almost backed away until the young woman pointed again, this time at her face.

Meredith stopped and caught a glimpse of Megan’s face behind all that hair; she saw two metallic eyes with what looked like… tears… beneath them.

And then Meredith understood. She reached up and touched her own cheek, discovering wetness she had not wiped away. She raised her eyebrows and said, “Did… did you hear me… crying? Is that what brought you over?”

Megan lowered her arms and appeared to calm down. She looked at the woman one last time and then turned and retreated to her mattress, the only item in the bare white room. She laid down and turned toward the wall.

Meredith watched her go with wonder. She reacted to my sadness? She heard me crying and came over to find out… what? Was she… concerned?

She smiled and whispered to the sleeping woman, “I’m alright, Megan. Thanks for asking.” She had no idea if Megan could feel sympathetic any longer, not in her present state, but the possibility excited her. She turned away and headed back toward her table and then stopped when another thought struck:

Maybe she didn’t hear you crying at all. Maybe she sensed your sorrow and responded without understanding why.

Meredith turned back and stared into the observation room.

Megan was still lying down, facing the wall.

Meredith was caught off guard when an old memory struck her. Megan, in a lot of ways, reminded her of a time when she herself was just another lost girl trapped in a cage of sorts, being observed, just as Meredith was observing Megan.

“We’re not so different, you and I,” Meredith whispered through the glass. “In fact, it’s what makes us different from everyone else that has brought us together… here… now.”

Megan continued to appear unresponsive.

Meredith closed her eyes and allowed the past to surface in her thoughts. Again, she had worked relentlessly at keeping everything out of her mind for so long that she felt overwhelmed at times by this new sense of inner vulnerability.

And just like her blocked off abilities, her reconnection to those ancient days of youth were both a blessing and a curse…

~~~

Next Episode 35-2

Previous Episode 34-6

~~~

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 :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 35-1: Dead Dolls” 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.