Archive for the ‘walking dead’ Category

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~~~

We are finishing this, boss. Ya’ can’t hold me back for much longer… and you fuckin’ know it!

“No!” Russell ducked down, avoiding the arms of the monster, and swung the machete just below the knees of the dead man wearing blood-stained jeans. The tall zombie with long black hair fell forward to the ground like a rotting tree after the maniac severed its lower legs.

The former man, resembling a lead singer in some ‘80’s rock band, continued to crawl toward him, screeching in frustration toward his elusive prey.

Russell rolled to his feet and walked past the corpse as two more maneuvered through the trees to get to him.

Ya’ think this is good enough, boss? This is pathetic! It’s like poking sticks at week-old road kill… this is fuckin’ unacceptable!

“You want to kill something! Well… here’s you damn chance, savage! Get your fill because we’re not going after Gina!” Russell dismembered the right arm of a mangled woman wearing the torn remains of a filthy red dress. He then kicked it in the stomach, knocking it back into a shirtless teenage boy with half its rotting rib cage sticking out. They both fell to the ground and Russell quickly removed their heads with two deadly swings with the machete.

Several more dead things were approaching through the maze of dense trees.

Russell took advantage of the lull to catch his breath and try to calm down. His insides were burning with the blood lust as he continued to take out his need for brutality on the worthless woodland creatures.

THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH! The savage yelled within his head. LET ME KILL THE FUCKIN’ BITCH… NOW!

“I… said… NO!” Russell hacked at a small tree repeatedly, sending fresh shards of wood into the air. He could smell the pine bark from the young tree. It reminded him of Pine-Sol, which made him imagine the smell of bleach—both he’d used in his former life to clean up the other one’s messes. Russell regained control… barely.

For two days he’d followed Gina south, deeper into the forest. She’d chosen to travel at the base of a small valley along a river while he traveled along the top, staying as far back as he could without losing her and avoiding cutting Gina to pieces. As a result, he’d wandered into a heavily populated portion of the forest and the dead were hungry. Instead of trying to avoid them and stay hidden, Russell had chosen to take out his need to spill blood on the re-animated corpses, hoping the savage would stop pushing.

But like the dead, the savage was relentless. After Russell had failed to deliver the golden goddess, the other one had become extremely difficult to manage.

Russell rammed the end of the machete into the mushy face of a slender naked girl. Slender was not the right word as Russell was immediately reminded of a rotting tomato. The girl’s dark skin was wrinkled and barely covering her skeletal frame. The tomato girl collapsed to the ground in a pile of sickening flesh. He could hear her bones rip through skin as it fell.

More were coming.

This is pointless, boss. They won’t stop. Neither will I. You’re gonna get tired and feed these bitches if ya’ keep fighting back! Even if you get away, you’ll have to rest eventually… then I’ll take control.

“Shut the fuck up!” Russell, in a fit of rage, hacked at a short bald man with a large bite mark in his left cheek. The bald man’s grimy t-shirt was ripped open at the chest as Russell hacked into it, sending pieces of rotting innards spilling to the forest floor.

Russell’s intensity finally quieted the other one, as the savage went back into hiding with a mocking laugh. You win this round, boss. But I’m gonna gut that bitch after sundown. So, keep on biting at the dead if it makes you feel better… but I’m gonna take care of business very, very soon. Try not to dull the blade on the dead meat.

And just like that, Russell was back in full control. He immediately ran off away from the dead, losing most of them in the thick foliage. His lungs hurt. His arms felt heavy. His body ached from overexertion. He circled back toward the valley and found a large tree leaning along the edge with half its root system exposed, sticking out beneath the edge. He crawled down over the edge and beneath the tangle of roots and laid still. His eye lids felt like skyscrapers, but he refused to close them. Russell concentrated on breathing and clearing his thoughts. He started calculating the time it would take to catch up to Gina and if he could keep his distance until the next morning. But the answer was obvious.

No.

Deep down he knew the other one was correct. He could fight him off all damn day, but after the sun went down, the savage would return and take charge. Russell would be too exhausted to resist.

And Gina would be dead long before dawn.

He thought about the other night before Gina’s campfire. Had he really heard the Lady speaking through the corpse of the young zombie girl who resembled Ashley? “Not yet”, she’d said. Or, like the insanity that spawned the savage voice within him long ago, was he just hearing what he wanted to hear… what he needed to hear… to keep from slaughtering his-

Friend?

Russell’s conflicted emotions were the new enemy. He needed to know what was happening within. Was the Lady really guiding his actions now, or was he betraying her because of… Marcus?

One way or the other, he had until nightfall to learn the truth.

After losing the dead, Russell forced his heavy eyelids open, crawled out from beneath the tree roots, and then climbed down into the small valley to follow Gina. He decided to close the gap between them, convincing himself that he did not want to risk losing her in the vast forest before dusk. But deep down, from the dark primal place, images of the red-headed woman lying in a crimson pool, her vibrant green eyes staring back at him before becoming vacant—her blood dripping from the tip of his hunting knife—all of this compelled him forward.

Russell’s hands shook with anticipation which made him feel nauseous.

Closer… closer… closer…

~~~

What the fuck have you gotten us into, boss? I leave for a spell, and now, we’re surrounded by ghouls while the golden bitch is havin’ a tea party with her new boy-toy down by the river. I still can’t believe she dragged his ass all the way here.

“Be still,” Russell whispered. He quietly repositioned himself on the tree branch overlooking Gina’s camp below, while the dead slithered in the darkness near the base of the large pine tree he used as an observation post, just at the top of the other side of the valley. He could make out Gina’s silhouette sitting before her tied up prisoner. She was holding a cupped flashlight and using it to monitor the stranger like a hawk. It appeared they were talking. Russell was too far away to overhear them.

This changes nothing, boss. As soon as the two of them let their guards down, I’m gonna go down there and slit their fuckin’ throats. Two little piggies are always better than one—lots more blood that way.

Russell tried to distract the savage. “Why did she take him with her?” he whispered. “She clearly could’ve left him behind after knocking him out.”

She’s fuckin’ lonely, boss. Hell, even a woman like that needs a good stirring between the legs after a while.

Russell ignored him. “She’s made it clear that she values her isolation. The stranger must have said something to her, something that made him valuable.”

Or maybe he just has the biggest cock available, boss. Slim pickings these days.

“There’s something happening. We should’ve spent more time investigating the airport. That’s where the stranger-”

Stop fuckin’ stalling, boss. It’s not gonna work. Doesn’t matter where the other piggy came from. Might as well get your blade ready ‘cause we’re gonna skin the golden goddess tonight. I’m gonna cut her eyes out when I’m finished and feed ‘em to the dead. You and I both know she ‘ain’t shit without those precious fuckin’ eyes.

“We… can’t.”

Oh… but we can, boss… and we will.

“The Lady has forbidden it… for now. Gina’s not ready.”

Don’t start in with that horseshit again, boss. You didn’t hear shit. That bitch is still alive ‘cause you hesitated. You’ve lost your way, boss. Been spendin’ too much time makin’ friends when you should’ve been partin’ ways… if you catch my drift.

“That’s not… true.”

Of course it is, boss. You’ve become as soft as all those little piggies, lettin’ them fill your head with all their piggy ways. Now you think you’re one of them. But don’t worry. I’ll get us back on track. There’s nothin’ broken that a good old slaughter can’t fix.

Russell was surprised to find the hunting knife back in his hand. The sight of it both repulsed and excited him. He closed his eyes, tried to shut out the savage, and whispered into the darkness, “Lady, what would you have me do? Is… is it Gina’s time? I need confirmation… anything… anything at all.”

The savage was laughing inside his head.

You’re a damn fool, boss. You, your golden goddess, and your whore of a Lady can fuck-

From the bottom of the small valley, Gina’s voice was getting louder. She was now on her feet. The dead were getting riled up beneath the tree, responding to Gina’s rage.

Perfect, boss. You’re precious Gina’s picked a hell of a time to have a hissy! Time to relocate before the whole damn forest-

“Wait!” Russell eyes went wide. “Look… what is she doing with the axe?”

Both Russell and the savage watched in wonder as Gina suddenly raised her hand axe and brought it down into the stranger’s shoulder.

Oh… I could feel that, boss.

Russell could not move.

The stranger started screaming.

Gina brought the axe down again… and again… and again.

Holy shit, boss! I didn’t see that coming! Gina just hacked that piggy to pieces!

Russell was smiling. “She’s finally embraced it… all of it,” he whispered excitedly.

Your golden goddess can put on one helluva show, boss! I think I just creamed my pants… well, your pants!

From all around the forest, the dead were moving in toward Gina’s location. The scent of the fresh kill, along with the screams had aroused them into a frenzy as the beasts started falling off the cliff, stumbling down into the valley.

Time to go, boss.

“Do you see now?” Russell asked, his sharp tone demanding attention. “Do you understand now what you almost did, you fucking mindless beast?”

The other one remained silent.

“The reason the Lady stayed my hand was to show us THIS!”

What was that, boss? the other one asked timidly.

Russell laughed out loud, surprising the savage.

“All this time… and I never saw the obvious!”

What, boss? What does it all mean?

Russell shook his head and laughed again. “We’re not here to deliver Gina to the Lady… Gina is here to deliver us!”

But that would mean… the other one was confused.

“Let me put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you, savage. We’re here to finish what the Lady has started, because Gina is like us now. After a little more pushing… and some fine tuning… the real hunt will begin!”

Killer vs. Killer, boss? Shit… that never happens!

“No, it certainly does not,” Russell said. “And we will see to it that it does, savage.”

Okay… boss. The other one retreated into the maniac’s mind.

Russell smiled wickedly and began calculating as he watched Gina ascend the cliff, bloody hand axe still in hand, as she fled into the night.

~~~

Chapter 45 will continue on Thursday…

Previous Episode 45-2

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 45-3: Predators” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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

~~~

Russell was getting increasingly edgy. It had been two days since sitting with (murdering) Albert and his people and still… no Gina. To make matters worse, the savage continued to push forward in his thoughts, demanding blood and abandoning the fruitless quest for the golden goddess.

Has it even occurred to you, boss, that she’s probably something else’s food by now?

Russell tried to ignore him as he pressed on, searching for evidence of Gina’s whereabouts. He had already doubled back twice, following ghost trails deeper into the forest, dipping farther southeast and away from the interstate.

The bitch is dead… face the facts, boss. It’s time to seek greener pastures… with a healthy dose of splattered crimson.

“Shut up,” Russell snapped.

The other one laughed.

“If you’d stop fiending for a fresh kill and help me for once, I might actually find a trail to follow.”

Now you want my help? That’s rich, boss… really. But let’s be honest. You just want me off your back for five minutes while you figure out how to shut me out again.

“I like that idea,” Russell said with a smirk. “See, you’re already proving helpful now that you’ve stopped babbling on about slashing and dashing every few minutes.”

The other one was silent.

To Russell, it was the savage’s equivalent of brooding. He stopped for a moment to scan the dense forest. It was surprisingly quiet.

What now, boss?

“Do you hear that?”

I don’t hear shit. What… are you hearing another voice behind my back? You cheatin’ bastard!

Russell ignored him. This section of the forest was too silent. “Where are they? The dead?”

Probably eating someone, boss. That’s the only time they’re-

“Shhh!” Russell stopped moving.

There was a sound… several sounds in sequence. It was faint but coming from the north and back toward the freeway.

That’s wood knocking, boss.

“What?”

You know… that shit those idiots do on trees when the Bigfoot chasers want the monster to come out and eat them? Geez, have you forgotten everything we’ve watched on television?

The woods went silent again. Russell moved in the direction of the sounds, listening more intently this time.

He stopped when he heard it again. Five distinctive knocks this time.

See, told you, boss. Wood knocking.

“Why would anyone be giving away their position out here?” Russell continued to move toward the sounds. “Do they want the beasts to find them?”

Maybe someone’s knocking in code, boss. You know, letting someone else know that your dumb ass is about to walk right into their trap?

“As usual, you’re useless.”

I try, boss.

Russell heard the knocking again. Much closer this time. That was when he realized that he wasn’t the only one following the sounds. Just ahead, the forest came alive with activity as the dead pushed in, following the sounds.

Russell crouched down behind a bush and watched the strange procession of reanimated beasts head north.

“This reminds me of something,” he whispered.

Sure it does, boss. The fucking Pied Piper. You really should have paid more attention to public television in your dysfunctional youth.

That was exactly it. For once the savage did prove helpful.

“Someone’s deliberately luring the dead north… but why?”

Sounds like someone doesn’t want to share the forest, boss. What a shame because they all looked like such a nice batch of drooling drones.

Russell’s eyebrows shot up. “Luring the dead out of the woods would be pointless. They’d just come back.” He started calculating. “But an organized mob of the dead would be a great way to keep something else from entering… especially if they’re alive.”

Now, boss, besides yourself, who else do we know that’s not fond of the living? the other one teased.

Russell smiled. “It’s Gina. She’s doing this.”

Bingo!

Russell looked south. “She’s got a camp back here somewhere.”

We could just follow the herd right to her, boss.

He closed his eyes and tried to remain calm. Russell wanted to find Gina as much as the savage did, but if he spotted her now, with all this excitement brewing with the dead, the other one would take control… and he knew it. Everything had to be right first… perfect.

“No. Not yet,” he said. “We’ll wait nearby for all this activity to die down. Gina will eventually come back this way with her guard lowered… and it will be closer to evening by then.”

I like where this is going, boss. It feels all… ‘Old School’.

“She’ll lead us right to her camp. We’ll hang back until dark… wait for the fire… then slowly get into position.”

I’m getting’ chills, boss! You gonna go all Camp Crystal Lake on her ass?

“Then… when she falls asleep… we’ll make our move.”

And slit her open down the middle, soak our hands in that fuckin’ pool of flesh, and then toss it above our heads ‘till it comes back down like crimson rain! Oh, boss… I’m so damn excited! It’s finally time to gut the golden goddess!”

Russell frowned. “Yes… it’s time.”

~~~

The ominous night moved in, surrounding the trees like a large black glove, and then quickly closing its grip around the vestiges of the dying day. The darkness in the new world came abruptly now, ever since the artificial lights of Man had been snuffed out as easily as a candle in the wind, killing off the old illusions that evenings had once been tamed by such a naïve species. Night had reverted to its original calling: The origin of nightmares and the hiding places of monsters no longer restricted to bedtime stories and free to devour the landscape.

Late night. All that remained of the illusion was a dull sliver of primitive light from the embers of a small campfire which barely penetrated the dense ring of pine trees that hid Gina’s camp.

By the time the full moon, the ancient appointed overseer over the long night, had finally navigated its way through the thick forest canopy, the last real predator of the forest had already moved into position.

The indifferent sphere above, mother of distorted shadows that scratched against the ambient light, tried several times to give up Russell’s position… and failed.

He looked up at the moon and smiled.

I see you.

The moon had no response.

Russell raised the hunting knife before his face. There was no reflection in the blade—a sharp shadow holding another—just two instruments that had become one to pierce into the darkness. He was reminded once more of his true calling and felt a sense of freedom he had not felt in a very long time.

Even the savage remained as silent as the surrounding forest, everything holding its breath until the deed of deliverance was made manifest.

Salvation, Russell thought.

Death, in her true form, was not something to be feared. She was the Lady of Shadows and not a catastrophic natural event, man-made explosion invoking terror, or even a supernatural uprising of the dead. Yes… these were all instruments to promote her cause, as was Russell, but he knew the difference between her hand and the beauty found within her precious face. The Lady was graceful—she was the whisper. She was the illuminating moment shared once the eyes of the instrument gazed into the eyes of the redeemed, released from this world to join with her… forever. Both predator and prey transcending into something… well… something he had no adequate words to describe.

And now, the moment had come to deliver someone precious, someone who had danced with the Lady several times, who had grown in her grace like a daughter with her mother and was now ready to sit at her appointed place alongside the only real goddess who cared about this perishing world.

All things die, Russell thought. But it’s how we live that determines whether we’re worthy of Her. Indeed, Russell could appreciate the irony in the Lady’s cause. So many… so many… squandered what she gave them. She gave them life… but branded them with a piece of herself. Death had always been there. Even at birth, the Lady was right there… waiting. Her sole purpose: To make them all value the vapor of life they’ve been given and embrace that life without fear of the inevitable conclusion… as was intended. Without her, life had no meaning. But the promise of Death had been distorted by this sick world, and instead of embracing life, people feared it. Instead of raising their heads toward the end… they ran from it… and became slaves to Fear.

Russell wiped a tear from the corner of his eye with his free hand. He felt blessed and humbled to be a part of it. His purpose: To help them all rediscover what it meant to really “live” and then deliver them to the Lady. He was the instrument of her grace for as long as he continued to prove himself worthy.

Am I… still worthy?

The question shook him at the foundation. Since the Lady had accelerated her plans by bringing forth the dead, Russell had lost his way. But now, he felt right again. Out here, in the darkness, he felt a peace he had not experienced since saving Janet Schuler from this world. As far as the question was concerned, he dared not think it again. Hearing the answer was the only real thing he still feared.

He closed his eyes and took a stabilizing breath. He started calculating his final moves.

It’s time.

Russell opened his eyes and slithered out of the shadows of the pine trees and into the faint light of Gina’s camp.

He stood over the exhausted woman, his shadow falling gracefully over Gina’s battered and bruised vessel. He smiled down at her, holding the knife firmly to his side, as he watched her chest slowly rise and fall. Russell watched as the filthy red-headed woman’s eyes moved behind her dirty lids. Even now, she continued to put up a fight in the nightmare realm as she wrestled whatever demons assaulted her in her sleep.

She is remarkable, he thought. Gina has never once turned her back on the Lady, refusing to lie down and let fear win. She fights, the only way she knows how… whether it’s against the beasts in the world, or the people who have abandoned her, or the monster from within… she fights to live with every damn breath!

Suddenly, he was overwhelmed by flashes of his journey with the fiery woman ever since meeting her at the Percy Power Plant. He had been honored to be there, to protect her on her road to discovering her path toward the end, watching her grow in the Lady’s grace, and become the fearless woman who slept before him now. Even out here, facing the relentless enemies of Loneliness and Despair, Gina continued to fight… to live. Russell marveled at her passion for survival. I will miss you, my dear friend. The thought struck him, causing him to relax his grip around the knife hilt.

What are you doing, boss?

The savage had no business speaking before the appointed time. Something was… wrong.

Why am I… hesitating? he thought to himself.

That’s a good fuckin’ question, boss. You’ve never done this before. Kill the fuckin’ bitch… NOW!

Russell shook it all off. He raised the knife and moved in toward Gina’s throat… and stopped. He couldn’t explain it, but something felt… off.

What the fuck are you waiting for, boss? If you don’t finish this… I WILL!

Before he could assess what was happening, something shifted near a pine tree off to his right.

Russell immediately retreated toward the edge of the camp.

A young woman rose up from beneath the pine tree and stared at him.

Russell was still as stone. “Ashley?” he whispered. He immediately began recalculating.

For a moment, all he saw was Greg’s daughter staring back at him. The apparition then opened its mouth and uttered two faint sounds.

Russell nearly stumbled back a step but caught himself. What the fuck?

And then the young woman’s face shifted in the firelight, revealing the truth, as her face distorted until something savage replaced the young girl. It was just another monster.

Russell quickly but quietly retreated into the forest as the dead-head screeched after him.

He just made it to his hiding spot when he heard Gina’s hand gun explode across the silent night.

Russell struggled to breathe as he sat still with his back up against the pine tree.

You’ve fucked this all up, boss. The savage had an unfamiliar and disturbingly calm finality to his voice. You’ve screwed it all up… and now… you and I are done.

Russell closed his eyes and tried to clear his thoughts. He forced out the savage and everything else, replaying the last few seconds before the dead thing that resembled Ashley Dermont spoke.

Where the fuck are you right now, boss?

Russell opened his eyes. “I heard her,” he whispered.

The other one waited.

Russell’s face, if anyone could’ve seen it, would have displayed his complete bewilderment. He finished, “I saw that young girl. She spoke two words… and then… and then she was gone!”

You’ve lost it, boss. You’ve let some damn dead girl spook you the fuck out!

Russell ignored the savage.

He remembered what it… Ashley… had said:

“Not yet.”

~~~

Next Episode 45-3

Previous Episode 45-1

~~~

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 :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 45-2: Predators” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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

~~~

Gina Melborn’s trail went cold once Russell Bower departed the Wasteland woods and entered the much larger forest. What made tracking her difficult was the abundance of the dead that flourished in these new woods, creating false trails all over the place. Since leaving the underground compound four days ago, he’d pushed too hard on his sprained right ankle, slowing down the healing process and forcing him to rest it more than he desired. Gina had been living in exile for six days now, which meant she could be anywhere in these dangerous woods. As nightfall approached, all Russell knew was that it appeared Gina had chosen to stay just south of the interstate, perhaps using it to forage for supplies.

As evening twilight dwindled to black, Russell caught the faint traces of a campfire through the thick forest foliage. He stopped to rest behind a large tree trunk as he considered his next move.

Do you think that’s her, boss? Have we finally found the bitch at last?

Russell closed his eyes and took deep breaths, trying to ignore the savage who had done nothing but push and push for blood ever since leaving the compound. The other one had made tracking Gina, while staying invisible from the dead, increasingly difficult, as Russell continuously struggled to maintain focus… and control.

He stared down at his shaking hands, feeling like an addict suffering from withdrawals. He lifted his right hand in front of his face, staring at the black leather glove he now wore to conceal his branded palm. “Be patient,” he scolded. “All you ever want to do is rush right in to every situation.”

Fuck patience, boss! We’re free now. Free to do whatever we want, when we want. If not for your fuckin’ quest for the golden goddess, promising me again and again that we’d be bathing in her blood, we could’ve been roamin’ the countryside, all free-style like, slashin’ and dashin’ on the local bumpkins. Ya’ know we’ve seen signs of some truly unrighteous kill potentials out here.

“You’d like that,” Russell hissed. “You’d like nothing more than for me to let you off your leash so we could just go slaughter anything that moved.”

Damn straight, boss. And why the hell not? Your fuckin’ way hasn’t yielded any results in a very long time. All this damn prentendin’ to be somethin’ we’re not. Tryin’ to fit in and become some goddamn member of a group of piggies who have done nothin’ but put us in harms way, is getting’ fuckin’ OLD!

“Be silent!” he hissed.

No fuckin’ way! I’m tired of lettin’ you run the show, boss! You promised me blood, and I mean to get dirty!

“Soon.”

YOU PROMISED!

Russell was surprised to discover that he had retrieved the machete, holding it fiercely in his non-branded hand. He let go of the weapon, made a fist, and started pounding it into the earth. “I said… WAIT!” he pushed back.

The other one finally relented… this time.

Russell forced himself to remain calm. Whoever started the camp fire, he believed it wasn’t Gina. She was much smarter than that. The camp site was too exposed. Gina would’ve found somewhere more strategic. Russell knew the savage also understood this… but he had another agenda… always a bloody one. Regardless, there were people nearby, people who might have seen her. It was worth revealing himself to find out.

Gina or no fuckin’ Gina, we’re killin’ somethin’ tonight, boss.

Russell exhaled and strapped his machete to his pack. He stood up and started planning his route toward the fire. He wanted to move in close enough to see who he was dealing with before revealing himself. Russell crept through the forest toward the camp fire and stopped when he noticed the aluminum can trip wire surrounding the perimeter.

Fuckin’ amateurs, boss.

He ducked down, staring through the dark trees. He could make out two tents near the fire but could see no movement.

He listened to the too-silent woods, smiling at himself when he realized his mistake. They’re not that bad, he thought back, understanding that someone was already waiting for him.

You’re losing your edge, boss. All that peaceful lack-of-killing bullshit has made you dull.

Russell stood up slowly and raised his hands to show he wasn’t carrying anything.

As expected, they made their move.

“If you fucking flinch another inch, friend, I’m going to blow your damn head off.” The low gravely male voice was coming from just behind a tree, ten feet to Russell’s right.

Russell didn’t move. “I’m… I’m not going to cause any trouble. I’m alone. I just saw your camp fire and was curious. I haven’t seen anyone in these woods for days.”

He’d already located the other two people before they moved out of their hiding spots. One was a man, the other, a woman.

The woman, carrying a shotgun, stepped in front of the fire light. Her silhouette was tall and very thin, making her look like one of the dead. “What do you want?” she barked.

“Just a little warmth from your fire… and to be honest… a little company,” Russell said.

“What’s in the pack?” the third man, who sounded much younger, asked. He remained behind another tree.

“Just some supplies and a few weapons to defend myself… I’ve got canned food if you’re interested.”

The first man stepped out, holding a rifle. He was a big, burly man with a long curly black beard, wearing a faded green ballcap backwards. “Drop the pack and keep your arms up.”

Russell obliged.

“Now, step on over closer to the fire so we can get a better look at you. Don’t fuck with us. You’ll regret it.”

Russell nodded. He stepped over the trip wire and through the remaining brush until the small camp site came into full view.

All three of them moved in to surround him, leaving plenty of distance. The burly man took up the rear and grabbed Russell’s pack. After a few moments of investigating the contents of Russell’s pack, the burly man nodded to the other two. “Just a handgun, machete, a hunting knife and the food he mentioned.”

The woman stepped in front of Russell. She looked much older up close—her bony frame holding up a loose-fitting dirty black tank-top that made her chest stand out from the rest of her thin frame. She also wore tight-fitting jeans, ripped in several places. The woman had straight black hair tied back in a ponytail with streaks of gray showing through. The creases in her face stood out as she frowned at him. The woman lowered the shotgun and said, “I’m gonna search you. Don’t give me any shit about it, okay?”

Russell nodded.

She roughly patted him down, slowing down considerable around his crotch and ass areas. She smiled up at him, noticing his discomfort. She stood back up. “He’s clean, Albert.”

The burly man with the beard stepped into view, dropping his pack at Russell’s feet. “You can have your shit back. We’re not thieves, just careful.”

“I understand,” Russell said.

Albert gave him a final glance and said, “Well, come on over to the fire. Just leave your shit in the bag, especially that gun, and we’ll get along just fine.”

Russell nodded and picked up his pack.

The younger man had already moved back to the fire pit. He sat down and laid his rifle across his lap. He was no more than nineteen or twenty years old. He had short blond hair in the back, with long bangs that hid his eyes. The young man wore a red t-shirt with a long-faded design on the front and loose-fitting jeans with holes in the knees.

“That’s Calvin,” Albert said, sitting down next to the young man. His big frame made him look uncomfortable sitting near the fire. He motioned toward a spot next to the woman. “Please, sit. You look like shit.”

Russell laughed. “Thanks. I feel worse than I look.” He sat down by the fire.

Albert smiled. “That’s Tonya next to you there. Don’t let her get too close. She bites.”

Tonya winked at Russell and smiled.

“The kid here doesn’t say much. And I’m sick of talking to this bitch,” Albert said, earning him a teasing glare from Tonya. “We don’t see too many fresh faces around here… and the company is starting to get real stale.”

“Amen,” Tonya added with a laugh.

“Thanks for your kindness. My name’s Russell. I think I’ve said more words in the last five minutes than I have in the last five days. I was starting to think I was the last person still alive… and that’s not a comforting thought.”

“I hear you,” Albert said. “Myself, Tonya and Michael over there… well… I guess you could say we’re the scouting party for our larger group. We go out, search for supplies, weapons, or whatever else we can find. We also try to recruit good people when possible. We just don’t find too many of those. Are you good people, Russell?”

Russell smirked. “I don’t know. I’m a poor judge of character on my best days.”

This made Tonya laugh. “I like this one,” she said. “He’s got jokes.”

Albert shook his big head with a smile. “So… Russell… why the hell are you out here?”

Russell didn’t hesitate. “I’m looking for a friend of mine. Maybe you’ve seen her. She’s got red hair, green eyes, and a temper. Her name’s Gina.”

They all looked at each other questionably.

“No… doesn’t sound like anyone we’ve seen,” Tonya said. “Sorry.”

Russell nodded.

There, boss. Q and A is done. Now let’s skin these fuckers while they’re feelin’ all friendly. We can cut ear muffs out of Ms. Perky Tits and-

“Well,” Russell said. “I had to try.”

“Sure,” Albert said, half-heartedly. “These are some pretty big fucking woods. Just ‘cause we haven’t seen her, that doesn’t mean your friend is… gone. Is she alone out here?”

“Yes. But she’s a resourceful woman. I’m sure I’ll catch up to her eventually.”

Grab the fuckin’ machete, boss. Do it now, while they’re all sittin’ stupid by this fuckin’ fire. We can end this in seconds.

“So… how did you lose your friend?” Tonya asked.

“That’s a long story,” Russell said. “Why is it just the three of you out here? Didn’t you say you had a larger group?”

“Yeah,” Albert said. “We’re heading back tomorrow. We do this shit a lot. I don’t know. Makes us feel like we’re actually accomplishing something, know what I mean?”

Russell stared into the dark forest. “Seems risky. But I get it. Can’t really live if your too busy hiding all the damn time.”

Albert laughed and stared at the others. “He gets it.” He looked back at Russell. “Maybe you’d consider coming back with us. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but maybe some of my friends have seen your friend.”

“Are you sure? You don’t even know me.”

Tonya laughed. “None of us knew each other before the winter. We’ve… grown on each other since then.”

“Yeah, like warts,” Michael chimed in.

“He speaks at last!” Albert teased, making the young man shake his head. “What Tonya’s trying to say is that we didn’t get a group together by being afraid of everyone. We’ve learned to take chances on people. We’re cautious… but we haven’t given up on the rest of humanity yet. When this shit finally runs its course, we’re gonna need to learn how to trust each other again.”

Russell raised his eyebrows at the big man. “But how do you know who to trust? I could be a serial killer for all you know.”

Good one, boss.

Albert shook his head and laughed. “Doesn’t really matter what we were. It’s all about the big damn reset button now. Ever since the shit hit the fan, we’ve all been given another chance to un-fuck this world. That’s how I see it, anyway. Besides, you don’t look like the killer type.”

How did this big fuckin’ idiot survive this long, boss? If we wait long enough he’ll probably have us all holding hands before the night’s over.

“You have a refreshing perspective on things,” Russell said. “Don’t know if I buy it, but it’s better than the doom and gloom perspectives others have shared with me. So many have misunderstood this new opportunity we’ve been given, and chosen to wallow in everything they’ve lost, instead.”

“Yes… you’re right, Russell,” Albert said. “But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Anyone left who’s still really breathing knows that we can’t go back to the way things were. Somewhere in all that bullshit is how this all happened… I’m sure of it. But surviving isn’t enough either. We need each other now. That was the only thing we lost that mattered, and we lost that long before this fucking apocalypse ever started.”

Oh… please! This dumb fucker’s gonna make me vomit in your mouth, boss. He wants peace… I say… give ‘em pieces.

“So, this group of yours,” Russell started, “are they close?”

“We found a construction site before winter,” Tonya said. “Some new neighborhood development. They’d built a couple demo-houses, fully furnished, before everything went to hell. The entire site’s surrounded by a tall chain-link fence. It was perfect, so we took it over.”

Albert finished, “It’s just a few miles southwest of here. You’re more than welcome to come back with us. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the houses are quite large. There’s room for you and your friend.”

Russell smiled. “I’ll consider it.”

“I wouldn’t wait too long, though,” Albert laughed. “Got room available now, but pretty soon, after we find more people like yourself, we’ll have to relocate. It’s hard work rebuilding society, my friend, but we intend to bring it all back… eventually.”

Russell looked confused. “But didn’t you just say, ‘we can’t go back to the way things were’?”

“Well… yeah… sure. What I meant was the people. We can’t have those same old attitudes that brought us to this point. We have to change up here and in here.” Albert pointed to his head and then to his chest.

Russell looked toward the fire.

“What do you think he meant?” Tonya said, flabbergasted by Russell’s lack of enthusiasm. “Did you think we’d all just live out in the woods forever? After we gain strength in numbers and resources, we’ll start getting back what’s ‘ours’, and then put the dead back in the ground where they belong.”

“When the lights finally come back on and shit gets back to normal,” young Calvin started, “I’m going to spend my first week doing nothing but sitting in front of the TV and just flipping through the channels, staring at the remote like a damn caveman discovering fire for the first time.”

This made Albert and Tonya laugh.

Russell stared into their faces like they’d just gone insane.

What did you expect, boss? These piggies had their straw, wood and brick houses blown the fuck down… and all they can think of, while they’re asses are turned to bacon, is killing off the latest wolves and going back to business as usual. Pathetic. They still don’t get it, do they, boss?

Russell had no response.

“All joking aside,” Albert said. “We’ll get it all back, including what we took for granted. People will change, you’ll see.”

“People have changed,” Russell said, unable to pretend any longer. “Under the threat of their very existence, day in, day out, those of us who are left have had all those ridiculous distractions removed from the equation. We went from slowly dying in our indifference and fear… shedding all illusions of safety, arrogance, and acting like we were immortal… to understanding what it means to truly be alive. It took Death to get us here. Why would any of you give that up?”

All three of them gave each other an uneasy look, not expecting such a dire turn in the conversation.

Albert smiled and said, “Look. I get it, Russell. I really do. But-”

“We are free of the cages,” Russell pushed. “And you, and others like you, want to fight to rebuild the prisons. That’s not progress, that’s not change,” Russell spit out the last word. “That’s the age-old voice of Fear calling out in the darkness, calling out to all its children to come back home and forsake real freedom in exchange for the comforts of familiar shackles.”

Calvin shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t like this guy. I think he’s been out here too long. Make him leave.”

“Agreed,” Tonya said, staring with concern into the intense man’s eyes.

They both tightened their grips on their weapons.

“Relax everybody,” Albert said, raising his hands. “Russell has some strong opinions. He’s entitled to them. Hell… he’s fucking earned them after surviving all this shit.”

“I am not… a survivor,” Russell said, staring into the fire.

Albert raised an eyebrow. “Then what are you, friend? You have a death wish we should know about?”

He’s the mother-fuckin’ storm that’s gonna blow your fuckin’ house down, little piggies.

Russell gazed into Albert’s eyes, appreciating the irony of the foolish man’s final words.

The firelight shimmered in the reflection of the blade. Before Albert and Calvin could register what just happened, Russell had slipped the machete out of the back of his pack, turned, and with one upward slice beneath Tonya’s chin, he’d completely removed her face… her revolting, primitive face.

Tonya’s hands reached up in shock, the pain not yet registering, as blood dripped down between the cracks in her fingers. What was left of her face, was laying in her lap. The woman started screaming like a banshee.

Now that’s what I’m fuckin’ talkin’ ‘bout, boss! Kill ‘em all!

Calvin raised his rifle late, firing wildly in a panic, and shot Tonya in the chest.

Russell was already moving behind the dying woman by the time Albert stood up and retrieved his handgun from the back of his belt.

Albert extended his arm to aim but Russell quickly dismembered it at the elbow. The big man stared in shock as his limb fell into the fire, his gun spinning free near Russell’s feet. Russell ducked down and spun his foot just above the big man’s feet, while grabbing the handgun. By the time Albert fell to the ground, screaming in pain, Russell had fired four rounds into Calvin’s chest before the young man could get a clear shot. Calvin collapsed, dead.

Russell discarded the gun and moved toward Albert. His elongated shadow holding the machete fell over the terrified man who was putting pressure on his severed arm, trying not to bleed out.

The big man looked up into Russell’s expressionless face. “Why… why would you… do this?”

There was no way Albert would understand. None of them would. But he said it anyway. “Because the Lady has commanded it.” He moved in to remove Albert’s head.

NO! Not like that!

Russell hesitated. The machete shook in his hand.

Slowly, boss… slowly…

“I’m not like you, savage,” Russell spoke out loud. “This is finished.”

You owe me, boss. I’ve waited too damn long!

“No.”

YOU OWE ME!!!

“No! I will not… I can’t…”

Albert was losing consciousness. He was convinced of two things: He was about to die… and this man was insane.

You can, boss. And you WILL! Tonight, you are the savage. Give in.

“NO!”

GIVE… IN… NOW!

Russell Bower approached the dying man. He raised his machete and brought it down again… and again… removing his feet first, then the other arm. Albert screamed until he passed out from the pain. He was dead long before Russell tore him open down the midsection, leaving his intestines spilling out beside the fire.

When he was finished, Russell looked into the vacant eyes of the dead man and turned away in disgust from the bloody mess, dropping to one knee and breathing heavily.

By now, the dead were stumbling through the trees, attracted by the screams and gunfire. He heard the aluminum can trip wire sound off.

You did good, boss. Real good.

“Enough,” he said. “It’s done.”

Not quite yet, boss. There’s more bacon back where these piggies came from.

Russell closed his eyes. He started calculating.

A minute later, he grabbed his pack and headed southwest into the night. Hopefully the dead would be satisfied by the butchery he left behind, and not pursue him toward the neighborhood development site.

~~~

Next Episode 45-2

Previous Episode 44-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 45-1: Predators” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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

~~~

Thanks again for all your votes last week, bumping my serial up a few places.

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

Here’s an easy way to do so:

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

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

Thanks again for all your support and for reading.

-Scott

~~~

David Fintner had inherited the old farmstead five years ago. On paper it had looked promising. Several acres of land, including the surrounding forest, seemed to hold so much potential when he first moved his family here. Sure, the land needed a lot of work, the farmhouse hadn’t been upgraded in years, and the old barn was about to collapse, but David had once had big plans for the place.

Unfortunately, so did the bank that made it nearly impossible to keep up with the debt he also inherited.

He, his wife, Mary, and his older Brother Daryl, along with David’s two frustratingly unappreciative sons, who were both over eighteen and threw it in his face every time David asked the freeloaders to help with the place, had all moved in. It had been a living hell ever since. The only saving grace had been little Amy, David’s youngest child, who absolutely loved the farm. When Mary threatened to leave him for moving them out to this wasteland of life, and Amy’s uncle Daryl caught the cancer and was unable to help with the hard labor, it was eight-year-old Amy who brought a ray of sunshine even on David’s darkest days. When they were on brink of losing the farm, that little girl kept David afloat as he’d tried his best to take the blunt of the strife in his household and keep Amy far from it.

Then the outbreak happened.

As it turned out, losing the rest of the world to the dead had saved David’s family. No one came to reclaim the farm. Those ungrateful older siblings stopped threatening to move away. Mary never uttered another word about divorce. Even Uncle Daryl seemed to get better.

They’d all listened to the news on the radio, when there still was news, and had heard what happened to families. Children attacking their parent. Parents attacking children. They’d heard the odds: one in five had turned into monsters. But somehow, David’s family had been spared.

The farm, originally a curse, had become a blessing overnight. While the dead ravaged the landscape around them, David and his family had hunkered down for the long winter, living on canned preserves, a well-stocked pantry, well water, and an abundance of fuel that kept the generator running, one of the few things David had done right. They had all drawn closer as a family and survived when so many had not. His family had turned to him for comfort and David provided reassurance, however false it was. It didn’t matter. They were still here.

And all the while little Amy remained oblivious to it all.

David knew he should’ve started talking about leaving the farm after winter ended, especially after he explored the surrounding forest for game, only to discover that the dead were slowly moving closer to the farm. One lone ridge was the only thing keeping those sickly-looking beasts from discovering them, but he did nothing.

He told them nothing.

David had returned with news that the wildlife had gone away and that they should just stay put and wait for the world to right itself. He’d locked up the only two guns in the house, telling his family that using them might draw attention from the living who would try to take what they had… but in truth, it was the dead he feared. One gunshot and all David had achieved would be over.

His family did not question his judgment, something David wasn’t used to, and they agreed to defend the farm with blunt weapons, should it ever come down to it.

Time passed. Complacency became a slow poison. The Fintner family continued to live, grateful for the farm, and safely hidden away from their dying world…

…David continued to stare at the body of his young daughter as the dead fought for it. He could only see her foot sticking out of the mass of bloody savages that had attacked her from the forest. He held the pitchfork in numb hands. He felt his legs give way as he dropped to his knees, oblivious to the scattered dead that continued to approach him from the surrounding forest and invade the back of the property.

Her pitiful screams would haunt the remainder of his short life… and the hell that followed.

He’d just gone out back to fetch her for breakfast. Amy loved to dance in the backyard in the mornings, talking to her invisible friends who she’d made up over the winter months. He enjoyed watching her imagination thrive and she made him laugh. She never wandered far, just far enough for the first of the shadowy forms which had emerged from the wood line to beat him to the girl. He’d shouted at them. But that only made the monsters move faster.

He knew he should get up and fight them, defend his family, his home, but all David could do was watch as his daughter was devoured by the dead… and he wanted to join her. And of course, the rest of them weren’t out here now. He might have shouted for them to run… David couldn’t remember. Or maybe they were watching from the windows as David’s lies materialized and invaded the farmstead. Maybe they were waiting just long enough to watch him die while cursing his name for ever moving them out here… and rightly so.

He had told them they were safe. He had locked up the only weapons they had. And now the monsters had finally come for them, too.

All debts were now being collected.

“Come on, mother fuckers!”

David followed the voice, looking up past the mob consuming his daughter, beyond the monsters coming for him, too, and saw something that defied belief… even now. At first, he thought the dead were attacking their own, as one of them, apparently wielding a hand axe, stormed out of the woods and started hacking into them.

He managed to get to his feet.

As the dead thing came closer, causing the rest of its kind to turn back toward it, David swore he heard it speak a second time.

“Fuck you! Every single one of you! You want it… come on then! I’LL FUCKING KILL EVERY ONE OF YOU!”

Its clothes were not deteriorated like the others. But it was covered in blood and filth. The thing’s wild reddish hair concealed its face as the monster continued to kick, shove and hack into the dead all around it. David heard it swear into the faces of its victims, and for a moment, the beast looked and sounded like a woman. He raised the pitch fork in shaky hands toward the crazed talking beast, believing that a devil had come straight out of the woods to claim him for his sins.

The devil/woman thing briefly locked eyes with him. It spoke again, “RUN!”

“David!”

David turned back toward the farmhouse. It was Mary. She was standing with the rest of his family on the back porch. They were armed with whatever weapons they could find. Terrified, but they were there.

He smiled at them. “It’s okay,” he shouted back. “I’ll take care of this. You all… you all just go back in the house and wait… just wait for me to… take care of things.”

“David… where’s Amy? We can’t find Amy!” Mary was bordering hysterical.

“Just…GO!” he shouted. “I’ll find her… I’ll bring her back! She’s just out here playing like she always does… I’ll just go get her and-”

Several cold limbs reached out from behind and pulled David to the ground. They dead tore him to pieces in seconds.

The demon woman had made it as far as Amy when she saw the farmer go down. She looked toward the rest of David’s family who were screaming from the porch and shouted, “What the fuck are you waiting for? RUN YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!”

The Fintner family had seen enough. They scattered from the back porch and started running around the front of the house.

Gina, enraged that she couldn’t reach the farmer in time, turned on the closest dead things and hacked into their faces, screaming and howling until her voice gave out.

There were far too many now. Gina’s only chance was to make it to the farmhouse. She pushed her tired legs forward, just ahead of the herd, and watched the rest of the family flee.

Please… let them all be gone, she frantically prayed. Please tell me this wasn’t all for nothing.

“Come on you stupid fuckers!” she shouted back, hoping to keep the monsters’ attention on her. “You want to eat me… come and get me!”

Gina almost stumbled on the steps climbing up the back porch. If she had, the dead would’ve had her. Instead she clumsily struck the back door, opened it, and just managed to fall inside. Gina rolled on her back and slammed the door shut with her foot. She immediately smelled something burning from the kitchen that made her think of breakfast. Corned beef hash?

The dead started pounding on the door. Light coming through the windows facing the back of the house was immediately blocked out as hollowed-out faces pressed up against the glass.

Gina struggled to her feet, using a wall to keep from falling over. She was spent, burning up all her physical reserves a while ago, she’d been running on the fumes of pure rage and adrenaline.

She took a deep breath and shouted into the house. “Is anyone in here?”

No answer.

Good.

Her senses were overloaded with the manic sounds of the dead trying to penetrate the home, combined with the comfy-looking interior of the small house. Her heart pounded in her ears. She caught a glimpse of the small breakfast table, just outside the kitchen. Plates and glasses were set before a window of bloody dead hands pounding for today’s menu specials.

Gina laughed at the thought. Her laughter sounding strange… bordering insanity.

She moved toward the table, staring out at the dead, and hissed, “Come on… then. Let’s get this over with.” She reached down toward the table, picked up a half-full glass of water, and inhaled it.

“I’d kill for a cup of coffee.” She laughed, a little longer then she should have.

Gina sat down at the table, knocked a plate to the floor, and set her axe down. She stared at the place settings, bemused by it all, and shouted over her shoulder at no one, “What’s a girl… what’s a girl gotta do to get service around here?”

The glass in the window started to crack.

“Oh… just fucking wait a damn minute,” she hissed toward the window, refusing to look at them. “Just… give me five fucking minutes of piece. Then you can eat.”

She could hear the back door starting to give. They’d break through any moment now.

Gina no longer cared. She had nothing left. It took all she had after foolishly sitting down, not to let her heavy eyelids close. “I always could sleep right after a big home-cooked breakfast,” she said with a smile. “To bad I didn’t get here sooner. Probably missed out on the bacon and eggs… although, I’ve always been a pancake girl.”

More cracks appeared in the window. She could hear other windows cracking.

The dead stared in at her, oblivious to breakfast or anything else. The exhausted woman sitting at the table was only another blood bag carrying what they needed… what they absolutely had to have.

Gina stared toward the window into the tightly pressed pale and bloody faces of the former living, their rotting teeth snapping at her through the cracked glass, their eyes, dark and sunken in—void of life, and she started to weep. She tried to shut out the chorus of hungry indifferent moans with her own pained words. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry for all of this. Not that it’s my fault… but… someone should be… sorry.” She wiped fresh tears away. “Someone should grieve for you pitiful pieces of shit, I suppose. Hell, it’s not like you dumb fucks had a choice.” She closed her eyes. “It’s not like any of us really had a choice… to do the horrible things we’ve done.” But deep down, that excuse wouldn’t hold. For the dead… yes. What else could they be or do other than what they’ve become? What did that say about the rest? What did that say about the living who still possessed choices, no matter how limited they were?

Gina smiled bitterly and shook her head. In a few more moments, she wouldn’t have to contemplate it.

There was that, at least.

Suddenly, the dead started quieting down.

Gina felt light from outside strike her closed eyelids. She opened them, staring bewildered toward the clear window. “What the hell?”

The pounding at the back door had stopped.

Gina rose to her feet, feeling like there was a knife firmly planted in her side. She picked up her axe and approached the back door, staring out through the windows and watching the dead turn away.

“Where are you going?” She watched them collectively move toward the side of the farmhouse and disappear from her view.

Before she could investigate further, there was a light knock on the back door.

Gina was stunned. What is this?

“Gina?” a familiar voice called through the door. “Open up. It’s me… Marcus.”

Uncontrollable tears started streaming down her face as she raised her hands to her mouth. For a moment, she couldn’t believe it. “I’m hearing shit,” she said. “It’s official. I’ve finally lost my fucking mind.”

“Gina? You alright in there? It’s safe, for now, but we don’t have long. If you could-”

Gina opened the door.

A man with short black hair and dark, penetrating eyes, stood at the door. For a moment Marcus appeared as shocked as she was, observing her ragged appearance. He finally smiled. “It’s good to see you, Gina. I thought-”

Gina fiercely embraced him and started to bawl like a child.

Marcus caught her and reluctantly placed his arms around her. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “Everything’s going to be alright now.”

Gina managed to nod, digging her face into his shoulder. “I’m… all fucked-up,” was all she managed to say.

“Okay, well… let’s get you out of this horrible place,” Marcus said, gently leading her outside. “We’ll talk in a bit.”

Gina allowed herself to be led off the porch steps. Marcus escorted her back toward the rear of the property and into the forest. He kept his arms around her, feeling the broken woman on the verge of collapsing.

Gina looked around at the surprisingly empty field and said with alarm, “What about the dead? There all over the-”

“I took care of that, Gina.” Marcus said. “Don’t’ worry about it. They’re… distracted… for the moment.”

“Did you see them? That… that family? Did they get away?”

“Sorry, Gina. I didn’t see anyone.”

Gina gave up. Marcus was here, and that meant she wasn’t alone anymore.

Things will get better now, she thought. They sent him back to bring me home. The admission caught her by surprise, causing her to weep again.

Home?

Fuck me, maybe I’m not better off without them, she wondered. Her thoughts drifted to that breakfast table and the family that once drew strength from sitting together at it each day. She smiled and thought, Take me home, Marcus. I miss them terribly. I don’t care if I have to spend the rest of my days in a prison cell… just… just take me…

Home.

Marcus and Gina disappeared into the trees.

~~~

From the side of the Fintner farmhouse, just beyond Gina’s view from within the house, the dead had found a new target for their blood lust as they’d swarmed together, fighting over the freshly slain.

A once distraught Mary Fintner, her two terrified sons, and overwhelmed Uncle Daryl had been butchered behind an old rusted tractor.

The man wielding the machete had shown them no mercy when he’d hacked the Fintner family to pieces, scattering their bloody remains out in the yard in full view of the dead.

~~~

Next Episode 45-1

Previous Episode 44-7

~~~

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 44-8: The Nomad” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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

~~~

Gina grabbed her hand axe and rose to her feet. The flashlight rolled off her lap and landed on its side, illuminating the space between them. “You better explain that to me!” She was raising her voice. “You better have a good fucking reason for being involved with those animals!”

John looked confused. “Please… just calm down! I… I had no idea you were aware of them. How could you possibly-”

“I know your fucking group!” Gina spat, pointing her axe at him. She started to pace. “I’ve dealt with these Mother assholes ever since the beginning! I’ve lost people because of them—good fucking people! And now you tell me they’ve been out here this whole fucking time!”

John didn’t know what to say without making matters worse. “Janet… please… you obvious understand these people. You know how dangerous they are. We need to get out of here before-”

“My fucking friends have died because of you and your fucking kind!”

John looked nervously up toward the top of the valley. He could hear the anxious moans of the dead stumbling through the forest. They sounded close. “Janet…. you need to calm down. Can’t you hear them up there?”

“Doug… Ashley… Greg… Amanda… Frank… all dead because of your people.” Gina’s entire body shook. She turned her back on him and closed her eyes. She no longer cared about the dead at the top of the valley. All she could hear were the names of the dead echoing in her thoughts. They’re responsible for all of it! For every horrible thing that’s happened to us! And no matter where I go… even out here… that fucking name follows me like some damn eternal curse!

“Janet… I’m… I’m sorry for what’s happened to your friends. I didn’t have any part of that… surely you must see that. I’m no spy. I’m just like you, trying to get away from these horrible people.”

“Don’t talk to me about my friends,” she hissed. “Don’t you ever speak about them again.”

“Fair enough. Can we just please talk about this? I don’t want the dead to hear-”

“Why is Mother in these damn woods?” Gina refused to turn and look at him.

John shook his head at her back. “It’s… it’s hard to explain. I know a little bit, but even that’s not much.”

“Is she… this Lady Clementine… is she the leader of Mother?”

John didn’t answer.

Gina turned. “Answer my question! And don’t give me any shit about being loyal to them or about running away from them! That’s all bullshit and you know it!”

“I’m not a spy!” John cried.

“You’re a fucking liar… all of you are!”

“Fine!” John laughed nervously. “I’m the damn bad guy! Believe what you want! Sure… Mother sent me out here to spy on you because you’re just so damn important!”

“Shut up.”

“No… seriously… since you refuse to believe anything I have to say, and we’re probably going to bring the whole damn zombie forest horde down on us any way… then let’s do this. Yep. Mother… the all-knowing, global fucking organization that’s been around longer than you or I have been alive, sent me all the way out here to spy on your insignificant ass! Come on… are you fucking hearing yourself? I’m just a man who had a chance, one chance, to get away from there… wait! Stop! STOP!”

Gina brought the axe down releasing a primal groan.

John shifted to the left, avoiding being struck in the skull. The axe went into his shoulder instead. John stared at the wound and then back at Gina as the shock set it.

For a second, the savage woman was captured by that dying man’s condemning eyes.

Click… click… click… snap.

As the pain registered, John opened his mouth and let out a horrific scream which reverberated through the valley.

Gina ripped the axe from John’s shoulder and brought it down into his head.

She did this three more times to silence him, not realizing that it was she who continued to scream, long after John went silent. Gina let go of the axe that was still sticking in the dead man’s face and stumbled back.

For a moment, John’s dead eyes remained fixed on her, then he fell over on his side.

Gina raised two bloody and trembling hands into the flashlight beam.

She felt nothing. She thought nothing.

Something… no… several somethings started descending into the valley directly over her head. To Gina, it sounded like an avalanche as the sounds of moaning dead men struck trees and brush, rolling out of control toward the stream.

Fuck!

A heavy, half-naked rotting-flesh boulder came crashing down right behind Gina. The sluggish former man reached out for her ankle, letting lose a bone-chilling cry.

Gina got a good look at it in the flashlight beam as she sidestepped it.

The brute of a man with half its scalp missing, exposing part of its black, mushy brains, got to its knees and started crawling toward her. The man had a scraggly beard that ran over his pale exposed chest.

Gina kicked the thing hard under the chin. It barely flinched. She felt like she’d just kicked a rock as the once muscular man reached for her leg, grabbed it, and pulled Gina off-balance. She fell inches from John’s corpse. Gina reached back as the big dead thing started to pull her toward its large mouth.

She managed to reach the axe handle in time as she pulled while the dead brute aided her in freeing the blade. Just as it was about to put all its weight on top of her, Gina leaned forward with a loud cry and split the thing’s face in half with the axe. The brute let go of her leg and Gina rolled to the side. The large monster lay still.

Gina struggled to catch her breath as more zombies reaching the valley floor were now rushing toward her. She rose to her feet just in time to side swipe the axe across the neck of a tall woman in a disintegrating dirt-stained nightgown. The woman’s pale head hung backward off its half-severed neck, temporarily losing sight of its prey. Gina kicked the wretched thing back into another zombie wearing bloody overalls.

A fourth zombie grabbed her by the back of the hair. She could feel its slimy, cold hands on the back of her neck. Gina spun around, ripping her hair loose from a dead teenage boy. She swung the axe into the side of its head, severing its right ear completely off before it fell limp to the ground.

More were already pushing into each other to get to her.

Gina dove for her silenced handgun as another dead hand attempted to grab her hair and missed. She grabbed the gun, flipped over on her back and fired four rounds upward and into the face of the man in overalls. She got back to her feet just as a short woman with curly blond hair with a spiderweb on the top, leaned in to bite her arm. Gina shoved the barrel of the gun with the attached silencer into the spider woman’s mouth and blew its decrepit brains out the back of its head. The woman fell, taking the gun with it.

Gina spun around as another rotting man in a bloody jogging outfit tried to bite her ear off. She swung the axe across its jaw, completely removing it from its face. She then pushed hard against it with her shoulder, knocking the dead jogger to the ground.

More were coming.

Gina spotted her gun bag just outside the limited light range of the flashlight and ran for it, knocking another zombie off its feet with an armbar across its neck. Gina grabbed her bag on the fly, keeping her momentum up, and then dashed across the stream.

More dead things were falling from the top of the valley on the opposite side but had not yet seen her.

Gina dodged and weaved through flailing arms and started ascending the opposite side of the small valley. What little bit of light she had was now gone as she climbed up in the darkness, reaching out for small trees as handholds to stabilize her uphill ascent. She almost slipped back down into the valley but reached out and found an exposed root to stop her from falling.

She pushed her burning legs forward and made it to the top of the valley, expecting the dead to swallow her up once she got there.

All she could see was darkness in every direction.

Gina tried to orient herself as her eyes adjusted to the faint ambient light that allowed her to distinguish between the darker shapes of trees and the slighter lighter spaces between them. She looked for any dark shapes moving toward her.

She could hear several dead things moaning all around her in the darkness. Some were close, others were farther off. One sounded so close, Gina believed if she extended her arm, she’d touch it.

Fuck this!

She pushed forward blindly through the trees, no longer able to distinguish tree from monster, and swung her axe randomly just to make sure she wasn’t running right into her own death.

She dragged the bag of weapons behind her, hoping the dead would charge for it, and not her, while silently wishing she had time to arm herself with the shotgun.

Something swung at her face. A dead hand struck the side of her mouth. Gina stumbled forward and struck a tree. She turned, putting the tree to her back, and pushed out with legs as something tried to put its arms around her. She kicked the thing back into the dark.

Gina rolled around the tree and squatted down. She reached into her bag and grabbed the shotgun.

Something was screaming and charging at her position from the side.

Gina aimed the shotgun toward the sound and fired twice, momentarily lighting up the forest just enough to see them all… and they her. She’d blasted another female zombie in the torso, splitting the creature in half.

Move! MOVE!

The dead closed in.

Gina ran forward, firing the shotgun right in front of her, hoping to clear a path. The monsters closed in. Gina fired to the left blowing the head off a man. She fired to the right, knocking a small man to his ass. She continued firing until the gun ran out.

Something grabbed the shotgun and wrestled it from her hand. Something else fell on the weapon’s bag.

Gina gave them both up. All she had left was the hand axe.

“Come on, you fuckers!” she shouted into the black. “COME ON!”

The dead reached out for her, snapped their teeth at her, groaned into her ears.

Gina fiercely swung the axe, hacking into the night with everything she had left. She kicked and screamed back into the night with equal ferocity.

But the dead kept coming.

Suddenly, her feet stopped as she tripped over the remains of a dead tree. Gina fell forward and downward as she started rolling uncontrollably down a hill. She bounced three times before striking something hard in the side, which stopped her descent. Gina struggled to breathe. She could still hear them coming, but for a moment, she’d eluded them.

She reached around and felt the base of a medium sized tree growing out of the hillside that had stopped her fall. Surprisingly, she still held the axe in her other hand. Gina attempted to free herself from the tree but the pain in her side was excruciating. She placed the handle of the axe in her mouth and bit down, trying not to cry out.

That was when she passed out.

~~~

She woke to someone yelling. It was faint, but definitely a man’s voice, coming from somewhere beneath her.

Early morning light penetrated the gloomy woods. Gina quickly took in her situation. She was lying sideways across the base of the tree, half-way down a steep hill. She could hear the moans of the dead from above her and below.

Caught between the fucking frying pan and the fire, she thought, realizing that the tree had probably saved her life, keeping her just out of reach from the frustrated dead. She dared to move. The pain in her side was considerable, but she could still function.

No time for that.

She’d dropped her hand axe beside her. Gina picked it up and slowly crawled away from the tree, starting a controlled descent down the remainder of the hill on her stomach.

When she reached the bottom, crawling under brush for cover, she rolled on to her back, pulled up her shirt, and examined her side. There was a large dark bruise just below her ribs. A little higher, broken ribs for sure. She pulled down her shirt and focused on breathing and gathering her strength.

She heard more yelling. Much closer this time. Something bad was happening.

Something bad that you brought with you, Gina.

The thought felt foreign… but true.

Gina rolled back over and rose to her knees.

She could hear the dead all around her, pushing through the forest toward the shouts of alarm. She stood on wobbly feet, feeling dizzy, disoriented, and sweating from the effort to move.

I’m more fucked-up than I realize. She abandoned the thought and focused on the direction she’d heard the shouts. Somewhere up ahead, she could see the trees thinning out.

That’s where the dead were heading.

She considered moving the opposite direction, taking advantage of the distraction to get away.

She heard a young girl scream and turned back toward the thinning trees.

Just walk away, Gina. Not your problem. Doesn’t matter. None of it matters… remember?

The dead had clearly found someone knew to pursue, just beyond those trees. Probably another group of foolish survivors, unprepared for the shitstorm coming out of the woods.

Don’t worry, Gina. It’s not the same as what you did to that man last night. It’s not murder if you choose not to help. Whoever they are were probably going to die anyway. Just a matter of time. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter that you led their death right to them with your screams and shotgun blasts from last night.

“Shut up,” she hissed at herself, reaching for a tree to keep from falling over. She closed her eyes tight, wishing she could turn her thoughts off. She gripped the axe tightly, a fresh wave of anger renewing her strength.

They’re dead already. You’ll gain nothing but your own demise by getting involved.

Gina heard the girl’s scream again.

She immediately pictured some unsuspecting family held up in some run-down shack just beyond those trees. Some family that thought they were safe out here, hidden away from the horrors of the world. Hidden away until she came along and ruined it.

“It… doesn’t… matter!” she reminded herself. “Not my problem!”

She pictured the dead feasting on the remains of that dead family, leaving nothing behind but their condemning eyes that would follow her forever… just like John Sterling’s eyes would.

She opened her own eyes. “Fuck me,” she whispered.

Gina pushed forward, following the dead toward the thinning trees. With each new cry of alarm, she quickened her pace, hoping to catch as many of the dead from behind as she could before they turned back and finished her off.

Not a bad way to die, she consoled herself, sneaking up on the first dead-head with her hand axe raised. There are worse ways to live.

~~~

Next Episode 44-8

Previous Episode 44-6

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 44-6: The Nomad” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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

~~~

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

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~~~

~~~

***SPOILER ALERT***
This is just a reminder for anyone currently reading Don’t Feed The Dark that these spin-off stories branch off directly from the main story line and will jump around all over the place, revealing revelations out of normal sequence. I highly recommend skipping this read of Hangar Six until after reading the first 14 chapters. I’ll also recommend refreshing yourself with this story after reading Chapter 44-6: The Nomad.

~~~

The cool and silent space was comforting. She welcomed the darkness like a warm blanket she could wrap about herself. The woman patiently sat in the center of the room and closed her eyes. She listened to the sound of her own deep breathing… in… out… in… out. She could hear her steady heartbeat, like a muffled knock on the door within fading flesh; like an old, consistent friend waiting to be invited in for another game of living in an ever-changing world. The woman smiled and welcomed the rare moment of stillness–the bliss of simply existing–as she shut out the steady sound of the rain… and the hunger.

The hangar door began to rise, letting in the intrusive light of another dreary demanding day.

A man dressed in wet dark raingear entered and cautiously took a step toward her.

The woman sighed and opened her eyes. “What is it?”

“Lady Clementine, we’ve done everything you’ve instructed.” The man took a nervous glance around the hangar but tried not to show his fear. “All the boats in the harbor have been destroyed… except for the one staged at the marina.”

“And did you paint all the hangar doors with the invitation symbols as instructed?” she asked.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

She hated it when they called her that. It reminded her of the only thing she was powerless to stop. Her old bones ached as a constant reminder of her frail frame, despite the immense power and control she wielded over this new world. It had taken most of her youth to master her abilities. She’d given up everything to be ready for the final days, but it had taken its toll.

“I assume your team has swept the area for candidates,” she said.

“Yes, Ma’am. We found no survivors. Fairport Harbor has been completely overrun.”

She scowled at the man. “What have I told you about that word?”

The man immediately corrected himself. “Sorry, Ma’am. You’re right. I meant ‘candidates’.”

“Has not Mother made it abundantly clear to you that there are no ‘survivors’? The world belongs to them now. We, who have prepared long in advance for the end, know what is at stake. As for the rest… Mother is not cruel. They will all be afforded a chance, just as we were given a chance. That is why we test them… all of them.”

The man looked down at his feet. “Of course, Ma’am. Please forgive my poor choice of words. There are no survivors, only candidates and fodder.”

Candidates and fodder. Lady Clementine could not help but laugh at the irony found in such a simple statement. The majority of the human race, in all its former glory and self-importance, had been reduced to nothing more than prey to a replacement species. She cringed at the thought. Now, only a select few, those who had been chosen to pave the way for the new world, would have a place in it… or so they’d been promised. What it all boiled down to was a choice: Candidate or Fodder.

“What do they call you?” she asked the man.

“Sterling,” he said, looking up and nervously shuffling his feet.

“Your full name?” she asked again, her impatience clearly evident.

“John… John Sterling.”

She removed the red hood from her head, revealing her long white mane with a few black streaks from her former hair color. From her cross-legged sitting position, Lady Clementine looked up and let her full gaze fall on John.

John did all he could to minimize his trembling.

“Well… that’s a fine name, a name that commands respect. Don’t you think?”

John hesitated. He understood the question for what it was. It was a test. He’d screwed up and now his life had immediately been called into question.

She laughed lightly. Yes, she had his complete attention now. That was good. A little fear in the ranks from the top down was always productive. She continued. “‘John Sterling’… just the sound of it rings of importance. I bet your parents are proud of you, aren’t they?”

John looked away, trying to hide his pain from the emotional shot. He already knew that Lady Clementine was well aware that his parents were dead. He chose his words with care. “My… my parents are fodder. They were found unworthy and perished.”

Lady Clementine feigned compassion. “Oh… I’m sorry, dear. I didn’t mean to rip open old wounds,” she lied. “Come,” she motioned to a vacant space in front of her. “Come, sit with me.”

John looked around the hangar again as if she’d just invited him to step into a burning fire. Nearly a hundred of the re-animated lay in various positions, stacked on top of each other, surrounding the dangerous woman. There was a narrow path starting from where he stood and leading up to a small ring of clear space where Lady Clementine sat. And just like all the rest, when Lady Clementine first summoned the dead down from Fairport Harbor with her ‘abilities’ and commanded them to enter the hangars, they all appeared to be… asleep. But John knew better. ‘Dormant’ was the word she used. If she stopped whatever it was she was doing, the dead would rise up and charge him immediately.

She laughed. “Don’t be afraid. You’ve nothing to fear… unless you’ve something to hide.” She stared at him challengingly.

John swallowed hard and stepped forward. He carefully maneuvered among the dead, waiting for decrepit limbs to grab his legs and for teeth to dig into his flesh. He made it into the small ring and sat facing the old woman, who looked like she was a hundred years old, but in truth she was only in her fifties. He locked eyes with Lady Clementine and found the real fire.

“So tell me, John, do you miss your mother… and don’t start spewing out that ‘unworthy’ crap again?”

John answered carefully. “I have only one mother now.”

Clementine looked shocked. “My… that’s a horrible thing to say about the woman who gave birth to you… the woman who gave you such a fine name and a chance at a better life.”

“Like my mother, and my father… that name is just as dead. I have but one mother, and she has given me a new life… a better life.”

Clementine laughed. “Spoken like a good soldier. But anyone can parrot an answer like that. How do I know that you mean what you say? How can you prove your loyalty to me?”

John smiled smugly and answered confidently, “I have nothing to prove to myself… or to you. With all due respect, Ma’am, your name is as meaningless as my own. We are candidates, chosen to serve a higher purpose.”

Clementine pointed at him and laughed. “Very good, John. I’m glad to see you have not forgotten. Now tell me about them. How did your parents die?”

John looked away from her probing gaze. He would have to revisit the painful place. “When… when we were called…”

“Go ahead, you can use the layman’s term for it,” she said. “Most have accepted it… and so has Mother.”

John nodded. “When… The Change… occurred, my father was not chosen. When he turned, he… consumed my mother.”

“And you were there to witness it?”

“Yes.”

“But you’re not telling it right, are you?”

John was having difficulty. He shifted uncomfortably as he let the memory in. “No… what I meant to say was… my father turned… and he went after me first. My mother, my old mother, got in between us and that’s when he attacked her.”

Clementine gave the young soldier a moment to let the horrific memory settle in his mind. She then reached out a pale arm and touched his shoulder. “Now, John. Think very carefully about what you say next.”

John looked up. He was repulsed by the woman’s touch but tried not to show it. This was it. The real test.

“Now, after your mother saved you, what happened?”

“My… my mother… my old mother did not save me,” he finally said. “I was spared. My father was rejected… as was my mother.”

“But how can you say such a thing, John? Didn’t your mother save you and allow you to get away from the monsters that night? Didn’t she sacrifice her life for you?”

“No… she was rejected. We were both spared and given a chance… initially. Our testing began immediately.”

Clementine retracted her arm and dug deeper with her gaze. “Explain that to me?”

John took a deep breath. “Mother had already spared us… but we were not candidates yet. When my father attacked… when my mother chose to save my life… that’s when she was rejected. Because she did not choose to value the gift she was given… and wasted it trying to save a human life… she failed the test.”

“And what did you do after your mother chose unwisely?”

John’s face became unreadable. “I… I managed to get a weapon… a baseball bat. My mother was still struggling on the floor… my father was trying to bite at her throat. She yelled at me to get away. I was tempted to help her… almost did… but then I realized what was happening… that we were being tested, just like I was always taught from the beginning. I remembered my lessons. I remembered that when the time finally arrived we were to cherish our new lives… not waste them on the living. So I left her there.”

“So because of your selfishness, you survived… and you let your mother die.” Clementine was shaking her head in disbelief. “What kind of son does that to her own blood?”

John looked away and shook his head. “No… we were chosen… my father was not. My mother died in vain and was rejected because she didn’t… couldn’t… see the truth. But I understood what was happening. Her life was not mine to save any more than it was her place to try and save me.” He looked up into Clementine’s eyes and finished. “It’s not about selfishness or selflessness. We both were spared… and died in that moment. Neither one of us survived because there’s no such thing as survival. I see that clearly now. I chose to cherish the gift that Mother gave me… so I could give it back… so I could serve.”

“And that, John, is why you are a candidate.” Clementine proudly said. “I am encouraged by your growth,” she added indifferently, not trying to hide her boredom with the conversation. In truth, she’d hoped to trick him because she despised the man, but in the end, even she could not go against the will of Mother. Apparently, John still had a purpose, although she failed to see it.

John’s shoulders sank with relief. He’d passed the test.

“John, you have learned that The Change is not something as foolish as God’s will, or a second chance to redeem oneself to help Mankind survive. Obviously, humanity in its present decaying state is doomed, and the rest of us will evolve into something quite different. But what is The Change all about? Is it random, like so many blind fools choose to believe? Is it fate? Is it really about being ‘chosen’ when so many remain untested?”

John wisely looked away. “I would not begin to attempt to answer that question, Ma’am. I’m… I’m still learning.”

“That’s the smartest thing you’ve said so far,” Clementine said. “If you had dared to answer that question, when even I haven’t grasped it fully, I would’ve demanded your life immediately!”

“And I would give it wholeheartedly… for Mother,” John added.

Clementine was seething with rage. She stared into the pathetic man’s face, hoping to find a hint of defiance, especially after that last remark, but found nothing. She wanted to invade his puny mind, like she knew that she could, and release a portion of the dark plague which infested her thoughts so that he’d go insane with nightmares for the remainder of his short existence. Let’s see if this fool could handle the stress of a horde of cannibalistic maniacs infesting his mind! she thought.

The dead began to stir restlessly as her anger disrupted the immense amount of concentration it required to keep the beasts submissive. She took a deep breath and calmed down, reestablishing her control.

“You may go,” she finally said. “Be mindful of your words in the future. Mother may be merciful… but I am not.”

John nodded respectfully and quickly got up and started toward the door.

“One more thing… John Sterling.”

He exited the hangar and quickly turned back.

“Bring the girl to me. I wish to speak with her.”

John’s face turned pale.

“Is there a problem?” she asked, noticing John’s hesitation.

“I… I don’t want to offend-”

“Oh, just come out with it, you terrified little man!” she barked. “You hold back your thoughts as if I couldn’t get in there with the slightest amount of effort and rip them out of you… or have you forgotten what I can do?” She tapped on the side of her head for emphasis.

“No, Ma’am, it’s just… well… she’s just a foolish child who doesn’t know any better. Children say stupid and impulsive things. We’ve already disciplined her and she’s been compliant.”

“I hope there’s a point coming.”

John wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. “We are currently… reeducating her… on what it means to serve… and how fortunate she is to-”

Clementine laughed hard. “My goodness, John. What on earth do you take me for? I simply wish to speak with the child. I’m not going to eat her! Or do you think I’m just like these pitiful shells of former humanity?” She waved a sweeping arm across the dormant dead.

“No… I didn’t mean anything-”

“Bring her to me… now.”

John nodded and departed.

I’m still going to destroy that fucking idiot, she promised herself.

Lady Clementine quickly dismissed all trivial matters and focused her attention on the remaining hangars full of the dead. It didn’t take her long to quiet them all down. The reanimated were not like the others with the feverish yellow fire for eyes. They were extremely difficult to control, especially in a horde. Fortunately the dark-eyed ones roaming the remains of Fairport Harbor were sufficient for the experiment. She closed her eyes and thought about her present station within the many-layered organization known as Mother.

Three days before The Change, Mother had activated all the cell groups with a single coded message:

The Lions are loose.

Clementine had known exactly what that meant as her particular cell, the largest in Northeast Ohio, had gathered in a large beach home near Fairport Harbor to wait for the coming storm. It had been a tense three days of waiting as members of her cell had watched each other suspiciously, wondering who would turn and who would be chosen.

After The Change, when her cell lost twenty members who had been rejected and turned to yellow-eyed savages, she had quickly asserted her leadership over the panicked cell by helping to slow down the beasts which had turned and attempted to destroy them from within.

Donovan had been with them on the first day to deliver the news that her group would be in charge of the Fairport Harbor testing. Like herself, he also had a cell to watch over, albeit a much smaller one, but no less important in the eyes of Mother. She outranked him, of course. Just as she also outranked that insane sonofabitch, Micom, who was put in charge of a sanctuary testing facility near Ashtabula. She had only heard rumors of what that madman was doing out there–something to do with religious effects on a populace–but it was enough to keep a watchful eye on Donovan, since he had come from there.

Fortunately, his stay had been a brief one as he departed for an undisclosed location (all the cells were deliberately kept in the dark about what the others cells were doing). And now, she had no idea who was left outside her own cell, and that they were to continue testing on the chosen and separate the candidates from the fodder until Mother sent word of what to do next.

I should be there, she bitterly thought. I should be at ground zero where my skills are best suited, and not here, doing the bitch work.

Early on, Mother had come up with many projection models, determining the most likely places the living might try to reach. Fairport Harbor, and places like it along the waterfront, were ideal locations for testing, since many would try to seek refuge by fleeing the coast. Her unique abilities made her the perfect choice to conduct the marina experiments. The plan was to funnel groups of the living to this boat storage facility along the river by dangling a single ‘carrot’ ahead of them. In this case, the carrot being the only functioning boat remaining in Fairport Harbor at the marina on the other side of the storage facility. Once lured into the vicinity of the hangars, the controlled experiment required a catalyst to induce the necessary conflict required to essentially destroy the unity of a group and wait for them to turn on each other and save themselves once the dead were unleashed upon them.

The experiment could end in one of three ways: The group could immediately be overrun by the dead, causing the experiment to reset. The group could scatter immediately as those valuing their lives, and essentially the gift given them by Mother, might sacrifice the weaker members to reach the boat instead, a.k.a., a dog-eats-dog mentality. This, of course, was the desired outcome. Should self-preservation win over group preservation, whoever made it to the boat would be allowed to leave the marina and would eventually be intercepted by Mother for possible candidacy under the ruse of rescue. Lastly, should an entire group stay together and fight their way through the horde and make it to the boat. They would immediately be gunned down at the boat by Clementine’s cell group for failing the test. And as a fail-safe, should such a group manage to elude the firing squad, there were sufficient explosives planted within the boat to detonate it once they reached an appropriate distance from shore. This, of course, would end the experiment entirely.

If only… Clementine shook her head with a smile. I guess what we’re doing could be considered just as insane to those lunatics over in Ashtabula.

If Clementine had learned anything about Mother in all the years she’d served, it was that you never questioned Mother, and that testing the motives and resolve of post-apocalyptic Mankind was high priority.

The sound of splashing footfalls approached. My, how I love the sound of urgency, she thought with a satisfied smile.

Two men, escorting a young girl with wet long black hair, stopped before Hangar Six.

Without looking their way, Clementine addressed the men. “Leave her and go. I’ll take it from here.”

The men were quick to oblige, leaving the frightened girl of thirteen, shivering in the cold. They had roused her from sleep, barely giving her enough time to get dressed, and dragged her here.

The girl sneezed and covered her mouth.

This caused Clementine to look up at the wet dog standing out in the rain with the first real genuine surprise she’d experienced in a very long time. My God! She looks just like… her!

The girl tried to maintain a respectful posture, head down, hands at her side, waiting to be addressed but not willing to initiate anything for fear of further disciplining.

“What is your name, child?” Clementine finally asked.

“Debra Crawford, Ma’am.” The girl sneezed again.

Well, of course, Clementine thought. Did you really expect another name, you silly old fool? The ghosts in my head are one thing… but to be visited by ghosts here in the flesh… well… that would be very unsettling.

“Well… Debra… why don’t you step inside and sit down with me before you sneeze to death.”

Debra nodded gratefully and entered the hangar.

Clementine was amused by the girl’s almost oblivious attitude toward the dead things beneath her feet as she stepped past them without hesitation and sat down in front of her.

“Better?” she asked the girl.

“Yes, thank you,” Debra said, continuing to look down.

Clementine considered the child. “You look so much like someone I knew a long, long time ago,” she said. “The resemblance is uncanny.”

“Whatever you say,” the wet girl said.

Clementine raised her eyebrows in surprise. “You know, for someone who’s in quite a bit of trouble, you don’t seem to appreciate the gravity of it. Even now, you speak to me in a disrespectful tone.”

“I mean no disrespect,” Debra said. “I’m just cold, tired and cranky.”

“Fair enough,” Clementine said with a laugh. “I appreciate your candor if nothing else. Do you know why you’re here?”

Debra sighed. “When we were out sinking a boat in the harbor yesterday, I ran off when no one was paying attention. Some of the soldiers wasted hours trying to locate me. They found me eating stale donuts and warm pop in a boathouse down river.”

“And then what happened?”

Debra shot Clementine a quick glance through the bangs of her wet hair and then looked away. “When the soldiers caught me, they started to yell at me. I got mad and said a bunch of nasty things.”

The old woman became serious. “And what did you say, Debra?”

“I… I said that what we were all doing here was stupid and a big waste of time. I’m sure you already know the rest.”

“Go on. I want to hear it from you.”

“I… I also said that you were old and senile and that Mother was just something you made up in your crazy head.”

Clementine snorted so abruptly that she had to cover her mouth.

Debra looked up in surprise at the crazy woman.

Looking into Debra’s confused face just made it worse. Clementine started to giggle uncontrollably. She waved at Debra to hold on while she tried to regain her composure. “My… I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. That’s exactly the kind of thing my old friend might have said to me when she got pissed. She was always so polite until she got mad… and then… blam… out came the verbal punches.” Clementine giggled again.

Debra actually smiled at the old woman’s unexpected outbursts, but she wisely remained silent.

Clementine collected herself again and tried to get back on track. “Okay… sorry about that. I guess I find you… refreshing… since everyone else speaks to me with that I’m-about-to-piss-my-pants tone.”

“I’m… I’m sorry I said what I said. I didn’t mean it. I was just… frustrated.”

“Well, of course you’re sorry,” Clementine said. “And I’m sure the others made you pay for your rude comments… so I’ll spare you any further disciplining.”

“Thank you,” Debra said. “May I go now?”

“‘May I go now?’” Clementine repeated. “Wow, you really are something else, Debra. The insulting things you said about me… well… I could let that slide easily enough. But what am I supposed to do with someone in my ranks, a candidate, who doesn’t even believe in the cause? Can you see the problem with this?”

Debra’s smile quickly faded. “I really didn’t mean anything. I was just mad. I do believe… it’s just hard sometimes.”

“Excuse me for a moment, child. I’ve been sitting too long and my old bones need to stretch.” Clementine stood up and walked toward the front of the hangar, her long red robe stroking the faces of the dead. She pulled up her hood as she felt the steady rain strike her face. “I want to believe you, Debra. I really do. Hell…we’ve had a good laugh or two, and I think I could really come to like you.”

The girl turned and smiled. “I feel the same way. I was wrong about you. You’re actually a lot nicer than I thought you’d be.”

Clementine laughed. “Not what you expected from the crazy old loon, right?”

“That’s not what I-”

“Shut up, child. I know what you meant.”

Clementine’s cold tone made Debra flinch.

“Why did you run?”

“Excuse me?”

“At the boat, when my soldiers were distracted, why did you really run away?”

Debra didn’t know how to safely answer. She finally said, “I think I ran because I was afraid.”

“Afraid of me?”

“In part. But… I’ve been afraid for so long that I could’ve run away for any reason.”

“I see.”

“I am really sorry… and I won’t run again.”

“Yes… yes… you’re sorry. I get it.” Clementine sighed, crossed her arms, and stared out into the rain. Her gaze fell on the three-pronged symbol spray-painted on the hangar door directly across from them. She sighed at it with disgust, and thought, Every time I see it, I feel the weight of all those empty years.

“Honestly, child,” she said. “Whether you believe in Mother or not hardly concerns me. In fact, believe whatever you want. I truly don’t care.”

Debra was shocked. She stood up, reassuming her submissive stance, and waited to be scolded or excused.

“What really troubles me as how much you remind me of things I’d rather forget. I loved her, you know. We were best friends. She was afraid of me, too. They all were… eventually.”

“I… I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t, child. Just stand there and listen to this crazy old woman talk about her irrelevant past for a few damn moments. Can you do that much?”

“Yes… yes, Ma’am.”

“My best friend, the one you remind me of, she betrayed me. She hurt me in a way I never thought anyone could. She ran away, too. Well… she tried to once. But that doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all water under the bridge. Isn’t that the saying?”

“I suppose so,” Debra said. “May I go now?”

Clementine laughed again. “‘May I go now?’ That’s priceless.” She turned to look at the pitiful girl. “You know, I never even got to tell her goodbye. Everything happened so fast back then. When she tried to abandon me, everything changed. We had something… special. Then my so-called best friend ruined everything.”

Debra looked at the crazy woman, looked into her eyes, and for the first time she felt truly afraid.

Clementine walked over to a mechanism on wall and hit a button.

The hangar door began to close.

“Wait! What are you doing?” Debra said.

“Goodbye, Debra,” Clementine said. She then whispered, “Goodbye… Meredith.”

Before Debra could react, the old crazy woman released her hold on the dead within the hangar.

They were very, very hungry.

Lady Clementine waited outside the closed door for the child’s screams to cease.

~~~

Author’s Note:

For those who don’t remember, this spin-off takes place before Gina and her group arrive in Fairport Harbor back in Chapter 14. While attempting to secure a boat, they are ambushed by the dead in a dry-dock facility directly behind the marina. While passing between several large hangars marked with the strange three-pronged symbol, the hangar doors open and the dead pour out of them and attack. Doug, the group’s leader at that time, is torn apart and the group scatters. This story, in part, tells what occurred prior to their arrival, introducing us to Lady Clementine who we will also find out more about in Chapter 35.

Don’t forget to come back on Thursday for an all new episode of After The Dark, the DFTD talk show, this Thursday, just in time for the return of Don’t Feed The Dark next Monday. Exciting times ;)

________________________________________________
“Hangar Six” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. A spin-off short story from the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014-2016 Scott Scherr.

No part of this short story 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.

~~~

The evenings were getting much warmer, but out in the forest, especially down in the valleys near the water, the long nights could still chill the bones. Gina tried not to think about the cold or the suffocating darkness as she wrapped her arms tighter around her coat, longing for a small campfire.

The steady rush of the nearby stream made it hard to stay awake as she forced her eyes open for the um-teenth time. Fortunately, all she had to do was listen to the collective moans of the wandering ghouls roaming the tops of both sides of the small valley, and she was sufficiently motivated to stay conscious. There were so many out tonight, more than she’d anticipated when Gina had dragged her prisoner half-a-mile back north along the valley stream.

She stared across at the lying form of the unconscious man. She’d bound his hands behind his back with her nylon rope before stopping for the night. She kept her hand-ax, a silenced handgun, and a small flashlight she’d discovered in the man’s backpack, all within reach.

“I know you’re awake,” she said in a low voice. “Why don’t you stop trying to plot my demise in the dark and tell me why you’re really out here.”

She heard the man sigh and shift uncomfortably. “Where… where are we?”

“Nowhere,” Gina responded.

The man strained his eyes to see into the face of the silhouette. He finally said, “You… you struck me, knocked me out. I remember falling. Were you trying to kill me?”

Gina turned on the flashlight, cupping the bright beam with her hand, and aimed it toward the ground. This gave off just enough light for the two of them to see each other. She could see the man’s bandaged head and his accusing eyes. “You’ll live,” she said. “But not for long if you don’t keep your voice down.” She nodded up toward the cliffs. “My friends are very active tonight. Fortunately, they don’t like water—God only knows why. I can imagine them up there, stumbling around in the dark, then stopping when they hear the river with this dead, distasteful look on their faces, before shambling off in the other direction. It’s a good thing, too, because they’re stupid enough to wander right off the edge and fall right on top of us.”

The man looked up toward the dark cliff above them. He could hear the dead, shuffling through the foliage, their animal-like moans making the hair stand up on his arms. “Fuck,” he whispered. “They sound like they’re all around us.”

“They are,” Gina said. “But they won’t bother us if we’re quiet down here.”

The man looked at his captor. She looked like one of the dead in the faint light. Her dark dirt smeared face was buried within her tangled reddish mane. “May I sit up? I promise… I won’t try anything.”

Gina nodded, picking up the hand gun, and lying it across her lap as a clear warning.

The man slowly sat up, staring around into the dark forest and feeling like every sound he made would bring the dead raining down upon them. He shivered from the cold. “I suppose they love camp fires.”

“Too much light,” she said absently. “Stop complaining. You’re the reason we’re freezing our asses off tonight.”

“Fair enough,” the man said. He could feel the bandage wrapped around his forehead. “And thank you.”

Gina gave him a puzzled look. “For what?”

“For patching me up and not leaving me alone out here.” He looked back up toward the cliff. “I had no idea what I was getting into in these woods. You probably saved me from running right into them.”

“Yeah… you are a noisy fucker.”

The man let out a nervous laugh. He paused, considered the strange woman, and then said, “My name’s John… John Sterling.”

“I don’t care who you are.”

“O-kay… but I care,” John said. “Before we were these bastards’ food source, we used to be people that gave a shit about each other… or at least pretended to.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is… we’re not savages, and that we still have names, and those names should still mean something.”

Gina said nothing.

“So… what’s your name?”

“Who the hell was chasing you, John Sterling?” Gina leaned forward, her fiery green eyes falling on him. “Let’s start with their names.”

John smiled. “Not the trusting type, I assume.”

“And you’re stalling.” Gina raised the handgun. “I could just shoot you right now… John… like the damn savage that I am, or you can start telling me what I want to know.”

“Whoa… just… relax! I’m not trying to stall. Really, I’m not. I’m just trying to… absorb… this fucked-up situation, and why I’m tied up as your prisoner when all I was trying to do was get away.”

Gina leaned back and nodded. She put the handgun down. “Okay. We’ll… relax. My name’s Janet. There, does that make you feel more at ease?”

“It’s a start,” John said. “Why did you knock me out and take me prisoner, Janet?”

Gina smiled. “Because I don’t know if you were really running from anything, John. I saw that airport full of armed people. They looked organized. For all I know, you’re some damn spy sent to check me out. That’s why we’re surrounded by the dead right now. I figure your friends are still terrified of my friends.”

John gave her a strange look. “You keep calling these things your friends. Just how long have you been out here?”

Gina shifted uncomfortably. “Just a figure of speech. Doesn’t matter. Point is, I had to take you somewhere I believed was safe. So far, I haven’t seen anybody chasing after you with automatic weapons, so either they’re afraid to follow you into these monster-infested woods, or you’re lying to me.”

John frowned. “I’m not lying, I wish I were.” He leaned forward. “Those people you saw at the airport, they’re fucking dangerous, Janet. I don’t know where we are, but you better believe they’ll be searching for me in the morning.”

“They won’t find us searching this far in, not unless they want the dead following them back to their base. I assume they’re smarter than that.”

John was shaking his head. “Won’t matter. They’re not worried about the dead. My people… those people… know how to handle themselves.”

Gina laughed lightly. “That’s what all stupid people say right before they make the menu. Sure, these dead-heads are manageable when you isolate them, if you know what you’re doing. But get them riled up, attract enough of them, they’re relentless.” She scowled at the man. “But I’m sure you already know that, John.”

“I’m no spy, Janet. I meant what I said. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to run… and I took it.” John leaned back, looked around into the darkness, and finished, “Of course, now I’m starting to wonder if I reacted prematurely. This wasn’t what I had in mind.”

Gina nodded. “How many people are at the airport?”

John hesitated, then said, “Twenty-five… I think. Close to that, anyway.”

“And how long have you all been at that airport?”

“We relocated there just before that horrible winter. Before that, we were on the move for a while.”

Gina considered this. “A large group, heavily armed and organized.” She stared at the man’s clothing. “I would say military… but you don’t look like the military type.”

John laughed. “No. We’re definitely not that.”

“Then where the fuck did you all come from, John?”

John felt the weight of Gina’s eyes. He treaded carefully. “We…. my former group… we’ve been around a while.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means we were prepared…well… as prepared as anyone could be, when the shit hit.”

“What? Are you some sort of survivalist group?”

“Something like that,” John said. “We were ready when the time came.”

Gina shifted. “You’re being suspiciously vague.”

“Well, Janet, let’s just say I don’t trust you any more than you trust me. For all I know, you are part of some larger group getting ready to attack the airport. Why should I tell you anything?”

“For someone who’s lucky to still be alive and claiming to be escaping from some dangerous fucking assholes, you sure don’t act like it,” Gina said. “What’s going on at that airport?”

John shook his head. “I’ve said enough. Yes, I’m trying to get away from these people, but that doesn’t make me a traitor. They took care of me. They’re the reason I’ve stayed alive this long… so… I owe them that, at least.”

Gina shook her head and smiled. “You run but claim loyalty. Maybe you’re just some low-life they found trying to steal their shit. Hell, there’s lots of people like that now. Maybe instead of putting a bullet in your head, like you deserved, they took you in all winter, then, you managed to slip away.”

John gave her a hard look. “Well, remind me never to steal from your people’s camp, if that’s what you believe.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Gina moved in to strike the man, then restrained herself. “You don’t know anything about me, or my people, you fucking piece of shit!”

John scooted back, staring up at the top of the valley. “You… you might want to lower your voice. I think some of your ‘friends’ can hear you.”

Gina stared up toward the top of the valley and calmed down. I’m letting this asshole get into my head. Settle down, before you prove him right. Gina took a few breaths and said, “Sorry. I don’t… interact with very many people these days. I imagine it’s starting to show.”

John looked back at his bound hands, then smiled at Gina. “Well… your first impressions might need a little improvement.”

Gina laughed at that. “I’m a survivor, John. I’ve learned that if you hand out trust like fucking candy, you don’t stay alive very long.”

“I get that,” John nodded. “People have become… unpredictable… these days. Hell, that’s one thing you can appreciate about these, what did you call them? Dead-heads?”

Gina nodded.

“Well, dead-heads don’t hide their cards. You know exactly what they want the moment you see them. People, however, can be downright evil these days, hiding their intent until it’s too late to see it.”

Gina looked at him and smiled. “For a moment, you sounded just like an old friend of mine.”

“A good friend I hope,” John laughed.

Gina looked away. “No. Just another dead one.”

“Sorry.” John shifted. “I hope after we clear up this misunderstanding, we might be friends. In case you haven’t noticed, I just ran away from mine.”

Gina was exhausted. Living with the dead, alone in these woods, seemed easy compared to conversing with this stranger. And yet, the thought of having a friend, a real living friend again, did appeal to her on some desperate level. She sighed and said, “Look, John, it’s late. I’m… tired of trying to figure you out. And honestly, I’m way out of practice. If you could just start trusting me a little, tell me what I need to know, then I could start trusting you, too.”

John nodded. “Sounds reasonable. Tell you what, since you have me at the disadvantage, seeing that you’re the one holding me prisoner, how about you give a little first. Does that sound fair?”

Gina nodded. “I’m alone, John. As you can tell by my appearance… and behavior, I’ve been out here a while. There’s really nothing more to know about me.”

“You said something about ‘your’ people. What happened to them?”

Gina felt herself becoming defensive again. But her mental fatigue won out. “I don’t… I don’t have ‘people’ anymore.”

John frowned. “Are they all… dead?”

“No… no… nothing like that,” Gina struggled. “Let’s just say we didn’t see things the same way. I wanted us to survive and they wanted to live. As a result, they… kicked me out of the club.”

John gave her a puzzled look but wisely chose not to push. “Okay,” he said. “That’s good enough for me. Sounds like you got the shit end of the stick. Me too. You were forced out of your group… and I had to run from mine.”

“Why did you run?”

John looked struck. He lowered his head and said, “People change, Janet. I’m sure you know that as well as any one. No one can still be alive this long without understanding that fact.”

Gina averted her eyes, feeling like she’d left a crack into her soul exposed. She silently nodded.

“Anyway, let’s just say that the people I started out with… I really believed in what they were doing. They had a cause, a mission… hell, the only mission that still mattered. Then, things changed. Things got dark, and then they got darker.”

Gina stared at the man. “I get that, John. Go on.”

“Well, sometimes you just don’t realize how bad circumstances can get, how dark your fucking soul can get, because you’re surrounded by so much of it… and then one day, something happens. Something that just shakes your foundation and eats away at you until you can barely stand looking at yourself in the mirror.” John stopped, struggling for words.

“I’ve been there,” Gina whispered. “Hell, I think I’m still there.”

John looked up into the savage woman’s haunted eyes and saw that she meant it. He nodded with a half-hearted smile. “Anyway, someone died… horribly. And I couldn’t stop it from happening. She was just a girl, a mouthy fucking teenage girl, who did what all dumb rebellious teens do, even in the apocalypse. Well, it got her killed. Her name was Debra and she was… slaughtered by the leader of my group, made a pointless example of, never to live out her stupid teenage years…” John stopped and sighed heavily. “Anyway, I was never the same after that. All that I’d believed was bullshit. They were bullshit. So, I crawled into my shell, waiting to die, while I went through the motions of believing in their bullshit, too terrified to run away because I still valued my pathetic existence on some level, until I’d finally had enough.” He looked at Gina and finished, “That was when you found me. You see, I had one last chance to run. By now, no one in my camp looked at me twice. I was… forgettable. I’d reached rock bottom, but once I was presented a final chance to run, I no longer cared about the consequences of getting caught. That made me free, for a just a moment, to face my fears and risk all to get away.”

Gina stared at John long and hard. She finally said, “It’s sounds like you’ve been their prisoner for a long time.”

John laughed. “Yeah, a prisoner of fear and self-loathing.” He looked back. “I don’t know, Janet. Have you ever reached the place when you fear yourself more than anything anyone could do to you?”

Gina absolutely refused to answer that question.

“Well, that’s what it took. And that’s why I ran.” John let out a heavy sigh. “And that’s why I’m out here in these woods with you now.”

Gina nodded. She was wrestling with the ghosts of her past that this man’s story brought out in her. It took incredible effort to force it all back down and raise her defenses. Doesn’t matter. None of it matters. His people, your people, what they did, what he did… what you did… pointless.

“This leader you spoke of,” Gina pushed. “Is this the person who intends to hunt you down in the morning?”

John nodded. “Yes. She will look at my actions as direct defiance. She will know that if I get away with this, it will set a bad example for the others who are already wavering.” John stared at Gina with terrified eyes. “Fear brings compliance, Janet. And my so-called leader expects… no… demands compliance. She won’t rest until I’m found, brought back, and punished publicly for everyone to watch. And I’ll die in some horrible way you or I couldn’t possibly imagine.”

“What’s her name?” she asked.

“Excuse me?”

“This leader you spoke of. What’s her name?”

John looked terrified to even speak it. “Does it matter?”

“It matters to me. Should I ever cross paths with that bitch out here, I want to know the name of this despicable child-killing person before I stick this axe blade in her skull.”

John saw the fire in this savage woman’s eyes and knew that she meant it. His face went pale as he whispered, “Her name is Lady Clementine.” He looked around nervously as if invoking the name would suddenly make her materialize in front of them. “Trust me, Janet, you don’t ever want to meet her. She’s a monster.”

“I’ve killed monsters,” Gina said. It takes a monster to kill a monster. The thought caught her off guard and made her tremble.

“I believe you,” John said. “But I wouldn’t wish such an encounter on anyone, including you. She’s the worst kind of monster in this world—made for it—and you’d be wise to steer clear.”

“If your monster hunts us down out here, I may not have a choice,” Gina said.

John looked irked. “Of course, you do! You run… like me! Get the hell out of these fucking woods and never look back! You run while there’s still time!”

“What do you mean by that?”

John averted his eyes. “This is bigger than you or me… bigger than everything out here. This group is part of something much larger, something much more dangerous than just fighting off dead-heads in the woods. Fuck! She can make the dead… do things!”

The alarms were going off in Gina’s mind. “Who is this woman, John? Who is she really? And who are these people that make you want to shit your pants right now?”

John looked into her eyes and said, “They started the whole fucking thing, Janet! Everything that’s happened starts with them… and they’ve been preparing for it for a very long time.”

Gina forgot to breathe. “Are you talking about… Mother?”

John’s eyes went wide with surprise.

~~~

Next Episode 44-7

Previous Episode 44-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 44-6: The Nomad” Copyright © 2018 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Five: Remains. All Rights Reserved.

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